Friday, July 29, 2005

My new goal for this week is to work out how to post photos on my blog. I have just been to Linda Sue Park's LiveJournal and she puts lots of photos on hers. Makes it lively and colourful. She also has a reading record of what she has read with comments, and she talks about being in a book group where they read and discuss middle grade and YA books. Now that's a book group I'd be interested in!
I'm still struggling with the DVCode. It's OK... I have to keep fighting the urge to run up to KMart and buy something else to read (can't go back to the library until I have paid my late fines!). Yes, I know I should buy from an independent bookshop, and I do, when I'm travelling around. There are none near me.
Still editing. Can't call it rewriting if it's only fiddling with words and sentences. Started on the YA novel - at least two years since I looked at it and am quite surprised at what is there. More than I remember. Not that my memory is so hot these days.
Still the problem with the ending. Always it's the endings with me. In adult short stories I love an ending that leaves a lot up to the reader (but not one that confuses or leaves you hanging, unresolved). I think there is a fine art in saying just enough and no more.
However it seems in middle grade and YA that more is needed, not that your readers are dumber, rather that they made a journey through your book and want something substantial to take away with them (unless you're writing Captain Underpants or just stuff that's designed for fun). So here I am battling with the need to add more guts or strength or "tangibility" to the ending without overdoing it.
And at the same time I have a picture book that my agent says is great ... except for the ending. Now I have to re-think that one as well.
Noah Lukeman wrote that writing book "The First Five Pages" - I think I need to ask him to write "The Last Five Pages" !
Still, I should be really happy that I have finished manuscripts to work on, considering I have about 15 unfinished or in first drafts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Various people in newspapers and magazines are writing their version of "how I read Harry Potter 6 and survived". Like we care. We are either reading the book and making up our own minds or ignoring it.
I have a voucher to buy it at Borders this week for $15. Booksellers discount or not, they'd have to be taking a big loss on that. Saw a piece somewhere recently about how little profit most booksellers are making on HP. Makes you wonder...
Rewriting. Arrggghhhh. At least this rewrite was nearly the last (on the fantasy novel) as I am up to polishing according to editors' notes (two editors whose job is also to pick up where I might have put stuff in that conflicts with other books in the series, so have had to change two character names. Boy, that's hard, especially when you took so long to decide on the right name first time around.)
Today is tax day. Quarterly return due in in two days and I haven't finished even half of it. There goes writing time. Can I charge the Tax Dept for it?
I am trying to read "The Da Vinci Code" and I mean really trying. A friend lent me the illustrated version. The pictures are nice! The story still hasn't grabbed me. One or two mild flickers of interest. As the Sunday Books columnist said on the weekend - who on earth is still buying copies of this book? Why is it in the Top 10 best sellers every week? Beats me.
Have just finished reading "The Lovely Bones" again as one of my classes is studying it (along with questions from me - questions about writing and technique and voice and stuff - not high school boring questions, I hope). Maybe that's why DVC is so boring. Coming after Bones ... a book that still makes me cry second time around. Now that is writing, character, voice and engagement!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What is a better excuse for not blogging than marking student work? Writing, of course! The break was all too short, as usual, but after a week of meandering (and the video course) my creative brain kicked into gear and I began madly writing. 10,000 words in one week on three different projects.
One was the short chapter book that literally popped into my head one night when I was having trouble sleeping. I was so pleased to have that happen, which is not a regular thing. I have since workshopped and reworked it, and sent it off. Fingers crossed.
I also started a longer novel for kids that has been kicking around in my head for a while and in the end I decided I had to at least put some of it on paper so I could see what I had and whether it worked. Needless to say, it stalled around 6000 words. Not a gift at all! It still sits there, waiting for me to decide what to do, where to take it, how to make what I have fire up into something worthwhile.
I have also written a number of poems, and this week, a short personal essay (my class is studying and writing them at the moment so I had a go at one). And a variety of other things have had words added.
Went to my first spec fiction (SF, fantasy, etc) convention last weekend, principally to listen to the guests from OS - Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb and Poppy Z. Brite. During the week before I had read Hobb's new book "Shaman's Crossing" and was a little disappointed with it. A million tons of description, and much of it felt like an extended flashback, a bit distant from the reader. That old thing of "let me tell you how I got to this point" and then the character goes back in time and does exactly that - tell. It took me until about Page 300 to start engaging with the character, which is unusual for me with her books.
At the convention, I think she was a bit shy. People kept complaining that they'd tried to talk to her and got brushed off. Hmmm. Her GOH talk was "The Writer in the Parent and the Parent in the Writer" - all about writing with kids and how often other writers look down on you (if you have kids and they get equal or more time than your writing, simply because that's the way it is, then you are not a serious writer). She also said "You will never have more time to write than you do right now." Meaning that life will always fill your time with stuff (family, job, other commitments) and you have to make time for writing or it will never happen. A good talk, inspiring in a solid, clear way.
Neil Gaiman was very witty, very dynamic and everyone loved him. I bought a copy of "The Wolves in the Walls", which is just as good as I hoped it would be (having seen a small extract) and he signed it for me.
I went to a number of sessions - probably the best were the ones on medieval arms and armour. Great swordfighting demos, plenty of weapons to look at and hold, lots of good information and further references.
Reading? Apart from the Hobb book, I've also read a French crime novel "Blood Red Rivers" (not a great translation, by the way), "Millions" by Frank Cottrell Boyce (funny but I think it's been a little over-rated by those who have been raving about it), and tried to read "The Da Vinci Code" because a friend has lent me the illustrated version. Didn't get very far but the pictures are interesting. Might go back to it later, if only to see what the fuss is about.
Have I read the new HP? No. No time at the moment. Writing is more important, especially now I have started teaching again. But I will. I do like HP, and I know I was reading them before the hype started. A student lent me a copy she got in the UK, probably before the first one hit Australia. Yes, the adverbs do annoy me at first, and then I stop noticing them.
And I wish people would stop going on and on about how rich JK Rowling is. So what? Lucky her. Or not so lucky. She never goes out any more, never does public appearance stuff. Probably can't even go to the supermarket. Is that a great life? I think not.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The video is finished, and my head was bursting with information by the time we had gone through all the steps and made lots of notes, not to mention the editing and rendering into other formats for viewing. I may put mine on my website when it is updated, although only people with broadband or cable will be able to download it, I think. It will be up as a Media .wmv file but is around 3MB.
It depends whether I think it is too silly or not. However, it was a lot of fun to make and I've learned a huge amount. Now I need to keep practicing so it doesn't all get forgotten, as often happens with computer training. Use it or lose it!
I have been working more on rewrites, and decided to make a list (yes, another one) of all my unfinished writing projects. 21 of them. Everything from short stories to novels to poetry things. In various stages too, from barely started to needing a final good rewrite. It was quite scary to see it all laid out in black and white, but liberating in a way too. At least it allows me to prioritise, and not to forget some of the things I have been putting on the backburner for a long time.
I thought doing all of that would help me forge ahead with more rewriting. Instead, last night I got into bed and could not sleep. A story popped into my head, beginning with a silly title (silliness always gets me going with kid's stories) and it would not go away. I lay there, eyes wide open, as the story grew and grew, and finally I had to get up and write it down.
All of it. A whole story outline in 2 rough pages. This happens so rarely and it is such a gift. I got up this morning and have been working on it all day, finishing up with a complete first draft by 3pm (it's a short chapter book, not a long novel!!). Happy days. Such a great feeling.
I don't even mind the thought of going back to work next week now!!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Since teaching and marking finished, I have been working working working on writing things. So busy, I hardly know where to start each day. Thank goodness for lists. How people survive without lists to keep track of everything, I don't know. Or else that's a comment on how badly my brain functions these days!
Most of the work has been rewriting; what I call the "cut and polish" rewrites, where you go through the manuscript for what you pray will be the last time (even though you know it won't be) and tweak plot points and delete wordy bits and deepen character a little more and rework that ending one more time. First of all it was the fantasy novel, which took 4 days of re-reading and fiddling. Then I had a non-fiction assignment - police dogs. I had done an interview and photos in New Zealand of a police dog and his handler, submitted it to the NZ School Journal and finally it went through (with extra photos). School magazines here were interested but wanted first rights, which I couldn't give. So I ended up, after many phone calls to the Police media people here in Melbourne, going out to the training centre and doing another interview and taking a different set of photos. Got to pat a very cute Rottweiler puppy (just as well she had a home already or she might have been going home with me!) and meet a keen German Shepherd called Klute. His handler was great, very talkative and very good at setting up action photos for me.
So then it was a draft of that article, time out to go to my writing group, and more time given to collecting clothes for a good friend of ours who was completely burned out last weekend. They lost everything. Devastating and almost unimaginable, except being a writer, I can imagine it only too well, and shudder. Needless to say, I have been turning things off here and triple checking all power points before leaving the house lately.
On Thursday a writer friend and I made a pact. I went to a house where she is house-sitting (in order to get space and time to write) and we both wrote all day. Her in the bedroom, me in the dining room. We met for lunch, and then we met later in the afternoon to talk about our writing and show what we'd done. It was so productive. I spent nearly the whole day on my middle grade novel, which is now in about 6th draft, and worked on "cut and polish" again. Now another writer friend (who is an excellent editor) is going to read it and be very critical!
Today I have been a film maker. I'm doing a video training course through my workplace (the uni) and Friday was camera techniques day. Weekend homework was to film 5-15 minutes of footage, the topic being "How to do ...something" so I have filmed "How to write a pirate novel". Complete with me in pirate hat.
All I can say is, thank goodness I am not a film director!