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

Icelandic Landscapes: Visual Creative Writing Prompts

Dear readers,

Today I thought I’d share a few photos from my trip to Iceland that could spark some ideas for new stories. These places are all incredibly special to me, and I go back to them in my mind whenever I need some clarity. I hope these photos can inspire some great scenes, settings, or even worlds in your stories.

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Laugarvatn. A rusty gate at the foot of a mountain. Lake up ahead. Cemetery on one side, and woods on the other.

 

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Swans fly over lake Tjörnin. Crisp air. Hands in warm pockets.

 

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Laugarvatn morning. Sunrise reflecting on a thawed patch of lake. Winter ending.

 

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Blurry Reykjavik after a snow storm. 10 o’clock in the morning. Empty streets. Overworked streetlamps. Days and nights roll into one another.

 

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Log cabin morning. Windows heated by the sun. Coffee and porridge.

 

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Herd of Icelandic horses. Smell of hay. Round bellies, well-fed. Soft fur, soft clouds, soft snow. Hard ice, numb nose.

 

As always, thank you for being here. I wish you all the best in your writing endeavours.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

Favourite Lines: ‘Heart of Man’ by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Dear readers,

I recently finished reading Heart of Man by Jón Kalman Stefánsson, translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton, and wanted to share my three favourite lines with you.

 

“Death is neither light nor darkness; it’s just anything but life.” – page 1

“Thus it was, the mast stuck in the seabed, the sea refusing to release its prey.” – page 175

“How dangerous it is to let yourself dream of passion, of freckles and eyes, let yourself dream instead of concentrating on the struggle for life.” – page 185

 

I love reading translated fiction. There’s something about how translated sentences are constructed, how they reveal hints about a foreign culture, that gives them this inexplicable beauty. I recently realised that most of my favourite books were not originally written in English. More on this in a future post.

What are your favourite books, or lines from books? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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)

Residency Day 10: Ups and Downs

Hi everyone,

Day 10 of my writing residency in Iceland is officially over, which means I’m a third of the way through! Time goes by so incredibly quickly while I’m working. I never have any idea which day of the week it is, because every day is pretty much the same. I wake up around 7:30, have breakfast with the incredible sunrise, check my emails, write, have lunch, go for a long walk, write, have dinner, chat with the other writer-in-residence, write, check my emails, catch up with friends and family back in Aus, and sleep.

Although I occasionally feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the planet and into some alternate dream-like universe, I have loved every minute of this residency. It has been the best thing I have ever done for my writing, full stop. I can see myself improving with almost every chapter. The rewriting process is going to be a lot of work, especially those earlier chapters, but for now, I’m purely focusing on getting this first draft down. It’s crazy to think that I am so close to finishing it now, this thing that used to seem like such a huge, impossible task.

Of course, I still have plenty of ups and downs with regards to this story. On a bad day, even the parts that I like the most can seem like the worst things ever written by anyone. But the good days make me forget all about that.

Reading through my journal always makes me laugh, and reminds me that my bad times never last very long. Let me welcome you into my mind:

***

4. March.

I think it’s really starting to dawn on me that I can actually finish this thing while I’m here. It was always the goal, but until now, I had my doubts. I have written three thousand words in the last three hours! Feeling good.

5. March.

HOW IS THIS THING GOING TO END? I HAVE NO IDEA. I hate everything I’ve written today. Why does it all just sound so clunky and flat? There is no actual ending in sight, because I just keep writing around and around in circles.

6. March.

I just outlined the rest of my novel. It’s so nice to know how the story is going to end, and so reassuring to have a little guide to which scenes I need to write on which days. Excited for tomorrow!

9 March.

This is really hard. It’s like spending all day every day focusing on the one thing you doubt about yourself the most. My mood is directly affected by how the story is progressing. I pretty much haven’t left my room in two days.

10 March.

I just came back from the most beautiful walk. It’s crazy that I’ve already hit my writing target for the day, and it’s just past lunch time! I am so excited to finish this thing! Not long now.

***

I don’t know if you are quite as extreme (or as melodramatic) as I am, but either way, I hope this post can serve as a little reminder that the bad times don’t last. If you manage to write through them, instead of giving up, you will eventually finish your novel. There’s nothing stopping you.

I hope you enjoyed reading. Let me know how you get through your bad writing days in the comments below!

All the best,

Tamara

 

 

Residency Day 1: Exploring Reykjavik, and Arriving at Gullkistan

Hi everyone,

Wow. It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling right now. I am coming to you all the way from Laugarvatn, Iceland. I’ve thought about this experience so many times, for so many months, and I still can’t believe that I’m actually here. I spent last week in Reykjavik, and absolutely fell in love with the city. When I tell people that I stayed there for a whole week I always get a similar reaction. A week? What did you do for so long? 

Reykjavik may be a small city, but it feels so alive, even when it’s -6 degrees! I decided to stay for a week because I didn’t want to only see and experience things once. I went to the same spots countless times, in some cases every day, and I didn’t get bored at all. Especially because, in Iceland, the weather can change so drastically in such a short time. The lake Tjörnin is ever changing, as you can see in these pictures which were taken only one day apart:

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I wanted to be able to see things I loved over and over again, browse bookshops, and sit and read in the sun, without feeling like I was wasting time, and I am so glad that I allowed myself the time that I did. During my Reykjavik week, I also spent a day on a southern Iceland tour, and saw things that photos just can’t do justice. The contrasts in this country make it feel so otherworldly. I so wish I had the time, money, and driving capability to see all of the sights a million times.

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The day before yesterday, I saw the northern lights! It’s been a dream of mine since I was ten years old, when I realised that they were actually real, not just in books and movies. As I watched them, I just sat on a snowy bench and thought about how truly lucky I am (and also a little about how cold the bench was).

Today I arrived at Gullkistan, the residency where I will be living and writing for the next month. Putting my bags down in this quaint cottage, with views out to mountains, snowy pine trees, and a beautiful lake, gave me a sense of calm that I haven’t felt since being at home. The actual journey from Australia to Iceland was, let’s just say, not exactly smooth, and I realised that I haven’t had time until now to truly wind down in my own space. I feel like this is exactly where I need to be right now to have a clear mind, and to finish writing this first draft!

Today I sat down and wrote double my word target. Let’s hope things keep flowing. Thank you so much to everyone who has been here with me along the way. Now I’m going to put on all of the clothes I own and try to find the elusive northern lights once again.

Stay safe, healthy, and happy!

Yours,

Tamara

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

My First Writer’s Residency

Dear readers,

I woke up to some incredible news this morning. I found out that I’ve been accepted into the “Gullkistan Residency for Creative People” in Iceland for March next year. A couple of weeks ago I wrote to them about the novel I’m currently working on, and the plan I have for the month in residence, and now it’s all happening. I have wanted to visit Iceland for almost three years, and I can’t believe that I will be there for a month, doing what I love. I can’t wait to finish the first draft of my manuscript and hold it in my hands. Suddenly the end of my university degree doesn’t seem so scary.

Thank you so much for reading my blog and leaving such lovely comments; I can’t wait to take you along on this exciting path with me. Stay tuned for failed photos of the Northern Lights.

 

I hope something amazing happens for you this week.

All the best,

Tamara

P.S. The October issue of Spinebind goes live the day after tomorrow! It’s been a big weekend.