Starting Again; Perhaps you Need to Find a Better Idea

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When is it time to quit?

How do you know if you should just give up on a book and move on to something else?

I know you don’t want to be a quitter.  They tell you in Creative Writing classes around the world (Ok, so I have been to a few in Australia and one in New Zealand).  They say the best writers don’t give up, writers push through pain to produce works of genius that reshape the contemporary literary landscape and redefine the scope of human experience… Right?  Not always.  Sometimes they also quit. Continue reading

Ira Glass, on Creativity

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Is the work you’re making as good as your ambitions?

A few days ago I was talking to my sister about the trials of creativity.  We were discussing the difference between what we wanted to do, and what we were capable of making.  It is so frustrating – in the beginning of a creative career – when you are not quite as good as you want to be.

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A Pen for Every Occasion

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 When I met the one, I just knew. We were meant for each other.

She was silky smooth and faultless, my hand fitted her curves perfectly. I was a better person when she was around. Her name was Joy. InkJoy!

Because one day a pen will come along that a writer just falls in love with. And you can tell a writer designed the InkJoy because of the smooth effortless ink flow and the curvaceous, comfortable body to fit the hand.

But soon it became almost obsessive the way I couldn’t write properly unless I was using my special pen! I had backup ones in case it ran out of ink mid stream. I would get stressed without my other half, the half that made me a whole writer, not just a thinker. And heaven forbid if I was forced to have an affair with another, inadequate one, say, at the bank.

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The 5 x 5 Rules of Writing

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For those of you who could not get to the National Writers Conference this weekend, or were not there at 10am, here are five of the five by five rules.

The 5 x 5 Rules of Writing –

‘Our five Festival Ambassadors share the writing advice they wish they had known when they were starting out – in the form of five rules for writing – an inspiring guide for the next time you sit down to write. It’s 5 x 5  with Maxine Beneba Clarke, Hannah Kent, Krissy Kneen, Benjamin Law and Felix Nobis. Hosted by Sam Twyford-Moore.’ Emerging Writers Festival 2014.

My Top Five

Maxine Beneba Clarke

Throw your hat in the ring.‘ Maxine spoke of what can happen when you throw yourself into an award application, grant application or writing project.  ‘You never know what might happen?‘  She encouraged us all to take chances as she spoke of applying for the Victorian Premiers Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript on the very day that entries closed.  ‘See what happens and take chances.‘  She won!

Felix Nobis

Be your own manager – you have a responsibility to be a good manager to yourself.’  Felix reminded us all that no one is going to just give you the information you need.  He pressed the importance of our responsibility to know about the grants, funding and awards that are available to us. ‘Find out who has got the money and how you can get it.’  He spoke of the importance of being informed on a national, state and local level.  In being your own good manager, make sure that the writing part of you ‘Responds directly to the application criteria.  So many applications don’t even meet the application criteria.’

Krissy Kneen

‘Every novel will hit a rough patch… At 20 000 words your novel will start to smell like it’s crawled up your own arse and then come back out again…You’ll want to vomit when you think of it.‘  Krissy humorously spoke of the doubt writers have and how you might start to search for a better / different idea.  ‘I can tell you, those ideas will hit a rough patch also.’  She reminded us that every writer will find themselves struggling with a manuscript at some point, but to push through this.  Krissy spoke of a book being written in the rewriting; saying that is was much easier to work with a (really really really) terrible first draft, than an empty page.

Benjamin Law

‘Get an accountant.’ Benjamin’s very practical advice for Emerging Writers touched on a subject that is not often discussed during writing festivals – Tax.  Benjamin raised our awareness of a Specialist Art Accountant, reminding us to ‘…understand your rights.’  Also discussed during this rule was superannuation and the importance of setting aside a portion of your income for tax and superannuation accounts.  Investigate what you can claim on tax and then actually do it!

Hannah Kent

Don’t wait until you feel ready.’   Start now!  During her five writing ‘rules’ Hannah shared with us some advice on how best to relate to your own doubts.  Hannah told us all to begin as soon as possible, don’t wait for the confidence to start, as it may never happen.   ‘…doubts about writing aren’t going to go away.’   It was wonderful to hear such an informed and honest account about becoming accustomed to feeling the difficulty of writing and about coming to expect it.  ‘Be brave and do it anyway.’

Such a great part of the National Writers Conference.  It is already the afternoon on Saturday and I can still hear people talking about what the 5 x 5 from the Festival Ambassadors.  If you did make it to the National Writers Conference this morning, which were your favourites?



6 Books Every Emerging Writer Must Read

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The Emerging Writer, Writers, Writer

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1. Bird by Bird

by Anne LaMott.

This book is a really inspiring and practical book for writers.

Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block and going for broke with each paragraph.

Reading this book, I realised how much further I could push my writing and my characters.  It was this book that helps me to understand how shallow I was writing and how much my writing could improve if I was brave enough to be honest and write something that mattered.

Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.


The Emerging Writer, Writing.

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2. The Little Red Writing Book

by Mark Tredinnick. 

(Released as Writing Well in America)

I should probably credit this book as the catalyst for my conversion from the Visual Arts to the Literary Arts.  I love the style and strength of this book, which includes a whole chapter on writing with grace.

The Little Red Writing Book is a guide to expressive creative writing and effective professional prose. The author, a poet, writer, editor and teacher, explains the techniques required for stylish and readable writing. Everyone who wants to improve their writing can benefit from this book, which describes how to: • identify topics that inspire you to write • get into the habit of writing regularly • develop ideas • construct effective arguments • choose words for maximum effect • use grammar correctly • structure sentences and paragraphs appropriately • write with integrity The book is enriched by examples from great modern writers, and includes a variety of exercises and suggestions for writing activities.

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3. On Writing, A memoir of the Craft. 

by Stephen King.

Every writing blog on earth recommends writers to read this book…and you will find we are no different.  One of the most famous writing works for writers.  Need we say more?

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.

King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, “On Writing” will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told


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4. The Icarus Deception

by Seth Godin.

‘Make Something Happen’ They are the words on Seth Godin’s homepage.

Everyone knows that Icarus’s father made him wings and told him not to fly too close to the sun; he ignored the warning and plunged to his doom. The lesson: Play it safe. Listen to the experts.  But we tend to forget that Icarus was also warned not to fly too low, because seawater would ruin the lift in his wings. Flying too low is even more dangerous than flying too high, because it feels deceptively safe.

In his book ‘The Icarus Deception’ Godin talks of the obligation we have towards ourselves and the world, to make art.  Godin discussed the issues we face when we fly too low, under achieve and ignore our potential.  This book speaks of Art and Society and the World and Life…. great read if you need to be pulled back on track.  But it is not just a book about what you are doing wrong, it also give practical and real advice on how to make sure you don’t fly too low.

A great read…actually now that I think about it, you should probably read ‘Tribes’ as well.

Emerging Writers, Manuscrapped

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5. Story

by Robert McKee. 

I put off reading this book for a long time because I believed it was just for screen writers.  It is not.  This book is for every Story Teller!

Story is a complex and thorough break down of ‘Story Craft’ with a focus on excellence and quality.  McKee demands excellence from every word you write.  He wants you to be good, better, and the best.  I found it great to be driven to such high standards.

Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track. Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni. Writers, producers, development executives and agents all flock to his lecture series, praising it as a mesmerizing and intense learning experience.

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6. The War of Art

by Steven Pressfield.

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” Chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

Are you paralysed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul. hat keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece? Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identif ies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.

Happy Reading Emerging Writers!




Scrivener – Self Publishing is Easy

I have just started using Scrivener as my word processing software.

I love it.

I was looking for Software to convert my writing into an Ebook…

I found it when I started to search for software that could format my work into an Ebook available for Kindle and E Readers.  A couple of blogs recommended Scrivener for the formatting process – but what was really interesting is that Scrivener was recommend for drafting, planning your book, storing research and character outlines, saving images and setting writing goals – writing editing proofing and formatting.  It does everything.

I have used it for far more than just converting my writing into an Ebook.

Below I have included a couple of the features of Scrivener –

To give you an idea of how it looks and what it can do.

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Characters – Planning Board

Characters & Casting

Collect all your character profiles in one place.

Using images of real people, you can go through the process of casting your characters and keeping the images with your character’s profiles.

I love using old actors for Casting my Characters as there are lots of pictures of them through every stage of their lives.

Also – actors tend to have lots more photos of themselves in various moods, situations and styles.

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Location Planning Board.


Setting & Locations

Locations settings have always been difficult for me, as my novels tend to spand quite a lot of time and in doing so my locations age and change and develop.

Scrivener has a whole location setting to help you with mood boards, images, notes and consistency while writing.

Here is a board that I made for a location I had been struggling to image.  It is a cottage in the forest, that has not been touched or fixed or restored for a long time.



FORMATTING; Your writing to Ebook –

There are a load of ready made templates in Scrivener including a PhD thesis paper, Short Story formatting and Ebooks.  These templates make it so easy to format and publish everything you write in Scrivener.

There are heaps of tutorials Online about how to format your ebook using Scrivener – Even this one…

5 minute Video Tutorial from the makers of Scrivener – Literature & Lattes.

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Keeping track of your Plot

For those of you that are following along – however difficult, you will know that I have finished my first draft and am starting to read through it.  Not in an official editing process, but just to check it all makes sense.  It doesn’t!

I have found  so many gaping holes in the plot, character and setting that I don’t know where to begin.  Day turns to night, boys turn into girls and summer is suddenly winter in a heart beat.  How did that house burn burn down and why is it rebuilt in the next scene?

If this is what Anne LaMott meant when she said write a really shitty first draft – then I have nailed it.  Not only is this a shitty first draft – it is actually nonsense, I seem to have composed the sequel to James Joyce’s Ulysses – the one where Buck Mulligan calls Stephen Dealus ‘Ishmael’.

How Can I Keep Track of my Plot?

Plotting and consistency seem to be a weakness of mine.

It has always been something I have struggled with.  To the point where I have not finished a few novels because I have not been able to trawl through the mess I made with their lives.

Perhaps I need to pay someone to design a plot tracking Iphone App!  I need to invent my own system to solve this little problem.  Make something I can put all my character research and plotting into – easy to read.  Portable.  On my computer – easy to change, and study.  I have tried all sorts of ways, and still don’t have a really solid solution.

Keeping it in my head – Has it worked for anyone?

I have tried to keep it all in my head – What a mess.   Just remembering does not work.

It was so difficult to hold the novel in my head that I was weighted down by the details.  This was my first method.  I just kept going forward with the writing every night with about any real regard for where I had been.  It was terrible and I was only 17/18 years old.   Rightly so I never was able to finish that book.  But there is an image of caged butterflies and a memory of a naked girl falling through a church roof that has stayed with me forever.

Writing everything in a note book – I mean five note books.

This was a better approach than the old noggin storage system, but the problem with having it all written down in a note book is that you still have to read the whole darn thing to remember it all. There was no method or order to easily retrieve the information that I needed.  A quick little note to check up with what season it was so I knew what the tides where doing.  How warm the water would be if it was say… Spring.

A Time Line Program – Ok so this one was not all bad.

I just forgot my password to log on and find all my work – Fuck!!

There is a feeling I have that it is not cool in the writing world to be organised – or to plan, of anything.

Are Chapters the key? –   Is that why chapters exist? 

I wrote a short story in a few weeks and it was such a breeze because I could hold it all in my head at once.  It was such a relief to start and finish something in the same house, with the same mindset and have it done…  I don’t know how good it is, but the feeling I have now is worth it.

Now I use Microsoft Excel – It has a promising title.  

How do you keep Track of your plot?


The Hero’s Journey (Realising your Screwed)

19th August 2013 – Don’t you just hate it when you think you are writing really well and then you meet someone who smashes all your dreams apart.  Perhaps this has never happened to you before.  You are lucky then.  I am not!

The Emerging Writer, Writers diary, the heros journey

The Hero’s journey Diagram

This happened to me over the weekend.  I went to a meeting with the Writers of the Far South Coast.  I listened to the speaker talk of a heros journey and I started to sink in my seat, my shoulders folded in on themselves and I tried to hide.

I have heard all of this before, dont get me wrong.  I have listened to this talk probably 4 times before.  But something about yesterday struck  me.  I searched back through my novels 87 000 words, as I sat there.  I know it is all written quite well.  I know things happen during the novel.  I know there are events and they happen in a sequence.  I know there is conflict and tension and surpirse and love and all of that stuff.  What I don’t think – is that the story truly holds itself together.

In short – I am screwed.  As a piece all on its own, it would not hold together.  If I let it go sailing down a river, it would disolve.  If I pushed it out of the nest it would crumble.  If I stood it up on the bench, it would topple over.

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Contemplating smashing computer apart…

I was thinking about making a cake.  About all the things that makes a cake taste good, butter, sugar, cream, walnuts, chocolate and coffee.  Yum.  But with no egg the cake is nothing – it won’t hold together, it won’t bind and it won’t rise slowly in the oven.  I have just made a big pile of nice tasting ingredients, sort of mixed together.

Do I start from scratch?

Is this where I am?

Do I stop everything and pull it apart and try to build it back together?

I learnt the rules so that I could break them, but instead I just forgot they existed all together.  What an idiot.

You’re probably thinking…. Ummm Duuurrrhh!  What are you ten, that is so obvious.

I guess I just – well I thought the world I created would be interesting enough, the characters so intriguing and cute, the writing would be so great that it would just – Work.

I think I have to start again.  From Scratch.

Please, if you have ever gotten almost finished and then realised that you have not even started, please let me know.  I need to know I am not the only crazy idiot out there.  How many times have you re written your novel from scratch??  Call me.


Catching bird flu from Anne Lamott

The Emerging Writer

How naive I look…

22nd of July 2013 – So the two weeks of Editing did not exactly go as I planned and hoped.  Th two weeks of editing is now over and I spent the better part of that time taking pain killers and lying in bed with a terrible virus.  Dam you creative Jesus for smitting my plans!  I think it was bird flu.  I have been reading a lot of Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott and now we are living with three chickens.  I tried to turn my work into smaller more manageable tasks, but the chickens seem to peak crazily at each other as they run around.  I must be / they must be crazy.

Great house though.  Wonderful place to house sit, minus the bird flu.

What to do about The Reader and her expectations of receiving the novel on the 31st of July?  I am going to have to cancel, it is just far too stressful and impossible.

Check out this article if you are interested in saving some money and finding a quite house to write in for a while. A Quick Guide to House Sitting.

What will you do to avoid Editing?

6th July 2013 – You know you are in trouble when you are cutting the split ends out of your hair.

I am doing anything I possibly can right now to avoid reading through my most horrible first draft ever.  Not even Anne Lamott can help me.

The Emerging Writer, ProcrastinatingThe Emerging Writer, ProcrastinatingIn her book on writing, Bird by Bird, Lamott writes about a horrible fear that she will die before she gets to correct and read over her ‘shitty’ first drafts.  I have that fear right now, but far from encouraging me to rush in and correct the mistakes, I have been paralyzed by the god awful mess of it all.  The task is surely too huge to ever be finished.  I am doomed.

I am doing my nails and I have cleaned the house.  I am not busily re-reading my ‘shitty’ first draft. I am paniced and I am sitting on Facebook, I am reading posts by Sarah Wilson, I have started gardening.  I am emailing my family and I am planning dinner for tomorrow night.

I am meticulously sorting through my dry brown hair, cutting my split ends out.  ‘I’ll just get this finished’, I tell myself, ‘Then, I’ll get stuck straight into my draft.’ – Oh, that horrible 50 000 word piece of crap of a draft.  I am 100% sure that every single sentence and word needs to be written again.  Oh god – it is all in passive voice! – It is all told not shown!  I am so freaking out.  I am panicked.