Screenwriting student Anna Snoekstra’s first novel 'Only Daughter' has been published in 19 countries and optioned as a film by Universal Pictures.
With her second book Little Secrets to be published later this year, Snoekstra is currently writing her third novel – a work that began as a film script in her screenwriting class.
Tell us about your new book.
Little Secrets started out as a short story called Dolls. I took one of the very minor characters from it and decided that I really wanted to explore her story further.
At the moment I am working on my third novel, which is actually based off of the script I wrote for my RMIT feature film writing class.
The script was focused on a few weeks in the life of a very troubled 16-year-old girl, and was meant to be a coming-of-age film.
I’ve used it as a starting point, and followed the same character over the next decade of her life.
This is your second psychological thriller, is it your preferred genre?
It might be my screenwriting background, but genre always comes first for me.
I think it’s really important to know what kind of story you are writing and what kind of expectations the reader will bring into it.
In crime writing the tropes are fairly set: middle-aged detectives, femme fatales, dark secrets and twisty tales. It’s fun to take these elements and either embrace or subvert them.
Why did you choose to study screenwriting at RMIT?
I had just finished my arts degree at Melbourne Uni and had no idea what I was going to do next. I knew I wanted to work as a writer, but I didn’t feel like I had any practical skills to do so.
Funnily enough, I believed screenwriting would be a more stable career path than novel writing.
Even though it’s come full circle since then, I know that I would never have had the confidence or skill to write a novel without learning about the craft of constructing story.
What has the highlight of your studies at RMIT so far?
It’s a little sappy, I know, but I’d have to say it’s the people I've met, so many like-minded people who really understand the ups and downs of trying to work as a writer.
I also found the industry classes that we did once a week to be really helpful.
People working in the industry would come in to talk and answer questions about what they do and how they got into that role.
It’s incredibly hard to get your foot in the door in any kind of writing job, so it was valuable to have the insight these people provided.
Where do you hope your Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting will take you?
I’d love to use my screenwriting skills a little more, but really, I already have my dream job! Anything on top of what I’m doing now would just be a bonus!
What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out and wanting to get their work published?
Write something and finish it. Edit it. Keep working on it until you hate it and never want to look at it ever again. Take a break. Read it back in its entirety. Re-write it. Fall in love with it again.
Keep editing it and polishing it until you feel so frustrated it makes you cry in the shower. Then, you know it’s ready. Have some champagne!
Once you have something that is that refined, you can start sending it out.
Now it’s time to get rejected! I decided if I had a one in a hundred chance, I’d send my book to a hundred places. Don’t limit yourself with Australia; send it to anyone in the world who you think will understand your work.
Whether it be literary agents, film agents, publishers or producers, read everything there is online about them and what they do. Send it out to at least 10 places at first, have some more champagne, and wait.
What's the most important feedback you ever received, that helped shape your writing or your approach to how you work?
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” - Toni Morrison
I remember reading that quote for the first time, and something clicking into place. Until then I was very focused on writing what I wanted to write, not what I wanted to read.
It seems to be a small distinction but it’s not. Really, what I was writing before I read this was solipsistic and heavy. If someone else had written it, I’d never want to read it.
Little Secrets will be released on October 17 by Harlequin.
Story: Wendy Little