Thursday, October 25, 2012

National Novel Writing Month.

National Novel Writing Month.

As many writers will be aware, National Novel Writing Month starts next Thursday. The idea is to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. I did it last year along with 256,618 writers. Officially, 36,843 wrote the 50,000 words. But there may have been a few like me who did not upload their 50,000 words and officially verifying them. After I typed my 50,000th word my brain was too tired to figure out the verification process.

I had hoped to finish the novel I am writing long ago so I could do NaNoWriMo again this year, but illnesses, life and less than stellar motivation have conspired against my writing efforts. But then I thought maybe I could use this year’s NaNoWriMo to finish the novel. I hopefully checked the rules, but they say the novel has to be from scratch. So I could join NaNoWriMo and pretend I am writing the novel from scratch or I could not join and just write the 50,000 words in a month anyway. I have chosen to do the latter.

I have the potential problem that the novel I am writing might not have 50,000 words more to go. After all, I am 104,000 words in. I think it has at least 20,000, probably 30,000 before its climax climaxes. But finishing the novel halfway through next month is not a bad problem to have as, yay, it will finally be finished. Well at least the first draft anyway.  

But today I was thinking, if I did finish the novel, I could then return to another novel I have started. I have two other uncompleted manuscripts. One that I wrote about 20,000 words of during a university vacation period and another that I abandoned after 45,000 words when I realised it might end up too much like Stephen King’s The Stand , which was a pity because I was just about to wreak havoc on Australia. But having recently read Justin Cronin’s brilliant The Passage, I think the world could do will a lot more apocalyptic novels with similarities to The Stand.

The 20,000 word manuscript would be the easiest to get back into. So if I finish the current manuscript part way through next month, I will probably restart it and hopefully finish it before next year’s NaNoWriMo. The more I think about both manuscripts, the more enthusiastic I am about both.

DiVine Writing

In other news, I submitted my twenty-fifth article to DiVine last week. It is about media guidelines for reporting on people with disabilities. The editor likes the article, but it won’t be posted until the media guidelines the article is based on are released by the Department of Human Services. I have another idea for an article that I need to run by the editor, and if the idea is okayed, I hope to write it before Thursday and the start of NaNoWriMo next week. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Author Tony Birch in Wangaratta.


A few weeks back I saw Tony Birch speak about his Miles Franklin nominated novel Blood.I bought a copy of the novel due to Tony being part-indigenous (I have an evolving interest in novels written by Indigenous Australian or with indigenous characters in them) and also out of a sense of obligation for him coming all the way to Wangaratta to give his free talk to a one-third full room.

I am so glad I felt both the need and obligation to buy it. Blood is an excellent novel that tells a tragic but hopeful story, with a main character who is so real, his voice so authentic.  

The novel is narrated by a Jesse a thirteen-year-old part-Indigenous Australian. The entire book is written in very simple language, the language a thirteen-year-old would view  the world in. For example, instead of elaborate descriptions of his world, Jesse describes a room as dirty, or the scenery around a road as having a few pine trees. Jesse is aware that his mother has sex with strangers and a string of boyfriends, but he is not really sure what sex involves.

Jesse is protective of his eight-year-old sister Rachel and fears what would happen to her if he ran away. Rachel’s voice is also wonderfully authentic. With a response of “no” anytime she is asked to do something, which quickly changes when her brother or mother create a fear of being left out or left behind in her.   

During his talk Tony Birch said when creating Jesse’s voice, as an author he not only had to try and think like a thirteen-year-old, but think like a thirteen-year-old in Jesse’s situation. A thirteen-year-old whose mother is a drunk and hooks up with men who are either drunks or criminals.  A thirteen-year-old who has lived in poverty all his life, doesn’t know his dad, is constantly on the move, rarely goes to school, and has no peers to learn life from. And a thirteen-year-old who fears “welfare” forever separating his sister from him. Birch does a bloody good job of creating Jesse’s voice. I can see why it was nominated for the Miles Franklin.

Part of the reason Jesse’s voice is so convincing is the novel is written in first person, forcing the author to write with words that Jesse would use.

Writing in First Person.

The past three books I have read and the one I am currently reading are written in first person. The novels are diverse: How to Live Safely in A Science FIctional Universe by Charles Yu, Waterboys by Peter Docker, and I am currently reading 11.22.63 by Stephen King. In fact seven of the last twelve novels I have read have been written in first person.

Only a few years ago I was reading articles about how inferior writing in first person is to writing in third. I was also reading declarations from readers who would never read a novel written in first person. It was very much suggested that first person was lazy and for amateurs. But in the past few years first person has become very much used, especially in the world on non-genre literature.   

I have attempted writing in both first and third person. I like the way first person allows me to really get into the thoughts of the narrator. But when I want to write ambiguous characters that need to hide their thoughts, I prefer third person. The current novel I am writing is written in a mixture of both – a method I really enjoyed when reading Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. I am yet to see a novel told from multiple points of view written entirely in first person.

Do you have a preference?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Updated review of The Bottomless River, by Anthony J Langford

Bottomless RiverBottomless River by Anthony J. Langford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Bottomless River begins in a small town in rural Australia. Three mates, Danny, Tom and Jen, regularly get together at a river bank for harmless fun and banter. But their carefree world is poisoned when they get drunk one night.

Danny cannot forgive himself for what he has done. He no longer trusts himself and leaves town. But he finds the events of that night can’t be drowned under more alcohol. Like Danny, readers yearn to find out what has happened to the two friends he deserted.

The novella is an excellently written depiction of small-town Australia. The author comes up with plenty of original similes as he explores guilt and regret. And the dialogue is as natural as the river the teenagers meet by.

The Bottomless River has an emotional punch thrown by believable characters. Danny’s inner turmoil seems so realistic that many readers will ask whether the author is writing from experience. If he is, then he has lived a life stilted by youthful misadventure.

The Bottomless River is an excellent read for anyone who loves empathising with a book’s characters.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Reviews of Looper and Melancholia.


I have recently seen two very good movies in my two favourite science fiction tropes apocalypse and time-travel.  Both were vastly different in ambition and scope. Looper is an action adventure time-travel film while Melancholia is a quiet drama about the end of the world.


In Looper time-travel is used by future criminal syndicates to send their victims back to our near future where they are killed by hired assassins called Loopers.  We are told at the start of the movie that victims have to be sent back in time because it is impossible to secretly dispose of their bodies in the future. Once I accepted that, I had no other problems with the film’s mythology.

A condition of becoming a Looper is that the criminal syndicate will track down your future self and send it back for you to kill, and close the loop. But when a Looper is confronted with his future self, he fails to kill him and his future self escapes.  The syndicate is not happy.  

Looper, was for me, a new and refreshing take on time-loops. It is a film that needs to be thought about and requires a bit of concentration. It stars Bruce Willis and that skinny guy from the low-brow Third Rock From the Sun, who surprised us by becoming a reasonable man of action in Inception. The film is long on suspense, so I doubt the current writers of Doctor Who would appreciate it.  

I would place it in the middle of the Bruce Willis science fiction film lexicon. It is not as good as 12 Monkeys - but what is? - or The Fifth Element, but better than Surrogates and much better than Armageddon – but what isn’t?  



Melancholia is also way better than Armageddon. Melancholia takes place on a large British estate. A wedding is taking place, but the bride doesn’t seem that interested in the whole thing. She is very melancholic. We learn that a planet is approaching the Earth. We are asked to believe it came from behind the sun so no one saw it until recently. But not to worry, scientists know that it will miss the Earth. But the bride is not so sure.  

The film stars Kirsten Dunst and a Kiefer Sutherland and is directed by Lars Von Trier, and filmed in shaky-cam. Kiefer must have given all his 24 man stuff to the guy in Looper before he made this film because he is no man of action.

Melancholia is a completely different take on end of the world films that I have seen. Instead of thrusting the end of the world in the viewer’s face, it leaves it sitting in their peripheral vision for most of the film. There are no guns, no riots, no looting, no violence, no religion, no hysterics, just people getting on with their lives as the planet approaches.  As a writer, it really made me think about how people would react in so many different and unpredictable ways if the world was coming to the end. 

I really recommend both films. Melancholia is no longer on at the cinemas.

And speaking of depictions of the end of the world, the best apocalyptic dramatization ever made returns on FX on Tuesday this week: The Walking Dead, series 3.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Indigenous Writing

Indigenous Writing.

A few months ago I wrote a post about the lack of indigenous characters in Australian fiction. I determined then to read more novels with Indigenous Australians in them that were hopefully written by Indigenous Australians. I have just finished Peter Docker’s The Waterboys. Peter Docker is not an Indigenous Australia, but according to notes in the book he had a lot of help from Indigenous Australians in writing the novel and he grew up on a station near Esperance in WA.

The main character in the Waterboys is not Indigenous Australian, but he has adopted their culture. His best mate and second main character is an Indigenous Australian, and so are many of the other characters.

The novel is an alternative history, where only the eastern states of Australia have been colonised. The reason WA was not colonised is that Captain Freemantle fell in love with the indigenous culture and decided he did not want it to be devastated by English rule.

But the world has really suffered from environmental degradation like global warming, and the water deprived south-eastern Australians invade, the Indigenous Australians fight them.

The novel really got me thinking about the indigenous mind-set. I think it has helped me to understand their love of country and why being colonised has so damaged them. I really felt angry during a scene when Lieutenant-Governor Stirling announces to the assembled Indigenous Australians that they are now British subjects. What absolute arrogance. There was nothing at all beneficial for the Indigenous Australians in becoming British subjects.

The novel left me wanting to read more about Captain Freemantle and the actual history of WA.

Currently I am reading Blood a novel written by part-Indigenous Australian Tony Birch.   

DiVine Writing.

I have a new article on DiVine about how dependent I am on the internet.  It’s another personal article and I am concerned I am becoming too self-referential. The previous DiVine editor said readers prefer personal articles: they want to hear about people with disabilities living with their disability. But I wonder if people will start to think I am narcissistic.

Of the twenty-four articles I have written for DiVine, nine have been about my personal experiences. But of those nine articles two were written to inform people about how I overcame health issues which affect many people. One was on how effective and painless cataract surgery is and the other more recent one was on navigating the public dental system. I hoped showing my personal experience would benefit people in a similar situation.

Two of the personal articles were about my father’s dementia. I wrote them to help other people who have a family member with dementia realise that it’s not their fault that the dementia suffer is so difficult to live with and they shouldn’t feel like they have betrayed them when they place them in a nursing home.

Another personal article showed the pros and cons of studying online for people with disabilities. An article about me hiding my ulcerative colitis was meant to resonate with those who also attempt to hide their disabilities. 

An article about my love of science fiction came after the editor suggested we all write articles about who we are. I also wrote an article on why I love gardening, partly in response to a previous article written by a DiVine writer on why they hated gardening. 

Still, in the future I hope to write less about my own experiences and more about the experiences of others. A bit like this blog: in the beginning it was predominately about me, but I have gradually changed it to be more about what is happening in the writing world.

My next article for DiVine is totally non-personal. It is about media guidelines for portraying people with a disability.