Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to learn from other writers

You get to the point, as a writer, where you feel a bit jaded. You feel you have jumped through so many hoops that it's started to irk. You feel you have seen every version of a sentence... and daily writing starts to feel like a sentence. Of a very imprisoning kind.

ANZauthors website
Then you do something on a pure whim, and you are on a learning curve again. It happened this week. I volunteered to set up a website for the members at ANZauthors, a Yahoo discussion group that has been going strong for many years now. From the minute I dusted off my HTML tools, I started to learn. Not about how to make a website - I do it the easy way, and Yola helps with that. No, no - I started to learn from my writer friends. It was a refresher course in a way: a reminder about versatility, determination, novelty and guts.

Guts? Oh yes - one needs guts to be an author, especially today. My colleagues on ANZauthors showed me better than ever before how there are more than a dozen ways to approach the world of publishing. How one can never stop learning. How it's vital to understand what readers want. How one can never let go of empathy, understanding, generosity and purpose. How small egos matter in the world of big ideas and big money. How technology is a tool rather than an enemy. How family features in what a writer thinks and does.

I think I learned more this week than I had in the whole preceding year, and it's bound to get into my writing. It is bound to affect how I think about the human condition. As I slowly put the site together, I read each individual author's biography, blurbs, and helpful articles for writers, and I picked up tips any jaded writer would do well to read.

I learned how sometimes, being an author is something some people do DESPITE what is happening in their lives, to their families, or to their health. I also learned that some books are written BECAUSE of what some writers have experienced in a first-hand way. It is amazing how much fiction can come from a set of very real circumstances.

All the authors at ANZauthors are very busy people, and between them, they have published a number of great books (yes, and a great number of books). Do visit the new site: ANZauthors and witness, as I did, the incredible creativity that comes from applied determination, talent, and inspiration, which amounts to a lot of very hard work.

Let me know what you think below. What ingredients do you think are invaluable to an author?
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  1. The following was sent by email from Ian Mathie:

    This is a most interesting article and one that makes me ask these few questions: What motivates you to write? Is it becasue you have something pertinent to say and this is a medium you feel will convey your message best, or do you just want to create stories and share them?
    Is the motivation for fiction writers different from that of non-fiction scribes?
    I an currently writing non-fiction in the form of memoirs and I do it because there are events my friends and family know nothing about which I think will be of interest also to a much wider audience. Many of those events were tense, dramatic and culturally outside the envelope for most people why will read my books, so I try to let my readers share them in as realistic a way as possible. But essentially I'm just recording facts whereas fiction writers have to craft and sculpt their stories from their imagination.
    You make a good point about learning from others. Even in my case, the way things are described will influence how readers understand and appreciate the events I describe and I have learned so much from others people's writing that has helped me share those events in a way that brings them to life.
    The day I stop learning is the day they can put my carcass out for the vultures to feast on.

  2. I started writing in the mid-80s, Ian, just to have something interesting to say at cocktail parties. Then found I could not stop, especially when I started getting published. Affirmation and acceptance do that to me!
    Fiction is important because it lets writers explore character, location, dilemmas and the psychology of the human condition... all under the pretense of telling stories. One can invent a 'what if' premise and put it in a novel, which can do a number of things: heal a hurt, teach a lesson, exert revenge. It's all possible, with impunity. Original ideas are possible if you look at fiction in that way, even to those who - like me - do not have a very fertile imagination.

  3. Hey Rosanne
    I am coming after so long :(

    This is such a thought provoking and interesting piece! I think for writing one needs is the ability to imagine just about anything! anything is possible in a writers world.

    Will definitely check out the site...and your other blog posts I missed!

  4. Most invaluable ingredient? Would have to be passion. Not only for the actual act of writing itself - fingers on keyboard or pen in hand - but for each individual story you need or want to tell. Interested to read you feel you don't have a very fertile imagination, Rosanne, when your stories are so interesting. :)

  5. That's one thing I love about writing - the way writers help each other along the way and share knowledge and experiences. All that as Rosanne pointed out then impinges on our own writing.

  6. An interesting and thought provoking post, Rosanne. May I link to it on my blog?

  7. Helen, yes - please do. I am so flattered you asked. I'll be over to your blog to have a look before long.

  8. Noels - I sometimes read other writers' inspired works and wonder whether I'll ever have an original thought again. I'm sure we all feel like that from time to time. Thank you for liking my stories!

  9. Dale, I get a lot of help from some authors who are very generous with their time and tips.

    Hajra: glad to see you back. I wish everything were possible. Putting things in a book seems to give them life, at any rate!