I gave a speech recently at the Thirroul Library covering three topics which have occupied my mind to a great extent over the past year or two. The topics were Wings, eBooks and Writing. This post contains the third topic, which is some thoughts on writing. (Here are the links to the earlier parts of the speech about Wings and eBooks).
The audience seemed to enjoy my talk, so I’ve decided to post it here on my blog. I hope you enjoy it too …
The final thing I’ll do tonight is share a few thoughts about writing.
Given I’m not a professional author (in that it’s not my main source of income), the hardest aspect of writing is making the time to do it. When asked for their most important tip to would be authors, many established authors simply respond with one word: ‘write’. But it’s easier said than done. I have a wife, a full-time job and four kids. I like to exercise as well.
Finding time to write amongst those responsibilities is easier said than done. When I’m in the midst of a writing project, I try to aim for 700 – 1000 words a day on at least 5 days a week. That word count typically takes me around an hour, often split over two or three mini-sessions. Possible times include early in the morning before anyone in the house is awake, a few minutes in my lunchbreak at work or in the evening when the kids are in bed and my wife is catching up on her soapies. It’s a regime that needs to be kept up over weeks and months in order to craft a novel, and relies more on dedication and planning than any particular writing genius.
It’s not a regime that I’ve been able to keep up year-in and year-out, but is something that I can manage for a few months at a time.
What else can I say about writing? Lots of reading is important. The aim of reading is not to find new story ideas, but to develop new techniques and ways of telling a story. Someone once described it to me as reading with a writer’s eye, attempting to analyse what the author is trying to achieve and how they’re doing it.
For me, professional assistance was also important in taking the step up to be published. I received this assistance twice. The first time was when I initially submitted Wings to a publisher. They replied telling me that they liked the concept, and the writing was good, but it wasn’t quite at publishable standard. They suggested I get a “reader’s report” – a review of Wings written by a professional editor highlighting weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. I did as they suggested, and received a report with a number of suggestions.
It took me a couple of months to work the suggestions into the manuscript. When I had done so, I submitted to Really Blue Books, and received an acceptance within a few short weeks. However, that wasn’t the end of the professional development.
I spent another few months revising Wings, incorporating the subtle changes and improvements that Sarah, my publisher, suggested. The overall story didn’t undergo too much in the way of surgery, but the enhancements and clarifying touches that she brought to the entire process elevated the finished product to another level. There wasn’t a page that didn’t have at least one minor revision and I was delighted with what she brought to the table.
Having seen how much the manuscript was enhanced through the input of a professional editor, I would be very reluctant to self-publish something which hadn’t been through such a process. This is despite the fact that I obviously learnt many things from these skilful editors which I have incorporated into my subsequent writing.
Given Wings has been professionally edited and had a cover designed for it, I did take the opportunity to make it available in hardcopy (Mum really wanted one and she doesn’t have an eReader). This was a very satisfying process. Despite all the positive aspects of eBooks, I really enjoyed holding a physical copy of my own creation.
Writing remains a work in progress for me. Since Wings, I’ve written a novella about parents whose first baby develops complications and is whisked into intensive care within a few hours of the birth. This novella (A Painted Room) is currently being edited. I’m also halfway through my next novel, called Lessons from a Two Year Old. This is about a thirty-something, single IT geek who still lives with his parents. He gets dragged into baby-sitting his two year old niece, and she turns his life upside down. He’ll have plenty of mishaps along the way, as, inspired by his independence seeking niece, he seeks a new job, a new wardrobe, and – of course – his first girlfriend.
I’ve often been asked where I get my ideas from. The short answer is that I derive them from my own experiences and observations. As mentioned, Wings is inspired by the lives of my grandfather and brother. A Painted Room was written following the birth of my youngest son who spent the first week of his life in intensive care (thankfully he’s made a full recovery and is a happy and healthy one year old). Lessons from a Two-Year old originated from a conversation at work. A friend was talking about her two year old and how he had displayed a momentary touch of wisdom. I replied to her that she was getting lessons from a two year old and the turn of phrase grabbed my fancy. I wrote it down, and then spent a bit of time trying to think of a plot that could support such a title. I’m hoping that the plot I have developed will be a winner for me, although I’ve still got plenty of hard work in front of me in order to make it a reality.
Thanks again for listening to me today. I hope that at least some of what I’ve shared about Wings and my writing has been of interest to you. If you do have any questions, I’d be happy to try to answer them.