Thursday, 29 November 2007

Coffee Morning 30th November


I'm visualising virtual tea, here. There's Twinings Assam and Earl Grey, and Rington's best (delivered personally by a girl in a van) and some strange but surprisingly good White tea with Vanilla. I also have coffee for those that do: Instant Columbian and an Arabic perc.


Did anyone do NaNoWriMo this year? Well done if you did. I started it, but for the first time in four years I failed this time. A combination of breaking my ankle in three places on the 5th and my PC expiring on the 9th was enough to put me off writing for the rest of the month. I do still have the plot outline, though, so Another Bloody Love Story will follow shortly.

What I did follow (although I had to go back and catchup on the ones I missed while I was in hospital) was Your Messages. I know Zinnia was following them and writing responses too. Was anyone else?

I used each day's flash as a prompt to write autobiographically, something I very rarely dare to do. That leads me a question that my friend Stephanie Weeks asked me:

In The Writer's Book of Days, Judy Reeves discusses how "revealing secrets is one of the dangers of being a writer. ...you chance exposure every time you write." How does the knowledge that you are inevitably self-disclosing something when you write affect your writing process? Does it paralyze you? Invigorate you? Not affect you at all?

Personally I write 'as it comes' and only edit if it's of a sensitive nature that could cost me money in a court case. Protect the guilty and mix up the personality traits, you know. Except my own. I invariably come out as the antagonist in my autobiographical works.

How about you?

24 comments:

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Peppermint tea for me, as I don't get on with caffeine - no worries, I've brought my own! I didn't do NaNoWriMo, never have; it's a great idea but I don't think it would work for me. I don't write autobiographically as such, although I do of course draw on my own experiences and relationships for my writing. I am sure my writing discloses the way I see the world, but that doesn't bother me; I think it has to be like that, because that's what makes writing original.

Jen said...

Ooh, I'll be perc'd thanks. Could do with something to liven me up today.

Before I started writing, I tended not to give an awful lot away about myself at all. But I rather like life writing and, like you, only take things out if I could get in proper trouble.

I find that, when I totally make stuff up, people expect that it really happened to me (sex scenes, anyone?) and vice versa.

I read somewhere that whenever we commit our words to paper, they become part fiction anyway as they're filtered through other people's heads.

Am going to Sarah Salway's course on writing about one's life next Thursday. Will report on any fab tips.

Rowan Coleman said...

Hey there love, hope you are on the mend. I wish I'd thought of this topic! Good one.

I have used personal experience in some books more directly than in others but when I did, I did it thoughtfully and prepared myself for letting those particular secrets go out there. Generally though I think writing fiction is about making stuff up - no matter if you base a book on something from you life or something you know, you are always doing more than simply writing the facts and your thoughts down, you are spinning a tale. You mixing what is instrinically you with entirely new characters and stories that, as a writer, you are able to create.

So I don't really think about it too much, I just try, from my desk in my tiny office, to make a connection with a potential reader in another time and place, another part of space even. Whoa - it's a BIT like being Docotor Who.

How's that for a tangent?

Cathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathy said...

Oh a perc coffee for me please, it's early still!

I've never done NaNoWriMo but I've been doing Your Messages too. Just today's piece to write and then I will have completed the 30 days. Like you, quite a lot of my pieces have been life writing (though for anyone who might check them out, not all...you'll have to guess which!)

I often write semi-autobiographically...but I also incorporate biographical elements from people I know, being careful to mix it all up well and add in some total fiction too. I think that is quite common when you are a fairly new writer. The danger with being too autobiographical, however, is that either it can be too painful so you end up holding back, or it just might end up too boring and self-indulgent!

I think as Rowan says it is probably best not to think about it too much as you write... just worry about taking dodgy bits out or disguising them at the editing stage.

PS Sorry, had to delete my original reply. It really is too early and it didn't make sense!!

ChrisH said...

Earl Grey for me and it's good to hear you sounding better than you did a couple of weeks ago. Hope the ankle is less painful. Um, in my non-fiction stuff (ie the stuff that been published!) I've shameless plundered my own life, although I do ask permission if my nearest and dearest are involved and, like you, I'd prefer to avoid being sued. Fiction's personal too - of course it is, it came from my head! - although I haven't necessarily done the things my characters do! I agree with the message to just keep writing, if this book gets published the last thing I'm going to worry about is that I might have revealed too much of myself! Good topic.

Helen said...

Good morning everyone.

I have attempted NaNo this year, although I never set myself the goal of 50,000 words. I hoped to do 1000 a day and in the end I'm just shy of 20,000 which I'm incredibly pleased with as I've finally started to tell Verity's story which has been nagging at me for months.

In my first book (that is still awaiting the edit) I used a time in my life as inspiration for the story. But then my imagination just caught hold and in the end her story is a lot different to mine (although I could identify a lot with what she goes through if that makes sense). Some of it I found really hard to write and other bits I find cathartic. I have to be careful though that the people around the main charatcer in the story are not the same as around my life. I could upset family and friends. There is one person in it that I haven't changed yet and who is an exact version of someone I know. I just wrote as it came to me knowing I could alter it in the edit. And I will (must!).

Lane said...

Coffee, strong, white no sugar thanks. Wot no croissants?
Glad you're on the mend and thanks for the question.

There's probably a bit of me in all my characters. After all I created them. None of them are based on real people and their situations are all made up.

Writing discloses what you're made of. This invigorates me but only time will tell whether it invigorates anyone else.

Juliette M said...

Oooh white tea with Vanilla for me please. Hope you're feeling on the mend Rachel, and Another Bloody Love Story is a great title for a book, may I add.

I planned to do NaNoWriMo and then ended up moving house in November along with starting a new job. So... NaNoWayJose. Later in the month I was also massively surprised by the antipathy (is that even the word I want? How embarrassing...) - the sheer dislike and scorn of NaNo and those who do it, from some of the people that I know who are professional writers. Which put me off somewhat. Obviously anyone should feel free to do Nano if they want to without having snarky remarks from those who have so far managed to write for a living. Yes I admit there is a lot of dross in the Nano community and not everyone can write the next Big Thing, but there is also a few diamonds among the fluff.

Er, sorry for the rant, now what was the original question...

I tend to write from experience, except for when it comes to being in fairyland or talking to a vampire, obviously. Sex scenes or scenes of violence (just me, then?) can be tricky because again people assume you're writing from your own life. I would like to state here for the record that I have never been beaten up by a fairy. Or a werewolf. Or indeed been dragged through the halls of MI6. ;)

As for characters, I usually ask if I want to specifically base a character loosely on one of my friends (I have also allowed said friend to read the bits I have written). I do try and disguise people though as I don't always ask because I don't always set out that way, and I dont want to get sued.

Nice topic Rachel! Sending more wishes for a speedy recovery.

Kate said...

I tried to do Nano this year (I did it last year, successfully), but I'm in the middle of moving out of our rented house, and our new house isn't ready to move into yet, so I'm in limbo. And my computer crashed three times (thank god I didn't erase what I'd written on my Alphasmart otherwise I would have lost it all!).

I dont care if I expose myself in my writing at all. Its fiction, after all, and if anyone assumes I'm like any of my characters then thats their problem (and their stupidity for assuming!). I'm not going to spend my life batting off other peoples assumptions about me that are based on stuff I write. My standard answer is: Its all made up!

Fiona said...

I signed up for it but didn't do it. I've loved the pep emails from them even though I feel a fraud reading them.

Glad you seem better - you've had a rough few weeks.

JJ said...

Hi there, sorry I'm late. It's nearly bedtime here so just a quick reply from me.

I haven't done Nanowrimo. I did consider it, but knew I'd got too much on. I think it's an interesting approach and I won't rule it out for another time.

I think I probably reveal quite a lot about myself when I write. Not because I record what really happens or use the character traits of friends and family, but because there's emotional truth in writing. At least I think there is, and I think there probably should be for writing that moves the reader.

Helen Shearer said...

Hi all!
Great topic this week. I hadn't heard of Your Messages until right now. Can't wait to finish work so I can go home and see what it's all about. I have never done NaNoWriMo but I did the 3 Day Novel Contest last year for a laugh. For those of you not familiar with it, you have 72 hours (Labour Day weekend) to write a novel and the winner gets published. I changed my story altogether and started fresh at hour thirty-six and still managed to get 12,000 words by the deadline. Most fun I've ever had and it really makes you realise what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. Also makes you realise exactly what kind of a lunatic you can become without sleep.
I think that inevitably our personalities creep into our writing. My current project is based on my experiences working as a maid when I was young, poor and stupid and many of the events did occur, but the names and details have been changed to protect the idiots. Even if I didn't change the details I doubt anyone would sue because they'd then have to admit that they are one of the idiots. Eighty percent of what I write is pure fiction, the other twenty is merely based in reality.
Have a great week everyone.

liz fenwick said...

Rachel so pleased you sound better - hope you are feeling it too.

I am always tempted by Nano but November it a short month and with Christmas coming up it's a non-start.

I think I can't help but reveal bits of myself in my books. I write from the heart and head - so I'm there in someway but I try in edits to taske out anything that is too personal :-)

Can I have a perc, please. iam totally adicted to coffee again.....

Kate.Kingsley said...

Hello, Sorry I'm a bit late....

I didn't Nano this year either (and never have beforehand, for that matter) as I am inexplicably scared of it!

I tend not to give a lot away about myself ~ or at least I try not to. Oddly enough during A215 my autobiographical writing was my strongest area, and that really surprised me, but I did fictionalise rather a lot of it, for the sake of comfort and better reading.

But I would like to become more emotionally honest when I write ~ something in me clams up and I KNOW its hurting my writing. Anyone got any good ideas for freeing up, emotionally, when writing?

Leatherdykeuk said...

Zinnia; if your writing reveals the way you see the world, no wonder you’re so great with people.

Jen: I’ll look forward to your report on Sarah Salway's course 

Rowan. Good Point. I get the opposite, though; I write fiction and people assume it to be true!

Cathy: Mixing it all up is good; I should do that more often to avoid litigation.

ChrisH: Good point! Publish and be damned (again)

Helen: Yes; avoid discernable characters. I have one I have to alter, too!

Lane: I think a little plundering of oneself makes characters more believable.

Juliette: Good points. I have been beaten up by an elf and it’s not nice. It’s one of the reasons why I started learning jiu-jitsu.

Kate: Bummer on the computer crashes. Believe me, I know that one!

Fiona: I felt a fraud getting the pep mails, too.

JJ: I loved the idea of ‘emotional truth’

Helen S: A novel in three days? I couldn’t do it! You maid novel sounds fascinating.

Liz: I don’t know where you would have squeezed NaNo into your busy life!

Leatherdykeuk said...

Kate: To free up emotionally is hard. I can only suggest putting your Id aside and writing your autobiographical stuff as if it were about a friend.

sheepish said...

As usual I wait til I can have a glass of wine. Hope you are feeling a lot better after your nasty accident.
I've considered Nano but I know that with my track record of Procrastination I would be unlikely to finish.
I just write whatever comes into my head and I suppose there must be a lot of me in one of my characters, but to be honest I don't think about it too much as all I want to do at the moment is get the story on the page. Maybe when I have my first draft finished I may have to worry then about what I have disclosed about myself or family and friends. Til then I shall just plough on undeterred.

Caroline said...

Rushing to make coffee today after a few days away.

When I write I find people wanting to identify with characters that have been created. People/family members look for themselves within my words. I think we often spill without even realising.

With ISoA I had to change names at the last minute and of course, every journalist to date has asked me if I have been sexually abused. *sigh*

An interesting topic. Is there such a thing as fiction?

Love to all.
x

A. Writer said...

I signed up for NaNoWriMo but I couldn't take part as I had some health problems.

I sometimes feel a bit odd that I am maybe revealing something that I maybe shouldn't. I know that my first book could be looked at as autobiograpical and I have to be careful.

Wayne said...

Inspiration in a teabag. Rooibos. Thanks.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Well I guess I should apologise for not contributing to Novel Racers much recently. I'm quite proud of myself as I have started the synopsis for my novel and feel confident I will have it finished by year end! With everything else I have to do it's a tall order but a commitment I have made, to myself. The first chapter is done (I think) and I am half way through the second. Baring in mind this is my first novel, I am a complete novice and haven't got an agent or publisher (although I do have a publisher who is interested). Anyway, I do still look in and always enjoy reading posts and blogs.

Best wishes, Crystal xx

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

I too am a "write it as it comes" writer although I do go back a couple days later and see if it still reads Ok sometimes if I htink that in retrospect it might just be a bit self indulgent in its autobiographic content!

CC Devine said...

A belated hello from me. Sorry for being so late but have been away since last Thursday.

I think that generally I write as it comes and do end up revealing parts of myself as many of you have also mentioned. I find writing very therapeutic and invitably problems that I've been experiencing some times end up in my writing but they tend leap out at me when I edit so I can choose whether to cut them or disguise the situation with a bit more care. It's usually quite cringey reading but hey, it's cheaper than therapy!

CC