Monday, 28 June 2010

One Weekend In June

What a rude awakening I have had; the world seems determined to convince me that I am not as hermit-like as I would like to have thought. I've barely been home all weekend. I've not eaten a proper sit-down meal with my family since Thursday. I'm struggling to remember their faces...

I'll just give a brief overview of my weekend. It might excuse any... ahem... slackness in the writing department.

Friday night I put my theatre going regalia on and I went to His Majesty's Theatre with two of my favourite people in the whole world: My Grandma and Grandpa, who I know are reading this, so Hello! We saw the Bell Shakespeare production of King Lear. I enjoyed it immensely, but the staging elements were somewhat helter skelter. I still have yet to discern the necessity of a waist-high split in any costume. My kudos must go to Tim Walter who played Edmund. He was funny and entertaining, and captured beautifully this modern character; wearer of stove pipe jeans and spiker of hair. Maybe it's because I spent last week listening to The Cure but he also somehow reminded me of Robert Smith. And Rik Mayall in the Young Ones, a little.

Saturday day was spent working with some of the funniest girls I know. Then, that night, I was picked up by my best gal pal and her boyfriend and we headed out to Fremantle to bid farewell to my other gal pal Hannah. Hannah-banana is heading to Norway for a year, to be a Fisken Fjorder, or so her blog says. We started at Flipside Burger Bar, because Mrs. Brown's next door was so full that people were literally standing in the doorway, and then moved to the Norfolk Hotel to sit under their glorious heaters, before gorging ourselves on hot chocolate at San Churros. Man, I love Fremantle and all it has to offer.

Sunday, two gal pals and I hopped on a train and made our way to the Burlesque Lounge, for the monthly Vintage Fair. Many bargains were there for the taking. In the first two minutes I found darling shoes for ten dollars. I also picked up a dress and a bag. Afterwards, we walked to Murray St. for a cafe lunch, and were met by a third gal pal and her baby niece. The service in the cafe was abysmally slow but they do get a point for having a cute waiter. (Sorry, I'm a girl, it had to be said.)

Sunday night was reserved for a gig, but at the last minute, my friend K, who I was getting a lift with, said she was getting sick. I asked around all the girls I knew, begging them to come be groupies with me but to no avail. Luckily, I have some very very lovely guy pals who dropped their busy nights in of Milo drinking and Guitar hero/ Warcraft playing to sit in comfy chairs and make stupid hand gestures with me! Huzzah. I'm glad I went to the gig, even if we did only see two of the bands. The Farthing Woods were great, but the band we were there to see, Dyonisis were much more fun to listen to. They genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves on stage and their songs were intelligent and complex. Two thumbs up.

So now, you may not hear from me for a little while, because I'm a bit of a moron and I've decided to race someone to finish Ulysses... and seeing as I've read one chapter, and it's the LONGEST BOOK EVER (probably), I should actually get back to it.

Days til JulNoWriMo... 3

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Just like Heaven.

I've often wondered if I was born in the wrong era.

I probably wasn't. I don't know if I would be able to live in a decade with no internet or no electric kettle. And just imagine having to grow up in a decade that had not yet experienced the wonders of Harry Potter! Preposterous. But sometimes it's fun to pretend. Sometimes, its fun to totally immerse yourself in a different time. It's probably a form of escapism.

Last night, I accompanied a group of eccentrics to Northbridge in cocktail attire. I tried to go as Ingrid Bergman, but not being blonde haired, blue eyed and... well, you know, European... it was somewhat more of an interpretation than an imitation. And boy, does that red lipstick take a lot of maintenance!

The place we went to could have been (in the words of one of the attendees) anywhere in the world. We could have been sitting on antique couches in the converted shed cafe in London, in Paris, in Prague, in Venice... although I strongly doubt that the waiters in places like that would wear their designer underwear sticking so far out of their pants, but you never know.

The photo is me and my best friend pretending to be characters from Cluedo. Miss Scarlet and Professor Plum, in all their sartorial goodness. Image by Rui Tan.
It was a good night. I should get out more often, but from the looks of things, July won't be a good month for it. I've signed up to do julnowrimo at the request of a Uni friend; it looks to be a cheap knock off of Nanowrimo, so in the spirit of doing things half-arsed, I've only committed to writing 50 000 words on the edit of The Compound.
Cheerio then.
... and yes, this post was named after my favourite The Cure song.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Self Review

The following questions are taken from James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self Editing which has been a most helpful and entertaining book. I did this exercise to help me clarify my thoughts about The Compound.

Does my story make sense?

The Compound is a tense emotional journey. A lot of its development takes place internally. She explores the complications of falling in love, from the social restrictions our friends and family place on us, to the mental ones we impose on ourselves. At times, the author is fanciful, allowing things to happen fortuitously to her lead character in order to move the plot along. Things make so much sense, in fact, that she over-explains them to us, using large sections of exposition to explain actions to the reader. I feel that in a lot of places, this is more than is necessary. However, she has written a story with a touching and realistic narrative arc and her themes are well realised.

Is the plot compelling?

First of all, I find the plot of The Compound very easy to relate to. It is a coming of age story about the mental anguish associated with grown up love. But it is a difficult novel to get into. The book should start explosively, immediately leave the reader on the main character’s side. Instead, it starts with the reader feeling like they are going to follow a very weird boy’s search for love with the first girl he lays his eyes on. As the plot wears on, it becomes more and more interesting. The second and fourth sections are particularly well realised as far as plot points. The first section needs work as a starting off point, and the third needs work on both tension and accuracy.

Does the story flow or does it seem choppy?

The story starts off like a car driving on a bumpy road. It takes a while for the author to really hit her strides. In each chapter, however, she does reach a point where she really seems to know what she is doing. I think that if she were to cut out excess wordiness and remove or alter plot points that do no justice to her story, the flow would be perfect. But if she doesn’t fix the opening, no one will read past chapter one.

Do my Lead characters “Jump off the Page”?

Winston is interesting. He’s quiet, he’s sensitive, loyal, faithful, kind of a goody goody. I think that maybe he needs to have been picked on a lot, to explain his loner ways. That might be a nice way to start the book. Sarah is something else. She’s completely irrational, she’ll say one thing and be thinking the complete opposite. She’s impulsive and pushy and defensive and yet totally pliable. She’s like a charging bull that’s attached to a long chain attached to something heavy. She reaches the limits of her family’s rules, or her comfort zone and just stops dead, falls over in submission. She’s lovely, I think she’s wonderful for Winston.

Are the stakes high enough?

We’re talking about the kind of happiness each character plans to base the rest of their lives on. Each one is searching for what they think will complete them. Winston wants to meet the love of his life, he wants to share in the pain and pleasure of life, and he’s ready to give all that to Sarah. But he has to battle with the limits of his own ‘manhood’. Sarah, on the other hand; for her, finding love is just one of a huge string of adventures that she’s ready to have. She needs to break free of her father’s rules and disapproval or she’ll never take the chance and have those adventures. What’s at stake is freedom and happiness. So yes, the stakes are pretty high.

Is there enough of a worry factor for readers?

Ok. So yes, emotionally, the readers follow the journey and they feel it along with Winston. But they probably don’t experience the really dangerous parts of the story. When Winston escapes from the compound, it's too easy. And he gets by pretty easy in the camp. When he beats up Robert, the author is really getting at something. And then Sarah just lets him off. I don’t really believe that. I believe that she would be so devastated by her father admitting he never really wanted her, and telling her that he got rid of her letters and manipulated her, that she’d run to Winston and yell and scream at him and blame him for everything, and he would be the one who was apologetic and pitiful, not the other way around. There needs to be building tension, a moment of break, and resolution. She’s close, she’s just not quite there.

I would give this book a 6 out of 10. Room for improvement but almost there.

Monday, 7 June 2010

First Chapters are Hard

I'm reading the Compound, pretending that it was written by somebody else. I have to remember to do this some place where pens and paper don't go, because the urge to edit is strong in this one. I keep finding typos or repetition, or phrases that old Elimy liked and new Elimy can't stand. And there is a strong lack of continuity in the book, most of it stemming from chapter one.

Chapter one exposes me as a fraud, so it's going to be the hardest to fix. I have to make it seem like I know what I am talking about. Chapter two is not so bad (at least that is what I tell myself to keep myself from crying) and if I can make the whole book around about the same quality then I will be really pleased with myself. In fact, as I write this, I'm quite keen to rewrite the first chapter based on a half a page I did when I was a-researching. But everything at it's proper time. This is the order of work in which I am partaking (what's with the olde timey speak E?):

Rewrite chapters which verily suck
Edit for continuity
Find a real editor who is not me?

I'm also quite keen on the idea of waiting until I get feedback on my first three chapters from a woman who ran a program that i participated in in 2008 but I can't guarantee that will reach me in time. So here's to my own good judgement.

Ok, so I'm going to go back to reading, maybe on the balcony because there are definitely no pens up there.

Oh and maybe you're asking about the gnomes? Why gnomes? Gnome-body knows.

Puns are wicked. In the medieval sense of the word, not the present day jargon.

** N.B. for about a month, this blog had a garden gnome theme. The subtitle read "Adventures of a Little Gnome Writer." I have more recently regained my sanity and the gnomes are now gone.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Study Break, Oh Study Break.

Hi there, people of the interwebs.

Here's a quick list of what I am working on.

* The Compound
* A story for the next issue of DotDotDash
* A story of the Wet Ink short story prize... although I have actually not yet come up with an idea... so help?
* A story for my favourite literary magazine, Kill Your Darlings
* Something for the KSP short fiction awards... again help?
* Something for Metior issue 4- well and truly under control this one

I don't think I have missed anything. If I have, sorry Self.