Sunday, March 29, 2009

My writing week 2(13)

Hi all,

For most days last week I performed all the writerly things that I think a writer should do. I wrote, edited, critiqued and read nearly every day. I also managed to write a couple of blog posts including a book review, joined in an online discussion about the proposed new 12 month rule for imported books, and kept up to date with what was going on in the world by reading The Age. Now I just need to spend more time writing, editing, critiquing and reading.

I am still fiddling with the last chapter of Stalking Tigers. It has failed its editing diet, gaining 2,000 words, and now sits at 7,200 words, which is a bit long so I might have to try and split it into two chapters. At this rate the novel will have reached an obese 180,000 words by the time I have finished editing it.

I critiqued a story for and another for a friend, while reading the rules for the OWWW workshop and also notes on how they like their pieces critiqued. Their notes on critiquing have already started to change the way I critique. Before I usually just mentioned anything that I thought might be a problem in the story, concentrating on the plot, themes, grammar and potential markets. I never really mentioned whether the start grabbed me unless it did or took too long to start, or told the author my impressions of the characters, unless I found them unbelievable or inconsistent. I only mentioned the ending if it didn't work or surprised me. So my critiques are about to become more substantial. Having said that, I have received many critiques and read many critiques of stories I also critiqued, and I have always felt that my critiques are better than the majority as most critiques tend to be line edits at best and at worst a simple I liked/hated it.

I think I have finally got my head around the parallel importation laws after reading half a dozen articles about them in The Age and participating in the above mentioned discussion, so I will hopefully have a post about the proposed changes later this week.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Review - The Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks

The Elves of Cintra is the second book in the three book Genesis ofShannara series by Terry Brooks. It is probably classified as young adult because the majority of the characters are teenagers, and the series has as its overarching theme that adults destroyed the Earth, so it is up to children/teens to save it.

A review in The Age of the first book in the series, Children of Armageddon, caught my interest. As readers of this blog would be aware, I am a fan of apocalyptic fiction, so a novel set in an environmentally and technologically ravaged US was bound to catch my attention. The review suggested the book was slipstream – a combination of fantasy and science-fiction - but I have come to the conclusion that the series is fantasy, tending towards high fantasy, with guns replacing swords.

As in the first book, the second novel’s action is split between a number of different groups who are destined, if they survive, to meet up somewhere in the third book. There is a group of homeless kids being lead by a Knight of the Word in his solar powered SUV; a young Elf, who holds the key to the future of the elves survival, his tracker sister and another Knight of the Word; and a third group of two children and a huge dog, one of the children being the human equivalent of the young elf destined to save the world.

Chasing after them are demons. The demons control the human world and are mopping up human pockets of resistance while positioning themselves to destroy the elves. The Elves have lived in secret in US forests for centuries and, like in LOR, resisted helping the humans in their fight with the demons.

The first book was all set-up and basically just piqued my interest enough for me to decide to read the second. The second book got more into the action. The novel is basically a good versus evil with the not unusual concept of children finding out they have some skill with magic, then learning how to use it and, I assume in the third book, becoming masters of their magic. This type of story has been written many times and will probably be written many more. So why did I enjoy it so much?

I like the implication from the books that humans destroyed the environment under direction of demons, so environmental destruction is evil. This doesn’t imply humans had no freewill in the destruction of environment, it just means that they rolled over and did what evil told them to do.

I could also empathise with the characters, marvelling at their resilience and their hopes for the future even thought everything around them had been totally stuffed by the greed of adults. It seems, with our current lack of action on climate change, that children in the future might have to overcome similar massive obstacles to survive.

The second book is better written than the first. I didn’t find myself regularly thinking “not another cliché”, either in simile or stereotyped character, like I did while reading the first book. What I found most pleasing about the second book was the various trials of the three groups being brought to a mini-conclusion: Brooks resisted leaving all three groups in very nasty situations. They still have alot to do to survive and win, which I have no doubt they will, but I am still looking forward to pulling the third book from my shelves and reading it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Editing Week 2(12)

Hi all,

I've started editing Stalking Tigers and it seems it is going to take a while. I spent last week fiddling around with the last chapter and actually added to its 6,000 words, not a good thing when one of my prime objectives is to get the word count of the novel down from its 130,000 words to something like 100,000. It would seem that editing, for me anyway, needs longer continual sessions than writing so I can ensure there is consistency within scenes and chapters. I will have to change the way I allocate time to writing.

I critiqued another story last week. This one had problems with its flow because of a combination of made up nouns, oddly constructed sentences and overuse of a thesaurus. The ideas were okay.

I finished reading The Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks, the second book in the Genesis of Shannara series. I thought it was a better book than the first, which was mostly set-up. The second was also better written. I hope to post a review of it later this week.

If you were wondering whether people have decided books are a cheaper form of entertainment to buy during our recession, they may have. According to Bookscan, in the first 10 weeks of this year sales of books went up by 7% in both volume and value in Australia, but if you took out Stephenie Meyer's series sales remained static.

I wonder if many Australians have been buying Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It's a 1957 science-fiction novel whose sales are booming on Amazon at the moment according to an article I read in The Age. In it entrepreneurs and industrialists withdraw their labour from a society whose masses are described as parasites and moochers. They hide in a camp and when society, starved of their genius, collapses they are begged to come back and take over the economy. Must be what Peter Costello is waiting for. I don't think I will be reading it.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

My writing week 2(11)

Hi all,

I've finished the first draft of Stalking Tigers, yaaaaa me. At 129,000 words, it's strange how it ended up at a similar length to the my 126,000 word draft of I'll Just Sit Here and Watch. I am now doing an edit and polish before sending it off to be critiqued.

I have no idea how long the edit and polish will take. The first 10,000 words should be relatively okay because that section was originally a novella which I had critiqued by a few people and then changed and edited a few times. After that, the next 50,000 words saw me stop at the end of a chapter and go back and edit it, while for the last 60,000 words I only did a bit of editing here and there. So perhaps I should try to get through the first 60,000 words in a couple of weeks and then make some sort of assessment of how long the rest will take after doing a couple of its chapters.

I have a few things I want to do while editing. First, I want to try and ensure that every chapter has a hanging ending. Second, I want to see if I can start a lot of the scenes in the middle, dive straight in without an intro and set up. Apart from those two structural issues, I'll be interested to see how often I fall into the tell, not showing trap. I envisage spending hours trying to eradicate was and as from the manuscript.

I critiqued another story last week. This one not so good. Okay idea, but the writing needed a lot more work and editing. It was probably a first draft that had only been quickly edited.

A trip to the hospital and a five hour wait for a scheduled exploratory procedure saw me do more reading then I have in a session for a while in between watching Dr Phil berate the woman who had six IVF babies and Oprah interview 60 year old loose women about sex.

I have started taking iron supplements, but they have not sent me in a flurry of creativity yet. I hope they kick in soon and have me editing a chapter a day: that should be my goal. I should try to get ahead during the beginning chapters for the expected hard slog towards the end.


Monday, March 9, 2009

My Writing Week 2(10)

Hi all,

Nearly there: I feel I could be writing the final words to the first draft of Stalking Tigers any day now. I found some more loose ends that I reckon can be knotted very quickly.

Today, my doctor told me that I had an iron deficiency, which might explain why I have been feeling hopelessly tired at the end of each day recently. I hope some iron supplements will wake me up and get me writing more.

I have used part of my anticipated stimulus cheque from the government to pay for my membership to Aussiecon 4. For those who are unaware it is the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and is coming to Melbourne in September 2010. I have never been to a science fiction convention, so I thought I might as well begin with the biggest one there is. You can become a friend of Aussiecon4 on Facebook and they have a website.

I finally critiqued a story after finding that had reset my weeks/critiques ratio. Problem is they did it four weeks ago without informing me so I am already three weeks behind. The story I critiqued was ready to publish but, because of its crossover nature, it might have a limited market.

Hopefully my next post will tell you that I have started editing Stalking Tigers.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

My writing week 2(9)

Hi all,

My word count improved last week to 3,400 words, but I am still yet to write 5,000 words in a week this year. I am going to set up a excel spreadsheet of my weekly word count so I can see how much more I have to write to average 5,000 words per week for the year. One positive thing to come out of my weeks writing is that I feel the end of the novel is very close as there is only one more thing that the reader needs to know.

I spent far too much time deleting emails as a religion v science debate broke out on one of the writing message boards that sends me emails. Having watched a few of these debates in the past I find then mostly useless, as the most ardent participants don't want their opinion to evolve.

In previous posts I have mentioned the large word counts of other writers, last Saturday's Age had a story about Australian author Eva Hornung whose efforts obliterate all previously mentioned word counts. After her first novel won the Vogel award she spent every waking hour of the next six weeks drafting two novels. So that's somewhere around 200,000 words in six weeks.

I read more last week: yaaaa, for one aspect of being a writer.