Saturday, February 16, 2013

My writing.


Hi all,

After a number of posts not about me, I thought it was time to shout out to the world about what I have been up to with my writing.

New Article on Divine

I have a new article up on the Divine website. This one is for all those people who love to cover footpaths with their out of control gardens, or think it is a great place to park their car, too bad for pedestrians who use wheelchairs or can’t see.

I have started researching another article and the editor of Divine has suggested a further article I have agreed to write.


I mentioned in a previous post that changes Facebook had made were making it harder to plug my blog and Divine writing. I said I was going to explore other avenues of social networking. Well, I am now using Google+ more often than Facebook. I particularly like the communities setup on Google+ and I have joined a number of very active and highly informative writing and speculative fiction groups. I have also started a community for the Divine website.

My Novel Writing

I am making slow progress towards the end of the novel I am writing. I am up to chapter 91, which is one long action sequence. I find action sequences hard to write as I ponder how much information to put in. Do I have to include every move and thought as a human and alien battle it out? I have decided not to. I am much more comfortable writing internal monologues and dialogue, even descriptive passages. But the second half of the novel is one action scene after another. Sometimes I wish I could just tell the reader the outcome of an action scene, but I know that is crap writing.  

I have a message on my monitor that says “If you think the scene will be too difficult to write, WRITE IT.” So I don’t allow myself to cop out. Whether what I am writing is any good, who knows. My inner critic is currently shouting “not good enough”.

I have now written 179,337 words of the novel.

I am taking my inner critic on a holiday this week to Lakes Entrance and its 90 mile beach. Hopefully my inner critic will come back refreshed and with something more constructive to say about my writing, or maybe I will just drown it.        

Sunday, February 10, 2013

To Plot or Abandon.

Creative Writing: Learning from the Masters (Part Two)

If you missed my last post, I have been reading an ibook called Creative Writing: Learning from the Masters. The masters are John Irving, Carol Joyce Oates,  Ernest J Gaines, Amy Tan, Norman Mailer and Carol Shields.

Plotting a novel.

There are supposedly two types of writers: those who write an outline of the novel before they start writing it, and those who just start writing and see where the story takes them. John Irving is an extreme example of the first. He spends months writing a detailed plan of a novel so when he finally gets around to writing it he can concentrate on the words and language and not have to worry about what happens next.

What really intrigued me about Irving is that he writes these outlines backwards. He starts with the final line of the book and then works out how the story got to that final line. This immediately had me rushing to my bookshelves and retrieving The World According to Garp to read its final line: But in the World According to Garp, we are all terminal cases. The numerous meanings of terminal cases kind of sums up the book.

Carol Shields prefers to just start writing and see where the story goes. I could not write this way. I abandoned (45,000 words in) the only novel I started writing with no clear idea how it would end because I had no idea where it was going (it was about the end of the world too). Shields did admit that she usually had an idea of how the story would end.  

I have to know how my story will end before writing it. I usually start with a situation that is, or is about to become, full of uncertainty and then send the characters in search of certainty. I like Irving’s idea of writing a very detailed plan so I then can concentrate on the words. I might try that with the next manuscript I start.

So which are you, a planner or someone who is prone to abandon stories that are going nowhere?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Creative Writing: Learning From the Masters.

I am about halfway through the ibook, Creative Writing: Learning from the Masters.  The masters are Norman Mailer, Amy Tan, Earnest J Gaines, John Irving, Carol Shields, and Joyce Carol Oates.

I have read a couple of John Irving’s novels (The World According To Garp and Hotel New Hampshire) and seen at least three films adapted from his novels (the previous two plus The Cider House Rules). I have read one Norman Mailer novel (Tough Guys Don’t Dance) and seen the film that he directed of that novel. I have read The Best American Short Stories 1999 edited by Amy Tan (I loved her foreword where she said that a lot of the stories, which had all been previously published, she considered for the collection left her wondering what they hell they were about. So I am not the only one who is not afraid to admit they didn’t get a story.)

They all Started Young.   

All the masters started writing when they were young. And they all had success when they were young: publishing award winning novels, winning scholarships to exclusive schools, winning short story competitions. Their early success is not good news for me, unless I count a high school teacher reading a story I wrote to mine and at least one other class due to its cleverness, or my writing of skits that were performed in university revues.

A couple of the masters did stop writing for a while to raise a family or fight in a war.


The ibook then got into the basics of writing. Nothing really new to me, until the section on revision came up. Revision is split into three very separate activities: redrafting, revising and then editing.


Once a first draft has been completed it is time to redraft it. “Redrafting is the process of making broad sweeping changes to the major elements of a story.” When redrafting the novel an author should consider the key elements of their story: POV, plot structure, the purpose of all the characters and the major themes of the story. Is there too much or too little mounting tension? “Does the theme clarify a universal truth the reader can relate to?” Redrafting is a time to really think about the novel overall and cut and replace large chunks of it.

The novel I am currently writing is 175,000 words and will probably creep over 200,000 before I am finished. So redrafting will be all about cutting it back in size. In the redrafting stage I will be asking myself whether I need the long build up to the crew reaching their destination.  And then how (or if) to restructure and cut back on their time on the planet, which is crucial to the story as that is where the central character grows significantly.


After redrafting it is time to revise. “Often when writers think they are redrafting their stories, they are actually revising them. Revision is the act of tackling the smaller issues around language, scene, flow and nuance.” I am one of those misguided writers.

In the revision stage for my current manuscript, one of the things I plan to do is remove a lot of dialogue and paraphrasing it.


This involves the refinement of both content and structure. It is basically what I have come to call copy editing. Removing stray commas, getting rid of adverbs, changing say into said, removing overused words like “that” and “was”. Editing also involves making sure factual details are correct. Oh, faster than light travel ain’t possible, bummer. A second pair of eyes is recommending during the editing stage.

Creative Writing: Learning from the Masters is an ibook available from the Apple ibookstore section called itunes U.