A HEAD FULL OF STUFF!

Have you ever stopped to ponder on brain activity? Not brain activity in a general sense. I mean your own brain.

Like, how many things do you store in it at any one time – just in day-to-day life? Now overload it with your work environment clutter. Overwhelming, isn’t it?

the creative brain

All Hail to the wonders of a mass of tiny grey cells. Check out this interesting site if you’re interested in creativity and the brain.

As a former teacher of young children, I could not have survived without the BIG PICTURE – lists, checklists, programs and anecdotal records on each child in the class. And daily, weekly, yearly planning? There were greater authorities who made sure I did that.

So why was it as an author, I thought I could rely on storing information in my head or on bits of paper for my work-in-progress?

Ideas surged from my brain, thick and fast or thin and tangled like Singapore noodles. Details of characters personalities, likes, dislikes and motivations; plot line possibilities; sensory inputs from settings filled notebooks, scrawled across torn out articles from the morning newspaper and scribbled on the back of petrol receipts on the floor of the Subaru.

This story began with one tiny idea and one misspelt word – from that it grew into a short story and then into a fully-fledged, intricate story of adventure, history and magic in a north Queensland rainforest. When I finished it I sent it off to several publishers. They rejected it … most with a kind comment about interesting characters, lovely writing style etc, but ‘not loving it enough to take it on’.

A trusted writing friend agreed to have a look at it.

This is the value of having fresh and experienced eyes read your story – most likely you won’t see core inadequacies in plots and characters after you have been writing it for a year or so.

She came up with something I had missed – there was no true antagonist, no BAD ‘baddie’ to thwart the needs and wants of my hero. Hence, no real DRAMA. How did I miss this?

Usually, sorting out a ‘big picture’ of a story allows me freedom to branch out into unplanned areas. So did I plot and plan the big picture of this story, like I would normally do for anything else (anal-retentive comes to mind)?

No, I did not. Why? Too much happening, too eager to start writing. Also I was trying to finish another story at the same time.

My author friend showed me her planning methods on butcher’s paper – it was like a veil lifting. I tried it on my ‘completed’ story and was shocked at how much I was trying to store in my head. By seeing those ideas noted as connecting mind-maps and dot-points, I added other possibilities for the story. My mind-map looked more like a multi-coloured mud-map than a mind-map, but it proved the ‘baddie’ wasn’t who I thought it was. She was sitting over on the far-edge of the sheet of paper … waiting … biding her time …

Of course, this all adds to the workload of writing, requires more brain-draining, more pulling apart and reassembling of plotlines, and more frustration and joy, but no story is ever really good until it has been through the fire first.

Click for more more of Dee White’s blog from her May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship here in Brisbane.

Share

Do writers need to network? Do crackers need cheese?

Gone are the days when a writer could sit up in a proverbial garret and stare out across the rooftops, alone and isolated, glumly waiting for the muse to visit. Not that the garret situation was ever the case for most writers – but you get my drift.

It is necessary to network if you want to get your writerly presence out there in the marketplace. In the area of Children’s and Young Adult writing, support organisations that promote books, like the Children’s Book Council of Australia and Book Links are well worth joining. Join writing organisations like the Australian Society of Authors who run workshops in different capital cities and have a newsletter.

Australia - a Big Country. Distance shrinks via the Internet

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) if you write for children and Young Adults. Go to their conferences. Not only do you meet up with writing friends from all over Australia, you rub shoulders with the country’s best children’s books’ editors, publishers, authors and agents. And if you are lucky, you could be chosen to give a short 3-minute pitch of your latest manuscript.

As long as you don’t mind speaking in front of a roomful of attendees and are prepared for very honest, no holds barred opinions from the publishers !

Be an active member of your State’s writing centres. Here in my home state, the Queensland Writers Centre has many social occasions where you can meet publishers, agents and other writers. NOTE: Don’t dare lug along your 80,000-word manuscript. But, if the occasion arises and your instincts say it’s the right time to do it, and the publisher/agent sounds interested in what you do, have your 1-sentence pitch ready. Then if questions come, be able to answer them succinctly. But know when to stop.

Attend book launches in your city – support your fellow writers and they will do the same for you when it is your turn. It’s also a great way to meet up with other writer friends.

An on-line presence is essential these days, especially if you are a regional or outback writer. Here, in Australia that could mean you live thousands of kilometres from the coastal cities.

Blogs and Twitter are fun and useful. Not that I do too much twittering – it’s addictive and not that useful just on a computer. Besides, I have to leave time to do some real writing done.

I use WORDPRESS.COM as my blog provider. I love it! It’s user-friendly and full of excellent features. You can also use it in place of a website if you want. WordPress.org is a site you pay for but it gives you a lot more features.

Facebook is a wonderful way to meet other writers in Australia – in my case, its authors who write children’s and YA books. I think we must be one of the most closely-knit (in terms of Facebook) community of writers in the world with so many of us Facebook befriending and meeting at writing conferences across the continent.

This is all part of your PLATFORM – yeah, more new jargon. But it’s all to do with helping you and your work to stand out amongst the many thousands of writers in this country and across the globe. I won’t dishearten you by including the numbers of hopeful writers just in Australia alone.

Do you blog regularly? Is it an attractive site? Do you support other writers’ blogs and leave comments? Do you have an appealing website; one that is easy to navigate?

I love blogging – usually about writing, but also about the things that I feel strongly about and/or topics that might interest others.

There are many links to other writers’ blogs on my site. They have linked my site to theirs too. I have chosen many because they offer good writing, helpful advice and entertaining insights into their lives as writers. Here’s the link to what fellow children’s and YA author, Dee White says about NETWORKING.

A future blog will check out some of my writerly friends and give you a little peek into their worlds.

PS How do you network in the world of writing? Any more suggestions?

Share