Saturday, 30 June 2007

Blue Moon

Today is a blue moon. I was lucky enough to see it earlier this evening, before the clouds swept in and it started raining.

No, it's not really blue. It means that it's the second full moon in a calendar month. The previous full moon was on June 1.

I've just checked the Melbourne planetarium site, and it says that the full moon is at 23:50 (Aus EST) today, so it only just scrapes in! I've never before considered that the full moon has a specific time, but it is no doubt for similar reasons that the solstice occurs at a specific time.

Inspiration #1 - Bogong High Plains

Mountains in general and the Bogong High Plains in particular. (But that's possibly because I have't yet been to Switzerland!) But I must be in the mountains, or on top of the mountain, not looking at the mountains from far away.

What is inspiration?

The challenge is to list six sources of inspiration (other than people). This has made me think a bit about inspiration, and what people do with it. As a writer, I naturally consider it to be inspiration for writing -- a scene, or a piece of dialogue, or a description. But there are many other ways to be inspired. I guess it often ends in an action though, whether a good deed, or merely an act that might not have eventuated otherwise. Or maybe inspiration can lead to a pure form of happiness and contentment, and that's enough.

In my case, inspiration hits me like a wave of adrenalin and makes me want to write. In the past, it has also made me want to sing (which for me is often an expression of happiness) :-)

The dictionary says (OK, I'm also an engineer and I like definitions):
inspiration - 1. drawing in of breath, 2. divine influence, esp that which is thought to prompt poets etc, 3. thought that prompts a sudden brilliant or timely idea, 4. inspiring principle.

Like Lisa, I am going to write several posts over the next few days on things that inspire me.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Feline interruption

A rather common stereotype is the writer surrounded by cats. I confess I am well on the way to personifying this cliche. I have but one cat, Chenna, yet for all the trouble she gives me she might as well be three.

Right at this moment, she has decided she needs to sit on my lap. Usually at this time of the morning, I feed her and she demands more food, so I feed her again and then she goes to sleep on her cushion.

Not today. This morning she wants to epitomise the writer's cat and be "company". This morning she has cajoled and wheedled and wormed her way onto my lap.

Believe it or not, such a circumstance might be pleasantly warm and companionable, but it's not all that conducive to productivity. For one thing, I have to sit further away from my desk and now I'm having trouble actually reading the screen -- not to mention reaching the keyboard.

Perhaps that's her grand plan: distract me from the true mission so I can pay attention to her! She's just as likely to swipe me or bite my wrist, as sleep . . .

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Currently listening to . . .

Release the Stars - Rufus Wainwright
The more I listen to this, the more I like it. It's currently playing on repeat in my car. Some interesting instrumental arrangements, wonderful singing (his voice is more velvet than chocolate), and quirky melodies. Favourite tracks so far are "Do I disappoint you?" (the opening track), "Between my legs" (I don't want to know what this one is about!), and "Slideshow".

Little Eve - Kate Miller-Heidke
There's a bit of a story here. A year ago, the CD stacker in my car died at the moment I inserted a new KMH CD (an earlier 'EP'). It has taken exactly a year for us to determine that the stacker is stuffed, so I have just had fitted a new stereo that plays MP3s and WMAs from CD, i-river via aux port and USB key! Anyway, while this was being installed, I was browsing in JB Hi-Fi and spied this CD, a new release (as well as the others listed here). Somehow it seemed fitting for me to purchase it! Kate has a 'Kate Bush voice' and is even more quirky than Rufus Wainwright. Only a few listens so far.

Moo You Bloody Choir - Augie March
I bought this on a whim, because I rather like the hit - "One crowded hour". So far I am really enjoying the CD as well, although I've only listened to it a couple of times.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Solstice bonfire

This is how we celebrated the winter solstice at a friend's farm. A cold night, but not cold beside the bonfire. The stars came out and we marvelled at them. We welcomed back the sun. A perfect evening.

Barista in training

Coffee. My drug of choice. Generally a skim cafe latte, but a skinny flat white will always do.

About six months ago, my sister gave me her discarded home coffee maker. She upgraded to a fancy one where you push a button and everything is automatic. She doesn't drink instant coffee anymore.

I, on the other hand, am neither too proud nor too fussy to drink instant coffee. It's quick, low fuss and doesn't make a mess. I detest cleaning up coffee grounds. So the coffee machine has been sitting on my benchtop, a mystical beast I don't know how to use, right beside the kettle where I boil water for the Nescafe. Until today.

My mother decided it was time for me to learn how to use it, so arrived armed with a litre of Skinny Milk and moral support.

First dilemma: what to froth the milk in?
Second dilemma: how to make more than one coffee at once?

We settled for a large soup mug and a single coffee and embarked on the inaugural cappucino. We gave this to my dad. It's hot! he said. A good start.

After three lattes/flat white/cappucinos (who knows what they were) I was actually rather impressed with the temperature and consistency of mine. Aside from the weird hazelnut-flavoured coffee that was all I had in the fridge, it seemed rather close to a bought one. I've had many crappy coffees from amateur baristas and fully expected this to be no different.

So am I converted? Probably not for every coffee -- with the amount I drink I'd soon be over-saturated with milk! And there's still the cleaning up, which I now face. But definitely it's an option for the indulgent weekend kick-back coffee! Hopefully practice (and some better beans!) will improve the results even further.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Success in the early hours

Remember my pre-dawn experiment? Well, it has been remarkably successful. After five ~6:30am starts (Mon to Fri) I have churned out more words than I would have done in the same time at the other end of the day. Perhaps twice as many (per day). If you consider I actually wrote 5/5 instead of 2/5 days, the result is fantabulous.

The brilliant thing about the morning start is that the only way it can be compromised is by my sleeping in (not an unknown scenario, I admit). In other words, you don't have dinner invitations, TV shows, or meetings (well, not that often, anyway) at 6:30am. All you have is one hour in which to write.

This means that I can write every day without struggling to fit it in, or battling exhaustion at the end of the day. Somehow, despite feeling absolutely dreadful at 6:30am, I am fresher. The words seem to flow more easily.

I really don't know why it worked so well. On the weekend, I find it really difficult to squeeze in an hour's writing when I have an engagement on afterwards. I simply can't get my head around what I need to do in that time. So why isn't it the same in the morning? Maybe it's the continuity of writing every day.

Anyway, I plan to repeat the whole deal next week. I believe I am sufficiently bouyed by the results of week 1 to be capable of dragging myself out of bed again. Hopefully it was not a fluke, and I might actually finish this novel sometime soon!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Winter solstice

Today is supposed to be the shortest day of the year (if you're in the southern hemisphere). That is, the Winter Solstice.

This year's June solstice is to occur at 18:06 Universal Time today, June 21. However, here in Australia that corresponds to approximately 3:00am on June 22. People often go blank when you talk about the solstice as being a particular time, so I've included the following diagram to help explain it. It's to do with the exact time at which the earth's tilt places either the south or north pole closest (or farthest) from the sun. Farthest equals winter solstice, i.e. shortest day.

A spot of netball madness

You probably know by now that I'm a great fan of netball. In recent years I have indulged this by supporting the Melbourne Phoenix as a member and watching as many of their games as possible.

However, once upon a time I played. I used to play every week. But then half the netball team got pregnant and I was keen for a break, so I stopped. I haven't really missed it (although the decrease in exercise had detrimental side effects). In fact, I hadn't played netball in around four years . . . until tonight.

And tonight I relearned something. Watching professionals play netball is NOT the same as playing it yourself.

In the four years since I stopped playing, I have forgotten how to catch the ball. Throwing it also proved a challenge. I spent the entire game (filling in for a team that used to be the dreaded foe) running around like one of those three-year-olds you see at a ballet concert: full of enthusiasm, but about half a bar out of time, and skipping in random directions. That was me trying to play netball.

It took a lot of persuasion by my friend for me to agree to fill in tonight. But having dropped 17kg (OK I've said it) and bought new netball runners on the weekend, I thought I'd give it a go. Good exercise, I told myself. Maybe you're ready.

I was so not ready. My mind was willing, but my body just would not follow. Too slow. Too out of practice. Too uncoordinated! (Plus playing an unfamiliar position.) I seriously embarrassed myself. I dropped perfectly simple catches. Towards the end of the game I tripped over my feet and sprawled on the ground. From the moment the first whistle sounded, I wished the game would end.

On the plus side, I did get the best workout I've done in four years. I expected it to be very tough physically (because as a general rule I do not run) and it was -- but not unbearably so. That side of it I could deal with.

But, wanting to play like a Phoenix player and instead mimicking a three-year-old? That I found very hard to deal with. Perhaps the skills would come back to some extent with time (not that I ever played like a Phoenix player -- just to be clear!). But I really don't think I could bear the agony and humiliation of the interim.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Me thinks I don't protest enough

Fury. An emotion to be experienced, examined, savoured, and dredged up again later when writing a relevant fictional scene.

Source? The City of Melbourne Parking and Traffic Branch, who have sent me an obnoxious letter refusing to let me out of my parking fine.

I simply cannot believe it. They are wrong. I checked the signs. I went back the next day and took photos of them for heavens sake. I do not for one minute believe they went back to check. Instead, they rely on my not wanting to take it to the Courts for a measely $54 fine. They send a rude letter stating I have only one internal review (which I've now had). So now it's "pay the infringement notice" or notify the Courts.

They are quite right in thinking that I am not going to take the latter course for a $54 fine, but I am seriously mad at being bullied like this.

I wonder how often they do this? It's probably some deliberate revenue-earning strategy. This is the problem with a time-poor, cash-rich society. They (ie me) would rather pay money to keep the hassle away. It's simply not worth $54 to me to spend the time and effort fighting this through legal channels.

My other letter of protest (re the netball finals) has ended unsatisfactorily as well. I received the most pathetic (and badly written) e-mail in response to my second message:
I appreciate your disappointment and now that if we had of selected
another state to host the finals, we would have been faced with similar counter
arguments. We remain committed to producing what will be a fitting end to
the Commonwealth Bank Trophy.

They are seriously deluded. Sometimes I think the world is just out to rip people off.

Monday, 18 June 2007


This is not a good time of the day for me. I feel physically ill, very shaky and I can't eat yet. Nevertheless, I am going to try to write. Part 1 of a new mission.

It's not quite as early as I'd planned, either, but I missed my alarm. Didn't even hear it. Hopefully I can get around 45 mins of writing in. Tomorrow I'll try to get up earlier.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Time management

As a writer you need to have good time management. There are always so many things that need doing about the house, or people to see, or places to go. A year or two ago I started timetabling my weekends in an attempt to schedule writing in. Sometimes this works fabulously. Other times -- as seems to be the case this weekend -- there are simply too many things other than writing that need to get done.

OK, to be fair, I did allow myself a sleep-in this morning. Frankly, there's no point trying to write if I'm tired, so I may as well benefit from the fact I don't have to get up go to work. (And on some mornings bed is soooo comfortable and snuggly.)

Anyway, since finishing "breakfast" at about 11:15, I have been on the go, multitasking madly. Two loads of washing have been done and hung-out (including the labour-intensive grey water watering of my garden), my bed has been made up with clean linen, five new CDs have been ripped to wma, the front driveway has been swept of leaves and these used to mulch part of the back garden, software for my new mp3 player has been loaded to the computer . . . I think I've been rather efficient!

But now I find myself pondering the rest of the day and all the things I still need to do: wash a million pieces of new Tupperware so I can fit out my pantry, go for a walk to get some exercise, clean bathroom & toilet, sweep and vacuum the entire house, and, above all, WRITE!

See what I mean?

In many ways I am paying for the sheer indulgence of the con last weekend, when no household chores of any kind were done.

I should add that I had a very efficient day yesterday as well -- although again, no writing. But I was up at 8:15, at Chadstone shopping centre by 9:30, at my sister's for lunch 2 hours later and about $550 poorer, then spent the afternoon in the vicinity of JB Hi-Fi having a new car sound system fitted (to replace my unfixable CD stacker) and taking a tour of the local fitness centre (I might post about this separately later). The evening was spent with friends.

So how does one prioritise writing when faced with such a life? I confess I have no idea how mothers with dependent children do it. I really don't.

One of the challenges is utilising small amounts of time. I suppose that instead of writing this post, I could have slotted in some novel time. But I find it so hard to clear my mind of everything else that needs doing in order to focus on the novel. There's always something that niggles at the back of mind telling me that I have to stop soon to do . . . whatever. Unless I clear my schedule and accept that I am not going to achieve all the other things, I simply cannot concentrate.

So does this make it more about time management or mind management? Or maybe it's simply about priorities. Do I want a clean and orderly house, or 500 words on the novel? Do I focus on my health, or the novel? Kate Forsyth said last weekend that she sits down to write at the allocated time, irrespective of whether there are still crumbs on the kitchen table and dishes in the sink. I suppose, in the end, the stuff that must get done still gets done somehow. So on that score, I should just write and damn the consequences!

Thursday, 14 June 2007

The snow leopard and me

It seems the latest thing is to determine your "daemon", an animal familiar that is supposedly representative of your personality, as described in the fantasy series, His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pulman. The first in the series (known in Australia as Northern Lights, but in the USA as The Golden Compass) has been made into a movie to be launched later this year. See the movie web site to determine your own daemon.

Mine is a snow leopard.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Well then, FINE

On Sunday I got a parking fine.

Now -- look at the picture and tell me what's wrong with that.

That's two letters of protest in under a week!

Netball controversy

In the 11th and final year of the Commonwealth Bank Trophy national netball competition, Netball Australia has decided to host all finals over a single weekend in Sydney, instead of awarding finals matches to the teams that earn them.

This has provoked in me a sense of extreme outrage, and last week I sent rather a strong e-mail to Netball Australia expressing this. My main concern, of course, is that there is now absolutely no advantage to Phoenix winning the minor premiership, because they won't get to host the first semi-final. It will be in Sydney. And if it's against a Sydney team, they basically handover the home court advantage. (This is assuming Phoenix continues as they have started!)

Only one team in the history of the competition has ever won a grand final away from home (Phoenix in about 2004).

Anyway, today I received a response -- a very wishy-washy response if you ask me. It seems to be wholly based on the fact that Sydney has the largest netball venue and has drawn the largest crowds.

So now I have just sent another e-mail telling them thanks, but I don't think it's good enough. I have never bandied words with such organisations before, and it will be interesting to see how it ends.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Go with the flow

As you might expect, the con has left me feeling both inspired and determined. The thought of Ian Irvine bashing out a first draft (warts and all) in a single month, plus other writers emphasising the need to get the first draft down quickly then focus on revisions, just reinforces how much I still need to learn -- or unlearn, as the case may be.

I need to rid myself of the tendancy to require 'perfect prose' in the first draft. So tonight I practiced 'not caring' what I wrote. It was still hard, because I still needed to find the purpose of what I was writing, but once I'd worked out where I was going with the scene and chapter, it worked OK. I just need to keep reminding myself that revisions are for both fleshing out and pruning back, so it's better to go with the flow.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Convergence: a summary

After three very intense days, the con is over. As predicted, it was the perfect forum for catching up with friends, networking, listening to the experts, and then discussing the key ideas that came up. We ate. We drank. We talked . . . We are now exhausted.

I am going to list all the panels I attended over the three days, but will limit descriptions to certain key points that I personally responded to -- plus a few "epiphany moments". It is always so interesting to hear how other writers go about developing characters, worlds, plots, since it reinforces the fact that all writers approach writing differently. "The important thing is not how we do it, but that we do it." (I think I quote Pamela Freeman there.)

So here are the panels:

What are the big cliches of fantasy?
Many cliches (or "recurring elements" as Richard Harland liked to put it) were listed. It all boiled down to the idea that these can be used selectively in fantasy, but need to be treated well. Jane Routley suggested that each cliche could be subverted. Pamela Freeman said that big cliches (of a plot nature) are more acceptable than small cliches (of an everyday life nature). Richard Harland said writers needed to find the emotion at the core of the recurring element. All panellists agreed that "writing within a tradition" was acceptable.
The panel also included a lengthy discussion on how female sexuality and intellect were treated in fantasy, with Jane Routley in particular dark on the virginal heroine. It led to a Margaret Atwood essay, In praise of stupid women, to be suggested.

Where are the new dangerous visions?
This panel focused on what topics were edgy (e.g. terrorism). Someone quoted "Entertainment leads to comfortable lies, while art leads to uncomfortable truths", but not everyone agreed with the statement. Gillian Polack said fiction made uncomfortable truths comfortable; Glenda Larke said she tried to pack edgy material into comfortable surroundings.

Isobelle Carmody Guest of Honour Speech
Isobelle's talk was really her life story, with some anecdotal information about some of her books thrown in. She was an extremely good speaker, no doubt deriving from her background as a storyteller, which is how she became a writer. Some interesting insights:
- when she writes it's all about the "thrill of the game" and control of the environment
- she believes a "real writer" is someone who writes to understand the world, to figure things out (I'm not convinced all writers do this.)
- fantasy brings "more" to an otherwise mundane life
- you shouldn't write feeling bound by genre; write what you want to write. it's an inward journey, so don't think of it as a communication. (I should add that this contradicts what I've always believed.)
- the place where (or the terms by which) you enter a career defines the shape of that career
- she cannot write to order, and cannot write books in a series one after the other. she needs to go away and come back again, taking the time to grow again.

Is fantasy really about good versus evil?
The panellists defined evil in a number of different ways, ranging from the "ultimate evil" (such as the dark lord), through to morally dubious people, through to anyone who happened to be the antagonist to the main character. So obviously, the answer became yes.
Richard Harland did point out that one takes very strong sides in fantasy, and Kate Forsyth suggested that fantasy was often an exploration of what is good and what is evil. Pamela Freeman's view was that fantasy presents the main character with moral choices. Tansy Roberts said chaos versus order was an alternative. Glenda Larke maintained her interest was in the moderate versus the extreme. She said everyone should read the Coldfire Trilogy by CS Friedman.

Eating ancient food: historical foodways for writers, readers, fans and chocolate lovers
With this panel, Gillian Polack's main point seemed to be how writers could use food more to propel plot and portray cultural detail (not just for adding colour and flavour - ha!). For example, food can be used to show class and social status, generate conflict. She also said that there is nothing generic about the middle ages, that cultural habit was very specific according to region and situation.

Teen Angst
This panel was about why YA fiction is often dark and depressing. The discussion revealed that maybe not all teens want such stuff, that many enjoyed material that offered hope. An interesting point made was that publishers consider YA to target 15-20 year olds, whereas most agreed many kids that age were reading adult fiction. Therefore YA is being read by 10-14 year olds.

I wish I'd thought of that!
This was Keith Stevenson's personal take on the story development process. His epiphany: that the desire to be creative is a mindset.

Slippage on the liminal
A panel about how horror evolves from the cusp of transition from one thing into another; the familiar slipping into something else . . . Robert Hood talked about the slip between objective and subjective, where the internal becomes external. Much of the discussion compared Japanese and Western horror, focusing on how Westerners like to provide answers and rationalisations, which somehow defeat the whole purpose of the horror in many cases. One thing that struck me was the fact that some people actually like stories that don't make sense! (e.g. David Lynch films). The key is to make it 99% real and tweak it.

How to promote your book
Ian Irvine generously gave this panel on self-promotion. His main tips: don't rely on the publisher; market yourself widely, including to your publisher. The reality is that you have 3 to 6 months only to make sure people buy it!

Lay down your mystical amulet and grab hold of this!
About swords and swordfighting. Very handy. Interesting points:
- women could wield swords effectively, since many swords were less than 1kg
- however, strength and reach, with all else equal, will always win
- swords got bigger to penetrate armour
- it's important to always counterattack after a defensive move
- wrestling was a big part of hand-to-hand combat (e.g. run through the attack)

Approaching the craft
In this panel, writers shared their thoughts about where ideas come from. In summary, the source of ideas are many and varied. Those ideas germinate into stories in different ways -- whether starting with characters that need to speak, or finding ideas that fit together and resonate. Some writers mull over ideas in the head for ages, others need to free write or write pages and pages of background to crystallise their thoughts. For most of them, characters were most important, and they suggested putting characters in dramatic situations to see what they do.
Isobelle Carmody said a writer's first novel is a tapestry of everything they've ever read, and so they find their own unique voice with time.
An interesting topic was which authors the panellists found inspirational. These included Ursula Le Guin (especially Steering the Craft), Roger Zelazny, Jane Yolen (including Touch Magic and Take Joy). Another book mentioned was Writing Hannah, by Libby Gleeson.

A talk with Isobelle Carmody
This was an informal chat. A highlight was Isobelle's performance as Sassy Cat during a reading.

Looking for the hook?
The role of the hook and how deliberate its placement should be was discussed. Pamela Freeman felt strongly that the hook should include a promise to the reader about what is going to be delivered. Joel Shepherd, on the other hand, felt that readers needed to be drawn in gradually, or dropped in the middle of something they need to work out. The best hook is when the reader doesn't recognise it for such.
A good point was raised about fantasy series, and whether the first book needed to end on a hook for a second. The consensus seemed to be that all books needed to stand alone as a story, but that if they were part of a series, the opening for a sequel needed to be obvious. Pamela Freeman made an excellent point about worldbuilding: that the author should keep introducing new aspects of the world, and make it clear that there are new parts of the world to be discovered in sequels. (Never thought about this before, but it's great advice.) Joel said that many readers read on in series just to spend more time with characters (me included).

Steve Gleeson gave us some excellent history, practical tips and theory about blacksmithing. One of his major points was that a smith had to be creative and inventive in order to make whatever was needed. This often included the tools needed to make a specific object. He listed a heap of everyday objects that would have been made by a smith: nails, kitchen implements, cutlery, tools, hinges & locks, chains etc.

Subvert the dominant paradigm
The discussion centred partly on whether or not fantasy needed to be set in a world reminiscent of medieval Europe, and partly on the subversion of cliches. It led to discussions of cultural appropriation, which everybody agreed was usually not such a good idea. The panel agreed there are many alternatives in fantasy already.

Phew -- that's it! 15 panels over three days is pretty good going. The other event was the preview screening of Claire McKenna's film Liminal, starring many people from SuperNOVA and others at the con.

Out of all that there is much to think about.

PS - For another perspective, see Tracey's blog for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Anticipating prose at the con

This weekend is Convergence, the national science fiction (and, by default, fantasy) convention. It will be a hugely social and literary weekend all rolled into one. This is my chance to go mingle with other spec fic writers, gain inspiration from published authors, learn some tips. I have been looking forward to it for weeks.

I used to think sci-fi conventions were all about getting dressed up in Star Trek costumes. But, you know what? That is a massive stereotype. I do recall seeing a Star Trek costume at a con once or twice in the past five years or so, but from my perspective the con is for writers. The fans probably think it's for them, but they're wrong!

The first con I ever went to was Aussiecon Three, World Con 1999, the 57th world science fiction convention held here in Melbourne. I didn't realise at the time what a significant event that was for the Australian spec fic community. There were some huge international names there: Terry Pratchett, Robert Silverberg, Elizabeth Moon, George RR Martin, J Michael Strazinsky and so many more that I can't remember. I went with a friend and we wandered around wide-eyed, religiously attending panels, hanging upon every word uttered by novelists we revered.

It was my first taste of the Australian spec fic community as well. Prior to Aussiecon Three, I'd had no idea that this entire world existed. I met my very good friend Danger Girl at this con, in a writers workshop with Elizabeth Moon, and we both continue to reminisce about how wonderful it was. (And mutter jealously about one of the other participants in that workshop who is now a best-selling Australian novelist with about six books!)

The cons I've attended since have been considerably less grand, but still incredibly worthwhile. Over the years, I've expanded my spec fic social group significantly, primarily through my writing group SuperNOVA; and now, instead of standing on the outside looking in, the SuperNOVA clique (and affiliates) is quite a force to be reckoned with. It's as much about hanging around with my friends, talking fiction, as it is attending panels -- although that's also a highlight.

This weekend I will be in seventh heaven.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Page Turners - Heart of Darkness

Tonight we discussed Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

I'm afraid I didn't add much to the conversation, because I didn't read it . . . barely made it past the first ten pages. This was not because I didn't like it, but because I have been doing other things. A pathetic excuse really. I would have liked to have read it. I don't know if I have the discipline to read it now that the meeting is passed.

Despite my lack of input, the discussion was animated and seemed to go well. I can't really outline it here, because I'm not sure I followed much of it in the end. Deeply philosophical stuff.

However, we did eventually move onto the benefits of part time work and whether or not doctors surgeries need to know your home address. (I have no idea how we got there.)

Thrashing out the beginning

I'm in that delicious opening phase of a technical story, where words and phrases come hurtling at me from all directions, begging to weld themselves into the all-important opening paragraph somehow.

I type them in, each on a new line, until suddenly one of the ideas takes off and turns into a paragraph. Voila! There's the opening. That's where the story starts.

I delete all the other discarded ideas and continue on.

In writing such papers I am essentially channelling the ideas of my client, but there's always some of me in there as well. After all, my skill is supposed to be in the communication of specific ideas, so the way in which the client's ideas are arranged comes down to my own logic, strategy and imagination.

I am a tech head

I am a tech head. Truly. I can't help it.

In my daytime job, there is nothing I like better than diving headfirst into a client's technical presentation, asking persistent questions about the bits I don't quite understand, and getting to the bottom of how stuff actually works! Then I have the intense pleasure of writing the whole lot into a technical white paper for publication in magazines and trade journals.

For example, my current assignment is digital (and mobile) TV network planning. Sound dull and excruciatingly specific? NOT AT ALL! It's brilliant. I have just learned why the digital TV signal is broadcast 6dB down on the existing analogue signal during a simulcast period . . . And why broadcast mobile TV is a heap more complicated from a network planning and deployment point of view . . . And how to combat adjacent channel interference between mobile and fixed digital TV networks . . .

I actually have a little bubble of excitement deep within as I contemplate starting said white paper. How seriously strange.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

New look

I got bored of my previous template, so have updated 'the look'.

(sigh) It's like going shopping.


The only person you should ever compete with is yourself. You can't hope for a fairer match. -Todd Ruthman

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Best laid plans

I get up every morning determined both to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day difficult. -E.B.White, writer (1899-1985)

Monday, 4 June 2007

Warm & fuzzy

I have had one of those evenings that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. This is what I have accomplished:

1) grocery shopping
2) healthy dinner
3) two episodes of Buffy (Have started working my way through these again -- just started season 3)
4) 500+ words of writing

Now I am about to go see if I can make some progress with Heart of Darkness, which is our Page Turners book of the month.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Tough day

Today has been tough. A real grind. Some writing days are just like that. Some scenes require more thought than others, a more careful treatment.

On a day like today, I can spend hours staring at the screen without adding anything. I scroll through previously written material, trying desperately to find 'the zone' and the inspiration to tell me how to write a scene. I resort to handwriting my frustration into an exercise book, before returning to the computer to eventually write.

Unfortunately, I am not a writer who can let the words flow and accept they are crap. Instead, I try to create a first draft weave that captures the right pacing, the right description, the right emotion, the right dialogue, the right expression. All a waste of time, really, when you consider how much this will all change during revisions. But that's me. And it makes me very slow.

The fact that I am nearing the end of the novel makes this all the more challenging.

So I have spent a large proportion of today -- a luxury for many writers with children to worry about -- in front of my computer screen, agonising over this particular scene. In the end, it's been fairly successful, and I'm feeling pretty happy (if groggy!).

More importantly, hopefully today's effort will help me get back into the excellent rhythm I had earlier in the year. For me, writing is usually about momentum. I can make effective use of an hour, so long as it's an hour more or less every day. If I leave it a week, I need about three hours to get back into it.