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Five Keys to Write… and Keep Writing

February 23, 2010

Kirilan Key from Extreme Electronic

Dale has had to step out today, so it is me (Jodi) hitching up pants without a belt and enjoying shoes which are a little roomier than normal. I do promise no desk hi-jinks in Dale’s absence. I shall be on my best-est behaviour!

When my son started school, one of the first things all the new students were familiarised with were the five principles or ‘keys’ which the school functions by.

The more I look at the print-out stuck up on the freezer door, the more I think they are equally applicable to writers.

Following are the five keys and my writerly take on them.


  • Accepting others have a different opinion of your work and knowing what is good critical thought and what is not.
  • Acknowledging writing its tough – let’s make no qualms about it (a friend of mine once said she’s surprised more writers don’t suffer depression given what the act of writing involves and the amount of rejection which is inherently part of the process)
  • Take risks.  Explore different points of view, different genres, write a sex scene. Einstein is reported to have said: “The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas.”
  • Bouncing back from rejection. Was it the wrong market? Could you story do with another set of eyes over it?
  • Accepting writing is an important/essential part of your life. When you accept this element of yourself other are forced to also accept it (they may not like it, but they will respect you.)


  • Don’t be lulled into the first draft mentality… it takes editing and rewrites to move a really good first draft into an outstanding final piece. And that might take a dozen or more rewrites. (I currently have a story which has been hacked at close to 20 times!)
  • The writers, who have made it, did so by keeping at it. Write, edit, submit and start all over again.
  • Accept it can be a long and hard road to get where you want to go. This can be difficult in the instantaneous culture many of us our now neck deep in.
  • Know you have it in you to do it. Rather than repeating, “I can do it,” revise and chant “I will do this” or “I am doing this.”
  • Make writing a priority. If you can’t do it every day, make it a priority just one day a week.


  • The one thing most writers can never be accused of is being ego maniacs. We quail at the thought of putting our work out there, for others to read and form opinions of. Believe in yourself and believe in your work. Writing is meant to be read, stories are meant to be enjoyed by many.
  • Sharing is good. The more you share the more you want to share as you see your writing grow and blossom. But it takes that first step – the courage – to reveal your work.
  • Know who to reveal your work to – someone who wants to help you write a better piece with precise, structure opinion rather than destroy you personally with shallow, general, negative comments. Someone who can assist you in building your confidence.
  • If you’ve had your confidence shattered, allow yourself time to mourn and heal from that… but keep writing. If it is terminal (or feels that way) and you simply can’t write, get hold of a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way.
  • Know yourself and know your writing. Work towards strengthening your areas of weakness.


  • Use your time efficiently. Many of us write around the demands of life, so create boundaries and hold fast to them.
  • Set realistic goals and break them down into do-able parts. Do something every day if you can. Everyone has five minutes to spare.
  • Get a calendar and use it. Mark in special dates with reminders. Don’t miss deadlines simply because time moved a little faster than you thought.
  • If possible allow time for a story to sit and come back to it with fresh eyes.
  • When you ask someone to look over your work, know in advance what you want from them. If possible include the market you are aiming at and any prompt/theme you might be writing to. Also include the time frame in which you need their comments back by.

Getting Along

  • It is not true that writers are solitary creatures. With the advent of the internet, writers have greater access to each other than at any other point in modern history.
  • Seek out enclaves of writers who gel with you and take the time to read or follow them. It might be either on-line or off-line.
  • Gather around you a small but trusted and reliable group of fellow writers who can beta read/critique for you. Writing only improves with sharing. It might just start with one person – that’s OK!
  • If you are asked to beta read or critique for a fellow writer, consider how you’d like to be critiqued. General comments are useless – take the time to explain your thoughts and opinons. Give specific examples.
  • If you are a forum goer – consider etiquette in the way you behave online.

This is by no means a complete list and I am sure many of you can add other points in under the five headings.

Today I’m opening the floor to you to share any of your experiences which may illustrate any one of the five areas mentioned. Afterwards I’ll pass you a paper key with the correct colour and congratulate you (well this is what they do at my son’s school!) For those of you who want a real buzz… I’ll search out one of the electrified keys!

  1. February 23, 2010 7:53 am

    really thoughtful article – thanks for sharing…

    thinking of you Dale!!

  2. February 23, 2010 7:54 am

    I’m going to print this up and post it on MY refridgerator! So many great things to remember. Great post!

  3. February 23, 2010 8:02 am

    Jodi (and Annie) – thank you for stepping up to the plate. I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate you (ALL of you).

    Dale, get well soon, buddy.

  4. hedgemonkey permalink
    March 1, 2010 10:19 pm

    I’m very much a tadpole at this writing malarkeyso I had a couple of questions regards this post:

    1: Until I got to hang out with you groovy kids at CW I pretty much existed in a bubble. Now that strangers are reading my stuff I’m finding that some of their advice to be helpful, some to be a bit goofy and some to be just plain bollocks. How does one know for certain what advice is valid? I mean I’m just doing this gig for the groupies after all …

    2: I think and dream fiction, but the beast which is my gainful employment devours at least 40 hours of my week and often leaves me a chewed up wreck (that’s working night shifts and weekends as well as normal human hours). You say make time to write … but at this stage of my life I am looking at the life of a destitute writer with much longing and romance. Advice please dearest agony aunty?

  5. March 5, 2010 9:54 am

    I will get back to you on that Jase!

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