Reply Sun 18 Mar, 2012 09:35 am
I want to ask a few questions to anyone who happens to write fiction or poetry, whether you consider yourself a professional writer or someone who just dabbles:

When you write, do you write using purely your imagination or do you take a large content from your life experiences?
If you take a lot from your life, then do you detach them from yourself to make them more interesting for other people? How do you do this?
How often do you write and when do you think of new ideas?
Do you put yourselves in situations whereby you will be more likely to have experiences which will create ideas?
Do ideas for stories come fully formed or do you think of elements separately and combine them?
What are the issues you think are important to ensure a story/poem works well?
Have certain life experiences which were painful in other senses been useful to you in your writing?

Thanks,
pq
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Sturgis
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Mar, 2012 10:41 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
When you write, do you write using purely your imagination or do you take a large content from your life experiences? It's a combination of both. Some lean heavier towards life as it has happened to me and with people I've known, other items lean towards and depend upon mostly imagination.

If you take a lot from your life, then do you detach them from yourself to make them more interesting for other people? How do you do this? Where I've used parts of life, the bigger interest comes in developing the other characters. Since I tend to write in 3rd person, it's easy to separate.

How often do you write and when do you think of new ideas? I go through phases. There have been times of daily, other times where I can go weeks without even making an attempt. The thing is, when I start to write something, it takes off in some direction and I don't stop for hours.

Ideas are constantly coming in. Anything I see or hear from television to people walking, to a lone person eating a burger alone to a bird chirping sets the idea factory into motion. This has been going on for at least 50 years. The lesson learned, always carry some sheets of paper and a couple of pens (my only sci-fi attempt, began in a church in 1980, written on a church bulletin...paper and pen or pencil are always necessary to have at the ready).


Do you put yourselves in situations whereby you will be more likely to have experiences which will create ideas? No.

Do ideas for stories come fully formed or do you think of elements separately and combine them? They evolve. There's a supposed starting idea which then grows. Chapters are added in here and there interspersed with what has already been written. I start, then try to figure what the end result (last chapter) will be. In general the start ends up being different from what I had first written, the ending however usually stays as it was.

What are the issues you think are important to ensure a story/poem works well? I need to be happy with it. The characters in a story have to be real for me. If a character starts to fade from my minds eye, the character ceases being of interest. A few have ended up dead that way. Seriously, I have the character killed off.

Have certain life experiences which were painful in other senses been useful to you in your writing? It has been cathartic at times.
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Mar, 2012 02:19 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
The Pentacle Queen wrote:

I want to ask a few questions to anyone who happens to write fiction or poetry, whether you consider yourself a professional writer or someone who just dabbles:

When you write, do you write using purely your imagination or do you take a large content from your life experiences?

Both; it kinda depends what I'm trying to write. I tend to write from thought experiments, so a lot of that is probably imagination.

If you take a lot from your life, then do you detach them from yourself to make them more interesting for other people? How do you do this?

Time, I think, more than anything else. Writing about a cousin's death, for example, is a lot more detached now as she passed away in 1987 if I recall the year correctly.

How often do you write and when do you think of new ideas?

Every day, answer to both, although there are days when I just edit or format or look things over. I figure, so long as I'm not just sitting and admiring my stuff, it's writing.

Do you put yourselves in situations whereby you will be more likely to have experiences which will create ideas?

Not necessarily. I don't go off to have adventures just to write about them or anything like that. I've got a life and I live it. If it's writeworthy, I write about it. If not, I don't. Plus I think interesting writing is more than adventures - the inner life can be fascinating.

Do ideas for stories come fully formed or do you think of elements separately and combine them?

Both. Longer works tend to have a main idea (e. g. this event will happen, etc.) but then will be fleshed out as they go. Sometimes two ideas are combined, plus I've used ideas from 20 years ago more recently, as they seemed to fit better or perhaps I am better at writing them now.

What are the issues you think are important to ensure a story/poem works well?

This is sort of grabbiness; hard to describe it any other way. I am a contrarian by nature and I like stories that start off one way but then veer off in a big way. I like giving the reader something unexpected. I also work in humor or tenderness into tragedy (often) and pain or weirdness or even disgust into happy stories. A story about a pregnancy/marriage that I have written and am still working on begins with the extremely inauspicious sentence: "I feel sick." I love that as an opening line and I feel it provides an edge that keeps things from getting too fluffy and cutesy. But I also write pure positive stuff (a story about a small child literally stealing cookies from a jar, e. g.) and purely negative stuff (a different child being indoctrinated, at a very young age, into a horrible culture). Different stories call for different treatments. There is no formula for it.

Have certain life experiences which were painful in other senses been useful to you in your writing?

Sure. I had a rather foolish teenhood, and can mine that when writing about teens, for example.

Thanks,
pq


No sweat. Writing's a kick. I enjoy it so much that I look forward to the time and am jealous of it, so I try to do something every day. The muse has hit me hard for almost 2 years now, so I am taking advantage of that these days. I had about 20 years with nothing in the pipeline. It's a joy to be on the house on fire side of creativity again.
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The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Mar, 2012 06:45 pm
Thanks guys, that's really great to know.

Basically what happened to me was I was very interested in all the other arts and I liked reading books but not writing. Then I got quite good at writing snappy concert reviews for this student tabloid, and had this weird and quite but sexual long distance email relationship, and came to it through that; bit of a weird direction.

Could I add one more question to the list? Could you put any notion of time frame into the equation? Obviously different pieces take different lengths, but how long would, say, a short story normally take you to complete?
Sturgis
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Mar, 2012 07:37 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
Quote:
Thanks guys, that's really great to know.

Basically what happened to me was I was very interested in all the other arts and I liked reading books but not writing. Then I got quite good at writing snappy concert reviews for this student tabloid, and had this weird and quite but sexual long distance email relationship, and came to it through that; bit of a weird direction.

You are quite welcome.

Interesting how you arrived at these crossroads, who knew that writing reviews and e-mails would send a burning ember to the creative forest within you and set it ablaze. Congratulations on the discovery!


Quote:
Could I add one more question to the list? Could you put any notion of time frame into the equation? Obviously different pieces take different lengths, but how long would, say, a short story normally take you to complete?


I'm perhaps not the best on judging normal time frames. For years, short stories are zipped out in a few hours, from start to finish, with check on spelling, and an attempt at grammatical and punctuation editing (grammar and punctuation are my weak points). Writing short stories poses only one real problem to me. Keeping the story short. At least 2 books were originally intended to be short stories. The second of them ended up being nearly 500 pages by the time I was done.

One story about a short item, was a Sunday night, where my sister was in a panic. She had an assignment due the next morning, write an essay on a topic from a list of 20 topics. I wrote it, she edited, and then received a good grade for it. She was ahead of me in school and was in an Honors English program. To say the least, my sister was stunned. Happy; but, stunned. Like I said, I write quickly, from idea to completion.

When it comes to a full length novel, they are done fairly quickly. One in particular began after July 4, 2000 and was completed by Labor Day (1st Monday of September) that year. As indicated earlier, once I start, there's no built in shut off valve for me.


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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Mar, 2012 04:00 am
It depends (everything does, eh?).

One short story was like taking dictation, I swear - the main character was that strong. I tend to do monthly challenges and they are short stories. They are often tossed off in a few hours but then I hold them for a few weeks and look at them every several days or so. Then they go through some iterations as things are changed around or whatever.

One book-length work took about 5 weeks (I was doing a chapter a day, and it has 39 chapters). That was the first book-length one of this current crop of house on fire stuff. Currently, I'm writing something I've been thinking about for quite a while and, what used to be one book-length work is now going to be four. I'm in about the middle of the third one. I've also figured out that I can push more of what was intended to be Book Three into Book Four, and that will not only balance length better, it'll also work better dramatically.

I also go back and rework as I go. That first book-length work got some reworking to make the plot more coherent.

Another thing - you may have noticed this already - but both reading and writing tend to stimulate the muse. It almost doesn't matter what you read, or what you write. It just stretches to fill the time, as I think you get used to creating and keep it strong, like a muscle. Hence I blog more than I had been, in order to nurture the muse.
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