An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
YEAH, to all those budding writers, finding time to write is no easy task. I feel lucky to have now published my second novel and feel really gratified.
The process was time consuming and on occasion I wondered how I found time to do it. Writing a book is not something you do over a long weekend. Some of my works took 10 years to complete.
I have published five books so far. Indulge me while I list them.
Zymur (Oxford University Press) 2003, now available in an OUP anthology
Haffies Are Made, They Are Not Born (Createspace) 2014
Curse of Lamisi (Createspace) 2014
Man of Calibre (Createspace) 2015, my first novel
Sweet Garaiina Apo (Createspace) 2015, my second novel, just published
The four most recent works total 200,000 words and required more than 60 revisions and rewrites.
Sweet Garaiina Apo, a book of 60,000 words took me 10 years to write and in its last eight months went through 10 major edits and rewrites. Man of Calibre, another novel of the same length, was written in three years with rewrites and edits.
Given that there is no great market for written work and no effective distribution system, this is hard yakka for miniscule financial return. So I guess it begs the question, why go to the trouble?
When Oxford University Press upped and left the country, with the exception of UPNG, authors with no prospect of payment or publication just shelved their work. It had taken a long time to publish my first work and then - nothing.
I had short stories ready for publishing and the few publishing ladies that appeared on the scene offered a little hope. They wanted us to write like Agatha Christie. That was enough to kill some kindred spirits. But I was no Christie or Wendt, I write my style of English and I’m want to persevere in that.
All these years later, I am glad my short manuscripts have now developed into novels. I may even be looking down the barrel of a third novel before the year is up.
I sort of rode the first glorious tide of being a published author after my book Zymur appeared. I told people I was an author and working on my first full length novel of 50,000 words. They looked at me incredulously. When do you find the time to write?
Well, I don’t, I would say. It’s all up there in my head. I’ve written this story already. I just need to put it on paper for you to read it at your pleasure. Ah ha, I shared those sentiments ten years ago.
I told them about Sweet Garaiina Apo, the gist of it. I had not written it then. It started as a story I told my nine year old daughter about a young girl given away at birth who, later in life, happens to employ the woman (who turns out to be her biological mother) as her gardener.
In the telling, I tried to get inside the emotions of the daughter as she tries to find the words to tell the woman she is her mother.
So I started sniffing imaginary tears and before long my daughter was crying her eyes out. As she cried I pulled out an old diary and started writing with my daughter in my lap.
Well, with tears in my eyes I wrote four diaries of my rambling thoughts as I continued the story. Ten years later and after so many rewrites I have found plenty of time for tears and now Sweet Garaiina Apo is published as a novel.
That is plenty of writing. I had to find the time, make the time and keep the time to write. Sticking to the plot and story line and making it all flow is a problem too, but that is another story and I don’t really have any expertise to reveal. I just do it again and again until I get it right. Yes, it can be frustrating.
I constantly look for opportunities to pen a line. On the bus, at the shops, in a queue, on the plane, even inside a toilet and, yes, I have awoken in the middle of the night, groped for my pen and light to write a line which came to me.
If I miss that opportunity, it becomes a forgotten line and that can be very irritating. If perhaps it does come back sometime later, I have moved on and I find I don’t need that line now. So a notebook is a ready companion somewhere in reach of my hand.
I walk around with this small notebook or find scrap paper that I staple together to make note pads in which I write should I ever forget my notebook. Currently I have four works in progress and I keep notes for each of them.
My apologies if I came across as not having a day job. I have a demanding day job which unfortunately also involves a lot of writing.
However I have a goal and that is to publish 10 novels and 10 short story collections before I return to my place of Kotiyufa. It is not impossible as there are already five on that list up there. I have found the time to write the three books of short stories and two novels and I know I will find the time, make the time and commit the time to write the rest.
Initially the late Eve Rannells at the Law Library of UPNG typed and provided editorial assistance for me on Zymur. My family has been very supportive. My next two short stories were typed out by girls at a paid typing service in Boroko. It cost me a bit but it was worth it.
I later had these scanned into my computer when I got one and now have digital versions of the works in progress. I do my own typing nowadays and, using Createspace, can format the books for publishing.
Editorial assistance and critiquing my work is important. I discuss my writing with my wife and three girls and, while I listen to what they say, I do not necessarily accept their criticisms and change my story line. Instead I look at how I can incorporate what they say. I include in my stories a lot of customary practises, traditional practises, that my children living away from the village do not understand.
I was fortunate to happen upon Ed Brumby, this papa of Yokomo and Omokoy from our primary school radio broadcasts lessons. He is now a retiree and has been a valuable mentor for me.
The short of the long story is this: to be able to produce a written piece, a person has to find time, commit time and spend time. The editorial work can come later when a body of work is completed in draft form.
Second, seek help from others to critique work in progress and know you can either use or disregard these sentiments.
Third, editorial assistance will go a long way and again it is a personal choice to use it.
Finally, the work ought to be published and read. Createspace has been good to me so far.