Archive for February, 2009

Follow me on Twitter

A new phenomenon sweeping the internet is Twitter.

Okay – I’ll come clean, I’m new to Twitter and I’m not really sure how effective it will be in relation to my blogging, writing and the way in which I do things. I’ve only been on it a few weeks now, but already I find it great for keeping up with breaking news. The downside of this is that it can be a terrible distraction. During the recent tragic fires in Victoria, however, it was great keeping up to date on happenings.

I joined Twitter at the urging of my son Sim’ so he could keep informed about what I was doing. In return, I can easily keep track of what he is doing. It’s neat.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can do so on the sidebar where it says “Follow my Twitters.” That’s really intuitive, isn’t it? That way you will keep up to date with what’s happening around here.

Oh, by the way – I’m also fairly new on Facebook too.

Good writing.

Writing a novel: a writer’s journal 2

The germ of an idea

To write a story or novel the writer needs an idea. Several actually. In fact, a writer probably needs a heap of ideas to finish a novel.

I find that there is usually one spark of an idea that will get me writing. It might be something I’ve seen on television, or shopping, or on holiday, or at the beach or while walking. It could be a photograph, a delicious smell or a memory from years ago.

Once the idea, the spark is there I ask the question: What if? What if the person in that photo was a murderer? What if the dog I saw on my walk was telling me that his master was lying injured in the garden? What if…?

Ideas for my thesis novel

For the last few months I’ve been quite undecided about what to write about for my Master of Arts thesis novel. The crunch time is here: I have to start on this in the next few days. I’ve actually been mulling over five ideas.

  1. A time fantasy novel set in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia in ancient times.
  2. A novel featuring two teenagers fascinated by time who find themselves trapped in suspended time.
  3. A novel drawn from the real life experiences of a member of my family.
  4. A novel (or even a trilogy) fictionalising the experiences of my forebears and their emigration from Prussia to South Australia in the 1840s, a story of triumph over great tragedy.
  5. A novel about a small Nepali boy caught in the midst of civil war.

After months of hesitation I’ve settled on the last one. This is the one that draws me to the main character again and again. All of the ideas I’ve listed above are quite valid and I’ll possibly use them all someday. The first four all need considerable research and planning before I can even think about writing a word.

This is also true of the story line I have chosen, but the main character is so strong and prominent in my thinking he needs to escape on to the page.

More about the process in coming days.

Writing a novel – a writer’s journal

I am writing a novel.

I need to clarify that statement: I have been thinking about writing a novel. The time for thinking is over. I urgently need to start some serious planning and writing. The pressure is really on, because I have to present the first chapter – or a part of a chapter – at a seminar next week.

Let me back-track a little. Regular readers of this blog will know that I am half way through my Master of Arts in Creative Writing course. So far I’ve been very successful, completing all the assignments and gaining distinctions (or higher) for every one of them. It was hard work, but the writing has been very satisfying. My skills have developed way beyond what I had hoped for, and I’ve produced many pleasing pieces of writing.

I have one unit of study to complete. It’s called Editing and Publishing for Writers, a very practical course aimed at both editing one’s writing and preparing work for publication. The balance of my studies this year will focus on my thesis paper. This will be a 40,000 word novel.

What should I write about?

This is a question that has plagued writers ever since the first stylus was picked up to scratch on a clay tablet in ancient Sumaria. I wasn’t there at the time, so I’m not sure what they wrote about. In varying degrees of perplexity, many writers have always struggled to come up story ideas.

It makes it so much easier if you know the plot line before you start writing. You know – beginning, middle and ending – that sort of thing. Not to forget twists and turns, problems to overcome, births, deaths, marriages, murders and the inevitable taxes.

It also helps to know your characters. Boy or girl, adults, animals, creatures, monsters or aliens: they’ve all been used before and will presumably be used many times more for many years to come.

Finally, it is essential that you are quite clear in your head where and when the story is set. Will it be in a city or a rural setting? Will it be a place near you or far away, perhaps in another country or even another world? Will the story be set in the present time, the distant past or even the future?

Decisions, decisions, decisions

The writer has to make so many decisions when starting to write a short story or novel. These choices are essential in the planning stages and they need to be reviewed constantly while the work is in progress. That is what I will be doing during the coming months.

I will get by with little help from my readers:

This blog will become a journey through the writing of my novel. I plan to write frequently about the process and the decisions I make. I invite reader’s comments as we go; in fact, you can all help me in the process. I will need all the help I can get.

Universal Writing Rules

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
W. Somerset Maugham
English dramatist & novelist (1874 – 1965)

That was a  somewhat cynical view of the craft of writing. Sometimes I feel like they are not too far off the mark.

Despite that, we can but try to work out what this writing game is all about, and how to achieve with a moderate amount of success. In another life I was a classroom teacher for 35 years; near the end of that career I often  said that I’d finally worked what this teaching thing is all about. I’m convinced that writing is the same; many years of practice is what it takes to discover what this writing thing is all about, and how it works.

Despite Somerset Maugham’s cynicism, there are some basic universal rules one can apply to all writing in order to improve it. An article appeared on ProBlogger a few days ago which addresses this very issue, with some commonsense rules to apply to every piece of writing to make it better – or even the best you can do. A worthy aim with all your writing after all.

You can read the article here: 5 Universal Writing Rules

You can read more on this topic by clicking on the links below.

Further reading:

What I am reading

I’m a little slow about writing about this book.

I bought it about last October but kept it unread for a treat over the Christmas – New Year holidays. It has been a while since I bought a new novel to read just for pleasure. It’s something every writer should be doing regularly. Enough of my failings.

This is what I read: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa:a novel by Australian author Nicholas Drayson.

A first glance at the title and one could be forgiven for thinking it is only about birds. Well, it isn’t. Not entirely. At heart it is a romance, a mystery, an adventure and a rollicking good read. And you incidentally learn about the birds of East Africa as a bonus.

Mr. Malik is a quiet, reserved and thoroughly likable  gentleman with a secret passion. Not even the members of his club know that he is totally in love with the leader of the Tuesday morning bird walk of the East African Ornithological Society,  Rose Mbikwa. Rose’s politician husband had died in mysterious circumstance many years previously.

Mr. Malik has a problem; he desires to invite Rose to the annual Hunt Ball but flashy Harry Khan arrives in town in time to spoil his plans. Mr. Malik and Harry have a distant and not so happy past from their school days. When Harry indicates that he was going to invite Rose to the ball, mild Mr. Malik blurts out his feelings for her. So a club wager was set – whoever could see the most birds in a week would have the right to ask Rose to the ball.

The chase is on and the adventure begins. Intrigue, mystery, excitement (yes – birders do get excited) misunderstanding and a heinous crime all add spice to the chase.

A thoroughly good read.

Highly recommended.


Drayson, N, 2008, A Guide to the Birds of east Africa: a novel. London, Viking.

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa: a novel

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa: a novel