Prospecting for Gold at Faber Writing Academy

Narelle-Hill-HeadshotNarelle Hill, one of our Faber Writing Academy students, recently completed our Writing a Novel course in Melbourne, and explains the changes to her writing while undertaking the course.

A lot of people, including me, want to be published authors. And why not? You can picture it now: a far off, daydreamy look as you pen the great Australian novel, read by hoards of fans soaking up your every word. So out you go, buy a Moleskin notebook, spend a few hours or days searching for the perfect felt tip pen, and start planning your Miles Franklin Award acceptance speech.

Then you sit down and realise you actually have to, erm, you know, write.

Herein lies the reason more of us aren’t published authors: writing a novel is a difficult, messy and frightening business.

There are swaths of unknowns, insecurities, fears of failure and fears of success (what exactly will people think of your first person narrative of raping someone?). Then there are the hours and hours and hours of research, revising, restructuring, reframing and rewriting trying to get it just right – without ever really getting there.

Sure, there’s the creative euphoria, inspiration and tapping in to the “vein of gold” as Julia Cameron calls it, but that’s about 0.01% of the time. The other 99.99% is the chipping away at the hard rock face, trying to learn, understand and execute craft.

Over six months ago, in a brave attempt at that 99.99%, a bunch of bright eyed writers came to Faber Writing Academy with natural storytelling ability and a desire to write a novel.  We’ve been taken on a productive, supportive and pragmatic learning path with the most excellent writers and teachers, Paddy O’Reilly and Toni Jordan. They’ve taught us as much as they can about the craft and practice of writing, generously sharing their knowledge, guidance and advice.

We have soaked it up, and witnessed inspiring growth and progress in each other’s writing. Almost all of us have experienced a crisis of confidence. We are learning what good writing entails and see the stretch we need to make.  Sometimes that stretch feels like bridging a gap the size of an open pit mine but we can see it and that’s a start.

My manuscript has completely changed since starting the course. After a session where it was suggested I might be writing a thriller (and not general or literary fiction as I had originally thought), I was so offended, nay, outraged. I needed to come home and put myself to bed with a cool flannel on my head. Fast-forward a few months and a thriller is indeed taking shape. I’ve found a narrative drive I haven’t previously managed to discover. In short, I’m ready to hold a parade in my tutors’ honour.

The changes to my project have not stopped at genre and I’m beginning to understand there will always be better writing that can be done. The learning will not stop when this course wraps up or when I finish this story or if I am ever fortunate enough to get published. The trick is to stick with the love of learning, writing and the wonder of a story revealing itself; not the fantasy of being a published author.

Narelle Hill has lived and written in Australia, England and the United States. Her non-fiction and fiction has been published in multiple publications including Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Flashflood and Lake Anthology. She currently resides in Melbourne where she is working on her first novel. You can follow her on Twitter @hillnarelle.

The next Writing A Novel courses at Faber Writing Academy in Melbourne and Sydney start in March 2017, with scholarships available. You can view the full range of courses, from day long workshops to multi-week writing courses on the Faber Writing Academy website. Learn more with these blog posts of writing tips and more from our Faber Writing Academy students and tutors.

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