Today's guest is novelist and poet Kate Forsyth. Kate is the award-winning author of over twenty books, from adult and YA novels, to children's picture books. Her novel Bitter Greens was nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award. Her most recent novel is The Wild Girl. She is now working on her next novel.
Whenever I begin daydreaming about a new novel, I buy a notebook.
Sometimes I search everywhere for the perfect notebook. Other times, I’ll be impatient and grab one from the local stationary store. If I do this, then I’ll make a cover for it. I’ll search out a photo that speaks to me and print it out and stick it on the cover. As you can see, it can get very tattered.
|Wild Girl notebook|
The Wild Girl is a very big and complicated book. It was a two notebook novel. So was Bitter Greens. Most novels, though, only need a single notebook.
I stick photos and maps and drawings in my notebook. I scribble down questions, ideas, timelines, research notes, lists of things to do, and problems to be solved. I draw myself narrative arcs, and think about where to put scenes for maximum impact. I play with the shape and structure of the novel. If I jot down a thought to myself on a sticky-note, or a paper napkin, or an old receipt, that gets stuck into the book too.
|Portrait of Dortchen|
I usually put the date and often the time in the top of the page. This way I know I began thinking about The Wild Girl on 1/2/08. I wrote the first draft of the first line on 26/8/11 – a considerable time later. I spend a long time thinking about my novels before I begin to write them. I planned the first chapter on 12/10/11. In July 2012, I wrote a list of problems to be fixed in the editing stage. I began to edit the book at 11am on 13/11/12.
Once I begin writing, I keep a record of my word count too. One of my pages tells me that I began writing at 3am on 1/5/12 and wrote 1,700 words by 5.40am (I often can’t sleep towards the end of a book).
Why do I do this? I find it interesting. I like to record every step in the creative process. I like to imagine some future scholar blowing off the dust on this notebook and finding my process as fascinating as I do. My notebooks are paired with my diaries, in which I record my thoughts and feelings and discoveries. One is the key to the other.
|The first line of Wild Girl|
When I’m on tour, I keep my notebook in the hotel safe (even if that means there is no room for my laptop).
When I go on holiday, or on a research trip, it travels with me (which helps explain why it gets so tattered).
Then, when I’m finished writing and editing the novel, it gets put away.
And I will go in search of a new notebook, filled with excitement and joy at the infinite possibilities presented by its pure white pages.