June 28, 2017 @ 7:19 AM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 5 (continued): Dreaming...

The cultivation of the new words in the fertile recesses of the mind continues not just during the waking day. Frequently I’ll dream them.

Sometimes they'll be very vivid dreams, with the words appearing almost as a kind of sub-title on a cinematic screen.

 

Other nights the words and images reaching for the surface will be far more gentle, like the first green shoots appearing through the spring soil.

But always they are growing. So that when I get up in the dawn next morning and tiptoe to the keyboard, the next words are already there.

Two or three hours … and the new day’s composition is done. Fresh words are .........

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June 17, 2017 @ 12:08 AM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 5 (continued): The waking day...

Having stopped the early morning composition with the next words already in my mind, they spend the rest of the waking day germinating deep in the consciousness.

What do they mean? How do they build on what has gone before? How will they lay the ground for what is to come? Phrases and metaphors will shape themselves....

And whatever else I’m doing – editing yesterday’s words, attending to correspondence, business, gardening, playing the piano, preparing materials for the next part of the story, cooking dinner - the words are always growing in their own little corner of the brain...

Ready for the next day's writing.

 

Next: ...............

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June 14, 2017 @ 11:11 AM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 5 (Cont) Stop when you know how to go on

 

 

The target of writing two hundred words – good words, I hope – is only one part of my daily professional discipline when composing.

The other part is this: I always stop – invariably – when I know what the next words will be. I never write until the words hit a blank wall and I don’t know how to go on.

Anything, to avoid the 'black hole' of writers' block.'

I’ll write to the end of a paragraph, or a section, or a particular train of thought.

But (providing I’ve met my target) with the next words already in my mind I’ll stop writing.

I might jot a.........

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June 2, 2017 @ 4:59 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 5 (continued): Two hundred words a day

There are endless variations on the ways we writers go about composing our books.

Some prepare elaborate schemas of the novel before beginning. Others rely on intuition and the plot emerging from the writing. As an historical writer, my stories are pretty much pre-determined: the literary question is how best to tell them.

Some authors procrastinate for as long as possible before getting down to work. Others can't wait to back to the page. Some maintain the discipline by spending so many hours of each day at the desk. Others set a target of producing so many words every day.

The number of hours and the quantity of words depend, of .........

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May 26, 2017 @ 9:03 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 5 The discipline of writing

The art of writing demands the same commitment and discipline as any other profession. Unlike most other undertakings, however, the way you practice that discipline depends very largely on yourself.

We’re all individuals, with our own habits and foibles, dislikes and preferences for what works best for us.

Some writers find the creative impulse flows most easily at night. Patrick White, I know, was one of them. Others prefer the afternoon. For me, early morning is best – alone in the dawn at the laptop or iPad with the rest of the house asleep and no telephones or emails to interrupt.

Indeed, I’ll frequently bring my wife her first.........

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May 19, 2017 @ 1:04 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 4 (continued): Heraldic Beasts

The promptings of the cultural landscape can not only offer clues to the psychology of characters, but also provide the writer with external metaphors to help clarify their inner lives. They were certainly there with my Eddison research trip.

When Walter married in 1911 he leased the home farm on the Mottisfont Abbey estate in Hampshire. It was a good-sized property of some 400 acres, with a substantial brick farmhouse, outbuildings and local labour. It had become run down, but with the assistance of one of his Yorkshire uncles he was getting it back into reasonable shape.

It must sometimes have seemed to Water that he could approach that status of.........

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May 16, 2017 @ 12:09 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 4 (continued): Stone Mansions

More evocative clues to action and psychology emerged from the social landscapes during a research trip to England for my book For Love of Country.

I needed to understand why it was that the English farmer, Walter Eddison, transplanted his high-born wife and children to the Australian back blocks after the First World War, to tough it out as a soldier-settler through drought and Depression?

In one way the answer was obvious. He came from a prosperous family in the north, but his father had lost most of his money in unsuccessful farming ventures, to the point where bankruptcy threatened. Land in England was expensive, and Australia offered the chance.........

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May 5, 2017 @ 11:23 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer

Step 4 (Continued): Social landscapes

I mentioned the importance of landscape to literary research. And by that I mean not only the physical setting, but also the social landscape in which the action takes place.

Class, social morés, expectations, education, history … all can influence the inner and external life of any character. A visit to the locations will often provide the writer with important clues as to motive.

 

With Captain Cook’s Apprentice, for example, I often wondered why, having learned to sail with Cook and been at sea for twenty-three years, Admiral Isaac Manley never again commanded a ship after he became a post-captain in 1792.

Instead he .........

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April 30, 2017 @ 9:29 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 4 (continued) Managing the research

It’s one thing to accumulate a vast amount of research. The trick for the writer is to know what to do with it, and how to access the material easily as and when you need it for the next stage of the book.

It may be the former public servant in me, but those who read the first half dozen posts in this series will know I take a rather bureaucratic approach to my filing system. The research papers and photographs I keep in large subject files, divided into reasonably comprehensive and labelled sub-sections.

When it comes to the writing, each chapter has its own folder with copies of the material, photos, drafts and references to use during the.........

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April 28, 2017 @ 11:38 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 4 (Continued). ‘Historical Faction’

In all of my historically-based writing (the ‘biographical novels’ as I call them, though others sometimes use the term 'faction'), I’ve never knowingly altered a fact to suit my story.

For me, the story must change to suit the known facts – although I certainly have to make many (I hope logical) assumptions where the record is silent.

 

There’s not much refuge to be found for the storyteller – as opposed to the historian – in the phrase ‘we don’t know what happened next.’ Still I always point out the main assumptions in the Endnotes.

This emphasises the .........

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