On Writing

I began writing when my youngest son (I have two) was a baby. He’s now twenty seven. I had been reading historical fiction during my pregnancy and thought, I could do this. Very naïve of me, of course. I began to get serious about it over the next couple of years, but it still took ten years and three books before my first was accepted for publication in 1999.

With each of my earlier attempts I got better, and like to think I am still continuing to do so. Now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So many people can’t imagine sitting down each day to write and complain that writing a letter is difficult enough. They see a novel as something daunting. Writing short stories never interested me. I just launched into a big novel, but I tell people that writing a novel is like building a house. A brick at a time eventually makes a house, and a chapter at a time eventually makes a book. If there was a key to success, I’d say its persistence and determination. Right from the beginning I was determined to succeed. I would have kept writing and attempting to get published until I was a very old lady, if that’s what it took. I believe if you persist and are determined, you will succeed in anything you do. Don’t ever give up. Ninety-nine percent of writer’s have a bundle of rejections slips big enough to make a door-stop. They’re hard to get and dent your confidence, but keep going. Think of Catherine Cookson, who was told by an editor that she should find another profession. We all know how successful she was and she wrote until she died at 88 years of age. If you want to read a good book on writing, I’d recommend Stephen King’s book on writing.

One of the first things you should do, even as an unpublished author, is take yourself seriously. Tell yourself every day that you are a writer. If you are doing another job, tell yourself you are doing it just to support yourself until you are discovered.

I keep office hours while working. I try to make sure I am at my desk at 9 a.m. and work until around 4 o’clock. I write five days a week, which gives me the weekend to revitalize, (and do housework and have some social interaction) so that I feel fresh on Monday mornings. I also take a note-book to bed every night, so that the next day I know exactly where I am going and no time is wasted. Discipline is very important. Your brain is like any other muscle in your body, the more you use it, the fitter it becomes. (I have to confess all the other muscles in my body are not fit at all)

I am also asked how an Australian writer came to be published in Germany. When I was just starting out and went to Writer’s Week here in Adelaide, an Australian author told me it’s impossible to make a living being published in Australia, and since making a living was what I wanted to do, I thought I had better try overseas. I was at the Writer’s Centre when someone mentioned that the German’s like Australian stories, so I found a German Agent in the Writer’s and Artist’s year book and contacted him. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 2002, I went to Germany. I met my agents and publisher for the first time, which was wonderful, and got to see a little of the country where my books are sold. It was an amazing thrill for me, and something I will never forget. Although writing is a solitary profession, from the time your book is accepted, to when it’s in print in book stores, involves the hard work and co-operation of many people; agents, editors, book sellers, publicity people, book cover designers… and so many more. After meeting some of these people I gained a small insight into what happens after I send off a manuscript. Now I have a great appreciation of the process and realize just how lucky I am. I hope to return to Germany one day and meet some of the readers who enjoy my books.

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