So You Want To Be A Writer podcast celebrates 300 episodes

So You Want To Be A Writer podcast celebrates 300 episodes

So You Want To Be A Writer, my top-rating podcast with the wonderful Valerie Khoo, is celebrating 300 episodes this week and we have this Great Big Book Pack to give away as a party favour!WIN 30-book pack to celebrate So You Want to Be A Writer Podcast 300th episode | allisontait.com

Yes, that’s 30 BOOKS FOR ONE WINNER. Books for kids, books for adults, fiction, non-fiction… all the books!

To save you squinting at the pic, I’ve listed the titles below.


Fiona Palmer – Matters of the Heart
Ben Hobson – Snake Island
Carmel Reilly – Life Before
Richard Roper – Something to Live For
Melanie Cheng – Room for a Stranger
Hilary Spiers – Love, Lies and Linguine
Dr Sarah McKay – The Women’s Brain Book
Josephine Moon – The Gift of Life
Josephine Moon – Three Gold Coins
Mark Brandi – The Rip
Melina Marchetta – The Place on Dalhousie
Neil Gaiman – Norse Mythology
Amie Kaufman/Jay Kristoff – Aurora Rising
Diana Gabaldon – Seven Stones to Stand or Fall
Anna Romer – Under the Midnight Sky
Lorraine Murphy – Baby, You’re Remarkable!
Rohan Wilson – Daughter of Bad Times
David Gilham – Annelies
JP Pomare – Call Me Evie
Lexi Freiman – Inappropriation
Lisa Bigelow – We That Are Left
Karen Viggers – The Orchardist’s Daughter
Owen Nicholls – Love Unscripted
Gary Disher – Her
Deborah Abela – Final Storm
Michael Crichton – Dragon Teeth
Caoilinn Hughes – Orchid and the Wasp
Kate and Jol Temple – The Birthday Wars
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Hufflepuff Limited Edition)
Davina Bell, Karen Blair – Lemonade Jones and the Great School Fete


To win the 30-book pack, we’d like you to tell us a little bit about yourself.

All you have to do is to answer this question in the most creative way that you know how!

What’s the #1 thing you’ve learned from listening to the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait?


• upload a blog post,

•craft a tweet

•write a Facebook post

•shoot a video

•create an image

•[insert your own brilliant idea]

and SHARE it to your favourite social media platform – Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using the hashtag #valandal300

Is the #1 thing one of Val’s words of the week?

My ‘fair to middling’ approach to life?

Have you discovered banoffee pie?

Did you discover your new favourite author through one of our interviews?

Or is there a writing tip that’s changed your life?

Something else?

Tell us! We really want to know!

I am looking for my favourite entry to WIN ALL THE BOOKS, so remember to make sure your post is PUBLIC, or I won’t see it.

If you want to make doubly sure I won’t miss your creative stylings, TAG ME at

Twitter: @altait

Instagram: @allisontaitwriter

Facebook: @allisontaitwriter

As well as @writerscentreau  onFacebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The comp opens when our 300th episode drops on 30 September 2019, and closes at 11.59pm (AEDT) on Monday 7 October.

That’s right. ONE WEEK ONLY.

The fine print

The comp opens when our 300th episode drops on 30 September 2019, and closes at 11.59pm (AEDT) on Monday 7 October.  The winner will be announced in episode 302 of the So You Want To Be A Writer, on the Australian Writers’ Centre blog, and in the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast community. Open worldwide. Winner will be judged on creativity, humour and/or ability to evoke all the feels in my fair-middling heart.

A step-by-step guide on how to enter

1.     Create a blog or social media post that addresses this question:

What’s the #1 thing you’ve learned from listening to the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait?

2.     Post your entry to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or via your blog

Instagram: add #valandal300 to the end and tag @allisontaitwriter @writerscentreau

Facebook: Add #valandal300 to your post and tag @allisontaitwriter and @writerscentreau. NOTE: the post will need to be PUBLIC for us to see it, or share it from your profile/page to the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast community Facebook group.

Twitter: Add #valandal300 to the end of your message and tag @altait @writerscentreau

Blog: Share the link on social media (Twitter or Facebook, see above)

3. Follow the hashtag to see what others are posting!

Good luck! I can’t wait to see what you come up with! Regular listeners will know that this is the equivalent of me planning a parade, so thank you so much for taking part in our celebrations!

And if you haven’t discovered the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast yet, join us here! 

The 6 Cs of writing a novel

The 6 Cs of writing a novel

The 6 Cs of writing a novel | allisontait.comIn case you missed it, the latest round of #writeabookwithal is over and I have finished the first draft of my latest manuscript. It is, brace yourselves, the 15th first draft fiction manuscript that I have written.


Four were written before my first children’s novel (The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race To The End Of The World) was published and I doubt that we will ever see that fab four again.

Since TMC #1 came out, I have written five manuscripts that are now published novels, plus five more, including this new one. News on all of those various projects will be with you once I have it to hand.

Anyhoo, my point is that I’ve written a few now and it got me to thinking about the various ingredients that are common to all of them. So I’ve packaged them up neatly as Cs because a) it’s been a while between blog posts, b) it amused me to use a maths concept in my creative writing post and c) that’s how I roll.


I’ve put this one first because it’s hard to write a novel without an idea. Sometimes, though, I think the bigger challenge is working out which idea will sustain a novel and which is the starting point for a character (which will then be subsumed into a larger idea), which is the basis of a scene (which will then be subsumed into a larger story), and which is a short story all by itself.

The reality is that some of my many ideas are just half-formed fragments that end up in notebooks and stay there, taunting me forever.

The most difficult ideas, for me, are those that present themselves as ‘I’d like to write a book about X’, or ‘I’m going to write a mystery story’. For me, that’s not an idea, it’s a theme, or a genre.

The best and most creative ideas are specific. Often weirdly specific. And, for me, they usually present themselves as a question and a feeling.

The Mapmaker Chronicles came from that feeling you get when you look out into a clear night sky (where are the edges? what’s at the edges?) and a specific question: How did they map the world? (You can read about it here)

The Ateban Cipher novels came from the feeling I got when I looked at The Book Of Kells (I wanted to take it home) and a specific question: Why would you write a book that no-one can read? (You can read about it here)


If you have always been someone who can write – that is, sit down at school, or university, or wherever, and have words pour out onto the page when required – craft is often something that you come to later. It’s often about the time that you write the first draft of your first novel, all 70,000 words of it, and think that your work is done.

In fact, it’s the time that you submit that first draft to an agent who comes back to you with these words: “What would you like me to do with this? There’s some nice writing in here but it is in no way ready to send out.”

Or maybe that’s just me.

Valerie Khoo and I have often discussed on our podcast that you don’t know what you don’t know. I discovered this lesson the hard way when I had the above exchange with an agent. I knew I could write a sentence – hadn’t I been doing that for years as a features writer? What I didn’t know was how to write fiction. Not really.

I was lucky enough to have had a good head start, thanks to all of my years of reading and working with words. But I had a lot to learn, and that’s where craft comes in.

Structure, character development, logical plotting, pacing… Take the courses, do the reading, go to the workshops at festivals, join writers’ groups. Whatever works for you.

I’m still learning a lot the hard way, because I still write without a detailed plan. I have to write it to see what it is, which is not the most efficient way of managing a publishing career.

But at least I now know what I don’t know.


If you had told Teenage Me that I’d one day be a published author and that I’d spend half my time walking around the block trying to work through logical solutions to problems that I had created myself, Teenage Me would have laughed.

Teenage Me thought that creative writing was all about… creativity. Little did Teenage Me know (about this and so many things, right Mum?)

When I do my school visits these days, I like to talk about writing superpowers. And when I tell the ‘maths kids’ and the ‘science kids’ that they have one of the greatest writing superpowers ever, I can see their confusion.

But so much of what we do as writers is problem solving.

If this happens, what happens next?

If that happens, what happens next?

And every decision has to come back to your character, and what your character would do in that situation.

Not what you would do. What your character would do.

Not what you, as the writer, needs your character to do to fix this festering plot hole you have created. What your character would logically do.

No wonder Procrastipup and I do so much walking (which is a great way to work through logical solutions, if you’re looking for one).


Look, I wish that talking about writing got the writing done. I wish that I could tell you that your novel will write itself.

But it doesn’t, and it won’t.

If you want to write a novel, you have to commit to the process. You have to make the time. You have to write the words.

Yes, you.

It’s not easy. You’ll have to make sacrifices. You need to show up.

But that’s what it takes.

If you need some help to get the words written, you can read my blog post here, or you can take my 30-Day Creative Writing Bootcamp (10,000 words in 30 days. Yes, you).


I well remember the first time I received a structural edit (you can read about it here). I have still been known to cry. But editing – fixing (correcting) what is wrong with your manuscript – is an essential part of the process.

The trouble with a big edit is that it feels like an insurmountable problem. How can you possibly make all of these changes when every single change you make affects the entire story?

The answer, of course, is that you climb that insurmountable mountain one step at a time.

I’ve got some tips on how to edit your own writing here, and some tips from a professional editor here.


I call it courage. Others, as one person on Twitter told me in no uncertain terms [insert eyeroll emoji], call it confidence. Perhaps it’s a blend of the two.

It’s the blind faith that will carry you through the process of sitting alone in a room for the countless hours it takes to write your novel, then the countless hours of hard graft it takes to edit your novel and then, right at the very end, the sheer will it takes to press ‘send’ to either submit your work to a traditional publisher or publish your work yourself – and it is not for the faint-hearted.

Putting your thoughts on the page and then handing them over to someone else to read isn’t easy.

Dealing with rejection isn’t easy.

There are a lot of people out there who say they’re going to ‘write a novel one day’.

To me, it takes courage to try.

Are 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.

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

And check out So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job), co-authored with Valerie Khoo and based on our top-rating podcast.

12 writing books for teen writers

12 writing books for teen writers

12 writing books for teen writers | allisontait.comLast week I found myself compiling a list of books about writing for a young writer I know. She’s 15, enthusiastic, stymied by the parameters of writing for school assignments, hungry for information, encouragement and advice.

I tried to give her book suggestions that would open up the world of writing for her, beyond those school assignments, give her some craft tips in a not-too-serious way, and also, perhaps, take her writing into different areas.

Some of them are personal recommendations, some of them are Book Boy‘s recommendations, and some of them are recommendations from authors I’ve interviewed on the podcast.

It occurred to me that there are probably a lot of teen writers out there just like her, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share my list.

So here it is (click on the title to read more about each book or to buy at Booktopia). Just in time for the holidays.

12 books about writing for teen writers

On Writing by Stephen King

This is my favourite book about writing, hands down, and Book Boy (15) loved it, too. You can read his review here. Half-memoir, half-writing craft, it’s a no-nonsense page-turner about writing.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day.

We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.

Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” – Anne Lamott

I first read those words about 20 years ago and they perfectly sum up, for me, the process of getting a book written. One word, one page, at a time. It’s another memoir/writing book combined, with a lot of inspiration and motivation in its pages.

Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

This one comes recommended by international bestselling children’s author Andy Griffiths, who talked about it at length in episode 65 of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast.

Here’s a snippet from the interview with Andy Griffiths:

“I discovered a book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, who was very keen on writers putting the hours in and putting the practice in. She has a method of time writing practice, which was to write non-stop on any subject without editing, without thinking, without trying to control it – just get words on the page for a five-minute period and then repeat it again and again and again.

“That allows you to access your subconscious without the editing function getting in the way, going, ‘Well, that’s a bit silly,’ or, ‘That’s a bit rude,’ or, ‘That’s not appropriate, as if bums could grow arms and legs. Let’s get onto something a bit more realistic.’ You need to escape that voice when you’re getting the raw material on the page. You bring it in later to edit what you’ve done and to tidy it up. But, too often it’s fused at the creation stage, so people are very timid and very restricted in what they feel they can write.”

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Another book that is often recommended on the podcast. Children’s author Tristan Bancks, for instance, is a big fan, and talked about it in episode 201, as did children’s author Jen Storer, in episode 98. If you ever hear people talking about doing their ‘morning pages’, you can bet they’ve read this book. It’s a great way to encourage teens to keep a journal.

The Writing Book: A Workbook for Fiction Writers by Kate Grenville

I have a tattered and ancient copy of this book, which was the first book on writing I ever bought for myself (I was probably about 20 or 21 at the time). I love this one because it is practical, hands-on and Australian. I have given it to Book Boy, as much to help with his English assessments as his writing. For detailed, accessible information about point of view, dialogue and other techniques, it’s a winner.

Everything I Know About Writing by John Marsden

This was published in 1998 and I have only just discovered its existence (I know, where have I been?). I promptly bought a copy for Book Boy (okay, for me) as everything John Marsden knows about writing is surely worth reading. I am hoping Book Boy will review it once he’s read it, and I’ll edit this post with the review once it’s available.


The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking The Poet Within by Stephen Fry

I bought this one for Book Boy, who loved it (see his thoughts here), finding it equal parts instruction and entertainment.

Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve just bought this one for Book Boy after it was recommended to me as a terrific book on creativity. In this post on Medium by Chris Castiglione, it’s described thus:

“In 1903 Franz Kappus (a 17-year-old student) wrote the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (27 years old) asking his advice on becoming a writer.

The book is a collection of Rilke’s replies over a series of ten letters. In the letters Rilke beautifully articulates advice on topics of creativity, dealing with criticism, inspiration, love, life, and loneliness.”

Grammar & Punctuation

The Elements Of Style (Strunk and White)

Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Punctuation matters. I’m sorry, but it does. As I tell kids when I do author talks and workshops, ‘think of it as a toolkit to help readers decode your words. You want them to get the message exactly as you intended, not some weird, cryptic guess.’

These two books take different approaches to the same subject – S&W is the classic, ESL is the contemporary – but every teen writer should have at least one.


Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

Billing itself as ‘the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need’, this was the first book on screenwriting I ever read and I found it invaluable for writing fiction of any kind. As a bonus, it helps to watch the movies that are mentioned in the book, so offers hours of useful procrastination as well. Teens will find it very readable and really helpful for learning about the structure of stories.

Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo

There are now two volumes of this collection with this one, the first, being the classic edition, featuring songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, k. d. lang and more. The second volume (More Songwriters On Songwriting) includes Patti Miller, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Loretta Lynn and more.

I bought the first one for Book Boy, who writes his own songs, and have enjoyed dipping in an out of it myself for the insight into the creative process of some of the world’s best songwriters.

So there you have it. Some books for teens about writing*. Have you or your teens got any recommendations to add? Please share them in the comments!


So You Want To Be A Writer book by Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo*You will note that I didn’t put So You Want To Be A Writer, my new book with Valerie Khoo, on this list. The main reason for that is that, at 15, my young writer friend is still in that beautiful space of having time to write, think, and explore the craft of writing.

So You Want To Be A Writer is a book about deciding on the kind of writer you want to be, making it work outside a day job (to begin with), approaching writing as a business, making it fit within your life, getting in touch with your creativity, getting the words written. I will give it to my 15-year-old friend in a few years, as a high-school graduation gift. Buy it here for yourself or someone you know.

Meet ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’ the BOOK

Meet ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’ the BOOK

It’s been a big year for the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast team!

Not only have we screamed past the ONE MILLION download mark (you’ll find my 15 favourite interviews here), with a LIVE event at VIVID Sydney (book now!) in the works, but we’re happy to announce that we’ve written a book!

So You Want To Be A Writer book by Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo

So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job) by Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo will be on sale from 8 June (be at our event to be the first to own it!)

Here’s the blurb

The ultimate guide to making your writing dreams come true!

Want to write a novel or earn an income as a freelance writer, but not sure how to go about it? Authors Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo – co-hosts of the popular So You Want To Be A Writer podcast – will give you the steps you need to make your dream a reality.

In this book, you’ll discover everything you need to be a successful writer, including how to connect with people who will help your career grow and productivity tips for fitting everything into your already busy life. You’ll also explore how to keep your creative juices flowing and where to find other writers just like you.

This book lays out a blueprint to help you get started and thrive in the world of words. With advice from over 120 writers, you’ll tap into proven wisdom and find the path that will lead YOU to success!

Here’s what five of Australia’s favourite authors have said about the book

‘Practical, grounded and inspiring. When a thousand voices tell you that you can’t, you need a voice to make you believe you can. This book is that voice.’
Candice Fox, #1 New York Times bestselling author

‘So many pro tips in here from working writers. This is like Tim Ferriss’s Tools of Titans but exclusively for writers. I loved it.’
Tristan Bancks, award-winning children’s author

‘Perfect for the person who wants to write but doesn’t have the confidence or the know-how to start.’
Pamela Hart, award-winning historical fiction author

‘Essential reading for any aspiring writer.’
Graeme Simsion, international bestselling author

‘Val and Al were a godsend to me before I was published, offering a guided tour to the world of publishing that was otherwise closed to me. Their advice is highly, highly recommended.’  
Dervla McTiernan, international bestselling author

And here’s a picture of the co-authors on the day (nearly a year ago) we decided to write a book

Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait So You Want To Be A Writer book.

We are thrilled to bring this book to our podcast audience, our writing community and to new and aspiring writers everywhere. It will be available through a range of online booksellers, here and overseas, so stay tuned for more details.

If you’d like to read more about So You Want To Be A Writer the book, or register your details to receive notice as soon as the book is on sale, you’ll find all the details here.

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.

My 15 favourite podcast interviews from one million downloads

My 15 favourite podcast interviews from one million downloads

Last week, So You Want To Be15 favourite interviews from 1,000,000 downloads | allisontait.com A Writer, the podcast that I co-host with the wonderful Valerie Khoo from the Australian Writers’ Centre, ticked over a new milestone: one million downloads.

One. Million.

To mark the occasion, I thought I’d share my favourite author interviews since we began recording the podcast.

To be clear, I’ve enjoyed every single interview that I’ve recorded for the podcast. I have learnt something from every one, and have been astounded by the generosity of the authors to whom I’ve spoken.

But these are the ones that I remember the most, for a whole range of reasons. They’ve given me ‘aha’ moments. They’ve made me laugh. They’ve stayed with me.

If you haven’t discovered So You Want To Be A Writer, I hope you’ll begin your journey with these interviews.

If you’re a longtime fan, thank you so much for listening and helping us to reach such an extraordinary milestone. And I hope that perhaps you’ll have a second listen to these episodes, to see why I love them so much.

Click the author name and episode to listen/read the interview transcript.

Adrian McKinty, episode 97

I confess that I dragged Adrian on to the podcast simply because I am such a fan of his Sean Duffy crime novels, and I laughed so much during this engaging, rambling interview that I ended up an even bigger fan.

Andrew Faulkner, episode 101

This was a classic example of an interview ending up WAY more interesting than I ever expected. Andrew is a journalist and biographer and our discussion about his military biography ‘Stone Cold’ ranged far and wide.

Andy Griffiths, episode 67

How could I not include the most serious conversation about ‘bums’ I’ve ever had? Children’s author Andy Griffiths gave a masterclass on writing craft.

Anna Spargo-Ryan, episode 110

Anna is a dear friend and our discussion was part interview, part catch up. She continues to write some of the most beautiful sentences I’ve ever read.

Dervla McTiernan, episode 271

Our most recent episode and a thoughtful and incredibly engaging interview about crime novels and the double-sided nature of fortune.

Fiona Mcintosh, episode 264

“Nobody cares about your book,” says this bestselling author and that, along with some other blunt advice about the writing industry, is why this interview is a favourite.

Garry Disher, episode 196

Considered and articulate writing tips delivered in a very, very soothing voice.

Jackie French, episode 214

I think what I loved most about all the writing tips and advice in this interview was how unexpected they were. Jackie takes ‘read lots, write lots’ to a whole different level.

Karen Foxlee, episode 257

This children’s author and her ‘puddle of words’ writing process (so very different to my own) will stay with me for a long time. One of the episodes that reminded me to always stay open to other ways.

Marisa Pintado, episode 182

A really insightful look at the publishing process and the role of a publisher and editor in children’s and YA fiction.

Michael Robotham, episode 26

I’m not sure what it is about crime authors, but they really are the most personable and generous people. Michael says he looks like, and I quote, ‘a kitten killer’, but he takes us inside the daily routine and writing process of an international-bestselling author.

Nick Earls, episode 28

My overwhelming memory of this interview is that it could have gone on for days. Looking at the transcription, it was definitely one of the longer ones, but that’s because I was finding it all so damn interesting!

R.A Spratt, episode 268

Again, honesty is at the heart of this interview with bestselling children’s author Rachel (R.A) Spratt. She gives a very straight-forward insight into the business of writing for children.

Sarah Keenihan, episode 125

Science writer Sarah gave us great insight into the art and craft of blending scientific knowledge and words.

Sophie Green, episode 194

In a former life, Sophie was my literary agent, and nobody was more thrilled than I was when her debut novel went gangbusters. Our interview ranged across many topics, from the writing process to how to get published.



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 So You Want To Be A Writer podcast for more amazing writing tips.

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