This is a weekly series of guest posts on How Writers Work.
Australian childrens and YA author Michael Gerard Bauer talks about his writing process.
How I got my first book The Running Man published.
In 2000 I was a full time English and Economics teacher, but I resigned from my job at the end of the first semester, desperate to have a go at writing a story that had taken over my mind for the previous year or more. My long time dream was to be a published author, but at the time I resigned, I hadnt written a single word of the story that would become The Running Man.
Over the next three years I took short teaching contracts at various schools plus time off in between to write and by late 2003 had a manuscript finished. I researched publishers through The Australian Writers Marketplace and came up with a list of ten that I hoped might be interested in my story, if it was any good. I figured Id work my way down the list, get ten rejections, and then be able to go back to teaching knowing that at least I gave it a shot. The first reply I got from Omnibus Books/Scholastic Australia was an acceptance. As Ive said before; it was the best phone call of my life. (I never did bother to find out exactly how many of the other publishers on my list would have rejected me!)
The only other person who had read the manuscript for The Running Man (at that point called In Dream Too Deep) before I sent it away, was my wife. I didnt have a mentor, or manuscript assessor, or agent, or previous published work to my credit, or anyone to speak on my behalf. All I had was a cover sheet and what I thought was an interesting picture on the front that my publisher at Omnibus Books, Dyan Blacklock, told me afterwards, she didnt like! I still consider me getting published, as somewhat of a miracle.
My writing routine.
I dont think Im a very disciplined writer, but hopefully Im getting better. Before I start writing a story on the computer, I think about it for a long time and even though I wont know all the twists and turns, I have to know how it ends before I type the first word. I do a lot of planning in my head but usually dont write much of that planning down.
A good writing day for me would be to get up early and go for an hours walk (I get my best ideas and organise my thoughts walking) and then write most of the day until around 4 or 5pm. I dont tend to do much writing at night or when Im away from home at Festivals or doing School visits.
I dont write quickly and I rewrite as I go along. If I achieve 2000 words in a day, I think Im really on fire and feel like notifying the Press. My pace may have something to do with me being pathetically slow on the keyboard. Fortunately however my typing speed seems to be just right for my brain which is a worry.
By the time I finish a first draft, I want it to be fairly close to the finished product. I usually end up with at least three drafts.
The other thing about my writing routine would be that I pretty much need to be alone. I could never write in a coffee shop or with music playing or with someone sitting beside me. Even if they were quiet I would find it distracting and off putting and would possible end up hitting them over the head with my laptop.
My Writing Space(s)
Pic 1: This was the study in our previous house where I wrote The Running Man and the next few books. I really loved it. If you look closely you can see on the notice board, directly above the chair, the picture that inspired Dont Call Me Ishmael! a shot of Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab from the movie version of Moby Dick.
Pic 2: As you can see my writing space in our present home has been substantially downsized! (Although there is also a small study upstairs which I share with my wife and I sometimes work there as well.) The sheet stuck on the wall above the computer in the photo, is a rough outline of the plot of Year 12 for the final Ishmael book. A rare example of me using a written plan.
My latest book or WIP.
My latest book is Just a Dog published by Omnibus Books/Scholastic Australia.
My work-in-progress is the third and final book in the Ishmael series. It will cover Years 11 and 12 at St Daniels College and is called Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel. At present it is in the final editing stages and is due to be published in July this year if I can get the word count down in time!
14 thoughts on “How Writers Work – Michael Gerard Bauer guest post”
Interesting insight into how you organise your writing, Michael.
Btw, do you sometimes hanker for your large working space in the old home or does your more austere writing space make you focus more on your work?
Just wondered because where I work tends to ensure I spend a lot of time gazing out the window. Thinking most of the time, but sometimes just unfocused. Maybe I need to shift my desk to a blank wall – oh no, there are no blank walls in my room!
I sometimes miss the room we had in that study Sheryl (and the fact that Adrie’s late father Ben built all the desk space and shelves for us) but it had no view either. There was a room upstairs I worked in sometimes that had a view and I remember spending a bit of time watching the water dragons chasing each other around the neighbours’ pool. Not sure what the best thing is, although as I’ve often told Ard, a great deal of ‘writing’ actually just involves staring blankly into space.
I love the clutter of your previous office, but I also love the neatness of your present day one. I am an aspiring minimalist without much success.
I am also wondering how many children’s authors were once teachers.
Thank you for your post.
Michael I enjoyed reading about your first acceptance and loved the detail in your study- mine is a mess- in fact in my big house I seem to have a place I can write everywhere!
And yah- I don’t follow a plan either- but like the look of that collage of bits and pieces in the first photo.
And Gaby yes I started life as a teacher but before then, and now I was always a writer.
Great blog post and a very inspiring read for all of us ( as yet) unpublished writers! I approach thw craft of writing in a very similar way as I am not a big planner and tend to write and rewrite along the way. It means I don’t plough ahead as quickly as I would like but really there is no right or wrong way is there?
A tidy desk is a sign of a troubled mind I always say Lorraine.
I agree Beth. There is no right or wrong way, just the way that works for you.
What happens when each time you approach a book or an idea, you do it differently – just to see if THAT’S the best approach to sustain you for the rest of your writing life?!!
Great blog, Michael. I’m also one who needs quietness and solitude. I also have to shut the blinds closest to the work centre or I’d never get any work done.
Thanks Janeen. Looking forward to the next time we can catch up.
I think we all need to work in the space that feels comfortable for us Michael and you are obviously achieving wonderful outcomes from both the ‘busier’ and ‘more streamlined’ working space. I absolutely love the cover of Just a Dog – haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list of holiday reading.
Thanks Corinne. The irony is they showed me pictures of two different dogs for the cover. I absolutely loved the OTHER dog! But I went with the experts. They were absolutely right. Now I love the cover we’ve got and wouldn’t want it any other way.
it is an amazing book, I love it
Thank you so much Sophie. I’m very proud of that book. It took a while, but it finally ended up sounding and feeling like I had imagined it in my head right at the start.
For school I have to do a reveiw on a book.
I chose your book Just a Dog because it looked really good! I am a dog lover! Anyway I am doing a powerpoint presentation for the class and I have to ask some questions!
1. What inspired you to write Just a Dog?
2. Did you or have you got a dog
3. What is your favourite book you have written?
I absolutley loved your book. I thought it was touching, sad and happy! I would definetley reccomend it. Thank you so much for writing such a brilliant book and I love your writing!
Thank You so, so much
Thank you so much for all those lovely comments.
1. The whole book started just with the name ‘Mr Mosely’. It came into my head one morning when I was walking. I’ve got no idea where it came from but it sounded like a good name for a dog. That got me thinking of the dogs I grew up with as a kid and all the stories associated with them – funny ones, happy ones, weird ones and sad ones. I decided I would use some of them to write a story about a big, friendly loyal dog called Mr Mosely. I wanted to write a story from a young boy’s point of view that was about a dog but was also more than just a dog story.
2. We had 4 dogs in my family had over the years when I was growing up. I dedicated the book to them because many of the stories are theirs although I did change some and made other ones up completely. I don’t have a dog now.
3. It’s almost impossible for me to pick one. I wouldn’t have written them if the stories and the characters weren’t important to me. But maybe I do have a special place in my heart for the Ishmael books.
Hope this helps. Good luck with the PP presentation!