My friend and I have dared each other to ask every author at Adelaide Writers’ Week where they get their ideas – just so we can watch them roll their eyes. The truth is neither of us will have the guts to do this because it is just such an embarrassing question. Writers get ideas from everywhere! Usually the problem is deciding which ones you will let in and which you will ignore.
But it has made me wonder about the rest of the population. Do non-writers really not get ideas for stories? Do all their fantasies revolve only around them and other people they know? Or (and I refuse to believe this assertion) do some people actually not make up any stories in their head about anyone?
I watch a news story and I start imagining the fallout of events, I read a book and I think about where I would have taken the story, I listen to a song which might ostensibly be about the basic boy and girl falling in or out of love and I can turn it into a dark paranormal novel, maybe even a trilogy. Doesn’t this happen to everyone on some level???
If I was to list my top five favourite things about being alive, making up stories would be on there. If, and I hope I’m talking to no-one here, you have never made up a story after you left school, try it now. Even if you need to fan-fiction it and lift someone else’s characters and setting, try it (there are no copyright breaches when it stays in your head). You may just find you like it.
Relationships with animals are unlike anything we experience with humans. I’m not going to say better or worse, but to me they feel magical. This seems doubly true when those relationships are with wild animals. I had this with a local magpie who I called The Gardner.
Ours started off, as many relationships do, as one of convenience. When I mowed the lawn The Gardner would come down and pick off all the bugs I disturbed. Apologies for over-generalising to the oligochaetes, but worms are a silly bunch of critters, did you know they wriggle up when you cut the grass? The Gardner knew.
Later, when I was digging out the lawn to put in as many trees and bushes as possible, The Gardner would hang around because he knew that whenever I unearthed lawn beetle larvae I would throw them to him. Eventually he would sit right next to me while I dug the hole so I wouldn’t miss any.
Now I think The Gardner is dead. He has not come down for nearly two weeks. He does not swoop past me when I come home from the bus stop, brushing his wings against my shoulder to let me know he’s there. He doesn’t sit at my back door when I turn on the lights in the morning. He doesn’t do his little dinosaur run from the backyard when he hears me open the door.
I’d like to believe that The Gardner has just run away, and is making friends with other mowing/digging bipeds somewhere else safe, but in my heart I know that is not the case. I miss him terribly. I had no idea what a ray of happiness he was in my day until he went away.
Thank you for sharing your time with me Gardner, I miss you. 🙁
It always amazes me how differently I can feel about a piece of my own writing depending on when I read it. I was looking for a document which wasn’t where it should be, so I had to dive into ‘the box’ to look for it. The box is filled with miscellaneous writing stuff; story bits, observations, markets, rejection letters etc.
I pulled out something called ‘story idea’ (I’ve started a lot of those over the years) which had three chapters. I thought I had remembered all the novels I had started over the years, and there have been many, but this one didn’t ring any bells. I only recognised it as my romance novel near the end of chapter one. By then I was hooked. What happened next?!?
Why did I stop working on this? The story moved along at a good pace, the character was likable and I hadn’t yet got to the romance bit, but I don’t remember there being a problem with it. My memory of it was that my attempt to write it came out so badly that I put it in ‘the box’. What a silly mistake.
Who knows, maybe I’ll pick this up again in three or six month’s time and read it again and find it wooden and crap, but right now there is a big part of me that wants to finish it. I’ve never finished a romance story before, and the Australian Romance Writers Conference is being held in Adelaide this year, maybe it is a sign? Now I’m questioning all the stories I’ve stopped. Maybe I need to visit the box more regularly?
This week was Adelaide Writers’ Week and as usual I took time off work and sweated my way through several days of interesting writer chats. Unfortunately there weren’t a lot of authors I had heard of, and no long-held favourites, but it was interesting to attend none the less.
A discussion I found really interesting was between two crime authors who had both previously worked as journalists, Jennifer Clement and Margie Orford. When asked why they tackled certain subjects through fiction rather than journalism both women said the great benefit with fiction was being able to present the whole story and let the reader draw their own conclusions.
Journalism is usually slanted in a specific direction and is limited to less than 2000 words, whereas fiction allows you to get to know the victims, the perpetrators and how they came to make the decisions they made. You get a much more holistic and detailed view.
It is very easy to see the actions of a bad guy as wrong, but when you see where that bad guy came from, you realise the solution to these issues can be to take away what causes the bad guys to go bad. You can also see that the true bad guys are often people we see as good guys. Or worse, us.
I found it really interesting how both women talked of the dynamic between reader and writer, and that the story is not complete until it is read. They appreciated that each reader would take away different feelings, beliefs and emotions around the topic.
The authors also felt that books generated wider discussions and could have a greater impact as they travelled in a different way to journalism. Both writers had experienced their articles having a brief, but minimal impact, while their books took them to writer’s festivals and conferences all around the world, and in one case, to the United Nations. That certainly helps for getting your message out there!
The romance writing scene in Adelaide is huge. Not only that, but they are all extremely supportive of each other. More than a couple of times I’ve thought of joining them just because they look like they are having so much fun. Only one problem; I can’t write romance.
The past few decades have seen me become quite cynical about romance. Sit on the sidelines of enough divorces and it does that to you. So my biggest problem is I don’t believe the everlasting declarations of love which you read in novels, and finishing at the point where they get together seems like a cop-out. That’s when the real hard work begins as far as I’m concerned.
At least that’s what I blame for my lack of ability to write romance. I think in reality it is just a lot harder than what everyone believes. Yes, we have all read bad examples of romance, but there are some really good examples. There are novels out there that make a jaded old bag like me believe that this time it is really going to work.
And let’s not even talk about writing $ex. I blush at the thought. My one attempt to write such a scene in one of my spec fiction stories degenerated into humour because I couldn’t do the saucy version. That’s something I long-ago reconciled myself with leaving to the experts.
So while there are people out there, particularly other genre writers, who belittle the romance writer, I think this is extremely unfair. A good romance writer is just as gifted with the written word as any other writer, they also have the benefit of being highly skilled in the manipulation of emotion. That’s something I’d be interested in learning more about.
I’ve just spent a day at home alone writing. Inspired by the authors at Adelaide Writers Week, I took a day off work to write. By 3pm I was feeling the need to get some words out, and I don’t mean on the page. I limit my conversations with the cat for sanity reasons, so I’ve spoken aloud no more than about three sentences. It isn’t natural.
I’ve contrived a reason for going to the shop, which was hard to do because the milk and bread supplies are all topped up. I hope the checkout assistant is feeling chatty, I have about 5,000 words to spend while I’m out.
This does make me wonder how sustainable a writing life would be for me. My day job requires that I talk (and listen) to people all day. How could I transition to a job where I interact with no-one outside my own head?
Maybe that is why so many writers have speaking engagements and run writing workshops; it’s not about making extra money, it’s about interacting with others. I guess the other option is that I could set up lunch dates each day. Hmmm, I might try that with the next day off.
It is that time of year again, when Adelaide opens the gardens and hosts one of the last remaining free writers festivals in Australia. I must confess that this year I have heard of very few of the authors, but then that is the case nearly every year, so I’m sure I’ll discover some new favourites.
Writers week is so valuable because it gives writers an opportunity to mix with their reading public, and for the public to get a chance to get to know the authors. Too often readers assume that a writer is like their lead character, when the truth is the lead character is often an alter ego, and sometimes reflects nothing of the writer’s true self.
It is also interesting to hear what readers ask the writers, once you get past the standard ‘where do you get your ideas’ and ‘how did you get published’. Some questions show just how much a reader thinks about a story long after the book has been finished.
So come along, I’ll be there in the crowd somewhere. I’m sure you will learn something and you may just find your next favourite book.
Like many people, I don’t like change that is forced upon me (as compared with change I instigate – which I relish). This can be as minor as delaying what time I go for my coffee in the morning up to the major things, like losing my job. I’m facing the latter at the moment as my workplace faces ‘significant redundancies’ –and they are not talking about the payouts with the significant bit.
I’ve pre-posted this blog, so there is a good chance that by the time you read this I will know if I’m out or not. I suspect I may take a little while to come to terms with the outcome no matter what way things turn out, so I may add a postscript to this, but I may not. Sorry.
The stupid thing is, what annoys me most about this change is the not knowing what is going to happen (or not happen). Do I have to prepare to look for work, or to take on the roles of others in my team, or manage the stress when I meet with other teams who have lost people in their team? I have no idea.
If there is one thing that getting to this age has taught me (and I believe there are actually quite a few things now) it is that going through the change is never as bad as you think it will be. It is once you know about the change that you get riled up. The anticipation of it gets under your skin. The doing, well that’s head down bum up stuff. You just get on with it and it happens.
So don’t be concerned for me, I’m not too worried, just be understanding if I’m a bit grumpy. I’m not good with change. Maybe that is my lesson to learn this year?
Last week I was sweltering in 40’C heat with my car packed, glued to the radio awaiting instructions for when I should evacuate from the out-of-control bushfire spreading across the hills. This week I’m rugged up against the 15’C temperature outside and I’m hoping my gutters can handle the deluge that has already been and more that is yet to come.
Perhaps one of the biggest blows to the environmental movement was the misnomers we used around climate change in the latter part of last century; first the greenhouse effect, then global warming. It is neither of these things, it is extreme weather phenomenon. We now see that nearly every day.
I think even the prime minister of Australia would have to acknowledge that there are more extreme weather phenomenon around the world now than when I was a kid, and the statistics back me up. I wonder if we had coined the phrase Climate Change instead of Global Warming back in the 80’s if there would have been more done about it.
But I guess as long as democratic governments only have to look 3 to 4 years into the future we can probably call it anything we like and there will not be any change in policy. What a mess we are leaving for the kids of our world, I really thought my generation would be different. What a disappointment.
Sorry, I’ll get back to writing posts next week, but perhaps you can see why environment is such a common theme in my stories.
Catalyst sums it up nicely if you have 19 minutes to spare;
Yesterday I packed my car with the things that I considered most valuable. Once the photo albums (from the days before digital) and the multitudes of long-hand writing were packed, everything else looked disposable.
It certainly helps put your material life into perspective when you have to fit what is most precious into a car boot. All the things I thought I needed I realised I didn’t really need, they were wants. What I needed was a woollen jumper, I didn’t have that.
Perhaps it is a good exercise to look at all your stuff and ask yourself ‘what would you take?’ Then give thanks that you don’t have to evacuate, that you don’t have to wait to go back to your home to see if it is still there, to see if the animals you couldn’t take survived. Some of my friends and family are still facing this.
Thank you for all the good wishes people sent me yesterday, but an even bigger thank you to all the amazing people who help us in these incredibly stressful times; the CFS, the MFS the Dept of Environment, the team at 891AM who tell us what is happening and the multitudes of volunteers who step up to do anything and everything.