How to be a Writer

For many years I dreamed of being a writer. Back in high school, I would start scribbling novels designed to make me famous. I would stay on task for a long, long time. Hours, in fact. Then the phone would ring and I’d be off to the movies instead. Months later I’d stumble across a wad of hand-written pages stuffed into the back of a text book. Re-reading what I had written would bring tears to my eyes … not in a good way. They were truly atrocious.

As an adult I gave up on creative writing, as you do when you realise you’re not an Emily Bronte or an Enid Blyton or a Colleen McCullough. I put writing that novel in the too-hard box and concentrated instead on being a good wife and mother and employee. That takes time and effort. There was simply no energy left for blue-sky dreaming.

The idea persisted.

But how do you become a writer?

The answer is astonishingly simple. I’ll come to that.

My first tiny step was to sign up for a course in short story writing. It was a little old-fashioned, run by TAFE as a correspondence course. Every week I received my lesson in the mail. Every week I posted off my assignment and received feedback with the next lesson. The teacher was surprisingly encouraging. Not an unfair word was written. All was constructive and aimed at improvement. I was a little disappointed when it ended and I stopped writing.

A year later I took a two-day course on writing memoir. There was a mixed bag of participants – most, like myself, with the will but not the skill – cramped into a U-shaped classroom. Two were members of a community-based writers’ group that met every month at a local library. They suggested I join and I did.

We did writing exercises and critiqued each other’s work. My first meeting was terrifying: strangers read my work and told me what they thought. Mostly they were kind; sometimes they were honest.

I wanted more, so I joined the Queensland Writers’ Centre and took a series of workshops aimed at writing and editing an extended piece of work. That’s when the penny dropped.

To be a writer, you must write.

Practice every chance you get. Set a number of words to write every day, and try to stick to it.

When you choose to do this, then you are a writer.

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About Debbie Terranova

Debbie Terranova is an Australian author of contemporary and historical fiction. 'The Scarlet Key' published in 2016 is the second Seth VerBeek mystery. The crime-busting reporter is back with a new cast of unforgettable characters and a new puzzle to solve. It's about live, love, death, and tattoos, with a touch of the mystical. 'Baby Farm', her debut novel, is a cozy crime mystery about forced adoptions of the 1970s, and a surrogacy and baby trafficking racket. It is the first of the Seth VerBeek series. Debbie Terranova is a prizewinning author of short stories: 'Mowbray Brothers' about growing up in East Brisbane in the 1920s; and 'Mischief' about reinventing yourself and in the process falling in love ... with an adorable but mischievous cat.
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