There are many things I didn’t know before I had a publishing contract.
Like publicity is largely self-generated, that social media would rise as it has, I didn’t anticipate how the second book would be so much easier and enjoyable and…
I didn’t know they would be so little time to write.
I imagined a publishing contract would be the licence I needed to shut the door on the world and just create. Recently as I juggled other paid work, family, social media and edits on Stone Girl a realization struck me mid fractured-thought.
Many years ago when I first started on my novel there was a quiet. I’d get my coffee, press on a playlist and dive into the world I was creating. Sure, I was often lost and spent long painful hours wondering if I could even do this thing but, despite the doubts, I lived in the story and it lived in me.
Even when things started changing, it all happened in the hush. I wrestled sentences day upon day, year upon year and, slowly but surely, misplaced words found their positioning, characters began replying and the path towards writing a book became clear.
It was thrilling. And quiet. And the only way to celebrate was to sit and write some more, the stillness giving me the space I needed to think and plan. There was no point telling others about it. What would I say? That my story had a heartbeat? That the characters were getting to know each other? That I was going to do terrible and shocking things to them? No.
I’d write for four hours each morning before work and sometimes another three hours at night. The story followed me around tapping me on the shoulder with ideas about what next. I had a secret. An insulated private creation that one day just might become a novel.
This story had to be told in the voice of a girl who transforms drastically throughout the book. She is a different person at the end and the reader understands how this occurred. That was my challenge. To say what happened. To scribe what I know.
Early on, I was chosen for a mentorship through Express Media with author Kirsty Brooks. This was invaluable.
A few years and two versions of the book later I began to win Varuna Awards – three total. This gave me the courage to approach an agent, something I had been thinking about for a long time.
Grace Heifetz was the first literary agent to read Stone Girl and she connected with it immediately – a game changer! Suddenly I wasn’t alone. There was someone on my side and we both wanted the same thing, to see Stone Girl published.
About a year later – and after one more rewrite – I received an offer from Penguin Random House. I was beyond ecstatic.
I could call myself an ‘author’. I found a community, other writers who had travelled a similar journey. We offered each other support. I was no longer the solo traveller, writing, muttering to myself, resorting to a vodka and soda… well maybe I still am but the point is I’m no longer alone.
The quiet is gone. It’s been filled with wonderful things like emails from my editor and requests for interviews and getting excited about publications day this May.
I have found myself busy producing supporting material and while Stone Girl only required light edits, I’ve spent wonderful long hours rereading and working with the Penguin team to push the story towards its exciting fate, to be a real book.
And… I don’t have very much time to write.
Some days I get 20 minutes to work on the second novel, other days it’s two hours, many days I don’t write at all.
And unlike the quiet of the past I now work like there’s a city inside my head and I’ve closed the door on the raucousness to steal a few hurried moments to create. There’s constant knocking that won’t be silenced by the usual means.
Social media and its encroachment on time is nothing new to writers. We lament the loss of the quiet with the same gusto that we celebrate the wonderful community we find there. It’s complex and reaffirming and isolating and interesting and at times leaves me with a type of anxiety I find difficult to define.
I wouldn’t want to be the writer I was back in the day. She had so much to learn, so far to go. But I’ve come to appreciate the solitude I once had.
I need some of it back.
I must compartmentalize. Stop wasting my own time. Say no. Disappoint others when necessary. Protect ‘time put aside to write’ like a fierce Mastiff at the gate. I need to dive under and go to the place where I create and do the thing that actually matters most in this wonderful writer’s life, write.
And then write some more.
(*first published here)