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ROSIE: Every tip you need to write a best-seller, from someone who's done it.

Rosie Waterland is a best-selling author. You should probably take her advice. 

The Mamamia Women’s Network are launching the first ever MWN Writers’ Competition – to unearth the best online writing talent in the country.

MWN, together with HarperCollins Publishers is offering winners across several categories $1000 prize money, as well as an opportunity to have an ongoing publishing relationship with MWN, Australia’s premier women’s media company.

To give you some inspiration, our very own bestseller, Rosie Waterland, has shared some of her tips on how to write a book.

What are you waiting for? Apply here.

I took one month off work to write my first book, a memoir called The Anti-Cool Girl (*cough shameless plug buy it here cough*).

That month turned into seven. SEVEN MONTHS. And let me tell you something: A lot of that was spent hiding in a blanket fort drinking vodka, pretending that I didn’t have a book deadline.

I got there in the end (months late, my bad), but writing that book was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. And I feel like such an arsehole because I honestly went into it thinking it would be a total breeze. One of the selling points in my book proposal was, “Oh I work online and everything is so fast-paced there – I could probably knock this book out in a few weeks blah blah blah clueless naivety etc.”

Here’s Rosie’s book. In an actual bookstore. No big deal.

So, given I have now published a memoir (*cough again buy it here cough*), and also that I’ve somehow managed to build a career in which I write almost exclusively about myself (ego much?), I’ve picked up a few little nuggets of advice when it comes to putting it all on the page:

1. Have a plan.

Signing a book deal is an incredible feeling. Dream accomplished! Then you remember you have to actually write a whole book. Then you sit down at your desk, open your laptop and stare at a blank word document for three weeks. When you have 90,000 words to write and you haven’t even written one, it’s crazy amounts of overwhelming. Mia Freedman gave me some great fucking advice: She told me to get a bunch of post-its, and on each one write the name of a story I wanted to tell (e.g. ‘getting first period’, ‘dad dying’ etc), then I put all the post-it notes up on a wall and had more of a clear picture of the shape the book was going to take. Something about taking things away from technology and looking at them visually really helps. Over the months, some post-its were scrapped, some were added, orders were changed, but just the act of putting them on the wall that first day helped me feel like it was at least a manageable task.

Don’t worry about colour co-ordination. Just don’t.

2. Be prepared to relive a lot of memories.

I had a fairly traumatic childhood, and I’ve dealt with those memories and learned how to live with them. But nothing can prepare you for how those memories hit you when you have to write about them in vivid detail. It’s in a whole other league of confronting. Have wine on hand.

3. Your job is to entertain, so don’t just write a diary.

It was really important to me going into this process (and in all my work to be honest), that my memoir be an entertaining read. Writing personal essays and memoir may be cathartic, but that shouldn’t be point of what you’re doing. The point is to write a piece of work that entertains people, that moves them, that makes them want to turn the page. I read so many personal pieces of writing that just sound like the author is sorting through issues in their diary. Nobody cares about your issues! Even when it’s about you, it’s still your job as an author to write compelling work that people want to read.

Rosie Waterland.
Rosie Waterland – bestselling author. Image: Supplied.
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4. Sit down in the shower (or whatever your thing is).

For some reason, I get incredible ideas when I’m sitting down in the shower. If I ever felt stuck, or blocked, or frustrated, that’s what I would do. And after a while, I was so convinced that sitting down in the shower had some kind of magic power, that ideas always came. It was shower juju. Find the thing that gives you shower juju.

5. Get a friend who knows how to use excel.

My post-it note wall kicked me into gear, but when came time to allocating my time and actually getting work done, I had no idea. I knew a chapter was about 4000 words, and I had x amount of chapters to write in x amount of time, but that’s where my brain switches off and I watch TV instead. Managing your time while writing a book is like a complex equation, and my dweeby maths friend James probably helped me more to get my book done than anyone. He calculated exactly how many words I needed to write and when, rated the difficulty level (e.g. would a certain chapter stress me out and would I need a day off after it?), colour-coded everything and put it into an excel spreadsheet. Then all I had to do each day was look at my excel schedule and know that I was on top of things. There were even rewards listed, like, “Finish 2000 words of this chapter, and you may watch Game of Thrones.” Excel is the reason I finished my book.

Rosie at her book launch. Image via Instagram.

6. Find stories in everything.

I had the kind of childhood that makes a captivating story, but some of my favourite things that I’ve ever written have been about the ordinary things that could happen to anybody. At least four or five times a day, I find myself whipping out my phone to write down a funny conversation I’ve heard or to describe a random thing I saw on the street. You don’t have to have an exciting life to be a memoirist or a personal essayist – you just have to see the potential to entertain in everything. (And make sure the notes you give yourself make sense. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve gone back through my notes and just seen ‘bus ticket ice cream’ and had no fucking idea what I meant.)

Got it? Are you ready to apply? Good. Read everything about the competition here.

Rosie will be talking to Mia Freedman about how writing can change
your life at an exclusive Mamamia Live event on
Monday, September 14th.

Hurry, tickets are selling fast.

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