Finish the damn novel*

One of my favourite podcasts which I’ve mentioned before is ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’ by Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait of the Australian Writers’ Centre. They have notched up over a hundred episodes and I’ve been a subscriber from the start, listening to the great mix of news, tips and tactics and an amazing array of interviews with writers from all backgrounds, as well as publishers, editors and other creative folk. If you don’t already subscribe, do your writing self a favour and sign up for the podcast.

Last week’s episode (# 104) stood out for me. The interview was with Pamela Freeman, who also writes as Pamela Hart. Freeman has written over 30 books across a range of genres, and whilst this was her second interview on the podcast (first was episode 58 ), there were a couple of comments which really resonated with me.

The first was discussion around the benefits of writing courses. Can you teach people how to write? Freeman drew an analogy between opera singing and writing. An opera teacher works on techniques to improve the student’s voice, and writing courses work in a similar way. They can help with method and approach, but the student’s input – the voice – remains unique.

Freeman also had words of wisdom around the need to finish the first draft, rather than perpetually revising, tweaking, making major or minor changes whilst never completing the novel. She suggested that you promise yourself that you will do as many drafts as you need to fix any inconsistencies or plot holes or whatever it is that keeps pulling you back rather than freeing you up to actually finish the work. As she said, most novels fail because they are incomplete.

Simple but powerful advice.

Now I’m off to keep writing my novel without a backwards glance.

Do you get caught up in tweaking rather than actually writing?

*This has been referenced in a couple of the SYWTBAW episodes as something that was spotted on a t-shirt at a writing conference. 

[Photo of mural in Blackheath]

5 thoughts on “Finish the damn novel*

  1. All my life, being a writer was the thing I wanted most to do. I finally found the time I thought I needed and signed up to the Writer’s Studio in Sydney. If I learned anything, it was that I would most likely never be a writer, but that I could write for my own enjoyment and keep journals, which I do. I confess to being a pedant when it comes to grammar and it was very hard for me not to read and correct as I went. I shall check out the Khoo and Tait podcasts you have mentioned. Thank you again for an interesting and informative blog.


    1. Thank you of your comments, Barbara. I was really interested to hear that you went to the Writer’s Studio in Sydney – I’ve heard of it. I can relate to the joys of writing, even if it doesn’t eventuate in the tangible signs of success that published authors enjoy. Like you I keep a journal and not only has it saved my sanity at times but it helps me to express thoughts and ideas which in some instances get an airing in a story or a post. For me it is how I understand what is happening around me, and it often surprises me how I interpret this as I write. Sometimes I don’t really know until I write it out. I hope you enjoy the podcasts and thank you again for your positive feedback.


    1. Thank you! There are quite a lot of murals through the mountains, including one on a water reservoir near Hazelbrook which I’d love to take a photo of but it’s on the highway and a bit tricky. Maybe one day …


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