The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

HP THURSDAY – What Dementors Mean to Me

This week I made a library run for some reference material to use during November (National Novel Writing Month – aka: NaNoWriMo). I’m branching out this year, from my usual YA urban fantasy routine and adding in a bit of the Mystery genre. One of the books I checked out is by Gillian Roberts. In the book, Roberts lists her 15 Commandments for writers who want to get published (she states, “Writing commandments on a computer is much easier than carving them in stone, so I’ve listed half again as many”). All 15 are amazing, and I just may start putting one in each blog I post, but number 15 gave me an AH-HAH! moment that sent chills down my spine in regards to JK Rowling and specifically book #3.

Here’s the commandment in full:
XV. Thou shalt not believe in writer’s block.
Under all the words and mystique spun around it, writer’s block is old-fashioned fear: fear of yourself, of others’ opinions, of not being good enough or new enough or clever enough. Fear of the critical voice of parents, lovers, teachers or the neighbor who thinks you should spend your free time mowing the lawn. Fear of exposing your secret self and finding it unworthy. Fear, as the man said, of fear itself.
What’s to be done about it? See commandment XIII, on writing as an act of courage. Acknowledge that writing makes you vulnerable. No matter that your firsthand experience of murder is nil; that you in no way resemble your protagonist, villain or victim; and that you’ve never lived in Ancient Crete, where your mystery is set. Even so, your values, which are your real self, are going public via your work, and self-exposure is daring and frightening.
But if you can free yourself to understand that you are complexly human—and so are your readers—and if you put that honest revelation on paper, you’ll have a heady, liberating and exhilarating adventure.
That said, you’re ready for the trip—ready to apply your rear to a chair, stare down your devils and make words happen until you have a mystery. And ready to enjoy yourself in the process!
- Gillian Roberts’ You Can Write a Mystery

And she’s right – I hate writer’s block – AND writing is scary stuff. Opening yourself up to the critique of others is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. Yet, I do it every week in this blog; and every time I hit the send button to publish my post I get a heavy sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, followed quickly by a thrilling heart-rising-into-my-throat exhilaration. Who knew writing was a mad-cap roller coaster ride!

But, back to my epiphany: Alas, it is more about Rowling and the writer’s POV than the book; although that in itself pertains to the book. Yes, I’ve confused myself too. Anyway, when I read that first part about writer’s block being fear of fear itself and knowing – from first hand experience – just how soul-sucking writer’s block can be. And, if you let writer’s block get to you enough and you loose your ability to write, finish the chapter, finish the book, whatever; as a writer you’ve lost your soul completely and life becomes an empty shell of existence. Hey, is this ringing any bells yet?! Yep, I really think Rowling took that fear and created the dementors. They ARE writer’s block. Harry’s fear of the dementors is Rowling’s fear of not completing her novel, or her series. Not seeing these characters meet their end.

Well that’s my take and I’m sticking with it.

What do the dementors mean to you? Agree to disagree if you’d like – because the beautiful thing about writing is the critique and interpretation from readers. Seriously, I know I just told you I was afraid of it, but the roller-coaster ride part of writing, means I crave it as well. I (as many writers do) need to know what the reader is getting out of my story. And sometimes we miss something that we put in there. I remember learning about all of the subplots and code in a good story in school – everything means something and we all started seeing JC characters in every single little thing we read. And at some point I remember thinking – it’s just a story about an old guy and a fish [insert Old Man and the Sea OR Moby Dick here]; why can’t it be just about and old guy and a fish? Now I realize a writer – whether they are willing to admit it or not – brings their own baggage to everything they write; whether they realize it or not. Guess what: Readers do too! So yes, I think whether Rowling realized it or not – she’s writing about writer’s block on some level. And I – as a reader who also writes – sees this and am afraid. I fear…well fear, like Harry and want to see him overcome it. Heck, I want to overcome it myself.

And that ladies and gentlemen is why I love this book so much. Every read brings me closer to these characters, this author and myself. Wow, how is that for an epiphany?

And now, before we plunge ahead into book 4, HP Mondays is taking a hiatus in November. I promise to blog weekly on my NaNoWriMo trials and tribulations and give everyone and updated word count; but I know I won’t have the extra time to give book 4 (or this blog) my full attention next month. Feel free to keep replying to the posts on book 3 – I think there is a lot of discussion that hasn’t been done. I will read and comment as I see fit.

Also, if you are participating in NaNoWriMo you are more than welcome to be my writing buddy – my user name on the site is Miranda. If you don’t know what in the heck I’m talking about then go to for further details. Also, feel free to read upcoming blogs here.

I promise to resume HP Mondays the first week in December with book #4.

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