A Day In the Life of Shirley Marr.

Do you ever wonder what your favourite authors get up to when they think no one is looking?

First up is the incredibly glorious Shirley Marr author of the brilliant Fury and the upcoming Preloved.

Over to you, Shirley!


Brought to you by Fast & Furious Productions.

I like to give the impression that my writing life looks like this:

It’s a big fat lie! In reality don’t use a vintage typewriter and I don’t do it in a fancy frock with perfect makeup.

Real life, actually looks more like:

It’s pretty lonely being a writer because you end up being stuck inside your own mind for hours on end. Which I absolutely love and wouldn’t change it for the world… but sometimes I feel like the only girl in the world and my mind can compel me to do strange things to entertain myself…

Today, I’m working on the final draft of my new novel, Preloved! I’ve gotten my editor’s copy-edits back 4 days ago and I have 5 days to meet the deadline. And this is over Christmas and on the first day that Walker Books comes back to work after the New Year, talk about a case of THIS IS GOING TO KILL ME!

I have a day job, so that means that I only have time for my writing after work (that’s after I boil the potatoes for dinner) and on the weekends. So I have to use up my annual leave.

Bye-bye to tropical location…

And Hello Madness.

I think the impression most people get of writing is that a) you write something and b) it gets edited and proofed and c) taa daa! Novel.

Maybe some sloppy editing houses do this (hang on, did I just think that out aloud? Never mind) but my editor, Maryann, is tough. Here is the Work In Progress of Preloved. A whole paragraph has to be scrapped because she thinks I’ve waffled on for too long. But that is not the worse, Maryann has already scrapped half of my novel. Half a novel you say?? Yes. She thought that it sucked and hated the ending. She made me write it again, so I did.

You know those movie plots involving people stealing manuscripts and publishing it as their own? If they found out how much post-production they’d have to do, trust me, they’d return it express post.

Do I resent it? No. it is part of the learning process for me. I’ll just have a quiet tanty on the inside and move on.

My editor Maryann is old school. She likes to mark up a physical copy (check out the amount on one page). So I will painstakingly transfer all her changes to my electronic copy. I don’t know how to read editor’s shorthand. Well… not until a few days ago. Don’t tell Maryann this, this is our first time working together. So I actually had to look up the symbols online. Yay for Google!

This process has taken me two solid days. I need a break.

Oh tea, sweet weak milky tea with one sugar. I will go through at least 5 cups today. My desk is always covered in cups!

After adding in her changes, I will print out a new copy and go through it for what feels like the 100th time.

Final draft should be just minor change time eh? Right. Just not for Shirley. It happened with Fury and it’s happening here. I know this is my last chance for change. So I am pulling out the last of my creative energy. For me to be perfectly satisfied, I have to be happy with the surface story and also the symbolic and thematic one underneath. The latter being the one that I am most passionate about. I’m a bit of a crazy perfectionist, so I’m the one hardest on myself. Look at my own scribbles.

I am pushing my brain to hurting limit! But I if I don’t think of it now and try to change it at the galley stage, I know I will get grumbled at!

Okay. I need some lollies. Wendy Darling’s American noms to the rescue! I will continually eat junk all day long. Brain requires sugar.

Pet peeves of mine in novels: toxic messages, unintended cruelty to animals and writing that looks like it’s on auto pilot. So I will scribble out bits that are perfectly fine, but which I reckon I can re-write better.

I am my own worse enemy. Brain hurts. Gotta take a break for Markus Zusak time. I have a picture of Markus (and me!) up on my wall and I will occasionally stare up at him (in a non-stalkerish way).

I’m kinda stressed and my brain decides to have a conversation which goes like this:

SM: writing is so hard isn’t it, Markus?
MZ: That’s correct babe (in my imagination he refers to me as babe) – life’s hard at the top
SM: (sniffles) Life’s hard down here too!

I transfer the last of my own changes on my electronic MS and tag everything that is new. YES! I have finished (for now).

I click send to Maryann. I love the internet. I can be here in Perth with Tim Winton and Mab is over in Melbs and the bad weather.

The final draft stage is symbolic for me as it’s the very last time I feel that the MS is “mine”. After I hand it over , it is now “everyone else”. I force myself to distance me as a person from the book. You can’t think of the book too much as your baby or you’ll feel torn apart and hurt if you get constructive criticism once it’s out.

The next time I see Preloved it will no longer be a manuscript; she’ll have become a galley and I will go over it for the last minor changes (spelling and grammar only, did you hear that Shirley?) and then she goes off to press in early 2012, a few months before her April 2012 release date.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my little feature. It’s true that all authors are mad. Thanks to your Mistress Jo for having me on the gorgeous Wear The Old Coat. I’ll guess I’ll seeya the next time Preloved becomes a book with a real cover and blurb!

xx Shirley Marr

Thank YOU, Shirley Marr. 

Since Ms Marr wrote this blog post the cover and blurb for Preloved HAS come out. Find out more. 

You can find Ms Marr lurking in various corners of the internet.

Stalky Stalk. 
Her website. 
Her blog.

Until next month….

3 thoughts on “A Day In the Life of Shirley Marr.

  1. SO fascinating, thanks for posting this Jo. It must be hard to go through all the re-writes – but worth it in the end I'm sure!
    I also end up with approx 7 cups on my desk by the end of the day. Yay for tea!

  2. I didn't know you did this feature! (either of you!) Good thing I am reading loads of your blog posts in one go right now;-) First off, Shirley, you are awesome for taking so much time to write up your day and so much about the writing process. I'm ASSUMING you are eating Wendy's candy because you didn't have mine yet. (as mine are clearly superior)

    Writing on an old typewriter would bite.

    I can't wait for Preloved!

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