The A to Z of Writing

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Just because everybody loves a good listicle (so I hope it qualifies), here’s the A to Z of writing.

A is for Authenticity – you don’t have to know what you’re talking about. Write what you know, write what you don’t know but just make sure you sound like you know what you’re talking about. If you write about the police force and someone actually in the police force reads your book lacking in accuracy or verisimilitude (the ring of truth), then that person won’t hesitate to tell the world. And you’ll just come off as someone who couldn’t be bothered doing a little bit of research.

B is for Brainstorming – it’s one thing to have an idea but to bring it to life with all the little details that give it depth, you’ll have to do a lot of brainstorming. If you want to write about a man who kills his father, great (maybe not for your father, who might wonder why). But it becomes two very different stories depending on whether the son had a happy upbringing or an abusive one. And only brainstorming will get you to the point where the story makes meaningful sense. Continue reading

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All a Writer Wants for Christmas…

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An updated dictionary? A new laptop? A stylish writing desk? A comfy writing chair? A virtual assistant to help keep the virtual scraps of paper under control? If only it was as simple as wishing for our two front teeth. These days, with a quick trip to the dentist, it’s an entirely possible dream. Reference books, computers, furniture and PAs are just as achievable. But a writer’s wish list is a little harder to fulfil.

Time
When you’re working and raising a family and keeping a house clean and maintaining a network of friends and trying to find some you time amongst all that, trying to find some writing time can be near impossible. And if you’re confusing you time for writing time, then you’re doing either yourself or your writing an injustice.

Time is essential to writing and every writer wishes they had more of it. 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

Developing A Genuinely Scary and Evil Villain

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I’ve written previously about anti-heroes and villains and how they seem to be the characters of choice these days, at least the characters that seem to resonate most with readers searching for complexity. So, of course, growing numbers of people are attempting to cash in on that. The problem is that we are being flooded with ridiculous caricatures that are no more scary than me in the morning before I’ve brushed my hair and had some caffeine. Every James Bond villain ever may have something to answer for this.

When we examine the more successful and enduring villains, such as Dracula and Frankenstein (or his monster – depends on which of them you think was the bigger baddie), and some of the more recent but no less memorable, such as Dexter Morgan and Hannibal Lecter, we find people and creatures who scare us but who also exhibit vulnerability, meaning that in some capacity they are scared themselves. They’re at the darker end of the light and dark scale but they’re more deep grey than black. And regardless of their villainy, there’s also something attractive about them, something tempting about them, something that draws you in, even when you know you’re probably going to end up dead if you don’t resist.

If you’re planning to give it a go, here’s a few things to consider to make sure you have readers crying in terror instead of with laughter. Continue reading

The Benefits Of An Ideas Board

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Ideas Board

I’ve written before about my ideas board. I’ve had it since July when I went out with the specific purpose of purchasing an actual whiteboard to replace the scraps of paper I was writing my ideas on and struggling to keep track of. It now has pride of place in my bedroom (where I do most of my writing); in fact, it’s sitting on a bedside table that is no longer at my bedside but between two windows across the room so I have a good view of it at all times. (There’s a lamp abandoned forlornly on the floor.)

As writers, we can sometimes lose sight of the little things that help make writing easier. My big picture was to write a lot of blog posts. But the small step of buying and implementing the ideas board is what has helped me to do it. Here’s why. Continue reading

Three Books Women In Their Thirties Should Read About Misinformation, Motivation and Motherhood

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(Note: When I first published this article on LinkedIn, it was read by approximately 9,000 people and liked over 650 times and one of the authors of the books I recommend contacted me to thank me for her inclusion on the list. It is my most read piece of writing ever. I can’t tell you why. But it was fun while it was happening.)

I’m not generally someone who recommends self-help books. In fact, in the past I have been guilty of pouring scorn on many of them, perhaps because the ones I’ve picked up and started reading have been particularly vague (what exactly is self-actualisation?) and therefore particularly unhelpful to someone like me who prefers the literal to the lateral.

Finding a self-help book that is actually going to help you is a deeply personal thing. You have to be at a particular point in your life to benefit from specific self-help books. And you have to be going through a similar crisis to the one being described by the author. And you have to be able to put into practice what they are telling you to do. They’re long odds.

But as I was sitting in my study recently, the three books I am about to recommend kept jumping out at me despite being on three different shelves on three different bookcases. I’ve read, and in some cases reread, all three of these books in the past five years and the longer I looked at them in conjunction, the clearer it became. These three books had important things to say to women of a certain age. Continue reading