Edwina with the cover artist, Elle Clarke.
My book, The Whale’s Tale, started life as a short story called Restitution which was awarded an Honorary Mention (equal place 3rd) in the 1997 Mary Grant Bruce Awards for Children’s Literature offered annually by the Victorian FAW. (Fellowship of Australian Writers.)
It was the second time I had placed in this prestigious award, having received another Honorary Mention for a story about dragons some years earlier.
To some degree, “Restitution” was influenced by my years working in a law library (at the University of NSW.) I’ve been interested in dolphins and whales for much longer than that, and saw the story as a way to address the injustice of continuing to hunt an endangered species to extinction by setting the story in a future where humans have discovered they can communicate with dolphins and whales, and where cetaceans have become dominant players in Earth politics and space travel.
While writing “Restitution”, I had to keep a tight rein on the word count, and realised it wanted to be a much longer piece. When it did well in the MGB’s I decided to “give the pony its head” and see what the story’s “natural length” was.
I ended up with a novel-sized manuscript that then went through so many rewrites that I’ve lost count! Along the way the storyline shifted dramatically from a stodgy, serious piece to a more entertaining work that young readers will hopefully enjoy visiting.
I think turning points for the manuscript were getting a beta reader to tell me what was wrong with it. He was ruthless. I didn’t like hearing a lot of what he had to say, but I didn’t turn away from it either, I just absorbed it, and applied some of it. Deciding to invest in myself and my writing by paying a professional editor to edit my work was what bridged the gap between getting complimentary reject slips (nice, but they were still reject slips!)to getting an offer of publication.
So there it is, enter competitions, listen to your Beta readers and never give up, never surrender. Do you have a brave Beta reader, who gives you fearless feedback on your manuscript?
Edwina supports the Speculative Fiction genre by editing the Australian Bullsheet, an E-newsletter about the Australian fan and professional scene.