I can’t write it till I live it

Picture of a tiger at Big Cat RescueI was quite sure, not so long ago, that I was going to write a new Morgan Selwood story this year. And maybe, later on, I will. But not just yet. The story just would not flow. I don’t believe in muses, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as writer’s block. In the immortal words of Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

And yet.

I thought the story was there. It was going to be based on a real, historical event but set in space. I started, wrote a few hundred totally forgettable words and went and kicked a few things. Sure, life was a huge distraction for me in the last little while, but now I’d started again, surely I could get on with it.

You see, the thing is with me that I can’t write it until I can (vicariously) live my story. I stand outside watching the sunset, going through lines of dialogue in my head. Or sometimes out loud. The scene plays, I sort of know what things look like and I can add details in an editing pass, no problem. With the Morgan story, it just wasn’t happening. One reason was that I hadn’t sufficiently converted the plot to space opera. That’s what the Morgan stories are about. Planet-hopping, high action is what I imagine readers will expect. This was going to be very, very planet based. I needed to rethink the action so I could add a spaceship and a space battle or two.

So I left the story in limbo and went and did something else, which was checking out Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. (On line, of course, although I’d love to visit.) One or two people have encouraged me to write another Black Tiger story and since tiger conservation is dear to my heart, it made sense. (For those who don’t know, all profits from ‘Black Tiger’ go to tiger conservation.

I watched a string of videos and read the stories about these cats and how they are treated. Tigers, lions, leopards and the like are not house pets. You cannot take the ‘wild’ out of them. One of the most telling statements I heard/read was that while a tiger will fight to the death for her cubs and is a wonderful mother, when they are grown there isn’t any lingering love. A tiger will fight its mother for territory. She’s just another rival. So bleating “but I reared him from a cub” when the cat turns and bites you isn’t worth a piece of… anything. In a number of cases, cats have injured or killed their ‘owners’. And some of the conditions these poor beasts were kept in… look for yourself. Check some of the other stories, too. And read the stories about cubs exploited in ‘pay for petting‘ practices.

Well, all of a sudden I had my story. I hesitated for a few days, coming up with a powerful villain who could match – indeed, defeat – my two weretiger protagonists, Ash and Sally. I’m having fun again, enjoying the difficult process of writing a book. Half the profits for this book will go to a US tiger rescue group. Not because it’ll help tigers survive in the wild – it won’t – but because these beasts don’t deserve to be abused for the sake of human exploitation and greed. I admire what BCR and Carolina Tiger Rescue are doing (I’m sure there are others), and fully support their actions to ban people from keeping exotic animals as pets. In Australia, you need special permits to allow you to keep reptiles or protected native birds. You’ll only find a tiger in a real, accredited, zoo, not stuck in a tiny, concrete cage at a gas station like Tony the truck stop tiger.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that there are more tigers in backyards and ‘zoos’ in the US than there are in the wild. But those cats are usually born in America, they are hybrids derived from matings between whichever tigers are around. You think puppy farms are bad? And (like cats and dogs) most of these beasts will live miserable lives and end up dead, killed for their hides and body parts.

OK, time to get off the soapbox. Breathe deeply…

Now then, back to writing and being diverted from a project…

Has something like this ever happened to any of my writer friends? Please share.

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About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 10 May 2013, in Black Tiger, On writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. juliabarrett

    Like you, I am a big fan of tiger conservation and conservation in general. We are in increasingly crowded planet. Sad. I also hate the thought of lions and tigers privately owned. It’s awful.
    But back to your main theme– I’m like you. Can’t write something unless I’ve lived it thoroughly, whole story, even if it’s just in my head.

  2. scotlandphotojournal

    Bravo to you on several levels! That you found your Muse in something so worthy really doesn’t surprise me, and after reading and falling in love with Black Tiger, I knew there would be more to come from those characters. There is a time and place for everything, and this story about tigers is *now*. I am very much looking forward to reading it.

  3. Looks like Morgan’s too busy right now to visit. Soon, though, I’m sure

  4. Always fascinating to find out what gets writers writing! In a similar way to you, Greta, I have to think a story through in some detail before I can get the words out. If it’s not flowing well, that’s often a indication that I haven’t got it clear in my head first. Or that I’m just too tired!

    • Yes, if I can’t think out the scene, I can’t write it. I stopped today, knowing I need to rethink how the chapter ends. But I’ve done the rethink, and I’ll write again tomorrow.

  5. Good luck with your project, it’s an admirable cause!

    I also need to have inspiration to write. I do have a couple of stories going, and when I’m not inspired to write one, I work on another. Usually re-reading what I’ve already written inspires me to write more. Trying to overcome it a little, now I have a published book and promised a sequel. I know where the story is going, I just need some discipline to commit it to paper (or electronic format, whatever you call that?)

  6. How very sad… especially the statement about there being more tigers in backyards and “zoos” than in the wild. I do hands-on work with dogs that have been kicked to the curb and left to die, so I understand (in some small way) the plight. Tigers are magnificent animals; it’s sad that people abuse them so!

    I appreciate the writing side of this too. I have a couple of projects going –actually there are more, but most are just in the formulation stage.and will probably never be completed, or perhaps even seriously begun — that have stopped talking to me. Stories must tell themselves. I can flirt with it, entice it, plead with it, beat it and waterboard it, but it won’t progress until it’s good and ready. So I keep multiple projects going at once and hope that one of them will decide to whisper to me each day. But sometimes life gets so distracting that I don’t hear the whispering. Opportunity lost.

  7. I need whiffs of inspiration as I go along, too. I had no idea there were so many tigers in the US. It’s a shame people feel the need to exploit them. http://mpaxauthor.com

    • I think many, many people don’t know about the US tigers. Thanks for mentioning that – a few other have, too. It makes me even more convinced that this is a good subject for a book.

  1. Pingback: You can’t beat ‘been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt’ | Greta van der Rol

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