I got back yesterday from the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program which was held in Brisbane. It was a very intense experience, and one of my fellow retreaters, Rebecca Freeborn, has written a post on her blog about the details.
One of the main highlights of the program for me was the opportunity to have time with publisher Vanessa Radnidge from Hachette Australia, who had read my full manuscript. Getting feedback from someone in the industry was absolutely fantastic. I also had feedback from two other industry professionals who had read the first 50 pages of my manuscript: author Kim Wilkins, and literary agent Benython Oldfield from Zeitgeist Media Group.
One theme that came up for me was that the subject matter of my novel may be too difficult to get published as it is confronting and sad. That’s not to say it’s impossible of course, but it may be a challenge. In one discussion, I was asked to think about potentially changing my story so that there is a different outcome for one of characters which would make the novel have a happier ending. This is something I’ve thought long and hard about. It would change much of the second half of my novel, which in a selfish way means a lot more work. I also worry that in doing so, I collude with society in avoiding talking about the potential tragedies of mental illness.
However, if it makes my work more palatable to publishers, is it worth it if it allows me to bring up the issues of perinatal mental health issues and start a conversation about them? It has certainly given me something to think about. For now, I will continue editing the first half and backstory of my novel and let my subconscious work through it.
The other highlight for me was meeting six other writers at the same stage of their careers as me, and hearing readings from each of their work. While we are all writing quite different manuscripts, I was amazed by the quality of their work, and was proud to be sitting amongst them. It gave me a real sense of validation as an emerging writer. So thanks to Rebecca, Rebekah, Charlotte, Heather, Alison and Darryl (as well as, of course, Queensland Writers Centre, Hachette, and the individuals who gave up their time to work with us.)
The challenge now is to keep that momentum and inspiration going. I have given myself an absolute deadline of 6 months to have the manuscript redrafted and polished, ready to resubmit. And there’s nothing like a deadline to make me work.