More reflections on writing



Titles: Are they the bane of your existence, or the easiest part of the fic? Also, if you do chaptered fic, do you give each chapter a title, or not?

I don’t always find them easy. Usually, by the time I’ve finished a story some theme or focus will become clear and will suggest a title to me. Of course, I then have to decide whether it will make sense to my readers, and check that it doesn’t clash with another story in the same genre (or fandom if it’s a fanfic). Lots of people write stories with the same title – and of course there’s no ownership or copyright in titles – but we try not to overlap in the same sandpit if only because it makes each book less visible to possible readers or purchasers.

For original fic there’s a further issue. If I’m writing a series, I need to make sure the titles link the books together as well as being easily remembered. So I try to use the same format – it’s no good calling book 1 The Scroll and book 2 The one where they go abroad. Again, the titles usually suggest themselves towards the end of the first draft and sometimes earlier.

For fanfic, I didn’t, for ages, title chapters in a long work. In fact, after some formatting problems with a long fanfic ‘novel’ I backed away from chapters altogether. However, recently I posted a collection of drabbles which I called Monsterfest (because it was in response to prompts in a comm duiring October) and I used chapter titles to enable people to find the monster they wanted. It worked OK. I prefer, as a reader, to have chapter titles as it makes searching easier if you come back after a long pause. So I try to treat my readers as I would like to be treated.

For orginal fic I also use chapter titles, not just so that readers can search easily, but to give them a flavour of what the chapter might concern. Formatting chapter titles to create a live chapter section for Amazon or Smashwords is horrendous. Just saying.


Where do you get the most inspiration (also, at least in the fandom world, known as plot bunnies) for your stories?

I suppose from my subconscious though obviously that must be influenced by outside factors. I have always told myself stories in my head, whether about the characters in a book or film I liked or about original characters of my own. Sometimes these develop into fully grown ‘bunnies’ and have to be written because one of the main characters insists.

We all, whether we admit it or not, get inspiration from other things we have read or heard. Sometimes it might be unconscious and sometimes you might be aware that you are heavily influenced by e.g. a Chaucer storyline or a Shakespeare scene. If the inspiration is a current writer, I always cite. If it’s a writer who is out of copyright then I feel it is only polite to at least mention them to my readers in the summary or notes.

One example is my self published novella, The Lord of Shalott.

The first section is based on Tennyson’s poem and inspired by Loreena McKennit’s ballad. I am happy to tell people that and send them to the sources.

Another example is my SGA fanfic …Till A’ The Seas Gang Dry… (On Archive Of Our Own). The title and the general theme of the story are from Robert Burns’ poem which I quote at the end – full lyrics because it’s out of copyright, of course.


When you have ideas, do you sit down and start writing right away, or do you write them down for future use?

It depends how busy I am. Once I start writing something I keep on to the end, sometimes forgetting to cook dinner, go shopping, get dressed or whatever else I ‘should’ be doing. So if I am already in the middle of something any new ‘bunnies’ have to wait their turn. I do make a brief note of them but in such cryptic terms that even I am sometimes hard pressed to recall what I wanted to write. If the story idea is a sequel to something I am already writing or have written then obviously it has to be filed and approached at the appropriate time.


Do you ever get ideas from other people’s stories or art in the same genre or fandom?

I have never consciously been inspired by other people’s stories or art, but my favourites must influence my thinking. The only exception is when I have been doing prompts for a challenge with other writers. But that’s more a case of everybody responding to the same prompt though obviously discussion plays a part.

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