November: Journal Five
Over the last month I have taken a step back from my manuscript writing to reset. This has involved putting away the pages and pages of writing, and reading other works similar to mine to get a sense of what is currently trending in the world of Women’s Fiction. It has been an interesting and fun adventure, and I do feel like I am writing something that will work within the current sphere of romantic-comedy.
I have also taken some time to write poetry, read poetry and reconnect with words. It is words that have always given me a sense of comfort and familiarity and I have felt that this has been a necessary break to reconnect with the essence of my novel, and what I want it to look and feel like.
Writing is such a deeply personal experience. It is not necessarily autobiographical, but there are moments of deep diving into experience and observation, there is the experience and re-experience of feelings and emotions, and at other times it is the daily grind of getting the words on the page. A frustrating task at times, especially when the Muse has taken a holiday!
I understand so well now, that the first draft is a necessary step on the way to the second and third. After some time away, I have the energy to get the first draft out of the way so that I can get on with the business of revising, and revising some more. This is where a novel truly comes to life.
Thank you for reading.
Kia tau te rangimarie, hau pai mārire.
September: Journal Three
Shakespeare clearly knew a thing or two when he wrote that the course of true love never did run smooth. Writing a manuscript is very much like finding your true love, and then realising that they never replace the empty toilet roll and do lots of sleep-farts.
In my case, in those early heady days, the euphoria had me up all night giving into the words in complete and wild abandon. The words flowed like wine (not that I would advise drinking and writing) and there seemed to be an abundance of anecdotes, pithy quotes, captivating imagery and salacious scenes to be played out in my mind. Words that could then be flung with the aforementioned wild abandon onto the page. My manuscript could do no wrong.
Then the honeymoon ended. I realised that life was not going to allow me to stay up all night undressing my characters and scenes. I could not while away the hours tapping out sweet nothings without burning dinner, and I could not charge headlong into the next chapter when my 15 month old’s illness-induced mucus cup doth runneth over. Rather than feeling like a competent part-time Writer this month, I have spent most of it as the temporarily appointed CEO of the Mucus Factory. Part-time Writer and CEO of the Mucus Factory have not been complimentary roles.
Fortunately, with the support from my mentor, my whanau, and the pūtea from the programme allowing me to hire the services of a very capable Uni Student/Babysitter for a couple of days, I was able to complete the first half of my first draft. I have also been very lucky to have the support of my colleagues and whanaunga in the programme. Their kind words, funny jokes, awesome kōrero, support and aroha have been invaluable.
I don’t know if it’s the miracle of true love or the No-Sleep Training regime my son has put me through, but I am really proud of the amount of work I have been able to produce given that life does get in the way, and the honeymoon has ended. Having lost my job at the Mucus Factory, I am also really excited to get back into the writing, and I cannot wait to see where the words will take me this month.
Kia tau te rangimārie, hau pai mārire.
August: Journal Two
“Honey, I’m just letting you know that I’m opening a Tinder account.”
“It’s for research, for my book.”
On any other day, this conversation would be up on a Tui billboard. In the last month, as I braced myself for the storm of man-bits, it was a legitimate step in progressing my manuscript forward. A step which has included: additional scene, location and character research; building and adjusting structure; and changing and revamping timeliness. Work that has only occurred because of the guidance that I have received from my mentor, Paula Morris.
Sitting down for a cup of peppermint tea to discuss your writing with Paula is a bit like sending a Wednesday night, down at the pub, karaoke regular to a singing lesson with Dame Kiri. When it comes to writing, this wahine knows how to sing and I have found her feedback invaluable.
Her words of wisdom have helped me to move past the obstacles that have stopped my manuscript in its tracks over the last year and have helped me to understand and commit to my intentions and aspirations for the final product. The exercises that she has given me have also helped to gain insight into my characters and the story that they want to tell. Although her feedback was daunting at first, she has challenged me to be a better writer, and I am inspired to do exactly that.
Neil Gaiman has been quoted as saying that “nobody cares about your first draft…For now, just get the words out. Get the story down however you get it down, then fix it.” In the coming month I will be focusing on getting the words on the page so that I can start the process of fixing them. I am sure that it will also be another month of learning and inspiration, and daily reminders of how lucky I am to have been selected for the Te Papa Tupu Incubator programme.
But for now, I will sit here swiping, scribbling down the first advances that are so funny that they simply must end up in a book, with a smile on my face. This is one of the joys of writing, it takes you places that you never knew you were going to go. I sincerely hope that when I finish my manuscript, others might want to go there with me.
Kia tau te rangimarie, hau pai mārire.
July: Journal One
The first time that I bungee jumped there was a moment of complete intoxication. As I stood at the edge of the platform, a vice-like grip on the hand hold, overlooking the churning water, an athletic man daring me to take a leap of faith with his countdown, there was a heady mix of bewilderment and exhilaration that overwhelmed my senses. Bewilderment because I had convinced myself that I wanted to do this, and exhilaration because I knew that I always had.
That is how I feel right now. I am standing at the edge of a long-held personal dream, with my hands at the ready over my keyboard, overlooking words floating on white pages, as Fate dares me to jump. I am bewildered that I have convinced myself to share my writing, and exhilarated because it is all I have ever wanted to do.
Huia Publishers’ and the Māori Literature Trust’s introduction to the programme, a one-day hui in Wellington, was the perfect antidote for the nervous writer. Six writers locked in a room with lots of coffee and kai and a day of speakers who demonstrated, so eloquently, why the word ‘inspirational’ is a permanent fixture on their very impressive literary and life CVs.
Not only was there the added benefit of a full night of unbroken sleep, a rarity in a life shared with an infant, but there were also practical tips, opportunities for questions and kōrero and abundant motivation for the journey ahead. The speakers bravely shared some of the hard realities of travelling the long and winding road to publication. It was the perfect balance of manaaki and ‘it’s time to get down to business’.
I am under no illusions that turning the dream into 300 or so hardbound pages is going to be easy, but I am grateful that that the process is one that is going to be supported by two organisations committed to Māori voices.
Today I am standing at the edge, and I am ready to take the leap. Thank you for taking the time to share my journey.