A thought for #NationalWritingDay

Writers – of fiction, I mean – occupy the territory between magician, court jester and shaman.

They take the things we cannot clearly see about ourselves and make mirrors so that we can look at those things, at least a little more clearly.

It’s paradoxical, isn’t it, that though we, as writers, set out with fabrication as a goal, we can end up revealing something pure and unadulterated? And yet a writer of non-fiction, someone who strives for precision and factual detail actually blurs reality simply by passing it through their own lens.

Great fiction imparts great truths with a subtlety and depth that non-fiction never can.

So, get on with your writing and seek the truth wrapped up in stories…

A mentoring tale and the wolf within…

A few years ago, I was invited by Geoff Brown to be a mentor for the Australian Horror Writers’ Association.

It involved working with a particular author on a work-in-progress and, as you’d expect, sharing as much knowledge with them as possible. The payment was modest for the amount of work doing it properly would involve but I wanted to give it a try and see if I could make a difference.

Initially, I was shown two pieces of writing and at that early stage, I balked. I didn’t see any potential in either passage, so I asked Geoff if there was anyone else’s work I could look at. I was then sent a scene from a novel about a werewolf who used heroin to prevent himself from turning at each full moon. I loved the idea and the writing had real depth. I asked to work with the author and away we went for several weeks.

The author was Pete Aldin and we worked well together. I did what I could to guide, hone and encourage a person who clearly had a lot of raw talent and, like me, was quite late to the writing party.

It was a great experience. It caused me to question what I thought I knew about novel writing and come out stronger on the other side. And, throughout, despite setting some tough tasks for Pete – the kinds of tasks I’d have set for myself years before, if only I’d known – I watched his writing gain power and impact and saw his novel stretching towards fullness.

The mentoring period came to an end and we said our virtual goodbyes. I hoped I’d made a difference for Pete but I knew working with him had made a big difference for me; it showed me I had something to give, other than my stories, and it proved to me that not all writing advice is good advice because every author is so different. There’s no right and wrong way of doing it as long as what you do works – for you.

And that was the end of that.

Until a few weeks ago when Pete got in touch with some news. He’d finished his novel, taken loads of advice from lots of different people and had ended up publishing it himself. I was even mentioned in the acknowledgements. I was delighted.

I said at the time that I’d tell our story in a blog post, so here it is!

Pete’s an ace writer and his novel is a super-cool spin on the werewolf genre. If you like your characters hairy on the inside, check out Black Marks. And when you finish it, having loved it to bloody bits, go and give the man a star rating or better still a nice review…