2009 has been an amazing year for me with the release of my debut YA novel, Letters to Leonardo.

Not just a time to celebrate (and I’ve done plenty of that), I call it my ‘year of learning’. Sure I learnt plenty when I did my Diploma in Professional Writing & Editing. In fact, Letters to Leonardo might not have made it to publication if it hadn’t been for the helping hand and fabulous support of some fantastic writing teachers along the way.

But what I discovered in 2009 is that being accepted for publication is just the beginning of a whole new learning curve. Working with an editor made me feel like I was starting all over again – so much to learn, so much to enjoy.  So far to go:-)

I learnt all about developing character, action and reaction, tension, emotion – all the things that are part of practical learning – not things you can get from a classroom, or a book on writing, or an internet tip.  They are the things you discover from delving into your own creative resources – from crafting your own work.

They were all good things to learn – all steps towards making me a better writer. But probably my most important lesson for this year – the one that sticks in my mind is that you have to learn to be able to let go of some of the good bits.

You may have written something poetic, technically beautiful, impossibly moving – in fact, it could very well be your best piece of writing yet. But if it doesn’t fit with everything else you have created in your story, it has to go.

If you’re ruthless and honest with yourself, it’s easy to recognise and edit out the clunky bits; to rid your work of ‘was’, ‘started’ and ‘ing’ constructions.

But it’s a lot harder to get rid of those beautiful bits – those words that float off the page – the metaphor that evokes palpable emotion in you.

This year, I discovered you have to learn to recognise that not all the beautiful bits of writing belong.

This is how you tell if your masterpiece really deserves a place in your story. Ask yourself:

  1. Is it relevant to the plot?
  2. Does it move the story forward?
  3. Is it consistent with the character it relates to?
  4. Have you overused the language eg too many metaphors or similes?
  5. Does it enhance your writing?
  6. Does it convey clear meaning?
  7. Will your reader be as moved by it as you are?

If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to all these questions then I’m sorry to say that it probably hasn’t earned its place in your masterpiece.

I hope you have found this and my other blog posts useful. Please feel free to suggest any topics you’d like me to discuss in the future.

Thank you for sharing my writing journey this year. I hope it may have inspired or helped you in some small  way along the road to your own writing successes.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas, and a safe and happy 2010 filled with many writerly things to celebrate.

Happy writing.




  1. This is a very thought-provoking post, Dee. I like your questions, and have added them to the many sticky notes around my screen.

    It seems to me it gets back to that old favourite – balance. As we creep along the high-wire above all those writerly pitfalls, we must constantly check feet, wire, air currents, pole, spine, everything, all the time. No wonder you don’t meet many relaxed writers!

  2. Great tip! I totally agree.

    I am dubiously blessed with a bad memory, so when I go back to a manuscript after several months I’m pleasantly surprised by the good bits, and hopefully more objective about the bad bits. I can sit there and say, “Did I write that? I don’t quite remember writing it,” and so it doesn’t have the same tug on the heart strings.

    My problem is when my awesome support group become a little too awesome and start protesting my need take out their favourite bits. They gang up and sign petitions in my manuscript margins. There is such a thing as too much love… Sigh.

  3. You’re absolutely right, Book Chook – writing is definitely a balancing act all the way along the line – balancing characters with each other, words with word counts, themes with readership and writing with all the other things going on in our lives (just to name a few).

    And one of the hardest things about being a writer is that you have to be sooo honest with yourself – and balance the need to make you as a writer feel good with the needs of your reader to feel good – and you HAVE to be able to let those good bits go if they don’t fit. Mind you, I always file mine away in a safe place – unfortunately, I can’t quite remember where that is right now:-)

    Merry Christmas and thanks for supporting me, my writing and my blog this year. Feel free to suggest any topics you would like me to delve into in 2010.


  4. Support groups are definitely essential for any writer, Jessica – but sometimes we writers can be a little TOO honest lol.

    All the best to you and your support group with all your writerly ventures in 2010. And wishing you all a safe and merry Christmas


  5. Thanks for your encouragement, Dee. I’m going to be working with an editor next year to get my children’s novel, Dog Gone ready for publishing. It’s a bit of a scary prospect!

  6. Sounds like you’re taking a step in the right direction, Carole. Working with an editor is a great experience. I’ve only ever come across kind editors and I’m sure yours will be too. Have a great Christmas and hope that 2010 brings many writerly successes.


  7. What a good idea Sheryl – and at least that way, they wouldn’t be lost:-)

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and even more writerly successes in 2010. Looking forward to catching up with you in Brisbane in March.


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