Writing requires patience and practice like any other craft of the creative arts. As a writer, I often spend a gruelling amount of time going over my work, again and again until perfection, despite very few people ever reading the pieces I write. Sometimes, persistence is my enemy, but other times it's my best friend. Sometimes, looking over an old draft years after writing it lets me view the narrative from a new perspective, while some stories demand my full attention nearly one hundred percent of the time.
When I first began writing about ten years ago, I wrote sporadically, enough so that I hadn't really noticed that I'd stopped writing. When I picked it up a few months later, I began writing in the evenings. I'd arrive home from school and finish up my homework, then I’d open up my WIP and sit there for hours on end until I had to go to bed. I continued this practise until the end of my first semester at Uni. That was when I’d signed up for my first NaNoWriMo event and wrote every day for the month of November - and completed my first draft of a romance novel. Then, I transitioned into a new degree, to focus on writing and publishing, where I slowly grew away from my passion (I know, ironic).
However, while my frequency may waver depending on the demands of life, my writing habits have somehow gone from being a night owl to an early-bird kind of writer. My routine (at the moment) consists of waking up, eating breakfast, then sipping on coffee while I write. I still hate being watched while I write (as a friend pointed out, I’m a perfectionist - you can read my work only once I’m satisfied with it), yet I enjoy sitting in a quiet cafe while working. Instead of just working on novels in my room, I experiment with short fiction and non-fiction pieces, and have become more involved in my writing community. By studying writing at university, attending workshops, mentoring sessions and literature events, I have found my writing style to have changed through the influences of a wider community. I now attend writers' festivals to listen to panels both inside and outside of my genre. I now manage a small writing community, work within a small publishing team, and am a part of an incredible team who work to bring together a writers’ festival, loved by many writers across Australia. These experiences have helped shaped who I am, and have opened up opportunities for me to explore even more adventures that I can write with authenticity.
Through these experiences, I've come to realise that my favourite part of writing is the first draft of a novel, where the narrative was yet to take place until the final chapter. There’s a thrill to writing the first draft that inspires me to sit and write. I supposed once I know the story, I’m less inclined to refine it because I know what happens. There's no more surprises, so I file it away.
Except for my latest novel. In this instance, the second draft has actually been the most enticing - the narrative won’t leave my mind and it’s the only tale I want to be focusing on. I developed the concept a year ago, and six months later I had a first draft. It was a rough outline of the plot and the places I wanted to explore, the type of draft that reminded me of my first novel I’d written. It was one that was to be disregarded, one that was a reference for myself to provide direction, should I need it. With the first novel I ever wrote, the first draft was thrown away at the final chapter. For me, the importance of that narrative was the ending, and that wasn’t the ending it deserved. I rarely referred back that that first draft unless there was a particular scene I wanted to include. This novel, “Once We Were” is very similar in that aspect. In fact, I scattered the chapters. For this novel, structure is key in storytelling.
“We are what we eat” is a common saying. Our minds consume the world around us. By exploring the greater literary world around you - and the world in general - you might just create the next evolution of your industry. That’s not to say that over-consuming your mind is the best-practise for improving your writing habits. Since becoming more involved in the last few years, I'll admit that I’d lost my (writing) way a few times before dragging myself back to where it all began - with a laptop and a notebook by my bed. I had to redevelop my habit so that, like any routine part of life, there is a sense of loss when I break away or ignore it.
My recommendations for improving your craft:
- Practice your craft! Figure out what works for you and your schedule.
- Be involved in your local community! That doesn't mean you need to go to every event or sign up to every group/collective. Look around and find what works for you. Maybe you like workshops or classes, or listening to panels/chats/discussions.
- Attend a festival/conference! This may be a little contradictory to my previous statement, but I'd learnt so much about the writing community from my very first writers’ festival.
- Let yourself be inspired! This could be by just chilling at home in your jammies, sitting in a park, or exploring the world in some shape or form. Don't force the craft. You'll only end up working on something you don't care about.
- If you're not passionate about it, leave it! At my core, I'm a novelist. That's what drives my creativity. Occasionally I break into short story or non-fiction, however these are usually little tales I'm inspired to write for some reason or another. Trust me, working on a project you don't love will only lead to frustration and lack of motivation.