Posted in Cafe musings

Wanted: One Cafe for Writing

I no longer have a writing ‘office’.

Déjà vu you’re thinking? Yes I’ve been there and blogged about it before.

But this time… OMG!

What possesses a popular café to do a refurb downgrade?

Rustic menu board above the counter gone. Digital menu in its place. Plastic greenery everywhere like an unpleasant rash.

I could try ignore all that (after all I’m writing, not gazing at the décor) but I can’t. What’s more: the menu is now a shadow of its glorious past and I can only refer to the chilled staff in the past tense.

Atmosphere nil.

So I’m café hunting… again.

And this is where I’m torn.

A writing friend told me the name of the café she goes to write. So on the weekend, I popped by this café to write and oh, it was so right.

Low-key, similar layout to my old café (in its better days). Great soy chai. Perfect writing atmosphere.

But I feel so guilty! It feels like stealing.


Posted in Inspiring writers, Life

Podcasting it

I have a new love. Listening to podcasts.

For years I’ve been one of those people who only had a vague idea of what podcasts were. Now I’m addicted!

It all started with my never ending quest to free up time to write. I was running out of ideas and despairing of being able to achieve my second draft deadline.

A close friend had mentioned (several times) the Mama Mia series of podcasts called I Don’t Know How She Does It! and had given me some examples of time saving tips she’d learnt.

So finally I downloaded the App and began listening…

OMG how fantastic are they! Bite sized, fascinating one-on-one interviews with well-known women juggling so many balls and how they do (or don’t) do it. So many great ideas, shortcuts and what they call ‘hacks’.

What I was most surprised at was their honesty.

So now that I’m plugged in to the ‘podcast world’ I downloaded an American podcast, recommended in the NSW Writers Centre’s Newswrite Magazine, called Writing Excuses.

Each podcast is 15-20 mins long (great for listening in the car), is hosted by a small panel of authors and discusses a specific aspect of writing.

Loving it! Already has helped hugely in my current rewrite.

Go podcasts!

Posted in The Beach, What I'm writing

Writers Retreat for One

I’m on a writers retreat for one – me.

The planning involved was minimal. The ‘retreat’ (a motel room) needed to tick three boxes:

  • A relaxing destination
  • Driving distance from Sydney
  • Plenty of cafes.

So I’m in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.

In retrospect, an odd choice given that the story is set on a beach. But this landscape is channelling my writing efforts differently, in a good way.

The aim is to maximise writing time, get a good chunk of the second draft ticked off and a way forward mapped out.

My hit list is as follows:

  • Update my chapter summary
  • Complete a chapter summary of the ‘romance’ thread
  • Complete a chapter summary of the ‘author’ thread
  • Insert feedback from Writers Group (I’m always behind on this!)
  • Address the ‘red’ notes (this is the second draft stuff – accumulated feedback and notes)

The lengthy task of once again updating my chapter summary table – makes my eyes water. So my solution is what I call a ‘chapter pictorial’ that fits to one A4 page. An at-a-glance summary of the manuscript. This is what I did:

  • Inserted a small square onto the page.
  • Made it a text box, so I could write in it.
  • Wrote 1. The Beach (the location of my first chapter)
  • Copied this square 26 times, spacing each out evenly like a grid.
  • I skimmed through each chapter and wrote 2-3 plot points in each square
  • Onto the next box, 2. …

Along the way, it throws up gaps, solutions and extraneous characters. I scribble notes in an exercise book, so as not to distract me from the task.

I copied the A4 page and did the same for the romance thread running through the book. It made me focus only on ‘the romance’.

I plan to do the same for the ‘writer’s thread’ which includes my story-in-a-story bits.

Every minute of the weekend is about writing. And this opportunity is like a good book. So I’m immersing myself in it!

If I’m not on my laptop, I’m scribbling in an exercise book or taking a walk to clear any clutter in my head.

And of course, as I drive out of Katoomba, I’ll stop and soak up the beauty of the gorgeous Blue Mountains.

Posted in The Beach

A story in a story

The female protaganist in my current manuscript is a writer.

Small details of her book appear in the first few chapters. I was going to keep it like that – small details.

But these details grew and one idea tumbled into another. Next thing I was thinking was that I should bring more of this ‘other’ story in. Make it a larger part of The Beach.

Now I’ve skidded to a halt. It’s distracting me.

A second draft is about fixing up, smoothing out, sorting relationships, continuity, clunky writing, repetition and much more.

But is it about inserting in another significant storyline?

Writing this book has been all about enjoying the writing and ‘keeping it simple’. So at this stage of the second draft, I think not. As fascinating as this departure from the main story has been, I’ve decided it’s not going to fight its way to the front row just yet.

If it needs to be written, I’ll have a go at writing it separately.


A ‘spin off’ maybe.

Posted in What I'm writing

New Year optimisim

I’ve been thinking about the bold statement I made in early December about my second draft of The Beach:

‘I’m optimistically hoping to have this finished by the end of June.’

And to clarify – I wasn’t talking 2019.

Realistically, at the two hours per week (max) I steal away to write, June 2018 is never going to happen.

Fortunately, this time of year always brings out the optimist in me.  If the second draft is going to be completed in six months, writing productivity will have to go up.

I need to make a plan (and stick to it).

My year will be crammed with the same stuff as 2017 maybe even more so. So I’m going to attempt the virtually impossible – short writing bursts during the week rather than saved for the weekend.

It means purposefully scheduling additional writing sessions in my diary.

I’ll need to find that little bit of headspace between work, school pick-ups, exercise, headaches…

Will it work?

Optimistically, I’d like to say YES.

Posted in The Beach

Write what you know …

Yeah, yeah that’s easy to say. Harder to do.

It all can’t be ‘known’ can it?

Research is a skill. Learnt or otherwise, it’s one that eludes me. So when I began writing The Beach, I loved that it unfurled easily. I was sticking to what I knew.

My book is set on a tiny beach on the north coast of NSW. Sydney, Perth and Melbourne all make guest appearances as does an island in the South Pacific.

There’s a girl, there’s a guy, there’s romance…

All was going well. Along the way I’ve had to check a few details but nothing huge.

I always knew the ‘big’ scene I wanted to write near the end. However, those research alarm bells only rang when the chapter was literally upon me.


I needed emergency medical knowledge. Stat!

No amount of googling was going to cut it. More panic. The end of my book was close and I was wasting time.

Then the idea came to drop by the local hospital and cruise into Emergency with a note pad and pen for a casual Q&A with…

That was not going to work.

So then I was musing out loud about the lack of readily available paramedics on hand to help with research and lo… it turns out the right person heard me.

(no idea if lo is an actual word but it felt right for that sentence and I ain’t going to google it to check)

Long story short, armed with a list of questions and scenarios, I spent half an hour on the phone quizzing a fabulously helpful paramedic on his day off.

What a buzz.

Turns out research can be fun.

Posted in Inspiring writers


In the early nineties I did what so many Australian’s do in this gorgeous country. I left.

My best friend, an avid writer, travelled with me. She was always writing and her vibrant, interesting stories fascinated me.

It turned out, her passion for writing was contagious.

Email and internet cafes were still a few years away. In Europe and the Middle East, calling home was shoving coin after coin into a payphone and talking really fast or reversing charges. Either way – neither one was a quality catch up with family back home.

So we wrote down our adventures in tiny writing on postcards and aerograms and sent them home.

I recall one time in a McDonalds somewhere in Germany. There were paper place mats and on the underside was a generous expanse of white. Sipping our thick shakes, we filled every white inch with vivid descriptions of places we’d been to, the characters we met and experiences we had.

There was always so much to write about. Always so much I wanted to write about.

Settling in London, day to day life took over and fortnightly calls home took over from the letter writing. I thought the passion for writing, my best friend had inspired in me, was gone.

It wasn’t.

One Monday morning waiting for the tube to work, I had a thought. More of a ‘what if?’ About a London nightclub, two murders, six suspects, no motive (see May 2016 blog: An idea germinates). It was a ‘novel sized’ writing idea.

It’s been nearly twenty years since I left London. My best friend stayed. I moved to Sydney and writing became a big part of my life. It became something I just had to do. My happy place.

Recently, ten years since I’d last seen her, my best friend came to visit. I found myself in the very unlikely position of inspiring her.

A few days after she returned to London she sent me a picture. It was taken in a small café she was sitting in – to begin writing again.