Today I'm pleased to welcome the fabulous Moira Young to The Queen of Teen Fiction on the 4th day of her Raging Star blog tour. I adore the Dustlands trilogy, so I was super excited to be asked to take part in the tour! Moira has taken the time to share her Top 10 Tips for all you aspiring writers out there. Enjoy!
The most frequently asked question of writers is, Where do you get your ideas? People who aren't writers find this mystifying. My own mother finds it mystifying. They'll shake their head and, in dubious tones, say something like, "Well, I don't know how you do it".
Where does it come from? The words, the images, the ideas, the inspiration? All that richness? That detail? It comes from the Well. That's what some writers, including me, call it. It used to be called the Muse, but nobody much uses that word any more. My main advice to a young, aspiring writer is simply this: fill your Well.
1. Read and read and read and read and cast your reading net wide. Read fiction of all genres and eras. Read newspapers and magazines and flyers and posters and those little cards that people put in the window of paper shops. Read non-fiction; history, psychology, biography, anthropology, geography, science, philosophy, everything. Yes. Really.
Go to some section of the library you've never been to before; military history, say. Is that you groaning? Never mind. Close your eyes, reach out and take a book from the shelf. Leaf through it, look at the pictures, read a little bit. Maybe it's interesting and you read a little more, maybe it's not; that isn't the point. What you're doing is getting in the habit of being open-minded about your reading. And you're collecting stories and ideas and words and all the many ways of telling a story and it's all going into the Well.
Writers and libraries go together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And if you don't know who they are, watch one of their movies - Swing Time maybe - and put that into your Well. Maybe you'll like it and watch more. Which brings me to
2. The movies. Films. Cinema. Again, be open-minded and adventurous. My earliest and greatest literary influence is the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, which I first saw on TV when I was 4 or 5. My dad had been a cinema manager and shared his love of movies with me; Westerns, swashbucklers, musicals, all kinds of movies. Before I was 10, he'd taken me to see such epic films as Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and Dr Zhivago; this was storytelling on a grand scale and went deep into my Well. I had no idea that the movies were teaching me how to tell stories.
3. Read poetry. Let it shake up your ideas about words and language. Open yourself to the richness and possibilities of language.
4. Listen to music. Feel the rhythms and phrases and take these into the words of the stories you tell.
If you confine yourself to current trends, bestsellers or a particular genre of film or book or music, you're wading in the shallows and your Well will be shallow and quickly depleted. Move away from the shore, from your comfort zone. Dive in the deep waters and swim around.
5. Go to plays, museums, art galleries, the opera. Yes, the opera! Stories told through music, how wonderful is that? Attend sports events, live music and dance, festivals, the circus. Get a hobby, start a band, paint your grandmother's shed. Fall in love, get your heart broken, learn to tap dance. Leave your room, leave the house, live your life, follow your bliss, fill the Well.
6. Become an eavesdropper, a student, an observer of other people and their lives. Gather their stories, listen to what they say and how they say it. This means you need to
7. Carry a notebook and pen with you. Write down thoughts, questions, ideas, observations, titles, descriptions of people and places, fragments of overheard conversations, draw a picture if you're so inclined. My thoughts and ideas are slippery critters; if I don't grab them by the tail as they dash in front of me, I'm bound to forget.
8. Take long walks by yourself. Some famous person or other said that "books are written with the feet". I think it was the philosopher Nietzsche. He was a great walker. As was Dickens. He worked out all of his books while walking around London.
9. Unplug yourself from the world. Turn off the noise and the chatter, the TV, the radio, the music, the computer. Stare out the window and watch the clouds drift. Daydream.
So, you're filling your Well, you're observing, you're writing down things in your notebook and maybe, just maybe you might have an idea for a story ...
10. Ask yourself the question, "What if ...?" Stories start to brew when you ask, "What if ...?"
In 2006, I was fraught with anxiety at our inaction on climate change. But my writerly self was musing, "What if the planet heats by 2 degrees? By 3 degrees? What would happen? What would our world be like?" From that one question, "What if?", the first book of my Dustlands trilogy, Blood Red Road, began to stir inside me.
And I began to write. I began to draw on my Well. I had to draw deeply and for nearly eight years to write the Dustlands. Now that it's done, I've got time to daydream and watch movies and read books and go for long walks and fill my Well again and start asking "What if ...? What if ...?"
Saba is ready to seize her destiny and defeat DeMalo and the Tonton...until she meets him and he confounds all her expectations with his seductive vision of a healed earth, a New Eden. DeMalo wants Saba to join him, in life and work, to create and build a healthy, stable, sustainable world…for the chosen few. The few who can pay.
Jack’s choice is clear: to fight DeMalo and try to stop New Eden. Still uncertain, her connection with DeMalo a secret, Saba commits herself to the fight. Joined by her brother, Lugh, anxious for the land in New Eden, Saba leads an inexperienced guerilla band against the powerfully charismatic DeMalo, in command of his settlers and the Tonton militia. What chance do they have? Saba must act. And be willing to pay the price.