Tuesday, 17 March 2009

So what are my tense problems?

This year is all about sucking up my pride and accepting I need to work at the craft of writing fiction. So when a grammar GODDESS offered to give a once off critique of one of my short stories I took her up on it. Possibly the most valuable hour I have had in a long time. Short version, I'm seeing why people get confused as to the tense of my stories, al-la:

Mandy walked through the front door. She smiled at the man seated behind a dusty display counter. It’s filled with old beat up box cameras, broken watches frozen in time and no end of gaudy costume jewellery.

Do you see where I am screwing up? It's is a contraction for it is, not it was which is what I should have used for a past tense storyline. Dammit! How about another?

Mandy considered leaving the store, she’s less concerned about being ignored than she is about feeling a bit creeped out by the guy.

Did it twice in that bloody sentence. Past tense with considered and concerned, but then I go throw in a she's (contraction for she is) and a she is--so not even consistent in my contractions. *sigh*

As we sat there and went through the rest of the story the present tense errors started to leap from the page - The store is, Soon Mandy is, at least there’s no cramps. They are all sprinkled throughout the entire work which is supposed to be written in past tense!

Mandy walked through the front door. She smiled at the man seated behind a dusty display counter. The counter was filled with old beat up box cameras, broken watches frozen in time and no end of gaudy costume jewellery.

Mandy considered leaving the store, she was less concerned about being ignored than being a bit creeped out by the guy.
______________________

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A New Beginning

Well three days ago I began my second novel. The first novel can wait on the back burner for a little while longer before I go and revisit it for a second draft. I also want to see if I can write the first draft of a second novel through to completion. This new novel I am setting my expectations much lower, doing it in a more traditional 3rd person omniscient past tense style with a target of around 70,000 words.

This novel, here on referred to as the "Ye Olde Egyptian
[1] Curse Novel" already has a number of major differences to my first attempt at writing:

· I'm more improved in writing using a past tense - frequent feedback to the original novel and various short story attempts advise I seem to use a present tense style, but keep slipping into past tense, and it's confusing.
· A larger cast of characters spread across what will hopefully be some interesting and relevant sub plots
· Third person POV
[2] and already I have left the main protagonist to go to other scenes - my first novel was over 125,000 words (500 pages) from only the protagonist’s POV. Boooooooring.
· I’m doing more structural outlining through the use of Microsoft’s OneNote
[3] which has been very VERY handy for a lot of my preliminary research and keeping track of which character is going to be where.

So there it is, another start, another novel, another year.

___________________________________________
[1] Resist the temptation to roll your eyes at another Egyptian theme, the exercise is the main thing
[2] Point of View
[3] http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/onenote/default.aspx

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Finished Beginners Course in Grammar

Man, oh man, does my head hurt. As the lovely Elizabeth M Murphy stated at the beginning of the Grammar Workshop I undertook at the ACT Writers Centre, "If you are under the age of 45 in Australia you most likely DON'T have a decent grounding in grammar." See, beyond the very basics - such as nouns are names, verbs are actions - grammar as part of the scholastic syllabus had little to stuff-all attention when I was a kiddy-wink.

So this meant that before the last four weeks of two hours each Thursday night, I didn't know what a conjunction was, or a predicate, couldn't have spotted a subordinate clause if it hit me in the face and don't get me started on prepositions and prepositional phrases!

The question is though, do I know those things now? Well barely, and I have only just scratched the surface of grammar. So has the course helped me?

YES!

One of my most common mistakes is the run on sentence. Not always because I make them too long, but because I never knew where to put a comma other than where it kinda looked OK to put one. I've also received further pointers and advice on active voice. I now know where I have been going wrong in mixing up some of my tense. And heaps of other little hints and tips along the way.


It's important to note the course wasn't direct at grammar for fiction or novel writers, in fact it was more about writing for business. But I know that grammar in fiction can also assist in readability so I am very glad I have done the course. Don't think I'm treating this as a panacea for all of my bad writing habits. A book can be written perfectly from a grammar perspective, but still be as dull as dog poo drying on a footpath...

__________________________

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A Writer's Haiku

Found myself trying to get some words on the page tonight and I'm failing dismally. So naturally what does a writer do when they can't write? They surf the web.

I went over to The Writer magazine website and on their front page I did spy a link to "12 new writing prompts to try". Hell, I needed a prompt so I took a look. One of the prompts was to write three Haiku poems in under ten minutes. Me I'm not a poetry guy but I thought I would give it a go anyway. The first two sucked pretty bad, but I like what I came up with for the third:

A Writer's Haiku
Writing is so hard
My brain does not want to work
When will the words come
_____________________________________________

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Chicken, Chargrilled Vegetable, & Avocado Pizza

I'm going to take a leaf out of wonderful Justine Larbalestier's Blog, which I have been enjoying immensely, and write not just about writing. As per my original post back in 2006 this blog is more for me than anyone else. So if you come here to see how I am doing with writing and don't care about other interests that's fine. I have tagged the posts appropriately so you can avoid what you don't want to see. Anyway, enough of that.

Chicken, Chargrilled Vegetable, & Avocado Pizza


We have a number of foods that are a staple part of our diet, and the pizza food group is one of them. I really like our Chicken, Chargrilled Vegetable, & Avocado Pizza as it has a great range of tastes all on the one base.
  • 400 grams of chicken thigh fillets (thigh fillets have a stronger taste than breast)
  • “Bazaar” Gourmet Pizza Base (available most Aussie supermarkets - we don't use any other base)
  • Tablespoon of Tomato Paste
  • Half tablespoon of sundried tomato pesto
  • 150 grams of chargrilled vegetable antipasto (Woolworths has a nice 400 gram jar if you don’t have a favourite)
  • One ripe avocado
  • Handful of button mushrooms
  • Kalamata olives (as many as you like to taste – ones that are already pitted remove some hassle too)
  • Bega So Extra Light Tasty Grated Cheese (we don't normally rate "light" cheese too highly, however this one isn't too bad)

Roughly cut the chicken thighs into large bite size pieces. I really enjoy a chunky style pizza, but you can cut smaller if you like. In a frying pan on a high heat along with a touch of olive oil, cook the thigh pieces until nice and brown on the outside but do ensure they are cooked through.


Lightly spray a pizza pan with oil and plonk the base on it. On the base put a big tablespoon of tomato paste and a smaller tablespoon of the pesto, swirl hims around with the spoon until the base is evenly covered with the paste mix. If the coverage is a bit on the thin side don't be afraid to put on a bit more tomato paste.


I like to throw a very, very small handful of cheese on the base at this point. Don't go crazy, just thinly sprinkle it around.


Put the cooked chicken onto the base getting a nice even coverage. Nobody likes a lopsided pizza.


Cut the antipasto into thick pieces and layer on and around the chicken.


Slice the olives into halves or quarters and sprinkle them about everything. Olives give a nice salty tang to a pizza which we really enjoy, but it is easy to go overboard with them. If you're unsure then start with less on this pizza and try more later if you are after a bigger kick.


Next thinly slice up that yummy avocado and lay evenly across the pizza. Take care not to nibble on too much of the avocado, you need to leave enough for the pizza!


Thinly slice the mushrooms and lay over everything.


"Now, where's the cheese?" If you weren't living in Australia back in the '80s you probably won't get the Peter Russell-Clarke reference, but that's OK. Cover the pizza in cheese but don't DROWN it. I come from a time when cheese on a pizza meant it was two inches thick and all that did was seal the top and not allow the flavours underneath to come out. Trust me on the cheese, less is more, and if it doesn't work out for you then can always try again next week.


Finally into a pre-heated oven for 18 minutes at 185c or 365f. Now once done I like to sit the pizza for a couple of minutes on a bench. This does two things: first it cools down slightly so you don't give yourself a nice blister on the inside of your mouth on the first mouthful, but the other reason is it gives everything time to settle and gel slightly so the toppings don't just slide off when you serve the pizza.


Enjoy!

Monday, 16 February 2009

A return, of sorts

Hmm, is this thing on? Hello? *taptaptap* Well anyway I am tinkering around and might just start things up again. After a break of a year and a half the writing bug is back. Lets see how long it lasts this time.

Friday, 16 March 2007

That Mental Shift

There's a time when you find there is a small click in your mind. It's not too loud, barely audible, but you usually know when it happens because you do hear a tiny little snick and find that something you have been grappling with now has amazing clarity.

I've had it happen a few times writing the first draft of my novel, times when my brain refused to go forward no matter how much I cajoled, threatened, begged or even beat upon it. when the despair would be close enough to be palatable it would come to me, that mental movement that I required to either see my issue in a new light or deal with a situation in another manner.

Right now I am trying to get that mental shift to come to me again. The process I need to make whatever part of my grey matter realise that it has a job to do and the sooner it just accepts it and gets on with the job the sooner both of us will be happy.

So what am I waiting on my mind to work out? It's simple, I have to get into my head that despite the fact I have faced my demons and written near 500 pages of a first draft, I now need to go back and start from the start and work on that draft. Take it from my basic idea and turn it into something engaging, something that others will want to read so they can leave their own lives behind just for a few chapters at a time. They want to be stimulated and taken places that their own imagination can't take them.

If I can get this next draft done I'll be close to taking them there. I just need to hear something. That little snick. That mental shift.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Emotion for Impact

I've read numerous times how showing the emotion of a character can often have a much greater impact than an outright telling dialog. I've often struggled to remember good examples of this, but now I won't have to.

In the April 2007 edition of The Writer magazine (US) there are two FANTASTIC examples of before & after writing relating to showing more emotion in your writing. Unfortunately I can't reprint it here due to copyright issues but I'll give you the detail for you to check it out for yourself.

The first is actually an example of clarifying a Turning Point, but I think it also doubles as a great example of emotion v's dialog. It's the Before and After on page 27

The second is an actual example pitched directly at emotion and is another excellent example of how to get into the head of a character instead of listening to them talk. It's the Before and After on page 46.

So, how about an example from me? I'll give it a go:

*******************
Before
"So do you want to come down to the park?" asked Jack.
Jill fidgeted, "I don't know. Looks like it might rain."
"What do you mean? It's a clear blue sky."
Jill couldn't look him in the eyes, "Well it might, you never know. And I don't like to get wet."
"Why don't you admit you just don't want to go? You're never upfront with me," Jack said before storming off.
*******************

Ok, that is some lousy dialogue, but what I am trying to go for there is showing how Jill doesn't want to go anywhere with Jack. I could re-write it with more dialogue, try to get across my point in words, maybe they could have an argument. Or I could try again, with the same amount of dialogue, but this time with more feeling and see which one has greater impact to the reader:

*******************
After
"So do you want to come down to the park?" asked Jack.

Jill felt a lurch in her stomach. Jack was always asking her to go places with him, but he creeps her out so much. She's never felt comfortable around him and his incessant gaze is just too intense.

Looking down she played with a thread at the hem of her shirt and said, "I don't know, it looks like it might rain." Out of the corner of her eye she could see his hands open and close by his sides, clenching into fists.

"What do you mean? It's a clear blue sky."

She kept her head down knowing that if she looked at Jack he would see the real truth in her eyes. Her pulse quickened with fear. What would he do if he realised she wasn't interested in him, in that way? "Well it could rain, you never know. And I don't like to get wet."

She winced, immediately knowing it for the lame excuse it was. But what could she do? Jack always scrambled her thoughts and she just hated that she could never come up with those fast snappy responses that quick thinking people can. People smarter than she is.

Jack's voice lowered, "Why don't you admit you just don't want to go? You're never upfront with me." He turned and stormed off.
*******************


Ok, a pretty bad example I think, but it's an off-the-cuff scene. I like to think the second scene has stronger impact even though they havn't actually said anything more than in the first attempt. Do more "words" equal a better scene? I don't think so, as I could have made it a lot heavier on the dialogue and still not gotten accross what I intended with how Jill felt.

If none of the above helps, or you think I am talking out of my ass, then get yourself a copy of The Writer and see what I mean for yourself. They really are great examples.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Critique

I didn't realise I had been quiet for a while. Rest assured I have been busy with writing projects. Ok, by saying that I'll be honest and admit to not having started the REAL re-write of my novel yet, but I have been getting some advice in regards to it and I have been critiquing other work too.

I usually get a favorable response to the critiques I give and it is something I enjoy doing. Not for the first time I was told this week that if I can look at someone elses work with such a clinical eye then my own work will be fantastic. Well unfortunately some early critique of my own early work shows that is not the case. Because of this I have been trying to work out why I seem to do such a good job at examining other people's writing yet fail a bit of some really obvious stuff regarding my own.

I think I know why.

It's not that I was expecting to be a brilliant writer with my first novel, far from it. But I think I missed a lot of basic structure in my first draft and first read because I have half an idea of what's coming next.

Because I think I know where my own story is going I am probably not giving it the writing detail that I should be. When I am critiquing other peoples' work I, of course, have no idea where the author is going so it is much easier for me to identify when I think a story or character is weak.

Like with everything I guess I just have to make myself write the same way technical documentation is written, with the assumption the reader has no idea about the subject and needs to be told everything.

Of course this then runs into the risk of over telling, so of course there is a fine line between improvement and making the story worse.

But hey, it's my first novel, I have a long way to go and a LOT to learn.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Forgive Me, For I Have Sinned

Yes, it's true.

I finished my short story and after a quick edit of the first draft I sent it out to a few people for comment.

The resounding feedback from Jen I got was not enough detail in the ever so bad things that happened to the three guys in the story. In fact, the only blood in it was from one of them who got punched in the nose. Now for a short story with a mysterious beast that basically rips them to shreds (although is never explicitly stated) well this is something worth pondering. Thanks, Jen. Your feedback AGAIN is invaluable.

Today over lunch I was also talking to my friend Cravon and he commented to me, the same as Jen did, that he felt there should have been more description for the bad things: blood, gore, general painfulness, that kind of stuff.

From both Jen and Cravon it's a valid comment seeing as there really is no description of those things at all.

So I said to Cravon, I said, "I think I was avoiding it being too chunky because I might want to submit it to a writing competition one day..." *WHAM* There it was. Instead of writing the story I think I wanted to write, I pulled my punches being all concerned about whether a magazine might look at it or not based on the bloodiness.

Naughty naughty naughty!

It is supposed to be a horror short story for crying out loud. Horror. Does horror worry about namby pamby magazines? No! Does horror worry if someone might think something is too gory? NO! Does horror worry about the body count? NO! I say NO!

One of the number one killers of an interesting story is writing to a perceived audience. Or writing in caution because your thinking about who might read your book one day, such as your mother. Barroom brawls are less violent, cussin' and a fussin' is not as effective, and raunchy sex scenes basically stop before anyone can get started.

So I'll be going back and doing a third draft of this work - to be honest I actually hesitate to call what I sent a second draft - and I'll be pulling out the stops, as I should have done from the very beginning.

So forgive me, I will try harder next time. Honest I will.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

An Update

Just in case there are people following my blog, other than the fantastic Fly Girls, I thought I would do a quick update.

So far I have resisted pulling out my manuscript and starting any work on it, but it's been tough. It calls to me, it calls to me with the siren song of the cooling fan on my laptop.


To make sure I don't pull it out before I'm ready I've started a short story. Very short, target word count about 2,000. I'm going to use the process to try and hone my scene setting and description skills. You have to be tight in a short story, extremely tight, so it will be an interesting process.

Even though I can write 2,000 words in a couple of hours, even an hour if I'm on a roll, this is more about delicate and deliberate writing than a purge of my brain onto the computer screen. This means my 300 words a day still stands but I won't be looking to do much more than that each night in an attempt to make each 300 of those words actual "good" words. If that makes any sense...

Once I've finished doing the short story, probably a week or two, I'll start the revision of my WIP.

So that's me.

Friday, 9 February 2007

So I've Been Tagged

On Jen T's blog she has tagged me. What the hell is that? Do I need antibiotics? No, I'm now in a game where I get the three books that are closest to me, go to page 123, go in 5 sentences then write the next 3 in my blog along with the book and author's name.

Ok, so my computer is in the lounge room, no books in here. The next closet room is has one of my book shelves, that is about six meters long and floor to ceiling. Oh and full of books. Crap.

Fine, so I grabbed three books which are up there with my favorites. I've read these three numerous times already and I'm sure I'll read them a lot of times again in the future.

**************
GHOST BEYOND EARTH - by G.M. Hague (Graeme Hague)

Normally the outer door was opened by pushing a single large button - large enough to accommodate the bulky gloves of the spacesuits. However, this would also start a chain of reactions, including bleeding the atmosphere from the airlock chamber. This was to prevent the astronaut from being spat out into space with the escaping air as the door opened.

**************
THE REALITY DYSFUNCTION - by Peter F. Hamilton

Thetis retreated, his subconscious grousing away. But he knew better than try and argue with his sister when she was in that mood.
We're going after it? Oenone demanded.

**************
MAGICIAN - Raymond E. Feist

Her body trembled as she said, "I don't have words, Pug. You're the only one who tried to ... understand me. You see more than anyone else."

**************
Oh and why not what I have been writing....

UN-NAMED WORK IN PROGRESS - Glenn

I blanched, “What?! You can’t give me a bath, you’re both old enough to be my mother!” Straight away I wished I could take back my outburst. Azaya’s eyes narrowed and Julie hissed at me to shut up.

**************
So who am I going to tag...? No freakin idea as I am sure all the Fly Girls have been taken and I don't seem to have any other fans ;-) Tell you what, give it a crack and let me know in the comments so I can link to your blog

Thursday, 8 February 2007

I'm Finished. Or am I? 127,000 Words

It's weird. I've written The End, but I'm not that excited... Where are the singing angels, the sounding of the trumpets? The golden light to bathe me from above?

Man, I don't know. I've reached the end, but I don't know if I have done it cleanly. Have I wrapped it up properly? Or have I finished it in the spirit of a "first draft"? Have I just wrapped it up for the sake of a finish and will revisit the finish in the second draft? I don't know.

I was working on it for a while last night and the events progressed to the finish, using the same ending I wrote a month or two ago, but ultimately I was just pushing words around on the page.

I could have fiddled and tweaked and massaged it all to hell, but in the end I thought screw it, this book is ending.

So is it finished? It feels finished. So I guess it must be.

Now it goes into a drawer for a few weeks before I do the first major revision.

I wonder what I'll do in the meantime?

Are you disappointed with my post? Thought I would be more thrilled? Yeah, me too.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

The End is in Sight - 122,500 Words

Oh it's getting close now, I can almost taste it. After a 5,000 word weekend I'm definitely in the final straight and this first draft is very close to being finished. My protagonist is in his final challenge and I have thrown a couple of curly issues his way. With a bit of luck there is less than 10,000 words to the end. I have nothing more I want to do, I don't want to send them anywhere else. Closure time isn't far away. I wonder if he'll survive?

Man, it feels like it has taken a long time to get to this point, but fact is it has been not much more than three months since I started. So what will I do when I finish the first draft? Shelve it. Shelve it for a minimum two weeks, maybe four - if I can resist that long. I'm just going to print it out and stick it in a drawer and attempt to forget about it.

Already I know there is some major work to be done in the second draft. I've had some mythology that has been evolving while I've been writing, and attitudes at the start of the book seem to have matured somewhat by the middle which will necessitate changes to the early part.

Not long now, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting pretty bright.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

"On Writing" by Stephen King

While away on my short camping trip I thought I would re-read Stephen King's great book on the art of writing called "On Writing". Now I've read this book before a few years ago, when I was going through a phase of buying lots of "how to" books on writing fiction hoping they would inspire me to keep writing. Unfortunately they didn't at the time. But I think I enjoyed Stephen King's the most out of all of them.

On Writing is a little different to most of the other texts out there on writing fiction. SK starts out the first third of the book in almost autobiographical fashion so you can maybe gain some insights into his head space when he writes. Lets just say for someone who is oh so very famous now he came from oh so very humble beginnings. A very poor family, terrible ear infections, dead end jobs and even alcoholism and eventually drug addiction to boot (can't even remember writing Cujo). The one constant he had through all those times was writing. Writing writing writing and a never say die attitude. I think this is one of the things I admire about him most, despite all the rejections, despite all the setbacks, despite being truly dirt poor white trailer trash, there was always writing.

The middle of the book talks about how SK writes today, his regimes, his thoughts on the craft and his utter, utter disdain for the adverb (have I used one yet? God I hope not...) and his ideas behind plot and story. It's interesting to note that SK is another author who doesn't do a lot of pre-planning or plotting before he starts to write. He just gets his initial idea, shuts the door to his office, and dumps everything out of his head in his first draft. It's the second draft when he "writes with the door open", when he lets others see it. But that first draft, it's just one big ole purge.

The end of the book talks about almost dying after being hit by a car while on one of his daily walks. This man came so very close to death, and then crawled back from it. Maybe it was payback for the author he tortured in Misery :-)

I really enjoyed On Writing as SK talks about most of his writing coming from a gut feeling, an instinct, and not worrying too much about what is going to happen next because your characters will let you know. He talks about doing his 2,000 word a day quota and if he is done by 10:30am then great, if he is still plugging away at 3:30pm it doesn't matter, just as long as he gets that 2,000 in. Now that I am writing every day SK's book has been very inspiring and I'll keep working to my goal.

For my next book - yeah keep talking positive - I'll be upping my daily word quota to a minimum1,000 a day. I'm hitting that mark most nights now, but for the next book I want to get really serious. When I get to book number three and I have quit the day job because of the $300,000 advance I'll get, then I'll go to 2,000 a day just like SK.

AHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAAAAAAaaaaaaahahahahahahaaa

*sigh*

Yeah so anyway, if you are keen to buy another book about writing, but are a bit tired of the same ole "You must know the book's premise" etc (not that it doesn't have it's place) then On Writing is something you can enjoy a bit more for it's very readable quality and advice.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Writing While Away

Alrighty, I've learned a few of things from my little camping trip away.

One, I still need to write, the very thought of not writing for five days was something that concerned me greatly. To the extent that I even got my daily quota out of the way on Wednesday before I left just in case I didn't do them later for some reason. So I actually only wrote for four days. But even today, still on holiday knowing that my computer was only a few hours away, I still did a few pages while sitting in a cafe enjoying a coffee.

Two, I can write by hand, but I hate it. I hate it because it is too slow, it takes too long. My brain is galloping ahead with settings, dialog etc, and my fast cramping hand is still scrawling the first sentence. I did 2,500 words over the four days where I was writing in a journal so I did well and above my self imposed minimum 300 words a day, quite happy about that.

Three, despite being able to do that meagre output, the massive downside is when I got home this afternoon and I typed it into the computer I gave myself a splitting headache and actually started feeling a little queasy. I suspect this is a combination of looking at the journal, down to the keyboard, up to the monitor, down to the keyboard, back to the journal etc etc etc (I can type reasonably fast, but I can't touch type). This is actually a real shame because I did enjoy scrawling in the journal when my hand wasn't giving me grief. I wouldn't do it all the time, but a change of scenery without looking like a pompus twat in a cafe with a laptop would have been nice. The headache and nausea is going to rule out transcribing from paper to computer in the future though.

But I did survive, there was output, I made it, and now I'm back. I don't think the handwriting I did was of the greatest quality due to not being able to delete and re-write an entire paragraph in a minute. But it was enjoyable all the same and tomorrow I'll be keen in getting some more words done on the ole faithful puter so I can get into the home stretch of this my first novel.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Away For a Few Days

Well five days actually, returning Sunday (Australian time, makes that Saturday night US time). Off camping tomorrow to unwind a bit, relax, and try writing some of this damn book by hand. Yup, not looking forward to that, but even if I did have a laptop I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving it in a tent all day. So anyhoo, for those wonderful people following my progress, I'll be back soon.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Writing Addiction

To think I have spent so very many years wanting to write (and not being able to) yet now that I have started I can't seem to stop. Not only can I not stop, but I think about it all the freakin time!

From this coming Wednesday I am supposed to be away on a long weekend camping trip and whilst I am looking forward to it, I can't help but think about what will I do if I don't do any writing for the five days I'll be away. I don't have a laptop and running the computer in the tent isn't exactly an option. Mind you, as a highly intelligent friend at work oh so cleverly suggested, what's wrong with a pad and pen? Well for one, I am a reasonably quick typist and for two, I hate writing by hand. At the end of the day that's probably what I'll do because I just can't bear the thought of not writing for that long.

Last week I was in a meeting with some managers, very important things were being discussed I'm sure of it. But personally I was thinking about the character I had just killed off. I have no problem with killing characters, no problem at all. My issue with this particular character is that in killing him I am possibly putting the stops on my protagonist being able to leave to do the next thing he has to do. So I spent the whole meeting tossing up the pros and cons of killing the guy v's just almost killing him but not quite. To say I got nothing out of the meeting is an understatement...

So I'm always thinking about writing. Like when I'm lying in bed. Or driving the car, or on the motorbike. Doing the shopping, cooking dinner. Just about anything, in the back of my head I'm non stop thinking about what I am doing with this book and the things that have happened in it and the things that still need to happen yet. It doesn't stop, make it stop!

And when I'm not thinking about this book, I mean actually NOT thinking about it, what am I thinking about? I'm thinking about which story idea I want to write next. For crying out loud!!!

Thursday, 18 January 2007

A Fresh Set of Eyes

The lovely Jennifer Talty has done me a great service just recently, she gave me a short critique on one of my scenes. She had written saying that her interest had been piqued at how I was describing a nightmare scene that I had done. At first I wasn't going to send it to her as I have been wanting to finish the first draft before having anyone really see it. But she was keen and in the end I'm glad I sent it to her.

I made no bones about the fact that the scene was pretty much straight from my brain onto the paper without the benefit of any editing. At first I thought I had done the wrong thing by sending her an un-edited version of my brain dump. As it turns out the things she has picked up on I don't think I would have fixed in an edit anyway. And I agree with everything she has shown me.

So what advice has Jennifer given me?

1st: I need to watch the length of a lot of my sentences. They can be too long, with too many commas, when shorter sentences can give more impact to what I am doing.
2nd: I need my protagonist to be a bit more involved. This was supposed to be a powerful scene where he was witnessing something quite disturbing. I had failed to show what he was going through mentally and physically and instead left him almost a viewer of his own scene.
3rd: She picked up on a couple of instances where I had really overstated what was happening when it was already quite obvious.
4th: She rearranged a couple of sentences for me to show how they could have greater impact compared to how I had done it.

And heaps of other ideas, tips and techniques.

Being shown those things has really opened my eyes. They are great suggestions, she has spotted stupid mistakes I have been making AND she gave me examples in every case of how it can be improved. So you're probably thinking I'm now going to go back and re-write that scene and make it perfect and glowing using all of Jennifer's recommendations. Well if you are, you would be wrong.

No, Jennifer hasn't wasted her time, quite the opposite. She has basically opened my eyes to some things I sub-consciously already knew were there, and some other things I hadn't realised at all. These are all going to be featured in some form or other throughout this entire manuscript.

So instead of trying to fix this up now and possibly end up stalling myself in the process, I will be sticking with Plan A and forging ahead to finish this first draft of my book. From this point on I will most certainly be conscious of what Jennifer has said, and trying to apply wherever possible, but at the same time it's even more important to get this draft finished and put to bed than it is trying to make it a literary masterpiece in this first run.

Jennifer, I am indebted to you. I asked for an opinion and most certainly got one. Your delivery was great and I wasn't at any point thinking, "Who the hell is she trying to tell me how to write." (although my reply email might have got her on the back foot momentarily (hehehe)). Certainly once the second draft is done you will be getting the whole schlamoo in one hit and you will see where these silly ideas have come from.

Thank you.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

A New Milestone - 100,000 Words

Say it with me, folks. Big words now, big noise, from the pits of your stomachs, ONNNNNE, HUNDRED, THOU(big mouth now, big mouth)-SAAAAAAND, (really deep for this one) WHHOOOOOOORDS!!

Yuh that's right, 100,000 words, or 101,297 to be exact. Hey what do you know, I have a novel on my hands. Doesn't mean they are readable words, but there is a lot of them all the same, and I think I have close to a quarter, or half as much again before this project is finished.

I think my writing has improved immensely since I started this project and I find myself thinking a lot more about how the characters are interacting with each other, how the settings are impacting on them, and trying to do my best to evoke emotion in the reader. I certainly know what I did today evoked disgust with what I wrote, but it was good disgust.

Let me explain. I needed a powerful scene, powerful emotion, I needed something that would hopefully hold a reader the same way a train wreck is about to happen that you just can't look away from.. I think I got it, or at least I'm getting it, I might have gone a little overboard with how the characters are talking to each other in some very confrontational scenes. The second draft should tighten it up a bit, focus the words a little more.

So yay for me, another month or two and I might be done with this first draft *sigh*