Anna Fursland: 'Wallow in the pleasure of writing.'
Anna Fursland stayed at KSP Writers' Centre as a Writer-in-Residence in February/March 2022.
Waking up to the chirping of unidentified birds, walking back to the cabin to the accompaniment of crickets, after an evening tipple on the balcony of the main house with my fellow Writer in Residence…and in the intervening hours, the luxury of uninterrupted writing.
Isolation amidst the wonder of nature helped me feel secure in my cabin, determined in my writing attempts, single-minded in my pursuit of creativity and productivity.
‘Go walking,’ was the recommendation. ‘You will be inspired.’ I didn’t need to walk further than the path joining the main house, Katharine Susannah Pritchard’s study and my cabin. I wasn’t seduced by the nature outside my window; I experienced it around me, within me. That was sufficient inspiration.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was delighted by the peaceful environment, living amidst gums and birds, bougainvillea and cacti. The cabin had everything I would need, and there was a much-appreciated welcome: a book about KSP herself, a bag of lavender and some delicious nutty chocolates. I felt warmly valued. By the end of the first day I’d settled in, having set to work at once, knowing what my goals were for this retreat: improve my novel and have it ready to submit for competitions and/or publication.
My routine didn’t vary much: tea/coffee/breakfast while I checked emails and social media, followed by half an hour of Pilates and a shower. By then I was then ready to open the file to work on. My writing day started about 10.30 and went on until 5, by which time my concentration tended to wane.
I’d take some wine up to the main house with my fellow Writer in Residence. Although she wrote in a different genre, we were dealing with similar issues: plot, character and self-doubt; our loved ones back home. It was a welcome opportunity to relax and compare notes. and we’d stay until darkness fell and we needed the torches in our phones to guide us down the steps and along the path to our cabins.
I am immensely grateful to KSP for this opportunity to wallow in the pleasure of writing.
TOP TEN TIPS
Know yourself. Others might get up at 5 am and write exactly 1,000 words every day of their lives, but you need to be realistic. (I’m not a morning person!)
Believe in yourself.
Believe in your story.
Believe in your characters, especially your protagonist. Get to know them. Invite them out to dinner, work out how they’d react to war in Europe/COVID/climate change (even if none of these are mentioned in your WIP).
Have goals, be they small or large. It’s helpful if they are realistic.
Listen to advice but apply it judiciously. Not every plot has to follow the exact trajectory you heard about in that workshop.
Be humble. Listen to criticism, negative appraisals, suggestions for improvement. Related to this: get beta readers or friends whom you respect and trust. You’re entrusting your baby to them; you don’t want it to get mauled, but equally you don’t want the response “It’s perfect as it is!” You want honesty and constructive criticism; ask for that. Be prepared to be surprised, delighted, uncomfortable. Ask for specific comments. One of the most useful criticisms I’ve had is about a character who was deemed to be one-dimensional, and the reader made some specific points that I could address to rectify her/my shortcomings.
Be brave, unafraid to kill your darlings. If someone (whom you respect) says that A or B isn’t working, then ask what about it isn’t working, and make appropriate changes. You may need to cut a character you love, a subplot you’ve spent hours/days on. Save them for another WIP or send them into the ether/the bin. If they’re not working for readers, they need to go from this WIP.
Accept that your WIP is never going to be perfect. At some point, you need to stop – to have someone read it or to submit it for competition/publication.
Don’t give up! If you’re writing, then it’s a dream, a vocation. You may not get published, but if you’re doing this because you love it, then keep doing it. If you don’t love the process, why are you doing it?
~ Anna Fursland 2022