Enrolling in the Write Your Novel program was just the push that Theresa Miller needed to finish the draft of her first fiction manuscript. There's nothing like a deadline to motivate you to finish a project! That book, The Spin Doctor's Wife, is out now through Critical Mass.
“The Write Your Novel program helped me finish and publish my novel – which is something I’ve wanted to do since I learned to read,” Theresa says. “[The program] had a huge impact!”
Feedback and deadlines were the key to finishing her manuscript
As a former journalist, Theresa was no stranger to writing. But tackling fiction was a bold new challenge. The workshopping format of the Write Your Novel program was key to helping her hone her scenes, develop her characters, and finetune the details.
“The group feedback was particularly useful,” Theresa says. “You often can’t see the woods for the trees when you’re writing. There were some tips from the group on the way they saw the characters that were really helpful. And of course, [tutor] Pamela’s experience was inspiring and her advice was insightful.”
The format of the program also meant that Theresa couldn't make excuses.
“Being an ex-journalist I really need a deadline,” Theresa says. “Knowing that people in the group were expecting 3000 words from me on a certain date forced me to get my butt into gear. Or more accurately sit my butt on a chair and write!”
The book draws on her own experience in public relations and as an IVF parent. It tells the story of Laurie, a successful spin doctor, whose wife is desperate for a baby. When ambitious singer Carla enters their lives, they have an opportunity to both get what they want – but at a price.
Choosing to self-publish
Theresa had published a non-fiction book previously, but found the experience of getting her debut fiction novel out there a lot more challenging.
“It’s been a very different journey from when I published my first book Making Babies – Personal IVF Stories with Scribe back in 2007,” Theresa says. “I had a dream run with my first book. I got a contract before I’d even finished it and then had to take three months off from the ABC to finish it. I naively thought that would be the same journey with my novel.”
But although she had an enthusiastic agent and some positive interest from publishers, she kept running into stumbling blocks.
“One publisher did say yes and was about to push the GO button but then at the acquisition meeting the bean counters decided to put their focus on non-fiction for that year because it was more profitable. That was a real blow,” Theresa admits.
Putting aside her despondency, Theresa decided to self-publish through a boutique publishing consultancy.
“That process took more than a year – because I had to approve every typo, every version of the book cover, the font, etc. It went on for ages!” Theresa says. But it was worth the effort, and she released her debut novel in 2020.
Holding a virtual book launch
Because of Covid restrictions, Theresa launched The Spin Doctor's Wife via a Zoom event, which was a great success.
“I had 50 guests from six countries. Award-winning journalist Anne Connolly launched it. My friend Karen Eck was MC. We did a Q&A, had a short reading, ran a quiz with giveaways and then broke into groups for 10 minutes of networking and chat and we finished with a dance-off to Tina Turner’s ‘Nutbush City Limits’. If you read the book – you’ll understand why it was relevant,” Theresa says. “It actually turned out to be really fun… and I’m so glad I did it.”
Theresa still works as a media trainer, running workshops for people who want to be spokespeople. But she has finally fulfilled her lifelong dream of being a published fiction author.
“It’s something I had always dreamed about since I learned to read. Enid Blyton was my hero when I was seven years old. I just wished I’d committed to it earlier instead of being distracted by work, kids, life…” Theresa says. “Writing a novel is a long and lonely journey; having companions on the way is not only more fun and encouraging, it will make you a better writer as well. Book in, commit, get on with it, already!”