As every aspiring author knows, writing a good story is about inhabiting the minds of the story’s characters and translating their motivations and actions into convincing and entertaining prose. And so, it was without hesitation, that I invaded the mind of a ten-year-old boy for my first foray into the world of fiction writing, the Hazard River series.
The idea of writing an adventure series for tweens crept up on me during a family holiday to the Noosa River. My two sons teamed up with friends and spent the summer on a Boys Own Adventure – exploring sand banks, biking through the bush, dodging snakes and avoiding stingrays. I was inspired.
While the kids had adventures I started to write about them. It seemed only natural that I would choose a boy to narrate the story. I called him Jack Wilde. I saw things through his eyes, I talked like him and I behaved like him (only in print, of course). You don’t need a psychologist to tell you that thinking like a ten-year-old boy is a dubious life choice, but I found the experience quite enlightening.
I have now written six books in the Hazard River series – four are in bookshops, another two, are due out next month. The whole process has been frustrating at times, but overall it has been hugely rewarding. I think it has also made me a better parent.
It goes without saying that working from home makes the school run, homework and sporting commitments much easier to manage. But I was working from home before I started writing fiction – as a freelance features and marketing writer. The improvement in my parenting skills came from other things.
Firstly, I thoroughly enjoy writing and a happy mother is a good one. I also get incredibly absorbed in my work, so a lot of small indiscretions in the household slip under the radar – another good thing. My sons have became very involved in the whole writing process, coming up with ideas for stories, editing my manuscripts and helping with the marketing, by showing off my stories to classmates. And whenever my children see me at the computer they assume I’m working on a new story. The boys groan when my husband is in front of the computer. He’s not doing anything useful as far as they are concerned – he’s just shirking his cricketing/rugby/tennis responsibilities. When they see me working, they believe there’s something very tangible in it for them.
Finally, inhabiting the mind of a ten-year-old and writing the Hazard River series has given me a little more insight into my own boys. It has also reawakened my sense of humour. As a mother, it’s easy to fall into the role of head of the fun police, a joy sucker on every occasion. Now I’m on the lookout for funny things to weave into my stories. And I’m finding them – everywhere. I’m glad I’m not trying to raise a family on my royalties, but the personal rewards from writing are tremendous.
Just don’t ask me about the size of the washing pile or what’s lurking under the sofa. My propensity for housekeeping is inversely proportional to my interest in writing. The good news is that no one (as far as I know) has ever been arrested for sending their sons to school in a creased shirt and few people are celebrated for their housekeeping prowess.
2 thoughts on “Can writing fiction improve your parenting?”
there is some very sound advice in this post!! What I’m passionate about is connecting young people and literature- to make them better thinkers and citizens of the world. Our teacher librarian network runs a Readers Cup- where there is fun in reading. This year one of the hazard River series is one of the reads for the Novemeber Readers Cup FIVE! This is for year 5 readers… The network is wondering if Julie would like to come and give out the trophies and prizes at the 2011 Readers Cup???
Great news! I’d love to. Julie