I don’t have much to report on the writing front this week, because I haven’t been doing a whole lot of writing in terms of word counts. But I have been creating.

I was deeply immersed in my YA WIP when my goat Molly bleated to me from outside my study window. She said it was time I put some effort into that  story about her. And of course, being an intelligent and perceptive goat, she was right.

Her story, Molly Loves to Help, has been brewing in my head for quite some time…and suddenly I knew just where to take it.

So that’s what I’ve been doing – writing a picture book about Molly and doing a few sketches to go with it. It might never get published, but I’m having a lot of fun working on it. It’s wonderful to be creating a book that’s not about an imaginary world and pretend characters, but about someone I love.

So I guess my tip for this week is not an original one – create what’s in your heart – and don’t worry if it sidetracks you temporarily from a project…you must follow the creative muse. The original project will still be there when you ‘get back’.

Next Tuesday, we have a special guest coming to talk about writing memoirs. And of course Friday Feedback will be here again this Friday.

In the meantime,

Happy writing and creating:)



I decided that one of my major goals for this year was to try and learn more about writing – to hone my skills.

Sure, that means practising my writing, but it also involves thinking about the way I write.

After last week’s Friday Feedback on this blog, I was reminded by writer Dimity Powell about the importance of thinking for a writer.

At least 50% of my writing time is not about putting words on a computer or paper, it’s about thinking – thinking about the way I’m writing – thinking about my story.

This involves thinking about all sorts of things like

  • taking the time to get to know my characters
  • working out how to get my characters from one place to another
  • increasing the tension by working out story clues for the reader that my character won’t know about
  • thinking about the shape and pacing of my story and whether I’ve allowed enough beats
  • how to immerse my reader in the setting
  • any logic problems with the plot
  • what’s going to happen next and how is will my main character react
  • what kind of ending am I working towards
  • how is my character thinking and feeling in the scene I am writing
  • what are my character’s motivations in the scene I am writing
  • what is the purpose of the scene I’m writing in the whole scheme of things

And that’s just the thinking time. I also spend hours researching and reading, looking at how other writers write and reading their blogs, and learning new things.

So I guess what I’m saying is don’t berate yourself about lack of words on paper. It’s not a measure of how hard you have worked. Sure it’s something tangible, but if you have spent all day researching and thinking, that’s still working on your story – it’s still an important part of the writing process.

As long as you have allowed yourself to spend time with your characters and their story in your mind, you have still been creating, you have still been working towards that elusive goal; finishing your story.

And to me, thinking time is well worth the effort and can avoid a lot of rewriting in the long run.

I’d love to hear how much time you spend thinking about what you’re writing and whether you have any ways like yoga or listening to music to get your creative juices flowing. Feel free to leave your comments at the end of this post.

Happy writing:)


P.S. Don’t forget to check out Friday Feedback where writers can 150 words critiqued.


I’m on holidays with my wonderful family this week so there won’t be a Tuesday Writing Tip, but I thought I’d share with you how they inspire me.

My husband of twenty-five years has always thought of me as a writer (long before I felt confident enough to admit it to myself.) There’s nothing more inspiring than having someone believe in you even more than you do. He has taught me that if you want to be a writer, you have to think of yourself as one.

My youngest son has been creating characters and songs since he was about seven, and at twelve has written a novel which he is on his third draft of editing and revising. It’s not just the fact that he writes with amazing clarity and his writing is hilarious – it’s the fact that he keeps going – writing and revising – adding new characters and scenes – each time making his writing better – writing because he wants to without any expectation of publication. He is a bottomless pit of unique ideas and surprising insights.

My eldest son is mad about sport. His passion and focus for what he loves are a constant inspiration. Less than two months ago he took up fencing and recently competed in his first tournament. He’s not just quick, he’s a thinker – he observes and considers his next move carefully. He made it through 5 x 3 minute bouts and into the next round, and the round after that. It didn’t matter to him or us that he didn’t make the finals.  He’d had a fabulous time, doing what he loved doing. He’s never afraid to try new things and face each new challenges head on with courage and commitment.

I’d love to hear about the people who inspire you. Feel free to leave your stories and experiences in the comments section of this post and I’ll look forward to reading and responding to them when I get back from holidays.

Happy writing:)



You’re probably wondering why I’ve included a picture of  giant apple in this blog post. It’s all about being  different – finding the characteristics in your writing that are uniquely ‘you’.

The giant apple was feral, it grew on a self-sown tree in the neighbour’s paddock and the truth is, I was amazed at how this apple had flourished without water, without fertilisers…and without chemical sprays.

It seemed like the perfect metaphor for writing – I mean let’s face it, how often are we told by publishing professionals that they are looking for a unique idea, a unique voice.

Okay, so this apple is big, and that might not be your thing – but what is? Think about what it is about your writing that will make a reader recognise it as your work.

Some things to consider that help your writing stand out as being new, fresh, individual:

  • Your author voice
  • Your character’s voice
  • The Point of View you choose to write in
  • Format – doesn’t have to be straight narrative
  • The world you build for your story
  • Themes
  • The way you tell your story – let your personality shine through
  • Language you choose – don’t be afraid to experiment with how you use words

This apple also made me think about free writing – about letting yourself go. This apple just grew. Nobody told it how big it should be before it stopped grow, it just did its own thing.

To me there’s a message in that for us. Put submission guidelines, latest trends etc out of your head and do your own thing. Write the story you have to write – the one that means something to you.

I started writing Letters to Leonardo more than ten years before it was published. One of the reasons it took so long was that as a a very inexperienced writer, I allowed a mentor to talk me out of my story. She said that teens would not know who Leonardo da Vinci, that art was “old hat” in children’s books and that I should not write in first person.

Under her guidance, I ended up with a competent story called Space that lacked spark. It wasn’t until I broke free and went back to my original story (told in first person, with art themes and Leonardo Da Vinci) that it was published.

Don’t impose rules on your story before you’ve even started it. Allow the ideas to bloom naturally – to take you in unexpected directions.

Allow your natural writer’s voice to flourish. Surprise yourself as a writer, and chances are, you’ll surprise your reader.

I’d love to hear your stories about how following your instincts and reflecting your unique self in your writing led to publication.

Feel free to share in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)



Our creek is flooding for the first time in ten years so it seemed kind of serendipitous to talk about what to do when your head is awash with ideas and you don’t know what to do with them all or which one to start working on.

I’ve been having that problem lately. It could be because my mind is in overdrive with so many things happening in the lead up to Christmas. When I’m really busy it always seems to generate far more ideas than I can cope with at any one time.

And I don’t know about you but I get horribly confused when I try to compartmentalise everything in my head. I find the only thing that brings me peace is to write it all down – get those ideas out of my head and onto paper (or computer screen) and work out what to do first.

For example, here’s what is floating around in my head at the moment:

  1. 8 book submission to educational publisher for series for the new National Curriculum;
  2. Rework two YA novels;
  3. Work on next draft of the MG novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010;
  4. Work on possible e-book on writing tips;
  5. Work on a series I pitched to a publisher at a conference;
  6. Work on the next draft of the novel I wrote for my May Gibbs fellowship in March;
  7. Submit a couple of articles to magazines.

And that’s just on the writing front. When I look at this list I realise there’s actually probably about five year’s work there and here I was thinking I could get it done in the next twelve months.

See that’s one of the great things about being a writer – yes, it can take a while to get your work accepted but until you do, you don’t actually have any deadline so you can spend as long as you want perfecting your work.

When I look at this list I realise that the key to avoiding total meltdown is to prioritise. This is the order that works for me.

1.  The first thing to work on is ANY project that has the REALISTIC possibility of bringing me income some time in the near future.

2.  My second priority is any rewrites that a publisher might have requested before they decide whether they are going to publish my work.

3.  My third priority is anything I have pitched to a publisher where they might have requested more.

4.  My next favourite thing – probably relates to my headspace and the main character I feel closest to at the moment.

So I guess what I’m saying here is set yourself short and long term goals – but make them realistic. Allow yourself enough time on one project to get it right before you move on to the next. Unless you have a specific publishing deadline, you don’t have to be in a hurry.

It’s great to get all of your ideas out of your head and into a journal or whatever format works for you. Then you can concentrate on each task, one at a time.

Once you have worked out the order of things, it’s a lot easier to switch off from other ideas and just focus on what you are doing in the here and now – what your priority is at the moment.

Every writer will have a different sense of which tasks are the most important – which ones to tackle first.

I believe that if you just take it one rung on the ladder at a time, you will reach the top and fulfill your goals in the end.

Good luck and happy writing!


P.S. I’d really love to hear about your strategies for when the creative juices overflow and you have more ideas than you can handle. Just leave your comments here:)

What Will I Write About? – Tuesday Writing Tip

Today’s post is for young writers who follow my blog but the principles apply to anyone who wants to create inspiring and unique stories.

Ever find yourself staring at a blank screen or piece of paper and wondering where to start? I do and I’m an author.

Here are where some of my best story ideas come from:

  • Things that have really happened to me or to people I know;
  • Memories of people, events or places;
  • People I see on trains and buses;
  • Conversations I overhear;
  • Newspaper articles;
  • Other books;
  • A picture in a magazine;
  • A place I have been to;
  • A smell, sound or feeling;
  • A problem or dilemma being faced by someone I know;
  • Playing with two words that don’t quite go together eg Flower attack;
  • Using the last line of a story I have written as the first line in a new piece of writing;
  • Thinking of a secret that someone might want to keep and what would happen if it was discovered
  • Imagining getting a letter or email from someone I have never met

If I’m still stuck, I think of a character/name and match them with an action to try and get me started.

For example:

  • Ashley fell
  • Ashley twisted
  • Ashley tumbled…
  • Ashley rocketed…
  • Ashley flew…
  • Ashley flopped…
  • Ashley leapt…
  • Ashley shook…
  • Ashley dropped…
  • Ashley shivered…
  • Ashley trembled…
  • Ashley bobbed…
  • Ashley soared…
  • Ashley is…

Then I ask myself why this action happened to Ashley, where this action happened, when and how?


Every story needs a catalyst – an action that starts the story on its course. At the start of your story, something will happen that changes things for the main character.

Every story needs a problem for your character. There is something they want and someone or something is stopping them from getting it. That’s what your story is about.

As a writer, you need to decide how your main character is going to solve their problem – and that’s where you will finish your story.


After I’ve finished writing my story, I edit it to make sure it is the best it can be. I ask myself these questions:

  • Have I hooked the reader in from the start?
  • Does the beginning of my story give the reader some idea of what it’s about?
  • Does my story say what I wanted it to?
  • Will the meaning be clear to others?
  • Is there enough happening in my story to keep the reader interested?
  • Will readers like my main character and care what happens to them?
  • Are my characters believable?
  • Have I used similes and metaphors and interesting language?
  • Have I used the strongest, most effective words possible?
  • Is my ending strong enough to satisfy the reader?
  • Have I checked to make sure that all my spelling and grammar is correct?

Give your creativity free reign and see how a small idea can become a really big story.

If you have any other tips about where story ideas can come from, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)



Illustrated by Peter Sheehan

Poet, Stephen Whiteside is back DeeScribewriting today to talk about how meditation influences his work.

So how does meditation help my writing? Firstly, it is almost impossible to suffer from writerʼs block once you start to meditate regularly. The ideas just flow.

The writing that I do while meditating has a slightly different quality to my other writing. It tends to be less inhibited and less linear; it is richer, and less predictable. Ideas take off in all sorts of unexpected directions. If I write a poem while not meditating, I am much more likely to be able to dictate the direction it takes. If I write while meditating, on the other hand, ʻthe gloves are offʼ, so to speak. Anything can happen!

Strictly speaking, of course, I donʼt write while I am meditating. The simple act of picking up the pen breaks the spell. However, words come into my mind while I am meditating, and these often take the form of rhymes.

I generally find this easier to do while lying in bed – usually last thing at night, but sometimes also first thing in the morning. So I will write a few verses in my head while meditating. Then I will become fearful of forgetting them, so I will get up to write them down. Not wanting to disturb my wife by returning to bed, I will try to continue to write the poem sitting at the lounge room table in my pyjamas – but alas, the well is dry! So I go back to bed, start meditating again, and the next few verses magically appear. (Is this cheating?) I might go through this process several times before the poem is completed, much to my wifeʼs chagrin!

Some might argue that, again, strictly speaking, I am not meditating while I write like this. After all, shouldnʼt the mind be empty during meditation? Iʼm not sure how best to answer this. Certainly, my mind is almost never empty during meditation. Perhaps it should be, but it isnʼt. Perhaps I am not meditating as well as the Buddhist masters, but it still feels very different to me from my normal waking state, and I find it extremely beneficial.

I am so glad I was conned into attending that ʻStress Managementʼ course all those years ago. It has changed my life, really. I probably should also state at this point that my experiences with meditation may not be typical. I can only talk of what has happened to me. I think I am a fairly anxious person at the best of times, so my ʻbox of painʼ may be much larger than yours! Then again, it could also be smaller – or just different in some way that I donʼt understand, and probably never will.

Illustrated by Craig Phillips. Published in “Blast Off” magazine, August 2007 (Volume 92, Number 7), by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training.

I would urge anybody to learn to meditate, but I would also encourage formal lessons. Like learning a language or a musical instrument, itʼs much harder to do it by yourself with an instruction manual and, as I say, the early days of meditation can be quite frightening and confronting. Stick with it, though, and Iʼm confident that you will find, like I did, that it changes your life. It will even help your writing!

© Stephen Whiteside 21.06.10

Thanks for sharing this with us Stephen. I’m off to meditate.

Happy meditating and writing:-)


Next week on Tuesday Writing Tips I’m going to be talking about wrestling with format.

Tuesday Writing Tip – Meditations on Writer’s Block – Part 1

Today we welcome poet Stephen Whiteside to Tuesday Writing Tips. In this two part series, Stephens going to talk about meditation and writing.

I was tricked, really. Conned. Good thing, though.

I write poetry, rhyming poetry, principally for children. I actually write it for myself, but it turns out that children enjoy it more than adults. I am also a doctor.

In 1994 I signed up for course in ʻStress Managementʼ. It was sponsored by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and offered plenty of points towards the mandatory professional development programme. I was in a stressful job at the time, most of my patients were also pretty stressed, and I needed the points.

Only when it was too late did I realise what I had got myself in for – a course on meditation! I have never been a great fan of all this ʻtouchy-feelyʼ New Age stuff, and if I had known in advance that this is what the course was, there is no way I would ever have signed up. (Clever marketing!)

As I say, though, it was too late to pull out. Besides, the physical environment where the course was being held was comfortable, the presenter calm and reassuring, and my fellow students all quite genial. So I committed myself to the course…and Iʼm oh, so glad I did! Not only has it been good for my life in general, itʼs been great for my writing.

I donʼt know a lot about the various types of meditation, but this was quite simple. We were given three exercises, which we slowly worked our way through over the weeks. The first was to simply let our attention rest on a body part, starting with our feet, then progressing up our bodies to our legs, abdomen, arms, shoulders, neck and head.

The second was to concentrate on our breathing – the movement of air past mouth and nose, the action of our chest and our diaphragm. The final exercise was one of listening, to both the nearest and the furthest sounds. It sounds very simple, of course – almost trite. In fact, I was to find it very confronting.We were advised to meditate for five minutes a day. Looking back now, that seems a laughably short period of time. Back then, though, it was my personal Everest. For quite a while, three minutes was the best I could do. After that, it got too scary. I started to panic, and had to stop.

Certainly, if I had been left to my own devices, that would have been the end of it. It wasnʼt that simple, though. I was committed to the course, wanted the ʻcontinuing educationʼ points, and had to face the presenter and my colleagues.

I donʼt recall exactly when the breakthrough came, but it did come. Suddenly I was going five minutes, and then a lot more.

To the dismay (I think!) of my class-mates, I was reporting meditation sessions lasting up to two hours at a time! A woman asked me rather hostilely how my wife felt about that. I replied that she didnʼt know. I was waking at five, and meditating for two hours while lying in bed.

Of course, this was not strictly in accordance with the guidelines. We were advised not to meditate while lying down, and not to do it first thing in the morning or last thing at night. So I was breaking a couple of rules. It didnʼt seem to really matter, though. I tried meditating sitting up in the middle of the day, and that worked fine, too, but time was short then. Meditating in bed also worked well. The only thing that could go wrong was that I might fall asleep, and that was not a bad thing, either.

Illustration by Kerry Millard. Published in “Touchdown” magazine, October 2004 (Volume 89, Number 9), by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training.

So what were the benefits of meditation? Why did I find it so attractive? Why was I devoting so many hours to it? There is no easy way to put this into words, and I was as surprised by the benefits as anybody could be, really. It felt like I was ʻwashingʼ my brain. In much the same way that my hands feel better after being washed, so did my mind. It was cleansing. It felt like a grease and oil change, as though the component parts of my brain were now cleaner, and running more smoothly. There were no moments of epiphany, just a general feeling of well-being, as though I was thinking much more sharply – and cleanly.

Why, then, did I initially find it so frightening? Itʼs now over sixteen years since I commenced to meditate, and Iʼve scarcely missed a day in all that time, so Iʼve had plenty of time to ponder this question. Hereʼs a model Iʼve come up with that seems to best explain the process.

During the course of the day, as I see it, the conscious mind takes all the ʻnegativeʼ (perhaps ʻpainfulʼ is a better word) emotions that it cannot handle, and secures them tightly in a box that it cannot access. They are thus safely locked away! During the course of the meditatory process, this box is accessed and opened. All of these painful emotions are revealed once again to the conscious mind. In being so experienced, they are dissipated (well, up to a point, anyway).

My meditation experience falls roughly into three stages. In the first stage, I feel nothing much at all – no fear, but also no joy. Just an emotional numbness. Gradually, however, the ʻboxʼ is opened, and a variety of painful emotions are released. This is the scary/painful second stage of my meditation. It can be frightening, but it is in many ways preferable to the nothingness of the numbness that precedes it. This lasts for a long time. I sink deeper and deeper into my ʻbox of painʼ, and begin to develop quite powerful physical sensations. These often take the form of a feeling of pressure against my lips and teeth, as though I am ʻleaning intoʼ my subconscious.

If I persist with the second stage long enough, though, a third stage can often be reached. This is where the pain gradually dissipates, to be replaced by a sense of pleasure. However, I donʼt always get this far. Sometimes I get ʻstuckʼ in the pain, and realise Iʼm not going to get past it, no matter how long I try. An exponential law seems to operate here. After some initial substantial gains, progress can slow right down. Having said that, no matter whether I meditate for five minutes or two hours, and no matter whether I move beyond the pain or not, at the end of the process I always feel much better for having meditated at all.

I think it is important to understand that, while meditation does lead to relaxation, the road is quite a tough one, and can be quite rocky. ʻNo pain, no gainʼ, as they say. It applies as much to meditation as to anything else.

I recently read a medical account of the side effects of meditation. While the list of potential symptoms was undoubtedly true enough, the writer seemed to have no understanding of the process of meditation. Sure there can be painful feelings, but these are not an end in themselves, and must be experienced before the benefits can be realised.

Like anything, meditation gets easier with practice. For me now it is not something I have to think about. It comes to me automatically, just like breathing, or scratching an itch. I often find I have drifted into a meditative state without having made any conscious effort to do so.

© Stephen Whiteside 21.06.10

Stephen will be back at DeeScribe Writing on Thursday to talk about how meditation has helped him with his writing.


I head home in two days with lots of editing to do; editing of book one of my new YA thriller series that I started here, and editing of a YA novel I need to do for my publisher.

And that will be my priority, but I am drawn to my new idea for a book for younger children, the one inspired by the beautiful Sophie and the Roma Street Parklands.

So today, I spent two hours walking around the Roma Street Parklands taking lots of photos so that I’ll have them with me when I sit down to write.

There are so many ways in which a writer is asked to be patient. And putting off working on a new book can be one of them.

I made a commitment long ago that I would not flit from project to project, that I would get one under control before I moved on to the next. I think otherwise you run the risk of not finishing anything, and you never get your manuscripts out to  publishers.

Amazing tree roots

Still, I must say I’m very excited about my new project, but I promise to exercise self control.

Enjoyed a Korean lunch in Elizabeth Street with writerly friend, Maree, then it was back to Ann Street for more editing.

Happy writing.



Life is a dodgy takeaway – sweet and sour and full of surprise ingredients.

You never know where inspiration is going to come from, and often it’s the words of someone else.

Today, on my walk to the Queensland State Library, this little gem written on the chalkboard of a coffee cart in Ann Street attracted my attention.

It made me ponder the fact that words of wisdom can come from any source – and that great writing is everywhere!

Contemplating the ‘surprise ingredients’ of life occupied my thoughts for most of the trip, but from somewhere, also came the flash of knowing whose point of view I’m going to be telling my new story from. It always amazes me how one thought can randomly generate another, equally as important, but totally unrelated.

It’s one of the things I was trying to encourage the young writers to do today – explore their randomness, break down the boundaries – get those ideas happening – don’t be restricted by what anyone else thinks you should write.

Today’s groups were brimful of enthusiasm and it was so exciting for me to hear kids who had completed their character profiles and developed their plots utter those eager words, “Can I start my story?” and to see the fervour with which they put pen to paper.

On my wanderings, I also came across The Drovers – a selection from a series 0f 85 figures portraying people in everyday situations, frozen in time, capturing the ‘essence of Australia’.

Seeing The Drovers was kind of serendipitous, and made me think of the debate between Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson over what was the ‘essence of the Australian bush man’, that sparked the inspiration for my book, A Duel of Words.

One of the exciting things that came out of today was a group of kids determined to start their own school magazine so they could get some of their work published…and a teacher who was enthusiastically behind them.

Today I also enjoyed visiting the Queensland State Library’s fascinating Bipotaim: Stories from the Torres Strait exhibition, and I explored portraits at the Art Gallery. Works from both these exhibits are going to feature in my next workshop on 7th April where young writers will learn how to turn Portraits into Prose.

Now it’s off to pay attention to those brand new book characters clamouring for attention.

Happy writing.