Friday, April 29, 2005

At last, after what seems like months (but is only probably 10 days), I have some writing time. Never mind that I have assignments to mark - they can wait until the weekend. Today is free for writing! (And here I am blogging!)
I have tried to add the "Add comments" action to this blog to see if I get any responses, but as I had to cut and paste some HTML, who knows if it will work.
In my Novel 2 class on Wednesday, we finished our last discussion on "House of Sand and Fog". Have been reading large chunks of it week by week and discussing (with set questions from me) as we go along. It has been fascinating to hear the heated discussions over the characters, who they feel the most sympathy for and how the voices and characters work for them.
I chose the book because of the dual point of view and the depth of characterisation, and although most students felt it was a dark book with little hope, it sure got them talking! I don't know if Dubus has published another one since, but I must check.
I received a contract back this week - for a beginner reader - and was pleasantly surprised to see that they had accepted all of my amendments. Even the one where I limited them to 3 years on unused rights. Then I got an email to say the publisher has been bought out by someone else, so who knows what will happen. The editor says the series is still going ahead. Hmmm.
I think I am ready to tackle the rewrite of my middle grade novel. It needs a new beginning and probably 25% cut from the first 70 pages. That'll be a challenge!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Last week I tried out the Book Crossing website - it's where you "release" books into the wild - as in, you leave a book somewhere like a tram or train or park seat, along with a sticker or book plate to explain what Book Crossing is. Whoever picks up the book is asked to log in to the site, using the code number you have put in the book, and say what they are going to do with it - where they leave it after they have read it. It's like the "pass the parcel" game we used to play at parties as kids. Except everyone who finds the book gets a free reading experience, they get to participate in logging in and tracking the book, and they get to release it again.
It's a lot of fun. I released a copy of "Farm Kid" because it is a kid's book that has just been shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Awards and no one seems to know about it. Like many poetry books, it languishes behind fiction and I wanted to try new ways of getting it out to readers. We shall see where it goes!
I have done no writing for 5 days - have been at a beach resort helping 2 friends to celebrate 50th birthdays. Came home and started a poem, but also have been rethinking my middle grade novel and playing with possibilities on how to cut the first half of the book back by 25% and get the pace moving more.
I have also been reading Elizabeth George's new novel and loving it. Nearly 600 pages and I only have about 20 pages to go. It is so fabulous to be deep into a great book, and enjoying it so much that you don't want it to end. I want to take some of her descriptions of places and use them in my classes for exercises and examples.
Ten stars to EG!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

After having it on my shelf for about 2 years, I finally got around to reading "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen, and thought it was terrific. As a writer, to have a whole book of mostly just one character doing stuff to survive sounds like such a hard sell - how not to be boring! But the boy is so well written, and I was almost disappointed when he was rescued. He learned so much, and made lots of mistakes, and each challenge got bigger and bigger - great example of raising the stakes.
I also read a new book from the library "The Boy Who Spoke Dog" by Clay Morgan. It was quite different, and had two points of view - the shipwrecked boy and the dog, Moxie. To read chapters from the dog's POV was so interesting. I thought he captured dog thoughts really well. Sad ending.
Writing has come to a halt, not for lack of time but lack of impetus right now. After finishing the first draft of the fantasy novel (which isn't due to the publisher for 3 months yet so plenty of time for rewriting and polishing), I feel at a loose end, not yet able to fully focus back on the historical novel. Am fiddling with other stuff in the meantime - a picture book and a historical story.
Spent nearly the whole class yesterday (Writing for Children class) going on and on about characterisation, character needs, what drives the story etc. I could see some of them start to glaze over. But now we have covered it in depth and I am happy that the class is finally taking shape after so many breaks.
Every week I want them all to have read the books I've read so we can talk about them and of course they rarely have! If I ever ran a book club, I'd have everyone reading a book a day!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Writing can be so up and down. One day you're writing at a mile a minute, feeling like the best, most prolific, inspired writer in the world. The next day you can sit down and feel like your brain is made of mud.
I keep remembering the quote I read - Real writers write even when they don't want to. That usually keeps me at the desk!
Publishing is even more up and down. One day you can be over the moon because you've had a book accepted. A week later you can be tearing your hair out because the contract is terrible and you have to grit your teeth and negotiate somehow. And then your book comes out and gets a bad review.
It always comes back to the writing, I guess. If you don't love the process, the creation, the high from having written something that just might be OK - if you only are waiting for fame and recognition and maybe money - maybe you should try something else.
That's what I tell myself on the downer days, anyway.
And I also tell myself - being a writer is about perseverance and craft and always trying to do better.
BTW, am reading the 3rd Travelling Pants novel (Ann Brashares) and loving it - more than the first two. She really gets the emotional stuff with her characters working so well.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Have just finished reading "How I Live Now" by Meg Rosoff. A fascinating book - a good read that kept me turning the pages and wondering "how much worse can things get" and of course they get much worse! So also a great book for a writer to read. The voice is unusual (look at all those really long, run-on sentences that are still punctuated correctly so you can easily follow them), and the constant raising of stakes is also great to think about as a writer. So often we are too kind to our characters and so nothing much happens. In a discussion list I'm on, they talked about the US edition of the book which has a page with a large black "hole" on it - I didn't get that in my edition. Pity. I was curious to see where it was in the story.
Also interesting that the girl in the story has anorexia, and how it is talked about (well, it's not really!).
I have been slogging away, day after day (including Easter) on the first draft of the fantasy novel, and yesterday I finished it. Then of course last night I lay in bed and thought about all the things I should have tied up at the end and didn't, so the first job is to go back and rewrite the ending. One of my faults I have to work on - don't rush the ending. Sometimes it's such a relief to finally make it that I pull the finish line towards me instead of keeping up that great pace towards it.
Oh well, what is rewriting for?
I also started a new YA novel last night - a story I have been thinking about on and off for months. It may go nowhere, but I have a beginning, so we shall see.