A Writing Update in 3 Parts

Dear readers,

I structured this writing update in three parts, using questions that I (and I’m sure all of you) get from some well-meaning friends and family. I hope you enjoy!

What is it that you actually do?

I’ve been revising  Juice of Half a Lemon for over a year now, longer than the time it took to write the damn thing. I can recite the first five chapters by heart. I wake up every morning thinking about what else I need to fix. But I think I’m almost there. I’ve made a couple of big changes in the past week and I’m a lot happier with the manuscript now, at draft 8, than I have ever been.

In saying that, its flaws and shortcomings hit me in waves. At this point, I’m holding on to that quote by Anne Enright: “Only bad writers think that their work is really good.”

Oh great, you’ve finished your book. Are you getting it published?

I remember around draft 4 when I thought, yep, after this draft I’ll be ready to query. I wrote up a query letter, a synopsis, the whole package. Then I did four more drafts.

How do I know when it really is finished?

I don’t want to rush myself to submit, but at the same time, I don’t want to keep rewriting and rewriting, making the manuscript different but not necessarily better. I don’t want to use the editing process as an excuse not to send it away.

My next steps are to:

  • wait to hear back from a few more beta readers
  • finish this draft
  • let it sit for a while, and then do a thorough line edit
  • fix up my query letter and synopsis from draft 4, ask for feedback
  • submit Juice of Half a Lemon to an unpublished manuscript competition to get this whole submitting thing started.

If that doesn’t lead anywhere, I’m going to start querying agents. To the query trenches I go!

Thanks for that super long-winded answer that I did not understand/need to hear. So what are you working on next?

I’ve started brainstorming my second manuscript and am looking forward to drafting it! It’ll be a magical realism novel set in a world where people don’t have reflections.

I have been itching to go on another writing residency, so I think I’ll make that a goal for either the second half of 2018, or the first half of 2019. I work best in short bursts, as I saw with Juice of Half a Lemon, so a residency would be perfect to cover some ground on project number 2.

 

Please feel free to comment down below! I love hearing about other writers’ works-in-progress.

 

All the best,

Tamara Drazic

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Read More, Google Less – Goals for 2017

Dear readers,

Happy January! Here is a little list of the (quite extravagant) goals I have for 2017:

  1. Release Spinebind Issue #4 (20th of January)
  2. Finish the first draft of my novel manuscript
  3. Write a collection of micro memoirs of my trip to Iceland
  4. Move to a city that I love
  5. Get a day job that allows me enough time/brain power to write
  6. Read more, Google less
  7. Finish the second draft of my novel manuscript
  8. Save Save Save
  9. Travel – New York City for my 21st birthday, and Zürich to spend Christmas with family

Now that I have no structure to my life, I think it’s more important than ever to have some goals set in writing. I’ve been so busy with the magazine and my freelance work that I’ve been falling behind on what I actually really want to do. I can’t let that happen this year.

Thanks so much for reading. What are some of your goals for 2017? Let’s hold each other accountable.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

Back Home (for now)

Dear readers,

I am writing to you from my parents’ house, on an inflatable mattress, with seven suitcases scattered in the hallway, the dining room, and the bedrooms. The past week has been a crazy mess of packing, cleaning, and goodbyes. My degree is over, and I’m in this strange limbo that isn’t quite real life, but almost.

Tomorrow is my twentieth birthday, and in two months and a day, I will be on my way to Iceland for my first writing residency. Thank you so much to everyone who pledged to, shared, and supported my Kickstarter campaign. Without that, I don’t know what I would have done.

For now I really need to get back to my writing. I have taken a bit of an unintentional break, letting work and life get in the way. Every time this happens, I get nervous for next year when I’ll have to have a full-time day job to support myself and my writing. I fully realise that I’ve been spoiled, having the freedom to fully immerse myself in exactly what I wanted to do for the past three years, and again at the residency. After that the real challenge begins, and I’m nervous and excited to go through it all with you.

Thank you so much for being here,

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

Is a Creative Writing Degree Really Worth It?

To anyone thinking about studying creative writing,

It’s 11 o’clock at night. I’m sitting here, having just submitted my last university assignment, scrolling through jobs on seek.com. Look, I’ll be honest; there aren’t many. In fact, where I really want to go, I haven’t even found one that’s just right. It’s scary to leave “the academy” after being a student for almost 17 years. First kindergarten, preschool, primary school, high school, and then uni. It’s scary to think that I have to leave this privileged safe-haven where I can work on my creative writing without having to hold down a full-time job.

During my studies, I have had so many discussions about whether or not creative writing degrees are really worth anything. Will that really get you a job? Do real writers really need a writing degree? Creativity can’t be taught, can it?

All I know is that the time I have dedicated to my creative work over these three years has made all the difference. This degree has given me the chance to go all in, and really get something down on the page. Something that I’m almost happy with (on a good day). Something that I’m going to finish at a writing residency on the other side of the world.

As well as this, I’ve also made connections with the most supportive and interesting people that I have ever come across. People who give up their weekends to write reference letters, and who do everything in their power to get you ahead. I can’t even count on my fingers the number of people who have offered to read my work and give me feedback, even for years after I graduate.

Studying a BFA in creative writing has improved my creative writing, and that’s all I was expecting from it. I chose this degree for the knowledge, rather than the qualification.

Maybe this degree won’t lead me to the perfect day job, and I’m not expecting everything to just fall into place. But the past three years have been the happiest and most fulfilling years of my life. For me, that makes it all worth it.

Kickstarter Campaign for Gullkistan

Hi everyone,

I’ve put together a Kickstarter campaign to help me get to Iceland for the writing residency next March. The target is quite small, and it’s just meant to help me with the cost of the flights. It’s open for 40 days all up, until the 20th of November.

I’ll be putting the names of any backers who donate $20 or more on the acknowledgements page of the book, once it eventually gets published (either traditionally or by self-publishing). I can’t say when it will happen, but I can say that I am dedicated to finishing the manuscript by the end of the residency next year.

Thanks so much for reading!

– Tamara

Life as a Writer

Hello!

I don’t know if you remember me, but…

Ok, I’m just going to cut to it. I’m sorry I’ve been gone for a month. I have been so incredibly busy with my last semester at university. I have around four half-finished draft blog posts that I just haven’t gotten around to finishing, but I promise they will be out soon. Anyway, this is a blog about writing and the writer’s life, so here are a few things that I’ve been up to:

  1. Writing (obviously) — I am working on a novel (or maybe novella, not sure, post coming soon), that I am going to be graded on for my final semester studying creative writing at uni. I have two subjects that I’m using this project for, so all up I’ll need to reach the 16 000 word mark. It seems attainable enough, except that I keep deleting blocks of 1000 words at a time in bursts of frustration. Maybe I should break my delete button.
  2. Critiquing other writers — When I’m not writing or doing readings, I’m doing critiques on my peers’ writing. This is actually super helpful, and I learn so much from everyone else.
  3. Freelancing — I’ve just finished a freelance editing job. I really enjoyed doing it, and I earned some money (which is a rare thing to come by)!
  4. Reading — If you ever feel stuck with your WIP, I highly recommend “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. It really helps to take away the looming cloud above the terrifying experience that is writing a novel.
  5. Working on Spinebind — In case you’re new here, Spinebind is a literary magazine that I created at the start of this year. Submissions for the third issue close in four days, so I have a lot of tricky decisions ahead of me. Still loving every minute of it.

What are you all up to? How is the writing life treating you?

Thank you so much for reading,

Tamara

On Embracing the Unknown Future

I have no idea what my future holds, and I kind of like it that way. Somewhere along the line I’ve embraced the fact that I’m probably (definitely) not going to go straight from university to a comfortable and well-paying job. I’m probably not going to buy an apartment and a nice car any time soon. I mean, I can’t even drive.

I honestly don’t think there’s much point to having one set plan. No matter what you do, life is always going to throw some surprises in there. Plans change, and the last thing I want is to see an experience in a negative light just because it’s not what I expected or planned for.

I’ve been asked the question, “So what’s your plan?”, more times than I can count on my fingers this year. Everyone’s eager to hear what on Earth I’m going to do with this creative writing degree of mine. I’m thinking of maybe looking into house sitting overseas. I’m talking to people. I’m looking for opportunities and reaching for them when they come up. Sometimes I can’t quite reach them. Sometimes I reach them, but they manage to get away, and that’s okay too.

I know that I’m still young and naive, but I’ve come to realise that there’s no formula to this thing. There’s no one way of “doing it right”. So for now, my plan is not really having a strict plan. My goal is learning as much as I can, and writing what I love to write. My aim is to just make it work.

To all of you who worry about what the future might hold, just remember that no one really knows what the hell they’re doing. All the rules and expectations that we hold ourselves to are just made up by, well, us.

Have a great day.

– Tamara

The Good Kind of Rejection Letter

Hi everyone,

I’m sure you’ve seen the news about J.K. Rowling posting her rejection letters to inspire writers to never stop submitting. It really does help to soften the blow of a rejection when you see concrete evidence of famous authors being rejected over and over again before making their big break. Today I woke up to another rejection letter in my inbox, but it actually put me in a great mood. This one, unlike countless others I’ve received before it, has just a tiny hint of hope–an undertone of validation. I’ve blanked out which journal sent it to me just for privacy, but it’s a journal that I’d be overjoyed to be published in one day. I thought I’d share my rejection with you to remind you to look at every step forward as a success, no matter how small. Here it is:

Dear Tamara Drazic,

Thank you so much for submitting to ************. We have read your work with interest, and although we are not accepting it, it did come close. We would love to see more work from you, so please feel free to resubmit during our next reading period.

Again, thanks for sending us your work. We hope to read more from you soon.

Assistant Editors

************

As writers I think it’s so hard to not sink into the everything-I-write-is-rubbish mindset, so it’s important to pick apart your rejection letters and find the positives inside them. Often you’ll just get a standard declined, but when you do get something more, hold on to it. Being rejected is just another thing you have in common with the writers you admire, after all.

Happy writing!

Yours Sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

Relocating for Work?

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re well. As you may know, I am graduating from my Creative and Professional Writing course at university at the end of this year. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m going to be doing next year, and how I’m going to finance my life. As I was job hunting for availabilities in Brisbane, I realised that there really isn’t a lot here for creative writers and editors. Lately I’ve been thinking about relocating from Brisbane to Melbourne to try my hand at getting an editorial job down there. There are so many more opportunities, but also about double the competition, so I’m very torn.

I do love Brisbane, but I kind of feel like it’s my “uni” city, if that makes sense. It’s perfect for my university time, as a kind of transition from small-town Cairns, but it doesn’t really feel quite right for me. I know that if I were working here, I would always be thinking about where else I could be exploring. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Europe a couple of times, but I have never actually lived outside of Queensland, Australia. I’d love to live in England for a period of time, and maybe visit my Swiss roots, but I do feel like Australia will always be my home.

The creative scene down in Melbourne is a lot more vivacious and happening than what we have in Brisbane, which, in a way, has lessened Brisbane’s creative scene’s ability to grow. A lot of the young creatives leave as soon as they’ve finished their degrees, because of the limited opportunities, and this stops new opportunities from coming about.

I’m still not certain, but I feel like I will definitely need a change of scene next year. I’m excited and nervous and a little scared. If you feel like you’re at a dead end in your current city, but you’re afraid to leave friends and family, I hope my experience will help you make your decision. I’ll be blogging all about the move next year on my lifestyle blog, if it does end up happening.

It will be quite daunting to leave my friends, and move even further away from my family, but getting a job that I really love is so important to me. I am the kind of person that easily feels restless and frustrated if I’m doing work that isn’t important to me, so I know that “just doing something” is not an option. Besides, I’m excited for a new adventure.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

Dealing With Self-Doubt While Pursuing a Creative Career

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for sticking with me during this busy time. I know I’m not posting as regularly as I’d like, but now that the first issue of Spinebind is out (finally), I’ll have more time to focus on this blog.

Today I want to talk about self-doubt, particularly surrounding career paths. As you may know, I’m studying Creative and Professional Writing at university, and I’m really enjoying it. I want to write books, personal essays, columns, articles, web content, and poetry, and I also want to edit fiction and non fiction, and write manuscript assessments for publishing houses. There are jobs available, and although it’s going to be hard, I think I’ll be able to get a job that I love. So why is it that I used to just add “it’s like journalism” after telling people what I study? Why was I so scared of telling people I was studying something creative? I think it was because I didn’t want people to think that I thought I’d make it. I was afraid of seeming like I believed in myself.

I also had a habit of mocking myself, so other people wouldn’t do it.

“I don’t have a plan, I study creative writing.”

“I’m used to being unemployed, I study creative writing.”

“Don’t ask me, I study creative writing.”

This sort of thinking doesn’t help anyone with anything, least of all yourself. In the past year I’ve come to realise that the people who try to tear you down and who think badly of you for trying to reach your goals really shouldn’t matter to you. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I think we’re all guilty of looking at other people’s life choices and measuring them up against our own. I just mean that other people’s opinions shouldn’t have control over how you feel, or the goals that you set, or the career that you pursue. In the end, it’s your life, and yours alone.

If you are struggling with self-doubt, I’ve found it really helps to look at your intentions. You want to achieve something. You want to do what you love every day. You want to try, even though you know it might not work out. That’s pretty admirable, in my opinion.

So next time you tell someone what you want to do with your life, don’t mock yourself. Don’t feel stupid. Don’t think about what the other person is thinking. My lecturer read us this quote just last week:

“We’re all failures, at least the best of us are.”     – J.M. Barrie

No creative person will go through life without failing at some point. In fact, no person in general will always succeed at everything. And that’s ok.

I hope this helped at least a little bit. I think that self-doubt and fearing other people’s opinions is just a part of learning what is really important. Be proud of yourself that you believe in yourself enough to pursue what you love, and don’t give up.

I’d love to hear your stories, so if you’d like to share, please feel free to start up a discussion in the comments section.

Thanks so much for reading.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara