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Archive for the tag “imagination”

Dear Reader, you write half of every book

“I like to think of it as a kind of pact between the writer and the reader. The feeling that in each sentence, in each paragraph, the reader gets some beauty from the book in exchange for some darkness that grows in his mind. Or he gets some darkness from the book that obliges him to looks for some beauty in his surroundings. So there is this balance that keeps the reader awake because half of the story is actually happening in his mind. Rebecca Solnit says ‘a book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another,’ I love that feeling as a reader. And I am always trying to create this when I write.” – Samanta Schweblin (“Fever Dream”) in her Full Stop interview.

No, you don’t get half the royalties, so don’t ask.

But, dear reader, as writers, we give you a playing field for your imagination. We provide half a story, so to speak, and you fill in the blanks with whatever frightens you, arouses you, amuses you, or leads you to God.

Storytellers and readers have always shared the responsibility for the final work even though some writers don’t admit it and some readers chafe when asked to do too much.

When we’re feeling good–confident, perhaps–we don’t sell it out. We give you room to work, to explore, to discover what we can never tell you. When we were young and didn’t yet feel secure in our words, we tended to take more than our half of the bed. Later on, we stop hogging all the covers and write all the better for it.

Of course, if you’re feeling lazy, then you can go to the beach reading shelf and find something easy. That’s okay. We read books off that shelf, too. We do hope that, from time to time, you’ll grab your share of the imaginary world and show us what you can do with it.



The value of not writing for a writer

Professional writers often discourage aspiring writers from sitting around and waiting for inspiration. The rationale for this advice comes in part from the fact that journalists, feature writers and others don’t get paid for sitting at their desks waiting for something to happen. When I worked full-time as a technical writer and later as a corporate communications director, I wrote every day whether I felt like it or not.

Nonetheless, for those of us who write novels and who don’t churn them out based on a formula that makes all of the books in a series similar, much can be gained by not forcing the writing before you are ready. This doesn’t mean sleeping in a hammock all day. It might mean simply that if you’re not quite satisfied with your thoughts about project A, then spend the day writing project B, researching project C, or reading the latest fiction from others in your genre.

Intuitively, I know when I’m ready to write a scene or a chapter. Before then, my “down time” from writing that scene or chapter helps me prepare. How? Many things come to mind for work that—to use a baseball term—is waiting in the on deck circle. When the scene or chapter I’m about to write is sitting in the background of my thoughts, I tend to ponder it casually while cooking dinner, mowing the yard, or writing something for another project.

It’s almost as though I need to power up my imagination about the characters, settings, or plot before I can sit down and write. When I try to force my imagination into a state of readiness, the resulting scenes are flat. When I spend an hour or a day not writing the material, ideas flow like a monsoon rain when I finally sit down and look at the blank screen.

I learned in school that dreading sitting down and writing the looming book report, term paper or “theme” (as they used to call our short essays), made the work almost impossible to do. I feared the things so much, I couldn’t do them. Since worrying never helped, it was better to goof off (my parents didn’t understand this) until all my thoughts gathered themselves before making an appearance on a sheet of paper.

Suffice it to say, I took this approach and adapted it to writing short stories and novels. In some ways, it reminds me of the way a Reiki “healer” uses energy. S/he wants the energy to flow for a specific or a general reason, and so the energy flows. The “healer” has something in mind and then steps out of the way and lets it happen.

When I write “too soon,” I’m standing in the way of words. My way of getting out of the way, is by short periods of not writing. This might work for you whether you create extensive outlines in advance or begin stories with only a notion of what they’re about and just start writing to see what will happen.

The most difficult things about this process are: (a) allowing yourself the time to get ready, and (b) convincing others in the house that you’re hard at work even though you appear to be watching a rerun of “Frasier” or “Matlock.”


MoonLightandGhostsMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels and short stories.

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