Fate. Chance. Kismet. Coincidence. Serendipity.
Whatever you call it, many times in my life when I have been facing a big decision or the possibility of change, the stars have aligned to allow me to proceed toward my purpose.
But after spending five or six years contemplating my novel-writing dream, I hadn’t done more than write out a list of possible scenes, having woken one night brimming with ideas and unable to get back to sleep until I’d written them down.
Then, while interviewing an author I admired, I felt the twinges of professional envy and knew that if I was serious about writing a novel I’d better do something about it.
With more than 30 years of journalism experience, I knew how to write, but writing fiction is considerably different to writing fact. I wanted to learn the craft, and I wanted to learn it well.
According to an old saying in spiritual circles, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Through fate, chance, kismet, coincidence or serendipity, I found my teacher.
Daydreaming about how to move forward, I logged on to Facebook and the first item in my news feed was a post a friend of mine had shared about novelist and writing teacher Natasha Lester, who had just one place left in her university extension course, Nailing Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books, due to start the following week.
I couldn’t waste another minute. I clicked on the link, signed up and knew instinctively that this would be a valuable next step on my writing journey.
I learned more about the nature of the novel in that five-week course than I had learnt in a lifetime of reading and many years studying literature at secondary and tertiary level.
Each week I travelled more than an hour each way to attend the classes, during which Natasha detailed the processes of novel writing, offered practical tips, guidance and inspiration, set exercises to encourage creativity, and used examples from classic and contemporary fiction to reinforce the course content.
She reminded her students that writers should also be readers; that we should read the sort of fiction we wanted to write, as well as stories beyond our comfort zone.
And Natasha urged us to foster a desire to learn more about the writing process, by attending other classes, joining a writing group, reading books by experts in the field and, most importantly, by writing at least a little bit, every day.