Friday, July 19, 2013

Start something, stick with it, finish it … or start something new

Last Saturday I spoke on a YA panel with Lisa Forrest and Rebecca James at the Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival. It was a fun, relaxed session and I enjoyed the company of Lisa and Rebecca immensely. 

During the session Lisa gave an aspiring young writer some sage advice about writing. It went something like this: Read lots. Write lots. Start something. Stick with it. Finish it. Nothing startling, but well stated in a way that was easy to remember. And it provided a timely reminder for me.

So after my stern talking to self on Sunday, I started the week with a new resolve. I was going to get back to my YA WIP; I was going to stick with it and finish it. No matter how long it took.

I started out by reading through what I had written thus far (about 3000 words), poring over the pages and pages of character notes and ideas, trying to get back into the heads of Shay and Riley. There was some surprisingly good stuff here, much of which I had forgotten about. But I knew I had a lot more “thinking” to do, and that I needed to go slowly, think deeply about my characters and take the time to get to know them properly. It was going to be a long process. But I was excited. That was Monday.

On Tuesday I woke thinking about a junior fiction idea I had years ago. A comic adventure idea that was very character driven and filled with much silliness. Ideas were zipping around my head, and I had to get out my notebook to take them down before I forgot them. And before I knew it I was scribbling scenes and working out plot ideas.

So after only one day into my resolve, I have started something new. But I am positively buzzing, the voices of my characters chattering away endlessly in my subconscious. Is this just classic avoidance behaviour? Am I just putting off delving back into my YA because I know that it is going to be hard? Who knows? But right now I am going to combine two of my favourite sayings and go with the flow and do what makes my heart sing.

Start something. Stick with it. Finish it. Great advice – if only I would follow it. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A stern talking to self

Okay – enough is enough, Susan. No more excuses.

Portraits of Celina has been out for three months. It has been read, reviewed and reprinted. You have received wonderful notes and emails and FB messages, and you have done what you can to promote it: school visits, library visits, festivals, panel sessions, conferences, interviews and articles. You have blogged and facebooked and tweeted.

There will be more opportunities – and they will be wonderful and appreciated – but it is time to let go. To stop being that helicopter parent hovering over and worrying about your latest little book baby and how it is doing in the big bad world. Slash the apron strings, Susan. Let Bayley and Celina tell their stories to whoever wishes to listen to them. They are no longer your characters. They belong to your readers, and you must move on. You have a new novel to write and it is not going to write itself. It requires time, effort – and in the (paraphrased) words of Ernest Hemingway “you need to sit at your typewriter and bleed”.

Remember Shay? And Riley? Remember that image you have of them: torn, crying, bereft, but loving each other to bits? Remember Shay touching Riley’s face and telling him she will fix it, fix him? That she would never leave his side no matter what he’s done? Remember your blog post about Dad and those tangly webs? Remember that?

You have another story to tell. And I think it could be a good one, one worth telling. And, yes, it is going to be hard. Really hard. It is going to take a long time. You are going to doubt yourself and at times you will feel as if you are writing nothing but rubbish – and maybe it will be, just that, rubbish, but maybe it won’t. But, Susan, you have to give it your best shot. Come on, put a lid on those doubts, silence those excuses and, please, please, just get on with it. 

Like now.