Tag Archives: Writing

It’s Here!

14 Oct

Current Status: Migraine-y

Food Consumed: My nerves

On The iPod: Page One; Katie Noonan & The Captain

Word Count: Lots of (longhand) pages!

Remember a while back I told you I’d won a place in a writing retreat? Well, the weekend of the retreat is finally here, and I’m a bundle of nervous energy.

My weekend of intensive writing starts tonight: the meet-and-greet retreat dinner. I’ve never been too good at dealing with meeting new people (hence part of the nervous energy), and I’ll be on my own, too, as opposed to being with my husband, who is only slightly better at meeting strangers than I am. If you’re anything like me – shy, awkward, doesn’t like public speaking or public scrutiny – then you’ll understand my trepidation.

I also get my manuscript report this evening – this is where most of the nervous bundle of energy comes in! I’m trying to prepare myself for the worst – that my novel is a big ol’ mess and is beyond repair – but there’s still a little voice in the back of my mind (or heart) that loves my novel so dearly that I can’t even begin to fathom why someone else can’t love it the same as me.

I have this sinking feeling that the night may end in tears: my tears.

I’ll let you know…

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BWF 2010: Part 2

17 Sep

Valentino gowns. An enthusiastic Norwegian. Organic coffee beneath a sprinkling of rain.

This was my second glimpse of the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. And it was much better than my first, I can tell you.

Ali and I started our day at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). We had an hour until our panel; we had plenty of time. Seeing the Valentino exhibition was high on my list of things to do while I was in Brisbane for the festival, and I’m so glad I got the chance to see it, because it was so beautiful! Honestly, if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to get your ass there and SEE IT! I think I wanted to take just about every gown I saw with me (and there was a lot – you get your value for money and then some!)

After the disaster that was our first panel (the day before), we didn’t hold high hopes for Random Acts. I started devising an exit strategy before we went up stairs to the Qld Terrace, just in case (since it would have been handy on the Saturday). As it turns out, we didn’t need an exit strategy. We didn’t even need plans for the rest of the day, because I could have quite happily listened to Jostein Gaarder, Louise Doughty and lovely chair, Katherine Lyall-Watson, for hours.

The panel was all about philosophical thinking and personal beliefs: whether certain events in our lives really are random, or whether they’re being controlled by a higher power, kind of like a puppeteer maneuvering his puppets on a string as he/she sees fit. It’s hard to condense the panel into a few words because there was SO MUCH in it – Jostein talks so quickly and with such excitement that you find yourself being swept along with his voice, and you’re so engrossed you forget to take notes!

Leaving the panel, my head was full of all different kinds of scenarios and whether some things are random or not. Also, I wanted to buy both Jostein and Louise’s novels (which I haven’t yet, but I swear I will; I kinda depleted the bank account just a tad the day before at QWC and Avid Reader…)

The rest of my time in the Qld capital was spent feeding my face (pretty much) – eating the most amazing Chinese of my life with Ali and her lovely family, and stuffing myself full of to-die-for grilled chicken at The Norman with my grandfather.

And then came Belinda Jeffrey’s book launch. We all packed in tight to the little Avid Reader bookstore on the Monday night (because of my last, not-so-nice experience of West End earlier in the week I dragged my hubby along as body guard/walk-us-to-our-car man).

The launch was short and sweet and wonderfully done. It was so lovely to finally meet Belinda, say a quick hello and snag an autograph inside the cover of her shiny new book (which has the best cover in the world, I might add – I love it!) And then it was back to the apartment to pack up all the stuff I’d bought during my trip and head home with weary feet and a head full of writing-talk.

The question now is: would I do it all again next year? In a heartbeat.

BWF 2010: Part 1

9 Sep

 

My first impression of the State Library of Queensland (SLQ), and the writer’s festival in general, was a slightly panicked one. I was running late. My first panel was due to start at 1:00pm – it was 12:50pm when I caught my first glimpse of it all… as my car sailed over the new “Go-Between” bridge and into the city!

I was pretty stressed at this point. My friend and critique partner extraordinnaire – the lovely Ali Smith from LoveMissAli – was already there and having a crisis of her own (she’d left her ticket at home and was in the ticket line to get it re-printed). So, I was on my way to Roma Street Station, when I should have been at SLQ, and Ali was friendless (because I was so late) and hoping she’d get her ticket re-printed before the session started. Not exactly a promising start to our festival plans.

Thankfully, that was about the worst that happened during our writer’s festival weekend. I managed to get the library on time (thanks to my lovely hubby cutting across some traffic where he perhaps shouldn’t but he got me there safe and sound so that’s the main thing), and Ali managed to get her ticket and we got into the session with a minute to spare and seats still available.

We needn’t have rushed, let me tell you. We went into the panel thinking we were going to get some juicy tips on how to craft the perfect short story, but what we actually sat through was a bunch of short stories from the author’s life – real-life stories – that rambled across time and back again, from friends of his to his son to some couple in an emergency room… I don’t know, I didn’t follow it all that well. It was literally a bunch of rambling stories, and at one point I think I asked Ali whether our speaker was drunk or not.

Highly disillusioned, I found solice in the QWC headquarters, where I chatted with a lovely lady behind the counter, picked up a copy of the latest AWM book, and bought a raffle ticket (I didn’t win, FYI). The few minutes I spent in the QWC office refreshed me: I was ready to go back out into the festival, and I was ready to put that rather unusual panel behind me (after about an hour of serious bitching between Ali and myself over coffee (on Ali’s part) and water (on my part) and countless cigarettes (on both our parts)).

If you’re feeling brave, you tackle the walk to West End in the daylight hours. I’d been warned before that West End wasn’t a place you go unless you really have no way of avoiding it, and I really wanted to go to Avid Reader, so there was really no way of avoiding it. The walk there wasn’t so bad – there was the usual riff-raff you’d expect in a not-so-safe district of a capital city, shoeless men slurring drunkenly at passers-by with open alcohol containers on the footpath – but it was the walk back to SLQ that opened my eyes just a little bit, and had me dashing across the pavement a little quicker than I usually would. A man staggered over to the ANZ across from us and started bashing on the glass doors, which were, of course, locked solid. He was cussing loudly (something about being ripped off?), was obviously very drunk, and I feared the glass might actually shatter at one point. Ah, West End, the memories.

What I remember most fondly about that first day at the festival is:

– Meeting the lovely Ali Smith for the first time in person

– The sheer size of the SLQ (to a small town gal, it is seriously monstrous and so beautiful!)

– Cigarettes on the steps overlooking the river

– The realisation that Avid Reader is perhaps the most perfect little bookstore of all time, and I want it to be mine (or to have a bookstore just like it)

The things I remember not so fondly? Waiting 30 minutes for a takeaway coffee at the SLQ’s cafe (though it wasn’t my coffee so I was perhaps less impatient than if it actually was mine I was waiting for), everything about that first panel I attended, and the addition of the bloody bridge that almost made me late for a panel that, in hindsight, I wouldn’t have minded missing in the least.

Stay tuned for part 2 (which I swear will be much more exciting than part 1).

The End is Near

24 Aug

Current Status: Elated & emotional

Food Consumed: Nothin’

On The iPod: 9 Crimes; Damien Rice

Word Count: 4 pages (longhand)

I will be finished my novel-in-progress very soon. This week. Maybe even today.

Soon, my work-in-progress will no longer be a work-in-progress – it will be complete, whole, a piece of my soul in a bunch of jumbled up scenes that tell a story I hope you’ll all like. And although I’m yet to write the final scene (which is, coincidentally, perhaps the hardest scene I will have to write in this novel, that one pivotal moment where everything changes for my protag), I’ve already started to feel a bit teary – not because I can’t/don’t want to write this last scene, but because it’s so close to being over, and soon it really will be.

It’s been about 18 months since  I properly started this novel (give or take a few months, I’ve never been good with numbers). Along the way I’ve loved and loathed many things about it, but one thing has always been a constant throughout the writing of this piece: I have always loved my characters, and I think I always will.

Now, the thought of letting them go – finally letting them go – is a little scary and almost too much to bear. I want to cling to them and never let them go, but if I do that then you will never get the chance to love them as much as I do, and I really want you all to love them, or at least have the opportunity to love them.

I’ve mentioned that I’m going to have a blog contest soon and give away something pretty to one of my lucky followers. I think I’ve been waiting for this moment – the moment I write “The End” on my novel for the very last time – to start the contest. It’s fitting, don’t you think?

I must get back to the words – I’m on a roll and I don’t want to stop! While I finish this novel and try ever so hard not to cry at the thought of saying goodbye to my characters, I’ll leave you with a mini-inspiration post, a few images that sum up my final scenes quite perfectly.

The Beautiful Muse

13 Aug

The great thing about being a writer is that we can be inspired by anything and everything. When the words aren’t flowing (as frustrating and horrid as that can be), we can be sure that there will be a new source of inspiration waiting for us on the horizon. It might be days away, a week, maybe even a month, but we can be sure that it’s there, and that it will come.

Over the years of what I call my “serious” writing – writing with the passion and the hope of publication – my words have been inspired by so many things: other writers, classic poetry, a moment between two strangers in a shopping mall, the lyrics of a simple song, cinema, my own life.

Lately I’ve found films are inspiring me more and more. They’re planting a seed in my mind, an idea that quickly blossoms into something I know I’ll explore one day. Cinema is another passion of mine, so it’s lovely to know that the few hours I invest in a film isn’t necessarily wasted time. More often than not I’ll come away from a movie session, my mind brimming with new and wonderful ideas. And the funny thing is, most of the time the ideas I get really have nothing to do with the film I’ve just watched – they’ll have some little thing in common, like an essence, an attitude, a setting.

For example, my most recent plot idea (and one I will be exploring right after I finish the draft for “Times of Bright”) came to me while watching the final scene in “Bright Star.” If you haven’t seen the film, the scene has Abbie Cornish’s character, Fanny, walking through a wintry wood reciting the poem Keats wrote for her. My mind took the winter of the woods and before her beautiful and poignant voice had reached the end of the poem I had a whole new world erected in my mind, and characters that I was already half in love with.

I think the key to this inspiration thing is finding passion – not the kind of passion you can touch, but the kind you feel deep inside yourself, the kind you get from writing, and with the same level of intensity. And when you find your passion – whether it be from a movie or a song on the radio or the words of a best friend written on pastel paper from the fourth grade, the inspiration will come, and it won’t stop.

What kinds of things inspire you in your writing?

My Elevator Pitch

3 Aug

Aspiring author Karen Tyrrell recently wrote a thought-provoking post on elevator pitches and just what it takes to get your manuscript noticed by an agent or publisher. (If you haven’t read Karen’s post, you should! It contains lots of handy hints to get your pitch just right – read about it here).

It got me thinking: what could I possibly use as an elevator pitch for my manuscript? For a while there I was stumped. I literally kept drawing a blank whenever I thought about it – kinda like when I thought about writing my CV or my synopsis, total mind blank.

I started questioning what my novel was really about. I mean, it’s a post-apocalyptic tale set in Australia, with a young male protagonist and a whole lotta angst, but that’s not exactly the most eye-catching pitch ever developed, is it? And then it hit me in the shower this morning – my elevator pitch:

“Everybody is capable of killing. Fourteen-year-old Ollie just needed the right trigger.”

Okay, so it’s probably lame and it doesn’t make mention of the end of the world, which is kind of the whole premise, or where the story really begins anyway. But does it describe the basic undercurrent of the story? Does it highlight exactly what makes my novel tick? Yes, I think so. My elevator pitch is pretty much my novel, in a really tiny nutshell.

But what do you think? Does it grab your attention? Is it punchy enough to gain the interest of a literary agent or a publisher?

NB: I christened this post with a picture of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, simply because I want to look at him.

EDIT: I’ve updated this post with my new and improved elevator pitch, thanks to Karen Tyrrell’s lovely advice.

CV’s & Synopsis’ & Applications, OH MY!

2 Aug

Current Status: Freaked out

Food Consumed: Raspberry lemonade

On The iPod: Life on Earth; Band of Heroes

Word Count: 1,000

I’m in the middle of writing an application for an upcoming writer’s retreat and I am literally freaking out. I have no idea what I’m doing. I have the manuscript part done – I guess you could call that the important part. As for the CV and the synopsis the retreat is asking for… yeah, I’m stumped.

I think my biggest problem is that I don’t know what to tell them and what to leave out. What do you put in a writer’s CV, anyway?

The Writer’s CV

I’ve just googled the kind of content that should be included in a writer’s CV (because I seriously had no idea what to write AT ALL), and this is what I’ve come up with so far (please correct me if any of this sounds wrong):

– Your Writing Bio: a brief 150-200 piece touching on your successes as a writer, your future expectations, as well as a short introduction about yourself and the kinds of areas you like to write in.

– Comments: a listing of any testimonials you have received, either from industry giants or fellow writers (basically the kinds of things you find on the back cover of novels).

– Awards/Achievements: if you’ve won any kind of writing competition, no matter how small, this is where you mention your win. Also mention any highly commended or notable shortlistings.

– Publications: if you’ve ever had any of your work published – be it short stories, poems, or even reviews or newspaper articles – this is where you list those kinds of achievements. Unfortunately for the aspiring writer, blog reviews don’t count.

– Education: got a bachelor’s degree floating around in your drawer, but it’s not a writing-related degree? Who cares – list it anyway! Any kind of self-education counts and should be listed on your CV (though a degree in creative writing or english lit would certainly look a lot better to an agent or publisher than a degree in science).

– Work Experience: no matter what you’ve been doing with your life while you’ve been struggling away with your novel, list it here. This section is all about life experience.

What’s in a Synopsis?

Contrary to popular belief, a synopsis is NOT:

– a short story version of your manuscript

– a teaser

– a book blurb

– a piece of creative writing.

In short, a synopsis is one giant, two-page SPOILER that only your editor/agent/retreat judge should see. It’s all business, so the synopsis should be free of any creative flair that your manuscript has. It should cover the basic structure of the novel’s plot and character developement, and TELL rather than show exactly what your manuscript is all about.

Blunt writing is what makes a good synopsis, so keep it short and leave the fluffly stuff for the novel.

Phew! I’m glad I googled. I suddenly feel a lot less overwhelmed now that I have a better understanding on it all. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m about to write the perfect CV and synopsis. As with everything in the world, practice makes perfect.

I’m off to practice! (And finish the application!!)

What do you think should be in a writer’s CV and what should be left out? Is my blunt approach to synopsis writing how you would do it? Please discuss in the comments.