THE SISTERS' SONG coming in January 2018 from Allen and Unwin. Sign up to my newsletter.

It’s been school holidays for the past couple of weeks, and up until the last couple of days, the weather has been cold, wet and gloomy—and perfect for writing!

I took the opportunity to immerse myself in an unscheduled home writing retreat, during which I took to my novel with the shears. I discarded more scenes, along with loads of sentences and paragraphs, which was painful because I loved some of those sentences and scenes. I’d given birth to them and I felt very proud of them, however, there’s no room for pride when revising a novel. It’s not about the author—it’s about the story.

I relaxed as soon as I finished this revision. I thought this would be it—Final Draft 2.0 was the definitive final draft. However, my red pen has been busy on the read through, and I’ve no doubt Final Draft 3.0 is on its way:

Including my ellipsis fetish

I really must do something about my ellipsis fetish—there were 14 of them on this page alone.

A Realisation or Two

I’ve come to realise a number of things over the past couple of years. A lot of them relate to writing, but many are about myself. I’m realising for the first time how much I love being creative—how much I need to be creative.

It feels strange to realise such things when you’re nearly five decades old, especially when they’ve been quite obvious for at least four of those decades. I wonder why I didn’t realise it sooner, but then I know why—I had other priorities; I didn’t think I would be good at it; life was too busy to think about what I might like to do …

I’ve also realised how much I crave solitude. If I don’t get it, I feel anxious and become a very grumpy person. From time to time, I need time alone, just me and my mind. I don’t mean just five minutes or even one hour—although that helps. I mean a significant period, a couple of weeks, without responsibilities, when I don’t have to think of anyone else. When I can just think about my writing.

I hadn’t planned to spend these school holidays in the attic, but over the last couple of weeks of term, I was beginning to feel anxious and tetchy. I still have three children at school, and they all have busy lives—there’s always something to take up my mind and my time.

It had been a year since I was at Varuna, and that was the last opportunity I’d had to immerse myself totally in my writing. I kept hoping things would settle and I’d get a sustained period in the attic alone, but it wasn’t happening. In the end, I asked my husband to give it to me. So, while he was at home over Easter, he cooked and cleaned and minded the kids, while I cloistered myself away and got my writing fix. Believe me, I know how lucky I am to have a husband who understands …

My children are also at ages where I can leave them downstairs and just make an occasional bodily appearance (leaving my mind in the attic), but I still felt selfish leaving them to their own devices during their school holidays. They’ve been wonderful and haven’t complained about my invisibility, and now I’ve had my fix, I can return to them and the land of other people!

What next?

My plan is to get this novel to the point where I feel good about sending it out, and after that: Novel #2.

I’m excited to start a new project—I’m already planning and jotting notes. I think the next novel will be smaller in scope and themes—actually, smaller in every way. I took on a bit more than I could chew with this first one, not that I knew it at the time.

In many ways, I had to write this first novel. I don’t believe I could have written about anything else until I got this out of my system. I didn’t plan this story, and I certainly didn’t plan its themes, but it’s turned out to be about the things that are most important to me: children, music, and trees. The only thing that is dear to me that I forgot was the ocean—maybe novel #2 will include that!

I don’t know if my first novel will ever be published, but regardless of that, I want to make it the best it can be, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I can always pick it up again in a few years’ time, when I have fresh eyes and more experience. And secondly, I want to learn as much as I can from it, so I can take all that I’ve learned and use it when writing my next novel.

I’ve prepared a blog post on things I’ve learned from writing a first novel, but I can’t post it yet as I keep adding to the list! I’ll probably have to publish it as ‘The Incomplete List of Things I’ve Learned About Writing a Novel’.

Onwards

So, onwards I go, in this land of being a mother, having responsibilities and commitments, trying to participate in society and interact with other people, and trying to write a novel as well.

Good luck to all of us trying to write or create in this hectic world. May we all have understanding partners who let us carve out time in our attics for our writing fixes.

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THE SISTERS' SONG

Coming January 2018 (Allen and Unwin)

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