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23 April 2017


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When there is a comment like 'I think you'll agree that the lazy habits of PNG writers which result in half-baked manuscripts require a lot of editing and it is extremely difficult to retain the writer's voice sometimes', it burns into my seams and wants me to give up writing.

Em kisim stret bun bilong rait, tingting bilong noken rait moa kamap long pes. That is taking the easy way out and self publishing is not the answer to this.

Then again, never mind what Phil says, I want to continue with my writing, and if what Phil says is the truth, then it is the truth; I need to accept that comment and work with that truth.

I and PNG writers need and must:

1. stop our lazy habits and

2. stop giving in half baked manuscripts to people who have good intentions to help us and

3 find that writers voice.

1 and 2 is something that we have control over. 3 will happen if 1 and 2 are corrected.

How do we put in counter measures to correct these truth? Firstly we need to write and rewrite and make sure that the sentence and the paragraph and chapter and the whole of the story rhyme and work together.

We need to have the manuscript typed and in a form that has clarity in structure and content for an editor to have an eagerness to read our works.
Secondly we need a sounding board, someone who can read our works and manuscripts before they go to the editor.

I believe a writer does not see their mistakes. I have others read my works and make suggestions and improvements and I use my family.

I do despair that my family also are lazy and give me half baked comments or they are not that too critical for fear that they may offend me or they simply think that I am a fool wasting my time in writing nothings when I could do other useful things and ridicule me by not even reading my pieces.

I can either accept their suggestions or disregard them. I can make those choices. If I accept these suggestions, I try to work them into my manuscripts. If they think I am a fool, I take that on the chin and continue in my foolery.

But discussing work before it is given to the editor helps to cut out on the editor rewriting the works for me or simply throwing in the waste basket; something that is a reality and what I must accept if it has to happen that way.

Tenk yu Phil, wat yu tok em acid, na bel i pen tru tru.

Tasol em tru tru toktok na mi na ol lain PNG raiters mas kisim dispela long bun na mekim senis.

Ol gutpela editor i sot long PNG na wan wan i kamap imas igat gutpela wok manuscript igo long ol. Ol editor imas igat belsut long wok editor na mipela ol raiter long PNG mas noken kilim paia bilong ol idai.

Em nau tok ikam long mipela ol raiter long PNG long skelim wok pasim bilong mipela long givim les pasin wok igo aut. Mipela mas stretim nau.

Epithets aside, Phil has a ken on what best fitz.

Dear Phil

Adlai Stevenson, a politician of some stature, once quoted......" An editor sorts the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff"

Pukpuk is still alive and well Chips, just enjoying a new location.

The way my memory seems to be giving up the ghost I'm starting to think that notes might be a good idea after all. It's only my short term memory that seems to be affected. I can remember stuff from 50 years ago (or an unreliable version thereof) with no trouble at all. And the delightful thing about putting those on paper is they prompt a whole host of other memories.

On the other hand, if I write an idea or phrase down in a notebook it tends to kill it. It's much better to get an idea and pursue it to its logical end immediately.

Another principle I work with, notwithstanding the above comments about faulty memories, is that if something can't be remembered it probably wasn't that crash hot anyway.

I really like Richard Ford too Ed.

I think you'll agree that the lazy habits of PNG writers which result in half-baked manuscripts require a lot of editing and it is extremely difficult to retain the writer's voice sometimes.

Sorry to hear you left Queensland, Phil. And what has happened to Pukpuk Publishing? Has that moved to South Oz also?

A few random responses, Phil:

I’m inclined to agree that it’s difficult to teach someone to be a writer. Everyone has stories to tell, but not everyone is a ‘natural’ story-teller.

Teaching the mechanics and techniques of story telling and writing is straightforward enough, but much depends on the motivation and the depth of feeling that the would-be writer has about the subject matter/the story.

Like you, I’m also skeptical about some of the advice on offer, e.g. the advice that one should set and achieve daily word counts is, frankly, a nonsense. Writing is not about the number of words, it’s about the events, ideas and feelings that you wish to convey.

Keeping notes is one of the better ideas – if only to safeguard against forgetting an event, thought or observation. But I also accept that one can forget why the event, thought or observation is/was important in the first place.

One of my favourite writers, Richard Ford, said during an event in Melbourne that although he sets aside 2-3 hours a day to write, he is satisfied if he manages to write only one acceptable sentence during that time. Which is why, probably, he took 10 years to complete his last major work, ‘Canada’. He also keeps a notebook.

A good editor, I was once told, always retained the writer’s ‘voice’ and worked with an invisible hand, leaving no evidence that the work had been edited at all.

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