In case you missed it, the latest round of #writeabookwithal is over and I have finished the first draft of my latest manuscript. It is, brace yourselves, the 15th first draft fiction manuscript that I have written.
Four were written before my first children’s novel (The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race To The End Of The World) was published and I doubt that we will ever see that fab four again.
Since TMC #1 came out, I have written five manuscripts that are now published novels, plus five more, including this new one. News on all of those various projects will be with you once I have it to hand.
Anyhoo, my point is that I’ve written a few now and it got me to thinking about the various ingredients that are common to all of them. So I’ve packaged them up neatly as Cs because a) it’s been a while between blog posts, b) it amused me to use a maths concept in my creative writing post and c) that’s how I roll.
I’ve put this one first because it’s hard to write a novel without an idea. Sometimes, though, I think the bigger challenge is working out which idea will sustain a novel and which is the starting point for a character (which will then be subsumed into a larger idea), which is the basis of a scene (which will then be subsumed into a larger story), and which is a short story all by itself.
The reality is that some of my many ideas are just half-formed fragments that end up in notebooks and stay there, taunting me forever.
The most difficult ideas, for me, are those that present themselves as ‘I’d like to write a book about X’, or ‘I’m going to write a mystery story’. For me, that’s not an idea, it’s a theme, or a genre.
The best and most creative ideas are specific. Often weirdly specific. And, for me, they usually present themselves as a question and a feeling.
The Mapmaker Chronicles came from that feeling you get when you look out into a clear night sky (where are the edges? what’s at the edges?) and a specific question: How did they map the world? (You can read about it here)
The Ateban Cipher novels came from the feeling I got when I looked at The Book Of Kells (I wanted to take it home) and a specific question: Why would you write a book that no-one can read? (You can read about it here)
If you have always been someone who can write – that is, sit down at school, or university, or wherever, and have words pour out onto the page when required – craft is often something that you come to later. It’s often about the time that you write the first draft of your first novel, all 70,000 words of it, and think that your work is done.
In fact, it’s the time that you submit that first draft to an agent who comes back to you with these words: “What would you like me to do with this? There’s some nice writing in here but it is in no way ready to send out.”
Or maybe that’s just me.
Valerie Khoo and I have often discussed on our podcast that you don’t know what you don’t know. I discovered this lesson the hard way when I had the above exchange with an agent. I knew I could write a sentence – hadn’t I been doing that for years as a features writer? What I didn’t know was how to write fiction. Not really.
I was lucky enough to have had a good head start, thanks to all of my years of reading and working with words. But I had a lot to learn, and that’s where craft comes in.
Structure, character development, logical plotting, pacing… Take the courses, do the reading, go to the workshops at festivals, join writers’ groups. Whatever works for you.
I’m still learning a lot the hard way, because I still write without a detailed plan. I have to write it to see what it is, which is not the most efficient way of managing a publishing career.
But at least I now know what I don’t know.
If you had told Teenage Me that I’d one day be a published author and that I’d spend half my time walking around the block trying to work through logical solutions to problems that I had created myself, Teenage Me would have laughed.
Teenage Me thought that creative writing was all about… creativity. Little did Teenage Me know (about this and so many things, right Mum?)
When I do my school visits these days, I like to talk about writing superpowers. And when I tell the ‘maths kids’ and the ‘science kids’ that they have one of the greatest writing superpowers ever, I can see their confusion.
But so much of what we do as writers is problem solving.
If this happens, what happens next?
If that happens, what happens next?
And every decision has to come back to your character, and what your character would do in that situation.
Not what you would do. What your character would do.
Not what you, as the writer, needs your character to do to fix this festering plot hole you have created. What your character would logically do.
No wonder Procrastipup and I do so much walking (which is a great way to work through logical solutions, if you’re looking for one).
Look, I wish that talking about writing got the writing done. I wish that I could tell you that your novel will write itself.
But it doesn’t, and it won’t.
If you want to write a novel, you have to commit to the process. You have to make the time. You have to write the words.
It’s not easy. You’ll have to make sacrifices. You need to show up.
But that’s what it takes.
If you need some help to get the words written, you can read my blog post here, or you can take my 30-Day Creative Writing Bootcamp (10,000 words in 30 days. Yes, you).
I well remember the first time I received a structural edit (you can read about it here). I have still been known to cry. But editing – fixing (correcting) what is wrong with your manuscript – is an essential part of the process.
The trouble with a big edit is that it feels like an insurmountable problem. How can you possibly make all of these changes when every single change you make affects the entire story?
The answer, of course, is that you climb that insurmountable mountain one step at a time.
I’ve got some tips on how to edit your own writing here, and some tips from a professional editor here.
I call it courage. Others, as one person on Twitter told me in no uncertain terms [insert eyeroll emoji], call it confidence. Perhaps it’s a blend of the two.
It’s the blind faith that will carry you through the process of sitting alone in a room for the countless hours it takes to write your novel, then the countless hours of hard graft it takes to edit your novel and then, right at the very end, the sheer will it takes to press ‘send’ to either submit your work to a traditional publisher or publish your work yourself – and it is not for the faint-hearted.
Putting your thoughts on the page and then handing them over to someone else to read isn’t easy.
Dealing with rejection isn’t easy.
There are a lot of people out there who say they’re going to ‘write a novel one day’.
To me, it takes courage to try.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.
You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.
And check out So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job), co-authored with Valerie Khoo and based on our top-rating podcast.
It’s been a big year for the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast team!
Not only have we screamed past the ONE MILLION download mark (you’ll find my 15 favourite interviews here), with a LIVE event at VIVID Sydney (book now!) in the works, but we’re happy to announce that we’ve written a book!
So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job) by Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo will be on sale from 8 June (be at our event to be the first to own it!)
Here’s the blurb
The ultimate guide to making your writing dreams come true!
Want to write a novel or earn an income as a freelance writer, but not sure how to go about it? Authors Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo – co-hosts of the popular So You Want To Be A Writer podcast – will give you the steps you need to make your dream a reality.
In this book, you’ll discover everything you need to be a successful writer, including how to connect with people who will help your career grow and productivity tips for fitting everything into your already busy life. You’ll also explore how to keep your creative juices flowing and where to find other writers just like you.
This book lays out a blueprint to help you get started and thrive in the world of words. With advice from over 120 writers, you’ll tap into proven wisdom and find the path that will lead YOU to success!
Here’s what five of Australia’s favourite authors have said about the book
‘Practical, grounded and inspiring. When a thousand voices tell you that you can’t, you need a voice to make you believe you can. This book is that voice.’
Candice Fox, #1 New York Times bestselling author
‘So many pro tips in here from working writers. This is like Tim Ferriss’s Tools of Titans but exclusively for writers. I loved it.’
Tristan Bancks, award-winning children’s author
‘Perfect for the person who wants to write but doesn’t have the confidence or the know-how to start.’
Pamela Hart, award-winning historical fiction author
‘Essential reading for any aspiring writer.’
Graeme Simsion, international bestselling author
‘Val and Al were a godsend to me before I was published, offering a guided tour to the world of publishing that was otherwise closed to me. Their advice is highly, highly recommended.’
Dervla McTiernan, international bestselling author
And here’s a picture of the co-authors on the day (nearly a year ago) we decided to write a book
We are thrilled to bring this book to our podcast audience, our writing community and to new and aspiring writers everywhere. It will be available through a range of online booksellers, here and overseas, so stay tuned for more details.
If you’d like to read more about So You Want To Be A Writer the book, or register your details to receive notice as soon as the book is on sale, you’ll find all the details here.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.
I seem to write about writing a lot (you’ll find my hundreds of blog posts about writing here).
And if you listen to So You Want To Be A Writer, the podcast I co-host with Valerie Khoo, you’ll know that I also talk about writing, and ask other authors about their writing, a lot.
But I don’t often talk about my own writing. I’m usually asking the questions, not answering them.
That all changed when Kel Butler from Writes4Women podcast interviewed me about all things writing. You can listen to it here.
As Kel says, you’ll need a cup of tea for this one. The interview covers a lot of territory, including:
•finding your writing voice
•writing while parenting
•dealing with rejection
•writing without a plan (aka how I learnt to outline)
•making time to write
•raising readers, and lots more.
You can listen to the interview here
I hope you enjoy!
Are you new here? Welcome! You can find out more about me here and all about my books here.
If you’re a writer, you will LOVE So You Want To Be A Writer, my podcast with Valerie Khoo from the Australian Writers’ Centre.
Or try Your Kid’s Next Read, my podcast with Megan Daley from Children’s Books Daily, for insight into what’s happening right now in children’s literature.
As threatened, it’s here. Day one of #writeabookwithal (Feb 2018).
If you’ve done this before, you know how it goes. Lots of people TALK about writing a book. Now it’s time to actually write it.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to … write. As many words as you can, as many days as you can, alongside me as I work on my new manuscript.
If you’re new here, you’ll find a basic rundown of how it all works here. You might also like to find out a bit more about me here, to see what you’re getting yourself into…
One tip: follow my Facebook page and mark it as ‘see first’ to make sure you don’t miss the word count posts. This is where most of the discussion (and cheerleading!) takes place.
Some other posts that might help:
How to get the words written: 10 tips for writers
Six reasons you should start writing your novel now
Some books are harder to write than others: 7 tips for getting to The End
3 ways to make yourself write when you really don’t want to (but absolutely have to)
Don’t forget I also have really useful courses for you:
Make Time To Write
Creative Writing 30-Day Bootcamp
Ready, set… write!
With one week of the school holidays left, my thoughts are turning to two things: the huge stack of things on my To Do list and the next book I want to write.
In order to manage both of these things at once, I’ve decided some accountability is in order. And so…
On February 1, I’ll be starting a new round of #writeabookwithal – if you haven’t yet witnessed the pure joy/chaos of this particular hashtag, the premise is simple. I start a new manuscript and post a word count each day – even if it’s 0 – on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (or some combination of the three) with the #writeabookwithal hashtag. If you’d like to, you can join in, sharing your own word counts under the post on my FB page, or using the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.
At this stage, I’m only aiming to write around 20,000 words, so I’m hoping for a four-week challenge, but we’ll see how we go.
Your goal can be as few or as many words as you wish.
That’s it. The whole challenge in a nutshell. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to daily word counts, but writers who’ve joined me before have commented on how inspiring the whole ‘group effort’ is, so I hope you’ll take a look.
I’ll pop up a post on 1 Feb to remind y’all we’re underway and off we go.
Will you join me?
If you’re new here, you can find out more about me and my books here.