ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Insecure Writers Support Group Post - Encouragement

Hi fellow IWSG posters!

Hope everyone's going to have a great week. It's Spring in Australia so we have months of glorious sunny skies to look forward to before Summer hits us with its jet engine blast.

Thanks to those who visited my post at Richard Hughes' blog and told me how much they enjoyed reading about My Place, Queensland. Some of your comments were lost, as Richard changed over from Google+ comments after I posted and so many of my followers complained they couldn't comment.
Click here to access more posts...

I'm feeling encouraged today as I read something that encouraged me--and isn't that what IWSG is about? Sharing both our insecurities and encouragements.

NOW... have you ever been writing away, then before you even get halfway through your novel, one of your subplots or subcharacters becomes a lot more interesting than your main plot/characters? They want to take over the whole book. You actually get bored when you try to return things to the way you planned them when you outlined your book.

If so, you're in good company. *When Melville wrote a large chunk of Moby Dick, he thought that the pivotal figure was a man named, er, Bulkington. If you read the first couple of chapters you'll  notice all the build up about dear ole Bulkington, who then gets abruptly washed overboard the first day the Pequod leaves harbour. Naturally he's never heard of again.

What just happened? Melville had discovered a character named, er, Ahab. Melville wasn't a tidy writer like we are, so the original beginning is still there. Oh, poor Bulkington, RIP.

Did you know JRR Tolkein had a similar experience? A third of the way through The Fellowship of the Ring, some ruffian named Strider strode in, confronted the hobbits in an inn, and Tolkein was in despair. He didn't know who Strider was, where the book was going, or what to write next. Strider turns out to be no lesser person than, er, Aragorn, the unrecognised, uncrowned king of all the forces of good, whose restoration to rule is, along with the destruction of the evil ring, the engine that moves the plot of the whole massive trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Go figure.

Melville and Tolkein were mere mortals just like you and me, well sort of...

Fiction is like life--it nearly always changes under our hands, takes on an atmosphere, a feel, a will of its own. Our subconscious sends us smoke signals. Ideas come out of nowhere and flash onto the page. Sometimes, like in the case of Ahab and Strider, that's for the good.

But our subconscious sends up not only smoke signals, but smoke screens that can obscure, distort, and sometimes threaten to destroy our vision of what we are trying to create, so watch it.

Outlining a story in great detail has never appealed to me. I've tried, but my stories refuse to fit into my outline and I think that's the point. Writing is a process of discovery (that's the new term for pantser--a discovery writer), as it's one of invention. The more serious we are about our writing, the more complex the story, the more likely it is to start creating itself in unexpected ways.

But don't discount these unexpected changes--examine them, and use them to create.


  • How about you? Have you had similar experiences to Melville and Tolkein?
  • The Write...Edit...Publish prompt for the month is CHANGING FACES. Post your flash fiction, non fiction, poetry, photo essay, artwork...that encapsulates the prompt. All welcome. Post on your blog from September 22-24.

High School students enthusiastically buying books and getting them signed
on the second day of the Brisbane Writers Festival
held at the Brisbane State Library where I work. Can't wait to attend my
three sessions on the weekend.

*I've generous used information I gleaned from the book, PLOT, by Ansen Dibell.








35 comments:

  1. Yeah, I've had minor characters take over a story. Spoil sports. Good thing Tolkien and Melvin followed after their misbehaving characters :)

    I am hoping to get off my butt and write for September's challenge. Of course, if I DO get off my butt, I'll be doing anything but writing. Well, I'll give it an effort :)

    Enjoy your good weather.

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    1. Thanks Donna. Hope you do get your mojo on for September challenge.

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  2. All the best for your three sessions at the Brisbane Writers Festival!

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    1. Thanks Nas. Will tell you all about it.

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  3. I used to just wing it and all sorts of surprises come up in the story. It's a wonderful creative way to write. I now mostly plot, but I still get serendipitous surprises along the way.

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  4. So very glad Tolkien kept Strider in. He's one of my favorite characters. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  5. This is a great advert for pantsing (and I like the new term, discovery writing). :) I do have to see the characters in action to see how they'll react or who else will assert themselves. Plotting feels like fumbling in the dark more than pantsing does!

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    1. Yeah, I'm a discovery writer!! Nothing wrong with that!!

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  6. I've not had a side character take over, but I did have one become more of a force once I began writing.

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  7. I've had some I planned to kill or just use and then they became a big part of it

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  8. So this happens to you too? When I write, I have a basic idea of what's going to happen and I go with it. But then some of the characters just tell me their story or who they are, with backgrounds I never even fathomed. My characters have surprised me greatly in the past and I think it's because we don't realize what we're writing until we write it. At first I fought against it, but now I encourage my characters to surprise me. I never know what I'm going to discover.

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  9. I'm in love with one of my supporting characters, who was supposed to die in the book. It didn't happen. Lol

    I need to move to Australia this time of year.

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  10. Oh what a great post! It's the magical part I love about writing. Everyone has a story to tell, why shouldn't each of my characters? The magic deepens in how they choose to tell it and when.

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  11. My current project just took a turn I didn't expect or plan. Now I'll have to redo the entire first quarter of it. Insightful post.

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  12. I had that happen with a plot twist in my latest novel. What happened in it changed the entire novel. It also happened with the song "Let It Go" in the animation FROZEN. The Ice Queen was supposed to be a classic Disney villain -- but after that song was heard, the entire movie was re-written. Wow, huh? :-)

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  13. LOTR would be nothing without Aragorn!

    I have had minor characters step up and become a lot more interesting than I initially thought, and so I give them give parts, but so far none of them out-shined my MC.

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  14. LOTR without Aragorn; now that's a dismal thought! I never knew that about Ahab and Strider, thanks for sharing!

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  15. I've had times I wished a minor character had a bigger role. Outlines can be great, but you have to give yourself a little freedom.

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  16. Honestly, book 3 has me stymied, stopped, and doing anything but paying attention the the characters. I'm mad at them, avoiding them, and yet begging them to finish the story. LOL Guess it's time to open that door and see what's on the other side. Thanks for the push!

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    1. You go, Yolanda! Make those characters fall in line.

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  17. Hi Denise
    Great post. Oh yes, I've had characters do all sorts of things.

    I read that Tolkien and Lewis along with several other writers met at a pub and shared their stories for critique. If time travel ever comes to be, that is where I'll go.
    Nancy

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  18. I LOVE that some of the most interesting things aren't in the original plan. I make a broad timeline, but it is VERY loosey goosey and I've been known to totally redo it from where I am forward now and then. I, too, need a good part of the story to just happen. Too much detail and I begin to sound like... and then... and then... and then... instead of having it all sound authentic.

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    1. Yep...that's how it goes for me too...loosey goosey...love that.

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  19. Hi Denise,

    Back again... I really do seem to do the fade in and fade out thing... Life is just insane for me right now. But things are looking up. I signed a new interior design client last week and I will finally be able to breath again financially.

    I may even begin to write again. Lol. I certainly hope so. Stagnant doesn't work for me. I never was at a loss for words.... I do have a new cover debut coming out on Friday, so at least i'll be showing something new and creative I did this week...

    Enjoy the rest of the festival....it looks awesome! HAPPY SPRING!

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    1. Thanks Michael. I can't wait to read what you write after this slump. Sit down and write!

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  20. Hi Denise - interesting tales on Tolkein and Melville - it's putting brain to the grindstone and continuing on - or rewriting or re-drafting ..

    Good luck with your new term starting up .. and then the Festival - enjoy your stints .. they'll be a huge amount of fun .. cheers Hilary

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    1. It will be. I'm off shortly to my first session.

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  21. I haven't had one that takes over a story, yet. But I've had a couple that demanded attention and a story of their own.

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  22. I love discovering on the page. I wasted years trying to plot and outline, but being a left brained numbers-person, I discovered it's the actual process of writing that taps my right brain. In other words, I'm a pantser by biology if not necessarily by choice. I have had random characters walk in, but I have a bigger issue with characters who have minds of their own and won't do what I want them to.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. I'm with you, VR. Plotting in detail is a waste of time for me too.

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  23. It has happened to me a couple of times when supporting characters inched themselves into the foreground and before I knew it, they've taken control of my pen. Good to know I'm not alone.

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