Saturday, June 28, 2014

I am not a morning person

I am not a morning person. 

Nobody told the cat. 

This morning, at 4.30, I was awoke to this: 

Then this: 

And then I was awake. The sort of awake that it's impossible to ignore. Okay, I thought, I'll go and write. 

Writing on Facebook counts, doesn't it? 

No, no it doesn't. 

What the hell, I thought when the clock ticked slowly closer to 6 a.m., I'm up. Might as well go for a walk. 

So I did. 

It was kind of a lonely walk. Cleo is much too old and arthritic to join me. So it was just me, my iPod, and my thoughts. 

My thoughts, in the morning, are not what anyone would call cohesive. 

Anyway, here are some things I thought about on my walk. 

It's probably too dark to go for a walk. 

Does my phone have a flash setting? 

Yes, although apparently I can't be trusted with it. 

Fig trees are incredibly creepy. 

Nature is quite lovely. 

But, also, quite boring. 

This is a tropical winter, BTW. 

I should buy a boat! 

No. I should not buy a boat. That is my dumbest idea ever. 

Oh, look. Someone stole my street sign again. 

I bet it was someone called Henry. 

But here's the most important thought I had on my walk: 

Next time, when I go for a walk, I will wear underpants with better elastic. That way I won't have to stop every ten steps to hitch my pants up. 

There is no photographic evidence for that. 

You're welcome. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Good work, me!

I think I’ve finally figured out what I like about the editing process.

I mean, apart from turning a word document into an actual published book.

It’s the comments from the editor, you guys.

Yes, it turns out that I’m the same kid I was when I started school at four. Give me the editorial equivalent of an elephant GOOD WORK stamp, and I’m yours for life.  


You know how they always say that kids need boundaries? It turns out I’ve never grown out of that. I love it when an editor sends back notes and tells me what I need to do. I mean, I hate the actual amount of work involved, but I love being told what I need to do and when I need to have it done by.

For the same reason, I love flash fiction. Tell me the rules, give me the word count and the prompt, and I am all over it! It’s when I don’t have those rules, or those deadlines, or that guidance, that I tend to get myself into a mess.

Enough writerly rope to hang myself, or something. It's like this, but not as cute: 


This is why editors are all sorts of awesome. They’re the ones who untangle me from whatever mess I’ve managed to get myself into. They’re the ones who gently remind me to beware my love of passive verbs, and, that if I really don’t know how to use a semi-colon, then perhaps I shouldn’t. At the same time, they point out the plot holes, the characters’ very out-of-character behaviour, and the fact that just a second ago it was night time, but now they’re standing outside in the sunlight.

Editors are the greatest. And do you know what the craziest thing is? Even though they’ve worked hard on making your book a far better book than it was before they ever touched it, editors still step back and let you take all the credit.

How cool is that?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's cold.

Do you know what's really ridiculous? What I'm about to do now. I'm going to complain about the cold. 

Yes, the cold. 

I'm ashamed to admit that it's currently 18 degrees outside. And none of your fancy Fahrenheit degrees. No, that's 18 degrees Celsius. In Fahrenheit, that's 64 degrees. Which I understand is summer in some places. 

Okay, so when you people living in places that get actual snow stop laughing, let me try and justify myself just a little. As much as I can. 

Last year I spent part of the winter on holidays in Victoria, where it gets properly cold. And that was fine, for two reasons. Firstly, I had the clothes for it. And secondly, they build the houses for it. 

Not here. 

In my house, I have windows that don't close. I mean, they certainly haven't closed all the way since I bought the place, and I've kind of given up trying. Also, I have wooden louvres that can't keep possums out, let alone the cold. And my walls? Are exactly one plank thick. 

In summer, this is great. It allows what little breeze there is to get inside and do it's work. It means that my house doesn't turn into a sauna. 

In winter, not so great. 

Here's how I shower in winter. 

I wake up. I hurry to the bathroom, which has wooden louvres. I shower as quickly as humanly possible. I stand in the shower cubicle not wanting to open the door and let the steam escape. I make a mad dash back to my bedroom, where I huddle under the covers for another half an hour until I stop shivering. Some time later in the day I may attempt to get up again. 

Places with deep, abiding winters tend to shape their citizens into the hardy stock that can handle that. Also, they have interior heating and suchlike. When the temperature plummets here -- and it does occasionally plummet further than this! -- all we do is lump more blankets on the bed and wish we had socks without holes in them. 

So that's why the blogging has been a little slow lately. Blog? Pfft. I'm hibernating. 

But our summers... you guys, our summers would kill you! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Dreaded Prologue

Agents, apparently, hate prologues. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that you don’t need them, that you should start your story with the main action, not something that happened days, or years, or even millennia before.

But some genres still love the prologue. I’m looking at you, fantasy epics. And, personally, I think a prologue suits fantasy. A prologue doesn’t drop the reader straight into the action.

Listen, all those old stories and poems begin and you know to settle in for the long haul. The old stories don’t dive straight into the action. Not before they give you the when, the where and the who.

So that’s one use for a prologue.

Maybe another use for the prologue is that it's a device which says, “Okay, so this is the stuff you have to know before we get to the main story. It might not seem relevant at the moment, but, trust me, you need this later so you don’t get lost.”

And this is where you throw in your epic battle that occurred a few centuries before, the consequences of which have shaped your world.

But, there’s a caveat. There’s always a caveat. Unless your prologue serves a purpose – unless you really do need it to stop the reader from getting lost on their way through all your world building– then you should probably ditch it.

I'm asking, of course, because I wrote a prologue for a Shiny New Idea of a story the other day. Do I need it? I don't know. I haven't written the rest of the book yet. 

And about that prevailing wisdom... Well, the thing with prevailing wisdom is that one day the wind will change and it will prevail in an entirely different direction. If, as I hope, prevail in this case can be stretched into some of wind-and/or-sailing metaphor. 

Look. I'm on a boat. Metaphor.

And the thing with any rule, is that it can be broken. In fact, most rules -- the literary sort, particularly, not so much the "mind the gap" or "look both ways before you cross the street" sort -- should be broken. 

And they should be broken with intent. Boldly. 

Just not always. And therein lies the difficulty. 

So where do you guys stand on prologues? Do you love them or do you hate them? Do you use them in your own writing?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The good news about the bad news

In my last post, I talked about misogyny and rape culture, and male entitlement and sexism. In real life, they suck. In fiction, they’re inexcusable.

Let me clarify that. In fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale, they’re powerful. But The Handmaid’s Tale is an exceptional book that, like all the best fiction does, holds a mirror up to society and demands that we look.

But what about most other fiction? Most other fiction isn’t holding that mirror up to society. It’s only reflecting back the shallow attitudes that are already there. And they start in YA.

Here’s a fun thing. Let’s rewrite The Hunger Games. Not by much. Let’s just change one little detail: Katniss is a boy now. He’s a kickass hero who starts a revolution. The story is pretty much the same. The action scenes are still awesome. The tension still keeps you turning the pages way after you should have turned the light off and gone to sleep.

But I’ll tell you what’s completely unimportant in our Hunger Games reboot: whether Katniss ends up with Peeta or Gale. Or, in our case, Peta or Gail. Because Katniss is a boy now, and boys in YA don’t get caught up between two girls. That’s the prerogative of the female hero, not the male.

And why is that? Is it because girls (to whom the female hero is marketed) are more concerned with romantic relationships than boys (to whom the male hero is marketed)? Or is it just something that someone in marketing once thought up, and it’s been regurgitated so often by the media that now it’s almost impossible to find a female hero who isn’t torn between two guys?

And I wouldn’t be so annoyed about this, except I can’t think of a single YA male hero who’s torn between two girls. Of course, it’s 3 a.m., so I also can’t think of my own name. Or my address. Driving home in the morning should be fun.

Boy Katniss doesn’t need a romantic subplot. But girl Katniss does, of course. And please don’t think that I’m attacking The Hunger Games – of all the love triangles I’ve read in YA, I really liked the resolution of this one. What I liked more was the way Katniss did what she had to do, and didn’t waste time worrying about boys when there was a war to fight.

What I don’t like, and what I’ve never liked, is that love triangles are seen as necessary in YA fiction marketed at girls. Why? Are we afraid that a girl might not know they’re funny or smart or brave or awesome unless there are at least two boys fighting for her affections to prove it?

Male heroes prove their worth by actions alone.

Female heroes, I’m afraid, prove their worth by their actions and by which guy they end up with.

And that sucks.

But the good news is, it’s us who get to change it. We get to challenge all the attitudes out there that we hate. We can write a female hero who doesn’t need or want a boyfriend. We can write a female hero whose value isn’t dependant on what boys think of her. We can write a female hero who is defined on her own terms.

And it doesn’t stop there. Sexism, racism…all the isms. We get to hit them head on.

That's the good news about the bad news. 

And it's pretty cool. 


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