What advice would I give myself as a new writer?

What advice would I give myself as a new writer?

For me, August is very much a month of talking about writing. Term three ramps up as CBCA Book Week approaches and I have a full dance card of author visits and a festival appearance to finish off.

Of course, what with a podcast and an online writing group, I never really stop talking about writing, so I thought I’d write a little post to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked over the past few weeks.


What advice would I give myself as a new writer?

I was recently interviewed by Ky Garvey for the Totally Lit podcast.

In a very chatty interview, I reveal my writing and podcasting secrets, including my tips for productive procrastination, the inspiration for The Wolf’s Howl, how to choose the right idea, the most difficult aspect of writing, and the key to podcasting success.

Ky also asked me what the advice I would give myself if I could go back to the start of my writing career.

My response (spoiler alert) was that I would tell myself to develop patience.

After spending most of my life working to deadlines as a journalist and then a freelance writer, I was all about pushing forward, moving on to the next thing. Hurry up and write.

I quickly learned that book publishing is more a ‘hurry up and wait’ proposition but it has taken me years to work out how to live with that.

To be fair, I did have excellent people around me who tried very hard right back there at the beginning to help me understand. But I think it’s a bit like having kids – you think you know what it’s going to be like and that you’re entirely across the process, and then you bring them home…

Listen to the full interview here. And find more advice for new writers here.


Why should I read?

This one came in a quiet moment at the end of a recent school visit, and I don’t mind admitting that it stopped me for a moment.

A year seven student approached me, very earnest, wanting to discuss the fact that she didn’t read much.

“Okay,” I said. “Is there a reason you don’t read? Do you find it boring? Is it difficult? Would you prefer to listen to an audio book or consume stories in a different way?”

“I’d rather watch documentaries on television. Can you tell me why I should read?”

One thousand answers ran through my mind as we shared that moment. “When you read, you have a direct line to the way someone else thinks,” I said, grasping to articulate the joys of reading. “You are given their perspective on the world, their language choices, their experiences, even as they are filtered through the veil of characters and story.”

She didn’t look convinced.

“Words,” I tried again, looking for tangible benefits. “The gift of words directly into your brain. The kinds of words that will help you so much as you work your way up through high school.”

Again, she was doubtful.

“Even graphic novels?” she said. “I’ve read a couple of those, but they’re not real books, are they?”

Relief flooded through me. “Yes,” I said. “Yes, they are. Read those if you like them. Read as many as you can and then ask your school librarian for other books that are similar.”

She smiled. “All right, I’ll give it a go.”

And she walked away, leaving me to pack up my things and hope that I’d said enough that she would give it a go.

Listen to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast to hear teacher-librarian Megan Daley and I discuss questions like this one each week. Find it here.


How do I get author photos that I’m happy with?

My monthly Access Al Areas Zoom Q&A with Write With Allison Tait, my online writing group, is such a joyous part of my routine and the perfect excuse to talk about all aspects of writing.

This month, we got into the nitty gritty of author headshots, specifically how to make sure that you’re happy with any you get taken. I had three main tips:

Research the kind of look you’re after.
This will very much depend on what you’re writing and your personal style, but the best way to find out is to visit a whole bunch of author websites and make a list of the images you like. You’ll start to see a pattern – whether you’re drawn to black-and-white moody shots or crazy, zany shots, keep notes and examples so that you can show your photographer.

Get a word-of-mouth recommendation if you can.
The key to a great photo is feeling comfortable with your photographer and getting a recommendation from someone you trust makes the process easier.

Take at least two outfit changes.
Professional photos are an investment, so you’ll want to get a few different options from your shoot. Take at least two outfit changes – even if it’s just a different shirt – unless you want to see yourself in the same blazer over and over for the next few years. And ask your photographer to do a range of images – landscape, portrait, headshot – in each.

If you’d like join WWAT and ask your own burning questions every month (or at any time in the Facebook group for a written response), you’ll find more details here. In coming months, Industry Insider guests include Annabel Barker (literary agent), Kate Forsyth (bestselling author), Anna Spargo-Ryan (award-winning author and memoirist) and Natasha Lester (bestselling author).

What’s next?

And so into the breach of school visits I go. If you’re trying to figure out how to manage the Book Week costume this year, you’ll find a terrific list of ideas from Australian authors here.

For South Coast NSW readers – or those looking for a day trip from Sydney – I’m appearing at the wonderful Bundanon 2022 Writers’ Festival on Saturday 3rd September.

Young writers and illustrators can attend a writing/illustration workshop with me and Dale Newman, and I’ll also be In Conversation with international bestselling author Kate Forsyth. Details and tickets here.


A L Tait The Fire Star USAAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

Creativity can be managed – here’s how

Creativity can be managed – here’s how

“I’m waiting for creativity to strike.”

“I’m waiting for the Muse.”

“I’m not feeling inspired.”

Creativity is often thought of as something that ‘happens’ to us – not something that we make happen.

But, in this list of top 10 tips for writers, bestselling author Graeme Simsion says that creativity can be managed.

I wanted to know more about this idea so, in this snippet from our recent interview, available exclusively in the Write With Allison Tait online community, I asked him to explain exactly what he meant by that.




Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.

Creativity and parenting

Creativity and parenting

You might remember I recently interviewed Andrew Daddo about Creativity and Change for Words and Nerds podcast.

Perhaps I’m subconsciously creating an ad hoc series, as I was lucky enough to takeover another episode to chat to the very funny Kerri Sackville about Creativity and Parenting (which we could probably sub-title Creativity and Chaos).

We talk a lot about writing in the midst of chaos, squeezing the words in even as family life roils around us.

You can hear it here.

creativity and parenting Allison Tait


I documented a lot of the early days of my career as a children’s author right here on this blog, when I was juggling fulltime freelance writing with family and stealing away to write my books.

I think my experience is summed up in this post. 


From little kids, big kids grow


Things have changed for me as my kids have grown and my fiction writing has been able to move more into the centre of my working days. One thing that doesn’t change, however, is how much space children take up in your brain.

When they’re little, you spend a lot of time worrying about the eating, sleeping, breathing, whinging end of things. They’re constantly underfoot, demanding attention.

Then they get bigger.

Now they’re not underfoot all the time but that space in the brain that worries about eating and sleeping and breathing, well, it doesn’t switch off. And because they’re more absent there’s a whole lot more ‘what if?’ taking up residence.

And still I write.

One might think that having larger swathes of time would mean hours and hours spent at my computer, but, in truth, my days are not that different.

I still have a million non-writing-related things to do.

I still write fiction, on average, for about an hour a day. It seems to be my natural limit, or perhaps it’s simply been honed into a habit from years and years of fitting my writing in around other people’s lives.


One thing I know about creativity and parenting


The one thing I know for sure is that I’m glad I started when I did. When it was really tough to make it work and it seemed impossible.

If you’ve got little kids and a big dream to write a novel, I see you.

If you’ve only got time to write a paragraph a day, I see you.

If you’ve got one eye on soccer practice, and your mind is far way in a completely different world, I see you.

If it feels like you will never get to The End, I see you.

You can do it.

Keep going.


A L Tait The Fire StarAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

For full details about Write With Allison Tait, my new online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, go here


Come and write with me!

Come and write with me!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve established a new online writing group called Write With Allison Tait.

For over a decade now, I’ve been sharing my journey as a writer, my tips and tricks, my highs and lows, my inspiration and, especially, information for over a decade now.

I’ve written countless posts here on this blog, as well as guest posts for sites such as the Australian Writers’ Centre, Write To Done, The Creative Penn, Anne R. Allen and more.

I talked endlessly on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast for 462 episodes across seven years and two million downloads, and co-wrote a book of the same name with my co-host Valerie Khoo.

I’ve taught classes and workshops for writers of all ages, spoken at conferences and festivals, mentored and coached, coaxed and cheerled.

I bring a background in journalism, writing non-fiction books, writing fiction for adults, writing fiction for children, content writing, blogging, podcasting, speaking, social media, editing… you name it, when it comes to writing and publishing, chances are I’ve done it.

Now, I’m bringing all of my knowledge, experience and expertise into one spot.


Introducing Write With Allison Tait


WRITE WITH ALLISON TAIT, is my new paid Facebook community for writers of all kinds, at all levels.

My key words when creating the group were these: Information. Inspiration. Motivation. Connection.

That’s what you’ll find there.

You can find all the details and join here, but here’s a taste of what’s on offer:

•Monthly livestream ACCESS AL AREAS (see what I did there) Q&A sessions with me

Quote from member Alison after our first session: “Thanks for a great start, Al, 60 minutes of gold already in the bank!”  

•Monthly Industry Insider interviews (prerecorded video and livestream) – my first one is Monday 16 May with GRAEME SIMSION, and I have an exciting schedule planned

Practical writing tips and advice – I’ll be in the group regularly offering my thoughts and answers to questions

•A library of articles, posts and interviews, regularly updatedabout everything from how to get a book written to how to build your brand as an author

Connection with likeminded people who are on the same writing journey as you are

Accountability within a supportive environment

Motivation – I’ll be running my #writeabookwithal challenges inside this group

News and updates about competitions, submission opportunities and more

It’s a brilliant, supportive community of writers and I do hope you’ll join me. All the details are here.


Allison Tait how to be a children's author Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.

Graeme Simsion’s Top 10 Tips For Writers

Graeme Simsion’s Top 10 Tips For Writers

Graeme Simsion is not only the author of The Novel Project, a new writing craft book, and a bunch of international bestselling books, he’s also a very generous soul.

When Valerie Khoo and I began our So You Want To Be A Writer podcast all those years ago, Graeme was my very first interview in episode #1, revealing many tips along with discussions about a duck suit.

When we celebrated 100 episodes (still many years ago, as we had recorded well over 460 episodes when I said farewell last year, as well as clocking up over two million downloads), Graeme, by that stage, a multi-international bestselling author, graciously popped back for an update on his stellar career, talking about the joys (and jitters) of following up his incredibly popular debut novel, The Rosie Project.

And now that I’m starting Write With Allison Tait, Graeme has kindly agreed to be my very first guest expert, a session that will feature in the group in May (I have such an exciting schedule of guests I can hardly contain myself!).

It’s almost like he’s put me on his To Do list as The Allison Project and I am so grateful for his support.

As a taster, Graeme has compiled his top 10 writing tips, shared below.


Ten Writing Tips from Graeme Simsion

1.     Know why you’re writing. And what you want.

Some writers want a bestseller, some critical acclaim, some to change the world. Some write for the pure joy of writing, and some write for therapy. Accept that if you’re aiming to do one, it’s likely you won’t achieve the others. Don’t complain when you don’t. (Whenever someone tells me their novel is semi-autobiographical, I push them to explain whether they’re writing for therapy or publication. ‘Both’ is seldom a realistic answer.)


2.     Writing can be taught and learnt.

I shouldn’t need to say this: to me it’s obvious that you can improve your writing by learning theory, practising and getting feedback. Yes, there are people who can write a book without any study, and people who will never write a good book no matter how much they study, but study will make both of them better writers than they would have been.

Practically, join a course and / or a writing group. Read about writing, do lots of it, read others’ work critically, get your own work critiqued.


3.     Learn the language of storytelling.

Which is, to a large extent, the language of story structure. You need words to be able to critique and accept criticism, and, more importantly, to articulate what you’re doing or trying to do.

Writers in my experience are far more literate about sentence structure than story structure. (Screenwriters are the opposite). You need both.

Did I mention that story is important, at least if you want your book to sell?


4.     You need a process.

It can be as simple as ‘sit down and wait for the words to come’ or as  complex as you need to make it. I use the nine-stage process described in The Novel Project.

The important things are that (a) each day when you start work, you know what you’re going to be doing and (b) that you revise your process after each project to reflect what you’ve learned.


5.     If your process isn’t working, change it.

In particular, writing by the seat of your pants (‘pantsing’) is a choice, not an identity. I see so many writers getting stuck, typically at around 30,000 words, abandoning their work, starting again…almost inevitably they’re working without a plan.

Maybe time to think about modifying your process to include a planning stage.


6.     You don’t have to write every day.

Many of the (possible) stages in writing a novel are not about getting words on the page.

Before the drafting you may be devoting time to  concept, title, character, plot points and an overall plan. Afterwards, there’s editing.

Throughout, there’s problem solving.

Sure, write something else to stay in shape if you want, but a day in which you do nothing but come up with a brilliant title or decide it’d be better if two characters were combined is a good day.


7.     Creativity can be managed.

There are many practical techniques to improve your creativity. Start with noting when you have your good ideas, including solutions to problems. (Often it’s while doing some routine, non-intellectual activity such as walking or driving).

Start thinking about such times as your creative times, and specifically devote them to your biggest creative challenges.


8.     Interrogate your characters’ decisions—especially the big ones that drive the story or reveal important information about your character.

Dig deep; why did they do this? Think like a shrink. The answers will give you insight, inform other more minor behaviour by your characters, and often suggest set-ups to make the decisions more convincing and powerful.


9.     Show don’t tell is good advice—and amongst the most commonly given.

Failure to follow it is one of the most common problems that writing teachers see. It’s sometimes their own fault for failing to explain exactly what it means—I’m amazed how many writers find it hard to explain or are not sure if they’re doing it.

I see it as writing in scenes: if you can imagine your prose as playing out in a movie, in real time, you’re showing. If not, it’s telling.


10.  Believe your editors and early readers when they tell you there’s a problem—no matter how bad the solution they’re proposing.

So when they say, ‘I suggest you change A to B, the message is that A is not working. B may be worse, but that’s not the issue. Your job is to find C.



Graeme Simsion writing tips

Photo by Darren James

Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie EffectThe Rosie Result and The Best of Adam Sharp, as well as Don Tillman’s Standardized Meal System, Data Modeling Essentials and, co-authored with Anne Buist, Two Steps Forward and Two Steps Onward.

His latest book is The Novel Project: A Step-by-Step Guide To Your Novel, Memoir or Biography.



Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

For full details about Write With Allison Tait, my new online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, go here

Pin It on Pinterest