Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (February 2013)
Writing Novels in Australia has reached the end of its second month of articles for 2013, from this year’s line-up of monthly contributors encompassing aspiring novelists, early-career novelists and established novelists.
The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:
– provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to
– relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.
Articles for February 2013
This month’s articles and writing my novel
From drafting your novel to publication and beyond
Jenn J McLeod wrote: Dreaming is easy. My greatest challenge was to stop dreaming and start believing. In the beginning I relied on family and friends to keep me buoyed and encouraged. But what I discovered was this:
Family and friends might love us to bits, but love doesn’t necessarily equate to understanding, and that lack of understanding makes them worry. While we writers happily lose ourselves to the dream, our family and friends fret. They worry we’ll be disappointed. They worry about us “wasting our lives sitting at that computer all day”.
Ben Marshall wrote: As a scriptwriter, I have to jump from imagining one internal state to another in the blink of a cursor. In one scene, a grandfather might be counselling a grand-daughter. In another, a twenty-something’s love triangle is going horribly wrong; in another I explore the middle-aged dilemmas of a married couple. All these situations and characters have to be imagined, and dialogue and action ascribed to them. And it’s incredibly easy. Not easy to do really well, but still easy because, like everyone, I’ve been imagining others’ mental states all my life.
Lia Weston wrote: So what if, while diligently keeping an eye on the market and writing your own path, you discover that someone has written or is writing a book that has the same concept or storyline as yours? I repeat: Do. Not. Panic. Resist the temptation to shred your manuscript, fling your PC out the window or immerse your Mac in a concrete bath. The simple truth of the matter is this: No-one can write your book.
Helene Young wrote: It’s a long road to produce a book and my advice to new writers is to embrace the editing. It will get easier with time, but there’s no place for a thin skin in this business! Every step is about learning and growing as a writer.
Alison Booth wrote: Ignore the adverse reactions (unless you think you might learn something from them). Remember that some novelists never read reviews. Remind yourself that opinions about novels are subjective. Focus on the good comments. Focus on the pleasure you’ve brought to many readers. Focus on the enjoyment you get from writing.
And then move onto the next project.
I am currently at the drafting stage of my novel, discussed in my January Month In Review post. I have the major storyline and character development in place. The rewriting will focus on strengthening everything, patching gaps in detail that need to be filled in or researched further, and making everything flow as a satifying, unified reading experience.
At this stage, I am writing and trusting my own judgement that I am taking the story in the right direction. At a later, stage, when it is more polished and closer to a finished manuscript, I will let some other people read the story and I will consider their feedback. Ultimately, as Jenn suggested, it is up to a writer to believe in themself. However, as Alison suggested, it is also worthwhile to consider feedback if you can learn from it.
For my novel, I am writing from the perspective of a teenage boy in 1939 Poland. As Ben suggested, me writing as a teenage boy in in 1939 Poland – as someone in my late 20s living in Australia – is easy in the sense that human minds and bodies are quite similar whether someone is a teenager in 1939 Poland or someone in their late 20s in contemporary Australia, but much more difficult to do really well than it is to simply do it to a passable standard.
As I write this, there are not a great number of English-language novels, or teen historical novels in particular, set in 1939 Poland. It is a pivotal time and place in world history, yet there is still a gap in terms of comparatively few novels set there. My take on portraying my characters and their story in 1939 Poland is something I have not come across before. The relative scarcity of prominent historical records, especially in English, when compared to many other historical times and places probably means there will also be relatively few similar novels coming out over the next few years but, even if a range of other teen historical novels set in 1939 Poland are released in the next few years, no-one can write my novel, as Lia suggested.
Once the novel is done, there will no doubt be criticisms. Debate over the nature and interpretation of events in 1939 Poland are quite a contested area. As with any novel, whatever I write is not going to entirely satisfy every single person who might read it – or who might form an opinion based on the cover, the blurb or a review. As Alison suggested, it’s more constructive to focus on the positives and not dwell on any adverse reactions but also to learn from them where appropriate.
Looking to the future, Helene’s words touch on the path ahead: “It’s a long road to produce a book and my advice to new writers is to embrace the editing.”
Writing Novels in Australia