Here’s a really lovely Q&A I did!

The truly tedious thing about being unwell a lot is how fast so many things slip through the cracks. This being one of them! The lovely people at WritingForums.com asked me if I’d participate in an author Q&A, and of course I said yes because there’s not much I love more than banging on about books and writing. They were great questions, I answered them as best I could, and I hope if you’re an aspiring writer you might find them helpful.

You can read the interview here.

Researching people

Boiled down to basics, there are two kinds of research a writer does before and even during a novel. The first is getting the world building right. Even a contemporary thriller requires some research. The late great Dick Francis meticulously researched for his novels, because even though he’d lived all the horse racing stuff his books were set in disparate and fascinating worlds: merchant banking, luxury rail travel, the wine-selling business, the stock market. Writers of private eye or police procedural novels need to know the ins and outs of the law and criminal investigations. And of course those of us who revel in speculative fiction, be it space travel or how to mount a siege on a walled town, spend months up to our eyeballs in history books and documentaries.

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Doubt and the Writer

I was intending to do this as one of the writing podcasts but I’m fighting against another return of the Vile Lurgy, so to spare you my coughs and splutters I’ll do it as a regular blog post.

Recently I received a lovely email from reader Alyssa, who asked me what advice I’d give to aspiring writers about the demon of self-doubt and the need for external validation of the work. It’s a great question, and I wanted to answer it in a more public forum because I’m pretty sure Alyssa’s not the only writer who sometimes struggles with these issues.

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Thoughts on writing, from me and Sarah Hoyt

Writing is a tough gig. It’s full of doubt, uncertainty and rejection. It takes courage, persistence and a willingness to be humble when you’re told your work needs work. The biggest barrier to success is when a writer clings to the sad belief that they’re some kind of special snowflake being denied their destiny of greatness by [insert convenient excuse here].

Guess what? Nobody is owed a publishing contract. Not for any reason, be it gender or age or ethnicity or eye colour or any external measure. And more often than not, work is rejected because it isn’t good enough, not because there’s some vast conspiracy to keep the author down because of [insert convenient excuse here].

Yes, sometimes other factors come into play. Various kinds of discrimination.  But that’s life. Some decisions suck. Some people suck. Things aren’t always fair. Problem is, get too cosy with that worldview and you will absolutely end up standing in your own way – especially since discrimination isn’t as pervasive and monolithic as some people believe.

Anyhow, that’s what I think. And here’s what Sarah Hoyt thinks, a writer who works in both traditional and non-traditional publishing modes. I think she talks a lot of sense.

Bottom line? The job of a writer is to tell the very best story in the very best style of which he or she is capable. That involves much self-criticism and the seeking of honest feedback on the work and the willingness to rewrite and rewrite until you’ve done your job. After that, you send the work out into the world and cross your fingers that someone thinks it’s a good fit for their publishing house. Or you publish it yourself, and hope the reading public thinks it’s a good fit for their enjoyment.

Beyond that? Nothing. Readers don’t owe writers a damn thing. And getting angry because readers don’t like the ‘right kind of books’ i.e. ‘the books I am writing’, and scolding them, and sneering at the books and writers that they do enjoy? That’s juvenile and counterproductive. It’s arrogant and elitist and frankly pathetic. Writers write. We don’t get to decide what readers want to read. But if we’re lucky, we find ourselves standing on that patch of ground where what we’re writing is what they want to read.

Should we believe everything we read?

So here’s a question for you. How likely is it, do you think, that either Anthony Hopkins or Mads Mikkelson (both of whom have portrayed serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter) actually approve of – or even yearn to – murder someone and eat their liver with some fava beans and a glass of chianti?

If you’re inclined to answer ‘Not terribly’, then we’re on the same page.

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Best worst line in a movie, evah!

So, I’m still fighting cervical spine issues, which is a real drag. Hopefully, now that the holiday break is over and I’m back at the physio playing Traction Princess, I’ll be back to full speed by the end of the week.

In the meantime, I’m being careful. Playing catch-up with some things that don’t involve me writhing in pain. And watching a disaster flick here and there – my guilty pleasure! Which leads me to something that was in a film I caught on the SyFy channel yesterday. Truly, it was bad. So bad I’m not going to name it, because I don’t want to be mean. Only I have to share this priceless bit of dialogue, because I honestly think it’s the worst -and funniest – I’ve met in a long, long time.

‘This is beyond an extinction-level event! It’s the end of the world!’

Words fail me. Mainly because I’m still laughing myself sick.

What are some great bad lines you recall from the movies?

Podcast #8: Taking the plunge

Welcome to another podcast about writing! This time I talk about things to consider before sitting down to start the gruelling process of writing your book – with some particular commentary about the dreaded first draft.

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

Podcast #6: Character part 2

Here is the next podcast on the craft of writing … in which I continue to talk about the elements of creating characters in fiction. It’s in 2 parts because I had a brain fade moment and left out an important element. Sorry about that!

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

 

 

Guest post: Peter M Ball

Welcome to the Talkative Writer’s guest post with Australian speculative fiction writer Peter M Ball.

Peter BallPeter Ball is the manager of the Australian Writer’s Marketplace and co-ordinator of the bi-annual Genre Con writer’s conference. His SF and fantasy short fiction has been published in Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine and the Harper Voyager anthologies Dreaming Again and Year’s Best SF 15. In 2009, he won the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Short Story. His novellas Horn and Bleed are currently available through Twelfth Planet Press, and he’ll be releasing Flotsam, an urban fantasy novella trilogy set on the Gold Coast, through Apocalypse Ink publishing in 2014. Find him online at www.petermball.com.

 

And now here is Peter in his own words:

There’s all sorts of advice out there about how to write a book. There is remarkably little that tells you what things will be like once the book is finished and released into the world, waiting for other people to read it. When you hit that point, you’re more-or-less on your own, despite the fact that it’s a strange and bewildering time for an emerging writer. Continue reading

Ready, Steady, Write!

Well, it’s official. The Tarnished Crown book 2 (still to be properly titled) is underway. And here are the photographs to prove it …

Here is the first half of the book (approximately) arranged plot point by plot point on the desk. It’s a huge relief to know exactly where I’m going!

photo1And here is my sitting /standing work desk (I also have a treadmill desk that will come into play down the track) and that would be Chapter One glowing on the computer screen! Take note that I am, of course, being supervised by Editor Barney. More notes and info cards abound …

photo2I’m not ashamed to admit that the learning curve I experienced while writing The Falcon Throne is about the steepest I’ve encountered since my professional writing career began back in 2005.  Continue reading

Influences on writing

Actors, writers, singers, dancers, choreographers, songwriters and directors of all dramatic performance have one thing in common: every one of them is a storyteller. The mediums might be different, but the end goal is the same. Tell a great story, excite and entertain the audience. Make them laugh, make them cry. Take them on an unforgettable emotional journey.

As a writer, I’ve been immeasurably enriched by my work in local theatre. Starting out on the stage, acting, then moving backstage to rehearsal prompt, stage manager and finally director, the process of bringing a playscript to life and experiencing the immediacy of an audience’s response has taught me many, many things about how people react and Continue reading