Deborah Abela - CKT Festival Wrap-up by Michelle Wanasundera

'Hard, painful, brilliant and intoxicating: why, how, and what you need to invest in to be a successful writer.'

This was the second time I heard Deborah Abela speak, and she was just as energetic, humble, and generous with her tips on all things writing.

Deborah Abela has written 26 books, including the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, 'Teresa a New Australian,' - based on the true story of her father being born in a cave during WW2 - actually launched by the president of Malta in, a palace!

Deborah shared with us a video of her fascinating research journey to Malta, see it here:

And, her first picture book - 'Wolfie, An Unlikely Hero', was chosen by Dolly Parton to be a part of her 'Imagination Library.'

She is a proud ambassador for the Premier's Reading Challenge, Room to Read, and Books in Homes.

Deborah describes herself as a bumbling, stumbling, tripping author. But puts in the hard work when at times, she still feels like a fraud - even after working on her 26th book!

She quotes George Orwell:

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

'So why we do this writing thing?! Because surprising things happen, because it's intoxicatingly, wonderfully brilliant.'

Deborah stresses that not all ideas are stories.

'3 Main Ingredients of Story' -

Character: When characters pop up, see and hear them. The character has to want something.

What is it your character truly wants? Whatever it is, it's your job to make it hard for them to get.

Setting: Make it interesting, enticing, immerse yourself fully before beginning - physically, or with photos, or in your mind.

Problems - What are the problems? What is the thing that drives your story forward, pushing your reader to turn the page. Action comes from how the characters are going to solve those series of problems.

Deborah's Drafting Process:

1st draft: all about plot, the hard work, OK if it's terrible.

2nd draft: major architectural work.

3rd draft: fine tuning plot, characters come to life.

4-6th drafts: finessing characters, minor moments, dialogue, sentences.

7th draft onwards: copy edit and proofreading.

Deborah's Tips:

Try not to compare yourself to others.

When wondering why do I do this? - go back to 'why did I have this idea in the first place?'

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, keep going.

Deborah often quotes Jackie French, 'Write your book, then trash it. Then trash it again.'

Invest in you the writer - make connections, network, writing courses, keep learning,conferences (CKT, KidLitVic, CYA, SCBWI), podcasts, read kids books, have updated website, create your own marketing (bookmarks, cards, social media, canva, wikipedia entry.)

Be ruthless about protecting writing days. Do whatever it takes.

Protect yourself -a few free things here and there are OK, but value your time - you're 'teaching'

Celebrate the highs - lovely, lovely things happen.

The lows - that's when you need your writer friends, who remind her - 'You've gotta hang in there, we've ALL been through it.'

Your words must work hard to be there.

What is important for our readers to know from the very start of your book?

Research - get the facts right and done before begin.

Deborah says you know when it's not good enough, but as Jackie French says, you also know when it is and get that tingling feeling.

The brilliant part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike say, a brain surgeon!

But most importantly of all: Don't forget to Play.

Recommends reading:

'The Mindful Writer' by Dinty W Moore

'On Writing' by Stephen King


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Thursday, 15 April 2021

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