Writing tips

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Rock Star Writers

Published June 4, 2014 by electricbluegaloo

rock star writers  I’ve just come across a fabulous article featuring the fabulous Tristan Bancks (Thanks Belinda Murrell for sharing).

The gist of this article is that children’s authors are able to pull rock star like crowds – which is fabulous news, not just for myself as an aspiring author.  It comes back to the question of what is an author’s job.  To write books, duh.  But how do you manage to sustain yourself, and possibly a family, while writing said books.  This is not like the old days when only a few were published.  As you know many a book is self published through Amazon etc, which makes your book just one tree in the forest.  Have you ever noticed that people still refer to a hugely successful author as “the next JK Rowling”.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published 17 years ago, a phenomenon like that does not come around every day.  Also, I think the general public would be horrified to discover how little of the cover price goes to the actual author.  You must realise that  there are a lot of links in the chain that gets a book from the brain to the bookshop.

So how does an author make some cash, to be able to give up the day job and keep writing.  By building a brand, for more on this, please take a look at Authors and the Marketing Conundrum

A lot of authors’ work these days consists of public appearances.  Many years ago now, Mal Peet spoke at a CBCA NSW International Connections dinner in which, I’ll paraphrase and possibly exaggerate, he told us:

“I became an author because I wanted to shut the door and write in privacy.  Today I have spoken to 600 students at 3 schools, and am up here speaking in front of you now.  Please buy my books.  The CBCA will receive 10% of books sold here tonight, and so will I.”

And with the advent of piracy in the digital age, the notion that authors can write a book and kick back, living off the royalties is even more out-dated  Check out the Facebook group Authors v Pirates if you want to read a real horror story.   This dilemma was discussed at the #SWF2012 #Forestforthetrees seminar.  I asked the panel if they thought there was anything that could be learned from the music publishing industry, to which the answer was “We can’t live off concert ticket and t-shirt sales”.  Well maybe, just maybe, we can! Can you imagine a hipster walking around with Roald Dahl’s mug on his tummy?  Or William Kostakis in his gym wear?  He he he! I can just picture it!  Oh yay for the rock star book writer in lycra.


As I muse in previous post, “Stories by the Digital Fireside“, the rise of social media has not lead to the decline of good literature, in fact making authors, and other fans of said literature, more accessible has obviously had a very engaging effect on the community.  I was going to use the word youngsters, but if you take a look at the crowds at a literary festival you will see a great diversity of age.

I hope that, as Tristan Banck’s article alludes, we will one day see stadiums full of crowds cheering for their favourite wordsmiths (there was a National Poetry Slam entry circa 2010 who spoke about this, but unable to find the clip I have instead included one of my other favourites below)

In my future, authors will be recognised on the street, hopefully not mobbed by paparazzi, but I think we are on our way to achieving the rock star status of the article above.

I once proposed a community service announcement to promote the CBCA/Book Week in which authors briefly described their memories of book week as a child.  Very sensibly, my CBCA colleagues suggested we approach footballers, actors and other celebrities to do the talking and appear  in the CSA.  Authors, you see, were just not cool.  Ok, we maynot be totally cool yet, with the exception of Oliver Phommavahn, but thanks to the work of people like Tristan Bancks, who recently appeared on breakfast TV as an expert giving his opinion of Disney’s Frozen, we may be on our way to being, well, not-totally-uncool.cool hunter



Zeph the King!

Published January 30, 2012 by electricbluegaloo

If you’re a teacher, strugging to find poems to use with your students – stop looking! I have provided you with the answer.  British poet Benjamin Zephaniah brings words to life on the page the way slamers do it on the stage.



If you’re a writer looking for inspiration take a look at the way he reaches into your mind and expresses it exactly the way you wanted to.

Yes, people – today you have struck gold!

Read (and write) a Chapter a Day

Published January 26, 2012 by electricbluegaloo

Daily Writing Tips is a fantastic blog which everyone interested in creative writing should subscribe to.  It is a somewhat random but always informative and authorative articles for writers, teachers, editors and the like.  I have copied a recent post to my blog below with just one minor comment of my own below.


How Do You Teach Someone to Write Well?

Posted: 24 Jan 2012 08:36 PM PST

Why is the craft of writing in such a dire state? The best writers of our time create magnificent prose, and additional tiers of talents do a fine job of communicating. But the vast majority of people seem competent at best, and many of those who are paid to write — or for whom writing is at least part of their job description (and, these days, that’s just about everybody) — frequently demonstrate a lack of understanding of, or concern about, the most basic rules of grammar and usage.

How can this be? High school graduates spend part of virtually every day of school for thirteen years learning, and relearning, and then learning again, the fundamentals of the English language, from letter recognition to critical essays. Why, then, do many colleges and universities have remedial writing courses packed with students who earned exemplary grades in high school English?

Most people, at least in developed countries, spend at least a couple of years in college, which involves completion of many writing assignments. How is it that many employers bemoan the poor writing skills of their college-graduate workers and toss so many ineptly written resumes in the trash?

Here’s a radical response to those questions: You can teach writing, but you can’t teach good writing. As a former public school student, and as a former public school teacher, I know that much of what passes for instruction in writing is dull and bereft of context. But I also know that many teachers succeed in devising and/or employing imaginative ways of helping students develop their writing skills. As a student, I experienced much of the first approach and little of the second. As a teacher, I used both methods but tried to focus on the latter strategy. I’m not sure that my efforts were successful.

I also taught copyediting to adults for many years. Some students didn’t belong in the class, because they virtually matched me in skill. Others didn’t belong in the class, because they had no business working in the writing and editing business. Most were somewhere in between. Did I help them? In class evaluations, many claimed that I did, or at least that I opened their eyes to how complex and creative editing can be.

I believe that students young and old can be taught the basics of spelling, style, and syntax, and of grammar and usage. But how do they develop the skill to integrate all these components into a clear, concise, coherent whole? As with any other skill, it takes practice, practice, practice — that’s where year after year of language arts instruction comes in. But I also believe that much of writing skill is innate: You have it, or you don’t, and if you don’t, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get it.

That doesn’t give anyone an excuse to give up. You can’t help but get better through repetition. Positive learning experiences and inspirational teachers are significant factors, but ultimately, becoming a better writer is a matter of learning what better writing is (reading well-wrought fiction and nonfiction) and of composing your own prose. My tip for today? It’s simple. Read a lot, and write a lot more.

What an exciting world we live in where reading and writing a lot more does not always mean endlessly running our eyes along black squiggly lines printed on dead trees.  When you engage in your daily reading why not try an eBook, listen to a talking book or a beautifully crafted picture book for young adults such at Matt Ottley’s 2007 CBCA Award winning Requiem for A Beast?  And as for the writing, why not paint your character, interview them, Tweet in character or listen to their favourite song.

Wanna Get Published?

Published January 25, 2012 by electricbluegaloo

Some publishing houses like you to include a resume with sumbmissions and they don’t care if you can make a great cup of coffee. Getting published is more than just stringing a couple of thousand words together really well. Publishing houses are businesses and you must convince them that as an author you will be a good investment on their behalf. At the CBCA NSW International Connections dinner a couple of years ago Mal Peet said he thought being an author would be the perfect job, he could sit around and write all day, never having to speak to another living person face to face again, only to realise that he just about spends more time on speaking engagements than actually writing novels.
If that doesn’t put you off and you’re now wondering how on earth do you buld a resume – you’ve got to be published to get published. This isn’t actually as hard as you might first imagine.

Firstly, submit to websites or organisations that don’t pay authors (but avoid the ones that ask you to pay for a copy of the published journal).  Don’t worry that you’re giving away your hard-won words for nothing.  You will end up writing stories and that are even better; you will gain valuable industry experience and recognition; and provided there are not too many 4 letter words, your mum will be really proud of you.

The second place to send your submissions is to competitions.  For extensive competition listings (local and international) join the NSW Writers’ Centre and subscribe to Buzz Words.

Both of these suggestions are great for honing your skills with short stories – basically teaching you how to cut out all the unnecessary crap.

So get typing and help Ryde Library meet their target – I might even take my own advice this time so look out for my name among the authors published.


How Time Flies (and I want to clip her wings)

Published January 23, 2012 by electricbluegaloo

I have just received a reminder that The Sydney Writers’s Centre is hosting a course on writing for children and young adults in the very near future.
OMG! How could this possibly be? I set this reminder 12 months ago. I have several possible explanations, the most likely being that I have somehow slipped down the time spiral which is why the year has passed with such astonishing speed and I could never have been expected to write an entire novel when that crazy pith happenes.
I also considered the possibility that the government is using my goodess-like body for secret missions, then wiping my memory. Could happen.
The least likely scenario is that I just got distracted by modern mummyhood and didn’t put aside one red cent to pay for the course which I was sure I’d be able to do this year.
For argument’s sake let’s peruse this last scenario. Assuming financial limitations are to blame I am going to make up my birthday/Christmas/spontaneous acts of kindness wishlist right now (hint hint any readers who are related to me).
1. Contributions to any course taught by Dr Judith Ridge, Kate Forsyth or similar
2. On Writing by Stephen King or similar. I know I can get them from the library but these are needed as reference materials at hand at all times.
3. Membership of nsw writer’s centre, Aust. Society of Authors or other appropriate organisations.
4. Tickets to cool events at the Sydney Writer’s Festival.
So to all my loyal readers who are writers and in a similar fiscal boat why don’t you make your list too and subtly leave it stuck to the fridge like I’m about to do. Drop me a comment and let me know if I’ve left anything off- Christmas is only 11 months away.

The Pot Calling the Kettle Electric Blue

Published January 4, 2012 by electricbluegaloo

The topic of todays musing is writing every day, hence the title. I haven’t posted since before I moved house and had Christmas and New Year one after the other, but that’s enough excuses and back now to the point . After my brief stint back in the real world I am feeling really, really rusty. Come on Brain, you’re a genius, stop letting Fingers get in the way of us rulling the world. It’s you haven’t had ideas left, right and centre, it’s just that Fingers keep running off to unpack and change nappies!

But anyone who knows anything about writing knows that you have to do it every day.  Have you heard of Morning Pages?  A dear friend once gave me a book called The Artists Way. It’s about cultivating creativity and insists that one must write three A4 pages of handwritten free flow of conscienceness every morning.  It works.  I was really successful and I felt really creative, then it was report time and I had to spend every hour thinking hard about how much my students had learned that semester.  It’s not easy to keep up, but Alexander McCall Smith is living proof that writing every day is not only possible, but also profitable.

When I was studying to be a teacher I also read from an expert who stated that students would learn to write better if they were given time to do a Quickwrite every day – so I insisted that every afternoon my students write for 15 minutes, but they were not as enthusiastic as I imagined they would be. A tip to morning pagers or teachers using Quickwrite – sometimes having a clear path, shall we say, can really aid creativity.  For your school students perhaps you could ask them to retell their favourite story or movie till they become more confident.  For the more practised writer it can be fun to write in the style of an author you admire.  I call this one “What would JK do?”

Last year I read Land of the Painted Caves, the eagerly anticipated, and hopefully conclusion, to the Earth’s Children series.  Like many fans of the series I love it, and I hate it.  Basically there is far too much description, it’s overly wordy and yes, there is quite a bit of S. E. X.  But Jean M Auel has a very distinctive voice and it is sooooooo easy to imitate.  I have loved Ayla, and accepted her relationship with that idiot Jondalar since I was a teenager,  but I was so thoroughly disappointed by the entire book, and in particular the ending, that I was moved to write my own ending.  Here is a teaser:

Alternate ending form page 614


Paragraph 2


Jondalar’s first thought was to get his horse as far away from the herd as possible, as fast as he could, but he was unable to turn the stallion around. Racer surged forward, drawing nearer and nearer the lead stallion, taking Jondalar further and further from the camp. The red stallion bucked mid stride and threw Jondalar further forward, he almost slipped off, but his powerful hunter’s arms responded to his life saving reflexes, wrapping around the horse’s short stocky neck. The horse’s hard hooves continued to pound across the steppes, and thrown slightly askew as he was Jondalar’s toes skimmed the grass. Other stallions from the wild herd bumped past him in the stampede, bringing Jondalar ever closer to loosing his grip. His palms became slick with perspiration at the thought of what would happen if he fell. His body would be trampled beyond recognition. The image of his mother, of Ayla and Jonayla trying to identify his remains strengthened his resolve. He heaved again and swung back up onto Racer’s warm back. He buried his head in the stallion’s coarse sweaty mane and held on for dear life.

He gripped tightly with arms and knees, but allowed the horse to take control over the direction, and hoped Racer’s connection to his human family would overcome his wild instincts and would lead them safely out of this situation. The sun burned his back, whistling wind and the pounding of hooves filled his ears. As he rode out of camp this morning he’d longed to ride far away and perhaps never return but now that his wish was coming true he could not bare the thought of never seeing his mate and the child of his heart, the child of his essence again. Burning tears stung his eyes and a tight knot choked his throat.

“Turn, Racer! Turn! Take me back to the Summer Meeting! Take me back to Ayla!”

Jondalar shouted in the stallion’s ear and pulled hard on the harness. He felt Racer respond to the command and pulled again.

“That’s it, take me back to Ayla!”

Jondalar’s heart beat faster with anticipation. Realising how close he’d come to being swept away forever, he felt an enormous wave of relief as Racer’s pace begin to slow as he turned. Jondalar sat higher in his seat and waved one fist in the arm in celebration. As the wind blew through his hair he could think only of his Ayla and the way she looked at him, not that day at the pool in the small of the river, but every other day of their lives together, alone in their valley teaching her the Gift of Pleasures, riding and hunting together all their long journey from the land of the Mumutoi to his home at the Ninth Cave, and every morning since they were mated. He’d made mistakes, terrible mistakes, but the biggest mistake of all was not trying to make it right.

He arched his back and closed his eyes, giving himself over to the rhythm of the horse’s pounding hooves, he knew in his heart he would see Ayla again, and hold her in his arms.

He was about to pull again on Racer’s halter when a spear struck the stallion in front of them. The spear landed true and the young grey stallion dropped mid stride. Jondalar felt his mount falter and opened his eyes. Racer leaped over the prone body of the fallen horse but as he landed Jondalar was thrown forward through the air. He reached frantically for the harness, for Racer’s stand-up mane, for anything, but his hands closed on nothing but air. He saw the the cloudless blue sky slide away beneath his feet and he the last thing he heard as he landed hard on his shoulder was a sickening crack.


Read page 615 from paragraph 5. Continue reading to end of page 616. Delete “. . . had grown tired of walking with the melancholy man, who did nothing but shuffle along, and had come back to find Jonayla. He . . . “

Continue reading to end of page 629.


Jondalar opened his eyes in the dim light inside the cave. The walls and ceiling were close and the entrance partially blocked by bushes. Smoke from a cooking fire filled the air and he could smell meat burning.

“He’s awake.”

Jondalar turned to sound of the familiar voice, but his head pounded and his vision danced with the effort of it. The pain in his left shoulder was white hot, but he breathed easier knowing he was safe, under shelter and with someone to take care of him. He couldn’t quite place the voice though in his pain addled mind he knew it was one he’d heard often..

Another voice spoke and the words sent a chill shiver of fear down his spine.

“I told you we should have left him on the steppe. Are you going to be able to kill him now, as much as we both want to?”

“We couldn’t have left him there. It would have been to obvious. We needed the horse meat. Who will leave a man out in the open to die?”

Jondalar lay very still, with his eyes closed, listening to the two men discussing ways to kill him and dispose of his body. As he lay there, breathing quietly he, realised that he recognised both voices – they were the voices of Brukeval, his cousin, and Madroman, the man he’d almost beaten to death in his youth. Both men had gone missing shortly after the ceremony in which Ayla had revealed the final verse of the Mother’s Song, but how had they found him? Jondalar realised the answer was obvious. It must have been Brukeval’s spear that felled the horse and caused Racer to throw him. Jondalar was in no doubt that it had been at Madroman’s insistence, but how could his cousin have brought himself to do it? Perhaps the hunter had not seen the man riding amongst the wild herd, but Jondalar knew this was unlikely. More likely the spear had been aimed directly at him and he had only been spared because Racer was slowing at the time.

But where was Racer now? And how was he going to get away from here alive? He knew he had to try. He had to get back to his Ayla, to hold her in his arms again, and beg her to forgive him.

He tried to check his injuries without arousing the suspicions of his captors, but he doubted they would notice as they argued over what to do with the tall blonde man they both hated.

His shoulder blade was broken, that was obvious, and his head pounded like a raging river, but he wanted to know what damage had been done by the stampeding stallions. He was surprised to find he hadn’t been trampled to death, but surely he hadn’t escaped entirely. He glanced down at his body and saw that everything still seemed to be in the right place. He tried wiggling his fingers, the right hand moved easily and the left too with concentration to overcome the pain in his shoulder. When he came to wiggle his toes he discovered his right foot had been crushed, but in all he’d been very lucky.

“They’ll be looking for him soon,” Brukeval argued. “We should leave him and continue our search for a new Cave. This is fine for a few nights, but I don’t want to be caught here for the winter, and with the Ninth Cave so close.”

“The Mother has sent him to us.” Madroman’s voice sounded hysterical and Jondalar could hear him pacing. His head must be almost brushing the low ceiling of the cave. “The Mother has sent him to us as punishment for Ayla. She claims the Mother spoke to her. She claims the Mother sent her a message. The Mother would not speak to a Flathead lover. Mother what do you want us to do with the mother of the Flathead lover?” Madroman placed his hands on the wall of the cave and spoke these last words into the solid stone.

“I will meditate on it.” Madroman slumped to the ground sitting by Jondalar’s shattered right foot. “I will meditate on the Mother’s wishes and you will stand watch outside.”

Brukeval gabbed a spear and went outside.

Jondalar looked around the cave and found that it was empty save for Madroman and his pack. The former acolyte was sitting with legs crossed and eyes shut, and now and then he brush at his face as if it were covered with cobwebs or insects.

Now’s a chance to escape, if I can get past Brukeval or convince him to let me go, Jondalar thought. He gave no consideration to how he would find his way home, or how he would get there on his shattered foot even if he knew the way. He only knew he had to try. He felt around with his right hand and eventually he found what he was looking for, a large rock. He closed his hand around it and considered using it on Madroman. He’d almost beat the man to death before he learned to control his emotions, but now he felt reluctant to strike him again. He realised he was more than justified on this occasion, but reasoned that he didn’t know how far away Brukavel was and if he was unsuccessful at knocking Madroman unconscious he’d have two enemies to deal with, alone and injured.

Jondalar heaved himself up and almost passed out from the pain. Bracing himself against the wall he hobbled to the entrance of the cave. He glanced back at Madroman, who seemed to be in a trance, then pushed his way out through the bushes. The ground stopped abruptly in front of the bushes and with a drop of 20 feet to the rocky ground below. Brukeval was standing with his back to the cave along the narrow path that led down to the steppes. Jondalar glanced around and saw that there was another possible exit behind him, leading up and over the cave, but with his injuries he’d never be able to climb it.

He hobbled towards Brukavel. He hoped that the Mother would understand and forgive him for raising a stone against his cousin, but before he could carry out the deed there was a cry from behind, followed by a sharp blow to his head and blackness.

A good website which encourages fans of the Obernewtyn Series (Isobell Carmody) is www.obernewtyn.net  . If you follow the link below you will find examples of fanfiction in which fans have re-written scenes from the novel from a different point of view.


Please excuse any typos etc.  Madam 3, nearly 4, informs me the bubba is awake.  Happy morning pages!



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