Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Inspiring writers . . .

I'm just finishing up reading Mary Doria Russell's A Thread of Grace and like so many things about her writing style: underlying themes that challenge the reader, depth of character development and relationships between the characters, and vivid country settings in Italy. So I went to her website to find she's just published a new book, Dreamers of the Day (an excuse to go back to the library before my books are truly overdue), and she has also posted advice to writers.

OK, so writing is supposed to be a lonely occupation. I know if the writing doesn't go as well as I wish, I doubt and delay and pretty much feel inadequate for a day or two.

I read somewhere that even with severe writer's block (which I don't quite believe in), that the best strategy is to simply write. Even if you don't like what you're writing. Just write. Then check back the next day. A writer's guru from Writer's Digest Forum says you'll be surprised to find yesterday's writing is fine. You can always return for revision later. But the key is you don't require inspiration.

Mary Doria Russell gives a helpful list of tips in her Note to Writers. Among these, two for me stand out (not the least being her generous and open tone):

--Fall in love with your characters. Make them laugh and cry. They'll tell you what they want to do.
--Don't rely on writer's groups. Russell says that it's enough to read her own "crappy drafts." (This in itself is reassuring for every rough draft seems crappy at some point.) She continues: Search out test readers. Tell them to look for what's broken. They will help you diagnose editing areas, but only you will know exactly how to "fix" the story.

Allen told me last night that writing a novel was a long and solitary occupation. Writing is very hard work. I don't want to settle for "The novel is finished. Hooray!" I see about another year and maybe two years of editing before Standing Stones will be the best story I can write.

But every day remains a challenge. So I'm going off to my first creative writing conference and will hope for useful information, knowing that whatever I learn, I still will remain committed to this process. And it doesn't matter if others like my stuff or don't like my stuff. I write.


  1. Anonymous11:10 AM

    I rely on my writers group not to critique my "crappy first drafts" but to jump-start my creative process through writing from prompts. It's that rush of insight that I get from my group.
    Anne Da Vigo, co-author
    Coffee and Ink: How a Writers Group Can Nourish Your Creativity

  2. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Thank you, Anna, for commenting. I'm on the road, just now in Spokane for another month and then down to Vancouver, Washington, for four months before going abroad again. I'm a great fan of writer's critique groups and hope to find one in Vancouver, even as a short-timer. This last week's conference showed me again how inspiring it can be to simply talk with other writers.