- Shelley Dark
#1 Writing the novel
Thank you so much for being interested in the process of my novel writing. It's been a journey (both physically and mentally!), and some of you have already joined me on my research adventures.
On this new website page, I'd love to share the whole journey with you; what stage of writing or editing I'm at, what publishers or agents I'm going to target, successes and failures...
It's been a huge surprise to me that I'd start writing a novel at the age of seventy.
But what an adventure it's been. My research so far has taken me to far flung places like Hydra, Malta, London, Portsmouth and Cork. Here in Australia to Sydney, Braidwood, Canberra, Monaro. With still so much more to do.
I can't help feeling this book was begging to be written.
The coincidences and serendipity in writing it have been quite incredible - when I've needed a ship's captain, I sat next to one on an aeroplane. When I asked for a guide in the town of our hero's birth, she turned out to be from his family. When I did a tour of an historic English naval port, the guide's husband turned out to be an admiral who accompanied us and gave a unique perspective. In Ireland I walked into a church, and the only woman inside knew the very family of our heroine's name who had lived in the district for centuries. In another city I phoned a genealogist who turned out to be researching the hero’s family. A book I'd been searching online for months, and which couldn't be found in the archives, magically turned up when I'd given up hope.
It's been goosebump stuff.
It's a rollicking good story, based on actual people and events in the 1800's. I hope I can do it justice. And I'd like it to be as historically accurate as it can be.
I've read dozens of history books with more to go, consumed fascinating travelogues written by people during the era, translated books from the French and the Greek (thank you google translate), sat in dusty archives for weeks, humped huge old tomes about, photographed thousands upon thousands of documents, transcribed many of them, wandered the countryside where my book is set, talked to locals, read endlessly online. And dreamed.
I've discovered mistakes in what has already been written, found answers to many of my big questions and unearthed some new facts not written in any of the literature. Yet in the true spirit of a mystery, I still don't have all the answers. And I probably never will. I've lain awake at night, wondering, dreaming, planning. It's really quite addictive!
I'm corresponding with people in distant places and I've met many wonderfully generous people who continue to help me.
My hero is quite famous in Australia, although not widely known. He's been written about in history books, a children's book, even a musical. I hope that when my book is published (inshallah) that he and his wife are as famous as I think they should be.
When I began, I thought I'd just start at the beginning of the story and write through to the end. Ha!
I attended the conference of the Historical Novel Society Australasia, where I discovered I knew nothing about novel structure, or plot and characterisation, and hooks and conflict and resolution and debate and climax and arcs and genres..... Not to mention Point Of View (capitals very necessary!) or a zillion other writing terms. I heard about literary agents, publishing houses. Heavens, I thought, I have to write the novel first.
Since then I've done several online courses of various lengths. Trawled the internet for free tips. Bought and devoured heaps of books on writing. My husband keeps saying I hope you're keeping the invoices for the tax man. Don't you love his confidence that I'll actually earn $$$ one day??? Every aspiring writer should have such support.
I am LOVING writing and learning. And I have a writing nook I love. Which I'll share with you too as we go.
I finished the rough draft of the manuscript a few weeks ago, and now I'm on the rewrite.
I guess you can tell that the passion I've found for writing this book is a reward in itself. And the journey is simply thrilling. I hope you'll join me on it.
Until then, buddies, I wait you.