How Long Should a Novel Be?

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I’ve previously written about how long a chapter should be because I saw someone asking the question in a writing forum last year. When I saw someone asking how long a novel should be in the same writing forum recently, I thought it was an excellent follow-up. My answer to the question of chapter length was the same as my answer to the question of novel length is now: how long is a piece of string?

As a general rule, a novel should be only as long as is required to tell the story. That may be much shorter or much longer than any publishing house rule length, which can sometimes seem arbitrary. But it’s important to stay true to the story. Padding a novel to make it longer will not make it better. Cutting key scenes to make a novel shorter will not make it better. In fact, both padding and cutting for that reason will almost always make them worse. Continue reading

Book Review: Kill the Possum by James Moloney

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I was in the middle of reading another book – a long, dense, important but mentally draining book – and decided to take a break and read Kill the Possum, knowing it would be a shorter read, something I could get through quickly. But if I was hoping for an easy read, I was sorely disappointed. This was a hard book to read. Not because of the writing but because of the story. This is every blended family teenager’s worst nightmare. Continue reading

Things I’ve Learned about Writing from Writing Book Reviews – Part 2

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On Wednesday I posted Part 1 of the things I’ve learned about writing from writing book reviews, which included:
*There are three universal things that make a great book (plot, characters and the writing itself)
*Sometimes being great at one of those things is enough (if you do it so well that a reader is mesmerised)
*Sometimes it’s the little things that will stay with the reader (those moments that make us sigh or gasp or cry and make us want everybody else to have the same reaction)
*Don’t use writers’ tricks (because readers might not know that they’re writers’ tricks but they know they don’t like them)

Here’s a few more to round out the list. Continue reading

Things I’ve Learned about Writing from Writing Book Reviews – Part 1

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I’ve always been a big fan of the notion that writers must read (see my previous post on The Importance of Writers Who Read OR Why There Are Book Reviews on this Blog) and I’ve also discussed the concept of writers writing book reviews (see my previous post on The Review from the Top: Should Published Writers Write Book Reviews?). I read a lot and I’ve been writing book reviews for four years now. The more of them I wrote, the more I realised that I was continuing to learn about writing and having things that I’d already learned reinforced with practical examples.

So here, using excerpts from some of my book reviews, are a few things I’ve learned from writing them. Continue reading

Book Review: The Shark Net by Robert Drewe

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This is a book that relies on a fudged blurb to draw readers in. “Aged six, Robert Drewe moved with his family from Melbourne to Perth, the world’s most isolated city – and proud of it. This sun-baked coast was innocently proud, too, of its tranquillity and friendliness. Then a man he knew murdered a boy he also knew.”

The murder happened when the author was already a fully grown man working as a journalist and the boy who was murdered was also fully grown by that stage and about to embark on a veterinary science course. The murderer was someone who had worked for the author’s father and occasionally made deliveries to the family home but who had long before been fired for theft. And it was a full nine months between the murder and the murderer being identified and arrested, during which time the author had no knowledge of who the killer was.

The memoir is actually 233 pages in before the story gets around to the man he knew murdering a boy he also knew. Everything before that is a well-written memoir of a very ordinary life. Most everything after that is as well. So I felt a little bit cheated. I thought perhaps it was going to be a fifty/fifty split between a memoir of the author and a history of the killer. It was more like ninety-nine/one split. Continue reading

When You Don’t Want to Write Anymore

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I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child. There were some casual flirtations with other career options during my teenage years: lawyer (I did work experience at a suburban law firm), political operative (I studied Australian and international politics as part of my Bachelor of Arts degree when I was 17, 18 and 19) and strangely even a hairdresser when I was in primary school (I think there may have been some peer pressure involved with this one).

But most writers don’t earn enough to just write so even after finishing my Bachelor of Arts and going on to finish a two-year writing and editing qualification and start a master’s degree in writing, I forged a career elsewhere. I started in administration (isn’t that where everyone starts?) to get some office-based experience and wrote in my spare time. I moved into an editing role in the same industry that I gained my administration experience and continued writing in my spare time.

And then finally I got my first writing job. A corporate job in a sales and marketing department in a new industry, writing tender responses and sales proposals for corporate clients as well as a variety of other types of content aimed at convincing people to hand over fistfuls of money. And I stopped writing in my spare time. Continue reading

Problematic Advice to a Jobseeker

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I know how lucky I am. By choice, I’ve had a year out of permanent work, spending that time writing, doing some more writing, writing a little more, publishing a book I wrote, and being choosy about which freelance roles I accepted.

But now that I’m looking to return to full-time work, I’ve had a number of interesting pieces of advice on how I can do that more easily. Some of them are interesting. Some of them are downright terrible. Some might seem unethical. But if everybody else is doing them, am I just losing out by not doing them, too? Continue reading