As outlined last post, I’ve spent several sessions working through the historical fiction, Girlie, since the new year, adjusting sentences, checking and adding (and sometimes deleting) details around colour, smell, texture, sound and so on. Working through the manuscript, searching for excessive adjectival and adverbial use – and deciding when to keep them – reconstructing sentences (splitting longer ones into shorter expression, introducing conjunctions and punctuation to extend others), eliminating word repetition where appropriate, correcting expressions, probing and testing character dialogue to see if the story progresses or characters are better understood because of it, speaking dialogue aloud to hear if it scans in the conversations, inserting sections of Girlie’s reflections on moments to add depth, removing patches of dead description and expanding other pieces to paint clearer pictures, is a slow, methodical process that soaks up an amazing degree of time. And, honestly, I’m still not satisfied with sections.
Interviews with Eileen’s (Girlie’s) brothers and sisters in 2020 added important information, but also posed a conundrum on what to add in and what to leave out. Because this novel was always ultimately to be a work of fiction, I’ve been willing to compress, alter or skip factual information of Girlie’s real life in order to develop a character and plot, but I definitely wanted to capture the historical events – larger and personal – that Girlie passed through as she grew toward self-actualisation to position the work in a period of South Australian time. The interviews revealed to my interviewees and myself elements of the family’s experiences that Girlie neither witnessed nor participated in – for example, the periods of homelessness and time the younger siblings spent in the Fullarton Girls and Kent Town Boys Homes. Neither, as another example, were her siblings aware of the extent of Girlie’s ‘adventures’ in Melbourne and Tasmania. Editing and adjusting, and sometimes leaving out family facts proved very challenging. As with the language, I’ve tried to include what helps to build Girlie’s character and move the story, and exclude what might be accurate family history but only leads to side plots or information alone. I am incredibly grateful for what Girlie’s brothers and sisters shared.
Reflecting on a process in my notes that was seeded as a concept in 2009, became an active research project in 2010 when I started ‘formal’ interviews with Mum on Wednesday afternoons (there may have been cups of tea and Scrabble involved), before finally morphing into a writing project in 2015, the journey has taken me back through time in a variety of ways – through conversations, online research in the libraries, readings of newspapers and magazines via Trove, collections of family and library photographs (Mum proved selfies were ‘a thing’ way back in the 1940s and 50s). The first full draft of Girlie came in at 118,205 words early 2019. This ‘final’ draft, ready for sending out to publishers, sits at 122,091 words. Although there is a 4000 word difference between first and final draft (with four draft versions between), and an increase at that, I’ve estimated almost 3000 words were cut from the first draft, but an additional 7000 words of story/detail was gradually included.
Unlike this time last year, where I hastily sent a draft to a competition in the somewhat overly hopeful chance it might be considered, this time the story is ready. Covering Girlie’s growth from 13-22, across the years 1944-1953, each year a chapter, each chapter headed with a quote from a movie of the time that also speaks into Girlie’s life at the time, I’m done. Girlie now needs a publishing benefactor to read it and think it’s worth sharing with other people. Here we go.
Writing is my passion. Ideas, opinions, beliefs, experiences expressed through language - through words and images - pervade and create my life. Writing is my voice, my soul, my self. My dream is one day writing will sustain my life...