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My Say - Natasha Mostert


My Say gives writers a chance to air their views about writing and the writer's life.

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Natasha Mostert

Author photograph by Mark Andreani

THE END Natasha Mostert

There are few things as satisfying as typing THE END to a manuscript. At long last it is over. Eighteen months of blood on the keyboard. Hours of staring at the screen in quiet desperation. No more waking up at three in the morning with the hollow sense that the book is rubbish and then raiding the fridge for a tub of Haagen-Dazs to convince yourself you're wrong. No more moaning to your long-suffering spouse about not making your word count for the day. Done!

I usually celebrate the first draft by opening a bottle of wine and calling my neglected friends and family members. They are lovely people and they try not to sigh as I give them a blow-by-blow account of the creative woes I faced while finishing my masterpiece. I tend to be very chatty on these calls -- probably the wine -- but also because it is such an enormous feeling of release to have a finished manuscript sitting in my dropbox.

I recently celebrated this happy milestone for the sixth time. At my elbow lies a nice, crisp, and as yet unblemished hard copy of Dark Prayer. Of course, very soon, this manuscript will have little coloured pieces of paper sticking gaily from the edges and I will be grinding my teeth as I work through my editor's notes. I have worked with many editors over the years and it is always a challenging experience. If you're lucky, your editor has a firm but generous hand and knows how to couch her comments in diplomatic language. But I have also worked with an editor who relished using withering one-word criticisms such as sloppy, amateurish, purple and my personal favourite: bo-o-oring with little eyelashes drawn on the "o"s. Another of my editors would give voice to her disapproval by writing HELLO? HELLO? in the margins as if she's hailing a ship drifting in the fog.

Before I give the wrong impression, let me immediately say that I think editors are wholly necessary. You need someone who will box your ears for flat prose, who reins in your narcissistic tendencies (those pages where you fall in love with your own writing but it is unlikely your readers will do too) and who helps you produce as polished and professional a narrative as possible. At the very least, editors help you build up a tolerance to unkind comments. Because once the book is published, the reviews start coming in and not all of them will be nice. Or fair. Or even literate.

But all of that is only a smudge on the horizon. Right now, I can tell myself that Hemingway himself would have been honoured to put his name to Dark Prayer and that this will be the book to rival Fifty Shades on the bestseller charts.

Come to think of it, I may just deserve another bottle of wine...

Natasha Mostert is the author of five novels, including Season of the Witch, and winner of the World Book Day, Book to Talk About award 2009. Read a synopsis of Dark Prayer and the opening chapter at


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