Tag-Archive for » writing woes «

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 | Author:

I once read an interview with the wonderful Australian writer Margo Lanagan in which she observed that many new writers approach the publication of their first novel in the same way that many new parents approach the birth of their first child: with all their anxious, exhilarated, terrified attention focused solely on the Big Event. That is, birth/publication. Whereas after publication there are still so many trials ahead for writers, just as there are for parents after childbirth – for decades to come…

At the time I read the article, I remember thinking Margo made a great point.

Now, however, I too can think of nothing beyond publication. I feel like the months I’ve spent polishing my novel, waiting to hear back from readers and agents, have been akin to enduring an unbearably long pregnancy. I’ve forgotten all the fun that comes with embarking on a creative endeavour, I’ve forgotten how sublime the feeling of flow I get from delving into a character’s head. I’ve forgotten that I’m in this for the love of it. For the process, not the product. Now I just want the labour pains to begin, and all this waiting to end.

Hopefully I’ll get some idea of a due date soon. Hopefully then I’ll be able to post more frequently on this website, to think about new projects, to remember the fun.

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 | Author:


Of late I’ve been having a number of people read my Behind the Shadows manuscript and oh my! it’s an excruciating process. Waiting for their opinions sets me on an emotional rollercoaster ride, a seesaw, a knife-edge of anticipation and dread… one moment I think the story is great, the next a load of you-know-what, and it all depends on the last comment I received. And I’ve been thinking… maybe it’s not the best idea to get people I know to read my works-in-progress. Maybe knowing my readers colours my interpretation of their comments. And maybe knowing me colours the sorts of things my current readers say.

It’s with these thoughts in mind that I’ve decided to sign up for a number of online writing critique groups.

Most online critique groups seem to operate in much the same way: you earn points for critiquing the work of others, and the more points you have, the more of your own work you can post to be critiqued. There are of course guidelines for how you critique the work of others, but mostly it’s an exercise in good communication. We aspiring writers are all deeply emotionally invested in our tales and we yearn for constructive criticism rather than insensitive attacks on our abilities. And after having some nasty experiences with hyper-competitive, brutal ‘critters’ early on in my writing life, I’ve tended to shy away from critique groups. But thus far, I’ve found the ones I’ve joined recently to be really useful. Scribophile especially has made a great first impression on me. The site itself is beautifully organised, with lots of helpful features for new members, and you can earn ‘karma points’ not only by reviewing work, but also by writing reviews that the recipient ticks off as being ‘insightful’, ‘constructive’, ‘thoughtful’ and so on. So you’re rewarded for the quality as well as the quantity of your critiques. I’m really hoping that having perfect strangers read Wolves will help me resolve some of the issues that are still bugging me.

I’d just like to single out two of my recent readers whose comments have really meant a lot to me. My dear sister-in-law, who with Lazar also went through the break-up of Yugoslavia, said of my story that she couldn’t believe it was written by an Australian, that parts of it were like reading her own memories! And Brett, fellow writer and fellow expat in China, is currently trawling through my typos and sending me regular questions about anything that doesn’t make sense in my manuscript, thereby helping me clarify my thoughts. So thanks Marina and Brett! I’m looking forward to one day being able to thank you in the published version of Shadows!

Sunday, July 13th, 2014 | Author:


One of the most intriguing — albeit repugnant — real-life characters I’ve come across while researching the Yugoslav wars is undoubtedly Dr. Biljana Plavšić. Although she looks harmless enough — conservative garb, pearl earrings, silver-grey coif — this former Vice-President of Republika Srpska was a nasty old bird indeed. Numerous websites catalogue her litany of crimes. Prior to her political career, Plavšić was a biologist at the University of Sarajevo. Speaking scientifically, of course, she characterised Bosnia’s Muslims as genetically inferior peoples, as traitors and cowards who’d chosen to convert to the Islam of their Ottoman conquerors. She also looked down upon Serbs from Serbia, once declaring that evolution had forced the Bosnian Serbs to become tougher because they had to live in the midst of their Muslim enemies. Contradicting this, Plavšić was a rabid proponent of ethnic cleansing and sought to rid Bosnia of those same Muslims that had made Bosnian Serbs tougher than all the rest. She also idolised former international bank robber and paramilitary commander Željko ‘Arkan’ Ražnatović, referring to him as the sort of hero Serbs need. After the war, and after Radovan Karadžic was banned from office, Plavšić served briefly as President of the Republika Srpska. She ended up getting something of a come-uppance when she was arrested for war crimes by the ICTY. She did some time but was subsequently released early on a plea-bargain deal.

The fact that website after website (my own included!) list the same tales about her brings me to my next point: namely, the perils of cyber research. I’ve read exactly the same tales again and again, undocumented claims copied and pasted word for word, and one of the most fascinating claims about Plavšić leads only to a dead end. Apparently, she was once ‘famously’ photographed stepping over the body of a dead Muslim to kiss Arkan. Countless websites say so, including Wikipedia. Yet this ‘famous’ photo seems not to exist. Surely, when there are so many other photos from the Yugoslav wars online, this one should be available somewhere? But even the footnote on the Wikipedia article leads only to another article that makes the same undocumented claim. There’s no sign of the photo in Plavšić’s case files on the ICTY website, either. Lazar has searched for it in Serbian, too. No luck. Is it just a myth?

If anyone can actually provide me with this photo, I’d be really happy. So happy I’d probably have to thank you in the acknowledgements of my book!

Monday, July 15th, 2013 | Author:


I’ve been feeling a tad worried lately about the publication status of a 7600-word novella of mine, “The Weight of His Wings,” the tale of a winged man struggling to salvage his life in the aftermath of a great war. A US magazine, Aoife’s Kiss, accepted the story more than a year ago now and scheduled it for publication in the magazine’s 10th anniversary issue in June this year. But the publication date came and went with no word from the publishers. Anyway, I’ve finally heard from them — the magazine and a bunch of others owned by the same company have changed hands, delaying many of the upcoming publications. So my story is still going ahead and should be out around August.


Monday, April 16th, 2012 | Author:


I’m feeling pretty good today: I’ve just submitted two new short stories, ‘My Wicked Sentences’ and ‘Out Shooting’, to two different magazines. I’ve decided to clear out my short stories file. I’m going to finish all those stories that have been lingering in there, waiting for their endings to get written, and send them out. After all, they’ll never get published if they stay hidden in my computer.