On Writing

Writers, editors, agents, publishers and more share their thoughts, experiences and stories.

Authors really have to dig for the meaning of ‘success’. That’s never been truer than in this less-than-golden age of publishing, when the question ‘How’s it selling?’ from your mates is more reviled and feared than ‘How could you do that to your parents?’ from an interviewer.

There are words from other languages that cannot be easily translated into our own beautiful bastardised English. One such word, that comes from the Finns, I think encapsulates everything that we, as emerging writers, need to have. The Finnish concept of sisu can be defined as an ‘extraordinary determination in the face of adversity’. The English words ‘grit’, ‘perseverance’ or ‘resilience’, according to Finnish speakers, do not come close to describing the inner strength encapsulated in their native term.

As an aspiring writer many moons ago, my goals were clear. I wanted to write realistic fiction for children and young adults and I wanted to be published in the traditional trade market.

My manuscript is a little boat.

When asked how she is, my mother-in-law is fond of replying that any day she wakes up and can get vertical is a good one. I wish I could say the same about writing. That any day I get up and still know how to use words and create sentences, well, that’s a good day and therefore, a successful one. But it’s not true. Just because you can use words and out of them make sentences, doesn’t mean you’re a good writer or, at best, a successful one. The notions of ‘good’ and ‘successful’ are always up for grabs anyway… aren’t they?

Part 1

July 2016, Jerusalem

I am sitting on a bench, in the park in Jerusalem, watching mothers pushing children on swings. I am eating an ice-cream, alone.

It’s debatable what’s harder: to produce a piece of creative writing or to find someone willing to read a draft and give authentic feedback. I was pleased and relieved when Jude readily agreed to read my draft crime novella. After all, I argued, not only was he a good friend but also a well-read and incisive member of a bookclub. I could certainly count on him to be objective in his feedback, yet encouraging. If he wished, he could do so over lunch. I’d shout him and we’d make it a social occasion. It should be fun, I thought. Little did I think the day would end as it did.

A photograph of Shivaun Plozza

Nothing is off-limits in young adult literature as long as it’s handled well, says Shivaun Plozza. Ahead of her Writing YA workshop, Shivaun talks about diversity and reader reactions.

Emily Bitto seated

We turn to reading to learn all kinds of things, but what about reading to learn to write? Ahead of her workshop, we caught up with author and tutor Emily Bitto to find out why close reading is an essential part of learning the writer's craft.

A photograph of Jax Jacki Brown

Jax Jacki Brown grew up in a regional area and understands the importance of community. Ahead of the Write-ability Goes Regional and Online Own Voices: Why Writing Matters forum in Bendigo, Jax talks about stereotypes, community and the importance of representing those with disability as nuanced, whole people.