Photo by Rob Brewer
-More than one of them cried out in pain, “This is impossible, my brain hurts!”-
Write what you know.
Really? Do I have to?
It’s because of these four, seemingly innocuous words that people like me spend hours staring at the damn cursor on the soul-suckingly blank screen. How often have you shied away from writing something you’re interested in because you simply do not feel that you know enough? Tech specs, genre specifics, races, clichés, real names of types of laser beams…
I didn’t grow up reading Science Fiction. I was a slow reader and the true fascination for me was fantasy, but I could only swallow about a book a year. So when, for the first time, I sat down to try my sonic-galacto-pen at Sci-Fi, I was stumped and all I could hear, bleeding through my brain in a repetitive, tin-robotic drawl, was “you don’t know anything about science fiction, so you can’t write it.”
“…though we often soliloquize about writing being a solitary existence with coveted ideas held closer to the chest than Bluebeard’s key to his chamber of torture and death, writing should never be a purely individual undertaking.”
While wrapping up a perfectly productive Friday, I led my students through a discussion of Charlie Fish’s fabulously wicked short story, “Death by Scrabble.” We were exploring conflict, its relation to tight plot development and the vicious need for stake raising in fiction of all kinds, not just those stories teeming with vampires. I was just about to close the conversation when one of my students raised his hand and pointed out a connection in the story that I, after four years and twenty four class periods of teaching it, had never recognized. It was subtle, it was pivotal, it was brilliant, and I had become too familiar with the overall story, and the story’s punch line, to see it.
It is entirely possible to get too close to things: the novel you’ve been writing for ten years, the short story that you’ve rewritten over and over a thousand times that still just doesn’t seem quite right, a lion at the zoo…
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” -Jack London
When attending a writers’ workshop or presentation, I always cringe when the QA session begins. Inevitably, some fresh young writer will stand up and ask The Question: Where do you get your ideas?
This may be a shock, but writers get their ideas the same way everyone else does… by having a pulse. You can’t go through life without having “ideas.” So the question isn’t “Where do you get your ideas”, but rather… (more…)
The Roundtable Podcast is a writer’s podcast.
Now, there are a LOT of outstanding writer’s podcasts out there. Heck, we at RTP listen to a bunch of them and you’ll find links to many more here on the site.
We’re going to focus on a very specific aspect of the writing process… the ideas. (more…)