Anxieties and Desires & Then Some: Writing Advice

instead-of-writing-down-your-next-idea-draw-itI’ve been asked several times how I came up with all of the ideas for Dancing Naked in the Rain.  At first I said that a walk through a Celtic graveyard in Scotland gave me the basic idea–but, when I really think about it, I realize that’s not entirely true. That experience eventually became the nucleus for the setting, but, to be honest, I believe it’s a combination of forces that catapults the basis for most writing.

Iris Murdoch, an Irish-born British author and philosopher, best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious, says that “Any writer is inevitably going to work with his own anxieties and desires. If the book is any good, it has got to have in it the fire of a personal unconscious mind.” And I definitely agree.

Writing Advice Tip #1: Combining Desire/Experience

Both of my novels, Dancing Naked in the Rain and Stars Walking Backward,  grew out of a number of my own desires and anxieties. First of all, and, most obviously, my desire to write sneaked its way into the life of my main character, Megan McEller. At the beginning of the novel, she resigns her job as a teacher and takes off to Scotland to begin her life as a travel writer. Well, I didn’t resign my job as a teacher. However, as soon as I retired, I began writing, got stuck, took a trip to Scotland, and was fortunate enough to visit the very farm where I knew my story would begin.

However, this is where desire ends and experience moves in. As soon as we began the tour of a five-hundred-year-old farmhouse, my mind began spiraling. Everything I looked at, the big, cold rooms, the fireplace, the old wooden table in the kitchen, and even the pictures on the wall began to take on new life in my mind. I knew immediately that the setting for my story had begun to take shape. A desire to travel may have led me to Scotland, but the experience itself was a major influence in my story.

Writing Advice Tip #2: Combining Sexual Desire/Experience/Imagination

Sexual relationships? Yep. We all have those–and what would a good romance novel be without them? Or, for that matter, what would ordinary life be? No one ever asked me about that, but, one reader said she figured I had a wild affair while visiting Scotland. “It was just too realistic,” she said. I was flattered. That’s what I call good writing and imagination. Strangely enough, some of the male readers asked my husband about the love scenes. He just laughed and said, “I taught her everything she knows.” Good answer.

Writing Advice Tip #3: Combining Morality Anxiety/Experience-Imagination

Morality. This one’s the onus for most anyone. I don’t care who you are or what you do, morality’s going to poke its head in from time to time.  And it certainly does for Megan. She fights hard to do the right thing, and stumbles once in a while. Nothing serious, mind you, but enough to keep her scurrying between her seemingly unobtainable goal and the temptation that almost, at times, seems the easiest solution to her problems.

Writing Advice Tip #4: Good and Evil Anxiety/Unconscious Mind

Just as Murdoch says, and we probably already knew, Good and Evil are also major players in our stories. Where did they come from for me? I’d have to say right out of a Celtic graveyard. I’m serious. Well, maybe that’s part of my personal unconscious mind, I don’t know, but the tour bus almost left without me. I was too busy playing with the spirits that were swirling around me. Fortunately, I didn’t get caught up with any of the evil ones, even though I’m sure they were there. I’ve left that to Megan.

When it comes to the Unconscious Mind, I have to say, it’s a wonder. If it hadn’t been for the slippery edges that worked their way passed my conscious into my stories, the entire experience wouldn’t have been fun or interesting. I say, “Sit back and let the unconscious mind rule.” It’s not easy, but it can be done if you’re willing.

We all have desire and anxiety, but if we’re going to be successful as the fiction writer, we’re going to need a heavy dose of imagination, and, at least, some basic experience. So sit back and relax. You’ve got it in you. You’ve just got to ignite that imagination and let the sparks fly. Happy writing!


Are my first two novels good? Absolutely! Dancing Naked in the Rain won an Editor’s Choice Award AND a FIRST PLACE WIN in the 2010 Indie Book Awards Contest, Romance Division. And, my editor says Stars Walking Backward is even better.  I think that Iris Murdoch would like them. There’s definitely fire within the pages. I guarantee you that.


Readers Reviews—–

“A teacher and a traveler, Theresa Cavender brings a lifetime of experiences to this tender tale of a love strong enough to overcome an ancient curse dividing two haunted hearts.”

“I didn’t want to put it down.”

“I just finished the book.  It was bewitching!  I just couldn’t put it down once I got going. Your imagination is amazing.  Will there be a sequel?”

“Wanted to let you know I really enjoyed the book. It’s one of those books that I’d complain about if it was turned into a movie. I have very strong visuals of the country farm, the characters, the cairn, etc. Funny, we’ve been wanting to head to Scotland for the golf history, but now I know I’ll have something to do, too. Also, from the very beginning, I could tell something wasn’t quite “right” with how drawn Megan was to Jake, but you didn’t give it all away. I kept thinking I was imagining it, very cool.”

”Mom just finished your book and said it was fabulous.  I’m next!!  Congratulations.  I had no idea.”

“I just wanted to tell you that I finished your book.  I enjoyed it a lot.  I must say, it’s very well written and it makes me realize just how difficult it must be to write a decent book!  My hat is off to you.”

“Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your newest creation. I took it home Thursday night and finished over half of it and have NOT been able to get back to it’s…grrrrt…I’m getting ready to put on my jams and finish. IT’S GOOD!  VERY, VERY GOOD! You’re word pictures are amazing and you have a story that keeps me engaged with characters I really like. You fleshed them out, and made me care about what happens….I am soooooooo trying not to read ahead. (yes, I know…it’s a bad habit of mine)”

”I received 5 emails from staff saying how much they enjoyed your Thursday visit. I really think our staff needed this time to share and make community and…serendipity…you were the catalyst! After many of us finish reading, please promise to stop by for a visit. It will be a great post read time with the author. Congratulations to you Theresa! I look forward to more published success!”

”I finished this book almost overnight. Loved it! I’m ready to book a trip to Scotland! Beautiful love story, and without giving toooooo much away…I really enjoyed the supernatural twist that added intrigue. Characters had breadth and depth and I hope there are more books to come. This author knows how to tell and write a good story. Very well written and just enough description to let you get to know the characters and want to meet them again.”

“Finished the book, loved the book!! Imma gonna dance naked next time it rains!!”

“Theresa Cavender’s characters are endearing, her prose so natural it seems you are witnessing the story rather than reading about it. If you have a large imagination you will find yourself completely entranced with the Scottish folklore this story is created on. If you have a small imagination you will find yourself caught up with the characters and their romantic endeavors. This romantic fiction story is beautifully written and a very enjoyable read.”

“‘Dancing Naked in the Rain’ is a wonderful love story with an unexpected twist. I truly enjoyed this novel. The author’s writing submersed me in the story and made me feel like I was a part of it. I feel like I have traveled and seen the beauty of Scotland. A very well written and fun read!”

“I ordered this book, with some trepidation, because a friend recommended it. I loved it! I took the book to Costa Rica and really enjoyed reading it. The characters are well developed. There is intrigue, a good amount of mystery and some magic too. It is well written with some limited but thoughtful references to classic literature, and if you know Jungian archetypes— reflects some classic concepts. It can be read and embraced on many levels. But you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy the book. I have already passed it on to a friend.”

“I heard about this book through a friend, and when I had the chance to read it I couldn’t put it down. I was extremely impressed with the author’s ability to make me feel like I knew Megan, and hoped she would overcome the tragedy that faced her. The writing style is absolutely beautiful! A true author!”

“Megan and Jake’s story is very compelling. I really had to find out what happened to them, and I enjoyed their Scottish love story. I was hooked by the adventure that Megan faced when she left the ordinary world of her classroom to move across the world to Scotland to have a different life. Becoming involved with a handsome hunk who’d been cursed was icing on the cake! You’ll want to jump into Dancing Naked in the Rain” and experience this wonderful story for yourself.”

“Dancing Naked in the Rain is a wonderful love story in which you become involved with the characters as the plot unfolds. It is written in a way that as you read the words, your mind can visually explore the setting. There are twists and turns that make the reader want to continue the book to see what will happen next. I highly recommend this book to others.”

I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It was a good read.  Do you have another on the back burner?

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Austin Writing Examiner 

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