Posted by: Vanessa Barneveld | February 26, 2010

Marching to the End

I’m reading Melina Marchetta’s latest release, THE PIPER’S SON, out March 1, which is a follow-on from SAVING FRANCESCA. It’s set in my ‘hood, so I’m having fun spotting my favourite hang-outs. Mind you, life for Tom, the main character, is most definitely not fun, but I’m hoping things swing his way soon.

Melina and Penguin Books Australia put together this interesting mini-doco about Melina’s writing process and THE PIPER’S SON:

Isn’t Melina a sweetheart? Very modest about her success too. I especially love what Melina has to say about the need to finish her first book, ’cause I can so relate to this. I grew up wanting to be a novelist, but it wasn’t until six years ago that I finally completed my first book. It had a beginning, a middle, an end. The only thing it was missing was a cracking good story! But it was done and I learnt a lot from the process. Up till that point, I felt like a fraud; I couldn’t call myself a “real” writer. I wanted that label badly and that desire spurred me on to the finish line.

If you’re a writer, have you marched to The End of your first novel yet? How did you get there? For non-writers out there, do you have a project that you’re determined to finish no matter what?


  1. Hey, V, what a fabulous video. Isn’t she a darling? And as you say, so self-effacing and modest. I remember when Allibrandi came out – people went absolutely crazy about it. And then when the movie was out, same thing. I remember finishing my first book – like you it was the fact that I had a beginning, middle and end that was the big deal, not so much the quality! But I’d been trying since I was eight and writing pseudo-Enid Blytons to finish a story and I never had. I always got bored a few chapters in (sometimes as many as a few hundred pages in) and started something else. It’s something I tell people when they ask me for writing advice – plough on with that story and finish it. There’s nothing you can do with a stump! And you’ll hit the doldrums with every story you write. You’ve just got to write through it. Hmm, just hit the doldrums with the current story so better plug on and take my own advice!

  2. Fabulous advice from the mistress of romance fiction! Thank you, Anna! Yes, you’ve just got to put one word in front of the other. Doesn’t it sound easy when it’s put that way? 😉

    I’ll see your Enid Blyton and raise you a Jennifer Crusie. I tried too hard to imitate her years ago till I found my own voice and style. It was good practice, though.

    Good luck with your current story!

  3. Thank you, Miss V, and good luck with yours. That one word in front of another sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But after powering on with this story, I really seem to be in the slough of despond with it right now. I’m girding my loins (how many cliches can I fit in this post?) to attack it today and hopefully row myself out of the doldrums. As you say, one word at a time! By the way, weren’t the penguins at the start of the video gorgeous?

  4. Make sure you do your stretches before you begin rowing, Anna.

    I love those penguins too. Speaking of, here’s a penguin you might like to eat! (Relax, it’s chocolate!)

  5. Hi V, what a great way to start the day! Thanks for the post.

    I’m with Anna on the importance of finishing a whole story. My first ms is lying in the bottom of my filing cabinet as by the time I finished the 2nd one I realised the amount of effort required to make no 1 saleable, BUT I learned so much from actually finishing the story. It got better and better as I went along and I learned how to write all sorts of scenes because I had to. Then fortunately I sold the 2nd book. If I’d sat and pottered over a chapter here or a scene there then just put them aside, then I’d never have got anywhere.

    Making yourself persevere, even when you don’t feel like it, is marvellous practice for writing full time!

  6. Hi Vanessa, the day I see one of your wonderful, finished novels in print will the day I–and the YA readers of this world–will be very happy!
    I sure learned about finishing a book with a tight deadline with my second book for Berkley, HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS (out in July). To meet the deadline, I had to give up TV, socializing, housework (thank you darling husband!), sleep, just to get it finished. And it wouldn’t finish. The characters didn’t want to go. They had things to do, stuff to say, and insisted on more and more pages. When they finally agreed to say goodbye and settle down to their happy-ever-after ending, it was such a relief!

  7. Thanks for dropping by, Annie! I know you’re in the middle of copy edits, so I’m super appreciative of your visit.

    You do learn an awful lot about writing when you finish a whole book, don’t you? Character arcs, sustainable conflict, and such. I’m glad you not only sold that second ms, but another also 10 in the last few years!

  8. Kandy, I’ll be beyond happy if that happens! You’ll hear me screeching with joy.

    I’m looking forward to reading HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS! You know a story really works when the characters pester you all the time. There are a lot of sacrifices to be made when you’re writing to a deadline, but the pay-off is worth it. I hope you’re catching up on sleep now!

  9. Stephen King helped me finish my first book, Vanessa! 😉 I was totally hamstrung by the idea that I needed to know everything about my characters before I could do any writing on the story. Then I read On Writing – his autobiography with a great section in the back for writers. It freed me to just write and find out about the characters and their story as I got the words down on the page. Which got me over the hurdle of finishing that first book.

    I think I do a bit more of a combination now – a bit of Stephen King’s “what if” and a bit of “let’s have some direction”. But each book seems to have it’s own idea of how it’ll be written so in lots of ways, I feel like I’m still learning how I work!

    Great blog, Vanessa!

  10. Hi, Sharon! I’ve heard so much about ‘On Writing’–I really must read it for myself. I like what you said about letting characters reveal themselves as you write. I know a lot of pantser-type writers get bored with their characters or story if they plot out every little detail before writing the actual book. I’m with you–I approach each book differently. I think *I* would get bored if used the same process all the time.

  11. That was a great little video, Vanessa. Very interesting insights.

    For me I have no trouble getting to the end of a story, and often I’ve written the final scene when I’m about 3/4 through the rest, just so I have a clear direction and don’t go off on to many tangents.

    But geez, do I have a hard time sticking with the editing. I don’t suffer from Writer’s block, because I just write regardless and something will happen. But I do have bad cases of ‘Editor’s Block.’ And atm, my characters are insisting on a heap of new scenes. Often my solution to the Editors Block is work out what the hell I was trying to say, Slash and Rewrite.

    Speaking of which…I better get back there.

  12. Editor’s block is a new one for me! I find it hard to switch off the internal editor, which makes getting that first draft down harder. Good luck with it, Diane!

  13. Hey Vanessa! ;).
    Where is the Piper’s Son set? I just want to know because I’d be more inclined to read it if it were set in my ‘hood. lol.

  14. Hi, Laura! The action takes place around the Inner West of Sydney–Stanmore, Newtown, Annandale. And the story also travelled to Brisbane (New Farm), my old stamping ground.

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