Archive for July, 2009

‘Shoulda worn a better hat,’ says my sister.

‘Yes, thank you,’ I reply, a little testily. ‘Hindsight is twenty-twenty.’

‘Hey, don’t get cranky with me. I did not do this.’ She makes a sweeping gesture with her hand.

Stones as far as the eye can see, big and small. Stone statues, that is.

‘It could have been worse,’ I venture.

‘How precisely?’

I think about it. ‘I’m not entirely sure, but most things can be worse.’



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The ever-awesome Deb Biancotti has a short story collection coming out v soon. Published by sassy indie Twelfth Planet Press, A Book of Endings is available for pre-order here http://twelfthplanet.livejournal.com/4223.html.

You know you want a copy.

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Kim Wilkins is not only annoyingly talented, productive and good-looking, she’s also very, very clever on matters of writing and such. So have a look  at this for some most excellent hints and advice on editing.

The science of editing

I’ve just finished my first edit of “Field of Clouds” and the whole process went really well. Now it’ll go off to my agent, who may have more to add, and then to my publishers, who will no doubt have much for me to fix.

For those of you embarking on a self-edit, the most important thing to remember is to be methodical and detached. You can get swamped in an edit very easily. I always tell my students that it is like autopsying a puppy. If you can’t be methodical and detached, then more puppies may die. Rule number one is to have a printed copy of the MS, and go through it first with a pen, marking what’s wrong. Don’t try to fix it on the first pass, just make a note in the margin about what’s wrong. (Okay, if you know the perfect substitute word then put it in, but in general don’t fix, just mark). I do this, all the while imagining that I’m not the person who has to fix it. Makes it far less overwhelming (though a little more pathological).

Read the rest here http://fantasticthoughts.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/the-science-of-editing/

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The inimitable Kaaron Warren (she of short story collections The Grinding House and Slights, and many other short stories that left home and are living elsewhere http://kaaronwarren.wordpress.com/books/) meets the equally inimitable Bibliophile Stalker, Charles Tan, right here http://charles-tan.blogspot.com/2009/07/interview-kaaron-warren.html and good interviewy stuff happens.

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Queensland Writers Centre & Queensland University of Technology present: Books in the Digital Age:The Future of Writing

With the rapid changes in Australia’s writing and publishing industry, where will books fit in the digital future and how will this affect how we read and write? As part of QWC’s Wordpool series of three lectures for 2009, we’re looking at the the future of… books, writing and journalism. Digital publishing invites writers and readers to think differently about the dynamic relationship between content and the container in which it’s consumed and shared.

Join industry heavyweight Mark Bahnisch in a discussion as to what this means for Australia writers and readers, as he attempts to answer… what is the future of writing?

When: Tuesday 11 August, 6:30pm
Where: Room KG-B-304, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove Campus 
Cost: $15 adult or $10 QUT student – bookings essential
Ph QWC on 07 3839 1243, book online at www.qwc.asn.au

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Cool title, yes?

A copy of the above arrived last week via a very large carrier pigeon. It has a striking cover and is the debut novel by Brisneyland resident and filmmaker, Stephen M Irwin http://stephenmirwin.com/.

Why do I mention this? Because I cracked the cover this morning and found myself reading, reading, reading instead of just ‘taking a peak’ as I’d planned. The writing is very, very strong and the voice is compelling, engaging and authoritative. It’s pretty impressive to be so struck by this in the first few pages. I can only hope this continues through the rest of the book – I’ll let you know.

It’s horror … it’s a little bit crime noir … it’s The Dead Path. Did I mention it’s a cool title? From Hachette Australia.

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I’ve been reading a lot lately (well, even more than usual) and being forcibly reminded of things that annoy me. There are many of these things for, as a friend of mine has observed I’m a woman of many and irrational hatreds, but I don’t think this one is completely irrational.

I’m sick of magic that has no limits, no boundaries. I’m tired of reading stories where magic provides all the answers to sticky problems. If magic can solve everything, then why bother to write a book about it? A narrative is about desire and needs and obstacles and struggle – that’s what gets you interested in the first place and keeps you interested up to page 612.

But if all the obstacles your character faces can be solved by some newly discovered magical power every single time there’s a problem (“Suddenly, she discovered she was born with the ability to turn the ravening dragon into a jam and cream donut”[i]), then what’s the point? It’s a cop-out. A character should fight for solutions. Solutions should cost. Magic needs rules; it needs boundaries. Set them out at the beginning of your novel, then work within those bounds – this makes your story convincing and adds the element of tension. Readers of spec-fic are already inclined to suspend their disbelief … but if you keep pulling out an enchantment or other form of stray sorcery to fix things, then that suspension will be suspended pretty quickly.

And another thing (she says stamping her foot on the soapbox): the use of magic should not be free. If you’re using magic, you’re pulling power from somewhere. You should pay for it – there needs to be a quid pro quo on power. There’s not a generous magic fairy out there, dishing out fairy dust to the universe for everyone to use it. Magic can be a blessing but it’s also a curse. Its use is a mortgage on something in a character’s life – the payback can be youth, happiness, life, beauty, blood, the life of your firstborn (BTW: if I ever offer you the latter, don’t take me up on it – there are already about seventy-two people who think they’re getting it). My point is that there has to be a price – if there’s not a value on something then what’s it worth?

And! If all of your characters have powers, you better make damned sure you can differentiate between them – adding a different coloured cape is not an option, I’m sorry. Mixing magical and non-magical characters adds texture to your narrative – reading about people overcoming their natural limitations by sheer force of will is far more engaging for a reader than “Lo, he waved his wand and it was all okay and the whole cast went home to have lemonade and scones.” I have nothing against lemonade and scones – I just want to see my characters work hard to get them.

Even when characters win, they must have lost something in order to gain their objective. That’s what makes it compelling.


[i] My next post will be a rant about the word suddenly and why there should be a limit for its use in every writer’s career, and precisely what the penalties need to be for exceeding that limit.

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