Book 2 Diaries: #1 – A New Beginning

Word count: 1322

Working title: Rhymes with Wisteria

 

Dear readers,

Yesterday, I wrote the first 1000 words of book number 2. Juice of Half a Lemon (I’ll call it JOHAL from now on) is resting on the side while I wait for the last few beta critiques to peter in.

I was hesitant to move on from my JOHAL characters, but with the help of your comments and the excitement of a new idea, I think I’m slowly getting past that hesitation.

I’ve decided to post little updates on Book 2 as I write it, to both document my writing process and help keep me motivated!

Inspiration and Ideas

I’m always interested to hear how other writers get their ideas, so I thought I would share the moment Rhymes with Wisteria happened. It was on a long cold bus ride a few weeks ago. On the bus radio, which was exorbitantly loud, there was a news story about the Wisteria flowers coming back. I misheard it as hysteria coming back, and that was when the story and characters became clear.

For me, the difference between an interesting idea and an idea that I could actually stick with is being able to hear the characters’ voices early on. When I started writing JOHAL, Adele, Edward, and Louise came naturally, as if I had met them all in person. Although I’ve had other story ideas, I haven’t had that same experience with characters until now, with Elsie, Maud, and Ólafur.

This story is taking me back to Iceland, and part of it is set in the town where I stayed during my writing residency. I think that’s part of the reason why I feel so connected to this project.

What am I doing differently this time around?

Outlining. If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know that I wrote JOHAL without an outline until around the 55 000-word mark. After eight rounds of structural editing, I realised that I didn’t want to do that again. I also discovered that the 20 000 words I wrote after I knew how the book would end were probably the best and least-messy 20 000 words in the whole messy draft.

I’m not going to write an in-depth outline—I don’t think I am capable of that—but I do want a rough road map and an idea of the ending.

I am so looking forward to writing this story and taking you along with me. Outlining is extremely difficult for me—I would appreciate any helpful hints! What are you all working on at the moment? I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you so much for reading.

Warm regards,

Tamara

Creative Writing Playlist: Juice of Half a Lemon

Dear readers,

Music is a huge part of my writing process. I’ve done a couple of creative writing playlist posts in the past (see here and here). But for today’s post, I thought I’d put together a playlist of songs that helped me write and edit Juice of Half a Lemon specifically. For each song, I’ll include the most relevant lyrics, as well as an embedded YouTube link, so get a cup of coffee and some earphones! I hope you enjoy.

1. Fire Escape by Half Moon Run

Relevant lyrics:

Hey Dark Eyes/Rest with me a while as I drift closer to sleep/Still cannot/Still cannot find no peace

You let go of glass at our feet/It rained through the night/And you take the fire escape/Run down the street to the church

Hey Murderer/killing keeps us close enough/Hey Murderer/every breath you steal is a breath that I breathe for

 

2. Quiet Crowd by Patrick Watson

Relevant lyrics:

Dear Mr Quiet who’s got so much to say/So much more than all of the sleeping parade

While everybody’s walking their own way through the quiet crowd/All thinking the same old things/If they only knew

 

3. Sense by Tom Odell

Relevant lyrics:

Hard to know/Maybe if I skim the stone/Walk a different way back home/It would all make sense.

‘Cause I/I’ve been feeling pretty small/Sometimes/Feel like I’m slipping down walls/And every line/I ever get a hold/It seems to break.

 

4. Today Has Been O.K. by Sleeping at Last

This one is reserved for sad scenes and very sad days. Skip if you have important things to focus on today.

Relevant lyrics:

Without you here the seasons pass me by

I know you were not new/That looked like May and June/All the same I miss you//And I thought, today has been ok

 

5. Futile Devices by Sufjan Stevens

Relevant lyrics:

It’s been a long, long time/Since I’ve memorised your face/It’s been four hours now/Since I’ve wandered through your place/And when I sleep on your couch/I feel very safe

I think of you as my brother/Although that sounds dumb//And words are futile devices

 

6. You Wouldn’t Like Me by Sleeping at Last

Relevant lyrics:

I feel like/I wouldn’t like me/If I met me//I feel like/You wouldn’t like me/If you met me

 

7. The Pugilist by Keaton Henson

Relevant lyrics:

Oh I’m sorry I broke it/Never forgive me

 

8. Should Have Known Better by Sufjan Stevens

Relevant lyrics:

I should have wrote a letter/And grieve what I happen to grieve/My black shroud/I never trust my feelings/I waited for the remedy

I should have known better/Nothing can be changed/The past is still the past/The bridge to nowhere//I should’ve wrote a letter/Explaining what I feel, that empty feeling

 

Thank you for reading and listening along with me. I hope you found some new music to add to your own creative writing playlists!

All the best,

Tamara Drazic

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

City Muse

Dear readers,

Once again, I’m sitting in my parents’ spare room, suitcase packed, Melbourne-bound. For some reason I feel nervous, as if I’ve never done this before. For today’s post, I thought I’d share a little something I wrote the first time I moved to Melbourne.

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Is there beauty in a skyline, a city’s fractured spine?

Trampled, photographed, built and destroyed, all by little people with hard heads, or hats.

You can’t own a city, but you still want a piece.

It’s my city. Our city. Not your city.

You’re never alone. You’re always alone. Too small, but filling too much space.

It’s hard to stay but harder to leave. It’s got you now, the city.

Maybe it owns you.

*

Thank you so much for reading.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

4 Things You Will Learn From Writing Your First Novel

Hello everyone,

I am back from my hiatus and ready to share regular posts on this blog again. Thank you for sticking around–I hope you enjoy this post, and the many posts to come!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I recently finished writing my first novel. Today I’m sharing some of the things I learned along the way.

1 – Writing the first draft of a novel doesn’t actually take that long

There were times when I thought I would never finish writing my first novel. I thought the task was too big, the word count out of reach. That was until I got to my residency, and wrote the second half of the book in two weeks.

The actual writing isn’t what takes years, it’s the life that you have to live in between. Once you realise this, the task of writing a novel seems far less intimidating.

2 – Self-doubt is a killer (but it doesn’t have to win)

You probably already know about this thing called self-doubt. Most people do. But the self-doubt that a writer meets while writing their first novel deserves a warning label of its own. People rarely write and finish books unless writing means everything to them, which means that the stakes are high.

While writing my first novel, I often felt like I just wasn’t good enough, and that there was no point in trying to finish it because everything I’d written was terrible.

But you can’t edit a blank page. That’s one of my favourite sayings, and one that I repeated to myself until I stopped using my self-doubt as an excuse to stop writing.

3 – It won’t be as good as it is in your head

Nothing you write will ever be as good as the version in your head. Your first novel will drill this into your head, mercilessly. The only way to move forward is to let go of the need for perfection, and accept imperfection.

Thoughts and words are two different forms. Try not to compare them.

4 – It won’t be the best thing you’ll ever write, and that’s a good thing

I know it can feel like this book is everything. It can feel like these characters are the only characters you’ll ever be able to write, and any others won’t feel as real. But the more you write, the more you will learn about writing.

Although your first novel may not be up to standard, it was not a waste of time. Take everything you’ve learned, and then start another.

 

All the best,

Tamara Drazic

All About Editing: Plot

Hi everyone,

This is the first installment of a little series all about editing. The series will be based on my personal self-editing process, but will hopefully give you some ideas that you can apply to your own. It’s not a guideline or a set of rules–just an example of one person’s way of doing things. Always make sure you save every version of your draft!

Today’s topic is Plot, or the Substantive Edit. This is the first stage of my editing process, as well as the most painful, and the most rewarding. Below are three steps I take to stay sane and focused while tightening my manuscript. 

 

1.  Write a list of all the things wrong with your plot

Sounds fun, right? These are the things you always knew had to change eventually. Now is the time to make them squirm in the spotlight.

After I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I set it aside for a few days. During this little break, I compiled a list of every scene, plot point, character, and chapter that I wasn’t happy with. Gimmicks, coincidences, boring scenes, illogical reactions. I didn’t go easy on myself. It was liberating in a way, because it was the first time I forced myself to look at the major flaws, rather than glossing over them in fear of not making my target word count. These flaws were the things that spoiled my manuscript, and made me think the whole thing was worthless. I thought the list would make me feel terrible about myself as a writer, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, when I saw a physical list of all the flaws, I realised that I wasn’t unhappy with everything. The list made me feel in control, and showed me exactly what I had to do to improve.

Examples of things on my list: Opening of Chapter 3, Travis (the whole character), Chapter 7, Chapter 9, Chapter 13, The phone call in Chapter 20, etc.

2. Fix or delete?

Some things just have to go. Like Travis. He served no purpose as a character, except to create a problem for the protagonist later down the road. I found that a lot of the plot flaws in my manuscript came in groups. Travis was a plot device, for a plot point that was weak anyway. I deleted both Travis and that plot point, and found another, stronger way to bring across the information I was using him for. Although it was painful and time consuming, deleting Travis fixed more than one of the problems on my list. I was tempted to add him to a couple more scenes, and try to add depth to his character instead of deleting him. The more I tried, however, the more obvious it became that deleting him and the events involved with him was the only way to improve the plot’s cohesiveness.

I think the tip here is to try everything out. Have the original version of your draft saved, and in the second draft, delete what you want to delete, and change what you want to change. Don’t stop until you’re content with it.

3. Ask the hard questions

Does that backstory need to be there? Does that chapter add anything to the plot or the character? Is that logical? Does the climax happen too early/late? Is the resolution too predictable, obvious, abrupt, coincidental, etc? Does that character serve a purpose? Would your protagonist make that mistake?

If you read a lot of books, you most-likely already know the answers. For me, it was a matter of not allowing myself to dodge the questions.

 

Thank you so much for reading, and good luck with your manuscript!

– Tamara

Back Home – Adjusting to Life After a Residency – Printing the Book

Hi everyone,

I’m so sorry that I haven’t posted an update in a little while–I spent my last days at the residency taking everything in, and immersing myself in my work. It was really hard to leave Iceland, and particularly the Gullkistan residency. The cabin became my home, and although I was only there for one month, it felt like it had been my home for years. I’ll miss waking up to light snowfall, and finding new little trails to explore. I’ll miss the big windows, and view of Hekla, the snow-covered volcano. Now, after three days of travelling, I have made it back home to tropical Cairns.

Let me tell you–it feels bizarre. Nice, but really strange. It’s strange that my whole life doesn’t revolve around my writing anymore. This morning, while having breakfast, I was talking to my family, rather than scribbling down ideas, notes, and pieces of dialogue. After breakfast, rather than sitting down to edit, I took my clothes out of my suitcase to wash, and then sent an email to my university about enrolment (post about this coming soon). I’m scared that my focus is shifting too much, but at the same time, it feels really nice to breathe, and take a little step back. I just need to find a good balance.

During my last days in Iceland, I finished my second draft, and decided to get my manuscript printed so that I could do my next round of edits on paper. I used Createspace to get it printed in book form, to help me get a better feel for the pacing of the story, and to help to keep me motivated while editing. It’s not available online, as I’m going to try the traditional publishing route (after many more rounds of editing, of course). I’ll still write a post about my experience with getting the book printed, and the quality of it, for those of you interested in self-publishing.

I’ll also be writing a post to call for beta readers in the near future. I’m a little terrified, but excited to get some helpful feedback. Everything is happening so quickly.

I promise I won’t disappear again any time soon!

Thanks for reading,

– Tamara

Multilingual Poetry Event in Iceland

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I had one of the most humbling experiences of my life. March 21st is the day of many things–World Poetry Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the final day of Nordic Multilingual Month. To celebrate this special day, Booktowns and Gullkistan got together to create Margmálaljóðakvöldi,  a multilingual poetry event in Hveragerði.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to represent Australia at the event, and read two of my own poems. I was extremely nervous, and my voice was a little shaky, but I had such a great time sharing my work. The energy in the space was incredible. There were people from Iran, Syria, Finland, France, Sweden, Iceland (obviously), and more, all there to read poetry in their native languages, and to celebrate art and cultural diversity.

You could really feel the love and warmth emanating from the readers and the listeners the whole night, and as we shared our work, we were all reminded of how beautiful human beings can be. The art museum, Listasafn Árnesinga, was the perfect setting, with thought-provoking modern art as a backdrop to the event.

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The Gullkistan family

It was such a heart-warming, nerve-wracking, and beautiful experience, and I am so grateful to Gullkistan and Booktowns for putting it together. It’s definitely an experience that I will always remember. Each reader was gifted a different book of Icelandic poetry, and I received a beautiful hardcover that is completely handwritten. It has quickly become one of my favourite things.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

All the best,

Tamara

(The pictures were sent to me by Kristveig Halldórsdóttir)

Introducing My Novel: “Juice of Half a Lemon”

The plan involves turmeric, lemons, and letters slipped under doors; a murderer’s sister and a victim’s brother; midnight phone calls, and a stagnant small town. Juice of Half a Lemon is a quirky contemporary adult novel about two people whose loneliness is intertwined.

 

Hi everyone,

Over the past year and a half of posting on this blog, I’ve gone into a lot of detail about my thoughts, my experiences, and my life as writer, but I’ve been quite tight-lipped about my actual writing. I’ve never really told you anything specific about this novel that I’ve been working on for almost exactly a year now, and I’m not completely sure why that is. I think it might be because, until I wrote the end scene only a couple of days ago, I didn’t entirely believe that I would be able to finish it. I didn’t want to introduce something to you only to scrap it a couple of weeks later. I’m finally at a place now where I can confidently say that this one’s sticking, and I’ve got no more excuses! I am currently working on the second draft, and will start looking for beta readers in the near future.

I have to start out small to avoid becoming a nervous wreck, so here are a few very vague details about the story:

Title:

Juice of Half a Lemon

A little introduction:

Adele Zimmerman hasn’t seen her brother since the night he told her he shot someone in the head. When she discovers that the victim was an identical twin, she sets out to find the leftover sibling and anonymously improve his life, as a way of settling her conscience and ridding herself of her second-hand guilt.

Juice of Half a Lemon is about identity after loss, and the suffocating nature of belonging. It’s about things that can’t be fixed, mistakes that can’t be unmade, and connections that can’t be broken.

***

The tone of the story is slightly whimsical, with a bit of dark humour. I plan on talking more about the protagonists, tone, P.O.V, inspiration, and editing process in the posts to come.

Let me know what you’re working on in the comments below; I’d love to hear about it! If you’d rather just talk to me privately, please feel free to send me an email at tamara.j.drazic@gmail.com.

I hope you found this post interesting, and I wish you the best of luck with whatever you are working on.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara

 

 

Residency Day 13: Finishing the First Draft of my Novel

Hi everyone,

Today is a pretty special day for me, because it is the day I finished the first draft of my novel, “Juice of Half a Lemon”.  I have written the entire second half, 37 000 words, in the last two weeks, all thanks to this incredible residency, and the time, space, and mental clarity that it gave me to work.

This afternoon, as I began to write the very last scene, it started snowing outside. Everything was completely, utterly silent, the kind of silence that only comes about when it is snowing. That moment has become one of my fondest memories, and it’s just one of the countless fond memories that I’ve made while being here in Iceland. I’m so grateful for this little haven that my mind will always be able to wander to.

The first draft is complete, but I know there is a lot of work ahead of me! I am incredibly excited to move on to the editing phase of this novel, as I’ve always loved editing–moving things around, cutting words, and making things fit together. I know I probably will lose a bit of my love for it after round number three, but we will see what happens.

On an unrelated note, I recently found out that I will be reading some of my poetry at a multilingual poetry event in Selfoss, Iceland on the 21st of March. I am so looking forward to meeting some members of the Icelandic literary community.

I feel like my word supply is in need of a recharge, so this post is going to stay short and sweet. Here are some pictures of the lovely Gullkistan Residency, the place that has grown so close to my heart over the past two weeks:

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Let me know how your writing projects are coming along. I’d love to get to know more of you!

All the best,

Tamara