I write young adult novels and have a passion for reading and writing. My blog is a place were young adult writers can get tips to improve their own writing so that they too can share their stories with the world. I'm a wife to a wonderful husband and mum to two beautiful boys.
Yesterday evening, I had to do something scary. Or, be brave – which is the same but makes me sound better. So, I was being brave. I went to a writing group meeting at my local library and everyone in attendance read out a five minute piece of work. In front of everyone else. I didn’t know anyone.
See how brave I am?
The thing is, even though I read too fast and half-way through was distracted by the thought that I hadn’t washed my teeth after dinner (I didn’t remember until the end that I hadn’t had dinner yet), it was great. I met nice people, with similar interests, who gave me some feedback on my work (and my reading speed). No one booed me off the stage or made me cry, no stood up and shouted, “you’re a fake!” and I managed to not spontaneously combust.
And if I can do it, you can too.
What’s more, chances are your library or neighbourhood house does something similar. And, if not, you my find that there’s a writers’ group in your community. From attending this one event, I’ve learnt about a group in a town ten minutes from mine and I’m going to visit next week. Maybe we’ll be a good fit for each other, maybe we won’t but I won’t lose anything by going and there really is so much to gain from having your work critiqued (fancy word for constructive feedback) by others.
Don’t be put off by your age, either. The librarian running last night’s even told me that she’s headed up a youth writing group in the main library for the past three years, so seek out something similar at your library or suggest it to your librarian. Or maybe you could encourage your English teacher to start one at school. It is definitely daunting sharing your work with others, but in a safe and respectful environment, it can also be really exhilarating
Do you already share your work with others? Or, do you have a writing group you go to? I’d love to hear about it.
Eaves dropping is rude. That’s what my mum taught me. But I do it all the time and, if you’re a writer, so should you.
I’m not saying this just to justify my own behaviour. Whenever you have more than one character in a story, you’re most likely going to have dialogue, and you want that dialogue to sound as natural as possible. In order to do that, you need to know how people speak.
Most of us speak with other people regularly. Our friends, family members, people we meet in the street or at the shops, but when we’re doing this, we’re thinking about the topic of conversation, not the way in which we’re speaking. That’s why listening to others speak is important for improving your dialogue writing.
What Should You Be Listening For?
Language choices: I guarantee that your mum speaks to her friends differently to how she speaks to you. And, that you speak differently to your friends to how you speak to your mum. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we make different language choices depending on who we’re speaking to, the situation we’re in, whether we’re drunk or sober (and thus our inhibitions are different) and what our emotional state is. Listen for these language choices next time you’re ‘listening in’.
Slang and Colloquialisms: Slang refers to language used by certain groups of people – teenagers, soldiers, nurses, people within the LGBTQI community. Colloquialisms refers to informal language, which may include slang, that most (if not all) native speakers from a particular country or area know. For example, ‘lit’ is teenage slang, ‘duffer’ is an Australian colloquialism for a someone who’s a bit of an idiot. By listening to the slang and/or colloquialisms someone uses, you can find out a lot about their age, profession and where they’re from. If they sound awkward when saying it (like I would saying something is ‘lit’) this might give you another clue about their personality.
Space fillers: We pepper our speech with lots of ‘um’, ‘ah’, ‘like’, ‘so’. It gives us time to think. In this case you’re listening for things not to include in written dialogue. Written speech should sound natural, not be an exact replica of real-life speech, because adding in all those space fillers would just slow the pace and make reading the dialogue a grind. Used strategically, these space fillers can work well but don’t feel you should include them in every place a person might actually say them.
These are just some of the basics of speech to keep in mind. Start here, and see how you go. When you’ve got a moment to yourself, make a point of listening to how people speak. Just, don’t get caught.
They’re here again. The school holidays. Two weeks of freedom from early wake-ups (theoretically of course. My kids are still up at 6, but we could stay in our jammies all day if we wanted), lunch box packing, treks to school and treks home again. Of course, B1 has started the holidays by throwing up all over the floor, but that’s pretty manageable.
Going from 13 years of school to four years of university to a teaching career, to SAHM has meant I’ve never had to work the nine to fives, 6 weeks annual leave, of an adult, so spending school holidays with my kids is awesome. And I love hanging out with the kids, going to movies (we have to go see Toy Story 4 – even though I felt they’d pretty much wrapped things up with number 3 and it could ruin everything), going to the park and having pancakes for brekky.
So, long live the school holidays. What would we do without them.
If you’ve been with me for a while it will be no surprise to you when I say that I’m passionate about education. There are very (very) few people in this world with the sort of talent that means they have nothing to learn. And, with the school holidays just around the corner for many young people in Australia, you have the perfect chance to focus on your passion for writing.
City Kids/In Person Workshops
There are writing workshops, courses and camps in various cities around Australia, planned with the school holidays in mind. Unfortunately, I was unable to find anything relevant/current for South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia or Queensland. You may want to check out the next section. Please note that I do have a Writers Victoria membership, but I’m not affiliated with these groups in any other way, nor have I used these courses.
I grew up in the country and while there are many great things about being a country kid, having access to a range of opportunities (and the public transport to get you there) is not one of them. Here are a couple of courses/workshops that can be completed online, wherever you happen to be in the country (or world). Please note that I have worked with the author Dee White before, and found her to be an excellent mentor, but I am not affiliated with her or any other of these groups beyond that.
If you do decide to have a go at any of these courses I would love to hear your experience. The best way for any of us to get better as writers and authors is to keep writing and keep learning, and I hope that you give yourself the opportunity to do so.
On a Monday my youngest usually gets a stomach ache. Is his stomach really aching? I think so. Is he sick? This, I’m not so sure on. He could be but he’s not running a temperature. He could be getting sick. Or he could just be anxious about going back to school for another week. Whatever it is, his tummy hurts and he doesn’t want to go.
But he has to go.
Cue the tears.
There’s nothing quite like leaving you crying child in the care of others to make you feel like a monster. What’s more, even if you assuage your guilt by reminding yourself the he is A. Not actually sick B. Safe in the care of highly trained professionals and C. Probably stopped crying within thirty seconds of you turning the corner, a general feeling of unease settles on you for the rest of the day. Because, in effect, you’ve gone against every natural instinct you’ve got and are not there to defend and protect your distressed child.
Today we in most (but not all) of Australia get a day off for the Queen’s Birthday. It’s not the Queen’s actual birthday but who cares? It’s a day off. A long weekend. A Monday that feels like a Sunday.
My favourite thing about the long weekend is that I get the kids and husband home for an extra day. It honestly doesn’t matter what we end up doing, I just like that we do it together.
So, where ever you are in the world, I hope you’re having a wonderful day.