Writers Block Workshop Notes May15

These are notes I jotted down from ‘Writers Block Workshop, Robina Library, 9th May 2015′ – Jill Smith©May15

Louise the librarian and organiser of the event introduced the first speaker.

Dave Burton Brisbane based play writer, with a soon to be released memoir.

Yes, he had a power point presentation, and with his engaging wit the time and information flowed happily.

The Writing Craft – was his topic

dave burton bio picDave started by saying ‘Craft’ is a dangerous word, he has taught writing and editing the overview of this talk would be:

1     manufacture an environment so you can write as to many writing is instinctive and creating that space allows you to sharpen the tools you already have

2     basic of language is important

3    self motivated discipline to allow you to write endlessly

Draw on your value and philosophies to writes from life experience, there will be trial and error and some dumb luck involved.

The main tip – SHUT UP AND DO IT!!!

Every word you write makes it better, get the writing commitment.

Dave explained that he has read many ‘Draft Zero’s’ which are the sketch, the whisper, the private conversation between the author and the page written when the writer is in the grips of an exciting idea, and the weird fairy Godmother demanded a story be written.

When the writer wants to bring it out into the cold light of day they often ask someone to read it and ask – Is this a thing?

Often the writer does get the ‘Draft Zero’ done and then lets it sit in a draw.

The next main tip – KEEP GOING!!

Writing is a marathon and the biggest obstacle is yourself.

the c word David Burton Claire Christian

David went on to explain that he was fortunate a small production company run by Andy Barclay took up his play ‘Lazarus won’t get out of Bed.’

Writers need to go through the draft process to the other side.dave burton casual

Generally he doesn’t show anyone his draft Zero.

Writers need to build confidence and then really go for it.

When someone is asked to read a draft zero the writer should be asking them questions about the draft, such as:

Do I have too many characters?  Is the theme strong enough?

It’s ok to be bad on the first draft. Good writing takes time.

Do a lot of work. Work will be as good as your ambition. Follow that taste and believe in your instinct.

Now is the easiest time to get published.

Writing needs time. Allow for it to be crap for a bit, or at least not as good as it could be.

Use your ‘Following’ on Blog etc to get it better. Write ‘Fan’ fiction to get writing.

thoughtful Dave BurtonFIND YOUR VOICE

Good writing is clear, distilling the foggy into the comprehensible.

CLARITY – Is it clear? Words don’t get in the way.

The challenge is with Fan Fiction as the backbone, a way to find absurd things to write about with hundreds of other people writing stories.

Reliance on the memory of the subject, sit inside the memory. Imagine the scene as clear as possible.ernest hemingway

‘Write hard and clear about what hurts.’ Ernest Hemingway

Write for one person. Writing is telling a story to someone.


The story is for your reader.  Who’s your perfect reader? What does their day look like? What kind of music do they like?

Know your audience. What would they think of this?

It’s way less about seeming impressive and way more for helping. What are you giving your readers?


Dave admits to being a Pop Culture nerd – Sci Fi/Fantasy

When he writes he is being creative and doesn’t look back.

Editing is a skill in itself. He can be very critical as an Editor.

Good writing is clear. Can we understand it? Does it make sense?

Essential Principles of Editing

  • Good writing is clear?
  • Does the sentence make us want to read the next sentence?
  • Edit up – start at the bottom – Who are these people? What is their objective? Is it clear? Is the character speaking realistically? Then look at the sentences.

You are your own best editor, and the cheapest, but if you want to get help, choose carefully.

brisbane (a doing word) Dave BurtonREAD

Disect a show you like and work out what works.

Stories are rivers, they move, if it’s sitting still, get rid of it. Engines move.

Moving the story quickly, keep consequence to action clear.

Writers have two jobs , the Writer and the Editor.


Writing and Publishing is weird. Read and if you find yourself stopping, know why you are stopping.

Create daily rituals – That’s how artists work. Form a habit to write building something.

Find a time of the day when you can focus.

Join Writing Groups such as Queensland Writers Centre – Writing Queensland magazine, or Play writers – Play Lab.GCW Festival Day3 Lit Lunch2012 005

Attend workshops like this one to meet people.

Dave then said he is still learning and his soon to be released memoir ‘How To Be Happy’ is a result of him asking questions.


After morning tea, Librarian Louise got up to explain about the Library facilities.

Online Library – What do you need?

Gold Coast Library offers research aids, newspapers and magazines are available from now and a previous era. Digitised history, writers can view headlines to get a feel for speech/style.

Gold Coast History images can help with research

TROVE is a great resource for writers – http://trove.nla.gov.au       

Scan old images, old newspapers, family history and describing clothing.

Steven King On Writing coverLooking for a book?  Louise then gave a rundown of how to go to the Catalogue page and narrow the search. Browse virtual shelves and find similar books.

Books not in the Library Collection can be sourced by 1 a request to purchase or 2 can access through inter library loan through universities. The Library does not pass that cost on. Rates pay for the Libraries.Elements of Style book cover William Strunk

As Isobelle Carmody still had not appeared, and David Burton was at the back of the room, he offered to continue his presentation. With a rousing applause the audience of writers eagerly awaiting knowledge gladly accepted his generosity.

David started by saying two books every writer should read are:

The Element of Style by William Strunk – very concise style

Steven King On Writing

Synopsis writing is an entire skill

Critiques – if you can’t hear the criticism the story could be boring and needs more work.

Pick audience really carefully. Be specific with questions you are asking the reader to critique.

dave burton blue shirtTake the jump!

Get critiqued, Manuscript appraisal and ask questions about the problems posed, is the story clear about what way it’s going. If it’s not OK, let’s get help or put it aside and re-edit with a problem solving voice.

Sit down, start writing, no excuses.  Brian O’Hanlon

You fail only if you stop writing!


dave burton bio picWriting a Synopsis

You’ve got an entire manuscript of approx 10,000 words

The Synopsis must be very clear it is the ultimate test of clarity

When he writes he keeps a Synopsis document open

How do you describe your book? – 1 page, 1 paragraph, 1 sentence

Look at blurbs. This is the pitch.

Clarity – Who is it for?

The Synopsis is

1 This is what the book is about.

2 This is who the book is for.

3 Simply, clearly, spell out the plot. It’s not just this happened, this happened, then this happened next , just get to the essence of what it is about.

Readers need to be emotionally moved.

How to be Happy Dave Burton MemoirPublishers are not emotional. They just want to know if it is worth the investment. Pitch as a series.

Good synopsis keeps you honest.

The Cover Letter is different, it does 1, 2 and 3 above but this is about you. It’s about selling yourself.

Self Publishing, you really need to know your genre. Research the AMAZON market.

Louise chipped in, you can practice your pitch, find your market and find the factors that appeal  by searching Genre, Sub genre, know key words. Ask a Librarian.

Market – This book – This person

Key – writers know no only books but about writers

On line writing Blogs offer a gigantic library through the Internet.



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