Fellowship of Australian Writers – Residency Update: Week 1

The Big Picture: A Novel in a Year

My writing day lasts a little under 6 hours, between dropping my son off at school in the morning and picking him up in the afternoon. It’s a short working day but I’m not complaining: I consider myself very lucky not to have to work at things other than writing at the moment, thanks to my Creative Australia Fellowship.

My working day includes time for marketing (organising events, blogging, and other social media), applying for grants and submitting to agents and journals, as well as dull but necessary tasks such as tax and invoicing. Currently, I am coordinating the creation of an interactive app to accompany my third novel, The Ark. After all this, I have perhaps two hours a day left to work on my new novel, Ciudad. In that two hours I aim to write 500 words. (There are occasionally days when I write more and plenty of days when I write less but it is generally a fairly realistic target for me).

There is always at least one day a week where something else comes up: I might speak at a library, meet with my app programmer or help out in my son’s classroom or the school canteen, So I usually manage to write around 2000 words a week. It doesn’t sound like much, but if I can sustain it, I should be able to write an entire novel in one year – which would be four times as fast as I wrote my first two novels.

Still, I find that the two hour mark is just when my creative juices are beginning to flow. I have to stop, exactly at the moment when I begin to pick up speed.That’s why the residency at the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA was so appealing to me: 8 hours a day with nothing to do but write.

A Piece of the Puzzle: 30,000 Words in 4 Weeks

I told others I was aiming to write 1000 words a day on my residency. At double my usual output, this is nothing to be sniffed at, but during my PeNoWriWe retreat in December, I wrote almost 200 words a day and deep down I knew I would be disappointed with myself if I didn’t come close to that benchmark.

The first two days the residency felt like a burden. I felt bored by my own work, uncertain of how to proceed. I edged around it, trying to find a way in. I walked down to the local deli to sample their chocolate selection and up the hill behind the residence to take in the view of the ocean.

Magic Mushrooms and Human Sacrifice: 2600 Words in 1 Day

I started my third day with some intensive research. I’ve heard writers say research slows them down but for me, it often feels like the opposite. I spent a couple of hours researching two specific things (human sacrifice by drowning  and psilocybin, if you really want to know), making notes. And then a scene just poured out of me. I wrote 2650 words that day, which is probably a record for me, and then the next day I wrote a further 2200.

At the end of my first (4 day) week I had written 7395 words, which is well over my official target, and pretty close to my PeNoWriWe benchmark. I hope this week will be as productive.

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Fellowship of Australian Writers   Residency Update  Week 1   ANNABEL SMITH

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