Monday, February 28, 2011

New tshirt: Welcome to the party, pal!

I often find myself thinking this when I hear about the trials and tribulations new parents are going through!

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grant year, week eight: writing and planning

I should probably just drop the 'writing' from my 'Grant year' titles -- it's pretty clear that every week is going to involve writing! Even if it's rewriting.

Okay, so it's been a quiet week. I still hit my target, in fact I'm ahead of my target. I'm not going gaga over that however because I think the first draft is going to be quite a bit longer than the 90k I'm aiming for. I'm currently at 42k and I'm just about to finish act one. So, the second act is usually longer than the first, and the third is usually shorter, but it could be 120k.

Which I'll still get done by the end of June, if I stay on track with my 5k/week word count.

Why does it matter how long it is? Technically, it doesn't. If you write a brilliant first novel, chances are that you'll find a publisher for it -- it just might be a bit harder. The Company of the Dead, by David Kowalski, springs to mind. But there's so many factors that come into play. Kowalski's book was kind of an alternative history thriller action romp (yes you can quote me on that). Multiple timelines. In structure similar to John Birmingham's blockbusters. There's an expectation that kind of book will be longer. The reality is that first-time novelists have better odds if their manuscript is about 80-90k.

Anyway -- getting a bit ahead of myself here, since I haven't even finished the first draft.

As well as the writing, I've been doing a bit of informal planning. And by informal planning I mean that I've been thinking about the problems with the book (the bits I haven't written yet) and how I can fix them. This week I finally figured out how two main characters are going to meet at the end of act one. I had a few ideas but they all seemed contrived. Finally settled on something this week. And even though it's vital these two characters meet at the end of of act one (it's the first major climax) I can change it later. In fact, if I was really struggling, I could leave the final chapter of act one and dive into act two.

The other problem that I've gone some way to resolving is how some of the sub-plots connect. In real life, not everything connects. Things just happen, right? Unfortunately, we don't give novelists the same leeway. People expect the details to mean something. So I'm starting to work out how the things that are happening in Harry's life now relate to things that happened to another character. I guess you could call him 'the ghost'.

I imagine what will happen is that some of these sub-plots will become integral to the story. Others not so much. Similarly, there are characters who I've breathed life into who I think may end up on the cutting room floor.

This week, I really need to get down to State Library. Act two is going to be much harder to write. It's where Harry starts unravelling the mystery. So I need to start ravelling it for him!

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Grant year, week seven: writing and networking

I really caned the word count this week. So much so that I was able to work on a short story that I'm planning on sending off to an anthology this year. (More on this - hopefully - down the track).

I had originally planned to do some research at State Library. I've been behind the eight-ball on this count because of the flooding. It hasn't hurt too much, because I'm in the early stages of the book. But I'll probably go back and layer in some detail on the rewrite anyway. Although State Library was open, the car park wasn't. And I had the car, not the scooter, so I ended up driving around looking for somewhere to park, which was tricky because I didn't have any change.

This is a riveting story, isn't it! I decided to cut my losses and get in some writing at The Three Monkeys (which features in the book) and then realised that I had forgot to charge the Mac Book the night before and had very limited writing time. I managed to get a thousand words done in that session.

Then I decided to have another crack at State Library. I fluked an unmetered spot really close, and managed to charge the Mac and get another thousand words done.

At midday I met a writer friend of mine. I told her what I know about the grant application process, and she offered to be a 'beta reader' for Skin Deep, and also offered to put me in contact with her agent, which was very nice of her. So, it was a very worthwhile meeting.

I'm starting to feel that the opening act of Skin Deep is going to be a bit long, but that's okay. Once I know which are the important storylines, I can trip some of the others.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Grand Conversation on ebooks

This is a really interesting time for the publishing industry, and it will be really interesting to see how Shane’s ebook experiment goes.

For mine, I don’t read ebooks. Even though I love technology and my work revolves around computers and social media, I’m not an early adopter. At the moment, an iPad or a Kindle would be nice (or even an iPhone), but I still have some concerns about the whole ebook thing.

Shane kindly invited me to take part in his grand conversation on ebooks...

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Grant year, week six: writing and more 'location scouting'

Regained a bit of momentum this week. I hit my 30,000-word target relatively easily. I still feel the urge to have a 'write club'-style grant day where I just go for maximum word count, so I can get a bit of a buffer. On the other hand, it's nice to work week to week because you often get little ideas that you can explore as the story develops.

A case in point -- Red Hill Skate Arena. I didn't think of this place at all when I was thinking up scene ideas last year. When we were living at Bardon I never really went past the place, so why would I even think about it? Since we've moved to The Gap, I pass by whenever I'm heading into the city or West End. It's quite a forlorn building. It burned down in 2002 and, for whatever reason, the building hasn't been demolished. So it just sits there, the charred bones of its roof timbers pointing up to the sky. It fits with a theme that's developing about the price of 'progress'.

Research-wise, I still haven't been able to get to State Library, which has been closed due to flooding. I'm still chasing some information about the tattooing scene in Brisbane in the 90s. And I'm still trying to have a yarn with a psychic to talk about readings. I don't urgently need this stuff. Down the track, I'm going to need to find out about how tattoos fare on dead bodies, do some reading up on graverobbing, and a whole host of other macabre stuff!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Data visualisation of 'Bug Hunt'

Have been playing around with Many Eyes...

(it should have embedded here, but didn't work, so here's the link to the site...


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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Grant year, week five: research and writing

Kind of hit the wall this week. Well, the first of the many walls 'Skin Deep' is likely to build for me to scale.

A range of factors, some positive and some negative.

The negative: kids not getting to bed 'on time' due mostly to the heat. It probably sounds like a cop-out, but the reality for me is that when the kids don't get off to sleep by 7.30pm or so, me having to go in and tell them to go to sleep, or stressing about when they are going to go to sleep, really drains me psychologically. And so I'm less likely to drag myself to the keyboard.

And the heat itself. I had headaches pretty much all week which, again, aren't conducive to good writing time!

The positive: I did two research sessions with tattooists this week. One with Davin at Brunswick Ink over at the Valley; the other with Matt Cunnington at Westside Tattoo at West End. I got to sit with both artists for over two hours and talk to them about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. Which was invaluable. Much more valuable than reading about tattooing or watching TV shows about tattooing. It was also good to see both ends of the scale. Brunswick Ink is relatively new, whereas Westside Tattoo has been around for ages and has built a really strong reputation.

So, by Friday morning, I had zero words in the can. ZERO! I managed to get 1,500 done that morning before heading over to West End to meet Matt. I got another 1,500 done Friday evening. And then last night I was at my parents place with the kids. I didn't really expect to get any writing done. Then at about 10pm I opened the lappy. I surprised myself by hitting a really strong vein. After half an hour I had a thousand words. I felt like I was on a roll, so I kept going and by 11pm I had another thousand done.

Mission accomplished!

(By the way, I'm not trying to big-note myself regarding this 'feat'. This is very much a 'vomit draft' so will need a fair bit of work to get into shape. But for me, I need to get the words down. I need to feel some sort of progress happening to maintain morale!)

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Interesting interview with Will Elliott

You've now published an acclaimed debut novel (The Pilo Family Circus), a very personal memoir (Strange Places), two books of the Pendulum fantasy series, and you have another novel, Nightfall, waiting in the wings. You've previously said you wouldn't describe it as a 'career', but where do you feel you're at in your journey as a writer?

I'll answer this one bluntly, if I may... I'm tired of doing this for less than half of minimum wage. Working on a book is an endeavour which takes over my life while it's in progress, especially in the rough draft phase. I obsess over it, stay up for long stretches, exclude most other aspects of normal life. It's not an option to do it part-time, especially with this poisonous brain medication I'm required to take. I have ample ideas and if it were feasible I could write 8-10 books over the next decade, maybe more. But circumstance is making it necessary to walk away and do something else. I won't shed too many tears either. Most of my last decade has been spent sitting before a PC screen in a room with no aircon, just chump change to my name. Kind of loses its appeal. There will be booing and hissing from the sidelines for this attitude, I invite them to try it for a decade and see how romatic it feels, especially with brain meds thrown in.


It's good to interview authors who aren't afraid to admit it's not all rainbows and unicorns once you 'crack it'.

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