THE SISTERS' SONG coming in January 2018 from Allen and Unwin. Sign up to be the first to know. x Louise

For the past few months, I’ve only been able to snatch brief spells of writing time due to Year Twelve exams, school camps, graduations, speech days, and general running about for the end of the school year.

There was just too much going on, so, rather than resent it or worry about it, I went with the flow, and as soon as school finished, I packed up and took myself off to Margaret River Writers’ Retreat, run by Caroline and John Wood of Margaret River Press. I also know I won’t get much opportunity to write over the next few months, so I thought I’d treat myself to five days of uninterrupted writing time, and then, even if I do no more writing for the rest of the summer, at least I’ve had these days. (In the back of my mind, too, was a feeling of joy at escaping some of the December madness!)

For those who don’t know, Margaret River is about three-and-a-half hours from Perth. It’s a small-but-bustling town in the southwest of Western Australia, in a district renowned for its wines and beaches.

The Writers’ Retreat itself is a home-away-from-home. There’s plenty of writing desks to choose from, upstairs and down, all with views to the bush outside.

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Pine-panelled walls, a raked roof, and the abundance of cushions and mats give it a rustic and relaxed feel. There’s also a huge library of books, a collection of antique toy cars, and an old typewriter and camera.

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And outside is the bush, with its smells and sounds.

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Perhaps the biggest asset for writers, though, is being out of range of mobile and internet, and the silence that brings. It meant no distractions and made it easy to concentrate. I’d forgotten how distraction-free life used to be pre-Internet, when we weren’t in constant contact with other people. It felt strange, even slightly scary, to know that if someone wanted to communicate with me, they had to physically come and do it face-to-face!

But it meant I could sink into my story and stay there—I didn’t have to switch it off for five whole days.

I didn’t write the whole time—each day I took a long walk and found things like these:

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Version 2

I achieved my goal, which was to write to the end of the story. The last few chapters aren’t exactly how I want them yet, but the hardest part is done and I can smell the finish line—this rewrite is almost over!

Once I’ve fixed up what needs to be fixed up, I’ll send my novel to my writing group for their feedback, then will come much nail-biting, I suspect, as I start sending it out.

I’ve also decided that this is it for Ida’s Children—no more rewrites. I’ll edit and tweak, but no more big redrafts. If no one wants her how she is, she’s going into a bottom drawer, and for a very long time. I’m ready to start something fresh.

This rewrite has taken me six months, and I’ve really given it my best shot. Whether that’s good enough, well, that won’t be up to me to decide …

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