6 Writing Tricks I Learnt from The Hunger Games

Writing Tricks I Learnt from The Hunger Games Paige's PagesWelcome back to my Read Like a Writer series!  My first post, 6 Writing Tricks I Learnt from IT by Stephen King, was fun to write and also helpful as a reflective practice, so I’m back for more. 

The purpose of this series is 1. to reflect on the technique the author is using and how, and 2. ask how I can practically apply this technique to my own writing.

I’m currently rereading The Hunger Games.  Even the second time, it is gripping and tense, well-structured and full of great characters.  I think Suzanne Collins’ writing tricks apply to any genre and audience.  


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6 Writing Tricks I Learnt from IT by Stephen King

6 Writing Tricks I Learnt from IT by Stephen King Paige's PagesI’m trying something a little different with this post.  Although I didn’t feel right reviewing IT by Stephen King, didn’t want to forget what I loved about it and how it motivated me to try out different techniques in my own writing.  

So the purpose of this post is to reflect on great writing techniques used in this book in a practical way that will help me grow.  Who knows, maybe you’ll find something here to inspire you too!  I have a feeling this post will grow into a blog series, so keep an eye out.

As always, if you have any opinions on this book I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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How To Survive a Group Job Interview

Goodness gracious, job hunting is hard work!  I went to my first group interview this week.  I had no idea what to expect, so I felt more nervous than I needed to.  I was surprised I actually ended up having fun and making new friends!  Like any typical blogger, I thought I’d turn my experience into a list of tips.  I hope having a better idea of what a group interview involves helps you feel less nervous when the time comes.  

What to Expect

Big corporations often use group interviews to save time and money by processing large numbers of applicants at once.  They will probably divide applicants into small groups to complete activities together, monitored by assessors who take notes on your individual performance.  You will receive a handful of problem-solving tasks targeting different skills e.g. a customer service scenario or a collaborative drawing task.  This allows the assessors to see how you work in a range of situations.

1. Arrive Early

What if you get stuck in traffic?  What if you struggle to find the venue?  Showing up late writes you off instantly, so play it safe.  Give yourself time to take one last nervous trip to the bathroom and even get to know the other applicants.

2. Make Friends

Before the interview has even begun, you can get to work making friends.  The other applicants are your potential future team mates and you’ll need to work together in the group activities.  Also, remembering people’s names shows you care.  Feeling comfortable around your fellow interviewees gives you an advantage when the activities start.

3. Engage the Assessor

The assessors observe your behaviour to see if you work well in a team.  However, your opportunity to impress them doesn’t end with group work.  Remember the assessors’ names, listen attentively when they speak, and thank them for their time at the end of the interview.

4. Speak Up But Don’t Dominate

If you have a suggestion, don’t keep it to yourself!  But make sure you also listen considerately to everyone’s points of view.  You may have heard that exuding confidence will impress employers, but dominating the discussion can come across as arrogant or inconsiderate.

5. Include Everyone

At group interviews, everyone is worried about making an impression.  An underrated way to stand out is to help others stand out.  If you notice the shy person hasn’t had a turn to speak, use their name and ask them for their opinion.  Maybe you can suggest a way to include their idea in the task, or at least take their perspective on board.  Showing someone else attention is a vital part of leadership.

6. Volunteer

Take initiative and put your hand up for roles.  Maybe this involves volunteering to write down the group’s suggestions, or present your work aloud to the room.  Not only does volunteering keep the ball rolling, but it showcases your readiness to work for the team.

Good luck at your group interview!  Above all, don’t forget to breathe and just be yourself.


5 Lessons I Learned Writing a Novel in 30 Days

National Novel Writing Month is over for another year.  Alas and alack I didn’t finish my novel, but I DID learn a lot from the experience.  Here are my top 5 lessons from trying to write a novel in 30 days:  

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1. Discipline is Essential

I would never get anything done without some serious self-discipline.  Through trial and error, I know that I will be most productive if I wake up early and do work in chunks of an hour and a half with fifteen minute breaks.  Setting hourly word count hurdles and daily goals helped me to stay focussed.

A disciplined writing routine is like playing catch with one ball after juggling for hours.  When I’m writing, I want to commit 100% of my effort to the task at hand.  Then as soon as I hit my daily goal, I reward myself by putting away my writing until tomorrow and focussing on something different.  As Ron Swanson says, “Never half-ass two things.  Whole-ass one thing.”

2. Shit Happens

As a writer and a uni student, I feel most confident when I’m well organised.  However, there will always be hiccups along the way that no amount of planning can prevent.  I didn’t know my novel had plot-holes until I stumbled on them.  When confronted with an unexpected problem, I discovered that the solution can sometimes be just as unexpected.  When I started following the flow and getting all loosey-goosey with my creativity, I had some amazing “Eureka!” moments and small breakthroughs.  Sometimes the best stuff is unplanned.

3. All Ideas Are Valuable

Don’t scrap an idea just because it doesn’t fit in right now.  I’m in the habit of writing down sentences or plot ideas in case they’re useful down the track.  I would regret losing these spontaneous creative gems.  I find index cards on a cork board helpful because I love having all my ideas visible while I write.  Many of these ideas sneak into my work later down the track.

4. Overthinking Kills Creativity

I don’t mean planning – planning is constructive! – I mean when you let perfectionism get in the way of producing work.  Stop second-guessing yourself and start writing down whatever words come to mind.  If I let the little editor in my head judge me while I’m writing, I’d never get any work done.  I was amazed by how much I can write once I stop overthinking and go berserk.

5. Breaks Help Beat Writer’s Block

I am much more prone to writer’s block just after lunch – my body is telling me it’s time for a siesta while my brain is telling me that I’m a failure if I don’t write an amazing sentence right now!  That combo is deadly to my creativity.

One of my secrets to beating writer’s block is taking a break before I get even more stuck.  I discovered that I can plan small errands or a coffee break for times of day that I’m least productive.  That way I can cut the crap and come back to my work refreshed.

I hope that you relate to or find some of these helpful.  Do you have any writing lessons to add to this list?  How did your NaNoWriMo attempt go?

My Secrets to Beating Writer’s Block

Every writer that ever lived has been visited at some point by this beast.  Writer’s block feeds on perfectionism – your desire to write the perfect sentence or plot the greatest story.  

Writer’s block is like quicksand – the more you fight it, the worse you get stuck.  Remembering this is the first step to learning how to beat it.  Here are two methods that I learnt while studying writing at uni.

1. Freewrite

For those who are unfamiliar with this term, “freewriting” is the process of liberating your creativity by removing limitations.  Welcome whatever words spring to mind and banish self-judgment until the editing stage.  I find kickstarting the process with a snappy 15 minute time limit helps too.

Remember that writer’s block feeds on perfectionism.  Use freewriting to train yourself to ignore your own destructively high standards and just get the words onto the page.  The first draft is supposed to be shitty!  So free your writing!

2. Take a Walk

Just like quicksand, you have to stop struggling against writer’s block before you can get unstuck.  An incredibly easy way to avoid making your writer’s block worse is to take a break.  I recommend taking a walk around the block – even a small dose of physical activity helps to unclog the mind.  It can have the same effect of sleeping on the problem – your brain keeps working towards a resolution even while your mind is relaxed.

Tip: With both of the above methods for beating writer’s block, try shaking things up.  Maybe writing by hand instead of typing will get better results.  You could even try recording your voice in a stream of consciousness.  Decluttering your creative space can be refreshing for your mind too.  

I hope this helps!  Write to me in the comments to share your tricks for unlocking creativity and beating the dreaded writer’s block.  Good luck on your final week of NaNoWriMo!

What’s Your Promise? | World Mental Health Day

Leading up to World Mental Health Day on October 10, Mental Health Australia has released an incredible campaign that makes it easy to make a difference.  I went into a coffee shop today and picked up one of their postcards.  It encourages you to make a promise to yourself.  There are so many simple things you can do to improve your happiness and wellbeing.  Find out what I promised at the end of the post.  This post is longer than average, but super important to me!

You may already know that I struggled with anxiety a lot this year.  Now that some things have changed and I am looking after my mental health better, I am a lot happier.  A few people even complimented me that I look much healthier too!  I am now more aware than ever of the importance of caring for my mental wellbeing.

Mental Health Australia’s postcard has a list of tips.  I feel passionately about a lot of these.  Please think about how you could start to use them in your own life.  They don’t take much time or effort to do, but will make a huge difference.

Ten Tips for 10/10

1. Sleep well

Having trouble getting to sleep?  There are so many guided meditations and other relaxing sound files you can listen to that can help calm down your mind.  I also find that a warm bath and a hot cup of tea relax me enough to sleep.  What things work best for you?

2. Enjoy healthy food

Good food makes my body feel energised.  I feel peppy and fab after a delicious, fresh meal.

3. Plan and prioritise your day

I used to struggle with this a lot in high school.  I always put a lot of pressure on myself as a high achiever, but I soon discovered that I couldn’t be perfect all the time.  Learning to plan and prioritise took a weight off.  Writing a to-do list could empty my mind enough to calm down and approach things one at a time.

4. Tune in to the music you love

What things make you happy?  Do them and love doing them!  Public approval not required.

5. Cut down on bad food and booze

As soon as I cut down on sugar and caffeine, my natural energy comes back.

6. Switch off your devices and tune out

I find that reading a book is super relaxing when the back lighting of my laptop or phone is keeping me buzzing.  I can usually only read for half an hour before my nodding head let’s me know it’s bed time.

7. Hang out with people who make you feel good

I think this tip is the most important to me.  Throughout the roller coaster of this tough year, the thing that has made me feel happiest, calmest, and best about myself is being around loving people.  Like everyone else, I need time by myself to do work and chill on the computer.  But when blah feelings kick in, nothing gets rid of them like spending time with people who bring positivity.

8. Join in, participate, and connect

Some of the best times I’ve had were when I built up the moxie to go do that thing I was invited to but was thinking of skipping because I couldn’t be bothered.  Putting in the effort to join in can be surprisingly rewarding.

9. Exercise your body and mind

Ah yes.  That one where your body has to move from the couch.  I was afraid it would come to this.  In all honesty, I actually find exercise so energising.  Even if I don’t go for a run, a short walk is a powerful way to unblock your head and feel more focused and grounded.

10. Seek advice and support when you need it

There are so many services available if you don’t feel like you can talk to your friends or family about things you are experiencing.  Do a Google search for walk-in centres near you, or for free, anonymous hotlines you can call to chat with a professional.  You absolutely never need to feel alone.  There is always someone else who has been in your exact same position.  I’m sure you have at least one friend who is a good listener and will open their arms to you.  Do you have someone in mind?  Give them a call.  Meet up for coffee and talk to them.

Now that I’m finished writing about this postcard, I’m mailing it to my dear friend who I think will appreciate it.  I love that this campaign makes it so easy to share the love!

What’s Your Promise?

I am going to make a promise to myself.  Something small and simple that I know will make a long term difference to my mental wellbeing.  Something I should never have stopped doing in the first place!

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What promise will you make?  Follow this link to submit and share your promise.  You can also get inspired by talking a look at the Promise Wall.  Over 9,000 people have shared their mental health promises!

I would love to see your promise if you would like to share it in the comments section.  Well done, you, for doing something positive to care for yourself.  Now share this with someone else!  

How to Survive the First Week of your New Job

Congratulations on your new job, you smart cookie, you!  My best friend and I both started new office jobs this year, so I thought I should put together some tips for surviving (and thriving) in your new workplace.  

1. Dress confidently and comfortably

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 10.42.19 amBuying “business casual” clothes for the first time can be challenging, but I learnt that the key to confidence is wearing clothes you feel comfortable in.  This goes for colour too: black may be classic, but you don’t have to dull down your wardrobe just because you’re working in an office.

My top tips are: wear shoes that don’t hurt your feet, and invest in layers so you can dress up or down depending on how cold the air conditioning is.

2. Ask lots of questions

If you need help or clarification, always ask for it.  Asking questions shows people that you’re switched on, can show initiative, and are a good communicator.  You will find any nervousness you may have lessens when you understand what’s going on.

3. Take notes and leave notes

Writing down what you learn is a smart move.  The act of writing helps your memory, but you can also refer to your notes when you’re working independently without someone showing you what to do.

Also, leaving notes for yourself or others is a good habit to get into.  If you have to leave a job half-finished for the next day, you can let yourself or whoever works after you know what’s going on by leaving a short message on a sticky note.

4. Be Present and Pay Attention

Double check the tiny details and ask a colleague to look over your work for feedback.  If you struggle with multi-tasking, tackle one thing at a time and do your best on each job.

5. Take breaks

Don’t forget to eat and drink!  I had a bad case of low blood sugar in my first week because I was so busy I forgot to eat enough.  Nuts, fruit, muesli bars, or yoghurts are great snacks that you can eat at your desk between longer breaks.

Also make sure to rest your eyes and stretch your legs when you can.  I avoid headaches and leg cramps by taking off my glasses and standing up to get folders or printouts …. as fun as it is to zoom around the office on my wheelie chair …

6. Invest in friendships

Some of my closest friends are people I know from work.  There have been a few times when I or one of my colleagues have had a bad day and needed a hug or a break for fresh air.  It really pays off to make friends and care about others.

What are you most excited and most nervous about starting your new job?  Do you have any other tips to add to this list?  Best of luck on your first day at work! 

An Afternoon with R.A. Spratt at Brisbane Writer’s Festival

I went to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival for the first time ever today!  There were so many amazing events I would have loved to have gone to, but I managed to fit in one masterclass between uni and work.

rh3BWF is an annual event held in the State Library of Queensland.  Writers and publishing industry professionals flock from all over Australian to share their experiences and knowledge in panels, seminars, and workshops.  The festival also offers great volunteering opportunities that students and emerging writers can take advantage of to network and gain experience.  Check out the BWF website here to see what’s on offer.  It’s running until the 6th of September so you still have a few days left to get in on the action.

The masterclass I attended was led by bestselling Australian children’s author and television writer, R.A. Spratt.  She’s the adult responsible for the Friday Barnes and Nanny Piggins series.   She talked about how to plot a novel and come up with interesting characters through several interactive workshopping exercises.

My favourites of her advice for writing characters were:

  • Remember that everyone has something wrong with them

So make your characters flawed and interesting!  What might be a quick character hook?

  • Borrow qualities from people you know

Basing your character on a real person makes it easier to imagine what your character would say or do in a particular scenario.

  • Ask yourself how and why each of your characters think differently

All of your characters are unique, so figure out how their minds work and why.  This will decide what your character says and does, and how.

R.A. Spratt’s great sense of humour made the masterclass fun and comfortable.  Not to mention she brought chocolate to inspire us (getting a sugar rush is her version of putting on a thinking cap)!  She was bursting with hilarious anecdotes about how she finds ideas and runs writing classes in primary schools.  I’m now very excited to get my hands on one of her books.  Please check out her website here.  You can also follow her on Twitter!

I hope you have a great week, full of inspiration and exciting new learning.