Start writing fiction: characters and stories
Start writing fiction: characters and stories

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Start writing fiction: characters and stories

2.1 Writers’ rituals

Figure 1

What rituals and methods do other writers use? Some of these might be of benefit to you.

Listen to these novelists talk about the methods and practices they find useful, including the writer’s notebook, and morning pages. The writers are Michèle Roberts, Monique Roffey and Alex Garland.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: ou_fiction_aud_1001_other_writers_rituals.mp3
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Listen to these novelists talk about the methods and practices they find useful, including the writer’s notebook and morning pages. The writers are Michèle Roberts, Monique Roffey and Alex Garland. As you listen, note down which approaches are most or least suited to you.
In the first six months when I’m fumbling and grumbling and scrambling, I write a lot, I write obsessively in my notebook. I write ideas that are hopeless and don’t work. I write diary entries about not being able to write and about being a complete failure and about silence and about writer’s block, and I write about anything that comes into my head, because what I’m doing is practicing – I’m freeing up the unconscious, I’m letting language out to start dancing, and I think it does sound rather close to madness what I’m describing, but I don’t mind. I know it’s a madness contained in my room and it’s a madness that will flow into a novel – I can handle it. I wouldn’t want to upset anyone or alarm anyone by saying you have to have a nervous breakdown in order to write, it isn’t about that, but it’s about going down below the level of everyday, daily language, the language we use for chatting to each other. Going down into the unconscious where language is much looser and wilder. I think of it as being in a kind of beehive and there’s all this buzzing and bees rushing about and you’ve just got to be there. [Laughs.]
When I wrote Sun Dog um, I um, I’d previously read about this idea of doing morning pages, it was Dorothea Brand. And she has this idea that in order to sort of harness your unconscious, writing in the morning, writing before you do anything else is a great way to sort of harness your unconscious, and consciously get yourself going and I took that idea up and so I wrote Sun Dog very much like that. I would get up, go straight to the computer, gummy teeth, bad breath, gummy eyes, you know not stopped for coffee, not stopped for anything and I would just write for an hour or two in that state, in my jim jams. And I wouldn’t make my bed as again it was all a series of rituals and superstitions but I just went from bed to my word processor and started writing. And I wrote like that every day for a year or two practically.
I tend to work mainly late at night, I think that was a consequence of um, I suppose initially it was because of living with my Mum and that past 10 or 10.30, that’s when the place was quiet and I’d get work done. But it became a habit and I stuck with it, it’s a good time to write in general I think. Although, having now met some other writers and spoken to them, it’s quite interesting how many of them opt for the very early morning. I think you get the same deal. It’s quiet essentially, you’re less likely to get disturbed or interrupted by anything. And sort of veering towards the slightly more pretentious, I’d say that something about working either late at night or early morning, maybe because it’s got a kind of proximity to dreams – either you’re about to start dreaming or you’ve just been dreaming and the sort of proximity there with your unconscious or something that’s going on in the back of your head, I think that can be helpful, and I think when I look at my stuff there’s often a slightly sort of trippy, hallucinogenic quality to it which I think is to do with when it gets written partly.
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As you listen, think about the following questions, and note your answers down.

  1. What approaches are most suited to you?
  2. Which approaches are least suited?

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