Yes, I know, I know, there are so many do and don’t lists for aspiring authors. But I found this a really useful piece. We can’t remind ourselves too often …
In addition to writing and teaching, one of the things I do for a living is to evaluate manuscripts for their suitability for publication. I read fiction (and non-fiction) across several genres, and write comprehensive reports on the books. I try always to guide the author towards knocking his or her project into a shape that could be credibly presented to literary agents, publishers and general readers. You know how Newman and Mittelmark introduce How Not to Write a Novel by saying, ‘We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy,’ well they’re right; I am one of those editors.
However good the idea behind a novel, when the author is still learning the craft of writing – like any…
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Lazy writer … backspace and correct, that should be lady writer. But maybe the fingers did the walking correctly the first time.
For ten years I wrote a semi-regular column in a local newspaper. Even though I knew the deadlines a year in advance, and only 800 words were required, I still would be frantically banging it out at the last minute and even occasionally begging for a day longer to submit.
It is always quite comforting in a naughty way to read a similar confession from A LOT of writers. As with misery, laziness likes company! I think we all love daydreaming and working up plots in our heads; but the physical discipline of sitting down and moulding those daydreams into a 50,000+ word narrative is a challenge that many of us just won’t rise to. Or begin but don’t finish. Or get through the first write, but don’t ever go back to knock it into better shape.
It’s why writing is called a craft I suppose. We are making something new from a plan we imagined, in the same way a builder makes concrete the idea of a client. Together they make an overall plan, a picture of the finished product. But then the builder has to break it down into do-able chunks. All the tasks must be scheduled the materials there ready to be worked with. Progress has to be checked regularly on site, and necessary changes made on the way, so the building will stand firm and be everything the client wants it to be. If there is a problem with the original plan or the client wants changes adjustments must be made to incorporate the changes.
In short, it is work, albeit stimulating and compelling work. Writers of first books are their own client, builder, tradies … we must initially be jacks of all trades in our aspiration to be master of one.
We in Perth often whinge about the two and sometimes three hour time difference between Perth and the Eastern States of Australia. It seems every business in the world works on Sydney time in matters Australian. But I have discovered a reason to love this phenomenon.
I picked up my kindle to read a bit last night AND IT WAS THERE. Yes, dear reader, I confess. I pre-ordered my own book. So by 10.30pm, (midnight EST) my book and Pat Dusenbury’s had downloaded onto my kindle.
Indescribable elation to see it there looking back at me from the screen. My husband and daughter who designed the cover were right, that cover picture works perfectly in greyscale.
Can you bear the suspense of wondering – did she or didn’t she read her own book again?
Of course she did!
Yours is next on the reading list, Pat.