Tag Archives: Writing

Writing the character first

I spent the weekend brainstorming ideas for new books. Each one became more outrageous than the last, but I won’t say no to any of them because I don’t know when the writing muse will grace me with her presence again, and who am I to say what is too fantastic to write about.

When I was small, my favourite book was about a chair that sprouted wings on its legs, which always made me feel slightly queasy when I thought about the birth of said wings, but I liked the adventures the chair took the seated upon. I also liked a book about a girl ran away and lived in a small cottage decorated with sea shells and once about a teenage detective who seems to find mysteries to solve but only during summer.

Deciding what to write about is tough because every idea has merit. There are no truly terrible ideas. I keep all of my ideas filed neatly. Below is a screen shot of my computer. I have a folder of every story idea and they go into the well, to be divided into mode later. Within them are more ideas, broken down into more folders. The well needs to be first filled, then divided into book, film or TV folder.

The secret to keeping the well filled is to not listen to the voice that says, that this story has been told before. Of course, it has been told before, but it hasn’t been told by you.

It is claimed by many writers that there are only seven stories in the world, and each one is a variation on the theme. They are:

  • Overcoming the Monster.
  • Rags to Riches.
  • The Quest.
  • Voyage and Return.
  • Comedy.
  • Tragedy.
  • Rebirth.

Perhaps this is true, many also argue otherwise but what makes the story unique and readable is the character. This is why the character is so important in a story. The character informs the way the story unfolds and in what order.

I have a notebook of characters and sentences I had said or heard or imagined. Little snippets of life that when infused with a character, becomes an individual ready to tell me their story. Sure, that story isn’t new but is any story new? We all fall in love, but your meeting your beloved isn’t like mine or the lady next door or the man on the bus. The story is falling in love, the uniqueness comes from the people who fell.

No characters are the same in fiction or life. We are all shaped and formed by our experiences, geography, and choices, thus no one shares a parallel life with another. While the theme of the story might be the same, the characters are not.

The characters are everything, so when I decide what I will write next, I will choose the character that needs me to speak for them. The character who has something to say and who wants something more than the others that float in my crown chakra.

And if a writer can create a personality for a chair with wings, then anything is possible.

Keep writing.


How to balance paid work and creative work


I have been working full time with three jobs for a while,  because I have one kid at school and one at University in another state, which I am paying for and we need to eat, and God knows, there ain’t enough money in publishing to make this happen.

This week I went to a discuss some work with the MOST gorgeous women, in the MOST fabulous office,  and they asked a lot about my writing and narrative skills and how they could utilise them for their successful business.  This felt weird because, in my other jobs, it’s not mentioned at all.   It was nice to talk about it but I felt embarrassed, as though I hadn’t quite been successful enough and now I’m sitting here asking for work, or is it just me who thinks this?Probably. 13 books, three publishers, two  TV shows and selling one to a large production house says otherwise, but the bank balance tells me the truth. It ain’t easy for a creative bitch in this town.

Right now I have an idea for a book that I am trying to prise out of my brain and am working on TV ideas with Eddie, my script partner. I have a course in scriptwriting to finish, and I have more freelance than I can keep up with, along with a huge and demanding consulting job. So, how to do I honour the creative work with the necessary?

Not easily, but it can be done.

  1. Turn off the television. When I wrote my two first books, I didn’t watch any television while writing them. If I wanted entertainment, then the books would provide it to me, as long as I kept writing.
  2. Decide what matters and then forget the rest or ask someone else to help. This includes deep cleaning, cooking complicated recipes, and ironing. No one is going to remember you for the excellent creaseless yokes of your shirts.
  3. Say no to things that will take you away from your creative projects unless of course you really want to go. If that’s the case then GO! It’s important to have balance, but the Year 10 Mother’s Coffee Morning? Nope.
  4. Keep a pen and notebook on you at all times. You can write or makes notes when standing in a line, or when waiting in the car, or when sitting in the doctor’s surgery. Tom Waits has been known to ring his own answering machine to record snippets of lyrics that pass by in his thoughts. The muse is everywhere if you are paying attention.
  5. Talk about your work with someone, so you remember you are a creative person. Find your creative partner who you can riff with about words, and art and music and inspiration. It’s important to fill up the well.
  6. Commit to your writing as much as you commit to your other work. It’s easy to focus on the paid work above the creative but goddammit, you aren’t being true to yourself or your talents
  7. Schedule your time. Every single hour. I use a bullet journal and get an enormous amount done during a day and use my time wisely. It also means I get a huge amount of paid work out as well as creative work.
  8. Accept that sometimes life and reality takes precedence over creativity. My sister is in hospital after major surgery, so any spare time this weekend will be spent with her and that’s okay because love wins.
  9. Embrace routines. I love routines, they make me relax into my day. Coffee, feed dogs, make bed, shower, clean up the kitchen, work, write at lunchtime, work, school pickup, work, make dinner, write. Repeat. It’s doable.
  10. Don’t take on more than you need. Don’t offer to do everything or be everything. You have to find your self-worth another way and really, it should come from your creative work!
  11. Get up earlier. Seriously. 5am wake up means two hours of writing or paid work. DO IT!

This blog post isn’t the complete answer and I know people’s lives are complicated. When I cared for my brother when he was sick. I didn’t do anything creative at all. I had nothing to be creative about and the routine kept me grounded. But you must force yourself back into finding time for your creativity. I implore you to find some time. I guarantee you can let some things go in your life. Boundaries around the creative time are necessary and might not make you popular but do you know what? Suck it up, people. You saying no doesn’t mean you don’t care for them, it just means you care about your creative work more.

I read a blog a while ago where a woman listed all the things she had done during the day and how she had no time to do anything for herself. When I read the list I wanted to punch myself in the face on behalf of her martyrdom and her excuses. Don’t make 40 cupcakes for the school fete. No one cares. Honestly! Don’t make three lasagnas for friends with health issues. Make two, one of the sickest one, and make sure the other one is for yourself. Don’t make an Angelina Ballerina costume from scratch. Buy it from the $2 shop.

Just stop making excuses and start making art.

As I say to my kids all the time. Nothing to it, but to do it!

Added bonus:

Inspo for the artist- This studio. 

Inspo for the writer – This bullet journal.