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Posts tagged ‘Ernest Hemingway’

Why creative writing is a never-ending challenge

“For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that’s beyond attainment. He should always try for something that he’s never done, or that others have tried and failed then sometimes, with great good luck, he will succeed.”

Ernest Hemingway said this in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1954.

He was right then, he’s still right

Apart from the need to edit “he” into “they” to cover all genders, this is as true now as it was when Hemingway wrote the speech.

The joy of writing is in the challenge of finding out whether you can turn the bright, shiny vision in your head into something of beauty on the page or screen.

Will you succeed? Of course not. Writing is hard work. No matter how well published you are, no matter what prizes you win or how many millions of books you sell, you will never know everything about the craft. That’s what keeps it interesting.

Imagine going fishing and being sure that you would catch dinner every time you threw in a line. Where would be the challenge? Half the pleasure of fishing isn’t catching anything – it’s the joy of sitting by a riverbank, contemplating nature and your thoughts, and not really caring whether you catch something or not. I can’t tell you how often I’ve done that, knowing there was no bait left on my hook, but thinking I had the best excuse in the world to simply be.

These days I don’t fish. After volunteering in a zoo for eleven years, I came to know the fish and couldn’t put them through that. But the comparison holds true. If you bowl, would strikes be as much fun if you could score one every single time? What about cooking? Don’t the occasional failures make your successes all the sweeter?

Try something new

Writing should be an adventure. If you’re not stretching yourself by trying something new with each project, you’re missing one of the joys of the craft. In my book, The Art of Romance Writing, I say we write not because we know we can do it, but to find out IF we can do it. I’m sure that was part of the reason why J K Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy. It certainly wasn’t for the money, with Harry Potter taking care of that side. So that leaves the challenge, and she admitted as much in an interview on ABC TV with Jennifer Byrne, that writing is something she (JK Rowling) needs to do. As I’ve said here before, writers write.

Experiment. Try a new genre. Write a short story if you usually write books. A book if you usually write short.

Play with the words. They’re not carved in stone. They can be changed. And you know what? If you get a thrill out of crafting your words, there’s a good chance your readers will too.

Happy writing.


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Writing conferences, 5 reasons why they’re worth your time and money

When asked whether he thought writing courses stifle writers, Ernest Hemingway famously said he didn’t think they stifled enough of them. You have to wonder what he’d think of the Romance Writers of Australian national conference taking place next week in Melbourne, where 350 writers are gathering to catch up with friends  and share information about the craft. Certainly not stifled. is a good article about what’s coming up.

Already the net is abuzz with the excitement of those attending, me included. My suitcase sits open and half packed, my notes and giveaways for the workshops I’m presenting are ready. I’ll be talking on Creativity and Feeding the Muse at the Published Author Day next Thursday, then on The Art of Layering Your Romance Novel with Jennie Adams on Saturday.  Other sessions range from social media and marketing to staging a convincing fight scene.

Learning is a big part of writing conferences

From this you might think the benefit of being there is mainly in learning from experts. While that’s a big part of what conferences are about, here are some other reasons I think they rock.

1. You catch up with colleagues you only “meet” online the rest of the year

2. You find out what everybody else has been writing

3. You load up your case with free books as well as the booty from the conference bookstore

4. Somebody else feeds and cares for you during the event (writers with families know how amazing this feels)

And most importantly:

5. You find out you’re not the only person in the world who…….(fill in the gap)

#5 is huge, because all of us at some stage have thought we were the only one getting sucky feedback from editors, going through a dry patch when ideas were non existent, unable to write because of life in general,  or thinking a day job at McD’s was looking good. Knowing others are in the same boat can lift your spirits and get you back in the game faster than almost anything.

Right now there’s a huge amount of upheaval in publishing. Nobody really knows where we’re headed, making it even harder to write than usual – and it’s tough enough in the good times. Being among like-minded friends can reassure you that it IS worthwhile hanging in there, writing the book of your heart and trying to get it published. When something is hard, it’s usually the most rewarding when you make it.

Then there’s the social side of cocktail party, awards dinner, charity auctions and hanging out with friends in lobby, coffee shop or late night bar. Everybody gets something different out of this side, but we all come away feeling supported, encouraged and fired up to get back to the keyboard.

If that’s not enough to justify the time and cost, there are those other magic words – tax deductible.

Are you going to a conference soon or have been to one lately? What was the best thing about it for you?







Teaching and learning about writing – two sides, same coin

Last birthday one of my gifts was an Amazon gift voucher (thank you Virginia!). Coming right after attending RT Book Reviews Convention in Los Angeles in April, I knew exactly what books I wanted – those written by one of the speakers, Michael Hauge,<; Hollywood script doctor and screen writing coach. At his talk I had a true “light bulb moment” that made developing my current book so much easier. FYI the standout comment was that conflict has to be “visible and solvable”. Ohkay. The inner angst was fine, but I hadn’t shown what problem the characters must  solve by the end of the book, the conflict; as well as how the reader will know they’ve solved it. Michael’s specialty is screenwriting but his advice applies equally well to novel writing, and he recently changed his web page to to reflect this.

“Surely you go to conferences to learn new stuff?” a friend asked me. Of course you do. Except that I was attending the conference as a speaker and to receive a career award for contributions to the romance writing genre. Yet no writer ever knows it all, no matter who you are. Ernest Hemingway was famous for hovering around the printing presses trying to change his books until the very last second. Writers who don’t actually do this probably wish they could.

RTBook Reviews Pioneer of Romance Award 2011

When I talk about my  latest find on writing, people ask why I need another craft book. Frankly, if you could see my groaning bookshelves, you’d wonder why I need another book of any kind. But like any craft, writing is a journey rather than a destination. Discoveries like the one above, even new ways of reaching readers such as by ebooks and manga keep the journey fresh and exciting. Rather than being the latest of 70 books, each of mine becomes an adventure into the unknown. What can I do this time? How can I make this kiss or this love scene read like the very first.  It is for your characters and it should be for the author as well.

Teaching writing is another opportunity to learn. Next month I’m conducting two workshops at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne – one on layering your novel with Harlequin author, Jennie Adams; the other on Creativity and Feeding the Muse at the Published Author Day. Whatever wisdom I impart, I know for sure that I’ll learn something new as well. Have you ever had a  “light bulb moment”?  Who are your writing gurus? What teaching moments have taught you as much as your students? I’d love to hear your answers.


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