Archive for the ‘PJ Reece’ Category

“If I were to write a play I’d write it any damn way I pleased and it would come out all right.” ~ Charles Bukowski. ~ “It makes me nervous to read those articles on playwriting, ‘A play must have a premise’ and so forth. I am afraid that the problems of our playwrights … is they are TOLD the proper way to do a thing.”

My thoughts exactly, Charles! Yes, folks, once again we get to visit one of my pet peeves, upon which I’m going to bestow a grand name – #WhySoManyRules?


Story is not born of convention or following the rules. Yes, we writers must be neat and tidy and write within the lines. To a point. Award-winning kiwi author, Kate de Goldi, put it this way. “I don’t care about the classifications of what constitutes children’s literature. I want to write articulate, textural, demanding fiction. I think current stories are lacking in complex structure, and nuance. Kids need more than a limited diction.”

Kate is my writing hero and I admire her attitude fiercely. She’s how brave I aim to be when I grow up.



You see, I feel stifled a lot of times by the laundry list of modern do’s and do-not’s for writing fiction. The “was police” won’t allow a single use of the word. Using gerunds is never allowed under any circumstances. Descriptive passages are an absolute “no-no.” Flashbacks should be avoided, the same goes for prologues and epilogues. The new one I hear is don’t include maps. And so on, and so forth.

Sometimes, I feel reduced to a kindergartner, unable to make a single coherent decision unassisted.


I’m immersed in the happy process at present, of refining the original vision of my book, ‘The Sasori Empire’ i.e. making presentable fiction through the steady process of attrition: the edit-critique-rewrite-critque-edit cycle.

The polishing is necessary but what I question is, do we really have to take out every ‘was, were, had?’ Can’t I use ‘ing’ once, or twice, or maybe thrice?

Why are there so many should’s and should-nots these days?


When I read classic bedtime stories to the kids, I realize how comforting the old style of writing was for the reader. The boys and I are currently reading Paddington. We all agree how much we’re enjoying the story.

Here’s a sample of the text (italics, mine):

‘The Browns were there to meet their daughter Judy, who was coming home from school for the holidays. It was a warm summer day and the station was crowded with people on their way to the seaside.’

This is a perfect example because a passage like this from Paddington would never get past an editor or critique reader today. You’d have to take all of the italicized words out. This is the sort of constrictive thinking I’m talking about for a writer in these times.


It was Maya Angelou who said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This is the truth. Any creative person will know this deeply. The wellspring within must find its outlet.

What do we do when the walls and structures of modern fiction hem us in, watering down our work? Diluting our inspiration?

We compromise. I do take out a lot of was words and gerunds and description in the editing process. But I don’t take them all out. I pick what goes and what stays by how it feels to me, and how important it is to the telling of my story.

As my dear friend, James Preller said when I wondered whether to quit early on editing my first book, “It’s your name on the spine.”

We need to seek that particular middle ground which will serve the spirit of this project.

A delicate balance can be found, I believe, between the popular expectations, and respect for the muse and our own writer’s voice.

We respect that our name will be on the spine of a book which may outlive us.


Chuck Wendig said, “Writing involves a series of stylistic choices. Sometimes these choices mean breaking rules. It’s okay to make these choices as an author. It’s okay to not like these choices as a reader. The end.”

When I started blogging, author and film-maker, PJ Reece responded to my first post. “The writing world needs more unedited truth. I can see it all now… fans showing up to hear ever more about the king with no clothes on. Is there not far too much conventional thinking in the wannabe writing world? Your site could be the antidote. I`m in! And all the best!

I don’t know about ‘unedited truth’ however, I can visit and re-visit the heck out of my pet peeves.


Do we need so many rules for our fiction? Agree or disagree?


Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


Don’t tell me what I’m doing, I don’t want to know. ~ Federico Fellini


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I’m a day late for posting with my fellow IWSG’ers, so please accept my apologies!

Wednesday (*cough, Thursday) is time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.



I haven’t been as uncomfortable as this in a long time. A friend who also happens to be one of the modern authors I most admire, will soon be reading my debut novel. I posted him a copy three days ago.

Now, the wait….

I’m suddenly very aware that it’s one thing to write a novel in the solitude of your room. It’s another to share it with your first critique partner or beta reader or editor. And then it’s a giant bound into a glaring stratosphere, to show your work to one of your writing heroes. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m so uncomfortable it’s a nightmare.

*mental note: this must be what ants-in-the-pants feel like.

The writer I’m talking about is PJ Reece, filmmaker, traveller and author of the excellent Story Structure to Die For, and Story Structure Expedition among many others.

story structure expedition

I first met PJ online, about three or four years ago, when he commented on a post published over on the excellent blog, The Write Practice.

Later on, PJ wrote a guest post for The Write Practice, on his writing theory of 2-Stories separated by a Story Heart.’

He explores the nature of writing fiction in a way that truly reflects the essence of why we’re here on this planet, and why we love fiction, on his blog, The Meaning of Life. PJ lights the way for other writers by his sheer willingness to dive deep into the real essence of himself. Then, he articulates how to bring reality into our fiction, and the transformations needed of our characters, relating the experience like a poet.


I think to do what he does, one has to have a very important trait and it’s a trait I seek to cultivate in myself. Pluck!

You see, last year, I self-published my debut novel. After weeks of procrastinating, I mustered up enough courage to ask PJ Reece to read it. However, I wasn’t sure if he would read ‘tween reading level.

PJ replied, ‘A good story is a good story no matter what the reading level.’

I was encouraged. However, truth be told, I chickened out and never sent it to him. Then he remembered a couple of weeks ago, and well, long story short, a copy of my debut novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ is en route to Canada as we speak.

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I see a lot of pluck in all of PJ Reece’s work which is why I admire it so much. Now, I’m waiting for him to read my (first ever) novel, and I think ‘all my pluck has got up and went,’ as my father would say.

With 35 years of writing fiction under my belt so far, I’m no stranger to the process of submitting stories. I’ve sent my work out more times than I can remember. Yet, none of those times have felt like this feeling of squirming-on-the-hook.

Will PJ read the whole book, I wonder, or horror of horrors, will he put the book down and walk away?

Some submissions really feel like putting your heart on the line, don’t they? How do you stay on an even keel? Any suggestions for how to handle stress are welcome.


Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


At present, IWSG are taking part in the ‘A to Z Challenge.’ Due to my time constraints, unfortunately,  I could not participate.


Kate de Goldi – ‘I don’t care about the classifications of what constitutes children’s literature. I want to write articulate, textural, demanding,’ she said. ‘I think current stories are lacking in complex structure and nuance. Kids need more than a limited diction, and a palette of Smarties.’



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As a writer, the first reflex when anything happens is to write about it. After getting phone scammed and having no computer or net for a week, I kept a journal and intended to put it up on my blog, ‘The No-Internet Experiment.’ When I re-read the miserable snippets I’d written, I was reminded of something a former writing teacher and author, Joy Crowley, had warned us about, “Therapy Writing.”


One of the most prolific writers in New Zealand, Joy Cowley is the beloved author of 41 picture books and approximately 500 reading books or basal books.

Joy told us to watch out for “Therapy Writing.”

Therapy writing is when a piece is more about letting go of stuff being dredged up within us, than it is about fiction. ‘Experiences of our childhood will come up in disguise in our writing,’ she said, ‘I see many sad lonely childhoods coming out in people’s writing.’

‘Even accomplished writers will write bleak books that are directly from their painful childhoods.’

Yet, therapy writing has its place. It’s not that we should be trying to lock the memories and the deeply-felt wounds back inside ourselves again.

‘They need to come out,’ Joy explained.

We need a safe outlet for expressing long-held thoughts and feelings. Through writing we get to feel heard in a way. We feel the benefit of the curative treatment implied in the word therapy.


I remember one time, over thirty years ago, when I was starting out as a writer. I had submitted a short story to a big writing competition. My piece went on the reject pile, of which, the chief judge said, ‘the entries were so badly written, it was like people had sent in descriptions of their dismembered limbs dashed over with tears and blood.’

Though the critique had stung at the time, I’m sure he was right! I was still in that stage of discharging the humiliations of my youth.

Joy Cowley said, ‘Therapy writing is just something every writer has to go through.’

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Naturally, the content of our lives will be our first resource when we start writing. Whether consciously or otherwise, we unblock that release valve on our childhoods, and give voice to all that went unsaid. We discharge that pent-up energy. A lot of teachers say our first stories or books are unsuitable for publishing for that reason.

Joy said to watch for therapy writing especially in our fiction. ‘How do you know if it’s therapy writing? You feel sorry for the character. You never feel sorry for your character!’

The task upon us as writers is to use all of our painful history and all of our strength to take our characters into the heart of darkness.

That is the challenge.


‘Take any protagonist’s belief system – it’s the writer establishing the story’s trajectory. It’s the writer saying, watch carefully now as I systematically destroy that belief system,’ film-maker and author, PJ Reece wrote. ‘Every story is a journey to the heart of darkness.’

‘You won’t write Pollyanna,’ Joy reassured us, ‘you will write with the wholeness of the human condition.’

As we mature as writers, we learn how to write with the wholeness of our lives, infusing our work with all the experiences good and bad. That way, we can create full, balanced stories. You use what you’ve been through in life; you dig into that well of experiences, good and bad, for the enrichment of your stories.

‘Struggle is what readers want, what we identify with, what we save our money for,’ said PJ Reece. ‘It doesn’t get more terrifying than shedding our skin, leaving our old self behind. And yet that’s just what the best authors do. They love their protagonists to death.’

I love that line. It’s so steely-eyed.

Ultimately, we draw from the wholeness of our human condition in order to fully subject our protagonist to their Waterloo. If we can’t do that, there’s no transformation. No pay-off. And that’s what we need to see: for our characters to go through fire and evolve into something higher.

‘A story is a promise that the hero will court disaster.’ ~ PJ Reece

How about you, are you able to subject your characters to disaster? Did you do therapy writing when you started out?


Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol


‘Now let’s write our brains out passionately and with minimal reference to grids and rules. Let’s write from a love of the art and the heart of fiction.’ ~ PJ Reece