‘Lightning Ridge’ was written many years ago during a road trip to northern NSW. I was struck by the setting – the dry heat – and how gambling informed so many lives there. ‘Call an ambulance’ was written as I was brainstorming my next novel – I was trying to think of scenes that elicited questions. I also wanted to write a story where the action took place in the white space, and I think it does here. The climax occurs after the last sentence but before the title. I liked that inversion.
2. Tell us about your process. (Do you start sparse and widen out, or do you write down every possible association and cut back? Do you research the subject matter you are writing about? Is it pure intuition?) Take us through an example if you want.
My process varies from microfiction to microfiction. Sometimes I start with a scene, sometimes a phrase, sometimes I work backwards from the climax. Usually it’s about honing the writing to make sure every word can justify its inclusion.
3. What advice do you have for other writers? (About the first or last line? About how to choose the title? Do you follow any rules?)
With microfictions, I frequently use the climax as a starting point because you have such little space and you need to make sure something happens. If you start with that, you know what you’re building towards. Also, make sure each aspect of your narrative is working on multiple levels (for instance, is your setting also giving your reader a sense of the point-of-view? Is your plot also giving us character?).
4. Who or what inspires your writing?
Good reading inspires my best writing. Also, I have a few colleagues/friends I imagine sitting beside me as I read my work aloud and that helps me be ruthless in editing. Little is more embarrassing than a cliché description or an unnecessary adverb in front of them.
5. Tell us what you do if you haven’t written anything in a while and you want to get started writing again? Could you share your favourite writing exercise with our readers?
I plot in shorthand so that when I sit down to write I know what I need to do. My favourite writing is actually re-writing and this strategy means I never have to face an empty page.
Shady Cosgrove is the author of What the Ground Can’t Hold (Picador, 2013) and She Played Elvis (Allen and Unwin, 2009), which was shortlisted for the Australian Vogel Award. She teaches creative writing at the University of Wollongong.