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Lois McMaster Bujold on writing

by Michael Nielsen on May 2, 2004

>From the omnibus collection, “Young Miles”:

“I’ve described my usual writing process as scrambling from peak to peak of inspiration through foggy valleys of despised logic. Inspiration is better – when you can get it.”

“The fundamental substance of a book, if you are writing a real book, in your own blood, is not optional. The thematic vision often cannot be communicated – or even realized, if (as in my own case) the writing itself is a process of self-discovery – in partial sections. The whole must be present to become greater than the sum of the parts. Test readers, however useful in some areas (spelling! grammar! continuity! O please yes!) can become a hazard when they begin, on the basis of incomplete information, trying in all good faith to help you write some other book than the one you intend…. Zelazny’s dictum, “Trust your demon”, meaning, follow your own inner vision, eventually became a mantra for me.”

>From the ombibus collection, “Cordelia’s Honor”:

“… thus accidentally discovering my first application of the rule for finding plots for character-centred novels, which is to ask “So what’s the worst possible thing I can do to this guy?”. And then do it.”

“The book had now acquired the opposite problem from that of mid-winter, of being too short; it was now getting longer, but not getting any closer to the end… Since it was apparent that this really was going to be a book, and not just another false start in life, marketing considerations began to come into play.”

“It turned into the book it always should have been, a real book, where plot, character, and theme all worked together to make a whole greater than the sum of the parts. It turned out to be about something, beyond itself. It’s a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn’t even know you were aiming for.”

“All great human deeds both consume and transform their doers. Consider an athlete, or a scientist, or an artist, or an independent business creator. In service of their goals they lay down time and energy and many other choices and pleasures; in return, they become most truly themselves. A false destiny may be spotted by the fact that it consumes without transforming, without giving back the enlarged self. Becoming a parent is one of these basic human transformational deeds. By this act, we change our fundamental relationship with the universe – if nothing else, we lose our place as the pinnacle and end-point of evolution, and become a mere link. The demands of motherhood especially consume the old self, and replace it with something new, often better and wiser, sometimes wearier or disillusioned, or tense and terrified, certainly more self-knowing, but never the same again.”

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