A Novel Idea

Archive for October 2010

Happy Halloween world! My treat to you: some recommendations on scary short stories. Read on…

Everyone needs a good (little) scare now and then – just to get the blood pumping. A nice safe scare is to be had for all ages in a ghoulish tale.

I’ll declare right now, I’m not super keen on horror, although dark fantasy I can cope with. I’ve read some Steven King, no Dean Koontz. But as a fourth or fifth grader I became hooked on what seemed at the time to be some very scary stories.

Do you like to read spooky stuff?

Neil Gaiman recently floated the idea of giving a book on Halloween. He’s calling it ‘All Hallow’s Read’: http://www.allhallowsread.com/

It made me recall those books that so captured my young imagination momentarily. I’m talking R.L. Stine and Richie Tankersley Cusick.

Here are two I remember vividly (the covers not the story lines):

Images courtesy of http://richietankersleycusick.com/

While I don’t seek out terrifying tales anymore, they do creep into my reading. If you are in the mood to be utterly freaked out, try these:

The Sandman by E.T.A Hoffmann

The Story of the Demoniac Pacheco by Jan Potocki

Note: both can be found in Fantastic Tales edited by Italo Calvino

Read well. Read often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

This week has witnessed the six month mark in my first full time year of writing. To celebrate, I want to dispel some of the myths that cloud a beginning writer’s mind, starting with what I call the ‘Early Promise’ theory.

I recently attended a talk by a newly published author. She essentially PowerPointed her way through her writing journey, but I’ll try not to hold that against her. At one point in her presentation she flashed up a scan of a child’s handwriting. Turns out this was a story she wrote when she was little. She read it out to us.

It seemed unremarkable to me, but to her it signalled that she was always destined to be writer. That worried me in some way, but she moved on to her next slide and then finished. The audience clapped courteously. I took a welcome sip of tea (I’m a bit old school in that I think courtesy dictates you listen to the speaker not continue to hoe through the refreshments).

That was a few weeks ago now.

But I’d heard that claim before – the ‘look – even as a child I showed promise’.

In a much more entertaining use, a minor celebrity here in Australia used her six year old self’s ‘Pony Novel’, as a prop in a very funny charity speech earlier this year. Her point was more ‘look – I’ve always enjoyed this writing game’ rather than ‘Hemmingway eat your heart out’.

At a conference this year, I heard a writer for Young Adults read the first page of his self-declared ‘dreadful’ first novel. His point: ‘look how much I’ve improved’.

I too have fallen for the allure of the ‘Early Promise’ theory. My mother loves to crow on about how I was constructing full sentences before I was two and how I had a university graduate’s vocabulary at age 13.

I am however keenly aware that I was not a child prodigy. Clever: yes, Genius: no.  

Flashes of brilliance – sure. But if I’m honest, I spent my childhood BEING A CHILD.

I am grateful that my parents’ glowing view of their daughter meant that they saved artwork and stories. I read some of them recently. Some truly inspired ideas jumbled up with interesting spelling and at times a flagrant disregard for punctuation. Some things don’t change terribly…

Here’s a rather ordinary attempt at a poem for example:

A witch is black.

She is winter.

A forest.

She is lighting.

An old black piano

She is a tv horra.

Some moldly bread.

Clearly I meant ‘lightning’ rather than ‘lighting’ and so on. I’ve preserved original spelling as one must not mess with the author’s intentions…

I could have shown you much better examples that could be useful in a narrative of how I have always been a talented writer, but that would be disingenuous.

A spark, does not a bushfire make.

Persistence polishes a knack for something into shining talent. I’m of the view that it’s never too late to start something and become great at it.

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.


It’s been a long time between posts.

When I first started this blog I was bubbling over with enthusiasm. It felt like such a luxury to have entire days to myself just to write.

I could measure my progress as the word count stacked up like poker chips. I felt like a professional.

That was before I decided to increase my subject load at university. I’ve gone from four full days of writing time to one. I feel like someone’s stolen all my chips in a move I should have seen coming.

There are just a few weeks (and multiple essays) between me and five glorious days of writing a week. I’m starting to feel excited again.

Not that I haven’t made any progress with my day a week this semester. But it’s been progress of a different kind – not measurable in word count or chapters or drafts.

I’ve attended courses, conferences and networked with real live authors – more on this in subsequent blogs.

I’ve been avoiding blogging because I’ve felt unless I’m making steady (measurable) progress towards that final draft, I’ve nothing to share.

How do you measure your progress?


Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TapeMeasure.jpg

With my self imposed deadline just around the corner of the next year, and with all I’ve learnt about the publishing game in the last few months, I’m starting to reconsider measurement.

I want to carve out a career as an author more than ever. I have faith in the value of my stories. I just need to stay focused on my creative health and trust that all else will fall into place. 

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

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  • Violet: Thanks Alannah :) Apologies for not replying sooner: I'm finally catching my breath and the year is almost over!
  • Alannah Murphy: I remember your first post, way back when I had my old Here Be Dragons blog, and I am glad you are still writing. We all find out, sooner or later, ho
  • Violet: Good to hear that Aaron. Good Luck with your work.