So you want to be a writer?
1. Get started
- Make a start. Some writers set a writing time-limit (e.g. two hours in the morning or at night). Some writers set a writing word-limit (e.g. 500 words every day). Do whatever works for you. The important thing is to develop a regular writing practice.
2. Get company
- Shut Up and Write with others. One thing I can definitely recommend is writing with peers. I used to run a Shut Up and Write group at UNSW in Sydney. We’d meet every Wednesday for an hour or so. I wrote the first draft of ‘The permanent resident’, the final story in my book The Permanent Resident every Wednesday, at these sessions. This is how I completed that story. It was forced writing time, under pressure to stay focussed because everyone else looked like they were focussed. No checking emails and social media. It was tremendously useful. See this link for how it all started in San Francisco, USA. There are numerous Shut Up & Write groups across the world including in Sydney and Melbourne. I have found Dr Tseen Khoo’s posts about this particularly useful. See this link. There are also writing groups in the virtual world. Look for the hashtag #SUAW on Twitter.
- Join a Meetup Group, see this link
3. Get reading
Writers come from readers. Read voraciously. Read anything that interests you, in any genre, in any language, and in any media. Also read books about the craft of writing. Here are some suggestions:
- The 21st Century Screenplay, Linda Aronson, Allen & Unwin. See Linda Aronson’s website for amazing writing advice and resources, particularly in relation to structure. http://www.lindaaronson.com
- The Paris Review Interviews online (can also be bought as a collection)
- From Mind to Keyboard: Writers from Goa and beyond share stories of how they made it, edited by Sheela Jaywant, Goa 1556, 2016.
- Telling Tales: Excursions in narrative form, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2016
- The Writer’s Room: Conversations about writing, Charlotte Wood, Allen & Unwin, 2016
- The Good Story: Exchanges on truth, fiction and psychotherapy, J.M. Coetzee & Arabella Kurtz, Harville Secker, 2015
- Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mariner Books, 2015
- Cracking the Spine: Ten short Australian stories and how they were written, Edited by Julie Chevalier & Bronwyn Mehan, Spineless Wonders 2014
- Psychology for Screenwriters: Building conflict in your script, William Indick, Michael Wiese Productions, 2004
- remembered rapture: the writer at work, bell hooks, Holt, 1999.
- Making Stories: How ten Australian novels were written, Sue Woolfe & Kate Grenville, Allen & Unwin, 1993
- A Passion for Narrative: A guide for writing fiction, Jack Hodgins, McClelland & Stewart, 1993
- The Writing Book: A workbook for fiction writers, Kate Grenville, Allen & Unwin, 1990
- Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the writer within, Natalie Goldberg, Shambhala, 1986
- Writing Your Life: A Journey of Discovery, Patti Miller, Allen & Unwin, 2001 (1994)
- The Memoir Book, Patti Miller, Allen & Unwin, 2007
- Writing A Non Boring Family History Hazel Edwards, Hale & Iremonger, 2011
4. Get connected
Be an active literary citizen by supporting other writers, attending their events, amplifying their work on social media, reviewing their work, buying their books. Connect with writing communities around you. Here are some suggestions:
- Varuna, The Writers’ House, in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains close to Sydney
- Bundanon Trust, Shoalhaven River, NSW
- Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre, Greenmount, Western Australia
- Writing NSW
- Writers’ Victoria, and other state and territory writers’ centres
- The Australian Society of Authors
- The Australian Writers’ Guild
- The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators
- Australia Council for the Arts
Across the world
- Sangam House outside Bangalore, India
- Caferati, across India including regular writing groups and open mic events
- Goa Writers’ Group, Goa, India
- Cove Park, Scotland
5. Get feedback
Getting feedback on your work is an important part of developing your craft as a writer. Some writers rely on freinds or writing groups to provide this feedback. Some writers rely on professional help. Here are some organisations that offer feedback services online. Click through the links to their information about online courses.
6. Get help with editing
Once you have written a draft that you are happy with, it can be useful to engage the services of a professional editor, especially if you are unsure about grammar, tense, punctuation, and structure. Here are some ways to engage an editor:
7. Get a mentor
It can be useful to engage the services of a writing coach or mentor who will be able to provide feedback on aspects of writing craft such as Point of View, Character, Structure etc.
8. Get woke
Here are some wonderful literary resources on the web to help inform your writing practice.
- Indigenous literature reading list: This is a great starting point for reading work by Indigenous Australian writers.
- Southern Crossings: an online space for reimaginings of Australia, South Asia and the world.
- #ReadAsianOz: An initiative by Pencilled In. Follow them on Twitter @pencilled_in
- The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge Follow them on Twitter @AusWomenWriters
- Aerogramme Writers’ Studio. A great place for writing-related news, funding opportunities, and other resources
- Brain Pickings. Maria Popova’s fantastic blog about creativity, writing, history, and their intersections.
9. Get listening
Here is a list of wonderful podcasts focussing on books, writers and writing
- The Bookshelf (ABC)
- The Book Show (ABC)
- The Garret: Writers On Writing
- Open Book (BBC)
- World Book Club (BBC)
- Books And Authors (BBC)
- Fiction Podcast (The New Yorker)
- Selected Shorts (NPR)
10. Get published
Once you have a polished story, and are ready to send it out into the world, there are a range of literary journals that may consider your work for publication. Here are some of them. Please check each journal’s guidelines for details about the kind of writing they accept.
- Pencilled In
- Mascara Literary Review
- The Joao Roque Literary Journal
- the little magazine
- Asia Literary Review
- Publications that accept short fiction submissions in India: Click here
So you want to write other people’s stories?
Protocols for using First Nations Cultural & Intellectual Property in the Arts: https://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/programs-and-resources/Protocols-for-using-First-Nations-Cultural-and-Intellectual-Property-in-the-Arts/
Respectful Storytelling Practices, a resource written by the team at Terri Janke and Company for the Australian Society of Authors: https://www.asauthors.org/news/asa-launches-essential-new-resource-more-than-words
On telling other people’s stories
- ‘Want to write the great Australian novel? You need to engage with Indigenous Australia first’ by Anita Heiss, 28 April 2021 https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/apr/28/want-to-write-the-great-australian-novel-you-need-to-engage-with-indigenous-australia-first
- Finding Eliza: Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt: https://www.uqp.com.au/books/finding-eliza-power-and-colonial-storytelling
- ‘Larissa Behrendt on Finding Eliza’, The Garret podcast: https://readingaustralia.com.au/books/the-garret-finding-eliza/
- ‘The Responsible Writer’ by Angela Savage: https://writersvictoria.org.au/writing-life/on-writing/the-responsible-writer
- ‘Who gets to write what?’ by Kaitlyn Greenidge: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/opinion/sunday/who-gets-to-write-what.html
- Best practices for when we get it wrong in print
- Hella Ibrahim in ‘Publisher’s note on “Passport pains”’: https://djedpress.com/2018/11/29/publisher-note-passport-pains/
- Common Ground formal apology re plagiarism: https://www.commonground.org.au/280721?fbclid=IwAR2GZUltmSrmbre51L8QYDlrTjmhaTDct-707elflOvr3gTphlIR4eSFU6w