The deadline is fast approaching…

Shortly after walking away from five days in the beautiful botanic gardens of Adelaide, with sixteen other writers, led by the fearless and charismatic Fiona McIntosh, I set myself a deadline to finish the second* first draft of my manuscript. October 31 was my D-Day.

That deadline is fast approaching. And, I’m not going to meet it.

It was an ambitious deadline, considering I have a toddler, a part (might as well be full) time job and freelance work on the side. I’ve made my peace with it. Working to a deadline is a hugely motivating way to achieve your goals. But it’s important not to get too caught up on the times when those deadlines fall through the cracks.

I had set myself a word count across four days a week. Some weeks I hit or even surpassed it, other weeks I didn’t come close. My son and I both got hit with Influenza A a few weeks ago, there was no writing to be had during that time!

Though the deadline won’t be met, I feel like I’ve still achieved so much in the past six months. Whilst I may not write every day, when I do carve out the time, I feel completely connected to my story. I’ve made huge changes and I’m proud of the work that I’ve achieved. I no longer dread opening my laptop to work on my WIP, because the story is clear to me now, and though it’s far from perfect, I am more in love with my characters than ever before.

I’ve also been able to acknowledge my limitations and put some strategies in place to work with them. After trying to fit writing into my son’s nap times and getting frustrated when he would wake up “too early”, I decided to ditch the nap time writing and either postpone it until after bed time when my husband is home and can deal with unexpected wake ups, or focus my writing energy on my train commute twice a week.

I also –  somewhat indulgently – put my son in childcare for a few hours on one of my days off so that I can buckle down and get more words on the page. I struggled with this idea at first, as if I was somehow putting my writing in front of parenting, but thankfully I have a wonderful support network of parents who reaffirmed my belief that we can’t pour from an empty cup. Resenting my son for my lack of writing time was emptying my cup quicker than I could refill it.

So where am I at with just a few days to go until deadline? As of this morning, I had written over 73,000 words. I am at the pointy end of the plot and the finish line is in sight. I have a clear idea of my ending, it just needs to be written! The anticipation of reaching the end is motivation enough to see me through the last 10K or so. I know there’s still plenty more work ahead of me, but the thought of sitting down and reading this new story from start to finish gives me such a thrill.

I am loving this journey so much more than I thought I would the second time around. I just hope that one day you all get to share in my characters’ challenges and triumphs, too.

*After feedback and learning so much at masterclass, I decided to start my WIP again, from scratch. I’d already written an 85K first draft, but so much of it needed to change that it felt more efficient to cut my losses and start again.

A year in review

My baby turned one this week. In some ways, I can hardly believe I am the mother of a one-year-old, and in other ways it feels like this milestone took an age to arrive.

I have no doubt that parenting is one of the hardest and most challenging experiences of ones life, exasperated for me by the fact that I was unwilling to let go of my writing during those tough early months.

I didn’t write every day. Not even every week. I wrote some poems when I felt overwhelmed. I wrote in my journal a heck of a lot. But I didn’t really open my manuscript for fear that I would get immersed in it and my baby would wake up screaming. Which he did. A lot.

I feel like he didn’t sleep for the first 6 months. Certainly not in blocks of any longer than 2 hours overnight, 20 minutes during the day. He only started to figure out the whole sleep thing at 10 months. But it’s only been since 11 months that he’s consistently been sleeping through the night, and sleeping in wonderful long stints of an hour or more during the day. You will never appreciate a sleeping baby more than when you experience a baby who doesn’t quite “get” sleep.

Aside form keeping my son alive, I actually managed to progress my manuscript quite a lot in the past year. Something I didn’t think would be possible when I was in the depths of sleep deprivation.

After receiving such generous and heart warming support on my recent post over on Louise Allan’s Writers in the Attic, I began to reflect on exactly what I have achieved in this past year. Not just in my journey as a parent, but in my journey as a writer.

Though I still have a long way to go, I think it’s important to acknowledge how far I’ve come. And in an effort to do that for myself, I’m sharing my achievements with you all, here.

When my baby was 8 months old, in my sleep deprived state, I took myself off to Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass. This was five intensive days in a room of 15 other fabulous writers, learning to hone our craft, navigate the publishing industry and basically get down to business. I credit Fiona and this masterclass to kicking my butt into gear and really committing myself to this manuscript.

I worked a reworked a synopsis and submitted it and my first three chapters to the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. If you’d asked me 6 months ago how confident I was of my work, I would have told you it would never see the light of day. So to submit to such a popular and prestigious award (even with reservations), goes to show how much my confidence in myself has grown.

On advice from Fiona, I changed the names of my character’s and the working title of my WIP – which resulted in a snowball effect of changes to my entire manuscript. At first, this was incredibly daunting, but in actual fact, it’s returned some of the joy and pleasure back into my rewrites. Everything just seems to fit better.

I sorted out my home office. It may seem small, but for me it’s a really big improvement. In order to feel motivated to write, I need a good space. Something with natural lighting and a decent chair. Though I can (and often do) write anywhere, having a dedicated space makes me feel all that more professional.

I’ve made headway on social media, particularly on Twitter where I get a real sense of what a writing community is all about. I fell out of love with facebook but have since decided to modify my personal page as my writing page. I was going to set up an ‘author’ page, but I bulk at the thought of having another space to manage. So instead, I’m taking Valerie Khoo’s advice and using my personal page as my Facebook writing platform.

I started doing some freelance writing and editing. I don’t want to spread myself too thin, so I’m selective of my clients and the time I can put towards freelancing, but I’m enjoying the diversity of work and the options it may afford me in the future.

I started an interview series with and for my fellow emerging writers: The Writer’s Room.

And I created this blog!

 

Thank you to each and every one of you who have followed along with me on this journey, sent me encouraging words through social media or email, commented on my posts and supported me when I’ve complained or exclaimed about anything and everything going on in my life. Your support and encouragement means the world to me. X

My new home office space

We’ve been in our house for nearly three years, and until just this week, our home office/study was really just a junk room with a book case and a desk.

As you can imagine, clutter and junk doesn’t exactly lend itself to motivation or clear thinking.

For a long time we’ve been talking about getting it set up properly. When we were in the planning stages of building the house we went to a well known cabinet maker and requested a quote for a built in desk with surrounding book case and shelves. We were quite willing to spend a lot of money to get it done, but I suspect the woman who sketched up our plans thought we were just wasting her time. They never came through with the quote and once the building process started, it became the least of our worries.

Now that I’ve returned to work part time from maternity leave, with some days working from home, it seemed an opportune time to get the office set up. We took a trip to Bunnings and picked out a 2.2 metre timber bench top. It’s big enough to seat two quite comfortably, with space to spread out. I also nabbed two trestle legs from Ikea, (on sale for $9.99 each) and we bought the chairs from Kmart.

Put it all together and we’ve created an affordable, modern and clean space with light, natural finishes. A place that I actually enjoy being in and can see myself getting a lot of writing done.

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I particularly love the raw timber and monochrome look, so am thrilled with how it turned out.

 

 

Sometimes the words just flow…

I want to tell you a secret.

Sometimes my fingers fly so fast across the keyboard, they can barely keep up with the thoughts and ideas circumnavigating my brain.

These are the times when I am in ‘the zone’ of my novel. Something has just clicked together like a missing puzzle piece and the rest just seems to fall into place. It’s almost like an avalanche, where one small change or idea has the power to influence everything else in its path.

This quite often happens when I’m layering exposition. I can get lost in the spatial awareness of my characters, or of the colour of someones eyes, the way their hair kinks out just so. These are the little details I love to write. These small details that give the reader just enough to start building a world or an image in their mind. Enough that they can be immersed in place and time without being told where, or who or what.

But then, at other times, I sit at my desk and I watch the clock slowly tick by. Writing words feels like pulling weeds. A job that has to be done, but it feels never-ending. There is no joy in these moments. I’ve had a few of these days in the past. But they’ve been fewer and farther between lately. I equate this to two changes:

  1. I am writing more regularly than ever before (excluding NaNoWriMo), and
  2. I’m writing less words.

I’m not writing less words overall, just less words each time I sit down to write. I’ve given myself permission not to reach a certain number of words if they aren’t coming. I allow myself a bit of time to see if it will be a flow or flop kind of day, and then I let it happen naturally.

These days, I’m fitting writing around a baby, so I don’t have the luxury of wiling away hours. My words need to be on point and quick. If it’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen.

But that’s OK, because there’s always tomorrow.

Manuscript Progress Update

Tomorrow, I’ll be commencing a five-day intensive fiction writing masterclass, facilitated by Fiona McIntosh. I’m looking forward to bunkering down with approximately 18 other writers to learn from one of the masters of Australian commercial fiction. Say what you will about her writing, Fiona McIntosh knows how to sell books. Not only that, she also capitalises on her travel agency past and has run tours to the locations of her books; France for The Lavender Keeper, Belgium for The Cholocate Tin. With the release of The Perfumer’s Secret she also hand blended and released a special perfume that featured in the book. She is more than an author, she is an entrepreneur.

I am giddy with excitement about what lies ahead for the next five days (though overwhelmed at the prospect of leaving my 8 month old for the first time). I hope to blog about each day very quickly after the masterclass while it’s still fresh in my mind. So if it interests you, be sure to check back in the coming weeks.

Right now, I am in the midst of a major rewrite of my completed manuscript. Currently it sits at just over 84,000 words. Of that I’ve edited 20,000.

As part of the masterclass, Fiona reviews both the synopsis and the first 10 pages of your manuscript. We then have a one-on-one discussion where I’m hoping she will tell me that I’m wonderfully on track and that the book is sure to be a best-seller.

Ha!

Though I do hope to get some positive feedback, I’m sure it’s more likely to be quite constructive. I just hope it doesn’t result in me needing to rethink the entire manuscript again, because I don’t think I have the stamina for that. I have too many other ideas floating around. And, after 3 years on this, I’m getting impatient to put it aside and start something new.