Super Indie: Indie Fiction at Supanova

Indie fiction was the rising star at Adelaide’s Supanova convention in 2018. Indie fiction being a title self- published by the author rather than a house publisher. As part of Artist Alley’s Indie Press Zone, indie authors and publishers have become more prevalent at Supanova in recent years, and are now a part of the core experience. This prevalence has increased as the tools to self-publish have become more accessible. At the 2018 event I attended panels by local indie authors and had a chance to speak with some of them. Below are just some of the interesting discoveries I made about both indie fiction and the convention.

Kylie Leane, author of Chronicles of the Children series, is one of the longest exhibiting local indie authors at Supanova. She began selling her books at Supanova in 2013 and has seen the community and enthusiasm around indie fiction grow since then. She was only one of two indie authors in 2013 and only had half a booth in a very small Artist Alley. This began to grow slowly over the years, becoming four authors by her third year and now roughly 15-20 authors (fiction and comics included) as of 2018. Leane has also said she likes the enthusiasm the Supanova committee has for indie fiction. This support has been to the aligning of their interests and passion for the craft.

Kylie Leane Booth.jpg

Indie publishing appeals to some writers because of the opportunity for representing diversity Katie Fraser, author of Realm of the Lilies series, said indie fiction has given an outlet for people to tell their stories without gatekeepers, be it an agent or a head editor of a publishing company. This was a recurring criticism of traditional publishers, mentioned also in panels by authors like Maria Lewis, writer of The Witch Who Courted Death, who has been published both independently and traditionally. Even these authors have said self-publishing allows diverse voices to emerge, especially for stories traditional publishing may see as difficult to market even though they might be good. These diverse voices can be ones related to gender, disability, and minority voices to name a few.

This idea of gatekeeping makes indie fiction more appealing to some writers. Matt J. Pike, author the Apocalypse series, compared indie fiction to the Adelaide Fringe and traditional publishing to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The Adelaide Fringe offers a wide range of different performances where performers can experiment with their craft, compared to the Adelaide Festival, which has a more traditional arts and arts representation. Pike was encouraged to turn to indie publishing because of the long waits on hearing from agents and publishers. This frustration was also felt by Fraser, it would take months to hear from an agent and then even more time for a publisher to respond to a submission. This is what drove her to go indie with her first book, Through the Fig Tree, in 2016. However, aforementioned authors have said there is some hurdles that you will face by going indie. One of these is that you will be doing a lot of the hard work like advertising and hiring artists yourself. The authors have mentioned too that it is best to know or hire a great structural and line editor to help with your project.

KE Fraser Panel.jpg

Many indie authors mentioned the local indie community is a major benefit to them. Fraser said the indie community is amazing and they often catch up with each other, be it at Supanova or at dinners. Pike said that there is amazing support from within the community for each other.

When asked what advice they would give anyone interested in going indie, the aforementioned indie authors gave a similar response: “Just do it.” Both Fraser and Leane stressed the importance of knowing someone who is a good editor. Both were lucky to know good editors, but Fraser says you can also find good editors through Twitter as well. She also says to write what you know and that there’s no right or wrong in the indie world. The world of indie fiction offers a chance for all voices to be heard, regardless of genre or idea.

The genuine enthusiasm Supanova has for local indie fiction is undeniable looking at the schedule for 2018. Over the course of the weekend, there were at least three panels dedicated to indie authors. These were spread over comics and fiction, all headlined by local indie authors. This is a vast improvement compared to a few years ago, where an occasional indie author would join one of Supanova’s literary panels. It shows Supanova is eager to promote local indie fiction at their events and to give these authors more publicity.

Going indie allows you to get your stories out there, even if they’ve been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers. If your work is experimental then it can become a good place for you to showcase it to a niche audience. Indie publishing is a growing field, and certainly something to consider when delving into the publishing world.


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Meet Your Local NaNoWriMo MLs (Adelaide)

Recently, Tulpa Magazine sat down with Alexander Barratt, Caitlin O’Callaghan and Simone Corletto, Adelaide’s municipal liaisons for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). They talked about their personal experiences writing 50,000 words in a month, and gave some advice for aspiring writers looking to try NaNoWriMo for the first time this November.

 

How long have you been doing NaNoWriMo?

Simone: I think I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for about six years. I’ve completed five times, I’ve won five times.

Alex: This will be my sixth time with in the Adelaide NaNoWriMo community. The first two I just tried it by myself. So this will be my eighth time and I’ve won it three times.

Caitlin: I am reasonably certain I joined the NaNoWriMo website a couple of days before Alex. I didn’t properly compete until last year, when I won Camp NaNo and then NaNoWriMo, because I didn’t know anyone and I was too scared to do it by myself.

 

What made you start doing NaNoWriMo and what keeps you coming back?

Simone: I heard about NaNoWriMo like nine years ago but it was during my science degree so I had exams during November, which meant I could never do it. I’ve always loved writing since high school and when I started (studying) creative writing I was like, ‘this is the year, I’m gonna actually do NaNo’. It was like a really great way to meet other writers and the write-ins were so fantastic for focus and getting so much done. I was able to write more than I’d written in the entire year leading up to NaNoWriMo, so yeah, I just fell in love with the atmosphere and the people.

Alex: I first heard about it online somewhere. I honestly don’t remember where. Why do I keep coming back? I think the people. I wrote 15,000 words in my first NaNo in the Adelaide community and that’s more than I had ever written ever before on anything. And then I just kept coming back. The following year I won, so I got my 50,000 and kept going.

Caitlin: Yeah, definitely the people is what keeps me going. I think I found a link to NaNo somewhere online and then proceeded to freak out and not do it for the next seven years. I met some really cool people out one night and they said, ‘you should do Camp NaNoWriMo’, and I was like ‘what’s that?’. And yeah, here I am.

 

As Municipal Liaisons (MLs), what do you do?

Simone: We basically run and organise a lot of the events leading up to and during November and also a little bit afterwards. We’re kind of like the social secretaries of the community. I’ve just started doing it this year and so far it’s been a lot of brainstorming dates, finding times when we’re free.

Alex: This is my third year being an ML. It’s mainly organising events, having opportunities for people to get together and write and engage with each other in the real world. Making sure the regional forum stays civil, and any other digital platforms that we may be running for the region. Having lots of different events, write-ins, plot-ins, and social events to keep people sane during NaNo, because it is stressful at times.

Caitlin: A lot of emails, and pretty much what the others have said, where we’re there to organise things and keep them running.

 

Adelaide has a pretty strong NaNoWriMo community, what are its best features?

Simone: I’ve been told that Adelaide has a really great writing community in general. There’s a lot of people that are really passionate about writing and writing professionally, and even writing just for fun. I think things like the Writer’s Centre, and also just NaNoWriMo, is such a big hand at bringing people together. And you know, the more people there are, the funner it is. I feel like we’re good at the people side and cause we’re a small ML team, we’re good at mobilising. Some larger regions may have a lot more area to cover, so it’s hard to bring everyone in to the one place, whereas Adelaide’s fairly centralised. Unless you’re living very far out north or south it’s probably easy to get to the city. I feel that helps.

Alex: I agree. Adelaide’s relatively small so it allows us to keep people in the region. I know of people who have left the physical region, but they’re still in our digital region and they contribute from elsewhere, because they still love the community.

Simone: We do try to keep a digital presence as much as we can for the more remote NaNoers, with the live chat and stuff. And we’re doing virtual write-ins as well this year. So people can watch a live-stream and chat in the comments, in partnership with the YA Jungle.

Caitlin: And we don’t judge what you’re going to write. If you want to write and you’ve got the passion for it we’re here to support you with that. If someone wants to write fan fiction, we’re here for that. As long as you’ve got the drive and the passion for words, we want to support. We’re not going to be like, ‘ugh, that’s not real writing’. Because all writing is real writing. And we’d rather promote the love for that instead of trying to pigeonhole people or turn them away.

Simone: In fact, the weirder you write, probably the better it is, the more fun you’ll have. Don’t feel like you have to be super literary. We had a weird chicken erotica in space going on. It was hilarious. If it’s a weird idea, go for it.

 

What are the benefits of being part of a writing community?

(In unison): Accountability.

Caitlin: The accountability. When I was writing by myself there was no one there to be like, ‘you should finish that’. Except my mum. Having friends who write and knowing other people who write. When you’re having a bad writing day they’ll suggest other ways to do it, or they’ll celebrate the day you wrote 5000 words in two hours. It’s good to know you’re not alone.

Alex: A couple of years ago I was sort of mentoring someone. This was, I think, my second year involved in the community, and it was her first year. She wrote 9000 words on the last day just to finish the 50,000. We were cheering her all the way. It’s why I decided to become an ML. Just so I could help other people get through that, or suggest ways through things.

Simone: Yeah, I think it’s one of the best bits because you’re all achieving the same thing regardless of your skill level. We’re all cheerleaders for each other. We want everyone to do the best they can. And I think everyone’s got a really positive attitude towards it, so even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, any words you do in NaNoWriMo is words you didn’t have before. That’s still an achievement and we’ll still celebrate you. But if you want that extra cheer squad to get you over the line we’ll also do that. Everyone’s just really community minded.

 

What are your thoughts on being writers in Adelaide, as opposed to one of the ‘big’ cities like Melbourne or Sydney?

Simone: I feel like we’re a lot more genre friendly. I know there’s a big literary scene in Melbourne and I think not everyone is into that, and that’s okay. I think people feel more free to just write the things they truly enjoy, regardless of how crazy they are.

Alex: I’ve never really written with the intention of publishing anything. I have literally never finished any work of fiction that I’ve done in the last ten years. So, I write for fun. I enjoy doing NaNo, I don’t normally write much throughout the rest of the year, other than occasionally trying Camp NaNos. I save all my creativity for NaNo and then fill the month. So when it comes to other places, I don’t know.

Caitlin: One of the really good things about the size of Adelaide versus somewhere like Melbourne or Sydney, is that there is a focus on the arts within the state. The writers aren’t really gatekeepers. You can talk to any other South Australian author, whether you’re published or not, and they’re happy to talk to you. They’re happy to share their experiences and they’re not going to tell you that you can’t do it.They’re all really welcoming, which is lovely.

 

Any advice for newcomers/prospective NaNo’ers this year?

Alex: First of all, work out if you’re a planner or a pantser. Or a plantser, if you’re a hybrid. Because, if you’re a planner and you haven’t planned, you may find it difficult. I did.

Simone: Just remember that the only real rule in NaNoWriMo is that you have to write 50,000 words during the month of NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t mean that if you get really keen for your idea that you can’t start beforehand and count the words from that point. That’s okay. If you handwrite, that’s okay. It’s your own work, you can do whatever you want. Sure, the intention is to start a novel, but if you’d rather write the next 50,000 words of a thing that you’re working on, or fan fiction, like that’s all fine. It’s okay. Write what you want to write. As long as it’s the numbers in the timeframe.

Caitlin: Have fun. Don’t worry about the quality of your words, it’s the quantity. I remember the first few times I got paralysed by fear because I was like, ‘oh this sentence isn’t good enough, it’s a terrible sentence’. Yes, it was a terrible sentence, but just get the words down. Don’t worry about how polished they are, just get them down and you can fix them later.

Alex: If you get stuck just write ‘ninjas attack’ and write the ninjas attacking. And then keep writing. Don’t stop writing when you hit the wall. Just keep writing. Find something to write about.

Simone: You don’t have to be chronological either. If there are scenes you’re looking forward to, and you’re really struggling where you currently are, just skip ahead. Making things in order is what the next draft is for.

Caitlin: Working full time you can still write a novel, you just do have to prioritise your writing over your TV watching, or whatever the vice you’ve got. But you can do it, you may just need to rearrange something for a month.

 

What are the best places to write in Adelaide?

Simone: I think my favourite is Cibo Espresso on Rundle street. It’s really great because upstairs it’s usually pretty quiet and there are power points so you can plug in your laptop. They don’t care how long you stay as long as you buy a couple of coffees. It’s my favourite place to go. Plus it’s pretty close to buses and car parking.

Alex: In 2014 I made a plan to myself to write in as many places outside of my house as possible. I wrote in fifteen other places other than my house, including various write-ins. I found that writing in parks is kind of fun. I did a day when I went to Bonython Park and just sat there on a bench. And somehow connected to the Adelaide free Wi-Fi. I assume there was like a router in the tree, because I was literally under a tree nowhere near anything that looked like a router. I quite like writing in parks, if it’s a nice day.

Caitlin: I’ve done a surprising amount of writing in either cafes or bars. By myself– because it’s not sad when you have a beer and a book. Basically, I find anywhere with a bit of background noise, I find the ambient noise is very productive.

 

Anything you want to add?

Simone: Join the local group. We’re really friendly and we’ll try to connect with you any way we can. Online or in person.

Alex: If you ever wanted to write something, just start.

 


Logo Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Background image by rawpixel on Unsplash

 

Thanks to Alex, Caitlin and Simone for taking the time to speak to us.

 

Alexander Barratt

You can find Alex on Instagram

 

Caitlin O’Callaghan

You can find Caitlin on Twitter and Instagram

 

Simone Corletto

You can find Simone on Twitter and Instagram. You can also read her Beginner’s Guide to NaNoWriMo here.

 

If you would like to get involved with NaNoWriMo in Adelaide you can connect and find out about upcoming events on the Australia :: Adelaide region page (https://nanowrimo.org/regions/australia-adelaide).

Interview conducted and transcribed by Lisandra Linde

In Conversation: Malaika Gilani

In 2016 Malaika Gilani published her first poetry collection: Untold Journeys. She was seventeen. This year she has been a part of the global anthology, I Bared My Chest, comprising of 21 phenomenal women telling their stories. Recently I had the chance to interview this Melbourne-based poet and talk about inspiration, writing advice, and poetry.  

 

Could you give us a brief overview of your current published poetic work? What are its themes and what would you like your audience to know before reading it?

 
Untold Journeys is about everyday life. Things we all experience: friendship, family, body issues, and so much more. There is at least one poem in there that you can connect with. If the poems aren’t giving advice then they are there to show you that whatever you are going through, you are not alone. Someone is going through the exact same thing too.

 
What was it like publishing a poetry collection at seventeen?

 
It was amazing to be doing something that not many people have done. However, there have been rejections because I am too young and inexperienced. But who cares, life is all about the good. If we start focusing on the negatives then we won’t be able to live at all. I’ve loved it. The support from my family and friends has been a huge part of how I got here. They help me stay humble and enjoy this experience at the same time.

 
What inspires you to create poetry?

 
People, their experiences, and their lives.

 

If you could sum up what you would like your poetry to evoke what would you say?

 
You are not alone. We are all going through the same things. In the end, it’s the things within us that make us more alike than we will ever know.

 

Could you tell me a bit about I Bared My Chest? What was it like working with and collaborating with other artists to create this anthology?

 

You could say it was an interview of 21 authors in book form. All participants were given a series of questions to answer, to show people someone else has gone through the same thing as you and to show people that artists are not [all] geniuses. We are [people] like everyone else, anyone can achieve what we have.

It was amazing to work with people who are so much more experienced than I am. I learnt so much from them and was in awe of how wonderful and cooperative they were. Most importantly, I realised we were all normal humans – we disagreed, we celebrated, we got sad and angry and happy.

 
Have there been any books/authors/poets that have deeply inspired you? If so, what are they?

 
Sue Lawson and Jackie French.

Sue came to my school once when I was in year nine and has been in contact with me since. And Jackie is such an amazing and inspiring lady. I contacted her to review Untold Journeys and she has been a huge part of my life since. I email her and she instantly replies, giving me advice and encouragement.

 
What advice would you give to other poets and writers?

 
Rejections make you want it more. It makes everything more meaningful too. I appreciate my work and others’ so much more now because I know what hardships we all have to go through.

 

What has been the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

 
If we start focusing on the negatives then we won’t be able to live at all.

 
Are there any upcoming projects that we can be excited for?

 
For now, I am on hold. I am starting university, so I am going to focus on that for now. However, once I am done with my psychology degree I will think about whether or not I still want to focus on writing and continue my writing journey.

 


Gilani’s book is available for purchase on Amazon and you can follow her journey on both Facebook and Instagram.

 


Interview by Georgina Banfield.

Restarting Your Creativity: Part III

PART THREE: FINDING MOTIVATION

Some advice I was given (and tried my best to follow) is to write something, anything every single day. Writing is like sport, and like any sport you need to practice to get good. Sometimes this might be a few thousand words, sometimes a paragraph or a sentence or even a single word. Everyone works in different ways but the surest and strongest way to get started is to do just that. Start. And everything starts somewhere.

These are some ways in which you can find your motivation today!

1.) Clean your workspace

It sounds counter-productive and sometimes it is. If your workspace isn’t how you want it, it might put you off for days, weeks, or even months. Clean it. Tidy it. Make sure it’s not a distraction.

2.) Set yourself a challenge

As with finding time, challenges can be very handy to motivate you. If you need to get 3,000 words done by Friday and you have a friend holding you to it, you’re not going to want to disappoint that friend. Generally you have an understanding of your own working ability so it is up to you to set yourself a goal or challenge that you will realistically meet. If you are a slow writer you might aim for 500 words or a page a day, or if you’re a quick writer a few thousand words might not be too ambitious. But a challenge that works for you won’t necessarily work for everyone.

 

3.) Enter a competition

Competitions give you deadlines not just for a word count but for a polished copy of whatever it is you’re writing. Working towards this deadline, in theory, means working towards a deadline of at least one week ahead and then taking the time to edit thoroughly before submission. Even if you don’t end up entering your work you put the time and effort into creating it.

4.) Ask a friend or family member to read your work

This would also appear on a lot of lists of what not to do. But in the end you want to be motivated right? You want to hear about how much talent you have and how wonderful you are. So get someone who loves you to read your work and bask in their praise. Hopefully, if you push on, people who don’t know you will also want to praise you.

5.) Tell someone about your writing

In telling someone about your project you’re making it real. They might remember and ask you how the writing is coming along. Plus, if you’re talking about it you’re thinking about it, and if you’re thinking about it you’re working on it. Don’t worry if it comes to nothing or if you switch from one project to another, just keep voicing those ideas.

6.) Read good books

Writers are always encouraged to be constantly reading. The advantage of this is you’re surrounding yourself with good writing, which encourages you to also produce good writing. As I mentioned in Rediscovering your Inspiration, reading something that provokes you (in a good or bad way) is also helpful. It encourages you to do better and to respond to the work. The caution here of course is to let yourself read bad books, but not bad writing. Bad books make you want to do better (and destroy your faith in humanity), but bad writing is just… bad.

7.) Read literary magazines

Find out what’s going on in the writing world and stay in touch with it. Know it’s where you belong and stay there. You might write highly experimental literary fiction and find places like The Lifted Brow and (increasingly) Voiceworks a great comfort. Or you might prefer Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, or Overland, there are plenty of literary magazines out there. You might even just want to stay up to date with Tulpa Magazine (we have a newsletter, you should sign up!). Whatever you decide to do, keep literary magazines in mind—we certainly have plenty to offer. Tulpa is currently free to read, and other places (if you don’t want to pay subscription fees) are generally available in your library.

8.) Stop reading

Yes I am contradicting my earlier point. If you’re like me (constantly reading) you might find that this motivates you to write. You’re so used to being in a story that you need to write just to get back into the zone. You’ll be desperate to finish your project just so that you can escape back into a good book.

9.) Have a plan

Some writers are pantsers and some are planners. Know which one you are and how much planning you need to have done in order to succeed. If you’re a pantser hold on tight to your idea, sit down, and start writing. If you’re a planner, like me, you might want to have a highly detailed plan and over-write the hell out of your piece. As long as it works for you it works!

10.) Have a write-in

You might work best on your own but there is seriously nothing like writing with others. Hearing other keyboards going, pens scraping paper, having the occasional chat and talking about your work is always a wonderful experience. I’ve personally found this can also work well with visual artists because you’re all doing something creative and losing yourself in your work in the same way. Writers SA run a write-in called TWELVE each quarter where you spend twelve hours working on a creative project. Alternately Simone Corletto and Mhairi Tocher run a regular virtual write-in called the YA Jungle which you are welcome to follow along with. To find out more check out their website.

One of the biggest things I would like for you to take from my Restarting Your Creativity series is that you are more than capable of writing. You can finish your project. You can find the time, inspiration, and motivation to fulfill your goals. There are so many things you can do to get yourself ready to write but the easiest and most effective thing to do is to just sit down and write. Make the time, get inspired, and get motivated.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part II: Rediscovering your Inspiration

 

Restarting Your Creativity: Part II

RC_Rediscovering-Your-Inspiration_Illustration

 

PART TWO: REDISCOVERING YOUR INSPIRATION

Being a writer is scary business and what most people tend to ask is what project you’re working on now. But what if there isn’t any current project? What if you’re just pottering around and looking for inspiration? Well I’m here to tell you that inspiration is everywhere!

In my first-year creative writing class we were told that when a “normal” person looks at a tree all they see is a tree, but when a creative person looks at a tree they see a range of things: colour, shape, texture, smell, sound, life… We recognise that there are endless things happening inside, on, and around the tree. I’ve always found this interesting when thinking about inspiration. There is so much around us to be inspired by that we often don’t know where to look or even begin looking.

Here are some ways in which you can find inspiration today:

1.) Go outside. I mean it. Don’t just look out your window.

Like the tree analogy it’s always great to get outside, breath in the fresh air, and look around you at what you can see. There might be a bird zipping through a nearby tree, but how would you describe it? How would you get the motion, noise, and impression onto the page? Piri Eddy’s ‘The Bus Stop of Innumerable Displeasures’ is a great example of using this technique.

You could go for a walk and write about what you see. Write a walk poem and see where that takes you. Who would be walking the same route? Why? What would they be thinking of? Are they trying to reach something or someone? Or are they trying to escape?

2.) Go somewhere new

I always find that going somewhere new ignites creativity. You don’t even have to go far. You might just hop on a bus to the next town and have a wander. Just go somewhere unfamiliar. While you’re trying to find your way around you’re also trying to take in everything. Most times in fiction you have an outsider character, and this is a good way to embrace this situation by letting yourself get and feel a little lost. You’ll find you’re trying to take in everything at once and that’s just what your character is doing too!

3.) Talk to a stranger

Remember how as a kid you were always told not to talk to strangers? Do it. Every single person you know and have ever seen is a wealth of information on something. You just need to get them talking and find out what. Every single person you ever interact with can help you with your writing, even if you simply notice one mannerism that is somehow different or intriguing. You can use that in your writing. Think about what it means.

4.) Go people-watching

Similar to talking to strangers, but without having to talk. This is very much a sport for introverts. Those kids on the train discussing their friend’s girlfriend? They’re your inspiration. The babies learning to walk and talk? Doesn’t that teach you something? The strange Russian man on the street giving you dinner recommendations in your own town? He

is inspiring! Who is he? What is he doing here? Why did he come to Adelaide? These are all questions you can start asking yourself to ignite your creativity!

5.) Look up writing prompts

This is perhaps one of the easiest options. Use a prompt. There are plenty of generators online and the AWC does a monthly competition called Furious Fiction where you’re given an image and asked to write a 500 word short story beginning with what you see. If you don’t have access to the internet you can also use books, photos, and objects as a writing prompt. That blue zippo you saw on your walk home? Where did it come from? What’s it’s story? Was it dropped by accident? Was it thrown away? Did someone have a fight? Is this someone’s way of quitting smoking or cleaning up their lives? Or does it belong to someone who likes lighting fires?

6.) Have a conversation with your characters

Does this sound stupid? Maybe, but you’re a writer so who cares! You probably know that all your characters have their own unique voices, knowledge, and habits. Which means it’s safe to say they know more than you do when it comes to themselves. Whether you treat it as if they exist in a parallel universe or just in your head, you can always sit down and have a conversation with them. Sometimes it helps to do this on paper—and I wouldn’t be too worried if they start abusing you. They’re a part of you and what is a writer other than self- deprecating?

7.) Be your character

I like to pretend that I am my character sometimes. I do everything that they would do (within reason) and get a feel for how they think. If my character knows a language I want to know the language too. If my character likes science, I want to know all about their interest in science.

8.) Free write

The aim of free writing is to not overthink it. But guess what, you’re a writer and you’ll probably overthink it until you get used to it. Free writing is writing whatever comes into your mind without worrying about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Sometimes this will be entirely useless, but other times you’ll strike upon a gem of a phrase, the start to a scene, or overcome a problem you’ve been trying to solve since you were eight years old. When you free write it can be about anything or anyone. There is no right and no wrong way to do it. You just write.

9.) Indulge in some other creative practice

Paint, sing, play guitar, sew, make something—do something that is creative but has nothing to do with writing. You’d be surprised (even if you’re not good at whatever creative pursuit you try) at how much it helps to reset your mind. Art is all about expression and when you can’t seem to express yourself in one way, you should try to do it in another.

10.) Read a provocative writing book/post

This is my little secret. Generally, the idea is you read something about writing to inspire you, instead I think you should read bad advice about writing which will provoke you. For

me it’s Harry Bingham’s How to Write, which I do not own on principle. I came across the book at my local library when I was doing my research project in high school. I’m not going to tell you that the book is bad, I haven’t attempted to read it since, but there were certain quotes and passages I found provoking. I found that this particular book goaded me and during a write-in with Writers SA I came across the book again. And again, it encouraged me to get things done. So, read books about writing. Get to know which ones are good, which are bad, and which motivate you to succeed.

11.) Hang out with other writers/creatives

In part one I discussed the idea of a writers group. This is something which is good in all three respects (time, inspiration, and motivation) because you’ll be constantly challenged by your peers. When you talk to other writers or other creatives in general about their work it tends to be inspiring. Certain words or phrases lead you back to consider your own work and how you could be as together and as motivated as your fellow writer.

12.) Have a shower

Showers are a good way to reset your mind and body. In the shower your mind will often drift, and you’ll find yourself considering problems and scenarios both in your everyday life and your character’s. In the shower you can plan the next steps of your writing and get clean at the same time!

With any luck some of the above points will help you to rediscover your inspiration. Inspiration can be tricky sometimes, but it’s never gone completely and there are plenty of ways to rediscover it.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part III: Finding Motivation

 

Restarting Your Creativity: Part I

Make the time, get inspired, and get motivated!

In my experience, any writer needs three main things: time, motivation, and inspiration. Sometimes one, two, or all of those things are hard to come by. So if you’re struggling to find any of those three things, I’ve complied some suggestions for how to restart your creativity!

__

PART ONE: FINDING THE TIME TO WRITE

Finding time to write has been a struggle the older (and more responsible) I get. Throughout the last few years it’s been work, study, and family commitments draining my creative time—not to mention attempting to have some semblance of a social life. So, in this busy, fast-paced world how did I find the time to write creatively? Well honestly, sometimes I didn’t. And that doesn’t make me (or you) any less of a writer.

So, what can you do to find time?

1.) Wake up early

This might sound like a no-brainer but how many of us, particularly in the colder months, are willing to drag ourselves out of bed a half hour earlier to write? I’ve tried this one and while it does work, you’ve got to be able to maintain that motivation.

2.) Make time to write, and protect it at all costs

If you have dedicated writing time you’ve got less excuses to not write. You might work in the morning, in the afternoon, or at night. Whatever works for you. But it is important to work out what time of day works and make time to write then, if possible. I’ve known writers who have writing days and seem to be entirely productive and if you can do that, great. It sounds like an ideal arrangement, but it doesn’t work for everyone. And if it doesn’t work for you that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. You just need to think about how you work best. So once you’ve picked out your time, make yourself unavailable. Turn off your phone, make no plans, and don’t take any visitors. You’ve got the rest of your life for that!

3.) Have a writing ritual

If you don’t have a specific time to write, have a ritual. Have a shower, go for a run, make a cup of coffee. You might even have a specific pen you only use for your writing or a specific cup/mug you use only when you’re writing. All these little things come together and remind you that THIS IS WHEN YOU WRITE.

4.) Join a writing group, or alternately, start your own

Having gone through a creative writing degree I’ve learned the importance of surrounding yourself with other writers. You all want to be the best writer you can be and get the work done—why not motivate each other with cups of tea (or coffee), encouragement, and the soundtrack of computer keys clacking? This can be with another writer or a handful of people. If you don’t have any writers to turn to try students or artists. Anyone that requires the same concentration as you and can encourage you to be productive (but not distract you too much).

5.) Go on a writer’s retreat

This isn’t something I’ve ever done but it sounds like a good idea right? Get away from the chaos for a week or two and just write. There are plenty of writer retreats around, you can even make your own if you want. Go by yourself or with other writing buddies and spend days writing and nights discussing your work. Plus, if you’re on a writing retreat you might not have to explain yourself if and when you start talking aloud to your characters!

6.) Set yourself writing goals

This one in particular works for me. Usually I’ll set a word count to be completed each day or over a number of days (depending on the project) and I won’t sleep until I’ve reached it, even if it’s not my best work—why? Because you can always edit later. When doing this I write each day’s word count in my diary and keep track of any words that I owe myself (if I didn’t hit my word count on a given day).

7.) Leave the house

If you can’t concentrate on pumping out those words at home why not go somewhere else? A library or a coffee shop or a friend’s place. Coffee shops are good for two reasons, the first is coffee, and the second is people watching—which can be a great source of inspiration.. Libraries are usually peaceful places to write, with a variety of atmospheres. And if you go to a friend’s place you get to steal their wifi, tea and coffee, and it counts as “being social”.

8.) Always carry a notebook

It’s a cliché to say “you never know when inspiration will hit” but it’s also true. Having a notebook with you might scream “I AM A WRITER” to some people. You might have to explain yourself to people on the bus or on the train, you’ll always have somewhere to write down anything that comes to mind. This might be a line, a snippet of a poem, or even the outline for the next Harry Potter. Although if you’re aiming to be the next JK you’ve got a fair amount of competition.

I won’t ever claim to be a writing expert. I doubt anyone truly would—and if they did I’d advise you not to trust them. These are just some ways you might be able to make time in your daily life to write. Some things will work, some things won’t. Sometimes you’ll be too tired. Sometimes you’ll be too busy. Just remember, while you’re thinking up excuses you’re wasting time. So, get out the pen and paper, switch on your laptop, and get writing!


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

Establishing a Popular Presence in the Poetry (and Writing) Community on Instagram

By Leeza von Alpen (aka leezajaydepoetry)

So, you’re interested in making an impact on the Instagram writing community, and in gaining more readers.

Here’s what you need to know.

I had the pleasure of interviewing some much admired, and highly praised, instapoets; I asked them what techniques they themselves have used, and recommend, to writers seeking to establish a platform on Instagram, and connect with other creative minds.

After interviewing each of these successful instapoets, I collated their valuable insights (and mine) into six helpful points of advice.

Here’s what we suggest that you can do:

  1. Engage with other writers

There are various ways that you can genuinely connect with other Instagram writers.

Firstly, I’d advise that you avoid being stingy with your follows; if a writing account follows you, and you like them, follow them back. But, if you follow merely to gain a follower—beware! Amaramalikpoetry explains that this is a short-term method; ‘…this will help you grow,’ she confirms, ‘But many will unfollow or not follow back.’

Secondly, if you admire someone’s post, comment on it. In fact, comment on as many posts as you can; like posts, and really connect with people. In the words of amaramalikpoetry, ‘Always engage with your readers. Never forget them, or take them for granted.’

And, please, for the love of the English language, reply to your comments when someone praises your work. People have taken the time to read your writing; you should take the time to thank them. Also, the more you genuinely engage with other writers, the more likely they will be to return the favour later when you post something.

Thirdly, consider doing shout-outs for shout-outs. This simply means that you take a screenshot of another writers’ account, upload it to your Story for your followers to see, and provide a link to the other writer’s account for followers to access. Sometimes, writers will return the favour with this too.

perrypoetry says that ‘Engagement with other accounts is the best way to gain followers. You need to engage with your following and your followers as much as possible. The Instagram algorithm will start to put your posts at the top of your followers’ feed the more you engage with them.’

mingdliu agrees with connecting with other accounts entirely; ‘I also love interacting with other writers and readers; they are the ones supporting you and we all want to relate to one another. Being personable definitely helps!’

So, amaramalikpoetry recommends opting for a long-term method, which is ‘… to engage! Read others’ work, give genuine feedback, and follow them. It may take longer, but it’ll be worth it to grow a loyal and engaged readership.’

Patrick Hart (aka workinprogress13, aka author of War Paint) also emphasises that this kind of authentic connection significantly matters; ‘I suppose I took every opportunity to communicate with other artists and respond to each and every comment.’ For Patrick, this ‘…definitely went a long way.’

  1. Use popular hashtags and tag reposting accounts

Did you just cringe?

You just cringed, didn’t you?

Well, don’t! Using popular hashtags is an invaluable way to gain attention on Instagram.

perrypoetry explains he ‘… find[s] that using hashtags is a great way to gain followers. One trick is to use hashtag rotation, so you are rotating your hashtags with every post to allow for more discovery.’

Some popular hashtags that I would personally suggest including in the body of your caption, or the first comment(s) underneath your post, are:

#poem #poetry #igpoetry #poetryofig #writersofinstagram #igpoets #spilledink #poetryisnotdead #poetscorner #omypoetry #poetrycommunity

(see below for an example from lillysparkswords)

in1

You can also be more specific to the theme of your written piece; for example, if it’s a passionate love poem, use hashtags like #love, #soulmate, and #inlove for an increased chance of being discovered. Patrick (workinprogress13) recommends using up to 30 hashtags per post.

Secondly, tag reposting accounts! There are plenty of good Instagram poetry-based pages that happily promote the work of writers if you tag them in your upload. Some of my personal favourites that myself, and other instapoets, use are: @omypoetry, @veinheartisans, @bymepoetry, @poets, @poetsdaily, @poem_wars, @silverleafpoetry, @word.bender, @tribeofpoets, @wordswithqueens, and @artlixirfresh. (Keep in mind that some require you to use their hashtag and follow them as well.)

P.S.

Remember to ‘…post when the world is awake!’, as Patrick says. Consider what times your favourite poets post by turning on post notifications for their account, and keep up with them.

  1. Have an (attractive) aesthetic

Never underestimate the power, and allure, of having a visually pleasing Instagram account. Instagram is, of course, about pictures; and if your images are pleasing to the eye, then your likelihood of gripping a potential follower’s attention increases significantly.

The Instagram algorithm is changing so frequently that it’s difficult now a day to establish a presence without following the status quo. Remember that IG is a picture-first platform, so if you’re looking to really establish a presence, keep the words legible, but the art that it’s on top of eye-popping and cohesive at the same time, without appearing “messy”.’ 

~ Patrick Hart (workinprogress13)


Indeed, 
perrypoetry favours the enthralling, and popular, accounts of @s.l._gray and @wilderpoetry not just for their creativity, but also for their stunning account visuals.

So what does this mean for writers? Well, I’m glad you asked.

It means getting creative and presenting your writings (i.e. your text) over, or alongside, attractive photography, illustrations, or even a simple blank, or black, background. Remember to draw attention to your words, however, and avoid falling into the trap of making the image in your upload more emphasised than your writing.

Also, remember to be consistent (unless, of course, your consistency is that you have none). You need to give your followers something to expect; a style that they can look forward to seeing.

It’s also important to establish an identity,’ says perrypoetry. ‘If you look at my account, you will see it’s very cohesive, and I stick to the same theme.’ (see the examples from perry’s account, and mine, below)

In2

In3

In4.png

In5

There are also apps that you can use to conveniently overlay text and apply filters to your photographs to insert your poetry that isn’t as convoluted as Photoshop. Textagram is one, but I favour CTDesign, and there are plenty of others as well.

  1. Write for you

We cannot emphasise this enough. ‘The one thing I’ve learned,’ highlights mingdliu, ‘is to remain true to your art and to yourself.’

Here are our top pieces of advice for what this means:

I have so many poets that I respect. If I began to list them off, I would barely scratch the surface, but the general theme throughout them mirrors my own-honest art! If you’re looking for some to check out, try the following handles: @Poetry, @poetryandprosebyk, @vintage.blue, @b.dani_west, @eleeborwriter, @nataliaxvela, @leah_jean_, @therosycrucifixion, @leahjstone, @dortomysoul, @vintage_cass_marie, @areadingwriter @mermaid.musings, @k.j.dunk, @leezajaydepoetry [aw shucks, Patrick!]

I guarantee I left a lot out, but the above write genuinely and viscerally, which matters more than glory.

The most important technique/strategy that I implemented was keeping my writing personal. I didn’t begin writing to gain an audience… I kept my writing as honest and revealing as possible in hopes that the community would rally around that.’

~ Patrick Hart (workinprogress13)

Write from your heart. Read others but don’t copy them, especially don’t plagiarise. Post only what you love and want to post because then you will improve if you receive negative feedback instead of feeling demotivated. Post only what you WANT to. Gaining followers means posting consistently, but you can’t force your creativity… My best and most popular pieces have come straight from the heart.

Oh, I have many favourites! @zeestkijusujoo, @alura_inspires, @lamiart, @avleenmusing, @duren_writing_stories, @breath_words, @heavensanar, @writerhashtag, and you [@leezajaydepoetry] [double shucks!] of course… Writers that write original and heartfelt pieces…who don’t copy other writers, who have their own unique voice, and speak about important issues in today’s society are my favourite writers.’

Amara Malik (amaramalikpoetry)

I adore @perrypoetry’s page and @atticus’s page. Their words are so relatable and magical… The only advice I can really give is to not be afraid to put your heart into words; there are so many people out there feeling the same way as you do. Your words can change someone’s day just by writing what’s on your mind and in your heart.’

~ Lilly Sparks (lillysparkswords)

  1. Promote Yourself

Promote, promote, promote yourself. Post on your Story regularly, and maintain your presence once you establish it. Comment frequently on posts so that people will see your name.

Moreover, I’d suggest reminding people to turn on post-notifications for your account so that they can stay up to date with your latest work.

Post your writing often, with those popular hashtags and those tagged reposting pages. Be consistent.

Also, if you are promoting yourself, I’d suggest you do it professionally and in a friendly manner. Spell-check everything (I cannot tell you how often myself and others cringe because we see a poem that is beautiful in nature but flawed in spelling). Have a professional, clean, interesting profile.

  1. Some other miscellaneous pieces of advice…

You might also like to promote other pages (selflessly, might I add; don’t necessarily expect anything in return; just spread some love!) by engaging in weekly mass posts like #followfriday. For this, you simply promote other writers’ pages. Often, they’ll do it back for you.

Also, you might choose to use other instapoets’ artwork and tag them; this promotes their artwork, and, often, your poetry through the Instagram artist’s tag. (Just remember to always ask permission first. Never use someone’s artwork without their permission. That’s, like, illegal. And rude.)

Also also, perrypoetry suggests expanding your potential readership by ‘…starting a Pinterest page… [because] it just gives your work more visibility and sometimes your work can go viral. I’ve had poems I’ve posted get up to 18k repins, which gives me a lot of visibility.’

Lastly, consider having writing-related words in your username (i.e. lillysparkswords, amaramalikpoetry, etc.); this is a clear indication to scrolling eyes that you might be a page that they are looking for.

__

That’s all for now, fellow writers! Hopefully, these tips will help you on your way to making a genuine impression on the Instagram poetry community.

For now, here are some final words from perrypoetry and mingdliu:

My words of advice are to be patient and stay true to your writing. It takes a long time to get to 1k followers, but every 1k after that gets easier. Growing an account is a lot of work.

You’ll grow if you are putting the effort in.’

~ perrypoetry.

Interacting and being real to your readers and yourself is key. If you have a passion for art, don’t be afraid to take that leap and share it.

It can truly change your life, trust me.’

~ mingdliu

___

A word of sincere thanks to the helpful poets who kindly contributed towards this article. You can find links to their Instagram accounts (and Patrick Hart’s poetry book) through the links below:

Amaramalikpoetry

https://www.instagram.com/amaramalikpoetry/

(Amara also runs an adorable online stationery store: check it out at https://creativecutiee.com)

Lillysparkspoetry

https://www.instagram.com/lillysparkswords/

mingdliu

https://www.instagram.com/mingdliu/?hl=en

perrypoetry

https://www.instagram.com/perrypoetry/?hl=en

workinprogress13

https://www.instagram.com/workinprogress13/

You can purchase a copy of Patrick’s poetry book, War Paint, from Amazon.com.

(it’s also available on bookdepository.com! Cue squeals of utter delight!)

And, here is my account, if you’re interested:


leezajaydepoetry

https://www.instagram.com/LeezaJaydePoetry/


Words by Leeza von Alpen

Leeza HeadshotLeeza is an Australian poet and writer, as well as an English, History and Women’s Studies teacher. She enjoys reading paperbacks with milkless tea, star gazing, puns, and Studio Ghibli movies. You can find her poetry on Instagram under leezajaydepoetry, and writing-related tweets on Twitter under @leezajayde.

The Year of 100 Rejections: a personal reflection

Late in 2016, I read an article by Kim Lao on why, as a writer, you should aim for 100 rejections in a year and something shifted inside my head. I felt it go, like when a joint feels strangely tight then, finally, it clicks and feels satisfyingly limber again—that’s what happened in my brain. As a little bit of backstory: I’m a poet and short story writer so, much of my publication options are labour-intensive submissions of individual pieces to literary journals. I’m familiar with rejection and what it can do to my fragile writer’s ego. The main idea behind Lao’s article was that if you are trying so hard for that many rejections, you’re bound to get some acceptances as well.

In the past I have experienced times of great enthusiasm with sending off submissions but I’ve never been able to maintain it. The initial day (or days) of my submitting frenzy is usually followed by a hopeful lull and then by an extended period of dejection as the thank-you-but-no emails ping into my inbox. The resulting funk that I had experienced meant that I failed to resubmit the rejected pieces until the sting of those previous rejections had worn off, until I felt strong enough to be able to do it all over again. I allowed my anxiety over being rejected – and the associated feelings of failure – to stop me from submitting my work more regularly. Sometimes this meant I did not submit anything for three or four months, or five, or seven. None of this is particularly surprising since as psychologist Guy Winch explains in his TED Ideas article, we are just built that way:

‘[O]ur brains are wired to respond that way. When scientists placed people in functional MRI machines and asked them to recall a recent rejection, they discovered something amazing. The same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. That’s why even small rejections hurt more than we think they should, because they elicit literal (albeit, emotional) pain.’

Looking at my submissions log in order to write this piece, I realised that there was even a time when I didn’t submit anything for nearly four years, which is no way to go about being a published writer!

Over the years I have worked on trying to develop a perpetually thicker skin, I have worked on trying to be okay with rejection, and on trying to think of it as a ‘numbers game’ – that is, each rejection gets you closer to an acceptance and publication as suggested by Cassandra Atherton, my colleague and mentor. This last idea came the closest to getting me into the frame of mind that I feel I fully embraced in 2017. But it still wasn’t quite the same as actually ‘collecting rejections’.

Let’s get back how this concept has made a shift within my mind. What happened inside my head the first time I read these ideas reminded me of a stress management session I attended in my final years of secondary school. A number of us were struggling with pressure of the looming final exams so Ms Taylor, a psychology teacher, started a regular lunchtime class to teach us some stress management techniques. During one of these sessions, we discussed issues getting to sleep. Ms Taylor was heavily pregnant at the time and she told us that prior to falling pregnant she had always slept on her stomach. She explained that what she had to do was to trick her brain into allowing her to sleep on her side. To do this she would lie on her back in bed to read or watch television in the evening. After a time she would get uncomfortable and want to roll onto her side but she told herself, ‘I can’t roll onto my side just yet because I want to finish reading this chapter/see the end of this movie and if I roll onto my side, I’ll fall asleep.’ My cynical teenage self thought this was basically rubbish – how could you trick your own brain when it knows it’s being tricked? But that’s precisely what happened as I read about setting ‘rejection goals’. My mind was ripe for the fooling and I felt it enter into the bargain willingly.

The first way the change in my thinking manifested itself was in a more sustained attitude to submitting work. During 2017, I managed to submit work ten months out of twelve, which is something I have never achieved before. I even wrote a few pieces specifically for publications that had particular themes I was inspired by. This is something I hadn’t done before either; it had always felt like investing too much in the submission and, in that way, risking too much disappointment.

When the rejections began rolling in, it did feel different than it had before. I created a formula to count the rejections for me and I maintained a spreadsheet of my totals. I was still disappointed sometimes but the bigger goal of trying to achieve 100 rejections seemed to take the sting out of it. And the good news is, it wasn’t only rejections that came in.

The first hint of success I had was being informed of making the longlist for a publication that I really admire and then I was asked by another publication to consider making some changes to a piece for clarity and they would be happy to reconsider it. This request resulted in achieving publication because I made the suggested changes whereas, in the past, I would have taken this as a rejection and shelved the piece. And so it followed from there. I’m not going to suggest that I had some kind of wildly successful year but I did achieve a better strike rate than I had in the six years prior to 2017. In fact, my rate of success in 2017 was only surpassed by fluking three acceptances in 2010 – a year when I only submitted thirteen pieces in total. In addition to the publications, I was also shortlisted for the Katharine Susannah Prichard Fiction Award and I won the CAL Fiction Prize for a piece I submitted to Meniscus. I think the real proof in the success of this venture is that I plan to do it again next year.

The successes were really heartening for me and they helped me to maintain my drive throughout the year but ‘collecting rejections’ allowed for a shift in the definition of what constitutes success and failure and this made the biggest impact. I didn’t ride the rollercoaster of submission and rejection that I had found myself on before – a strange rollercoaster where there are far more low sections than high. Collecting rejections helped me to avoid the common response to rejection of tending, according to Guy Winch, to ‘become intensely self-critical’. Or as suggested by Antonia Pont, talking myself out of thinking of myself as a ‘real writer’. Antonia’s idea, expressed at a recent panel event, was that when we are rejected by a publication or publisher we can start to think that ‘rejection is bad’ and that we’re ‘not a writer’ when we know from stories about writing practice from Stephen King to J.K. Rowling that this is not that case. Real writers do get rejections; collect them. Make a game out of it and don’t let that insecure part of your ego tell you that they are proof that you’re an imposter because they are, in fact, quite the opposite.


Words by Deb Wain.

Deb Wain is a poet and short story writer who is passionate about the Australian environment. Her work, which has appeared in Meniscus, Verandah, Tincture, and Verity La, is often inspired by the Australian communities in which she has lived.

Imposter! – Making Sense Of, and Combatting, Writer’s Doubt

I don’t think I’m good enough – I don’t think I’ll ever be good enough. I feel like I don’t belong, like an imposter. How long until someone realises that I’m not like them? That I’m not a real writer?

Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or an accomplished writer, chances are that you’ve experienced these kinds of thoughts. Imposter syndrome is incredibly common among creative people and is often the source of much anxiety and dread. It can take several forms, all of which deal with feelings of self-doubt.

‘I’m not as good as…’

Often it can be a matter of feeling inferior, of comparing yourself to the ‘greats’ of the literary world and finding that you just can’t measure up. You find yourself looking at your work as if it ought to be the next Harry Potter and find yourself extremely put-out when it’s not even close. You might not even compare yourself to the prodigies of the creative world. You might find yourself feeling inferior around your circle of writing friends. They seem so confident. You’re certain they’re going to do well – much better than you ever could. You feel like a fake – you’re pretending to be one of them but really you’re just a wannabe.

The best way to overcome this feeling of inferiority is to take a step back and realise that you aren’t the only one who feels like they aren’t good enough. The truth is that even big name authors feel the sting of inadequacy from time to time. It’s also important to remember that being a writer isn’t about being the best of the best – after all, those kinds of distinctions are subjective. What matters is that you create the best work that you can. Your work is uniquely your own and can’t be compared with the work of others. Your success can’t be measured in the same way as someone else’s. Especially when it comes to the unruly and unpredictable world of publishing. Never measure your worth as a writer by things as superficial as how many books you’ve published or how many followers you have on Twitter or Instagram. Look at your own personal milestones and be proud of what you’ve achieved while working your way towards doing even more.

‘I just can’t get it right…’

Another form of doubt is in the quality of your work. You’ll find no harsher critic than yourself, or so the old adage says. It’s not uncommon to find yourself looking at your work and thinking that there is nothing to salvage, that every bit of it is rubbish. But before you delete that manuscript or burn that notebook remember that no work is perfect. Perfectionism is a writer’s worst enemy and, unfortunately, one of their oldest bosom pals. Everything always seems to come together nicely in our heads but then turns into a poor imitation when we see it on the page. Nothing is as poetic, as dramatic or as lush in detail when we write it down – and that’s just plain disheartening.

Many, and I mean many, writers get hung up on their own imperfection. They want their creative project to be perfect! They’ll write and rewrite in the hopes of making their work exactly as they think it should be. While this seems an admirable goal it’s also a sure-fire way to never finish anything. I myself have rewritten the opening chapter of one manuscript fourteen times and, it pains to me say it, it still isn’t perfect. But I have to ask myself if it ever will be, or, if perfection is really a goal worth striving for at all.

Of course the answer is a resounding ‘no!’. Every book you see when you walk into the library or the store is imperfect. At some point the author has realised that their work will never reach perfection and that it doesn’t need to. A good book is a good book. It doesn’t need to be the best thing to ever happen to the English language. It just needs to be something that the author is proud of and that readers can enjoy. It doesn’t hurt to lower your standards if your standards are unachievable. Perfectionism only gets in the way of your work and leaves you feeling like rubbish. Throw that sucker in the bin and write because you love it and because you have a story to tell – a story which, like you, isn’t perfect.

‘Do I even have what it takes?’

There are days when you feel like you were born to write – this is your calling, after all. Then there are days when you think that you are the world’s biggest fraud and, what’s worse, you’ve managed to con even yourself. You don’t seem to have any of the skills or the natural talent of other writers. So what makes you think you have any chance of succeeding at your craft? You might fumble your way through a few workshops, maybe read up on some writing blogs, and find that you are way out of your depth with this whole writing gig.

A good writer always aims to improve their craft, gain new skills and try new things. There is always room for improvement. Everyone starts in a different place with different skills, and different writing strengths and weaknesses. If you feel like you’re at the bottom of the ladder don’t let that stop you from writing. You have to start somewhere to get to where you want to be. Embrace the chance to develop your skills – see it as a welcome challenge rather than something that separates you from the pros.

Doubt is an ever-present scourge of writers everywhere but it can be managed. The most important thing to remember in times of self-doubt are that writing is something you have chosen to do because you enjoy it. It means something to you and what you create should be a product of your passion and determination. There is no bar by which to measure your success compared to others because your own writing experience is unique. There will be times when writing is hard, perhaps even impossible, and nothing seems to work. But remember that there is always time to edit, to improve and to grow as a writer. The journey is just as important as the finished product at the end.


Words by Lisandra Linde

Lisandra is an editor, writer, and Hons. student. She has been an editor and designer for Empire Times Magazine and runs advertising and promotion for Speakeasy Flinders and Quart Shorts. She writes Fantasy and essays and frequently performs at spoken word events around Adelaide. She tweets at @KrestianLullaby

NaNoWriMo – A Beginner’s Guide

 

Every November Twitter is taken over by desperate writers mounting an immense personal challenge – the writing of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days – otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Now in its 15th year, this yearly word marathon has developed quite a reputation. Some love the excuse to devote an entire month to writing, children and partners be damned, and the social opportunity of write-ins for otherwise word hermits, and of course, the global writing community coming together to celebrate this shared hobby. Detractors, however, decry the flooding of unedited self-published NaNo Novel uploaded to Amazon in December by enthusiastic people who haven’t heard of the term “revision”, and the detrimental approach to speed writing that values quantity over quality.  But love it or hate it, NaNo is an institution, and one this author would definitely recommend giving a go, if only to see if you can, at least once, if only for the 40% Scrivener coupon.

So, how should you go about undertaking such a challenge? By following my simple rules:

 

1: Register on the NaNoWriMo website

Perhaps the obvious first step but I’ve met a surprising number of people who started NaNo without even realising there was a specific organisation that started it all. It’s free to sign up and participate in NaNoWriMo (at https://nanowrimo.org), although they do take donations and have a pretty snazzy merch store, if you’re into that sort of thing. The site also lets you track your word count and spits out some pretty neat progress graphs and statistics (such as an estimated finishing date, and approximate daily words needed to finish in time). You can also join your region and meet a bunch of people in your area who are also taking part in this event. Which leads me to;

2: Join your local region

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. It can be even more fun to do with other people around you, who you can bounce ideas off of or ask for feedback. Your local ML (Municipal Liaison) will plan write-in events throughout the month, as well as some more casual social gatherings, and also offer online support on the official forums and possibly a Facebook group, depending on your region. I’ve made many new writer friends through these events, whom I catch up with during the rest of the year as well. So it’s definitely worth getting involved.

3: Plan

Even if you’re someone who likes to just sit down and write whatever comes to mind, novel writing is a Big Ordeal. Those 50,000 words will feel mountainous, unless you break it down. Planning as much as you can before November will make your month far less stressful, but if over-planning saps your motivation to actually write the thing, try just creating a loose plot outline and character sketches. And even if you do plan in great detail, don’t be afraid of throwing way that plan if you think of something better as you go.

4: Pace yourself

It’s tempting to want to lock yourself away all month and do nothing but write, but this isn’t sustainable nor particularly healthy. Make sure you take breaks from your work to eat and drink properly, see friends and give your hands and brain a rest. If you’re balancing NaNo with full time work and/or managing children, you may have to get really great at fitting in writing where you can. But don’t go so hard that you give yourself RSI. NaNo isn’t worth physically injuring yourself over.

5: Don’t Panic

If you fall behind, miss a few days, or even start after November 1, don’t panic. There’s still time to catch up. You can do this. As mentioned, the website will tell you how many words per day you will need to finish on time. Doubling your daily target a few times can make up for a few days when you were too busy to sit down at your computer. Some people can only write on weekends because of weekday commitments. Whatever your life demands, you can still do it. Just take a deep breath and go.

6: Have Fun

NaNoWriMo is meant to be a fun challenge. If you’re finding yourself exceedingly stressed out, step back and evaluate if it is realistic for you to force yourself to do. If 50,000 is too long, try setting your own goals. The Camp NaNo events, (held in April and July) allow you to specify your own word goal on the website, but you can still aim for whatever you want to aim for in November. This is entirely a personal challenge after all. No one is policing what you do. No one will dob you in for doing it differently. And even if you don’t make it to your goal at the end of the month, that’s still okay. Ultimately any words you wrote are words you didn’t have before you started this challenge, and that’s amazing. The discount code prizes for “winning” are pretty nice but the real prize is the work you wrote during this time.

No matter how you go this month, NaNoWriMo is about building a regular writing habit, and engaging with other writers about this art form you all love so much. So give it a go. Take the excuse to sit down with that novel idea you’ve always wanted to write ‘if you had time’, and see what happens. Lock away your inner editor and just start typing. As a wise person once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

 


Words by Simone Corletto

Simone Corletto is an Adelaide-based YA and Science-Fiction writer. She spends her spare time crocheting lumpy hats, writing about teenage superheroes, and telling people about her science degree. She tweets at @SimCorWrites