Kirsten Krauth shares the secrets she learnt while creating just_a_girl, her debut novel released by UWA Publishing in June:

1. Delete the word ‘easy’ from the above title

Writers looking to publish a novel these days need the following skills and experience:

•    research skills
•    the ability to focus on one thing at a time
•    an iron will to withstand the distractions of Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, chat messages, email, apps
•    a partner who does all the cooking, cleaning, and looks after the kids during the day — if applicable
•    stamina
•    the ability to prise secrets from people
•    a heart of gold — because you will need to give all your time with little in return
•    a thick skin — to withstand constant rejection
•    a fertile imagination
•    a love of isolation
•    a big bottom with extra padding to withstand the pressure of sitting in a seat for hours on end
•    creativity under pressure
•    endurance to see it through to the end

2. Set aside time and keep it sacred

So you’re still reading? Well done. So many writers I have talked to over the years (including myself, there’s that little voice in my head again) say they just can’t find the time to write. The day job. Fun. Kids. Pets. Dentist appointments. They all eat into the schedule. But to write a novel you have to sit down. Set aside time each week. Put it in your diary. Even if it’s two hours a week. That time is yours. And don’t eat into your time by suddenly clicking onto Twitter and starting a conversation. And avoid taking on other writing work (if you are a paid writer) at this time, because you will always put that first. Believe me.

3. Learn how to switch off

For many writers (and scientists, so I’m told), the inspiration and solutions to problems come not when you’re at the writing desk but when you’re doing something else. Having a shower. Walking the dog. Just after meditating. I often wake up with things on the tip of my tongue. The missing pieces of the puzzle. The connections between characters. Don’t be afraid of letting it come to you.

4. Write as much as you can in the set time

Now some writers work slowly, agonising over each sentence, each word. I’m not one of them. I write like stream of consciousness. I churn out words. I purge. I set myself a goal of 1,000 words a day. I think this is do-able. Often I write a lot more. The more words you have, the more options you have, the more ideas to explore, the more stuff to delete. And the more you have to delete the better. When I’m starting out, I write paragraphs. Fragments. I keep going until a voice emerges that attaches itself to me. One I want to fall in love with.

5. Carry around that little notebook

Oh sure, it can look pretentious pulling out your Moleskin on the train. But ideas beget ideas. If you start recording them all, it’s amazing how many more surface. Your mind and body become attune to taking notice, to picking up things that are relevant. If you can type fast, put it into your mobile. But I think the nature of a notebook is that you can look back over it and use ideas for various things. Some ideas will never go anywhere, some will be relevant right now for your work, and some will fuel future writings. I have different coloured highlighters: pink for ‘this project’, yellow for ‘future’. Sometimes I look back on notebooks ten years down the track for inspiration. It can get to the point where you are constantly writing things down, when you’re deep in the thick of the novel, and this is an exciting time, when you have the momentum to keep going until you finish. You’ll recognise it when it comes.

6. Use other people’s stories

I’m a bowerbird. I’m constantly listening to other people’s words, letting items on Facebook or in the newspaper grab my attention. I get a little curl in the pit of my stomach, a little charge of excitement, that says ‘remember that’. I want to go deeper then. I often write a story in my notebook and then note down who said it (if it’s a friend or family member). I believe in letting people know if you’re using them in fiction. Most are happy and many are thrilled. For just_a_girl, my best friend had a great story about a man who accosted her on the bus, who had such a foot fetish that he bent down and started stroking her feet. What a story! I had to use it.

7. Balance the research and writing

I’ve worked out a wonderful system where I write in the morning (churning out those 1,000 words) and then research in the afternoon. I’m a morning person. I’m brightest at about 8am when it comes to actually thinking. If I start early, I can get a fair bit of writing done by 12. After lunch, I do research for the next day (or beyond). I explore the internet, look up libraries, read books, talk to people. Then I leave it alone by dinner. During the night magic seems to happen. I come to the page the next morning (or beyond) and start working on my character, sometimes working the research in, if it’s ready. At the moment I can only devote a day a week to writing. But I still find this theory works. If you’re a night person, sorry, I can’t help you out. Perhaps the other way round?

8. No judgement or critical words for first draft

I’m an editor by trade and used to looking at words critically. I’m always ready to chop excess material and fuss over grammar. But I don’t do that in a first draft. For the first 70,000 words (actually, let’s double that) I write with no aim in mind. I let the characters emerge. I don’t structure. I don’t edit and I don’t critique. And I don’t fuss over which font I’m going to use (I like fussing over fonts). When I’ve nutted out as much as I can, when the characters have become quite familiar to me, I go back and put my editor’s hat on.

9. When you’ve finished the first draft, take a break for a month and don’t look at it

If you’ve got the luxury of time, take a complete break. Put the manuscript under your bed, or the file hidden somewhere, and don’t be tempted to peak or tweak. After a month, on re-reading, you’ll be surprised how clear the voices are (or aren’t). You’ll realise that some characters are inconsistent, that the pace is lagging in some spots, and some voices resonate more than others. You’ll also want to start slashing huge reams of material that you thought were clever the first time (or important research you just had to include for its own sake) — and the real core of the novel will start to reveal itself.

10. Do another five drafts (at least) before you send it to a publisher or agent

This sounds like a lot, I know. But I’d advise doing two more drafts focusing on characterisation, one focusing on structure and pacing, one checking spelling and grammar, and a final as a proofread. Don’t be tempted to send a first draft (or second) to a publisher or agent. Most readers can tell after the first couple of pages how much work has gone into a manuscript and whether they want to pursue it until the very end. I didn’t believe this until I started judging the SMH Young Australian Novelists award this year, which involved reading 22 novels in three months. When you read so many novels in a binge session, it’s extremely clear which writers have put the hard yards in. Think about how many manuscripts publishers and agents receive. And also how tough the market is. It’s hard enough to get your manuscript read in the first place. With book sales decreasing, and inhouse editors diminishing, there’s little time to redraft with writers. This is a shame, as many writers just need a little help with polishing, but it’s how things are. Many readers also remember the standard of the first manuscript you sent them. If it’s not up to scratch, they may not want to read other examples of your work.

Publishing just_a_girl took about 12 years from go to whoooaaaah. The writing itself only took two or three. But I worked around having two little kids, part time paid work, a masters degree, and moving to regional Victoria from Sydney. Most writers have these bits and pieces lives. It’s not easy to balance it all. And most writers don’t do fiction for the money. But if it’s the process you love — as I do — you’ll stick with it. And now I’m off to start the second ...


Kirsten Krauth is a writer and editor who lives in Castlemaine. She edits the NSW Writers’ Centre magazine, Newswrite and blogs at Wild Colonial Girl 

Walter Mason and Kirsten Krauth

Her first book just_a_girl is available as a paperback or ebook from UWA Publishing, at your local bookstore or online. Here’s more info about the book:

Layla is only 14. She cruises online. She catches trains to meet strangers. Her mother, Margot, never suspects. Even when Layla brings a man into their home. Margot’s caught in her own web: an evangelical church and a charismatic pastor. Meanwhile, downtown, a man opens a suitcase and tenderly places his young lover inside.
just_a_girl tears into the fabric of contemporary culture. A Puberty Blues for the digital age, a Lolita with a webcam, it’s what happens when young girls are forced to grow up too fast. Or never get the chance to grow up at all.
Book Club Notes are available for this title.
Click here to read an extract from just_a_girl.

Claire Scobie launches her first novel

Gleebooks, Sydney

Noted travel writer, reviewer and journalist Claire Scobie has made the great writing leap and published her first novel, The Pagoda Tree.

I was there for the launch on Friday night at a very crowded (and very warm) upstairs at Gleebooks. It was, of course, a star-studded audience which included critically acclaimed novelist Gail Jones, ex-Senator Aden Ridgeway (aka Mr. Claire Scobie), and writers Belinda Castles and Felicity Castagna (the second time this week I have bumped into the delightful Ms. Castagna).
I came to know Claire through studying with her at the Writing & Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney, which is where this fascinating novel was born.

Claire Scobie launches her first novel, "The Pagoda Tree"

The Pagoda Tree is a tale of colonialism, mysticism and forbidden love sent in 18th century India. It is the story of a Devadasi, one of a caste of dancing girls and sacred prostitutes sworn to serve the God Shiva. It sounds absolutely intriguing and is right at the very top of my "read next" pile.
Claire Scobie is the author of Last Seen in Lhasa, one of the very rare travel books about Tibet. It details her relationship with a local woman, an itinerant religious hermit who changes her life.

Claire Scobie and the Dalai Lama

It has become a travel classic, and I always have people mention it to me when I tell them that I am a travel writer. Claire moved to Australia, from her native UK, for love, and she has become a beloved part of the Sydney literary scene. We are proud to have her.
Congratulations Claire, on your exquisite new work (what a superb cover!) - I am certain it will be a tremendous success.

You can follow Claire on Twitter at @clairescobie

An inspiring conversation with author Charlotte Wood

Ultimo Library, Sydney

The weather on Wednesday had been abominable, and I was secretly terrified that no-one at all would come along to my sixth Inspirational Conversation at Ultimo library. I needn't have worried. I should have known I could rely on the pulling power of Charlotte Wood, one of Australia's most acclaimed authors, and one of my personal favourites. Every seat was taken, and the brave audience were hanging on Charlotte's every word. It was an absolutely lovely night, filled with warmth and wisdom. Charlotte is as engaging and surprising in person as she is on the page.

Charlotte Wood

Audience luminaries included actor Joy Hopwood, authors P. M. Newton and Felicity Castagna, and Metropolitan Community Church minister Robert Clark. I don't mention the fabulous Mr. Noodlies, because he kind of belongs to me. He is, however, a committed Charlotte Wood fan too. 

We had come together to chat about comfort, inspired by the stories in her recent book about food, Love & Hunger. Charlotte loves food, but most of all she loves sharing food with friends, and she is an inveterate dinner party host. Except she doesn't like to call them "dinner parties." That appellation, she says, is far too formal and daunting. She much prefers to share a meal, cooking up one or two simple but delicious dishes and supplementing them with good bread, olives, wine and perhaps some chocolate at the end.

Of course, we talked books. Charlotte spoke about her enthusiasm for the delightfully ecentric English writer Alice Thomas Ellis, and for the reasonably obscure (at least to me) Sylvia Townsend Warner. She also sang the praises of Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety, a book she chatted about on the First Tuesday Book Club and caused to become an unexpected bestseller in Australia.

Wallace Stegner, an author Charlotte says we all should read

Charlotte's message was one of simplicty. Simplify your friendships, your obligations, your reading, your cooking and your eating. Do things because you love them, not because you are trying to impress. And that is a wonderful message to come away with.

An author talk from Allan Sparkes

Newtown Library, Sydney

The Newtown Library is an elegant place, with towering pressed-metal ceilings and the most wonderful mezzanine level where they host their author talks. I was there for a very entertaining and engaging author talk with Allan Sparkes, ex-cop, world sailor and now author.
Allan had come to my attention a couple of years ago when mutual friend, the crime novelist (and also ex-cop) P.M. Newton put us in touch with each other. At that stage he was sailing around the world with his family and putting together a manuscript. How exciting to see it come to fruition, and to see the resulting book, The Cost of Bravery, receive so much media attention.

For readers, this looks like being very much a "man's book" - an increasingly rare thing in the world of Australian publishing. But it promises not to be unrelentingly blokey. For Allan's journey is one from the traumas of being a policeman facing violence and fear in a way that is totally alien to most of us, from being a national hero (for saving a small boy drowning in a storm water drain) to being a desperately unhappy man, sick with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. It is Allan's hope that, through being so confrontingly honest about his own personal torment, he might offer some hope and some advice to other men who might find themselves suffering from mental health issues.
He's an excellent speaker and a very charming man, and if you get a chance to hear him speak I do recommend you go along. I bought the book on the night (professional note to Allan - always have a handsome pen on your person for author events :-) ), and look forward to starting it. I am also going to get a copy for my Dad - I think he'll like it.

The History of New Thought - John S. Haller Jr. - A review

New Thought is, perhaps, the most influential philosophical and religious movement that you’ve never heard of. It lies at the heart of most of what we recognise these days as self-help culture, and it informs many of the millions of pages that have been written and so enthusiastically purchased by people in the West keen for some of the answers to life’s more pressing problems. Oftentimes when people are criticising some of the substance and conventions of popular self-help literature they are in fact decrying the major tenets of New Thought, and have no idea that they are criticising a religious and cultural institution that has its roots deep in American literature. Those lazy and clich├ęd condemnations of self-help books that you read in most newspapers around the middle of January every year are in fact deeply ignorant of the history – and even the existence – of New Thought.

Hopefully this fine new history of the New Thought movement might go some way to remedying this shameful gap in the knowledge of most literary, cultural and religious commentators. John S. Haller Jr. Has written an exhaustive and thoroughly modern account of a movement that has deeply affected the way we think and speak, but which remains largely unheard of outside of specialist fields.

John S. Haller Jnr.

In fact, Haller claims that New Thought introduced a sophisticated theological understanding into nineteenth century American thought, providing a liberating and progressive idea of the Godhead that found a place for women, the socially aberrant, the spiritually questioning and almost anyone else looking for a non-dogmatic home. The New Thought theology was based in large parts on the writings of 18th century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, but also on the romantic and vaguely orientalist writings of Emerson and Whitman. It grew out of the Transcendentalist movement and never really lost its scrubbed and wholesome Protestant leanings.

The genius of New Thought was that its proponents never confined their ideas to the pulpit or the academy. They were keen users of the printing press, and New Thought journals, books and poetry became part of the mainstream literary scene. Americans (and, not much later, Europeans and Australians) became acquainted with a simplified positive thinking philosophy that represented the surface of New Thought Metaphysics. As Haller points out:

“By the 1930s, millions of people were participating in some form of mind-power exercises. A large part of this newfound popularity stemmed from a change in focus from health to prosperity...”

Earlier metaphysical teachers such as Phineas Parkhurst Quimby and the legendary Mary Baker Eddy had stressed the healing properties of these new metaphysical teachings, operating as they were in an age when the practice of medicine was anything but reliable. But New Thought gradually grew away from its religious and healing roots and instead embraced a keen worldliness, encouraging everyday readers to work towards self-improvement, thereby echoing the earlier writings of self-help proponents such as Samuel Smiles.
This History of New Thought is in many ways an exercise in reclamation. Haller, like me, sees a neglect of New Thought in most studies of American literature, religion and ideas, and, given its enormous popular reach, this seems foolhardy:

“When dusted off and brought to life, however the literature shows clearly that New Thought played an important role in defining the social, religious and political character of American life and culture. Thinking and writing about New Thought brings one to the very roots of the American psyche.”

John S. Haller Jr. writes in a lively and accessible manner, making this book constantly fascinating and entertaining. This can’t be said for the earliest history of New Thought, the venerable A History of the New Thought Movement by Horatio W. Dresser, a book I once made the mistake of bringing along with me on a long train ride. Haller’s references and scope are all thoroughly 21st century, and the breadth and depth of his scholarship are rendered lightly in this constantly surprising and intriguing book.

One for scholars of religion, self-help fans and anyone who has ever wondered just how old is the pedigree of the self-improvement industry.


Writing Your Journey - Walter Mason's new travel writing workshop at NSW Writers' Centre

In October I will be offering a brand new one-day travel writing workshop at the NSW Writers' Centre called Writing Your Journey.
My last course sold out quickly, so if you wanted to join us for a fun-filled day of writing, sharing and learning, do make sure you book now.
Here are the details:

Writing Your Journey

Who: Walter Mason
Saturday 26 October, 10am-4pm
Cost: Full Price:
$180; Member: $125; Conc Member: $110     
As more and more of us travel, many are becoming increasingly interested in recording their journeys. In this course Walter will take you through the ways you can capture the essence of place as well as your experiences and perceptions.
Whether it’s blogging for friends and family, creating journal articles or ebooks, or pitching a full-scale intimate travel memoir, the new forms of travel writing require us to be a part of the story and to expose our own interests, tensions and vulnerabilities. This course will teach you how to balance all this, and offer you some effective techniques for capturing vibrant word-portraits that will enliven your writing and help to re-create vivid memories.

Book your place at the workshop here

Buddhist temple, Ho Chi Minh City

A new single from Boy George

My lifelong passion for Boy George is no secret.

So I am always tremendously excited when he releases any new material, and have been completely loyal to him over the years.
In his mellow middle age, Boy George's always-exquisite voice has developed some depth and timbre that speak of a life well lived, adding an incredible richness to his vocals. The idiosyncratic singles he has released over the last couple of years have been consistently good, working as he has been with some of the best producers around. I would urge you to check out recent past releases Happy, Somebody to Love Me and Amazing Grace, along with his incredible cover of Lana Del Rey's Video Games.
But with his new song, Coming Home, he has really reached new heights. A dreamy, dancy track with a polymorphously perverse video clip, I have been addicted since the very first listen.
Bet you will be too.

The launch of Kirsten Krauth's new novel

Gleebooks, Glebe, Sydney

Listening to the floorboards creak and groan in the venerable upstairs section at Gleebooks in Sydney, I went to the launch of a brand new novel from young writer Kirsten Krauth on Tuesday night. I had only just returned that day from Singapore, so was still a little dazed, but launches are important, and I wanted to lend my support.

Walter Mason and author Kirsten Krauth

Kirsten is a Castlemaine author, though in this novel, Just A Girl, much of the action takes place in the outskirts of Sydney.

It details the scary and anxiety-inducing life of a teenaged girl faced with all kinds of moral problems that have arisen since technology has met a much more ancient teenage angst and rebellion. The section that Kirsten read on the night captured perfectly the voice of a contrary and dangerously curious young woman, and this looks like being a most intriguing - and provocative - read.

The book was launched by my pal Emily Maguire, who gave a remarkable speech detailing not only the desolation and anxiety of her own teenage years, but also the continued social pressure that girls and young women experience. I also bumped into the famous novelist Sue Woolfe, who had been one of Kirsten's mentors (and whose blurb is on the front cover), and Julia Tsalis from the NSW Writers' Centre. One of Kirsten's other jobs is being editor of that Centre's truly excellent quarterly magazine, Newswrite.

It is increasingly tough to launch new fiction by Australian writers, and Kirsten Krauth and her publisher UWAP are to be congratulated for their creativity, energy and commitment. I look forward to reading Just a Girl in the next couple of days. Keep your eyes out, too, for an excellent guest post that Kirsten has written for this blog, which will be of immense interest to all budding writers.

Walter Mason talks about his spiritual journeys through Vietnam

This Sunday night, the 23rd of June, I am speaking at the Cafe Church at Chapel by the Sea at Bondi Beach, about some of the spiritual traditions of Vietnam.

Minh Dang Quang, founder of the Buddhist Mendicant Sect in Vietnam

These are intimate evenings, and I would love to invite you along. Entry is free.


Cafe Church

Walter Mason, author of Destination Saigon, presents an illustrated journey through some of Vietnam's fascinating spiritual traditions. 

Sunday 23 June, starts 7pm

All Welcome

95 Roscoe St, Bondi Beach

Claudia Chan Shaw chats with Walter Mason at Ashfield Library

I am so happy to announce that in August I will be hosting a Conversation with the inimitable Claudia Chan Shaw at Ashfield Library.

Tuesday August 27  1pm Activity Rooms
New Series! 'Conversations with Walter Mason.'  

Claudia Chan Shaw, former presenter of Collectors, will talk about her book Collectomania with Walter Mason.
Book for sale and signing.

It's no secret that I am am enormous fan of Claudia Chan Shaw. She is one of the most stylish, intriguing and all-round fabulous women in Australia.

Please join me at this free event as I talk to Claudia about her roots, about how she became so interested in style and design, and the reasons she is such a passionate collector. 
Related Posts with Thumbnails