The Virgin Writer Effect

5 Oct

Now I’ve been writing for a long time (cough cough – never mind exactly how long) but I’d never experienced what my sister has aptly named “The Virgin Writer Effect” until a few years ago.  It’s what happens when your story swallows you whole, consumes you, obsesses you, changes your world forever, and then spits you out the other side.

Not exactly a pleasant thing.  But it’s a rite of passage.

I spent twelve weeks writing Inner Demons, a novel set back in my old stomping grounds – Acadia University – where the main character lives in the haunted farmhouse I once lived in.  Even the old lady ghost managed to find her way into the story.  I can hear the leaves crunching under my feet as I walk across autumn campus grounds, smell the tang of Bay of Fundy water, see the fireworks display of the Northern Lights flashing across the night sky from the top of University Drive.

But what happens when you bring so many real elements into a work of fiction?  For me, it makes it impossible to have perspective towards the story itself.  I cannot separate what’s on the page from what’s in my mind.  Too close, too personal.  I poured out everything I had into this story, believing it was going to end up in that storage box in the closet with the rest of my writing.  I didn’t hold anything back – no inhibitions – so certain that no one was ever going to read it.

After I finished it, I missed the intimacy of the characters, missed having them in my head.  I’d cheered for them, wept for them, plotted out their lives with great care.  I felt empty, alone.  Drifting.  I wanted that powerful feeling back – that Virgin Writer Effect.

I’ve written two other novels since then – but haven’t lost myself inside a story like I did with Inner Demons.  Maybe it’s something you only get to experience once.  Cheers to you if you’ve survived this. 

Is the novel I wrote any good?  Does it really matter?  In life, just like as in writing, it’s the journey that counts.


21 Responses to “The Virgin Writer Effect”

  1. Lisa Forget October 5, 2011 at 9:26 PM #

    What an interesting term….virgin writer effect. I think it describes the phenomenon perfectly!

    What a fantastic thing it is to lose yourself to your thoughts and imaginings – and in your case – weaving elements from your RL as well. It’s one of the seductive aspects of writing, I think, getting pulled into the world you’ve created.

    Put me down for a copy of Inner Demons because the title alone makes me want to read it. Knowing you’ve penned it guarantees it’ll be wonderfully entertaining story.

    🙂 Lisa

    • jdwaye October 6, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

      Oh, writing is seductive – but a harsh mistress.

  2. Gareth October 6, 2011 at 9:31 AM #

    Well done on making it through the other side. It goes to show that inspiration can hit at any point and when you bring in real experiences into your writing, especially with the passion that grabbed you, you know that it was going to be one of those memorable experiences. Congratulation and I too hope to find that experience once day.

    • jdwaye October 6, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

      No!! Run away!!
      The funny thing about it was that I was supposed to be re-writing an old sci-fi screenplay into a novel, and didn’t want to do all the homework. So I figured I’d cheat a little, bring real life into the mix so I wouldn’t have to do so much research. Hah – that’s what I get for trying to take the easy path LOL!

  3. Anne Michaud October 6, 2011 at 11:43 AM #

    Di, I think your sister found the perfect name for it: you always do compare the others to your first, the spark isn’t always as bright, not as engulfing…

    I want to beta your Inner Demons, lady.

    • jdwaye October 6, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

      Sweet dreams are made of this….
      Get yourself some 80’s tunes to play in the background, a little Zepplin, some Moody Blues.

  4. Angela Addams October 6, 2011 at 2:52 PM #

    I totally have a novel like that…it is currently trunked but may see the light of day sometime in the future, so I know exactly what you’re talking about!

    • jdwaye October 6, 2011 at 8:29 PM #

      It’s kind of a bizarre thing to go through, isn’t it? I seriously don’t ever want to go through that again, but it was worth the experience.

  5. Patricia Hollett October 6, 2011 at 6:48 PM #

    I want to know what you did with it after all you went through. I needed some closure Di. But then, maybe there isn’t any since you still have a passion for that story. Sounds like something worth reading though. 🙂

    • jdwaye October 6, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

      Hey Pat – thanks for dropping by. I queried it out to a few agencies, didn’t get any bites, and stuffed it in a storage box. Every now and then I hear a scratching noise in the closet, like its trying to get out…

  6. T. James October 6, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

    It sounds as though that’s going to be one powerful peace of writing, the vividness that your real life experience will add to the story alone makes it sound intriguing.

    This kind of leaves me feeling like the only kid in the play-ground that’s never been kissed. I’ve had some ‘creative frenzies’ or heavy flirtations with writing, but nothing quite like what you are describing. I think perhaps I’m having another type of virgin writer experience… people nod and wink and talk in code that makes them laugh, and I plaster a false leer on my face, and nod, hoping they won’t notice I don’t know what they are talking about…

    • jdwaye October 6, 2011 at 8:26 PM #

      Oh TJ. You make me smile. It could be a powerful piece of writing… or it could be total garbage. Who knows.

  7. Marianne Su October 6, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

    Wonderful and frightening all at the same time, I think to lose yourself in your own story, like it’s writing itself and taking you along for the ride. I’d listen to that scratching noise in the closet…

    • jdwaye October 7, 2011 at 10:51 AM #

      That scratching noise is getting louder… now the lid is shaking!!!

  8. Chrissey Harrison October 7, 2011 at 10:20 AM #

    I got pretty obsessive about Hidden Talent when it was coming out, but it didn’t have the personal significance that you describe. I feel a little like TJ, only I’m the girl who “thinks” she’s been in love but she’s not sure, when surely if you’re in love you’re supposed to know it in your soul. Maybe a greater love awaits me out there somewhere.

    • jdwaye October 7, 2011 at 10:53 AM #

      Love blooms slowly over time, stands tall agaist adversity, picks you up when you fall. It will wait for you.

  9. selestedelaney October 7, 2011 at 9:14 PM #

    That’s an interesting name for it.

    I wrote Memory Keeper in 30 days last year. That was a crazy, intense 30 days.

    For me, it was a really fabulous experience, but I’m not sure how often I could do it LOL.

    • jdwaye October 8, 2011 at 9:15 AM #

      Hey Sel – thanks for dropping by. It’s funny that some people have been through this, and some haven’t. Perhaps save the experience for just once a year, for Nano?
      BTW – I really enjoyed reading your blog post about mermaids and whales.

  10. CDNWMN October 7, 2011 at 10:43 PM #

    Er, soooo not a problem for me. Quite the opposite. I have the attention span of a gnat. Tee hee. Don’t splat me though K? *grin*

  11. Heidi/Akeyla October 9, 2011 at 1:22 PM #

    I have one story, I call it my baby, and I only write it by hand and the one time I explained it to a friend of mine he pointed out that the emotional state of the characters and the ‘monsters’ in it, mirrored my life very closely. The more I thought about it the more I realized he was right. When I was going through a bad time, my characters fell in to dark places. When I was in recovery mode, my characters found peace. It’s a little eerie some days.

    Great post. Usually the ones we ‘invest’ ourselves into are the best works, in my opinion.

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