Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where would Writers be without Chocolate?

Okay, I confess.

I love chocolate, especially chocolate with nuts.

My idea of heaven would be a coffee, some chocolate and a good idea that I can't stop writing. You know, one of those days where you are in the 'zone' and the story just flows.

Of course, you have to do your ground work. You've been reading about related subjects for years, just because they interest you, so you've done your research without realising it.

Every spare moment, when you've been bored while waiting to pick the kids up from school or in the checkout queue, you've been taking the characters out of their 'green room' and chatting to them, finding out what happened in their childhood, what makes them the way they are, finding out what they really want from life and how they interact.

And then the day comes when it all meshes and the story just comes bubbling out. Of course it helps if you have a supply of chocolate and a fresh cup of coffee.

Then there are those days when you've deliberately done the research, you've text-book planned the characters, you've actually planned a story arc and you sit down to write and even chocolate and coffee don't help. Everything you write is flat and uninspired.

What do you do? Why do some stories come naturally and others are hard labour?

What do you do to get in the 'zone'? Do you plan and plot or plunge and grab the story tiger by the tail?

Do you indulge in chocolate to help get the creative juices flowing?


John Lambshead said...

Aaaaaagh, chocolate, get the from me Satan,

Anonymous said...

Chocolate is one of the major food groups. Necessary for good health.

How to get in the zone, when it just isn't happening? If it's at the very start of a project, time for a serious rethink.

On the other hand, if it's a scene that is needed to bridge between the scenes that were fun to write, sometimes a very detailed outline of just that scene, so everything that needs to happen does, will help. Or sometimes it needs a twist. A different POV. Something else going on to break up an otherwise monotonous scene. A whispered argument, with periodic breaks to check on how the King's coronation is going. Or, my favorite, the pair who were the lookout during the burglary, pretending to have a public argument somehow wound up with a marriage proposal. Generally, when I finally find the right handle, it starts flowing.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

So, John, I see you are a fellow chocolate addict?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


You are so right. When you have the right handle for the scene, it works. And when it doesn't flow, that means you aren't coming at the scene from the right direction.

I think it's our internal story wizard at work.

C Kelsey said...

Chocolate. Mmmm chocolate. Required to maintain a healthy mental balance.

As for getting in the zone, the best trick I've found is to take my laptop to one of my favorite resaraunts, sit down at the bar, turn the laptop on, and then ignore everything except the random noise of the restaraunt. I don't know why, but for some reason I can write much, much better in like that than when I'm at home with the alone-quietness.

I will confess... on the rare occassion I take the laptop outside, and copy John Ringo by having a cigar while writing. That works to, but only for a short time.

Anonymous said...

Milk chocolate, not dark chocolate...yummmmmm.

If I can at least get a rough draft down, no matter how sucky, I'm much better off in all cases. Sometimes that first draft does flow, but sometimes not. When not, then I force myself to type something that next happens next, even if it's just "And she kills him." I can usually go from there.

Linda Davis

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I have a friend who takes her lap top to a coffee shop. They keep her supplied with coffee and nibbles while she works.

I've often been tempted by the idea. Very sensible.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


You're right. I'm a bit jammed up with my new book. Usually I just plunge in and it flows organically.

But this time, I did a whole pile of research and planning. And I think it's given me stage fight.

It is also an alternative history and I feel self conscious because it starts in our world in the real time. I keep stopping to check a new fact, one I didn't research because I thought I wouldn't need it.

How do people write historical without letting the real world get in the way or inspiration?

Anonymous said...

Alt History. It's knowing your period in detail that makes the story work, and I'm a bit sketchy on the broad brush level.

I tried once (It's all your fault, Sarah!) to do a tiny piece of WWI with werewolves and dragons. I found the state of nursing at such a recent time just amazing. And it really, truly exposed the holes in my education.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, I thought it was a rule that writers had to be chocoholics with a serious caffeine addiction. When I'm in the zone and want to stay there, I live on coffee and chocolate with the occasional foray into "real" food if I think to order in. Of course, the dog and cat don't particularly appreciate it when I'm in the zone. They seem to think I am supposed to get up and feed them on a regular basis. You'd think, after all this time of seeing where their kibble is, they could get it for themselves ;-p

Kate said...

Dark chocolate tim tams. They cure just about everything, and what they don't fix, vegemite will (Non-Australians will probably be thinking "Yeah, because the vegemite kills you" or something to that effect).

Seriously, a lot depends on what else is going on. If work is insane I can't do 'hard' writing where I need to think a lot about what's going into a scene. Fluffy I can write pretty much any time, except when I'm so sick or tired I'm brain dead.

Getting into the zone when I'm having issues with someone usually involves one or more of talking it out with the writing group, finding and playing the right music, grinding through anyway, skimming past that bit with a [fix this later] to search for when I come back for revision, and in extreme cases putting it aside for a while and looking at something completely different instead.

C Kelsey said...

Seem Amanda, you just proved that imaginary semi-sentient ravens make the ultimate pets. ;)

Rowena, It's the change of scenery that, for some odd reason, reduces the "I HAVE to write" pressure. It becomes an exercise in simple sensory enjoyment that feeds the imagination. At least, that's how it works for me.

Chris McMahon said...

Trying to pick a single chocolate is like picking a CD to take to the desert island - too hard. Do have a penchant for dark chocolate with hazelnuts - and would be lost without my tea.

A change of scenery definately works for me. Lately I have been writing in the cafe at lunchtime. I could happily write there for hours. Somehow it helps me switch off from life.

I seem to need to have quite a bit 'pre-loaded' in the old brain pan to get moving. If the characters aren't fleshed out its a painful experience.

I'm starting a new work now, with probably less pre-work than I have ever done, and am finding it a real grind. I have to keep stopping to fill in characters and daydream the world.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I am learning so much about Colonial Australia, it is scary what we weren't taught in school!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I did suspect my chocolate post would hit a nerve.

I think it is something to do with endorphins and creativity. New Scientist should probably do a study on it!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I have to give myself permission to think 'will fix this later'. No point in getting hung up.

I think it was Nora Roberts who said, 'I can fix a bad page, I can't fix a blank page.'

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


You and I must be both at the same stage with a book. Grinding along before the gears get oiled.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. Good luck with the lubrication. I don't think it would hurt so much if the feeling of flowing wasn't so damn good!