Allison Tait writing, whimsy ... life Fri, 29 Jun 2018 16:21:35 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 NEWS: Online creative writing course for kids open for bookings Thu, 21 Jun 2018 04:50:41 +0000 Read More]]> Book now: online creative writing course for kids | allisontait.comAfter a lot of hard work from a lot of people, my online creative writing course for kids is now open for bookings through the Australian Writers’ Centre!

So much goes into creating a course like this, from developing the course content, to creating each module, to building the means to deliver the content to kids in an exciting and entertaining way, to providing weekly feedback, to … well, you get the idea, and Valerie Khoo and the team at the Australian Writers’ Centre are the absolute best people to be undertaking such an adventure with. When I look at what we’ve created, I could not be more proud!

You can read more about the course here (there’s a full course outline and a whole bunch of answers to FAQs) and see me talk a little bit about it, but basically, it’s a step-by-step course on the basics (and beyond) of writing a great story.

It’s for kids who love to write – AND for kids who’d love to write better. Every child (9-14 is the sweet spot) who takes part will receive video feedback from me on their final submitted story (see the outline for details).

I’m really excited about the course and looking forward to meeting my first bunch of young writers on 7 July 2018. Maybe your young writer will be one of them?

In the meantime, I’ve got some fantastic writing tips for kids, from me and from other amazing Aussie children’s authors, below:

10 top writing tips from bestselling author Jacqueline Harvey

How to create remarkable characters by Tim Harris

Write what you love by Allison Rushby

How to be more creative by A.L. Tait

How to write comics by Shane W. Smith

Are you new here? Welcome! You can find out more about me here, and more about my two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, here.


BIG book giveaway: win with Your Kid’s Next Read! Wed, 20 Jun 2018 01:31:55 +0000 Read More]]> In case you missed my newsletter yesterday (sign up here if you don’t want to miss the next one!), the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group now has 4000+ members and to celebrate my fab co-host Megan Daley and I have organised a fantastic book giveaway!

One winner will receive EIGHT signed books from some of Australia’s top children’s authors. And because this is an all female-author affair, we’re calling it our Favourite Fierce Female Authors giveaway.

WIN: 8 signed books from top Australian female authors |

Signed titles include:

Kensy and Max by Jacqueline Harvey

Alice-Miranda in Scotland by Jacqueline Harvey

Pippa’s Island ‘Camp Castaway’ by Belinda Murrell

Missing by Sue Whiting

The Turnkey by Allison Rushby

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela

and The Book Of Secrets and The Book Of Answers by A.L. Tait (that would be me).

You can read more about each book by clicking on the title link. They’re all perfect for middle-grade readers!

You’ll find all the terms and conditions here in Megan’s blog post and you can enter there OR in the YKNR group here.

Good luck!

Are you new here? Welcome! You can find out more about my two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, here.

Tickets are now on sale for the first Shoalhaven Readers’ & Writers’ Festival Tue, 12 Jun 2018 01:55:30 +0000 Read More]]> Shoalhaven Readers' & Writers' Festival informationIf you’ve been listening to my podcast of late, you’ll know that I’ve been hard at work behind the scenes as part of the team creating the first Shoalhaven Readers’ & Writers’ Festival. It’s a project dear to my heart as, having grown up in a regional area and watching my kids grow up in a regional area, I understand just how difficult it is to experience all the various things that city folk take for granted.

So it’s very exciting to be able to bring authors to our doorstep.

The festival will take place on Saturday 4 August, 2018, in Nowra, NSW, and comprises an adult festival, with panel discussions, workshops and more, and a children’s festival, with sessions for all ages and a fabulous Jackie French-inspired costume parade.

Featured authors include Jackie French, Melina Marchetta, Frank Moorhouse, Dianne Blacklock, Alan Baxter, Eleanor Limprecht, Catherine McKinnon, Ron Petty, and Tim Harris.

I’m very much looking forward to (and a little nervous about!) my opportunity to be ‘in conversation’ with the fabulous Melina Marchetta. Otherwise, I’ll be buzzing about all day so if you come along, be sure to say hi!

You can find out more about the program and buy tickets here (they’re limited, so get in quick!). And like the festival on Facebook to keep up with news and updates!

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40 YA Books for Tweens (+ 25+ MG books that feel like YA) Fri, 01 Jun 2018 05:15:27 +0000 Read More]]> 40 YA Books for Tweens (+ 25+ MG books that feel like YA) | allisontait.comAside from ‘what to read after Harry Potter?’, the most frequent question that come up in the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group is this one: ‘Can anyone suggest YA fiction suitable for a tween?’

While there is an entire ‘middle-grade’ (8-12) section of the bookshelf available, many tweens, particularly advanced readers, want to move up. They want to read what older kids are reading and, often, they’ve read the library dry of the books deemed appropriate for their age group.

They’re hungry readers, and parents are often at a loss as to what to give them to read next – because, let’s face it, just because you can read a book, doesn’t necessarily mean that now is the best time to read it. It’s not just that YA fiction can feature themes and subject matter that’s just not suitable for tweens, but that books are best enjoyed when you’re ready for them.

Go in too early with a book that you love and your young reader may put it aside after a chapter or two, and never, ever pick it up again.

So, because I am the helpful sort, I have canvassed not only the YKNR group members (made up of nearly 4000 parents/booksellers/librarians/publishing professionals/teachers/grandparents/authors), but other interested parties (authors, booksellers, librarians) to come up with this list* of YA books that they would recommend for tween readers.

I’ve cheated a bit (not really but it sounds intriguing, right?) by splitting the list into two sections – what I would call Proper YA (aimed at readers 14+) and then a section that is Technically Middle-Grade But With A YA Feel. It might be that your younger tween is just looking for something in the latter category that feels more grown-up than what they’ve been reading. Proper YA has been divided into categories,  but other than that there’s no particular order.

As with any book recommendation, you know your child best, so be sure to read the book’s description closely to make sure it will be suitable for your particular reader – as noted below, some series get darker as they progress, so look beyond book #1, and check with your local bookseller or librarian regarding any themes or storylines you may be wondering about!

Good luck – and do join us over in Your Kid’s Next Read if you have any questions about these or other books for your young readers! 


•The Other Side Of Summer by Emily Gale “Had some mature themes but nothing inappropriate for the younger readers.” – YKNR Member

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

•Spurt (A Balls And All Story) by Chris Miles

Shooting Stars by Brian Falkner

How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather (Kid review)

The Wonder Of Us by Kim Culbertson (Kid review)

The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish

From The Cutting Room Floor of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi

Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

•Blueback by Tim Winton

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham (Suggested by Una (12))

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

•The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Pink by Lili Wilkinson


I Am Not Esther by Fleur Beale

•Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks

•The Fall by Tristan Bancks

•Missing by Sue Whiting (Kid review)

A little bit romantic

•Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman. “A really good book that provides a gentle intro to this theme.” – YKNR Member

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell “Is sweet… Some more serious stuff touched on but not too heavy.” – YKNR member (Kid review (mini))

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

•Unrequited by Emma Grey

Fantasy/Sci Fi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (series)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (series)

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (series)

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (series)

•Obernewtyn by Isabelle Carmody (series)

The Tiffany Aching sequence by Terry Pratchett (series)

•Arkanae by Lynette Noni (series) “Recommended for tweens/teens done with Harry Potter. The themes get darker as it progresses but not too much that they cause problems. It’s not overly romantic and has a great focus on adventure and friendship.” – YKNR member (Kid review)

Contagion by Teri Terry “I’ve read the first book in the series. I loved her ‘Slated’ series too but it got darker by the third book.” – YKNR member

•Pandora Jones by Barry Jonsberg

The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

Little bit scary

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Kid review)


The Other Side Of Truth by Beverley Naidoo

Salt To The Sea by Ruta Septys “Perfect intro to World War Two – historical fiction without language or storylines that are too advanced.” – YKNR member

•Once series by Morris Gleitzman. ‘It’s in hot demand with the Year 6s at my primary school library – girls and the boys.” – YKNR member

Technically middle-grade but might be just what your YA-seeking tween is looking for

•The Secrets We Share by Nova Weetman “The sequel to Nova Weetman’s brilliant The Secrets We Keep – Clem starts high school in this book.” – YKNR Member

•My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

•Quincy Jordan by Jen Storer

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Lily Alone by Jacqueline Wilson

Dizzy by Cathy Cassidy

Stay Well Soon by Penny Tangey

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Being Miss Nobody by Tamsin Winter

Survival Strategies Of The Almost Brave by Jen White

Drama by Reina Telegemeier

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes “Deals with a first realised crush that doesn’t turn out the way she hopes.” – YKNR Member

Parvana by Deborah Ellis

•A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon “The next level up for Lemony Snicket fans.” – YKNR member

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

•The Timeslip series by Belinda Murrell

Pennies For Hitler by Jackie French “Really opens up tricky themes in sensitive ways.” – YKNR member

The Family With Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor “There’s lots to talk/think about from an historic and a feminist perspective.” – YKNR member

A Night Divided by Jennifer A Nielsen

Nevermoor (The Trials Of Morrigan Crow) by Jessica Townsend

•The Girl Who Brought Mischief by Katrina Nannestad

Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai

I am Malala (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

Are you new here? Welcome! If your middle-grade reader loves epic adventure stories, be sure to check out my two series: The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher – click the title links to find out more.

You might also like:

24 books for tween boys with ‘nothing to read’

31 books for tween girls with ‘nothing to read’

21 tried-and-tested books for 13/14-year-old boys

100+ great books for your young reader

YKNR: Recommended reading lists for kids 10+, 12+, YA for Tweens

Jazzy’s Diamond Dozen (12 favourite reads from a kid book reviewer)


*As with all my book lists, if you click on the title it will take you to online bookstore Booktopia, where you can read the blurb and purchase the book if you like the sound of it (disclosure: this will result in a small commission to me at no extra charge to you). International visitors will find most of these titles in either paperback or ebook form on Amazon. Australian authors are denoted with a •

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News: Say hello at The NSW Writers’ Centre’s Kids & YA Festival 2018 Wed, 23 May 2018 01:43:18 +0000 Read More]]> First, the news! 

ICYMI, the program for The NSW Writers’ Centre’s Kids & YA Festival 2018 dropped yesterday, and I’m included in the seriously fabulous line-up of authors, illustrators and publishing types curated by this year’s festival director Belinda Murrell.

We’ll be gathering at the centre in Rozelle, NSW, on 30 June, and I really hope you can join me! More details and tickets here.

This is the festival’s 10th year, and Belinda has gathered together an amazing array of talent, including Kate Forsyth, Jaclyn Moriarty, Will Kostakis, Tim Harris, Garth Nix, R. A. Spratt, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey and more. You can read the full program here.

I’ll be chairing a panel with Kate Forsyth, Garth Nix and Louise Park, and we’ll be discussing The Business Of Writing – all about creating a long-term career as a writer. There’ll also be book signings, pitching sessions, and the opportunity to simply immerse yourself in the world of writing for children and young adults.

See you there!


Thanks to Sue Warren for this lovely review of The Book Of Answers.

“A .L. Tait’s knack for creating these gripping and often tense exploits has been well demonstrated in her Mapmaker Chronicles series (as a reader said to me in the last week of school – “I just LOVE this series – it keeps you on the edge of your seat!”) and now continues the success with this new series.”

Lastly, some interviews

As a bonus, over the years, Val and I have interviewed several of the speakers for Kids & YA Festival on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, and I’ve included links to those episodes below.


Louise Park

Jacqueline Harvey

Kate Forsyth

Jaclyn Moriarty

Belinda Murrell

Oliver Phommavanh


Suzanne O’Sullivan

Speaking of interviews, you can hear me talk about The Ateban Cipher series here on the Booktopia podcast (and why I think we all love a quest) – there are just a few signed copies of The Book of Answers left on the shelves at Booktopia, so if you want one, now’s the time

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And now, some straight talking about writing… Mon, 07 May 2018 00:46:02 +0000 Read More]]> I seem to write about writing a lot (you’ll find my hundreds of blog posts about writing here). And if you listen to So You Want To Be A Writer, the podcast I co-host with Valerie Khoo, you’ll know that I also talk about writing, and ask other authors about their writing, a lot.

But I don’t often talk about my own writing. I’m usually asking the questions, not answering them.

That all changed when Kel Butler from Writes4Women podcast interviewed me about all things writing. The first part of the interview came out a few weeks ago as a ‘minisode’, focussing on book promotion and building your author platform. You can listen to it here on the web or here on iTunes (Ep 18).

The main interview was released a few days ago and, as Kel says, you’ll need a cup of tea for this one. The interview covers a lot of territory, including:

•finding your writing voice

•writing while parenting

•dealing with rejection

•writing without a plan (aka how I learnt to outline)

•making time to write


•raising readers, and lots more.

You can listen to the interview via the web here or on iTunes here (Ep 20).

I hope you enjoy!

Are you new here? Welcome! You can find out more about me here and all about my books here: The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

100+ great books for your young reader Tue, 01 May 2018 05:08:09 +0000 Read More]]> 100+ great books for your young reader | allisontait.comOver the past year or so, I’ve created some terrific book lists and I thought, given things have been a bit quiet around here of late, that I might take the opportunity to corral them all together in one post. If you’ve got a young reader aged 8-14 or thereabouts, there’s bound to be a book here for them!

10 Amazing Adventure Stories for Girls 10+

16 Great New Books For The School Holidays

30 Brilliant Books For Girls

5 Books Featuring Reluctant Readers

21 [gift] Book Ideas For Boys And Girls

12 Books For Kids About Maps

21 Tried-And-Tested Books For 13/14-Year-Old Boys

Also (bonus!), this is an older one, but really useful:

Your Kids’ Next Read: Recommended Reading Lists for Kids 10+, 12+, YA for tweens

If you’re looking for great new book suggestions for your kids (and who isn’t really?), the Your Kids’ Next Read Facebook group is a great place to start. We have 3700+ members – parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors – all sharing their knowledge, recommendations and love of books with each other in a lovely space. We’d love to see you!

And if you’re new here, you can read more about my epic middle-grade adventure series The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher by clicking the links. Lovely to meet you!

The week that was: filming, festivals and Creative Writing for Kids Mon, 09 Apr 2018 04:25:55 +0000 Read More]]> Filming the Creative Writing for Kids course Australian Writers' CentreIf you’ve listened to the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast recently, you’ll know two things about me:

  1. video is not my happy place, and
  2. I’ve recently created a new creative writing course for kids for the Australian Writers Centre.

These two things came together in a perfect storm last Saturday when I spent many hours perched on the edge of a very hard stool trying to keep my ‘joy’ up as we filmed the modules for the online course.

I love this course, which is aimed at kids aged 9-14 (or thereabouts). I love the content, I love the message, I love the detail (as with everything I do, I’ve tried to make it as useful, informative and inspiring as I possibly can).

It’s a course for kids who love to write – and a course for kids who’d love to write better.

So the joy in the course wasn’t hard to find. By the end of the day, while I did not love the filming, I could feel that it had come together in a really special way. I’m actually quite thrilled with it.

You can read all about the course, which launches soon, here. (You’ll also find links to some writing tips for kids at the bottom of this post.)

I was also thrilled to share the news that I’m heading to North Queensland later this year as part of a stellar line-up of authors for the Burdekin Readers’ and Writers’ Festival. If you’re based up there, I’d love to meet you, so keep an eye on their Facebook page for event and ticket details.

If you’re not in NQ, don’t fret. I’ve got more event announcements to make for this year, so stay tuned!

Lastly, I’d just like to thank everyone who’s taken the time to contact me via email or social media to let me know how much they and their kids loved The Book Of Answers. Or The Book Of Secrets. Or The Mapmaker Chronicles.

Launch week for a new book often brings new readers for an author’s other titles as well, and your feedback means so much to me.

Now that the dust is settling a little, I’m turning my attention to other new stories. It’s so much easier to start all over again when you know that your books have found readers to love them.

Writing tips for kids

10 top tips from bestselling author Jacqueline Harvey

The 10 keys to a great story

My best writing advice for kids by Allison Rushby

The week that was: launch week for The Book Of Answers Tue, 03 Apr 2018 01:36:42 +0000 Read More]]> Goodness me, but that was a whirlwind. I can’t believe The Book Of Answers (Ateban Cipher #2) has been out for a week already. The Easter long weekend in the middle, plus the end of daylight savings, has left me with a strange jet-lagged feeling (what is it about that one ‘extra’ hour that makes such a difference?), but I thought I’d put together an update.

This blog is my record of all that goes on, so apologies if you’ve seen some of this on one of my various social media platforms, and “hello” if you’ve seen none of it.

A big thank you to my local booksellers (Dymocks Books Nowra and Dean Swift Books) for inviting me in to sign books for my local community. Our region is so lucky to still be so well served by bookshops (another fantastic bookshop in my area is Boobook On Owen and I hope to get there soon) and I feel blessed that, as an author outside a capital city, my local booksellers are so incredibly supportive.

Signed copies of The Book Of Answers at Dean Swift Books Nowra

Support your local bookshops everyone – they do an amazing job!

And, of course, if you’re not local and you’d like a signed copy, head to Booktopia, where I signed a stack before launch day – but get in quick because there aren’t many left. (Handy tip: if you scroll to the bottom of this link, you can order The Book Of Secrets and The Book Of Answers for $25)

First reviews of The Book Of Answers are starting to come through, and I was thrilled with this one from Ashleigh at The Book Muse:

“Gabe’s discoveries were unexpected but worked well with the story – and came at just the right time, with the right pacing. Overall, the elements of The Book of Answers worked really well together, and all the elements tied together nicely at the end. A great read for children aged ten and older, and adults if they like these sorts of stories, and it is a nice quick read as well, which is all down to the well-written pacing of the story.”

Speaking of reviews, Quinn and the rest of the crew of The Mapmaker Chronicles series continue to find fans and friends all over the world. I was absolutely thrilled with this series review by Erik of This Kid Reviews Books:

I really liked this entire series. Five out of five bookworms all-around! Yay! 

Having the books available in the US, the UK, and other territories means that they are finding new readers all the time, which just makes me feel like a proud parent. And, given it was Erik’s fabulous blog that inspired Book Boy to begin his own blog a few years ago, I’m just chuffed with his review of each book (click here to read them all).

Kid reviewers are the best!

Writers might be interested in a couple of podcast chats I’ve had this week.

On this week’s episode (228) of So You Want To Be A Writer, Val and I had a chat about the strange sensations of launch week and why my online community (that’s you!) is so important to me at this time. (If you haven’t discovered my podcast as yet, there’s more info about it here.)

I also talked to Kel Butler from the Writes4Women podcast about author platforms – what they are, why you need one and where to put your energies. Lots to think about.

In related news, for those of you who have young writers and who live on (or near) the south coast, I’m experimenting with some school holiday writing workshops for kids on Wednesday 18 April 2018. There are two sessions, one for kids aged 9-11, one for the 12-14 set.

Click the link for each age group to see all the details and book a spot for your young writer (but be quick – each workshop is limited to 10 young writers and tickets are selling fast).

Okay, I think that just about covers a very big week. Thank you for reading this far and thanks you once again for all your support. 

Today’s the day: THE BOOK OF ANSWERS is out now! Tue, 27 Mar 2018 03:17:03 +0000 Read More]]> The Ateban Cipher adventure series for kids 9-12 is out now!Today, my new book came out. THE BOOK OF ANSWERS (Ateban Cipher #2) is out there on the shelves, ready and waiting for someone to just wander on by and pick it up. (Doesn’t it look pretty there, standing behind THE BOOK OF SECRETS…)

You’ll find more details about the books here.

I’ve written before about the strangely anti-climactic experience that is Publication Day. After years of writing, editing and waiting, there it is, out there while you, the other, are… still doing whatever it is you do on a daily basis.

And all you can do is to wait and see.

Wondering if anyone will buy it.

Wondering if anyone will like it.

Hoping that everyone LOVES it (even as you know that there’s no book in the world that EVERYONE loves).

Fly high my little book.

I’ll be over here. Tidying my desk and, yes, writing a new book.

You can buy THE BOOK OF ANSWERS (and THE BOOK OF SECRETS) at your local bookshop or at these online booksellers. 

Abbey’s Bookshop

Angus & Robertson

Avid Reader

Berkelouw Books





And thank you all so much for your support.

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Advance copies, dedications + a giveaway Mon, 12 Mar 2018 04:50:25 +0000 Read More]]> With just over two weeks to go until The Book Of Answers (Ateben Cipher #2) lands in bookshops all over Australia, excitement levels are mounting – and hit ‘very high to ridiculous’ this morning when the first printed copies arrived via courier.

You might think that, given this is my sixth children’s novel and 11th book in total, somehow I would have become grown-up and mature about this moment but no.

This. Never. Gets. Old.

See. I even made a video about it.

Anyway, this post is really just to share my excitement levels with someone other than Procrastipup, and to share the book’s dedication.

You might remember I’ve talked about dedications before, sharing 10 of my favourites here, along with the dedication for The Book Of Secrets, which remains a high point for me. (Go look – I promise I’ll be here when you get back.)

Well, here is the dedication for The Book Of Answers.

Book dedication: The Book Of Answers (Ateban Cipher #2)

Anyone who’s read The Book Of Secrets and loved the bond between Gwyn and Merry will get it. Anyone who’s had sisters will get it.

If you’d like to show your excitement and pre-order your very own copy of The Book Of Answers, go here. And you can buy The Book Of Secrets here right now.

Speaking of excitement, I’ve got a special giveaway planned for my newsletter subscribers this month (hint: may involve a little package of signed books, bookmark plus not-available-in-shops The Mapmaker Chronicles cap), so if you’d like the opportunity to get involved in that, make sure you’re signed up for my newsletter before 15th March 2018 and stand by!

In the meantime, I’ll be over here. Excited.

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Taking stock in February 2018 Tue, 27 Feb 2018 21:20:05 +0000 Read More]]> Blogging challenge: Taking stockYou might remember last month I took up Pip Lincolne’s suggestion to ‘take stock’ each month. To share what I’m loving, thinking, feeling, watching, reading… and so on and so forth.

I liked it so much, I’m doing it again this month. If you’d like to join in, you’ll find the template for Pip’s prompts here. Use as many or as few as you like.

Making: Plans. The Book Of Answers (Ateban Cipher #2) launches in one month and I’m working on the best ways to get the word out. Help me spread the word if you can!

Cooking: ANZAC biscuits. I’ve recently rediscovered them as a school lunchbox treat.

Drinking: Sparkling mineral water. It makes me feel as though I’m drinking something more exciting than water.

Reading: Oh, as always, so much to talk about here. I’ve just finished The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, which is a CRACKING read, and I’m halfway through Kali Napier’s The Secrets At Ocean’s Edge, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve also got A Shadow’s Breath by Nicole Hayes on the go as my ‘bath read’ and Mr11 and I are reading Kensy and Max: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey together (he’s loving it).

Next read: Hmmm. I think maybe The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I bought it for Book Boy a little while ago, but his TBR pile is so huge I don’t think he’ll miss it for a few days…

Wanting: A stylish pair of hiking boots for everyday dog-walking in autumn and winter. Any suggestions?

Looking: Honestly, looking through reading glasses that suddenly seem less effective. Definitely time for a sight test.

Playing: The new Marlon Williams album ‘Make Way For Love’. His voice just kills me (hear it here).

Deciding: So many things. Every day there are just so many decisions, don’t you think? Exhausting.

Wishing: On stars. Always.

Enjoying: Watching my boys grow. And they are just… growing.

Waiting: As a writer, I’m always waiting for something. If you don’t believe me, read this post I wrote in 2010 – nothing has changed. But, I will say this, I’ve got much better at using my waiting time. If you’re in this position, this post might help.

Liking: The rain. We’ve finally had a decent downpour and the garden has gone nuts.

Wondering: If I will be this thrilled about the rain next week when the weeds have also gone nuts.

Loving: I generally steer clear of politics on this blog, but I have to say that I am loving watching the politicising of US teens around the issue of gun control. Will it be enough to effect change? Only time will tell. But watching them come to the fore, with a voice, gives me great hope for the future.

Buying: Not much. I’m not a huge shopper. Though there is my new sparkling mineral water addiction to maintain, so …

Watching: Season 4 of The Bridge on SBS On Demand.

Next watch: I am still mourning the end of season 2 of The Crown, so if anyone can suggest a suitable replacement, please do!

Hoping: I’ll meet a big deadline on Friday. While I know that hope is not enough, I still think there’s room in the plan for it.

Marvelling: That my baby is in grade six and has very specific requirements when it comes to haircuts. This is the same kid who, I’m sure, only minutes ago was dancing with me at the preschool disco.

Needing: Sleep.

Questioning: Why The Builder and I thought that ‘one more season’ in which Mr11 plays BOTH rugby and soccer was a good idea. Rugby training started today and my afternoons and weekends disappeared in an instant.

Wearing: Who knows? One day I’m in shorts because it’s 40 degrees Celsius and the next we have the flannel pyjamas out.

Following: My friend Kerri Sackville as she prepares to launch her new book,’Out There‘. You should follow her too. She’s hilarious!

Worrying: That I will never, ever get to the end of my To Do list.

Knowing: That the best way to get to the end of my To Do list is to stop writing blog posts and get it done…

Thinking: That I should take my own advice.

Giggling: At myself.

Would you like to Take Stock for February? Join in! It’s a great way to share things you’ve discovered without relying on social media platforms and their crazy algorithms to get the message out. Blog about it instead!

Writing for kids: 10 top writing tips by bestselling author Jacqueline Harvey Mon, 26 Feb 2018 04:05:31 +0000 Read More]]> Writing for kids: Top 10 writing tips by Jacqueline HarveyWhen you’re starting out as a writer, the best thing you can do is to learn from other writers. The same is true when you’re starting out as a published author – you look to the best in the business and try to learn as much as you can.

Fortunately, Australian children’s authors are an incredible bunch of people, so when I popped up amongst them as a new author a few years ago, they were generous with their time, their information and their advice.

Which is why I’m so pleased to welcome the wonderful Jacqueline Harvey here today to share her top 10 tips for young writers. Jacqueline is one of Australia’s most popular children’s authors, having sold over a million copies of her Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series’ in Australia alone. She has received numerous short-listings and awards and is in high demand for her wonderful talks and workshops at schools and festivals around the world.

Jacqueline is right in the middle of launching Kensy and Max: Breaking News, the first book in her brand-new, exciting spy series, but has taken the time to share her best advice here. (See? Generous.)

Right. Is everyone sitting up straight? Let us begin.

10 tips for young writers by Jacqueline Harvey

  1. Read! Read a lot and read widely. It sounds like a no-brainer but if you’re planning to be a writer you need to learn from the experts and that means people who have had books published. If I come across a particularly extraordinary description or turn of phrase when I’m reading, I’ll write it down and think about what makes it so fantastic. Reading will give you insights into the way writers develop characters, plots and pace – and look at how authors end their stories too. The ending is just as important as the beginning.
  2. Writers have well-developed observation skills and I don’t just mean sight. Listen, taste, touch, smell and feel things. Use all of your senses when you’re writing and see what a difference it makes in bringing the words to life.
  3. Keep notebooks and diaries and write down things that interest you, descriptions, ideas for stories and characters when they come into your head. I often dream good ideas and have a notebook beside the bed so I can capture those thoughts immediately (otherwise I know I’ll forget).
  4. Use places you’ve visited or are familiar with to inspire your own writing. I’ve been to many of the settings I’ve used in my books. However, that said, you don’t need to have been somewhere to be able to write about it either. Research is so important and as a writer I think Google Maps, Google Earth and Streetview are one of the best resources available to us. Even when I am very familiar with a place I’ll often use those apps to support what I’m doing. When I was writing Kensy and Max, a particular area of London was always up on my computer.
  5. When you go places and travel, keep diaries and take lots of photographs. They will help you to remember things and come in handy when you’re stuck for ideas.
  6. Seek help from experts. When I’ve been unsure about something to do with a location or language or customs, I’ve always sought help from others. For example, when I was writing Alice-Miranda at Sea, I wanted to include a rare species of butterfly that would live somewhere near Barcelona in Spain.
    I had two issues – firstly, I’ve never been to Barcelona and, secondly, I know very little about butterflies. I researched as much as I could on the Internet but in the end found the International Society of Lepidopterists (Butterfly fanciers). I wrote to them and a fellow from Switzerland helped me with everything I needed to know.
  7. It’s your story – have fun with the writing. I’m a planner – I plan the big ideas and always know how it’s going to end – therefore I have something to work towards. I love it when the characters surprise me and we take a slightly different pathway but I find that because I write to very tight deadlines a general outline really helps. Children often don’t have a lot of time to write a story so planning is critical. I also edit as I go and read the work aloud – with the accents of the characters too. This helps me to get inside their heads and be part of the action.
  8. Write as often as you can and practise all sorts of different styles. Do short activities that get your creative juices flowing. It might be writing a description of something you have seen or creating a character and knowing everything about them. Creating biographies for your characters is a great way to get to know them well. I always say that I know more about my characters than I’m probably ever likely to reveal to the reader.
  9. Enter competitions as it gives your writing a focus and goal. You also need to make sure that you finish your stories. It’s all about perseverance.
  10. Think about what sort of story would make you want to switch off from your devices and focus on writing something you love. If you’re bored writing the story, it’s almost guaranteed people will be bored reading it too. The most important thing is to fall in love with your characters and really enjoy what you’re writing.

Jacqueline Harvey, author of new series Kensy and Max gives her top 10 writing tips for kidsKensy and Max: Breaking News is out today and is the first book in an action-packed spy adventure about twins whose lives are turned upside down one day when they are whisked off to London and discover their parents are missing. You can find out more about Jacqueline Harvey here. 

More writing tips for kids:

Creating Remarkable Characters by Tim Harris

My best writing advice for kids by Allison Rushby

How to be more creative

The 10 keys to a great story

How to write comics by Shane W. Smith

And if you’re new here, you can learn more about me and my books here.

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My top 3 tips from 9 years of author blogging Mon, 05 Feb 2018 02:28:06 +0000 Read More]]> My top 3 tips from 9 years of author bloggingSomehow my blog turned nine and I missed it. When I started writing here, the blog was called Life In A Pink Fibro and it was a mish-mash of thoughts and parenting and writing and reading and…

Hmmm, looks like not that much has changed, only I don’t blog DAILY like I used to.

Daily. Excellent for downloading the brain and building a blog, but not so brilliant for putting actual words in actual novels.

But I digress.

To celebrate entering my 10th year of blogging – which makes me pretty much a centenarian in blog years – I thought I’d rustle up my top three tips specifically for author bloggers.

  1. Work out why you’re blogging
    It took me about five years to get to the bottom of this. I started out with the blog because a wise friend suggested I should. I blogged daily because a) I liked it and b) that’s what all the blogging experts said you should do to build a blog.

    I realised that I’d written 350,000 words on my blog one year and cut back to three times a week because – well, 350,000 words is about three adult fiction manuscripts.Lots and lots of people visited my blog. People approached me about taking advertising, raising the word ‘monetise’. I said no*.

    One day, I put up a chicken soup recipe (in my defence, it’s a really good one). My dear friend Kerri Sackville emailed to ask, politely, WTF I thought I was doing. “You are not a food blogger,” she said. “You are an author.”

    She was right. I looked at all the things I was doing on my blog. I mean, really looked at it for the first time in five years. And I made some changes.

    I blog to share my thoughts, an insight into my author life, and news about my books. I try to share useful information and insights about writing and publishing because I know that’s what my community wants (how do I know? I asked them). I offer space on my blog to other authors because I strongly believe in sharing the love and the insight, and I keep lists of recommended children’s books because I know, as a parent, how difficult it can be to keep kids reading.

    This blog is not about traffic, it’s about community.

    As I wrote in my fifth year of blogging, I blog because it’s worth it.

    Why do you blog?

  2. Don’t overthink it
    There’s an awful lot of information out there about blogging – from optimal word lengths for posts to how many sub-heads you should have to which latest tech improvement you should be making the most of. My advice for author bloggers? Don’t overthink it.You are an author. You are a writer. So, write things.

    When I’m wondering what to blog about, as I wrote in this post last year, I ask myself three questions:

    • what am I thinking about?

    • what am I feeling?

    • what can I do that’s useful?

    And then I write about one of those things. I don’t ignore SEO, but neither do I obsess over it. I try to think about what I would search to find that particular post and I go with that.

  3. Blogging is more than platform building
    Every year when I write my annual ‘what I’ve learnt in X years of blogging’ post I come back to one thing: blogging has been so very good for my writing.

    When I began the blog, I was a fulltime freelance journalist (or as fulltime as one could be with a three year old in tow) and I had been writing for magazines and newspapers for nearly two decades. I had a very well-defined, most excellent broadcast voice. An outside voice, if you like.

    What blogging every day gave me was my own voice. My inside voice.

    Good blogging requires you to look closely, to reveal what you think, how you feel. It shows you that a whole story can be found in a tiny moment in your day. As an example, compare my first ever blog post with this one, where I was starting to get the hang of it all.

    Blogging was a great tool for helping me to find my voice as an author. Obviously, you don’t need to go public on a blog to do this, but if you’re struggling to really find ‘you’ in your writing, look at a daily journal of some kind. But there is something about ‘putting it out there’ that helps to focus the mind – and, of course, bring readers to your website.

And now… here’s to another 12 months!

You’ll find more thoughts on authors and blogging here:

Blogging: Inviting Readers Home

Social Media For Writers #1: Blogging (featuring Jane Friedman)

Let’s talk about blogging and authors

Why blogging is not writing

My #1 tip for bloggers

How to write a better blog

Or take a look at my online course at the Australian Writers’ Centre on How To Build Your Author Platform.


*For the record, I did introduce bookseller affiliate links on the blog around 18 months ago, as per the disclosure here.

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Stop talking, start writing… #writeabookwithal (Feb 2018) Wed, 31 Jan 2018 21:32:42 +0000 Read More]]> Stop Talking, Start Writing with #writeabookwithal Feb 2018As threatened, it’s here. Day one of #writeabookwithal (Feb 2018).

If you’ve done this before, you know how it goes. Lots of people TALK about writing a book. Now it’s time to actually write it.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to … write. As many words as you can, as many days as you can, alongside me as I work on my new manuscript.

If you’re new here, you’ll find a basic rundown of how it all works here. You might also like to find out a bit more about me here, to see what you’re getting yourself into…

One tip: follow my Facebook page and mark it as ‘see first’ to make sure you don’t miss the word count posts. This is where most of the discussion (and cheerleading!) takes place.

Some other posts that might help:

How to get the words written: 10 tips for writers

Six reasons you should start writing your novel now

Some books are harder to write than others: 7 tips for getting to The End

3 ways to make yourself write when you really don’t want to (but absolutely have to)

Don’t forget I also have really useful courses for you:

Make Time To Write

Creative Writing 30-Day Bootcamp

Ready, set… write!

Brace yourselves for #writeabookwithal on Feb 1 Tue, 23 Jan 2018 04:33:14 +0000 Read More]]> The February 2018 round of #writeabookwithal is coming!With one week of the school holidays left, my thoughts are turning to two things: the huge stack of things on my To Do list and the next book I want to write.

In order to manage both of these things at once, I’ve decided some accountability is in order. And so…

On February 1, I’ll be starting a new round of #writeabookwithal – if you haven’t yet witnessed the pure joy/chaos of this particular hashtag, the premise is simple. I start a new manuscript and post a word count each day – even if it’s 0 – on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (or some combination of the three) with the #writeabookwithal hashtag. If you’d like to, you can join in, sharing your own word counts under the post on my FB page, or using the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.

At this stage, I’m only aiming to write around 20,000 words, so I’m hoping for a four-week challenge, but we’ll see how we go.

Your goal can be as few or as many words as you wish.

That’s it. The whole challenge in a nutshell. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to daily word counts, but writers who’ve joined me before have commented on how inspiring the whole ‘group effort’ is, so I hope you’ll take a look.

I’ll pop up a post on 1 Feb to remind y’all we’re underway and off we go.

Will you join me?

If you’re new here, you can find out more about me and my books here

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Taking stock in January 2018 Fri, 19 Jan 2018 01:29:56 +0000 Read More]]> Taking Stock January 2018One of my favourite people to visit in the blogging world is Pip Lincolne at Meet Me At Mike’s. Her’s is a feel-good space, full of things that make you go Mmmmmm.

She’s also terribly clever, what with the crafting and the styling and the writing (I interviewed her for the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast here and visited her lovely blog last year with my 5 secrets of being creative when you have no time).

Anyhoo, today Pip popped up a post about taking stock, inviting other bloggers to do the same. I’ve decided to take up the invitation because, as she says:

“I think we need to help each other find interesting things to read about, away from social media, as much as possible. WHICH IS WHY BLOGS ARE GREAT. What we see on social media – Instagram AND Facebook – is controlled by the powers-that-be. We shouldn’t be letting corporations decide what is worthy of our hearts and minds. Please read blogs more – or start your own – to buck the trend.”

So, in the interests of sharing the good stuff, here’s what I’m doing in January. Settle in, there’s a lot to talk about.

Making: A mess. I’m not a maker, unless you count manuscripts in the equation, and have written before about my lack of crafting ability. But it’s school holidays and I am trying to fit in parenting and working, which means that something has to give – and that thing would be housework.

Cooking: As little as possible. It has been so very hot here this month that even thinking about food feels like too much effort. We are eating an awful lot of salad.

Drinking: Lots of water, the occasional beer (I do love a chilled beer on a hot day) and gin and tonic. My current favourite is Four Pillars gin with tonic and a slice of orange. Yum.

Reading: All of the things. No, really. One thing I do in January is to read. If I can’t write, then reading is the next closest thing to working.

I’ve read a lot of YA fiction lately (I think I have an idea brewing), including Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (LOVED), One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (very enjoyable), and A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (very good – would read book #2 in the trilogy).

All of these are definitely 14+ reads (despite some 12+ age recommendations I’ve seen) and have been handed to Book Boy so watch out for kid reviews soon.

Next read: While I’m waiting for The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan to come out in February, I’m lining up a pile of books including Working Class Man by Jimmy Barnes (I loved Working Class Boy, for the record) and The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor.

Wanting: Five minutes to myself.

Looking: At Mr11’s drawings. He’s such a busy kid and I love it when he sits down to draw.

Playing: Book Boy’s first EP. I’m so incredibly proud of what he’s achieved and I simply love listening to him sing. The six original songs were recorded over several months last year and I can almost hear his voice changing with each one (for the record, the last song on the EP was the first one recorded and you can hear it here).

Deciding: We are planning a trip overseas later this year and are in that delicious phase of deciding all the things we might do while we’re there.

Wishing: It was autumn already. It’s. Just. Too. Hot.

Enjoying: Being part of the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group. It really is one of the friendliest and most useful places on the internet.

Waiting: Just like Pip, I’m waiting for a package because one of my boys is having a birthday next week. Here’s hoping it gets here in time!

Liking: The wonderful, sharing spirit of the Australian writing community. Being an author can be so lonely, but I have to say that Aussie writers are a great bunch. There’s always someone who’s been there before you and is happy to walk you through your next steps.

Wondering: How best to celebrate my blogging anniversary – I’m up to nine years next week, which is insane! If you have any thoughts on what kind of parade I should have, please share them in the comments!

Loving: Zonin Prosecco. My brother put me on to this stuff about three years ago when it was $8.50 a bottle. It’s now $11.50 or so (gasp!) but, as a budget-friendly, easy-drinking sparkling wine, I’m pretty sure this Italian lovely can’t be beaten.

Pondering: What to write next. I’ve just finished a first draft and I’m editing away, but my mind is always ticking over. I have two other manuscripts that are underway and I’m just deciding which one to concentrate on next.

Considering: How to best manage my diary. As regular readers will know, I’m a paper girl and like to see things written down, but keeping track of school stuff, writing stuff, family stuff, and Book Boy’s music stuff is becoming increasingly complicated. If you have any recommendations for me, please tell me!

Buying: Groceries. Seriously, how can two kids eat so much food?

Watching: The Builder and I are currently hopping between two series on Netflix: The Crown, which I am curiously obsessed with, and Fauda, an Israeli series, which is high on tension (but features some very strange dubbing in places).

Next watch: I’m really not sure. I have to confess that while the world of on-demand television is beguiling, actually deciding what is worth watching is not easy. I will be taking all recommendations.

Hoping: That 2018 is an altogether calmer year than 2017.

Marvelling: At all the possibilities a new year can bring.

Cringing: At the fact that I made a complete dill of myself at my local petrol station this week. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that it involved a 5-litre petrol can and an absolute debacle.

Do you relive those cringey moments over and over again in your mind? I remember reading something years ago, maybe by Wendy Harmer, where she was talking about sitting on a bus and the woman beside her suddenly let out a groan and the writer (Wendy?) just knew she was reliving some embarrassing moment or other. That’s me right now.

Needing: A dishwasher. Yes, I know, this is probably more a want than a need, but really, five years without one is just long enough, don’t you think?

Questioning: Everything. When new parents write about all the things that nobody told them about being a parent, it usually involves a list of sleepless nights and dirty nappies. For me, though, it’s the endless worrying that goes with parenting that nobody COULD ever warn you about. That constant voice in your head asking ‘really, is this the right thing to do?’ is very, very tiring.

Smelling: Murraya. My neighbours have a huge Murraya shrub and my own is rapidly catching up. When I go out into the garden at night, the scent nearly knocks me over and I love it.

Wearing: My sneakers. Seriously, I have become one of those women who just puts on my sneakers in the morning to walk the dog and never takes them off. I am more comfortable in socks and sneakers than barefoot and I don’t know when this happened.

Following: JodiWileyArt on Instagram. I’ve just discovered her wonderful images of stacks of books and I am enamoured.

Worrying: See Questioning (above)

Noticing: What makes me happy and making a note to do more of it, even if it’s surprising.

Knowing: I need to detach from my phone. Doing the social media work I do makes it way too easy to just ‘check in’ and not leave for an hour. I’m trying to be much more rigorous in my use of time.

Thinking: I need to tidy my desk. But I’m always thinking this…

Admiring: I’m writing a feature for a magazine at the moment about young creative people in my local area, and I’m just in awe of what they’re achieving.

Sorting: My pantry. It’s got to the point where I can’t put anything in or get anything out without something falling on me.

Getting: Excited about the fact that The Book Of Answers is out this year! March 27 might seem like a little way off, but in book launch terms it’s only micro-seconds. I’m already thinking about some of the things I can do to get the word out about the book and putting plans in place.

Bookmarking: So many things. I’m constantly saving links all over the place to share them across my various social media channels, for me and for my clients.

Coveting: The sparkly gold jacket that my friend Elizabeth Rae wears here in her very first music video for her new single ‘Golden Hour’.

Disliking: A lot of things. But I’m not going to list them here because I stand by my rule about the internet: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I get it, you have an opinion. Great. So do I. But the two of us shouting at each other about it online won’t make a jot of difference. If you really don’t like something, DO something about it.

Opening: The fridge door far more often than I should.

Giggling: At my boys, with my boys.

Feeling: Tired. I know, already. But I’m kind of thinking this is just a state of being for women these days.

Snacking: Yes. See Opening above.

Hearing: My boys. Bickering. Again. The long, hot days of January can be very long and very hot. So, enough of the taking stock – we’re off for a swim!

Well, that was quite a list! If you made it this far, I applaud you! I’d love to see your own Taking Stock post – if you write one, pop it in the comments. 

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10 things I’ve learnt from writing my debut novel Mon, 15 Jan 2018 01:00:38 +0000 Read More]]> 10 things I've learnt from writing my debut novel | allisontait.comThere’s nothing quite like the experience of having your first novel appear on bookshop shelves. And nothing quite like the learning curve involved in getting the book there in the first place. 

Today, I’m pleased to welcome debut author Louise Allan to my blog, to share the process behind getting her first book The Sisters’ Song (Allen & Unwin) from idea to published novel – and all the things she learnt along the way. 

Take it away Louise…

10 things I’ve learnt from writing my debut novel

Sometimes I look at my book and can’t believe I’ve written one! I didn’t start my working life as a writer but came to it much later than most. But being older didn’t excuse me from doing my writing apprenticeship—I still had to learn the craft and it wasn’t at all easy. There were hair-tearing moments, disappointments, times I needed to take a break, and times I needed to talk myself into returning to my keyboard.

Here are some of the things I’ve learnt along the way. This list is by no means exhaustive, but includes tips about the craft of writing as well as organising your time.

1. Get your bum on the chair

Don’t make excuses, just do it! Yes, it might be easier once the kids are all in high school, or once Christmas is over, or once you have a dedicated writing space, but if you keep putting it off, you’ll find you’ll be forever waiting because the perfect time will never come. You’ll never get a clear diary. Your kids will always have something on. Your writing space will never be perfectly set up. But it doesn’t matter—start anyway. Even 30 minutes a day. Don’t put it off. Just start. Get those fingers on the keyboard and start typing. It’s the only way to write a book.

2. Protect your writing time

Protecting your writing time is an active thing, and don’t let anything encroach upon it. Put off making the beds or vacuuming. Don’t cook a couple of nights a week, or keep meals simple. Decline coffee shop invitations. Don’t volunteer on the P&C or for canteen duty. Turn off the wi-fi. If you write best in the mornings, tell the repairman he can’t come until the afternoon. Book appointments for when you’re free and only when you’re free. Shut your door and stick up a sign that tells the kids not to interrupt you:

I found saying No the hardest thing of all. I felt guilty, as if I was letting people down. I kept telling myself that this was my time and I was entitled to it, and eventually, people stopped asking me to meet them or volunteer, which caused more guilt. I reminded myself that mums who work outside of the home can’t do these things either, and that my writing was now my job.   

3. Mix with other writers

They’re your tribe. They’ll understand you more than anyone. They’ll be genuinely interested in the book your writing and they get your need to write it. Being around them will keep you motivated, just by reminding you why you started it in the first place. After you’ve been rejected, they’ll tell you about theirs. They’re very helpful  people, great sources of advice, support and comfort. And when your book comes out, they’ll be your biggest supporters.

4. Get online early

Everyone tells you this and you might think it will take away from your actual novel-writing time. It’s also rather daunting, especially at first, and you’ll feel a bit vulnerable. You also feel as if you’re putting your work out there and no one’s listening.

I started a blog and Facebook page in early 2013 when I’d was about to finish the first draft of my novel. I had 39 Facebook followers for quite a few months, but I kept going, posting consistently and trying to be myself. I made a lot of mistakes, but only those 39 Facebook followers know about those!

Over time, I’ve relaxed and got better at it, and slowly built up a loyal following. Because we’ve been together for nearly five years, my followers and I know each other well, and since the release of my book, they’ve been amazing, jumping on board and championing it.

So, start a blog and Facebook page early even if you feel as if no one is listening. Be yourself and post consistently. Don’t worry if you make a mistake—just hit the Delete button! Give people time to come, and when your book’s published, you’ll have a group of followers who are more than willing to support you because they’ve been with you all the way.

5. Try things out and experiment

Writing’s meant to be fun, too, so explore. Go off on tangents. Be adventurous. Be free. There are no restrictions, not when you’re drafting. Write your deepest fears, your most embarrassing moments, even things that might seem really wacky and over the top. Overwrite a scene, you can always pare it back later. Or delete it.

I don’t believe any writing is ever wasted, even if it doesn’t make it into the final version. I have 190,000 words sitting in my ‘Outtakes’ folder, and every single one of them was necessary to making the final version of my novel what it is. 

6. Accept feedback

I can’t stress this one strongly enough, especially when you’re starting out. Actively seek feedback whenever you can. Join a writing group and share writing with each other. If there’s a writer-in-residence at your local writers’ centre, they’ll often look over a couple of chapters, and give you pointers which you can then use to go through the rest of your manuscript. Before sending your work out to agents and publishers, consider getting a formal manuscript appraisal. Work with a mentor even.

Separate yourself from your writing while you’re getting the feedback. Talk about it as if it’s an object and not part of you. Look at it as critically as you can. Tell yourself that it will make it better, because that’s the aim, after all. Don’t defend it and don’t get upset. If you’re not sure of what the critique means, just ask the reader to elaborate. Even if you disagree, listen anyway and think about it.

In my personal experience, I’ve never encountered anyone with an ulterior motive. Every single person has been trying to help when giving me feedback.

Besides, if your book is ever picked up by a publisher, believe me, they won’t go easy on you during the editing. If you want to be a published author, at some stage you’ll have to get used to hearing feedback.

7. Be prepared to rewrite

Following on from the previous point, no first draft is ever ready for publishing. Nor a second or third. It’s tedious and hard, but you just have to sit at the computer and go over your words time and again. I’ve lost count of my redrafts and rewrites, but each time, it’s improved it. Believe me.

8. Writing a novel takes a long time

It takes a long time to write 90,000 good words from your imagination onto the page, structured in such a way as to take the reader on a enjoyable ride. There are no corners you can cut, and if it’s your first novel, there are no ways you can avoid making at least some rookie mistakes. Then there are family, paid work and general living that also get in the way. Sometimes, the words just won’t come, and you’ll need to take a break.

It took me six years to write my novel, which sounds like a long time but doesn’t actually feel that long because I was busy all those years. Now that it’s published, I’m glad it took as long as it did—the story has benefitted from the extra incubation time.

9. Don’t give up

Never, ever give up. Remember the Ira Glass quote. Aim for that ideal vision of your book that you have in your head, but go easy on yourself as you head towards it. Allow yourself to be a learner and make mistakes.

10Write for yourself

Write the novel you want to read. Chances are, others will want to read it, too.

The Sisters Song by Louise AllanLouise Allan’s first novel, The Sisters’ Song, is out now with Allen & Unwin. The manuscript has previously been shortlisted for the 2014 City of Fremantle—TAG Hungerford Award and awarded a Varuna Residential Fellowship. Find out more about Louise and her wonderful book here.




Interested in writing your own debut novel? You might find these links helpful.

Six reasons you should start writing your novel now

Writing is all about trust

An inconvenient truth about mothers and writing

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My top 10 posts for authors (2017) Mon, 08 Jan 2018 02:00:17 +0000 Read More]]> My top 10 posts for authors (2017) | So here we are, the last of my top 10 blog post posts for 2017. Probably just as well as we’re into the second week of January 2018…

This time, the focus is on authors and author life, and so we have a mix of posts about publishing, social media, blogging, book launches, author platforms and all the various bits and pieces encompassed in an author’s career OUTSIDE of the writing (you can find my top 10 posts about writing here).


10. The one superpower that all published writers have

9. Industry Insider: How to get published

8. An important question for every writer

7. How to host a book launch

6. Ask the writer: How to build your author platform

5. 10 of my favourite book dedications

4. What to blog about: 5 top tips for new and aspiring authors

3. 10 things to do while you’re waiting on your writing

26 more Aussie Instagram accounts I love

1. Five Australian author Instagram accounts I love

If you’re writing children’s or YA fiction, I’d also suggest having a look at my top 10 posts for readers here. This top 10 mostly comprises book lists, created from recommendations from the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community.

These are the books, across many different age categories, that parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors and other interested parties are recommending to each other over and over again. It’s really worth having a look at what those books are!

And, if you’re new here, you can find out all about me here or check out The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, my two epic adventure series for middle-grade readers.

My top 10 posts for readers (2017) Wed, 03 Jan 2018 23:24:05 +0000 Read More]]> My top 10 posts for readers | allisontait.comHappy 2018! It’s taking me a little while to wind up this year, but I guess that’s to be expected in the aftermath of Christmas and with the school holidays in full swing.

I’ve decided to kick this year off by continuing my little series of top posts from 2017 (see Top Posts For Writers here).

This time, I’m looking at top posts for readers, mostly due to the aforementioned school holidays. With the long weeks of January stretching out ahead of us, there’s never been a better time to find a new book for your kids, right?

2017 was an amazing year for Your Kid’s Next Read, the Facebook group I co-host with the lovely Megan Daley from Children’s Books Daily, when we clocked up our 3000th member.

I’m really proud of the lovely, vibrant, helpful community that we’ve all created and it’s no surprise that most of my top posts for readers are book lists generated from the thousands of recommendations that have been shared in the group.

And here they are, in descending order to number one!

10. 5 Ways To Make Reading Fun For Kids

9. Your Kid’s Next Read: The One Book I’m Buying For Christmas

8. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson… Books To Read Next

7. 21 Tried-And-Tested Books For 13/14-Year-Old Boys

6. The One Book I’m Buying A Boy This Christmas

5. Your Kid’s Next Read: Recommended Reading Lists For Kids 10+, 12+, YA For Tweens

4. 31 Books For Tween Girls With Nothing To Read

3. Simple Book Week Ideas (from Australian authors)

2. The One Book I’m Buying A Girl This Christmas

1. 24 Books For Tween Boys With Nothing To Read

I hope you find the perfect summer read somewhere in these lists!

NB: I’ve kept my list of top 10 posts to those that aren’t about my own books, but if you’re new here and you’d like to learn more about The Mapmaker Chronicles or The Ateban Cipher, my two middle-grade adventure series, follow the links…

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