Documentary Writing for Beginners – By June Perkins

It’s powerful How to write documentary styleto write about something you have been through with a community, like bushfire, cyclone, flood, or tsunami; but how can you write a documentary it in a way that is accessible to people who haven’t experienced the event, while staying sensitive to those who have?

I faced this question when asked to be a guest blogger for Aftermath, a project by ABC Open, that focused on natural disasters and the process of how people recover from them.  Here are my suggestions for those tackling documentaries for the first time.

My tips for documentary writing

  1. bloghopimage1Think about WHY you are documenting and WHO your audience is
  2. Be interviewed yourself  about a trauma you have been through. This will prompt EMPATHY for the person you interview.
  3. Start with people you know well and are COMFORTABLE interviewing, then ask to interview their friends
  4. See what format your interviewee prefers (spoken, audio, video ) and take lots of PHOTOGRAPHS of turning point moments
  5. In the process of collecting your stories, be SENSITIVE to how people are feeling; you can always stop and come back to it at a later time if it’s too much for someone. Do not be in a rush!  Make sure you let them know how and when their story will be shared with others
  6. Be BOLD and branch out to others in the community at recovery events and those recommended by family, friends. (We had concerts, health classes, art and writing workshops, music workshops all held to support the recovery process.)
  7. FOLLOW UP interesting stories circulating in the community around you (I heard one about a lady painting her lost roof with butterflies and another attaching an anchor to her house).
  8. Document public recovery events with photographs and SHARE them with participants in those events (look for special moments happening around you.)
  9. Identify turning points in the recovery process (such as the return of natural habitats, people smiling more, insurance claims in). It’s important to focus on RECOVERY, not just the events of the natural disaster itself.
  10. Write for COMMUNITY, not just yourself, to widen the scope of what you cover and help yourself focus on the turning points and moments of joy.  This way you will learn so much.

Prince WilliamYasi CycloneSome unexpected outcomes of the blogging for community guest spot with ABC Open were an exhibition of my documentary photographs, the gaining of video documentary skills, publication of my blogs in other community books and the creation of my own community story book of the recovery process.

The photographs with this blog include one taken when Prince William flew in by helicopter to visit Tully.  A shopkeeper gave him a cassowary she had made.  Another is of a friend who was out clearing up with his chainsaw almost straight after the cyclone.

Guest post by June Perkins

How to write a documentaryThe ebook of After Yasi, is now available  and will be launched online on February 2nd  2015

You can find sample pages of the ebook here:

Please note:

Best comments for each blog will be given special prizes, either a free copy of the ebook or a choice of a signed print of one of the photographs from the book.

**The After Yasi Blog Tour includes upcoming visits to:

January 29th Michele DeCosta

Jan 30 (Friday) Jedda Bradley

January 31 Saturday Carol Campbell

Jan 31  (Saturday) Gail Kavanagh  (review)

Feb 1 Owen Allen  Place Stories

Feb 2  (Monday)  Ali Stegert

Feb 3 (Tuesday) ABC Open (to be confirmed)

Feb 3   Melinda Irvine (interview)

Feb 4 (Wed) wrap up and thankyou blog from June

You can also catch earlier visits to

Jan 27 (Tuesday) Karen Tyrrell

Jan 28 (Wednesday) Dimity Powell – interview

17 Reasons to Attend Writing Retreats

You’ve got a manuscript to finish, obligations and a million ‘to-dos’ on your list, so why would you drop everything to attend writing retreats?

Benefits of Writing Retreats

  1. Inspiration – creativity is contagious; by surrounding yourself with other writers, you’ll be motivated to write.
  2. Productivity – this is not a holiday or time off from work; this is focused time for your writing. Good writing retreats will send you home with pagepublishing seminars and pages of words on the page. Your words.
  3. Deadlines – most retreats offer the opportunity to share your work; which means you’ll need to have something ready to share.
  4. Contacts – you’ll meet fellow writers, influencers and industry professionals at these gigs. You might gain a contact who can help you get your manuscript read by your favourite publisher, or a well-known author who will endorse your next book. Best of all, you’ll make true friends, people who understand your passion for stories and encourage you through your journey.
  5. Professionalism – attending writing industry events shows you take your career seriously, this is something to add to your writing CV.
  6. Role17reasons Models – we all need a hero sometimes, you can be inspired and learn from mistakes and successes of established authors.
  7. Industry Knowledge – there are so many lesser know steps and details in the path from writing to publication, you’ll be amazed at the tips you pick up.
  8. Publishing Options – In today’s market, there are many ways to become a published author, learn all the choices available to you.
  9. Pitching – many events will provide the opportunity for  you to pitch your story to an agent or publisher. This could actually be your big break!
  10. Socialising – you need to practise your people skills.
  11. Marketing Advice – ‘the moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on’ (Omar Khayyám); except writers can not simply move on to their next project, they must find ways to promote and sell their work. This is a specialised skill and it’s smart to get advice from experts.story structure workshop
  12. Writing Technique – writers should always aim to improve their technique; workshops can help you sharpen your writing skills.
  13. Ideas – you’ll come away with a dozen new novels just waiting to be written.
  14. Escape – getting away from daily routines and obligations will give you a chance to breath again and refresh your creativity.
  15. Confidence – you’ve invested a lot of time into writing, these events help confirm your choices rid you of self-doubt.
  16. Tech Tips – if you’re not savvy in the ways of the online world you miss out on many marketing opportunities, learn how to ‘build a platform’ (no hammer and nails required).
  17. Reward – after all the work you’ve put in, after everything you do for everyone else, don’t you deserve this?

Charmaine Clancy co-cordinates the yearly Rainforest Writing Retreat (RWR) with Anthony Puttee, founder of Book Cover Cafe. Together with a cast of esteemed presenters, each experts in their field of writing, editing or publishing, they lure writers to a location set in the beautiful Australian rainforest, where guests will spend three days networking, learning from masterclasses, pitching their manuscript and most importantly, writing.

writing retreats 2015



Procrastination vs Successful Writing Goals

iuWriting can be a rocky journey. You can be full of hope and ideas in the morning, but by the afternoon have somehow convinced yourself that you’re a worthless word-hack. As a writer, developing your imagination and creativity, and ensuring you are motivated to write is essential to improving both your confidence and productivity. The issue is that everyone, writers included, experience motivational roadblocks – we get distracted, we get rejected, or we simply have one of those days (or weeks). Sometimes the thought of doing an intense task can seem overwhelming, so we put it in the growing “Do Later” pile. Before we know it we’ve taken a procrastination pit-stop/holiday. 
So how can you stick to your writing goals and thereby enhance your self-belief and quality of work? Numerous studies show people who explicitly state their intention to write are much more likely to stick to their goals. What’s more, putting your money on the line can be an even stronger motivator. Promise or Pay is a new social motivation platform that combines these two approaches to help you stick to your creativity goals by making them public and using charitable giving as an incentive.
Promise or pay reach your goalsPromise or Pay helps you stick to your writing goals by donating money to charity if you don’t follow through, and encouraging others to donate if you succeed. Whether you are a professional writer, a part-time blogger or just starting out, Promise or Pay is a perfect way to help keep you focused and inspire you to pick up that pen and make writing a healthy habit. 
writing in journalMake a promise to do something that you know will get you moving in the write direction. If you’re having difficultly writing consistently then make a promise to complete 750 words a day. If you’re having trouble staying focused, make a promise to abstain from social media. If you’re lacking inspiration, promise to finish re-read your book. Break your promise and you donate to charity. Keep your promise and your friends and family donate. Promise or Pay is the win-win tool to motivate you to practice your craft.
By expanding on traditional fundraising methods and using the power of social media sharing as leverage, my aim is to inspire millions of people to be the best they can be and, at the same time, encourage and promote donations to Australian charities. 


I love this idea. I’ve already signed up to pledge $100 to Access Arts – a great organisation providing opportunities for Queenslanders with disability to achieve their artistic goals. If this sounds like a charity you’d like to contribute, you can pledge an amount to pay if I reach my goal – If I don’t reach my goal? Then I pay!

Why not set yourself a goal to achieve? If you do, come back and leave the link to your page, so we can support you with your goal. Now… don’t you have a book to write?