My mother cleaned out her cupboards some time back and found all the story books I wrote and illustrated as a child. I remember writing the first one. It was about a cat and his adventures around our neighbourhood. The words were small, the sentences short, but the feeling of exhilaration from creating that story was huge. That hasn’t changed and that’s still why I love to write.
My dream had always been to be able to say, when people ask me what do you do for a living, that I’m an Author. Now having published three crime thrillers, The Ned Kelly Game, Eclipsed and One for All, and co-authoring several short story anthologies, it feels good to have finally realised that dream. Now I enjoy passing my knowledge on to other writers through writing workshops and QWC’s Writers Surgery mentoring program.
How did you come to writing?
I’d always wanted to write a novel but over the years life tended to get in the way, so I satisfied my love for writing by becoming a member of a writing group in my local area. I found that meeting with like-minded people gave me invaluable support and feedback and encouraged me to continue writing when I might have given up on my dream. I started with short stories and in 2009, I independently published my first crime thriller novel.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
I started down the path of submitting my first novel, The Ned Kelly Game, to publishers and agents, and received some very positive feedback about my writing, but as a supernatural/crime cross-genre novel it never seemed to fit any of the publishers’ “current lists”. I wanted to share it, so I struck out into the world of independent publishing. My biggest fear was that people wouldn’t like it, but once the reviews started coming in my fears were dispelled.
I was also rather shy at first in putting myself and my work out there but my experience has been very heartening. I gained support and media attention and reviews in local and national magazines, newspapers and radio and was able to sell my books internationally online and in the major independent bookstores in Brisbane. Success breeds confidence and I encourage anyone with a writing dream to be persistent.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
Courses on how to write often teach you to plan and map everything out, from beginning to end. To me, this turns the process of writing into a chore. I never wanted this thing I love to turn into work. For me, writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. So I start with an end in mind. I look for a beginning scene that throws you into the thick of the action. But everything that happens in between practically writes itself. Or maybe I should say that the characters write it. When you are so in the head of a character, you start to think and act as they would. (Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and kill someone). But what I do is throw them into a situation then follow them. Sometimes they head way off track, and I have to stop them and lead them back in the right direction to get to my ending. I never plan more than a chapter or two ahead, and I carry a notebook and pen everywhere I go so that I can jot ideas down as they come to me. And they come at the most unexpected moments, because when I’m in the middle of a novel the story is always playing out in my subconscious. That’s the fun part. Then comes the editing and re-writing. That is more like work, but it’s akin to having a baby. You want it to grow and to shine to the best of its ability so that keeps me motivated.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
When I was working full time and my children were younger, I learnt that snack writing is the key. Write just a little bit in any spare moments you have. When I started out, I used to write on my way to work on the train and in my lunch breaks. Frequency is the key to keeping you motivated and ‘in’ the story to keep the word count growing. Now that my children are independent and I am writing and studying full time, I have more time to indulge in writing.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I’m not a solitary writer. I’m one of those multi-taskers who used to do their homework in front of the television and loved the concept of the open plan office. I can write anywhere that I can take my laptop! Silence distracts me because my mind tends to run off in other directions, so the busier the better. At home, my desk is in the thick of things so I am amongst my family with everything going on around me, but I am grounded by a lovely view of the mountains. I am also lucky enough to have a little house in the country, so I have somewhere to go when I need more inspiration.
What are your essential writing tools?
My laptop, my notebook and my wicked imagination.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
Being an author in today’s society is about more than merely writing a book. Start marketing YOU – the author – well before you even finish your book. Get yourself known on social media, through blogs, public speaking, and networking then invite all these contacts along for the ride. Editors and agents are attracted to authors who have an established platform to reach their readers.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
I continue to read crime fiction to keep up to date with what is popular as readers’ tastes tend to change over time. If a book is really well-written, I can still get lost in it just for the pleasure of reading. But as a trained writer, if it is not well-written then I tend to notice the errors which distract me from the story.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
Here are a few tips I’ve learned:
- If you don’t feel like writing, assume the position – physically sit there ready to go. Action builds motivation.
- Don’t worry about how it sounds or if its grammatically correct in the first draft – just push the words out
- Leave a sentence or scene unfinished when you stop writing, so when you start again you know exactly what you are going to write.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Look back on your life with gratitude, even the bad bits. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. And later, as a writer, you can use it in some story and the ending can be whatever you choose. Fiction writing is great like that. You can make up almost anything!
Lea Scott has published three successful indie crime novels, The Ned Kelly Game (2009), Eclipsed (2010) and One for All (2013) and co-authored three short story anthologies with Brisbane writers’ groups. She is currently studying a PhD in Creative Writing and is working on two new crime novels. Lea serves in an Executive Management Committee position with Queensland Writers Centre and is an appointed mentor for emerging crime writers. She has appeared on seminar panels and facilitated writing workshops throughout Queensland.