Friday, February 22, 2013


I have a longer post coming about all the excellent sessions I attended at the 2013 Perth Writers Festival yesterday, but while it's fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a bit of advice on a commonly asked question that was put to literary giants Margaret Atwood and China Mieville at their excellent session on Wordsmithing. They were so much fun together, and they had so many excellent insights.

A member of the audience asked the simple question- what do they do when they get stuck?

Margaret Atwood's advice was first, try something different with what you're writing. Change point of view- first person, third person, even second person. Or change tense- present, past. Try to write the current scene from a different angle and see if that will jog you back into your work.

If that fails, she has three go-to options:

1. Go for a walk
2. Have a sleep
3. Do something repetitive and mindless, like ironing

These are oft-repeated pieces of advice, because they work- stop worrying, stop overthinking, and rest your mind a little. When it's time to get back to writing, you'll benefit from greater clarity.

China Mieville reckons that his 200 word theory has carried him through periods of being stuck- tell yourself you only have to write 200 words, or around two paragraphs, and they don't have to be good. In fact you can expect them to suck. Describe anything- even the wall you're looking at- for 200 words.

Once you've done that, go away, and when you come back later- write another 200 words. Keep that up, and you'll either get yourself back on track, or at least keep your practice up for when the inspiration comes back.

He also commented that more books don't get written because people don't put words on the page, than don't get out there because the writing isn't perfect. Get it on the page, and you can always revise it later. Margaret Atwood commented that only you will see what you write to start with, so what does it matter whether it's perfect or not?

Keep on writing, and that's the only way to get where you're going.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Long time, no see!

The crew here at ATWOP are still slightly on hiatus, by which I mean, concentrating hard on all kinds of important work, like writing, revising and publishing novels, or raising future storytellers, or that sort of thing- and still a little short on time to do the blogging we'd like to do as well.

We all hope to be more connected this year, and one of my aims is to spend a little more time both here and at my new blog for WWI research and all things Between the Lines.

So in that spirit, I'm moved to talk today about the theory of abundance. A good friend of mine was talking about this recently, and put it in my mind- she's a professional cake-and-sweet-treat maker, and she has the most enthusiastic and giving personality- just being around her makes you want to get up and work harder at being useful and positive.

And that's where the theory of abundance comes into things, because she believes that connecting with like-minded people, and moreover, always giving freely of your enthusiasm and your creativity, does not take away your time or your energy. It has the opposite effect- it brings energy and creativity back to you, because for all you give, you receive these things in return.

Since the start of 2013, I've already revised 30,000 words of Between the Lines. This is huge, for someone who hadn't touched her writing seriously in well over a year. I have a lot of demands on my time, but I am absolutely determined to finish this book this year and move on to the next stage, and my determination is carrying me through.

With the need to focus hard on my writing, you'd think that reconnecting with the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum, plus Facebook, plus blogging again, might not be a really advisable thing to do. After all, surely all that is going to take time and energy away from my main focus?

But as ever, I've immediately discovered that abundance applies here, too. Not to Facebook, that's still the devil. But to everything else- connecting with other writers. Sharing your work. Taking the time to read and comment on other peoples' work. Emailing writing buddies to talk shop. Telling the world what you're up to. All these things don't end up detracting, if you get the balance right- they end up adding fuel to the fire, revitalising creative energy and supporting your drive to get somewhere significant.

I've been a Compuserve Forum member for seven years now, and in that time, the periods where I haven't written a thing- have coincided exactly with the periods during which I have *not* been an active member there. The times when I've been most productive are the times where I've been in the community, giving and receiving.

It's tricky, though. There is a major balance you need to strike, and it's not all helpful. As much as Facebook and Twitter can connect you to the rest of the world, they can also distract you and suck your energy if you give them too much. And sharing your work is fantastic, especially if you get good feedback- but I've hit major problems before by letting opinions lead me down different paths, and, worst of all, by believing my own press- something you just can't do until you're proven, and you're not proven til you're holding your own book in your hands.

So, more giving, in the aim of more receiving. And at all times, keeping my perspective. That's my underlying theme for 2013 as I drive on toward the finish line one more time.