Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Words go here.

I hate writing blurbs. 

I've written a lot of them now. Way, way too many. And I hate writing them just as much as I hate writing synopses. Luckily if I avoid writing synopses for long enough, my co-writer does them for me. She's awesome. I must send her more chocolate. 

A few months ago when it seemed like a really fun idea to write a comic crime caper trilogy -- still romance, I'm not looking this gift horse in the mouth yet -- I didn't think about how terrible it would be to have to write three blurbs at once. 

Blurb 1 is kind of done. It's the hard one. It has to set the scene. Who are these characters, and, most importantly, why should the reader care? 

Blurb 2, surprisingly, came together quite easily. 

But Blurb 3... I hate Blurb 3 with an passionate rage that will haunt me to the end of my days. 

Because it's book three. The people who buy it have already read the first two books, right? So why do I have to spell it all out again? Why can't my blurb just be: 

OMG, you guys. All that stuff that happened in the other books, this is where it all ends. The loose ends get tied up. There's a gunfight! A kidnapping! A murder! Not all in that order. And, yes, the characters finally get together! There are also funny bits. If you've stuck with us so far, this one is your pay off! 

I hate blurbs. 

On the plus side, I read the back of books a lot more critically now. I find myself evaluating other people's blurbs. What interests me about it? What do I love, and what do I hate? What makes me make that face? You know, this face: 

I've always believed that just like you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (but I do), you also shouldn't judge a book by its cover matter (but I do). Heaps of writers joke about the blurb being the hardest part of writing the book, and in a crazy way it is. 

That book? Well, that's 80 000 or so words to tell a story. The blurb? That's about two hundred. Condense your story into that, don't give out any spoilers, oh, and make sure you mention the theme, and the tone, and make it exciting enough that someone will want to buy it, but don't go over the top or you'll just end up with an annoyed reader. 

And can we have it by yesterday, please? 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Adventures on the Internet

Here's an actual email I got recently: 

I really hope you get this quickly. I could not inform anyone about our trip, because it was impromptu. we had to be in Ukraine for Tour.. The program was successful, but our journey has turned sour. we misplaced our wallet and cell phone on our way back to the hotel we lodge in after we went for sight seeing. The wallet contained all the valuables we had. Now our passport is in custody of the hotel management pending when we make payment.

 I am sorry if i am inconveniencing you, but i have only very few people to run to now. i will be indeed very grateful if i can get a short term loan from you ($2,580). this will enable me sort our hotel bills and get my sorry self back home. I will really appreciate whatever you can afford in assisting me with. I promise to refund it in full as soon as soon as I return. let me know if you can be of any assistance. Please, let me know soonest.

Thanks so much.


Good advice, Admiral. 

For incredibly obvious reasons, I didn't reply. But I like to think that in an alternate universe, my answer would have gone something like this: 

Dear Natalie, 

I'm so sorry to hear about your troubles with your Tour in Ukraine, and that your journey has turned sour after you went for sight seeing. I won't aware that hotels in Ukraine were so accommodating as to not demand payment upfront. What a warm and welcoming people the Ukrainians must be, despite their recent troubles. Recent troubles I'm quite surprised you didn't mention, to be honest. A few months ago, when all that stuff was going on in Egypt, I got heaps of emails from charming Egyptian people telling me about their political upheavals and resultant financial difficulties. That seems to be at thing now. The bombs are falling, quick, get on the internet and ask people for money! 

It was no inconvenience at all to receive your email. I'm glad you feel we're close enough that you can turn to me, but, well, this is a little embarrassing... I don't know anyone called Natalie. I did, when I was in Year Three, have a friend called Natalie. She went to Monto State Primary School. I don't know if you're the same Natalie or not. We never talked much about her ambitions to travel to Ukraine. We talked a lot about kittens and toys, from what I remember. And Battle of the Planets. Remember that one episode where the insecty-roboty things came out of what looked like Kinder Surprises and bodysnatched all the kids on the planet? That was a hell of an episode. 

So, if that's you, Natalie, hi, how's it going? What've you been up to since the eighties? Apart from misplacing your wallet and cell phone. 

You know, I don't like to be one of those "I told you so" people, but come on now. This is why we have travel insurance. And, to be honest, if you're the sort of person who goes to somewhere as unstable as Ukraine without travel insurance, well, I do feel that my lending you $2 580 dollars would be a little like throwing good money after bad. Also, all of my finances are currently tied up in a complicated scheme to assist the widow of a Nigerian general in getting access to his funds. I'm expecting several million dollars any day now, so when that comes through I'm sure I'll be able to review your situation more favourably. 



What really amazes me about these sort of emails, is they must be profitable, or why would anyone bother? But, seriously, who is falling for this amateur hour stuff? 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I have lost my word book...

My word book isn't anything impressive to look at. It's just a cheap supermarket telephone/address index book. The cover has been falling apart for at least the past eight years. But, now that I've lost it, I feel slightly panicked that I'll never find it again and I'll always have these blind spots in my vocabulary because I won't remember what I don't know... 

I should probably start at the beginning. 

My mother was the first person I saw who used a word book. But she probably called it something smarter. Basically, whenever she read a book, she'd have a notebook with her. When she came across a word of phrase she didn't know, or one that interested her, she'd write it down and leave enough space to fill in a dictionary definition later. 

Eventually, I got my index book and did the same thing. 

I don't remember what was in there now. 

Obfusc was. Of course, I don't remember where I came across it, or what I liked so much about it to write it down. Probably during my I-can-learn-Latin phase! 

Odalisque was. And Janissary. I was reading a lot of books set in Turkey at the time. 

Tabby was. I liked something about the etymology of the word. Was it a sort of fabric named after a place, that people began to associate with the pattern on some cats? If I had my word book, I could tell you. 

But my word book didn't just have interesting words. It had necessary words. The ones I always stuff up. 


My own personal triumvirate of evil. Because I always mix them up. And, even though there are three words, I only know two definitions. Amenable is agreeable, right? So one of the others means friendly. Or both of them do. I don't know. What's the difference between amiable and amicable? There is a difference -- I wrote it down. 

But then I lost the book. 

And now I'm secretly afraid it will come up somehow. 

"Well, which was he? Amiable, amenable or amicable? Hurry up and answer! This is IMPORTANT!" 

And I'll stand there with my mouth open, desperately searching for meaning. And only finding obfuscation. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Answer this question...

In my last post, I talked a little about writing down ideas so you can do blog posts for promo. Today, I’m talking a little about interviews.

I quite enjoy doing interviews on people’s blogs, because, with editing, I can sound much smarter and more amusing then I am in real life. In real life, over half of my statements being with “Um”. The other half begin with a shrug and a sigh. But on paper…move over Dorothy Parker.  (I wished.)

One thing I’ve noticed with interviews, is that invariably you will get asked when you decided to become a writer. For me, and I suspect for most other writers out there, this is difficult to answer. It’s not like I was happily living my life one day and, having just read a great book, suddenly had a lightbulb moment: Why, I bet I could write one of those things!

I’ve always written. From the moment I could. Well, even before.

From the moment I could talk, I wrote a diary. Well, my mum did all the writing parts. But basically, she would ask “What did we do today?” I would tell her, and she would write it down. A toddler’s full day usually compressed into one or two sentences:

I fell over.
I ate cheese.
I paddled in the sea.

When I was about four, I wrote my nan a poem about mice. This was the poem:

I think mice
are nice.

I believe it was illustrated.


Writing is one of life’s cheapest pleasures. It only takes a notebook and a pen, or a piece of paper and a crayon, and you’re all set up. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where books were valued. We all read. It was the most natural progression in the world to write as well. I’ve always been a writer. I wish I had some Road to Damascus moment to share about it, some superhero origin story, but I don’t. You might as well ask me when I first decided to start convert oxygen into carbon dioxide.

And yes, writing is a bit like breathing. Pretty sure I’d die if I couldn’t do it.

What about you? Do you have an origin story I could steal hear?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thinking Ahead

I know that when you’re writing, a few sentences in a Word doc (or whatever you use to write in) don’t feel like a book. They have the potential to be a book, but at the moment they’re not. They are so far away from being a book in fact, that apart from occasionally planning your speech for when you win the Booker Prize, you really don’t think far beyond today’s goal, whatever it may be.

Finish this scene.
Finish this paragraph.
Finish this damn sentence.

So here’s tip for you. On the chance that those sentences do one day become an actual, proper book, do yourself a favour and start thinking now about the things you’re writing. About the process. About the research.

Think about your influences. Think about your inspiration. Think about the themes.

Got a funny anecdote about writing this particular thing? Like the time you found yourself outside in the middle of the night because you needed to research how leaves smelled? (I wish this was a random thing I’d invented for this post, but I’ve done it…) Write it down now.

Because when that Word doc is a book, people are going to ask you questions.

You’re going to need to talk about this book in a lot of places, and to a lot of people, and you don’t want to keep repeating the same things over and over again.

You’re going to be expected to provide content for blog tours.

This month, my pseudonym has to write eight different blog posts for eight different guest spots. My brain hurts already.

In August, it’s nine. But that’s for a co-written book, so really it’s only four and a half.

September, it’s five. Pfft. Five? I had eight ideas written down for that blog tour! For once I'm ahead of the game.

So, make notes now, even if it seems like you’ll never possibly need them. Because if that random paragraph in front of you one day grows into its own book, you’ll thank yourself later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Faking It

Last weekend I met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in years. One of them, since Goondiwindi State High School, at the other end of the state. And it turns out that now she lives only two blocks from me. Weird.

It was a lovely winter's morning. We met up at The Strand, and then we went to brunch.

The Strand. Last weekend. 

Anyway, it came up during brunch that I’ve had books published.

Wow. A writer.

And here’s the thing. I don’t feel like a writer. Because, despite being a published author now, I’m doing exactly the same thing I was doing in high school, back when I was writing a scurrilous, possibly slanderous, fake high school newsletter called Tales of Dungadindi High.

I’m still making stuff up to entertain people.

Rose says she has copies of Tales of Dungadindi High somewhere. I hope she’s lying.

It was a newsletter produced mostly during typing class. (I did all my best work there… including the open letter where I compared our new principal’s moustache to Hitler’s. Also, his management style.) It was photocopied on the sly either in the school library or in my dad’s office, and distributed around the school on a Monday morning.

Names were changed. Slightly. Embarrassing incidents were related in excruciating detail. Terrible things happened to teachers.

I like to think Tales from Dungadindi High enjoyed brief popularity. I know I wrote at least three issues before it fell into the hands of teaching staff and questions were asked. I’m pretty sure those teachers knew exactly who to blame as well, but I threw in my burgeoning career in literary satire to avoid bringing attention to my other burgeoning career – fraud.

Fifteen dollars was a lot of money to write a senior’s English assignment. And, for only another five, I wrote his acceptance speech for school captain. That kid was an open wallet to me that year.   

So maybe I’ve always been a writer, chasing both praise and a paycheque.

Maybe, like we all decided last weekend, none of us have grown up at all. We’re not really adults with commitments and jobs and mortgages and superannuation. Mentally, we’re still fifteen-year-old kids, freaking out in case someone notices we’re faking it.

But of course, unlike when we were fifteen, we won’t get in trouble nowadays if we drink cheap wine.

How about you? What was the first time you shared your writing, for love or money?


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