Archive | May 2012

Writing is a craft.

Make no mistake, writing is a craft, and it must be learned like any other craft.  It might seem as if all you have to do to write a book, or any type of publication for that matter, is to sit down and put your thoughts on paper. Wrong! That’s just the start. An important part, of course, for you must get the words down, but from there you face much hard work before your masterpiece is ready for publication. It’s very tempting when you finish your piece to think, ‘This is such a great story, I can’t wait to see it in print,’ but you must resist the temptation to put it up there as it is. That’s if you want the satisfaction of knowing you’ve written something others are going to enjoy reading.

My favourite quote concerning writing is this one from Ernest Hemingway, one of the greats: “There is no such thing as great writing, there is only great re-writing.”  He should know!

These days we have so much help readily at hand – ‘how to write’ in books, on the web, with workshops and creative writing courses.  Take advantage of as many as you can, your writing will improve, no matter where you’re at now. Two books I found helpful when starting out were ‘Stephen King on Writing’ and ‘Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale’.  I also did a diploma course with the Australian College of Journalism, and have continued to attend workshops whenever possible. Every one of these has taught me something new, some valuable lesson. It’s an on-going process. As a writer we never stop learning, always striving to make the next piece better than the last.

When you finish your story put it away and don’t look at it again for as long as you can, certainly a few days, weeks is better, and you’ll come back to it with fresh eyes, better able to pick up inconsistencies. Read it again, carefully, and edit as you go. You might need to do this more than once before you’re satisfied it’s as good as you can make it.

Most of all, read.  Read books by your favourite authors. See how they string phrases together, take note of what it is that makes their writing so good. And try to do as well!


One thing leads to another

Unless an author is writing about a subject that he/she knows absolutely everything about, then a certain amount of research is necessary.

When I started my first novel, Inheritance, I wanted to write a story about a young city woman who inherits a cattle station in Far North Queensland, and the problems she encounters as she struggles to make a success of her inheritance.  I also wanted to portray something of the country’s beauty – and the hidden danger that lurks in this amazing place, which I had grown to love.

As I began to write I realized that I actually knew very little about cattle stations, except that they have heaps of land and hundreds of cattle, so I went online to find out more. Just what is involved in running a cattle station? It was the same with rodeos – how are all those buck-jumpers judged? And exactly what does a crocodile do when it takes a victim? All fascinating  stuff! The danger is that it’s easy to become side-tracked, and to spend hours reading all the interesting peripheral bits instead of writing.

Sometimes research itself ends up providing the inspiration for a story. On moving to the mid-north coast of New South Wales, I became interested in the history of a small near-by town called Bulahdelah. It was settled early in the 1800’s, when timber cutters discovered large tracts of the much prized red cedar trees there. I began to wonder about the women who came with their men. How did they fare in those early days? My research found that, for many, not very well. This set me on the road to research the situation of all women at that time, and I discovered that women had little say in their own lives. Considered by law and custom to be inferior to men in all respects they were often treated as chattels.  Dependent on men for their emotional and material sustenance, they were expected to be dutiful homemakers, and bedwarmers for their husbands without expecting sexual pleasure themselves in return. Many suffered physical abuse, but had no redress under the laws of the time.

It was in a state of indignation at what this research had revealed that I commenced writing An Independent Woman, the first book in the Redwoods series, about a woman who bucks the system, and how she finally manages to make a life for herself in spite of male prejudice.

Prior to all this, my first research was many years ago when, as a young mother, I found my weight was creeping up. Never having been thin, and having what is politely described as an hourglass figure, I was very conscious of the extra kilos. So I began to search for a diet that would slim me down. What I found was that while they many of them work in the short term, none of them had lasting results. As soon as I started eating normally again, up crept the weight, so I tried to find a better way. Exercise helped, but not enough, and I continued to seek a better way. It was not until I went back to school a few years later and studied to receive a diploma as a natural beauty therapist, which involved the research and study of nutrition, in which I found many factors contribute to permanent weight control and good health. Over the years I have helped many clients to normalize their weight and, although now retired, I still keep up with the latest research on the subject. In response to many requests, I am now compiling a book to help others gain the knowledge they need to control their weight permanently and achieve the good health they deserve.

Yes, research is absorbing, enlightening and addictive. And you never know where it will lead you!

In the Beginning

When someone realises you’re a writer, one of the things they are always interested in is how you find the subject matter for your story.
For me, it usually starts with a place that interests me. From there I jump to the main character, and put her (or him) into that place. It must be someone who fits in the place, and it doesn’t happen as quickly as I’m writing this.
In fact, I mull over my character for quite some time. She – let’s say she, as my main character is most likely a woman – she sits in my head for a long time until I get to know her. Then I play ‘what if’ and put her into various scenarios, until I find the one that she likes best. Oh yes, she has the say!
My characters come to life in my head, and as I write the story, and it progresses, I learn more and more about them. Sometimes they surprise even me, with their response to a question or a situation.
As the story comes to life my characters take over my life. I come to love them – yes, even the bad guys, for they add the spice to my story – and when I reach THE END they have become friends and I am reluctant to let them go!
When I started to write about Kitty in ‘An Independent Woman’ I planned to do a trilogy, with Kitty as the main character in the first, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, moving to her daughter Joy in the early twentieth century, and ending with Joy’s daughter in the wild 1920’s. But Kitty won’t let me put her to bed, and so she is still an important character in ‘A Liberated Woman’, along with Joy, and we still haven’t left the nineteenth century.
Lucy Now I can’t lose either of them for the next book! Where are they going to take me? That is one of the beauties of writing, I don’t know any more than my readers do!




Why do writers write? I can’t speak for any other writer, but I write because I love doing it. I love the whole creative process of putting my ideas down on paper, I love re-writing to make the story the best I can possibly make it, so that  my readers will take pleasure in reading it, and most of all I love it when one of my readers tell me they enjoyed that story.

I started reading books at an early age, loved all the wonderful (and the not-so-wonderful!) tales, and by the time I reached young adulthood I knew that I wanted to write my own stories.

I wrote a few short- stories but never had the confidence to submit them for publication. And then the pressures of raising a family and helping to run a family business became my top priorities. But finally came the time of my life when other pressures became less, and I was able to look at trying to fulfill my dream.

As  this coincided with a caravanning  trip around Australia, I decided to try my hand at travel writing. My first article was accepted by Caravan World magazine. Unsure of when it would be published, I checked out the next issue at the newsagent, and the thrill I felt when I opened that magazine, and saw my article in print, rates about  twelve on a scale of one to ten. I felt the same when I received the first five-star review for my first novel, Inheritance. And I still get that great surge of delight from a good review today.

So it’s not about the money, unless you’re JK Rowlings or a big name, you don’t make much from writing.  But what I make is far more important to me, for writing fulfills me in a way no other work has ever done. And I’ll continue to do it for as long as someone tells me they enjoy reading what I write.