Tag Archives: Writer

There’s something to this planning thing….

So the dreaded planning stage has actually proved helpful. I was talking to a school mum the other day and she mentioned a book she had recently read, she said it had a fantastic premise but really had nowhere to go after that, she’d enjoyed the read but the flaw stood out.

I thought the rest of the day and realised that was exactly the problem I had with the story I had planned for November, and was also (one of the many) reason I was struggling so with the planning. There really was no plot at all.

I sat at the computer on Wednesday, totally stumped. What was I going to write? There were four days until November started and I honestly thought I was going to have to skip it this year. But I really didn’t want to. So I read the paper online, panicked, almost called BMan to appeal for help.

And then bam. A news story that I read and said – what if? – what happened after that? why? And a character name popped into my head, and another one. There needs to be 3, of course, him, he needs to be there too. I stream of conscious wrote the idea out – there was story, there was conflict, there was crisis points, there were 3 characters that are different from each other but have similar roots to the dramas in their lives.

I started planning, yes I did. I started with the character sketches from the Snowflake method  I added in a category to establish the inner, interpersonal and physical conflict needed for each character. One was easy, one took a bit, I was making him far too nice, once I roughed him up a bit it was easier. But last night the third had me stumped, I had the same problem as the previous story idea, a great reason for her, a great set up but no depth, I couldn’t see her. I would have realised this far too late if I hadn’t been doing the planning exercise, she just would have been a weak character and would have frustrated me no end.

It was late (it’s always late, so sorry BMan, Novembers are a challenge for you too!) and so I decided to call it a night. Hopped in the shower, the story running all through my brain. And then it came to me, how to solve the 3rd character’s problems and the realisation she doesn’t need a crisis point, hers starts the manuscript, the rest of her story arc is getting past the drama. I had to go back to the computer and quickly type it out before I forgot it all . The world needs some sort of shower proof computing system, I often solve writing problems in the shower!

So 3 characters: Helen’s crisis starts the novel and then we see her deal with the fall out, realise what she thought she wanted was actually her worst nightmare, and start to rebuild her life. Evie’s crisis comes in the middle, forced into finally making decisions, her life that she hated is forced into change and she gradually starts to build a new life. Walt’s crisis comes right at the end. His life is on a gradual decline throughout the story until his crisis point.

There’s still time to do some more planning. I know I need a couple of minor characters, I know I need an ex boyfriend, a best friend, a husband and a son but they are shadowy at the moment, none of them have names yet.

But it’s better, I stand a chance of getting something half decent out of it now!

I may do a flash fiction from one of the side stories as a warm up, bring on Sunday November 1!

 

Say it isn’t so :(

I’m a little bit in mourning, yesterday was the last day of my Refine Your Novel course. I am going to miss it so much, I enjoy looking forward to it and I enjoy the work while I’m there and I love the motivation in the days after it.

I’m also going to miss the tutor. I did this course with Toni Jordan 3 years ago so this is my second go around with her and she was just fantastic. This last day is possibly my favourite. In my favourite exercise she gives us an early draft of her debut novel, but a version very close to what she sent to her publishers, and then a photocopy of the printed book and she gets us to mark up the changes, of which there are many. This is incredibly brave of Toni and so helpful to us writers. It’s all well and good hearing about the things you need to do to a manuscript to whip it into shape, it’s another matter entirely to see and create a real life example.

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That’s a lot of green pen!

While we work on this, Toni takes a sample of our manuscript and line edits it for us. Most of us provide our first 1500 words, 3 years ago she marked up the first page for me (of a different manuscript) this time she marked up three pages. It’s such a fantastic opportunity, to see where it is you need to concentrate, where you’re going right and where you’re missing the mark.

20150726_152903And in a bit of a fan girl moment I got my copy of her first novel signed.

There’s much to be done, so much…

Music soothes the writer’s soul

One of the blogs I procrastinate with follow is the Debutante Ball ‘Five debut authors, five novels, one big dance toward publication.

There is a theme each week and each writer blogs their experience – one week they interviewed their editors, one week their agents, they have talked about the jealousy on the road to publication when others get signed before you, about motivation and the list goes on. Over the last week they have written about the music they listen to while writing.

This has been really interesting and I have such mixed emotions on this. I do tend to listen to music while I’m writing but not for the reasons that the authors on this site suggest. The reasons behind their music choice distilled down to creating the right atmosphere to generate an appropriate emotion for the novel or the scene. While I completely understand their reasoning, it makes a great deal of sense, it’s not why I listen to what I listen to while writing.

I am easily distr…. ooh, look a bird’s outside the window, sorry where was I? Oh yeah, I’m easily distracted and so I listen to music while writing that can act as a sort of white noise. Having said that I’m not listening to death metal or acid house, I do need music that is fairly mellow. Music does definitely influence our emotions and I don’t need to amp up any anxiety or edginess.

I can remember when I was in high school my mum used to say she knew when I was studying behind my closed bedroom door by what music I had playing.

So to create the white noise effect I need I can’t have anything on my playlist that I know too well, I don’t want to be singing along. I use Spotify and sometimes will use some of their preprogrammed list – there was one called Your Morning Coffee or something along those lines, that I listened to for a while, but that could tend toward the insipid sometimes so it’s out of favour at the moment. I listen to some Damien Rice, but I’m getting to know some of those tracks a little too well. Buena Vista Social Club has been good, and also Paolo Conte – foreign language seems to help with the white noise effect. Jack Johnson and Nina Simone (not together although how great would that be?) and Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild soundtrack get a fair run.

And shhh, don’t tell anyone the Twilight Breaking Dawn soundtrack. Please don’t judge me.

Some of the tracks the authors at Debutante Ball listed I really like, I may just have to spotify some of the others on their lists, chances are I’ll liek them but they’ll be unfamiliar enough to work for me. I always like finding something new (to me).

How about you, what music gets your creative juices flowing?

Read the words as they’re written – or don’t, but YOU choose, not an app

While it may seem a cop out to blog about others’ blogs, I read two kickass blogs this week that really resonated and I wanted to share.

The first was an entry from the fabulous Joanne Harris (yes, she of Chocolat fame). She found herself at the front of the Clean Reader app controversy. This is an app that allows the user to filter their ebooks and replace any nasty smutty language with tamer and more vanilla words (no fair – I love vanilla, but you know what I mean). Initially they were also a bookseller, you purchased the books through them and the filter was applied to your level of preciousness, now it seems that you can simply apply the filter to books you already own. Let me say – this way trouble lies, much much trouble. Not only were you’re standard profanity words swapped for things like crap and darn, but they were also changing more benign phrases like bastard (which has an actual meaning that is often used in novels, changing it to jerk will not make sense). But there’s a rather short slippery slope from substituting crap for shit, gee for Goddamn to taking out passages about topics we don’t like. If you don’t like the subject matter, the language choice, don’t read the book, or put it down. Anyhoo, Joanne Harris argued this far more eloquently than I in a direct exchange with the app developers – my favourite bit and what best encapsulates the relationship between a writer and a reader:

We have a relationship, you and I (you being the reader). I like to think it’s something deeper than a simply commercial one. I don’t want to be a product. I don’t believe you really want to be simply a consumer. By sending my book out into the world, I’m giving you entry to my heart. It is a gesture of trust. And I expect you, in return, to trust that what I write is as honest and true as I could possibly make it. That means trusting me when I say that I have thought about every word; considered each one carefully. If they shock you, it’s because I felt that the story needed to shock at that point. Stories are not always comfortable. The heart has many chambers, some of them very dark indeed.

I’m not promising to get it right all the time. I’m only human. But I try. Which is why, if you’re thinking of using Clean Reader to filter words from my books, don’t bother. Either you trust me, or you don’t. Fiction is a leap of faith.

Yet another reason to love Joanne Harris.

The second piece comes from Kristen Lamb who wrote this post about how it’s o to say you’re a writer, you’re not aspiring, if you’re writing that’s what you are, what you do. Don’t be flim flammy about it. There’s days as a writer that I feel like I’m playing at doing a real job, I’m a writer for work as well as a writer at home, and there’s days when I question the validity of what I do, whether the 1000 monkeys at the 1000 typewriters are just as capable. Then I read this. Thanks Kristen, while I’m not taking down dictators or inspiring acts of valour, I’m a writer and what I do is tough and is of value, and is valued.

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I hate the term “aspiring writer” because it takes guts to do this job. Everyone loves what we do. Their lives would implode without it. Without writers there would be no entertainment, no instruction, no industry. No movies, no television series, no books, no manuals, textbooks, magazines, newspapers, trade journals, warning labels, laws, speeches, and all songs would be instrumental. No lyrics. Heck there wouldn’t even be an Internet.

It would be all pictures of cats.

Modern society hinges on writers. If we can take a step back and truly take in all we contribute it’s easier to own our profession and value it. Most people take what we do for granted because they fail to make the connection that their favorite television show began as an idea and started with a writer. 

They just assume they will log onto the Internet and be able to google anything they want. It’s easy to forget someone wrote that information.

So yes, I get it. This is a tough job. But if what we do didn’t matter then why is it dictators arrest and shoot the writers first?

What was he reading???

I work in the local public library a lot, it helps me avoid the guilt of undone tasks glaring at me while trying to write or work from home (not that I’d take procrastination to the extreme of actually vaccuuming).

This week I had set myself in my favourite spot, near a a power point, on an angle with my back to the wall so I can see out into the courtyard outside and into the library to people watch the other patrons. There was a guy next to me for most of the day as well. He had an ipad he spent some time on, listened to music through his ear buds and not much else. At one point a friend came and met him and they went to use one of the computers. He stood and started to follow his friend. His friend pointed out that he’d left his wallet and phone on the table at his chair. He responded that it was ok to leave it, no one takes anything at this library. But he turned back and took the novel.

He left his wallet. He left his phone. He took the book.

I love that.

What was the book? I never found out. How fabulous it would be to be the person that wrote a book someone cared more about losing than their phone or wallet!

Ahh, routine, welcome back!

School returned late last week after the long Christmas break and Little Man was squeezed into last year’s uniform some lunchbox fodder hastily arranged and off he went, happy as a clam.

And that means my work hours return to a more stable pattern and my free time for writing returns – huzzah!

draft 2With only a few weeks until my Writers Victoria course Refine Your Novel starts I need to do some serious work on my first draft. It has some pretty big issues that I know about, some flat secondary characters, a sister that disappears for half the novel, some additional tension that needs a ramp up, a backstory that kind of exists but needs more integrating.

So last night I popped online and uploaded my nanowrimo draft to Officeworks. Their little worker bees toiled away and this morning I went into the store and collected a printed out copy of my draft – it’s a hefty tome and soon to be covered in scribble marks methinks! Yes, these draftpics are of the actual manuscript – felt a bit guilty printing single sided, but those blank pages will get messy.

Thanks sabrakay for the kick in the pants that was your WIP Progress post, it may have seemed simple to you, but motivated me! .

Harper Lee – a tough act to follow

As would have been the case for many other booklovers, I awoke to the news that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is set to publish her second novel this year, 55 years after her iconic debut.

Initially I greeted this with surprise and excitement. I knew Harper Lee had never published again and was something of a recluse, I knew she must have been past 80 (she’s 88). When I read the article and discovered this wasn’t a new work, but rather a rediscovered manuscript, Go Set a Watchman, from the late 1950s my enthusiasm dimmed a little.

While I think it is wonderful that literature is front page news today, what will this book actually be like? There is no doubt that writing styles have changed significantly since 1960 when To Kill a Mockingbird was published, while that novel is undoubtedly a classic and stands up, to publish a novel in the same style and flow today runs the very real risk of seeming old fashioned.

Also the complexities of the social issues it addresses are compounded by the intervening years and all that has happened to society in that time. We view racial and ethical issues in a different light now.

But of more concern was the fact that this manuscript wasn’t considered for publishing when it was written, Harper Lee took two and half years of revision on To Kill a Mockingbird. She is now 88, profoundly deaf and partially blind, living in an assisted care facility. You have to wonder how much work this manuscript needs to whip it into shape, and whether Harper Lee is realistically up to the task.

It will sell, of course it will, I’ll certainly read it, she won’t need to do library readings and bookshop signings.

But you have to wonder. I don’t want to be a wet blanket however, so, despite some reservations, today I am happy for Harper Lee, and for readers everywhere.