Taking the Long Way Home


Maite’s Rest outside of Apollo Bay

I’ve been musing on when I started writing, yup there’s the dolphin notebook that contains my very first story, but something else has been on my mind besides that. You see I used to write just a whole bunch of dialogue, I thought I had covered that here, but I may have been dreaming it (or my skimming skills really aren’t that great), so I’m going to talk about the first time I broke out of my dialogue norm and added in some descriptions. This happened at one of my class at Flinders and I still remember very vividly what it was like (check out what I thought about the writing degrees I’ve done here). The piece was really short, so short that I was almost tempted to grab my hard drive and find it for you, but that would be waaaay too embarrassing, trust me, but the piece was about somewhere where we felt familiar. I remember getting the inspiration from being in the city. Rundle Mall, is Adelaide’s tiny, tiny version of Bourke St Mall and when I first started uni I never really went into the city much because I never needed to. I worked around the corner from my house and everything was so easy, but it had a common thread, when i did go into the city, I had to catch a bus and here lies my inspiration.

PT can single handed be part of where I’m the most creative. I read on buses, trains, planes. I write hell of a better on them too (hello 1.5k on a 50 min plane ride home), I’m just more at home on them, despite them being the bane of my existence because they can’t pick e up from my door or take me shopping whenever I need to. PT is great for inspiration! Trust me (I dare you to go out and try it, seriously).

This story was all about a girl getting off the bus and meeting a boy (I’m obsessed with girl meets boy stories, don’t ask me why, they just fascinate me!) and I remember picturing the paved shopping strip so vividly in my mind, the sounds of the people bustling around and the smells. It was in this moment that I decided to change my writing style. It was always so full of dialogue and a little bit about scenery. I changed it up and had little to no talking in it and I had my tutor ask me why I decided to do this. He flat out asked me and it scared me shitless, but my answer still amazes me today: I wanted to write differently and this is different to what I normally did. He was silent. And moved on. I don’t actually remember much else of what he said. I just remember my reaction and that is what I’m getting at today.

Writing is a journey, it’s pushing yourself forward in a way you didn’t know how to before, it’s all about making sure that you explain how the details work so that your reader can get it too. You want to put your reader on that long trail home, you want to explain to them how the sand feels between their toes or how the salty breeze fills your nostrils. Everything. All of it. But you have to hold back. There is a difference between word vomit and over showing.

Sometimes telling (they tell you this is a HUGE no no in every writing course you’ll do) is better. Why does everyone need to know how a character gets from A to B? I learned this out the hard way when I was going through my manuscript with my mentor. I showed way too much and now I’m pulling back, but trusting your reader is essential too. Sometimes people can’t fill in the gaps, but majority of them will. So while you take the long scenic route home, remember to exclude the bits of dribble that mentions your narrator moving when it’s already assumed. We trust you, trust your writers.

ps. I’ve just rewritten my about me page. You should check it out here. It’s still in the drafting process, but I pushed publish on something that I wasn’t ready for. That’s a win in my book.

Mandi is a writer, reader, dreamer and is breaking procrastinating inner editors, one at a time.

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