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Fleshing Out My Young Adult Zombie Novel, by Belinda Dorio

2011 was my year for short stories, it was my year to get out there and write as much as I could. It ended with my work being published in three separate anthologies by The Australian Literature Review, an opportunity to meet author Michael Pryor, an anthology launch event in Toorak and a fantastic opportunity to work with The Australian Literature Review’s Steve Rossiter, emerging author and editor Beau Hillier, and Rhiannon Hart author of Blood Song (Random House), on an integrated short story collection titled Possessing Freedom (release date of April 20, 2012), with a ghost premise. Not to mention meeting and workshopping one of my stories from Possessing Freedom with international bestselling YA author Maria V Snyder!

2011 was amazing, but as the year drew to an end I felt the itch coming on to finally write a novel. I had a lot of fun writing from the perspective of Faye, a spectral villain in Possessing Freedom last year, and it really got me thinking about making genuine and relatable villainous characters. I believe a good book will blur the lines between what it means to be ‘good’ or ‘evil’, and so I wanted to challenge myself – to have a go at re-creating a stereotypical ‘monster’ in my vision, and narrate from one of the creatures POV’s.

I first drafted the concept and first chapter in October, and proudly named my creation Flesh.

Flesh is a YA post-apocalyptic thriller with romance and dystopian elements which follows one three teen narrators as they navigate a post-apocalyptic and futuristic version of our world. Books and movies that have so far influenced the work are: The Hunger Games, Inside Out, The Rosie Black Chronicles, movie In Time and classics such as Frankenstein and Dracula. With help from extensive research into the above, Greek Mythology, Darwin’s theory of natural selection and diseases such as Malaria, my own brand of zombies were created – creatures that threaten the existence of the human race in Flesh.

I know tampering with a much loved mythical creature such as the zombie can cause some backlash, but I am confident readers will enjoy the new creature they will find in Flesh.

Why do zombies have to be shambling, mind-less creatures? Couldn’t they be genetically modified beings who had to live off the flesh of humans, but still function reasonably well?

And if this were possible, what kind of ramifications would such creatures have on a ‘real-world’ scenario? If your mother died from a disease that was ravishing your country, only to come back alive a few days later – you’d be happy, wouldn’t you? So what if she had weird looking eyes that were drained of colour, so what if she kept smelling your skin and salivating… You love her.

In a world where these new creatures don’t seem all that dangerous at first, all zombies are forced to live in Sector Zero, and the human dead are no longer buried- but rationed out amongst the zombies. The zombies are being allowed to live, but the government holds them on a tight leash – the question is, when the zombies become volatile, sick of being confined like animals and believing themselves to be the ‘superior race’, is the leash going to be tight enough to hold them?

I can’t wait to write more of Flesh, and each week I try to add at least 3,000 words to the manuscript.

I hope you enjoy my zombie creations as much as I do!


Belinda Dorio bio page

Inside OutTouch of PowerMonster Island: A Zombie NovelBlood Song (Lharmell)Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Wordsworth Classics)Dracula, Original Text: The Graphic NovelIn Time


Being A Writer, by Belinda Sadek

I’ve always been a writer. Some people cook fairy cakes or make beautiful family memory books or take photographs that in one image tell a whole story. I write. Words are my ingredients, my paints, my lens. I have been a writer of birthday cards, work training manuals, love letters, magazine articles, school notes, invitations, reports….life has made me a writer. I know I am a writer because of the precision I ask of myself when I create these writings no matter how commonplace the project.

Then there is writing for the joy of it. It is like licking the frosting off the cake. There is nothing more satisfying than putting a sentence on the page and for it to express precisely what you intend and if it happens to lend itself a little to poetry and originality you have achieved all a writer can.

Once you experience this satisfaction it impels you to strive for it again and again. And before you know it you are a creative writer. Of course such sentences are elusive and the joy of producing them is tempered with the frustration of not doing so. And so you become a frustrated writer.

Somehow the frustration never outweighs the creativity or at least doesn’t do so for long and you find yourself persevering. And that really makes you a writer.

And there it is, the commonplace writing because life needs you to; and the creative writing because you need to.

It is strange to find myself writing about writing. I am doing so because I have been thinking a lot about writing lately. I have been thinking about the act of writing, about the elements of it, about the market for it and the social networking side of it, about finding the time for it and about daring to chase a personal dream involving it.

I have been thinking about writing because, as anyone who knows me would tell you, I always think before I act. Thinking is an actual part of the process for me. It is a necessary step to move me from inaction to action. What has prompted all this thinking about writing?

A book! I want to write a book!

Coincidently as I decided to act on my aspiration a friend told me about The Australian Literature Review‘s Novel Manuscript Development Program. I jumped at the chance to have professional feedback during the process of writing my first novel. What an opportunity!

My journey began five weeks ago (there are seventeen writing weeks in the course). The book I want to write has been bubbling in my head for years. (More about that another time.) But in examining the plot and in the initial writing it has become clear rather quickly that some adjustments have to be made. This is a steep learning curve. Here are a few more curves I have been scaling:

Fluidity- In this novel writing process I have found it helps no end to embrace this word. Take it as a vow. Use it as a mantra. Do whatever you need to keep the story moving, spreading. Make it run off the page so that the anti of fluidity – stiffness – does not harden in the arteries of your tale and kill it.

Don’t be precious – Ditch anything that doesn’t move the story forward. Ditch anything that slows the story down, yes that does mean all those lengthy poetic descriptions, settle for some well chosen, well placed, brief mood creators.

Dialogue – You need lots of it. The difficulty for me with dialogue is that I like to listen, I like to observe. Creating all those chatty characters is exhausting and somewhat against my natural way but then I hark back to my vow of fluidity and lo-and-behold my characters must be hoarse with talking too much.

It won’t be perfect yet – Speaking of natural inclinations another of mine is to make every sentence perfect before moving on to the next. I want to have created a masterpiece before sharing it with anyone. So here I experience another lesson in fluidity. Just get it out there. Get it on the page. Consider the first draft a framework on which to hang the flesh of your masterpiece. I read some of my mediocre writing, (writing I am presenting to others to read) inwardly cringe then immediately move on to write the next part of the story. Editing and re-writing will come later. This is a huge lesson in fluidity for me.

Get yourself out there – This is one big lesson I am still learning. Social media and mastering it is key. Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Goodreads, blogging, websites all provide an opportunity to get your work out there. This is a hard one because it requires a certain degree of spontaneity, a degree of tech savvy quickness and way less thinking than I am used to.

I have just completed the (rough) first chapter of my first book. Someone once advised me celebrate every achievement in writing no matter how small because the big achievements are hard to come by. So, as much as I am dying to type the words Chapter Two on a fresh screen and dive right in I am going to turn the computer off, go downstairs open a bottle of wine and have a glass with my poor neglected husband.

Fluidity and more fluidity!!


Belinda Sadek bio page

Writing Fiction From A Father’s Point Of View, by Sam Stephens

When I had a son, my world changed. Not just in the metaphorical fluffy-clouds-and-rainbows  kind of way that people usually talk about when they mention their kids. I’m talking about the fears that now nibble at the edges of your dreams, the minute shifts in perception.

Yes, I’ve come to realise the world is a dangerous place, and everything is trying to kill you.

When you’re a single man, a driver who has failed to learn the fine art of using a blinker is just a fool. But when you’re a father, they’re a maniac strapped to a metal case of pure evil that barely misses slamming you off a cliff with your child screaming in the backseat.

When you’re a single man, a little bit of kitchen cross-contamination with some raw chicken and some salad can lead to throwing your guts up for a few hours at around 1:30am. Throw a family into the mix and suddenly you’ve become a sociopath responsible for familial homicide.

When you’re a single man, catching a cold is like taking a shower. You’re vaguely aware of its occurrence but it doesn’t have enough of an impact on your life to become memorable. But when you have a child, a cold is a flesh eating bacteria that will chew through a set of tiny lungs and burst out of their chest cavity in the matter of hours.

Yes, having a son changed my world. And by doing so, it also changed my writing. Steve Rossiter actually picked this up long before I realised: there is a vein of a protagonist protecting their family that runs through the majority of my stories.

My novel is no exception. Jimmy Cain is a retired black-ops agent, but when one day his son is snatched from him, he’ll let nothing stand in his path to find his son and make the kidnappers pay.

It’s a story of love, hurt, justice, and revenge.

Writing from a father’s point of view for me is now easy: I take a story idea and I ask not what would I do in this situation, but instead I ask what do I wish I could do. This usually leads to guns blazing, explosives detonating, blood splattering, and more often than not, some kind of decapitation.

So to all the parents out there that suddenly find themselves responsible for another human being’s life I say to you: I know your darkest fears, because they’re the same as mine. And they are the fuel that drives my writing.


Sam Stephens bio page

Writing Multiple-Perspective ‘Seniors Fiction’, by Janet Marsh

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” — James Thurber

This is really good advice coming from a seasoned author because one of the problems facing new or emerging writers is the idea that what we write has to be perfect the first time around. How ridiculous is that? So instead of ploughing on and attempting to get the first draft out we fuss around and try and make each chapter “just right”. Instead we ought to “just write”.

How vividly I remember my university days when, after completing an essay, I realised that  then, and only then, did I have enough knowledge of the subject to write a really decent assignment. Sadly, the deadline was always only hours away so that was never a realistic possibility. Nowadays, with my first novel seriously under way, that is my goal. Hence the urgency to get the first draft done so that I can then begin to polish it up to publishing standard.

Before signing up with The Australian Literature Review‘s I had circles of stories doing the rounds in my head. Sound familiar? It was all very “one day I’m going to write a book”… It’s taken the “deadline focus” of The Australian Literature Review to really get me working – and working hard too.

My niche market is going to be Seniors. People in the seventy-eighty-ninety age bracket. It’s a huge and growing market and I intend to offer stories that will evoke memories, stimulate emotions and provoke reactions. I hope as well that they’ll entertain, challenge and hopefully open doors of conversation that Seniors will have with other generations – like yours or mine.

I already have a collection of published and unpublished short stories written for this age-group but let’s face it shorter fiction isn’t the best entry point for fresh authors. So six weeks ago I began my first novel and have almost completed the first section of around 19,000 words.

This story revolves around the funeral of an old lady. As her family and friends respond to her death and plan the event they begin to realise that she’s not who they thought she was. The onion layers are peeling away and inevitably there are a lot of tears. My tag line is: will your secrets die with you?

I’ve always been an admirer of authors who can write stories from a myriad of viewpoints. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Poisonwood Bible” was one of the first I read and is a stunning example of the craft. The same goes for Iain Pears and his intriguing book, “An Instance of the Fingerpost”. Writers like these are acknowledging the “warp and weft” of the fiction that makes up our lives.

We all have differing viewpoints of the same event. Try reading accounts of the second world war from Japanese, Jewish, German, Russian, British and American perspectives.  Is it the same event? At times one would wonder because the stories are so very different.

My aim is to write novels that acknowledge this interweaving of viewpoints. The greatest challenge I now face is how to make each voice authentic. If, for example, someone was reading aloud from my novel, without revealing the characters’ names, could the listener guess the which character is which by the style of the conversation or the inner dialogue? I would hope so. That’s my aim anyway.

So, back to the writing and forgetting – for the time being – the “righting”.


Janet Marsh bio page

From Short Stories To Writing A Novel, by Rebecca Raisin

I’m a true bibliophile, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I can’t walk past bookshops. It’s impossible. The magnetic pull of unread books draws me in, and only when I’m virtually penniless, albeit with pile of joy secreted away in an unassuming brown paper bag, can I leave. I get butterflies at the thought of where these new novels may take me and what I might learn. A big cheesy grin plastered on my face as I leave, my dinner plans forgotten, T.V- who needs it? I just want to go to bed. With my books. And then, writing came along. Ah…a delightful conundrum.

I ‘met’ (or stalked is another way to put it) a writer online, whose book I have loved from the first time I read it at age sixteen, and consequently still love and learn something new from, every time I re-read it. After a few months of chatting about books and life he encouraged me to start writing. I told him in no uncertain terms, I’m a reader- not a writer, but secretly felt excited at the prospect of being able to write a book. Imagine walking into a bookshop and seeing my name on a book? Heady stuff. Could I write? With no formal writing education but a lot, and I mean A LOT of books under my belt, I gave it a go. I took a TAFE six week creative writing course, and like the nerd I am, did every piece of homework and then some more for good measure. I entered one of my short stories in a competition and was highly commended and published, which inspired me to continue writing and sending pieces in. Luck seemed to be on my side and two years later ten of my short stories have been published around Australia. It’s easy to become lost in the magic of short story writing. The satisfying feeling of finishing a story is a constant because they’re quicker to write, so I found it hard to push myself into starting a new novel.

When I saw The Australian Literature Review‘s Novel Manuscript Development Program, the first thing I did was delay, and promise myself I would try next year, if Steve ran it again. It’s so easy to blame the world around you for not having enough time to write, but Belinda, a friend and fellow writer convinced me to take the plunge. After all, what was there to lose? I’d make writing a priority, rather than a hobby. Self-doubt, though, can sneak up on you when you least expect it….

The first three weeks focused on writing a novel outline, and like the scattered and seriously troubled person I am when I’m alone with my thoughts, I good copped bad copped myself.

The interrogation room in my mind went like this;

Bad cop – “Writing an outline is not possible, I don’t know what happens, because I haven’t written it yet!”

Good cop – “Just start at the beginning, you know the story, it’s been swimming inside your head for a while now.”

Bad cop – “Yeah, as a short story, not a full length novel!”

Good cop – “How about you stop speaking to yourself in italics and get on with it!”

Bad cop – “Ok, ok.”

So I did. I always thought of outlines like maths, too many formulas and equations, and all that planning would take the joy out of writing, but it didn’t. And surprisingly it poured out. It turns out I did have quite specific ideas of how I wanted the story to go. I saw potential weaknesses in the plot that I wouldn’t have seen without writing an outline. So, that bridge effectively crossed, I decided to do a complete 180 and work on a book I started two years ago, and was one of the first pieces I’d ever written, called Mexican Kimono.

I figured if I didn’t MK a chance, while I had the help and resources available, then I probably would never go back to it. I hadn’t looked at it for over a year, and expected it to make me cringe the way things do when you read your first attempts. But it didn’t. It needs a lot of work, and is about twenty thousand words short, but I think it has potential. When I first read it again, I laughed so much I cried. Upon telling my partner I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading it, he mentioned I might want to look up the word humble in the dictionary. Humble? I patiently explained he might want to look up enthusiasm, or better yet the rental section in Saturday’s newspaper. He’s read MK, and is a very reliable sounding board for any writing related questions. Didn’t you think it was hilarious? I asked, somewhat miffed. Yes, he said, but still, you shouldn’t tell everyone how funny you are, or it is, you should act more humble. Act humble? I said. I’m a writer, not an actor!

So onwards I go on this journey of completing my first book, and if I have to forgo a few things to do it, I will. The washing for instance, it’s washed but that’s as far as I’m prepared to go. If I shut the blinds the floors look much cleaner. I hope by smiling a lot, and generally looking cheerful my partner won’t notice everything else has fallen by the wayside. Until then, I’m having so much fun with my main character Samantha, I have to keep reminding myself she’s not real…I hope you’ll like her as much as I do.

You can find some of my stories at:

Rebecca Raisin bio page

Writing My Novel ‘The Pricking of Thumbs’, by Ben Marshall

I can think of many pointless activities, but few rival writing words on a page without getting paid for it. If you build ships in bottles, you at least get something to look at. With stamp collecting you’re collecting art in miniature, and, again, you have something tangible to admire.

An unpublished manuscript, on the other hand…

With The Pricking of Thumbs I’m moving on from a recently completed novel manuscript of piracy in the emerging Age of Reason (The Pyrate’s Sonne, now composting in slush-piles around the nation) to a tale of the post-collapse future. Having explored what makes the modern world modern, I wanted to find out what emerges from the rubble of the future.

I began the new manuscript just before Christmas, and had eighty pages written before I knew it. A good time to pause and do a novel development course with The Australian Literature Review, yes? I’d started with a single first sentence, something to intrigue and beguile the reader. Then I wrote a few pages before pausing and doing some structuring, finding an endpoint, meeting my characters, and thinking on turning-points and themes. Now, with The Australian Literature Review, it’s time to get pointy-headed about this manuscript.

For me, a novel is a journey of discovery. With The Pyrate’s Sonne, I and my scurvy crew set out into dangerous waters and interesting times. I explored the medieval mindset, and enjoyed resolving situations my crew and I found ourselves in. With The Pricking of Thumbs I will explore a world being created as we speak. History is the assemblage of lies and half-truths into a narrative, but with The Pricking of Thumbs I will have to make up my own future history.

Young adult or adult readers will hopefully journey with me and my dangerous circus freaks to find love, hope, redemption and the nature of human good and evil. There will be no magic, no aliens, no sci-fi and no gods to help my damaged ensemble survive or reach their goals. They will have only themselves.


Ben Marshall bio page

Beginning My Novel, by Fiona McDonald

More than anything, apart from winning the lottery, I want to write stories. In my stories I want to escape from the humdrum world of working in an office or a classroom, waitressing, answering telephones and vacuuming. I want to work from home in my pyjamas at any time of the day or night and not brush my hair if I don’t want to.

In 2009 I decided to take my fantasy into my own hands and make it work. It all started with a knitting book.

Now I am embarking on the part of my writing apprenticeship where I get to write fiction. This is very exciting, a trifle daunting, but well worth the build up to.

By enrolling in the online class of The Australian Literature Review‘s Novel Manuscript Development Program I hope to discipline myself to work at a project that has not been commissioned. Commissioned work has given me deadlines, a structure, subject matter. Writing non-fiction does not need to have a climax or a plot, the characters are real people and information about them is already supplied.

My first idea for a novel for this programme was something I’d been working on for a PhD in Creative Writing. It had been discussed and analysed by my supervisors, other academics and fellow students. It was interesting from an academic point of view but it was not adding up to a commercially viable novel and I was beginning to hate it.

I have now withdrawn from the PhD. My aim, by enrolling in it, was to write a work of fiction. However, other doors have opened to give me that opportunity. And consequently I have discarded my original idea for a young adult novel for another and pulled out something from the bottom desk drawer that I started ages ago but which I have always felt very happy about.

Of course making such a change at this time in the course probably means I have wasted time I should have been using to get the novel up and running. It just means I will have to work twice as fast to catch up.

Agatha La Motte lives in a world similar to ours, in fact she may end up being in this world after all, or an alternative version. This heroine, or should I say protagonist, is feisty and independent unlike Miranda who appeared in my first attempt at a novel on the online program. Miranda was getting on my nerves and it was pointed out she was too passive.

Agatha inherits a toy shop from her great uncle, a celebrated toy maker who specialised in automatons. When he died he had been working on a secret invention for a dodgy bishop and the evil crew who run the city. Agatha knows none of this and is surprised and angry when the people around her expect her to sell the business, after all she is a young lady and will want to get married not bother herself with commerce.

These sentiments are the red rag to Agatha’s stubbornness and she is determined to retain the shop and make it a huge success. However, there are others out there who are plotting her failure, and perhaps even her death.


Fiona McDonald bio page

Knitted Fairies: To Cherish and CharmBabes in the Wool: How to Knit Beautiful Fashion Dolls, Clothes and AccessoriesGothic KnitsWriting Fiction: Creative and Critical Approaches (Approaches to Writing)The Creative Writing Coursebook: Forty Authors Share Advice and Exercises for Fiction and PoetryWriting Fiction: A Guide to Narrative CraftWriting Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft

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