Tag Archives: Pep Talk


They say a change is as good as a holiday. Who they are, no one knows, yet we all seem to know what they say. What do they mean; that I can help you with. When you go on a big holiday you have to update your expired passport, apply for visas, book and confirm tickets, try to locate accommodation that isn’t in the ‘bad’ part of town or next to a drop-in centre. These things can all be quite stressful. So is change.

I’m facing another change, and my first reaction was fear. Our first instinct is to think of all the bad things that can happen and we become acutely aware of what we are going to lose. More stress is caused by worrying about what might happen than in actually dealing with the things that do happen. The stress of the unknown is more powerful and debilitating than that of the known adversity.   

So how do we get around this? Easy, it sounds like something that would come out of a Disney movie, but look for the positive spin. Next time you face a change make yourself consider ten good things that might come of it. Feeling the excitement of possible good things is as strongly encouraging and productive as what feeling the stress of possible bad things is damaging. So go for the good feelings, they are a lot more fun.

Of course the joy of being a writer is that no matter what the change, you can always take your writing with you. I’ve taken mine with me through three different states, two different countries, and about 16 different jobs. Writing can be your constant.

But remember, just like a holiday, some things will go wrong with your change; these are the adventure stories that make you less boring at dinner parties. Overall you normally enjoy a holiday and look back on it with a warm feeling or even a yen to return. Change can be exactly the same. A million success stories started with an unwanted change, so don’t be afraid when you are confronted with it, be excited!

Happy changing,


Should ‘a, would ’a, could ’a

Language is a powerful thing, and if hypnosis taught me anything, it was the ability of different words to program the subconscious mind. Which is why I felt bad about something I wrote in my last post… three times. I used the word ‘should’ with regard to tasks I wanted to complete. The connotations around the word ‘should’ are generally negative. It implies that you don’t want to do the task, that you have erred in not doing it, and that there will be bad ramifications from not doing it. And while all these things may be true, this is not a positive way at looking at what needs to be done.

Look at the difference in these next two lines and think about which motivates you to actually perform the task, and which invites you to go searching for the excuse to avoid it;

  • I should write the novel synopsis of my book so I can send it out,
  • It would be good to write the novel synopsis of my book so I can send it out.

Subtle change, but it is one that even your conscious mind can pick up.

Now I don’t want to scare you, but ‘should’ is only the tip of the subconscious-sabotaging iceberg. Can’t is another overused word that could be used less frequently with great benefit to all. But it’s not the worst.

Not too bad is a standard response from many of us when asked how we are or how we enjoyed something. Look at those words. Written on the page the implication is obvious; I’m bad, but not too bad. Really?!? Your subconscious mind (and that of the person you are talking to) will believe you are bad, so perhaps you want to re-think your message?

So next time you want to complete something, think about how your phrase it to yourself. When something is presented as a good thing, we are naturally drawn to do it, when presented as a bad thing, our instincts tell us to run away. Our self-talk can make all the difference to finally getting to that last line of the story, or not getting there; the choice is yours. So what would you like to get done? Write a list, in positive language, pin it up somewhere you can see it and read it often.

Happy writing,


Excuse number 357

Recently I realised something I am embarrassed to admit; I make up excuses, a lot of excuses. It was pointed out to by someone asking, “And what number is that?” in response to one of my detailed and plausible reasons for not doing something that I should have done. I looked at him blankly and he broke it to me (not at all gently), “You have an excuse for everything, so I figured you must number them for easy reference, and I was just wondering what number excuse that was?” As if that wasn’t bad enough, he now asks me for the excuse number EVERY TIME I come up with an excuse (or even something that could be misconstrued as an excuse). It has got to the point where I just add the number once I have reeled off my explanation.

In reality, excuses are not very helpful. If you make up a reason for not doing something, it is probably because you should be doing it. And before something becomes a ‘should’ it was usually an ‘I would like to’ (get my tax done, write the novel synopsis, go to the dentist). If you just did these things as soon as they were identified, instead of wasting your creative energy on making up reasons for not doing them, think of how much more progress you would make in all aspects of your life, not just your writing.

I have a bunch of useless writing excuses;
# 357 I don’t have time to boot up the computer to write before I have to go out.
# 286 I need to wait until I’ve researched that thingamajig before I can write any more of this story.
# 155 I have to finish the washing/vacuuming/trinket dusting before I can write.

They go on, but I’m sure you get the idea…

So next time you hear yourself making up an excuse, no matter how credible it might seem, ask yourself for the excuse number. It will open your eyes to how often we put off progress when instead we could be driving it!

Happy writing,


Writing full time

I once read an interview with an author who had recently given up her day job to focus on writing full time. In it she said she was amazed that she didn’t seem to be writing any more words than when she worked in another job full time. This scared me a lot and put me off the idea of quitting work to write.

Now, taking WorldCon and other commitments out of the equation, I have been writing full time for three days (so can confidently call myself an expert). I can now see how it can feel like you write less, indeed I thought I had written very little until I actually accounted for all the words and saw there were a lot more than I had realised.  

Sticking to the ‘write every day’ rule (which I think all of us have adopted since WorldCon) I have so far managed to write a full short story from start to finish and I planned out the next steps in five of my writing projects. These things alone would have taken weeks in my ‘old life’ so three days is quite a feat! And to think that it still feels like I’ve done very little just makes it that much better. Imagine what it will be like when I have a week where I feel like I have worked hard?!?

The thing is, writing full time does not mean sitting down and banging at the keyboard or scratching away on a pad from 9am – 5pm every day. It means giving yourself time to think about the plot problems and story development and then being able to write the solution as soon as you have the answer. It means writing every day, and once you hit the flow nothing breaks you out of it. But most of all, it means exploring everything you want to write, not just limiting yourself to the things you think you should finish first.

Happy writing


Aussie Con 4

Aussie Con 4: five days of discussions about speculative fiction. The panels, the lunches, the dinners, the bumping into people between panels, it is amazing! There is not only a lot to be learned at the sessions, but the chats you have with publishers, editors, writers and others between sessions can be invaluable.

The wonderful thing I have found with all the writers’ festivals/conventions that I have attended is how approachable writers and others in the business are. They can be very generous with their time and their advice; after all they were once unknowns and still remember what it was like. Something you also learn very quickly is that publishers WANT you to succeed, they are not the enemy. In fact they are actually really nice people.

And the beauty of a con for those who are not normally social bunnies or networking gurus is it is very easy to meet industry insiders. You can go to one session and watch someone give a great insight into writing and then find yourself sitting next to them at the next session. If so, strike up a conversation with them, they won’t bite!

In fact, even if the person next to you is simply another want-to-be author, talk to them. Finding like-minded writers can be hard in day to day life, and the more of them you can collect the better! No one understands the joy and pain of being a writer better than other writers, so you need to have a network.

So don’t be a shrinking violet at a convention. You are surrounded by friends and this is a great opportunity to plug into the writing community. So what are you waiting for? Aussie Con goes until Monday, so get on down to the Melbourne convention centre because you don’t want to miss this chance.

See you at the con!


The writing blues

I wanted to write this entry when I was not actually suffering from the writing blues, because I didn’t want to be a miserable sad-sack, as there is too much of that sort of thing on the net already. So today I’m feeling sufficiently neutral to give it a go.

The writing blues can sneak up on you, usually when a chapter or story is not working, and you know it’s not working, but you have no idea about how to fix it. Or you can get a gut-punch of sudden depression, usually brought on by a spate of rejections (or just one really nasty one) and you feel like you have made a giant mistake pursuing this whole writing thing.

The only advice I can give you for when a case of the woe-is-me-I-can’t-write-to-save-myself hits is that it is completely normal. Not only do we ALL go through it, but we all claw our way out of it at the end, and sometimes it takes a lot of work to do so. The key is to not let your blues stop you from writing! That won’t help anyone and is more likely to make you feel worse, not better.

Humans love a bit of drama, and this is a very survivable one, so allow yourself to wallow a little –just for the masochistic pleasure of it. But set a time limit, preferably less than fifteen minutes, and once you reach it put the worries out of your head and sit down and start writing. That is what makes you a writer.

There is no better cure for the self-doubt than the salve of words on a page. I know what you are thinking; this is all very easy to say when I’m not in the cold grip of the writing blues, but the truth is that several previous posts have been written at exactly such times, and by the end of them, I’m ready to move on and get back to work. So don’t let the blues get you down, fight them with words instead.

Happy writing,


It never rains, it pours!

I talked of clusters of fortune a while back, and just to underscore the veracity of that statement I just want to share with you that I have another story accepted! (Yay) So in a little over a month I have had three pieces accepted.

I would love to be able to say that it is due to some cunning new marketing solution that I’m applying, but the truth is it is just a good turn of luck. We all have them, they turn in different directions and this month it turned the right way for me. Now if I can just push it a bit longer and get one of my novels picked up…

To share my latest coup, check out the Terminal Earth Anthology. This is a US anthology about the end of the world, and I’m pretty excited to read what others are writing on the topic. Just in case you don’t know, I have a soft spot for the December 2012 end of the world theory (I know, doesn’t everyone?!), and despite the ticking clock on how soon I can get all these 2012 stories published, I keep writing them!

Beyond Black is the first 2012 story to be picked up, but I hope it will not be the last. I have at least one piece of flash fiction (under 1,000 words) and a novel that need to find a home before December 2012. The novel is fast becoming a candidate for my first web self-publication.

But putting the end of the world aside for a moment, it is important to remember that the best way to become a published writer is to keep sending your work out! It won’t get published if no one ever sees it. I guess I should also mention that actually finishing stories is pretty vital to getting published as well, but that is a topic for another post 🙂

Happy Publishing!


The Waiting Game

The fact is you have three options for publication;

  • Get others to publish your work
  • Publish it yourself
  • Don’t publish

Given that a lot of us are trying for the first option, it means those who do the publishing have a lot of options. A **LOT** of options. So when they put out a call for submissions (and even when they don’t) they have hundreds or thousands of pieces to choose from.

Most publishers will also insist on no multiple or simultaneous submissions (that is, you need to wait for them to reject/accept your story before you can submit another, and what you submit must not be on offer to any other publisher). This can mean your story can take years to do the rounds, and for a novel, double that.

The longest I’ve ever waited for a publisher to get back to me (not including those who just didn’t get back to me) is twelve months. Others in my writers group have waited two years. I wrote a virus story which I sent off to a magazine, six months before the movie ‘Outbreak’ was released. Suddenly my story got rejected saying it had already been done. Not six months earlier when I sent it! Grrrr.

I think all writers have at some point fantasised about the day when they can pick and choose their publisher, especially after a nine month wait with only a form letter rejection at the end. But the reality is, there are thousands of writers out there trying to get published. I actually heard a publisher once lament that there seemed to be more people writing books than reading them. So if you decided to hold a grudge against everyone who left you waiting too long, you would end up with the entire publishing community on your black list.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is the waiting game is part of the writing game, and it is probably this more than anything that sends so many people to ebooks as an alternative. But, to those of you who are currently going through this, take heart in fact that the length of your wait is not indicative of your chance at success. Some of my acceptances came in the same week I submitted them, while just as many others have taken well over three months. The key is keep writing, if you have lots of stories circulating, then the wait is not so obvious.

Happy writing!


Who are you?

When investigating ‘how to get published’ one thing you are sure to come across is the advice to write for your audience. But until you have an audience, how do you know who your audience is? I write this blog each week, yet (with the exception of Nick who I grill every Monday to make sure he has read it) I have no idea who is reading it.

So who is reading? Some friends (maybe), some writers from my crit group, some people who were actually looking for ‘the novels of Natalie Hawthorne’ and a few people who have read one of my short stories and clicked on a link. And what demographic do all these people fall into… Human beings. That’s about as far down as I can narrow it.

So what does this mean for finding your audience? Well the fact is, for an unpublished author, the known audience is you! So write what you want to read, and let the audience find it. Your passion for the project will always shine through so much brighter if you love what you are writing. If you write what you think people want to read, your work will be the average of everything before it, and offer nothing new to the reader.

True, you could target a known audience in the hope of getting a ready-made following, for example; you write a novel about a boy wizard who is bitten and becomes a vampire. Just for the sake of it, let’s say your novel finds a publisher and sells well. Then you must write another book in the series, and another. No one is interested in the novels you actually want to write, just the boy-wizard-vampire books. Is that what you want? And remember we are ignoring the fact that right now there are probably over a thousand similar books trying to find homes with publishers.

Having said that, I wouldn’t suggest you purposely not write for a popular market, but if you do, ensure that you can fall in love with your story. You might spend a lot of time with these characters, they might pull you away from the other novels you want to finish, so make sure they are the characters you want to hang out with. If you are writing something you hate, you might as well stay in your day job.

Happy writing,



Recently I have found myself getting into lots of conversations about ‘what you would do if you didn’t have to work.’ I know, for me it is obvious; become FreeCell champion of the world and get a few novels written on the side, but for others it spans from the mundane to the entirely fanciful, but everyone has something they want to do.

The common thread, whether it be learning a new language, a new skill, or indulging in an artistic pursuit, is that they are putting it off until they ‘have time’. The truth is none of us have time other than that which we make. We push so much into tomorrow that by the time we get there, it is full.

This isn’t intended to be a lecture post, but it is an observation that has been really present in my life recently, and it is related to the risk taking I spoke of a few weeks ago. It is easy to fall into the monotony of our lives and lounge there, we do not challenge the status quo often enough. Don’t wait for tomorrow, grab your passion, and make some time for it now.

So tonight I’m going to take that story that has been kicking around in my head and I’m going to put it on paper. So it’s a short post today, because I’ve got to do some writing.

What are you going to do?