All Things Every Time He Dies

Today’s blog is very special as I am answering ALL your questions regarding my debut novel, Every Time He Dies.

Before we get into today’s questions, I’d like to remind that if you haven’t already joined my newsletter … you should seriously consider doing so.

In the led up to the official publication of Every Time He Dies, I will be running competitions, giveaway and other exciting events for all of my followers.

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Now, on to your questions.

Q&A: Every Time He Dies 

 1 / What is the novel about?

Every Time He Dies is about a woman, Daphne, who finds a watch that is the same design as her deceased boyfriend’s only it is haunted by a ghost with amnesia. While trying to uncover the ghost’s identity, she becomes involved in her estranged father’s homicide investigation.

The novel’s core themes are grief, time, memory and family.

2/ What genre is it?

Speaking generally, I would describe it as a classic mystery novel, but to be super specific, I’d say it’s a soft-boiled crime novel with paranormal elements.

3 / Who’s the target audience?

Adults 18 years and over. This book is for anyone who loves mystery, crime or supernatural stories.

4 / What’s the setting?

Every Time He Dies is predominately set in Queensland, Australia. My protagonist lives on the Sunshine Coast, but her tale spans across the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

5 / Can you tell us about the characters?

There are three central characters in this novel, but for the sake of simplicity, I will focus on Daff who is the primary protagonist.

Daff is a twenty-eight-year-old female living on the Sunshine Coast. She is scientifically minded, practical, literal, has a dry sense of humour and she loves gardening.

Daff was initially studying to become a forensic investigator, but then her life took a hard turn: her parents got a divorce, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and then her fiancé died in a tragic car accident.

What can I say, sometimes life sucks.

It was at this same time that she had a falling out with her father. Having cut all family ties, Daff lives her native Brisbane and moves to the Sunshine Coast where she becomes an apprentice embalmer at a funeral home. As the years pass, Daff buries her unhealed grief. The only thing Daff succeeded at is isolating herself.

One night, Daff is dragged along to a meditation circle by her best friend, Peta, and this, my dear friends, is where Daphne’s story truly begins.

6/ Comparison novels?

There are no comparisons. My novel is completely original and it is unlike anything else that has ever exist or will ever exist.

Okay, look. Maybe it’s not that original. 

I suppose you could say it’s similar to Lauren Beaukes’ Broken Monsters … but only because Lauren is an amazing writer and that book is awesome.

If you need a TV comparison, Every Time He Dies, is a mash-up of Sons of Anarchy, True-Detective and Bones with a dash of Ghost Whisper.

Basically, its got motorcycle gangs, moody cops, psychic badasses, a dry leading lady, and a ghost who is experiencing an identity crisis.

7 / Does it contain sex or violence?

There’s one kind-of kiss, but no sex. In terms of violence, I’d say it’s pretty low-grade. Put it this way, if you can watch Sons of Anarchy, True-Detective or Bones, you’ll be fine. However, it is a crime novel and there are two scenes where a character experiences sexual harassment, so if that is a trigger for you, consider yourself warned.

8 / When will it be published?

Tuesday, 5 November 2019.

Every Time He Dies will be available in paperback and ebook. I’m currently looking into audio too, but don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

9 / Will it be available for pre-sale?

Yes!

Every Time He Dies will be available for pre-sale in September. Be sure to join my email list and to follow me on social media for the specific dates!

10 / Where can we learn more?

I’m so glad you ask. As I mentioned at the start of this blog, everyone who joins my email newsletter will receive updates and notifications about the book before anyone else. This includes information about competitions, giveaways, and early access to novel content!

Of course, all this same information will be shared on my social media platforms, but my newsletter subscribers will receive all this information, plus free content and giveaways before anyone else.

To join my email newsletter, please fill out the signup form here.


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While you’re here, be sure to join my email newsletter and gain instant access to your FREE downloadable copy of the Writer Kickstarter Pack: How to Start a Blog and Get Published. Plus, you’ll receive my weekly newsletter straight to your inbox every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog/vlog, updates and other exclusive content that I ONLY share via email.


 

Tiny Tales: Why Small Projects Are So Important

Writing a book is BIG.

It’s a big investment of time, energy, money, and caffeine, but don’t let that put you off trying. We have a tendency to think that the bigger the book the better, but if you’re just starting out or if you’d like to engage with a creative project minus the pressure, then starting small may be the better option for you.

Instead of sitting down to write a multi-generational family saga, try writing a tiny story about a child and their toy, an unexpected encounter, an uninvited guest or a mysterious package in the mail. 

Set a tiny word count between 10-500 words. 

You can be as precious or as un-precious as you like; you can scribble something out in five minutes, or you can spend an afternoon perfecting a single paragraph stuffed with ornate description.

Then, and here’s the kicker, publish it.

Post it on one or all of your social media pages. Stick it on your blog. Submit it to a short story or flash fiction competition.

If you really can’t stomach the idea of publishing it online, then read it to your partner, your parents, or best friend. Hell, read it to your dog! 

Learn how to engage intensely with your writing and then learn how to release it. The exercise will show you a number of things:

1) Your writing didn’t change the world, but it made some people happy
2) Your writing didn’t change the world, but it made some people unhappy
3) These people were mostly unhappy because your post had a typo

3) The world didn’t stop because you published something with a typo.

It takes a long time to write a novel. It’s an exercise in discipline and delayed gratification. These are good skills for a writer to have, but sometimes you want your cookie now, not after lunch.

Instead of writing an epic fantasy consider writing a tiny book.

This tiny book could be a collection of tiny stories, or it could be one beautiful tiny story. 

Your tiny book can be 30 pages long or 120 pages long. Don’t stress over the page count, the story will tell you what it needs. 

You could write a tiny story from the perspective of your cat. You could write a tiny story about a boy wandering lots in the city, then flip it and write it from the parents’ point of view! You could write about a segment of the population relocating to mars or about a girl who travels back in time to meet David Bowie — Oh wait, I already did that. 🙂

When you’ve finished your tiny book, make a book cover or hire someone to do it for you and then publish your beautiful little book through Amazon or Ingramspark. 

If technology ain’t your jam, then print your story and leave it on your partner’s bedside table, or slip it beneath the front door of your best friend’s house, or between the covers of a book in your local library or independent bookstore … You wild writer devil you. 

Writing can be VERY SERIOUS, but it can also be a teeny bit magical. You can write a long book or a very short book, but remember that the length of a book is not reflective of its quality or the joy experienced by the author when they were creating it.

Write long books, but write tiny books too. 

I look forward to reading what you come up with. 

The One Skill That Will Actually Help You Get Stuff Done

Creatives are rarely described as Type-A. Creative people are usually described as flaky individuals that are easily distractible. They are project hoppers; they are people who like to follow “shiny-objects,” and they haven’t exactly been known for their ability to focus or follow through. Fortunately/unfortunately, focus is a skill that is in short supply these days. 

The reason for our decline in focus is pretty obvious: technology.

This lack of focus is effecting the productive output of many industries.

Take academia for example. Email, smartphones and the internet have been readily adopted by knowledge workers because they supposedly save time. Now, we can easily organise meetings and projects through the convenient format of email (a prolonged and fractured conversation); colleagues/family/friends are constantly contactable, and we have convenient access to a wealth of (free) knowledge and information.

However, scholarly output has not increased alongside the introduction of these technologies, some argue it has plateaued and others say it has declined

Distractions: Emails, smartphones and unexpected drops ins

One reason why our collective output has suffered is that it is so easy and convenient to contact one another. We all know that it is difficult to get back into a focussed state after being interrupted, but studies show that it’s equally difficult to concentration if we expect to be interrupted. 

Ever noticed how it’s so much easier to get work done when you’re the only one at home or when you go into the office on the weekend?

You may think this is binal — obviously, it’s easier to get things done when no-one else is around — but I think it’s fascinating that our productivity can drop (measurably) simply because we fear potential interruptions. 

These interruptions are not limited to a knock on the door the bing of incoming emails, text messages or notifications are just as disruptive. 

How Long Can We Focus For? 

Our society is structured around the forty-hour workweek. (Note: this is an arbitrary number that was based on machinery during the industrial age and it’s not based on research data. Humans are not machines. Go figure.) And yet, studies show that we can only focus for four or five hours a day. Max. After that, the most you can handle is low-grade task such as admin, email or any other unspecialised task. 

In fact, Sweden is moving towards a thirty-hour work week (6 hour days) after a study showed that productivity remained the same (despite the shorter workday) while workplace drama decreased. 

It typically takes 20 minutes to get into a state of deep concentration. However, the average office worker is interrupted (via email, phone, or a colleague) every 11 minutes. You do the maths. Basically, we’re all struggling to get meaningfully task done. 

The main reason why so many writers do their work early in the morning or late at night is because there’s no one around to interrupt you! 

You can push yourself to remain in a state of deep focus for longer periods of time (8-12 hours), but you must take frequent breaks. Do not work any longer than 90 minutes and make sure that when you do take a break (10-20 minutes), that you’re engaging with tasks that are unrelated to the project you are working on. Go for a walk, talk to a colleague or family member or friend (about something other than work!), read an article in the newspaper (only if it is unrelated to your project) or make a cup of tea and stare out the window.

You can open your email inbox, but only if you are very very disciplined.  

The problem with email is that you may not have enough time in your 10-20 minute break to adequately reply to a request. If you read an email and think, “I’ll reply to that later when I have more time,” and then you return to your work, one part of your mind will still be thinking about how to respond to that email while the other part is trying to focus on your project. It takes at least 20 minutes (approx.) to ‘rid’ your mind of this distraction and to get back to work. 

Simplify to Amplify 

If you want to achieve big things, then you have to say, ‘No, thank you’ to all the requests and opportunities that don’t align with your goals. 

As Marie Forleo says, “You have to simplify to amplify.”

Take a look at your workload and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which tasks do I really have to do?
  • Which of these tasks will really move the needle?
  • Is this task going to lead to my desired result?
  • Is this task actually important, or am I using it as a way to look busy?

Mmmm that last one stings a little bit, doesn’t it?

When you can pinpoint what your priority tasks are, it is way easier to let go of frivolous tasks. 

For example, writing a book or an article may be a top priority.  The thirty minutes you spend crafting social media posts and replying to comments (every day) may now seem less important in light of this goal. Building an online audience is a good idea, but what use is an audience if you don’t have any books or publications for them to read?

The ability to focus in a world filled with distractions and interruptions is a specialised skill, but it is a skill that you can develop and strengthen.

If you’d like to improve your ability to concentrate, then I recommend scheduling large blocks of time (2-4 hours) several times a week for doing just that. Treat this like you would any other appointment. Log out of your email (set an auto-responder if you have to) and put your phone on flight mode. If your fingers itch to “just check” your phone or email, strengthen your resolve to stick with the task at hand. If “looking up” a certain fact, method, procedure, recipe or dog grooming technique suddenly seems vitally important, write this thought down on a notepad with the intention of Googling said query after you’ve finished working. 

Learning to focus isn’t as easy, and few would describe this process ‘fun’, but there is little satisfaction in a workday spent replying to emails. Just remember that the next time you go to check your inbox. 

How To Your Daily Walk Part of Your Creative Practice

In previous posts, I’ve written about how walking in a relaxed state with an open mind can lead to creative insight and new ideas. In fact, many authors consider their daily walking a part of their creative practice, as they use this time to solve plot holes and other creative problems. 

The walking practice I’m going to unpack in this post is different.  

Instead of walking with the intention of observing your surroundings and allowing your mind to wander, this post is about walking with the intention of solving creative problems by concentrating on them intensely. Cal Newport refers to this practice as productive meditation.  

Productive Meditation: walking as a way to solve creative problems

I first heard of productive meditation when listening to a podcast with the aforementioned Newport — an Associate Professor at Georgetown University and author of six productivity books. The phrase productive meditation may sound like an oxymoron and hard-core meditators may find this term slightly blasphemous but don’t discredit this practice just yet. 

The intention of meditation is to become detached from your thoughts; the purpose of productive meditation is to hone your thoughts on a creative problem. In this way, both practices are requiring you to take control of your thoughts. Meditation is about focussing on a mantra or your breath where disruptive thoughts are acknowledged and released before the meditator returns their focus to the mantra or their breath. Productive meditation is about focusing on a creative problem in order to find a solution. The idea is that when your mind wanders, you notice this disruption and shift your focus back to the issue at hand. 

Productive meditation is its most effective when done while going for a long walk, 60-120 minutes. Walking activates parts of our brain that are dormant when we’re sitting. This is why we often coming up with fresh ideas, creative solutions or insights during an afternoon stroll. 

My Experience

I decided to experiment with productive meditation after listening to the interview with Cal Newport. At the time, I was dealing with a particularly sticky creative problem. As you may or may not know, I started a doctorate in creative writing earlier this year. My doctorate comprises of two components, a creative work (in my case, a novel) and an accompanying exegesis. 

My research covers multiple areas of study including, but not limited to, ecofeminism, Anthropogenic fiction, the trickster archetype and human-animal relations. 

The problem? 

I was struggling to pull these seemingly incongruous areas of study into one cohesive narrative. While the novel doesn’t have to explicitly reflect ALL my research, I was unsatisfied with the work as it currently stood.

Basically, I knew I could do better. 

So, I followed Newport’s advice. 

To be clear, productive meditation is not as easy as it sounds. You are not simply thinking while walking. No, in order to get the most out of this practice, you must push your mind to think harder and to actively look for new connections, possibilities and solutions. Little will be gained by lazily cycling through the facts you already know and repeating the familiar thoughts you’ve already had about this particular problem.  

You needn’t power walk, this process isn’t about exercise. A gentle stroll or amble is suffice – preferable in fact – because you want your attention to be focussed on the problem at hand. Your thoughts should be turned inwards, not outwards. That being said, creative idealisation is heightened again when walking outside in nature as opposed to urban settings or office stairwells … after all, you’re not going to find much inspiration in there! 

It’s also a good idea to take a notepad and pen with you to record any ideas or insights that occur during your walk. 

My first productive meditation session went for two hours and to be totally transparent, the first twenty minutes were incredibly difficult.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the thoughts that were cycling through my mind:

  • You don’t have time for this
  • You should be back at your desk reading that journal article/writing that paper/working on the next chapter/revising that other chapter/replying to that email blah blah blah
  • This is stupid
  • Screw you, Newport
  • This isn’t working
  • I can’t find a solution because there is no solution to find
  • I’ve painted myself into a corner
  • I’ve totally screwed up this research project, what the heck was I thinking?

Now, to be even more transparent … I was terrified of finding a solution. 

Let me elaborate.

The reason I was resisting this exercise is because I was afraid that I might come up with a solution that would require me to scrap the manuscript and start again.

This is an unwelcome thought for any writer. The idea that I may have to toss my 60,000 word draft in the bin was .. let’s say … disheartening. 

Despite these thoughts, I was determined to stick with the experiment, mostly because Newport’s anecdotes were so convincing. For the first 20-30 minutes, I really struggled to stretch my mind. My thoughts alternated between all the research I had gathered over the past six months and the novel’s premise; cycling and repeating the same information over and over. 

I could sense the connections that ran between these supposedly unrelated topics, but I couldn’t articulate what those threads were.

If these connections were a school of fish, then I was standing on the pier with neither a line nor bait. 

I kept walking and I kept thinking; hard. Slowly and painfully, the connections between my research and the manuscript started to become clearer. The fish swam closer to the surface of the lake. 

After an hour, something shifting. 

If there is one thing I learned from this exercise it is this: you must stick with this process until you experience that first shift. 

That first shift is the key to unlocking your thinking process. Like a domino effect or a chain-reaction, once that first new idea pops into your head, you’d be surprised how this dislodges creative blocks and new ideas start flooding trickling in. 

As I continued my walk, I pushed harder against the boundaries of my limited thinking. I actively sought out new solutions, stopping every ten minutes to write down whatever ideas came to me. This may all sound a little vague, so let me get super-specific. 

During this stage, my thought process looked a little like this:

  • How can the research be turned into the premise for a novel?
  • How else might the research be reflected in a novel?
    (Hint: this is one of the best ways to come up with better ideas. Don’t ever accept the first answer/solution your mind comes up with. Ask what other possibilities many exist. Dig a little deeper and try to come up with at least five responses to every question or problem). 
  • What do I really want the novel to be about? 
  • How big of a scale do I want this novel to be? 
  • How do I want people to feel when they read this novel?
  • Do I want the voice/style/tone to be warm/literary/moody/eerie?

These were the general question that eventually leads to the first BIG realisation. After that, I was able to drill down on the structure of the manuscript. Another 90 minutes of walking passed. I continued to write down ideas and to ask myself further questions. Eventually, I had clarified my ideas enough to sit down at a picnic table and to write a fresh outline. 

To be clear, this was a broad outline that filled two A4 pages. (I tried to follow Steven Pressfield’s method of a single page outline, but failed!)

The Take-Away?

Productive meditation is a very effective tool that can add great value to your creative practice. My project benefited so much from this process that I’ve decided to do one session every week. 

To date, I have only used these sessions as a way to develop my creative work, but I have no doubt that they would be equally beneficial for academic work such as outlining research papers or thesis chapters. 

If you choose to experiment with this method, then I urge you to fully commit to the process. Push yourself to break out of your cycling thinking, challenge yourself to find new solutions and stick with the walk for the allotted time period (60-120 minutes). 

If you do decide to give this method a whirl, please reply in the comments or send me an email. I’d love to hear about how this method works for other creatives.


 

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How to Include More Diversity in Your Fiction

The publishing industry is constantly improving in response to reader’s feedback and the natural progression of society and culture in general. For this reason, it is essential that writers challenge themselves to include more diversity in their fiction.

Think about it.

Every day we interact with people whose backgrounds, lifestyles and beliefs differ from our own. People with different ethnicities, sexual orientation, life experiences, physical and mental abilities, classes, education levels … you get the idea. People are different. However, this reality is not always been depicted in fiction or entertainment in general (tv shows, films and music).

When we start talking about the importance of diversity or representation in literature, the conversation quickly turns into a heated debate about appropriation: Who has the right to tell this person’s story?

Ann Patchett firmly believes that she can write about who and whatever she wants, but readers also have the right to tear her to shreds if she does a bad job. Other writers feel a little bit queasier at the prospect of including characters whose backgrounds differ too much from their own.

The way I see it, writers have three options:

  1. Don’t include a diverse cast
  2. Include a diverse cast, do a lot of research, and do it well (and deal with whatever fall out happens as a result)
  3. Include a diverse cast, but don’t make the story about diversity

# 1 / Don’t include a diverse cast

Does this option really need to be unpacked? I think the title speaks for itself. You are certainly welcome to continue the outdated legacy of writing novels about straight, white, western people.

# 2 / Include a diverse cast, do a lot of research, and do it well

 If you agree with Ann Patchett, then this may be the best option for you. If you are a white, straight female living in Hobart, Tasmania, no one is going to arrest you for writing lesbian erotica about two Nigerian refugees. Even if you do a good job, the reality is that some people will be VERY upset with you. If you have thick skin and a rock-solid justification for why you want to write this story, then go ahead.

People may not be happy with you, but if there is a story in your heart that is begging to be written, then you have to write it.

However, if you are writing about people whose background differ from your own, please do your research and do a lot of it. Read memoirs, interviews, blogs. Conduct your own interviews with actual people whose lives and experiences mirror those of your characters. And when the manuscript is done, hire sensitivity reader/s. Sensitivity readers are people who review your book and who assess the work for issues regarding representation, cultural accuracy, biases or insensitive language/depictions.

You can write about people from different background, but do it well and know why you want/need to write this novel.

#3 / Include a diverse cast but don’t make the story about diversity

If the above tactic is for brave writers, then this tactic is for ethical writers who are also cautious people pleasers. It is a lot easier—though that’s not to say easy—to include a diverse set of characters when the novel isn’t about their diversity. For example, some may argue that it is inappropriate for a white, straight female to write a coming-out story about an African teenage boy, but it is appropriate for that same writer to publish a novel about a female heroine whose best friend happens to be queer. See the difference?

You will still need to do a lot of research, but the pressure around articulating the internal experience/perspective of this character is eliminated because the story isn’t about sexual orientation, it’s about something else.    

This option has been used to great effect in contemporary YA dystopian novel and children’s book (though of course it also appears in adult fiction). The need to include more diversity within these two categories become very apparent in 2011 when YA authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo realised (during an online conversation) that their (respective) fiction become popular due to the setting: a fantastical version of Asian. This conversation quickly sparked the twitter movement #WeNeedDiverseInBooks and #DiversityinYa.

Adult writers feel that it is especially important to include more diversity in YA and children’s literature so that children and teenagers can see themselves in the fiction they are reading.

As author Walter Dean Meyers, said “[As] a black teenager in a white-dominated world, I saw that these characters, these lives, were not mine. What I wanted, needed really, was to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.”

Regardless of which option you chose – okay, hopefully, you are choosing option two or three – the literary landscape is changing alongside our broader social and cultural awareness of those who have been marginalised. Progress is a natural part of human nature. We need to grow, develop and do better. Including a diverse cast won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it is a step in the right direction. And I encourage you to take it.


 

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How Do You Know When A Project Is Finished?

One could argue that creative projects are never really done. Like any skill, our creative processes and practices improve over time. You are a better writer today than you were yesterday, and you’re definitely a better writer now than you were three years ago. Because our skills are constantly improving, it can be difficult to recognise when a creative project is finished.

You may finish revising chapter twenty-six and decided on a whim to look back at chapter three. Then your heart sinks. The chapter is crap. Well, maybe not crap, but you know that you can do better. You know that you can lift chapter three to the level of chapter twenty-six. One of the trickiest things about writing a novel is learning how to maintain a consistent voice across three-hundred-plus pages while your technical abilities as a writer constantly improve.

The desire to constantly tweak, lift and better your work never goes away.

If you love words, if you believe in the power of storytelling, and if you respect the craft of writing, then chances are you will have very high expectations when drafting your own novel.

Dani Shapiro once said that it would be an insightful experiment to have an author re-write the same book every ten years because it wouldn’t be the same book. An additional decade of life experience and craft development would ultimately result in a book that may have a similar premise to the earlier edition, but the quality and content of the updated copy would be entirely different.

So, how do you know when a novel or project is finished? Below are a few signposts that may indicate when a creative work has resolved itself.

You’re Kind of Over It

Resentment and boredom are good indicators that the cake is baked. If your eyes glaze over while revising chapter three—again—or if you feel irritated, frustrated or angry every time you sit down for another writing session … perhaps it’s time to hit the pause button and do some evaluating.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I having a bad week or am I truly done with this project?
  • What would it feel like to ‘hit publish’?
    (This could mean publishing a blog, sending a manuscript to an agent or publishing house or submitting a pitch or article to a magazine)
  • Am I done or am I quitting?
    (Remember: quitting feels great in the short terms, but lousy in the long term)
  • Can someone (other than Mum) read my work and provide some feedback?
  • Have I given this project all that I have?
  • Am I still in love with this project?
  • Does working on this project make me feel excited or drained?
  • If I were still working on this project in a month’s time, would I be okay with that?

The answer to these questions may help you decide whether this project requires more time or if it’s actually “complete.”

Pushing vs Perfectionism

Pushing yourself and perfectionism are similar, yet there is a subtle difference.

When we challenge ourselves, we are extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone. We are awake and alert. We feel focussed and excited. The obstacle course we find ourselves on may be tough, but we know that we are capable of finishing it. Even if we’ve never done anything like this before, we know that it’s possible to leap over hurdles, weave between obstructions and cross the finish line!

Here’s the difference: pushing has an endpoint; perfectionism doesn’t.

An obstacle course of this vain doesn’t have a finish line. Instead, the course is a loop that you climb, jump and run through, over and over again until your feet give out and you vomit from dizziness.

Are you challenging yourself to make your novel (or any work of art) the best that it can be or are you reaching for an ideal? Because, dear friend, there is no there, there.

There is no such thing as a perfect novel.

Don’t believe me, let’s consult some experts.

“Near enough is good enough.” Elizabeth Gilbert.

“The novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.” Randall Jarrell.

Deviation from Original Concept

Another indicated that it may be time to wrap things up is if the project is starting to deviate from the original concept. If you continue to work on, develop and revise your novel for too long, there is a very good chance that it will move away from your initial intentions. It’s good to push yourself and to allow projects to develop and change over time, but you also need to recognise when your constant need to tinker with the work has morphed into unproductive meddling.

There is a difference between tweaking a story in order to strengthen/improve it and changing a story so much that it is unrecognisable. Embedding new ideas, cutting out and adding characters, deleting scenes and writing new ones are part of the creative process but are you doing these things in order to excavate the story buried deep inside your soul, or are you simply fucking around?

Do not ignore the voice of your subconscious in favour of what you think the story should be about.

Finish the story you set out to write and reserve any sparkly new ideas for future projects.

Books are never really done. A writer could spend their entire life trying to making a manuscript match the ideal version they envisage in their mind. At the end of the day, you have two options. You can spend years/decades/a lifetime tweaking and ‘perfecting’ a single manuscript or you can do the work, make it presentable, hit publish and move on to the next project.

The choice is yours, so choose wisely.


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Interview with YA author Stacy Nottle

Like many authors, Stacy Nottle’s has a rich and varied work history having worked as a shearer’s cook, a waitress, a scientific research assistant, a high school science teacher; and as a careers counsellor in an all boys’ boarding school.

Stacy’s career has evolved over time, yet her love of stories—other people’s and those she makes up for herself—has remained a personal passion.

Growing up on a sheep station at the far reaches of Australia, Stacy spent her early years adrift inside her make-believe world of mystery and imagination.

At age six, she went away to boarding school ‘in town’, and later ‘in the city’, where she discovered another world. She studied science at university and has worked as a shearers’ cook, waitress, scientific research assistant, high school science teacher; and careers counsellor in an all boys’ boarding school.

She has a liking for adventure and her body bears the scars of a big life well-lived.

Stacy is an active member in the Queensland writing community attending workshops, writers’ groups and festivals which have connected her with mentors and allies that have helped her along the way.

Stacy’s debut novel, After the Flood, will be released on June 30 by Black Phoenix Publishing Collective. After the Flood is a meditation on loyalty, human relationship and the lengths we would go to for those we love. Combining Stacy’s love of the bush and her personal interest in human dynamics and storytelling, After the Flood, is a gripping portrayal of how we cope in the face of trauma.

To celebrate the release of After the Flood, I decided to interview Stacy about the release of her debut novel and the writing life. Enjoy.


 

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 3.51.18 pmWhile you’re here, be sure to join my email newsletter and gain instant access to your FREE downloadable copy of the Writer Kickstarter Pack: How to Start a Blog and Get Published. Plus, you’ll receive my weekly newsletter straight to your inbox every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog/vlog, updates and other exclusive content that I ONLY share via email.


 

Q1 / Can you share with us the story behind the story? What was the initial inspiration for writing After the Flood? 

Many years ago, I participated in a Season’s Grief Program for Young People where I was deeply moved and fascinated to hear the stories the young people told of their loss and grief and how they dealt with it. More than a decade later, at a boarding school where I was then teaching, I found my attention constantly being drawn to this one, sandy-haired young boy of about twelve. He was from outback QLD and seemed in many ways to be a regular kid who was busy with the task of making new friends and settling into boarding school…but something about him was different. Then I found out that he had lost his sister to leukaemia and I realised that what I was observing was grief. The kind of grief that leaves a hole in your life that is too big to ever fill. I began to think about the boy’s grief, and then about his family who must have also been devastated by their loss. Farmer’s have enough challenges without having to deal with something as unspeakable as the loss of a child, I thought. It made me very, very sad. So I wrote about it. I created a little boy called Jamie McKenzie and tried to articulate how this brave, stoic little fellow coped when all around, his life was crumbling. It was only meant to be a short story, but then I met Wilhelmina Johnson, an eighteen-year-old girl from Sydney whose life had also been marred by loss. Then I brought Jamie and Wilhelmina together to see what would happen.

Q2 / How has the work changed from your initial idea to now, the finished publication? 

It evolved slowly from that first impression of a young boy’s grief. The idea of a dual timeline (when Jamie was a boy and when Jamie is a man) came to me quite early. I remember talking to a counsellor once who told me that a child who suffers loss and trauma can take more than twenty years to recover and I wanted to see how Jamie was doing as an adult. So I created Jamie’s daughter, Cass, a young girl with a striking resemblance to his long-dead sister and thought – that’s interesting! Characters came and went, but those that matter are still there in the story, pulling their weight.

Q3 / Can you tell us a little about your writing routine? 

When I first wrote about Jamie McKenzie, I was working full-time and was busy most weekends with sport, and I was desperate for my own quiet little space in which to write. So I set up a tiny desk in a tiny junk room in a corner of my drafty old house. But the floor was crooked and my office chair kept rolling away from the desk, and I had to hold my body in this rigid, lop-sided pose if I wanted to remain seated at the desk. Such constant contortion gave me a sore back. Also, it was cold in that little junk room. So I got a giant-sized desk and placed it in the corner of the lounge room, then found myself constantly grumpy when my husband, Richard, wanted to watch Landline or have a chat. Then I got cancer and took a year off work. During this time, I was too ill to write and my creativity seemed to have gone on holiday; but I did reread Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’ and began writing morning pages. Now I work three days a week and write in the lounge room on my days off and on weekends when the sun is shining and Richard is outside doing ‘what Richard does’ in the garden. I don’t write at night because then my brain won’t want to go to sleep and I like to get up early to walk my dogs. I love to pants. It is so much fun letting my characters do whatever they like. But I’ve discovered that if I don’t plot, I end up writing millions of words that will never see the light of day.

Q4 / What tools, books, workshops or resources did you find most supportive during the writing of After the Flood? 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron got me back to writing. Cancer helped me rearrange my priorities.

At the urging of a friend, I took a weekend workshop on self-publishing with Dallas Baker. Dallas told me about using Beta Readers (shock! horror! let someone read my scribbling?), gave me some very excellent advice and got me on the path to publishing. I sent After the Flood to seven beta readers including a few people who had some expertise in issues raised in the story such as a police officer. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but also really useful. Jessica Stewart did a structural edit and it was fabulous to have her brilliant advice and also her warm enthusiasm for Jamie McKenzie and Wilhelmina Johnson. The list of people who have helped is a long one.

Q5 / What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were first drafting your novel? 

While pantsing is fun, I really do need a plot.

Q6 / What are you most excited about right now? 

That’s an easy one! I’m sitting at Brisbane International about to board a flight to the states to visit my daughter. I’m also very excited about the release of After the Flood. And I’m looking forward to getting back to the writing process and doing another story. I have two I’m working on. One is speculative fiction, set in a futuristic Brisbane, with a working title of Salience. The other is a memoir with the working title Breastless…or maybe Giantess with Angel Wings.


 

After the Flood FRONT FINAL
What would you do to save someone you loved? When the storm breaks and the creek at Moonbroch Station floods, more than one life is in danger.

After the Flood explores loyalty and the tensions and complexities of abiding relationships. A gripping portrayal of how we cope with trauma, After the Flood is as uplifting as it is thought-provoking.

‘Friends forever?’ she said. He cleared his own scratchy throat and nodded. ‘Yes.’  Then he reached down and gently tangled his little finger with hers. ‘Pinkie promise,’ he said.

 

Available from:

Amazon