Since I’m redrafting my novel Misplaced again in anticipation of finding an agent, or a publisher, or some good news, I thought I’d share some things I’ve learnt along the way that might help other writers. You can read a short synopsis of Misplaced here and a new extract I’ve posted here. The extract is a controversial scene that takes place in the Orthodox church.
Lessons during my eighth draft:
1. The internet is evil. Don’t justify it by saying it’s great for research. If you’re like me and you can’t control checking twitter and facebook every five minutes, unplug the internet cord and give it to your partner to take to work. I did that today and instead of editing half a chapter, I edited one, but above all, I felt liberated and immersed in the world of my novel.
2. You are not an emerging writer. You are an aspiring writer. Emerging writers have had a book published, you haven’t.
3. “Don’t send out work expecting to get accepted. Send it out expecting to be rejected, that way when it’s accepted you’ll get a lovely surprise.” Angelina Mirabito, aspiring writer.
4. Don’t get caught up in ‘show don’t tell’. When I first started writing I would make sure every sentence was showing instead of telling, but this actually adds a lot of words to your manuscript. Show don’t tell is about showing the reader what it is you want to say thematically.”Now your job is to subtly teach the reader your themes without them know it.” Anna Kannava, director, writer and inspirational mentor.
5. “Really, at the end of the day, what publishers are looking for is a really great book, not how many short stories you’ve had published. Limit your creative projects and focus on what’s important – the book.” Fran Cusworth, author and novel teacher, RMIT.
6. Art inspires art. I can’t write without listening to music. Sometimes when you can’t get in the zone you just need to be inspired. When I need to write a depressing Greek family scene, I play the Greek classics. When I need to write my aussie band, I listen to a great band I’ve just discovered called Trial Kennedy. They write poetic lyrics with a political edge.
7. Still can’t get in the zone? For the last six months I haven’t been able to figure out why I can’t work at my computer desk and prefer to use my laptop on the couch which is awful for my back. Someone recently asked me if I could study at a desk as a student, which I couldn’t, I was always on the couch or the kitchen table. That’s when I realised I can’t get in the zone unless I’m in a relaxing place that doesn’t signify work. So now I start working on the couch, get in the zone, and then move to my computer desk(no internet attached).
8. Every literary competition is a lottery draw. The only places I’ve sent my manuscript is to two competitions with no luck. “Sometimes it can just come down to what the judges ate for breakfast.” Christos Tsiolkas, brilliant mentor. The fact is that because the judges are pressed for time, you’re lucky if they give your manuscript a page before they move on. An agent or publisher with less time constraints may give your manuscript a chapter or so before they give up.
9. Don’t do your redraft in a big vomit over a small period. The come down is awful and you’re more likely to blur fiction with your reality. Instead treat your writing like a job. Set designated days just for writing. When you submit your manuscript somewhere, don’t stop working on it for six months until you find out if you’ve won that competition. You probably haven’t. Have a few weeks rest then start the next draft.
10. Yes, you do have to redraft. A draft isn’t about fixing words, it’s about exploring a story. With each draft you learn more about your characters. This is the first draft I’m not completely rewriting – I must be on the right track.
11. I know, I said ten, but this one is important. Exercise. It’s great for your back and clears your mind. It’s also great to get you in the zone.
Any more advice anyone would like to add?