Deciding to write a book is a culmination of lots of pieces falling into place: turning thirty and realising that there is no right time to do it; growing more confident in my ability as a writer; feeling that I have enough life experience to write with deeper insights; and wanting to leave a legacy for my children. Even if this book remains hidden in a folder on my desktop forever and never sees the light of day, I’ll at least know that I’ve done it.
God, writing fiction is hard work though. It stirs up every shred of self doubt that I have (I’m actually a terrible writer, no one will want to read this, Helen Garner would be horrified) and has become totally all encompassing. I’ve written plenty of journalistic work, memoir, essays and instructional writing, but never a full length novel so the pacing, structure and narrative is all new to me, and I don’t like the feeling of not knowing what I’m doing!
I have been devouring books in a similar style, so lots of Tim Winton, Helen Garner, Liane Moriarty. My writing is quite Australian, female and literary, so I am paying more attention to the details and structure of my favourite books. Not to copy them but to learn from the masters. I’m highlighting turns of phrase and making notes on dialogue and syntax.
I am aiming for 80,000 words, which seems like a good length for a first draft. I am trying to get a draft down as fast as possible, then the real work begins in the revision. The editing is my favourite part of writing: polishing and refining, shifting sentences around and often, removing language that is too flowery and cliched. I’m not ready to talk about the content (I’m still at the point of slamming the laptop shut when Lee walks near anywhere near me when I’m writing) but it is Australian literary fiction about a young family. It’s not autobiographical by any means, but there is a married couple, and there is a baby, so obviously there are parallels there with my own life.
I just ordered a pile of books on writing that I’ve been meaning to read for a while: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing, plus Cate Kennedy’s novel The World Beneath and short story collection Dark Roots. I dug out my old copy of John Marsden’s Everything I Know About Writing which I bought at thirteen after doing a writing camp with him in Romsey. It’s good to get a local perspective.
My rough aim is to enter the Vogel’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. I’m under no pretensions of winning, but it is for authors under 35 so it gives me five years to complete the damn book. Ideally I would finish it before then, but hey, I’m finally cutting myself some slack.