Early in 2014, I was able to interview Frances Watts about her writing. Frances writes picture books for younger readers and novels for older children. The transcript from the interview is shown below.
What does your workspace look like?
We live in a tiny one-bedroom workers’ cottage, so my writing space is a desk in the lounge room—but I love it. I overlook the front garden and two walls are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.
Who or what inspires your work?
My first inspiration is my partner; I call him my ‘dear reader’ because he is my first reader, my first audience. I’m also inspired by the many, many brilliant books I encounter as a reader; I think reading is the number-one way to learn about writing.
What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
I have two pieces of advice:
Never submit your first draft. Understandably, we all feel thrilled and satisfied when we finish a manuscript, but don’t get so carried away you send it straight out to a publisher. I think it’s really important to let it sit for a while, even just a few days or a week, then read it again with fresh eyes. Be critical—and be ruthless! I see the second draft, the self-editing, as an extremely valuable part of the writing process.
Find yourself a reader/readers you trust. It might be the members of a writing group, it might be a friend who’s not afraid to give it to you straight. A good, critical first reader will give you invaluable feedback. As tough as it is to take criticism, you’ll never improve your ms without it—and no matter how good that first draft is, every ms can be improved.
How did you feel when your first manuscript was accepted to be published?
I think the word ‘elated’ would cover it! And the funny thing is, even now, ten years later (ten! how did that happen?!), I still get anxious when I submit a manuscript—and still feel elated when it’s accepted.
What dreams do you have for your writing career?
I suppose I dream of writing ‘the perfect book’; I’m really happy with all my books, but they always lose something between the shimmering image in the mind and the actual words on a page. But really, to have a writing career at all is like a dream come true—I feel so lucky to be doing what I do.
More information about Frances Watts and her books can be found at http://www.franceswatts.com