Three days into a new decade and it seems the apocalypse is here in Australia. Our beautiful coastal towns are being reduced to ashes, our mountain ranges are on fire and our nation’s capital is choked with acrid smoke. It’s an awful time for all Australians as we grapple with the reality that the climate has changed and take a glimpse into what our near future will look like as the climate disaster unfolds.
No doubt the climate emergency will change the way we write contemporary and dystopian fiction – in fact, we are already seeing it. In 2019 I read The Lost Man by Jane Harper and The Glad Shout by Alice Robinson, both authors using climate change as the narrative engine that powered their stories. These are just two examples of many Australian novels that give voice to the challenges we confront as we step into 2020.
As we close the door on 2019 and the decade that gave us brilliant literature by Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my personal favourite), Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor (a searing portrait of a middle age in the middle class in Australia’s richest city), Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son by Mark Colvin (updated after his untimely death in 2017) and the Slough House series by Mick Herron (starting with Slow Horses, which introduced us to Jackson Lamb, the ultimate anti-hero), I look back on my own writing journey.
I will be forever grateful to Jodi Cleghorn, who was the first publisher to give me a go and whose editorial advice and beautiful friendship gave me the confidence I needed to start writing. She published several of my stories at the start of the last decade, which left me wanting more and helped me realise I wanted to move to longer form stories.
Between 2014 and 2019 I dived into screenwriting and wrote two screenplays (both of which remain in second draft), went to the US to take Robert McKee’s Story seminar, and started my crime novel set in Queanbeyan. While this all sounds very impressive, it’s just a beginning, and a slow one at that. My progress was curtailed by the onset of migraine – a chronic condition that has worsened over the past five years to the point where I now have daily migraine attacks with very little respite. It’s really hard to write creatively when you have an invisible screwdriver jammed into your brain.
While my novel only grew by around 7k in 2019, I did finish outlining it and I now have a plan to get to the end of the first draft, which is where the real work begins!
My writing plan for 2020 is simple: finish the first draft, rewrite/revise as necessary and send it out to my volunteer beta readers. Depending on their feedback, complete a third draft and send it out to select agents to see if I can gain representation. If not, I’ll shop it around myself. Crime is hot and Australian crime is hotter right now so I had better get my skates on before it goes off the boil. I’d also better think about how I’m going to incorporate the climate into this first and subsequent novels to make sure I’m rooting my fiction in reality.
What are your writing plans for 2020?