Welcome to the third instalment of How to Become a Writer, my series on the many and varied steps (and missteps) people take on the way to having their first book published.
My guest today is Natasha Lester, whose third book, A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, was recently published by Hachette Australia. She is also the author of the award-winning What is Left Over After (2010) and If I Should Lose You (2012). In her spare time, she teaches writing. I’ve been lucky enough to be in a writing group with Natasha for a few years and am consistently amazed by her energy and drive. Over to her:
Here are the 6 key milestones on my path to writing that I think have made all the difference:
Working in Marketing for 10 Years
Time to grow up. To learn heard lessons. To expand my emotional range. To do things that have given me ideas that have fed into my books in surprising ways.
I know this seems completely tangental to writing. But what working for 10 years in an unrelated field did was give me life experience. I would never have been able to write the books I’ve written as a twenty year old fresh out of university; I just didn’t know enough about life.
Completing a Masters of Creative Writing
Writing my first book as part of a Masters of Creative Writing gave me a mentor in the form of supervisor Julienne van Loon who talked me through the process of writing a book. I had no idea how to do it; I’d never done it before and it seemed almost impossible, especially for a pantser* like me who just assumed all other writers had a comprehensive plan before they started writing. She gave me confidence, faith and guidance at a time when I most needed it.
[*pantser: a writer who ‘flies by the seat of their pants’, as opposed to planning their books]
Finishing the Damn Book
It would have been so easy not to finish it. I had a baby about 8 months into my Masters. 6 months after the baby was born, I realised I hadn’t written a thing. It was one of those moments; I could have gone either of two ways—stopped writing altogether which was, let’s face it, probably the easier option with a 6 month old baby, or make some changes to my life to fit writing in. From that day on, every time the baby napped, no matter how short it was, I sat down and wrote. And I finished the damn book.
Having Small Wins
While writing my first book, I also wrote short stories and poems and I submitted them to journals. Enough of those got published to make me believe that I could actually write, which gave me the confidence to keep going. If I’d focussed solely on the novel and hadn’t had these small wins, I think finding the will to keep going would have been much harder.
By the time I won the TAG Hungerford Award, my first book had been rejected by many, many publishers and agents. But I kept sending it out, I kept submitting it to awards and opportunities. If I’d given up at the first, second, third, tenth rejection, I would never have had that book published.
I’ve blogged about this before, but I wrote another book, a failed book, in between If I Should Lose you, my second published book, and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, my third published book. The failed book has never been published because it just wasn’t good enough. But failing at that book made me sit down and think about what I was doing, to write the book I wanted to write rather than the book I thought I should write. That book was A Kiss form Mr Fitzgerald, which I’m so very glad I wrote.
Did you miss…?
Robyn Mundy on coming to writing via a neurological disorder and a trip to Antarctica
Sara Foster on coming to writing via an inspirational teacher and a stalled publishing career