There are no new (story) ideas in the world


Discovering a book that is suspiciously like the story you are trying to write, down to the protagonist having the same name as your character, is almost enough to put you off writing.

Or at least, to make you question whether you are just a book-reading regurgitation machine rather than a legitimate words person.

This is the second time (this year) the universe has delivered me this lesson. In January, I was all set to scribble away at my amazing, ingenious, unique story idea and thought to do a bit of research to see if anyone else could have possibly written anything like it already.

Yes. Yes, they had.

The same genius idea, the same unique plot line, the same set of characters, all there for the world to read. I was put off, to say the least, at having to scrap all the exciting material I’d been working on because someone else had beaten me to the publishers.

When I wised up and caught sight of Austin Kleon’s ‘Steal Like and Artist’ on my bookshelf, I was humbly reminded that there really are no new ideas in the world. Sure, I thought I’d come up with something unique and worthy, but so have millions (nay, billions) of other literary lovers around the globe.

This is the lesson the universe has delivered. Did it have to happen to me twice in a matter of months?

Yes. Yes, it did.

Just now, I browsed for ‘urban fantasy for adults (not YA)’ to get a better idea of existing stories, and I came across a few interesting titles I’d never heard of. And there it was again, the universe slapping me in the face with a story idea that is somewhat similar to my new story, and a character with a name somewhat similar to my own protagonist. Somewhat. That’s better than exactly. I may be getting somewhere.

It is going to take more time and practise for my ‘unique’ and ‘genius’ work to not simply be a regurgitation of everything I’ve absorbed over my forty year life span. How easy it is to forget that lesson. Instead of throwing my stack of papers into the shredder like I may have done last time (writers are also known to have tantrums apparently) I am going to rename my protagonist and look closely at how to add a fresh take on a story idea that may have been done before, and will no doubt be done again and again.


Real life Writing Groups – yes or no?

“I think I need to join a writing group.”

These words were spoken aloud once. Recently, in fact. To my husband.

You may know where I’m going with this, all you isolated writers out there. I was suffering from what I like to call “writer loneliness,” which I’m certain is a real thing, and surely it affects words-people everywhere in their early stages of writing. Doesn’t it?

I had just been hit with an idea better than any other writing idea I’d had before, and poor husband was at my mercy.

It was his expression that did it. The same expression I probably give him when he starts hyperventilating over V8 Supercars. I’m excited ‘for him’ but would rather he go find a car enthusiast support group, or phone a friend than expect any intelligible response from me about lap times and other car thingys.

I guess that’s what I need too; not a car enthusiast support group, but a connection with other like-minded words persons who are in the same early stages as I am, so we can geek out together..

I have an idea for a first novel and, as I scribble down notes and character sketches,  I find myself in that horrible, ‘Am I doing it right?’ phase where I just need a bit of reassurance – a bit of a group hug.

Scratch that last bit – what I really want is a glimpse into other people’s early phases and some interaction about it. You know, what blogging used to be really good for.

After reading this rather blunt insight on writing groups, and from my own experiences at weekend workshops, I’m less inclined to run to my nearest community centre on a week night when really… loneliness is a general unpleasant part of life that can steep into many facets, including our hobbies and interests. Finding like-minds is crucial, no doubt, but the right type of interaction for your personality, timeframe, accessibility and all those other things, is also something to consider.

Maybe I’m being too closed-minded about it – there may be some great online writing communities just waiting to be found. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’ll forge on, sans writer’s group for now. There are plenty of podcasts about fiction writing that have caught my attention (more on that next time).


Script Analysis and a peppermint tea

Three amazing things are happening right now:

  1. I’m in my final year of my professional writing studies (so much work…)
  2. I have a new role at work (sooooo much work!)
  3. I joined a script analysis workshop (because I didn’t think I had enough work to do)

Script Analysis

Script Analysis by Cracking Yarns.

This is the really exciting one: Script Analysis is a 3-hour virtual classroom every Tuesday night for the next five weeks. We’ll study two scripts a week, and pull them apart to reveal the stuff that works, and the stuff that bores.

It’s an extension of a 2-day Screenwriting Workshop I attended in Feb, only this one allows me to sit at home in slippers while sipping a peppermint tea. I know the next five weeks will be intense, but that’s what I loved about Allen Palmer’s workshop.

Meanwhile, in other writerly news, I’m battling through a creative non-fiction unit (personal essays and memoirs) and a professional research unit (corporate stuff – policies, briefing notes, etc). Quite the contrast. The latter is a bit out of my interest zone, so the challenge is just getting through them. And then there’s the day job which is ramping up in a major way, and that scares me a little.

In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.”

creativity, writing

Finishing my first short film script

I’ve been hanging out on Instagram a lot these days. I can’t get enough of photo prompt challenges, especially by Susannah Conway. You can find me at @alteredtype

I’m still studying – 8 months left and counting.

And still writing – a short story and my first 15 minute film script about a girl who meets a guy in a bookshop, but it doesn’t end well. For the bookshop.

And still hoarding stationery, which I don’t talk much about here, but I feel my ventures in art journaling and papery things will eventually feature more prominently on the blog (after studies are over).

And still getting over Christmas and various milestone birthdays, and a new role at work, and, and, and…

I may be away from the blog for just a little while. A wise screenwriter once told me, “If you’re writing a blog, you’re not writing your script.” Good point. Back soon.


Writing update: poetry and adapting Twelfth Night

I have been doing stuff, making stuff, and most importantly, writing stuff. Yep, stuff has been getting done. While the blog has been shuffled to the sidelines for about a month, here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. Writing poetry
I’ve been reading and writing all sorts of poetry for the last three months, and I NEED to keep it up. It’s invigorating, pushing me to use new words and phrases I haven’t dared use before. Plus, haiku genuinely keeps the brain sharp.

2. Re-writing Shakespeare
This is an incredible challenge for my Uni studies. Initially though, I was terrified about the project (being less than an expert on the Bard) until I learned that we were adapting one tale from Charles & Mary Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare for a children’s book. And no, I didn’t choose Twelfth Night just so I could watch She’s The Man, but it was helpful. My adaptation of Twelfth Night takes place at an alternative rock music festival, where the twins’ tale of mistaken identity plays out among world famous rock stars: Orson and Olivia. Who would’ve thought I’d love writing a book for tweens?

3. Writing to pen pals
Three charming ladies from Canada, France and Germany have been sending their thoughts (and paper goodies) my way, and have hopefully received mail from me by now. Viva Snail Mail!

4. Writing as therapy
Again for Uni, I challenged myself to explore a very personal issue in my assignments. My first instinct is to avoid certain topics if I feel the writing process will be too negative or stress-inducing, but this time I’m taking a deep breath and diving into the trauma. So far, it has proven therapeutic. Thankfully, only my poor tutor has to read it.

On the topic of where to focus your writing, read this amazing post where three authors provide their thoughts on writing vs. blogging.


‘So you want to be a writer’ podcast

Image: So you want to be a writer (podcast)

What a find! I’m only up to episode 3 of this podcast for writers (and readers) and while it’s tempting to jump straight to the latest episode, I’m going to take my time with this one.

Image: So you want to be a writer podcast

There are so many reasons I’m loving this podcast:

1. It’s Australian 
Go us! It’s great to hear local voices talking about people, places and events in my own timezone. It feels more accessible than some other podcasts I listen to regularly, because I don’t have a hope in hell of visiting a Waterstones any time soon, or any of the other lovely sounding bookshops and events that are geographically so far away. Did you know that Melbourne is a UNESCO City of Literature? Which basically means there are so many events down here that could warrant their own podcasts (and I’m surprised there aren’t more).

2. It’s run by two intelligent, passionate writing professionals
Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait share similar opinions and experiences in writing and publishing, and they love to explore their differences; that’s what makes their conversations so interesting.

3. It is run by women
As an extension on point 2, I love listening to women in the industry talk about their experiences and their craft, and not just from an interviewee perspective. When you hear a voice (or see a person) that represents something you aspire to, you feel less invisible and are more likely to go forth and be heard yourself.

4. They talk about other stuff – sometimes.
I’m only three episodes in, but so far they’ve covered other very relevant issues in the world like coffee, typewriters and reading habits. They do cover everything remotely relevant to the creative writing life and interview some amazing writers in their Writer in Residence segment.

If you’ve been looking for a podcast that covers all writerly things, you should take a listen to this one. And naturally, if there are podcasts I need to know about, please leave me a note.