It was bound to happen so today was the day that I regretted signing up for Nano at all and felt such incredible resentment about this commitment. However, a commitment has been made which meant I had to sit down and punch out the words or I would feel even more crap. So I did. It's horrible writing. I'm just slapping the words down without any craftsmanship, but the world building is happening and I'm already seeing question marks of things to be filled in. So it's working. Hopefully once there are a lot of words there, I will be forced to do the craft and actually make something resembling a novel from this lump of miss-shapen words.
Just found this review of The Good Daughter by a Year 8 student that's made my day:The Good Daughter
by Amra Pajalic
Review by Alana Orsulic
Sabiha (Sammie) is fifteen and having a bit of an identity crisis. Her grandfather is back in her life and suddenly her mother expects Sammie to be a model Bosnian daughter, complete with attending metjef (Islamic classes). Meanwhile, her charismatic cousin Adnan - who's extremely popular with the girls at Sammie's school - seems to be able to get away with anything. Also, Sammie has fallen out with her old friend Kathleen. She starts hanging around with nerds Jesse and Brian, sure that something more will develop between her and Brian, despite the warnings of Dina, another Bosnian-Muslim girl at school. But Dina has secrets of her own, and Sammie realises that maybe they can help each other...
This is a wonderful high-school based story set in the suburbs of Melbourne and filled with crushes, friendship troubles, teen identity crises and power struggles with parents and peers. There is also a focus on growing up with more than one culture. In short, it contains everything I love to read about. I absolutely loved this book.
I found it very easy to relate to Sammie. She is a fantastic character - strong-willed but not superhuman. All she wants is to get on with her life; all she gets is pressure at home and at school. Sammie hasn't had a conventional upbringing as it is, and when the definition of 'good daughter' changes for her almost overnight, it's not easy to deal with. This gives an original twist to the exploration of mixed culture in coming-of-age fiction. Dina and Adnan's stories tie in with Sammie's and complement her cross-cultural issues. Jesse and Brian are also wonderful, well-rounded characters. It's fascinating to see Sammie's friendships change and develop, and I adored the way some of Sammie's new relationships were based on books and reading.
My cold is worse today than it was yesterday. Had two naps, lots of cold and flu tablets and have lost my voice so I'm doing lots of miming and hand clapping to get Sofia's attention.
Achieved my word count today so I'm happy. Going to lie on the couch now and perv on Chris Hemsworth in Thor.
Today's wordcount: 1,687
Total wordcount: 2,942
Day one of National Novel Writing Month and it's already been super tough. I have a cold so that's really knocked me out. I also had to drive to my publisher to have an interview filmed as part of the educational resources package for Amir: Friend on Loan.
I'd stayed away from chocolate all week in order to have clear skin for the interview, but this morning had to slather the make up on in order to cover the dark circles and red nose. Then I kept getting lost on the way there and back (was driving from the Western suburbs to the Eastern suburbs) so 45 minute drive there took 1 hour and 30 minutes.
I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to write at all, but the fact that I had publicly declared I was doing Nano forced me to find the bum glue. I'm going to be writing a blog post every day this month charting my journey so that I keep myself honest.
Today's achievement is 1255 words of word vomit. I'm content with that. I will now swallow lots of cold and flu tablets and lay my weary body into bed. Until tomorrow.
I started off the year with an experiment: to write whatever the muse dictated. I anticipated I might experience some difficulties, namely not being able to complete anything, but I was also feeling a sense of excitement and anticipation at inspiring the muse. I’m at the halfway point of the year and it’s time to evaluate how it all worked.
The good-I wrote more than I ever have in my life. I experimented with genres, built up my confidence and have a bushel of new ideas and directions to move forward with.
The bad-I have quite a few works in progress. I thought that by spreading myself in different directions I might not be able to finish things, however as I now have two books that have crappy first drafts of 50,000 words it’s going to be easier to complete them.
The ugly-I burnt out. My ambition far exceeded my energy levels. In the first half of the year I was completing 3 subjects and working part time. These two alone would be equivalent to a full time job. Add to that a 4 week teaching round and a lot of writing commitments and by June I was battling the usual wear and tear of fatigue, constant viruses and throat ulcers. On top of that I had a lot of unexpected things that life threw at me and my emotional and physical resilience was well and truly tested.
So what have I learnt:
1. As a writer you need to diversify. It is a matter of survival to have a few projects on the go. This buffers you from rejection and the frustrations involved with the glacial pace of the publishing industry.
2. Diversifying is well and good, but you need to set realistic goals. This is something that I have very much struggled with. I need to narrow my focus down to 2 things at a time only. This will give me the opportunity to jump from one thing to another when I’ve run the course of inspiration, however it will also allow me to actually finish things.
3. Sometimes to be strong means to let go. I find it very hard to let go of a goal when I have set it. There have been quite a few occasions this year where I have been writing things to a competition deadline and entering it with minutes to spare. I still have a wall of ‘potentials’ and I need to take some of these down.
4. Set priorities and stick to them. To that end I am prioritising my books and letting go of some of the short story competitions I have on my wish list. I can’t do everything and this burnout has made me realise this.
To be a writer is to engage in a constant process of learning about yourself. This period of productivity has scared me because of the fatigue I’ve experienced. There was a point where the thought of writing actually made me feel ill.
However it has also made me feel amazed at what I’m capable. I feel like I haven’t been living to my potential and now I am determined to ensure my writing has priority, regardless of what’s going on in my life. Even if it’s 500 words a day or a week, I need to make sure there are no more stops and starts as life throws its curve balls.
Today I have a guest post from my husband Fikret Pajalic with some advice for other emerging writers.
I have been writing for the past three years and recently I finally started having consistent success with my stories being published. Needless to say that before this success I almost stopped writing and questioned myself and my stories on a daily basis. I was sure there was some major flaw to my storytelling. This was, to say the least, very perplexing to me as I workshop and obtain critiques on a number of different levels.
With a wife who is an author and editor, and having belonged until recently to a writing group where all of my stories were critiqued by a number of fellow writers, my stories undertake a rigorous editing process. After this I normally leave the story for a couple of months and then read it again with 'fresh' eyes before sending it out into the world.
My stories have been awarded prizes as well as published in literary journals. In a relatively short period of less than six months I have had 8 publication credits, with two of stories being published in international journals, so I think my technique is starting to work.
I call my technique "The Revolving door technique" and it is a variation of my wife’s approach that she calls "spaghetti on the wall". If you throw a handful of cooked spaghetti on the wall some are bound to stick. Meaning, if you send a bunch of submissions some will be accepted for publication.
I am a fervent follower of this approach but as I said I also practice my own technique which is that as soon as I get a knockback from a magazine, journal, publisher or competition I send that same story to someone else. In fact I have a spreadsheet where I follow all my submissions and I have a plan about what to do with each story in case it is unsuccessful. Hence, the name revolving door. For me it’s worked, so far.
The point is that you just have to keep putting your work out there. The benefits are that if your writing is good, sooner or later you will find a home for your story and with every knockback you're developing the much needed writer’s thick skin.
To put some things in perspective my stories will be published in six journals this year and have placed in two competitions, and this is after seventy submissions. Which means I already received nearly sixty knockbacks (some stories are still 'alive' as I write this).
Fikret Pajalic won third prize in the Banjo Patterson short story competition, was highly commended in the 2013 Ada Cambridge Short Story Competition, was published in Regime journal and has short stories in upcoming issues of Etchings, Aker, Verge Annual, New Zealand journal JAAM, and British literary magazine Structo.
Very exciting day. Had a meeting today with Garratt Publishing to talk about their project Third Space and my novella Amir that is being published by them. I received a hard copy mock up of my book and I've been floating ever since. It looks so beautiful and this is when it all starts feeling real.
This project is about embracing diversity and there are going to be amazing resources available for teachers to introduce these series in the classroom with an integrated curriculum across English, Civics and Citizenship and History.
There will also be author videos available to support the teacher's resources which is going to be great, but boy I'm not looking forward to watching myself on the screen. It will be published early next year so it's going to be soon. Yay. Also excited because it will be aimed for upper primary and lower secondary so a whole new readership for me. What fun!!!
I ran a short story workshop as part of the Brimbank Literary Awards last night and it went really well. There were about 16 participants who were really eager and motivated to learn. I sold some books, had some great conversations about writing, and finally felt the slump I've been in lift.
It has been a really busy first half of the year. I did 3 uni subjects (instead of my usual two) and really found it a strain. Toward the end of the semester I had a bout of illness and a death in the family and for the first time ever had to request extensions for every subject. I only completed my last assignment yesterday and finally felt that whoosh of relief you get when everything is done and behind you.
Part of the reason that I've also been struggling is I had a lot of writing deadlines. One of them I can share now. I was asked by Garratt Publishing, an educational publisher, to write a middle grade story to be published as part of their Diversity series. I had to read the brief, write a synopsis, that was approved, and then write a 10,000 word story to a deadline. It was the first time I had to write to a deadline and I found it stressful, especially amongst all the other stuff going on, but I found it a great experience.
Being pushed outside of your comfort zone really makes you realise what you're capable of. It was such an amazing experience to basically produce a story out of thin air and I loved the creative process and just sitting down and having things happen. I received feedback from the publisher and she loved the story and how layered it was. Such a relief that my instincts are right. So who knows what else I'll produce in the middle grade genre after this. I'm waiting on revisions and publishing details, but suspect it will be published sometime next year.
I'm hoping that the second half of the year will mean more writing time, and that it will be an easier one than the first half. But this might be an empty hope. I have lots of things going on:
Lots of new challenges and experiences. I'm looking forward to stretching myself. Just have to be careful not to burn out the way I have done in the past few months. Fingers crossed I achieve better balance.
So today I've got two posts out there in the world. One on Dee White's Writing for Kids blog about my Young Writers Newsletter, and I'm also participating in a meme that's been doing the rounds titled The Next Big Thing.
And here are the 10 questions:
1) What is the working title of your next book?
I am horrible with titles. It’s the bane of my writing life and I am in awe of writers who have that magical gift of plucking out an artistic title.
I had a meeting with my literary hero, Cate Kennedy earlier in the year when she invited me on her one hour feature with Books and Arts show on ABC Radio National. Afterward when we had lunch we spoke about our writing projects and I told her about my memoir.
‘You should call it ___,’ she said.
‘Can I use that?’ I asked.
And she said yes.
So this is a rather long winded way of saying that the title is so precious and top secret that it won’t be made public until there’s a book contract.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had what you could describe as a tumultuous childhood being parented by a single mother who suffered from Bi Polar. This meant I developed the gift of observation from an early age and became a confidante to the adults in my life. As a result I’ve collected a lot of amazing stories that are desperate for a home.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Naomi Watts as my mother because she’d capture her fragility.
A young unknown girl who has an interesting face and presence like Saoirse Ronan who played Briony in Atonement to play me.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
My mute child’s curiosity and unnatural stillness was like a balm to the wounded adults in my life and I became their confidante as they poured forth their heartache and pain, believing that their confessions would be lost in a child’s short-term memory, but I never forgot.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am represented by Curtis Brown agency.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I wrote three chapters in the first half of the year and an additional rough draft of 50K during Nano. I am now developing this rough draft into a manuscript.
8)What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The raw honesty of In My Skin by Kate Holden and the cultural insights of Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The women in my family who didn’t have a voice and were victims of the times they lived in.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
At heart it's the story of a girl (me) growing up way before her time and being exposed to a lot of stuff that a child shouldn't, but that ultimately shaped me as a writer.
Here are some other awesome authors who have participated in this meme.
Tor Roxburgh wrote about her awesome young adult novel.
Sheryl Clark will be posting on the 3rd January but in the meantime you can check out her awesome blog about her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing and great writing tips.
Amanda Wrangles will also be doing a meme.
Simmone Howell will be posting on the 17th of December.
If you're also participating leave a comment with your link so we can check it out.
There is this moment before I embark on my new project. I have some writing behind me. Some ideas, sketches, but now I'm about to start the real work. The craft of writing and where I work on a draft that resembles a book.
This moment where it is perfect in my head and I imagine all the amazing things that will happen when I finish it. I plan how I'm going to write, where things will go, how it will begin and end and what is the journey that the reader will be taken on.
Then I begin, and the minute I do every word is already hard and heavy. It doesn't float out of me effortlessly, instead I'm engaging in an internal battle with myself as I reconcile my fantasy book, with the one I am producing.
Eventually the momentum takes over, and it's not so hard. Things begin flowing and I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I know this. I've been here before. But right now I'm in a funk. I have to get through this hump where I accept the reality of how hard it is to produce a good book. I have to accept the fact that it won't take five minutes. Instead it takes sweat and tears to keep digging deep.
The quote that writing is 10 per cent talent and 90 per cent perseverance is so true. So I will persevere. There will be days when it's hard, and there will days when it's easy. Today is hard. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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