Writing Craft

Will I ever just read again?

bookpic

I’m new to this gig. I am a shiny faced front-rower, wide-eyed and willing to take it all in, and I’m enjoying the ride. However, one thing I haven’t gotten used to, is that I can’t seem to just read a novel anymore without my editor cap firmly pushing on my ears. I hone in on opening paras, get suspicious of throw away lines, analyse hooks and red herrings. I assess tense, point of view, even commas get my attention. Whilst I’m learning, I wonder if I will ever simply read again!

I love books, and want to get to know them better. Learn how they tick.  But it’s a bit like watching your favourite TV show faithfully for years, enjoying the escapism, and suddenly being invited backstage. You see the actors, the scripts, the set, and come to realise … they’re not real!? They’re trying to fool me! Somebody made it all up! (Okay, I wasn’t actually sitting on my couch watching Grey’s Anatomy thinking McDreamy was living in Seattle all this time, but you can only dream…).

I blame it on the edit. It can be an all-consuming process.

I’m a “Pantser”, not a “Planner” when it comes to writing.  Unlike Stephanie Meyer, I wasn’t hit with a fabulously vivid dream and plotted a few best sellers from there. I made it up as I went along. It was great fun, but resulted in a hell of a lot of rework. Logic tells me I should rethink that second time around if only for efficiency, but I write because I enjoy it, and it just doesn’t seem as fun when you know the end before you type in Chapter 1. Perhaps a little of both is the right balance.

I spent longer editing my manuscript, than writing it.  For me, editing was far less enjoyable than the freedom and excitement of writing that first draft (and Lily Malone, you can vouch for the fact that it definitely needed a cut and polish from those early drafts!? Not to mention extensive panel work…).  I think I cut about 20,000 words (and missed none of them). There is something to be said for authors writing themselves into the story, only to chop it out. Start where the story starts…I can hear you saying it Lily!

As I leave the editing phase for a while, and embark on a second novel, perhaps I can also muster a quiet read for enjoyment, and appreciate someone else’s hard yards.

I can only hope.

 

 

On Writing

Random House Quote of the Day

Random House Quote of the Day

During one of my first masterclasses at the Queensland Writers Center, a fellow author recommended I join Romance Writers of Australia (RWA). Considering I haven’t even read a Mills and Boon, I said, “But I don’t write romance,” to which she replied “Neither do I!”

She went on to explain how this fabulous organisation takes new writers under their wing, teaches them to write, regardless of genre, and puts them in touch with other writers.  I took her advice, joined up and found her to be correct.

RWA also manage several writing competitions, which I entered once – not in the hope of winning, but with the knowledge that every entrant received a written report, from experienced judges, who scored my work’s readiness for submission. Having an unbiased opinion on your work in progress, from someone who knows (ie not your best friend, mother or partner telling you “it’s great”) can be invaluable, particularly at key points in your manuscript development. By some luck, the synopsis for Losing Kate became a finalist in 2013.  We all need that sort of ego stroke now and then to keep our mojo flowing when we find ourselves staring at a blinking cursor or hitting the delete button more than the full stop.

It was through RWA that I also connected with my fabulous critique partner Lily Malone  who I had the pleasure of meeting at the annual conference in Freo. She taught me many things, like the basics of show not tell, (and avoiding doing both!), pace and editing those unnecessary words. Lily has been a fantastic support through the (at-times) daunting publishing process.

Writing can be a lonely undertaking, when often you only have your imaginary friends to keep you company. It’s true. Sometimes you actually have to converse with real people, so it’s imperative to find your place in the array of writing clubs and support groups available.

I know that’s not always easy – there’s that day job and/or those kids to think of, and unfortunately not all places have established writing centers. But for those in coastal and rural Queensland, Writefest, held in beautiful Bundaberg in May each year, is a great opportunity to be inspired, hone your craft, and even pitch to publishers. After an excellent Writers Surgery with Sandy Curtis (organised through QWC),  with her encouragement, I attended a Writefest masterclass run by editor Deoni Fiford in May 2013. With the knowledge gleaned from those experiences, I did some rejigs, and was offered a contract in July.

I write because I enjoy it. Having the good luck to be published is just a bonus. However, whether you write for yourself, or to be read in some form, it should always be a goal to improve your craft.  Everyone’s pathway is unique. One thing that is guaranteed – the more you write, the better you become, so anything that keeps you spilling out those words and hushing those self-doubts, is a step in the right direction.

Books may not change the world, but I can’t imagine a world without them.

Happy writing!

Here are some links to other blogs on honing your craft:

How to get Published in Australia

Handouts from USQ Bookcase Workshop July 2015: From Slushpile to shelf.

Author Photos