I have spent most of the year reworking and editing a number of promising writing pieces, and working out whether some earlier projects are short stories, picture books or novels. Sometimes I don’t know in the early drafts what the final form will be.
Each piece chooses its destiny, as I write and rewrite. I play, experiment and do radical things when it just doesn’t seem to be working but the story tells me it must be told.
Then there are some other tips I have picked up during the year like to, remove telling not showing from my work through avoiding ‘thought verbs.’
The other thing that’s happened is now that so many rules have been absorbed about writing I pick and choose which ones to follow. This is based on which ones improve my writing. Sometimes I even reverse a rule. I will share more about that one day.
The most enjoyable part of editing is reading my pieces loud to find the musicality and poetry. I realise I love things that have a beautiful sounding and flowing sentence, but it must also be purposeful. My family often hear me in my room doing this and wonder who I am talking to. ‘Just editing’ I say afterwards.
So with all of these things now happening, I reworked some stories I have always wanted to tell, and sent three completed pieces off. All three were reworked pieces that I have filed away to keep working on and had rediscovered.
If they don’t place in the competitions, and even if they do, I will then begin submitting to other places like publishers. There are so many competitions and not all of them result in publication. The stories feel just right to me. They still make me laugh or cry.
When I write I go looking for magic sentences, engaging characters, and use setting as a character when I can.
Now onto some much longer pieces, to apply the same process!
As well as editing and reworking, I do keep on writing new pieces. But my patience for the time a work might take to come to fruition has grown. Especially when the difficulties with it that niggle at me feel solved!
The last few months I have been revisiting picture book drafts and short stories, that didn’t feel like they were quite there yet.
Something special was missing. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. But I didn’t want to give up on the potential.
I had to have a huge break from them to see these pieces with a new heart. I attended a few workshops and made tips lists for myself. I read books on writing. I read books I loved. I waited and then I leapt back into my stories with hope!
What was I really trying to say in them? How could I give them the life they deserved and make them leap off the page into the reader’s imagination?
I reflected on where do I want to go with my writing? Where do I want to take the reader? How can I invite them to a conversation without a set idea of the answer? How can I make them care about the characters?
Here are the top ten techniques that have been helping me find the heart of my stories.
Visualising the scenes and story boarding the works, including consideration of the turns pages to keep someone reading.
Ensuring a story is played out to a length that allows me to do everything I intended without limitations (some picture books are short stories!)
Changing the perspective the story is told from but retaining the overall scene and setting.
Adding a sense of rhythm in the language from poetic techniques and keeping that going throughout the piece so it is a musical sound to the ear.
Recognising when I am in the mood to work on a particular piece and going with the call of the muse. Especially when it comes to hearing the music of words in my head.
Removing the ‘thought verbs’ and rewriting the scenes without these.
Playing with point of view, by extending it, restricting it, moving from first person to third person until it feels just right
Adding the back story and pulling the back story out and hinting at it.
Leaving the stories on a tricky point and day dreaming options to resolve that.
Changing the title to a key phrase in the story that I can use as a motif throughout the work.
So far, so good with this methodology. One picture book became a short story and was successful in making it into an anthology.
One picture book remains a picture book, but the characters are so much closer to what I wanted them to be, and this one feels almost ready for submission.
Another three picture books are in the process of rewrites and again may be short stories, or short chapter books.
One flash fiction piece, from the ideas for my much longer memoir, made a long list for the Brisbane Writers Festival. I will go back to the piece again and work on it and submit it somewhere. Maybe I have lots of flash fiction pieces ready to go!
Another picture book is a definite chapter book and is progressing well. This one had a change of perspective
My utmost thanks to Gabrielle Wang, Isobelle Carmody, Virginia Lowe, Giuseppe Poli, and Trent Dalton, for enabling me to press on in this journey with something they said in a talk, a tweet or a workshop, or something that they wrote that sparked a renewal of this journey, and also to other people who regularly read my work and give me some ideas of how to develop it.
Some people are great sounding boards, as I tell them the story the solutions begin to just pop out of my brain, so thank you to anyone being that.
Today I have a whole day to write and revise. I might even begin to tackle unfinished novels. Whilst I love revising, I keep jotting down new ideas and give myself space for free writes.
One series of new ideas, free writes, is just called Australia’s Maya Angelou, and in this space I can write anything mostly from memories, I am not sure if I will ever share it, but it is a place where anything goes with my writing, and I just experiment with all of the things outlined. I think in these free writes there are more stories, poems and even one day finally that elusive memoir that might mean something to others.
So signing off from blogville land, to go visit my characters and their worlds, with a renewed sense of joy and a willingness to craft them until they have that special something.
At the recent packed annual SCWIBI Queensland Professional Development Workshop, I appreciated Gabrielle Wang sharing her creative process with us. She gave us some inventive and wonderful ideas to improve our work in second drafts and shared her personal story of the importance of perseverance and the value of a mentor and challenge. Do visit Gabrielle’s site to find out more about her books, and buy or borrow them! They are fantastic and I can’t wait to read more.
Sheryl Gwyther, SCWIBI coordinator for Queensland, and Gabrielle are pictured above sharing a concertina book with us. In this book Gabrielle told the story of a treasured object visually. The true story of the object from real life was created first, but then she invented a story inspired by it, on the flip side. This process produced an idea for a story I am going to begin writing today! Gabrielle said that that you can use this same process to map chapters of a middle grade book and then she showed us one of her books mapped out visually. The key is to use no words, but just see the story like a movie in your head, and draw your pictures based on that. You do not have to be an artist for this to be useful.
Gabrielle likes working organically so that not everything is pre-planned before she writes, but can be inspired by everyday events. However, the visual planning ensures that she sees the story unfold in her head and carries it there and can intuitively respond to how the characters unfold.
I love being a member of SCWIBI, and learning from skilled and enthusiastic people about their writing process and their challenges and victories in writing, publishing and life. The support from this and groups like Write Links has assisted me in developing as a writer and finding like minded people who are passionate about writing and reading literacy for young people and children.
The image above is taken by Danielle Freeland, who kindly took this group photograph with nearly everyone above’s phone for them. She is a wonderful writer herself. Thanks Danielle! It was wonderful to catch up with writers from the Gold Coast, and Sunshine Coast on the day as well. A big thank you to Sheryl for organizing this for members and Gabrielle for visiting from Melbourne. A brilliant day!
I have made significant progress on a poetry project, writing poems for The Words and Pictures project at QAGOMA.
Which is just as well as there are just four days left for my final selections and edits.
Some of the works have inspired more than one poem. One even inspired four pieces.
I now have to select which ones will be the most interesting or evocative for the people visiting the gallery. I might share some of the others that don’t go in, here on my blog.
It is not easy as I am quite happy with each version, but then I have a vision of how all the works fit together and want them to be spaced throughout the gallery which will help guide me to the right ones for the series.
Also one of my goals is to give the poems and micro stories a broad appeal, such that people of many ages might enjoy reading them, including people familiar with my work on Magic Fish Dreaming.
So now my role is to curate the right balance of my own work, to show that I love writing for children, families, youth and adults.
I look forward to seeing how the public respond to the writing once it is up on the Gallery Walls.
I have a few butterflies of course, but it is quite exciting to share poems alongside art works, and have them interact with each other.
If you visit, feel free to leave a comment on my blog and QAGOMA instagram (will let you know some hashtags) as I would love to know what you think.
I’ll let you know the dates it is up soon.
All art works featured courtesy Queensland Art Gallery, Australian Art Collection