Joanne Ganley’s Online Journal

Te Papa Tupu Journal Entry 1 – Thursday 09 August, 2012

To be one of six winners selected for the Te Papa Tupu Writers programme, I would like to thank the Maori Literature Trust, Te Puni Kokiri, Creative NZ and Huia Publishers for this wonderful opportunity.

The six-month incubator programme is designed to support and nurture us as we endeavour to complete a written project. In my case, a novel. Each writer is paired up with a mentor – I am lucky to have Claire Gummer. She was quick to support me when I told her that I was going away on holiday for a week with my husband, which would begin a few days after our first introduction and workshop in Wellington. I wanted to cancel the holiday (organised before I found out I was a winner) and launch into the programme straight away, not because I felt I had to but because I was dying to get stuck in, like everyone else. I had told Claire I was going to take my manuscript with me. She came up with some good advice: “An opportunity to have a holiday doesn’t come along every day, nor does an opportunity come along to spend time with loved ones. Spend no more than an hour a day (on the novel), and then only if you must.” Mentors bring things into perspective, both in writing and life itself. Thanks, Claire! I’m looking forward to our weekly contact and discussing whatever comes up. Writers work in a cosy den surrounded by books and are generally left to their own devices. But having someone to bounce ideas off, give direction, nudge us along, help achieve our writing goals on a regularbasis is a rare occurrence indeed, one that may never come along again.

I enjoyed my trip away and spent only a few hours in total, writing up notes and prepping this online entry. I still felt a bit sorry for my husband, even if it was only a few hours. Fortunately, he’s very understanding and supportive of what I do. I think that’s so important if you’re going to be a serious, committed writer. You really do need the backing of your family and friends – at least those you share the same roof with, otherwise things can turn topsy-turvy.

These last few days I’ve been thinking about the second-half of my novel. Point of view needs to be changed and the usual tinkering and tweaking applied, to give it coherence and shape. Rather than working from the computer, I prefer to print out my manuscript and work off the tangible, the real pages. This isn’t always the case but sometimes it just seems to work better for me. Firstly, it gives my eyes a break from the glare of the screen, and I can slouch on the bed or sofa – stretch out a few muscles then curl up with the manuscript, a red pen and post-it notes. Next to my literary companion, Toru, of course. Writing is a solitary endeavour. If you spend the majority of your day alone, toiling and tapping away at the novel, cats make for delightful company, especially when you start conversing with them about your manuscript or anything that’s bothering you. No, they don’t respond but that’s the best part. Expletives, tantrums, loco time – you can let loose in front of your cat companion, dog, bird, rabbit or spider, whatever, without being judged, reprimanded; or worse, your husband or family staring at you oddly, thinking you’ve really gone AWOL. Writing comes with some good rewards but not without those frustrating days too – days of droughts, days of procrastination, gloom or laziness – all part of the process, a writer’s territory. I digress slightly. Back to why I’d rather rewrite and edit from a hard copy. Secondly, I like and dislike padding out the manuscript with colourful post-it notes or wielding my red pen like a sword, leaving slashes and stains across pages of work. ‘Like’ because it means I’m working, rewriting, getting somewhere and mostly enjoying myself. ‘Dislike’ because I’d rather see my manuscript flawless and gleaming, free of red slashes and stains, so it reads like a bestseller. I’m dreaming, of course. Writing is rewriting and rewriting. Going back to post-it notes: they’re helpful little things you can stick on a page with instructions/reminders to change something. Sometimes changes have a domino effect on the rest of the manuscript and you end up with the added task of going through and ensuring you make those changes accordingly. For example, your character at the beginning of the novel has amber eyes and half way through they’ve somehow turned milky blue. Or, your main character has become so mean and nasty, readers will despise him/her rather than sympathise as initially invoked. Or, a scene doesn’t segue into the next very well, a page of dialogue is rendered superfluous and so on. Now, who said writing was a cushy job?

Here’s one of my favourite quotes by E.L. Doctorow: “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” It’s so true, not just in writing but life itself.

By Joanne Ganley

Te Papa Tupu Journal Entry 2 – Thursday 06 September, 2012

Have you heard of Scrivener or Y-writer? Everyone I know who uses Scrivener can’t live without it. It’s a management system that does so much more than our common Word application. It keeps your revisions, drafts, research, images, websites, conversions, everything related to your novel-in-progress down the side of your manuscript, like index cards so you can refer to them in a jiffy. I bought Scrivener last year but haven’t yet mastered how to use it to full potential (the instructions look challenging) or found the time to do so. Time is a big one. The novel and relevant work are constantly screaming for attention, but I’m sure if I mastered Scrivener somehow, I’d be spending, in an organisational sense, less time on the novel.

When it comes to revising or rewriting however, and as I mentioned in my previous journal entry, I’d much rather print off the manuscript and work from that. Aside from a break from the computer screen, and even though it slows me down, which can be a good thing, the physicality of paper and pen has a satisfying, liberating quality to it – ink flowing from the nib, paper scraping and rustling beneath my hand …

In my last entry I wrote about the second part of my novel, changing the voice from first person to third person – Tick. Slipping in post-it notes where I needed to add or remove bits or chunks, spruce up a scene, tidy up sentences, rearrange parts and so on – Tick. Then I went back to the beginning of Part 1 and repeated the whole process.

Now, when I sit back and look at my manuscript it resembles a thick, weighty scrapbook – each page peppered with red, sometimes blue and black strokes through the text; scribblings down the margins; extra pages shoved in here and there from earlier reminders of ideas and modifications, including Claire’s feedback; and pink and yellow post-it notes protruding down one side. When I slap and shuffle it about so the pages are even and tidy, it looks and feels, phew, slightly less intimidating. But what a sense of acheivement and completion it engenders. That’s not quite true though – the completion. My next step is to return to the PC and start transferring/typing those notes and instructions into the novel, fingers crossed I can decipher my own hand-written notes! During that process, something else will undoubtedly leap out at me and insist on being tinkered with or discarded altogether.

This is where caffeine comes in handy and a bottle of water, a few nibbles. In the back of my mind is a note in large bold letters, clipped to my memory bank: take a break now and then, go for a walk. It’s going to be a long, yet productive month ahead.


Te Papa Tupu Journal Entry 3 – Monday 05 November, 2012

We attended our second workshop last week in which we shared highlights and challenges, met with our mentors for a mentor/writer session, and learned about manuscript assessment, the publishing process and embracing e-books. It was great to catch up with the other participants on the programme and hear first hand how they were all doing.

Sharing of challenges/highlights: I forgot to mention I was interviewed last month by a student journalist for the Auckland University of Technology campus paper, Te Waha Nui. You can read it here:

There’s a picture of me with my colour-coded bookshelves. I wouldn’t recommend colour-coding your books though – it may look tidy and stunning but if you have a stack of books, it just takes ages to find a particular author! The article’s not about that though, it’s mainly about me and the programme, including a few words from Brian Bargh (Publishing Manager) and Whiti Hereaka (another participant on the programme).

During mentor/writer session: Since the start of the programme Claire and I worked out a feedback system where I would send in so many words per fortnight. We are half way through the novel and will continue in the same way over the next seven weeks before the incubator programme ends. We set about organising flexible deadlines and discussing a question or two I had raised earlier in the month about aspects of the novel.

This week I’ll be going over Claire’s latest feedback, taking note of her comments and edits, and making the necessary changes on the manuscript. I’m expecting a ‘big picture sense’ of the second half of the novel too, so it’s going to be full speed ahead, before our final workshop in December. At that meeting we’ll be reading excerpts from our work as we did when we first met in July, but this time to a bigger audience, our sponsors.



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    The Māori Literature Trust” on my own page. Do you really mind in
    the event Ido it? Thank you -Joni

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  • Scrivener sounds like a writer/researcher’s dream. Presumably you can use it in association with the Word program? When writing (articles/blog posts, not a novel!) I do like to keep early ideas and paragraphs that may not appear in the last version. But it will be interesting to see whether for you, it becomes a natural part of your work process or whether the ‘mastery’ of the system is a big challenge. I have books that seemed like a good idea at the time: Organizing for the Creative Person; File… Don’t Pile, For People Who Write – but do I use them? No. I found it too easy to get buried in their organisational methods and lose sight of the work I was doing.

  • You’re making such good progress! Having that manuscript in your hand must be a wonderful thing. Good luck with putting the much tweaked copy back on to the computer.

  • This time is going to be so productive for you! I’m looking forward to one day reading the results!
    It’s great that you got your holiday in before all the hard work starts! 🙂

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