Thursday, May 21, 2009

A "Good on Paper" Writer

A "good on paper" writer is someone who can put beautifully crafted prose on a page, right? Wrong.

I am not (yet) a "good on paper" writer--I'm talking about the bane of all emerging writers: the author CV. Woebegone is the writer who has nothing, or nearly nothing, to sell herself with. As I'm putting together query letters right now it's near the top of my list to fix this sorry situation, stat!

For years I've struggled with even where to start. Firstly, I HATE short stories. I hate reading them and I loath trying to write them. I detest investing in characters or a voice only to find that it's all over and done with in a few thousand words. (Which is also why I hate lengthy or--even worse--MULTIPLE prologues. Reinvesting in a story/new character drives me bonkers as I'm a far from patient girl.) I have written only one short story that I am pleased with, but judges continually overlook it so I guess my lack of enthusiasm for the genre (?) shows.

So that's short story competitions and anthologies out.

Then there's freelance journalism. I've tried that too but generating exciting topics and pitching them at a jaded editor is not my idea of an afternoon of fun. I also go off on tangents when I try to write features, or put too much of myself in (hallelujah for blogging, cos it's all ME ME ME!) and newspapers don't like that.

I did get a letter to the editor published in the Age once. Did I milk that! "Ooh yes darlings, published in the Age..."

I'm certainly NOT a poet, either. I've read about three poems in my life and they make me roll my eyes. Or bawl. And poets are so miserly with words. Say it with sentences, people!

I was beginning to think that I was going to have nada to augment my CV with until my YA teacher mentioned that Viewpoint magazine is always looking for YA reviewers, and I realised that hey, I do that already! And what do you know, I have four reviews coming next month, in three different magazines, one of which I actually get PAID for. Sweet Jesus I've hit the jackpot! How swanky will that look on my CV?

How about you--is your CV brimming with credentials, or frustratingly bare? And if it is brimming, how did you get started?


  1. How do you not get overwhelmed and/or sick of the same characters and situations when you start out with a long-form work like a novel? I find short story writing to be a lot of fun precisely because it is so disposable.

    As for my CV, it's brimming with crappy little freelance and pro-bono jobs, as well as some more respectable work.

  2. Lately I've just been telling myself that feeling overwhelmed or anxious isn't going to help me write anything, and that's seemed to help. Are you a budding novelist too? I tells ya, editing work has really helped me cut the crap out of my own stuff, do you find the same thing?

  3. Excellent tip for novel writing. When I eventually tackle mine, I'll keep that in mind. So far I've just been doing the short story thing. Since my stuff is attempting to be comedic, a longform novel that can keep up the laughs-per-page is a harder task.
    Editing work has indeed helped with my own writing, but has made certain books less enjoyable because of it! Haha.

  4. I have nothing. I think my youth, and my blog, are the only two things really working for me at the moment.
    But I have had a novel requested from a query (later rejected, but very kindly and with a lot of feedback).
    I think, as long as you can craft a good query (I think I'm pretty good at them), then they'll request pages or the novel, and your writing will speak for itself.
    So I think a really strong beginning to your story is important.

  5. Yes, beginnings are everything! (And query letters, too.) I manage the fiction list at work (its a rather modest one, about one novel and two volumes of poetry a year) and I go straight to the first page. If I like the writing, then I'll glance over the synopsis. I hope other agents and editors do the same because I can't synopsise to save my ass. Especially when trying to portray the humour of the novel. Paraphrasing does not lend itself to comedy. Did the feedback help? I see from your blog that they didn't mention the sex.