Knowing When You’re Done …

editing 3I’m in the middle of final edits for next year’s release, Billabong Bend. One of the most difficult things for writers, published or unpublished, is knowing when the book is done. It’s easier, of course, with a book under contract. You have a deadline, and an editor who has her own wise opinions. But it can still be a fraught question, and not just for writers. I’ve heard of painters who see their work on exhibition, and want to whip out the paint brush then and there, and of composers who want to change chords in published pieces. Countless changes will spring to mind on the final read. Here are the main things I think about.

editing 11. Check the writing – Spelling? Grammar?  Overuse of adverbs or filler phrases? Tautologies or unnecessary dialogue tags? In this latest draft of Billabong Bend, characters were shaking and nodding their heads all the time, and driving my editor mad! These stage directions can aid a first draft when the writer is telling themselves the story. Like um or ah when speaking, they allow thinking time. But they do not belong in a final draft. Do a search for words you might have overused. Remove them.

2. Dialogue – By now you should know what your characters sound like. Read dialogue aloud, assessing vocabulary, sentence length, use of contractions, etc. Make sure the word choices you’ve made add up to a  consistent and unique voice. You don’t want your characters all sounding the same.

editing 23 Follow each thread to its logical conclusion – It might be the progress of your protagonist from weak and unsure to strong and certain, or the relationship arc between two characters in a love story. It could be the trail of clues in a mystery. Have you added or deleted scenes during rewrites, or changed their order?  If a character is introduced in chapter 3, and not again till chapter 30, do they really need to be there? If they do, they must be mentioned a few times so the reader won’t forget about them. Have you played with the timeline? Does the story still make sense?

4. Don’t edit your writing to death – I’ve seen some unfortunate examples of writers revising the heart out of their work. Retain the vigour and imaginative breadth of your original vision. Nothing’s ever perfect. I’ll finish with a piece by American novelist Harry Crews.

“Graham Greene [said] “The writer is doomed to live in an atmosphere of perpetual failure.” There it is … every writer writes with the knowledge that nothing he writes is as good as it could be. Paul Valery said, “A poem’s never finished, only abandoned.” The same thing with a novel. It’s never finished, only abandoned. I’ve had any number of novels where I’ve just at some point said to myself, well, unless you’re going to make a career out of this book – spend the rest of your goddamn life chewing on it – you might as well just package it up and send it to New York.”



Phillip Island

???????????????????????????????Well, my next round of edits for Billabong Bend have arrived, and with a short deadline, it’s time to get stuck in. Pilyara’s peaceful mountains are very conducive to writing. However for a change, I sometimes spend time down at the coast – at my brother’s lovely, large house at Phillip Island, just one street from the ocean.

Penguins 2My brother Rod is a keen photographer and bird watcher. He lives in the right place, because Phillip Island and the Bass Coast are home to more than two hundred bird species. Local wetlands support a variety of migratory birds including Bar-tailed godwits, Curlew sandpipers, Whimbrels and Red-necked stints. The southern and western coasts of the island lie within the Phillip Island Important Bird Area, so proclaimed by BirdLife International because of its importance in supporting significant populations of Little Penguins (aka Fairy Penguins), Short-tailed Shearwaters (aka Muttonbirds) and Pacific Gulls.

SealThe island also has a Koala Conservation Centre, and hosts the largest colony of fur seals in Australia (up to 16,000) But you don’t have to take a boat to Seal Rocks to see them. Here’s a photo of one cruising round the local jetty, just metres from my brother’s house. How lucky am I to have the best of both worlds on my doorstep – Pilyara’s tall-timbered mountains, and Phillip Island not much more than an hour away. What a beautiful country to live in …


It’s Time To Start A New Book When …

I’m between books. The second round of Billabong Bend edits aren’t back yet, and I’m on a self-imposed writing break. It’s necessary for writers to take a holiday sometimes. To read, to play, to fill up the creative well – and to do all those chores that get neglected when a manuscript is in full swing. I’m not a naturally tidy person, not by a long shot, but right now the house and garden are neat. The feed and tack rooms are spick and span. I’m doing that nesting thing pregnant women do before giving birth – getting the environment in order so I can devote myself to my new baby/story. So I’ve made a listIt’s time to start writing a new story when:

Kitchen garden1. You go to water the pots and wind up weeding, repotting and fertilising every one.

2. You go to  the wardrobe to get a shirt and wind up organising all your clothes by colour.

3. Your usually messy office is spotless.
Home Office






Bonfire4. You start raking up sticks around the house and end up with a massive bonfire pile.

5. You have defragged your computer, scanned for errors, and backed up files.


Shoes6. Shoes that are usually piled higgledy-piggledy in a box are placed neatly on shelves.


7. You have oiled the saddles and bridles.

8. You have discovered the random article button on WikiHow

Coloured pencils9. You look for a coloured pencil and wind up sorting and sharpening them all.

10. You start checking out different social media networks like Pinterest,  Vimeo, Tumbler, StumbleUpon, FourSquare, Reddit, Wattpad, Flickr, DeviantArt, Delicious, and BookLikes. You begin to create any accounts you don’t yet have.

Teddy 111. The dogs are bathed and groomed.

12. The new story is calling out to be written.

Okay, I’ve ticked them all off my list. New book, here I come …


Just One Percent …

Coalition for protection of racehorsesThe Melbourne Cup is run, the spring racing carnival in full swing, but as a massive horse lover, I can’t watch a race without seeing the misery behind it. The biggest animal welfare issue facing the Australian racing industry is wastage – a euphemism for the slaughter of twenty thousand thoroughbreds each year.




Eighty percent of horses get no life after racing. Take Deposer, for example. This magnificent horse raced at Royal  Ascot, went to Hong Kong, then came to Australia and won more than $1.1 million for his owners – before being dumped in the Echuca meat pens. He was alone, forgotten and left for dead, when filmed by the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses last year. Deposer was due to join thousands of terrified, often starving and terribly injured horses, in a desolate dogger’s yard. They are taken one by one into a killing box, and shot in front of each other for pet food, crab-pot bait and export meat. More than ten thousand thoroughbreds slaughtered each year are healthy young animals under seven years old. Call me a party-pooper, but that just stinks!

Bondi VetCelebrity vet Dr Chris Brown has got behind a proposal for the Australian racing industry to use a tiny 1% of all betting turnover to establish a retirement plan for horses. Along with this, the proposal calls for some other preventative measures (such as a reduction in breeding) to stem the issue of wastage, and in the long-term, end the slaughter of thoroughbreds. A 1% betting levy would result in $143 million annually being given back to racehorses, thus sharing the riches from the ‘Sport of Kings.’

North west equine rescueIn the meantime, North West Equine Rescue INC have vowed to take off the track racehorses when their career is over (sometimes before it even starts).
NWER INC is a Not-for-Profit registered charity with three bases in Moree, Armidale and Tamworth. Since registering in 2012 NWER has successfully rescued and rehomed 397 horses. NWER is funded by the generosity of the public, meaning they receive NO government funding. Volunteers have twenty-four horses in care at any given time. Their mission is to rescue as many sick, injured and slaughter-bound animals as possible, set their lives on a different path and give them the second chance they deserve! NWER have set out to raise $5,000 to rescue seven thoroughbreds facing slaughter, re-educate and rehome them. They are still a long way off target. You can donate as little as a dollar. Help put a doomed racehorse in the arms of these angels. It only seems fair, don’t you think?