The first week of my writing residency at the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA was a writing bonanza, in which I spewed out 7400 words. That weekend, my brain felt completely fried and the following week I took a while to get going but still managed 5500 words. Weeks 3 and 4 were substantially less productive but at the end of my month long residency I had clocked up 18,000 words in total. Though it was not quite the 1000 words a day I had hoped for, I was writing at a rate four times greater than I had in the previous 3 months, so I was very happy with the progress I made towards the first draft of my novel Monkey See.
It was valuable for me to learn that though I might occasionally be able to write 2000 words a day, and that I might even be able to sustain that for a week, it is not realistic to maintain such a pace for me ongoing.
AS well as working on my novel, I did some mentoring, ran workshops, had a bracing walk along Swanbourne beach, talking about the science in science-fiction with FAWWA Fellow Viv Glance and visited the Novel Length Project Group who meet monthly to discuss their work-in-progress across a wide range of genres and subjects.
I was hesitant about the mentoring aspect of the role because my own writing career still feels somewhat nascent and I was unsure how much I would have to offer to others. However, in answering the questions of early career writers on everything from seeking agents and publishers, to submitting to journals, working with editors, and the possibilities of digital fiction I realised that the last decade has taught me plenty of things worth sharing.
Having worked for six years as a corporate trainer, and three years as a teacher of English as a Second Language, I was much more confident about the workshop delivery requirement. I delivered two workshops. The first was on how writers can use social media such as Facebook, twitter and blogging, to connect with readers and grow their audience, and the second was on two ways to look at plotting – a framework for planning not only what happens in your novel, but, more importantly, why it happens. Both sessions were attended by small groups and provoked intense discussion as we all wrapped our heads around these new concepts and how we might use them in our careers.
Overall, the residency was a rich, productive and rewarding experience for me and I look forward to my next residency, wherever it may be, and the lessons it holds for me.