I'm currently working on a young adult novel that I'm really excited about. This book came about while I was working on my memoir and there was a personal anecdote that I wanted to devote more time to, but it didn't belong in the memoir. So the idea was born. I ended up writing about 20,000 words while the ideas were flying, then I left it and got on with finishing my memoir.
Earlier this year I completed my memoir and while it was doing the rounds of edits and revisions, I went back to the young adult novel but wasn't in the right headspace for writing. I had some personal things going on (sold a house, bought a house, and moved) and finally when I was settled in August I could get back to the business of writing.
At first my goal was a chapter a week, which was achievable because I had so many notes to draw on. Now that I've hit the (hopefully) over halfway mark with chapter 11 I'm probably batting a chapter every two weeks, but I'm still happy with this.
I'm at the point now where the characters are coming to life, developing nuances and depth, and feeling like real people. Fitting writing in while working full time as a teacher sometimes feels like quite a feat. I had a few weeks when I had no internet and was incredibly productive, but now I'm back to having to battle fatigue, distractions like great TV shows on Netflix and Stan, and ensure that my weekends have some writing time carved out. I realised that to do this I needed help, so I've started a writing group.
I've been a part of different writing groups over the years. When I was younger I was in a toxic writing group that actually began to cripple my creativity so for many years I was wary. A few years ago I joined an amazing group thanks to Demet Divaroren called Clan Destine. This was an incredibly supportive group of people and I have developed some wonderful connections and connected with critique partners. We have in some ways become victims of our success because the group has become quite big and we are now facing challenges of geography too as we are from all over Melbourne. I have also facilitated writing groups and seen the issues of people who aren't serious about the craft, but rather see their fellow group members as an audience
This year I realised that I really wanted to be in a writing group and benefit from deadlines that would motivate me keep on track. Learning from past lessons with writing groups I wanted it to be small, supportive, people who I knew well, and that we were geographically close.
We met a few weeks ago, critiqued each other's pieces and I got so much from the discussions. We set a meeting schedule as well as a fortnightly critiquing schedule, and this has given me exactly what I need at this point-motivation. Writing is so much easier knowing that I have to be accountable and that I'll be meeting with my fellow writing group members to have conversations about productivity. Now the only thing we have to do is come up with a name.
My goal at this point is to finish my young adult novel by the end of the year. While I'm hitting a few snags (the next few weeks are busy preparing for report writing) I'm hoping that this will be definitely achievable. I'm loving working on this book and feeling great about it. but as always I have the next book knocking on the doorway, distracting my muse, so at this point finishing this book is not so much about being able to submit, but just being free to start the next project.
If anyone is interested in joining a writing group Writers Victoria has a page with groups that are in Melbourne. They also have a fact sheet to help anyone wanting to start their own writing group.
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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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