Writing a novel: Both marathon and relay race

This week I was delighted to hear that a flash piece of mine is being published on the patreon of Black Hare Press. It’s been 9 months since my last publication. That’s enough time to incubate a baby, but not quite enough time (in my case) to finish a first novel.

Over the past 9 months, I’ve been in the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program. The program is designed to teach participants about publishing, and I have learned a lot about the publishing world. I polished my book to the point of submission, I’ve pitched to literary agents and publishing houses. I’m working through feedback to redevelop and resubmit to an Australian indie agent. I understand what it takes to get published now, and while it’s not easy, it feels possible.

The program has helped me integrate writing into my life. It reset writing as a priority, and a supportive manager pointed out to me that I had a good argument to go part-time. Now I write several times a week without fail, and I have more problems with writing too much (feeling hazy, antisocial and disconnected from the world) than writing too little. I have an annual schedule of projects.

Largely, the program has been a success. I’ve gone from wide-eyed awe at people who’ve written five books to talking about my works in progress. If I hesitated to say it before, I can confidently call myself a writer now.

With that confidence and knowledge, however, whatever illusions I had about writing have been shattered. When I tell people I write fiction, most people have a polite, passing interest. Constant rejection is embedded into the publishing process. Writing is a solo endeavour by nature, but indifference and rejection make it lonely. Apart from that, it’s also very hard. I am not naturally blessed with blinding talent. Learning how to write a novel is a steep and rocky learning curve for most people. There are so many components – plotting, drafting, editing, character development etc – it’s like running back and forward over the same spot and not knowing where the end is. That’s the relay. Plus you have to keep motivated for the entire duration of the work – that’s the marathon.

This week I was delighted to hear that a flash piece of mine is being published on the patreon of Black Hare Press. It’s 100 words of eldritch horror that took me four hours to be happy with. Eldritch horror isn’t my home genre, and I dip in and out of flash fiction, so it took me a while to calibrate. I was also playing around with structural forms after a workshop through Bath Flash Fiction. When I came out of the haze of editing, I was pleased with the results. There’s not a whole lot in life that competes with finishing a challenging project and knowing it’s good – except maybe finding an audience who agrees with you.

In summary, writing is a relay, and a marathon, and very hard to do well, but also extraordinarily satisfying.

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