Thursday, 15 December 2016

I'm back at Deep River at present and it's good to be in the familiar place looking out of the familiar window behind my computer. It's a six hour drive to get here and I spent a lot of that time thinking about how I'm going to reshape the chapter I am working on and where the novel goes from there. Very productive. Now to see if I can turn the thoughts into realities over the next few days,

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Back in the groove

After a period of lacking in direction in my writing I am back on track, writing between two and four hours every morning and pushing along with my latest novel 'The Man Who Didn't Like People' at a fair pace. Each day I am writing a little more and spending more time on thinking about the way it is progressing, going back to edit where I see I have left gaps or inconsistencies and adding more detail to what I am going to do next.
The biggest change for me was the decision to plot the novel in a lot more detail before starting on the first draft. In the past I would do a rough outline and then launch into it with some idea of where I was going but not of how I was going to get there.
This time I have laid it out scene by scene with details of how the backstory is brought in, how characters develop and where the story changes pace and builds up to each crisis. I find there is still a lot of room for new ideas to be built in as I go along but every time I sit down to write I have a very clear idea where I want to go that day and how I am going to get there.
It has had a big effect on other aspects of my life. I feel calmer, know what my priorities have to be and feel as if I have a direction and purpose.
I remember this feeling from times in the past when I was on  a writing roll but I had not felt it for some time. It's good to be back in the groove.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

One of the most fascinating sessions at the Rockingham Writers Convention on Saturday was Literary Agent Alex Adsett talking on copyright and contracts. I can't do it full justice here but these are some dot points.

·       Copyright is automatic and free; it doesn't have to be registered.
·       To claim copyright you have to have something in a tangible form - written or whatever the latest technology is. Talking about it is not enough.
·       It is a myth that writers should self-publish on line to protect their copyright.
·       The copyright symbol © has no meaning except to indicate the owner.
·       Ideas cannot be copyrighted - only the way the idea is expressed.
·       There is no copyright on titles or slogans unless they have been trademarked.
·       Using quotes or song lyrics in your work can be breach of copyright - get permission.
·       If you have a traditional publisher it is still your responsibility to get permissions, but the publisher can help you.
·       Copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the creator. The report suggesting this would be changed to 15 years was rejected.
·       Writers should join The Copyright Agency - it not only monitors and collects fees on your behalf but has a great newsletter and offers training seminars. Their website is
·       If you have questions about copyright the Arts Law Centre should be your first port of call. Their website is at Alex has names of lawyers with copyright expertise on her website at
On contracts Alex said :
·       If you get a three-page contract worry about what is missing - normal contracts are 15-20 pages.
·       Beware if it says "all forms, editions and languages throughout the world for the term of the copyright". Decide what forms and territories you want to give them and retain what you are not sure they are the best to handle. 
·       Make sure the contract includes reversions (where the rights revert to you if they have not been achieved within a set period).
·       Watch out if the contract says they will consult with you on changes to your ms. That means they can consult and go ahead despite your opposition. Make it says you must consent.
·       Watch out for lower royalties on subsequent editions or print runs.

There was a lot more. Have a look at Alex’s website or, better still, watch out for one of her talks or workshops. She is also a contract consultant as well as a literary agent.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Into the plotting stage

I'm a sort of hybrid pantser/plotter, starting off with a spurt of seat of the pants writing until the shape of the story becomes apparent, then going back to plot and rewrite.
It's the plotting stage I am in now with The Man Who Didn't Like People. The story is about a man who deserted his family because he resented his wife having a career and this came to a head when he was made redundent. Twenty years later he has acquired a large amount of money but has learned he has a fatal illness. He returns to find his family and decide whether he should leave the money to any of them. My original concept of the central character has changed dramatically and I am beginning to see that the events of his early life, leading up to when he deserted his family, impacted on them as well as on him. That means his interactions with them as he makes his decision about the money will be largely effected by their reactions to him. It becomes a much more complex story with multiple layers of motivation on all sides. A big part of its success or failure will be how and when I introduce different aspects of the back story.

Monday, 5 September 2016

As part of my research for my current novel I am reading Steve Harvey's "Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man" and find it a fascinating study because while Harvey and I seem to share a lot of fundamental beliefs about male/female relationships, we express them differently and have very different ideas about how males and females should approach each other, Perhaps that's not surprising since he's a black American comedian TV show host and I'm not. He seems to be saying men don't have to change but that women have to be more clever in understanding how men think, Somehow I think that is a bit patronising, especially the way he presents some of his ideas about how men think. My view is that both everyone has to recognise the changes taking place in society and adapt to them, and the only way to do that is through learning to listen to each other. It's something I'm working on at the moment in The Man Who Didn't Like People. My protagonist has a bad case of not wanting to change and not listening but he is going to have to if he is going to solve the dilemma he is facing.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

My talk yesterday was to the Rockingham Sound Day View Club who raise funds for underprivileged children whose families can't afford the often high costs of books and other materials for their education, They were a very motivated and interesting group of ladies and I enjoyed the session immensely. The fact that lunch was included was just a bonus. If anyone has spare cash they'd like to donate to such a worthy cause the club has lots of activities to support. You can find them at

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A very successful talk yesterday at the Greenmount Library. It was booked out in advance with a long waiting list so I have arranged with the Library to give it again, probably early next year. I talked about my book and my career as a writer and then went into what I had learned about techniques that can be used to keep readers turning the pages. Things like setting lots of questions in the opening chapters, placing hooks at the beginnings and ends of chapters, and the importance of having a consistent voice and delivering what the blurb says the book will deliver. From the number of questions and the animated discussion that followed it was well received. Several of the audience were writers and said I had given them some new ideas to work with. I have another talk today to a very different audience in Rockingham. Looking forward to seeing what response I get there,

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Fresh ideas from author branding course

I've been attending an author branding course with Natasha Lester and it has been a revelation and an inspiration.
I've always seen myself as a writer in the most general sense - I can write anything - and the novels I have written reflect that. A spy novel, a romance, a thriller, a children's story, a crime novel. I tried it all without ever defining the sort of writer I was. What I was doing was casting a wide net to see which publisher it would catch. Only one of my novels expressed something of my own thinking and philosophy and that was the one I self-published, A New Era For Manny Youngman. I wanted people to read that not just because it showed I could write but because it said something I wanted to say.
Now Natasha has challenged me to define the sort of author I am, the sort of story readers can expect if they read a book I have written.
I find it exciting. It offers a new direction.
One part of the process is to develop a "strapline" which summarises that idea. I've come up with "A male view of human relationships" and it's now the heading on my web page.
The next steps are to redesign the page, and my blog page and Facebook page, to fit that image.
Then I start a programme of writing posts that reflect a male view of human relationships and work social media to attract traffic to those posts.
Meanwhile I continue writing my next book.
I feel as though its coming together as a whole. I can begin to see who my ideal readers are and target my book and my posts towards them. It will also add a new focus for my author talks.
The course is continuing and I'm looking forward to the next session with a lot more optimism and enthusiasm than I had at the start. Thanks Natasha.

Monday, 22 August 2016

It's been a long time since my last post, mainly because I dried up. For whatever reason, when I came back from Badja I didn't feel like writing and in fact questioned whether I ever wanted to write again. I've spent months pondering this and still haven't reached a conclusion. Partly I feel I had grown tired of the Grey Nomad series I was working on, although I have one book completed and it could stand alone. Also, having A New Era For MannyYoungman published I felt I had created an author brand I ought to continue rather that divert to a crime series. I'm still leaning towards the latter and I'm tempted to return to The Man Who Disliked People which I have half written. Part of my current problem I think is that in looking for an author identity to follow I have gone too far towards men's issues when what I am really writing about is how some men think. I believe I have to consolidate my ideas on this before I will be able to go forward and start writing again.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Broke my writing slump by coming to Badja in NSW to stay with fellow writer Paula Boer and her husband Pete. Long talks with Paula and walks around their rural property have refocused my thoughts on my writing and while I have not made huge strides forward I am working through what I have already written, giving it a new edge that was lacking. My aim is to stay with the braided format I developed for the Grey Nomad series but at the same time to keep one of the characters in the forefront for the reader to identify with. I have also been rereading some Dick Francis novels. Although my style is not the same I can see the craftmanship in his work and try to get the same focus on story and easy flow of the narrative. Couple more days here and I head home where the test will be whether I can sustain this focus and not be distracted by the realities of the way my life has turned out.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Another satisfactory author talk yesterday. Audience was the Como Probus Club. Generated some laughs and questions which is always a good sign. Also sold some books and spoke to some people who plan to download from Amazon so that is all gratifying. Had notes in front of me but worked largely without them so I'm feeling much more confident about my presentation.
My writing is a bit stalled at the moment as I settle into new accommodation and try to make a go of living by myself, I had thought that writing being a solitary occupation I would find it ok but I now think having a solitary occupation is fine if you then have someone to talk to when you have had enough of being solitary. I know the answer - I've given the advice to enough other writers I should be able to apply it to myself - just start writing; get into a routine and the writing will flow. I will, I will.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Successful outing

I conducted an enjoyable workshop with the Melville Writers Group yesterday. The members were all keen and had plenty of questions and input which always makes things go smoothly. The topic was the realities of publishing and marketing and my message was to be realistic. Spend 20% of your time marketing and 80% writing (not 80/20 as the marketers suggest) and be content with a modest number of sales. Most of my audiences are aged 50+ so expecting them to work 12 hours a day on writing and marketing like some young writers I know is not at all realistic. I sold and signed some copies of A New Era For Manny Youngman and I've been invited back to do more workshops later in the year so it was a successful outing.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Thinking goes on

A domestic upheaval has distracted me from writing for the past week but it is amazing how my mind keeps thinking. While I've been driving around looking for a new place to live this subconscious process has thrown up several new ideas for the novel I am working on. It raises an interesting question: at what point should I stop listening to my subconscious and stick with what I've got? Are these new thoughts improving my story or changing it into a different but not necessarily better story?
I could go on for ever making changes and some of them may be an improvement, but at some point I need to get at least one of these potential versions of the story into a publishable form. I'm looking forward now to moving into a new place where I can settle down and focus on doing just that. I want to get this novel written.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Laughs don't equal sales

Author talk audiences are very different. Last night it was mostly men who laughed at my comments on some of the characters in A New Era For Manny Youngman, especially the domineering mother and the lesbian couple. Made for a pleasant evening but I didn't sell many books so maybe I should target women audiences in future. They may not laugh as much but they seem more likely to be readers and therefor potential buyers. My next author talk will be a writers group which will probably be mainly women but then writers are not always good buyers. Still, I console myself by saying the more I get myself and my book talked about the bigger the e-book sales could become. It's all good fun, anyway.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Reading Rowbotham

Reading Michael Rowbotham's latest, 'Close Your Eyes', I came across this passage: "I think society tolerates aggression in men. They are seen as fragile, unhappy creatures, no longer in control, no longer having the same privileges or power as in the past, so we are supposed to forgive them for swinging a fist."
I don't agree we should forgive them, but the idea of men feeling displaced and domestic violence being a symptom of that was what my protagonist is saying in A New Era For Manny Youngman. It's gratifying, and in a way reassuring, to find others are identifying the same social issue that led me to write the novel, even if they do it from a different angle. 
That said, 'Close Your Eyes' is a very good read if you're into crime novels. I highly recommend it.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Notes from Perth Writers Festival (2)

The dot points in this and the previous post are offered as thought starters and possibly useful bits of information. Obviously there was more said about each of them but I couldn't write a full report on each of the 20+ sessions I attended. I haven't attributed quotes to particular authors in a lot of cases because I felt it was the idea that was important, not who said it.
  • Donna Ward of Inkerman and Blunt publishing distributes her books through New South Books, which is also a publisher. She also uses a printing broker to get the best price for her printing;
  • Ward said radio stations are only interested in hearing about and interviewing authors about six weeks before the release date;
  • I watched 13 would-be authors pitch to three publishers. It was clear the publishers wanted to hear that the book was something new and different. They weren't interested in hearing what it was about in detail;
  • The three publishers were not interested in books over 150,000 words and preferred  60,000 to 100,000;
  • They also wanted to know who the protagonists were - looking for interesting, different characters;
  • A large percentage of the authors presenting at the Festival were young mothers in their 30s and the big topics appear to be the problem of difficult husbands and children and parental responsibility. This seemed true even in crime novels with women detectives. Obviously women in that age range are a major target audience;
  • A lot of these women writers are doing or have done PhDs in creative writing;
  • All characters should have flaws. It's what makes them real. The flaw can be lack of action when it is needed as well as something they do;
  • Rainforests and former hippy communes appear in a number of novels. Rainforests can be mysterious, hiding things as well as exotic. Former hippy communes symbolise the loss of a previous idealism or feeling of place, even loss of a friend or child;
  • Effective symbols often expand from the local to the global. An example given was a small boy riding a bike in figure of eight patterns in the sand which became the symbol for infinity;
  • Emma Viskic recommended writing some scenes twice from different povs or with other changes to see which worked;
  • Several authors had found their publishers by first winning awards, some with novels and some with short stories. It appears publishers watch competition results;
  • Principal characters should be on two journeys, one physical and one emotional;
  • What characters notice is always important. In tells about their character and can also set the tone for the novel;
  • Perth writer Sarah Foster's latest novel uses first person pov only for the character of the mother to show how mothers can often be isolated from what is happening around them;
  • Most of the presenting writers did not plot heavily and if they did found the story changed as they were writing it;
  • Crime writer Alan Carter went to Shanghai to write the scenes set there in Bad Seed. He walked the streets getting the feel of the place and wrote the scenes there, out of sequence with the rest of the novel, while he had that feel of place fresh in his mind;
  • Carter gave a format for crime writing - In the first 10% the murder and first suspects are established; at around 25% the focus is on one main suspect or another body is discovered; at around 50% there is a significant event which changes the course of the story; at 75% there is another major change and the sub plots start to converge; around 95% it starts drawing to a conclusion;
  • In a session on the Dorothy Hewett Award the judges said they were looking for a literary novel, by which they meant one that paid close attention to language;
  • All judges said they did not read the precis accompanying a submission but shortlisted by reading the first ten pages
  • Judge Lucy Dougan said she was looking for a sense of the world the novel inhabited and whether the writer convinced her of the existence of that world. The voice had to be assured, indicating that the author knew what he or she was trying to find out;
  • Judge David Carlin described the writing process as having a flag set up in as maze. You knew reaching it was your goal but you had to find your way to it;
  • Judge Terri-ann White said she was looking for a distinctive voice that says "I am telling this story and I have a particular way of doing it".
  • White, who is a publisher, said if a submission said the ms had been professionally edited she was less interested in it because that was the job of her own editors;
  • All judges said they were put off by unusual page layouts and fonts. It should always be the traditional presentation recommended by publishers in their submission guidelines;
  • All said an ms with too many typos was not acceptable. It should always be proof-read;
  • Iain Pears' book Arcadia comes with an App that can be downloaded. By following different paths at points in the story the reader can change the course of events and produce a different story. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Notes from Perth Writers Festival (1)

Four days of networking, connection and obtaining information. I can't write it up at length so I'll just give dot points. I'm breaking it up into separate posts or it would be too much at once.

  • Inkerman and Blunt is a publisher in Melbourne - head is Donna Ward. Interested in quirky stuff and is publishing a set of pocket-sized novellas to read on trains etc. Not taking any more submissions this year but worth keeping on the radar.
  • Quotes from Fran Bryson, travel writer and former agent: "You've got to write the crap out" and "Read the acknowledgements in books in your genre for names of agents and editors".
  • Shona Husk began writing fantasy romance novellas as a way to get started. Now writing book length and published in US. Going into e-publishing.
  • Claire Boston found her publisher through a pitch panel at a Romance Writers Festival
  • According to successful Simon and Schuster romance writer Michelle Diener only 1% of submissions to traditional publishers get contracts. She is turning to e-publishing. She says a handful of upper class New Yorkers who dominate the big publishers have been deciding what people read. That is changing with e-publishing and there is an explosion of new voices and new ideas.
  • NOTE THIS ONE - Diener says it is NOT TRUE e-book sales are dropping and people are turning back to print. Those stats are based on the top five big publishers. Their e-sales are dropping and their print sales are high by comparison. If Indie e-sales are included, total e-sales are still increasing and total print sales are dropping.
  • Echo Publishing is based in Melbourne. Angela Meyer is commissioning editor. Recent publication Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic about a deaf detective. 
  • Viskic defined editing processes: "Structural edit means I don't understand the plot;  Line edit means I don't understand the sentence; Copy edit means I don't understand how you spelt your name wrong."
  • Viskic met Meyer through writers group on twitter.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

I've been working on a presentation to the Society of Women Writers WA on "The Realities of  Book Marketing" and it has been a very interesting project. Once you get through all the fluff and bullshit by so-called experts and work out who does know their stuff there does seem to be a sane way for authors to market their books provided they don't expect to be best-sellers overnight. It involves a combination of publicity to get your name as widely known as possible, some personal appearances for the same reason and to sell some hard-cover books directly,  the development of an e-mailing list of people who are likely to buy the sort of book you write and some techniques for persuading them to make the decision to buy. It also involves pacing yourself to spend a little time each day marketing while getting on with writing your next book. Now I've worked it out for the presentation I'm going to put it into practice and see if it works.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

On a roll at present. Got the POV situation in Who Would Kill A Grandmother sorted out and have now rewritten all of the stuff I had written previously and was unhappy with. The trick was to make the POV characters the drivers of the story and not the watchers. Instead of asking "what happens next?" I ask "what do Tom and Joan do next?" I still have to follow the outline of events in the story but Tom and Joan are now interacting with them and becoming much more interesting as a result.
I'm being distracted a bit by the need to finish my presentation to the Society of Women Writers next week but that in itself is a learning experience which I hope will improve my marketing practices.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

An outline is essential

It fascinates me when people say they just write without planning. Their minds must work differently to mine. They must set themselves a premise and follow it through to a conclusion along a reasonably narrow path. When I set myself a premise my mind expands in all directions and presents a hundred pathways, some of which might lead to the conclusion I am looking for but others wandering off into deserts and dense bushland from which there is no return. I'm sure that is why I have started so many novels, never to finish them. They took me to place where I discovered I was lost and couldn't find my way back, My mind spawns new scenes, new characters, new ideas - so I need a way to control them - to know which are relevant to my story and which are not. The alternative for me is a chaotic kalaidoscope of imaginative ideas that don't have any real form.
I have to plan - not in intimate detail like some authors - but in broad outline. I have to know where the story is going to end because everything I write has to work towards that end. Every character must contribute, every scene. I have to have a basic structure because I have to build towards climaxes, fall away and then rebuild again.
Once I have this outline I feel comfortable, finishing each day's writing knowing where I am going to go tomorrow.