Saturday, 8 September 2012


It's great to kill people ... in fiction.

For my Novel subject this year, I'm writing a young adult book. The subject? Why, zombies, of course! But this is an Australian take on zombie lore. And my story is set on the number 112 tram in Melbourne.

Chapter one. Late one rainy Monday evening, Ash and his friend, Dunc, are coming home from school after staying back to study. The tram they're on is involved in a bingle with a car. Then out of the darkness comes — you guessed it — a zombie, who attacks a driver. They fend off the walking dead and the tram sets off. As they leave, the streetlights start going out.

Chapter two. They are travelling on the tram, on their way to the terminus in Preston. A zombie attacks the passengers. Two of them die. They resume their journey, and all of the lights in the surrounding area go out.

Chapter three, part one. The tram arrives at the ambulance station near the end of the line, but there's no-one there to help them. They continue on to the terminus, where Ash and Dunk disembark to go to Ash's house. The boys are menaced by a zombie but manage to make it to Ash's place.

I had to break the third chapter as it this point as it was starting to get really long. That, and I ran out of time to complete the rest of it for class. Did I mention that it's also waaaay over the word limit? We need to complete around 8,000 words of the novel this year. I'm currently sitting at 15,000, and I still have to produce a piece for next term to workshop. Yikes. Oh well, better to have too much than too little, I say.

So, that's where I'm up to with my novel project. The rest of the chapter — and indeed the whole novel — is completely plotted out and ready to be written. This was one of the assessments for the class, to help us understand where our story is going. It's been great to me to have that structure to work with. It also gave me a much better understanding of my characters. Now, all I need to do it continue writing!

Producing a chapter each term is in itself a bit daunting. As I've mentioned, setting out to write a novel requires planning, plotting and a goodly amount of dedication to the work. This was all entirely new to me. We then take the chapter to class, where the group workshops it. It was a bit nerve-racking for me at first. I mean, I've had feedback on my business writing in my working life, but creative writing is a whole different kettle of fish.

I think it could become really possessive of your work, even defensive. I'm lucky, though, that I have a great group of fellow students, who are encouraging and supportive. They praise what works and suggest changes to what doesn't. After workshopping, we take in the suggested changes, and we submit the piece for assessment each term.

Our teacher, Louise Le Nay, is fantastic. She is helpful and patient and an endless source of knowledge on writing. It's no surprise that our Novel class is widely considered to be the favourite subject in our course. Louise is a novelist herself, having had The Hero published by Allen and Unwin in 1996. Unfortunately, it's currently out of print, but we've suggested to her to reissue it as an ebook. Stay tuned.

Louise is also something of a legend in Australian television, having appeared in the original cast of Prisoner. She then went on to be a script writer and editor for numerous Australian TV shows. Her experience has been invaluable to us in the course. Many of us have a cinematic eye when it comes to writing, and Louise's in sharply honed.

Next term will see me continuing writing the rest of chapter three of my novel. Who knows: maybe it will even get legs? Maybe I'll finish it, then edit the hell out it, and try for a publisher. Watch this space ...

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