Show Your Working is a monthly column exploring how some of our favourite writers get things done. This month, we take a peek at the desk of Favel Parrett, whose new novel There Was Still Love is out now from Hachette Australia.
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What does your workspace look like?
My workspace is now a little pod in the back garden. There is no internet and no one can get to me from the outside world. It’s where I can be a total recluse. It started off very neat and tidy, but as this book grew, it became incredibly messy. There are even leaves on the floor and spiders in the corners. Somewhere along the way I began to glue black and white photos of Prague on one wall and then I coloured them in with fluro pencils.
So yep, I embrace the chaos. I like having books around me – and dogs (and dog beds on the floor) and lots of coloured pencils and plants.
Are you an analog or digital writer?
Both, all – anything that works. I keep a writing journal so that I know where I am at. I keep records of the day, time, what draft of each scene I am up to. This way I can let all that information go out of my head at the end of the day and pick it up the next day by reading my notes.
What sort of software and hardware do you use to get your work done?
Just Word. Sometimes I use Notes on my phone, but mostly that hurts my eyes. One of the best things I learned at high school was typing (who knew it would be so vital to my job?) I can type pretty fast and that is a good skill to have as a writer. However my spelling is very average!
Describe your writing practice?
I am such an early bird. Mornings are my best time, and after 3pm I am complete rubbish! You have to strike when the energy is there. I do try and write every single day – or at least be with the book/work every day. That could just be thinking or taking notes. I was really disciplined with this book and worked for 5 hours a day on most days.
A raw first draft has to be that – raw and full of energy and feeling. There’s no planning at the start, just following energy and feeling, and writing out of order from character. I try not to edit at all with that ‘free’ draft. After that comes the hard work – the crafting and drafting and shaping. I draft very heavily until each piece or scene is as good as it can be. Once I have lots of scenes, I start to think about possible structures and arcs. Then planning comes in. Trial and error. Structure is hard!
Has your writing practice changed over the years? If so, how?
I think I trust myself more – I trust that my mad process will work out in the end if I stay with it and work hard. I know that I have to do the work – sit with all the uncomfortable feelings. I understand now how much I have to give to my writing, how much I have to put my writing first. This means saying no to a lot of other things – fun things. While writing There Was Still Love, I became a total recluse. I surfed, wrote, read, went to bed early – and I just kept doing that until the book was finished.
How do you encourage inspiration to strike?
Walk, move, listen to music, read. Some days you just want to run away from the desk and do anything else. Those days are really hard. I know that if I make myself sit there and push through those uncomfortable, desperate feelings, often an important bit of writing can come through.