All posts tagged: Writing tips

Your Rejections Are Necessary

In a wooden drawer in my bedroom is a small pile of notebooks full of half-formed ideas or near-complete short stories that got the better of me. I’m positive that each time I sat down with these ideas I promised them something beyond completion, promised redrafting until I could take them no further, and then there would have been a promise to submit to a journal or a competition or maybe collect them like small sticks and present them to my agent as a surprise starter for a bonfire. What a side project they could be. But it’s rare I see any of these to completion. I used to think my wandering mind was to blame, all that boredom that eventually came from sticking to a smaller world. I used to think it was laziness. Or maybe it was guilt for most often than not, when I write these short pieces, I am at the beginning, the middle, the endlessness, of a manuscript that should have the priority. And so the story is stopped, a …

A New Series: Dreams of #1… Mannerism

Mannerism (Noun): 1 a: exaggerated or affected adherence to a particular style or manner B: often capitalised: an art style in late 16th century Europe characterised by spatial incongruity and excessive elongation go the human figures Merriam-Webster At the beginning of the year I was in London and trying to enjoy a short break from writing. By this stage I was completely over my novel-in-progress and couldn’t move myself away from the feeling that what I am writing is not only irrelevant and derivative but is already a complete creative and personal failure. Upon reflection I think it’s safe to say these overly wrought and self-loathing thoughts were partially a manifestation of creative exhaustion and so the decision to take some time away from characters and words and emotions was probably a correct thing to do for a little while: nothing helpful can be gained from telling yourself something you’re in the middle of creating is a steaming pile of dog shit. And so to London. A few weeks into my ‘I’m not physically writing …

Draft Season

The transformative relief of drafting is what I look forward to the most when writing: taking small ideas, making raw words, rewriting them over and over until the project finds its true self. The beginning of things is daunting. Everything else that comes after that is hard work and the part of writing I enjoy the most. Because this is the moment you find out what you and the novel are really made of. I’m in the middle of typing up several notebooks and am amazed at how my (still unfinished) first draft has both managed to retain original structure and intent and yet has completely obliterated itself. I had no idea the project wanted to be the shape it is becoming. Recently I ran a writing workshop and afterward I was asked if I find my first drafts embarrassing. Yes, sometimes I do. But mostly I’m just glad it exists. First drafts are not publishable. Most likely the next couple aren’t either. I’ve mostly kept what I have of the first draft to myself …

The Dolphin: or how my tendency to procrastinate allowed me to distill random ideas and write a short story

I was on a writing retreat at Varuna attempting to finish another draft of the manuscript that would go on to become See What I Have Done when day four arrived and I lost the will to write another word from Lizzie’s point of view. I still had three days left of the retreat ahead of me. I needed a way to procrastinate without feeling guilt. One of the writer’s at the house was working on a short story collection and had told me, ‘Short stories are like the easiest thing to write.’ Sounds perfect, I thought. That’s exactly how I’m going to spend the rest of my time here at the house. Here’s a tip I’d like to share with you about short stories: they’re not easy. They are their own art form and can take just as long to write as a novel. Sure, you could write a 3,000 word story in a single sitting but to get it right, to make it look like magic-ease takes drafting and time. They’re not for …

How Not To Kill Your Darlings

In the lead-up to my child’s birth, I’d set myself the task to finish yet another draft of my manuscript and send it out to a publisher. I had already written five, six or more drafts over seven years about the Lizzie Borden case. Now that I was pregnant the current drafting felt different, urgent: I had convinced myself that if I didn’t finish it then and there I never would. Writer friends who were parents warned me that once the baby came, I’d have no time for anything else. The brain would no longer have the capacity to move beyond itself. I may not even know who I was.

Will the real Lizzie Borden please stand up

This past week I have been talking about Lizzie a lot. When this happens, she tends to dig deep holes in my mind, leaves a trail of herself behind. I’ve been dreaming of her again: there she is at the end of my bed, there she is eating a scone, eating jam, there she is at my breakfast table, there she is holding my hand. That warmth. It wakes me. I was in Sydney last week. I blame that trip for Lizzie’s return. Every time I thought about Lizzie, how I wrote my book, all that, I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that pinged at the the base of my neck: what part of Lizzie is me and what part of me is Lizzie? Let me explain: I think it’s natural for writers to inject some of their own experiences into their work, give their characters some real life meat. This is definitely true for me when writing about the Bordens. I needed to find a way into that family and as I started to think about why …

You have no choice but to take the Bordens with you

Over the Christmas/New Year break I took some extra time off work so I could begin and complete the latest draft of See what I have done.  To make things more interesting, I took the Bordens with me to Tasmania with the hope that distance from my usual writing places would allow me to discover a few more things about them. I get sea sick. I remembered this as soon as I stepped onto the Spirit of Tasmania. Needless to say I was ill prepared for the night journey out at sea. As we rocked over waves and my stomach swam toward my chest,  I remembered that Bridget and Lizzie had taken ships to and from Europe. Here was a moment to transpose my experience into the book. I clung to the railing, looked down into depth and tried to see the ocean from their point of view. I wish I could tell you something profound happened. I managed to take this photo of the sun setting over Bass Strait before I was defeated by the sea: So things continued. …