Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's happening? (Or what a bugger of a day)

Hi all,

Well the day started off alright. Did my exercises and weights; watered the vegies, pot plants and fruit trees, picked a few tomatoes, thought about mowing the lawns. And then we got a telephone call that my father had collapsed and been taken to the Wang Base Hospital. Went to hospital. My father is okay. His blood pressure is causing some concern - they want to send him to the private hospital to see if his pace-maker is still working, but wont dare to move him until his blood pressure settles down. My father had a Ct Scan of his brain yesterday and we fear that it may have damaged his pace maker. My mother is with him, so I go for a shorter walk than usual and head home.

Follow Norman Mailer’s quote: A real writer produces work even on bad days, I turn on the computer and struggle to write 50 words.

Phone call from hospital. My mother had been told that my father will probably have to stay overnight. She wants me to collect a few things for him and take them to the hospital. I do so. They want him to wait for a cardiac specialist and the hospital registrar to see him. The later to decide whether he needed to be admitted to a ward instead of being stuck in emergency all night. I stay a while and then both me and my mother leave.

Later tonight, phone call from the hospital. My father has become irritable as he can’t understand why he is still in hospital, as all he did was "fall over". I head off to hospital again. The cardiac specialist and registrar have proven how special they are by not having seen him seven hours after he was admitted. My father had managed to get his pants on when they stopped him from leaving. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do about the intravenous drip plugged into his arm. My mother and me convinced him to stay. I think even the most rational of us would have been upset and thinking about leaving the hospital if nothing seemed to be happening.

An hour later, phone call from the hospital. The registrar had finally appeared and said my father could go home. My mother tells me that, although he did not say so, she thinks the registrar accessed my father’s Ct scan results, because he told her that my father’s brain is deteriorating. His memory has been going and he has a bit of trouble putting sentences together when talking. The doctor says there is nothing that can be done about my father’s condition and it will progressively get worse. We’ll see about that. It the registrar did access the CT Scan why not tell us? Doctors can be arrogant, uncompassionate bastards - not to mention totally incompetent (I speak from personal experience).

Graham.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's happening?

Hi all,

Sad to hear that Arthur C. Clarke has died. He and Asimov were probably the greatest contributers to the popularity of science-fiction. We have him to thank for the idea of the satellite too. I’ve read a few of his novels - Cradle and Rendezvous With Rama being two of the more memorable - and many of his short stories, using the Nine Billions Names of God for an essay during my masters. Clarke was always more of an ideas writer than one who had a great flare for language or characters. 2001: A Space Odyssey is still one of the greatest films ever made, and its sequel, 2010, is one of my favourite films.

An interesting discussion about his death has been going on www.eidolon.net involving allegations that he was a paedophile. I had heard these allegations before, but it seems the Daily Mirror, which printed the original allegations, ended up printing a retraction. The authorities in Sri Lanka found Clarke had no case to answer after the three boys who made the original allegations retracted it. But mud sticks.

I have sought of kept my two new year’s resolutions. One was to write 500 words a day. A modest total, which I am not quite achieving yet, especially on days when I concentrate on editing, but at least I am writing every day. My second resolution was to get fitter, notice I say fitter, because I feel I already have a pretty decent fitness regime which I have been following for years. It includes: swimming three kilometres three times a week; weight training three times a week; a set of exercises four times a week; and walking ten kilometres in a day three to four times a week (this is why I have minimal time for writing).

I have cut my average time for 120 laps of a 25 metre pool by 4 minutes this year. This morning, I again equaled my best time for this year which is only 2 minutes slower than my best ever time. My right shoulder seems to have finally settled down, so I might start to increase the weights for each of the sets I am doing.

Water restrictions have been all but lifted in Wangaratta. We must be one of the few places in Australia not currently under a strict water regime. The only restrictions are that sprinklers and automatic watering systems can’t be used between 10 am and 5 pm and a trigger nozzle must be used when cleaning a car. Both of Wangaratta’s small water supplies are currently 95% full. See, this is what happens when you go out and buy a water tank, which has been full since last April.

I am still hopeful that some of the many tomatoes on our heat stressed plants will grow to a reasonable size. I was reading in the Age that 3 or 4 days of over 35 heat will affect soft vegie crops: so much for our climate change affected agriculture production in future years. I just read an article by Tim Flannery where he says that after 2010-13 Australians will begin to be noticeably affected by climate change.

I read in Matt Browne’s blog that he reckons a wannabe writer should read 30-40 novels a year. On average I read about 15. I also read a number of short story collections and speculative fiction magazines each year. But I must read more.

Graham.

What's happening?

Hi all,

Sad to hear that Arthur C Clarke has died. He and Asimov were probably the greatest contributers to the popularity of science-fiction. We have him to thank for the idea of the satellite too. I’ve read a few of his novels - Cradle and Rendezvous With Rama being two of the more memorable - and many of his short stories, using the Nine Billions Names of God for an essay during my masters. Clarke was always more of an ideas writer than one who had a great flare for language or characters. 2001: A Space Odyssey is still one of the greatest films ever made, and its sequel, 2010, is one of my favourite films.

An interesting discussion about his death has been going on www.eidolon.net involving allegations that he was a paedophile. I had heard these allegations before, but it seems the Daily Mirror, which printed the original allegations, ended up printing a retraction. The authorities in Sri Lanka found Clarke had no case to answer after the three boys who made the original allegations retracted it. But mud sticks.

I have sort of kept my two new year’s resolutions. One was to write 500 words a day. A modest total, which I am not quite achieving yet, especially on days when I concentrate on editing, but at least I am writing every day. My second resolution was to get fitter, notice I say fitter, because I feel I already have a pretty decent fitness regime which I have been following for years. It includes: swimming three kilometres three times a week; weight training three times a week; a set of exercises four times a week; and walking ten kilometres in a day three to four times a week (this is why I have minimal time for writing).

I have cut my average time for 120 laps of a 25 metre pool by 4 minutes this year. This morning, I again equaled my best time for this year which is only 2 minutes slower than my best ever time. My right shoulder seems to have finally settled down, so I might start to increase the weights for each of the sets I am doing.

Water restrictions have been all but lifted in Wangaratta. We must be one of the few places in Australia not currently under a strict water regime. The only restrictions are that sprinklers and automatic watering systems can’t be used between 10 am and 5 pm and a trigger nozzle must be used when cleaning a car. Both of Wangaratta’s small water supplies are currently 95% full. See, this is what happens when you go out and buy a water tank, which has been full since last April.

I am still hopeful that some of the many tomatoes on our heat stressed plants will grow to a reasonable size. I was reading in the Age that 3 or 4 days of over 35 heat will affect soft vegie crops: so much for our climate change affected agriculture production in future years. I just read an article by Tim Flannery where he says that after 2010-13 Australians will begin to be noticeably affected by climate change.

I read in Matt Browne’s blog that he reckons a wannabe writer should read 30-40 novels a year. On average I read about 15. I also read a number of short story collections and speculative fiction magazines each year. But I must read more.

Graham.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Graham's last ten reads

Rated from * to *****

*** Armageddon's Children, Terry Brooks, 2006. A young adult fantasy/science fiction novel that is just about all prologue for the coming books in the series. The characters are clich├ęd, eg a mystical American Indian, but I enjoyed his post-apocalyptic world where magic and genetic engineering are set to battle it out. By the end it had me wanting to read the next book in the series so it had achieved its purpose.

** Asimov Magazine, July 1999. I enjoyed and remember the opening story, Soherzo with Tyrannosaur by Michael Swanwick. An article about the future of science-fiction writing by Norman Spinard was interesting.

* The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson, 1995. Having read Snow Crash by the same author I was expecting a great original read, but what I got was more of the same and a couple of main characters that I didn't care about by the end of the book. The setup broke down halfway through this long book, and lead to a ridiculous climax where hundreds of supergirls battled kungfu-ing Asians.

* Andromeda Inflight Spaceways Magazine, Issue 4, 2002. I know this magazine was set up to create a market for Australian writers of pulp speculative fiction. So the stories aren't meant to answer questions like the meaning of life. The stories are meant to be humourous, but to me, most of the stories were unfunny and instantly forgotten, except one, which had, what I can only assume to be, the unintended message from its American author that sinners can buy their way into heaven. I didn't rush out and join an evangelical church.

*** Asimov, January 2001. Some great stories in this one. Stories with hanging endings that left room for speculating what happened next, like Allen Steele's Stealing Alabama.

*** That Eye, The Sky, Tim Winton, 1986. This is the second novel of Winton's I have read and like Riders it had, to me, an unresolved feeling, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a very sad young adult novel about a family slowly imploding after a car accident turns the father into a near vegetable. The characters are mostly believable, with one wild eccentric sometimes straining credibility.

*** Great Short Stories of the English Speaking World, Vol 1, 1977. A great assortment of stories written over centuries. My favourite was The Lady or the Tiger by Frank Stockton and I was glad that I read The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell before going to see one of last year's most interesting films, Zodiac.

**** The Quarterly Essay, His Master's Voice – The Corruption of Public Debate Under John Howard, David Marr, 2007. Gave a lot of examples of how John Howard successfully silenced debate by denigrating anyone who gave an opinion contrary to his.

*** My Life As A Fake, Peter Carey, 2004. Another exploration of self-deception by Carey. I love his non-judgemental style of writing and his always totally flawed characters.

**** The Future Happens Twice, Matt Browne, 2007. One of the best science-fiction novels I have read. Part thriller, but mostly an adventure story, it explores the ethical challenges of future intergenerational space exploration. I look forward to the sequel.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How much writing do I need to do before I get published?


Hi all,

I was reading a post on Stephen Dedman's blog on livejournal.com and he mentioned Ian Irvine's writing rules at www.ian-irvine.com. Ian reckons a writer needs to write for 10,000 hrs before they will complete a publishable novel. That's the equivalent of treating writing as a full-time job for five years. I estimate that I have spent around 3,000 hours actually writing and editing over the years. If I also include critiquing of other writer's work, which I consider essential to learning about writing, I could probably add about 500 hours. If I included the writing courses I have done - without the time spent writing and critiquing included above - I could add about another 800 hours. And if I included the time I have spent reading writing books then I could add about another 200 hours. So all up that gives me about 4,500 hours, barely halfway.

I have also read that the first three novels a writer writes are practice. It took Peter Carey ten years to write his first three novels and none of them got published. I have completed the first draft of one novel, which I aim to rewrite this year when I finish the first draft of the novel I am currently working on. I estimate I am about a third of the way through that first draft. I am also a third of the way through another novel and 15,000 words into another. So realistically, I am nowhere near finishing three novels. By finishing I mean rewriting them a number of times and then polishing them.

I have also heard of the 1,000,000 word rule. The first draft of the novel mentioned above is 126,000 words. I am somewhere around 40,000 words into my current novel, and I have written about 40,000 and 15,000 words of two other novels. I would estimate that I have completed about 80,000 - 100,000 words of short stories and another 50,000 words of writing exercises. Within those word tallies above, there are at least 200,000 words of corrections and deletions. That gives me about 571,000 words, so I am about halfway.

So it would seem I am about halfway to having a publishable novel. It feels like I am only about halfway too. One thing is for sure, I need to do a lot more writing. So far this year I have written every day. I now aim to increase the amount of writing I do every day.

Graham.