First of all, for those of you wondering where my Classic Film Challenge blogs have gone – they are happening. I’ve been watching the films (the ones I’ve been able to get a copy of, anyway) and intend to review them when I get a chance. The reason I’ve been putting it off is that I’m on a pretty tight deadline – I have to deliver Abe & the Mongrel to my publisher in two weeks! Ok, so this deadline is a bit self-imposed, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let it swoosh by. The due date is a couple of days before my Birthday, mid-April, which means meeting it gives me an excuse to celebrate. Also, it’s perfectly manageable, thanks mainly to the whole point of this post – the fact that I’m living the dream as a full time writer (and have been for the past 3 months).
Yes, that’s right. Three months and one day ago I worked my last casual shift selling kitchen goods, said goodbye to regular paycheques, had a good night’s sleep (perhaps my last in a while), and woke up on the 3rd of January and started writing. Like all experiences, this one provoked mixed reactions. First, elation! Yay! Finally, after more than a decade of working a minimum of three jobs simultaneously (and up to eight or nine at one point) and writing, writing, writing, I could focus on a single task – writing! This is what it’s all been for (well, sort of) and I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw in a shout-out to Arts SA, who gave me the grant that has allowed me the financial freedom to be a full time writer – at least for a few months.
And here’s where the mixed part of the emotional backlash comes in, because I’m on a deadline. The deadline. Once the money runs out it’s back to working several jobs to make ends meet (unless I become an international megastar in the meantime, of course – btw, why not go out and buy Quillblade? Remember, all your friends may already have copies, but they don’t have one from you yet). So I’ve had more than a few sleepless nights over the last three months (albeit partly cat-related) worrying about what’s going to come after the money runs out, when I probably should have been just enjoying the full time writing thing. Oh, well. If a lack of sleep is the highest price I pay for this writing time, I’ll pay it gladly.
So what have I achieved in my three months? Well, a lot and not enough (never enough, but I’m an impatient guy when it comes to my own output). First of all, I’ve done a bit of promotion for Quillblade, such as going along to the Somerset Literary Festival (read about that here), and I’ve finished the structural edit for Beast Child (hopefully! Still waiting to hear from ZW – *fingers crossed*).
But the big news has been writing Abe & the Mongrel (and nearly finishing it). Now, I know every writer works differently. I know some who will be reading this and thinking, ‘How could he write a novel in three months (and two more weeks)? It mustn’t be very good!’ or maybe ‘Three months? What’s taking him so long?’ Well, here’s a bit of insight into how my brain works.
I plan. A lot. The seed of A&tM was found in a dream (yes, I’m as surprised as you are, as this never happens for me – it just involved a litter of puppies in a shoebox and I’ve warped it out of all proportion) about 2 or 3 years ago. Over that time I’ve been gathering the threads of a good fantasy story: characters (I almost always start with characters – in this case the Mongrel), setting, plot, etc.. I knew I wanted to set it in Adelaide, and I knew it was going to be a fantasy novel, and I also knew it was going to involve the legend of the Anzacs (or, more specifically, the junction between their history and their legend). I also had a vague idea it was going to be a standalone novel, with maybe one or two ‘companion’ standalone novels forming a rough ‘trilogy’.
I research. A lot. I don’t always research one particular book at a time. I don’t sit down and say, ‘Ok, I need to know this for this project’. I just like reading about mythology and history and so forth, but sometimes I do need to know something specific for a given work. Most of the background research for A&tM was already done before Jan 3, but I still needed some serious facts (and fictions), and this is what I was awarded the Arts SA grant for – to research the Anzacs and our changing perceptions of them and to start working on A&tM.
I edit. A lot. And unlike a lot of authors I know, I edit a lot as I go along. Usually, I’ll edit the previous day’s writing each morning as a way of getting down to work, and then continue on from there. Every two weeks or so I also go back to the beginning and edit the whole lot. I find this helps with the tying ins and ups. Doing it this way makes it easier for me to make sure the whole thing is working as a whole, rather than as a series of chapters or vignettes.
I’m also single and childless (too much info?). Seriously, though, sometimes I get to speak to other writers and it never ceases to amaze me that so many of them manage to squeeze their writing around school runs and house work and all of that sort of stuff. Being on my own means I don’t have to worry about any of that. If my apartment looks like a magpie’s nest it’s not going to offend anyone’s sensibilities except my own, and I can live with it for a little while as long as the page is filling up with squiggles.
So anyway, three months ago I started writing, and when my brain couldn’t produce any more words I shifted to reading and researching, and occasionally I put the whole thing on hold and did some editing. It’s been a great deal of fun, and I’ve learnt a lot, which I plan to blog about once A&tM is finished, but for now, to reign in this blog post, let’s get back to my last three months.
Abe & the Mongrel is nearing its climax, though exactly how long it will end up being is hard to say (shorter than I once feared, longer than I first expected). It’s been well and truly beaten into shape, which is why I’m confident that I can finish it in a couple of weeks, and I’m already ready to go with Ebb & Flow, which is the third book in the Voyages series, when it’s finished.
Oh, and I’ve already started planning my next project – watch out for it in a couple of years!