Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Maybe everyone has a book inside of them.  Perhaps it’s just sitting there, waiting patiently for the perfect time to emerge.  Alternatively it might be desperately trying to fight its way out of your head where it has been simmering for far too long.

I have always thought I had some kind of story to tell.  In fact, during a particularly boring tax off-season I sat at my desk and wrote a movie script.  The idea, I think, is still relevant, the way in which it was written, not so much.  In hindsight,  it was evident I was 21 and listening to *a lot* of Jeff Buckley at the time.  The dialogue is angsty, flowery and it’s pretty clear I was going a little too Emo on myself. 

And speaking with a lot of writers, it seems the way in which people excise their ideas from their minds and put them into a story on paper (or word document) varies greatly.  Some just write with no real plan, others design each chapter, each plot line and each character flaw down to the last detail.

Karen Andrews, Author and Publisher (@miscmum on Twitter) said she loves this quote from Thomas Keneally “Don’t get it right, get it WRITTEN.”   True statement.

Many admitted to half finished manuscripts languishing in their bedside table.  Abandoned half way through due to a number of reasons.  They got bored, it was too hard, life got too busy.

Like any world class procrastinator, I have a million excuses as to why I haven’t finished anything.  My big one is finding time.  Although any of you who know me through Twitter could argue that if I stopped dicking around on there so much, I’d have plenty of time.  I do wonder though how other writers with small children that presumably reside in the same house as them, get a book written.  Do they tie them down and force feed them Nanny McPhee on high rotation?  

For mine, I'm usually breaking up UFC matches on the lounge room floor or feeding my continuously hungry children (note to self, worm them).   I no sooner sit down, open a document and I have to get up again and the moment is lost.  Although: admission, for the first six months of this year, I have had every Wednesday off from work and completely child free.  Alone. Free to do with as I pleased.  Ideally this was when I was going to write a substantial chunk of something.  So how much writing did I do?  Oh, none.  How many Wednesdays did I spend meeting my friends and catching up?  Oh, loads, in fact, the entire amount.  

I also get caught up in the fact that my grammar needs a lot of work.  That I don't know the process. Query letters, Agents, Publishers, editing, re-writes.  Stupid really when you need to have written a book to be worried about the above in the first place.

Another excuse hurdle I find that personally slows me down is that I become overwhelmed.  I walk into a book store and am immediately in awe of the talent on display. So many amazing books and writers.  That have probably already told my story.  And have done a better job.  Not being self deprecating, just being real.  And of course I’m well aware of the shitty statistics for manuscripts written vs. books published.  That a great deal of super talented writers will never be published.  It’s really easy to be self defeating before you even start.

I have started a book.  It’s been on the go since I came back from a brief trip to Melbourne about 5 years ago.  I woke up one morning not long after I returned, hopped onto my computer and just started punching out words.  In hindsight, most of it was complete shit but it was a jumping off point.   A start.   And I’ll just keep building around it. Write what you know huh?

Write what you know.  This poor Dinosaur sure did.

So, if you’ve got any advice I’d love to hear it. 

Should I set myself a word count each day, each week?  Should I plan it out more or just go with where ever my imagination takes me.   Should I be realistic and just do some goddamn housework? (Husband nodding furiously in the background).   Should others read what I have written early on in, just to make sure I am on the right track and it’s not complete horseshit?   


Peter Prevos said...

Great post and great inspiration as I have decided to complete my own book idea. Getting started is hard, the middle part is easy, finishing is the hardest.

The past few years I have been doing lots of writing and the more you do it, the better you get. I think word count certainly is important.

Your husband could be doing some housework instead of nodding :)

Diminishing Lucy said...

Bern, I am fascinated to what advice you get given here.

I have none.

I'm a planner myself. If I were ever gonoing to proclain myself an emerging writer, I'd sit down and plan it out and hope to fuck my plan didn't go by the wayside halfway through...


Diminishing Lucy said...

And because I spell "going" in such an individual way, as "gonoing", you can see why I stick to blogging...

Zoey @ Good Goog said...

I tend to work on setting myself goals in terms of time spent writing and by that I mean actual time spent not time procrastinating. Having said that it's amazing how productive you can be without internet. Riley's been going to preschool for three hours Monday - Wednesday and it's not worth it for me to come home because the school is too far away. I've been taking my computer to a coffee shop and there's no internet. I have been unbelievably productive.

Moko 2.0 said...

All the writers I know set word counts and time aside. Like with studying at school you need to set time aside and stick to it no matter what.

You need a proof reader. Give them a few chapters for continuity. After a while you'll find yourself rambling especially when you get into it and the family isn't so supportive. You're better off re-writing as you go instead of an entire book all at once. Think that part is usually the killer. You'll write it about 3 times before you get something that makes sense.

Birmo did a write up for puppy writers. I'll see if I can find it. It's a big commitment though. There are various options too, and it depends on what you want to get from it. Authors don't want to know about what others are trying to do because really, they're spending a million hours going through the same thing.

Kylie L said...

I agree with Moko: set aside time and make a word count goal. For me, it's the only way. That said, I also plan my books in such detail that the outlines end up longer than the novel, and I know that's not for everyone- so maybe that other advice isn't either.
At the risk of going all Eastern on you, you have to find your own way- and you have to WANT it. Really want it. Crave it. Put it first (Ok, after your kids and your general health and some basic hygiene, but only basic). And yeah, you probably have to turn off the internet from time to time ;) On my writing days I often move away from my lovely study and work in the far less conducive kitchen- b/c I can't get wifi access there. Sad but true. Otherwise I'd spend the entire day on Twitter...

Sam said...

Have pictures, lots of pictures. Illustrations, diagrams, graphs, photos, drawing, whatever - the more of those, the more you can find things to write...

At least that's what I found when I did my uni thesis. Plus, all those pictures will make your book bigger, which automatically means your book is better and you smarter.

Green Mama said...

Join your State Writers Centre- very helpful with craft as well as process. If you're interested in other writers' methods there is an Australian book called Making Stories, edited (I think) by Kate Grenville. You're a beautiful writer, you should go for it.

Moko 2.0 said...

I sent some links to you on Twitter. Hope it helps.

andyjthompson said...

I really don’t think I am in the position to give advice because right now I am staring at 20K words of what appears to be the first couple of chapters of my own book. It’s been at 20K words now for about a month. Maybe I’ll add a few today just to keep it ticking along. As many people have already said, make a plan…a word count goal. I originally started mine at 2,000 words a day and then realised that I need to actually do other things during the day like work from 8-5 and then socialise with my family. I think 2,000 words would be a more realistic target for me if I didn’t have a job and could spend a few hours in my coffee stained tracksuit pants slamming out chapter after chapter. But no. I quite like eating food and I am fairly certain my wife, son and soon to be born spawn do too.

Starting next week I am giving myself one hour a day. One hour to write as many words as possible. Not less than one hour and no more. Also, I’ve tried planning out my book but I feel I just need to get it done. I have a vague outline of what I want but the more I start thinking about plot and character development the more I get depressed about writing. I am going to trust my own abilities as a storyteller and just run with it. Editing can come later. If I can give you some advice then I suggest you do the same. You are an excellent story teller. Let it flow and then address the nasty things like detail and grammar later. Have fun. That’s the most important part.

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

Go you. Just write it. Get it all on paper and then worry about 'fixing' it. I recently joined the RWA's 500 club, aiming to write 500 words a day. Is not too hard when you break it down like that. I'm posting my weekly success rates on my FB page and a few people have joined me in the challenge. Why don't you? x

Naomi said...

Like I said on twitter, it's hard. Work and a need to eat and have a reasonably clean house seem to conspire against me.
But after the twitter chat about it the other night I have decided to try and do a little bit each day. Usually when I get home from work. I thought I might use it as a way to wind down. I like Life in a Pink Fibro's suggestion of 500 words. I think I could manage that in between managing to remember I have a family and on odd occasions they like to see me.
I have my beginning, I know the end point... I just need the middle fleshed out. Sounds so easy when I type it here...

Claudia said...

I not only want you to write a book because I know it would be fabulous, but I'm already looking forward to the book launch of your not-yet-written book so now the pressure is really on! xx

Thea said...

Just do it! Oh wait...Nike already said that, huh?
No really, I'd love to read your book, 'cause I know it would be great.

Me...I have no book in me...none whatsoever!

So Now What? said...

Hi Bern

I tried to post a comment on your blog but it wouldn't let me - i always have this trouble at work. Maybe it’s a good thing… Anyway here was my comment.

I am probably not in a place to give advice either, having only written 20,000 of draft 2 of my first novel. (Draft 1 was 40,000 before I realised it was going nowhere and only skimming the surface of the real story.)

But here goes.

1) Believe in yourself
2) join your state writer's centre
3) follow Sydney Writer's Centre on twitter
4) go to literary festivals. Meet people, ask questions
5)set aside the same time every week (I only write on Sundays, am a mum with a f/t job) and stick to it, even if you only re-write
6) Read. Read heaps of novels, new and old, all the time
7)dont open up your email window when you are writing
8) get a trusted friend (preferably who is a prolific reader/ good writer) to read it at the start and sometimes, just to make sure you're on track
9) re-write as you go. Agree with someone above who said that
10) dig really deep, be willing to expose yourself a little bit.
11) be able to summarize what your story is about in one sentence.
12) write.

Good luck!

Miss Kate Daily (Kate Fennessy – Melbourne)

PS I will add that I think you would write a great story, to me you’re a real writer already because – don’t you think you’re just born that way? That’s how I feel. And I have to say, as a word of encouragement, since I decided to take my writing more seriously, and work on it, and grow – I have to say it has bought me enormous happiness and satisfaction. Whether I get published or not. So that’s why you should give it a go!

Seana Smith said...

Hello Ber, I'm not a fiction writer but wanted to fling out a few thoughts. I really do believe that everyone has a story to tell, everyone has a book inside them. But it's hard to get that book out, usually, and only a few have the huge amount of perseverance needed.

You are fab at connecting with readers, and writing articles that really resonate. You've already got a good audience out there, huge help. Plus you're writer friends can help you with the how-to pitch/ agent etc etc

Great comments here, everyone seems to have their method. Now you just need to find yours !! Hope you do, fingers crossed.

Seana Smith said...

Oops, sorry Bern (not Ber!)

Jodi @ The Scribble Den said...

Love the dinosaur book. Laughed out loud at that one!
I have many books on the go and it is true, life gets in the way, but it is an excuse. Truth is you just have to do it. Simple. Just start writing.
I recently released a non-fiction business book.It was a lot of hard work, but I made it a priority and just did it.
Fiction, I find harder. The story runs away in my head and it is hard to constrain it onto paper.
Al from Life in a Pink Fibro inspired me to do the 500 words a day challenge and it works a treat. It is not too much to aim for and I usually go over. Give it a go.

Maria Tedeschi (Mum's Word) said...

I have about 3 screenplays in mind. That's enough to put in the too hard basket...or maybe I'm just plain lazy ;-)

Love & stuff
Mrs M

Donna said...

Wow, what a fab post and equally fab comments - you are doing the world of wannabe published writers a favour with these awesome insights!

Sounds like so many of us suffer from the same time constraints, and crippling self doubt. I too walk into bookstores and am instantly overwhelmed. Just recently I blogged about my own crisis of confidence when it comes to writing as I am finally taking it seriously but at the same time struggling with how hard the reality of it really is. At least I know I am far from alone...!

For what its worth, I really enjoy your style of writing!

Sarah said...

Bern I remember you sending the first few pages of your ms last year and really wanting to read more. Get to it woman! x

Being Me said...

That poor dinosaur. I feel like one sometimes...

I feel the need to add that the ending - waiting for the ending to plop into my lap - has been agonising. The start and middle parts have almost written themselves, in fact in the first couple of years that was the working title of my book (some of my bestest ever writing has compelled me to wake, zombie-state, in the middle of the night and type, type, type til it's out and then I go back to bed and wake in the morning, read what I typed and go "Shite.... that came from ME??" (those moments have been amazing).

I've also had a few little focus groups along the way - terrifying, esp. when I give it to people who not only know nought about my story, they don't even know what blogging is!! - and they have been invaluable points of reference.

And I SO hear you on the people who churn out a book (or more) with little ones at home! I don't put writing/finishing it ahead of my daughter or family life often, I start writing when she was 7mths and she turns 5 tomorrow. Hmmm.

Just keep going! Good luck!

Annieb25 said...

I hear you. I need to just do it too. I'm 11,500 words in and keep procrastinating. We both want it Bern, let's do it together. x

InkPaperPen said...

Love this post as I can relate. I get overwhelmed too. I have times when I worry that my writing dreams are delusions. Not sure how valid my advice is: I'm learning too. But, I think it is all about the practice. I guess write what you know AND set yourself that word count. Really wish you all the very best on this x

Jodie Ansted said...

I think I'd have to set a word count, if it were me. I'm a terrible procrastinator. TERRIBLE!

If I was a betting woman, and thought I was going to write a book right now, I would bet I'd spend every day on it for weeks and weeks and then one day....that'd be it. I'd get to a point I didn't know where to go and it would make its way in to a drawer where it would stay for YEARS.

I'm (obviously) not great at finishing stuff either.

I don't know about you, but I think not finishing stuff is a lack of confidence thing. The whole, "Oh, I won't be able to do that," or "no one will like it" kinda thing. I know it's something in general I have to get past.

Do it for yourself - just go for it and see what happens. What on earth have you got to lose?!

(PS - I'll read it. For sure. There's your first sale right there.)

bronnie said...

Bern, I've had two books published, and yet I know exactly how you feel. Because I crave writing chick lit and YA stuff. And I've started on it. But for all the reasons you list here, I have trouble 'just doing it'. Yet, one of my great friends Nicky Pellegrino, who is a successful author, says that's the key. Just start writing and the rest will follow.
I must follow that advice one day.
Know that you are a natural writer. It doesn't matter about grammar, spelling - a good editor will fix that. It's the storytelling that counts.
And housework sucks.

Doodah said...

Find a time of day where you might not get interrupted (yeah, right!), set a timer - maybe 20-30 minutes, type. The timer goes off, save and leave the work. Edit it tomorrow.

Kelley said...

I don't think there is a blogger around that hasn't dreamed of writing a book.

I keep getting asked to write one but I just don't have the patience.

I have no advice, just an offer to proof read. I am a total grammar and spelling Nazi with OTHER PEOPLES work.

Not my own. Obviously.

Benison said...

Just stumbled across this blog. Ironically I've been staying away from the Internet so I can get properly into my second novel, but that means I miss out reading my favourite bloggers. You definitely need to be disciplined to write a novel but I don't have target word counts or anything like that. I just write whenever I can. My trouble is that I would happily write at the expense of everything else! When my characters haunt my dreams and I drive around in the car imagining their conversations, I know I'm 'in the zone' (or else stark raving mad!) Highly recommend you read Stephen King's 'On Writing', a huge inspiration for me.

Smudgeblurr said...

Hey Bern,
I will also buy any book your publish so there is your second sale! Looking forward to it already!!

Mewelljr said...

writing is vomiting, then cleaning it up

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