Want To Be a Writer?

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So, you’ve decided that you want to be a writer. Next step is to learn to write, correct? Newsflash; you already know how to write. At least if you have any sort of education, you know. What you’re after is knowledge of how to write better than you currently can. This can be tricky. But first things first; you need to write in order to get better. Before doing any courses etc. start writing so that you have something you to improve upon. Don’t expect this first foray into writing to be prize worthy, do it for yourself and so that you have something to measure your future writing against.

This first step is also a means of exploring what sort of things you’d like to write. Is it fiction or non-fiction? Is it journalism, copy writing, plays or any of the other hundreds of ways people use the written word? Once you’ve nailed this down a bit (and it can change) then start looking at courses and interacting with the writing community. I’ve written about the writing community before (read that post here) and seriously they are fantastic. They are very supportive and willing to help so get onto it.

Now courses. I recommend checking out the Australian Writers Centre . They have a wide variety of online and face to face courses to pick from and are lovely to deal with. Courses range from copy writing to helping you build an author platform, but seriously, check it out for yourself and decide what is right for you.

Courses and beta readers have a place because they provide you with feedback and an opportunity to learn. No one is born a fantastic writer, some have a talent for it, but the great ones all got there through perseverance and a willingness to learn their craft. So put in the work, be willing to learn and go forth and write!

If you have something to add or any questions, do so in the comments below. Have a happy and creative week everyone 🙂

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The Power of a Hashtag

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For those of you who don’t follow my blog here are two important facts: I publish a post related to writing every Monday morning (Australian time) without fail and very recently I introduced publishing a book review post on a Friday when I come across a book that really strikes a cord with me. So far there’s been one review post, but I’m toying with the idea of doing it for books I’ve read in the past, not just new ones I read. Given all that, the growth in the number of my readers is pretty steady. However it is pretty freaking obvious when I change something and my reader numbers react accordingly. Enter the hashtag.

So a hashtag, for those who don’t know, is this little symbol #. It’s used on social media, especially Twitter, to identify that your message is about a particular topic, eg #socialmedia, #writing. It is a useful thing that for me had a big impact when I changed it. I use hashtags everyday, it’s just something I do and previously hadn’t given much thought about. Until someone in a private Facebook group told me about the #MondayBlogs on Twitter. I already posted on a Monday so I figured I’d add it in and see what happened.

Suddenly my posts started getting a lot more views. In fact they more than doubled. I was shocked and happy. All because of one hashtag, it was the only thing I had changed. I continued on my merry way, happy to have stumbled upon this piece of advice from a fellow writer (Thank you!). Then I published a post that didn’t do very well. I was puzzled and my sleep deprived brain couldn’t figure it out. To my knowledge I hadn’t changed anything so why was my engagement down? After some searching, I realised that I hadn’t added the right hashtag for Twitter. Once again it was the only thing I had changed and it had a big impact on the number of views on my site.

So my advice? Research the blogs that you love and are doing well. Check out what hashtags they use, experiment with the hashtags you use and see what works. Social media is fast paced so this needs to be an ongoing thing, especially if you want your blog to do well.  Also do a simple google search for an appropriate hashtag. Above all, never underestimate the power of a simple hashtag.

Let me know what you think about hashtags in the comments and have a fantastic and creative week everyone 🙂

My Beta Reader Experience

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So a few weeks ago I put the call out for beta readers for the first chapter of my manuscript A Balance of Secrets. It was one of the most scary and exhilarating things I have ever done. I am being completely 100% serious about this. It was to the point where my best friend ordered me to have adult drinks on stand by while we read the responses together. Whether the responses were good or bad, she knew I’d need something to cope with the anticipation. God help me when I finally publish the freaking thing.

Firstly was the harrowing thought that no one would actually want to be a beta reader for me. It took a bit for someone to bite (not helped by the fact that I first posted about it at some ungodly hour of the morning), but then I had a number of willing beta readers and I sent off emails with bated breath, eager for honest feedback.

The next day the responses started to trickle in. Best friend lives in a different state with a different time zone, so I started to read them on my own, not keen on waking her up. Time for honesty. Some of the responses were positive, some were nice and some were not so positive but still constructive in their feedback. And let me tell you, although it feels good to have a nice beta reader, it isn’t going to improve your story. And that’s the point of the whole exercise.

Best friend also moved to another state while the final ones came through, so I ended up reading them on my own. She had enough to do moving two kids, a husband plus pets without my writing anxiety to deal with as well. Surprisingly I didn’t have one adult drink. What I did do though was read them all and then forget about them for a week. This was hard. I wanted to dive in with some of the suggestions straight away, but I know myself well enough to understand that this would only mess things up with over corrections and deletion of things that don’t need deleting.

Having that break has given me the perspective that although the suggestions have merit, this  is still my story and I am the only one that can tell it. So I’m endeavoring to edit my story with that in mind while still taking on board what my beta readers have said. Which sounds more complicated than it is. The reason it is fairly simple is because my beta readers have raised some similar points and you have to take notice if multiple people are telling you the same thing.

Now I’m at the point where I’m moving through the suggestions from my fabulous beta readers and actually loving it. So if you are thinking of putting a shout out for randoms to read your story (I recommend the first chapter. It’s not as labour intensive as the whole thing), do it. Seriously, it’s one of the best things I’ve done in regards to my story.

Thanks Jodi Gibson for the idea and encouragement, you rock 🙂

Have a lovely and creative week everyone x

The Hope Fault: A Review

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Iris’s family – her ex-husband with his new wife and baby; her son, and her best friend’s daughter – gather to pack up their holiday house. They are there for one last time, one last weekend, and one last party – but in the course of this weekend, their connections will be affirmed, and their frailties and secrets revealed – to the reader at least, if not to each other.

The Hope Fault is a novel about extended family: about steps and exes and fairy godmothers; about parents and partners who are missing, and the people who replace them.

From Fremantle Press

This is the book that has made me stop and think. It is also the book that has made me change my stance on book reviews and actually be proactive in giving them. Why? Because it’s a bloody good book.

The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr is not my normal read but after hearing Beth from Dymocks Busselton recommend it I was intrigued and bought it that afternoon. As I wrote on my Instagram the next day, “It’s the book I didn’t know I needed to read.” The descriptions in it are beautifully written and it opened my eyes as a reader and a writer.

To start with I did not like Paul, Iris’s ex-husband and couldn’t understand why he was still in her life so much. By the end of it I understood that this was a family with a great deal of affection and love between all parties, even if sometimes they failed to understand each other. For me this reinforced that sometimes things don’t need an explanation, you just need to feel the moment in all it’s existence and appreciate it.

The book is broken up into three parts: Rain, Rosa and Hope. Although the Rosa section goes back in time through a series of letters, it is fantastically done and gives more understanding to the current sections of the book. As a reader this intrigued me, as writer I learnt so much.

The Hope Fault, is a beautifully written story on family dynamics, with wonderful parallels to the land we are a part of.

What I loved: How Tracy weaved everything together. Things that seemed innocently thrown into the story had a reason for being there and reinforced something later on. This made me think and I love that.

What I didn’t love so much: The ending wasn’t neatly wrapped up in a bow. However I think it is a good ending for the story so in reality it didn’t bother me too much. It reflects real life where not everything has an ending.

You can buy a copy of The Hope Fault by clicking on the link.

Reviewing My Stance

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I love books and have done from the moment I was given my first Little Golden Book. I have fond memories of reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, The Babysitters Club and sneaking off to read Wilbur Smith’s The Seventh Scroll at age 11 (my mum soon put a stop to that). At 12 I discovered libraries that weren’t at my school and the love affair continued and even grew. So why then, do I rarely leave book reviews?

I understand that book reviews are integral in selling a book. An excellent book review can propel a book forward, especially compared to a bad book review or, heaven forbid, no review at all. I look at them myself and they can make or break my decision to buy a book. So why don’t I help my beloved authors out by leaving a review more regularly? Or even do reviews on my blog? I know many others that do that, helping out their fellow writers and recommending books that they love. Let me be clear here that I do leave one if asked, just rarely off my own bat.

Part of the reason, for me, is that I read a lot of books. I checked my kindle library the other day, it has 1189 books in it. I’ve had it for less than 5 years. Don’t get me wrong, some of those I’ve only read part of before giving up, but those are in the minority and some of the other books I’ve reread several times. Then there is my physical library and the books I borrow from other people and my local library and the ones I gave away when I did a clean out.

But that’s an excuse. I could leave a review as soon as I finish a book, when it’s fresh in my mind but I don’t as I’m too eager to get to the next story.

This all about to change. Why? Well I went to the Mandurah Library Readers and Writers Festival. Between kids and my own ill health, I managed to go to only a handful of the sessions on offer, but the first one paid surprising dividends for me. Firstly, Beth from Dymocks Busselton spoke of The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr. She spoke of it so highly that I bought a copy of it that afternoon and finished it a day later. I love that book, as a reader and a writer. I will undoubtedly read it again soon and it has taught me a lot, much of which I am still processing.

Secondly, Beth also spoke of how she has to read so many books for her job. She enjoys the book and then often forgets what it was about and why she enjoyed it for the simple reason that she has to get through so many in a short space of time. This is my problem, only I don’t do it for a job, I do it because there are so many awesome books out there and I want to read them all! But I’m forgetting about them, not truly appreciating them in all their wonderfulness and in the process doing myself a disservice.

So I’m going to start doing book reviews and posting them on my blog site. It will slow me down with my reading but it will make me realise what exactly it is I like about a particular book. I read all sorts so the review could be about absolutely anything. First up will by The Hope Fault. It’s only appropriate, after all. I’ll post it this Friday.

Have a wonderful and creative week everyone 🙂

 

Realisation through Fear

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This past week I gave myself a day where I did no writing or reading unless I really wanted to and not out of a sense of obligation either. Part of the reason for this was because I was tired and needed a break, another reason was my eyes.

You see I’m short sighted and need pretty decent glasses to function in the world and have done since I was eight. But this time was different, for one I couldn’t read, write or drive for long without giving myself a headache and for another I got stronger lenses only six months ago. I was quietly terrified, I didn’t want to find out that my eyes had deteriorated significantly in such a short amount of time. Eventually though, the headaches got too much and I went to the optometrist.

Enter a nervous half hour of testing as I realised my eyes were bad. Even with my glasses on I had trouble reading the letters and the dots may as well have been one for all the distinction I was seeing at certain times. Then came the result. My eyes had deteriorated but only slightly, however my stigmatism in my left eye had changed significantly. This meant that my glasses were no longer giving me the proper focus and my eye was constantly fighting to do it ‘right’. Hence the massive headaches whenever I had to really focus on something. It’s an easy fix and I already have the new lenses.

At the time I could have cried, both from the expense of new lenses and because my eyes aren’t as bad as I thought. You see I have this fear that one day my eyes will get so bad I’ll be legally blind. I’m already classed as such if I have no visual aid so it’s not hard for me to imagine a world where I can’t see much. But I learnt a few things through this.

One, fear makes things appear really bad, it’s much better to face it head on and just deal. Second, people had no idea what was going on. You can see that I have glasses, but not many understand how much I can/can’t see and this got me thinking about how true this must be for other people. That got me thinking about my characters and how they it’s the same for them. Which sent me off on an editing angle I hadn’t thought about seriously: who knows what information and why do they know it.

There’s the obvious of a character not knowing because they were not there etc. but then I thought about things like why one of my characters flips a knife when agitated, why another resisted love at first and why another refuses to show emotion. Some of these I already knew the answer to, but I went more in depth, really getting down to why my characters are the way they are (yes I know I created them, but sometimes I don’t understand them, it’s the writer’s paradox). And it really has made editing easier.

I wish I hadn’t had to get new lenses to have this realisation, but I am grateful for it and I hope you get something out of it as well. If you have had any insights like this, let me know in the comments. The sharing of knowledge is fantastic and you never know who it might help.

Have an awesome and creative week everyone 🙂

Do Less With More Focus

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I’ve read a few articles and blog posts lately describing how writing can be the hardest thing you will ever do but also the most rewarding. This is true, but I happen to think this about a lot of things. Why? Because if it matters to you, you’ll be trying your best. It’s automatic because you are putting in 100% effort and that is a hard thing to maintain. Hence it’s hard but also rewarding.

This was brought to my attention yesterday while watching my oldest compete at sports day. He was determined to get champion boy for grade 8 and therefore entered nine events, two of which was against grade 11 and 12 boys (to put that in perspective, my son is 13 the grade 11 and 12 boys are 16-18). He placed second five times, third two times, 4th twice and ended up champion boy runner up. He was slightly disappointed but happy with himself because he knew he had put in his best effort.

But what does this have to do with writing? Well my mum, who was also watching him, asked what would have happened if my son had concentrated on only a few events instead of spreading himself out so thinly. I could see her point, he was tired by the last event and really couldn’t give as much as he could earlier on. This got me thinking about my writing and the articles I mentioned above. At the moment I’m editing a manuscript, running this blog, commenting daily on various social media accounts as well as doing my own and writing a first draft. I had also contemplated writing an essay for a competition that is due in a few days. I applied what she had asked about my son to myself and realised that if I was running true to form and giving 100%, something had to give. I don’t want it to be myself.

I have a young family, they come first, my writing, comes second. I’m not sure why it suddenly hit me in the face yesterday, perhaps because I had such a concrete example right in front of me, but I realised that I need to pull back a bit on the writing front. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my dream, far from it. It just means I’m going to be more selective about what projects I give my energy to. Do less with more focus is my new saying to self.

Cheers to not spreading ourselves out too thinly and have an awesome and creative week everyone 🙂