Ever wonder what it would be like to have the chance to write for an entire semester at uni and get feedback on what you did? Yeah me too.
And then I got the chance to do it.
It was so surreal, to know that I could spend 13 weeks doing something that I loved doing the most: writing. And that was it. There were no actual online posts I had to do. I didn’t even need to workshop if I didn’t want to. I just had to do what I have always wanted to do in a subject: just write.
It sounded like bliss.
My excitement was so vivid. I was looking forward to doing an entire semester of writing. It would be one of the least stressful subjects I’d endure during my Master’s degree. It was basically built up so that I could do it in the background while I finished all of my units. And I’m glad that I scheduled it towards the end of my degree. It would give me a little pep in my step to keep going.
With all great intentions, there’s always a spanner that gets thrown in and all of that hard planning came crumbling down: I didn’t get accepted into the subject.
Yup, you heard that right. I didn’t get into it.
I spent a year doing my proposal and re-editing the chapters I was submitting because I had already worked on my story before. In fact, I had four chapters already reworked and submitted. And I thought they were pretty damn good.
Rejection is something that I’m used to. It’s a part of a writer’s journey, we all know it, but it’s something that I always talk about being able to take into my own hands and own the shit out of it.
Because rejection makes us grow, it’s supposed to be all great but you know what? It actually sucks.
Everyone talks that we, as writers should get used to rejection and more often than not, I am excited about the prospect of getting rejected, but not this time. It was part of the whole reason I signed up to do my Masters degree (there was also another subject that they are no longer doing but I have all of the course material for it so that doesn’t bother me). Not getting into it actually put me in a bit of a funk, because I wanted to use it as a chance to get back into my writing.
After working with my health it has been a struggle to find the energy to do something I love so very much. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get back into but it seemed like the universe didn’t have this in the plan for me.
I got an email just before the session was about to start and it changed everything. I got told that it would be better to enrol into the Manuscript Project than the subject I had enrolled in. I decided then and there that I would change my novel I wanted to work on and found an idea that I wasn’t too attached to and handed that up as my offering. It was a formality, but I wanted to play around in a different world.
I had never worked closely with a mentor before, I mean I had actually managed to get chosen to get my manuscript appraised by the head of my program at my other uni and that was invaluable. I changed a lot of what I had and while I knew I was stubborn I did follow most of her feedback. This was completely different. I had to write 10,000 words of polishable writing and it doesn’t sound like a lot but when you start writing and rewriting the same thing over and over again it gets really tedious.
My mentor’s input was invaluable. I seriously can’t believe how I was able to stretch myself and really play with the story. But I should start at the beginning really.
I handed a whole lot of words over to her. About 8,000 of them and they were about two three chapters. I didn’t think anything of them. I knew they were rough, really rough, but I did it anyway, because I feel like it was something that I needed to do.
Out of my comfort zone to let people see my raw writing before I’ve had time to go through it and edit it down a little, but I did. I got an email that made my heart stop a few days later. She wanted me to call her as soon as I could.
I spent a lot of my drive home from my retail job with my stomach in knots, trying to calm myself. I had all sorts of stupid thoughts going through my head: was it that bad? Was she going to tell me that I was a crap writer (I’ve had people tell me this before and I’ve put it down to jealousness), or that maybe I shouldn’t be doing this subject. Instead it was sort of the opposite. She praised me on the writing and while it was rough she could see the potential, but it had a lot of work needed.
And by a lot.
I mean a lot. My mentor could see the tense changes (I’m still so guilty of this and I’m always working on it) but more so there was a lot that needed to be worked on. It sounded too much like YA and I managed to figure out how to scrap a lot of that (exhaling a breath she didn’t know she was holding is definitely not something that needs to be kept in) and that was the most worrying thing for my mentor. She knew I was trying to reach an adult audience and I needed to work on it.
The rewrite for that took me so long. Almost a month, because of the world going to crap and what not but mostly because I tried to get it down on to paper and I couldn’t, but I did manage to slowly get there.
With the rewrite I managed to cut down on the amount of words there was, and really hone in on the serious plot points, which was fun. I think that it’s a much better piece.
After I had the bones of that out, I started the next hurdle. To write what’s next. And I had notes, they were pretty rough, but I had them and I wrote out the story. I was starting to fret because I was working so much and didn’t have a lot of time to sit down and write, but I made it happen. There were a lot of late nights and that’s something that I particularly started to not have a lot of. I’ve made a practiced effort to go to bed at a reasonable time because I know how useless I get after a point. My writing may feel better when I’m tired, but when is start falling asleep at the keyboard I know that it’s no good.
I thought I wasn’t going to get very far in the story. In fact, I was banking on it. 10,000 is not a lot of words and that was playing on my mind as I was writing them, but I managed four chapters that I was proud of. Like really proud. The feedback I got was really positive too, it wasn’t quite what I wanted mark wise, but I know that I worked my arse off.
I don’t know how many time is read out my story, or how many times I looked over it. I still had spelling mistakes and words that accidentally were the wrong spelling. I’m not in any way perfect when it comes to submitting things. Even if I have a look over it and have others look over it. I don’t think that I can ever get 100% right, which I feel like is both frustrating and a staple in my life. I always do this. I have spelling mistakes on my website and in my quotes, the perfectionist in me wants to leave them but most of the time…most of the time I change them, so it kills me that I wasn’t able to see my mistakes before I submitted the piece.
I feel like this whole process has made me a better coach, because there is a level of support that you need to give without being too overbearing. It’s easy to want to rewrite someone’s words or give more than what is needed (which is why my editing services became a manuscript appraisal) but it’s a challenge to be both critical and positive. Sometimes, us writers can be a bit sensitive (I know it’s a generalisation but I’m sticking with it) but we need to have those tough conversations where someone can break down what we’re doing wrong and what doesn’t work or asking for clarification on a part of writing that is unclear.
It’s part of growing as a writer.
I got a taste of what it was like to be able to write and now have to worry about studying or about work (I had a few days where I could just write and that was all I had to do) without remorse and you know what? I loved it. I have always loved it. I discovered how joyful writing was at the age of 13 and I have never looked back, and come to think about it, it was nearly 20 years ago, my love for it has seen me through years of study. That’s a long time. I have plenty of drafts and while I work on them through major milestones, deaths, diagnoses and a pandemic. I think that there would be nothing else that I would want to do. Nothing that makes me more passionate than ever for what I love. Writing is something that has always helped me, no matter what happens in life and I hope to always love it.
What would you do if you could write full time? Where would you start?