Category Archives: Writing

My Writing Process

Thanks to Danielle Carey for this epic tag :o).

 

What am I working on at the moment? 

If you take a bird’s eye view of one month of my work, you’ll find me writing blog articles, adding words to my novel, jotting down long form story ideas, drafting up a biographical article or two, editing for writer friends, beta reading, weaving words of poetry and spinning stories in short form for competitions.

So, what am I working on at the moment? Everything!

 

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

I haven’t nailed myself to a definite genre (yet?). I’ve been writing for three short years and still consider myself an amateur. In that time I’ve experimented with: new adult, young adult, sci-fi, speculative, romance, memoir, thriller and mystery. I’ve enjoyed writing in all these genres and often, I mix up two or three genres.

I hope that my work is different from popular fiction in that it explores realms of profound thought and emotion. If my writing is of a high standard, intriguing, compelling and emotive, then I will consider my job well done.

 

Why do I write what I do?

I write blog posts and non-fiction articles to explore what I think about a topic or question, or to put a memory into context. I then share these with the hope of benefiting others. I like to retell experiences and explain what I’ve learnt. It feels beneficial to my soul, much like journaling.

I enjoy writing prose and, like many writers, aspire to publish a novel or two. I find creating and understanding characters to be the most rewarding aspect of long form prose writing.

I write poetry because I am in love with this form of creative expression. I like to achieve a rhythm with words and enjoy the abstract beauty of how words can play together on a page. I’m a romantic at heart. All romantics love poetry :o).

I love to write short stories because sometimes an idea is only a flash of inspiration and it doesn’t need a longer form to be fully developed. I find it satisfying to wrap up a story in 3000 words or less. Having a young child still on my hands, I find writing in short form much more achievable and rewarding compared to novel writing.

 

How does my writing / creative process work?

I can’t start one piece of writing, work exclusively on it until the end and then start the next piece. I just don’t work that way. I’m a multi-tasker, probably because I lose focus easily and get restless with how long a single writing project takes. I’m also a generalist. I like to have my ten fingers submerged in ten different projects.

Rather than working on one writing project at a time, I work on many – all at the same time. This keeps me interested and enthused about writing. It means I don’t have just one project and nothing to choose from (because then, I would always choose nothing). Instead, I have roughly five pieces of work to choose from at any one time. As such, I never end up choosing to do nothing in the time I’ve allocated to writing.

I have to listen to music while I write. Music is essential to keep me focussed. It creates a much needed sound barrier between my concentrating brain and ambient noise. Music draws me into the world I’m creating and inspires me with ideas. I can’t write – or live – without it.

And now over to Mona, Christian, Lisa and Ted.

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A Literary Heroine

Book love

In the late eighties, Obernewtyn, by Australian author Isobelle Carmody, opened up a new fantasy genre to young adults.

Fantasy has become popular among young readers over recent years with its sci-fi, supernatural and post-apocalyptic themes.

When I was 14, I borrowed a copy of book one in Isobelle’s The Obernewtyn Chronicles from my English teacher. I became an immediate fan of Isobelle’s work, as did two of my girlfriends. We devoured everything she’d written.

Isobelle was a key author who sparked in me a great love for stories. So you can imagine how I felt when I met her, after hearing her speak at Margaret River Reader’s and Writer’s Festival (MRRWF) in May 2015.

Until this year, I knew nothing personal about the famed Isobelle Carmody. It turned out that I had a lot in common with her.

 

Writing for young adults

Isobelle loves the adolescent voice because it is filled with what she describes as a ‘vivid fear’. ‘Teenagers fluctuate from feeling in control to feeling powerless,’ she said.

This tipping back and forth between feelings of power and powerlessness is something that adults can also identify with and it’s likely the reason adults, not just teenagers, also enjoy her fiction.

 

Maybe curiosity didn’t kill anything

An engaging and inspiring speaker, Isobelle entertained us with funny life stories that revealed her curious mind.

She loves doubtful people because, she says, doubt indicates to her that they’re thinkers. ‘People who are certain about life scare me,’ she said.

To Isobelle, every person is a mystery. She plays out, in her mind, different scenarios of how the people she meets would react in fictional settings.

She has a deep understanding of people. As such, throughout her stories Isobelle has successfully created authentic, loveable characters. She is certain of what her characters would and wouldn’t do, would and wouldn’t say. This is a major reason why her stories are effective.

 

Excellence created by obsession

Until I heard Isobelle talk, I believed that achieving a balance of everything in all aspects of life is what nurtures good mental and physical health. Isobelle may have convinced me otherwise.

She works according to her obsessions and she’s obsessed with The Obernewtyn Chronicles.

Given the success of all her books, I can’t help but think that maybe living and breathing the fictional stories I write is what’s required for them to succeed. Having permission to obsess over stories appeals to me – what a way to escape and enjoy life! (Maybe my addictive personality isn’t all that bad after all…)

 

Philosophy in fiction

Not only is Isobelle greatly influenced by the weather, (rain and storms are her favourites) she’s also a philosophical thinker. Underlying her work are always the questions; can people better themselves? Do people ever really change?

Isobelle is on a life quest to understand courage and bravery. People who are courageous fascinate her. She is intrigued by the dynamics of how bravery works. She said there is a great paradox in that; to be brave, you don’t feel brave, but fearful.

 

Lion heart

When Isobelle told the MRRWF audience about some fearful situations she’d lived through, her interviewer remarked that she seemed like a very brave person. Isobelle’s response was, ‘when being brave, you don’t see it that way. At the time, all you feel is fear’.

Isobelle often puts herself in the way of fear. She said she feels most alive when she’s afraid. Her words resonated with me as I thought about the most exciting moments from my life and how scared I was during those times but also, how those moments were worth the trade of courage.

‘When we’re vulnerable and afraid, we’re most sensitive to our environment. The fear strips a layer off us and makes us see the world with new eyes,’ said Isobelle. I hadn’t heard such a simple yet profound, and inspiring, statement in a long time.

 

Sacrifice

There’s no doubt that great sacrifice is needed to be a writer. For Isobelle, writing has brought her everything she thought she was giving up to write – and more. What an encouragement!

 

The world is full of lovely Creatives

Isobelle has only ever written for personal pleasure (and her daughter) but she is deeply grateful to have created stories that have also brought delight to others.

My impression of this long-time, personal literary heroine was wholly positive. A gentle, curious spirit, full of courage and wisdom, Isobelle was a delight to meet. She exceeded my expectations and caused me to buzz inside. I walked home on Cloud 9.

(Isobelle’s a self-confessed hermit, yet she came to MRRWF. Of all the places in Australia, she came to Margaret River in WA! I felt incredibly blessed by the odds.)

 

Next up

Isobelle has returned home to finish The Red Queen, in what she calls ‘lock down’. This seventh novel in The Obernewtyn Chronicles is due to be released in November. That’s just enough time to read the previous six books if you haven’t already!

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Snowflakes

There is no end to the amount of unhelpful beliefs that have held me back in life and creative expression.

For a long time, I hesitated to create my own blog. Adding to the collective background noise in your life didn’t appeal to me at all.

 

I fear not being heard

I don’t think anyone would consider me worth listening to. I have no fancy work experience or education history; no amazing travel or adventure stories.

I’m hardly interesting at all! I’m that person asking the questions, not the one being asked. I’m the listener, not the talker.

I’ve raised my voice above a whisper before, and I’ve been ignored or worse, misunderstood or slated. The fear of these things happening again has held me back from confidently expressing my opinions.

 

I fear being heard

Actually, and I’m being completely vulnerable here, I even fear the opposite – having a voice that is taken notice of! If that happens (some trick of a wand and hat perhaps?) you’ll find me hiding behind the curtains, trembling with stage fright!

If you met me, you’d be far from intimidated; far from riveted by my words. I don’t stand out and I don’t command attention. I don’t think I’ll ever be that person who is noticed. And that’s okay by me.

 

Why I’m blogging

I think I’m like a liquorice allsorts lolly. (No, I’m not about to use this like the onion metaphor for layers, in Shrek.) The combination of traits and peculiarities that make me me is not that important. All you need to know about me is the motivation of my heart – my character.

It’s not that I even feel like I need to be heard. I don’t need to blog for that reason. I have enough self-confidence to not require your validation. And I think there’s enough opinion out there to keep the infernos raging, without mine to add fuel.

No, I need to blog as a creative outlet. I want to express with the wonder of words what I passionately think and feel. If that makes your world a better place, even to a minuscule degree, then I’ll be ecstatic.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learnt from my life experiences. And maybe I can give you an insight where you might need it, or pique your interest on something you might want to explore for yourself.

But please don’t mistake this for arrogance. It’s not. And, in the face of countless lies that sometimes fill my head, I must remind myself that thinking it is arrogance is just another lie. It’s another lie, among others like ‘you are just like everybody else’ and ‘you have nothing different to offer anyone’.

The thing is, I don’t believe the lies anymore and I especially don’t want you to believe the lies in your head, either.

 

Hello, Clarity!

The fantastic West Australian author, Annabel Smith, encouraged me to publish online when she shared her thoughts with me about blogging and its validity. The way she thought about it was that all writers are like snowflakes, because together every one of us makes up a stunning, snowy landscape.

Her words hit me with a beautiful clarity – no two blogs are the same, just as no two books are the same. As humans, we are all vastly different. The works we produce are complex, unique fragments of a larger picture. They are pieces of our heart.

So today, my friend, join me as I outwardly tell fear to go fuck with someone else. Because today is my day! Today is your day! We own it and we don’t need permission to take whatever frightening leaps of courage we like!

Run, and don’t look back!

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An Author comes to Visit

Starry-eyed

I have this thing about meeting authors. Regardless of their level of success, I am always bubble-brained about being in the same room as one. So if they talk to me, I may very well just faint on you.

Not long ago, Annabel Smith, author of A New Map of the Universe and Whiskey, Charlie, Foxtrot made her first book club visit for her latest novel, The Ark, and I was privileged to be there. The opportunity to meet and speak with her was priceless.

Authors have more of an effect on me than actors or other famous and infamous people from popular media. As I listened to Annabel speak to our book club, I had stars in my eyes! Yes, I’m such a word nerd ;o).

 

Meeting Annabel

What a fantastic person Annabel is! ‘Truly delightful’, as one friend put it! Her generosity in sharing her story and providing helpful writing advice astounded me. Many authors seem to put on a mask when they meet fans, but not Annabel. She was genuine, authentic and personable. She was honest with her answers, even when questions required her to make herself vulnerable.

Questions flew around the table the entire time. There was fascinating conversation about surveillance, human behaviour in dark times, and the writing life.

It became quickly clear Annabel has worked extremely hard to get where she is today. No matter how long a project would take her, she’d stick with it until she finished. She started The Ark in 2009. And it didn’t get published until 2014. What a champ to never give up and to see such a challenging project to completion!

 

Annabel on writing

Let me tell you something else. Annabel is a writer just like you and me. She procrastinates, doubts her ability to write and finds criticism and feedback demotivating. She’s had many personal challenges to overcome, just like we all do as writers and human beings.

She said many times that she’s not a quick, efficient writer, but a very slow one. This was so encouraging for ‘slowbies’ like me! She used to completely ‘pants’ it, (not plan her stories), she said, but now she’s becoming more of a planner.

When she pantsed it, she’d often get stuck and couldn’t see how to move her plot forward. Planning, she said, has made her writing process quicker. But Annabel is adamant that she plan as little as possible so as not to take the fun out of the writing. She still likes to see how her stories evolve and progress without having to cookie-cut it out. This keeps the fun alive for her.

 

Create an opportunity

Annabel has never given up on her writing, no matter how hard it’s been. Isn’t that the case in any creative endeavor? Don’t give up, and you’ll get there eventually!

Annabel’s success as a writer is also a testament to the value of connections. People she’s met and who have helped her on her journey as a writer have been vital. So, get networking and build an environment of support around you!

If you have a book club in or near Perth, ask Annabel to visit. , Otherwise, you might miss out on some quality information that will help you in your writing career.

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