Two huge events kicked off yesterday—the Australian Writers Marketplace Online’s Year of the Novel course I enrolled in back in March, and also the last three weeks of editing. Enough to keep me out of trouble for a while.
Waiting for the Teacher
We’ve long heard the adage “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Well I’ve thought for years I was ready and sat patiently waiting for the teacher, wondering if I’d somehow wandered out onto the wrong road, trying to hitch a ride with the wrong travellers.
Turns out, it was wrong time and wrong place. Not only that, I had the wrong destination written on my sign.
When I won The Hembury last year, I put a small request out to the universe to please send me a mentor. In true form, the universe obliged by (among other things) sending Andrew McKiernan my way who helped me navigate my way around creating gorgeous looking eBooks through InDesign.
Not quite what I wanted, but I’d certainly never change it. Next time I send a request out though, I’ll remember to be a little more specific.
But I digress.
I’ve never been hungry to write a novel. The allure has never been there. Short stories have always satisfied.
It hasn’t been for lack of ideas. I’ve had plenty, however I’ve horded and squandered them on NaNoWriMo. To date there are four unfinished manuscripts either on my hard drive or kicking around my house in printed form—everything from political thriller to historical/sci-fi set in the Victorian goldfields.
The ideas didn’t sucked and I could hack the pace… it was just never wanted a completed novel bad enough to keep chipping away.
Enter, Year of the Novel
I’ve always thought AWMO’s Year of the Novel (YoN) a fabulous course and know of several authors who have come out of it and had their novel published. In the last four years it’s never been the right time—idea, hunger, money, teacher… or as Dave would tease me, the planets just hadn’t aligned.
Then in March an email came through from QWC announcing my lovely friend Alan Baxter was tutoring the April cycle of YoN. I knew the time had arrived. Planets aligned, pieces falling into place [insert relevant metaphor].
I’ve long admired Alan (for a long list of attributes, of which his generosity as a person and talent as a writer rate equal tops for me). He is the perfect tutor for me to grow and mature under as a new type of writer… as a novelist! Holy hell… yes I just typed that!
And I am hungry: actually, closer to starving, than anything else, to write a novel. Yearning to sink into a deeper, longer writing journey.
The final nod from the Universe came when I wrote Birthed and the visits here went off the scale. People loved the story. They wanted more. A whole heap more.
So I bit the bullet. I scraped money from here and there. Paid up and waited.
Yesterday was the day. The day to press GO and have a quiet freak out.
A Recurring Dream About Failure
Over the weekend with my mind kept straying to Monday’s start date and in true me form, I had the recurring dream about failure.
Gratefully this time it was implied. I wasn’t wandering around my old high school lost, without my homework/assignment/speech, arriving to discover it’s final exams, or returning to repeat Year 12 and pass exams having never attended a class. You get the gist (strangely enough I’m never wandering around Uni, not turning in assignments, showing up to classes or exams, failing English Lit or withdrawing early because I’d accidentally fallen pregnant… or loitering around the commercial kitchens at the Cairns TAFE where I consistently chose not to turn up to class on a Monday afternoon and where I successfully bowed out of the first semester of a hospitality course because I just wasn’t into it that much any more… even the lure of Nick McKinnon still kicking around campus wasn’t enough to keep me there)
But I digress… again. Sorry!
The honest to Goddess truth is I haven’t completed anything since I left high school: dropped out of Uni twice, college once, started and never finished the doula course I signed up for and then last year I didn’t even manage to make it through a three week online writing boot camp. Even the six-month short story clinic I took, I managed to miss two of the six classes including the final one! I have managed to turn up and complete a raft of day courses, but committing to an entire year is epic (why I probably can’t fathom ever returning to Uni).
Editing to the Rescue
So my record as a student is less than impressive and I’d beat myself around the head with it, if I didn’t have at my disposal my track record as an Editor. As editor of Down to Birth Magazine I published 11 issues. Since establishing eP I’ve overseen the publication of six anthologies, and before I properly disappear on sabbatical I will have sent another three anthologies into the wild.
I do have follow through.
Add to this fledgling arsenal of awesomeness: a story I really want to write—which already has traction in shorter form, a fantastic group of supporters who want to see me get over the line, a brilliant course to be part of, headed up by a most excellent tutor and hell, maybe I’ll not only have a completed novel and faced down my dreams about failure.
The First-Last Hurdle
But before I can really commit (there’s always something, isn’t there?) I have three huge weeks of editing. By 1st June I need to have finalised 60 stories for two anthologies (that’s 90,000 words!) and helped to organise another 60 stories for the Best of Friday Flash Volume II (another 90,000… I think I should stop with the Maths!)
As it stands I have 32 stories finalised between the Deck the Halls and Tiny Dancer anthologies, many more are almost there and only a handful haven’t been look over at all. Despite a horrid start to the week (my son came home from school with a panic attack and then we discovered nits yesterday…) I made the quota of three stories a day. (And again today!)
I’ve said to Adam it’s all about chipping away at it—small daily achievable goals (mind you—some days three story edits in a day is like climbing Mount Everest). Momentum begets momentum and for the first time in a long time (perhaps it’s the promise of a not too distant reprieve) I have energy and focus for editing.
And as I do this, story ideas clamber through my dreams, stories write themselves in my head as I lie semi-awake in the dead of night and greet me again as the first slices of dawn come through the blinds. It’s like The Muse got the memo about unrestricted writing time but missed the start date.
For now, it’s about putting one foot after another, one line of tracked changes after the next. And while I do that, I’m manifesting this awesome feeling, this forward movement, this sense of achievement and worthiness ahead into the next three weeks to arrive at the end unbroken and ready to dive into The Rabbit Hole. But that’s a whole new blog post in itself.