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A Conversation With A Novice Writer

Hard at work - the old fashioned way

I am often asked when I decided to become a writer, and why. I’ve told the story many times, of how I knew all my letters and numbers before starting school, of how I took to reading and writing by Grade 2, how I was producing my own hand-written and -illustrated story books by Grade 4, and then a play by Grade 6 – that my class performed before the whole school.

Add to that the wonderful input and encouragement of a very special school teacher, the voraciousness with which I devoured books – by my teen years, I was reading Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, and Tolkien – and my own early scribblings, and it seemed fated that I would become a fiction novelist.

I was always drawn to adventure and fantasy stories, as well as murder mysteries and anything historical. I was prepared to take as long as it took – and as much study as it took – to learn how to craft the kind of stories I dreamed of writing and publishing.

But if I could go back and speak to myself as a novice writer – perhaps some time in my early twenties – there are a few important pieces of information I’d impart. The conversation might go a little like this:

LANA NOW: Hey, Novice Lana, I can see that you’re really dedicated to learning about the craft of writing, and to practicing what you learn. That’s great. You also might benefit from creating a writing routine, so you’re doing the work you need to do on a regular basis that will support your growth as a writer.

NOVICE LANA: Well, I try to have a few writing sessions a week, when I really feel like writing, and when I’m not busy with other things.

LANA NOW: But it’s not consistent. Your progress will be much better if you make it a regular daily habit. It will train your brain to be ready to write at a certain time of day, instead of leaving it up to chance and ‘feeling like it’.

NOVICE LANA: Well… I guess that makes sense. After all, writing everything by hand does take a long time, and if I could speed it up in any way…

LANA NOW: Ah – that’s the next thing. I’d recommend saving up and buying a cheap typewriter. It will serve until you can get a computer. That will really help speed up your productivity, and cut down on the big folders of handwritten work.

NOVICE LANA: Ooooh, I’d love to have a computer! But they’re a bit pricey to buy.

LANA NOW: That won’t be a problem for long – dad’s about to get into computers soon, and you can ask him to build you one. Then, once you have the internet at home, you’ll be able to access many more writing resources and organisations that provide information and assistance to writers. That will help you learn more about writing, and you’ll be able to find competitions to enter, which will lead to valuable feedback on your work.

NOVICE LANA: That would be great. I’d also love it if I could find a writing group to go to here in town.

LANA NOW: You will try a couple of local groups out in the coming years, but eventually you’ll start your own writing group.

NOVICE LANA: Really? But I don’t want all the hassle of having to organise and run a group myself – it’s much easier if I can just join an existing group.

LANA NOW: You’ll find that organising and running a writing group isn’t all that much effort at all, and you’ll attract the kind of people you really want to bounce off. Trust me, once you do it, you’ll wish you’d begun it sooner!

NOVICE LANA: Well – if you say so! Hopefully all of that will help me to get my first novel finished and find a publisher who’s willing to publish it.

LANA NOW: Here’s the really awesome part, Novice Lana. There will come a time when you realise that you’d rather become an Independent – or Indie – author. You’ll publish your work yourself, online.

NOVICE LANA: Whoa! How on earth am I going to do that?

LANA NOW: When the time is right, you’ll study Graphic Design, which will help you learn about creating book layout, digital artwork, web design, and a whole lot of other useful things. And later on, you’ll learn about online marketing and dealing with companies that promote and sell books online.

NOVICE LANA: It sounds like a whole lot of effort. I’d rather someone else handled all of that stuff, so I can just concentrate on writing.

LANA NOW: Sure, there’s effort involved. But everything worthwhile takes effort, and this will propel you towards your ultimate dream – to be a published author with complete control over your own work. It might take some time and effort, but it will be worth it in the end. Just be open to the possibilities, and you might be surprised at the wonderful results.

NOVICE LANA: So what’s the most important thing I need to know, right now?

LANA NOW: Keep working towards your goals. Don’t let anyone or anything distract you. Life events may slow down your progress, and there’ll be times when you feel you have to put your writing aside for other things, but only do so if it’s something that will help your writing career. Write as much as you can, get feedback, keep learning about writing and publishing, and you won’t regret a single decision you make as far as your career goes.

I don’t know what Novice Lana would have made of this advice. She was very dedicated and determined, but unfortunately, life events did slow her down. She had really hoped to get published a lot sooner than it has turned out to be. But I can say with pride that she is finally here – ready to publish her first novel.

Keep a smile on your dial until next time, and peace and love in your heart

From Lana Lea and her time-travelling muse

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