21 April 2007

Food for the writer's soul

Last night I went out for dinner with a good friend of mine who's a fellow writer. There's nothing better than spending a long, leisurely dinner talking about our novels and how they're going and what our characters are doing and ... Oh, I was in heaven. Nobody understands the passion of writing like a fellow writer. A fellow fantasy writer at that. We talked about books and blogging and other writers and all sorts of things.

We ate in an Italian restaurant that had wide open windows almost to our waist level, so it was almost like eating outside. After a balmy autumn's day the night was cool, too cool to sit outside comfortably in short sleeves, but this was perfect. We talked about the souvenir I had bought in Swan Hill for one of my characters, and how my dog has just half destroyed that, but how that damage has now flowed into the book as well.

She talked about the excitement of nearing the end of her first draft. Like me, this has been a long labour of absolute love, and so we also talked about the published authors we've heard speak at writers' festivals or conventions who say things like, "I don't particularly love writing. If my book hadn't been published I would have moved on and tried something else." That's a devastating statement for a non-published (at a novel level) author to hear. We know how hard the game is. We know that you need talent and dedication and persistance and more than a modicum of luck (especially with the timing!). One publisher spoke to a group of us telling us that she only takes on one new author a year. Doesn't matter if she has three potential blockbuster newbies; she only takes on one. That's another devastating statement. Bad luck for you if you sub just after she's accepted her newbie.

My friend will celebrate the end of her first draft, and so will I, because it's no small achievement. Many people start novels; far fewer finish them.

We talked about a review of a fantasy novel that I'd recently read (the review, not the book) and how I was surprised to see that it said that the book had left out all the boring bits about fantasy, ie the journey. That was something to reflect on because I love the journey. Maybe it's a hankering for my past horse-riding days, but the journey is one of the major attractions for me about fantasy. My friend loves it too. It brings me back to the science fiction versus fantasy divide that is so apparent in Australian writers -- so many science fiction writers are scathing of fantasy.

I like the quote that Sherryl told me that a writer at a conference she'd gone to in the US said: that science fiction is a literature of the mind, and fantasy a literature of the heart. I can't agree more.

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