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?


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.


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.