Finding a critique partner

I’m starting this post with a story that shows how important it is to find critique partners who are on the same journey and know how to offer balanced feedback.

Several years ago, I made a big mistake. I showed a friend the first 10,000 words of one of my novels.

It was a first draft and far from perfect. I knew that.

I expected my friend to provide constructive criticism. Instead, I got a shellacking.

We were in a cafe, having a pretty nice time as I recall it, when she blurted out that she hated my protagonist. She went on to slam every word I had painstakingly placed on the page.

Basically, she told me my first 10,000 words were crap.

It was brutal. I sat there as a numbness invaded my body.

It took me a long time to regain self belief and confidence in my writing.

The moral of this story is – don’t show your friends your work in progress.

After this humiliating experience, I set out to find like-minded critique partners.

I ended up with more than one.

I had already formed firm friendships with Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) members who have always been there for me when I’m stuck.

I also joined Writing NSW and found a critique group that accepted me with open arms. The group members write across a variety of genres and bring a wealth of knowledge to our monthly feedback sessions.

And I now have a critique partner I met at a weekend writing workshop run by a well-known Australian author. After the workshop ended, I contacted this person (I’d sussed her out and thought she and I were ‘on the same page’). We’ve shared our work for the last 12 months.

My writing has improved because of these invaluable connections, which keep me engaged with the writing process.

It may take a while to find the right person to read your work but perseverance is the key. I finally managed to get the balance right.

I know what you’re thinking: do I still talk to my friend? Yes. But I never discuss my writing with her. It’s better that way.

Where will you be in 10 years?

I gave myself a shock when I recently asked the question, ‘Where will I be in 10 years?’

Firstly, I thought about how old I’ll be in 2030. Yikes!

Next, I indulged in sadomasochistic self-flagellation over a dearth of writing achievements thus far on the unrelenting path to decrepitude.

Nuffin’ new about that. Self criticism is my special skill!

If I was in my 20s, I wouldn’t have such a problem with the question.

If I was in my 20s, I would answer the question with, ‘I will be with my wonderful family, in a sunny place, writing another novel, eating good food, in rude good health, travelling with friends, walking the dog, swimming in the ocean, having reasonable sex (can’t be too ambitious), being an activist for climate change and deforestation, reading good books…

But hey, isn’t that where I’m at now? Wooooaaaah! Slow down lady. You’ve got the next 10 years covered.

I may not be published (not yet) but I do have a completed novel and I’m onto the next!

We can all be too hard on ourselves, and in the era of COVID-19 it is tempting to fall into a mental lockdown and take for granted what you already have.

But looking to your future self can be an uplifting exercise. It has the power to move you back onto the path you seek and remind you that life in the ‘now’ has many potential silver linings.

Live La Vida Loca!

Pandemonium in my brain: why I need a beta reader and better time management

SOME would say I live a safe life.

I have a stressful day job, a stressed-out family life and a very old dog (she will die soon so expect grief-stricken post).

What’s more, I live in the suburbs and head to the coast for the holidays.

But when it comes to writing for contests, I have inadvertently become a risk taker by leaving ABSOLUTELY everything to the last minute.

I don’t know what it is inside my weird head that puts me into go-slow mode the second I commit to entering a competition (expect a post on procrastination).

But the end result is pandemonium in my brain, which led me (too late) to the conclusion that I should have consulted a beta reader right from the start.

I started my short story for the Romance Writers of Australia Little Gems 2018 contest about a week out from the deadline.

The day before entries were due I set about writing the last 1000 words of my 3000-word story. I bashed it out in true pantser style, making it up as I went along.

On deadline day, which fell on a Monday so I had to go to work, I sent a missive to a writerly friend to inform her of my utter stupidity.

My mistake. She offered to beta read my story.

I got the story to her that night after work and she sent back her edits in two lots.

I started on the edits around 9.30pm, thinking I would cruise to the midnight deadline.

At 11.45pm, I was frantically attempting to format the hastily finished product and in a haze of exhaustion I whizzed it off with payment, signed forms, etc, by 11.56pm.

I don’t know why I do this to myself. Bonkers.

My beta reader’s keen eye picked up heaps of silly little mistakes and problems around structure.

If I had started to write the story earlier and given myself and my beta reader the time to iron out all the issues, the result would have been a more refined product.

*Shakes Head*





The importance of bum glue

Writing can be a tortuous process.

I always hate it when authors talk about the words flowing from their fingers for 12 hours straight or the muse that moved them to pen 12 novels in 12 months.

I don’t see how that can be possible without mediocrity joining the party.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing.

But a lot of the time it’s hard yakka.

My muse can be more like a spectre – she lurks in a dark corner so I can barely see her in my peripheral vision.

And what is that in her hand? An idea with a supernatural glow that is impossible to reach.

Then there are those euphoric moments when the writing gods shine on me and inspired ideas pop into my head and fizz with potential. It’s a pleasant feeling.

This usually happens while I’m out walking for exercise or in the shower for daily ablutions!

I know the best advice is to write no matter what.

Even if you are a desert where ideas perish in droves it is important to get something down on the page/computer screen before the day is over.

And do that every day.

I once heard the late author Bryce Courtenay offer words of wisdom.

Mr Courtenay talked about “bum glue”. He said you need to get that bum glue on the chair and then get your bum on it quick smart and start writing, and keep writing until it’s done.

Even if it is rubbish.



Three books in the drawer

And maybe even more.

I am embarrassed to admit I have at least three books in the drawer – metaphorically speaking, that is.

At over 100,000 words, my most recent novel was my most ambitious.

I finished writing it at the end of 2015.

It had been a huge feat for me to craft a story that wasn’t solely focused on the relationship between the hero and heroine. After years of mucking about, I had finally tippy-toed away from the romance genre into ‘popular women’s fiction with romantic elements’.

On completion of a first draft, I followed the recommendations of many successful authors – I put my novel “in the drawer” so I could return to it in a couple of months with a fresh perspective.

And there it stayed for a couple of months… and another couple of months, etc.


When I dragged myself to the computer to edit it, my mojo had dwindled to a flickering candle with only a couple of hours burning time left.

As I traipsed through it, helped by some useful input from a writer friend, my attitude to my book changed.

  • I didn’t like my heroine anymore where once I loved her
  • I decided the story was flim flam, a crock, dog’s breakfast, all over the shop, total rubbish
  • I resented the input from my friend who had suggested I make big changes to whole chapters towards the end of the story. You’ve got to be kidding?

All in all, I suffered an attack of ennui and self-loathing whenever I went into edit mode (this wasn’t helped by my lack of organisational skills – yes, I am using Scrivener but I can even mess that up).

I also became caught up in the drudgery (ya gotta earn a living) and occasional dramas and tragedy that punctuated my other life in the real world in 2016 and 2017.

My very first grown up/big girl novel was put on the backburner.

As we all know it is now 2018. You might think I’m daft (and you wouldn’t be the first) but I rather like the sound of “2018”. Call me superstitious but I have always loved the number 8, even before I knew about the Chinese fixation with its simple infinity flow.

*And so dear reader (that’s you Lisa C), this year I resolve to get the bloody thing out there. Like, published. Like…

*Disclaimer: this is my first real blog on my big/grown up girl website so I am over-excited and keen to get cracking. So bear with me if book stays in drawer for another couple of months… etc.

Gouge my eyes out with pointy winged pencils!