Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hello Netherlands!

There are a few things I know about the Netherlands.
It has a history of great painters.
And good cheese such as Edam and Gouda.
There are tulips, windmills and clogs.
50% of the land lies less than 1 metre above sea level.
Tuesday's weather will be a minimum of -7 and a maximum of -1, with a chance of snow and 20% chance of rain.

What I don't know is why there has been a sudden rush of views of my blog from the Netherlands.
Can anyone tell me?

Monday, November 29, 2010

The big question on short stories

The skill of a good short story is that it offers the reader a glimpse into their own life truths in a way that other writing can't offer. Often, with novels, the reader is caught up with the characters or the plot.
The end of a good short story can give you a kick in the guts.
Or it can linger with you long after you've moved onto something else.

Just as writing books for children is not easier than writing books for adults
so writing short stories is not an easier option to writing a novel.
Australia has a history of short story writers
and it feels like lately it has started coming back into vogue.

Or maybe I'm just hoping?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back to the future

Some people love to do it and some people would rather poke themselves in the eye with a sharp (or burnt, depending on your upbringing) stick.
Some people spend time wondering and some never give it a second thought.
Some people do it once and wish they'd never done it.
Some dream about doing it but don't have the guts.

I did it on Friday night and I'm glad I did.
Thanks for the great school reunion Caroline...

Friday, November 26, 2010

A word on speeches

A good speech is really just another way of telling a good story.
It's not about being word perfect, about precise annunciation or having a posh accent.
Or about being so incredibly rehearsed that you could talk without really thinking about what you are saying.

Time and again, I have to remind myself that a good speech is about speaking from the heart.
it's about believing what you say and being passionate about your subject.
It's about being yourself.
(And ignoring the fact that your face is the colour of a beetroot.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You want eggs with that?

When I studied copywriting (last century) we had a fantastic marketing class which was the highlight of the course. I can't remember the name of the lecturer now, but he was a dapper man who had a colourful range of bow ties and a never-ending bag of anecdotes. One story that has always stuck with me is the story of the instant cake mix.

As a young man my lecturer was given the job of selling instant cake packet mixes. The manufacturer had done a great job of creating an instant cake mix that only needed water added by the busy housewife (and housewife it would have been then) to create a perfect cake. But the mix didn't sell. Subsequent surveys of the target market suggested that the end user felt they hadn't put enough effort into baking the cake, and questioned the nutritional value of the cake. Feedback was given to the manufacturer who changed their recipe so that it required the addition of one egg. Sales rocketed.

In a similar vein, publishers over the past few years have cannily rejacketed books to increase their market share. Books with child/teen oriented covers have been given more sophisticated treatments so that adults can happily sit on trains, in cafes and any other public place without the stigma of being seen to be reading a children's book. Nothing else has changed, just the cover.

I guess it's all about the perception of the end user.

Monday, November 22, 2010

There is nothing worse...

than driving someone to the airport
to watch them fly away
without you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More on the power of three...

Then there were the three musketeers.
The three little pigs.
Three blind mice.
The three bears.
Three Billy Goats Gruff

Three strikes and you're out
Three batsman out in a row is a hat trick

Three witches in Macbeth
Three sisters by Chekhov

It is also the first odd prime number.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Power of Three

I was arranging some flowers from the garden into a vase today (okay plonking) when I realised the power of three comes into play in more than just vase arranging. The three rule of vase arranging was introduced to me by my mother, herself a florist at one stage of her life. Never put two of a kind flower into a vase, always three to balance things out in an arrangement.

The unwritten three rule for writing was introduced to me by a lecturer who has now vanished from my memory's filing system, but his/her rule remains with me today.

The rule of three remains vague and hard to explain, so easier to show than tell:

He took a clipboard and a pen with him.
He took a clipboard, a pen and a well-worn ruler with him.

No, not a really good example, but the best I could come up with at the moment. A story between two people is always interesting, but three's a crowd — there's always something more delicious going on when you have three people. The friction as two side against one, the hurt as messages from one to three is lost in two's translation.

Three is just more interesting.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Disturbing Insight

I recently discovered the stats page on my blog software and find it fascinating. The most viewed blog so far was written last year and titled 'The Axe Murderer is Upstairs'. I wrote it when I was at work, late one night, alone in the double storey Victorian brick building that came to life after business hours with footsteps and creaks and groans.

It was a short post, something to acknowledge the discomfort I was feeling, a laugh at my imagination. I had no comments on the post but discovered on my stats page that it was the most viewed.

Am wondering if the label for the post, Axe Murderer, and Stephen King, hooked readers in??

Is it worth writing a book?

An acquaintance of mine, a fellow writer, recently asked whether it was worth writing a book. He meant financially, of course, but my initial response was, if you have to ask that question, then don't bother.

Still, it was a fair question. A publishing colleague and I always joked that if we wanted to make money we'd be better off running a fast food establishment.

So why do I write?
Because it helps me make sense of the world.
Because I want to send my words out into the world and touch readers in the way that my own life has been touched by authors I have read.
Because it makes me happy.

And royalties?
Any royalties are gratefully received.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 15

More on letting go...

having your editor talk about your characters is like going to a parent-teacher interview at school. The teacher may sometimes tell you things about your child that may be news to you. How you perceive your child at home and how they are perceived out in the wild world may be three different things.

You can try and convince your editor, and ultimately (hopefully) your readers that the character is, deep down, quite a nice person, just misunderstood, but in the end your character will have to stand on their own two feet and take what comes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 14

I went to my first SCBWI meeting yesterday, smack bang in the middle of Lygon Street in Carlton. There was such a feeling of goodwill and warmth in the room that it nearly drowned out the waiters placing orders at the kitchen window behind us. Moving our seats forward two steps to the front of the room also helped with the noise.

I saw some old friends and made some new ones. Corinne and Claire were excellent hosts and kept us on track. Congrats again to Glenda Millard on winning the Crystal Kite Member's Choice award for her book A Small Free Kiss in the Dark. Wendy Orr, whose book Peeling the Onion was one of the first legit YA books that I ever read, gave us an insight into the making of Nim's Island. Her underlying theme was — letting go. Letting go of your creation and understanding that once it leaves your hands it will never truly be yours again. This is a hard thing for writers to learn, but it only gets easier once you do.

Still, I found it hard to read the prologue to Six out loud to the group. The first time I had ever read any part of six to an audience, and an audience of my peers, which made it daunting. It was an emotional scene and integral to the story - note to self, never read that scene aloud again. Also has been an emotional week in one way and another, so guess that didn't help.

Note to George, sorry I made a fuss about you leaving, but it's only cause I know you and figured that you would take the joke! Which you did with good grace, what a gentleman.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 12

Last exam.
Last day of secondary school.
No more school newsletters.
No more parent teacher interviews.
No more school lunches, school excursions, school forms to be filled out and sent back on time.
No more things left in bags until they change all shape and morph into something else.
No more hate that teacher love that teacher the train broke down again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 7

Another exciting non-NNWM day!

Firstly, off to the Wheeler Centre (my new home) to hear Kate Morton speak about her new book, Distant Hours which I can't wait to start. That's Kate pictured. Hmmm. Richard Whitfield does take a good photo, but he had a lot to work with. I wonder if he could make me look like that...

And then, a drop in to my publisher, black dog books, for a quick and informal catchup with everyone there, some nice reviews and a reminder that Six has been nominated for a CYBIL — Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards.

Hooray — go Six!

NaNoWriMo - Day 7

Lots of writing, just not NNWM writing.
Second day of YA Masterclass stretching our minds
niggling the words to drop down from the sky
then plink plink plink
onto the page they dropped
till we raised our faces
and laughed at the drought
now broken.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 6

Have written about 2,000 words today but not for NNWM.

Had a Master Class in YA writing with award-winning author Libby Hathorn at the Victorian Writers Centre with a great bunch of writers armed with pens and pads (and one laptop) and not afraid to use them.
Been a fun day of stretching our imagination, taking what we know and pushing it further, and finding things we didn't know.
Why are such days so exhausting?

I managed to find another part of my NNWM story but now have to write it properly and incorporate it into the story.

Looking forward to tomorrow's class.

NaNoWriMo - Day 5

Day 5 of writing and nothing going.
Getting ready for a weekend of Master Class with Libby Hathorn at the VWC.
Will definitely not be taking NaNo writing with me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 4

Great progress today.
I opened up my WIP file and scrolled through, looking at the words, not reading really, and then checked my email , followed up with some admin and then onto home duties.
Another good day of not writing anything.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 3

Bad NNWM Day! Bad! Good concert last night though. The line up was impressive and read like a who's who of a 1970s top 50. First Peter Frampton — yeah well, who hasn't listened to Frampton Comes Alive and how angelic was that young boy (with the curly hair) but today's Peter Frampton (sans hair) blew me away as he cajoled, demanded and played that guitar like nothing I've seen before. What a legend.

Then there was America (I caught up with them in my teens with their America's Greatest Hits), and they were great. They looked like they were having fun, but not nearly as much as the audience, most of who sang along.

Finally Chicago blasted our socks off with their big brassy sound and I had to check that I wasn't having palpitations (it was just
the insistent beat of the major drum solo). Not going to mention the average age of the audience but everyone seemed to have a ball. Happy birthday to you Ken! Thanks for a great night Kate!

And now for some serious catch up NNWM writing...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 2

A national holiday (for some) so busy doing other things, however I did get down some words at the end of the day. Have to stop myself from editing as I go and just let it spew out. Easier said than done.

Monday, November 1, 2010

National November Writing Month - Day 1

My aim is to blog every day of NaNoWriMo 2010. I started my writing today. The recommended word count per day is 1667 words. I managed this today with a tiny bit left over. So far so good.

Starting a new story is like finding a new love. With this one, I had a false start. Five hundred words in, I saved what I'd written and started again. I wanted a love story. This is what the second attempt seemed to be.

It's early days yet. We're still kind of shy with each other. I don't know the narrator that well, though her second-cousin once-removed is already shaping up nicely.

I'll just let it go and see what happens.

Delayed gratification

Read Sarah Wilson's article on delayed gratification on the weekend and it reminded me of my writing process. I like to let things bubble away for ages without writing anything down. By the time I allow myself to write it's in a burst of creativity like the start of a race horse as they burst forth through the gates. The trick is to stay the length of the course. (With a nod to the Melbourne Cup Race tomorrow.) I've been wanting to write for the last couple of weeks, but been holding back until today, the start of NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month).

Good luck to all the NaNoWriMo writers. Got a feeling this is one of the best days of the process.