For years I have been a writer, an editor and a teacher of creative writing. Now I want to share some of what I have learned along the way. Write On The Fringes is a blog about the dangers, the disappointments and the rewards of writing. It's a record of the writing of a novel, from the tantalising first inklings of an idea, through to the final draft. But above all it's an exploration of the art and the craft of writing and the nature of story, as well as a search for the essence of creativity and the complex nature of truth.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Seeds of an Idea

'Stories pretty much make themselves. The job of a writer is to give them a place to grow.'
Stephen King, On Writing

It's early days yet and aside from a few notes, I haven't yet put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I'm still walking around the fringes of my new novel, testing its boundaries and understanding its depths. It isn't plot I'm exploring, it's theme, because for me theme and character are the backbone on which the plot will be built. I need to know what my story is really about. What exploration I will be making this time around. And all the time that I'm musing and reading, making notes and dreaming, something is forming. I receive flickers of story elements, tantalising hints that I hope will eventually become a novel.

Flannery O'Connor spoke of writing 'as an act of discovery' and for me that is certainly the case. People write in different ways, according to their character and preference. Some write haphazardly with no story in mind, then cut and paste, creating links between sections until a story emerges. Some plan everything before sitting down to actually write a story, mapping out chapters and scenes, character traits and biographies. Others plan very little and simply trust the process.
There are dangers and rewards in each of these approaches. Too much knowledge of a story can set the boundaries so tightly its natural growth becomes restricted. Too little and the story might never be found.

For me writing is an act of faith. Not in God but in the creative process. This is where the magic lies. A story will come and I must allow it. I don't plan before I write, instead I start with an image that haunts me and a theme or two, then see what emerges. When I wrote Gathering Storm I had an image in my head of a small child abandoned on the Stuart Highway. It became the central point in the story which grew around it, a hidden memory which needed to be unmasked.

When I began the writing of Flight I did not know what it would be about and wasn't certain if it would become a novel or even a story. I did have a title and I knew that the story would somehow revolve around the double meaning inherent in the word flight; one of running away from something, the other of ascension. Aside from this, the only clue I had was an image of a young woman called Fern (meaning wing in old English), who had locked herself in her bedroom, an attic in a terrace house in inner city Sydney.

Stephen King describes writing as an archaeological dig, a process of rediscovery, which suggests that the story is there all along, just waiting for its fragments to be found and pieced back together. Perhaps stories inhabit the vast realms of a collective unconscious and it is our imaginations that must take the necessary journeys, in order to discover them. In Writing as a Sacred Path, Jill Jepson describes it as 'a realm of myth, memory, imagery, trope, and dream'. It is here that we 'find' our story. In the writing of Flight, giving my imagination permission to enter this realm was an act of faith in the creative process, and like most acts of faith it was sometimes fraught with doubt. I had already written over 70,000 words before I dared describe Flight as a novel. Despite the doubt, it was an exciting process, filled with dangers and punctuated with miracles. From a single word and an image, a novel grew, slowly and mysteriously, and it is the mystery of that process, along with the pure joy that it brings, that draws me back to story again and again.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:


  1. You had me at "still walking around the fringes of my new novel". So understand that. Great post.

  2. This is such a helpful post - thank you Rosie. I'm still exploring which method suits me best - by nature I tend to dive right in, but I do wonder whether planning might lead to greater results.

    I'm curious to know how long it took you to write each of your novels?

  3. I'm really glad I discovered this blog. I'm looking forward to following you through your process of writing a novel. I'm more of a short story writer and although an idea for a novel has been nagging at me for a while now, I'm afraid I don't have the faith (in me, in the creative process, in the story itself) to actually write it. Maybe this blog will help. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Hi Erica. I'm not sure how long my novels took to write. A few years each but that wasn't all writing time. There were interruptions, often months at a time, as well as a good number of rewrites. I'll write something more about this in a bot at a later date

  5. Hi Brigita. I'm pleased you're enjoying my blog and hope it helps get you going on your own novel. Will write something more about getting started, in a post soon.