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Posts tagged ‘Melbourne crime novelist’

Finding Inspiration To Write A Novel, by Sandi Wallace

Finding inspiration can be daunting to the point of debilitating. This applies to creators of novels, short stories or both. It frequently afflicts aspiring writers but can strike established ones too.

It also fascinates readers, who frequently say things like:
“Where do your stories come from?”
“It must be hard to think up new ideas.”
“I’ve got a story that you need to write.”

So, let’s think about that. Do we need to take ideas from well-meaning friends, family and readers, or do we have access to plenty of our own? Are these story ideas empowering? Do they make us believe we have something worth writing and ultimately worth publishing?

Clearly, there is much riding on inspiration. It’s the crux of creation and dictates result. Should finding inspiration be scary? Or should dreaming up and writing a story only be exciting?

I believe that whenever we create there should be a pinch of fear behind it. If there is no fear we aren’t striving for the best we’re capable of and we’re not putting enough of ourselves into the project. On the flipside, too much anxiety blunts creativity. So, seeking inspiration should be thrilling: exciting, pleasurable and accompanied by a little nervous tremor.

How/where do we find inspiration?

As I am a contemporary crime writer, my suggestions might resonate more strongly with genre writers than literary ones, but these work for me:


Things seen or overheard can act as a springboard to imagination, especially when combined with “what if?” or “and then…” Writers are often introverts and natural observers, frequently happiest sitting back, blending in, watching and asking questions. Therefore, we are sponges and muses are all around us.

Personal experience

Our personal accumulation of life skills and experiences add fodder for developing characters and stories. Stand out examples may become central storylines. These might include deaths of loved ones, career changes, house moves, renovations, love of all types, relationship up and downs, health problems, travel, wins and losses, assaults or accidents.

True crime and other actual events, reported via newspapers, magazines, television, specialist journals, police media and/or discussed by the public

These can trigger a series of brain jumps to the point where the actual story written bears little or no resemblance to the initial event. For fiction writers, that’s probably a lot safer than taking true crime and aiming to fictionalise it, which could lead to a lawsuit or stalker situation.

Headlines, titles of stories, pictures

A fun exercise is to gather newspapers, books with evocative covers, or perhaps a series of photos or other pictures, and scroll through them until something grabs you. Every innocuous thing has the potential for greatness. Even obituaries and classifieds can be goldmines.

Imagine a photo of a bloke in overalls with the headline “Pig Farm Crisis”. What does it say to you? If that man and his farm were your protagonist and setting, what would his crisis be? For crime writers, what offence and scenario might fit and is he as innocent as he first appears? For rural romance writers, who is his heroine, what is their personal conflict, as well as the farm crisis?

What themes do you want to explore in your story?

What do you want to say about the world, solve or resolve? What do you want to write that will clutch readers by the throat and keep them hooked?

Try listing five to ten things that make you angry, five to ten things that make you sad and five to ten things that make you happy. What stands out?

You have an established protagonist

What is their worst fear? Do it to them!

Writer’s journal

Fill a notebook or electronic journal with all your random thoughts, ideas, photographs, postcards, whatever could trigger a great story, character or setting. Use it to practise first lines, dialogue and other narrative devices too.

Ideas for my next book (or short story) come to me while I’m writing or editing the current one, maybe because at that time there is no pressure on me to think of a new storyline and I’m in a highly creative place. I recommend jotting down those ideas under something like “Book five plot/theme”, to avoid interference with the current project or forgetting the new concepts.

An amalgam of ideas

Try combining things from all (or some) of the above categories.

If you’ve just discovered your new plot idea, congratulations. Now the real fun begins!


Sandi Wallace’s author website:

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     Robyn Bavati - Pirouette book coverHelene Young, Northern HeatThe Delta

Writing Novels in Australia



Becoming A Published Novelist, by Sandi Wallace

You want to write a novel. Perhaps you want to write many novels. Fantastic! Now, settle in for a ride that will probably be long, interesting, challenging, daunting and fun.

The first thing to realise about writing a novel is that nothing happens quickly. So enjoy every step and take the positives out of setbacks – your baby just isn’t ready yet but if you keep persevering, learning and growing, you have every chance of achieving your writing dream and the delay means your book will be the best it’s capable of being when it’s finally released.

You only get one shot at a great first impression, so don’t be in too much of a hurry.

You’ll have moments of doubting yourself. I questioned if I should adopt a saner hobby – like retail therapy or doing coffee – but it was tongue-in-cheek while I kept pounding the keyboard. Fortunately, when I first submitted my manuscript to a publisher, although she said it “isn’t ready yet”, her feedback was very positive. Instead of recommending I try a new pastime, she invited me to resubmit, which I did and she subsequently offered me a publishing deal.

Because fears and frustrations are normal humps, write despite them, or spurred on by them. Write because you can’t imagine not writing. Write first for your own satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. Then imagine the thrill if you’re able to take that to another level, to be published and share your work with others.

You will be working on your book for a lengthy time, so make it a good time. Maybe you’ll be a writer who attempts different manuscripts before one is published. Some of those may be destined to remain in your bottom drawer forever. Maybe you’ll be like me and decide that you still believe in that first full-length novel and can bring it up to publishable standard. Either way, the process will involve redrafts, critiques from others, more editing and eventually submissions to literary agents or publishers, unless you’ve chosen the self-publishing route. Response times on submissions vary greatly but twelve to twenty-four months isn’t unusual.

Because you’ll be with your book for a long time, write what you want to write, what you’re good at and what you’d like to read, because your foremost audience is you. Write some of what you know and research the gaps. You can draw upon every significant experience in your life – love affair, marriage breakdown, car accident, failed exam, trip abroad, house move, new job and more – adding texture to your writing.

Read widely, especially across the type of novel you want to write (if you know what that is). Keep a journal rating each book you read, recording what you liked or disliked about the work, and useful data such as publisher details, and, where the author mentions it, his or her agent. The former will help you cherry-pick the facets of writing that will develop into your unique style and the latter will help you target your submissions appropriately. There is no point sending your gritty crime novel to a publisher or agent that specialises in cookbooks.

Some authors don’t know what type of novel they want to write. They make this decision once they’ve planned a theme, characters, setting and so on. If you’re in this category, you’ll find your story and fit it to a genre or literary fiction.

Many of us know what type of book we want to write and plan a story around that.

At a very early age – as a shy, imaginative, bookworm dreamer – I became hooked on writing and addicted to crime fiction in film and print, and the likes of Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, and series such as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys cemented it. Ever since, I dreamed of being a crime writer and scribing my own series.

I took a winding path towards that dream, with stints as banker, paralegal, cabinetmaker, office manager, executive assistant, personal trainer and journalist, and came close to joining the police force along the way. Although I might’ve made a good police detective, I’ve found a safer way to investigate and solve crimes as an author. My ‘writer’s apprenticeship’ wasn’t time wasted. It made me more determined to achieve my dream. It continues to provide inspiration and fodder for my stories. It gives me maturity as a writer.

As I wrote my first crime novel Tell Me Why, I kept in mind some essential advice passed on to me by writing tutors, authors and publishers:

  • Aspire to be as good as you’re capable of being at that time.
  • Continue to work to be a better writer.
  • Learn from the authors you admire but don’t try to imitate them.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Writing is often solitary, so network with other writers – from aspiring to established – to learn from and support each other.
  • Enjoy writing and the associated experiences.
  • Luck and good timing can factor into success.
  • Boost your writer’s biography with achievements in short story competitions and publication in a range of forms.

I am currently writing the fourth manuscript in my series and, so far, none has been as challenging as my first. Even at this stage, I keep these tips in mind, along with my personal motto: If it means that much to you, do it.

So, hang on to your hat, good luck and I wish you every success with writing your novel.


Sandi Wallace’s author website:

Sandi Wallace on Facebook

     Moonshadow - Eye of the Beast by Simon Higgins - coverJennifer Scoullar - Turtle Reef

Writing Novels in Australia

Point of View and Creating Suspense in Your Writing, by Jeff Nelson

Jack opened the bedroom door, walking into the room beyond. The fugitive, hidden behind the door, stepped out and shot him in the back.

Poor Jack. While the reader is likely to be surprised at his potential demise, where is the suspense that will capture the reader and draw them into the story? Particularly if the story is all about Jack and told from his point of view (POV).

Try using a different character POV – say that of the fugitive. I’ll call him Harry.

Harry nervously waited behind the door, his hands sweating, his heart pounding, as he could hear the cop’s footsteps approaching on the other side. He couldn’t let them take him, not again, he was prepared to kill rather than spend time in a cell again.

Jack opened the bedroom door ….

Better? The reader is now wondering what Harry will do, whether Jack will get a bullet or somehow avoids one. This is an example where the reader and current POV character (Harry) know more than another character (Jack). Harry knows the cop is on the other side of the door, but Jack doesn’t know Harry is.

Consider another POV this time from a third character, Steve a fellow police officer of Jack’s.

Steve lay on the rooftop, his binoculars trained on the apartment building opposite. Through a window he could see Jack in the apartment’s sitting room moving towards the bedroom door. Suddenly he saw a shadow move in the next window; someone was in the adjoining bedroom. Steve trained the binoculars on the bedroom window. It was the fugitive and he held a gun. The man had obviously heard Jack approaching and was waiting for him on the other side of the door. Frantically Steve reached for his mic.

Jack opened the bedroom door ….

Now the suspense is created by the reader wondering if Steve will be able to contact Jack via his mike and warn him before he steps into the room. Steve knows that the fugitive is there but Jack doesn’t.

I had an interesting conversation with Steve Rossiter of the Australia Literature Review recently on ways of adding different character point of views into a story to create and build suspense. Those conversations lead me to adjust and see clearer where my novel had to progress too.

We went through a number of ways that POV can be added:

1] Where the reader knows more than the current POV character.

For example the story will have already said earlier that the fugitive is hiding in the bedroom, so as we see Jack (in his POV) going for the door, the reader knows, but Jack doesn’t that the fugitive is inside the bedroom.

2] Where the reader and current POV character know more than another character.

Examples of this are the two given above using the different POV’s of Harry and Steve.

3] Where the reader and another character know more than the current POV character.

Here we could have the story telling how a tenant in the building where the fugitive is hiding sees him run into the apartment but doesn’t inform Jack as he hates Cops.

4] Where the current POV character knows more than the reader.

This is where the POV character knows or is planning something that hasn’t been revealed in the story yet. For example we could have Jack wearing a bullet proof vest, Jack knows he’s wearing it, but the reader doesn’t. It will come out later that he was wearing one.

…and finally

5] Where another character knows more than the reader.

I hope this helps in your writing.


Jeff Nelson bio page

B is for Burglar: A Kinsey Millhone mysteryMoney RunConflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing)Plotting and Writing Suspense FictionHitchcockThe Arvon Book of Crime WritingThe French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers

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