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

Advertisements

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 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:

dsc04096 dsc04117

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.

dsc04167

dsc04159DSC04147.JPG

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

Reaching the Halfway Point

Hi Everyone,

I’ve finally reached the halfway point in my manuscript. It’s so hard to describe how I feel about it. On one hand, when I scroll through the pages I feel like I’ll never be able to do it all again. On the other hand, I feel like I can’t possibly already be halfway there. I think  I’m kind of afraid of reaching the end, having to cut everything that doesn’t need to be there, and then finding myself all the way back at square one. I know that the real challenge is going to come after the first draft is finished.

First drafts are free to do whatever they want. Finished manuscripts are rational, and cut-throat. First drafts know that they’re not good enough, and they’re fine with that because they know they can improve. Finished manuscripts are anxious that they’re still not good enough at their best.

Although I’m a little terrified, I’m still so extremely excited at the prospect of actually finishing the first draft of this story, and I’m trying not to overthink the whole process. In four days I will be flying off to my residency in Iceland, to finish this thing once and for all. Wish me luck!

I hope you’re all having an amazing 2017 so far.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

How to Make Real Progress on your Work-in-Progress

Hi everyone,

Recently I’ve been making more progress than ever on my WIP. I’ve finally managed to get myself out of the rut that I fell into after my writing degree, and it feels so good to be back. I am definitely not a planner when it comes to writing. For some reason, I just can’t come up with decent plot points in the planning stage. My planning consists of lines I might use, characters, and moods, but never plot points. This has undoubtedly lead me into some dead ends, but it’s something that I haven’t been able to change, no matter how many hours I’ve spent trying.

In the past month or so, I have been focussing on how to get back on track, and I discovered how to work with my process, rather than against it. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you to get out of a rut and make some significant progress on your work-in-progress.

 

1  Only stop if you know what is going to happen next

I used to only write until my inspiration fell flat, and then pack up shop for the day. Don’t do that! Stopping at a dead end meant that the next time I sat down to write, I felt defeated before I even wrote a word. Now, whenever I reach my writing target for the day (more on that later), I make sure that I know exactly which scene I will write the day after. I know that I said I’m not a planner, but I’ve found that right after reaching my target, I’m able to make a tiny, one-scene plan with the momentum that I still have from the writing session. This way, it’s much easier to slip straight back into it the next day.

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
― E.L. Doctorow, Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews

 

2   Set flexible and realistic writing targets

Obviously we need to push ourselves if we ever want to finish anything, but I think it’s important to avoid being too rigid. I’ve found that for me, the best writing targets are small, attainable, and flexible. I feel so much better about my writing and myself if I manage to reach my goal every day. I keep my targets flexible by giving myself both a word target, and a time target. This means that every day, I will either write at least 1000 words, or work on the manuscript for at least three hours–whichever comes first. I’m not saying that you should only write when you feel inspired; I’m saying that if you’re not reaching your goal every day, you need to check in and see if you’re not working hard enough, or if your goal is simply unattainable for your lifestyle.

 

3  Find your routine and treat yourself!

Discover the power of a hot cup of tea, or the right song (try calming classical), or the perfect writing spot. Try to really enjoy the time that you set aside for your writing. My writing time is the only time that I can get out of my own head and live in someone else’s for a while. I have found that, by creating the ideal environment for my writing, it feels less like work and more like a treat.

I think it’s important to experiment a little to find out what works best for you. Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Do you work best at home or at the library? Are you a planner or an improviser? Once I really got to know my process, and worked with it rather than against it, I started making real progress on my manuscript.

 

I hope this has been helpful to you, and I wish you all the best.

Talk to me in the comments! What are you working on?

 

Thank you so much for reading,

Tamara Drazic

 

My Creative Writing Playlist – Updated

Hi everyone,

I have been listening to some different music recently while I’ve been writing, and I thought I would share it with you all. I’ve been a little more distracted than usual lately, so I haven’t really been able to listen to anything with English lyrics. I have finally found some music that really helps me to block out the rest of the world, and even some of my doubtful thoughts. Let’s get into it!

  1. Haerra by Ásgeir Trausti
  2. Living Room Songs by Ólafur Arnalds
  3. Archduke Trio by Beethoven
  4. For Now I Am Winter by Ólafur Arnalds
  5. Fourth of July by Sufjan Stevens

Do you have any particular songs that help to keep you focused on your writing? Let me know in the comments.

All the best,

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

Connections, Coincidences (and naivety)

(photo credit: Thomas Hodges)

 

WARNING – I’m in a strange mood.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote down a few things in a little notebook, and I’ve slept with it under my pillow ever since, hand resting on its smooth cover as I drift off. In the notebook, I wrote about going to Iceland, preferably in March, and then maybe Paris on the way home. That was about a week before I even came across the Gullkistan Residency that I wrote about in my last post. If you’ve read that post, you’ll know that I am, in fact, going to Iceland in March to work on my novel.

A few days ago I found a musician that I really liked, called Keaton Henson. His music is so beautiful, and as I listen to it I let all my anxieties about what the hell I’m doing with my life come to the forefront where I can deal with them properly.

Today I was researching places to submit a personal essay that I wrote, and came across an article on Rookie Magazine about “Tumbleweeding”. Tumbleweeds are the writers that volunteer and live in Shakespeare and Company in Paris for free, for a short period of time. All you have to do is ask. This search brought me to a blog post in which tumbleweeds were being interviewed. One of the questions was “what is your favourite song?” The girl responded with “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are”, by Keaton Henson. Not only the artist that I had just recently found, but the very first song of his that I heard and fell in love with.

I’ve been looking into flights to Iceland for next year, and it seems that I’ll have to make a stop in Paris. I know it’s incredibly naive of me to think anything of these coincidences, but they still make me wonder. I think that once I stop wondering, I won’t be myself anymore.

Anyway, thanks for listening to me ramble on. I hope you have a great day.

– Tamara

 

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.