On Writing

Writers, editors, agents, publishers and more share their thoughts, experiences and stories.

a picture of a book titled 'The Foundation' by Steve P Vincent

After the release of his first novel Steve P Vincent traces his path to publication.

"I am a writer. I never felt right saying that before. I’d written – tinkered to the point where my documents folder was a morgue of half-born ideas – but I wasn’t a writer. They finished things. They maybe even got published. I’d start something, get frustrated, then start something else. I’d say how much I’d love to write a novel, but never get on with it.

headshot of Lee Kofman

Recently I read the novel ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen. I didn’t much like any of its main characters – an angry, depressive rocker; a housewife who spends her life not doing what she wants; her saintly husband who nevertheless sells his soul to corporations; their son trying hard to become a moneymaking machine. Still, I felt involved in their lives and kept turning the pages greedily, and in the last quarter of the novel I even warmed to all except the rocker.

This got me thinking of several fictional works I had tried to write years ago but discarded

Photo of Lisa Jacobson

Award-winning poet and fiction writer Lisa Jacobson talks with Bronwyn Lovell about the art of writing a verse novel.

Lisa's verse novel, The Sunlit Zone (Five Islands Press, 2012) was shortlisted for the inaugural Stella Prize, the Michel Wesley Poetry Prize and, as a manuscript, for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

I’m not so sure that I have found my genres, so much as they have found me. I was always a poet – family legend has it that I wrote a verse on my first day at school. Poetry was a kind of inner necessity, more than any kind of conscious decision. And in a process akin to brachiation, everything else has evolved from where I began. Somebody asked at a Con last year whether my “brand” is too confusing. I freely confess that I am no good as a brand. I am a critic and a poet, I write for high art performance, I write genre novels. But poetry remains at the centre of everything I do.

July 4 is a cause for celebration for Sisters in Crime Australia but not necessarily because we’re keen to salute America’s Independence Day. Instead we’re joining with Ballarat Writers Inc at the Museum of Australian Democracy Eureka to revel in the wonderful offerings of Australian women’s crime writers with a Death in July Festival. It’s one way of warding off the wintertime blues – but also testimony to the creative possibilities of partnerships. 

Firstly, let me assure you that this is not some jubilant revenge review aimed at the literary agent who pronounced the protagonist of my novel “unsympathetic”, and thus, “unworkable”. Good lord, no. It would be vulgar for me to crow, “I told you it would get published,” under the thin disguise of an essay about the value of difficult narrators.

Genre can be a tricky beast. Many writers spend a lot of time pondering what sort of genre they’ll write or how their idea or character fits within different genres. Sometimes they have their full novel written but they’re still not sure what genre it “fits” into. And does it have to fit into one genre anyway? Certainly there are a lot of novels out there that cross genres at some level, from the sci-fi murder mystery to literary thrillers.

I’ve just landed on a tropical island. I shouldn’t be here – I was going to an ancient temple but made a diversion on the hunt for treasure. There’s a ship onshore. I assume it is unguarded; I board and attack. I fell one man and feel triumphant. Nothing can oppose me. My luck runs out. Men swarm me. I’m overwhelmed. I fall.

Something has happened to Young Adult (YA) fiction in the last ten years: it has been genre-fied.

Though I try to be an open-minded reader, I continually find myself drawn to YA. I love its potential for uncertainty, for angst and listlessness, for fleeting joy and realisation. 

Running alongside Tom-William wasn’t easy. At a moment’s notice he could pull ahead of me with minimal effort. He was the older brother and the fastest by far. Not because he was taller or his legs were stronger, but because he was determined. He wouldn’t leave a game up to chance. He had to beat me.