Side effects

The ripple effects of little coincidental things that happen in your life are interesting. Don’t worry I’m not getting deep and profound on you, its an observation on writing.

So as you know I joined this book club. An invitation that came about by coincidence, one of the mums at school and I were classroom helpers on the same day, we turned up one week to great apologies that their schedule had been changed and we weren’t needed. Her other kids were being looked after so we were both free for a couple of hours, went for a coffee and got chatting and she invited me to join book club.

Book club (or wine club as it is often unfairly but accurately described) has required me to read a number of books I would not have normally picked up. This month we are reading The Messenger by Markus Zusak. Everyone knows his novel The Book Thief , The Messenger is nothing like that, it is a YA novel, very Australian and I’m really enjoying it, based on the blurb I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. I do like a YA read now and then, but modern gritty YA, not my first choice. This novel is fantastic, Zusak is such an accomplished writer with incredible turns of phrase.

So to the side effect. While reading this, the conversations I am writing between my two main characters have improved out of sight. They have become much more natural and effortless, the dialogue is starting to speak to a comfortable familiarity and a shared past. I think I actually did a better job of this in the first draft and I’ve made them a little too serious in this incarnation.

A piece of advice that is regularly trotted out to writers is to read and read widely. It’s mentioned so often that I skim over it and ignore it, I do read, a lot. But every so often I get why.

 

You Googled what??

After my recent adverb rant I have been trundling along nicely on my rewrite. I’ve even been able to use the odd sentence from draft 1, and I’ve passed the 10,000 word mark.

Today as I typed away I realised I’ve done some Google searches this week, that while are not strange as such, as a group they present an odd picture. While it doesn’t really give you an insight into the story (at all) I thought it interesting as a snapshot of the complexities of novels. Of the little bits and bobs authors include in order to make something seem seamless.

So over the last week or so I have Googled:

  • how to describe dull blonde
  • travel first aid kits
  • do australian citizens need a visa for hawaii
  • themes of moby dick
  • volcanic zones of the world
  • volcano zones
  • amazing fantasy 15 cgc 8.0
  • can you open a CGC graded comic?
  • storing graded comics
  • films released in 2002
  • darwin awards

 

Give me back my adverbs!

Apparently one (of the many) signs that a manuscript is the work of a debut novelist in the liberal use of adverbs. Those fabulous words that end in ‘ly’ – angrily, lazily, happily, quickly, easily, wistfully, loudly – you get the picture.

By rights we need to pare their use way way back. Use the action in the scene to replace the adverb, if someone strides across the room to slap someone’s face, you don’t need the word quickly, it’s kinda obvious by what is going on.

And while there are no hard and fast rules, in our Refine Your Novel course we’ve been told that it is not uncommon to be advised to restrict yourself to four adverbs per manuscript – 4 per 80,000 words! Now the point is to get us thinking about our word choices of course, not to play policeman on our manuscripts.

So I am 9000 words into the redraft and periodically find myself coming to a screaming halt as I’ve thrown in yet another adverb. I’m writing a small piece of a larger scene where one character hands another a rare comic. It’s a small gesture in the larger scene but of course I want it to convey the respect and reverence for the precious object. He handed it gingerly, reverently arrrrrrr! I WILL not say He gave! And then I look back at the 21 words in the short para I’ve written leading up to this adverb dilemma and realise I’ve alread used two adverbs in those 21 words! This is obviously something I need to look at more closely!

Angrily, lamentably, brazenly, laughingly signing off 🙂

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Has someone been watching me?

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Flash fiction – in search terms

This week I have been thinking a lot about short forms of fiction. Another advertising sign I love that tells a story of complex possibilities hangs on a road in Melbourne, it’s been there for years and simply says ‘Going to Europe? You’ll need a coat’

image It always makes me think, it’s a little phrase but it suggests that you are coming from somewhere so warm you don’t already have a coat, and perhaps wouldn’t have considered packing one. That you are travelling somewhere so strange you need to purchase special protective gear. And how do they know what I’ll be doing, how do they know I’ll need a coat. What would happen if I don’t have one? Heck I better get one before it’s too late! Maybe it’s just me.

Also I’ve been contemplating the book I need to choose for the next book club I am due to host. It’s not until October so I have time, but I’m considering a book of short stories. I’ve picked up a couple from the library to read and see if they are suitable. Of course there’s an Alice Munro, Dear Life – she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I have to at least consider her, I also have Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Have you read any of these? Any recommendations?

And to the flash fiction. Good old Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds posed a flash fiction challenge to tell a story in Google search terms. He used this great example from @AbrasiveGhost:

Cat armour
buy armour for cats
Cat jousting tournaments
How to stop armoured cats
Cat army how to stop
National guard phone #

– Great isn’t it? So I am having a great time at the moment on my rewrite. I wanted to do a flash fiction but didn’t want to steal the time from my rewrite so I quickly dashed out a flash fiction search term story. Here ’tis!

Getting past a bad day
Getting past a really really bad day
Bad luck
Difference between bad luck and curse
Am I cursed
Removing curses
Kittens free to good home

Have a great weekend folks!!

kindred spirit

Near my sister’s old flat was a plant nursery and for the longest time they had the best advertising sign, it has always stuck with me.

Massive Pot Sale!
And small pots too

I just knew I would have gotten along with the owners of that nursery.

massive pot sale

Getting closer, I think

This redrafting process is throwing up unexpected challenges that are taking me time to work my way toward a solution.

Challenge 1 – While others in the Refine Your Novel class seem able to fix portions, add scenes, ramp up tension in existing scenes and shuffle stuff around, my redrafting means starting from scratch. Writing the entire manuscript over. This didn’t take me too long to figure out, a couple of hours tops. Trying to fix an existing opening chapter is tough, writing a new one the way it should be written – hard but in a different way, slaughtered darlings and all that.

Challenge 2 – Rewriting is massive. The task befor me seems so huge, I keep finding other things to do than to get the job done. This is a biggie and something I’m still figuring out. I think I took decent step today towards dealing with this one. I have been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast on my way to work (as well as The Moth and Dear Sugar Radio – get into those,  they are awesome!) and a couple of phrases really rang true for me today.

Remember the fun – it’s not a chore, remember how fun it was to write the first time, it can be that fun again. Sounds obvious, but I’d been approaching the rewrite (because that is my means of redraft) as something I have to do, rather than something I want to do.

And quit looking at the end product, the task look huge from up here, but get up close and start telling the story. Start with chapter 1. I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the enormity of writing this novel all over again, it’s a huge thing to write a manuscript. But I need to stop looking at the end point. Like eating an elephant – one bite at a time.

I emailed my tutor and said that the chapter and a half I’d rewritten felt like filler until the story starts, that maybe I needed to start with chapter 2. I figured that the act of asking this question also answered it, go with your instincts, start with chapter 2. So I started another rewrite, wrote 120 words and stalled (this was yesterday). Tonight I went back and reread the first rewrite, 3700 words. And you know what? It’s good. I really like it. I think the doubts were another manifestation of procrastination, of not doing the work.

So, I’m renewed, refocussed. 3,700 words down, about 70,000 to go. One bite at a time.