Writing on, and about, an island

Writing a Novel

In Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on January 13, 2012 at 11:22 am

Last year, after a few months of manic writing (and enforced solo weekends at my shack on Bruny Island), I finished the first draft of my first full-length novel.

It’s a crime novel, set in Tasmania. It’s to be the first in a series featuring an enigmatic central female character (the kind of person I wish to be!).

A Sydney literary agent is interested in it, based on the sample and synopsis I sent her.

And she’s just emailed me: “When can I see the whole book?”

And now I’m kind of petrified with inertia.

Why petrified?

Because I’ve worked in book publishing, and know what it takes to go from first draft to something worth sending off to an agent. It’s a physical and mental marathon. Also, I don’t want to miss this chance. Also, I’m a perfectionist. Also, I’m so exhausted by the process of getting out the first draft that I’m putting off the inevitable rewrites…

… So, why write at all?

I’ve never wavered in my belief that I’ll be a published author one day. I’ve ghost-written lots of books, and, of course, I’m already a well-published magazine and newspaper writer. But there has always been a burning desire to have my own book published. It’s in my DNA – my grandmother was a published writer (into her nineties), and my father is also.

And I have something to say. Which, when you strip everything else away, is the number 1 ingredient needed to write a book…

… Which, thank the heavens, I’ve finally done

I’ve started various novels at various points during my life. I read those tortured false starts now, and can clearly see all the hallmarks of ‘first novel’ syndrome – where you are basically writing about yourself. I cringe a little, but I can also see the seeds of this later book, the one I manage to complete.

This one still has what matters to me and my life stamped over it (mystery, history, Tasmania, being different, questioning the status quo…), but if your writing doesn’t reflect you in some small way, why write?

Enter: the art of incubation

Recently, I’ve learnt that, instead of being a procrastinator, I can happily call myself an incubator. Different thing entirely, apparently.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that I have a habit of creating side projects (editing others’ books, finishing my Masters…) that steer me away from my central goal. These projects fool me into thinking I’m still achieving my goals, without the scariness of forced to focus on what I really care about.

I also make excuses about the fact that I need to make money to pay the mortgage, and since my day job involves being creative and writing all day long for others, there’s no juice in the tank for my personal writing…

No more excuses

Writing my first novel was one of the sub-conscious reasons I moved back to Tasmania – I realise that now. Sydney was a very distracting place to live. I needed the head/body space to write a novel that Tasmania would provide.

And I need to recognise my achievements thus far.

However, I also need to get brutal. I should know how to cross the finish line; as a book editor and publisher, I’ve coaxed other writers through this journey (god, it seems so easy when it’s someone else’s book…).

So, I’ve given myself a deadline and a routine (essential, I find). I’ll be writing every day to fine-tune the draft. And I’ll keep you updated.

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