Sunday, June 26, 2005

Many hours spent marking student assignments but now it is over. I wanted to start writng again straight away but the brain wouldn't cooperate, so I have been reading and pottering around and now I am ready.
Spent 3 hours reworking bits of a fantasy series novel I was asked to write, and now I think it is working better. A fellow member of CCBC list kindly emailed me her notes from the Pikes Peak 2004 conference - the sessions with Donald Maas, who wrote "How to Write a Breakout Novel". They came at just the right time, where I could apply each of the points he makes to the fantasy novel in order to deepen character and motivation. It only meant adding a few sentences here and there, but I think those are going to be important sentences in terms of deepening the character and the story. I had read the Maas book a while ago (borrowed from a friend) and now I think I will look at it again.
Am reading a Linda Newbery book at the moment and finding it to be very engaging. The main character has a horrible younger sister who you just want to slap! This is the kind of book that I like to read first, then analyse for how she achieves the depth of character. I also read '(un)arranged marriage' by Bali Rai. It's published in the UK and is about an Indian arranged marriage, from the male's point of view. I found it to be a strange book, in that a large proportion of the story was just "told", as if the character was sitting in front of me telling me what happened, and then what happened next. Exactly what we are told, as writers, never to do! There were certainly many places where I wished the events were being shown in a scene, but overall the style didn't bother me too much. I do wish it hadn't been quite as much "telling" though.
The rest of my week will be more rewriting. A middle grade novel that needs work before giving to a valued writer friend for a critical read. Then maybe new words on another project. I hope.

Friday, June 17, 2005

As a bribe to get me through grading all those student novels and stories, I bought the new Jonathan Kellerman book, "Rage". I do like his characters - the child psychologist, Alex Delaware, and the policeman, Milo. They make a great team, and it's interesting, in this book especially, to look at how so much of the information the reader gets is through their conversations. There is a lot of speculation about who is doing what, providing possible red herrings and clues, and yet I didn't feel cheated. I felt as if I was going on the journey of investigation, one full of interest and people's motivation and psychology. It wasn't madly exciting, rather it was absorbing and fascinating. The villain turned out to be a multiple murderer, but in such a way that it bypassed the serial murder cliches.
I have started the critical read-through of the fantasy novel draft. And will be back to it again today. I know writers who say they love the rewriting process but for me it depends on the book, and maybe on my own frame of mind. I know that after all those student novels, I have come back to my own work with a very critical eye, so much so that I am feeling a bit despondent and thinking this novel is incredibly boring and I'm struggling with it.
The remedy at this point is to ask someone else to read a bit of it, someone who will tell me straight whether it is as awful as I think it is, or if I need to be kinder to myself! Writer friends are so good for this (as long as they are honest with you).
Back on the reading side of things - I also went to the library and got out a pile of books, including "Silent to the Bone" by E.L. Konigsburg. Got home and started reading and realised I had already read it a few months ago. Darn! I hate that. It is a good book but I'm not someone who can read the same book again with the same enjoyment. I'm a "surprise addict" - I read to find out what happens next, and if I already know, it takes half the fun out of it.
And yet I know people who skip ahead and read the ending before they're even past page 30. I couldn't think of anything worse!

Friday, June 10, 2005

I am starting to get writer's heeby-jeebies. That feeling that nags at you in the back of your mind and in your gut and makes you snappy and irritable and depressed. It comes from **not writing**. How long since I sat down and wrote something? Seems like years. And I have written a few poems and bits of a short story, and my journal while I was away - but it's not the same as working on a complete thing like a novel and getting that "high" from actually sitting there, pounding away at the keyboard, making it all happen on the page.
Instead I have been doing business-type stuff, trying to clear my desk and sort out my finances (here in Australia the end of the tax year is looming) and catch up on all kinds of stuff that's been put aside for way too long. And then there is the marking of the end of semester assignments. If I average 45 minutes for each one, and there are 42 to mark ... well, you do the maths. Suffice to say, this long holiday weekend will be nothing but marking and trying to allocate grades.
But the sooner it's done, the sooner I can write. Actually, rewrite. I have the draft of the Quentaris novel to rework and get in to the editor in 3 weeks time. So enough procrastinating (my favourite pastime!) - get moving!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

After some thought, I decided not to post my Sydney diary to the blog as I did with the Chatauqua diary. This one was too personal, trying to deal with all the stuff that was coming at me, and I'm not one who believes that blogs are for totally spilling your guts!!
Some highlights of the past 10 days, however, include:
- Meeting Tim Winton and talking briefly to him, and also meeting and reading with Sam Wagan Watson. Sam's book of poetry, which won Book of the Year, is great and has sparked off several poems for me.
- Meeting the two publishers, Sharyn November and Marion Lloyd. This reinforced what we know so well but forget - that every editor and publisher is different, they all have particular ideas about what their list is, they all have different tastes, they all have different ideas about what might sell. And they still mostly have to answer to the bean counters and the marketing department.
- Hearing David Fickling (publisher) speak again about his passion for great books. His quote "If you write it, they will come" says to me that I have to write what I feel passionate about, what fascinates me, and keep at it. Never give up.
- Having time on my own to think, wander around Sydney (climb all over a sailing ship the Endeavour), write, think some more, and then think some more. Being at home, even when alone, doesn't somehow allow this.
When I came back to Melbourne and realised that the only publicity was going to be self-generated, I spent nearly a whole day on it, helped along by Victoria University where I teach part-time. Their media dept. was great. Don't ask me about whether the publicists at Penguin did anything...
So no writing, up until yesterday. Then I started a new short story that I am quite excited about. But can I pull it off? It's ambitious. Probably a good thing. And I tell a lie. I have been writing poems.
Now to go back, yet again, to the middle grade novel and work on Draft No. 6.
I plan to update my website this week and include photos. Coming soon...