I have been asked a few times lately what’s happening with this novel manuscript, as people know I’m also working on a new one. Well lit-lovelies, here’s the juice.

I’m restructuring, rewriting, adding, subtracting, overhauling Smoke & Dancing this long weekend.

This is the story so far, in point form (because my brain is mush after the first day’s work!)

* Wrote first draft about 2 years ago. It is my 2nd novel manuscript. As it’s set in Wollongong in 1970 I went to the ‘Gong and researched, conducted interviews etc. Lots of fun.

* Entered S&D in the Varuna HarperCollins Awards end 2007. Was one of 5 to win Peter Bishop’s Pathways to Publication Masterclass.

* Worked on about the 3rd (I’ve lost track?) draft at Varuna in April 2008. Still some sticky points but made progress.

* Left for a goodly while. Didn’t win Vogel, obviously. Finished Uni and came out with 1st class Hnours and lots of short stories.

* Rewrote from 1st to 3rd person as the 1st person narrator was too intrusive and the other (important) characters’ voices couldn’t be found, gave to a publisher who asked to see it late 2008. He gave me some wonderful advice – all characters’ voices were blurred in the rushed 3rd person draft. Many ideas and voices not quite coming through clearly (and there are many ideas in the manuscript). But he was very encouraging. The mind was overwhelmed but it hummed.

* Have been writing new project (90s novel) but mulling over what direction to take Smoke & Dancing in. Slowly, ideas and visions have come to the fore, often at 3am. I wrote them all down but let them stew some more. American agent who had asked to see it said he liked it, but didn’t think he’d be able to sell lit fic given the climate (I thought it was odd that he might even want to look at a book set in regional Aus, but who’d say no?). He asked me to send him my YA novel when I’m finished though. I’ll share a quote from his email: ‘But do let’s stay in touch – you’re clearly hugely talented, and I’d be curious to find out which Australian publisher will snap up the book and would love to read your next one!’ Tres encouraging, yes?

* S&D is with another Australian publisher who asked directly for it, but this was a few months ago. I haven’t told her yet that I’ve decided to rewrite, I’ll see how it goes. Perhaps she will see potential in it anyway. There are about four other publishers who have shown interest, but I’m concerned now with taking the time to get it right. So, instead of going away or lazing around this weekend, I’m working hard.

This morning I physically cut the manuscript into scenes:

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Then I marked the scenes by which character is most predominant. What became clear is that one character I felt very strongly about had become lost in the last draft. And it became clear that some scenes were muddled in their POV. But laid-out like this it also seemed clear that this could be fixed! I inserted blank pages with ideas for fleshing out scenes amongst the typed pages, and I decided on two added scenes at the ending – for better closure. One of these came to me just three nights ago (again, around 3am), and it was a definite lightbulb moment. I’m very excited about this new, extended ending.

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I also wrote out a set of ‘rules’ for myself as some ‘choices’ had to be made and stuck to (notice I’m not actually telling you very much besides process, as I hope you will read it in book form one day); and I re-clarified the themes by jotting them down.

I was going to let that be my work for the day, but it was only just after lunch and I was quite keen to get writing. To my surprise, I rewrote the beginning as present tense, and a lot shorter, then inserted new scenes! I have now rewritten 12 pages, and it’s structurally quite different than before, and I hope a lot clearer. After I’ve gone through the whole thing (hopefully by the end of Monday), I’ll still need to go over it again and look at voice – to make sure each character is differentiated and three-dimensional and clear etc.

I am going to go for an ASA mentorship – it would be great to have a second pair of eyes once all this is done, and some guidance. They only give away 10, so I may not get it, but one should always try.

Hope you’re all having a great Easter. I’ve got some fun times planned with good friends for the evenings (thus, I won’t go stir-crazy). Champagne ahoy!

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