On Writing

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

There are certain ‘signposts’ that, if I see them in a Young Adult (YA) manuscript submission pitch, they can tell me all I need to know about how much an author actually understands YA literature and the readership they purport to be writing for. 

1. YA is not a genre 

Writers often dream of being published and getting their work ‘out there’. I am no exception. My second novel has just been published, but it’s been a long road to publication. This manuscript has had at least three reincarnations with a change of title each time. Each version has its own merit and has taught me something valuable about the craft of writing. The novel, ‘Something Missing’ began life as ‘Hens Lay, People Lie’: my artefact for my PhD at Swinburne University. 

When I finished high school some time in the 1990s, tertiary writing programs were few and far between. Like so many wannabe writers, I settled on a BA, majoring in English, and to sate the burgeoning scribe within, found a patchouli-scented creative writing community course in Bondi for a bit on the side.

Join a writing group. It’s one of the most common pieces of advice writers hear. And with justification: writing groups can provide support, advice and feedback. They are a sounding board for ideas, a chance to meet other writers in your geographical or authorial area, or simply an opportunity to write without the distractions of everyday life. Discussions might focus on critiquing, craft or industry gossip. No writing group is the same. The trick is finding the group that’s right for you.

When I think back through the journey of my Personal Patrons mentorship, I think it’s funny how fast the months flew by. I never thought I’d even get the chance to have such an amazing opportunity like this. I had written so many unpolished short articles and stories, not to mention isolated myself from the outside world. I needed this mentorship to help keep me on track of my writing aspirations and it was about time I got a fresh opinion. With my eyes wide open, I went in search of my perfect mentor and discovered Lyndel Caffrey.

I am rooted in failure. As an emerging author, I am often engaged in the business of promoting successes – I was shortlisted here, I have an article in this, an essay, a poem, and so on – but what isn’t discussed as much is failing. I’m not talking about rejection on the road to publication, I’m talking about the flaws inherent in these successes.

David Brooks, columnist for ‘The New York Times’, once said that people who live with passion ‘start out with an especially intense desire to complete themselves’. It’s as good an explanation as any for my decision to go back to full-time study after an absence of 35 years. I’ve had a number of fulfilling careers in my life, but my burning ambition for the last decade has been to become a published author. 

There is, at present, much debate related to the teaching of creative writing in academic institutions, via correspondence, and by professional organisations across Australia. I’m writing about the subject because to me there seems a distinct correlation between one’s immersion in the study of writing (however that study takes place), and one’s ability to succeed at the craft. 

A portrait of Koraly Dimitriadis by Kaliopi Malamas

According to Koraly Dimitriadis, writers need to be bold in reflecting their own experiences. But plenty of writers struggle when it comes to writing with conviction about love and sex. In the lead-up to her pre-Valentine's Day workshop on Love and F**k Poetry, we asked Koraly for her tips on shedding societal expectations and writing about two of our most fundamental instincts.

Photo of George Ivanoff in front of a bookcase

Remember what it’s like being at primary school? The readers you got to take home to help you practice? The books you read together as a class? The comprehension cards with a short piece of writing on one side and questions on the other? The non-fiction books that helped you with your unit of enquiry?

People often forget about all these books when they’ve grown up. Everyone focuses on the trade books you buy in bookstores – the big hits, the bestsellers, the ones you go and buy as presents for the young people in your life.