Sunday, January 30, 2011

Grant year, week four: writing, researching and planning

Still going strong with the word count -- 20k so I'm managing to keep up with my 5k/week plan. There's a real temptation to just pound out the words on my writing day, but I'm trying to avoid that. Part of my grant pitch was talking about how I wanted time to do proper research and planning. As I've learnt from my reporting days, this can be a situation where you put in a lot of effort, chasing leads. It looks as though nothing is going to come of it, and then all of a sudden you're run off your feet.

And this is what has happened. I really wanted some firm background in tattooing, given that tattoos are such an important part of the book. So I've been chasing up various leads. And it seems like they're all coming to fruition at once. One of my Twitter friends, @blackvalo, put me onto Brunswick Ink Tattoo in the Valley. I'm going in tomorrow night to watch Davin do some tattooing. Earlier, I'd sent an email to Westside Tattoo over at West End, and they also got back to me this week. I'm going in on Friday to watch owner Matt do some tattooing. And an ABC colleague saw my tweeting and offered to share some of her insights. I gave her a call on Friday and we had a good chat, which was really helpful.

People have suggested that I get a tattoo and be done with it. It has crossed my mind. I've got a design in my head that I think would be rather cool, but I don't know if I've got enough of a canvas for them to work with. (People who know me will know what I mean). Also, there's the cash side of it. We're not flush at the moment so that puts me off a bit. Maybe I should make a commitment to get a tattoo when I sell the manuscript!

I've also been chasing some contacts to do some research on the SAS. Again, I want the segments involving the SAS to be as realistic as possible. I've read a few books about the SAS -- most recent SAS Sniper, by Rob Maylor (which is a great read, by the way). But I still have a few hypothetical situations that aren't covered in the books. Because my mind often drifts towards 'action', it would be handy having some solid military/special forces contacts. So I'm working to build some trust with people in the know.

The other really important thing I did this week was sort out a rough plan for the entire novel. Last year, even though I wasn't writing Skin Deep, I was thinking about it a lot. I'd think of cool scenes and jot them down in my Scrivener file. So I had a whole heap of scenes relating to Harry's working life, his relationship situation and tattoos, in no particular order. For some reason, I've been procrastinating about putting them in order. I think I was worried that when I actually sat down to plan the book out, I wouldn't be able to find a place for all these scenes. Which wasn't the case at all. There were only maybe three out of 30 that I think may get dropped. (That's not to say all will survive until final draft).

This is a big deal because I've managed to hit my word targets to date because over the past year I've done a lot of thinking about the opening scenes in the book. So I've been able to write this down so (relatively) easily. But to sustain this, I need to start thinking about the scenes coming up, so that when I sit down to write, I'm not going, 'Um, so what happens now'.

The other thing I've started to notice is the inner critic rearing his ugly face. I've been told that I 'write fast', meaning that I tend to race through the plot without giving a lot of thought to scenery, characters, what the characters are thinking etc. I think part of the reason I do this is that my inner critic convinces me that I'm boring the reader. So, I've told the inner critic to fuck off. I need to let Skin Deep unfold at its own pace. And if I get the pacing wrong in the first draft, I can always tweak it in the subsequent drafts. I would rather cut when I'm editing than write new material once I'm out of 'the zone'. So, for now, I'm exploring pretty much every avenue of thought, getting it down, and then I'll cut later.

Potentially, I could be a quarter of the way through my book. I've got a feeling thought that this first draft may be more like 100k than 80k.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writers on Rafts: win a short story critique or t-shirt!

As you may already know, Queensland Writers Centre has launched Writers on Rafts to help raise money for those hit hard by the Queensland floods.

More than 150 Australian authors are offering everything from author visits to manuscript appraisals, book packs and the chance to have a character named after you in their next book!

To win, you choose which category you'd like to enter, and then if you win you get to choose your prize.

I'm pitching in by offering two prizes:

Short story critique: While I'm not as high profile as many of the editors and writers offering critiques, I have won One Book Many Brisbanes twice, have published over 20 short stories and also have a background in journalism, which means I'm really good with line editing.

T-shirt: As well as writing, I also design t-shirts. Check out my designs at RedBubble. My personal fave at the moment is 'Guns don't kill zombies, people kill zombies (with guns)'.

So please, head on over to Writers on Rafts and enter!

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Grant year, week three: writing, research, 'location scouting'

[[posterous-content:pid___0]] Wrote 2,000 words this morning, over at Toowong Library.

Did a bit of research into the Kibeho Massacre, and the corageous efforts of ADF personnel to save people. Amazing stuff.

On the way home I took some photographs of the Paddington Water Tower, and surrounds. My protagonist lives on a street that leads up to the water tower. He moves in there after breaking up with his girlfriend.

So, I was walking down the street and, guess what? There's a house for rent down there which, in many respects, was how I imagined his house. It was a little bit spooky. (But then, I like spooking myself out).

Seeing the locations gave me a few ideas for scenes that wouldn't have occured to me otherwise.

I'm hoping to get another 1,000 words of actual writing done this afternoon. Possibly three between now and the end of the week.

Without the grant, this week would have been a blow-out, given the uncertainties with work (our building was flooding) and my wife being sick (possibly Ross River Fever). So, once again, it's amazing how much difference a 'writing day' can make, and again I thank the Australia Council for making it possible!

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Strange days

The view from one of the three new homes of flood-displaced ABC News Online. Yep, it's a soccer club!

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Grant year, week two: thinking and reading

This isn't officially week two. We were away on holidays and I was fairly confident I wouldn't get any actual writing done (although I did still pack the Mac, just in case) so I shifted my two 'grant days' to later in the year.

What I did do was a lot of thinking. I've fleshed out more of my protagonist's back story, and I started thinking about how tattooed I want my 'tattooed man' to be.

Saw plenty of tattoos on show at Noosa/Noosaville. I take a good look at every design I see now.

I also got some solid reading done. I finished fellow Brisbane author Trent Jamieson's Managing Death (part 2 of his 'Death Works' series - good read) and also Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars (which is the darkest set of stories he's written for quite some time).

And today my wife gave me a short break, so I managed to get a little bit of writing. Probably under a thousand words, but it takes my total count to close to 10,000, which is in the ballpark of the 5k a week that I'm hoping to get done. If I can hit that target I should have a first draft by the end of June, and that means I can spend the second half of the year knocking it into shape.

I also did a bit of a rewrite on 'Ashes to Ashes', which I'm hoping to submit to Ticonderoga Publications' Damnation and Dames anthology. This isn't technically part of my grant, but I would like to keep a bit of momentum going with the short stories.

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Please help Writers on Rafts

Via Paul Landymore:

The Queensland Writer's Centre is looking for offers of good and services to auction for its Writer On Rafts Flood Appeal to raise money for the Queensland Premier's Flood Appeal.

Between Christmas and New Year plans where being drawn up for Writers On Rafts, to contribute funds to the Queensland Premier's Flood Appeal for those affected in north Queensland and upon return to work last week QWC staff were prepping plans to make this happen.

Due the events of this week and our having to evacuate our offices in the State Library this project has become even more important and pertinent. QWC has thousands of members throughout Queensland and many will be affected by the flooding.

Furious work is being done at the moment to finalise details with a dedicated website expected to go live Thursday 20th January with articles to appear in the press the following weekend. Brisbane author Rebecca Sparrow has been tirelessly garnering support from the writing community and the details so far of how this will operate are as follows:

1. Through the website there will be a number of prize categories available:
- Author visit (to your book club, writer's group, school etc.
- Writer Assistance (QWC workshop, MS critique etc.
- Character Name: Get a character named after you in your favourite author's next book.
- Book Pack.

Special Prize
- Ultimate Girly Morning Tea with Rebecca Sparrow, Jessica Rudd, Mia Freedman, Erica Bartle, Emily Jade O'Keefe and Francis Whiting.

In addition QWC will provide each category winner with a prize pack which consists of:
- Australian Market Writer's Place Online subscription.
- WQ electronic (PDF) subscription.
- QWC merchandise.

2. Those wanting to enter the drawer will go to the website and register their details for a cost of $5.00 for each prize they wish to win. If they wish to enter for the Special Prize the cost will be $20.00.

3. There will be a winner drawn for each category for each State so for example if you are the winner of an author visit and live in NSW you will have a choice of local authors.

4. Any prize books left over after the drawer will be donated to statewide libraries and schools affected by the floods.

5. We will be publishing a target of $10,000 to be raised.

6. All QWC staff, authors etc are giving their time free-of-charge to ensure the maximum amount of money reaches the Premier's Flood Appeal.

Please note, due to power loss the QWC server is down so please contact Paul Landymore, Operations and Development Manager at

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Friday, January 14, 2011

We're okay!

Thanks to those who sent emails asking if we're okay. The answer is yes. We're actually on hols in Noosaville, so apologies for the delay. For once I'm away from my computer. (sending this from my phone) Our house should be okay because it's up high. Of course, there's plenty not so lucky. If you want to help out, please donate to the Premier's flood appeal.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Grant year, week one: writing and researching

Well, yesterday was my first official 'grant day' and, wow, what a difference a day makes.

I knocked over 3,000 words and got a lot of researching done, plus a little bit of planning.

You can keep track of my online research via my delicious links, with the skindeep'>">skindeep tag.

I made a lot of decisions about one of the key characters. I've now got a much stronger grip on who he was and what he was doing to land himself in the predicament he ended up in.

I put out feelers for further, more hands-on research.

The rain scotched my original plan for yesterday, which was to head over to Paddington and take some photos, then head into State Library for some research, then maybe over to West End to talk to some real-life tattooists.

I want to take photos because I find that even though you can make stuff up, sometimes you miss the little details, and it's those details that make locations so real. Also, visiting the places you write about can spark ideas that you never would of thought of, sitting at your desk.

The State Library research is primarily for stuff I can't get online -- books and old newspapers. Because my book has an element of investigative journalism, I want to see how Phil Dickie unravelled his stories about corruption in the Bjelke-Petersen government.

And the visit to West End Tattoo. Well, that's kinda obvious. Tattooing is a major part of the story, and yet I've no experience with it, other than what I've seen on TV.

So, even though I got none of that done, it was still a very productive day. I've got close to 7,000 words down, which puts me on track to have a first draft done by the end of June.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Long time, no blog

After WorldCon, I had planned to get my blog in order and try to use it more. My plan was to post something once a week.

Well, that clearly went out the window.

In my defence, I've had a lot on my plate of late. Just before Christmas we moved house. The whole process took a huge amount of resources - time as well as physical and mental energy.

Then Christmas.

On top of that, I've been trying to get some prep done for 'grant year', as well as get an entry together for One Book Many Brisbanes.

Now that grant year has begun, I'm planning to document the process to some extent. I think it will be useful to myself, and also will come in handy at the end of the year, when I've got an acquittal to hand in.

(For those who don't already know, I've received an Australia Council grant to help me work on Skin Deep, a paranormal thriller set in Brisbane)

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