Aussie Yarns - Dave Goddard

Stories about Australia

Self-Publish 4: Writing

Whoever reads this article must be clear that I’m not a university student of literature, nor a lecturer. I don’t even class myself as an author. I say I’m a raconteur who can write logically. But during my study for a first degree, I took a unit called English 10, which I passed. So I enrolled in English 20 for the following year. The focus was Shakespeare and it took me three weeks to decide it wasn’t for me. My study continued and I achieved a Ph.D, but in an area far removed from literature. So my formal literature background is limited. In reading this, therefore, please view me as someone who’s gone from writing formal research reports to creating fictional novels via a process of collecting stories, most of them oral. This foray into explaining some intricacies of self-publishing is about why I did it, how, what happened and to share the information with anyone who’s interested. And I’m telling that story in language as simple I can muster.

The thinking I have in presenting this section is about overcoming barriers to writing and not how to write. There are experts who’ve written countless books and papers on the art of writing. And there are billions of novels to look at to get ideas. So I won’t go into that at all. All I’ll tell you  are my four golden rules and what I call “attributes for writing”.

Some of this came from my previous life in formal research, some from my early attempts at fiction, and some from my meandering path  between the two forms. Eventually, these four rules seemed to stand up about writing fiction.

  • NOTHING GOES TO PLAN: As I said in an earlier section, writing in any form is as much about thinking as it is about putting information on paper or into a computer. Be prepared for creating, dictating to your computer and thinking. In “The WILUNA Solution” and the current novel I’m writing, tentatively called “Life Sentence”, I found I had a hiatus of two to three months in the act of writing each. That didn’t mean I wasn’t mentally engaged with either. I just wasn’t sure of the next steps to take. And interestingly, the next step in each case was to go back and make changes to what I’d originally envisaged as a path.
  • SHARE YOUR IDEAS AND WRITING: Do each of these when the time feels right. Don’t feel you have to, but I found it invaluable. I went to a couple of people with literary background when I reckoned I had an engaging story. I was surprised how much my writing needed to change. What I’d done was to write in the style I was used to: a formal research style that consisted of telling people what I was going to tell them, then telling that in detail, and then telling them what I’d just told them or summarizing. The advice I received was simple: forget the first and third steps, and just tell the story.
  • ACCEPT ALL ADVICE: This doesn’t mean act on all advice. But listen to suggestions from people, make notes and store the advice. If you never use it, that’s fine. But hear, and accept, any advice because it may become useful at some point.
  • BE CLEAR ON FORM OF YOUR NOVEL BEFORE WRITING: Because my novels have an historical base, I follow advice given at a Writers’ Festival about four or five years ago by Hannah Kent, author of “Burial Rites”. She cited Margaret Atwood, and I paraphrase both authors in this way
    • if you know something you going to write is a fact, don’t change it
    • if you’re not certain it’s a fact, do all in your power to ascertain if it is or not. If it turns out you can’t find evidence either way, it’s best to be conservative and accept it as accurate, but ultimately, use your own judgement
    • if it turns out not to be a fact, create to your heart’s content.

I also think there are certain attributes that should be developed if one is going to write. You may have these and if not each can be developed. This list isn’t meant to be definitive and in no particular order, consists of:

  • accepting that creativity is ten percent inspiration and 90 percent sweat. A great Australian named Richie Benaud once said those words about captaincy in cricket and added, “but don’t try it without the ten percent!”
  • having patience and persistence in all you do. Remain focussed on the story and the theme you’re illuminating
  • deciding how it will be told as you develop it: whether through conversations, descriptions or some of both and to what extent. I prefer the former as much as possible, but it’s a choice you can make as you go along
  • having flexibility in developing the story. By this, I mean chop and change themes, characters, the attributes of characters, how they relate to each other or whatever you feel will enhance the story. But always be prepared to go back seven steps and come at it again, knowing that nothing, including what you learn about yourself, will be wasted.

Once again, I trust this outline may assist you in what you are going to do, including going to a form of story-telling other than writing fiction.