Inside a Writer's Mind

Inside a Writer's Mind
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

It’s All Down To Luck: But What’s Luck?

Over the years I’ve heard many people attribute the achievements of others to 'luck'. Often with a note of jealousy or resentment in their voice.

I once knew a man, who used to work as a buyer for a large department store. He told the story of a new buyer who had accidentally placed a pre-winter sized (very large) order for umbrellas with an overseas supplier in the spring, and for several weeks after was a laughing stock in the buyers' department. Not to mention in danger of losing his job.

That was, until the summer turned out to be one of the stormiest and wettest on record. And cargo ships delivering subsequent orders to other Sydney stores were delayed by the weather.

When the buyer later received an award for his his 'astute insight into the market', a colleague commented that it was all down to luck. His boss, overhearing the remark, replied, "Give me a lucky buyer any day."

This is one example of luck. But more often I think it works slightly differently. Typically, I believe 'luck' is derived from a combination of factors, which we help determine or create.

I came across this post on Writer Unboxed and it got me thinking about a quote I read recently. (If you follow me on Twitter, or read this blog regularly, you’ll know I'm fond of quotes.)

I’ll apologise in advance because I can’t remember where I saw this, and therefore I can’t attribute it. I’m not even sure exactly how it went, but the gist of it was something like this: “Luck is the coming together of preparation and opportunity.”

On reflection, what I took away from this quote and reading the post, was that preparation (on a material, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual level) combined with a willingness to try new things, even if they frighten us (especially if they frighten us), is key to getting 'luck' on our side and achieving anything we personally consider worthwhile in life.

So all the best of luck.

And, keep writing!

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Sunday, 10 June 2012

More (Online) Creative Writing Resources

Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs

I came across this site recently. As it says on the tin, it contains links to 100 Creative Writing Blogs -- I'm not sure I would categorise them as the top 100 out there, but you be the judge.

Even though this was posted in 2009, most of the links are active and the blogs (I visited) are regularly updated. A number of them I've seen recommended elsewhere and a few I've listed in my 'Useful Links For Writers'.

There seems to something for everyone here, regardless of your level of experience and the type of writing you enjoy.

On the site the blogs are categorised and there is a brief description of each; I've included the first five categories below and links for each blog, and in cases where a blog has been moved, a new link. Some links I've omitted because they are dead or the site lacked relevant content.

Here they are:

Aspiring Authors
Published Authors
Improving Your Craft

When I have time, I'll check out the rest of the links and post them as well. The category headings are below.

Grammar and Editing
Getting Published
Genre Focused
Fiction Writing

Hope you find this useful.

Keep writing!

Desiderata (Wikipedia Version)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy. 

Max Ehrmann

I found this copy of the Desiderata here.

If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy my book: Seventeen Summers. It's free!

Saturday, 9 June 2012


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

                               Rudyard Kipling

Friday, 8 June 2012

Novel Writing: the "Snowflake Method"

Useful Writing Resources

One useful and illuminating site I first came across a few years ago, was Randy Ingermanson's

At the time I didn't have a clue about how to begin writing a novel. (And truth be told, I'm still learning every time I sit down to read or write.)

But what I struggled with most, was how to actually structure a novel (in terms of plot, chapters, scenes, character development, narrative point of view etc.) so that all the parts worked in synchronisation, to tell a memorable story, worthy of several hours of a reader's life.

This was one of the earliest resources I found online that offered up a blueprint for making order out of the seemingly chaotic task of writing my first novel.

And while Mr Ingersmanson does charge for some of his resources, a number of them are free (and quite useful).

On that note I have included links to the free resources below.

They are:
As an afterthought, if you enjoyed this, you might like to take a look at my novel: SEVENTEEN SUMMERS.

Keep writing!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Another Hemingway Quote

"All good books are alike in that they are truer
than if they had really happened, and after you
are finished reading one you will feel that
all that happened to you and afterwards
it all belongs to you: the good and
the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse
and sorrow, the people and the
places and how the weather
was. If you can get so
that you can give that
to people, then you
are a writer."

Hemingway - By-Line; "Old Newsman Writes: A Letter from Cuba"; (pg. 184)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Honour The Dreamer

“Our essential mistrust of the dreamer leads us to cripple him or her with restrictions of all sorts. We seem not to understand that the basic wealth of our country - wealth and emotional health - comes from our creative spirit. Even [...] with statistics that prove that our movies, music, television shows, and inventions are our biggest exports in real dollar terms, we still honor the money-counters and money-changers above the inventors and dreamers, who give them something to count and change.”

- Erica Jong
May 1991

Monday, 4 June 2012


As we travel along our life's path we encounter many obstacles and impediments to our progress;

as we learn to negotiate the twists and turns, we become more adept at dealing with the difficult times and the periods of confusion.

It is only through facing these challenges, head-on, that any progress can be made.

By that I mean, in dealing with the various crises that arise, we learn about life; what it is, and more importantly, what it is not.

At the same time we learn about ourselves, both who we are and who we may become. 

There are many people who will try to answer these questions for us, each with their own motivation for doing so. 

But we must resist falling into the moulds that others have cast for us, and endeavour to find out for ourselves who we are and what our place is in the world;

the answer to this question is different for each of us and it is often a painful and distressing process to address it. 

But address it we must, if we wish to live authentic fulfilling lives, rather than superficial charades.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Creative Writing Tips (Green Ones)

Yesterday I attended one of the best creative writing workshops I've ever been to. It was facilitated by an Irish gentleman named Keith Whelan, a former journalist, current author and creative writing teacher.

Whilst I'd previously come across a number of the suggestions he offered for improved fiction writing, these were some of the most important and practical tips I've seen offered up in one session. And well worth sharing. (At this point I should say I've enhanced them and added further explanation, examples and links for your reading pleasure... you can stop applauding now.)

There is so much information and advice out there when it comes to fiction writing, if you're anything like me when I began this journey a couple of years ago, you're probably finding it hard to sort the gems from the pebbles and bits of broken concrete.

Well, this is a part of my attempt to help.

They appear below in no particular order (well, actually they do, the order he gave them to us in):
  • a memorable and resonant title should emanate from the story itself and be reminiscent of a key theme or moment in the story
  • use detail judiciously and effectively (don't over do it, provide detail as and when a director might use a close up shot)
  • the opening sentence, paragraph and pages of your story should sing like Lady Ga Ga (insert another artist who makes you sit up and listen whenever you hear their voice) and is all most agents, editors and readers will look at before weighing up whether or not they want your book
  • composing a satisfying closing chapter and paragraph (must draw all the strands of the story together and provide an emotionally and intellectually satisfying ending) is essential to bringing your reader back for your next book
  • the beginning and ending of each chapter is very important: I once read you should bring the reader into a scene as late as possible and get them out as early as possible (imagine you're the manager of a B-list celebrity at a paid-to-attend gig); chapter beginnings and endings should sing (ala Lady Ga Ga, again), and link or connect up somehow with the ending preceding them (if a chapter beginning) or the beginning following them (if a chapter ending ...are you dizzy yet?) 
  • use a variety of sentence types in your writing (as a rule of thumb, short to increase pace and tension; long to draw out or dwell on a moment or an action or to create a sense for the reader of being held on to and not let go of); in general, effective fiction writing should contain a variety of sentences in terms of length, structure and sentence beginnings (because variety is the spice... you know how it goes)
  • be aware of repetition -- in terms of motifs (such as the mockingbirds in To Kill A Mockingbird ) be selective and conscious of your choices of what reappears in your story, when and why (Don't repeat lines of dialogue or character ticks unless you are doing it intentionally for effect)
  •  use all five senses in your writing (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound) -- sight and sound are used most commonly whilst the others can often be ignored, just as we use all our senses (all that we have at any rate) to explore and make sense of the world around us, so too it should be in fiction (for an unusual yet interesting read and an example of an author utilising a different sense -- smell -- check out Patrick Suskind's Perfume
  • construct a variety of character types (see Joseph Campbell/Christopher Vogler's archetypes for suggestions) that complement and conflict with one another and give them names that reflect their personality and roles in the story
  • show, don't tell -- for example, describe the character "shifting his weight from foot to foot" or "pressing his fists against the lining of his trouser pockets" or "the beads of sweat rolling down his side" instead of saying he was nervous
  • choose a point of view from which to tell the story (narrative point of view) and stick to it, unless you are writing a novel with alternating narrative points of view (in which case you are probably far more experienced than I am and do not need to be wasting your time reading this list; you've probably got book signings to attend and hefty advance cheques to cash... go on then, stop gloating)
  • incorporating a well developed plot (whether you are a pantser or a plotter) into your novel is essential if you are seeking to develop a readership beyond your immediate family and friends; Joseph Campbell/Christopher Vogler's 'Hero's Journey' model is one structure you might consider for your plot; at the very least (I think) you need a three act structure
  • be prepared to write several drafts (at least) of your project; remember what Hemingway said.
If you found this helpful please share it with your Twitter followers and Facebook friends.

And, keep writing!