Guest blog post: introducing an indispensable new book for writers
Between the pages of How to be an Author is everything you need to know about the business of being a writer, from people who live and breathe books. In this guest post, co-authors Deborah Hunn who is a lecturer in creative writing, and Georgia Richter, a publisher and editor, talk about how the book came about, what you might learn from it and the joys they find in their everyday working life.
Deborah Hunn says:
When Georgia and I began to discuss writing our book How to be an Author, I remembered how a former Curtin colleague was fond of saying she’d rarely met a creative writing student who didn’t have a great idea for a story; the real problem was with what came came next: taking that great idea and transforming it into a viable, well-crafted, fully developed piece of writing. In short, what makes an author is not just (perhaps not even) some magical innate streak of creativity. It’s putting in the work, doing the business.
Georgia and I aimed to provide our readers with help and advice in understanding that business when we drew on our varied experiences in teaching, writing and publishing, and when we decided to include the voices of an additional 18 authors in this book. Whether the apprenticeship of young and emergent writers (for not all new writers are young) is through a university or one of sundry other pathways, they must learn and sharpen through practise – developing skills with language and syntax, with structure, plot and characterisation as well with voice and point of view; building an awareness of the possibilities of genre, an eye for observational detail and other modes of creative research, and an ear for how to pitch to their target audience. However, doing the work of a writer also requires persistence and a willingness to be open to advice and critique. It means developing a workable routine, managing to write through the bad days as well as the good, and committing oneself to editing and redrafting, dealing with rejection and finding a way through when imagination runs dry.
As well as cultivating persistence, the developing writer needs to find their tribe. For some who start outside established educational or community networks, it may mean locating like-minded others to share writing, information and ideas with; for all it will mean learning to recognise and take on constructive criticism through peer workshopping and editorial feedback, and then making good use of that in refining a draft.
Then of course there’s the next big step towards being a writer: understanding and utilising the mechanics of pitching and publication.
Georgia Richter says:
Some people write as an end in itself – for them, the satisfaction of laying down words on a page, like bricks on a path, is enough. There is the joy of the hard, exacting slog of it, and the satisfaction of looking back and seeing a path that has been shaped, travelled and wrought.
For others, finding an audience for their work is an essential component of their sense of themselves as a writer – and so publication is a necessary part of their practice. If it is an audience a writer seeks, then there is much to think about. A writer can ask questions like:
- What is an author brand, and how do I authentically create my own?
- What’s in a contract and do I need an agent to get one?
- What takes place during the editing process?
- What are the important relationships I need to work on before and after publication?
- What is success and what is reasonable to expect?
- How will I bear the bumps and setbacks and rejections and learn to carry on?
Deb and I, and the contributing authors, provided as many insights and practical suggestions as we could to help emerging writers answer questions like these.
There are lots of things I love about my job as a publisher.
One is the feeling of reading a submitted manuscript and experiencing the affirming excitement of being in the hands of an assured storyteller who knows what they want to say and who has found exactly the right vehicle to say it.
Another is building a relationship through the editing process with an author as together we hone and refine the submitted work so it is as perfect as it can be.
A third is placing a book, fresh off the printer, into the hands of an author. Here is the hard, beautiful proof of all they have worked on – here is the moment when they are on the brink of sharing it with the world!
A fourth is when authors tell me about reader responses – conversations with strangers who have told the author how they were touched or moved or consoled or entertained by a book.
I derive huge satisfaction from having been a part of a writer’s journey to publication. Deb and I hope that this book will serve a similar purpose. We know that the greater work is always with the creator – from the clearing of the path and the placing of the first brick to the invitation to others to come walk that path too.
The book is available in all good bookstores and online
To connect with Georgia Richter, Deborah Hunn and other writers, join the How to be an Author in Australia Facebook Group.
Georgia Richter has also launched a new podcast series How to be an Author which features interviews with passionate members of the Australian publishing industry. You can listen on your favourite podcast app or using one of the players provided here.
Thanks for visiting, Georgia and Deborah.