A Novel Idea

Archive for the ‘The Challenge’ Category

When I started this blog, I set myself the challenge of becoming a published author by midnight 13 April, 2011. At the time of writing, that’s just over 24 hours away.

Today is an important day for me. Not only because I’m about to draw the curtains on a year of (almost) full time writing. These last twelve months have witnessed me progress through my postgraduate degree, write my first first (and second) novel drafts, and make a handful of writing friends along the way.

I know so much more about publishing than I did a year ago. I realize now that the goal I set was unachievable given that I didn’t have a manuscript or a network of contacts. It can take a year just to edit a book once the contract’s signed!

While I haven’t published my novel yet, I have been published. To date I have had short prose and poetry and a handful of reviews in publications.

To have a book published, you must send it to a publisher. I have taken the soft approach and flung my manuscript (back when it was an incomplete first draft) into two unpublished author competitions with no outcome other than a lighter purse. I was mildly horrified to discover the winners had multiple books published (in another genre).  Either way it was beginner’s enthusiasm to thrust an unripe work upon an audience. We live and learn…

I do feel my manuscript needs 2-3 more drafts before it is ready for a publisher. I also have time pressure though. I quit my job to write my novel and finish my degree. If I don’t generate some money (through an advance or other windfall) soon, well, let’s just say I’ve already cut back on everything I could.

Eternally the optimist, I have created an opportunity for myself. Today is important because this morning I have coffee with a respected author in the field who has read the first few chapters of my novel. For free. I think I must remind them of their younger self in some way. Why else would they be so kind?

I’ve just got back from a walk in the crisp Autumn air. I needed to clear my mind. Be receptive to their jewels of wisdom. That’s when I walked into a giant spider web.

It was at knee height: I wasn’t completely daydreaming.

So I may not have a novel in the bookstores yet, but I’m about to receive honest professional feedback that will help make my book stronger.

That’s worth celebrating.

How do you measure success?

Write well. Write often.

© the author. 2011.

2011 is the year I will land a generous contract for my first novel. It is the year I will complete my Masters. On a personal level, it is the year I will marry the love of my life.

These are my goals for this year. What are yours?

On New Year’s Eve 2009, I was in Paris. The goals I made then did not anticipate the upheavel and the opportunity that 2010 would bring. This time last year, I did not realize I would be writing and studying full time after abandoning a successful but unsatisfying corporate career.

We cannot know what lies ahead, but we can know what lies in our hearts and act accordingly.

My biggest lesson from 2010 was to trust in love. Sometimes your own steam will only take you partway up the mountain. A supportive life partner, who values your dreams as much as their own, can provide the encouragement that inspires you to find the last skerrick of determination you need to approach the summit.

Look at the relationships in your life. Are some in need of repair? Are some better left in the past?

If your art is your life, the people closest to you need to support your path.

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2011.

Today is Melbourne Cup day, known in Australia as the horse race ‘that stops the nation’. This prestigious race is a long one – similar to the Ascot Gold Cup, the Gold Cup at York, or the Prix Du Cadran in France. Racing has a lot in common with publishing. Both are pursuits that draw crowds for the short-lived public performance but involve a lot of hard work in the much longer lead up.

I set out on a personal challenge to be published within a year six months ago. I, like many of the horses competing today, have travelled a long way to get trackside. I’m not getting pre-race jitters, but I am starting to see that the finish line may be much further away than I first anticipated.

Pictured: Sub-zero, the 1992 winner (about the time I started watching every cup race).

Image courtesy of http://www.news.com.au/national/melbourne-cup-winner-subzero-facing-customs-red-tape-death-sentence/story-e6frfkvr-1225784048987

The recorded fastest time to date for a Melbourne Cup winner was Kingston Rule with a time of 3.16.30 back in 1990.

Thinking about racing and more specifically, racing preparation has coincided with my decision to modify my original goal. I’ve come to realize that most books take a year to print even once the writer has delivered the drafted manuscript. Without self-publishing, or already having a polished manuscript up my sleeve, it is totally unrealistic to think (without even a contract) I could pull off zero to published in one short year.

I’ve been trying to gallop whereas my current form dictates I should ease into a canter.

I still think it is crucial to set goals (ones that stretch rather than knacker you). Here’s the new goal:

I will publish my first novel by midnight 19 April, 2013. [within 3 years of setting the first word of the novel down]

And, to make this first year really count, by midnight 19 April, 2011, I will send the latest draft of the novel TO A PUBLISHER.

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

Today started at 2am for me. I had one of those rare mornings when you’re awake in an instant.

A hot cup of cammomile and spearmint tea later, I was at my desk.

Pitch black outside. Still.

Furiously bright inside as I tapped away at my noisy keyboard.

By 8am, when most people are just starting work, I had achieved a lifelong goal: MY VERY FIRST NOVEL DRAFT.

After almost three months working on it I am finally finished!

Not really.

I suspect this story has another three or four (or maybe more?) drafts to go before I’m ready to unleash it on the world.

This is going to be a two-coffee day, but in the best possible way!

What would you wake up at 2am for?

Write well. Write often.


(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

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If you could achieve anything, what would it be?

Are you working towards that goal, in some way, every day?

If you had asked me these questions a year ago, I could answer the first without hesitation.

I want to be a writer.

To the second question, I would have to squirm a little, not wanting to admit that the answer is ‘no’. I would say something about ‘finding my mojo’ and how demanding my 10-14 hour per day corporate job is. I would politely excuse myself – no I don’t have time to discuss why I’m not really doing anything about the one thing I actually want in this life. I’m too busy achieving arbitrary numbers for a corporate bottom line and being paid for it thank you very much.

Months later,  it is New Year’s Eve 2009. I’m on the other side of the world, enjoying the trip of a lifetime with my fiance. We’ve been scrimping and saving so long for this.

In our cosy hotel room in Paris, we’re writing out our goals for the year ahead. I’m cross-legged on the bed scrawling in a beautifully bound journal and he’s typing away at the desk. The champagne is wedged into the tiny mini-bar, waiting to christen the new year.

At this point, I should mention that the year ahead holds an age-bracket birthday for me. When I was younger I didn’t mind moving higher up in the marketer’s boxes. In fact it felt like I was somehow more important, more experienced. Moving from 15-17 to 18-24 was great. I could imagine all the exciting things I was going to do and try in that time. But at some point, when you’re avoiding what you most want to do with your life, moving age boxes is like moving from a house with character to a sensible apartment. Sure, you can afford it and your basic needs are met, but the sense of potential is gone.

My partner offers me a snack – I’d never eat in my own bed like this but somehow ’cause we’re on holidays and we’re in PARIS, I feel it’s okay to channel some Marie Antoinette indulgence. It’s a runny white goat’s cheese smeared decadently across fresh baguette.

I’m feeling quite wonderful at this point. I’ve totally forgotten about the project that is waiting for me at work. I’m ignoring the banking glitch that has meant I can’t pull out any Euros until the next working day. I’ve got a list of SMART goals in front of me, canvassing the major life areas of family/friends, health, personal, financial, etc. Let’s pop the champagne, I say.

We trade goals. I save the one I most want to meet till last.

I want to be a published author. I’m giving myself until my birthday in April 2011 to be published and paid for at least one work, I say.

What I really want to say, but am concerned it’s not achievable, not just in the timeframe, but maybe I just don’t have it in me, is I want that work to be my first novel.

This blog is the story of that personal challenge. I never intended to blog about this, in fact I’m a ridiculously private person, but I’m running into obstacles. This is my way of working through them. Excuse me while I confess publicly.

You can call me Violet, or V for short. Share this journey with me.

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  • Violet: Thanks Alannah :) Apologies for not replying sooner: I'm finally catching my breath and the year is almost over!
  • Alannah Murphy: I remember your first post, way back when I had my old Here Be Dragons blog, and I am glad you are still writing. We all find out, sooner or later, ho
  • Violet: Good to hear that Aaron. Good Luck with your work.