The 42nd ALEA Meanjin – Brisbane area – Australian Literacy Educators’ Association Young Writers’ Festival (for students from Years 5 to 10) is being held on Thursday 4 July at Griffith University Mt Gravatt Campus.
Featuring a Keynote from Morris Gleitzman and four workshops with a wonderful line up of authors, poets and illustrators – Candice Lemon-Scott; Gregg Dreise; June Perkins and Katrin Dreiling.
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.
I am looking down the pathway of writing my way to the mountain of my completed first draft.
Using my plan and outline as a map and continuing to read books that inspire me when I become stuck, I have reached my fourth chapter.
I am following the plan, but letting the characters help me construct them as I write them. I look forward to seeing you at the other end of the first draft.
I was delighted to write two and a half chapters today.
At this point I am trying not to censor each sentence and perfect it but rather get the character and my plot and scenes down cleanly and then I will work on other aspects in my second draft.
With this draft I am determined to get my structural plot, pacing and introduction of characters very clear.
I have started reading Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars. (2016) It’s so beautifully written and delightful, you just want to read it from the first paragraph. This will be the task of my second draft.