Writing students have sometimes told me they wish for a book that will not only provide advice about skills, but will somehow urge and inspire the reader to write and continue to write. I hope that Dear Writer Revisited will fulfill the students’ wishes and answer the needs of both new and experienced writers.
I believe that fiction writers find the material for fiction in their own memories of life - it's what their imaginations do with that material that characterises the fiction. Books, films, newspapers, television and so on give people a lot of information which acts as a sort of secondhand memory. This kind of material can be a source of inspiration, but when much of the content of the fiction is borrowed from this source, without passing through the particular medium of the writer's heart and imagination, the fiction can fail to engage the reader, can be dull and unconvincing. This is not a blunt exhortation to write in a simple-minded way about the facts you know while ignoring the possibilities of the things you don't know; rather I am suggesting that one of the finest and purest and most exciting and inventive and rewarding elements of the writing of fiction is the imagination of the writer. But the first field of the writer's enquiry actually is the writer. Find out who you are and what you know, and then more or less forget it – fly off wide of your own base.
“The heart knows things, and so does the imagination. Thank God. If not for the heart and imagination, the world of fiction would be a pretty seedy place. It might not even exist at all.”
“The fiction arose out of the unconscious, coupled with observation but above all with imagination.”
Daphne du Maurier
Recently I was talking to a man who had been kind enough to send me a lot of research material for one of my books. During the conversation the man asked me how I was going to use the material. His question prompted me to come up with a useful and straightforward explanation – I said that I would read all the papers he had sent me, I would take some notes, then I would more or less forget the material and make stuff up.
That would be the novel.