Entries Tagged 'Craft of Writing' ↓
April 6th, 2012 — Books and Publishing, Business In The Industry, Craft of Writing, Digital Publishing, Self-Publishing, social media
We’ve got a handful of links for you on this Good Friday Fry-up, although we’re keeping things short this week so you can get back to your long weekend.
To start off there’s a handy article over on The Book Deal about Book Marketing and Publicity: Advice from Three Experts. While some of the questions asked revolve around the changes in the book publicist’s role, there’s plenty of advice there for those looking to start promoting their own work (afterwards you might want to check out Mashable’s feature, 4 Tips for Authentic Online Engagement).
There’s also an interesting article in the New York Times about the wave of teenage novelists that have resulted from the boom in self-publishing and print-on-demand models.
The new Queensland Premier has axed the QLD Premiers Literary Awards this week, sparking a number of responses from commentators in Queensland and Australia Wide. If you want to see what the literary community’s been saying, there’s a handy list of links to blogs and articles being curated by Queensland Writers Centre.
When Chuck Wendig posts something titled How to Be a Full-Time Writer, you can be guaranteed of three things: it’ll involve swearing and abrasive language; plenty of people will be offended; and it’ll contain twenty-five pieces of useful advice on how to start writing full-time.
Writers who are trying to figure out which idea they should focus on might want to check out Writer Unboxed for the next couple of weeks – they’ve just launched a series on developing an idea from story seeds written by Donald Maass.
Those are the links that caught our attention this week – how about you? As always, we’d love to see your favourite writing and publishing links shared in the comments.
March 16th, 2012 — Business In The Industry, Craft of Writing, Digital Publishing, e-Publishing
The US Department of Justice has started an investigation into the Agency Pricing model being used to sell ebooks, and the internet has been alive with blog-posts and tweets from writers, publishers, and commentators from both the pro- and anti-agency camps. If you’re interested in seeing both sides of the debate, Porter Anderson’s Extra Ether post on Jane Friedman’s blog summarizes the discussion and provides a number of links.
This post popped up on the AWM twitter feed a couple of times this week, but it’s good enough that we thought it worth revisiting: Writing Rules: 10 Experts Take On the Writer’s Rulebook takes ten adages familiar to every writer and re-examines them to determine when they should followed and when they should not.
Call My Agent has done a follow-up on the Australian Fiction post we linked to in last weeks Fry-Up. This week’s post offers up some theories about why Australian’s may be hesitant to read Australian fiction.
If you’re not familiar with Chuck Wendig, the freelance penmonkey behind the Terribleminds blog, we should probably come with a warning – he’s fond of swearing, absurdity, irreverence, and occasionally causing offense. Beneath that, he’s also very smart, as evidenced by posts such as Shot Through the Heart: Your Story’s Through Line or 25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice.
Collaboration can be a tricky things when there’s two writers involved, but this week Byte featured an article about four different writers using dropbox to co-write a novel.
We were charmed by this series of do it yourself dustjackets for readers who’d prefer not to be disturbed while they’ve got a book in their hands. We were equally charmed by the letter written by 30’s copywriter Robert Pirosh when he first started looking for work in Hollywood – anyone who starts with Dear Sir, I like words has our immediate attention.
And, as always, we’re interested in hearing from our Speakeasy readers: What writing and publishing issues are you pondering this Friday? What links have caught your attention this week?
March 6th, 2012 — Craft of Writing, Writers, Year of the Novel
Why bother writing novels in the first place? Our Year of the Novel Blogger, Caro, comes up with some answers in her latest post.
Sometimes when I tell people I’m writing a novel, I can see a question forming in their minds. The honest/brutal ones ask it aloud, but even the polite ones are thinking it: Really? You’re writing a book? Isn’t that a bit crazy, you know, given the state of the industry?
It’s no secret that the way we engage with books has changed over time. The hard-core among us still flock to second-hand book stores to get a whiff of the scent of aging paper, but just has many people are snuggling up with their Kindles and e-Readers to get their literary fix. I’m more of a paper-and-ink advocate myself, but I also understand the attraction of a portable electronic library. What I struggle to understand is the people who don’t read at all – and let’s face it, there are enough of them to fuel plenty of talk about the death of publishing.
People are always telling me they don’t have time to read – and I can certainly identify with that. But between our work schedules, families, relationships, exercise regimes, household chores and social engagements, I still think there’s a valuable place for books.
Research coming out of the United States and Canada (including studies from the University of Buffalo and the University of Toronto) suggests that although we read alone, the process facilitates social connection. Reading fiction is also linked to empathy – because novels deal with characters, their situations and how they react to them. Television and cinema may tell similar stories – but only the written word lets us really journey inside a character’s head. It shows us the interior of a person – not just the view from outside.
The Toronto study on empathy (by researcher Keith Oatley) is said to be the first to identify a clear and empirical psychological effect of reading and I think that’s exciting. Maybe that’s a lot of pressure to put on writers, but it’s also the most spectacular opportunity. And in an age when everyone seems to be rushing around trying to pare down their to-do lists, it’s worth considering what the return is on the time a reader invests in your work.
And, it’s also a great excuse to give yourself a little break every now and again to imagine life through someone else’s words.
March 2nd, 2012 — Books and Publishing, Craft of Writing, Digital Publishing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, Writers
March is one of my favourite parts of the year, often because news starts to filter through from literary festivals and writers conferences that take place around the country. Which is why we start this Friday Fry-Up with news that the National Young Writers Festival will take taking proposals now from people who want to be involved when the Festival takes place in September.
Registrations are also open for the Romance Writers of Australia’s 21st Annual Conference . It takes place on the Gold Coast from the 16-19 of August and their featured guests include Eloisa James, Alexandra Sokoloff, Monique Patterson, and Helen Breitwieser.
From the writers events coming to the future we move to one going on right now – the Adelaide Writers Festival is in full swing at the moment and there’s a dedicated team of attendees live-tweeting the sessions for those of us who can’t make it.
If you need a little help getting into a writing mood this weekend, try checking out John Steinbeck’s thoughts on The Art of Fiction over at the Paris Review. Even if you’re not familiar with Steinbeck’s work, his Six Rules for Getting Started are some inspirational reading.
If you’re in a more practical mood, Jane Friedman’s advice for Building a More Effective Author Site is a great way of giving your online presence a quick check-up. Run down the list of five things Friedman believes every site should have, and ensure you’re not making one of the five most common mistakes.
Finally, UK writer Kerry Wilkinson’s Misadventures in Publishing post over on Futurebook traces his journey from best-selling self-published writer to his recent deal with Pan Macmillan. Wilkinson comes off as a very smart, passionate writer who looks at both traditional and e-publishing with an eye towards building the career he wants to have, rather than the career others are expecting him to have.
That’s the news and blog-posts that’s had our interest this week – how about you? Post your favourite writing, publishing, and freelancing links in the comments and let us know what we missed.
February 21st, 2012 — Craft of Writing, Writers, Year of the Novel
Post #6 from our Year of the Novel Blogger Caro! This time she addresses some of the challenges that face the aspiring novelist, included the dreaded writers block…
Everyone talks about writer’s block but I’ve got to confess that until now, I thought it was a little bit made up.
Ok, don’t start penning hate-mail yet – “made up” is probably not the right term. I’m not lumping writer’s block in with fairies, unicorns and pale-yet-glittery teen vampires. Nor am I suggesting it should be filed under the dog-ate-my-homework genre of convenient make-believe. I’ve always known writers face challenges. But I was trained as a journalist working under the threat of tight deadlines and, in my experience, when it really matters the words miraculously find their way onto the screen. Until now, I’ve believed the words are there all the time – it’s a case of how much you want or need to find them.
But lately that’s just not true. The last fortnight I’ve legitimately tried to write, only to repeatedly find my literary cupboards bare.
Part of the problem is that most writers don’t have the luxury of calling themselves writers alone. We’re also accountants, teachers or plumbers and mothers, fathers, or children. We’re wives or lovers or co-workers or confidants – social golfers, knitters or voracious readers. We’re occasional bakers, procrastination cleaners and bill-payers – and between all that we like to drink tea and take baths and indulge in the occasional nap. When the writing’s good, it’s not so hard to set aside time to spend with our characters and stories. But when writer’s block rears its faceless head, there are a million good excuses not to write a word.
So that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week: Excuses, and how to eliminate them. Radiolab (a great science/philosophy/story-telling podcast you can access here: www.radiolab.org) does a great episode called Help! about overcoming your worst enemy – yourself. Some of the guests have gone extreme lengths to overcome traits or weaknesses, notably Oliver Sacks, who imposed a ten-day deadline on himself for completion of his first book. In order to ensure he met the deadline, he did something crazy – he decided if he didn’t, he would kill himself.
Apparently it worked. He finished the book and got it published – but the cost of the threat was terrible. It was stressful, unhealthy and totally unsustainable. He never threatened himself like that again.
I’ve got no intention of doing anything so radical – but I need to find a way of eliminating excuses. So, over the last few days, I’ve done just that – I’ve cleaned the house, stocked the fridge and folded every last piece of washing. This weekend, I’m going to disconnect the internet, disown my friends and commence self-imposed house arrest. I’ll pour a nice cup of tea, sit at my clean desk and crack open the celebratory scotch fingers. Then, I’m going to write. And what’s more, I’m going to do my darndest to enjoy it.
January 17th, 2012 — Craft of Writing, Writers, Year of the Novel
Caro returns to writing after the holidays, and talks about getting started on her manuscript after a short break…
Happy New Year and welcome to 2012! I hope you all had a lovely festive season – I personally decided to celebrate by gorging myself on (delicious) stodgy foods and slipping into a two-week turkey coma. I’ve taken quite a lot of naps, watched a lot of DVDs and knitted half a stuffed English Bulldog. What I didn’t do over this work-free period, however, was write. At all. Not one word. All that free time and I don’t have so much as a terrible idea I’ve jotted on the back of a receipt to show for myself.
In the spirit of post-Christmas generosity, I can forgive myself that. Sometime we just need a break and often we need to be kind to ourselves – so I’m cutting myself a break and letting that time go. But what’s proving harder to get over is the fact that while I’m gearing up again in other areas of my life, the writing situation is still a bit disgraceful.
It feels like I’ve ignored my novel and now it is cross with me.
It’s almost like losing touch with an old friend. To start with, you can’t quite remember whose turn it is to write or call… but over time you develop a terrible feeling it was you who dropped the ball. You really were planning on calling them one Sunday, but stuff got in the way and before you know it days, weeks, months slipped by and – oh dear – now you realise you forgot their birthday. Sure, you could certainly call them up now (and they’d probably be happy to hear you), but you just keep thinking about how calling them means acknowledging the awkward length of time since last contact. So it’s easier to leave it. And the longer you leave it, the harder it gets to pick up the phone. It’s not fear of your friend’s reaction that stops you – it’s your own guilt.
That’s how I feel every time I go to revisit my novel – and even though I know it’s silly, it’s proving a difficult obstacle to overcome. If you have any tips for reconnecting with your writing and characters I’d love to hear them – but in the meantime, I’m going to try telling myself that maybe if we could measure the value of rest and recuperation the way we measure productivity, we wouldn’t feel so bad about letting go and taking time for ourselves once in a while.
December 13th, 2011 — Craft of Writing, Writers, Year of the Novel
Caro talks us through the fiery challenge of sharing work with others
As kids, we get taught to share. We’re supposed to be generous and open and inclusive, and the world is probably a much happier place as a result.
But for a writer, the idea of “sharing” is one fraught with a little hope, and a lot of terror and insecurity. A recent Year of the Novel task was to write the opening lines of our novel, then share them with our tutor for feedback. Our tutor is award-winning sci-fi writer Alison Goodman, who eats the New York Times Bestseller list for breakfast, so the task was an understandingly daunting one. It brought up a lot of discussion on draft-sharing: Who should you show your work to? And when? Do you get a first draft down on your own terms before you trust anyone else with it, or is feedback along the way helpful in shaping what’s to come?
Because I write magical realism, at least half of the things I write sound commit-me-now crazy when I say them aloud. Even on paper after a couple of edits, I’m not always sure I’m pulling my more outlandish ideas off. So, as a general rule, I’m careful about who I say things like “I’m just working on a love story between an aquarium attendant and a profane talking dugong” or “my latest effort is the story of a prostitute who keeps ice-cream containers of loneliness in the linen cupboard” to. For me, part of the reason I write is to express things I can’t or don’t want to say so I’m generally fairly cagey about verbalising these things, and try to avoid sharing things before they’re ready.
It’s a lesson I learned the hard way, the day I watched a perfectly good idea die.
Let me set the scene for you. It’s Sunday morning, I’m drinking a cup of tea with my loved one, and on an unlikely whim I decide to tell him about the vaguest wisp of an idea I had for a story. It’s met with a serious of well-meaning questions, trying to make sense of the premise. I can’t answer them. The conversation gets tense.
Him: I’m just struggling to see how it all fits together.
Me: Don’t worry about it.
Him: I just want to understand –
Me: It’s only an idea.
(Silence. At this point the sky clouds over, my tea curdles and I begin avoiding eye contact)
Him: Are you mad at me?
Him: Your mouth said no, but the rest of you still seems mad.
Me: It’s fine.
Him: Well… I’d like you read it when you’re done?
Me: Well you can’t.
(I mumble mumble mumble.)
Him: What was that?
Me: Because you killed it, ok? You ruined it. It’s been trampled all over and now it’s dead, DEAD. It’s OVER. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW??
—– END SCENE —-
I admit I’ve been called melodramatic before, and I know this scene paints me an over-sensitive brat who takes criticism badly, but it actually wasn’t about me being precious. As an ex-journo, I’m used to showing people my work. I’m also very used to people hating it, and used to those haters being quite vocal and personal in their hatred. I cope as well as the next nerd with criticism, and I know how to stand by what I’ve written.
But this little idea didn’t stand up to the well-intentioned and curious questions of someone who wants the best for me. Why, I wonder?
Had I shared the idea a little later – after I’d turned it over in my mind and gotten to know it a little better – it would have survived the Sunday morning conversation. In fact, answering those questions would have made it stronger. But new ideas are like mangos and eyeballs and baby hedgehogs – they’re soft and delicate, and the smallest thing can crush them. It’s something I think about every time I go to hand over a new piece of work and is as good an excuse as any not to share at all. I thought about it when I sent the a short draft to Alison.
But, when the ideas are ready and you can bring to hand over the pieces of paper, sharing along the way can let you see your story through someone else’s eyes. It can raise possibilities you’d never imagined possible and help you correct terrible errors before they are too heavily integrated into your story. And most importantly, if the other person actually likes it, that validation and the enthusiasm it re-ignites for the idea is the single best writing-fuel I’ve ever come across.
November 29th, 2011 — Craft of Writing, Writers, Year of the Novel
Caro talks us through the invitation to your reader – the opening lines…
Like a desperate young man who knows he’s only got one shot at the attractive blonde at the bar, a good writer knows how much an opening line matters. This week’s Year of the Novel homework is to write our opening lines and it’s a task that I’ve been spectacularly proactive in avoiding.
I’ve cleaned almost every inch of my house, alphabetised my DVDs, watched more episodes of dodgy late-night reality television than I care to admit and whipped up a delicious array of banana breads, potato bakes and hand-cut pasta. My house looks very nice, and smells a bit like a cafe, but the frenzy of activity hasn’t resulted in any actual words.
I’ve also scoured my own collection for inspiration from other writers. Sitting by my bookshelf and delighting in the first lines of my favourites, I fell in love with J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield all over again, and remembered the shame and excitement of Humbert’s meeting with Lolita: “Light of my life fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Daphne du Maurier, Orwell, Jane Austin, Vonnegut and so many others all wrote masterful first lines. They set up scenes I know as well as my own memories and introduced me to characters I would instantly love, or hate, or pity – but the great writers also introduced themselves to me and set up their unique voice, style and tone.
All this in a few sentences. Sometimes less.
The more opening lines I read, the harder the task seemed. I’ve done plenty of writing for this project already, but the sense of expectation that hangs over those first lines really did me in.
Kim Wilkins has advised us to use the opening lines to “invite” the reader into the novel, but as someone who once wore an elaborate cactus costume to a Mexican party that turned out not to be fancy dress, I know how careful people need to be with the clarity of invites. Part of the reason I’m having so much trouble “inviting” people into my story, is that I’m still trying work out the kind of event it’s going to be. Out of respect for my readers, I don’t want to ask them over for a light-hearted fiesta if they’re going to be stuck in the corner all evening talking to Aunt Irma while I quietly kill off all the good characters.
I was moaning to a friend about this very problem when they said something very simple, and very wise: “So what? It can change.” It can change. It’s a liberating idea – and I think it’s going to be my new motto to write by. My words are not a contract and they’re not etched in stone. They can be re-worked, revised, deleted altogether. I’m going to stop being neurotic and do what I should have done a week ago – write. Wish me luck!
November 16th, 2011 — Craft of Writing, Year of the Novel
Blog #2 from Caroline Graham, our Year of the Novel Blogger
There is plenty of advice around about how to start a novel. Some people will tell you to begin with a one-sentence summary. Kim Wilkins advised us to start with a commitment and a space to write in. Others suggest starting with characters or plot, brainstorming or flash fiction or an arresting premise.
But they’re wrong.
Apparently, a novel begins with panic.
It sets in the moment you open the blank word document you’ve unimaginatively called “novel” (because none of the titles you’ve come up with so far are quite good enough) and stare at the flashing cursor on that awful expanse of white digi-page. Stare. Flash. Stare. Flash. Words (mostly high-pitched self-doubty words) whirl round your head at superspeed, but none of them make it onto the page.
It doesn’t matter what font you’re using (trust me, I’ve tried them all), or what size you’re writing in. After the panic, there are only five words that come out: I’VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE.
See, I told people I was going to write a novel. I announced the beginning of this hypothetical book to my friends and family. I mentioned it casually to my co-workers at lunch. And then, as if that wasn’t crazy enough, I signed on with the QWC to take the Year of the Novel course and tell a bunch of strangers about my novel writing experience.
Sooner or later, Caroline, my inner voice (itself shrill with panic) warns me, sooner or later people are going to expect you to actually write a novel. They’re going to ask awful questions like WHAT’S IT ABOUT? and WHO ARE THE CHARACTERS? and HOW MUCH HAVE YOU WRITTEN??
Fuelled by self-doubt and the occasional bout of maniacal laughter, the panic become so paralysing that eventually there isn’t a word in the world good enough for the first line of the first page of my first novel. I stare at the screen for hours before closing the laptop and putting it away.
But later that night, something magical happens. I’m holding a pen and a telephone bill and an idea slips out onto the envelope. And then another. Before long, I’m sitting with a notebook and black ink, creating webs of ideas and characters and places. It’s wonderful. Almost easy.
Neat type on crisp white background seems so final. So ordered – the kind of medium for clear plot and fully-formed characters. But my ideas aren’t like that yet. Ink is messy. The crosses and underlines and additions are as beautiful and useful as the gems of phrases I’m starting to tuck away for later. Ink is non-linear. It’s malleable. As haphazard and delicate as my early ideas. It’s forgiving.
As ink bleeds onto paper, I remember why we write. It’s not because we told other people we would – my family will still love me if I never write another word, and my colleagues will forget my pledge as they bury themselves in their own lives and work. You, my blog-reading friends, would no doubt move on quickly.
We write because there are stories that need to be told, and because we want to remember or be remembered. Because we’re moved by the world we live, or because we want to change it. Because without writing we don’t know how to order all the sadness and beauty and magic and madness we see around us. Because we want to. And because somewhere inside, something told us we have to.
October 26th, 2011 — Craft of Writing, Writing Races
Last night was our last Writing Race for Season 2 (and also my last race as moderator) and I would like to take a moment to reflect on what a wonderful season it has been.
Moderating the Writing Races this season has strengthened my belief that writing should not be a solitary pursuit. As writers it’s easy to find ourselves isolated and it’s only when you write in a group like this that you realise you’re not alone. I have enjoyed sharing the trials and the joys of writing with you all over the last three months. And what a fantastic three months it’s been.
We’ve had some awesome races this season and I would like to say a huge thank you to all of our special guest authors: Kim Falconer, Katherine Howell, Trent Jamieson, Peter M. Ball, Gary Kemble and Helene Young. Thank you for inspiring us and sharing your thoughts on the craft and business of writing.
Thanks also to all of the racers who joined me this season; I couldn’t have done it without your dedication and commitment. This has been a wonderful experience and I feel very fortunate to have been involved with such a talented and inspiring group of writers and authors. You have inspired me at each and every race and I look forward to writing with you at the as a racer next season.
Perry Woodward, AWM Intern