Dealing with dragons, and writer’s block

Dragons and wizards were not the topic of a Davenport College Master’s Tea with Lois McMaster Bujold and Patricia C. Wrede, two acclaimed fantasy writers.

Instead, Bujold and Wrede spoke about the obstacles that face aspiring writers and the mechanics of the writing process. They spoke about both writing as a craft and the more mundane aspects of writing as a profession, like how to make ends meet.

“When you are writing stories, you have to think about what you want to do with them,” Wrede said to an audience of about 30 Thursday.

Lois McMaster Bujold and Patricia C. Wrede speak at a Davenport College Master’s Tea.
Lois McMaster Bujold and Patricia C. Wrede speak at a Davenport College Master’s Tea.

Bujold is bestknown for her science fiction series “The Vorkosigan Saga,” about an interstellar spy. Wrede’s most famous works are the “Enchanted Forest Chronicles,” which include the books “Dealing with Dragons” and “Talking to Dragons”.

The two first met when Wrede edited one of Bujold’s first works decades ago. Both authors mentioned the months of waiting and the financial burdens that writers endure. Since both began writing before the age of computers, they also talked about the heartbreak of losing manuscripts in the typewriter era.

“I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Wrede said of the transition from typewriters to computers.

Wrede said writers should not change their ideas based on the opinions of readers and critics, since only a small percentage of people will ever understand theirwork.

“Writing is like being a deaf composer,” Bujold said, because you don’t know how others will perceive your final product.

Talking about the pitfalls of writing, Wrede said to beware of the danger of “choice paralysis.” Although writers have endless options, each person needs to find a niche, and each story should have its own personality, or “mode,” she said.

Wrede finished by explaining two key elements of writing: understanding one’s own abilitiesand being able to assess one’s own work. She said writers must guard against developing a higher opinion of their own work than is merited.

Eight students interviewed said they found the talk both exhilarating and informative.

“They are two of the most prominent writers, and were amazingly humble,” Trumbullian Emmanuel Quartey ’12 said.“I was surprised by how simply they explained the same concerns we have about our writing and doubts that all writers face when we write a story.”

Though the novelists are well known in their genre, students said they were impressed by their humility and their desire to help younger writers.

Students said they enjoyed the dynamic between the two writers, and thought their personalities and ideas complemented each other well.

“After having read both of their works, I had a good idea of their personalities and I was not disappointed,” Elena Perry ’14 said.

National Novel Writing Month starts Nov. 1.

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