Sunday, November 18, 2012

Recent everything

Recent reading

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (non-fiction)

How to be a WomanI placed a reserve on this book months ago at the library and then when it was finally my time, I was reading it with the eyes of a father-to-be. I could have a daughter before the year is out (we've left the sex a mystery), and maybe I should have thought a little more about the F-word (feminism), but okay, here I am, reading this book about how to be a woman, surely that's a start!?

Caitlin Moran LIKES TO SHOUT IN CAPS. A LOT. But it works for her. When she wants to, she can turn a great, surprising phrase. Por ejemplo: "I feel embarrassed that she is now having to deal with our secret blackness. This is private. The admin of my soul."

A long-time Times columnist, Moran's prose beats at the columnist's furious, hummingbird heartbeat (though, if you've seen Moran talk, it's not just on the page).

Interesting. Moderately enlightening. Always entertaining.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (short stories, audiobook)

Fragile ThingsAnother audiobook read by the author. This one moderately remarkable since it's fiction and Gaiman is a very able 'voice artist'. His consistent performance 'at the mic' isn't quite matched by the stories 'on the page'. They're a mixed bag. 'A study in emerald', Gaiman's mash up of Arthur Conan Doyle and Ursula Le Guin opens the collection strongly, but there are a few too many shrugworthy stories and unclassifiable snippets (see: filler) for the book to hang together.

Also: the last six New Yorker Fiction podcasts. Still a fan. Magic.

And: Literary Consolation Prizes (via NY Times).

Recent listening

Lots of Ronnie James Dio (in his various bands) and Neil Young with his scungy hombres, Crazy Horse.

Recent home improvements

Installing a dishwasher (handy timesaver when baby arrives). Knocking down a wall in the garage (handy for getting baby in and out of the car). Fixing the guttering (nothing to do with baby, but it needed to be done).

(You can always tell the weekends when my mum and step-dad have come down to visit by all the things we manage to get done around the house. Power tools are useful! Know-how, even more so.)

Recent writing

Slagging off Palmy, then explaining it how it's kind of a compliment.

* Improving The Mannequin Makers.

I have four pages of To-Dos, things like "Explain what happened to Colton" and "More reaction to the differences btwn imagined world (windo scheme) and real world -> the lies! the confusion! the freedom!"

Making changes at this late stage is always interesting. A small tweak can remove a big problem. Equally, a simple change in one chapter can require changes throughout the rest of the book (or at least, necessitate you reading the whole thing specifically looking for things that no longer fit this brave new world).

I'm supposed to give another version of the manuscript back on 1 December so it can be edited over Christmas. It'll happen. Balls to the wall as usual, but it'll happen (as long as the baby doesn't drop before then).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Advice to young (female) writers

I was recently searching through my emails for the name of someone and came across a request from Dolly magazine last year for a writing tip. Yes, that Dolly. The one that asks questions like Justin Bieber vs. Cody Simpson: Who has the hottest Instagram pics?

But they also, apparently, ask about writing. Which is cool. Since I can't imagine a magazine for male tweens even acknowledging the existence of fiction, let alone cultivating the dangerous, time-consuming, maddening urge to write.

Benevolent soul that I am, I offered Dolly three tips, but never saw the final article. Seeing this email, however, I did a quick Google search and managed to find it.

Here 'tis:


[TOP SECRET] WRITER Tips. (Dolly 1/9/2011, Issue 489, p144)

We conned some amazing authors into handing over their best writing tips. You can thank us when you're on the bestsellers list!

* "Set a designated writing time and stick to it. Think of it as a date with yourself, and honour it. Even a two-hour chunk once a week is great. Don't be afraid to use treats to get yourself through - I do. It might be some time online skimming my favourite blogs, or going out to get a coffee, or a new magazine after a particularly good session. (When I finish a whole book, I treat myself with something extraordinary. I shan't disclose what for fear of judgement.) (SHOES.)" - Zoe Foster, Amazing Face

* "Read, read, read - you learn so much from what other authors do, and you'll also find yourself inspired, challenged and eager to read more." - Georgia Blain, Closed For Winter

* "The reader should always be inside the head, or sitting on the shoulder, of the most interesting person in the room." - Craig Cliff, A Man Melting

* "Write as often as you can, even if nobody will ever read it. Every journal entry, essay, short story and blog post helps you finetune your skills," - Kelly Gardiner, Act Of Faith


The other two tips I offered were probably more useful (and less disputable):
  • Finish things. A story's not much use without an ending.
  • Set yourself challenges. Write a character's life story in 100 words. Write a story  using only dialogue. Write a story that goes backwards in time.The more constraints, the easier it is to fill those blank pages.

Now to work the fact I've been in Dolly into my author's bio...