Aspiring Young Writers’ Group: Modus Operandi




“What’s a check chain?”


Until recently I had no idea such a thing even existed, so when Amy brought it up in our latest writer’s room all I could do was ask.


“It’s used to teach dogs trust while being walked,” she responds. “It’s supposed to stop both you and the dog pulling too hard so you’ll both just take a natural pace.”


I look it up and immediately it seems familiar. “How did I miss that all this time?”


So, why’s this come up? well according to my friends, this is what’s holding back my characters. I’m simply yanking their chains too much.


“You’ve just got to let them follow their noses, man,” says Jim. “They won’t work if you feel the need to squeeze them into boxes. Worry about who they are, not how they’ll come across.”


I’d probably agree with this assessment even without the prompt. I often feel like I’m trying to capture an impression rather than deliver a statement.


Goodness, I sound like some pretentious arts student (oh wait… I am one).


Still though, as much as I think intent is important it’s never healthy to obsess too much over what reactions we’ll get. All that’ll do is jam up your creativity.


So, Jim and Amy tend to be discovery writers, letting things unfold from what seems natural with an open path ahead. I’m more of a planner, wanting to have an outline down in advance of what the story will do.


“I can understand wanting something to fall back on when you get stuck,” Jim’s says. “But I feel if I know my characters well enough they’ll naturally do what the story needs. An outline’s probably great for a complicated story like yours, but don’t be too afraid to deviate from the path.”


Again, he’s right, but my typical response is “the plan’s more a guideline than a rule.” Methodology’s often the only thing we will get to disagreeing about, but even then, only mildly. Perhaps though we could benefit from a decent stoush sometime? Just to change things up a bit.


“So, ‘Pantsers’ (so named for flying by the seat of their pants) and ‘Plotters’,” I now bring up in reference to our two schools of thought. “You guys have likely heard lots of other writers mention these, yeah?”


Jim and Amy agree, us concluding that they’re more the former and I the latter.


“Personally, I prefer some lesser known terms, ‘Gardeners’ and ‘Architects’,” I continue.


“Yeah,” adds Jim. “Think I like those better too. They sum it up a lot better.”


“Like one’ll tend something’s natural growth and the other will design it before putting it up,” says Amy, concise as always.


So now coming again to another reading, I introduce my latest offering in typical fashion. “Sorry there ain’t as much as I’d like this week guys.”


“Hey that’s understandable,” says Amy. “Things can get busy, and besides I’ll often have big chunks of time where I don’t get anything done.”


“Yeah, but whenever we’ve sat down and written together you always smash out way more, way faster than me,” I respond. “wish I could write like that.”


“Hey that’s just my style,” she answers. “I’ll go a while without writing and then once in a good while when I’ve got plenty of time and the right space, I’ll get a really big amount done.”


“Interesting,” I say. “With me it’s more just taking a small amount of time every day to get something out. It’s often only in small amounts but I make a point of it being a daily exercise.”


“Hey, different things work for different people,” adds Jim. “But based on both your offerings each week it seems either strategy works just as well.”


Jim will often have some sound advice that’ll renew my confidence, though here I still don’t miss the opportunity to say “Yeah, but I feel I could still be a lot more disciplined. The daily word quota I’ve got is pretty meagre.”


“No need to make it seem like a chore, man,” he says. “Sometimes I sense that in your writing. But hey, you’ve also seen the times we’ve found your stuff really fun to read. Whatever you’re doing there, we know you can do it right.”


That’s what I love about our dynamic. Helpful criticism and encouraging praise all round, with a healthy dose of critical thinking to always put things back in perspective. Knowing we’ve all got our strong areas that benefit us and are helpful to guide others is invigorating.


“Your logic’s always sharp mate, and your prose is pretty damn mint as well,” says Jim. “And Amy, your instincts for character and scene are just as on point.” He sure ain’t wrong there.


“Let’s not forget you with dialogue though, man,” I reply. “It shows that yours is good, but your ability helps ours really affirms your talent for it.”


However we each chose to get things done, our different techniques are never any hindrance to being able to help each other’s work. Appreciation or suggestion always work well in tandem, regardless of methodology.




Read Ben Kirkby’s Aspiring Writers’ Group columns HERE.




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About Ben Kirkby

Ben moved to Melbourne at the start of 2016 from country NSW. Shortly after declaring his intent to live in Melbourne permanently, his uncle Sam suggested "If you're going to live here you've got to get along to the footy at some point". After seeing his first football match (Hawthorn vs Sydney, round 9 2016) Ben's interest in AFL took off in a way highly unexpected by both himself and his extended family. Ben's team alignment was uncertain for a time, seeing an interest taken primarily toward Hawthorn during much of the 2016 season, but during the finals series he declared his intent to follow the way of his cousins and uncle and become a Richmond Supporter, primarily on the grounds of them being the team he most wanted to see win, among a long list of other reasons. Needless to say the following year saw him very happy with his choice.


  1. Yes, I'm that Amy says

    Dude, summed up in such a beautiful way. And damn, you’ve nailed our voices, I can completely hear Jim’s saying all this.

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