Kickstart Your Novel — Write Your Book

 

Hello friends – It’s been a long time coming, but I have finally published my passion book! While I’m still a busy bee on my fiction work, (and excited to be on the home run with a fictional exploration of the sexbot world!) I’m also very pleased to produce a non-fiction book on the craft of novel writing. The behind-the-scenes of writing is something I love to write about, and Kickstart Your Novel is just that.

I’ve been absent from writing for about 5 years with an illness, but have finally knocked that on the head. It has been devastating as a writer to have had the ability to read and write whisked away from me — but it’s equally exciting to experience the gift of having it returned to me, and I have returned with renewed love for words, the writing life, and a desire to share my knowledge with anybody who has a desire to receive it, so, with that said I will share the introduction of my new book with you:

Dear writer,

Welcome to Kickstart Your Novel. As an author and teacher of writing, I know that the desire and passion to write is sometimes not enough to get a novel written; the road from idea to manuscript can be confusing and daunting. Kickstart Your Novel is a grassroots, simple to access, concise guide to the tools I find the most useful for getting first drafts on the page.

Every writer has their own set of tips and tricks that work for them, and I encourage you to take from here what is most useful for you and your writing habits and come back to the rest if and when you need to. Whether you’re writing for therapy, to get published or just for fun, my mission is to help you lay the foundations of your work so that you can then progress to the next phase of rewriting, editing and polishing your novel.

The important thing is to get your words on the page — then you’ve got something to work with. The expression ‘you can’t edit a blank page’ is where we begin.

Julie Proudfoot,

Kickstart Your Novel is available as an Ebook and downloadable here: Kickstart Your Novel

Writer’s Diary 6: Every Sentence

 

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I recently finished a novel. It was a love novel, one of those ones you write because you love the subject or something about it. I love meta-fiction – it’s a meta-fiction novel.

But now that I have finished, what next? I’m now writing another novel, this one may be a series, but we will see.

I’ve come to realise that I missed the love I have for writing and words and sentences. I lost that lovin’ feeling with the publication of my novel, The Neighbour. I got all wound up in the expectations that I put on myself to promote on social media.

But I’ve wound all that back and loving writing again. What do I love? I love that every sentence is an opportunity to convey meaning – and that is simply it. I love sentences.

I love my chair, the blank page, and sentences.

 

What Is Your Theme? Writer’s Diary:4

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If you don’t know your theme, get to know it. You will be asked about it, best it doesn’t come as a surprise to you – Elizabeth Jolley.

Years ago, I read the above quote from Elizabeth Jolley, and decided to pay special attention to becoming aware of my themes. I thought I knew what my overarching theme was. I thought (loftily) that my themes were the psychology of behaviour with narratives on behavioural theory.

It is often said that theme is difficult to describe, and writers are frequently unaware of just what their themes are. Theme is not story or plot. Theme is the underlying idea, concept, or philosophy in your story. Theme is not what happens in your story, but what your story is about. Theme is often not a choice, especially for fiction writers, but evolves out of a writer’s interests and passions, and, as a result, writers very often – but not always – have the same theme throughout their works.

Now that I’ve completed my third book, it has become clearly apparent that my theme is more tangible, and less lofty, than ‘psychology of behaviour’. I can now be more exact. For some reason not known to me, I write from a male POV and my theme is as simple as crazy men doing weird shit, or, men’s decent into madness.

Knowing your theme can be a useful tool in getting your story finished. If I find I’m wondering what it is I’m actually trying to say, if I’m asking the question, who is this story about? or what is this story about (questions publishers and agents want you to know about your own work) or what message am I trying to get across? Being clear on theme can help answer those questions.

Melissa Donovan says theme can be described as broadly as redemption, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty, greed, justice, oppression, revenge, and love or they can ask questions or pit two ideas against each other: science vs. faith, good vs. evil, why are we here and what happens when we die?

When I put the question, what do you think your themes are, out to social media, writers were much more specific about their themes:

Kim Swivel: love, bigotry, class, political stupidity, Australian iconography

Anna Spargo-Ryan: Mental illness, family violence, parent-child relationships, substance use, love, loss, food.

Jade Aleesha: My most recent novel explores the power of the media and government to redefine history, and the overlooked role of women in revolution.

Caroline Hutton: Secrecy in families, letting go of old hurts, staying whole in marriage, marital expectations of boundaries vs secrets

Sarah Jansen: Abandonment, the pursuit of happiness, self-reliance, unexpected situations

Sarah Widdup: Relationships, imbalance, expectation, equilibrium

Bianca Nogrady: Family and what we would do for them (or not). Also choice … I’m fascinated by this idea that choice is generally viewed as a good thing in that it gives us a sense of control, that we can always choose between options, however bad those options are. I think there are some choices that we never want to be faced with, and in some situations we would rather have those choices taken away from us.

Eliza Henry Jones: The themes of my writing have always changed to reflect whatever it was I happened to be grappling with at that time in my life. Reading back over (very, very, very poor) novels that I wrote as a teenager is almost like reading a diary. I’ve explored issues of religion, dementia, adoption, substance abuse and parental mental illness. I think what I keep coming back to again and again, though, are themes of grief and letting go.

Fleur Ferris: Online safety, grief, consequence, religious extremism, fanaticism, misuse of power, bullying, identity, relationships/friendships/family. (Not all in the same book…OMG, it doesn’t matter. I’m so miserable!) *rushes to computer and begins writing a romantic comedy.

Robyne Young: Emotional and geographical displacement, punishment, feminism, family.

One of the benefits of knowing your theme means you can look where other writers have explored the same themes with success. Men’s decent into madness threw up the following titles, which also made me aware that, so far, I’ve only found male authors who have approached the same theme, so I’d better get to work!

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey; Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad; The Stranger, Albert Camus; Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk; The Shining, Stephen King; King Lear, Shakespeare; Catch-22, Joseph Hellar; Lord of the Flies, William Golding; Shutter Island, Denis Lehane; Hamlet, Shakespeare.

 

 

 

 

Clunky sentences? Read that stuff out loud. Writer’s Diary: 2

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The last thing I do before moving on to the next chapter to edit, is read that thing out loud — shut the door and say it loud! — It’s a piece of advice people give you but you never do, right? I started doing it b/c the couple of times I’ve had to record a short story for radio and podcasts, I found that in the act of doing so I picked up so many clunky phrases or yucky sentences. And it’s especially helpful if you’re a fan of sentences that have rhythm and feel good and are nice to listen to. After reading my stories for said radio/podcast I actually changed a lot of words and had to resubmit the written story. If you imagine, while reading, that it is for radio and therefore u need to pronounce clearly, it really hones in on those ugly words – and you never know when, in the future, you might have to read that out loud to someone, so best fix that shit now.

Writer’s Diary: 1

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(Apologies for the repost, I’m changing my theme and rearranging my blog.)

THE process an author goes through is detailed and individual. In Writer’s Diary I will dip in and note what it is that I do to create my current novel. The posts will be short and to the point, and, on the topic of writing, only. I hope it is useful to both you and me!

I’m currently working my way through a draft of ABSENCE. It’s something like the fifth or sixth draft. (when I think about it, it’s a lot more than that!) As I deleted approximately 50,000w in the last draft the MS was down to about 40k, but the essence of the story is now very clear and tight. So now I’m working my way through and expanding every idea in each chapter. I’m also working backward from C60 back to C1 so that I give every attention to the individual chapters rather than getting lost in the entire story. It’s now back up to just over 63k and I’m at C28.

Reading to put your brain in the right state – Steven Carroll, The Time We Have Taken

When I’m working on something, I like to read from any of my favourite books to put my brain in the right frame of mind. You know, slow it down a bit and find a rhythm. I pick up a book and open to any page and read. Today’s read was from Steven Carroll’s The Time We Have Taken pg 132  (Fourth Estate paperback 2007)

You can see the influence from one of Steven Carroll’s favourite authors, Proust, in the long sentences, the rhythm, and the use of the senses.

The smell of previous-night’s-beer is unmistakable. And with the whiff of old beer she is simultaneously seeing Vic falling through the front door, stumbling through the house, and that old familiar feeling of wretchedness is upon her once again, and the memory of that wretched madness that swelled her heart to the point of exploding all those years ago is now more than a memory. It’s a smell. And smells make things happen all over again. And she knows she doesn’t want these memories again, but knows they won’t go till the smell does. Then she sees further signs of disruption, even as she’s dwelling on this business of smell and weight and love and why it had to be like that. For she has entered Michael’s old bedroom, which has changed little since he left, and noticed immediately that the bed has been disturbed. Slept in. And with the observation comes an involuntary shiver. A half-hearted attempt has been made to make it, a quilt thrown over the bed almost contemptuously. Brazenly. And as this strangers perfume– which she knows to be a common, cheap scent that young girls these days go for — as this strangers perfume mingles with the sight of the shabbily remade bed, the word ‘tart’ comes to her again. And she is convinced that Michael has not only sneaked back into the house when she was not there like some creature with guilt written all over his face, he has dragged a tart back into their house, her house, with him. And she knows straight away that this is not the act of her Michael, upon whom she rested the weight of the love she was left with (when Vic couldn’t carry it any more), her Michael who had always told her that her dresses were just right when the street sneered. No, it wasn’t him, but some other Michael with a tart in his ear.

Lychees or Peaches? with author, Adrian Deans: in which Adrian doesn’t tell us the meaning of life.

 

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1 Hard questions first, Adrian:

Lychees or Peaches?

Seeing as I’d rather suck petrol out of a hose before eating lychees, I guess it’s peaches.

 

2 If you were written about in a newspaper, what would the headline say?

Abbott’s Axe-murderer Receives Thanks of Nation

 

3 What is your favourite line from a book or movie?

Too many to choose from… Maybe: “Is sex dirty?” “Only if it’s done right.” (Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex); OR “Anyone who doublecross Tuco and leave him alive…does not understand Tuco.” (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) OR “Oh…and what’s so stinking about it?” (A Clockwork Orange)

 

4 What genre do you usually write in? And why do you think this is so?

 

I started out writing strange speculative fiction stories but accidentally morphed into an offbeat crime novelist. I certainly did not do this on purpose. My first stories were very ‘high concept’ and required a lot of work from the reader…they didn’t get published. I turned to writing screenplays and learned a huge amount about telling a story through dialogue and being very direct about getting from plot point to plot point. I also relaxed into my natural style – allowing some understated humour to enter the stories. Then when I tried again to write a novel, armed with my screenwriting skills and a very commercial story idea, the half-written draft (Mr Cleansheets) was accepted by the first publisher to whom I showed it. I found I enjoyed exploring the (slightly comic) dark side and seemed to have a talent for it. So I have increasingly focussed my writing in that direction.

 

5 Tell me a secret about yourself that nobody in the whole world knows? Go on tell me, nobody but me is listening.

 

I have discovered the meaning of life.

 

6 What is your latest book about?

 

My last book (Straight Jacket) was about a life sculptor – a lawyer who takes an interest in strangers and pulls strings in the shadows to change their lives as he thinks they deserve. At the same time the story is also being told from the perspective of a detective in charge of a serial killer investigation, but the detective can hardly focus on the case when his boss hates him, his deputy is trying to undermine him, and the woman he loves is having an affair. As it says on the back cover: In the cicada-throbbing heat of a Sydney summer, the threads of a strange story tangle together in a wild conclusion no-one will see coming.

 

7 How did you come up with the title? Did it come to fistycuffs with your editor?

 

Straight Jacket works on several levels. It is the name on the biker vests in the story; Morgen refers to his expensive suit as his ‘straight jacket’; Morgen’s greatest terror is to be regarded as bourgeois (which is a synonym for ‘straight’) and cicadas are an important transcendent theme. There is a cicada emerging from its shell on the cover. If I say any more I’ll spoil it, but no…there was no argument from the editor.

 

8 When you daydream about singing on The Voice (I know you do) which song do you sing and if you could have any celebrity judge in the world turn for you who would it be?

 

Well, I seriously don’t daydream about this…but if I did, I’d be singing Life on Mars and David Bowie would turn for me.

 

  9   What do you really, really, really, love?

 

Football, travel in Europe, great books and films, music, dinner parties with friends, excellent wine, any sort of writing success (especially good reviews) and my wife Kazzie.

 

 10 Can you show us a quick snap of your work desk? No tidy spic and span ones please. I won’t believe you.

My work desk is mainly my lap top on the train (I commute an hour each way to work every day).

 

11 Serious stuff now: where can we purchase your latest book?

 

All sorts of places (including the airport bookstores) but if in doubt:

http://www.highhorse.com.au/straight-jacket/ OR

http://www.booktopia.com.au/straight-jacket-adrian-deans/prod9780646906256.html

 

 

Thanks for taking part in Lychees or Peaches? Adrian!

If you would like to see more of Adrian you can find him here:

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http://adriandeans.wordpress.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18341665-straight-jacket

https://www.facebook.com/StraightJacket242

 

 

 

 

Lychees or Peaches? With author Ian Trevaskis: why we all need a Border Collie named Peggy

Kicking off our new author interview series, Lychees or Peaches, is author, Ian Trevaskis. Let’s go Ian!

 

 

1 Hard questions first: Lychees or Peaches?

Definitely lychees

2 If you were written about in a newspaper, what would the headline say?

Acclaimed Author Admits He Made It All Up!

3 What is your favourite line from a book or movie?

“Take no prisoners!” from the movie Lawrence of Arabia

4 Which genre do you usually write in? And why do you think this is so?

Children’s picture books. Because I’ve never really grown up.

5 Tell me a secret about yourself that nobody in the whole world knows? Go on tell me, nobody but me is listening.

Back in the good old days when I was a kid I had a Border Collie called Peggy. We would often sit on the back verandah and discuss the day’s events. She was never judgemental and I could tell her all my fears and aspirations. She would occasionally nod and offer a lick. 

6 What was your latest book about?

‘Edge of the World’ brilliantly illustrated by Wayne Harris is about a fishing village near the edge of the world grieving for a mother and her children drowned at sea. Toby, the husband finds some magical silver pots in his nets and over time paints the village and brings life and hope back into their world.

7 How did you come up with the title? Did it come to fistycuffs with your editor?

Simple – the village was near the edge of the world! My editor (Donna Rawlins) and I figured that was probably an appropriate title and there were no fisticuffs, probably due to the amount of wine consumed when making the decision.

8 When you daydream about singing on The Voice (I know you do) which song do you sing and if you could have any celebrity judge in the world turn for you who would it be?

I can’t sing to save myself and I’m not prepared to kid anyone to the contrary.

9 We won’t ever force you to sing, Ian – it could result in a national disaster! What do you really, really, really, love?

Apart from my gorgeous wife and four incredibly talented children, it would have to be the complete series of ‘The Famous Five’ by Enid Blyton.

10 Can you show us a quick snap of your work desk? No tidy spic and span ones please. I won’t believe you.

This looks way too tidy, Ian. Someone needs to go in a mess it up!

11 Serious stuff now: where can we purchase your latest book?

‘Edge of the World’ can be ordered through Walker Books Australia (a paperback edition was recently released) or from any major bookstore if they don’t have it in stock.

 

Thanks for taking the time to do Lychees or Peaches, Ian!

If you’d like to find out more about the mysterious Ian and his tidy desk, he has a website here!

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