The Easy Publishing Series is a range of handbooks designed to look into the different aspects of publishing, writing, design, illustration, and photography. These books are easy guides, written by people with years of experience in the industry, to offer you all the...Read More
Busybird Publishing is holding Open Mic Nights the third Wednesday of every month. That means you can read your stuff for a live audience, whether that’s an excerpt from a novel, a short story, a poem, or even a song. Readings are a great way to test your material, as well as a...Read More
Unlock the writer in you! We all have a story to tell. For some, that story demands to be told. What is the key to transforming your ideas and experiences into compelling and engaging stories? Whether your vision is to write a novel, your memoir, a Hollywood blockbuster, a...Read More
An annual anthology, page seventeen has been a bastion in promoting new and emerging writers from all across the country for almost ten years. Page Seventeen was born because there are not enough opportunities for new writers to see their work published, and hence we encourage...Read More
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I’ve been waiting for it.
Heck, maybe the whole universe has been waiting for it. Let’s not undersell this.
page seventeen is open for submissions as of today. As of right now.
Now, for the one heckler in the back that just yelled ‘so what?’ I’m going to take a deep breath and quickly summarise.
As of April 15, all our submission windows are open to determine the content in Issue 11:
We’ll be taking all submissions from now until June 30. That’s just over ten weeks for you to submit your work and potentially be included in page seventeen’s eleventh issue. Which, incidentally, will also be released as an ebook – meaning more readers than ever will see your name in the contents.
And, it’s also my pleasure to announce the judges for this year’s competitions!
The short story judge is Emilie Collyer, two-time Scarlet Stiletto Award winner with short stories appearing in many of Melbourne’s top literary journals. (http://www.betweenthecracks.net/)
The poetry judge is Ashley Capes, long-time friend and poetry editor of P17 and prominent Victorian poet. (http://ashleycapes.com/)
The cover comp judge is Kev Howlett, resident Busybird illustrator and artist.
Now, as the trumpets die down and the cheap paper steamers stuck across the archways peel away from their masking tape, some of you might be looking for hints about what we’re after in the submissions. What content will grab our attention the most? What themes will get the most attention?
Sorry. I can’t quite make it that easy for you. Our issues aren’t themed and have tackled a wide variety of content in the past.
What I can say, is that we love new ideas and fresh voices. Challenge yourself. Take a risk or two. We’ve always encouraged emerging writers to consider submitting to page seventeen, and we have a proud tradition of being the first publication for many emerging authors and poets. We want writing that bleeds passion and enthusiasm – whether the content is happy, grim or just delightfully off-beat.
And with that, the wait is over. The production of Issue 11 has officially begun.
Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeenRead More
Something a lot of authors miss when writing are the opportunities to collapse two or more scenes into a single scene. This means that whatever they’re writing is longer than it needs to be, and also might contain static, one-dimensional scenes – scenes that singularly exist to deliver their point and nothing else.
Let’s say we’re writing a first-person story about a relationship. The narrator lives alone and we want to establish the domesticity of their life. Of course, being in a relationship, the narrator talks regularly with their partner. Obviously, these are very broad strokes, but we need only a general scenario to set up our examples.
Okay, next, let’s consider two scenes – the first is a conversation between the couple. It might begin like this:
Now imagine this conversation goes on for a page or so as they talk about something to establish the rapport of their relationship. For the sake of this example, the specifics aren’t important.
In the second scene, we’ll deal with the narrator coming home. This follows directly after the conversation …
From here, the narrator goes inside and puts the shopping away. The point of this second scene might be to establish the narrator’s domesticity so that we see their everyday routine – they’re busy, like to do things all at once, buy plenty of shopping to tide them over rather than just shop for the day, etc. It’s part of the world and character building of this piece.
So what we have are two scenes that deliver different pieces of necessary information, (or for the sake of this blog, let’s imagine they’re necessary for whatever story they’re part of).
There exists, however, the opportunity to collapse these scenes into one another. After all, visualise this as if it was a movie playing out in your mind. How exciting a scene is a narrator sitting in a car on the side of the road having a conversation, or the protagonist lifting the shopping out of their car and then putting it away?
Imagine we do it like this, though:
And so it would go on, the narrator juggling the conversation as they goes inside their house, wrestle with all their shopping bags, and put their shopping away.
By merging these scenes we’ve layered what’s happening. The narrator is no longer just sitting on the side of the road talking with their partner. And the domestic scene is no longer just a tour of the narrator’s life, but becomes integrated with a conversation that has to happen.
This also helps in another regard – actions interspersed through dialogue. So often, I see something like this:
Authors constantly feel the need to break up their dialogue with action, but are the actions of the character running their hand through their hair and biting their lip essential, or just something for the character to be doing? Often, they exist simply for the sake of existing. Using our example of the protagonist putting away their shopping whilst holding a conversation, everything that happens is needing to happen.
Moreover, presenting the situation like this – and let’s remember, this is the most basic example – actually contextualises the scene in a new light. Sitting on the side of the road having a phone conversation, there’s no emotional resonance, other than what the narrator brings in. Here, the narrator might be frustrated because they’re interrupted, they might be harried, the phone call might be the picker-upper they need, etc. The story drives what’s happening. And in trying to juggle everything, not only do things happen, but we’re challenged with new opportunities.
When writing scenes, question if you’re getting everything out of them, and/or whether you can merge them with other scenes.
It’s a simple technique, but it can help unfold your story in a whole new world.
First, complete isolation is required. No one is to be in the same room as you. Turn off your phone and any chat windows you have open.
Next, we need dim, moody lighting. Draw the blinds or read this at night.
Finally, find some public-domain music, preferably something that amounts to an ominous drum beat. Press play.
Got all that? Okay. We’re ready to talk about writer’s block.
With page seventeen’s submission window just about to open, it feels like a good time to address one of the most notorious concepts behind being a writer. Maybe you’re someone looking to submit to page seventeen #11, or preparing for the competitions – maybe you even have an idea all ready to go.
Then the problem arises. You can’t get that idea on the page. You can’t get past the opening. Maybe you can struggle past the first few paragraphs until you find yourself on the edge of a canyon, and you can’t see any way to the other side. You can’t start. You can’t finish. You just can’t, can’t, can’t.
I could propose a series of methods to beat writer’s block. I could list the ways in which successful writers have dispelled the deadly curse. But chances are you’ve already read that. Writer’s block is one of the most widely-discussed aspects of being a writer; any how-to I put together will only join the mountain of articles that have come before.
So when it comes to methods, if you still need them, peruse what’s already out there and use trial and error to determine what works best for you. Half of it is contradictory anyway. One article will tell you that writer’s block is the cue to get away from your desk and do something else for a while, whereas another article will insist that you need to ‘chain that muse to your desk’ (in the words of Barbara Kingsolver, if you’re interested).
No. I’d rather talk more about writer’s block itself.
Turn the drum sounds off now.
The paralysis of writer’s block usually stems from insecurity – either one particular anxiety, or a tight little knot of several preoccupations. You’re not good enough. The idea is terrible. The words won’t flow. No one will read it anyway.
Pardon me for being direct, but no wonder you don’t get anything done if you’re that miserable about your own writing.
We’re all plagued by doubt, but if you’re letting doubt and insecurity get the better of you then you’re focusing on the wrong things. You’re a writer because you like being a writer. You like creating the stories, the articles, the viewpoints. Right?
Maybe you’re even set of making a career out of it – or you already have. And there’ll be bumps along the way just like with any other career – or any other hobby, for that matter. But if you want to keep going with that job, or that hobby, you find ways to overcome the situation if only to avoid the alternative: quitting. You adapt and evolve your methods based on the challenges you’re faced with. And you pat yourself on the back for finding a way through a sticky situation – then, you move forward.
Because guess what: writer’s block? It’s not that big a deal. There. I said it.
Open the blinds, or switch on a light.
The concept of writer’s block has enormous weight for many authors. The idea of writer’s block itself can often be the paralysis. Would there be so many writers struggling with this problem if the concept wasn’t named, catalogued and discussed so widely? One could say it’s the equivalent of a hypochondriac getting the flu and treating it like the Black Death.
Forget about writer’s block the same way you forgot about the boogie man being in your wardrobe. Tell yourself that you’re allowed to be stuck on something, to need a little more time than expected to get a specific passage the way you want it, but don’t call it writer’s block.
It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. You just need to find the right way to communicate the idea to yourself. Talk to yourself in front of a mirror if you have to. Just don’t do it with anyone else in earshot – it can be a tad awkward.
Sometimes it’s a bigger matter. Life can disrupt the best-laid plans. Major events can derail your normal habits, or leave you with no mental space to be creative. Well, unless writing is your livelihood – in which case I might recommend having a plan B – sometimes it’s better to let it get in the way. Life’s an unpredictable mistress sometimes, and big things will happen that leave you bereft. Don’t punish yourself for that. The key is remaining optimistic that when you’re ready, the words will come again.
And if you’re still stuck on an idea, or can’t get past a scene no matter how hard you try – well, there’s a pretty straightforward way to start breaking down that barrier.
Invite someone into the room with you; alternatively, call or message someone. Tell them the idea you’re stuck on.
Because remember – you’re better than that, even if you don’t always believe it. You’ve devoted yourself to telling stories and embracing your own creativity – whatever your medium is. Don’t let a little hiccup like writer’s block get in the way.
Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeenRead More
This is Kev Howlett. He’s one of the co-founders/owners of Busybird Publishing, Busybird’s resident artist and photographer, is responsible for the weekly ‘Busy the Bird’ funnies that go up on Facebook (and are archived here on our website), cuts our videos (like the Open Mic Night highlights) and does an assortment of other things.
He also had the goal to climb up to Mount Everest Base Camp before he was fifty – something he just accomplished, with several years to spare. What’s more, he integrated the trek into a fundraiser for CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease), a condition his eldest son has, and took photographs of his expedition, which will comprise a full-colour coffee-table book due out in November, entitled Walk With Me, (a portion of proceeds which’ll go to CMTA Australia, to raise awareness and contribute to finding a cure for CMT).
That’s not a bad CV.
And it’s one that makes you think about pursuing and achieving the goals in your life.
What is your goal?
Be honest, you do have a goal. We all do. Maybe it was born in our youth, when the world was impossibly large and filled with boundless opportunities, and we had nothing but uncontainable enthusiasm. Or maybe, just maybe, as the everyday grind (work, household, kids, et al) shackles the innocence of our dreams, our hopefulness, that belief that all things can be possible, it’s become a symbol of rediscovery, reinventing ourselves into who we ideally want to be (or at least recapturing it, however fleetingly). Or maybe it’s just something we’ve always wanted to do.
Somewhere, inside of us, we have something we want to do that goes beyond everyday desires. It might be something outrageous, something most might scoff at. It might be grand and worldly. It might just be the sort of life we want. The point is it’s our Everest – and can come to represent something seemingly unconquerable. Or perhaps that’s just the way it grows as time goes by.
It’s easy – far too easy – for this goal to become unattended, if not neglected. For it to become buried. It can even become identified with a lament, Oh, I remember I wanted to do such and such. But now it’s no longer a goal. It’s not a dream. It’s just something that once existed, like flares on pants, or disco. The reality is there’s no time. Or it’s too hard. Or you’re too old. Or … well, there’s any number of other reasons which prohibit us from fulfilling our goal.
We get stuck in who we are, what we are, the circumstances of our lives.
But we have choices. We always have choices. And it’s important – vitally important – that we try to be true to that part of ourselves, even if everything else in our day-to-day lives is demanding (sometimes kicking and screaming) that our attention be focused elsewhere, and even (or perhaps especially) if our everyday lives shape our conscious, practical, adult minds into stodgy, doubting, pessimistic know-it-alls: Don’t be silly. You can’t do that.
But you can.
This doesn’t mean shove the kids in the closet, dump your partner, ditch all responsibilities and ties and go off on a wild adventure. But if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, if you’ve had a lifelong goal, or even if it’s something new, there’s someway to be true to it, to be true to yourself, and to find a way to do it.
The number one regret of dying people is that they didn’t take enough chances, didn’t pursue what they wanted.
Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to realise there are things you’ve left undone.
That there’s things you should’ve done.
And want to do.
Please, everyone, calm down a moment. I know you’re excited.
Soon enough you’ll get the chance to submit. Whether it’s for general submissions or having a go at our competition prize pool, there’ll be plenty on offer. Personally, I can’t wait.
Any questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org, but in the meantime a quick crash course might be called for so that newcomers know a little more about what we’re about, and what we’re looking for.
Because we’re page seventeen, there are seventeen points. Whether that’s a clever promotional tie-in or a lazy and uninspired gimmick is for others to decide. I would probably call this The 17 Stretched Out But Still Highly Relevant Things We Want to See From You. But let’s settle with The Seventeen-Point Checklist.
So, what do we want from contributors?
1) Creativity. Be daring with your writing and test your restraints. Use different modes of writing – experiment with different and interesting ways of telling a story.
2) Clean Writing. Obviously not everyone’s a trained editor who knows about split infinitives and dangling participles. But take the time to read over your work one more time before you send it. Weed out all those typos and make sure the messages are clear.
3) Courage. Be bold enough to send your work. Be brave enough to champion it. But also be resilient enough to remain open to the next point, which is …
4) Willingness to Edit. Not as big as it sounds. We’re not likely to want to renovate the entire piece. But please keep an open mind towards changes we recommend, as we’re as determined as you to make the writing as good as it can be.
5) Entertainment. Whether it’s happy or dark, the story should be entertaining and compelling. Remember you have an audience to win over – or lose.
6) Passion. Whatever you’ve written, we want to feel the love you have for what you’ve put on the page. It’s always refreshing to see a piece of writing that has been tended to with loving consideration, and has a sense of heartfelt conviction.
7) Conflict. A lot of submissions we receive are light on trials and tribulations. Don’t be afraid to hurt your characters. Hurt them bad if you have to. Put your narrator through the wringer. Drag your poetry through hellfire. As long as it’s not Job-level sadism (unless there’s a reason for it) it’ll result in a more compelling piece.
8) Imagination. ‘Write what you know’ is great, but so is stepping out of that comfort zone and diving into unknown waters. Go where your mind takes you – worry about the cleanup when you’re done with the draft.
9) Following the Guidelines. We have criteria like word limits and formatting preferences in place for good reasons. Help us out by sticking to them.
10) New Angles. There are going to be far more submissions then we can create spots for in the issue. So ask yourself: what’s my point of difference?
11) Awareness of page seventeen. We don’t stick to themes or certain styles, but it’s always beneficial to check out previous issues, to see what we’ve published in the past and how our mission statement reflects in our backlist.
12) Professionalism. Not to the point of being stuffy and impersonal (see #15). But presentation and prompt communication counts.
13) A Love for Reading and Writing. Naturally.
14) Ambition. We take pride in being career-starters, and love seeing the ambitious types that are intent on making the most out of their craft.
15) Personality: No one else is you, as you might have heard in a dozen self-help validations. So let that shine through.
16) Support. Not meaning donations (although that would be nice). But telling people about page seventeen (especially if you’re going to be in the latest issue!) and joining in with the conversations we have in social media and elsewhere.
17) You. We want to get to know you. Say hi to the good folk at Busybird. Bring something to read out at the open mic nights. Post something on our Facebook page. However it may be, we want you to be part of our growing community.
Also, don’t forget that we champion new writers, and emerging wordsmiths still trying to get their submission count up. We don’t turn veterans away at the door – hence why this addendum isn’t on the list – but we strongly encourage new writers to take the chance and let us have a look at their strongest work. It could be the start of something.
I hope the checklist gives some indication of what page seventeen is all about. We love new talent, and we love individuality and unique voices. We want to see your imagination at play on the page. We want the highs and the lows. We want you.
Start counting down. In a fortnight the game is on.
Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeenRead More
Last week’s blog might’ve seemed absurdly condescending, but it’s astounding the amount of writers who don’t think ahead when it comes to the administration of their files. They’re so focused on the act of writing that it’s almost as if they believe the rest will take care of itself.
It’s not just their filenames, but also where they’ve saved their files. I’ve seen writers who have to trawl through their computer (or computers) to find whatever they’re working on. Did it save in My Documents? Or maybe it was on the Desktop? Again, here lies madness.
It doesn’t cost anything to get organised, and it can save you a lot of heartache.
Firstly, do not save your files directly into My Documents. Operating systems (whether they be PCs or Macs) use My Documents as a default dumping ground for other standards, e.g. My Pictures, My Kindle Stuff, and so on. You don’t want your files where they’re not getting exclusive attention.
Create a folder just for your writing in My Documents. You can call it whatever you like. E.g.
At least then you know exactly where all your work will go. But the segregation doesn’t end there. Because you don’t want to open My Writing and see (using basic filenames) …
That’s messy. Also, it gives you no idea about your volume of work in each field. Time to break down your directory structure into further folders. Yes, folders. E.g.
Now we’ve covered most types of writing. We could push it further if we wrote in other fields, e.g. Novellas. As an aside, there is no Novel folder. Why’s it covered just as Books? Because you might’ve written a novel, a nonfiction book, and an autobiography. Each of these could have their own folder, but it seems (even by my insane standards) excessive to have single folders for each field when that folder might contain only one work. Better to have them listed under Books, which covers Novels, Nonfiction, and Autobiographies and any other sort of book you might write. (Of course, if you’ve written ten novels, eight books of nonfiction, and five novellas, you might consider that continuing segregation.)
The point is we’re trying to give everything you’re working on its own logical home. This is something we can keep pushing.
Let’s use our Stories folder as an example. Instead of opening it and seeing all your stories lumped there together, how about giving each story its own folder? E.g.
And so it’d continue, a folder for each story.
For stories, I’d keep all the drafts in their own story folder. So if I open the Finding Truths folder I might see:
The same applies to our other folders. If we open them, they should contain a folder for each individual piece of work.
Let’s say we open the Books folder – we might see this …
The Fascinating Life of Iguanas might be a nonfiction book I’m working on, For the Method and Through the Waterfall novels, The Other Me an autobiography. This is one of the few places I’d rely on my own memory to distinguish them, although if you wanted you specify:
That’s up to you.
With books – if I’ve reworked them extensively – I might give each rewrite/restructure its own folder. E.g.
That’s just my preferences, hinged on my burgeoning compulsions.
Blogs would have to be ordered differently, because you’d want to keep a structure of the dates they went up in. E.g. You might’ve written a blog ‘Visiting the Great Wall’ on 1st February, ‘Braying for Fun’ on 14th February, and ‘Aardvarks and Me’ on the 28th February. If you let your computer do the sorting, it’ll have:
But that’s not the order they were written in. You could have the computer sort them by date, but again, that’s changing the way the things operate by default for just one directory.
Here, I do finagle, giving each its own folder, but numbering it. E.g.
This is where we use computers’ numerical sorting against them, (which – no doubt – will thwart their inevitable takeover of the world). The files themselves I wouldn’t (prefix with a) number. They’d be named as they’ve been established. Once they’re in their folders, they sort themselves.
If you have additional material for anything you’ve written, give it its own folder within that piece’s main folder. So, for example …
And as with naming your files, name the files which have come back from friends. E.g.
Again, it’s logical, it’s orderly – I know whose feedback it contains, and which draft they’re providing feedback on.
There you have it.
It might seem incredibly inane, but it keeps everything in order, and whether that’s what you want or not, it’s what you need.
Keep everything as neatly sorted as possible. You’ll only berate yourself if you can’t find where things have gone, or which file is meant to be which.
Recently, I received an email notifying me that a short story of mine will be included in an upcoming anthology from Writer’s Edit (www.writersedit.com). I’m always excited about being able to chalk up a successful submission – especially as this has broken a longer-than-usual dry spell for fiction – but on this occasion it also made me think about the journey that story took. ‘Ghost Writer’, the story to be included in this anthology, has the second-longest gestation period than any other idea I’ve ever had.*
I first wrote ‘Ghost Writer’ in 2005. I was still finding my feet as a writer, and ‘Ghost Writer’ was a way in which I blended some of my own perspective as an emerging writer alongside a unique scenario. It also had terrible (read: really terrible) poetry. I still have a copy. And no, you can’t have it. Ever.
I never did anything proactive with that first version, but since 2010 I’ve been trying to bring the idea back to life in several different versions. In total, it took nearly nine years to turn this idea, this one short story that was never above 3000 words, into a successful piece of writing.
For me, there are three lessons to be taken from the nine-year process it’s taken to make this one particular story a winner.
1) Perseverance is important. I’d often thought about throwing the idea away for good. I’ve done the same with many other old stories from the same period in my career. And yet ‘Ghost Writer’ stayed in my folio as an in-progress. Sometimes, the gut feeling that an idea will pay off once it finds the right words is something you just have to go with, even if it seems hopeless to re-draft yet again. Of course, it doesn’t always pay off. But sometimes it does. Maybe the reward at the end won’t be worth the time put into the numerous re-drafts. But it’s still a success, and still immensely satisfying. Either way, it will have been an immeasurably educational journey.
2) Ideas often need to evolve before they work. There’s a lot to be said for sitting on an idea for a while, taking the time to work on other projects before coming back and seeing the old content with fresh eyes. Sometimes the break is only a week, but it could also be a year or more. The angle taken by the first version of an idea might be decent, but not making the most of the material. Maybe the story is being told from the wrong character’s perspective. Maybe that middle scene where the characters are drinking and talking in exposition really isn’t a necessary part of the story. Having patience with your own ideas is as important as being doggedly perseverant in working that idea to within an inch of its life.
3) There’s value in everything you write. Everything can be made into a good story – a good piece of writing. Keep optimistic about your own writing. The day you can’t find faith in your own work is the day you need to step back and forget about being a writer for a while. You’ll write a lot of crap. And some of that crap will be so flawed as to be practically unsalvageable. But maybe there’s a little nugget that can be taken from it. A certain character. A plot twist. A line of dialogue that could lead into a totally new idea. Whatever it may be, that worthless crap just became fertilizer. Grow something from it.
I was lucky in that ‘Ghost Writer’, despite the constant changes to virtually every story element, still kept the same medium and most of the same characters. Sometime it takes a lot more renovation. That novel you’ve been trying to write? Maybe it’s not meant to be a novel. Maybe it’s meant to be a novella. Or a screenplay. Or interpretive dance.
Ideas, whether they’ve been formed over months of rumination or a burst of chaotic energy, always have the potential to evolve. To see that happen, you need to tend to that idea with those three qualities in mind: perseverance, patience and optimism.
Be sure to leave stories of your own experiences with long-running and lingering ideas in the comments below. How long have you worked a certain idea or story before it was accepted? What kind of changes did those ideas have to go through before they found their ideal skin?
Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeen
*Incidentally, the longest-running idea I’ve ever worked with is a children’s fantasy novel I first penned about fifteen years ago and was effectively my first activity as a writer – I still hold hope of reviving the material in some fashion. It’s terribly paced, filled with plot holes and has action scenes ripped from a bad anime, but I still love it more than any offspring I’ll ever have.Read More