Writing Tips – Madeleine D’Este

It’s been a while since I’ve had a Writing Tips Guest Post, and on a recent call out, Melbourne based author, Madeleine D’Este, nominated herself to fill that void.

This is her advice which she’s titled…


I’m currently in the final stages of completing my eight release. And yet, despite the fact I’ve been through the writing process many times before, there are three things which crop up every time and try to derail me. Writing is such an emotional journey…. I hate the word journey by the way.

So, this post is for me as much as it is for you.

1: Never compare a first draft to a completed project.

Imagine the scene, I’ve just completed a piece. Finally, after fifty million drafts, it is ready for human consumption. Then a shiny sparkly new idea hits me and I’m bubbling over with enthusiasm to start a new project.

Fingers hit the keys with a flurry, and everything is golden…until I read it back. OMG, what is this pile of drivel? How can I call myself a writer? Have I lost my ability to write and I’ll never write anything good again?

Then I remember – never compare a polished draft with a first draft. And my first draft is always shit. Although depending on your writing process, as the Americans say, ‘your mileage may vary’.

2: The ‘Dark Swamp of Despair’ is part of the process.

Or perhaps if you’re a fan of the film Labyrinth (1986) you can also call it ‘The Bog of Eternal Stench’.

Like my first truth, I always start out a project full of beans and then the real work starts, and my enthusiasm wanes and my old mate self-doubt takes over.

This is a helpful diagram for me from www.personalexcellence.co  (I also use this diagram in my day job as a project manager). With anything creative, your project slides into the doldrums where you realise it’s harder than you thought.

The only way out is through resilience and a sense of humour.

(See a larger version of this diagram by CLICKING HERE)

3: Feedback hurts at first but you get over it.

Whenever I hear back from beat readers or my editor, the feedback (no matter how constructive) feels like a punch in the guts. I spiral into irrational land and tell myself how I should give up writing. I’m embarrassed I even let anyone read it in the first place.

I might then go and hide under the doona.

This happens every time. And I forget every time. All I need to do is give the edits/feedback a few days, and then I can come back fully prepared to read objectively and get to work. Because as my editor said to me a few weeks ago ‘anything can be fixed with work.’

Those are three truths about the writing process which I encounter every time and forget every time.

Hopefully I’ll remember when they rear their ugly heads again.

Thank you Madeleine for sharing your wisdom today.

Madeleine D’Este is a writer of dark mysteries from Melbourne. Her award-nominated novel The Flower and the Serpent and series of cosy-mystery steampunk novellas are available on Amazon. You can keep in touch with Madeleine through twitter at @madeleine_deste or www.madeleinedeste.com

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