15 things about me and writing
1. I'm compulsive. A friend once said of my writing that I will stop doing that on the day I stop breathing.
2. I'm completely angsty. Ask my first in-house editor, hubby, about that - he has to cope with plenty of "That was horrible!" and "Nobody will want this stuff!" commentary along the way. Sure, there will be scenes that I will like - phrases that I will love - but the rest...? The rest... oy vey... NOBODY will want this stuff...
3. When I do write, I get what my mum calls my "writing virus". Himself often has to wake me up from in front of the computer and drag me back from some new and different world in order to make me eat real food.
4. I can't write without coffee on hand. Hell, I can't do ANYTHING without coffee on hand, but for writing it is particularly necessary. I don't know, it lubricates the brain pathways or something.
5. I Hear Voices. No, seriously. I don't necessarily write my novels, I channel them.
6. I research. HEAVILY. I was just in my library looking at two and half bookshelves stuffed with research material for the last two books. And then there's more research books, some related to the current work-in-progress, some on the reference shelf awaiting the start of an as yet unbegun project.
7. Sometimes I will dream stories - plots, characters, everything. I have weird dreams, period - but sometimes they get, er, coherent enough to be turned into stories. Other times I relate them to Himself in the mornings and he responds with the stock phrase "you're weird". Well, of course I'm weird. COmes with the writerly personality...
8. I don't outline. I CAN'T outline. In fact, I never know what happens next in my books - half the time I'm sitting back with my mouth open and screeching "You did WHAT?! You said WHAT?! How the hell do you expect to get out of that mess?"
9. Apparently, or so I hear, I am good at killing [grin]. Himself said that before he married me and started being involved in my work he had no idea what an efficient mass murderer he had proposed to. No comment on whether such knowledge in advance of said proposal would have made him think twice about it.
10. I cannot write synopses. That is to say, I can distill a kind-of-sort-of storyline into a page of writing, and then I start the book, and it takes the bit between its teeth and runs off with itself. That happens ALL - THE - TIME. Still, with the help of an editor or two, sometimes a synopsis is good enough to sell a book unwritten. That's how "Embers of Heaven" (out in Australia this week - Christmas is coming - this is the end of the commercial break) came to be - it was sold on the strength of the performance of the previous novel, and a decidedly lacklustre synopsis given major first-aid by the in-house editor (who wanted to buy the thing anyway so had a vested interest in helping to convince her bean counters...)
11. I get my ideas... (are you all waiting with bated breath - it's the answer to the age-old question...) ... everywhere. Honestly. They hang around in the air like germs, and you breathe one in, and you get infected by it. It really is that simple. Occasionally I've told people I get the ideas off the idea tree in my back yard, but in all honesty all I get out of my backyard these days is distraction because I'm woodpecker-watching all the time [grin]
12. I'm in love with words. Always have been. I've been known to chase friends and family around the house with other people's books saying "listen to this, it's wonderful". Sometimes the Muse will gift me with a particularly serendipitous phrase and then I"ll walk around carrying it next to my heart for ways, because I frequently can't believe that the particular combination of words that makes me shiver was something that *I* put together (see #2...).
13. I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil in my chubby little hand. My first extant poem, still treasured by my dad somewhere and trotted out to embarrass me every so often at family gatherings, was about a broken alarm clock (don't ask) and I was five years old when I wrote it. Before that, before I could commit things to paper, I told lies [grin]. I still do - I lie for a living. Sometimes that is still hard for me to believe.
14. Writing is an alchymical combination of talent, patience, perseverance (hell, call it what it is - obstinacy), and luck. Lack in any one of those departments can bury a writer's aspirations. Having been at least once in a position where I believed in a particular project for more than a decade before it saw the light of day as a published book, I can attest to the truth of that statement. Sometimes it really takes *faith*.
15. This is a story that I treasure and one which has been a shining light for my writing for many years now. I attended my first ever SF con in Auckland, New Zealand in April of 1995. There were two guests of honour, VOnda McIntyre and Roger Zelazny. VOnda I had not read up to that point, and knew very little about her work; Roger, on the other hand, had been a god in my private literary pantheon for years, and when I saw that he was coming I kind of pranced around like a kid on Christmas morning. And then I saw that the two authors were hosting a writers' workshop, limited to 5 participants. I sent in a story post-haste, probably six months before anyone else thought of doing so, and then spent those six months biting my fingernails into a bloody pulp and wringing my hands to the tune of "OMIGOD - why did I send that story - it's horrible (see #2...) - ROGER ZELAZNY might read this thing, and he'll think I am an idiot..."
I got into the workshop. On the appointed day, us five lucky wannabees and the two pros gathered in the conference room set aside for the purpose, and we systematically went through each individual's offering - first peer review, and then the two pros commenting on it. When my turn came, Vonda handed me a MS annotated to an inch of its life with comments in pencil - and it was wonderful, because it was all pertinent, and some of them were even of the order of "Wow, I LIKE this".
And then I turned to Roger.
And he sat there looking at me out of those steel-grey eyes and said, "I have two questions. How long have you been writing?"
I said since I was a toddler.
And he nodded and said, "And do you read and/or write a lot of poetry?"
I admitted to this.
And he said - Roger Zelazny said, smiling at me - "It shows. You have a voice all of your own. Nobody else will ever write quite like this."
Two months after that, he was dead. But those words remain with me, written in large gold lettering somewhere in my mind, in a place where I can clearly see them if I flag or begin to stop believing in my dream.