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Writing advice from leading authors

Kate Grenville is the author of novels, short stories, and books on the writing process like The Writing Book: A Workbook for Fiction Writers.

Q: What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
A: For me, writing very often starts with a location. There'll be scenes in the book that have a place, even before they quite have characters and certainly long before there's a "story". To find an engine for the writing, I go to that place. I don't go with any particular aim or hope or intention. Really I just mooch around. (But I make sure I've got something to take notes with – though I don't let myself quite know that I'm making sure of that. That would be too intentional.)

Q: What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
A: Mooching around, sitting and listening to the sounds of the place, looking at the light, the way the shadows fall, and maybe even attempting a little pencil sketch – is a way of bypassing the policeman in the brain that says "You are writing a story and it had better be good!" Anything that gets around the idea of the end-product is going to work, because what paralyses the imagination is the pressure of thinking about the finished product – which, naturally, has to be perfect. The idea of perfection is the thief of inspiration.

Q: What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
A: So with my last book, set in the nineteenth century, I walked about, aimlessly, pointlessly, thoughtlessly, on various places I thought might contain some of what I was writing about. Some places have changed beyond recognition – the Sydney CBD is as different as it's possible from the bush that was there in the nineteenth century. But when you look at it in a certain way you can erase the skyscrapers and the bitumen and see a certain logic to the landscape – the stream here, the hill there, the secretive hidden headland over there. Other places, out in the bush, haven't changed so much.


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