Tag Archives: rmit


As my last, incredulous post shows, our novel teacher this year actually understands genre writing. This is fab. I had somehow thought that it would bleed into her selections for our reading list, too (that I wouldn’t be stuck trying to apply the techniques Sebald uses in Austerlitz to my romance novel).

Silly me. Studying genre fiction? In a serious writing course? Not even RMIT would go there.

Still, before I had been disabused of my optimism, I approached Peter Temple’s Truth thinking, “Here’s a crime novel! I suspect I have a lot of interesting things to learn from the genre, that’s applicable to my writing! I suspect it will be an engaging, invigorating read!”

Here’s the opening line:

On the Westgate Bridge, behind them a flat in Altona, a dead woman, a girl really, dirty hair, dyed red, pale roots, she was stabbed too many times to count, stomach, chest, back, face.

Before you assume it’s the violence – it’s not. It’s the fact that it took me a good couple of minutes in real time to figure out what the hell it meant. They were on the Westgate Bridge, but somehow Altona was behind them? Behind figuratively? Are they in front of the flat, but mentally on the Westgate Bridge? Has the woman maybe jumped off the Bridge but the Altona flat, her home, is there with them as a non-physical factor?


So far, I hate this book. The dialogue makes no sense, the not-dialogue is overly wordy – which my writing is, too, to be fair – but in a “these are just the facts, I draw no conclusions” kind of way. It fells very, very male, if that’s a fair thing to say. (It’s probably not.)

I assume I don’t understand the pace and rhythm of the genre. This is, most likely, what someone would feel like stumbling on a romance novel for the first time, if love wasn’t really their thing.

But honestly, would it be too much to study just one genre novel in the year? Considering the percentage of genre to literary writers in the class is more like 50, that seems more than fair.

writing out loud vs. honing your craft

The reason Ward’s advice to “write out loud” resonated so much with me is that after a year of studying writing I’m looking around wondering where the hell my voice went.

I’ve been studying Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT, and it is a mind-blowingly good course. My novel teacher is Sonia Orchard, and she knows her stuff. Her critiques are to the point and always pertinent.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that I have become a much better writer this year. I’ve learnt about the drama underlying a scene and the 80% of the story underlying the novel. I’ve learnt about detail and showing and about what can be ruthlessly edited out.

But it’s taken me the whole year to realise that all those things are important…to a second draft.

I was trying to re-write the first chapter of my novel, and I wasn’t feeling it. Then half-way through it dawned on me: I was writing a really good scene. And I was writing the things that agents and editors “look for” (they don’t, really – what they look for is passionate writing, whatever that looks like).

I wasn’t writing what I love. What makes me fizzle and spark inside and want to know more.

I had Sonia in my head saying Melodramatic! What does this mean? Would they really say that back then?

We all know that a first draft should be uninhibited. But I think Ward’s advice goes beyond that. She’s not just saying be uninhibited, she’s saying be so honest you find parts of your brain you never even knew you had.

Craft is important. Voice and passion are vital.