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Monday, February 23, 2009

Clearly not a night owl

Once again it is nearly one am and I am nowhere near heading to bed for the night. I'm still getting up at the same ol', but for some reason I work a lot at night. Not that I'm a night owl. I actually think I do my best work mid morning. When I'm, you know. Awake. Not exhausted.
I'm back in Melbourne aGAIN, sitting in my sister's unit, on the mattress on the floor. Actually this mattress is the only thing in the room. And there's a TV in the living room, but no couch or table or anything like that so it's a really fun stay. Well, I take back the sarcasm. I mean the two most important things are here, right? (she's moving out, if you couldn't guess)

Despite the humblitude (did I just make up that word? Regardless, it's my absolutely new favourite word.) of my digs at the moment, I've had a really great couple of days.
Let's see, three days ago I joined the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators, and yesterday I went along to the Victorian branch's quarterly meeting and mingle.
It was really interesting and I met some fantastic people.
I am quite new-person shy so it took a bit for me to talk to strangers, but who am I kidding. All writers for YA and the little tackers are wonderfully friendly.
I made sure to go home and design some business cards though, because really - it's a nececessary part of the business if you want to be taken seriously. I learnt a bit about breaking into the education market from some fellow writers, as well as mentorships and being a professional writer and how to present yourself.
They also had Lucie from the Australian Booksellers Association come and talk with us (notice I said WITH?) about Booksellers and their general lack of training and fear of children's books. It was great to get that side of the picture.
Today I went along to see Simmone Howell and Justine Larbalestier in Conversation, which was hosted by Lili Wilkinson (yet another YA author) at the State Library.

There were lots of teenagers there, lovers of these authors' books and I was pleasantly surprised to find several big name authors in the audience as well, such as Melina Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi, Jellicoe Road), Penni Russon (Undine) and Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Peeps) in the audience as well. Scott Westerfeld is so successful and for some reason just assumed he was mostly in America so was VERY surprised he was there. However, I shouldn't have been because this evening I have discovered that he is Justine Larbalestier's husband. Good supportive bloke, eh?

Simmone and Justine were fantastically entertaining, talking about how they write, the publising business, their misspent youths and I like to say they bonded over learning they had both been expelled from public schools.
They sure showed me how it's done, interacting with their audience and being good speakers. Just being open and candid with their responses was great to see and experience and it was a successful day.

This evening I saw Slumdog Millionaire, which as the world has discovered, is a fantastic film. I didn't realise it was a love story as well, but it is and it's wonderful. I didn't realise it was based on a book called Q&A, but if the movie is this good then the book must be amazing.

This morning I finished my entry for the Celepene Press short story competition, and am in the process of culling it back to the word limit. I'm actually really proud of this piece, and am planning on sending it out as a possible chapter book. Or to some magazines, like The School Magazine or Comet etc.

I've also started doing a chapter summary of 2 books, as I'm letting them ruminate and rattle around in my brain for a bit. I will NOT start writing until I know the characters and story really well, dammit. I AM learning from my mistakes.
I'm also gearing up for Script Frenzy, which starts April 1st.
Though I'm not writing a full hundred page script in the month, but am finishing one I'm halfway through, I still find the deadline and tight schedule a good help. Especially since I'm only aiming for half the expected output. Though I haven't read my NaNo book yet, I cringe when thinking about it. It went in a completely different direction than I wanted and think of it fondly as "a mess". I'm a writer who needs to self edit as I go, I can't just write a crap first draft and fix it later. Because later I just don't know where to begin.
University is going back next week, and I'm moving back to campus pretty soon. My family have been mentally redecorating my bedroom and by the time I get back from Melbourne on Wednesday my bed will be in storage. I'm feeling the pressure to leave somewhat. :) Doesn't help that as I leave, my sister is moving IN.
I've been reading my text books lately, so not AS into the fiction because I want to get ahead in my studies, if only for a week. I HAVE been reading Are you there God it's me Margaret (I know - what's taking me so long?) and finding it to be very different to what I expected, and different to other YA books I've read. I thought it was banned because there would be sex. But I think it was banned because there is open and honest conversation about bras and menstruation. It's interesting though, she's definitely a great writer as the world knows.

I let my mother read Dewey first, and she's promptly been trying to tell me all the good bits and positively spoil the experience for me when I get to it. Charming woman.
Must dash and use this mattress on the floor for sleeping and not interwebbing. I'm hoping I don't eat any daddy long legs in my sleep tonight, because there have been a few come to visit me as I sit here. Squeal!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Desperation makes me confuzzled

So I've been getting very confused lately.

(This is a very inaccurate depiction of me. The Questions marks however, are correct. And the facial expression is pretty close)

So I'm learning something about myself at the moment. Something I sort of learnt last year, but has really clicked with me right now.

Before I can write a novel which I'm actually going to finish, I need to think about it for at least a month, if not longer before I start the book. Think think think. Get to know the characters, let the excitement dwindle so that if I'm still into it, I know it's a good book.

I finished my edits and have posted my new draft to Allen & Unwin and can't do anything more about the outcome, whether they choose to publish it or not. So I decided to be pro-active and write. I still have 3 weeks before Uni goes back so I'm making the most of the time I have.

HOWEVER. I have not done the necessary thinking about stories, choosing the one that really speaks to me the most and then, once comfortable, setting aside all other ideas and focussing on that one for the next 6-8 weeks.

So. I'm not all that happy with what I'm writing now. Not that it's not good, I actually think it's coming along quite well, the problem is that my heart's not in it. So I'm not looking forward to writing, thinking about the characters, plotting out the next scenes...I'm reading books and surfing the net and watching TV. Which is crap.

Actually one book I've been reading has been really good, and helping me flesh out the concept and character arcs of one of my novel ideas.

So my next move is this: Concentrate on writing a couple of short stories for competitions, to keep my self writing whilst ruminating on my next longer project. And I just received the next installment of my Certificate III in Business Administration, so I'll be working on that too. I just can't pick which is the most important, because they all are.

Also, I'm starting to get into writing magazine and newspaper articles, so I'm pitching some of these at the moment, at a source of income.

I've been at my sister's place in Melbourne for the past week and unfortunately have done a lot of shopping. Books and 2 really cute bags - both are messenger bags which will be good for Uni, one with Oscar the Grouch on it at the other with space invaders (remember the old arcade game?)

So I could use an income again.

On a closing note, Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and whether you're in a relationshio or single, I hope you have an enjoyable day. Whether it's special or the same as every other day, just don't let it be a downer.

And make sure:

Love Sairz

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Fires, reading and what the BLEEP should I write

My mini holiday to relax in a cottage and take in the history of the Gold Fields has been postponed due to the horrendous heat of yesterday (46 degrees Celcius) in which half of regional Victoria has gone up in flames.

"Poor me", right? I don't get to have a holiday. It's okay, I'm not that shallow. I can't believe that last night while I was hanging at a friend's house, and while I was sleeping I was blissfully unaware that houses, hundreds of thousands of acres of bush land, and worse still - people - were burning.

I'm in Melbourne at the moment, the highway back to my home was closed off at one point, but I think it's open again now. My family are seriously thinking about making a fire plan now. We should have done it long ago. However, if you're not home when there is a fire (i.e our kitchen fire mid last year) there's really nothing you can do about it, nothing you can save.

I feel for the people of Boolarra and Yinnar who are now surrounded by more fire - even in Churchill, where my Uni is. Churchill was under threat earlier today and I don't know how it's going now. My thoughts are with everyone living and working down there.
I haven't been back in the area since November, and I can't imagine what I'm going to find. I have a meeting on campus on Thursday, so I better prepare myself for the devastation. I feel for the animals that couldn't get out. I know there are a lot of wallabies and rabbits in the area.
Fire would be a horrible, horrible way to go.

Okay, let's shake it off. Shake shake shake, get onto a nicer topic. And of course, that would be writing.

I'm doing my head in at the moment as new ideas are flooding me and I'm getting so confused as to which is the best one, which one I want to write first.

Do I write the one about the Aussie girl who through a serious of circumstances gets swept up into Hollywood and the tabloid feeding frenzy?

How about the one about the girl who's twin brother is a huge gamer, and when he dies she decides to infiltrate the gaming world and try and win the championship he was so close to winning?

Or the one about the twelve year old who's family move a lot, and she doesn't have any friends - except for a stray dog that she meets in her newest town, that teaches her and those around her a lot about friendship and love?

Oh! Or the year 12 student who's finding her friends growing up too quickly, driving, moving out, having sex, and she's determined to make the most of her last year of her youth - and she's certainly not going to fall in love!

What to do what to do...

Well what I've decided to do is block my ears and say: "Nar nar nar nar nar" and read.

I went to Borders today - always an expensive exercise - and have a bunch of new books to start reading. I'm reading about 5 at the same time at the moment which sort of proves where my head's at. It's all over the place.

Ah well. What I'm reading today are:

I know, aren't I naughty? Are you there God I believe is the YA most banned book ever, for its racy content. It was written in 1970, and I'm gonna say their definition of racy writing is a bit different to ours today. For instance, Gossip Girl is not banned.

And TTYL was banned for awhile there, too I believe. It's a part of writing for YA and younger that I hadn't thought about, censorship. It's something I tend to do to myself, which I shouldn't. But that's a topic for another day. When I've finished these, I look forward to sinking my claws into:

Sink my claws into. Get it? Get it? I know. I amaze even mySELF at my sheer Dad joke abilities. It's a gift, it really is. How gorgeous is that cat though?

My parents have a ginger cat. Well, technically he's mine, because his mum was mine and she had kittens, so he and his sister are mine. But they live with my parents. Anyway, he's ginger and has a bit of a lion's mane like that and thick furry trousers, as Georgia Nicolson would say. So we named him Booffie because that's what he is. We should have called him Sir Drool-a-lot, because that's what he does. The point I think I'm trying to get at is he looks a bit like that cat, Dewey.

Okay, that's all for now. Gonna get to my books!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

First Fighting Bookworm of the Month!

Consider me chuffed.
Myself and the other Aussie and Kiwi Fightin' Bookworms have been honoured as the first Bookworms of the month.
We started a critiquing group, y'see, which is going exceedingly well, I must say. It's so nice to be getting feedback that isn't along the lines of: "It's great. It's perfect. Don't change a scene. No it's not cliche! They'd be stupid not to publish it right now!" I mean yes, that's lovely to hear, but not helpful for making your book better.

I agonised for a couple of hours about whether or not to delete Miles and Clover from Life was cool until you got popular. I know I said I was going to, but I've already deleted one character, and frankly I decided that the world does not revolve around Kaley. Yes, the book is about her, but other characters are entitled to have lives too. I'm leaving the decision up to my editor - sounds so cool to call her that. I mean she's not MY editor as yet. She still needs to love the second draft and sign me up.

I still have one last read through to do of my manuscript before I send it off to her. I don't know how much good that'll do, because I know the story so well and haven't had a chance to get much distance lately. The main goal is to notice where things are missing, cos there was a lot of chopping and rearranging in the editing process. Editing sucks, man. But ultimately it will have made for a better book.

I wrote the first chapter of my NEXT book, yesterday which is exciting. I've plotted out most of it, and alas, stolen some pretty integral stuff from my NaNo book, MJ's Blogiverse. That's okay, it was a bit of a mess, and I was scared to look at it again, so alot of the good MJ stuff is going to end up in Ruby's book. MJs life is supposed to be more suburbia, whereas Ruby is a rising star, so it fits better with Ruby.
The new book's working title is "What Really Happened - The Hollywood Life of Ruby Vega".

I've put the Urban Fantasy on hold, because I'm thinking maybe, JUST maybe, I may get asked by A&U "We loved your last book, do you have anything else like it?" and then I'd go "yeah I've got MJs Blogiverse" (cringe) or "Well, no...but I have an Urban Fantasy that's nothing like it at all that you might enjoy..." or I could say: "Yup, currently writing about an Aussie girl who gets carried along for the ride into Hollywood, it's about the tabloid rumours, scheming and conniving and working out what you really want." Okay so at the moment it sounds like all the other YA books about young hollywood, but it DOES have a different spin on it. I've gotta work on my pitching though.

Anyhoo, that's all for now.

Buh bye!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Death and scary stuff

Well I've finished my second draft of my novel that A&U might maybe may be interested in publishing, depending on how well the second draft turns out.
However, because the ending is so drastically different, it sort of feels like I have an extraneous character who I need to get rid of, to tighten the book. Plus there's a budding relationship which really doesn't add anything to the book, so I feel the need to pitch that out too. It DID add something in my first draft, because it was a catalyst for other things to happen, but now it's cute I guess, but it doesn't work.
I know I'd regret if I just said "It's fine even though it doesn't need that character, or that relationship" and handed in a subpar book, however, she gave me until February. Today is February. She didn't give me a date in February so I could legitimately hold onto it and rework it for a week or so. My summer job has finished so it's not like I don't have the time.
Hell, I know that's what I'm going to do but dear god editing is so confusing...and he's got some good lines too. Sigh. It must be done.

On to other things, my aunt, my Mum's sister died at midnight last night. It's been coming for some time, and my family trekked down to melbourne to see her on Thursday.
I haven't had a lot of experience with death. It's always happened in my life from afar. I hear someone has died, and again, I've been blessed so far and it's not a common occurence for me. I haven't seen them lying on their death bed. My aunt had a lot wrong with her, and it was so sad to see her in that state. She was nearly blind and quite deaf, with diabetes and her kidneys had just recently completely shut down. She was in and out of consciousness and when she did talk it was hard to understand what she wanted. She'd had a stroke a couple of years ago which made her mix up her words a lot. But seeing her like that...and hearing her say she was ready to die...
I like to think I have a pretty solid understanding of the way people think. Even when they don't agree with me, I can generally see how they came to their conclusion. But I don't understand that ready to die thing. How it must feel to give up on your life, and regardless of what comes next, you're ready to start it. Whether it's everything that comes next or nothing at all. I made me think. And it makes me sad.
I think I'm at LEAST taking today off writing.