Write what you know, they say. For us lazy ones, this is an excuse to avoid research. Realistically, though, it means showing an accurate perspective on life.

Jane Austen, for example, never wrote a secene with just men. She knew her limitations; she knew what she knew, and more importantly, she knew what she did not know. Dickens rarely writes about upper classes — at least, he focuses on the city of London and its poor. Tolkien wrote what he knew: history, mythology, England. He knew Welsh myths and Norse legends. He studied the stuff. So although his stories are set in fantastical lands full of people who don’t exist and events that never happened, his writing breathes sincerity.

This is a lesson I have to learn. What do I know of … well, anything? I hardly know myself, let alone anyone else. But I think there are two ways to “know” something: either by experience, so, firsthand knowledge; or by observation, or secondhand knowledge. Dickens knew by experience: he had wandered the streets of London, he had lived in the greying fog before he ever put a word to paper. Tolkien, I believe, knew mostly through observation: he studied, he read, he observed. I don’t think (correct me if I’m wrong!) he ever set foot outside his beloved country, and yet he was able to write entire worlds.

Of course, it helps to be a genius, I suppose. Maybe that’s what I need to work on. Hmmm …

Writer’s Sloth

Well, I’ve been a neglectful blogger, haven’t I? I could conjure up all sorts of lovely excuses, but really, it’s not my fault when the white tigers maul the floating fishes on the screen saver. Stupid cats.
Anywho, so, Words. People. Characters. Pets. Blogs. Verbs. Grammar. Snorkel. Whatever am I supposed to talk about?
Some people call it writer’s block. I think of it rather differently. When you say “writer’s block,” it sounds as if there is a usual flow of creative energy — a current of mental electricity — that is temporarily stopped, then, sometime afterwards, started up again. For me, I sit and sit and sit and sit, and stare at the blank page. I can try to “just write it down,” as some writers recommend, but when words come out of my mind through my pen, they solidify like that waxy chocolate ice cream coating, and it’s extremely difficult to reshape or reform that decisive wording. That poor quality remains, and there is nothing I can do to bring it to a higher literary level. It’s better for me to wait for the “lightening” to strike: then, when that happens, I can’t write fast enough: words and thoughts come flowing, spilling, gushing out, tumbling over each other in their eagerness to be expressed. And that inspiration is the stuff I like, the stuff I am proud of, the stuff I think, “aha! This will make a great story someday!”
Someday. It’s a tricky place, that Someday. Is it just me, or is it impossible to set oneself a deadline and actually keep it? I tell myself: “I need to read X-number of pages a night, or X-number of minutes” … “I need to finish editing this story by the end of the month” … “I need to publish a novel within the year.” These are all *possibilities,* but they never become actualities. Why is that? It would be so easy to blame it on human nature … except, there are actually other humans out there who have successfully written, edited, and published books. Many books, in fact. Unless … they are not human. But I’m guessing this is not the case. Sigh.

15 Status Updates from Bottledworder about Writing

Excellent advice!


BottledworderI was browsing my Facebook page and noticed that I’ve managed to come up with several words of wisdom over the past few months through my status updates. Some are topical and have lost their punch but there are several others that I thought merited compilation here on the blog. Since status updates are so ephemeral in nature, do “like” the Facebook page if you’d like the updates as and when they show up.

If not, just taste 15 of them here below. If they seem rather disjointed, keep in mind that they were just nuggets (I hope of something akin to wisdom) that appeared scattered over weeks and months.


**1. Read before you think. Think before you write. Think very hard before you hit publish!

**2. Writing eats up time and gets out of control but isn’t it better than other addictions?

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D’awww. *blush* I’ve been nominated for membership in the National Geographic Society — erm, the Liebster Award! Thanks, Maggie Murphy! I feel ashamed to have let this blog sit so long … perhaps you are trying to goad me back into writing, eh? I don’t know how to link properly (and I’m too lazy to figure it out at the moment), but you can find Maggie’s Liebster-lovely blog on the sidebar (< over there!) and you should definitely check it out. Cuz I said so.

Per Marquis of Queensbury Rules, I am to carry out the following injunctions:

1) Expose my readers to the randomness of my soul.

2) Supply my nominator with answers to her queries.

3) Impose this honor and task upon others deemed worthy.

4) Notify said worthies.

5) Demand said worthies to expose the randomness of their souls.

6) Give thanks.

Maggie took upon herself three of the eleven demands, so I shall take up the remainder and settle the score. Eight is my favorite number, anyway.


Fit the First: Me

1. I am currently in a rather Carrolline mood at the moment, having just watched “Soul of Genius,” the final episode of the fifth season of the brilliant television series “Lewis” (must see!). This morning, I read “The Hunting of the Snark” and, in the fifteen (or so) minutes it took me, I have concluded that there is no reason to the rhyme, except entertainment,  as with “Jabberwocky” and Wonderland and the Looking Glass and the “Walrus and the Carpenter.” There *is* such a thing as over-analysis. Trust me, I’ve done it.

2. I am not afraid of spiders. Tuna, on the other hand, frightens the heck out of me.

3. The word of the day (according to my “word of the day” peelable desk calendar) for my birthday this year was “transmogrify.” WIN!

4. In order to meet certain fictional characters, I have a bad habit of writing myself into stories as an additional minor character. For example: I love Lord Peter Wimsey. Lord Peter has a nephew who mentions a sister in Gaudy Night — a mention not more than two sentences long, but enough for me to develop a character and personality for a spin-off murder mystery series I began writing in high school … and, like everything else, never finished.

5. If I were a cat, I would have used up five of my nine lives by now.

#6. I have a huge crush on Patrick McGoohan 🙂 (and a lot of other random actors, of course, like any self-respecting fangirl, but he’s so little known, I thought I’d give him a shout-out).

7. Despite my large and loving family, I am an extremely adoptable person. I have been honorarily adopted by distant relatives, friends’ relatives, coworkers, and professors. The jury is still out as to Why.

8. My first car was named Viola Marie Gwendolyn Christie Jane. And like any proper time machine, it was bigger on the inside.

Fit the Second: Maggie’s Quiz

1. Favorite meal to prepare: Ooooh. Well, generally, I’m partial to baking therapy, but cooking … hmmm. Well, there’s this really amazing pasta primavera recipe I have where you saute mushrooms and tomatoes together with some basil and oregano and other herbs (garlic, red pepper flakes, maybe onion powder …?), and I have to say, there is nothing like the smell of mushrooms and tomatoes and herbs in olive oil. Culinary perfection.

2. Influential, inspirational moment in history: Does Middle-Earth history count? No? Ok, well … I guess I can’t pick a moment as much as a hero. Judith in the Old Testament; St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr; St. Edmund Campion, priest, writer, and martyr; St. Thomas More, humanist, writer, and martyr; St. Maxilian Kolbe, priest, prisoner of war, and martyr … I have a penchant for martyrs, I suppose.

3. Wisdom for writers:

a) Write. Read. Repeat. ‘Nuff said (but I’m going to keep talking) …

b) There are two kinds of characters: characters filling a role (you need an aunt character here, or a murder victim there) and characters who create their own roles (who walk into your head and never leave). Be very sure the latter get plenty of attention and “screen-time,” or they will haunt you for the rest of your writing life.

c) Verbs create the sentence. Use verbs.

d) Strunk and White. Read it, know it, sleep with it under your pillow. If you drool on it, buy another copy.

e) Focusing on one story will drain your energy and inspiration. Try bouncing back and forth between multiple projects, so as to refresh those creative juices. It will take you forever and a day to complete anything, but the inspiration will be true.

f) Draw from life. Study the people you know. Use exact and particular details to create atmosphere and flesh out characters.

Fit the Third: Nominees (all listed in the sideboard!) 

1. heredwellsawriter

2. Mere Inkling

3. Jubilare

4. Trial by Teaching

5.The Warden’s Walk

6. Egotist’s Club

7. Lookout for Hope

8. Reflections from the Journey

Fit the Fourth: Queries

1. If you could date a fictional character, whom would it be?

2. If you could travel either forwards or backwards in time, which one, and why?

3. Vanilla, chocolate, or Superman ice cream?

4. If you had to name your children after your family and relatives, which five names would you pick?

5. What one type of food or dish could you eat every day for the rest of your life?

6. If you could be a fictional character, whom would you be?

7. If you could only write one story in your entire writing life, which would it be?

8. If you could change the ending to a favorite story, which would it be?