Advice, Author, Books, Craft, Fiction, Imagination, Inspiration, Life, Memory, Novel, Short story, Tips, Writing

As the twig is bent? Does your writing reflect your inner child?

I’m reading Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, which is a collection of his essays. He mentions frequently the source of his story ideas, tracing them back to childhood loves and events. In that sense, he shows that he started writing his stories years, even decades, before he typed them out.

He writes:

“I was in love, then, with monsters and skeletons and circuses and carnivals and dinosaurs and, at last, the red planet, Mars.

From these primitive bricks I have built a life and a career. By my staying in love with all of these amazing things, all of the good things in my existence have come about.”

And in another essay:

“Do not, for money, turn away from all the stuff you have collected in a lifetime.

Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are—the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others.

To feed your Muse, then, you should always have been hungry about life since you were a child.”

With that in mind, this past week, I’ve thought a good bit about my childhood interests—my “primitive bricks”. At first glance, I don’t see evidence that I fed my Muse the seeds that grew into Brevity. Maybe I just need to look deeper into my first loves. Or maybe that novel was an aberration. Maybe my next novel should be completely different.

What do you think about Bradbury’s thoughts on childhood loves being the true well from which you draw your story ideas?

Craft, Family, Imagination, Real Life, Writing

Creating, one way or another

What a week to start a new book. I’ve had only one uninterrupted day so far, and no writing will occur on this day or night either. Don’t misunderstand; I’m not complaining. I’m still accessing my creativity. Two days this week I worked on a major craft project. Emily wanted us to make a doll. Great! Then she saw a stuffed filing cabinet in a book and wanted to make that. Darn.

Of course, she doesn’t use the sewing machine, so the actual work fell to me. Her role was head designer. The “doll” she chose was not in a craft book, meaning there was no pattern or directions, so I had to create my own.

In typical Emily fashion, she wanted a modification. She wanted the file drawer to slide in an out, with removable file folders. Barely had I mused aloud how we could manage that on essentially a stuffed rectangle, when she came up with a solution. She’s a natural problem solver.

The original cabinet was tan and gray … a boy. Not too exciting. Then we went shopping for the materials, and I found out Emily was thinking bright pink and lime green. Cool! I decided, since our file cabinet was a girl, she should have eyelashes and hot pink lips—instead of heavy eyebrows and huge teeth like the boy version.

A tiara was Emily’s final touch. Mine was a second-degree burned index finger (glue gun accident). But surely, I also gained some new brain cells with all that that designing and engineering.

Cute, you’re thinking, but this is a writing blog. So does this have anything to do with writing? Of course it does. Writing takes this same kind of imagination. Good writers use their crafting skills to take a tan and gray idea and transform it into pink and lime … with a tiara!

How are you using your literary craft supplies today?

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Advice, Craft, Dream, Fiction, Imagination, Inspiration, Scene, Tips, Writing

Are you dreaming or writing?

You’ve probably heard the term fictive dream, which is when you as a fiction writer do your job so well that you temporarily transport your reader into your story world. We all hope our books do that, right? But before we can transport anyone else, don’t we have to experience it ourselves?

I believe we do. I’ve written about it often on this blog. Some refer to it as being in the zone. I call it dreaming on paper. This fictive dream is the drug that keeps us addicted to writing.

John Gardner wrote this in On Becoming a Novelist:

“In the writing state—the state of inspiration—the fictive dream springs up fully alive: the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it, so that when the dream flags he can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again. This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer’s process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”

When I’m in this dream writing state, I feel the emotion of the scene. My heartbeat has quickened, tears have sprung to my eyes, or I’ve smiled. It’s glorious!

May you all enter this state of inspiration each time you sit down to write.

This post first appeared on this blog in 2009 titled “State of Inspiration”.

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Dream, Fiction, Imagination, Inspiration, Musings, Novel, Power, Short story, Words, Writing

Dreams, daydreams, and nightmares

We write fiction because we are dreamers. Whether we dream by day or night, whether our dreams are sweet or nightmarish, our stories and novels come from that place where real and imagined combine.

Rêverie (Daydream) – Paul-César Helleu, 1901

At the mere mention of that place, some of us may drift off to ponder the nature of reality. Before long, we’re crafting a tale of some fantasy “I wish” or historical “what if” or futuristic “it could” or contemporary “it does.”

What power we writers hold. We create. From a lock of hair, a tilt of head, a room, a city street, a desire, a fear, a thousand other details, we fashion a character, a locale, a situation. We write a thousand words, a hundred thousand. “It’s alive!”

Some of us write brilliantly. Most of us less so. But we are writers all. We record what we dream because we have that ability. Because we want to. Because we have to.

We give life to our dreams out of despair, joy, hope, fiendishness, playfulness, cleverness, daring. What else can we do?

We are dreamers.

We write.


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Craft, Fiction, Imagination, Novel, Questions, Short story, Writing

Are you the best one?

As I was scrubbing the stovetop Monday, I was thinking about writing—what else? There’s a question I’ve seen asked, both online and in writing manuals, that always surprises me. The wording may vary, but essentially this is the question: Why are you the best one to write this novel/story?

I understand asking that question of a non-fiction writer. If you’ve never visited Spain, I doubt you’re the best person to write a travel guide for that country. But this question is also asked of fiction writers, and that makes less sense to me.

Yes, it might be difficult for a lifelong bachelor to write plausibly as a young wife and mother. Then again, there’s always research. That bachelor likely knows a young wife and mother or two. The woman writing from a male point of view, probably has male family members and friends from whom to draw the character.

Likewise, the writers of crime and horror fiction don’t have to be murderers or monsters themselves. And it’s probably a sure bet the writer of a middle-grade fantasy is not eleven years old with personal knowledge of dragons, or fairies, or magical spells.

What these writers do have is life experience, imagination, and, let’s assume, the ability to craft a story. But added to those, isn’t the most important qualification for writing any particular story having the idea for it? By “idea” I mean more than a fleeting thought. I mean the basic premise expanded in the writer’s brain to a fully-formed story idea.

Am I missing the point of the question? Isn’t the fact that the idea came to YOU the primary reason you are the best one to write the story or novel?

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