City Muse

Dear readers,

Once again, I’m sitting in my parents’ spare room, suitcase packed, Melbourne-bound. For some reason I feel nervous, as if I’ve never done this before. For today’s post, I thought I’d share a little something I wrote the first time I moved to Melbourne.

*

Is there beauty in a skyline, a city’s fractured spine?

Trampled, photographed, built and destroyed, all by little people with hard heads, or hats.

You can’t own a city, but you still want a piece.

It’s my city. Our city. Not your city.

You’re never alone. You’re always alone. Too small, but filling too much space.

It’s hard to stay but harder to leave. It’s got you now, the city.

Maybe it owns you.

*

Thank you so much for reading.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

All About Editing: Plot

Hi everyone,

This is the first installment of a little series all about editing. The series will be based on my personal self-editing process, but will hopefully give you some ideas that you can apply to your own. It’s not a guideline or a set of rules–just an example of one person’s way of doing things. Always make sure you save every version of your draft!

Today’s topic is Plot, or the Substantive Edit. This is the first stage of my editing process, as well as the most painful, and the most rewarding. Below are three steps I take to stay sane and focused while tightening my manuscript. 

 

1.  Write a list of all the things wrong with your plot

Sounds fun, right? These are the things you always knew had to change eventually. Now is the time to make them squirm in the spotlight.

After I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I set it aside for a few days. During this little break, I compiled a list of every scene, plot point, character, and chapter that I wasn’t happy with. Gimmicks, coincidences, boring scenes, illogical reactions. I didn’t go easy on myself. It was liberating in a way, because it was the first time I forced myself to look at the major flaws, rather than glossing over them in fear of not making my target word count. These flaws were the things that spoiled my manuscript, and made me think the whole thing was worthless. I thought the list would make me feel terrible about myself as a writer, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, when I saw a physical list of all the flaws, I realised that I wasn’t unhappy with everything. The list made me feel in control, and showed me exactly what I had to do to improve.

Examples of things on my list: Opening of Chapter 3, Travis (the whole character), Chapter 7, Chapter 9, Chapter 13, The phone call in Chapter 20, etc.

2. Fix or delete?

Some things just have to go. Like Travis. He served no purpose as a character, except to create a problem for the protagonist later down the road. I found that a lot of the plot flaws in my manuscript came in groups. Travis was a plot device, for a plot point that was weak anyway. I deleted both Travis and that plot point, and found another, stronger way to bring across the information I was using him for. Although it was painful and time consuming, deleting Travis fixed more than one of the problems on my list. I was tempted to add him to a couple more scenes, and try to add depth to his character instead of deleting him. The more I tried, however, the more obvious it became that deleting him and the events involved with him was the only way to improve the plot’s cohesiveness.

I think the tip here is to try everything out. Have the original version of your draft saved, and in the second draft, delete what you want to delete, and change what you want to change. Don’t stop until you’re content with it.

3. Ask the hard questions

Does that backstory need to be there? Does that chapter add anything to the plot or the character? Is that logical? Does the climax happen too early/late? Is the resolution too predictable, obvious, abrupt, coincidental, etc? Does that character serve a purpose? Would your protagonist make that mistake?

If you read a lot of books, you most-likely already know the answers. For me, it was a matter of not allowing myself to dodge the questions.

 

Thank you so much for reading, and good luck with your manuscript!

– Tamara

Life as a Writer

Hello!

I don’t know if you remember me, but…

Ok, I’m just going to cut to it. I’m sorry I’ve been gone for a month. I have been so incredibly busy with my last semester at university. I have around four half-finished draft blog posts that I just haven’t gotten around to finishing, but I promise they will be out soon. Anyway, this is a blog about writing and the writer’s life, so here are a few things that I’ve been up to:

  1. Writing (obviously) — I am working on a novel (or maybe novella, not sure, post coming soon), that I am going to be graded on for my final semester studying creative writing at uni. I have two subjects that I’m using this project for, so all up I’ll need to reach the 16 000 word mark. It seems attainable enough, except that I keep deleting blocks of 1000 words at a time in bursts of frustration. Maybe I should break my delete button.
  2. Critiquing other writers — When I’m not writing or doing readings, I’m doing critiques on my peers’ writing. This is actually super helpful, and I learn so much from everyone else.
  3. Freelancing — I’ve just finished a freelance editing job. I really enjoyed doing it, and I earned some money (which is a rare thing to come by)!
  4. Reading — If you ever feel stuck with your WIP, I highly recommend “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. It really helps to take away the looming cloud above the terrifying experience that is writing a novel.
  5. Working on Spinebind — In case you’re new here, Spinebind is a literary magazine that I created at the start of this year. Submissions for the third issue close in four days, so I have a lot of tricky decisions ahead of me. Still loving every minute of it.

What are you all up to? How is the writing life treating you?

Thank you so much for reading,

Tamara

On Embracing the Unknown Future

I have no idea what my future holds, and I kind of like it that way. Somewhere along the line I’ve embraced the fact that I’m probably (definitely) not going to go straight from university to a comfortable and well-paying job. I’m probably not going to buy an apartment and a nice car any time soon. I mean, I can’t even drive.

I honestly don’t think there’s much point to having one set plan. No matter what you do, life is always going to throw some surprises in there. Plans change, and the last thing I want is to see an experience in a negative light just because it’s not what I expected or planned for.

I’ve been asked the question, “So what’s your plan?”, more times than I can count on my fingers this year. Everyone’s eager to hear what on Earth I’m going to do with this creative writing degree of mine. I’m thinking of maybe looking into house sitting overseas. I’m talking to people. I’m looking for opportunities and reaching for them when they come up. Sometimes I can’t quite reach them. Sometimes I reach them, but they manage to get away, and that’s okay too.

I know that I’m still young and naive, but I’ve come to realise that there’s no formula to this thing. There’s no one way of “doing it right”. So for now, my plan is not really having a strict plan. My goal is learning as much as I can, and writing what I love to write. My aim is to just make it work.

To all of you who worry about what the future might hold, just remember that no one really knows what the hell they’re doing. All the rules and expectations that we hold ourselves to are just made up by, well, us.

Have a great day.

– Tamara

Update – Issue #2 of Spinebind – Ideas

Hi everybody,

I hope you’re all doing well. I am up in Cairns visiting family, and am finally getting some much-needed down time. For any of my new readers out there, I’m the editor of a literary magazine called Spinebind. Up until a few days ago, my time was all being put towards the magazine and getting the second issue ready. I am so happy with how it turned out. The response to the second issue has been great so far, and it’s so nice to see that people are enjoying the work inside.  You can read all about the magazine here!

My own writing has been slowing down a bit lately. I know all of you writers out there understand the feeling of finally having time to work and then not getting anything out on the page. It’s as if all my ideas come along when I’m meant to be focusing on other things, and disappear with the rest of my worries as soon as I have time to dedicate to my creative projects. It’s during times like these that I stress myself out about my future. It’s silly, really, because I know from experience that the flow of ideas always starts back up again. But until that happens, I just keep reading over what I already have and edit, delete, edit, delete.

I do think I need to remember to allow myself a little bit of down time that doesn’t involve writing. That’s why I’m trying not to feel guilty about this past week. But I also think I need to get better at just writing through the uninspired times, otherwise I’ll never finish anything. I’ve been listening to music by Kodaline and The Apache Relay on repeat – their music always seems to inspire my writing – so we’ll see how it goes from here.

I hope you are having a great day,

Tamara

From the Vault – Childhood Poetry

Hi everyone,

A little while ago I was looking to see if I could find some of my old poetry, and I remembered a website that I used when I was 11 and 12 years old. It’s called Allpoetry, and it’s a place where people write and post their work, enter competitions, win points, etc. It’s kind of like Facebook but for poets. I was a bit of an odd kid, I know. I miraculously remembered my username (it’s too embarrassing to share), and reset my password. Now I have access to 22 poems that I wrote in the 7th grade. I spent way too long reading over them, getting nostalgic, and messaging the people who always commented to thank them for encouraging me, and to tell them what I’m up to now. Most of all though, I got a good laugh; my old poems are absolutely, awfully hilarious. It’s interesting to see how I grew in the year between age 11 and 12, and how my writing style matured. I thought I’d share a few of them with you so we can laugh about them together.

11 years old:

Happiness

The sun beams down and lifts my soul,
covering up the big black hole.
It brings warmth and laughter to you and me
and makes us feel so light and free.

Love is sometimes good and bad,
when you love someone other than your Mum and Dad.
Love is something that occupies your heart,
And when it ends, it’s just the start.

Sometimes love takes away your sight,
and all you can see is a beautiful light.
Coming straight from the sky,
Making you feel like you can fly.

Flying free like a bee that goes buzz,
but you have limited time like everyone does.
So insure your life with happiness and laughter,
and live very happily ever after.

Oh wow, how insightful (face palm)! It gets worse…

Here It Goes Again!

“Meow” Crash! Bang! “Oops!”
“Oh not again Puss In Boots!”
Squirming on the floor were my beloved pet eels,
The fish tank however was head over heels!

My cat has tried to eat them up,
considering the fish tank his personal cup.
He drinks from it looking nice and sweet,
but really he’s slurping a forbidden treat.

Even though he’s so naughty and bad,
when I’m angry with him, he looks sad.
I pick him up and cuddle him,
I see the knots, he needs a trim.

“Meow!” Scratch! “Oh the pain!”
It’s happening all over again.

Pet eels… really?

Here’s one I wrote the following year, when I was 12:

Mosaic

My life is like a flower mosaic.
Every day, representing every new
brightly colored tile.

Every day tells a different story.
Every tile shows a different picture.

My life story, told by art.
My secrets hidden underneath the tiles.

Surrounded by my family,
gazing at me with very proud eyes.

Every emotion, a different petal.
of the flower mosaic.

But the flower mosaic,
the work of art, is not finished yet,
as a tile is added every day of my life.
Causing it to grow and
grow.

 

I hope you had a good laugh reading my 11 and 12 year old poetry. I’m so glad that I have these to look back on, and to remind me where I came from. I wonder where the next 8 years will take me.

Thanks for reading,

Yours truly,

Tamara Drazic

 

 

The Good Kind of Rejection Letter

Hi everyone,

I’m sure you’ve seen the news about J.K. Rowling posting her rejection letters to inspire writers to never stop submitting. It really does help to soften the blow of a rejection when you see concrete evidence of famous authors being rejected over and over again before making their big break. Today I woke up to another rejection letter in my inbox, but it actually put me in a great mood. This one, unlike countless others I’ve received before it, has just a tiny hint of hope–an undertone of validation. I’ve blanked out which journal sent it to me just for privacy, but it’s a journal that I’d be overjoyed to be published in one day. I thought I’d share my rejection with you to remind you to look at every step forward as a success, no matter how small. Here it is:

Dear Tamara Drazic,

Thank you so much for submitting to ************. We have read your work with interest, and although we are not accepting it, it did come close. We would love to see more work from you, so please feel free to resubmit during our next reading period.

Again, thanks for sending us your work. We hope to read more from you soon.

Assistant Editors

************

As writers I think it’s so hard to not sink into the everything-I-write-is-rubbish mindset, so it’s important to pick apart your rejection letters and find the positives inside them. Often you’ll just get a standard declined, but when you do get something more, hold on to it. Being rejected is just another thing you have in common with the writers you admire, after all.

Happy writing!

Yours Sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

Marketing Tips for Literary Journals – Part I

This blog has so many amazing tips!

Journey of a Literary Journal

I know I’m jumping the gun here, but I just love this stuff. At some point we’ll actually have a product to promote, but until then here are some marketing tips for those who have journals out there already. And for our group, let’s start thinking about creating a “marketing team” in addition to the standard teams of readers, genre editors, & production staff.

I’m halfway through my note-taking of the interviews I’ve conducted in the past 2 months, so this is just Part I of a compilation of promotional advice from various editors. If you enjoy this stuff like I do, and/or have some marketing tips of your own to add, please “Leave a Response”! 

  • Develop a clean, sophisticated design for your site – this will announce the value of your enterprise more than anything else
  • The best marketing technique is simply to publish excellence from a variety of…

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Dealing with Rejection

As a young writer, I have a pretty big collection of rejection letters cluttering my inbox. I’m a very sensitive person, but over the last two years I have developed what I like to call a writer’s shell. It lets the rejections bounce off of the outside, and lets me keep in all of my positive thoughts, ideas and creativity. Before I started regularly submitting work, my creativity levels were directly related to the feedback I received. If it was positive, I would write for days and have endless ideas; but if it was negative, I wouldn’t write anything, for fear of it not being perfect. As you can imagine, that way of thinking was extremely unproductive. I had to get out of it if I was ever going to get something published, so I decided to follow my own advice, and the advice of my amazing tutors and lecturers. Below are a couple of tips that I use to help me deal with rejection.

*Remember that it’s normal – After getting a couple of rejection letters in a row, it’s easy to start doubting your writing ability. You have to remember that rejection is just something that comes with the job. Every single writer has been rejected.

*Don’t take it personally – A lot of the time, your piece just doesn’t suit the other pieces in the issue, or the market at that point in time.

*Do keep improving – In response to the previous tip, it’s equally important to never stop learning and experimenting. If you’re getting multiple rejections, and you just keep sending out the same piece, maybe it just isn’t quite finished. Take advice, make drastic changes, and kill your darlings.

*Honour your rejection letters – Ok, so you don’t have to frame them and hang them on the wall, but I think it’s important to not just disregard your rejection letters. If the editors have taken the time to give you feedback, use it. Keep your version saved, but also make the changes that the editor suggested and see what happens. Even if it’s a generic letter with no feedback at all, keep it and remember what that particular literary journal or publisher does not want.

*Don’t compare your successes to those of others – You are on your own path to becoming a better writer. You have your own style, voice and goals. Try to be happy for fellow writers when they succeed. Don’t look at someone else’s success and think you will never achieve what they have achieved. Comparing is a sure way to kill your creativity.

*Write a blog post about how to deal with rejection – This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Remember that you are emotionally invested in your rejections because making it as a writer is something that is important to you. That means it is worth trying for. I know the feeling. I’ve also found that the closer your piece gets to publication, the scarier the thought of getting rejected is. One of my pieces is currently on a short list, and I feel like I’m going crazy. I don’t know if this feeling changes once you’re an established writer, with pieces in every major publication. For now all we can do it keep doing what we love to do, and just keep submitting.

Best of luck to all of my fellow writers out there!

– Tamara Drazic

 

Favourite Book of All Time

I want to start by saying a big thank you for being here. This new blog is dedicated to all things writing-related. I plan to update you on my new projects, literary salons, publications, favourite books and things I learn along my journey to becoming a working writer. There’s a lot I want to say about this topic, but I think telling you about my favourite book is a good place to start. This book, in my opinion, has the most perfect opening ever written.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. The opening sets up the exact feeling of obsession that runs through the entire novel. It makes you feel ridiculously uncomfortable, and it makes you question your morals. The sentences sound so good together that they almost read like poetry, and each character is extremely complex. If you haven’t read it, please do. You won’t regret it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my first post on this new blog. I’m really excited about it, and can’t wait to write lots of content over the coming months.

Until next time!

Tamara Drazic