The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 4

NOTE: Welcome to part 4 of my novel. It’s a first draft, and the work has a long way to go. Writing dialogue is always daunting for me, not because of character voices or interactions, but because of the grammar. I could swear I was absent the day they taught about comma versus full stop in dialogue. Yesterday I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, which is a writer challenge held every November. The goal is to write fifty thousand words in November, which is about 1660 each day. I’m counting my notes and character development writing, my plotting, and basically all the writing to do with this project. It’s exciting, and fun, I just hope it doesn’t start to hang over my head and bog me down. Okay, here’s part four, I hope you like it. (To refer to part 3 for context click here)

“Magpie, I’ll call her Maggie for short.” Ashleigh said, holding the tiny pup against her.

“Oh, that’s so cute.” Mia said.

“Let it lick the cake,” Hayden said.

“Yuck no.” Ashleigh said.

“Give it time,” Hayden said. “It will be eating off her plate, that’s what my sisters dog does.”

“I have a staffy, we’ll have to do a doggy date.” Ruby said.

“Only if you want a dead Magpie,” Hayden said. “Your dog is a raptor, Ruby.”

“She is not,” Ruby said. “People are always hating on staffies, but they’re actually great dogs.”

When nobody said anything, Ruby added. “Morticia is an idiot, not a monster.”

“Let’s get her used her new home before we start socialising he.” Ryan said. He squeezed Ashleigh’s shoulder.

“Thank you so much, Ryan, I just love her.” Ashleigh said. She lifted the puppy so she could see its face. “Such a precious little thing.”

“Okay, now you can open some other presents,” Ruby said. “We might have been in on the secret and bought you some things for the Magpie.”

“Maggie,” Ryan said. He shook his head at Ruby.

Ashleigh looked around at the party faces, appreciating the moment. She searched the small crowd until she found Fia, then waved her over.

“Here,” she said, holding the pup out to Fia. “You hold my baby and I’ll unwrap the rest of these gorgeous looking presents.”

“Your baby hey?” Fia said, laughing. She took the warm bundle into her arms.

“Yeah, the furry kind, never the naked kind thanks.” Ashleigh

“Here,” Mia said, reaching over the cake and holding out a very large black gift box tied with a silver bow. “Start with this.”

“It’s a dog bed,” Ruby said, folding her arms. Mia looked at her with her mouth open.

“What?” Ruby said. “It is,”

“You didn’t have to tell her.” Alice said from across the table. She looked away when Ruby glared at her. Mia sent her a small grateful smile.

River rescued the birthday cake, taking it to the kitchen so it could be sliced and put on plates. He loaded the dishwasher and tidied up the bench tops. His mobile buzzed, telling him he had a message, and he checked it and sent a reply assuring a friend he was going to leave his place soon, to attend their party. He left his kitchen in a pretty bad state, knowing he’d hit it sometime tomorrow, and went back out to the patio. 

Fia smiled at River as he reappeared and he came over and stood beside her. He leaned across and spoke to her as quietly as he could. “Come with me to Harry’s, once the excitement is over here.” He said.

“Oh,” Fia said. “Thanks for the invite, but I’ll probably stick with Ash until she goes home, and who knows when that will be. I’m pretty beat anyway, had a huge week, looking forward to a reasonably early night.”

“Okay, not a problem,” River said. “But you can change your mind anytime, the offer stands. Be great to have you there.”

“Thanks Riv,” Fia said. In a few hours she knew she’d regret her choice, but she still held a grudge against Harry after the way he’d dumped Mia.

Ashleigh unwrapped the stack of gifts that had been moved to the table in front of her. She got dog toys, dog outfits, a blanket, a rubber bone, a black collar with tiny silver stars, and a few things for the dog mum, like candles, a t-shirt, some books and a bum bag, which she held up, looking confused.

“The best thing to wear when walking the dog, I promise,” Jack said. “You put the poop bags in it.”

“If you have zero style,” Ruby said, shaking her head at Jack.

“Function over form, for sure.” Jack said.

“It’ll be very useful,” Ashleigh said. She wrapped it around her waist. “I can wear it under my top.”

“There ya go.” Jack said and he finished the beer he was holding.

“Now that the presents are out of the way, and I think the cake is ready, I think it’s time for a speech from the birthday girl,” Ryan said.

“We didn’t sing Happy Birthday yet,” a friend of Jacks said.

“Ah, we don’t do that,” Alice said. “Never.”

Over the top, someone called out “Yeah, speech, speech, speech,” and a few guys picked up the chant.

Fia was surprised when Ashleigh stood up, scooting her chair back.

“Yes,” Ashleigh said. “I know it’s not like me to be up for giving a speech, but I have an important announcement.”

“Really Ash?” Alice said. “Go you.”

“Come on now, a bit of shoosh for the birthday girl if you don’t mind.” Jack said.

“A bit of shoosh.” Hayden repeated and things quieted down.

“This should be good.” Ruby said.

“Having turned thirty, I want this year to count,” Ashleigh said. “There’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve put it off forever. I’m not putting it off another day. This year, I’m writing a book.”

The silence spoke volumes, but it didn’t deter Ashleigh. “I’m writing the novel I’ve had in my head for about four years. And also,”

“There’s more?” Fia said. She turned to Ashleigh, a shocked look on her face.

“Yes there’s more,” Ashleigh said. “I’m starting a women’s writing group, and if any of you feel the writing bug like I do, please join me and we’ll smash this thing.”

“Well count me in,” Ruby said, while everyone else was still processing. “Everyone knows I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

“Me of course!” Mia said, nodding.

“Come on Fia,” Ashleigh said. “We always talk about writing for real, not for work, and now is our time.”

“Yeah,” Fia said. “I guess so.”

“So much enthusiasm,” Ryan laughed. Fia gave him a fake mad glare.

“Alice,” Ashleigh said. “You have a book in you, and we need your expertise, you know, because you work in writing.”

“If you want me, I’m in, yeah for sure,” Alice said.

“So women only?” Hayden said. “No men allowed, isn’t that discrimination?”

“Yeah, unfair,” Jack said. “Boo.”

“No, let’s be real, it’s for self-preservation.” Fia said.

“It’s the best idea you’ve ever had, Ash.” River said. “Your book will be brilliant, all your books will be brilliant,”

“Yeah but no men?” Jack said.

“Get over it, man,” Hayden said and slapped Jack on the back.

“Now,” River said. “everyone go into the kitchen and get some cake, I’m not serving you guys.”

Once the cake was demolished, the party thinned out pretty fast. People had other, serious venues to get to.

River had asked Fia one more time if she’d go with him, no pressure, just checking, and she’d told him no again. He’d said goodbye and taken off in his car.

Ashleigh and her writing group were left around the stone table.

“When will we get together?” Mia said, draining a bottle of beer.

“Where will we get together?” Alice said.

“I’ve already thought about this stuff,” Ashleigh said.

“Why are we not surprised?” Mia said.

“We meet up every Wednesday night, at Fia’s place.” Ashleigh said.

“Oh, what?” Fia said. “My place isn’t really the best house.”

“Oh rubbish, and it’s roughly the same distance to all of our homes. And there’s parking. And you’re near a train station.” Ashleigh topped off her wine glass and took a sip.

“I can make Wednesdays,” Alice said.

“Me too,” Mia said.

“You’re all free Wednesday nights,” Ashleigh said.”I pay attention, you know.”

“Apparently,” Ruby said. “Well if we’re meeting at Fia’s, we’d better bring food. The girl never has food in the house.”

“Bring food, fine by me,” Fia said. “Extra points if it’s Italian.”

“Seven o’clock, Fia’s place, this Wednesday,” Ashleigh said.

“Wow, that’s soon,” Alice said.

“Bring food, and whatever you want to write on, paper, phone, tablet, laptop, whatever” Ashleigh said.

“We get it,” Alice said.

“So, all I have to do is be home,” Fia said. The women laughed.

“We should all commit to a writing project,” Ruby said. “And be prepared to share. And we will all commit to completely honest feedback.”

“Yikes, okay, I’m in,” Fia held her wine glass up.

“I’m in,” Alice said, raising a bottle of cider.

“We’re all in,” Ruby said and raised her beer.

“This is going to be awesome,” Alice said. “I know it is. We’re going to get writing and get real.”

“I’m always real,” Ruby said, frowning.

“Oh, we’ll see about that,” Alice said, standing up. “Hey, I know exactly what we can call the group.” She looked around the table and saw nods of encouragement. “We are going to write, and be real, and honest and open. We’ll be The Naked Ladies Writing Group.”

Mia choked and drink came out of her nose. “The naked who now?” She coughed.

“I like it,” Ashleigh said. “Balls to the wall, ladies.”

“Not writing in the nude, but as a group we’ll be as open and real and honest as we can be. Naked.” Alice said.

“Brutal,” Ruby smiled.

“So we’re going to write, then come to the group and share some of what we write, and everyone gets to tell us what they think?” Mia said. “Scary,”

“No pain, no gain,” Ruby said.

Fia smiled at Ashleigh and handed the puppy back. “Surely the dog needs to pee by now. Should I get her some water?”

“Oh, good idea,” Ashleigh said and walked the puppy over to Rivers garden and put her down so she could sniff and do what she needed to do.

Fia went into the kitchen and found a dish, she filled it with water and brought it back outside. The puppy was whining now, and Ashleigh was holding it out in front of her, asking it what the problem was.

“No-one ever accused Ash of being the motherly type,” Ruby said.

“I’m being a great mother,” Ashleigh said. “I’m asking it what it wants.”

“Here, try this,” Fia said, placing the dish of water on the pavers next to Ashleigh.

“She’s not thirsty for water,” Alice said. “Maybe she wants some of your wine?”

“She can’t have wine,” Ruby said.

Fia decided this was a good time to leave. She’d put in a good effort and had a great time. Ashleigh had had a good birthday, although Fia was doubtful that the puppy would end up being a good idea. Not that she’d say this to Ash.

Driving home, Fia was happy about two things. One, she’d hardly had a drink all night, and two she was glad to be the one without a new dog. As she put the key into the door at home, she sighed. There were definite benefits to living alone, and coming home after a huge day to shower and hit the sack without having to talk to anyone was right up there.

Mind My Creative Writing Muse She is Telling Me How To Write a Book

I’m Freaking Out

That’s right, reader, I’m going crazy imagining what the half a dozen people who might have read my novel so far, are thinking about me. I mean, what sort of lunatic writes a book on a blog? And we’re not talking the finished, polished product, no, no, we’re talking the first draft, all iffy and basic.

Somebody Stop Me

Please, someone have a word with my Muse. She’s always been a tad looney, and now she’s got me doing this thing, putting myself out there for anyone, well all half a dozen of you, to shake your heads and wonder what the frag?

Your Basic Muse

Haha, no, my muse is anything but basic. In fact she’s ten times cooler than me and doesn’t put up with any of my excuses or whining. To look at, she’s somewhere between Harley Quinn and Frida Kahlo, yes I know, not what you’d expect.

Her name is Calliope, and she is generous when I sit myself in front of my writing, any writing, and commit to getting the work done. She keeps me going, encourages my ideas and makes sitting alone in a room writing words a bit less lonely.

She guards my imagination and creativity against her writing partner, my Inner Editor.

My Inner Editor

Only once the first draft is written does Calliope disappear, off to do whatever imaginary friends do when you don’t need them. Then my Inner Editor cracks his knuckles and expects free reign over my writing. He pushes me to be logical, truthful and at times brutal about my writing, deleting what is unnecessary, improving what is essential.

Before My Muse and Editor Knew Their Places

– I used to write without acknowledging the importance of separating a first draft from an edit.

– I would try to write my best work right away.

– I put terrible pressure on myself to get it right in one go, and I thought that if I was any kind of decent writer, surely that would be the way it’s done.

This doesn’t work for me, even though a lot of my first draft will end up in the finished piece in one shape or another.

Reading About Writing

I read some books about writing:

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande

Living The Writer’s Life by Eric Maisel, Ph.D.

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich

I learned a lot reading these books, and none of them told me I had to get the words right in the first draft. Each author had their own way of writing and a lot of it was about showing up to the work on a regular basis.

The separate tasks of a writer became clear to me:

– writing

– rewriting, a lot

– editing

– proofreading

This seemed logical, which I liked, but a little bit cold, and I do love words and writing, so I decided to invite a fun, cool imaginary friend to help me with the first draft writing; my Muse, Calliope, and somehow by default she brought along a kind of parental and somewhat perfectionist Inner Editor. He’s jacket and tie and all business, and when I need him that’s fantastic.

For Calliope…

I know that millions of people write without needing imaginary friends, but this way suits me. If one of you six or so readers think of me at my desk writing, I invite you to send a smile Calliope’s way. She’s too cool to care, but deep down I know she likes the attention.

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 3

NOTE: Welcome to part 3. Writing fiction is very different to the ghostwriting I did, it’s freer and yet I’m more nervous in a way. Yeah, because I’m putting this first draft out there for the world to see, but also because I’m using my imagination and not holding back a single idea. Fiction first drafts are for exploration and the expression of whatever the hell I want to add, given that future drafts and editing will save my readers from poorly written sentences and unnecessary paragraphs. I’m writing everything I think needs to be in my book, to drive the story forward, but I know from experience that some of this stuff is headed for deletion at some point. I hope you’re having fun on this journey with me.

Alice went inside, shuffling between people, holding her drink above her head. She didn’t need to listen to Ruby and she definitely didn’t need to be where she wasn’t wanted. There was only one reason she’d bothered to kick on to Riv’s place and there were ninety nine percent more people at this party than she wanted to see.

“Seen River?” She asked a guy dressed in orange from head to toe.

“No, sorry,” he said. “I only just arrived.” and he turned his back on her.

Typical, Alice thought. She got to the front door, which was wide open and letting in even more random people. Alice waited for a gap and slipped outside. She went over to a low garden wall and sat, placing her drink on the wall. I am a bit sloshed, she admitted to herself, but Ruby was out of order treating her like that in front of everyone. Alice ran her fingers through a grassy plant nearby.

“Are you okay, Ali?”

Alice looked up and was shocked to see River standing there in front of her, looking down with kind eyes. She went to say something like I’m okay or I’m alright, and it came out garbled like I’m ok right.

“I didn’t think anyone had noticed me come outside.” She said.

“I was worried you were going to leave before the cake,” River said.

“Cake,” Alice said, nodding. “Can’t have the big girl missing out on the cake. Oh sorry, that sounds so, sorry.”

River shook his head, smiled and held a hand out to her. “Come on, let’s get the music turned up and start the dancing,”

“Riv, you are so nice,” Alice said. “So, so nice,” she stood up and enjoyed the way his hand felt holding hers as he led her back inside. He waved at the DJ in the corner of the vast living room and the music went from a good background mix to some serious beats.

Alice danced with Riv, then everyone was dancing together, one big jumping, swirling mass mingling. Hands were in the air or on someone else’s body. Alice was just drunk enough to enjoy the dance floor, shaking her soft curves, moving her feet in the high black boots that had seemed like a good idea when she’d thrown them into the car to wear tonight.

“Ali,” Fia shouted over the music. “You got the moves, girl.”

“You know it,” Alice said.

River moved closer to Fia and took her left hand in his right, pulling her up against him. Fia arched her back and shook her head so her long blonde hair flew about. She smiled at Riv, grabbed Ali’s hand so they were three people dancing in the room, and in spite of the crush of bodies, and the volume in the room, Fia felt fine.

Alice pulled her hands away and Fia couldn’t read the expression on her face as Alice slipped backwards between dancers and disappeared. River put his free arm around Fia’s waist and swept her up and around, a strangely waltz-like move considering the music pulsing through their bodies. Fia held onto his shoulder and went with the flow, being dipped and swung and finally back up on both feet. River chose that moment to swoop down for a soft, long kiss on the lips and Fia was too shocked to respond.

What is that supposed to mean? She thought, as she kept dancing. Then pushed the thought aside, imagining it for a simple spur of the moment thing. A really nice spur of the moment thing.

Alice was watching from the other side of the room. She stood and observed the actions and interactions between River and Sofia. She judged the movements as intimate but more friendly and fun than passionate, until that damn kiss. A stumbling dancer bumped into her, face to face and she laughed as he gyrated and threw himself in circles with his face just centimetres from her own. She let go of her thoughts, bouncing and thrusting to the beat. She let go of her worries and danced.

Cake time happened much later than anyone expected. River stopped the music and got the DJ to start packing up. He went around the house, corralling people, moving all to the back patio, stopping everything else that was on the go. Ashleigh was stood behind the table with everyone around, waiting on the cake. Ryan, who had ordered the cake and wanted to do the honours, walked out of the house with the creation, fizzling with sparklers. People made way and he placed it in front of his wife with a smile and obvious pride.

Ashleigh laughed loudly, smacking her hips. “You didn’t!” She said.

“Oh he did,” River said.

Everyone was craning their necks to see what was up with the black and white cake.

“What is it?” Mia said.

“It’s a Frenchie!” Ashleigh said.

“A what?” Mia said.

“A French Bulldog,” Ryan said. He was standing next to Ashleigh grinning like a fool. “She loves them.”

“But she doesn’t have a dog,” Mia said.

Ryan made his way through friends, back into the neat garden that surrounded the patio, and picked up a large carry case.

“Happy Birthday, Ash,” he said, putting the case beside the birthday cake. “Sorry it’s not wrapped,”

“Typical,” she said, rolling her eyes. “What do I do first? Cut the cake or open my present?”

“Open the present,” Ruby said. “Hurry up,”

“Okay,” Ashleigh said. She found a zipper on the top of the case and pulled it all the way open. The outside lights cast a mottled view of whatever was in the bag and Ashleigh stuck her hand in.

“Oh god, what is it?” She said, then “Oh my god Ryan, oh my god.”

She lifted a soft mound out and held it to her face.

“It’s a dog,” Ruby said. “A puppy, worse than a dog, worse than a kid,”

“He, she, it, it’s perfect!” Ashleigh said, her eyes shining with tears.

“It’s a girl,” Ryan said. “You have to name her,”

“Black and white,” Ruby said. “Call it Cruella,”

“Domino,” someone else said.

“No, I know what I’ll call her,” Ashleigh said, holding the pup up and looking into its eyes. “I will call you,…

NOTE: I don’t have a name ready for Ashleighs new puppy. Help, please suggest a name, so I can choose one and get on with the story. Thanks for reading.

My Book Encyclopaedia

When I write, I keep a book encyclopaedia where I record every detail about characters, places and things I need to remember. I want to be sure that I don’t change someone’s eye colour or preferences halfway through the manuscript. It can happen.

My favourite part about my book encyclopaedia is that I find images of people online to ascribe to each character. I search faces until I find someone who looks the way I imagine a character to look, then I print it out and keep it in the encyclopaedia with my data on that character, to refer to. Somehow, these pictures inform my imagination about personality, strengths, flaws, obsessions, relationships and more. I first used this method when I wrote my unpublished book Diva Sisters, which is about two sisters who sign up for a reality TV show. I was searching online for inspiration about the younger sister whose personality I didn’t quite have right, and I saw a photo of a random woman and bam, that was her. I printed that image and stuck it in my book encyclopaedia, then wondered if I could find images for the other main characters. It works really well for me because I’m one of those writers who is full of new ideas, and sometimes those ideas can make me drift off track, obsess about an irrelevant detail and waste precious writing time.

If you’ve seen my photo’s of my book journal where I write possible plot points, connections, and ideas, you might have noticed it isn’t lined. My book encyclopaedia isn’t lined either. I have found that unlined pages inspire my imagination to go in any direction, if that makes sense. I can make a mind map or I can draw lines between characters and note significant exchanges or conflict points.

I’m using the small Clairefontaine A5 blank booklets, so I can always add another one if I fill the current one and they are easy to store. Below is a photo of the booklets, they come in packs of two.

Sorry about the crappy photo, but this is the brand I use.

Once I get some content in the book, I’ll show you a photo or video inside my book encyclopaedia so you can get a peek into that process.

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 2

Here is part two of my new book. From now on, I’ll make occasional notes about changes and ideas. My notes might seem random at first, but as you read on, you’ll see how I have used ideas that start out as a short mention in my notes.

NOTE: Zoe is now called Sofia, Fia for short. / Someone reminds her of an old friend or a cousin. Carry this through the story to use later / Is there a pregnancy early in the book? What use would it serve in progressing the story? Maybe as a parallel to the group growth and development? Group collaboration book of stories as well as their own writing? I like this idea.

Fia drove right up to the house and parked next to the kitchen. She went straight in and checked the big fridge, sighing with relief at the sight of the gorgeous black and white birthday cake.

“It’s there,” River said. He took two bottles of champagne out of the fridge and closed the door with his elbow. “You didn’t trust me Fifi,”

“Hey, don’t call me Fifi, and the only person I trust is myself,” Fia said. “Is that all of the champers?”

River laughed and pointed to a smaller fridge with a glass door.

“Oh, that should do us,” Fia said, and she gave River her best smile, the one normally saved for social media and job interviews. “I need to unpack my car,”

“No, no,” River said. “Hey Jack, Callum, get in here and help.”

“I can,” Fia got out before River waved her to silence and pointed the guys out to her car.

“Hi Fia,” Callum said, hugging her as he walked past.

“Fifi,” Jack laughed at her frown. “I know, I know, it’s Fia or bog off. Which car’s yours? I was in the middle of a very promising convo in there, thanks Riv, the sparkly blonde with the teeth.”

“Forget about her,” River shared a grin with Fia. “Not your type at all, mate. It’s the red Ford Focus. Unlocked,” he looked to Fia.

“Yes,” she said.

“Type? I don’t have a type.” Jack stepped outside.

“He doesn’t have a type,” River said.

“No, not at all,” Fia laughed. “I’m going to find the girls.”

“Later then,” River said.

“Later, Riv,” Fia said, meaning it.

The girls were sitting around a large stone table out on the back patio, and they were enthusiastic in their waving to Fia to come join them.

“How did you get here before me?” Fia said and she realised she hadn’t grabbed a drink on her way out.

“Ruby drove,” Mia lifted her glass in Ruby’s direction. Fia nodded. That would explain it.

“Cosmo?” A cocktail appeared at Fia’s elbow.

“Oh my god yeah, and keep ‘em coming,” she turned to see who knew she was a Cosmopolitan girl and found Zachary Pratt smiling down at her. “Thanks, Zach,”

Ruby and Mia looked at her with raised eyebrows, and F rolled her eyes at them. She lifted her Cosmo and said “Cheers to Ash for making it to thirty,”


At six o’clock, caterers turned up and served a seafood spread on Fia’s trestle tables which had been set up against the back of the house.

“Is it too late to hope this will soak up the champagne?” Alice said, holding up a king prawn.

“For you? Definitely,” Ruby said, giving Alice the side eyes.

“Hey,” Alice said. “Do you want to wear this drink?”

“Only if you can spare it,” Ruby laughed.

NOTE TO SELF: Start making connections between characters and their upcoming style of writing for better flow. Fia has part of a manuscript in a file in her laptop, and that’s her writing secret. Ruby is a blogger with a bit of a following for her wild ideas and brutal judgements. So she can be pretty blunt with the friends. There will be conflict among the characters, so get ready for that and don’t feel like you have to resolve it immediately. You know you do that. Time to start the book encyclopaedia. Link to what that is here.

NOTE: There will be more story writing almost every day from now on.

Write Today

Today is your day to start. Find ten minutes in your day, doesn’t matter where or when, and write the first sentence you think of when you think of your book. Beginning, middle, end, doesn’t matter. Write. You’ll be so glad you did. I’ll give you the shout-out you deserve. #novel #starttoday #writersofinstagram

A Writer’s Journal

Before you write a word of your book, it can be a great idea to get yourself a writer’s journal. It’s fine to use either an app or pen and paper, but I prefer a paper one. I love my writer’s journal, and I use it almost daily, it’s like a therapist and a punching bag in one. There are no rules when you write in your journal, you have to give yourself absolute freedom to vent. In my journal, spelling and grammar are irrelevant. Neat writing is irrelevant, bad language is irrelevant. In my journal I allow myself to swear like there’s no tomorrow, or at least no readers, which there aren’t because no-one but me reads my journal.

When I open my journal, I feel like I’m visiting an old friend. It’s a place that is completely safe, where I can be myself. Like an old friend, the journal knows where the bodies are buried. It contains all of the crazy, angry, frustrated thoughts and feelings I’ve had about writing. My worst writer days and my most desperate thoughts.

When I wrote professionally, copywriting, ghost writing and proofreading, I relied on my journal to edit my thinking and straighten out my ideas. I’m a big picture thinker and some writing involves a careful presentation of the facts, so journaling about this helped me to get my more abstract thoughts out there before I started building a concrete, cogent piece of writing.

I like pen and paper, so my writer’s journals are always physical journal books. My journal collection is nearly as embarrassing as my pen collection, and I use any excuse to buy more of either or both. You can never have too much stationery and being a writer gives you the perfect excuse to indulge.

I use my writer’s journal in a few ways, but the number one way I use it is to complain about my writing process, to let it all out. I love writing, it feels natural and beautiful and if I’m not writing I itch to get back to it. Writing is also torturous and you need a place to sort out the torture so you can get writing again.

A writer’s journal can even be the first place you write an idea that eventually becomes a book. It can also be the place where you swear you’ll never write again. I only look back through my journals to reassure myself that yes, you’ve been in this crappy headspace before and yes, you broke through and continued writing. A writer who keeps a good relationship with their head through introspection and a willingness to be completely honest about their doubts and fears, can become confident, prolific and eventually published. Buy a journal, and make it a nice one. Buy a pen, and make sure it writes smoothly. Put the two together and start your writer’s life.

I Can’t Write

I can’t write. Do you feel like this? I want to write, but I can’t. It’s so hard to admit this when you have the heart of an author. I can help you to reframe this statement, to sneak your way around it, give it some meaning so that you can make it work for you. I know this sounds unlikely, but awareness is the first step to change and getting to the crux of why you’re not writing is the first step to writing.

Here are five things to say instead of ‘I can’t write’. I invite you to choose one and explore it in your writer’s journal. Did you say you don’t have a writer’s journal? I can’t believe you. I hereby give you permission to buy a gorgeous new journal, specifically to be used as your writer’s journal. Write your name in the front of it and get ready to use it daily. I’ll give you some ideas for that, too. First, here are some other ways to say ‘I can’t write’.

1. I can’t think of anything to write today. Okay, you can’t find words to put on paper or screen right now, on this day, so write that. I can’t write today. I can’t speak for tomorrow or next month, only for today. You never know what you might be able to do tomorrow.

2. I’m too busy to write today. Your life is so full, that you simply do not have a spare hour a day to write. You’re flat out living the life you’ve created for yourself and there is no time to sit and write. It’s okay, we can address this and I have some suggestions for you, in another post coming soon.

3. I can’t write well enough to be published. You have ideas, dreams and maybe even goals, but you do not feel accomplished enough to write a word today. Not one useless word. That is a long way from not being a writer, it’s a mindset. I can give you a dozen reasons to start to write before you even begin to feel like you’re able. I’ll share my own story of feeling unworthy as a writer. Keep an eye out for a new post on that.

4. I can’t start to write because I have no idea how to finish my book. It’s not as though you have no idea how to begin, you just can’t see yourself finishing your book, so you don’t start. This is a problem, but not an insurmountable one, I promise. Watch this space.

5. I can’t decide which of my ideas I should write first. You have a whole lot of ideas, maybe you love some of them, you just can’t choose one. What a great problem to have, some writers would kill to be in this situation. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the frustration you’re feeling, and I do have some ideas to share on this subject, coming soon.

Can you relate to one or more of these five ways of saying I can’t write? The one that tortures me the most is number four, not knowing the ending can really do my head in, and yet writing the ending first takes some of my writer energy out of me as I build a first draft. I’ll write about each of these five writer problems and create links in this post so you can see what I think will help you overcome each of these issues. In the meantime, grab that writer’s journal I recommended and explore the torture of not writing. I promise it’s a worthwhile action to take.

Your Frustrated Inner Author

If you haven’t started writing a book, this post is for you. If you’ve started and not finished your book, you’ll probably find some of this useful for you, but I’m specifically writing today for the women who have yet to start. There are a lot of reasons you might not have started writing the book you so want to write. You might have been focused on your small children, or your career or both. You might not have anyone in your life who encourages you to write. You might not trust yourself to tell the story you have in your heart. Keep reading, and I’ll show you what you need before you can get started.

A lot, and I mean many, many women over the years when I was a professional writer, asked me the question: how do I start writing? They had an idea for a book but they just didn’t know how to start. I always encouraged them to write their book, but at that time, I didn’t really know what else to say.

I’ve read a lot of advice from successful novelists about this subject and I have my own opinion. My take involves asking yourself a series of questions, answering them as honestly as possible and using these answers to make your start. I encourage you to take the first concrete steps in this post and become a writer.

A common thing writers say is that you just need to start, to get some words down, in a computer or on a page, and this is a valid point, I mean there’s no writing unless you write, but what if you really cannot simply start like this? We humans are individuals. Yes, we have a lot of similarities, but the most interesting thing about us is the way we differ from one another. If I didn’t know how to eat and someone told me it was as simple as peeling a banana and taking a bite, that would fail spectacularly because I really hate bananas unless they are in a cake or a smoothie. So how can there be a solution for a wide range of people wanting to be writers, when we differ so much? The answer is simple, and notice I didn’t say easy, but definitely simple.

One thing I want to suggest to you before we go on is that all women who want to write a book have something I call a Frustrated Inner Author, or FIA. This is the part of you that feels driven to write a book, the part of you that knows you have a book in you, the part that dies a little each day you don’t start writing. That sounds a bit dramatic, but thinking about your writing drive as a real part of you with a name can help you to start to get real about writing.

Here are my first three questions for you, and they deserve real, written answers. Use a journal or an online writing file to respond to these questions and keep your answers.

Question 1: How to you talk to your Frustrated Inner Author on a day to day basis, what are you telling yourself about the lack of writing in your life? This is no easy question to answer and requires some thought.

Question 2: What is your wildest writing dream? Your ideal writers life? Ask your FIA, your writer self, don’t hold back.

Question 3: When do you see yourself starting to write? Your answer might be something like; after my kids go to school, or once I live in my own place, or when I know a publisher will publish the book I write. Be honest with yourself and write as many answers to this question as are relevant for you. Listen to your FIA, dig deep.

I hope your answers gave you a fresh perspective and a clearer picture of who you are as someone not writing. Send me a message here, or find me on Instagram, and let me know what happened for you when you answered these questions. I’d love to know what you came up with, so I can help you take the next steps.

The Naked Ladies Writing Group part 1

The last day of summer was a stinker and nobody was surprised, least of all Zoe Quinn, who thought no good deed goes unpunished as she packed her car. By eleven am there was no comfort in the shade and the weather app on Zoe’s phone predicted worse by noon. She made her way through the city traffic and then parked as close as she could to the reserve, turned the car off and groaned as cool air gave way to instant, stifling heat.

The beach umbrellas in the back of her car were going to look pretty even if they served only as decoration, rather than any real protection against the heat. As she stepped out of her car a white van pulled up beside her.

The passenger side door on the van opened and long tanned legs appeared followed by the impressive six-pack of an able bodied helper who squeezed out between the vehicles. Zoe smiled up into the familiar face and held out her arms for a hug, enjoying the embrace just a little too much despite the heat.

“Great to see you River,” said Zoe.

“You too, Zo,” said River and they made their way to the back of the van.

“On time, and all here,” said the beach bleached blonde digging into the stacks of chairs and boxes in the van.

“And much appreciated, Zac” said Zoe, opening the hatch of her car. “We’ve got plenty of time. You can start with the tables and chairs, that’ll give us the shape of the place.”

“What did I tell you?” said Zac. “She’s worse than my mum,”

Zoe rolled her eyes and lifted an armful of umbrellas, turned and walked to the space on the grass she had booked for the party.

“From there to there,” she said, pointing at a cluster of gum trees and a tall narrow sculpture. “Only as far as that big tree, but all the way to the edge there. We want two trestle tables together, so we’ll end up with four square tables. We also want one trestle for gifts and two for the food. Mia is coming with the tablecloth roll and the scissors.”

“And speak of the devil,” said Zac, watching a small red four wheel drive reversing into a parking spot.

“Fantastic,” said Zoe waving her arms around above her head.

Zac put down the stack of white folding chairs he was carrying. He thought of the slab of beer behind the drivers seat in the van, but it would have to wait until the party kicked on at Riv’s place.

“I brought sustenance for the workers,” said Mia, carrying an armful of water bottles to the shade beneath the biggest tree. “Frozen,”

“You are the best,” Zoe said, grabbing one of the bottles.

While Zac and River set up the chairs, tables, and umbrellas on weighted stands, Zoe and Mia cut the tablecloths to length and taped them down, put paper plates, knives and forks and cups on them and then strung bright red and yellow bunting around from tree to tree and to the ground so that it formed a loose boundary.

People started arriving at ten to twelve. By a quarter to one the caterer had come and set up the grazing table and almost everyone had arrived. The gift table had a decent amount of presents on it. As instructed, everyone was drinking their own soft drink, although Zoe saw a few pretty suspect-looking containers.

“She’s here,” Zoe heard someone say, and she walked towards the cars. She saw Ashleigh before Ashleigh saw her, and watched her face as she cycled through shock, panic and finally resigned good humour.

“Surprise!” Everyone seemed to say it at a different time, but that kind of worked and felt casual and set the mood. Ashleigh walked up to Zoe and hugged her.

“I’ll kill you later of course,” she said.

“Of course,” Zoe laughed. “Happy thirtieth.”

Ash turned to her husband and told him “You’ll keep, Ryan,” and he shrugged and smiled.

“I was under orders,” he said. “Zoe’s orders,”

The food was a big charcuterie spread that was already warm. Zoe encouraged everyone to eat as soon as possible to avoid any possibility of food poisoning. People helped themselves and sat in cliques around the tables, laughing and complaining about the heat. After only an hour, someone suggested kicking on to Rivers place early for the pool and booze portion of the day. Zoe felt a bit frustrated after all the trouble she’d gone to, but she didn’t complain, and anyway, all the photo’s on Instagram were proof that everyone had had a blast so far. The thought of jumping into a pool was heavenly.

Everyone helped stow the party back into the van and some of the cars and not one person bailed out. It was going to be a big night.

River had inherited his grandmothers house at Bondi Beach, so he was used to hosting the crowd.

Thankyou for reading the first draft of the first part of the first chapter of my book. If you look carefully, you’ll see it’s imperfect and that’s exactly the way a first draft is. I have many more words to write, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Sometimes the first draft ends up being pretty close to the final draft, but more often as I write the story, events that occur later in the story necessitate changes, tweaks, huge chunks being shifted around or deleted. Welcome to my story.

I assert ownership of all the words in my blog from today forward. This is an original work and it belongs to me.