Writers I enjoy reading

Virginia Woolf – she had an incredibly unique insight into the human condition, and way of exploring the conflict between identity and the world. She was also one of the few people who could string a single sentence across three pages, using only a few commas and semi-colons, and still keep me engaged! My favourite works are Orlando and The Waves.

Charles Dickens – humorous, entertaining, emotional, epic story telling that has something for everyone. My favourite work of his is Great Expectations.

Katherine Mansfield – you can smell the air and feel the dirt as she describes a scene. The stories and characters are so real, and evoke such emotions. My favourite work are Bliss and The Garden Party.

Anais Nin – very evocative and sensual. And her own history provides for an interesting journey into her writing. My favourite work is Henry and June.

Cormac McCarthy – extremely talented in using structure to portray the story as much as the words. So dark and bleak, but not overly pessimistic. My favourite work is The Road.

Stephen King – one of the ultimate yarn spinners around. Yes, his stories may seem familiar and formulaic, but they work! I’m a huge fan of a bit of horror and he delivers each time. His dramatic fiction is also riveting, and his fantasy writing is absorbing. Such a talent. My favourite works are It and the Mr Mercedes series.

Cassandra Clare – Queen of the YA fantasy novels! Love, adventure, family, emotion, hormones, all wrapped up in fantastical plot. Too hard to put down! My favourite works are the Lady Midnight series.

Matthew Reilly – a wild ride, with non-stop action, no matter what you read. Excellent holiday books for on the plane and by the pool. My favourite works are Ice Station and The Four Legendary Kingdoms.

There are many, many other authors I enjoy, and books I just pick up and read on a whim. This list is about the writer I come back to again and again, re-reading their works and discovering something each time (even if it’s just a reminder of what I like about their writing).

Who am I following?

I thought I would share a list of writers who interest me, and who’s blogs I follow. I am interested in these writers as they discuss the art of writing, how writing impacts on their lives, and provide useful insights from their personal experiences of being a writer. They also provide some of their writing free to read – which is very entertaining!

So check them out! And tell me which writers you follow. Any suggestions for blogs to follow are always welcome.

Brian Bilston’s Poetry Laboetry – https://brianbilston.com/

Dean MacAllister, Melbourne Fiction Author – https://deanmacallister.com/

Story Empire, Exploring the World of Fiction – https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/

Harlequin Ink, Magic Is Everywhere – https://noelanderson2014.com/

Pete Schmigel: Essays, Stories, Blogs, Haiku – https://peteshmigel.com/

Mat Clarke: Short stories and writing tips – http://matclarke.blogspot.com/

A story? Or therapy?

Often we hear ‘write what you know’ when talking about writing stories. But what if ‘what you know’ is so raw that writing about it will cause a significant amount of pain?

Writing about experiences, trauma, and thoughts can be a useful way of processing those events that have caused us pain. The process of writing allows us to separate from the event by externalising it on paper or screen, where we can then look at it more objectively. Writing is also a process that takes time, thus writing about specific events can slow down your thoughts to a manageable pace. This also allows space for you mind to process the events and the pain associated with those events.

I guess the question is not ‘do I write from my own experiences or not’, but rather ‘who am I writing for’? If your writing is to explore and process your own pain, you may find you are writing for yourself in the first instance. Later this might turn into something for others, but for now it is personal. If you decide you’re writing for others, then your experiences and pain might be used as inspiration or fodder for your writing, and may still be somewhat cathartic, but is more focused on writing for the enjoyment tor education of an external audience.

What am I doing? Mostly using thoughts and experiences to create something fictionalised for others. But like a lot of people, I still often write for my own peace of mind. Writing is, after all, one of the most powerful tools available to all of us!

Promoting Tessie Dowling

Please check out Tessie’s illustrations from my collaborative website “https://www.instagram.com/tessiesdoodles“, there are also many great authors to chat to and stories to read: https://www.worldwriterscollective.com

Tessie is one of the members of our collaborative World Writers Collective where we writers share resources, ideas and inspiration. Check out Tessie’s work!

I will be promoting a different writer from the World Writers Collective each week, as a plug to my fellow collective members, to promote our work, and provide entertainment and inspiration for everyone. Enjoy!

Limnisa Short Story Competition 2020 – update

I thought I had done it. I thought I had written a decent story to enter in this competition. Over the remaining two months before entries close I could hone the story, rewriting over and over to ensure it was the best version possible. First step, give it to a friend to read.

He hated it. He said he found the characters were nobodies, that he was unable to feel any connection with either of them. I pointed out this was the point, that the two characters were ‘everybody’s’ which is why I did not use names and the dialogue was highly stylized. He said this did not make much difference to him. He said the story did not inspire him; there was nothing surprising in the plot; and while well written, the whole concept left him feeling cold.

I did ask for feedback.

So out with the old, and in with the new. To give my friend the credit he is due, he was very nice in the way he delivered his criticisms. And in the end he gave me an idea for a new story that I have used. So worth the pain. Hopefully.

As for the original story, I think it could part of a bigger story. I’m thinking some context on either side may provide a setting for highly stylized way this is written, and enable surprise and plot development.

This is what writing is about. This is what writing is. And this is what I do, for I am a writer.

Fair Dinkum

Who put this plank in my eye?
I could see quite fine
IMHO before this thing, this
catastrophe?, happened to me;
I could see the faults in
the world, in others -
(too many immigrants, I heard);
I could see where to correct the
direction of my life -
(get a better paid job, I heard);
My eyes were open to injustice,
the downtrodden, the oppressors -
(the unions are rabid, I heard);
I saw ways I could help make
it all better, IMHO -
(get private health insurance, I heard);
I have 20:20 political and social
vision, so I ask you,
how did this plank get in my eye?
(I didn't see that coming!)

© David McKenzie 2020

Short, but not quite short enough

I finished the first draft of my short story for the Limnisa Short Story Competition 2020. Great work (if I do say so myself), good story, interesting plot twist. Only problem was when I rechecked the entry requirements on the Limnisa site I discovered my story was 1600 words. over the allowed word limit. I tried editing it down but it just lost too much of the feel and the context of the story to make it work. I’ll save it for another competition or publication.

So, I’ve started on a new story for this competition. A very different style and plot, focused on characters and their motivations, no matter how warped. I’m keeping an eagle eye on the word count this time!

There’s too much in my head!

Where to start? What to write? Do I work on the next chapter of my novel, sadly neglected over the last few weeks as I focus on setting up this site and finishing some short stories? Do I work on Turn, Ugly Truth – part 2? Do I begin the new story that has begun to float around my head and distract me? Or do I take a break from all this pondering and watch Netflix?

These might look like easy decisions. They really have no importance to anyone but me and would seem trivial and insignificant to anyone reading this. But this is the constant struggle of the writer. Writing is a solitary art most of the time. It is me and the computer or notebook. Writing is also introspective as an activity. Whilst I could sit and writer a description of the world as it revolves around me, I am really writing an interpretation of that world filtered through my own mind.

And the mind is the engine for all writers, no matter the type of writing they do. Even factual writing takes mind energy to express those facts in a way that is interesting to the reader and enhances the narrative.

As a fiction writer, my mind is a self-fueling engine of my stories, and as such I spend a lot of time in there, hunting around amongst the ideas for something I could use, something that could enhance my story, or something to seed a new one. As I watch the world revolve around me it’s as though I am viewing it through a veil, or on a screen, separate from me and being analysed, picked apart and scavenged for story fodder.

So when I am feeling overwhelmed by the ideas frothing inside my head, I can find it hard to focus on just one thing. Making lists helps, saving some ideas for another time. But it’s also about the energy behind an idea. An idea brewing in my mind today might be full of energy and captivate me immediately. But if I wrote this idea down and came back to it later, it might seem flat and dead and provide no impetus for me to follow it. Thus the things that should be done (the next chapter of my novel) often get relegated to the list while the things that are new and exciting (the idea for a story distracting me) get all the attention.

I know, it’s not fair to the poor novel sitting patiently in the background as the Jan Brady of the literary tasks, given some attention but never the star of the episode. I just keep promising it that one day, when it’s finished, it will be it’s own star and will no longer be ignored.

So what’s new on Netflix….?

Limnisa Short Story Competition 2020

This is one of the submissions I am currently working on (yes, the one inspired during a massage!). If you’re interested in the competition, or their writers’ retreats and services, check out their website – limnisa.com

FYI – full disclosure, it is a condition of entry of this competition that I promote Limnisa on my social media, but they’re not paying me for it 🙂

Man, can those creative juices flow!

Fantastic 90 minute massage at Body Freedom in South Melbourne (cashing in a birthday gift). Spent the time thinking about a short story I wanted to write for a competition, using a photo and the words ‘Stay rude’ for inspiration. After the massage, a slow walk to Docklands, and a pale ale at The Wharf Hotel on the Yarra River, I had the words spewing out of my pen. By page five i thought ‘Wow! i wonder what’s going to happen now?’ and shocked myself when a major arc of the story turned out not to be the case. Shows how much the body, mind and spirit are inc control when in harmony. Hooray for massages and beer!

And so it begins …

Welcome to the official launch of my new Creative Writing blog! Let the champagne flow! I am hoping to use this site as a means of sharing some of my writing, to inspire others and open my work to comment and engagement, I will also make regular posts about my writing journey – the ups and downs, the groups I’m part of and the outcomes of my efforts. I hope it makes for entertaining reading.