Tuesday, February 9

Writing Fuel

I loved Liz's post about how she finds fuel for writing and I couldn't disagree with a single point she made yesterday ,except maybe for the whole early morning, get-started-before-the-sun-rises, waking-up-with-the-chickens thing. Yikes!! How I respect someone who is an early morning kind of person. I can be an early morning person when I have to be, and I've been known to get up before the sun rises when I have an urgent deadline on a editing project. Coffee and the promise of a decent paycheck will fuel my early-morning work ethic, but mostly, I'm a night writer. And frankly, early morning rising has gotten even harder since Husband retired because he makes that bed so warm and cozy and .  . . well, that's another blog post.

Like Liz, my brain fuel also comes from where I write and with whom I brainstorm--and those long texting conversations that turn into phone calls between Liz and me are absolutely the best! Plus, when we do retreats or writing trips together, sitting around a hotel dining room with a bottle of wine between us and our laptops in front of us while we take apart plot or characters is treasured time for me. But I also get fueled by what my dear editor, Lani Diane Rich calls "absorbing narrative."


Movies are a fabulous way to absorb narrative and learn about story structure. The storyteller has roughly two hours to get the job done, so anything extraneous has to go. Some movies do this flawlessly, others—not so much. Before I started working with Lani, I’d never watched a movie with the intent of learning structure before, but it’s a fascinating experience. Sister PJ and Husband would tell you it’s a pain in the butt to watch movies with me now because I kept stopping the DVD player to turn to them and say, “See? See how they did that transition?” or “There, perfect! Look how they gave us all that information in the first five minutes of the film.” Last Christmas, within the first twenty minutes of Love Actually, I'd stopped the film about three times. PJ finally said, “Touch that remote again and I'll smack you! Shut up and watch the damn movie!"

While I'm in the Discovery phase of a book--that's the time that I'm working out story, figuring out plot, letting those characters talk to me--I read voraciously. I watch movies until my eyes water, I listen to music, I pay attention to conversations around me at airports and in line at the grocery store or the movies. Reading other people's stories fuels my creative energy and watching how plot develops in a really good, or even a really bad, film helps feed my writer fire. Not only do you learn from other people's work, but it can inspire your own writing and fill up your creative well.

So talk to me. How do you fuel your writerly brain? 

7 comments:

  1. I love that you can learn so much from movies and pinpoint things like transitions, etc. I am either wholly absorbed by a movie (cue Love, Actually) or so bored I can't concentrate (cue anything in the action film aisle)--either way, I've never been able to learn a movie's lessons. Great post, Nan.

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    1. Thanks, Liz! Learning to do it has become distracting--sometimes I just like to watch a movie...not take it apart. ;-)

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    1. Thanks, Kristi! How'd release day go?

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  3. Nan, you should go see the movies in the theatre... no "pause" button, so your family won't yell at you :-) Great post!

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    1. Hey baby! Yeah, people in the theater would get kinda pissy if I kept editorializing on the structure of the film, wouldn't they? ;-)

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  4. Well, I could tell you, but then I'd have nothing to post tomorrow :)

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