Chipping away, slowly, ever so slowly


The good news? I’m writing again! The bad news? I am sloth-like in my progress. But anything is better than nothing and keeping that screenplay tucked up in my head in its warmest, flannel pyjamas won’t get it any closer to being finished.

I’m in the mid-section of the story and it’s hit a dull patch. I know that the last three scenes I wrote are probably going to end up in the editing bin, to be replaced by one of my two main characters reading out a section of a story in the newspaper, but for now, I’m plugging away so that I can tease out the B stories and ensure they are supporting my A story and driving things irredeemably toward the inevitable but not obvious ending. Easy peasy Japanesie, right? We’ll see 😉

But at least I’m writing again. It’s been a while but I’ve finally found enough determination and discipline to get myself off Solitaire and Wordament and into Final Draft. I do love my protagonist, so I am hell bent on getting her story written.

What are you working on and how do you stay focussed?

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Getting a bead on a character

How do you get a bead on a character? When I was writing short fiction I found that the details of a character’s physical appearance didn’t really matter. I liked to give the reader the mental space to create her or his own image and to make the character into anything they wanted to make it.

Since I’ve been writing films (that sounds so grand – I am actually only on my first), I’ve found that, in addition to being quite a different discipline from written stories, screenplays are all about the visual. Now, that sounds like a blinding glimpse of the bloody obvious, but until you attempt it, it’s really hard to understand. For the past six months as I’ve working in extreme slow time on this script (life keeps nibbling away at my quiet time lately), I’ve been finding it really hard to picture one of my characters. I realised eventually that I had the wrong name for my character – once I changed his name (from Alex to Josh), an image burst into my brain (of Josh Holloway, naturally) and the character just clicked into place. I mean, I had his ‘back story’ all sorted, I had his ‘arc’ mapped out and I knew what kind of man he is, but I just couldn’t pin him down. Now I have, I’m really happy. I know it’s an extreme long shot that the film would get made and it’s an even longer shot that we’d get Mr Holloway, but that’s actually irrelevant right now. It’s important, because now I have the second of my two central characters sorted, I can move forward in creating challenges and tension for my main character, Angie. Boy, is she in for a hard road ahead!

So, dear reader, how do you get a bead on your characters?

Josh Holloway

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On Anzac Day, a story of loss and longing

Today marks 100 years since Australia lost thousands of its young men on Turkish shores, at the place now known as Anzac Cove. The magnitude of the losses of human life is unimaginable a century later.

As a woman, I might think differently about war than the men who were sent to the battle front in the world wars. I know I think a lot about the families left behind, especially the women with small children and babies. I wrote a story about it several years ago and I thought I would share it again, in the spirit of Anzac Day 2015.


Across the Ocean
Lily Mulholland

Love waits for me across the ocean, abandoned more than once. Once I promised her there would be no more voyages, I would turn my hands to farming instead. Instead I sailed away from her. Her fidelity undiminished despite this broken pledge, she waits for me, a beacon to guide me back to land. Land is now but a memory, adrift I have been on these seas, a compass without a map, a star without a night’s sky for weeks, nay, months.

Months slip away until I know not when I last saw my heart, alone, waving from the headland as my boat left the bay and entered the turgid seas, black as the clouds that hovered above, threatening to engulf her where she stood, with an arm raised in farewell.

‘Farewell, my husband,’ she said to me that morning, tears sparkling in her eyes the way sunlight shimmers upon dappled waves. Waves of regret assailed me, forcing me to my knees to encircle her waist with my arms, to bury my head in her burgeoning belly, fecund and full with my child. Child of mine I am yet to see, to smell, to hold. Hold on to the thought of me, for I shall return to claim you as my own, teach you what I have learnt of the world, guide you through the narrow straits of life, give you the father you have met only in your dreams.

Dreams guide me across the water, filling the wind-whipped canvas with snatched images, ballast to the torment in my mind. Mind tricks prey on the unsuspecting sailor, visions of death drive out the living. Living day to day, I mark notches in my soul, chipping away piece by piece the nourishing memories that sustain me until the day the ocean is behind me and I can return to my waiting love.


My love dies a little every day I am left unprotected on these untrustworthy shores. Shores bearing witness to many a ruined marriage, a coast of familial shipwrecks, teeming with cunning and hidden shoals.

Shoals of abandoned wives swim through town as one, pitying and despising each other in equal part, united in their simmering rage, forsaken once again. Again I join these widow crews, helping where there is need. Need I see firsthand the pain that is coming when alone I birth this child of yours? ‘Yours’ is what he is – I can sense the wanderlust, the way he pummels me from the inside out, demanding to be freed. Freedom is what you guard so jealously, as you scud across the ocean. Oceans of gold, onyx, sapphire and jade you will never let me see.

See the way they swallow you. You drown each night in my sleep. Sleep brings no rest, choking me with terror. Terror that my love will die.

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Did you hear that whooshing sound?

Tux_Paint_lemon_slice_svgIt was the sound of a whole, entire year whizzing by. Is it really a year since I last posted? Apparently so. And I am still in the seventh circle of hell, with post-examination revisions to my dissertation still doing the rounds of the university.

I have managed a small amount of writing while awaiting responses from lecturers and professors various. My first screenplay is fully outlined and half-drafted. It’s a romantic drama and it’s been a great antidote to academic writing, which, I have discovered, I am not so good at! But I am not working on it at the moment – I am forcing myself to wait until I can resubmit my dissertation (for re-examination). The story ideas keep piling up in my brain, but I am not listening to them right now!

The upside of my MPhil being so hard to earn, is that when I finally do turn in a draft that meets Examiner B’s approval, I will feel that I have really, really earned this degree. It’s more than likely to be my last…although I could perhaps succumb to the learning bug in the future – but only if it’s on the subject of writing!

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Back in the saddle


Good news on the writing (procrastination) front! My 40,000-word MPhil dissertation was submitted on 19 March, with two external markers currently assessing it. I should hear back in late May as to what, if any (but likely), changes are required before the dissertation can be finalised and the degree awarded. I am so super-pleased to not have the draft hanging over my head any more, I can tell you! I am hopeful the revisions will be minor so that I can celebrate and move on with my life.

What this means is that, finally, my self-imposed fiction writing ban of the last two years is now ended. I am free to write creatively again, which now means I have to fend of writing paralysis! I have so many story ideas buzzing around in my head I am unsure really where to start. There is one story I really want to write (and it’s a screenplay), but I am a little afraid of starting as I don’t want to bugger it up! In order to avoid the buggering part, I have been researching screenwriting and screencraft. I’ve read (and mostly absorbed) Robert McKee’s ‘Story’, John Schimmel’s ‘Screenwriting Behind Enemy Lines: Lessons from Inside the Studio Gates’, and I’m about to read Blake Snyder’s ‘Save the Cat’. Let me know if there’s something else I should read!

Film is a fascinating form and I find the idea of writing a screenplay incredibly appealing. It’s also quite daunting as, just like in the world of literature, it is an incredibly competitive and challenging world to try to break into. Therefore, I will keep my focus on the writing and the story, rather than on trying to sell a product, as I truly believe that unless you have the most amazing work you can produce you’re pretty much wasting your time. Therefore, I am avoiding any deadlines (such as competition) or other pressures, as writing takes as long as it takes with me. What I do need to do, however, is start outlining my idea in terms of acts, scenes and beats to make sure I actually have a filmable story; it will need to be marketed at some stage!

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Inspiration through images

This makes me happy:

An image I submitted to Painted With Words provided the inspiration for four very short pieces of fiction (you can argue about whether it’s “Flash” or not in the comments). The photograph was taken in 2011 during a family excursion to the Canberra Glassworks.

The happiness extends not only from having one of my images published, but that four writers created new things out of their brains after seeing this picture (click on the above link to read the four very different stories).

Photography by Lily Mulholland

Photography by Lily Mulholland

And the reason this brings so much happiness is that I totally bummed out in an ACT Writers’ Centre workshop a few years ago when we had a very arty farty short story writer thrust postcard images at us and tell us to ‘write, just write’. Well, I wrote crap (not to put too fine a point on things) and the experience was a little scarring 🙂

Oh, you wanted to know about how my writing’s going? Well, if you count non-fiction, it’s going great! I’ve written more than 50,000 words in the past six months. If you don’t count academic writing, then, not so good. But the good news is, my longtime-coming MPhil dissertation is five weeks away from being submitted. And then, OMG I am SO ready to start writing creative fiction again. Bring it!

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Panaseeya rocking the national capital!


Well blow me down, our band, Panaseeya, has made it to the ACT finals for ABC TV’s Exhumed competition! The play-off is happening on Thursday 8 August 2013 at the Southern Cross Club in Canberra.

You can get your (free) tickets to the ACT finals here:

Come along and watch us battle it out with the four other bands selected from the Canberra region. It will be lots of fun and I hope to see you there.

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And now for some fun stuff…Panaseeya!

Panaseeya band photoIt’s not all doom and gloom right now. Although my writing is currently on hold, I have been doing some creating. I’ve joined with six of my classmates from college to form a band, which we’ve called Panaseeya. The course we’re doing is on strategic studies and the band name is tongue-in-cheek, as some people would like there to be a panacea for all national and international conflict. The band has so far played only one gig, but our second is planned for 24 August in Canberra, where we’ll be playing two sets. Our band is incredibly diverse: we have five guys and two girls, we have band members from Australia, Germany and Brunei, we play rock and pop and we have a great range of instruments, including sax and bagpipes!!

You can follow us on Facebook:

And on Twitter:

We’ve entered the Triple J ‘Exhumed’ competition for ‘mature’ musicians, so wish us luck!

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Disaster strikes…or, first world problems undo best laid plans, an academic I am not meant to be. My long-suffering MPhil thesis will remain in my life for a little longer: my annual progress review did not go according to plan and I am now about 6,000 words in the hole. New submission deadline is 31 March 2014. This means I’ll have a much better thesis, but that my fiction writing is on hold for the duration. Le sigh. #firstworldproblemsofmyownmaking

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Word counts, schmerd counts

581px-Word_Count_22000_svgIt’s a good thing word counts are excellent motivators for so many writers I know, but I have to confess I hate them! And it might not be for the reason you think. Some writers live by their word counts; seeing those figures tick up must give them a sense of achievement – good on ’em I say. But they don’t work for me. I’ll tell you why: I’ve written 32,500 words this year but I didn’t enjoy one of them. Why? Because they were all non-fiction/academic – for the two masters degrees I’m doing concurrently (yes, this is a self-inflicted wound). So, while I’ve chalked up the equivalent of a novella this year, my lovely stories remain in subconscious incubation and I remain completely frustrated as a writer!

On the upside (and fortunately I can always find one), I only have 24,000 words to go and both masters will be finished. Come the end of July, I’ll only 11,000 words left so can start getting some fiction downloaded from my brain. Given it’s the end of May, that’s not so far away, is it?

You still won’t find me posting about word counts. But you will find me happier and more satisfied!

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