28 July 2006

When A Complete Stranger Gives You Flowers...

This morning I went to the market and, on my way out, grabbed a bunch of flowers. With my arms filled with pumpkin and apples and daffodils, I remembered those old Impulse ads - the ones where the girl wears her Impulse body spray and a stranger is so entranced, he thrusts a huge bouquet at her. The situations changed but the basic premise stayed the same.

I'm not the kind of girl who ever gets flowers from a stranger, no matter what body spray I wear. I might get a free beer occasionally (and I'm not one to scoff at that) but never the girlie-girl stuff.

As I sulked on this, I remembered the one and only time when I recieved flowers from a stranger. The only time, in fact, I've got flowers without having to go through childbirth or illness. I think this story goes a long way to explaining why I could *never* write romance.

Years ago, when I lived in Hobart, one of my good friends worked as the head waitress in a fancy restuarant. Another friend and I decided to splurge on dinner there one night. I can't really remember the details but I'm sure it was a mighty fine meal (you always remember the bad ones).

We'd got to the pants loosening, coffee stage of the night when my friend, the waitress, came over with a massive bouquet of red roses. She handed them to me, saying one of the other patrons had requested she give them to me.

After my initial 'oh my god, I'm a femme fatale with men falling at my feet' moment, I asked her what was really going on. It took a bit of pressing before she told me.

The giver of the flowers had organised the big surprise proposal - a ring in the champagne glass, the rellies waiting in the kitchen, the balloons, the flowers. Everything primed for the moment she said "Yes."

The girl said "No."

Oops. Still they were lovely flowers and I'm sure he was better off without her in the long run.

25 July 2006

Where are all the good books?

Not at my local Borders, that's for sure. I went down there last week when I got paid to stock up on some reading and their entire stock of Chick Lit sucks. I know there are some great books out there - I'm always seeing stuff I want to read when I'm surfing the net - so why do they only stock the blandest crap imaginable? The young, single woman working in publishing or PR looking for Mr Right type books - blah.

The other big thing in stock is Mommy Lit. Now there may be some great stories within this subgenre but I am so never going to read them. I spend 18 years of my life trying to convince my son to leave home and now he's gone, the last thing I want to do is read about people who are conceiving or raising children. Seriously, every time I watch the Gilmore Girls and Lorelai talks about having another child, I have to hide my head under a cushion. She'd have to be as old as me and I so don't want to think about people my age breeding. The whole concept freaks me out.

I ended up buying Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami. It's a great collection of short stories but each one feels like a rich and heavy meal. They take a long time to digest. Definitely not good for tram ride to work. I was looking for something more like a bowl of lemon gelati on a hot summer day.

19 July 2006

Timelines

I have 9 chapters of my novel I want/need to rewrite. My birthday is on the 16th September. What does that mean? It means if I get my butt into gear I'll have my novel finished by my birthday. Well this draft.

Hey, I could even give my birthday guests a copy to take home and critique.

I want this novel finished. I have a head buzzing with ideas for the next book but can't write a word until this one's done so that's a great motivation to get through those troublesome chapters.

Last night I met with my writing teacher. As I mentioned previously, his feedback hasn't been helpful at all. I just don't think he gets it. Actually I've found he doesn't seem to provide much feedback to anyone. As I waited to see him, I talked with one of my classmates -- he'd double booked us -- and she was there for the same reason as me so I'm not just being precious. Anyway he's getting another of the teachers to look at it and give feedback. I'm not sure how long it will take. The thing is, it's the opening chapters so I'm not happy for them just to be adequate or good - they must rock with a rockin' fury!

14 July 2006

Story

In my previous post I said I hadn't been learning anything in my novel class but that's not entirely true. Every week my classmates bring their work in for critiquing. They have chapters filled with wonderful metaphors and poetic language. They weave meticulous detail through their work. I used to feel bad because my work has none of this artfulness but then I realised something.

Say classmate X got hit by a truck - or no, that's a bit ghoulish - say, they got a once in lifetime chance to move to Paris or Jamacia or anywhere that isn't so frigging cold, and I found out I'd never read another word of their novel, I wouldn't care. Even if on their way to their chosen exotic locale, they dropped off a CD with the full ms for me to read, I'd be like ...hmmm my pc is really slow and this CD will take a few minutes to fire up. Maybe later.

There's nothing compelling about their stories. Nothing that makes me give a rat's arse about what happens next. You can write with all the finese in the world, doesn't make it a good story. On the other hand, to use an obvious example, the whole frigging world wants to know what happens next in Harry Potter (with the exception of my friend, Dave).

Nobody raves about the lyricism of JK Rowling's language, nobody rants about her use of metaphor but she can write two rather tedious books and still have the world hanging out for the next one. And the reason is that we care about the characters and we care about the story. She's set everything up so well in the first four books that you excuse the last two (although the last one had better be damn good).

I'm not saying that my novel is the most compelling read ever, or even that it achieves this in any greater degree than my classmates, but I try. Whenever I bring stuff in for workshopping, one of my classmates gets excited because she's been waiting to hear what happens next. She's my favourite classmate.

I don't feel so bad about my lack of artfulness now. Some things are far more important.

13 July 2006

Just Write the Damn Thing

I think you reach a point where you have to decide whether you're a writer with a day job or a Whatever who writes as a hobby. You can't be a professional Whatever and persue those goals with all the enthusiasm and drive required plus give the time and attention to your writing that you'd like to. Well, maybe other people can but they are far more robust than me.

Technically, I made that decision a few years ago when I quit my safe, career focused programming job. Since then I've worked in contract jobs - where you aren't expected to be a "company man" but the downside is that you spend considerable time looking for work. Even when you aren't working, you have to deal with the insecurity of no income. Again, other people probably could manage this but I always seem to end my contracts with no savings and no planning for life post employment.

My point is that I have to immerse myself more in getting things done. For the past few years I've had three goals - to finish writing my novel, to lose weight and to get out of debt. I've done well on the weight loss and seem to have mostly conqueured the debt. I've made steady progress on the novel but it's still not finished. I spend more time worrying about that than actually writing. I'm halfway through the second draft now and I don't feel any closer to completion than I did a year ago.

I think I need a deadline.

12 July 2006

Arrrggghhh!

There is nothing more annoying than those people who can't take criticism. If you're in a writing group or studying, you know exactly what I mean. Every time someone makes a suggestion, they argue and fight and rant that no one understands their work. It's not the work that has the problem, it's YOU for lacking the intellectual capacity to understand their genius...

BUT...

my novel teacher is driving me insane. I swear he has zero understanding of my novel. Not just my novel but of anything that happened since the mid 20th century. He questions every single cultural reference in my writing and I don't use obscure references either. Eg, he asked me who Laura Ingles is - sheesh, even Nan would know that.

Plus he's so frigging patronising - every time I workshop something in class, he says I write well for my market. I want to kick him in the nuts every time he says that. So I don't write post modern literary fiction with poetic language and breathtaking imagery. Is that any reason to talk to me in italiacs?

He wants me to 'introduce' my characters. It isn't enough to have a character *do* something, apparently I have to telegraph ahead to say they are about to do it. I really think you can give the reader some credit, even in my market. If the first mention of a minor character is when he goes dress shopping with the protagonist, I think I can trust my readers to surmise that he's her gay best friend. I don't need to put - "I went shopping with my gay best friend, Jack..." That would be just awful.

Later in the chapter, the gay BFF calls the protagonist "sister". My teach actually wrote a comment on the ms, saying I should have noted earlier that they were siblings! WTF. Tell me, who the hell calls their actual, blood sibling "sister"? Well okay, I do call my sister that sometimes but in a mocking, ironical way.

I think I'll go along before class next week and have a talk to him. Or maybe I'll send him an email. I don't care about my marks - they mean nothing to me. I can't imagine the difference between distinction and a higher distinction in my novel class would matter a toss to any publisher, but I would like some helpful feedback. I'd like to leave class just once feeling like I'd got some value for the time I put in.

11 July 2006

Insane Making

Because I've been working on my novel on more than one computer, I've been having version control issues. More than once, I've redrafted a scene only to find it has later disappeared. The thought of sitting down to re-redraft the same scene breaks my soul.

Last night I decided I need to get my shit together before they come to cart away my blubbering remains. Instead of emailing the whole novel back and forth, I'm going to keep the master version on my pc at home and email the section I'm working on elsewhere. When I'm working on a section, I'll mark it in highlighter on the master version. I'm also going to date stamp everything. Hopefully that will save my sanity.

Btw is it just me or is it normally for any scene that involves shopping or eating tiramisu to require much more research than any other kind of writing? If I were writing an historical novel with an obscure medieval setting, it still wouldn't need as much research as that tiramisu!

10 July 2006

News

One of my short stories is being included in the Mammoth Book of Erotica 6 anthology. I'm not sure about the release date but you can bet I'll have all the details up here when I find out.