This is a weekly series of guest posts on How Writers Work.
Australian childrens and YA author Cath Crowley talks about her writing process.
How did you get your first book published?
I took a risk and quit my full-time teaching job in 2000 and enrolled in the Professional Writing and Editing course at RMIT.
I studied a range of subjects, and Writing for Young Adults was one of them. I didnt have a mentor, but I did have some wonderful teachers who encouraged me to send my work off for publication. I began to have short works published in magazines and anthologies and the Age. Sally Heath was the editor of what was then the A2, and she was my first experience of a great editor. I learnt a lot from her suggestions.
I finished The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain in about 2002, and I began sending it off to publishers. I cant remember how many times it was rejected. A lot. I was feeling a bit discouraged and then I went to Sydney to interview Markus Zusak about The Messenger and he talked about his writing and it inspired me so I kept trying.
I sent my manuscript to Anna McFarlane at Pan Macmillan, and on Easter Thursday she emailed me an acceptance. Gracie came out in 2004, so it must have taken about six months to a year to have it accepted. I was really lucky.
Your writing routine
It takes me a long time to get an idea, and even longer to map my characters. That process is a mix of writing and rewriting in different voices to see what works. I make up journals for the characters and I rewrite the voices until they seem right.
After that I start the book. Usually I write for about a month before I realise I have it all wrong. I go back and rewrite. This part is messy but I find that theres no other way for me. Eventually I have the whole thing mapped out in my head and I can hear the characters. I love the part that comes after this.
Im sure about the story and it goes onto the page pretty easily. I start writing at about four or five in the morning and I keep going as long as I can, which is usually until one in the afternoon. I have a break and go for a walk and if I have an idea while Im out Ill come back and write some more.
A picture of your writing space?
Its very messy.
There are books everywhere. (I think its best not to show you a picture.)
Near my computer is a little bird statue, which I like to look at when Im stuck for words.
Your latest book or WIP
My latest book is Graffiti Moon. This is taken from the Pan Macmillan teaching notes. If I summarise it I go for far too long.
Graffiti Moon is the story of the last day and night of Year 12. Lucy is searching for Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist. The narrative traces the adventures of Lucy, Daisy, Jazz, Ed, Leo and Dylan over one hot night.
Im working on a book that will be called either The Howling Boy or The Velvet Highway. I cant decide.
I do know that Crow and Audrey narrate the story. They go looking for Audreys lost brother in a world thats strange and beautiful and new for Audrey. Its a mystery and a love story.
10 thoughts on “How Writers Work – Cath Crowley guest post”
I find it fascinating the different ways we all work. A lovely story Cath and thanks for posting it Gabi.
Wow. We both quit our full time teaching jobs in 2000. We were both inspired by Markus Zusak to write. We both had our first novel published in 2004. AND it’s a little known fact that I’m a natural redhead!
Loved reading this Cath.
Thanks Corinne. I wish I had a more organised way of working. I’m loving Gabi’s series.
Michael, I’m glad this is out in the open now. Because sometimes people stop me in the street and ask me for your autograph. I have to tell them that I’m not you and they’re very disappointed and it’s awkward. It’s weird how alike we are.
Exactly – it’s like looking in a mirror! (My apologies for the offence and distress that statement must cause you) And the same thing happens to me, but I just pretend I’m you and bask in the praise and adulation that is mistakenly lavished upon me. : )
You are a very funny man, Michael.
Thanks, Cath for your insight. Reading about your method helps me to realise that there are many ways to write and I like to compare with my own methods. I’m still not sure if I could describe my techniques. They seem to change all the time.
It’s such a hard, messy process, isn’t it, Kaye? But it’s worth it.
If one day I read of a writer who simply has an idea, writes it, redrafts a couple of times and then has it published, I’ll shake my head in utter disbelief. Alright!! It may have happened and it may happen again. However, most of the time it is, as you say Cath, ‘a hard, messy process’!
But there you go!
It is a hard messy process. I had a breakthrough yesterday and it seemed clean. But today mess. I was eating chocolate yesterday. Maybe that’s the key. Or, just turning up at work every day.
This is a great resource. I will be sure to list this website as a resource for teachers and parents. Great job!
Guide to teaching jobs!