Project January

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This is the titular chapter from my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing.

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If you’ve read my book Project December: A Book About Writing or the various Project… blog posts on this blog, then you’ll know Project October is about intensive writing, Project November is about editing and revision, and Project December is about getting your book published. And, of course, I hope it makes sense that Project January is about starting all over again.

The pride and relief at finishing and finally publishing a book is wonderful. But the realisation that all that hard work, all the blood, sweat and tears that it took, all the back and forth, all of the begging for beta readers, all the doubt and belief and doubt again, the realisation that all of it simply rewinds to deposit you back at the beginning again can be hard.

Some people only want to write one book, only have one book in them. If that’s you and you’re okay with it, great. For the rest us who don’t want to be one-book wonders, we’re confronted with an entirely different set of problems from when we began writing our first books. So here are a few things to consider to help get you back on track to another Project October, Project November and Project December. Continue reading

Infusing Your Characters With Cultural Identity: Does It Have to Be Your Own?

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In 2016, Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk about Kevin, Big Brother and The Mandibles, delivered the keynote speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival. The topic was supposed to be “Community and Belonging” but she opened her address by admitting she would not be sticking to the proposed subject. Instead, she would be delivering her thoughts on “Fiction and Identity Politics”.

To boil it down to the most simple premise, her thoughts were that she shouldn’t be restricted from writing about cultural identities other than her own and that if she were, all her characters would be “an ageing five-foot-two smartass” and she would have “to set every novel in North Carolina”.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied was in the audience listening to Shriver’s speech. An Australian born in Khartoum to parents of Sudanese and Egyptian backgrounds, she is a mechanical engineer, activist and founder of Youth Without Borders and last year released her memoir, although she is not a fiction writer. After twenty minutes of listening to the speech, she walked out, unable to listen to what she called “a poisoned package wrapped up in arrogance and delivered with condescension”, continuing, “The reality is that those from marginalised groups, even today, do not get the luxury of defining their own place in a norm that is profoundly white, straight and, often, patriarchal.” You can read her full response here. Continue reading

Why You Should Never Mess with a Writer

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The longer I live in this world, the more people I encounter whose only goal seems to be to upset others. These sociopaths vary in their degrees of intensity but there are a lot of them out there. We encounter them in our working lives and in our personal lives. And when we leave one behind, another one appears disconcertingly to take their unpleasant place.

I’m not fond of confrontations so when I come across these people, I tend to hold my tongue, partly to retain my own emotional health and partly because when I’m later holding my pen, my revenge will be more satisfying and more long-lasting than any face-to-face clash ever could be.

And that, of course, is why you should never mess with a writer. Because a writer will generally have the ability and the motivation to take his or her revenge in a form that could end up in print for thousands, tens of thousands, potentially millions of people to read and remember long after the initial incident. Continue reading

Is there value in keeping a writing journal?

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I don’t keep a writing journal. It feels like a waste of words. But back in 2007, a writing journal was the required major assessment piece for the final subject in my master’s degree. And not just any writing journal. A writing journal consisting of “a record in about 3,000 to 5,000 words of your development as a writer with particular emphasis on the period of this unit”. (If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you would have spent the July just gone reading it.)

I really didn’t want to write a writing journal. Why use up the time and effort when I could be writing my novel? That’s certainly what I thought at the time. I wrote:

“Writing journals are a waste of time. Five thousand words spent on something I’d rather not be writing. Five thousand words that could comprise 25% of the last 20,000 words I need to write to finish my novel.” Continue reading

New Year’s Writing Resolutions

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In mid-November 2012, I released my debut novel, Enemies Closer. By the end of November 2012, people were asking when they could expect a sequel. So on 31 December 2012, I made a New Year’s resolution (and made it public by tweeting it) to spend 2013 completing The Cassandra Syndrome. It’s now 1 January 2016 and I still haven’t finished writing it. Continue reading

Does The Age Of Your Characters Get Older As You Do?

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There’s a theory (and it might just be my theory but I’m sure there are others who espouse it, too) that most main characters are simply disguised versions of the author writing them. Sometimes the disguises make that fact virtually unrecognisable. Sometimes the disguises are so thin the authors might as well not have bothered.

A quick glance over the marital, gender, racial and family statuses of my main characters shows that I only write people who are single, female, white and childless. Single because it allows for a bit of romantic tension with a supporting male lead. Female because I always feel like I am doing a disservice when I attempt to write in a male voice, both to men and to my writing abilities. White because I’m white and while I know writers can and should explore racial identity in their writing, it’s not something I focus on. And childless because having to care for and chauffeur children to their mundane everyday activities really gets in the way of the things I like to make my characters do (such as getting kidnapped, travelling at a moment’s notice, evading authorities, living reclusive lives, that sort of thing).

The one thing that has varied over the years is the age of my main characters. And as I get older (closer to my forties now than I am really all that comfortable with – I read a main character in a novel bemoaning the fact that they were forty and middle-aged and realised I need to start thinking of myself that way as well shortly!), it seems a lot of my main characters are getting older, too. Continue reading

Can Women Write Male Characters? Can Men Write Female Characters?

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Receptionist: How do you write women so well?
Melvin: I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.
As Good As It Gets

Melvin wasn’t sexist – after all, he hated men and women equally – but this quote seems to be remembered when writing from the perspective of the opposite gender arises.

Continue reading