Lucy Lever’s journey from aspiring writer to published author

Lucy Lever had been writing on and off for years, but could never quite finish the novel she dreamt of writing. That all changed when she discovered the Australian Writers' Centre.

“Stumbling across AWC was like discovering a treasure trove of wonderful courses, and I wanted to do them all,” Lucy told us. “I realised that I should have started rather than finished here, given that AWC offered a step-by-step guide to novel writing and many other wonderful courses with lots of workshopping along the way and highly skilled teachers.”

Lucy went on to complete several courses with the AWC and her debut novel, Mystic Ridge, has now been published by HarperCollins HQ.

A treasure trove of learning

When she first found the Australian Writers' Centre, Lucy enrolled in 2 Hours to Scrivener Power then went on to complete Anatomy of a Crime: How to Write About Murder, Historical Fiction, and Fiction Essentials: Structure.

“Prior to doing those courses, I’d write something, think it was brilliant for five minutes, realise very quickly that it was anything but, and then have no idea what to do next, so I’d move on to begin something else. This was a pattern for a long time—probably years,” Lucy says. “I’d studied creative writing at university, and elsewhere, where my focus had been on writing beautiful sentences. Looking back, I think doing the courses at AWC helped me to realise that causality is critical in novel writing; that is, that the action in each chapter is caused by the events of the preceding chapter. It sounds basic but for me it was a major realisation that gave me the impetus to complete my novel.”

As she neared the end of the first draft for her novel manuscript, Lucy completed The Story Doctor and Cut, Shape, Polish.

“These proved to be incredibly useful in helping me to edit my novel. I understood that copyediting was about fixing up grammar, spelling, punctuation and minor inconsistencies, but I had no idea what a structural edit involved. Kate Forsyth is a very skilled and experienced writer, who knows everything there is to know about story structure. I’m still learning, but the AWC continues to help me along the way, and I’ve done a few of Pamela Freeman’s FOCUS ON seminars now. The two on character and structure were particularly helpful for me. Like Kate, Pamela has written numerous novels, and she has an incredible ability to distil complex information into a simple, teachable form.”

The start of the novel

The manuscript for Mystic Ridge started off as a story for the Romance Writers of Australia that was required to feature a particular gem.

“The gem was the Tiger’s Eye, and I immediately thought of a tarot reader at a country market, like one I’d just been to on the remote outskirts of Mullumbimby, a town near Byron Bay. The story didn’t place, but it was the first time I’d written comedically, I loved the location, and I was curious about what my tarot reading heroine might do. My writers group encouraged me to keep going, and I wrote chronologically, chapter by chapter until the very end, and incorporated their feedback before sending the novel off for a professional edit.”

After sending the manuscript to editor Alexandra Nahlous, Lucy received a message from Alex asking if they could chat.

“I was so full of self-doubt that I thought she was going to tell me that my novel was too flawed to be ready for a full structural edit, but instead she said she loved it, and it would be worthy of publication. I was on a high for a long time after that phone call.”

Lucy had already pitched the manuscript to Rachael Donovan of HarperCollins HQ and Alex followed up. Lucy soon received the news that she had secured a publishing contract.

“I was in Mullumbimby and on my way to pick up my grandson from preschool in the car when Alex called me. I remember exactly which intersection I was about to cross. I was beside myself with excitement and I felt like jumping out of the car and dancing on the street. It was all I could manage to go on my way to collect my grandson as planned and take him home. It was one of those days that was ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.”

Lucy’s real name is Barbara Hatten, and she adopted the nom de plume Lucy Lever because she felt it had more of a ring to it than her own name. She is currently dividing her time between writing her current novel, editing her next one and helping with the family business and grandchildren.

“I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I was able to leave my day job, and to have this flexibility. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I hope that writing will continue to be a part of my life for a long time to come.”

As part of her writing life, Lucy continues to learn the art and craft of writing and has happily recommended AWC courses to other aspiring writers.

“The AWC provides scaffolding, so that people with no writing experience can begin from the beginning and learn practical skills quite methodically. They offer affordable, high-quality courses that people can study at their own pace, and hopefully find a writing community along the way.”

Courses completed at AWC:

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