Rural Writing Tips from Authors
by Random House Australia on 16 March 2015
Writing a book is no mean feat in itself. Now imagine writing a book when your day job is running a farm and your closest bookshop is 200km away. Getting published when you live rurally has its challenges, but here, four great Australian authors share their best tips for rural writing.
‘Write what you know.’ How many times have you heard that titbit of advice? But with a lifetime of living on the land and being involved in agriculture that’s exactly what I do. But I prefer to phrase it, ‘write what you are passionate about’, because passion leads to knowledge and thus authenticity, a quality readers value highly and respect. In my book HOPE’S ROAD, even though I had personally been involved in dairying, experienced many floods, and been a single parent, I didn’t know how one of my characters would trap wild dogs, a job which has long intrigued me. So, off I went into the mountains to follow a trapper with 40 years experience so I could write about my wild dog trapper with legitimacy. If you don’t know and it’s an important facet of your book, research it beyond Google.
To write good rural fiction readers will devour, you must be passionate about your subject matter. You must love the very essence of the bush, the land, and the small country towns, and you must respect the people who work and live in rural areas. If you don’t, how can you write about it with passion?
Find authors in the genre you are aiming to be published and connect with them via Facebook, Twitter, blogs and websites. Cultivate contacts; join Romance Writers of Australia if there is the slightest bit of romance in your novel. Go to their yearly conference where you can pitch your book and talk with publishers, editors and other writers. Personal contacts can be helpful in the publishing world.
Once you’ve written that blockbuster that’s definitely going to hit No. 1, leave it rest for a few weeks, a month. Then, go back and re-read and edit, edit, edit. Tighten it up. And just when you think it’s ready to go. Don’t send it. Get the manuscript printed, and bound with a plastic comb, so it looks relatively like a book. Find a comfy place to sit far from where you normally write (mine’s on a hill overlooking our farm) and read your work. Try and replicate the reading experience. It is incredible what editing still needs to be done.
In the quest to get that elusive publishing contract and all that lies beyond, it is very easy to lose sight of the thing that is actually the most important in this world – family and friends. Don’t forget your loved ones.
Write. Start writing today. Start writing right now. Making a start is the hardest thing you will do, and the most rewarding. Writing isn’t about numerous workshops and masses of advice, it’s about putting pen to paper and simply beginning.
Redraft, refine and polish. Writing is all about refining and making that seed of an idea into a pearl.
Live curiously. Make the whole world your muse. Eavesdrop, ask questions, try to learn as much as you can about as many things and as many people as you can, and read, read, read.
Know the place/setting you’re writing about really well so that you can write with authenticity.
Spend time on creating unique and memorable characters with likeable traits and relatable flaws.
Write from the heart. The only way to touch people is to give a little of yourself away.
Page a day Dave: Many moons ago when I was a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, my supervisor was known around the traps as ‘Page a day Dave’. His advice was simple. Just write a page a day. The routine on a farm changes constantly according to the seasons. You can’t just shut the door on the world, the farm’s needs are always more urgent than the manuscript. So I’ve learnt I need to be more flexible with myself, allow myself the time to do what needs to be done outside but still adhere to the mantra to write a page a day. Having said that – I often fail.
Isolation: Get thee a group, if not an In Real Life group then an online group. I really struggled with moving away from the people who regularly read my work. It shouldn’t matter in this digital age but it does. When I lived in the Central West I could travel to Sydney regularly. The face-to-face interaction was, I’ve since learned, essential for motivation and feedback. Since I’ve moved to Tasmania I’ve gradually built up an online writing network and I’ve learnt my lesson in not sending work out to be read regularly.
Difference: Embrace the constantly changing inspiration around you. The isolation forces you into yourself and this is a good thing. The rhythm of life and the connection to the natural world is totally different to an urban environment. Learn to put that difference into words, it’s what people want to read.