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We’ve all seen those lists of lovely quotes from classic writers telling us all we need to know about writing. But what about writing in the modern world? What about the dangers of submitting too quickly and dealing with instant feedback? What about marketing yourself and building an author platform? What does being an author look like in the modern world and how do all these things play into the writing advice we need as modern writers?
Cue advice from Contemporary Aussie Authors…
‘Don’t let someone kill your creativity’ – Monique Mulligan
While Mulligan’s quote was actually with regards to an experience she had at a painting class, she relates it back to all types of creativity. With the anonymity of the internet and its instantaneous nature, negative feedback can be swift and harsh. Mulligan goes on to say that being creative is supposed to be fun and that you need to ignore negative influences that tell you to stop altogether. That includes the negative voice in your head.
‘Writing a book is like building a house: it takes time and effort, and you need a firm underlying structure to hold it together so that the pretty trims don’t collapse under close inspection.’ – Kate Morton
While many people have the view of the writer’s life as a charmed life, Morton is quick to point out to aspiring writers that rejections are discouraging, writing is hard, and it also requires a lot of dedication. This quote doesn’t just relate to the structure of the story but to the skill and dedication of the writer as well. You need to build a strong foundation through reading and practising your craft to write a book. She also adds, ‘Never be tempted to write for the market. If you’re writing for yourself, you’ll be rewarded even if you’re not published.’
‘I realised that I had to learn to love the writing again, but on my terms.’ – Markus Zusak
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Zusak related how, for thirteen years, he’d struggled to write his second novel Bridge of Clay. He said there were a wide variety of reasons why he was struggling, but in the end, he reached a stage where he’d stopped enjoying it—it was tormenting him instead. It was learning to love writing again that paved the way for him to finally finish his second book. It’s a timely reminder that writing should be something you enjoy, not something you labour over without love.
‘Creative Writing is both an art and a craft. It can be taught and it can be learned’ – Kate Forsyth
It’s easy to feel like you’ve either got it or you don’t when publishing is so competitive and there always seems to be another rejection on your desk. But writing, while an art, is still a craft that can be learnt, and Forsyth knows this very well. Known for her fantasy and fairy-tale reimaginings, Forsyth not only teaches creative writing classes but also holds a segment on her blog called The Story Doctor where she helps aspiring writers understand how stories work and how to write them. So if you’re feeling like you want to write but you just don’t have the skills, it may be time to take a class and learn them.
‘Always be writing something. Don’t wait to see what’s going to happen with a work you have out on submission, or in the process of being published, always move on and be working on new things as well.’ – Garth Nix
In a Q&A with the National Library of Australia, Nix reminded writers how important it is to keep working on lots of things. This is essential if you want to make a living from your writing. A manuscript that’s currently on submission (whether with agents or with publishers) may be with those people for months before you hear anything back. It’s better to be working on the next piece while you’re waiting rather than waste time worrying over something that is no longer in your control.
‘Start building your writer platform as early as you can, so that by the time your book comes out, you have a following ready and waiting. Do it in a way that’s enjoyable for you. The last thing you want it to be is a millstone around your neck.’ – Louise Allan
It’s impossible to ignore the benefits of having an existing following when you approach a publisher. Using a blog and social media to your advantage can make you much more appealing as a debut author. However, Allan also makes clear that ‘it’s impossible to do everything well and still have time for actual writing’ so you need to choose your platforms carefully and not try to do everything.
‘Revise your manuscript again. No matter how much you think it’s finished and polished, there’s always one more revision to be done.’ – Matthew Reilly
During a book-signing at an event in Perth, Matthew Reilly offered this piece of advice to local author Holden Sheppard. Sheppard relates how the author locked eyes with him ‘in a way that said take this seriously’. It’s not uncommon for inexperienced writers to finish a first draft and think that’s all there is to it, or to do several revisions and think that it’s now ready, but what many writers will tell you is that it takes many, many rewrites and lots of feedback before it is ready to be submitted.