‘One day, I am going to write a novel!’
These words have been spoken by many a budding author.
But how many people actually follow through on their declaration? As someone who has uttered the above mentioned words myself, I wondered where to begin. Armed with a slightly inflated view of my abilities, I thought ‘well, I’ll just write it.’ I mean, I was good at English at school. I can spell. And I can type fast. This will be easy, right?
I started off okay. I had my awesome premise and my cool main character and I thought I was ready to go. The opening scene was underway. But then – mind blank. What happens after that? I’d heard of an ‘inciting incident’ and a ‘midpoint reversal’ but what was I actually supposed to do when writing those parts of my story?
After I got home from work one day, I was thrilled to discover my wonderful husband had brought me home a copy of The Australian Writer’s Marketplace. (Consider this the ‘inciting incident’ of my writing career.) This is a lovely, thick guide to the writing industry in Australia and New Zealand, which includes contact details for anyone and everyone in print media and publishing, and information about courses and competitions.
For more information, you can buy the current copy here. Go on, it’s on sale.
I discovered that The Australian Writer’s Marketplace also has a shiny, magical online learning centre, with different courses on how to improve your writing, how to pitch to publishers, and the course that I signed up for – ‘Year of the Novel Online’.
I’m pleased to announce the writer who signed up for this course last February (spelling and typing skills aside), is a very different writer to the one who finished the course in December.
Each fortnight, I listened to the dulcet tones of Dr Kim Wilkins as she shared her words of wisdom via audio recordings on how to craft a story. These recordings were accompanied by exercises taking you from writing the beginning of the novel (planning, compelling characters, world building) to avoiding the saggy middle and dealing with things like writer’s block. There were some great exercises about transforming stereotypical characters, using the five senses to describe a room in a haunted house, and writing a first person account of what a detective would see at the murder scene of your main character.
Each course is also assigned a published writer as a tutor. I was lucky enough to have Natasha Lester as the tutor for my course. Students were given the opportunity to provide samples of their writing and receive feedback from Natasha. She really helped me stay on track, letting me know what I was doing well and when to be careful of things – such as becoming too clichéd, and being specific with details (i.e. don’t just say ‘noisy’ be specific about the noises).
There were so many other students who started the course with wonderful ideas for stories and I loved hearing everyone’s ideas. Unfortunately, as often happens, life gets in the way and many of those students dropped off the radar before the conclusion of the course. However, I did ‘meet’ some other awesome budding novelists. Remember the names Natalie Hennekam and Melissa Varoy in the future as I’m certain they will be published authors one day.
By the end of the course I had over 80,000 words of my 90,000 word novel – a significant chunk of my first draft. I also learnt that writing a novel is a real labour of love and that I’d been very naïve thinking that English skills alone would get me over the line. There are so many intricacies involved in crafting a story – but the best way to start writing is simply to actually start writing.
Now, instead of saying – ‘One day, I am going to write a novel!’ – I can say that I’m well on my way. My nebulous concept for a story has turned into a slightly unwieldy but worthwhile 80,000 words, and that’s real progress.
Of course, the journey doesn’t end there. The next step is ‘Year of the Edit!’