Beginning My Novel, by Fiona McDonald
More than anything, apart from winning the lottery, I want to write stories. In my stories I want to escape from the humdrum world of working in an office or a classroom, waitressing, answering telephones and vacuuming. I want to work from home in my pyjamas at any time of the day or night and not brush my hair if I don’t want to.
In 2009 I decided to take my fantasy into my own hands and make it work. It all started with a knitting book.
Now I am embarking on the part of my writing apprenticeship where I get to write fiction. This is very exciting, a trifle daunting, but well worth the build up to.
By enrolling in the online class of The Australian Literature Review‘s Novel Manuscript Development Program I hope to discipline myself to work at a project that has not been commissioned. Commissioned work has given me deadlines, a structure, subject matter. Writing non-fiction does not need to have a climax or a plot, the characters are real people and information about them is already supplied.
My first idea for a novel for this programme was something I’d been working on for a PhD in Creative Writing. It had been discussed and analysed by my supervisors, other academics and fellow students. It was interesting from an academic point of view but it was not adding up to a commercially viable novel and I was beginning to hate it.
I have now withdrawn from the PhD. My aim, by enrolling in it, was to write a work of fiction. However, other doors have opened to give me that opportunity. And consequently I have discarded my original idea for a young adult novel for another and pulled out something from the bottom desk drawer that I started ages ago but which I have always felt very happy about.
Of course making such a change at this time in the course probably means I have wasted time I should have been using to get the novel up and running. It just means I will have to work twice as fast to catch up.
Agatha La Motte lives in a world similar to ours, in fact she may end up being in this world after all, or an alternative version. This heroine, or should I say protagonist, is feisty and independent unlike Miranda who appeared in my first attempt at a novel on the online program. Miranda was getting on my nerves and it was pointed out she was too passive.
Agatha inherits a toy shop from her great uncle, a celebrated toy maker who specialised in automatons. When he died he had been working on a secret invention for a dodgy bishop and the evil crew who run the city. Agatha knows none of this and is surprised and angry when the people around her expect her to sell the business, after all she is a young lady and will want to get married not bother herself with commerce.
These sentiments are the red rag to Agatha’s stubbornness and she is determined to retain the shop and make it a huge success. However, there are others out there who are plotting her failure, and perhaps even her death.