by Meridith Mckinnon
I have been guilty of making the process of writing a book sound simple. I agree the concept, the idea can be easy – anyone, everyone has a story, but I will admit that to write it is the challenge!
How did I write my book? The idea had bounced around in my head for a long time. I’m talking probably a couple of years. The characters, or mainly the protagonist, Lek, she was in my thoughts a lot along with her husband. It wasn’t until late 2014 and I was living in Seoul...
South Korea, which I will write more about later, that I first tapped in words on my laptop.
I’m not one to make many notes initially. Only if they wake me at night will I scribble conversations or ideas so I don’t forget them in the morning. The first draft literally ran out of my head and onto the page. When I returned from Seoul I kept writing, just getting it all out. It surprised me some of the chapters and where it took me. The first draft was exciting and so raw! It was about 70,000 words, completely unedited or revised in any way and I recommend this process – it works for me anyway; write without looking back. I might do the odd check just to refresh the story line in my head, but keep forging forward!
Then I put it aside for maybe a couple of months. This was like giving me a chance to regroup the scenes and restock my imagination. The characters needed to have a rest! Then once re-energized back to the keyboard and I rewrote. This was the first tricky part. Rewriting needs more accountability of events and timelines so a separate notebook to list dates of birth, names of places, historical events and so on. This is still a messy process.
Late 2015 I found the distractions of home too much and really wanted to get the story rewritten so Phil and I booked a small villa in southern Thailand and headed there for a couple of weeks. Perfect! (I’ve since learned that a lot of writers do this, kind of retreat away with no distractions, it works!!) We are frequent travelers to Thailand so I deliberately chose a part of Thailand I hadn’t been, north of Phuket near Kho Lak next to the Thai Burma border. This is a part of Thailand most boat refugees have arrived and mostly died. It is also where the tsunami hit worst in Thailand. This was a brilliant place to rewrite.
Back home and back at work, I knew there was still another rewrite but having never come this far with a manuscript I struggled with bringing it all together and getting the overall ‘feel’. The idea came to me with a large roll of plain brown wrapping paper. How very tech savvy!
I used an entire roll to list each chapter and with dot points created a timeline. This worked perfectly to get the story in sync with events, dates, births and deaths. I could move forward rapidly now and rewrite as I could refer to my large ‘map’ on the floor. And so the book came into shape!
I probably did another three re-reads until I was happy. Life still went on around this! I took on more work projects late this year, our son Hamish moved home after travelling overseas and then recently our daughter Jane, also returned from months overseas. Phil completed his Diploma in Agriculture, I did a Cert IV in TAE, Hamish started a side business as The Tree doctor and Jane is returning to her work and enrolled in a Masters. So while the ideas can be easy, and we all have the stories, life can complicate the process! But if you have a driving passion, the desire, like I did to unleash stories of statelessness and human smuggling, then you will make it happen!