We writers talk about it often – writing is hard. It’s hard at every stage of the journey.
It’s hard to come up with the idea for your story, it’s hard to formulate that idea into a compelling plan, it’s hard to get the whole story down on paper, and it’s hard to force yourself to sit at the computer for hours upon hours honing, shaping and polishing that story till it’s as good as you can possibly make it. And all that’s before you even attempt to enter the publishing fray.
But sometimes there are golden moments, splashes of brightness in a seemingly bleak landscape, events that make everything worthwhile – that make us realise that writing is exactly what we are supposed to be doing – and that it’s okay to dream.
Years ago I wrote a young adult verse novel about a boy who makes a split second mistake that he and the other teen character in the story will be forced to live with for the rest of their lives.
Every one of my writerly colleagues who read it found it compelling. In my heart, I knew this was a story I had to tell. In my heart, I knew that verse was the way this story needed to be told.
But verse novels aren’t easy to get published; particularly here in Australia.
So I was persuaded to rewrite my verse as prose – replace the sparse text and powerful imagery with continuity and conversation.
It didn’t work for me or the publisher.
But I couldn’t let this story go. I went back to the verse format, which I knew was the right for me and my story. In spite of having rejected it already, the publisher asked to see the work again.
But after all the rewrites and resubmissions they advised me about “the danger of writing too much bleak realism” and rejected the manuscript. The went on to say that they “couldn’t imagine any teenager wanting to stick with it”.
I admit that I was gutted. In fact I couldn’t touch a keyboard, pen or manuscript for at least six weeks. But then my spark of determination and belief in my story returned.
This was helped by my two teenage boys who read the manuscript and said what the publisher said was ‘crap’.
I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and started working on my novel again.
I knew it wasn’t perfect, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it next. Then I met the amazing Ellen Hopkins whose verse novels had inspired me to try this format in the first place.
She suggested I apply for a mentorship through SCBWI Nevada to work with her on my verse novel.
It seemed like an impossible dream. I’d have to compete against many other writers for a mentorship and not only that, how was I ever going to be able to afford to do it?
The mentorship wasn’t expensive, but it involved two trips to Nevada with two lots of $2,500 air fares from Australia.
It WAS an impossible dream, but I knew I had to at least try.
I ran writing workshops to raise money, and I applied for every piece of funding known to man or woman – and I kept working on my manuscript.
In late June I was over the moon to find that I’d been award funding by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under their Creative Industries Career Fund.
In late July, SCBWI Nevada advised that I had been accepted into the Mentor Program with Ellen Hopkins as my mentor.
I haven’t stopped Happy Dancing since, and I’m not sure I ever will.
My faith in my story has been restored. I have been awarded funding and given a mentorship based on this piece of work – on a story so close to my heart that I can’t abandon it.
Whatever the outcome is, I know I’m going to grow as a writer and meet extraordinary people and learn a lot about myself and my work.
But what this whole experience has taught me already – it’s okay to Dare to Dream – to strive for a writing goal that seems impossible.
I can’t thank my writerly friends and family enough for their belief in me through all this – and especially Mo Johnson who gave me the initial push I needed to follow my dream.
And I’m so grateful to Ellen for choosing to mentor me, and to CAL and to SCBWI Nevada for making all this possible.
MY TIPS FOR ACHIEVING YOUR WRITING DREAMS
- Set yourself a real, tangible writing goal.
- Stay forcussed on the ‘prize’.
- Surround yourself with people who offer positive suggestions and encouragement.
- Develop a plan for how you hope to reach this goal.
- Follow each step of your plan, but don’t be afraid to vary it or try new things along the way.
- Accept help that’s offered by people who unconditionally want the best for you.
- Don’t give up.
- Be realistic, but Dare to Dream.
I’m going to be blogging about my mentorship so I hope you’ll share the journey with me.
Happy writing and dreaming:)
Photos: courtesy of Dana Robinson
My mentorship has been made possible thanks to the generous assistance of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund which provided me with Creative Industries Career Funding. http://www.copyright.com.au/cultural-fund