Monday, June 30, 2014
I’m a little bit sad. Maybe I’m depressed; at the very least, deflated. It’s weird, I should be overjoyed. The month of June has been a firecracker. I’ve finally worked out an efficient way to do research, and have sped through the fact-checking of Chapters 15 onwards. Once I got the technique right, it was simply a matter of getting on with it. I tried to do a chapter a day, and this week even managed three chapters on some days. Then on Thursday I put Chapters 23, 24 and 25 to bed. Next day was Chapter 26, a bit more fiddly, but still progress. Yesterday, Saturday, I played sport, and watched the footy I’d taped in between working through Chapter 27. There wasn’t as much to change, as I’d already done a fair whack of it when researching Vienna a few weeks earlier. I felt reluctant to start, even a little down. Why am I feeling this way? I think it’s because I’ve nearly finished it. This massive rewrite has been to add descriptive touches, to add texture to the story. I’ve tried not to do too much, although the word count indicates otherwise, as I hate overly descriptive passages and always skip them when I’m reading. When I finish the last two chapters, all I have left to do is go through and change names so that I haven’t inadvertently used real names. Then it’s really out of my hands. I’ve tweaked bits here and there following reader feedback (I’m fortunate to have a handful of willing and trusted volunteers for the task). I’m waiting for other readers to get back to me – which I realise they may or may not do. Having specially selected readers to check my work is one way to make sure it’s as good as I can get it, but it comes with a catch – they have lives of their own, and can’t all get to it despite their best intentions. As a love job, it’s up in the air whether I’ll hear back from them. The next step then is to write a synopsis, a cover letter, and send it off to a publisher. That’s scary. I think that this book works. Finally. I think it’s more like a ‘novel’ than my first book, but with enough different stories and incidents to make it worth a read. It has an audience waiting, and I’m thankful to all those people who read my first book and have said they’re keen to read book two. But if the publisher says no, for whatever reason, then I’ll have to soldier on, pursing other publishers. That’s hard. I want someone else to love my story enough to publish it. And I’m sure that if that happens, there’ll be another stage of editing to come. However, as far as what I can achieve on my own, I’m nearly done. I feel like the book has ‘come alive’ and it’s ready to go out in the world, without me. I’m sad because I’ve been working on it off and on for four years, even longer if you count the snippets of ideas I’ve played with over the time I was writing book one. The past six months, a sabbatical, has been spent with my head firmly in the past, reliving the experiences of 2001. That’s thirteen years ago, crazy stuff. And I’m about to move away from it. Although I’m happy not to be living in the past, I’m sad I won’t have the sense of purpose that ‘being in the writing zone’ has given me. It’s been intense. I think I’ve got separation anxiety. I should be happy, I’m nearly done. There is a feeling of accomplishment, that I’ve managed to finish what I set out to do. Regardless of what happens next, I did that much. But I’m sad. At least I still have book three to work on. But it won’t be the same as book two; that’s a different tussle, a different headspace. I’ve started book three already, worried that if I don’t get a fair bit down before I go back to work, then once back at the grindstone I won’t manage to get back into the writing headspace that this period away from work has enabled me to reach. It’s like being a juggler, with so many balls needing to be up in the air so I can be in the writing zone, characters, events, tips I’ve picked up here and there, having everything in mind requires a clarity and focus that I’m worried will no longer be attainable. But I’m also grateful, not just for the opportunity to use this time to follow my dream, but also the people it’s helped me reconnect with while trying to confirm details of prices and events that happened, and of the support I’ve had from the selected readers who did get back to me, and the encouragement of others who want to read it when it’s done. So a huge thanks to all those people. THANK YOU! But right now it’s a strange feeling, happy sad, bittersweet, unsettling, that this book is nearly done and is ready to send out into the harsh world of publishing. I wanted to pause for a moment to reflect on that feeling – but also to be grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be where I am right now. Cheers.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Thanks again to Oxford Street Books in Leederville who have just restocked copies of Road Wench. They were the very first bookstore to take copies of my book, and continue to do so. I'm pretty excited that four years on, Road Wench is still selling. It's not a story that goes out of date. Road Wench is also currently in stock at Dymocks, Midland Gate and at Beaufort Street Books in Mount Lawley. Online orders can be made via www.fishpond.com.au or directly to my email. Alternatively the Australian Online Bookshop at http://www.bookworm.com.au/ will take orders and can get stock in on request. Thanks again to all my readers. It's a solitary experience when writing, but sharing my story with you is very interactive, like having one heck of a long conversation. I hope you like Book 2 - Road Wench Rides Again. It's almost ready, not quite but nearly there. Now, back to Draft 5... Shannon Meadows
Where have all the months gone? It feels like they have just slipped away. All too soon I will have to resume my day job, my lovely sabbatical of hours to do with as I wish being almost over. And yet, it has been productive. In March I put things on hold and went on a trip up to Ningaloo. Fresh air, hot days, and time away from writing was exactly what I needed. After the break I managed to resume my writing duties. However, this time has seemed to be the s-l-o-w-e-s-t of all. Drafts 2 to 5 have come and gone, but instead of being enjoyable 'aha!' breakthroughs, a sense of success, it has been a slow and painstaking process. I suppose there was one little moment, a 'that's it, that's what I'm talking about' moment, when the former Chapter 19 (horrid creature that it was) finally bent into shape and became a readable being. I called it draft 2, but really, that was when I knew I had something that I (and hopefully others) would want to read. So why isn't it done yet? What have I been doing with my time? My friends have stirred me up with comments like 'all that free time you've got' and I've managed not to thump them. That's the problem when you're like a hermit, it's hard to reengage with people after all that time spent word-wrangling, alone. They have a point. What have I been doing? Draft 2, as I mentioned, was to get Chapter 19 to the end into the right shape. It was like training for sport, doing laps, until I got it right. Draft 3 was to get rid of all my 'reminders', capitals and 'notes to self' about what to add/check/reword and so on. That draft was sent to some more readers (family got the job of reading and approving Draft 2). Onto Draft 4 - description. I don't like it. I don't read it. Whenever I read a book I skip over the description, to find out 'what happened next'. But if I want to improve my writing, a little description here and there can add texture. So I started. I got halfway then passed it on to two more readers. Then I kept going. Now as well as rewriting and adding in little touches of description, a phrase here and there, I'm also researching. Fact checking. I experienced all the things that happened in the book, but I wanted to take it one step further, and doublecheck my material. For all I knew I had been misinformed the first time. Also I realised that once it's out there, I can't get the book back off readers and say 'hang on, let me change page 45'. Once it's done, it's gone. Out there. So I see this as a bonus, as a way to add more depth to a story which, ironically, I'm hoping is an easy, quick read. It's not like I'm going to get such a chance to do this again, I have the time to do it now. It's just that it takes So Much Time to check anything at all, then the rewrite, a few hours and my mind is scrambled and I'm useless for the rest of the day. Darn brain, it should work harder and for longer. Anyway having said all this, I'm kind of glad I'm doing it. I've added a little on character along the way, but I suspect when I get a publisher they'll have changes anyway. I just wanted it to be as close to the best version I could get it, before I shared it with a publisher. Before the rollercoaster ride begins. So that my vision is clear. I plan to submit it soon, very soon, but right now I'm holding myself back, trying to do these last little bits of icing on the cake. And now, back to researching Chapter 15...
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Once I realised I had a lot to learn, I threw myself into learning with gusto. First I read books about getting published. Then I read books about how to write. Perhaps it would have been better to read these in the opposite order! The best book I came across at this point was by Irina Dunn. The Writer's Guide was available at my local library. Although it was a few years old, and the ebook market was just starting to emerge, it gave a wide range of hints about the path to publication. Another book that came in handy was The Australian Writer's Marketplace.
Monday, March 24, 2014
It was the dream. I had 6 months off work, all above board, approved, work handed over, and a job to return to. For the first time in my life I had long service leave, and my boss had approved me taking it at half pay for twice as long; 3 months became six. 'What are you going to do?' people asked. My workmates were more likely to ask, 'Where are you travelling to?' They looked at me with disbelief when I said I might not travel. It wasn't their fault, I wasn't exactly candid about my goal. I wanted to write my book. And as it was going to be a bit raunchier than the last one, I didn't want to alert them to the fact. But that was my plan. The holidays started well enough, family Christmas by the beach in Lancelin. The days between Christmas and New Year hurried past, shops had sales, then it was the first day of the year. As is tradition with my friends, we dressed up and took ourselves off to Perth Cup. I love the idea of spending New Year's Day in a nice dress, heels, drinking wine and champagne, betting (or my case, donating) on horses and watching them race at Ascot. Afterwards we took the free bus to the casino, and danced amidst the glitz of the revamped venue. What I like most about starting the year this way, instead of having a big NYE, is that I don't start my year with a headache. Okay sure, the second of January may bring a slight dullness of mind, the after-effects of a great day out, but the first day of the brand new year, with all the possibilities before us, that day starts clear headed and dressed to impress. I didn't expect to do any writing on the second of January; that day was designated for Recovery. But I did expect to start writing on the 3rd. Or the 4th. Or sometime the following week. I didn't. What I did instead was plop on my couch and watch some terrible TV for two weeks. Heck the Australian Tennis Open hadn't even started yet, and with friends on holidays I hadn't managed to borrow their promised TV series. I had nothing good to watch, time off, no excuses - yet I could not get myself off that couch. It is, to be fair, a particularly comfy couch. 'What am I doing?' I scolded myself. 'I can't sit on the couch for 6 months. This is not why I got approved for this time off.' It didn't work. Nothing moved me. I surrendered. Then something strange happened. After two weeks of being deathly dull, not even having lunches or nights out to fill my free time and keep me entertained, I was well and truly bored. Completely. Out of my skull. Then two things happened. The tennis coverage started, and I enjoyed it, feeling like I'd played every shot with both players, every match. And I started to jot a few ideas down. I'd had my laptop on my table for the entire two week slothathon, but hadn't used it. The only pivotal thing that happened in that time was an IT friend who insisted on helping me set up my 'new' laptop, the one I'd purchased on the 30 June 2013 in time to include it in my tax return for that financial year, but which had remained in its box until then. He set it up, I left it out on the dining room table, and I walked past it every day for two weeks. But now that the tennis had begun, and I finally had something worth watching, I found that I began to tinker. I opened it. I turned it on. I wrote a few sentences. I moved around a few scenes. I checked the total of pages I'd written so far. I found a freebie minicalendar I'd been given and wrote out a plan. I really didn't want to spend the next month being as slack as I had been in January, so I wrote up aims for each day in February. I decided I didn't have to count it as procrastination until the end of January. I allowed myself the time off to be bored and unproductive. And slowly, bit by bit, I started to work. Until one day I realised I'd missed most of an exciting Nadal match, because I just had to finish the scene I was writing about. 'Just had to'. I have always loved talking about writing, but now, after fits and starts, I felt that inner calling. I was ready. In a nutshell, this is what I've learnt: Never underestimate the power of allowing yourself to get well and truly bored. I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the creative nonfiction writing schools in the USA are in the 'unexciting' interior states, the midwest. Likewise Perth's nickname of Dullsville just might have come in handy. Emptying the vessel makes room to fill it with something else. I was finally in the right mental state to do something about my goal, not just talking anymore.
Monday, March 17, 2014
It's official. As of the end of today, I will no longer be able to shock people when they mention my home internet. 'Just download it,' says one unsuspecting person. As if telling me to go away and do it myself is being helpful. I almost enjoy the sense of what is coming. 'I can't,' I say. 'I only have dial up at home.' You can see the surprise on their faces. Every time, it's the same. Confusion. Dismay. Incomprehension. 'I thought that had gone by the wayside?' one said. 'No. I've still got it. Had it for five years.' That last bit was intended to shock them some more. It works. 'How do you cope?' they say, heartfelt in their angst for me, the digitally deprived. 'I use it at work if I need it. Or I wait.' Wait. That four letter word is the end of them. The conversation stalls, until I take pity and change the subject. So it is with great sadness that I shall no longer be able to use this phrase. I realised that I had slid into the digital dynamic when I noticed my latest monthly internet bill, and worked out that I hadn't actually taken out my landline, stuck it in my laptop, hit several keys and waited for that familiar screeching tone for at least three months. Why not, I wondered. Then it dawned on me that my smart phone, the cheapest, prepaid I could find, the one I got under sufferance so I could stay abreast of the e-tide while not paying a fortune, well it also had a cheap internet option which I had used now and then, whenever I needed it in a hurry. I just didn't need dialup anymore. Not that I'm going to change my habits. Right now, I'm typing this at the local library. But it also got me thinking. I'm having leave from work, with the aim of finishing a sequel to Road Wench. This past month has seen me take the book ahead in leaps and bounds, and I have kneaded it into the shape of a full story. DRAFT ONE IS DONE! I want to call out loud to share my joy at this progress, but I'd better not. As I said, I am in a library. However, the impending cutting of the modem line got me thinking. Maybe my technological home setup has helped me achieve my recent writing goals? I wonder whether I would have got so much done if I had ready access to blogs and research tools online at any minute of the day? I've had to discipline myself, and yes here's that word again: WAIT, so that any online research is kept until the afternoon when I permit myself a library visit. The morning has been designated for writing, the evening I'm allowed to edit if I feel like it, but I've delineated the dead zone of the afternoon when I'm most likely to nap as the only time to go online. And I really think it's helped. So even though my plan is to get better internet access on my mobile, I am going to put that off until later. Once I've rewritten the first draft, and written a synopsis, and so on. I suspect that the latent Luddite in me has been the key to finishing book two. I will miss shocking people with my dial up revelation, but perhaps this has been a more useful revelation about my writing process. That's all for now. The library is about to shut: another enforced deadline.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
When I finally got writing, it didn't take long to complete the book. I started with 144 pages done, and soon made it to page 200, then 220, 240 and so on. When I reached 245 I had a sudden realisation. All along I'd been aiming for around 350 pages, the length that I feel as a reader has given me value for my purchase. Yet I also realised that my story was nearly complete. It flowed. It made sense. It had a beginning, middle and end. The only problem was that it didn't fulfil my initial aim, which was to include all the good bad and crazy stories from across four seasons on the road. My first book was solely about my first season, applying for the job, getting through the training, surviving the first season of tours, getting asked back. It seemed nice and neat to enscapsulate all the other standout stories in one volume. How hard could it be? But the book took on a life of its own, and soon enough it was apparent that I had enough material from my second season (which was, incidentally, far worse than my first season - and probably the reason why it had so much good material to make use of) for an entire book. Once I had this thought, I fought it. I didn't want to accept it. I had planned to write, well to finish, one book over my sabbatical. Certainly not two. But after a few days pondering the problem, I had to listen to my instincts. The story was done, and if I didn't try and fill it out with extra incidents, it meant I could use the extra words remaining to add things like character flaws, brief descriptions of places, interesting titbits. My book was nearly done. The catch - I have to write one more, in order to fit in all the most outlandish incidents. So it's 'sort of' good news. The other problem, once I accepted this solution, was that my first draft FELT finished, but wasn't actually finished. Since then I've spent the past two, three, perhaps more weeks going over it and adding bitsa. Bits here, bits there. Rewording a sentence or a thread of dialogue. Adding in aspects I hadn't covered yet but were integral to that season (such as the outbreak of foot and mouth and how half the clients became vegetarians overnight). Checking whether I could substitute a better word. Checking the flow. Thinking about names that match the character best. Making notes of where I should do extra research and consider adding some history or trivia. Working out which bits are longwinded (like this post!) and how to cut them down. Reordering scenes so they make the most sense, insofar as revealing aspects of life on tour. And so on. This is continuing right now, even though I had a self imposed time limit of March to have the first draft in a readable format. It is readable, it's just that it also includes lots of notes for the handful of people I've coopted to be my sample Readers, and for them to answer as they read through. I've put perfection on hold. I'm happy that the story seems to flow, it works now, the order is fine, and it's self-contained. The rest of the finetuning will have to wait until April. Most writers advise putting your draft in a desk drawer and coming back to it in 3 months time, in order to look at it with fresh eyes. I don't have that kind of time to wait, as I want to utilise the sabbatical period as best I can. However, I will be taking a month, and hopefully that will be enough. What I have learned: The story will tell you when it's done, not the other way round. The need to be flexible and adaptable when the story speaks back. Finetuning is a black hole of time. I've spent almost as much time tinkering as I did writing. And now - time for a break.