Monday, March 18, 2013

Blog hiatus!

Well, in a few days I am off to Brisbane for my cousin's wedding. I'm taking my laptop, but probably won't have time to do any blogging. And of course I had nothing pre-planned. Because...well, you all know me by now. 

Also, I don't know if I'll have much time to even do any writing. I heard a nasty rumour I might be sharing a hotel room with my 8 year old nephew. So I'm thinking I'll be spending most of my time telling spooky stories and getting into bed at a reasonable hour. 

Here is a spooky story Tom began to tell the other day: 

Tom: Once upon a time there was a boy called Tom and a girl called Meg. And there was a skeleton. And it came up the stairs, and Meg was really scared, but Tom kicked it in the nuts--

Me: What?!? 

Tom: Nuts isn't a rude word. 

Me: It is when you mean testicles. 

Tom: Can I finish my story? 

Me: I'm telling on you to your mum. 

Tom: Fine. Can I finish the story first? 

Me: Okay then. Just don't say nuts. 


So, see you guys sometime after Easter! 

In the meantime, keep writing! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writer's Brain

"You remember," a workmate said to me the other day. "You were there. You stopped to say hello." 


The incident I was being urged to recall obviously made no impression, and, honestly, unless it looked like this... was never going to. 

Sorry. Writer brain. The moment I leave work, I'm already planning what to go home and write. In fact, unless I have to be paying attention -- like flying a plane or delivering a baby or disarming a bomb -- chances are that even though I'm smiling and nodding I'm actually a million miles away. 

When I was a kid, my mum had my hearing tested. Twice. Except I wasn't deaf, I was just ignoring her. 

Because I spend an awful lot of time in my imagination. It might be weird and pathological to some people, but to me it's second nature. Never a dull moment in there, I promise. And if you're a writer as well, I'll bet you're the same. 

It's led to some problems. 

"I told you this," my sister tells me a lot. "Last week. You agreed." 

Sometimes I get that niggling feeling that I should pay more attention. Like when I find out that I'm going to my cousin's wedding in Brisbane really, really soon, and I have to sneak around and try to find the invitation again because I'm too embarrassed to ask the family what the date is. 

Although, they enable me. Dirty enablers. Wedding in Brisbane? Family holiday in Melbourne? They tell me these things, and I give them money, and sooner or later someone will ask me if I've packed yet. That's when I know it's getting close. 

"What day is it?" I often ask myself as I'm crawling out of bed. Although a lot of that is probably a side effect of shift work. 

I'm a day-dreamer. I don't know any other way to be, but at least I'm a considerate enough day-dreamer that I've learned how to wing entire conversations, right? 

So if I ever say hello to you in the street, don't be offended if I don't remember it a few days later. It's not that I don't like you, it's just that I jettisoned that whole conversation to make space for this kick-ass fight scene I'm choreographing in my head. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Co-Writing, or, What time is it in Alaska?

You guys, co-writing is so much fun. It's also so much responsibly, but we'll take care of the fun first. 

1. That crazy idea you have? Well, now you've got someone to bounce it back and forth with, until it turns into something workable. 

2. Hello, built-in beta-reader! Here's someone who will pick you up on your dumb mistakes and ask you where you think this scene is going, before you've waded so far into the quagmire of your own words that you can no longer extricate yourself. 

3. Momentum. This is a biggie for me. The momentum is so much easier to hold onto when there's someone else working on a story with you. It ties a little into the responsibility factor, but it's also fun to get that ball rolling and keep it rolling, so I've put it here first. 

So now the responsibility: 

1. You can't shelve this project when it gets too tricky, because it's not just yours. You've got someone counting on you now, so stop looking at pictures of lolcats and get to work. 

2. Negotiation. Of everything. Characters, names, locations, plot points, and scenes. You will negotiate everything, and you will get damned good at it. On the plus side, this will make it so much easier to deal with editors and publishers when the time comes. 

3. Learning new skills. With my pseudonym's first co-written project, neither of us knew what we were doing. So we brainstormed via email, and sent our Word doc back and forth. But not this time. This time I'm working with a co-writer who has actually done this before, and it's all about instant messaging on AIM, and Google docs. Which has been fun. I particularly like Google docs. Look! I've got it open on my screen and words are magically appearing! 

Which reminds me, what time is it in Alaska? Because I want to chat. 

And in the spirit of learning new things, I'm now working with someone who calls herself a pantser, but is more of a plotter than I am. Have you guys all seen the Nine Grid Plan? I've been forced to use it and guess what? I like it! It simple, and it makes sense! 

Here is a link to Cassandra Marshall's blog, where she talks about the Nine Grid Plan. 

Check it out. You'll thank me for it later. Unless you already knew about it, in which case you'll point and laugh at me for being so slow on the uptake. 

So if you haven't tried co-writing before, why not? Why not approach one of your fellow writers and bloggers, and ask if they want to give it a try? You'll be surprised at how much you learn, and how much fun you have. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

The dark mysterious boy

The dark mysterious boy, or the DMB, has become a staple of YA fiction. Whether he's a vampire, a fallen angel, a demon, or you know...just a boy, he gets around. He goes all the way back to the Byronic hero, I suppose, although you know that if you so much looked at Byron you'd get syphillis. And count yourself lucky that's all you got, right? 

But I understand the attraction. The DMB is always good looking, and we girls do love a bit of a mystery, don't we? 

The dark mysterious boy. Add paranormal origin of your choice.

Well, no, actually. Because boys are people too. I sometimes think that half the mystery of the DMB comes from writers who just don't know how to write boys. The author can't get into his head, therefore nobody else can. 

There were no DMBs at in my school, and none in my life ever since if I'm honest. Which I sometimes am. A boy remained mysterious for exactly as long as it took to say, "Hi, I'm Jen. What's your name? Have you just moved here? Where are you from? Any brothers and sisters? What do you parents do?" And so on. 

Because kids ferret information out of each other. Even the kids who don't talk don't stay mysterious. And in small towns, everyone knows everyone's business. 

I spent a lot of time growing up in small towns. In fact, when I arrived in Goondiwindi just before starting high school, it was to discover that the girl next door (I hated her, BTW) already knew everything about me. 

"You've just moved here from Bundaberg. You're the new bank manager's kid. You have an older sister, and you'll be starting Grade 8 next week." 

(Mind you, she also thought I was rich because my father owned the bank. Owned it. She didn't appreciate how I pointed out that if my father's was rich we'd hardly be living in Goondiwindi, would we? She didn't like me much either.)

And that's how it works in small towns. 

We knew a week beforehand that Andrew was coming -- the rumour of his arrival was like blood in the water to teenage girls. Fresh meat! 

His father was also the bank manager. His managed the branch -- mine managed agribusiness. Which was something to do with going out to properties and watching men put their hands inside cows; I'm sketchy on the details. Because Andrew was my age, and our dads worked together, naturally I got volunteered as his tour guide, even though I was anti-social, bad tempered, and would have rather spent the afternoon in the chicken coop. Seriously. I was teaching the chickens to balance on my shoulders. 

So, I guess Andrew fit the bill as a DMB. He was dark haired, good looking for a thirteen year old boy, and Mysterious. 

Well, for about half an hour. We went up the street. We checked out the shops, such as they were. I showed him the school, and the riverbank, and that was pretty much it for Goondiwindi. We were both thinking it. 

Then, it happened. A girl came up to him. Not my neighbour, but the same sort. "I know who you are," she said. 

"Do you?" 

"You're Simon, and your dad's the new bank manager. You live over in the new house they built. You're from Brisbane." 

"My name's Andrew," Andrew said. 

"It's Simon," the girl insisted. 

"Simon's my little brother. My name's Andrew." 

"No it isn't," the girl said, and flounced off. 

I looked at Andrew. Andrew looked at me. 

"I think I'm going to hate this fucking town," Andrew said. 

Shortly afterwards he misbehaved enough that he got sent away to boarding school. 

Wish I'd thought of that. 


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