Tag Archives: Top10

Top 10 writer things to do – go to writer talks

If you want to feel like a writer, you can’t go past attending writer talks. I have an amazing local library (Mt Barker) which organises fantastic meet-the-writer sessions for many well known local and international authors. But if you are not so lucky to have a library like that nearby, many book shops and universities will sponsor them as well. So let Google be your friend on that one.

When listening to a writer talk about their process of writing, you will be amazed at how often you find yourself nodding and thinking ‘yes, I find that too.’ At the Adelaide Writer’s Festival this year I listened with amused familiarity to a few authors discussing the merits of pantsing vs planning vs plantsing. I loved that I knew exactly what they meant, while many around me had clearly never heard the terms before. I totes felt like a writer that day.

These talks will also often cover the author’s journey to publication. I think it is invaluable hearing these stories, because the ones you read about in popular news are nearly always the overnight sensations who had just started writing six months earlier. For many authors there is a ten+ year slog, poor first book sales and countless low points where they nearly gave up (before they realised that there is no such thing as giving up, our writer daemons won’t let us do that – EVER).

These talks also give you an opportunity to meet writers who have succeeded. I find most of them are really keen for a chat at the inevitable book-signing, and it gives you a chance to see how normal and very much like you they are.

And let’s not forget the final benefit; there are a lot of unpublished writers also going to these talks. So this puts you in a situation where you can mix with many other writers and potentially expand (or start) your writers group.

Top 10 writer things to do – finish a novel

Okay, so I’m assuming you want to be a novelist. Obviously if you love the short form or you write screenplays then this doesn’t apply to you. But if you are a novelist, then there is nothing that makes you feel more like an author than getting to the “The End” bit of a novel.

I’ve done it four times, and it is such a rush. The first three times I cried my eyes out when I finished. Not because bad stuff necessarily happened at the end, but just because it was the end. My time with those characters was over. They were now in the world, able to stand on their own feet and they didn’t need me anymore.

At least that’s how it feels at the time. Pretty soon they become like annoying family members who keep dropping around as you go through the editing process and watch the same scenes over and over again. Tweaking, re-tweaking and then totally re-writing.

When I tell people I write it is amazing how many of them say they too want to write. They then start telling me about the great idea they have for a novel. It’s incredible how many of them have not actually written a word of this novel. And that is, ultimately, what the difference is between a writer and a non-writer. Writers write, and get things finished.

Incidentally I think the only reason I didn’t cry on the last novel was because I knew it hadn’t worked, so it wasn’t really finished . That’s the novel I’m currently editing (very heavily). This time around I have connected with the characters so much more, so I’m confident there will be tears when I get to the end. Hopefully in the next fortnight or so.

Top 10 writer things to do – Join a writers group

I’m always going on about how great my writers groups have been, so it should be no surprise that I think every writer should have one. I credit most of the improvements in my writing to both my writers groups. It’s not just the benefit of hearing the critiques they give on my writing, but also what is said about the writing of others.

I know the idea of a bunch of people telling you what is wrong with your story sounds a bit daunting, but if you want to get it published it will have to happen eventually. I think it is much better if the people telling you the issues with your story are a group of people who want to see you improve and succeed, rather than a publisher who is looking for an excuse to reject your story.

You also need to find the writers group that fits you. I know there are a lot of groups who believe in only saying positive things, and will focus on the bits you got right rather than the opportunities for improvement. That sort of group is not for me, and I don’t think will help improve my writing, but if that is the encouragement you need to keep writing, then go for it.

The key is to make sure you know what you are getting into before you commit. Most groups I’m aware of offer new recruits an invitation to observe and, if you like what you see, they let you submit a story for the next meeting. I have to confess I also saw a lot of people never return after that second meeting, but that’s how you find your fit.

If you don’t know any writers then contact your local writers centre. While they don’t always run writers groups, they often rent out space to writers groups, so can put you in contact with them. I’ve also seen groups advertised at Libraries, and on association pages. If you are a genre writer finding a group through a relevant association can be particularly useful as you will get more relevant feedback from others who write in the genre you do.

Another great opportunity to start up a writers group is to gather people from conventions or courses you attend. So keep that in mind when you are at your next writer event, as it can be a great opening to start talking to others. And remember, when you find the right group there is a good chance you are also finding life-long friends.

Top 10 Writer Things to Do – Get Published

Yeah, I know it sounds obvious, but not everyone tries to get their stuff published. This can be for a number of reasons. Two of the more valid ones in my opinion are 1) if you only want to write for yourself, and don’t want others to see it, or 2) you don’t want to be told how or what to write. The editing process, when getting published, can be all about telling you what to change. So you may want to avoid that.

Then there are a bunch of other reasons why people don’t get published which, in my opinion, are not so valid. Sometimes people are too lazy to read submission guidelines, so submit poorly formatted stories to completely the wrong market. Some people are terrified of rejection, so never submit anywhere, but still carry a hope of magically getting picked up. Then there are those people who have such confidence in their writing that they only ever submit to the top publishing houses or magazines.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m envious of people who have such self-confidence. Most of them actually write really well, which probably bags them some jealousy points from me as well. But I believe we have to cut our teeth somewhere, and learning the ropes on the no-pay or low-pay publications is a great place to do that.

Obviously I’m talking more about short stories here. If you only have one novel in you, then perhaps you need to hold onto it for as long as it takes to get the publisher you want (but even that I would question). But for me, nothing feels more writer-ly than people reading your work. If you don’t get paid for it who cares? If your reason for writing is to earn lots of money then you are chasing the wrong dream.

Low or no-pay publishing opportunities are usually run by dedicated people who want you to be successful, and for that I think they deserve all the support they can get. One of my favourites is Antipodean SF. Every month Ion “Nuke” Newcombe puts out a professional e-zine of flash speculative fiction with an antipodean bent. I love it, and for as long as I write flash fiction I will be sending my stuff to him.

Getting your writing published means getting it read, which can mean getting fans. When you get contacted by someone you don’t know telling you how much they liked your story, it won’t matter that you are still slaving away in the 9-5 and haven’t earned enough from your writing yet to pay for a coffee, you will feel like a writer.

Top 10 writer things to do – Go to a convention

Just in case you don’t know what they are, writing conventions are usually two or three day events with a few ‘big name’ key note speakers and then a heap of other authors and industry people. These people participate in talks about all aspects of writing and sometimes they even run master-classes. The talks can cover everything from publishing trends to how to write action scenes. Most genres run conventions in most countries, just type in a Google search and you’ll find something.

I’ll never forget my first convention. The key note speakers were Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman and Poppy Z Brite. They were fantastic. Not only did they give great talks, but they mixed with everyone afterwards in the convention bar (and there is always an attached bar). But the key note speakers were just a small part of what made it so great.

Conventions attract people from all demographics who have one overriding thing in common; writing. Meeting other people who are serious about their writing is one of the most important things a writer can do. You get to talk about issues, successful tricks, and you can find out about resources or opportunities you might otherwise never hear about.

Being at a convention gives you permission to be a writer, and your presence there shows how serious you are about improving you craft. After you have been to a few conventions you will probably find that you get less out of the talks, but you still get a lot out of hanging out at the bar. More than a few life-long friendships have been born at conventions, and I would highly recommend you make the most of it.

The hardest thing about going to a convention is dealing with the downer you inevitably fall into when it is all over and you return to your ‘normal’ life. I channelled this feeling into making me seek out other opportunities to feel like a writer, which I’ll cover in the rest of my Top 10 blogs.

What’s happening with the Top 10 this year?

After much planning and picking, I’ve decided not to post about my top 10 non-fiction books at the end of the month.

It struck me as far too personal a choice in terms of topic. Every book I picked was about writing, psychology or animals. If you were hoping for my self-help book tips, well the one I’ve recommended to many people that I think can help everyone is Maximum Willpower by Kelly McGonigal, and I was so impressed with it the first time I read it that I’ve already blogged about it.

So instead I thought I could write about something readers of this blog might actually be interested in; Top 10 things to do to feel like a writer. Just because you haven’t been published, or not enough to make any real money, doesn’t mean you can’t feel like a writer.

This list will be the things that have given me that little writer-flutter in my belly. They are the things that keep you slogging it out even when you think you’ll never get there.

The new Top 10 starts tomorrow!

Top 10 2017 – Non-fiction books

Okay, due to the overwhelming response of one (and that was a text message) I’m going with non-fiction books. I like to always be reading one non-fiction and one fiction book, no idea why, I guess it’s just one of my loveable quirks. And just as I read all different types of fiction, my non-fiction preferences run from evolutionary theory to he’s just not that into you-type books. So this will be an eclectic mix.

To pick my non-fiction books I’ll often look to the references of previous non-fiction books I have enjoyed. Part of me would really like to write a self-help program made up entirely of reading great non-fiction books. This won’t be that list, because some of the books here won’t necessarily contribute to making you a better and more rounded person, but I hope that many will. I will credit some for great leaps forward that I have made.

Something that I really believe about the self-help type books is that you cannot just read them once to get the benefit. If you are anything like me you get super motivated while reading it, but that influence drops off exponentially as soon as you stop reading them. So for these books I’ll let you know that they have made it to my annual reader list. Don’t worry, he’s just not that into you is not on that list.

I know I’m going to miss a whole heap of great books, so I should put in a rider that these books are the ones that are front of mind for me. They are the ones I read again or remember often.

Finally, your own preferences are going to massively shape what non-fiction you read. I LOVE palaeo-zoology and evolution, but that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m only going to include one (maybe two) in this list. You might like war planes or something that I find a bit nods-ey, so apologies for those not making the list. I guess this is my blog, so you get to find out about me 🙂

So, starting next month, the last post of the month will be my top 10 (at the moment) non-fiction books.

Top 10 Authors – Michael Crichton

When I started the top ten list I only had 9 authors picked out. I figured the tenth would be revealed long before I got to the final entry. The day before this entry went live I still didn’t know who I was going to pick. I had four in the running, but two were scriptwriters, so I figured they could be part of a new list. That left two novelists…

I’ve picked Michael Crichton because I think his stories are the closest to what mine might one day be. Michael Crichton immersed himself in the science of his stories and made sure they always sat true to what was known at the time, and he did it in an engaging and entertaining way. I’ll never forget learning about dinosaur DNA trapped inside mosquitoes in amber and a few years later seeing a movie based entirely on that discovery. I loved it.

Anything that makes science, and more specifically biological or environmental sciences, mainstream is wonderful in my opinion. If you can educate people without them even realising it as they join you in a fantastical journey in a novel, then I think you have something of which to be truly proud. I try, no doubt clumsily, to do it in my work.

Michael Crichton died in 2008. I think it is tragic that we won’t get to see his spin on all the new and amazing discoveries that are happening in the world of science today. I’m sure there would have been many more blockbusters that could have come out of the pages of the science journals.

I know a lot of people criticise writers who take content from ‘nature’ or ‘science’ and turn it into a story, but the fact is most people don’t read ‘nature’ and ‘science’, it is authors like Michael Crichton who translate these discoveries into a language the average person can understand. That is top ten worthy in my eyes.

Top 10 Authors – Jennifer Fallon

Occasionally I’ll put out a call to friends for favourite books. One of those books was Jennifer Fallon’s ‘Lion of Senet’ and I had it suggested to me by two different friends at the same time. That made me curious, so I read the book.

Usually I try not to read a series back to back, I figure a reader normally has to wait a year between books for the author to write them, so I should put a few weeks breathing space between them. With these books I could not wait, I HAD to know what was going to happen next.

The world-building was excellent and not your ‘typical’ fantasy, heading into non-European based worlds and where politics played a bit part in the stories. Her good characters did bad things, and the bad ones did good things. I like that in a book.

The funny thing is I must confess that I have not read a Jennifer Fallon book in over two years. I don’t know why that is, but when I was compiling my list of top ten authors at the beginning of the year I knew Jennifer had to be on it. I can so vividly remember loving the books so much, it makes me think it is time to pick up another one.

Top 10 Authors – Markus Zusak

I think the closest I’ve come to declaring a favourite book is Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’. This was another book I came to thanks to the top 100 books I’m trying to read and it grabbed me from the first page through to the last. I loved that it was narrated by death and I loved it was presented through the eyes of a young girl despite the horrors it was showing us.

I have read some of Zusak’s other books (The Messenger and The Underdog) and the thing that struck me was the author’s amazing grasp of character. They feel so real, and I don’t know if it was just me, but they feel like they tap into a facet of yourself that resonates so personally that it is as if the author knows you. That is a great skill. So when that character development was married to such an amazing story, then you can see why I loved The Book Thief so much.

Markus Zusak is touted mainly as a young adult author, in fact The Book Thief was marketed as YA in the US, but like so many other young adult books, his stories can be enjoyed by everyone. He captures the pain of the teenage years so well that it was almost uncomfortable venturing back there. They brought back memories.

Just writing this review makes me want to go back and read his work again, I hope that sells it for you. It also makes me want to be a better writer. You can’t ask for more than that.