My title 

Why you need writing allies

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Claire Scobie shares why allies are so important in helping us keep on track with our writing.

When my new novel was launched at Gleebooks in Sydney I had the chance to thank and acknowledge some of those people who’ve helped me along the way. Even though it’s just my name on the cover, when you write and complete a big project like a book, it’s always a team effort.

So who are your writing allies and friends? Here’s a list of mine:

A mentor: when I started out in journalism I worked alongside the brilliant writer Mick Brown. He coached, coaxed and inspired me in those early years.

A writing group: if you can find a group that encourages and supports your writing, all the better. Joining a writing retreat will instantly help you connect with a group. Singabout has several writing retreats on the upcoming events list.

A writing buddy: this subject is a favourite of mine. A writing buddy usually isn’t your partner or spouse, nor your best friend. It’s someone you can trust to give you critical feedback and who’ll tell you to keep going during the dreary and sludge times.

Writers’ centres: you can never stop learning. I regularly attend courses to hone my craft.

Writers’ festivals or conferences: whatever genre you write, there’s always an event you can attend, mingle with fellow writers and hobnob among editors and publishers.

Writing tweeps: I’m new to the twitter world but there is a very supportive group of writers out there. It’s a great way to access writers who you wouldn’t normally connect with. Check out these writing hashtags: #authors, #fictionfriday #pubtip (publication tips) #writegoal #wrotetoday #writetip (writing advice), #writeabout

My family & close friends: support me and keep writing in perspective.

Scrivener: this software makes the job easier.

Mindmaps: I use Novamind to create colourful mindmaps when I am mapping out a new project.

Favourite books of the moment: to remind me why I do it.

My blog followers: all of you help too! Every time I get a comment from a post, it encourages me to keep blogging.

So share who and what helps keep you writing …

Add hashtag #writeabout and it will help to find our allies.

Claire Scobie gives us 5 ways to be accountable in writing a story

by: Jennifer Richardson on

As a journalist I’m used to deadlines. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t always finish stories. Or even start them.

When you’re working on a book or a bigger writing project you need to create your own deadlines. If you know you won’t stick to them, find someone you can be accountable to.

Here are 5 ways to be accountable

  1. Find a friend you trust or a writing buddy or a group of writers. Tell them to give you a deadline.
  2. Write out your goals – research suggests you’re more likely to succeed if you do so.
  3. Be time specific with your goals – so set a realistic date to finish your story or first draft.
  4. If you’re writing book, break down your goals. Make a commitment to write 5,000 words every month or whatever.
  5. Email all of this to your friend / buddy / group. You are now accountable to them and if you don’t meet your goals you need a VERY good excuse. (Or you may set yourself a fine.)

This works better if there is an exchange. So if you say you’re going to finish your first chapter and your friend is an artist, she needs to have done the first sketch of her watercolour.

How do you ensure you finish your stories?

Claire Scobie will be teaching at our Writing in a Palace in 2015, held at Palazzo Donati in Marche, Italy. Details to be updated soon.

Jan Cornall's Ten Top Tips

by: Jennifer Richardson on

From the revised edition of Jan’s best seller – Write Your Book On A Weekend   -  coming soon in the Online Shop

  1. Read, Read, Read! Everything and anything all the time – feed on the classics, modern literature, experimental writing.  Devour it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keep yourself in a state of perpetual inspiration.
  2. Write, Write, Write! Everyday as much as you can. Copy, imitate, beg, borrow, steal until you find your writers’ voice. If you only write for ten minutes a day, that’s 300 words which over a year adds up to 109,500 words. That’s a book!
  3. Write as if your life depended on it. If your idea doesn’t involve daring, forget it and come up with one that does. If you feel scared to write what you want to write, you know you are on the right track.
  4. Make a Commitment. If you are not committed to your idea forget it! It has to be something you would trade your life for – well almost! Sell your house, hock your dog. Make a list of the things you are willing to give up for your writing.
  5. Trust You Can. To write a book you have to trust in yourself, in the process, in the unknown. It’s another reason we don’t do it. It’s too scary! What if I can’t do it? What if I fail? What if I succeed? Then what? You have to trust that your every bit of scribbling will one day all add up to something.
  6. Have Faith. It’s like trust, but is more about believing you really can do it – that you have what it takes to be a writer, that you believe you really will do it. In the times when you don’t have faith just act ‘as if.’ Tell people you are writing a book and then you will have to do it! Don’t give them too much information, just enough to keep them intrigued.
  7. Cultivate the Art of Dreaming. You can do it anywhere, any time. Suddenly your favorite (antisocial) pastime becomes useful. Cultivate the art of dreaming on your bed, in an armchair, in the garden, in the traffic jam, but always make sure you have your notebook close by to catch the ideas as they start to fall.
  8. Marry Creativity! People, partnerships, marriages may come and go but the creative process will never abandon you. From the moment you wake ‘til the moment you go to sleep if you give yourself over to creativity you will never be unhappy again.
  9. Write From a Place of Emotional Truth. It doesn’t mean you have to tell all your secrets but if you can harness the power of your unique emotional truth your writing will have a powerful impact.
  10. Always Come Back To The Writing. There’s no need to get impatient or rush to the end product. As in meditation when we simply come back to the breath, each day all you have to do is come back to the writing and watch the writing will write itself.

One of the best ways to  get your writing flowing is to join a writers retreat. Check out Moroccan Caravan with Jan Cornall

Elizabeth Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure

by: Jennifer Richardson on

I am sharing another wonderful and very inspiring TED talk here that I watched last night that I think will be of interest to you.

Elizabeth Gilbert was once an "unpublished diner waitress," devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of 'Eat, Pray, Love,' she found herself identifying strongly with her former self.

With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple — though hard — way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

 

Pitching your book

by: Jennifer Richardson on

An interview with PYBA and Jan Cornall.


Pitch Your Book Australia (PYBA):  What do you think about the Pitch Your Book competition?

Jan Cornall (Jan): It’s a good way of getting writers to think about presenting their idea in a visual way. Bringing it down to the central question, describing the story arc and identifying the elements that will draw the reader in - these are all useful exercises for writers at any stage of their writing.

(PYBA): Through Writer’s Journey you come in contact with many writers. What are some tips you can give about generating marketable novel ideas?

Jan: I think you have to write the story you are really burning to write, then see where it fits in the market.  Somehow writing for the market without a level of emotional truth doesn’t seem to work, unless you are very clever. It is always good to be aware of the market, to see what’s out there, and where the gaps are. When it comes to pitching your book this information is essential. If you can compare your work to a best seller and at the same time show how it is different, it will help the publisher place your work and assess its market potential.

(PYBA): How does going to a foreign place help with your writing and idea generation?

Jan: Many of the great writers have done their best writing in exile from their home countries. Travel gives you the perfect distance you need for contemplation, looking back, dreaming - all of which are important for writing.

(PYBA): How much should social trends influence your book idea?

Jan: Again I think you have to write the story you really want to write regardless of social trends. That said, there are lots of new genres and sub genres giving voice to new writers due to social trend. So if you can ride one of these waves and situate your work in the right place at the right time, it could be most helpful.

Claire Scobie - Writing between Jobs

by: Jennifer Richardson on

I was talking to a friend recently who was struggling to find time to write a book whilst holding down a job and a busy life, then that same day I stumbled across this old post by Claire Scobie written in 2011 on the same subject. I love it when that happens! 

I think this article is just a relevant today as it was back in 2011 so I decided to share it with you today. I hope you find it helpful.  

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Writing between Jobs by Claire Scobie

A question often raised in my workshops is how to find time to write when you already have a full-time job. As writing is such an insular profession, I always enjoy hearing how other writers do it. Last week I went to some inspiring sessions at Sydney Writers' Festival. The weather was balmy, the queues were long—and good-humoured—and writers from around the globe shared their tips to packed audiences.

In one session entitled Au Pairs, two writing couples—James Bradley and Mardi McConnochie, and Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra—discussed how they live (or not) with each other and their work. James and Mardi juggle their writing careers with two young children under five; Mandy and Louis live 100 metres apart and spend their days feverishly writing apart, and their evenings at the local Fitzroy Hotel in King’s Cross.

But it was when Mardie discussed her latest novel, The Voyagers, that I was intrigued. Mardie has worked as a playwright, written a clutch of novels and works three days a week writing advertising copy. I’m paraphrasing here, but she said that once she’d conceptualised and planned out her latest novel (and she’s a self-described ‘great planner), she then wrote it one day a week, with a sprint of several weeks at the end to finish it, and it took four years.

I’ve heard another writer say that he cut his working week down to four days and took every Wednesday off to write. He preferred taking a day off mid-week, so his colleagues didn’t think he was just taking a long weekend. Another writer friend carves out blocks of time (2 or 3 hours) to write her book in cafes and juggles that with a part-time legal job.

Of course, if you’re an early riser you can do what Bryce Courtenay did, and get up at 5 am and write for three hours before going to work. Or if you burn the midnight candle, like Téa Obreht, whose novel The Tiger’s Wife was named on the New Yorker’s list of Top 20 Writers under 40, you can write all night. During one chilly New York spring, 25-year-old Obreht would start at 9 pm and write til 6 am.

Whatever your bio-rhythms, it you only have small parcels of time to write, it helps to break down your project. Set yourself tasks (for 20 minutes or one-hour) and stick to them.

These days it is such a luxury to be able to write full time. But it’s heartening to know that you can do it in between everything else. Sure, it takes longer, but if you have a book at the end, it’s worth the effort.

So how about you, when do you fit it in?

Finding a voice by Claire Scobie

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Travel articles are often seen as easy but they’re surprisingly difficult to write. You need to balance practical information, anecdotes and a few facts and figures, with literary description. The voice is generally more informal than for a feature article because it’s personal and written from the first-person point of view.

For a travel memoir, there are many more voices to choose from. Yes, everyone’s written about the cafes of Paris or the beaches of Bali, but how you tell the story—how you choose to narrate it—can make an old tale sound new. Simply put, the narrator is the voice of your story.

Voice is the combination of:

    Style – what words you choose, how you structure your sentences and paragraphs

    Personality of the author

    Tone – this includes mind-set, opinions, feelings and attitude behind the words.

It often takes time to find your own voice (and if you want to explore it further, sign up for my upcoming 7 day travel writing course. While there is a cross over between styles, it helps to ask, is it conversational or formal, intimate or lyrical? If you’re genuinely funny, write humorous prose. If you’re reflective, go for depth. It’s much easier to write in a way that is natural and aim for consistency to give your narrative a smoother feel.

At the moment I’m reading (and loving) Geoff Dyer’s Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. It’s a novel but the second half, set in Varanasi, reads like travelogue. Dyer’s tone and language reflects the narrator which he has cultivated to tell this story. In another book, he may have a very different voice. The narrator is funny, outrageous, dark and occasionally, sublime. His voice crackles with energy and slips between poetic phrases, conversation and personal revelation. Swearing, slang and informal patter are all fair game, so too are invented words, repetition and colloquialisms for used for emphasis.

Here he is talking about Varanasi.

‘The action on the road was first matched and then exceeded by what was happening on either side of it, by the blare and frenzy of display, of frantic buying and selling, loading and unloading… Everything was piled up. Everything was excessive. Everything was brightly coloured and loud, so everything had to be even brighter and louder than everything else. So everything blared. There was so much of it all, blaring so loud and bright, that it was impossible to tell exactly what this everything was made up of, what it comprised. It was a totality of bright, noisy, blaringness…’

Like, dislike? Let us know— how did you find your voice?

If you wish to fully immerse yourself in a writing course this year, Claire Scobie will be our teacher for Travel Writing in a Palace in August. Palazzo Donati has now made it possible for us to extend the Early Bird past our cut off date and we will be able to offer single rooms without having to pay a single supplement but you better hurry and book now.

Click the link button here to read up and book your place.   

11 ways to write great dialogue, by Claire Scobie

by: Jennifer Richardson on

This week I started Italian classes in preparation for my upcoming Travel Writing in a Palace retreat. I love languages and Italian, as we all know, is particularly passionate and evocative.

Years ago, I spent a summer learning Italian in Perugia. I have a vivid memory of sitting on sun-baked steps eating a mozzarella-filled panini dripping with olive oil and fresh oregano. I remember thinking, ‘There is nothing better than this.’ I’ve never tasted a sandwich like it.

So even though my grammar is very rusty and I’ve forgotten half my vocab, just being in the class made it all rush back. Afterwards I walked through Leichhardt – little Italy, for those who don’t know – and wanted to say ‘Ciao’ to everyone I met.

Of course, it wasn’t the exercises that made me excited, it was watching the teacher and being part of the group. I was mesmerised by her gestures. How she joked and drew everyone into the conversation; how she listened, her head cocked to the side. How she conducted the evening class as if it was an orchestra.

Capturing how a person talks is crucial to making your characters come alive on every page.

Here are 11 ways to keep your dialogue fresh:
  1. Interleave dialogue with action. This helps create a scene so the reader feels like they are seeing something in real time. i.e. She picked up the cup. ‘It’s chipped,’ she said. ‘Mother won’t be pleased.’
  2. Use ‘telling gestures’ that reflect the character of the person who’s talking. These also help to break up quotes.
  3. Condense an exchange. We don’t need every ‘um’ and ‘aagh’.
  4. Paraphrase some sections as a way to cut to the chase. If you paraphrase, you don’t need punctuation, as you’re not quoting the person word for word.
  5. Edit your dialogue to the strongest moments. Avoid those waffly bits – this is especially true in fiction where there’s a tendency to let dialogue drag. Keep it sharp.
  6. Include information – or exposition – in dialogue. Be aware this needs a light touch (especially in fiction.)
  7. Show what isn’t said between characters with ellipsis. i.e. ‘I was hoping you’d stay …’ she trailed off.
  8. Capture the rhythm of how a non-English speaker talks, rather than relying on dialect.
  9. Include a few foreign words to get the flavour of the language & include the English translation. i.e ‘Basta! Enough!’ said the mother as the child stamped her feet. (You can italicise the foreign word if you want.)
  10. Keep with ‘said’ as your speech tag. Writers often worry that ‘he said/she said’ gets boring, so they replace it with umpteen other words. Actually we don’t notice these tags when reading and it’s distracting if you have ‘hollered / murmured / responded’ etc.
  11. Be careful with swear words. They come across much more strongly in text than in speech

So over to you, how do you use dialogue to humanise your stories?

Join me in Italy this August for a special travel writing retreat. Early bird bookings are now being taken for Travel Writing in a Palace 2014

The Donati family history

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Our partner for our Italy events, Luisa Donati shares some of her family history in this unedited clip I took of her in Montestigliano last August.

I hope you enjoy hearing the history dating back from the 1200's in Florence then on to Marche and back to Tuscany as much as I do.

We will explore more of this story and visit the Castello della Pieve where Dante was held in exile during our Travel Writing in a Palace workshop in August this year.

Luisa and the Donati family host Singabout in their beautiful family residencies at Palazzo Donati in Marche and Montestigliano in Sovicelle, Tuscany.