• Valerie Miller

Notes on an Emerging Writer ... it’s begun



Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Writing is exciting and rewarding. It is also complex and requires commitment. It carries uplifting rewards while flagellating you with its challenges.


There are moments of joy and days of despair.


I have been writing on and off for years. I would write with a passion only to abandon it with the belief I would never be a writer. This became an unproductive cycle of writing and abandonment as I filled my bottom drawers with scribbled narratives and jilted characters. I held this crippling belief that a writer's profession was only for the intelligent wordsmith.


But the pull to create stories was too strong.


After years of post-graduate studies, delving into other creative pursuits, my continued passion for reading and my unfaltering love of words, I began to gain confidence in my writing and in my creativity.


I discovered blogging.


In 2011, I embraced blogging and dove straight in. I loved it. For me, I was publishing. Sending my sentences, my words and my thoughts into the world in search of a reader.


Blogging offered a sense of freedom that suited my creative personality. Although my content has changed a number of times, I have continued to blog for nine years.


In 2018, I made the decision to write a novel. Never one to start small, I plotted and planned a five-book historical time-travel series. When the time came to write, I didn't know where to start and so I contaminated this project with avoidance. In reality, I was yearning to write but didn't know how to begin.


The universe intervened and I discovered the Australian Writer's Centre (AWC) through my husband. He had completed a course on creative writing when we were living in Sydney. Living in Brisbane, I enrolled in the online Creative Writing 1 course and flourished as a writer. I was hooked.


I decided to put what I had learnt at AWC into practice by entering the 2018 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This competition runs in November with a goal of writing 50,000 words within the month. If there's anything that gets the wind up me it's a challenge, a competition and a deadline. I spent two weeks thinking about my story. I had a character in mind including, a delightful Art Deco apartment in Brisbane as my inspiration. In hindsight, the planning was pretty slim.


I did win my first NaNoWriMo, hitting over 52,000 words and, I had started my novel. Across the following Summer school holidays, I continued drafting my story.


In 2019, I began my Master of Letters in Creative Writing and my novel took a backseat. With working fulltime as a teacher, studying and other things that life likes to throw at me, it took 18 months to complete the first draft of around 110,000 words.


It was a mess.


During the writing of my draft, I also completed a number of courses with AWC, including Novel Essentials. These courses were a blessing. They taught me the craft of writing and opened my eyes to the massive plot holes, lack of character development, weak goals and disjointed narrative arc my novel had.


Once again I left it. I needed to think about what to do with it. The Imposter Syndrome had settle strongly upon me. I was left feeling defeated, with a sense of failure. I was humiliated and contemplated quitting. It was a dark week.


Instead, I decided to work on my short story writing. I just kept writing and pushing through the negative feelings. Listening to the So You Think You Want to Be a Writer Podcast was my spiritual guru. The podcast fed my inspiration, encouraged a belief in myself as a writer and nourished my motivation. The podcast mentored me to keep going.


I began to accept: If you write, you a writer. This was my mantra.

Reading books on writing and indulging in novels has also been instrumental in moving me forward and keeping that pesky inner critique away. I decided to be kind to myself and to trust that I can do this. I wasn't the first emerging writer to experience this and I certainly wouldn't be the last.


The universal truth is that writing is hard work. Pure and simple. I heard an author say once, 'If writing was easy, everyone would be doing it.'


My perseverance prevailed. I continue to draw strength by writing every day.


My writing direction changed dramatically when I completed the AWC course on plotting and planning with Kate Forsyth. This course changed my life as a writer. I finally understood where I was going wrong. I had written my first draft as a Pantser. I am not a pure Pantser. I am a Plotter. I need order and structure and I need to know where I'm going. I should've known this as I plan everything else in my life. Writing isn't any different. I need to have a map, to move me in the right direction but one that also allows me to flexible and creative. To give my imagination the freedom to flourish. Plotting is my lighthouse that helps me get back to shore safely when I get a little lost on what to do next.


From my first draft, I kept the main character and her love interest. I love them both. I have changed the role of the secondary character, placed the setting in a new place and time and started to plan. As my story started to evolve and improve, a wonderful new set of events and complications began to reveal themselves. It was pure magic.


As I write this article, I am in the depths of developing my characters and their backstories, their goals, their flaws and the world they inhabit. I have brainstormed, mind mapped, researched, asked loads of questions and thought about my tagline and elevator pitch. I plan to write a synopsis before I start to re-write the first draft.


With the personal deadline I have set down for 8 March 2021 (that's when my creative writing dissertation begins), I will, once again take up 2020's NaNoWriMo and get my 50,000 words down.


To be continued ...


Image: Stephen Archer - https://www.dreamstime.com/stephenarcher179_info



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