Friday, 6 February 2009

Advice for new writers

partly cloudy, temps minus 5, breezy

Very pleasant, walking south on rue Saint-Jean. Not so comfortable walking back. Wind right in the face. Still, fortunately it's not that cold.

Woke up this morning and tried to figure out why I'm having so much more fun here than I did in Paris. There's no way, as gorgeous as Quebec City is, it can be considered that much better than Paris! Perhaps I'm simply more familair with Quebec. And I have friends here. And a mission. that's always fun. Research. I think too I'm more relaxed. I was just exhausted when we went to paris in early December...all I really wanted to do was sleep and eat. Paris felt just too energetic, too thrilling. Too enervating.

But I think a huge factor for me is this home we've rented for the month. It's beautiful. Spacious, gracious, comfortable, renovated enough to be up-to-date but without the character stripped away. And the masterbedroom in the eaves is nothing short of spectacular. That, for me, is a huge issue.

I nest. I sure don't need a big space...but I do need a place I find beautiful, and safe.

I'm not an adventuruous person. As a teenager I realize I was physically daring (parachuting etc) but emotionally very timid - frightened. Now, at 50, I'm more cautious physically but way more daring and confident emotionally and intellectually.

So, yeah, give me a challenging book to write...and put me in a small room...but it better be beautiful. And have pastries.

Spent a lovely morning in Chez Temporel. Michael and I first had breakfast at Le Petit Coin Latin (omelettes) - then he came home to work on his laptop, and I took my notebook down the street to the cafe. Tiny place, as I've described. 10 small tables, tin ceiling, long wooden bar. I think everyone else (3 people) was writing a book as well. At least 2 of them were nursing coffees and writing on laptops or in notebooks. The third spent an hour reading Le Soleil (daily Quebec City newspaper).

In a Quebec cafe no one hurries you. You're welcome to bring a book, order a coffee, and sit all day.

I had a bowl of guess what and schemed. Needed to figure out how Gamache figures it out. Some mystery writers don't need to plot that closely - I do. For me it's the foundation from which the story and the characters take off. As long as I have that I feel free to be really creative. One of the wonderful things I've learned - there is no right or wrong way to write a book - just what works for each of us.

The advice I give to aspiring writers is pretty simple:

1) read poetry
2) write what you like to read
3) write for yourself - believe in it, and others will too
4) your creative self needs to write the first draft. Go wild - let yourself really go. Ignore your internal critic who says it's crap. (there's a place for your 'critic' in the editing - but not before)
5) Be kind to yourself - set yourself up for success
6) never, ever forget how lucky you are...and enjoy it.

I don't always remember my own advice...but on days I do I do my best work. And have fun.

10 comments:

Bobbie said...

Oh Louise, souls apart in miles but so much 'clicks' with me, in what you've said. Like you, I was timid-backward, emotionally and daring in action; and now am more able to interact and relate and think correctly and react better...and like you, I nest. I want beauty and a safe feeling, and me and my husband and dog, and time to think, and plan, and enjoy life. And like you, I like character in a place, along with the beauty...back when we traveled, I wanted simple mountain air and a plain cabin with gorgeous skies, etc. And now we live in an odd part of our area, on a gravel road, very small house, was all we could afford back then--and we've redecorated a bit, but left a lot of the character...it speaks. And we have our own woods, and see the sky, and trees, and corn growing across the road in neighbour's field...true beauty if you look and appreciate and watch. :-)

Yes, I am sure Paris must be gorgeous and wonderful-my son's been there several times...but for me, reading about your joy and sights in Quebec, and looking at your photos on your web page and here, has been a true comfort-adventure-fun-exciting trip, and feeling of traveling with a friend.

Louise, that's what you are able to do, as a skilled writer and good person--convey joy and wondour and beauty and fun...and make us feel like we are 'there'. You do it in your books, for me, always. And others too, evidently! Your numbers keep going up and up! :-) And we look forward to this one big time! :-)

I love the idea of cafes that let people sit all day and write or read or think.

And your advice for a writer. That is perfect, in my humble opinion. Even though I am not a writer, as a reader I do wish more writers would follow these ideas. Poetry helps. And by the way, you can use the word "live" instead of "write" and it would also be totally true in most of these rules. Maybe not the 'go wild' part, that might be in your thoughts, and then edit it into reality when you actually do something you've dreamed about--but maybe do something like ride that toboggan! :-)

But yes, life, if lived the way your advice reads, is very full and very joyous and very rewarding. And it is lessons learned the hard way, for me to get to believing this and living it, but even then...it was a true adventure, and I learned and turned towards better things, and every day is wonderful now....thank you for giving me a great day, with your blog, Louise!

Bobbie

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Bobbie,

What a very beautiful, rich, fulsome message you wrote. How wonderful 'not alone' feels.

Thank you.

hilary said...

Your trips to Britain and to Paris have been delightful, but they don't begin to approach the exuberance with which you describe your time in Quebec City. Perhaps it's that Quebec City is in your blood. Maybe not your bone -- you weren't born there -- but definitely, your blood, the spirit that flows through you and flows to us in your vivid, joyful embrace of that fabulous city.

Or maybe it's the pastries. And the farting nuns.

Kay said...

Louise, I'm reading good comments about your books all over the blogosphere. I'm so pleased that more and more people are finding out about Three Pines and Gamache.

Glad to hear you are having a lovely time in Quebec City. Stay warm and safe!

sarahsbooks said...

What heartening advice for writers... and just what this one in particular needed to hear today, as I contemplate my rough draft (the one that's been sitting in a box, aging like a sharp cheddar, for more than two years). Thank you.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Hilary,

Thank you for what you say, and I think you're right. It's funny that I'm not conscious of 'being home' until I'm there...or I guess it's more that I can be comfortable in many places, adapt. But when I'm 'home' it just happens. It's right.

And I think the Nun's Farts play a suspiciously large role. You must know anyone who hasn't read that blog is wondering what this could possibly mean...and if you're offended by it, I want you to know one thing...Hilary started it.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Kay,

Thank you, my friend. You know, I feel a bit of a shift myself...it doesn't feel as though more people are finding the books. Thank you so much for noticing that and telling me - and I know you are a HUGE part of spreading the word.

This, as you know, has been a particularly thrilling month in my life but one of the highlights - the things I won't forget - was meeting you and having that wonderful dinner together in Phoenix.

Be well.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Sarah,

If your short comment is any indication I bet you'll be surprised and delighted by how good that manuscript is. And how exciting to have one! I always find editing so much easier than writing the first rough draft...though we're all different.

But huge and sincere ongratulations on having a draft of your first book. Most people never get close to that. Too caught up in wishful thinking, and fear.

hilary said...

Obviously Louise is becoming as shifty as some of her characters -- pointing the finger of blame where it does not belong. But you have to read --the blog, in this case -- to find out "whodunnit" to the poor heretofore non-flatulent nuns.

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