I started writing my manuscript in early 2016 after enrolling in an online novel writing course with The Writers Studio. The last three years have been spent learning about fiction as I wrote and rewrote my story. Much of the work was put down in the same circumstances I am writing this blog post – on my iPad, on a Ventura bus trundling it’s way between Warrandyte and Docklands – thirty kilometres, one and a half hours, twice a day, every work day. The chore of the public transport commute transformed into an opportunity to steal some creative time, and to pass the time, and what an amazing journey it has been.
Writing is a significant part of my work life, but it’s business writing – briefs, corporate documents, media releases, and research papers. Creative writing is a different beast. There is a lot more to writing fiction than you might imagine before you start. You need to learn the craft; to harness and shape your imagination into characters, scenes, and dialogue; to develop a plot that has meaning and structure; and find a unique voice. It takes practice, persistence and a willingness to turn up at the page day after day, including when you don’t feel inspired to put down words – to keep spilling them out, even when you think they are crap – to develop a writing habit. It’s hard to say exactly how many words I have written in the process of developing this manuscript, but I’d hazard a guess it’s in the vicinity of 200,000, most of them typed in transit or snatches of time.
To build my knowledge and skills I also devoured many podcasts on writing, completed a couple of short courses through The Australian Writers Centre, read books on the craft and devoured a broad range of fiction and non-fiction books to see what I could learn from the published works of others.
In January 2018 I started this blog because I was in a fortunate position to be able to take a year off work, primarily to focus on my writing, and wanted to make a record of my journey. Since then I have blogged almost 70,000 words, completed my year off, and am back in the fray of the commuter class.
A couple of weeks ago, I printed my manuscript and gave it to my first reader, incorporated some changes based on their feedback and have now sent it out to beta readers. It’s a funny mix of emotions sending your work out into the world, even if only to a limited few – there is both apprehension and expectation. You hope that readers will be engaged by, and enjoy the tale, and that they will be brave enough to provide honest feedback that will contribute to improving the work. There is also a niggling worry that you could have completely deluded yourself and spent years writing something that no one will understand or enjoy. Then whilst the work is visiting others, all you can do is wait. I have come to believe that patience is one of the key attributes for being a writer of any, but particularly, long form fiction.
When you have filled every spare moment with a project for many years, the sudden hiatus when you stop requires some adjustment. I thought it would be great to take a break – read some books and get onto some non-writing projects, like that garden paving I keep putting off. Curiously developing a writing habit has the hallmarks of most other habits, like exercise, where suddenly stopping leaves one with an uncomfortable, agitated residue. So last night I set up a scrivener file to start my next manuscript and I’m already getting a sense of what the plot line will be (rubs hands together).
Main image: Guggenheim Museum, New York