Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reject Stale Language

Earlier on in the year I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Children's Book Fair at the State Library of Victoria. While I was there I snuck into a talk given by a childhood hero of mine, author John Marsden (Okay, so I booked tickets and lined up with a bunch of 8 year olds. Totally worth it.). I was also able to have a chat with him afterwards and get him to sign my book. When I told him he inspired me to be a writer from a young age he apologised to me. He was so lovely and generous with his time. He's a great man.

During his talk I took notes on his writing advice. It is truly brilliant in its simplicity, and I have noticed an improvement in my own writing since I have been applying this advice to my work. The following 8 tips have really stuck with me:

- You can make language do anything you want it to. Very quickly we can use words to conjure images.

- Write honestly and accurately. There is no value if it's not your perspective.

- You need to learn the conventions of writing before you can break them.

- You should name everything. Don't say the bird flew past the window; say the cockatoo flew past the window.

- Our job is to stay poets for the rest of our lives, rejecting stale language.

- Take a boring sentence. Underline nouns and pronouns. Name them. Use language more effectively to tell the same story. Identify verbs and give them life.

- Every story is about an interruption to routine.

- The most important thing a writer can get is bum glue (a quote from Bryce Courtenay).


Friday, May 30, 2014

Exciting News!

I have been sitting on some pretty big news for the past couple of months. For those of you who follow my Twitter feed or Facebook page, you will have already heard. Actually, I'm surprised you didn't hear my squeals of excitement...

I have been offered a publishing contract for my debut novel, which I have humbly accepted. I am proud to be working alongside Australia's very own Satalyte Publishing on this story that is very close to my heart.

The novel is a Young Adult Fantasy story (I think of it more a book for 11+ year olds because there is no swearing or sexual themes). The main character is a thirteen year old girl whose world is turned upside down. She has a supportive, loving father, a long lost cousin who becomes like a parent to her, a sassy best friend, and a fat grey cat called Tibbles. The story is set in a world that I have spent many, many, many happy hours dreaming about. There are many new creatures that I naturally wish were real so could have as pets, and lots of magic.

I cannot wait to be able to tell you more about the story. As the release date draws closer I will fill you in on the nitty-gritty details.

My love to you all,

Ashleigh.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tapping Into the Creative Mind

Today I'm stopping by to share a link for advice on why you might have writer's block and how you can tap into the creative mind. This advice is from my favourite author, Anne Bishop. It's really speaking to me at the moment because I have been paralysed by writer's block for the past month.

So, here it is: http://www.annebishop.com/s.writersblock.html

This post has already helped me figure out where I need to head in able to become unstuck. I am at point B, know what happens at point E, but have absolutely no idea how to join the dots.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Talking to Strangers About Your Novel

I was very fortunate to be able to go to SupaNova this year, Australia's main Pop Culture expo. I had a great time. But I want to relate to you an experience I had that I thought was odd.

I was visiting authors' booths, trying to find my next read. I stopped at one booth and asked the lady what her book was about. She pointed to a laminated card on her table. In tiny print was a description of this lady's novel. It was around 200 words long and with the author standing awkwardly and saying nothing I couldn't concentrate on the card. Thinking to give her another shot at selling her work to me, I asked her a second time what her book was about.
"It's all there on the card," she said abruptly.

I walked away, still with no clear idea about what the book was about. And to be honest, I don't want to know.

Ever since this experience I have been thinking about how I would like to come across to potential readers. I have been rehearsing what I would say about my own book. It really isn't easy. How do I fit a whole body of work into a couple of sentences? I am still working on my Spiel, because I want to get it right. I have also been thinking about images or artwork I might use to help convey my point.

Do any of you have any great tips on how to tell people about your book? I am facing having to have my own booth in a year or so, and I am starting to panic!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What's Your Weapon of Choice?

People are often curious about the instrument a writer uses when creating their master pieces. Do they write on a computer? A typewriter? Felt tip pen? A pencil?

For me, I hand write my entire first draft. This blows the minds of many people, I don't mind telling you.

"WHAT?!? The WHOLE thing? Are you CRAZY?" they will often scream at me, spit flecking from their screwed up mouths.

"Why, yes," I say to them, "I rather believe I am."

The pen I use varies. For my previous novel I started with a ball point pen, but quickly switched to a disposable fountain pen for my first draft. I say pen - I mean pens - for there were many. The pens were not very hardy, and I would need a new one every few days. My reasons for choosing the pens, as expensive and flimsy as they may have been, were many. They did not blotch ink all over my page, they were smooth to write with, and they did not hurt the already massive callous on my middle finger. However, as I have said, the pens are expensive and do not last for very long.

For my current project I am writing with a Jetstream 101 UniBall ball point pen. It's kinda like a cross between a gel pen and a biro. It's smooth to write with and doesn't accumulate blobs of ink that invariably end up all over my hands, page and writing surface. They do not last too long, however. Well, maybe I'm just being picky. My current pen has written nearly 10,000 words. It has also nearly run out of ink. But, at a fifth of the price of the fountain pen, I am happy to stick with it for now. It is starting to hurt my hand, but I think that's probably my own fault. I have been rather manic with my writing lately.



Once I am up to my rewrite it is a completely different story (ha! a pun! I'll pretend I meant it!). I complete my rewrite 100% on my lap top. I use the programme Scrivener, and I find it much easier to use than any other word processor I have ever come across. The problem with working on the computer is that the internet becomes a huge temptation for me, and sometimes I find my productivity is hindered by my weak will and memes of catz. 

So, writers. Do tell. How do you write your novels? What is your writerly weapon of choice?


At the end of the day I don't think it matters what you write with, so long as you write. For as long as that has been my mantra I have been productive and happy with my work.