Today’s writing exercise: Eavesdropping

Image source: Lynette Noni via Meme Generator

Image source: Lynette Noni via Meme Generator

The editing business is on hiatus while I’m working so much – but never fear, the writing continues! Today’s writing exercise for you is the eavesdropping exercise, which will help you write infinitely more realistic and believable dialogue.

I first did this exercise in uni under the tutelage of Grace Dugan, author of The Silver Road, and I really enjoyed it. (I think you will, too, or I wouldn’t be writing this whole thing about it.)

At Starbucks, or sitting near the group study rooms at the library, you can hear so much you never expected to – things that are so hilarious or shocking or sweet that you have to include them in your story.

“The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You’re there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see—every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties.” Graham Greene

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An ode to Terry Pratchett and the only gift a writer ever needs

Terry Pratchett.  Image source: Robin Matthews, Camera Press, via Daily Mail UK

Terry Pratchett.
Image source: Robin Matthews, Camera Press, via Daily Mail UK

One of my favourite authors of all time, prolific and gifted fantasy satire author Terry Pratchett, passed away last week. It hit me suddenly; I realised I had missed my chance. I wished I could have written to him before he moved on, to thank him for how he changed my writing, my life.

“You are a wonderful writer. Your books live in two and a half whole shelves of my largest bookcase because I enjoy rereading them so much. Thank you for your clever characters who made me think about the world differently. Thank you for your involving plots and your hilarious sense of humour, which gave me another world to live in on grey days.”

I know I’m just one fangirl of many. He’s such a famous author that I know he must get stacks of fan mail every day, from emails to postcards (“Terry, here I am at the edge of the Disc!”). By the time he died at 66 years old, he’d written 70 novels, including the 40-novel Discworld series that I loved so much.

But I still wish that I’d been able to express my gratitude to him in some small way – for me, not for him.

That day I made sure I didn’t miss out on other opportunities. I wrote two letters to authors at the publishing house where I work, whose novels are currently being copy-edited (an arduous process in which you question every word choice). I’d read the first or second drafts of their manuscripts in preparation for promoting their work and loved – simply loved – the writing and the characters. I’m not a crier, but I cried over the happy ending of one of them, sitting there at my desk in the marketing office.

So I wrote and told them, “I loved your book. It moved me greatly and I feel inspired to go out and do something about it. Your theme is one I’ve seen in real life and it thrilled me to see someone put it into words so accurately and with such real emotion.”

And I learned a big lesson.

Your encouragement is the best gift you can give a fellow writer.

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Reading aloud to your pets will help your kid learn to read faster

Binyam Gebremeskel, 9, reading aloud to Lucy, a toy poodle. Lucy seems very happy to hear about “Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot” at the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library. (The Alexandria library offers the Paws to Read program.) Source: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

Binyam Gebremeskel, 9, reading aloud to Lucy, a toy poodle. Lucy seems very happy to hear about “Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot” at the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library. (The Alexandria library offers the Paws to Read program.)
Source: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

According to Books+Publishing today (from a report in Government News),  Lake Macquarie City Library in regional NSW is signing up for more bark than bite.

The BaRK literacy program (Building Reading Confidence for Kids) is all about reading books to dogs. The Library has asked pet owners and dogs in their region to come along for this incredibly successful eight-week program.

It’s all about improving reading skills and confidence for children with reading difficulties or speech impediments, by having them read aloud to a trained therapy dog. It works so well that they need more dogs for all the kids who have signed up!

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Why we should get to play jigsaw puzzles at work

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

Image source: WHSmith 1000 Piece Jigsaw: ‘Hidden Tigers’ by Steve Read

So where I work, we share a building with a biology research lab. It sounds cool but I never get to see them apart from a shared “hello” in the hallways. But the best part is that the path to the stockroom takes me near enough to see their staff room… which is filled with jigsaw puzzles!

Every morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea, you can spy them all in there, sitting or standing around a massive boardroom table covered in the latest masterpiece.

Tigers in the jungle.

Castles on the moors.

Uluru at sunset.

I swear I saw a Harry Potter puzzle once.

This is how they incubate their ideas, and I think it’s genius.

“Well, it sounds like we’ve hit a wall. Let’s take a break and come back after morning tea. To the puzzle room!”

But let me tell you, the puzzles have more benefits than just having a nice little break from work.

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Open letter to the doubting writer

I wrote this email to a client last month and they said it had to be shared, so here is an edited version of that note. I hope it encourages you as it did them.

 

60 Once upon a time on typewriter - bigstock_story_2226743_2 from Tamika Christy

Image source: Tamika Christy

 

Dear doubting writer,

No worries, don’t stress. Panic is a normal part of the writing (and a vital part of the editing) process; no doubt you know that already.

I wouldn’t have quoted on your book if I didn’t see in it the potential to be a truly worthy book. I’m not saying the book is perfect; that’s why editing is a good idea. But you’ve already got my vote of confidence.

There’s no one with a gun to your head to get this book out ASAP. No matter when it arrives, people will be thrilled ecstatically to read it.

But you know what, even if you look at your book and think “eh, it’s still not perfect”, I was reading another book today and came across this quote:

“the woods would be very silent
if no birds sang there
except those that sang best”
– Henry van Dyke

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