Saturday, 8 November 2014

25 Great Writing Tips from 5 Young Australian Writers

I’m just back from the Emerging Writers Roadshow at the NSW Writers Centre (click here to go to the website) and I'm very inspired by the young writers I met there.  The best bit was probably the plenary at the beginning of the day when 5 young Australian writers each shared their 5 best writing tips. 
Here’s a summary of their advice for success as a writer:

From Tom Doig author of "Moron to Moron: Two Men, Two Bikes and One Mongolian Misadventure" (click on his name to go to his website):
  • ·         Keep a diary – or some other writing that you do just for yourself with no intention of showing it to anybody. Not having to care about spelling, punctuation and accuracy takes you right back to writing for the sheer pleasure of it and you may need to be reminded of that.
  • ·         If you are going to “write what you know” make sure you know something. "
  • ·         Read it, love it , copy it out. Read the things you love over and over again. Read the whole oeuvre of a writer you love until you can’t stand it any more and type out the best bits. (Hunter S. Thompson retyped the whole of The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms to get familiar with the feel of writing the novel – it’s a useful exercise.)
  • ·         Sever your umbilical cord to the internet. Use programs that you can set to disable internet access for fixed periods (eg “Freedom” and “Antisocial”) and get on with the job of writing
  • ·         Write – don’t think about it or talk about it, do it!

From Delia Falconer author of  the novels "The Service of Clouds" and "The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers" and most recently a book about her hometown titled "Sydney" (Click on Delia's name for a recording of an Richard Fidler's interview with Delia in the Conversation Hour on ABC radio in 2011) :
  • ·         Remember it’s “ just a story” (poem/article/essay) You cannot squeeze everything you want to say or show everything you can do in one piece of work
  • ·         Break each piece of work into “do-able” parts
  • ·         Write “off the page” ie write other things as well as the main thing you are working on. Sometime material especially characters for the main work will appear in the “off the page” work first. Working on the main work alone, especially if it is a novel, can get you stuck in the mechanics.
  • ·         Be honest. Wait for what feels right. “Own your own weirdness”
  • ·         Play to your strengths – you don’t have to be good at everything. eg If you can’t write dialogue don’t – take Gabriel Garcia Marquez for example.

From Benjamin Law author of "The Family Law" and "Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East" (click on Bn's name to find out more about him) :
  • ·         Break the job down into parts –make daily goals and achievable daily tasks (this is clearly very important)
  • ·         Never be without ideas. Never stop collecting or even shamelessly stealing ideas AND write them down. You can forget even the best ideas
  • ·         Move physically. Exercise gives your brain a break
  • ·         Get a good accountant – working hard comes at the expense of financial literacy. Make sure your accountant knows about the arts.
  • ·         Choose projects wisely so you don’t become overloaded. The projects you accept should meet AT LEAST two of the following three criteria:

                                     1. Are they FUN?
                                     2. Are they Interesting or Challenging
                                     3. Will you make money from them?

From Laura Jean McKay author of "Holiday in Cambodia" (click on her name to link to her website):
  • ·         Write first and talk later – if you talk about what you are going to write then you won’t do it.
  • ·         Dump your muse –waiting for the muse to strike is a waste of time. She doesn't exist.
  • ·         Know your Process – it might be different for different projects but you need to be clear about the process you are using. The process will be there when your muse has gone. It is all that is left “when the creativity, hope, talent and inspiration elope with your muse”
  • ·         Know your publications – don’t submit work to publications you don’t like - they probably won't like you either.
  • ·         Look at the first 10 serious writing years as your apprenticeship – whether you get anything published in that time or not.

From Walter Mason author of "Destination Saigon" and "Destination Cambodia" (click on his name to go to his blog):
  • ·         Become a fan – identify writers that you love and support them. Be nice about other people’s work
  • ·         Run - don’t walk. Do it now. Energy and time will run out eventually even for you
  • ·         Network. Be nice to everybody you meet in the industry
  • ·         Entertain new ideas, change genres, push your own boundaries
  •        Self publish right now! Create and distribute as much as you can. Don’t go to bed tonight and think you didn't take advantage of today.


Genevieve Yates said...

Useful tips!! Thanks, Jan. I'm going to steal shamelessly from Benjamin Law by writing down some of these great ideas. :-)
Tom Doig's advice, in particular, resonated with me.

Jan Orman said...

Click on Genevieve's name to go to her website. She is a highly regarded writer who also happens to be a doctor

Jan Orman said...

Tom has let me know that the full text of his second point went like this:
"When I was an undergrad, lots of people told me to “write what I know”. Unfortunately, the short version of that proverb is much less useful than the full version, which is, quote: “Write what you know, and if you don’t know very much – which you certainly don’t, cos you’re you still live at home with your parents – make an effort to seek out experiences, unusual experiences, so you can know about them! And don’t just navel gaze – walk outside, look around, find out about other people’s fucked up lives!”"