Don’t Be A Writer …

Don't be a writerI’m deep into structural edits for my new novel, Billabong Bend, due out next year. The deadline is next week. I’m too busy to blog (already missed last week’s post) so my brother Rod Scoullar has sprung to my rescue. He writes terrific young adult fantasy as a hobby,  and has written a guest post. ‘It can be about anything,’ I said. This is what he came up with … (Love ya Rod x)

“Don’t be a writer.

A writer’s life is hard.  Oh it’s not hard to write – putting words on paper is easy.  It isn’t even that hard to put well written words on paper, words in well structured sentences, words that flow, words that evoke mood or place or situation.  I can do that.  You must do that if you are to be a writer.

Words are not enough though, even well written words.  The reader will weary of the sweetest prose if the plot is inadequate.  Poor characterisation will undermine any story regardless of the beauty of the writing.  Those are areas in which I fall down.  I’m not destined to be a writer; yet it isn’t for that reason.

I see how hard Jenny works.  I see the notebooks, constantly added to, dozens of them, full of words and ideas that might be useful, someday.  I see the effort that goes into the research.  I see the discipline that requires so many words must be written before day’s end.  I see the redrafting, the effort to fashion a scene just so.  I see the frustration when things don’t come together.

Then, when the manuscript is complete, as best it can be given the timeframe – professional writers have to work to deadlines – and sent to the publisher, back come the edits.  “Character X needs greater development early in the manuscript; the relationship between Y and Z should build more slowly; the resolution of the conflict in chapter seven seems contrived, etc.”  Those aren’t comments relating to Jennifer’s current manuscript in case you’re wondering.  Oh, and don’t self-publish without a professional edit.  Professional editors know what they’re about.  Ignore them and their advice at your peril.

I’m not prepared to put in the effort required to be published.  Writing something is easy.  Writing something worthwhile may be possible, but writing and rewriting and rewriting again is too much for me.  I don’t want to be a writer, not desperately.  It might be fun to try but, well, for me it’s all too much.  If you want to be a writer, want it because you can’t imagine yourself as anything else, then go for it; but understand – a writer’s life is hard.”



Echidna Dreaming

echidna 038Millie, a friendly echidna, has recently arrived at Pilyara. (I really don’t know what gender, but with such a pretty face, I’m guessing a girl!)  She loves feasting on the meat ants that live in our old brick pile. So in honour of our new resident, here are some fascinating echidna facts.

1. Echidnas are the most widely distributed mammal in Australia and are listed as common. (Yes – I know they’re monotremes too.) But because they live for forty-five years or more, we may have an ageing population. Nobody knows the current survival rate for young. In a Kangaroo Island study, more than a quarter of all puggles (the cute name for baby echidnas) were killed in their burrows by cats each year.

echidna 0502. The prefrontal cortex of an echidna’s brain is larger compared to the rest of its body than any other mammal, including man! Usually the greater the volume of this part of the brain, the more intelligent the animal is. So, Millie’s a smart cookie!

3. It was once thought that echidnas were the only mammals that didn’t dream, because they didn’t seem to experience REM sleep. It’s now been discovered that echidnas do experience REM sleep, so long as they’re at the right temperature. At 25°C they experience REM sleep, but at 28°C or 15°C it decreased or disappeared. Wonder what they dream about?

Echidna Love Train

Echidna Love Train

4. Echidnas breed in winter, so if Millie sticks around until then, I might be lucky enough to see some fascinating courtship behaviour – an echidna love train. These processions are led by the female, with up to ten lovelorn males trailing behind. It can take six weeks before Miss Popularity chooses a mate from the strongest and most determined suitors.



Proofreading Submissions

proofreading 1Grammar or spelling mistakes in submissions to agents or publishers are an obvious no-no. In this very tough publishing climate, it’s foolish to give people any extra reason to toss your work onto the reject pile. That said, proof-reading fiction  is different from working on non-fiction. An author’s unique voice may involve the use of unusual grammar and punctuation, especially in dialogue. Yes, you can occasionally start a sentence with and or but. You can use colloquialisms. You can use incomplete sentences. But you need to be sure of the rules before you can sensibly decide to break them.

Proofreading 2It’s often more effective to wait a while between writing and proof-reading, to get some space between you and the words. Some people prefer to work on a hard-copy, rather than on the screen. Some people work on chapters in random order, or backwards or in different fonts – anything to distance themselves from the broader narrative and help them focus purely on the text. Work slowly in a quiet place where distractions are at a minimum and pretend you’re reading for the first time. Watch out for passive voice (was, had, would, have etc.) and over-used words like just, very, seem, felt, well and ‘ly adverbs. Keep punctuation simple, and try not to use exclamation marks!

proofreading 3If you need extra help, proofreading programs like Grammarly can be useful. Grammarly is accurate, easy to use and best of all offers fascinating feedback. It gives detailed explanations of the grammar rule that has been broken, examples of correct and incorrect sentences, and offers corrections. Enlisting the help of other readers is also a good idea – a fresh perspective can work wonders, especially if your work has gone through several rewrites. Do whatever works for you, but never underestimate the vital importance of this final step.