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Archive for February, 2011

Is Fantasy a bit of a Boy’s Club?

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 26, 2011

The Gender Divide – Does it exist in fantasy or is it our perception that it exists, that creates it?

I started last week answering interview questions from Marc at Fantasy Faction (see interview here). Marc introduces the interview with:

‘A few months ago I was in Waterstones and a book caught my attention… ‘The King’s Bastard’. There were thousands of books in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section of that particular shop, but this one was in the ‘featured’ section and for some reason just jumped out at me. The name ‘King’s Bastard’ perhaps appealed to my darker side, the picture on the front cover of a rugged man with multiple weapons – obviously to be used for brutal combat, the power of the word; King! To me as a male fantasy fan this book simply said ‘pick me up‘. I picked up the book and gave it a read, the blurb was equally dark and I could tell that this book would feature everything I’d been looking for… Now being an e-book reader, I got home, jumped online and added the title to my ‘wish list’… It was only at this point that I noticed the name of the author; ‘Rowena Cory Daniells’. I did a double take at this point – Now, without injecting any sexism into this post (at least intentionally) I had presumed the book was written by a male.’

Please note, I’m not being critical of Marc, I’m taking about perception. It was my perception that most fantasy writers were female because in Australia, it is a bit of a girl’s club. Marc’s sixth question was:

‘Please excuse me for saying this – but after a recent topic in our forum entitled ‘Female Fantasy Authors’ we concluded there are very few of you out there. Even more so – there are less who write darker fantasy. Why do you think this is?’

This reminded me of a conversation I’d had a World  SF Con in Melbourne in August of 2010 with Kate Elliot. Kate has since gone on to comment on my ‘Why I’m featuring Female Fantasy Authors’ post. She said:

‘My feeling is that there is a gatekeeper issue that creates a sense of invisibility(of female fantasy authors)and of the sense that the female writers are secondary or irrelevant to the greater discussion. There are a ton of epic/heroic/fantasy review discussion blogs out there, and I think they’re fabulous, but they heavily skew male.’

Tansy Rayner Roberts brings up the point that: ‘The Nebula novel shortlist was just released and it features five female-authored novels (four of them fantasy) and one male-authored.’

So there are great books by female fantasy authors but are they being discussed on the blogs?  Lindsey from the US said: ‘most of the female fantasy writers I encounter are in other countries, mostly in Australia. I’d say that reflects in the readership, too.’  Remember it is all about perception. If female fantasy writers aren’t being talked about, then the readers won’t be aware of their books.

And Erica Hayes suggested that ‘in the US, there is a huge romance market, which includes a large slice of paranormal, urban fantasy, fantasy and sci-fi romance. The majority of ‘romance’ authors are female. So perhaps many female fantasy authors in the US are being published as ‘romance’, and are putting a higher romance content in their books — just because it’s a larger market and they have a greater likelihood of making a living.’ Since romance is one of the few genres where a mid list author can make a living, this is a valid point.  There seems to be a perception that we authors should be grateful just to be published and be willing to work a second job to support our families. But that is a topic for another post.

Glenda Larke says: ‘Re the gender divide, one part me really HATES saying this, but the advice I’d give to a woman starting out is: use a gender neutral pseudonym. Later on – when you have an established career – that’s the time to tell everyone you are a woman.’

When my first trilogy was published I chose to use Cory Daniells, because it was a non-gender specific name. If I’d continued to do this, Marc would not have been at all surprised by the author of the King Rolen’s Trilogy. He would have read the trilogy believing it to be written by a man. Would this have changed his perception of the book? Will Marc read it now with the subtext, this book was written by a woman, in his mind? Will he think, Gee, she really writes good fight scenes for a woman – rather than – Great fight scene! (Here’s hoping he likes the fight scenes. LOL).

Which brings me back to the original question. Is there a gender divide in the fantasy genre, or is the perception that there is a gender divide, the problem?

Update: Since writing this post I’ve done a series of interviews with creative people where I ask them about gender (as well as lots of other things). See here.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Fantasy Genre, Gender Divive in Writing, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book | Tagged: , , , , | 28 Comments »

Edits, Beasts and Cookies

Posted by tansyrr on February 24, 2011

“I’ve walked through death and out the other side for you – not just for Aufleur or the Kings, but for you personally, Ashiol Xandelian, and I’d do it again in a second. Question my loyalty once more and I’ll stab you in the throat.”

I’ve been neglecting this blog! Truthfully I’ve been neglecting all my blogs, though it’s perhaps a little less obvious over at my main one.

I haven’t been blogging about writing. Partly this is for a very good reason: I haven’t been writing. For most of the school holidays, apart from a brief flirtation with proofing (the world would fall into a black hole if every contracted writer wasn’t given a pile of work just before Christmas) I have been very much Not a Writer. Partly this is because I received the unexpectedly awesome news that Book 3 of the Creature Court did not need a structural edit. This is the writer equivalent of being handed a giant box of cookies with LESS WORK FOR YOU printed in chocolate icing.

Book 2, incidentally, required two structural edits, so this was doubly exciting.

The effect was that I actually did get a holiday, hanging out with my daughters, catching up on housework, and not putting pressure on myself to use my work brain at the same time.

But now school is back, the baby is in two days a week daycare (which is extra nice because she has proven to be the Escapologist of Doom and every hour she’s awake and at home I am far too busy making sure she doesn’t destroy herself to get anything else done) and I am staring down the barrel of my copy edits for Book 3.

I blog less when I’m not writing. Even less when I’m not working at all. My bloggiest times are when I’m in deadline hell, or doing Nanowrimo, or something equally crazed.

So, here we are at Book 3, which was once called Saturnalia and I’m pretty sure now will be called Reign of Beasts. It’s been a long journey. When I started the Creature Court, many years and several RORs ago, I was still in the midst of academia and still in love with my Classics PhD thesis. I wasn’t a mother yet. And my publishing dry spell had turned into something of a drought.

Books 2 and 3 still felt a long way off, back then. I was busy grappling with Book 1. I didn’t know how it was going to end, but every idea I had then about the final volume turned out to be completely wrong. Except for the first chapter.

I always knew I was going to do something a touch wacky with the structure of Book 3. Something that might surprise my readers. I had this plot in mind, and made quite a few changes to Books 1 and 2 in order to make the odd structure of Book 3 feel like a natural, if still wacky, development. So coming to this final book, and discovering that my plan actually worked, it paid off (at least, the best freelance editor IN THE WORLD thinks so and I’ve come to really respect her opinion) is remarkably freeing.

And yes, I should be working on those edits right now. Why else would I be blogging?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Detectives, Acronyms, Cabbages and Kings

Posted by richardharland on February 21, 2011

Hi! I HATE acronyms. Mainly because they make me feel like an idiot when I don’t know what Imean. And because I suspect they make other people feel like smartypants when they do know what they mean. Short forms like ‘fave’ are different because they’re guessable – they’re not boing in-groupy, theyre just being lazy. Laziness is fine!

ROR isn’t an acronym, of course, but a description – we ROAR! Just that we’re really bad spellers.

Here’s some more on the post office robbery. A detective collected me to go down to make a statement at the local cop shop – the most interesting part of the experience was talking to him on the way in and out. I learnt more about crime and criminals in the Wollongong area in twenty minutes than you could pick up in a normal lifetime.

First thing I asked was whether the hold-up at Keiraville post office yesterday was related to the one at Brownsville the day before. Yes, he said, they were working on that assumption. I guess we were lucky we didn’t get the physical violence the robbers dealt out at Brownsville – poor post office lady was thrown around and ended up v badly bruised.

So here are some things I learnt from my detective. If you want to do armed hold-ups, never have a girlfriend. Half the time, robberies are solved when a relationship goes sour and the girlfriend gets her revenge by spilling the beans. In fact, the long-term successful hold-up merchants work alone, and never talk about their successes to anyone.

The danger time for armed robbers is between the car and the shop they’re targeting. They can control what happens in the shop, but when people see them outside in hoods and balaclavas … well, anyone with a mobile can call the cops. I don’t know if that’s what happened at the Keiraville post office – I mean, people outside saw them and realized, but I don’t know if they used their mobiles. The cop car certainly arrived v smartly. Other poss would be that, when the phone rang and the post office guy was told to answer, maybe his words ‘Cant talk, sorry, I’m dealing with some customers’ rang alarm bells.

Since 95% of alarm calls are false, the security people and the cops – if they contact the cops – tend to assume there’s nothing wrong.

Here’s a false call anecdote – that is, the cops thought it was a hoax until they got there. It was a case in Wariila, where a local murderer took the body of his victim to bury just off New Lake Entrance Rd, where there are trees on one side, but the other side looks out on the backs of a whole street of houses. So here is this guy burying a body in broad daylight, in plain view of all the neighbors looking out from their back windows. I don’t know what he said when the cops turned up – maybe something like, ‘You weren’t supposed to notice.’

I was kidding about cabbages and kings …

Posted in Nourish the Writer, Research | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

‘Words’ a writer’s tools

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 19, 2011

I realised acronyms had crept into my normal life a couple of weeks ago when I told my children – FYI, guys, it’s my birthday on Saturday. (It didn’t work. Only one out of 6 kids gave me a present).

One of the things we writers take for granted after a while is the use of acronyms. We have our Crit Group (not exactly an acronym). We have our fave authors (again not exactly an acronym). There are Panters and Plotters (try saying that to a non writer). You don’t realise how much of your conversation is spoken in short-hand until you meet someone who’s a Newbie.

Sorry, new writer.

Here Roy Peter Clark asks, are writers using too many acronyms? And here’s Jessica Shaw’s list of acronyms used by writers. So if you find people are going on about the PoV in their WIP, you’ll know what they’re talking about.

Then there are the words we take for granted like: Pitch, Query letter and Proposal.

Then there’s numbers. When do you use the word ‘one’ and when do you use the number ‘5’? Here at GrammarBook they answer that curly question.

Over at TV Tropes they talk about using capital letters in fantasy and science fiction. This may sound like a bit of a no brainer, but with my last trilogy my editors and I had to come up with a ‘word bible’ for the world’s invented words and when to use capitals or lower case. Think about it – a ship’s captain – when do you use a capital? When it’s Captain Ahab, it is easy. But what about when you are talking about him and it is the Captain?

And then there’s those words that people get wrong. Advise and Advice I can figure out. Affect and Effect I think I have right now. One word I often come across in printed books that jumps out at me is ‘lay’.

Since we are writers, we might as well get the basics correct. Once we know what we’re doing, we can play with words.

In my job as a lecturer I come across some unintentionally hilarious word usage, when people have simply accept the spelling suggestion made my their computer. I have a thing about apostrophes being used in the right place. Students feel this is optional and sometimes will throw in apostrophes in the mistaken belief that more is better than less. Then there is the dreaded – they’re, their and there.  And I come across this mistake ‘alot’  Hyperbole and a Half made me smile.

(There is a law that says if you do a blog post about grammar and word usage you are sure to make a mistake somewhere in it).

What are the little mistakes that are invisible to you in your own writing? What are the mistakes in printed books the make you grit your teeth?

Posted in Editing and Revision, Writing Craft | Tagged: | 13 Comments »

author vs double-barrelled shotgun!

Posted by richardharland on February 16, 2011

It’s true – I was just caught up in the middle of an armed hold-up! Half an hour ago! I finished the US copyedit of LIBERATOR ahead of time, and went to a local post office to send it off. A tiny, quiet little post office in a tiny, quiet shopping area. I went to the counter and was given the international form thingy that has to be stuck on the front – and I’d just started filling it out. The only other people in the shop –  it’s so small, it could hardly hold a dozen customers at once – were an old couple.

So suddenly these two guys burst in, wearing hoodies, face masks and gloves, and one of them toting a sawn-off double-barreled shotgun. About 20-25 years old, I’d have guess from their voices, though one of them, who stood guard over me and the old couple, hardly spoke. The one with the shotgun jumped up on the counter, shouting like a character in a gangster movie – threatening, cursing and trying to sound as violent as possible.

The ugliest moment was when shotgun guy accused the post office guy of pressing the alarm button – which he had. The elderly lady was breathing and gasping and shaking, on the verge of a panic attack. I put my arm round her and said we’d be OK. It turned out she had a heart condition – luckily she had an inhaler spray with her that she used the moment they were gone.

They made the post office guy open the till, and shotgun jumped down and scooped up what was there. Then back on the counter, ordering the post office guy to lie on the ground (not us). There was something more they wanted, maybe access to a safe, but they decided not to hang around any longer. The post office guy told the cops afterwards that they’d got away with $1000-2000.

Anyway, they rushed out and took off in an off-white car that had been parked in the drive next to the post office. We got the number plate, for what that’ll be worth. The post office guy rang the cops who turned up pretty smartly, viewd the CCTV footage and took down our details.

Funny thing was, it didn’t seem particularly scary at the time – maybe because the shotgun was almost always trained on the post office guy, with just a flourish or two towards us. And the elderly lady did enough panicking for us all – I was more worried about her state than anything.

And now the key question you must be wondering – did they get away with the copyedited MS of LIBERATOR? No, they didn’t even realise the treasure right under their noses! They just rushed out with the money – and I had to go to a different post office to send off my parcel.


Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Winners Paul Garretty’s book …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 15, 2011

“Not drowning, waving”
Well, that should really read drowning in waves – mad surfers the lot of you. We even had Mexican wavers. It was difficult deciding which waves to catch, but then picking winners was never quite on my wavelength, (not counting Annie, of course).

However, the two stand up winners for the complimentary copies of “the Seventh Wave” are: Thoraya for her sine wave (had to look that one up), and my personal favourite Peter Cooper’s New Wave. Congratulations you two, please send me your postal addresses to:


and your copies will be  paddled out to you on the next  passing long board.

Consolation prizes to all the other entrants can be found at your local bookstore (for a very modest investment ). Thanks to all for your kind comments, congratulations and encouragement.
Best of

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Visiting Writer | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Aspiring Writers of Kids and Young Adult books…

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 15, 2011

Text Publishing have opened their Kids/YA manuscript competition again. See details here.

The competition will open May 2nd and close 3rd June, 2011.

The winner of the 2010 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing was the post-apocalyptic action novel The Bridge by Jane Higgins. Text will publish The Bridge in August 2011.

The 2009 winner was Leanne Hall, for her distinctive novel This Is Shyness.

In 2008 the inaugural prize was won by Richard Newsome’s adventure caper, The Billionaire’s Curse.

Time to polish your manuscript and put it out there!

Posted in Publishers, Publishing Industry, Writing for children, Writing for Young Adults, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Book Two Hurdles …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 12, 2011

There’s something really nice about meeting an aspiring writer at a workshop that you run, seeing their work, seeing them develop as a writer, and then some time later seeing their book in print. Today we welcome Paul Garrety who attended one of the EnVision workshops where published writers mentored a small pod of aspiring writers as they worked on their books. Paul wasn’t in my pod but I still feel a sense of achievement seeing his book, The Seventh Wave, in print. Paul is being very frank and up front about writing that second book!

Watch out for the give-away question at the end. Welcome Paul!

“It’s going to an acquisitions meeting.”

If you’re a writer, particularly a writer with an (as yet) unpublished novel, then you’ll know precisely how much is hanging off that very short sentence.

It was the back end of 2009 and after innumerable re-writes, plus a couple of false starts, “The Seventh Wave” was just one meeting away from a possible two book deal —one meeting… and one question:

“ Paul, you won’t need more than a year to complete book two, will you?”

At that stage Book Two constituted a title, one chapter and a very fuzzy outline that’d been thrown together like a quick salad one Sunday afternoon.

My lovely wife and partner, Annie, and I take it in turns to blow up each other’s delusions. I recall it was just after we’d signed the contract to build the house (construction due to begin January 2010) that she first asked whether “I’d be right” co-ordinating that as well as writing a new book. She had the good grace not to mention I’d already signed (and paid for) a 12 month Yoga Therapy course to start Feb 2010, my gang’s annual writers’ retreat, plus a week long yoga intensive in Sep 2010  — all committed to earlier in 2009. Annie and I would also be due to move house twice during that year — once into a rental on Macleay, and the next into the new house mid-year. Then, of course, there was always work which had to pay for it all, along with all the challenges of commuting every day from an island.

Even then (foolishly) I felt it would be okay. I write fast. Not necessarily good, but definitely fast.

Then the publisher’s advance arrived in my bank account.

The amount seemed to be more than it should have been so I rang up to see whether someone had made a mistake, before I spent it.

No mistake.

Even though I’d invoiced them for the advance on book two (I’d assumed) that particular portion of it wouldn’t be paid until a book draft actually existed.


I realised then that not only was I contracted to deliver 110,000 words by December 2010, but I’d been paid to do it as well. They should make anti-freeze for writers as well as cars because then all my insecurities flocked in — what if book two was no good? What if there wasn’t enough material to fill the 110k after all? What if they cancelled book one if book two didn’t make the grade?

Talk about delusions — I could write a book on that.

In January I found another excuse to distract myself. My 2009 (Xmas break) short story had been accepted for the 2010 One Book, Many Brisbanes anthology. While this was great news it still sucked up time, requiring re-drafts and a three day commitment to a (fabulous) workshop.

Then it was March, but I still had nine months up my sleeve, right?

Wrong again.

Because right about then I received the first editorial notes on book one with some serious structural revisions to make.

I was fast learning why “real” writers are super heroes; professionals who are able maintain multiple plot lines and complex characters in their heads while actually still managing to have a life.

By June, with less than 30,000 of book two words in the can, it was obvious something had to give — and if I wasn’t careful it would be my health because no way was I going to not do the book. I’d waited too long for this, but I was still seized up creatively. Nothing was flowing.

I dropped out of the Yoga Therapy course and cancelled the yoga intensive week.

I used up my last five days of annual leave and hunkered down. By then the writing paralysis had morphed into a highway-style “headlights moment.”

I wrote (and re-wrote) everywhere — on the water taxi to and from work, at cafes, in the car during lunch breaks (fortunately I work mostly from my car).

The deadline was looming.

At about that point the 3.00am ceiling-staring started, making mental calculations in the dark, dividing the amount of months and weeks remaining by the number of words still to write, multiplied by the number of re-drafts required until I realised I’d be better off getting up and actually writing than lying there projecting daily word counts.

By August word count mania had set it. I ruled up a foolscap pad with columns for: date, opening word count, closing word count, number of words written and how many words to go.

Negative word count numbers were the enemy — oh, did I mention I’m a “pantser” writer? No plan, no net, no parachute? Consequently, I found myself re-tapping whole slabs of content and continuity threads as the plot course veered off in unexpected directions chewing up time.

In one attempt to simplify the cast I deleted one Point of View character until I realised that he featured strongly in the book two teaser chapter that I’d already included at the end of book one. Needless to say book one was by then on final layout and wasn’t open to structural changes so he had to be woven back in. More time.

By mid November it looked like I might just make my deadline. Then I checked the contract (for next payment details) and found that book two was actually due on 1st December, not 31 December as I’d thought.

The curious thing about all this was that my situation is apparently not uncommon. Mid 2010 (wonderful) Kate Eltham, CEO of QWC, organised a Bridge Club for writers who’d had limited publishing experience ie first book, but who could benefit by advice from writing and business specialists. Several of the writers I met there had similar issues with contracted deadlines and advances.

I now realise you don’t have to read spec fic to find horror stories.

My lesson in all this is that if I am ever fortunate enough to secure a two book contract again is not to “see if the first one sells before writing the follow on” but to do it anyway. Sounds incredibly simple doesn’t it? Then again I’ve always found hindsight is much more reliable than foresight.

PS. Fortunately Harper Collins-Voyager provided me with a two week extension which then allowed me time to coerce (equally wonderful) Jason Nahrung to sandblast the obvious dross from the plot. A couple of sleepless sessions for me followed to then complete the re-write.

Paul is generously giving away 2 copies of his book, The Seventh Wave. Give -away question: What is your favourite wave, be it art, music or actual surfing wave?

Catch up with Paul on Facebook.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Nourish the Writer, Plotting, Publishers, Visiting Writer, Writing Craft | Tagged: , | 19 Comments »

Winner Above and Below …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 7, 2011

Ben Peek says:

It was a bad pop culture dream, it really was. I spent a day humming the songs of William Shatner, and wondering just if I should watch that new series he is in (I didn’t, I won’t).

Then I found myself linking youtube videos of bad music to people. I became a menace, terrifying people with my links. A lot of people will tell you that this is actually no different that my normal life, but it is, it is. I mean, I don’t usually tell people they get a free book after I’ve spent my time linking Rick Astley in the comments of a blog post, or researching obscure jazz drummers.

Which, of course, is why Olivya and Chris will end up with a copy each, because I couldn’t split the difference between obscurity and trash.

Sadly, it’s the truest statement about my life I’ve ever written.

To organise your copy, email Ben at:



Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Giveaway | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Coming back to that Manuscript …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 5, 2011

Sally from the VISION Writers list asked for a post on:

‘How to find your way back into a story when you’ve been away for awhile’? With either the writing or re-writing process. I think skilful, seasoned writers might probably say – don’t leave in the first place! But life just happens, sometimes. And it feels like the story grows a tough hide in the meantime, that’s hard to pierce through and get back inside of. Tried and true ways to get back inside?’

Sally, this really hit a nerve with me.

I’ve spent since July last year working on The Outcast Chronicles trilogy that was written 6 years or more ago. Normally, if I come back to something, I’ll read it from beginning to end, let it brew for a bit, then tackle it once I have a vision for the whole thing. But because this was a complete trilogy of 500 pages each book, I couldn’t do this. So I re-read the synopsis (spelling plural?) and plunged into the clean up rewrite, while also bearing in mind the requests from my editor, based on his reading of the synopsis.

This has proved really challenging, with major changes happening, books ending in different spots, sub plots taking on large significance and one character’s age changing.  All of this had a roll-on effect and I’ve been riding the roller coaster of reworking the trilogy ever since.

So I asked the ROR group for their input and Nicole Murphy, author of the Secret Ones series volunteered her tips for getting back into a manuscript.

Nicole Murphy - Photo courtesy Cat Sparks

Nicole says:

In terms of having breaks in the writing – that’s one of the reasons I left a mentally-intensive job (journalism) and went into a mentally easy job (supermarket). At the checkouts I had to concentrate, but when I was wandering about putting up stock or tidying up displays, I often found myself working through where I was up to next in the story, so when I did get the chance to sit back down I knew where I was headed next.

For editing I have to leave the story alone – I can’t edit straight away, I need the break in order to look at it objectively. Only requires a few weeks, but necessary. I’ve got a bad habit of only seeing what I think should be on a page, rather than not what’s really there if I look at it again too soon (my English teacher used to go spare over this).

One thing I like to do (which is easy when you’re working on a series) is when I’m putting one book down, I work on drafting/editing another. It keeps me in the world, but not engaged with those characters (except in a minor way) or with that part of the storyline. However, this often leads to insights and understandings about the book I’m not working on that helps me when I come back to working on it – a good thing.

Otherwise, I have a series of things I use to get back into the story. One is to re-read and re-discover the story. You’ll sometimes here people say ‘don’t read what you’ve written, keep writing’ but sometimes you need the reminder. I use some meta-documents such as scene outlines and colour charts to help me look at the book objectively and see where its flaws and weaknesses are.

One more thing – I think we can get so caught up in the idea of ‘I’m a writer and I have to keep writing, regardless of what happens’ and to a certain extent, that’s true, particularly if you get a contract. But I also believe that there are times when life just says ‘Dude, settle – give yourself a break, you’re doing fine and it will all work out’. I had a couple of years where I barely wrote a word of fiction (it was all in my work at the newspaper) and I just trusted that it would work out. Sure enough when the time was right, I picked up the trilogy again (after a four year break) and sold it two years later. So find what works for you and do that.

Richard Harland, author of the hugely successful Worldshaker series says.

Good question, Sally, and I love your metaphor of the hide that grows on the abandoned story – like skin on hot milk when you let it go cold. You’ve already undercut my first response, which would be, Don’t leave it behind in the first place. For me, more than a week away means a major struggle to get back into the groove; more than a month away, and I usually end up rewriting everything I’ve already written. I think the story, world and characters are like a dream at the back of my mind; and if I go away for too long, they fade like a dream too.

So my first advice would be, try to add a tiny bit to the story every day or every second day, even if it’s only a sentence or a single short paragraph. Keep it turning over, keep it alive in your mind. Failing that, I guess all you can do is re-read and hope to recapture the thread. But it’s a huge drag!

And Margo Lanagan four times World Fantasy Winner (I love saying that!) and author of lots of things, but Tender Morsels is most recent, says:

1. Read what you’ve written, right through. Make marginal notes about what you MIGHT do, ideas for scenes, bits of dialogue you hear, atmospheres you feel from the existing material. Also, it’ll be very clear, as you read, where chunks are missing/overwritten. Mark these places. You might be able to jump right in at this point, but…

2. If you still haven’t got a handle on the story after the read-through, consult the scrapbook you made for it. If you didn’t make one, assemble one now; for a short story, a double-page spread might be enough, or even a single picture, if you find the right picture. Try and be relaxed and open while you put this together, ready to approach the story from a number of different angles. This step might get you going again, but…

3. Still tense and panicked? Hold the story and the pictures in your head while you do something mechanical (washing dishes) or physical (swimming laps). Focus on entry points for one or more scenes, either old scenes that you’re now repairing/rewriting, or entirely new ones that are going to drag the story off in a different direction. Just gently prod your imagination to work on some bit of the story, doesn’t matter what bit. I’d be very surprised if you haven’t got going by now, but…

4. Tell yourself, ‘I’ll just finish off THAT scene,’ or ‘I’ll just write TWO PAGES’. Sit down and write. Have a number of places-to-start at your fingertips, so that if that scene doesn’t work you can jump in again from another direction.

5. Keep going. The rest is doggedness.


I’d have to agree there is a very large component of Determination. It has been like a sauna here in Brisbane. I’ve been sitting at the computer with heat radiating off the screens, a wet washer on the back of my neck, writing. As long as I meet my page quota each day I’ll be OK.

So there you are, Sally. Hope this helps.

Anyone else have tips for how they get back into a manuscript?

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