Hi everyone,

Due to increasing writing commitments, I’m unfortunately unable to maintain so many blogs.

So  Tips 4 Young Writers has moved to my DeeScribeWriting blog http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com where I will be having features for young writers and you will find lots of writing tips, author interviews and reviews.

I’m also the new kid’s book blogger at Boomerang Books and you’ll also find author interviews, reviews and activities there at my Kids’ Book Capers blog http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/kids-book-capers-blog/

Hope to catch up with you there.

Happy writing.


Whenever, I’m going to begin a new story, I always start with a head full of ideas…and a big piece of blank paper.

I ask myself a lot of questions – the two main ones being:

  1. What’s going to happen in my story?
  2. Who do I want to tell my story?


This is the plotting part – this is where I sit down and try to free my mind and just write down random ideas that come into my head. I don’t rearrange them into the story order until later – and some of the original ideas won’t get used at all.

Sometimes I even change what happens in my story as I go. Sometimes, the character decides they want to go in a completely different direction. In fact, the more I think about who the main character really is – and what motivates them – the more the plot for my story develops.

When I’m thinking about the plot for my story, I think about:

  1. What is going to happen?
  2. How is it going to happen?
  3. Why is it going to happen?
  4. When is it going to happen?
  5. Where is it going to happen?
  6. WHO is it going to happen to?


This isn’t as simple as it sounds. I am the writer, and yes…I am the one writing down the story…but whose eyes will I tell it through? Whose point of view shall I tell the story from?

If I tell it in first person point of view (using ‘I’); then I will probably have the main character tell my story. This way of telling a story lets me write what is going on in my main character’s head.

For example: I don’t do furry pets and family holidays – probably comes from growing up without a mum. (From ‘Letters to Leonardo’ published by Walker Books 2009).

I could tell it from third person point of view where someone narrates what is happening to my main character, and this lets me describe more how things look etc.

For example: Matt wasn’t into furry pets and family holidays. There had always just been him and Dad, and they never went anywhere.

If I want to tell it from more than one person’s point of view, I can do this is third person omniscient where I hop from one character’s head to another. This can be a great way of adding lots of different perspectives to the story, but it can get confusing if you hop around too much.

For example: Matt had never been on a family holiday. Dad worked every weekend so they never got to go anywhere. Troy’s family went away all the time. Troy wondered how Matt coped with the boredom.

Don’t be afraid to change to a different point of view if the first one you tried doesn’t seem to be working. And don’t worry about scribbling all over the blank paper in writing that your mother couldn’t read. It’s important to get your ideas down so they don’t become a mish mash in your head. Then you can decide the order later.

The most important thing with starting a story is to ‘Start It’. Don’t put it off any longer. If you want to be a writer…you have to write, write and write some more.

Happy writing:-)


The Book Show, ABC Radio National, has a new blog and they want you to write for it.

It’s about reading, writing, books and publishing. It’s about the book launch you went to last night or the writers’ festival event you really enjoyed. It’s your top 10 book-to-movie adaptations or the books you’ve spotted people reading on trains.

The Book Show and Express Media are in partnership to find a team of young Australian writers to contribute. If you’ve got an internet connection you can be part of it.

What’s Involved

  • You must be able to blog at least once a week;
  • You must be passionate about books, writers’ festivals, writing, reading – anything literary and cultural really.
  • You are on the younger side of 30.

If you’re interested, you can find more here:


Good luck.

I look forward to reading your blogs.


hatelistauthorUS author Jennifer Brown was one of the fabulous hosts of my Letters to Leonardo blog tour back in July.

So I’m thrilled to welcome her today to talk about how she wrote her gripping new YA novel, Hate List.

So, Jen, what is Hate List about?

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria.  Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create.  A list of people and things they hated.  The list her boyfriend used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year.  Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

hate list full coverWow, what a gripping plot line.  Jen, Can you tell us more about how you wrote this amazing books – any tips ?

Research is important

Because Hate List was about the emotional journey of my character more than anything else, I focused most of my research and attention on that. I sent Valerie to therapy — literally I had a psychologist “do therapy” on her — and I analyzed every possible emotion and emotional reaction to its very core. Much of this I did before writing the story at all.

Most of Hate List was written in the wee hours of the morning. It was the best time for me to come at it with a clear head (the day hasn’t yet had a chance to muddle it up!) and get a couple solid hours of writing in before my little monsters woke up. I always start the day by reviewing what I’ve written the day before, just to get me into the flow of writing again, and then off I go!

Are you a major plotter or do you just sit down and write?

You have to do what works for you. I’m not a plotter or an outliner or synopsizer. I like to dive in and write; let the story take care of itself. Of course, that can mean a plot that gets a little wild in places, and my editor certainly worked with me to take out some subplots that threatened to “take over” the main plot. In the end, there were whole characters deleted and whole chapters completely changed. But, truthfully, this is the way I prefer to work. I bristle much less at having to delete and rewrite than at having to outline.

I found it very fortunate, while writing Hate List, that I also write a weekly humor column. The emotions in Hate List run very deep and threatened to take a lot out of me emotionally. Switching to lighter themes and emotions every week for a few hours helped tremendously. Also, during the time I was writing and revising Hate List, I would jot out humorous/lighter pieces of short fiction just for my own pleasure and, again, to lighten myself up a little. I came away with a few short stories that I’m planning to pursue as novel-length work, which means not only did they help my spirits, but they could end up being something really interesting in the long run!

“Hate List” is an amazing book, and it sounds like you’ve gone through an extraordinary process to get to this point.

Thanks for dropping in to chat to us about your how you write, Jen.


clairepicWelcome Claire Saxby, who is visiting us as part of a blog tour for her fabulous new picture book “Sheep, Goat and The Creaking Gate”. 
Names are so important in books and Claire is going to talk to us about how she comes up with names for her stories and the characters in them.
1. How did you choose the name Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate?

I tried on all sorts of names before settling on this one. I’d tried different names on the characters too but none were quite right. Sheep and goats generally exist in quiet anonymity in their paddocks and I decided that fitted this story too.

2. Why are book names so important?

 Names are the entry gate to the story, the point at which the reader engages, decides whether or not they will go further. They need to tease, to entice.

3. Have you ever written a book that you just couldn’t think of a name for?

I don’t think so, I can’t think of a finished story that lacks a name. Sometimes drafts will have a working title only but generally the name comes fairly early in the drafting process. Having the right title helps me to focus on what the story is really about.

4. How many names do you generally come up with before you settle on one?

Sometimes if I’m very lucky, the first name is the one that sticks.  But more often, I will have to work my way through a number of titles before finding the one that fits best.

5. Do you ask other people’s opinions on book names?

I don’t usually ask other people’s opinions on names, although I do share drafts of stories with trusted readers. Occasionally I’ll run the final two title options past someone I trust. Usually though, I’ll keep my own counsel on choosing the title…it’s almost as if getting the title right is a sign I’ve done the work required. If I can’t find one, it’s often a sign I’ve not done enough work on the story.

6. Has a publisher ever asked you to change the name of your book?

Yes, and it was a difficult challenge to find an alternative. In the end, I had to change the name of the main character too, to make the title fit. I worried and worried at it until one night out for dinner with friends, the name of the character jumped into my head…and then the title was easy.

7. What is your favourite name for a book you have written?

Ooh, that’s a hard one! I really liked ‘Barking Barnacles’, title for a story that made it as far as final proofs before the company failed.

‘Rumblecat’ is another favourite, although that story has been redrafted and rewritten and thrown across the room and more so often that I should hate it. I still reckon it will one day find its place.

I also liked Alarming Lucy because the title did double duty…it explained the slightly skewed smile on a teddy bear’s face, but also hinted at the story solution.

8. Do you find it hardest to name your books or your characters?

Hmm. That’s like asking if it’s hard to name your children when you’ve just met them, or if it would be easier once you’ve had aeons to get to know them. Names of characters sometimes fit perfectly first go, but sometimes I’ll try a few before finding the right name for the character. Story names sometimes arrive fully formed, but if they don’t choosing them is a more concious process somehow. I’ll brainstorm them, writing down ideas, phrases, words, until the right one appears.

9. Where do you get the names for your characters from?

All over the place. I used to use made up names, like ‘Ebi’ from ‘Ebi’s Boat’ and ‘Kora’ from ‘A Nest for Kora’, because I didn’t want the reader to come to the story with any preconceived notions of the character. ‘Sheep’ and ‘Goat’ were chosen for much the same reason. I use name books and name lists online, newspapers and television. If I’m writing a realistic chapter book or longer, I’ll search lists of names popular for their times. Although sometimes I’ll choose a name NOT popular if it’s relevant that my character not belong or fit in.

10. Does the character’s name have to mean something in the story or do you just choose it because you like it? Can you give examples from your books?

Sometimes I’ll choose names that have meanings that reflect a behaviour trait I want to see in my character. Other times it may be as simple as liking the sound of a name. Recently, there was a girl in a class called Persia. She was long and lean and moved with the loose grace of a cat. I thought it was a great name and am using it in a story. Kora worked for me because when you say it out loud, it sounds like one of the noises a hen makes, and Kora is a hen!

11. Have you ever named a character and thought, ‘no that name just doesn’t suit’?

Yes, that happens all the time. The first name is chosen before I really knew the character, and as the character develops its clear the name is wrong, wrong, wrong!

12. From your books, what is your favourite character name? Why?

My favourite name? Hmm. Probably Rowdy, the dog character from ‘Runaround Rowdy’. It was the name of the real dog on which the story is based. Rowdy to me says noisy-but-nice, which describes Rowdy perfectly.

Rowdy was a beautiful Kelpie but he didn’t do things quite the way he should. He had his own way of doing things. Not stubborn, just different.

ThanSheep+Goat book coverks for coming to see us Claire and giving us valuable insights into how you name your books and your characters.

If you want to catch up with the rest of Claire’s blog tour, here’s where she has been/is going:


Monday 17August: Dee White https://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com (that’s here!)

Tuesday 18 August: Rebecca Newman www.soupblog.wordpress.com

Wednesday 19 August: Mabel Kaplan: http://belka37.blogspot.com

Thursday 20 August:  Sandy Fussell: http://www.sandyfussell.blogspot.com

Friday 21 August Dale: Harcombe http://orangedale.livejournal.com/

Saturday 22 August:  Sally Murphy http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com

Sunday 23 August:  Robyn Opie http://robynopie.blogspot.com 

Monday 24 August:  Sally Odgers: http://spinningearls.blogspot.com

Sheep+Goat book cover

Can’t wait for tomorrow when my good friend and fellow author, Claire Saxby drops in to talk about her wonderful new picture book, Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate.

Claire is going to give us some great tips on how she comes up with names for her characters and her books.

Drop in and say, ‘Hi’.


Today is a very special day, Sandy Fussell author has come to visit. She has brought with her, Niya Moto, the star of ‘Monkey Fist’, the latest book in Sandy’s Samurai Kid’s series.niya 

It’s especially special for Sandy and Niya because today is THE day that ‘Monkey Fist’ is released to the reading world. Congratulations Sandy and Niya!


I scissor kick high as I can and land on my left foot. I haven’t got another one. My name is Niya Moto and I’m the only one-legged samurai kid in Japan. Usually I miss my foot and land on my backside. Or flat on my face in the dirt. (White Crane, the very beginning)

An Interview With Niya

1.  What is your favourite food?

That’s an easy one. Honey rice pudding. The finest food in all of Japan. It’s also the favourite of Sensei’s horse Uma. Before I shared my pocket full of pudding with him he used to snap his teeth and throw us off whenever we tried to ride him.

2.  What is your favourite colour?

White because I like to think about the White Crane standing peaceful and still beside the water’s edge. Then I close my eyes and balance perfectly, as if I have two legs.

3.  What do you like most about yourself?

I don’t know the answer to that. I asked my friends for suggestions but they just laughed. “What’s to like?” Taji said. I swung my crutch at him but he ducked. He’s got ears like the Golden Bat. Maybe the thing I like most about myself is my friends. Can I say that?

4.  What do you like least about yourself?

I’m not perfect and I make lots of mistakes. Sometimes I get envious. Like when Kyoko pays too much attention to Chen. He’s two years younger then us and she fusses over him all the time. Sometimes I get angry with Sensei when he won’t let me help him. I know I could if he would only tell me what is making him so sad. But the worst thing I ever did was distrust Yoshi. He’s one of my best friends and just because he wouldn’t tell me where the Shaolin monks were hiding, I wouldn’t speak to him for a whole week.

5.  In five words or less, describe how others see you?

Clever, thoughtful, funny… Oh I’ll have to ask the others again. Guess what Taji said? I can’t see you at all. But Yoshi said I was loyal and get this, Mikko said I was brave.

6.  What is your happiest memory?

Swimming in the river beside the Cockroach Ryu with my friends. Not in winter though. Brrr. There’s ice in the river then but Sensei still makes us practice swimming. He says a samurai has to be able to fight in all weather, not just on sunny days.

7.  What is your scariest memory?

Once I was caught in a mudslide in the middle of a mountain. Luckily my friends were with me and Yoshi carried me out. It was scary when he gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Blech! Kissing Yoshi! Maybe the scariest time ever was when we travelled into Hell Valley and I saw a ghost.

8.  What is the most important quality for a samurai to have?

Sensei teaches there are three most important qualities. Chi, jun, yu. Wisdom benevolence and courage. Be clever, be kind, be brave. My friends think I am wise (except for when I try to convince them that Sensei might be a Tengu), and I know I am kind. But sometimes it is really hard to be brave.

9.  What is the most important quality for a Ninja?

A ninja has to able to deceive. It’s their special skill. I could never be a ninja. Some of my good friends are ninjas but I need to be totally honest. I don’t think it’s right to kill someone while they are asleep. Where is the honour in that?

10.  Who is your best friend? Why?

I have six best friends – Yoshi, Mikko, Taji, Nezume, Kyoko and even Sensei. They are like family to me. Mikko gets on my nerves sometimes – he’s such a tease. And Yoshi snores. But I like them all the same. 

11.  Who is your most feared enemy? Why?

 I don’t trust the Dragon Master. Even though we have overcome many enemies on our journey, I know the Dragon Master is waiting back in Japan. He is plotting revenge on us and our teacher for making him look foolish. 

13.  Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?

I would like to be a teacher like Sensei. In five years time I hope we are back at the Cockroach ryu. It would be really good if Nezume came back for a visit too.

14. If you could tell people one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I don’t like to talk about myself. If Mikko could hear that he would laugh. But it’s true.

15.  Name one thing about you that people would never guess?

I really like poetry. I pretend I don’t but I do and I also suspect it might be something I need to be good at. Samurai have to write their own death poems, in case they don’t return from battle. One day I know I will need to support Sensei in an important battle and I want to have a really good poem ready. Just in case.

Thanks for dropping in to chat to us, Niya. Sandy said she wanted to tell us a bit about herself too.

sandy-catsSo apart from the fact that you obviously love cats, Sandy, what else can you tell us about you. Could you talk us through your road to authordom?

Samurai Kids began life as a stand alone ms. It was my first trade acceptance. May 2006 will always be one of the highlights of my life (just behind the births of my sons and my beach wedding)

Six months later the decision was made to extend Samurai Kids to a series and to illustrate it. Book 1 was retitled White Crane. I began Book 2 Owl Ninja based on an idea from #2 son (his comment after I read White Crane to him: “Where are the ninjas mum? I know, they’re in book 2.” )

Big joke!  But when I was asked if I had an idea for Book 2 – I stopped laughing and started talking about ninjas! White Crane was picked up by Walker UK and Candlewick US. It was a Top 10 bestseller for Walker Australia in 2008, the first Australian list title to make the Top 10

Book 2 Owl Ninja was published in October 2008, Book 3 Shaolin Tiger in April 2009 and Book 4 Monkey Fist in August 2009. Two more series titles will follow in November 2010 and March 2011.

Can you tell us a bit about “Who is Sandy Fussell?”

I am a mum to two wonderful boys and have worked as an analyst/programmer and project manager for 15 years.

Is it true that you dropped out of four universities on the way to becoming an author?

Yes. I studied Psychology (Sydney Uni), Mathematics (Macquarie), History (Armidale) and Industrial Maths and Computing (Charles Sturt).

How does it feel to be a successful author?

Like Cinderella. I’m sure a magic wand has been waved over me. I have been incredibly lucky to somehow have found myself in the right place at the right time with the right ms in my hand. I just hope I don’t turn into a pumpkin any time soon!


Monkey Fist cover 

Monkey Fist is set in mid 17th century China in The Forbidden City (within Beijing). It is historically accurate in every respect – time, events and geography.

The story opens with Yoshi still enroute from the Shaolin Temple. When Kyoko is kidnapped, Sensei and the kids must rush to the Forbidden City to rescue her. Yoshi rejoins the group but he keeps the whereabouts of the Shaolin monks a secret from Niya causing a rift and loss of trust.

Thanks so much Niya and Sandy for visiting us.

If you want to catch up with Sandy and Niya again, they’re on a blog tour and will be visiting the following sites:

1st August https://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com (that’s here)

2nd August http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale 

3rd August http://www.letshavewords.blogspot.com

4th August http://www.bjcullen.blogspot.com

5th August http://belka37.blogspot.com

6th August http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com

7th August http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com

8th August http://www.soupblog.wordpress.com

9th August http://thebookchook.blogspot.com

10th August http://wordsandpictures.blogspot.com