Category Archives: Becoming a Full Time Writer

Thoughts on Planning a Novel

I’ve been trying to write a novel for several years now.  I’ve got 4 first drafts of it, all of them bad, but they’re getting better.  Had I published it several years ago, I would be unable to read it now. 


Because there were too many plot holes, not enough accurate information to make the story believable (yes, I want it to be ‘right’), and the dialogue was patchy and sadly, preachy. 

Over the last year or so, I’ve been researching, reading, researching, reading, and researching and reading 🙂  In the midst of this busy life, I’ve also been scribbling when I can because this is the only way you can improve as a writer.  I’m trying to find ‘my voice’.

Paul McCartney said this: We practiced and played great blues songs, imitating our heroes, and eventually our own voices came through, our own distinct sound. 

That’s my goal.  To keep aping my betters until my own sound rings through the din.  And now, I’m starting to hear faint traces of that voice. 

I’m hoping to hear a lot more of that voice in the next draft.  I can’t wait!

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On Writers’ Block

One of the things about being a part-time writer, full time employee, dad, maintenance man, dog walker and Minister for Fun and Recreation, is that sooner or later something has to give.  This week it was my writing.

Now, I’ve never really been a big believer in Writers Block, the name given to the syndrome which paralyses a writers’ ability to produce good copy, but this week, I’ve had a rethink on the matter. 

Pressing concerns, numerous interruptions, school holidays and a head cold have plagued what little time I usually reserve for my ‘fun’ time (scribbling, and researching).  But what really hurt was when I did manage to sit down at my computer desk, pen in hand, and monitor warmed up and raring to go, nothing happened…  it was a profound shock to be ‘wordless’. 

Now, in addition to a weekly newspaper column, I try to write 3 blogs per week, a few emails, some forum entries (Hi Ladies!), as well as jot down some more notes for one of my novels.  I have never been at loss for a direction, motivation, or words when it comes to writing, but this week I was. 

Worse, as I started to think about my column deadline, panic set in.  Now, I usually keep a couple of columns in reserve for just such an event, but in recent weeks I used them in order to focus my full attention on painting inside our house.  And this week, I decided to try a more topical, up to the minute subject, which added a little more pressure to my deadline. 

Normally I write about things or experiences that have amused, irritated, titillated or intrigued me, then add my own unique spin, a couple of quirky jokes and voila. 

Well, the topic certainly irritated me, and I had an angle, but I couldn’t wrestle it into the required shape.  Usually I do a ‘word / brain dump’ of about a thousand words, which takes an hour or so, then I start the laborious task of refining and trimming.  After 4, sometimes more, hours (over a period of a couple of days), and numerous edits, cuts, pastes, deletes, re-shuffles and re-reads the column is reduced to approx. 400 words, and when I am happy with it, I fire it off via email to the editor of my local paper, make the required note in an Excel spreadsheet, and the next time I see it, it’s on the printed page next to my grinning mug.  But this week…

But this week, I had to force myself to sit at my computer in spite of the runny nose, the non-stop ringing of phones, and sheer tiredness, and just type.  I really churned out some crap.  Well, crappier than normal!  And just as I was about to abandon all hope, inspiration struck, with just one sentence, and I was away.  Bit by bit I managed to build a column I was happy with, and after many more hours filed it away for a final review, which it will get tomorrow before I send it off. 

I have had a complete re-think about writers’ block, and am prepared to say now that ‘Yes, it does exist.’  I don’t have all the answers to overcoming it, but certainly sticking your bum in a chair and typing anything that comes to mind does help. 

Perhaps a time may come when the words will completely fail me, and my motivation dries up, but until then, I’ll continue to hammer away every day, regardless of how good or bad my scribbling is.  Failing that, I could opt for long moonlit walks along crashing sea shores… it might not get me writing, but it would be a pleasant change 🙂


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ABC Open Dream Job Position

A quick post: last Thursday I stumbled across this site looking for something else, and on Friday I applied for it:

I’m not sure about my chances, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a go 🙂 

At the very least, if I don’t get the position, it would still be an interesting exercise for many of us outside the cities to participate in, and hopefully it will capture some of the more interesting, exotic, and lesser heard voices in regional Oz.  Voices that usually go unheard.



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Latest Guest Post over at ‘How to Get Published’

For those of you who are keenly following my progress as a guest columnist, here is the latest instalment at Bernard Jansens’ site:

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Want to Get Published – Guest Blog

Hi all,

This week I wrote my first ‘guest post’ for another blog.  Feel free to check it out here: 

This is part one, with a couple to go…  hopefully it will flush out a few more folk interested in joining me on the journey to Columnville. 

The photo is a bit rough, but it’s recent!  And yes, I’ve been told numerous times I have a good face for radio 🙂




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The Perfect Writing Environment?

The dream is to write from home, at a desk overlooking a river, harbour, or the sea.  A big desk in a quiet room, with lots of well organised drawers, space for an A5 ‘ideas book’ which I can scribble on, or plot outlines in different colours.  A nice pen, stored nearby in its’ case, and a reading light.  A small stereo/radio sits on a far corner, the speakers mounted just above my head, for those times I’m in the writing zone and need some music, or want to sit back, have a cup of tea and listen to the Book Show on Radio National.  Nearby are my guitars, set up and ready to go whenever I want to play them.  

The chair is leather, comfortable and the perfect height to slip under the desk.  The floor is timber, so the chair glides easily over to a well stocked bookcase, which stores all my research notes.  It is a place of peace, order, and harmony.  It is my ‘zone’.  Aaah bliss!   

It is currently a far cry from the reality.  But here’s the thing, while I wait (eagerly) for the perfect writing environment, I’m still able to pound out my columns, novels etc. in a less than perfect situation.  For instance, I was hammering away on my keyboard the other night, following a particularly interesting train of thought, which I had to get down before I forgot it, as so often happens.  Around me there were three conversations going on, two of them were fairly loud, one was being directed at me (I think), in the background the tv was blaring at an uncaring audience, and the phone was ringing merrily away, demanding someone’s attention.  In spite of all the noise and distractions, I still managed to churn out a reasonable first draft for one of my columns, which I later hammered into shape after several edits. 

Nice View! Terrible distraction...

I’m starting to wonder if I actually need that sort of pressure cooker environment.  A couple of months ago, while we were on holidays in Caloundra, I took all my writing equipment, and some books which I wanted to give a lot of close attention to.  Total sum of work completed:  Three parts of bugger all.  The view from the balcony was magnificent.  Too good actually.  Whales were jumping, the jet ski’s were leaping over the waves in front of our unit, and the scenery was just too interesting for me to tear my eyes away from it.  There were far too many ‘good distractions’ for me to knuckle down and write.  It was too peaceful, too pretty, and too hard to ignore! 

So, I returned to my desk, which I share with the rest of the family (Hey!  Where’s the stapler?  Who put it here?  Who emptied the stapler?  Where’s the spare pack of staples?  Oh forget it, I’ll use a paper clip.  Alright, where have all the damned paperclips disappeared to?!), and straight away I was back in full production mode.  In spite of being hampered, harried, interrupted and harassed at every turn. 

I’ve become used to squeezing out a few hundred words here and there, in between rushing children about, renovating or repairing things around our house, and when not out and about in the car, motorbike, pushbike, or boat, then I’m generally up to my ears servicing them.  Then there is the major distraction that is shiftwork.  Large chunks of time are taken up with my regular job.  I dream of a time when my job is sitting down at my desk everyday and scribbling to my hearts content, but I’ve got a feeling that this ‘perfect scenario’ may not be what works for me.  I’ve got this niggling feeling that I NEED that pressure to produce.  It’s what drives me.  Pushing myself to stay awake when dog tired, writing, editing, re-editing, and jotting down ideas.       

I’m reminded of several stories where authors have written entire novels either in cafés, small tables propped up in laundries, or hidden away in some small space, then when they have cracked the big time, move into a proper office, with a view, nice furniture, peace and quiet, AND, a comfy leather chair, then suddenly find themselves unable to produce.  It’s only when they return to their original miserable surroundings that inspiration and motivation returns.  

Which makes me think, that perhaps I’ve already found my best writing environment.  I wish I could find the staples…

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My Kind of Writer

This week I’ve been pretty busy…. to say the least. But in my few spare moments, I’ve had a bit of time to read some books, blogs, web pages, newspapers, and do a bit of scribbling. 

The two most powerful things I’ve read this week though were: 

The Freelance Writers Bible, by Dave Trottier.  An excellent read, and one that I would highly recommend to anyone in the scribbling game.  It’s easy to follow, has so many excellent tips that I think I’ll have to buy my own copy, and above all, is highly encouraging and motivational.  It makes you want to to write! 

The second thing I read this week was over at Laura Goodins’ blog, “A Motley Coat”.  I usually pop in once a week to catch up on Laura’s musings, there’s usually something there that makes me think, and at times laugh… everything I like in a blog 🙂  But this post 

was worth its’ weight in gold.  A hearty pat on the back and a “Well Done, Madam” to you Laura!   

I want to be that sort of writer… and the good news is, I can be. 

Right now.


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E-book Publishing: Should I, Shouldn’t I?

Well, it’s no secret that I’ve been toying with publishing a book in the coming year, and while I tap away at my keyboard, in the back of my mind is the burning question: Should I E-Publish my work?

Now, I quite like the idea of cutting out the middle man, offering my work to a wider audience (world wide at the click of a button), but the end users’ may also decide to copy and paste my work to all and sundry, even though the original could be purchased from $5 to $10.

Having purchased a number of E-books, and a couple of self published ones over the past year, I’ve been impressed with some of them, their quality, the ideas and the sheer effort put in by the author, but the majority have left me a little underwhelmed.   Particularly as some of the self published authors were still charging $30 – $40 for their books, and in one of them the spelling was deplorable.  The words were technically correct, but not in context eg: your, you’re, there, their, etc.  Spellcheck is a handy tool, but not as a replacement for a good proofreader. 

Poor spelling, phrases repeated, poor layout, and even poorer grammar have left me thinking that the publishing world with its’ well trained editors, proof readers and quality control systems (while not quite perfect all the time) is probably a better option.  Of course, there is a price for all that quality! 

Then last week I was offered an e-book for a price I would hesitate to pay for a hard back novel, $48, and I thought, ‘Whoa!.  There are no publishing, printing costs, no distribution, warehousing, shipping, trucking, stacking, displays or retail costs, why so expensive?’  Possibly because the authors are offering the book as an alternative to a study course, as opposed to a motivational script.  But still… 

I’ll be watching with interest to see if the book sells well.  Maybe I’ll have to overcome my ‘conditioning’ in wanting to see “NY Times Best Seller!” on the back cover as proof that it has passed through the necessary quality hoops.

In the meantime, I need to focus on completing my novel before worrying about publishing, distribution etc.  Back to my scribbling!

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I’m Not Dave Barry… yet!

At the top end of the column writing spectrum is Dave Barry, humorous columnist, author, musician, killer of defenceless toilets (see his website for more info on that last one, by clicking on this link: ).  Dave is currently doing the job that I, and no doubt thousands of others, want to do (except for the toilet killing thing… but I’m prepared to give it a go if it’s part of the job description).  But obviously there can only be one Dave Barry, which should make all of sigh with relief I suppose…

Dave's work uniform is a little eccentric... but looks quite comfy

Dave's work uniform is a little eccentric... but looks quite comfy

At the other end of the spectrum is Greg (that’s me folks!).  There’s a lot of distance between where I am now, and where Dave is sitting high on his lofty throne.  That is to say that the throne is high, not Dave, although it would explain a lot.

The thing I have to focus on now is tightening my writing style, while keeping eye on what the competition is doing, and do enough to wipe the floor with them in order to keep ahead of the pack.  Hey, how hard could it be?

Well, pretty hard actually, but fun as well which makes writing columns a much more enjoyable activity.  I have grown to enjoy:  hearing / seeing interesting funny things then taking a few notes in my ever present note pad.  The process of taking an idea, expanding it (1000 – 1200 words) then hammering it back down to 500 – 600 words.  Then the joy of seeing those words in print and getting the odd bit of feedback from readers.  

And to think, we live in an age where I could potentially do that for a living!  Well, Bring it ON I say 🙂

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Play before Pay

Since my glittering debut earlier this year as a guest columnist in the Gladstone Observer, and my subsequent rise to regular Monday contributor,  I have had a lot of people ask me the same question: 

How much are they paying you?

The answer is:  Nothing.  Not a single cent.  These are financially grim times folks, and the print media is doing it a bit tough at the moment, so I’m prepared to scribble for free while I improve my word thingies… skills.

Just keep scribbling...

Just keep scribbling...

And, over the past few months, I’ve learned what it’s like to have column brain fade (where a great idea for a column disappears faster than a slippery eel from your hands into the dark weeds of your mind).  I’ve learned to write to a deadline… of sorts.  I’ve really learned what it’s like to have your life consumed each week trying to find 500 – 600 words written in such a way as to make readers go from Ha Ha, to AhA, then back to Ha Ha again.  Hopefully. 

I’ve also been humbled by praise from unexpected folk.  One workmate in particular has become Fan #1 (apart from my Mother!), and if you’re reading this, then, “Hello Big Stanley!”  Stan informed me the other day that because of my column he now buys Mondays’ Observer, which has lifted circulation by one paper each week.  While this is good news of course for the papers’ accounts, it’s not really enough for me to justify kicking in the newspaper managers’ door and demanding a hefty and immediate pay rise.  For that to occur I would need approximately another couple of thousand ‘Big Stans’ to buy Mondays’ edition.       


Perhaps I could talk Big Stan into buying several thousand more Monday papers. 

Might be worth a shot!

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