What winning something meant to me.

So. Most of you reading this will know that, just the day after my last post, I won a Highly Commended place in The Australian Society of Authors Mentorship Awards 2021 for the first draft of my Young Adult novel about love, communication and saving the banksia woodlands. The win filled me with joy, which makes sense, but I quite like to overthink these things so here’s exactly why!

Firstly, pretty much every writer I know experiences the absolute horror show that is the way the same words can look different to you one day after another. On good days, you read what you’ve written and go, “Hmmm that ain’t half bad, maybe I’ve got something here.” Or words to that effect. 24 hours later you may look at THE EXACT SAME WORDS and think, “Oh My God. This is the absolute worst rubbish ever written, so clunky, so awkward and unimportant, and not at all saying what I want to say.” You get the idea.

Winning this HC means some writers I hugely respect read my words and AGREED WITH GOOD DAY ME! So now, on a bad day, I can remind myself of this and more easily tell the negative voice in my head to go and sit in the corner and have a think about what it’s doing. Priceless.

Secondly, for me like for many people, the last year has been a sad one. I lost my feisty, supportive mum to a bleak, fast cancer and our dear labrador to a slower one. And, I had an empty nest for the first time. We don’t talk enough about the significant change that is children leaving home. For many reasons, but largely because it once appeared it might never happen, I am filled with deep joy that my two are out in the wide world, living their lives. But, oh boy, I miss seeing them every day. They’ve grown into adults who are fun to be around and they’re off being fun around other people (as they should) instead of me and…well you get my drift. I miss them and I miss me with them. So, yay for this lovely, happy news early in 2021!

Thirdly, as a Highly Commended winner I will receive direct feedback on the beginning of my manuscript from a hugely experienced mentor (I’m so thrilled to be working with this person), as well as be part of a Pathways to Publication program. Yay!! In addition to the obvious benefits of being a mentee, I’m a tad on the extroverted side and often miss the zillion billion interactions of a teaching day. Okay, maybe not every single one of them, but definitely the ones that made me feel like I was doing an okay job! Working alone can send me a little crazy (refer to my first point!)

Lastly…I’m sure I could think of more, I just don’t want to keep you here all day πŸ™‚ …so, lastly, I’m so excited that this manuscript got noticed. There are themes in it that I care about deeply, not least: how we communicate and connect when we think we don’t have a common language and how we handle our responsibilities as custodians of this planet. This mentorship will help me write the best version of this book that I can and, to paraphrase something I heard Pip Williams (The Dictionary of Lost Words) say recently, have a better chance of ‘not letting down the idea’.

So, that’s the gist of it. A sincere thank you to the ASA and the judges of the Children’s, YA and Picture Book Illustration category, Β Oliver Phommavanh and Β Deborah Abela. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have received this opportunity at this precise time. I know that there is sooo much good writing around and I was lucky.

Hmm, I’ve also got a kind of funny story to tell you about a pitch I did recently, but this post is long enough, so I’ll save that for another time. I hope you are all well and thank you to every single one of you who has signed up for emails – I’m truly honoured by the numbers.

May it be a good day at your place πŸ™‚

What I’ve learnt about writing novels – so far

Words: I like them a lot, but that’s cheating because I actually knew that before. I now know I need about 80 000 of them to claim I have a novel-length manuscript. This can change between genres; fantasy is longer, Middle Grade fiction (for 8-12 year olds) shorter.

First Drafts: Best thought of as ‘word vomit*’ or you telling the story to yourself. It is a starting point and you just need to get it done. Do what it takes. Bribes can work. Make yourself sit at the computer when it’s not coming easily. About 35 000 words into my last manuscript, I ran out of steam even though I knew where the story was going and wanted to write it. I gave myself a couple of days off, but it didn’t recharge me. So, I simply had to make myself write for however long it took to get 2000 words done, every day. I wrote whatever came into my head, just to keep going. It looked awful on the page and I had to keep dragging those sentences out of myself for about two weeks. Like, seriously, dragging. I can honestly say it was the hardest work I’ve done while sitting in a chair. But it worked. At around the 50 000 mark, the words began to come easily again and the very end was written joyfully in a sweet 6000 word flourish. Best of all, when I reread it, the words I’d despaired over were better than I’d believed at the time. Go figure. Wading on through seems to work.

Other Drafts: Necessary. Mostly very enjoyable. But naming them is misleading. Some sections get rewritten 4352 times. Other parts, maybe once or twice. Like everything to do with writing, it’s not simple to explain. Apart from the seat of the pants thing, there’s no arguing with that.

Other Writers: Such a good bunch. Find some. Make them your friends. Have regular meetings (if you want to write yourself that is – otherwise that would be kind of weird πŸ˜‰ ) Read their manuscripts when they ask, ask them to read yours. The technical term for this is beta reading. (The first MS I ever beta read was top notch and the author, Karen Whittle-Herbert, will have her first book, a crime novel called The River Mouth, published in September. Buy it. She’s a star on the rise.) Also, the writing community on Twitter is supportive and friendly. I believe some of the action is moving to Instagram now, but this may only be a rumour. I’ve learnt a lot from links and news shared on the bird platform. #AusWrites is a good place to get started if you’re Australian.

Finished Manuscripts: 1) A misnomer. Very hard to ever definitively say, “That’s it, I’m done.” I’ve heard authors say they never read their published book because they know they will want to change parts. But, at some point, one must send it out to the wide world. 2) Satisfying. Celebrate the moment. Whatever happens from here, I have finished three books. Yay, me. 3) Must be formatted properly before being sent off to agents/publishers. REMEMBER to do this. Who knew a title page was necessary and that chapters are best started twelve lines down the page? Everyone except me, maybe?! I think I’ve got it sorted now πŸ™‚

Final Thoughts: I always imagined satisfaction from writing would only come with getting published. I can honestly say, I no longer feel this way. Having a serious writing habit has enriched my life more than I can properly explain. All you book people, readers and writers, are MY people. Wrestling with language in the written form and talking/reading about it is my happy place. I still plan to continue sending agents and publishers my work until someone cracks/ sees it for the brilliantly insightful work it is/wants to print it. However, meanwhile, I’m having an excellent time. (Except maybe when I was writing the middle bit of that book just finished, but let’s not get bogged down in details…)

All this is to say, if you’re living with that feeling that you’ve got a book or three in you, get to it. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll learn an awful lot about things you didn’t know that you didn’t know, and, if you play right, meet some great people. Also, I’m available to beta read if you get in quick πŸ™‚

*I don’t know who came up with this brilliant way of describing a first draft. If you do, perhaps you could let me know?

P.S. I promised to share the roller coaster. I don’t think I got an ASA mentorship this time around and I haven’t yet heard anything back from the publisher or agent who asked to read my first Young Adult novel. It’s to be expected. I am alternating between sulking mildly and pulling up my big girl pants. I have another pitching opportunity next week and more publishers to try. I’m learning Auslan (loving it) because of a Deaf character I’m writing. I’m thinking of pulling the first manuscript I wrote out of a drawer and revamping it. Either that or continuing on with my half-complete third Young Adult story. The first draft of my second YA novel ( the one I’ve just finished) needs to percolate for a bit before I can read it with a clear mind.

Are you writing?

Novel writing

Welcome old friends and new!

For the past two years I have been working on several books – and avoiding setting up a website. I am here now, at last, with one novel complete enough that it is being considered by an agent and publisher, after two successful pitches through The Australian Society of Authors Virtual Literary Speed Dating event. Last week, I finished the first draft of a second novel and submitted it to a mentorship program, also administered by The Australian Society of Authors. Exciting times.

I have learnt a great deal since I decided that if I did not commit to writing, right at that moment, I might never do it. One such thing is that self-promotion, which in this case is little blurbs of chit-chat in a written form for your perusal, is a necessary part of the writing life these days. Those of you who have met me in real life will know that I am quite a fan of the conversational arts, so I shall simply view my blog as a visual extension of this. I can only imagine how some less chatty people whom we rightly consider the greats of literature would have thumbed their noses at the idea of a blog. But I am not such a great; I just have a few stories to tell and if you would like to follow along as I share the ups and downs, you can do so by subscribing πŸ™‚ I suspect it may be quite the ride… *see earlier note re my love of conversation πŸ˜‰ *I will not be cluttering up your inbox more than once a fortnight though πŸ™‚

May it be a good day where you are.