I wrote Being Dianne in 2020. Yep, I wrote from February in the Before Time until December in the Un-festive Time. Before you go thinking that this is a ‘how-to-write in a pandemic’ blog, let me set you straight. It’s not, there are writers far more accomplished than me to give that kind of advice. Anycase, some days (like the whole of 2021 for instance) I honestly don’t know how I pulled it off. But as Being Dianne’s 1 September pub date draws close, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I wrote this novel. In celebration and gratitude for the experience, I thought I’d share six things about how she came to life. Sorry about the sentimentality, but my newest book baby is on her way and I’ve got a big case of the feelings!
- Writing Being Dianne was an escape and a comfort. I was up in the dark every morning, before home schooling and home-everything, to write and focus my brain on something other than the real world with its unfolding horrors. During the cracks in the day I’d think endlessly about what could happen next to Dianne – which character was going to do what, what were they saying to each other, where would they go? At night I’d dream of what I wanted to write. Dianne was the ultimate distraction. I loved having that place to go to in my head.
- Dianne was a challenge. The story is one that I worked hard to understand, to bring together. Was I representing Dianne accurately as a person, a parent, a partner, a friend? Had I done enough homework? Would I cause offence? Still, I couldn’t walk away from Dianne’s story. This feeling made me push through until it was resolved and there was a completed manuscript. Of the four books in the Being series, Dianne was perhaps the hardest to write. But despite this, maybe even because of it, completing this novel has been one of my most satisfying writing experiences.
- Writing Dianne was fun! I lost track of time thinking and writing when pandemic worries threated to overwhelm. Even after hard lockdown was over my family remained tight at home – no going to the shops, no going out; no one coming in, no family, no friends. I am quite social and it was tough! But writing gave me freedom of spirit and a joy that I looked forward to every single time I sat down in front of the screen.
- I wrote as part of Mike Nicol’s Masterclass (find out about it here if you like www.writeonline.com). The conversations gave me hope. Hope that we would write to deadlines! We would finish our manuscripts! Hope that one day the world would be okay enough and still have space for the stories we were dreaming up. The connections and friendships I made are spread out over SA, Australia and the USA and proved to me that I could keep friendships even when we aren’t physically together. It takes a little more effort but, when it’s worth it to both sides, it’s pretty fantastic.
- At the same time as working on Being Dianne, I started co-writing another book with Pamela Power, Amy Heydenrich and Gail Schimmel. All three phenomenally talented, disciplined and hugely funny women I admire very much. We decided to do something fun to boost our moods with no intention of publication. Writing with others was a new experience for me and, along with the laughs, I learned so much from them. It definitely helped me push through when I struggled with Dianne. More on that novel another time, but we’ve just signed with PanMacmillan for publication in 2022. This was so unexpected that it still feels surreal to me.
- I am more worrier than warrior so the pandemic world weighs heavy on me. But sitting down to write brought immense gratitude for all that I have that puts me in a position to write. I have a husband who is a real partner to me and supports my writing. We parent our children together. I do not have a boss to be accountable to. We, and none of our close family, got very sick during that time. (Touch wood re getting sick, we live and lurch in the moment.) We were not worrying about rent or food. These are privileges that I was, and am, very aware of every time I sit down to write.
How is the writing going in Pandemic Season 2021 you might ask? It’s different to last year. There are still the feelings of escape, joy, challenge, and gratitude. I still need my friends more than ever. The writing is slower now. But that’s okay, because as I said right at the start … this isn’t a blog on how to write in a pandemic.