Friday, 26 July 2013

My 10 Tips for Writing

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to be chosen to do a Young Writers-in-Residence program at the KSP Writers Centre in Perth.  A brilliant experience I would recommend to any young Australian writer under 25.  As part of my report at the end of the residence, they asked me to write my top 10 tips for writing.  Stumbled upon them the other day and thought that most of them were still fairly decent.  So here they are for your reading pleasure.

Jannali’s Top Ten Tips for Writing
I have found the following tips useful during my writing practice.  Some of them come from advice I have been given or read, others are from my own experience, and some are a mixture of both.

1.       Contemplate your work
Writing shouldn’t just happen when you sit down with a pen or at the keyboard to write.  Try to think about your story, plot, characterisation, and so on whenever you have some down time.  This may be when waiting for the bus or washing the dishes, any period when you can let your mind wander.  That way, when you next sit down to write, you’ll already have new material and ideas up your sleeve to work with.  It also maximises the efficiency of the time you dedicate to writing, which for many is not as much as we would like.

2.       Never leave home without pens and paper
I believe no writer should ever be without the tools of their trade, and a pen and a paper won’t take up too much room in a pocket or bag.  The next time inspiration strikes, you can quickly jot down notes.  Sometime on the occasion when I have found myself without writing equipment, I have later forgotten the idea, or parts of it, which can be very frustrating.  Furthermore this links in with tip no. 1 – if you are mulling over scenes or ideas away from your desk, you may need to record new ideas.
 These people have great ideas, particularly 
the man, whose lap dog may or may not be
named Idea.

3.       Challenge yourself
It may feel safe if you are a short story writer to write short stories and nothing else, but it is important to challenge yourself.  Try writing poems and longer stories, non-fiction, anything that will help you flex your creative muscles.  I find that doing something different every now and then stops my work from becoming stale.

4.       Get feedback
Source feedback on your work – join a writers’ group or find a few friends who are writers or avid readers.  When you spend hours on your masterpiece sometimes you are too close to the work to be able to see mistakes.  Using a fresh set of eyes can help you overcome grammar and spelling errors, plot holes, inconsistencies and so on.
If you are writing for publication, it may be wise to get the opinion of a ‘lay reader’ – someone who is not emotionally invested in the work like you are.  Be cautious though, as people who are willing to read your work or sections from it will not necessarily be people who are good at providing constructive criticism.  

5.       Enter Competitions
Regularly enter competitions, awards, programs and prizes with your writing.  If you are interested in becoming a professional author, you will need to build up your literary CV and entering competitions is one of the best ways of doing this.  Be prepared to enter a lot – I try to enter at least four or five competitions a year, and from these I will usually have one or two successes.  If you are a poet or short story writer you should be entering more than this.  Search the internet, or your local writers centre should have information on upcoming events.

And no, the lottery doesn't count as a competition.

6.       Know your genre
Read widely in your genre.  This will help you to understand not only the nuances in conventions and subgenres, but also help to steer you away from clich├ęd writing.  It may also give you ideas for ways to be innovative or subvert the existing genre expectations.  You can get a feel for what is currently in the market and, should you get published, what authors you will be up against or, as another way of looking at it, what readership might be similarly interested in your book.

7.       Read widely across genres
Read across several genres, not just the one you are interested in or write in.  I use to only read fantasy novels but was forced to read more widely for university.  This showed me the value of reading in other areas.  By experiencing other forms and genres you can learn and improve your own writing.  I no longer turn my nose up at certain types of fiction, for I can now see the value in different areas and appreciate them for what they are.  It may also give you ideas for your own writing approach, accepted conventions across genres, and how different literary forms have evolved over the years.

8.       There is no right or wrong way to do things
If you are reading guide books or getting advice on how to write, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to do things.  There are many different approaches to take in writing and publication, some will work for you and others won’t.  Obviously if there is a particular set of guidelines for a competition or submission for publication, then you will need to follow these.  However, without people taking their own approach and taking risks, many of the important texts we know and love today wouldn’t exist.

9.       Develop a thick skin
You are probably going to be rejected.  One of the things you need to accept as a writer, particularly if you want to be a professional, is that not everyone is going to like your work.  Whether entering a short story in a competition or submitting a manuscript for publication, you will probably get rejected.  This is a part of the business, and it is important not to get too emotionally caught up with any one submission.  Don’t give up, instead understand that you will need to develop a thick skin, and that perseverance is essential for success as a writer.
This guy can cop any criticism you sling at him or his novel.

10.     Take advice with a grain of salt
This links in with tip no. 4 – getting feedback and tip no. 9 – developing a thick skin.  While it is a great idea to get feedback, it is important to be analytical about the feedback you get.  Writing is a subjective area, and there are many reasons that you may be rejected or criticised.  You don’t have to take on board every suggestion you are given.  Conversely, it is unwise to reject all negative or critical feedback. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

William Collins

Ode, Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746

How sleep the brace who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallow'd mold,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.

By fairy hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honour comes, a pilgrim grey,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell a weeping hermit there!

- William Collins

The man who proved indolence and great 
poems can go hand in hand.

I first came across this poem when I was in high school, working on an English assignment.  We had to find a number of poems representing different forms and then write several poems of our own.  I found Collins' ode probably because it has 'ode' in the title and I needed an example of an ode!  But I always liked the imagery in this one, the 'dewy fingers', the 'turf that wraps their clay'.  I don't think I really understood what it meant but I liked the way it was written.  I even ended up using the line 'By forms unseen their dirge is sung' as the title of my mini-compilation.  Since then it has always stuck in my head.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


I'm going on holidays for the next week to Melbourne - yay! More posts to come in about a week.  :) 


"I sit alone at my
window sill.
Trees crackle,
sunshine blares and
children laugh like death.
Their sharp happiness is a
knife to me —
One jealous snake on a
window sill —

They will be here, trees and sun,
and children with canes
and pruney skin
when I am but a memory,
a laugh in the trees
of time.

I sit alone
and try to love them.
I sit alone,
a snake.
I sit alone
and try to love them.
I sit alone
and laugh."

 - Rebecca Rand Kirshner - 'Help'


Monday, 15 July 2013

The Pied Piper's Daughter

I awoke with the sun in my eyes, knowing I’d dreamt a truth dream.  I had so many questions to ask my father and rolled over to shake him awake.
He was gone.
I sat up and noticed that all his things had vanished too.  If he’d merely went to relieve himself, to scout ahead or forage for food, he wouldn’t have taken his pack with him.  Father had never left me behind before.  Not once.  Sometimes when he’d take a job in town, if he thought it was too dangerous, I’d wait for him at our campsite beyond the outskirts of town.  But that was different – I always knew where he was.  This time he’d left without a word.  Left, or been taken. 
That thought made my heart leap and I jumped up to scour the edges of our campsite, soon picking up his trail.  It didn’t look like there’d been any kind of struggle, nor were there signs of a second person.  Father had simply departed.  Why had he left without me?
From a work in progress, The Pied Piper's Daughter. 

The original draft won a high commendation at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre Speculative Fiction Awards last year.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Dear Esther

"Dear Esther.  I sometimes feel as if I've given birth to this island.  Somewhere, between the longitude and latitude a split opened up and it beached remotely here.  No matter how hard I correlate, it remains a singularity, an alpha point in my life that refuses all hypothesis.  I return each time leaving fresh markers that I hope, in the full glare of my hopelessness, will have blossomed into fresh insight in the interim."

- Dear Esther

Saturday, 13 July 2013

An Introduction

For some time now I have wanted to embark on a blog, but I didn't want to create one without theme or direction.  Last week when I was thinking about my fledgling writing career, I realised that many of the writers I look up to have something in common: they produce work on a regular basis.

Before I decided to pursue writing seriously, I was a music composition student at the Sydney Conservatorium.  Every day when I'd walk the halls of the Con, or even when sitting through a mind-numbing legal seminar for work, snippets of melody would pop into my head.  I'd come up with ideas for performance art incorporating string instruments and the banging of chairs against wooden floorboards.  I would scribble notes down even when I didn't have manuscript paper to hand.  I was inspired.  And just how many songs have I come up with since I dropped out four years ago?  Maybe two or three.

Music Notation - You're doing it wrong!!

Why was it that I was so inspired and musically creative during that period?  It was because I was practising music composition on a regular basis.  It was always at the back of my mind and so inspiration came easily to me.  I want to re-train myself in order to achieve both inspiration and to create work on a regular basis.  To do this I aim to post regular writing, reviews, examination of prose I admire and so on, anything to keep my mind in the right space.

I'd like to think I could write something daily but let's face it, I'm not that disciplined and I'd rather produce work of substance than post daily for the sake of posting dailySo perhaps the blog title 'Our Daily Prose' is a little misleading, but hey, it sounded better than 'Our Somewhat Regular Prose and Stuff'.