Confessions of a First-time Author – Georgia Madden
By Georgia Madden
Waitress, used-car parts auctioneer, PR, special ed support, PA, stylist, interiors writer – these are just some of the things I did before I dared to try my hand at writing fiction. In truth, they’re all the things I did to put it off. After all, there always seemed to be plenty of time and more than enough reasons not to try; it’s harder to get an agent than win the lottery; publishers just toss first-timers’ manuscripts in the bin; nobody’s reading books now anyway. ♥
But the itch wouldn’t go away, and before long I started to get the feeling I was running out of time – and excuses. The big 4-0 came. And went. Soon I was looking down the barrel of 41 and still not a word had been written. I wondered what would happen to my brain if I left all the stories that had been filling it up over the years unwritten. Would I begin losing my marbles and turn into one of those weird old ladies who curses at strangers while pushing a shopping trolley filled with her life’s possessions down the street? I wondered if there would be any call for a middle-aged mum in sweat pants to take up used car parts auctioneering again.
And then, one day, a window of space appeared in my schedule and along with it a fun character with an intriguing story to tell. So I sat down and started to write. Not for anyone else’s eyes or with a view of getting published (although that would have been nice) but just to get it out. And it felt good – a bit like taking a searing hot bath after a day out in the cold.
At first, baby steps. A character sketch here, a paragraph there, never more than a page. Then I began thinking about the story as a whole. Could I really write a whole book? How do people even do that? I’d seen a documentary about a screenwriter who storyboards all his movies before typing out a single word, and so I dashed off to Officeworks to stock up on index cards and thumbtacks and a huge corkboard, which I stuck to the wall next to my desk.
My characters started speaking to me at funny times – when I was making dinner or washing the children’s hair or standing in the queue at the supermarket. They became particularly vocal at night, jolting me awake from my half-sleep with their life-or-death problems and their latest misadventures. I started leaving a notebook and pencil by my bed so I could quieten them down and get some sleep.
From once or twice a week, I began writing every day; closing the door to my study more frequently; missing deadlines for my day-job magazine work; passing on more and more of my ‘mummy’ jobs to Daddy. Takeout dinner night stretched from one evening a week to three. I worried that my little family was suffering for my hobby or, worse, that children’s services get wind of it (KFC does not a healthy diet make, and there was a very good chance I’d come face-to-face with a nit in my daughter’s hair one evening and done nothing about it until the end of the next day). But I was having a ball. The experience of sitting down to write – and finding I actually had something to say – was everything I’d ever hoped it would be, and more.
And then I was half-way there; half of a real, whole story. I decided to reach out and see whether it had legs. With heart racing, I emailed agents and publishers. Plenty of No’s, which I was entirely prepared for. And then two Yes’s, which I wasn’t. After peeling myself off the ceiling, contracts were signed and deadlines were given. In eight months’ time, I was told, the little story that had been buzzing around my head would be real.
It’s an amazing thing, holding your book in your hands for the first time. It happened to me this week, up in my local bookshop where I’ve spent countless happy hours with my kids over the years and gotten to know the booksellers well. I couldn’t imagine a better place or a happier feeling. Okay, I might never make a million dollars or appear in Oprah’s book club, but the itch has finally been scratched.
A few years ago, I remember admitting to a friend that one day I’d like to write. She looked at me kindly; The odds are stacked against you, so why even bother? We’ve lost touch now, but at the time, I couldn’t argue – she was absolutely right. Why indeed? But if I saw her now, I like to think I’d have a far better response. Because if you’re one of those crazy people who actually enjoys spending hours locked up in a room with your computer and your make-believe world, and can’t imagine anything better one day sharing your stories with strangers, there really is nothing else.
Georgia Madden is an interiors journalist and a frequent contributor to a range of home and lifestyle magazines in Australia and the UK. She lives in Sydney. Her debut novel Confessions of a Once Fashionable Mum has just been released.