Saturday, April 9, 2011

Couldn't have said it better myself - warning: a long post

We writers are readers and, I think, more respectful of writers who are also readers of writers: we understand how hard it is to actually get from an idea to an in-your-hand book. We get how laborious it is to actually take an idea and see it through to a place where you (the reader) hold our words in your hand.

Peter Wells wrote an insightful and 'on it' post and this particularly grabbed my attention:
Because books do take time. Even the fastest written books take about three to eight weeks to actually just physically write. And authors who manage this feat usually have years behind them in preparation, pre-thought - a kind of stopped up energy which, once released, fleets away like a hare.

Most books usually take two to three years, a fact which astonishes most people. This is why authors are generally not rich people. It takes so long and the financial results are so poor that - if you were being paid by the hour - it would be cents rather than dollars.

But that is what you put up with in order to have the intense pleasure of a work which involves long consecutive thought.

It is like going on a journey - a long and exciting exhausting journey to an unknown destination.

Go here to read the entire post.

My first book, an eductional book for English teachers made to teach drama, was published in 1995. It was relatively easy process apart from the checking the proofs stage because I already had all the material. The plays that were published not long after also weren't so hard and my first novel, well, in comparison to the world these days, not so difficult: I was on maternity leave, I was pretty good as a writer and I had a willing publisher.

Now, the writing/publishing world is so difficult. Yeah, maybe it's because my kids are teenagers. Maybe it's because I'm getting older. But, I think it is because the standard of NZ writing has shot into the stratosphere and everyone has high expectations (as they should).

People (kids mostly) still contact me about If I Could Tell You. Just yesterday I received a lovely email from a writery friend about Third Degree. Today, one of my students said: can we just do what we did yesterday? I'm loving this book. 'This book' was Third Degree. She, along with her class mates don't find learning particularly easy. Yet I am in a different headspace to where I was with both these stories. It is harder. When I wrote my first novel, I had to send via post my manuscript. I used the telephone to communicate.

With Third Degree, I could communicate via email but there were no other online distractions like FaceBook or the expectation to keep up an online presence - a phrase never heard of then.

When I first started 'being an author' I was meeting the needs of my teaching collegues and my students: short, punchy novels for (boys in particular) who hated reading, plays for my girls (in a male dominated world back then); grammar texts that related to the people who sat in front of me in my classroom day in and out.

Back then, it seems to me, it was easier. If you had a good idea and could communicate this idea in a way that others could use easily, it was a publishable and marketable idea.

Oh how the world has changed. For me personally, the distractions of the internet seriously erode my writing time. Three years ago I was told that I needed to have an 'online presence' to make my work go viral. The only way this story is going to go viral is if someone with enough power takes it to Hollywood IMHO

My target audience is fickle. The movie. The movie. The movie. THAT'S what drives them.

I teach English to teenagers (and I think I do an okay job). I have two of my own (hugs and kisses at them). I KNOW this audience and all its changing faces because I dive amongst them; as a director, I get to go into their changing rooms and hear their conversations. I don't judge but I do listen.

Despite 'being old' (I'm going to be 46 this Sept), I am a Peter Pan type who loves life, literature and the longing that goes with both. (If any of my Y12 students read this please note my use of the 'power of three').

Yet, ironically, it has taken me an hour to write this post because I have also continued to 'advance the washing' (the phrase in our family which means get the clothes washed, dried and folded), fed the cats and tidy up from last night's 'can we have take always? - that was me btw.

I getting PM from people all over the world and a lot from ex-students - who say they love reading my blog [Go Roxy - you the man] was a recent message. I did send back an email reminding said ex-student that I am actually a woman and she sent back a email reminding me that English is an evolving language (what I often say) and she was being metaphorical and btw she's got a Phd and I haven't so there.

When I read that, I have to say I laughed so hard that I could not drink my tea (Charlotte, when I get to Europe, I am so taking you to dinner! And you're bloddy well paying.)

If you've got this far then I congratulate you. I am at once excited and daunted by my responsiblities, the expectations and the stigma associated with being a 'real writer' for that is what I am.

kia kaha


TK Roxborogh said...

BTW took an hour an a half to write this post when I should have been writing my novel

jtwebster books said...

When I started writing, a little over three years ago, one of the first things I discovered was that I needed that web presence. Now I really enjoy blogging and have learned heaps of valuable stuff and met some great people, but it is soooooo time consuming. I know I would write more without it.
I have days when I wish I had discovered my passion for writing a decade or so ago! I think you are right and that it would be a lot easier - on many levels. (I've got teenagers too!) ;)