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Posts Tagged ‘Trent rambles on a bit’

Momentum

Posted by trentjamieson on September 23, 2010

I’m being virtuous.

Here I am even with my structural edits for book three (The Business of Death) due tomorrow, and I’ve been frantically getting them done, even though I have new stories I want to work on – writers are like magpies and new stories are extremely shiny at this stage in the novel-writing cycle. New stories, other stories, wearing a tricorne hat, mowing the lawn, anything but the story you’ve been focusing on for months and months.

Though I do like this process. I’m at the final read through tweaking stage – which usually takes me about a week to two weeks.

I tend to find that the first two-thirds take up about three-quarters of that time, because they’re all about set up, getting the story moving, feeding in necessary back story but not too much, and generally sorting out all the thrashing about I do in earlier drafts. It also takes me time to get into reading the story yet again, you read through something enough times and all you can see are the mistakes – it’s like chewing on used gum, you’ve ground the flavour out of it. The story’s not story to you any more, it’s words that you are using to perform what you hope is a fascinating and interesting function.

But by the time I get to the final hundred pages, something curious happens, it’s all about momentum, and if the novel is going well, it tends to drag me along by then.  And the story starts to feel new.

Doesn’t mean that I’m paying the pages any less attention, just that there’s less work and more story pay off going on – it’s also, probably, because it’s the end that I spend most of my structural edits, before this read through, working on.

The last two books were like that, and this is too. Which either means that it’s going OK, or I’m deluding myself.

How do you find it with your edits and rewrites? Is it the beginning or the end that’s hardest for you?

Oh, and tomorrow once I hand this in I’m going to see Inception or Scott Pilgrim versus the World – any recs for either?

Posted in Editing and Revision, Editors, Nourish the Writer | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

In Which The Creative Writing Teacher Finds Himself Not Above Suspicion

Posted by trentjamieson on September 16, 2010

I’m always suspicious of people who profess a mastery of writing. Mastery’s a very slippery term. And when you start spreading that so called mastery around as some sort of writ, rather than a possibility among a multitude of possibilities, well, it becomes a little dangerous.

Teaching writing (at least) is only ever suggesting, I hesitate to use even the term facilitator because it’s less about enabling and more about, well, suggesting. So, yes, that’s about the best descriptor I can find, and if it sounds somewhat uncertain, a little shaky even, well, that’s probably a good thing.

Suggestion is good, because it offers options.

It’s when you start stating “that this is so” and that this is how it’s done to the exclusion of other things (just as I am doing here, by the way) you drift swiftly into perilous territory.

And to say, “well, this is wrong” well then you’re heading into dangerous waters in a boat that is leaking, at an alarming rate, because so much interesting material comes from things that are regarded as wrong, and to wrap things up in a litany of wrong is to be blinded by rules to the beauty that occurs when someone gets it right.

I don’t enjoy everything and you probably don’t either.

And to teach writing I think you at least need to recognize this, otherwise you increase the likelihood of stunting the writing of someone who is getting right what you see as wrong. Which is why I believe teaching must always be approached with humility and care.

We’re all miserable failures in some way. We’re deaf to at least one, though more likely many, aspects of the human story. We’re all grasping in the dark.

If anything, teaching writing is an acknowledgement of that, and at best you can only hope to provide the tools that work for you, in the chance that they might help shine a little light in helping another writer find their way, but not so much that they are in themselves blinding.

Posted in Artists, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Nourish the Writer, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Facing a Little Fear

Posted by trentjamieson on August 26, 2010

Yesterday, in between marking and working on edits of book three, I thought I’d pop into a local bookstore and maybe see if they had any copies of my book, and perhaps see if they’d like a few signed bookplates. OK, so it was a work avoidance strategy.

So, I walk into the shop: check it out. There’s about twenty of my books on a table, cool. I take a deep breath, then about fifty more. Why do something when you can put it off?

Finally, before someone thinks that, maybe, I’m a shoplifter, I walk over to the counter with a copy of my book.

The assistant looks at me, then the book, and I mumble something about being the author, and would they like some bookplates.

The assistant nods their head, looks kind of impressed, or so I think – this isn’t going too badly.

Then they say, ‘We don’t sell many bookplates, but they’re over by the other counter.’

Yeah, this little author has a lot to learn about projecting his voice.

We sorted it, I stopped my mumbling, and my bookplates were handed over. Still, you’d think I could have been a little smoother.

I’ve worked in bookselling for fifteen years, but there’s still nothing scarier than going in cold to a bookstore, and asking if they’d like signed bookplates, even if they have a nice big pile of your books.

Well, there’s plenty of things scarier. But this was a good fear to face.

Selling the book doesn’t stop with the writing.

Posted in Promoting your Book | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Death Most Definite Launch

Posted by trentjamieson on August 9, 2010

So it’s finally happened, I’ve got me a book out, and all it needs to be is launched.

If you’re in Brisbane, free on Friday the 13th of August (that’s this Friday) come along to Avid Reader, 193 Boundary Rd, West End. My little book’s going to be seen off by Marianne de Pierres (visionary SF superstar), Paul Landymore (bookseller at large) and me (nervous writer type). It should be a lot of fun.

If you’d like to come along you need to book at Avid Reader by emailing events@avidreader.com.au or   (07) 3846 3422

You can also book online – follow the link.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Book Launches, Covers, Promoting your Book, Publishing Industry | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Nearly There

Posted by trentjamieson on July 22, 2010

I’ve been somewhat lax here of late, mainly because I haven’t been lax in writing the third Death Works Book – it’s become my morning afternoon and evening these last few weeks, which is fun because I love watching my characters in crisis mode, but it does tend to make me a bit absent minded. I start missing bus stops, I never finish sentences, the lawn looks dreadful, and I go to the shops to buy milk and end up buying everything but – seriously, I once came back with an iron and a feather doona, but no dinner (Diana never lets me forget this). I also forget to blog.

No great lack, there’s been some wonderful posts below, and some real insight into people’s writing processes – I always like to have a sticky beak into how other writers do things. But still, I have an itch to ramble a bit, just a teensy bit.

The sun’s shining outside, birds are singing and the path into the scrub near our house is looking very inviting, but I’ve a book to finish. There’s three or four movies I’d like to see, but I’ve got a book to finish. There’s a teetering pile of novels by my bed, but, you get the idea.

Sometimes writing a book is just about sitting down, putting one word down after another after another (or, as is often the case, cutting words out) until you are done. Everything else, everything that is built upon it, cannot exist without that act.

Which is why I’m stepping back away from this blog now, until next thursday, because I’ve got a book to finish.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Characterisation, Creativity, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Book Launches

Posted by trentjamieson on July 1, 2010

I have to rush today. I’m working John Birmingham’s launch of  After America at Avid Reader today (well, tonight, but it’s something of a trek into the city). I’ve got the easy job of setting up and taking down, and making sure the wine glasses are full, and I should be able to catch most of the show.

All this has gotten me thinking of book launches and what constitutes a successful launch. Obviously for the bookseller it’s sales of the book being launched, but also that people have a good time. For writers, a book launch is not just a chance to celebrate your book, but a way of sharing it with your friends and family. It’s the moment when the book becomes real, not just for you, but those around you. And it’s a chance to say thank you to all those people that have helped you along the way.

That said, I’ve been to (and worked at) some real stinkers.

To my mind, the best launches give you a taste of the book – but not too much – a sense of the writer (as a person not just someone that produces words) and a warm fuzzy feeling (which may or may not be the alcohol). Here’s a link to one of my favourite launches ever, I know, it’s at Avid (and I work there) but it was a great night.

What do you think constitutes a great book launch?

Posted in Artists, Promoting your Book | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Importance of Excellent Books

Posted by trentjamieson on June 24, 2010

Well, what a tumultuous day. Australia now has its first female Prime Minister, we’re no longer in World Cup contention, and I’ve somehow managed to write a couple of thousand words – all while following the making of Australian Political History via Twitter, News Radio and ABC 1.

And my secret, despite the distractions. I’m reading a great book.

When you’re deep in the writing pit, wrestling with words, while at the same time trying to place them delicately about the narrative like flowers, finding a good book to treat yourself with in the evening is incredibly important. Not only does it clear the palate so to speak, because you can think about your own book too much – no, really – but it gives you something to aim for, and reaffirms your delight in narrative and sentences well written. A good book is not only a delight in itself, it’s a challenge, and it makes you want to write.

I’ve been lucky of late, but the book that’s been pulling me through crunchy-finishing-manuscript-time is Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  Sure, it may well be one of the most hyped books of the year, but it’s also a fabulous take on the end of the world, and it has vampires – that glow in the dark no less.

Whether or not it lives up the hype – well how can anything – but it’s certainly been an effective carrot in getting my writing done. I don’t hit my daily targets, then I don’t get to read this book.

So far I’ve hit my target every day this week, and, right now, I’m itching to sit down and read.

What’s getting everyone excited reading-wise at the moment? Or what books are you most looking forward to reading in the latter part of 2010?

Posted in Creativity, Genre Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Dream Job

Posted by trentjamieson on June 17, 2010

Writers at this stage of a draft are very boring creatures. It’s all about the book. About finishing the book. And leave me alone world, I have this book I want to finish. Can you see a theme here?

The most important thing at this stage is that you’re always moving forward.

Sometimes this is about word count, sometimes it’s about cutting a sentence or a scene that doesn’t work – so moving forward can seem like moving backwards. There are very few days when I don’t do something on the story: even fewer when I’m this deep into a book. The word count’s variable, the time spent in front of the computer likewise, but I’m always working on the book.

So far book three has been the easiest book to write because, well, it has the weight of the previous two books pushing it on. Things still surprise me. I found myself crying when I was working on a scene towards the end of the book yesterday – this is either a good sign or a bad one, not sure which.

Last night I woke up at three am with an idea for a scene and wrote it down. Well, I thought I did. Turns out it was a dream.

Doesn’t matter, waking or sleeping, I know where there this book is going: it’s just a matter of carrying the story there now. That’s the challenge, to get this draft finished.

I only hope that when I do, I don’t wake up and find it’s all been a dream.

(Though if that’s the case it’s a dream where two puppy dogs are staring at me, wondering where their dinner is. Oh, and on a slightly related note my book has now gone to the printers! And, believe it or not, the text of book two is also ready to go off – who’d believe it!)

Posted in Creativity, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Where I’m At – Or it’s nearly over and Done

Posted by trentjamieson on June 10, 2010

It’s actually starting to feel like I’m going to deliver book three it in time. I’m halfway through my draft, which sounds like there’s a lot to go, and there is even though my books are shortish, still all but a few of the core scenes are now written. For me the first half is always the hardest, it takes me a while to get traction, but it’s happening and the book is almost all I can think about.

I know how my characters change and grow in this book, the ending is written, and I have the bit that I love most about the initial drafting process to do now. The sorting out, the ordering of scenes and the filling in of gaps. There’s all manner of surprises to come, I know this because in both earlier books I was still surprising myself up until the copy edits, but I feel the bones of the book are sound now.

It’s hard to believe that in a few short weeks this draft will be done. Of course, as we’ve already discussed in this blog that’s only one sort of ending and many more steps lie ahead. But, even though no-one but my editors will be reading this book until next year, I’m going to be moving onto new things. Even while I’m doing structural edits, copy edits and reading page proofs I’ll be tinkering with new things (and wondering if I can sell them).

New books are new starts, and I’m dying to get onto new things. But this third book isn’t finished yet, and there’s still a lot of pleasure to be had from it. I’m going to miss Steven, Lissa and co. And I’m going to miss writing about their peculiar version of Brisbane.

If you’re interested in what I’m going to be like just after delivering the manuscript feel free to come to my book launch on Friday the 13th of August at Avid Reader in West End. There you’ll see a writer with two books finished, one book out, waiting to hear back from his editors about the third, and wondering what he is going to do next.

The major difference between that writer and this one is that a dream of mine will finally be fulfilled: after thirty odd years of writing I’ll have a novel, and one that I adore (written about a city I love)on the shelves.

Posted in Characterisation, Creativity, Editors, Genre Writing, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Timeless Prose and Pop Cultural References in Fantasy Fiction – the one with lots of generalisations

Posted by trentjamieson on May 27, 2010

There’s this argument that fantasy should be timeless, that to anchor a story in the now is to somehow give fiction a use-by date, that it’s the writer’s aim, to produce timeless prose, and that you should avoid pop-cultural references because they immediately date a novel.

Well, listen up, all fiction has a use-by date (usually six to twelve weeks after publication*).

When I write Urban Fantasy I’m writing about the now: my characters’ now. Which in the Death Works series is pretty much 2010. If you’re writing about people in their mid-late twenties early thirties who actually engage in the world as opposed to being separate from their culture. Well, they’re going to be listening to contemporary music. They’re going to be using some sort of social media – and probably bitching about it. And they’re going to have a pretty sophisticated knowledge of how media works and interacts with their lives.

Which means, dependent on the group, they’re going to watch read,  listen to, and eat things of their time. Which means Pop Culture. And if you do it well, it really shouldn’t date your fiction.

What dates fiction isn’t the mise-en-scene, it’s the social mores and assumptions within. It’s the writer themselves. Timeless fiction, is at once deeply of its time and universal (easy, right). You’ve got no control over that, but one thing that won’t create timeless prose is a series of arbitrary rules  – including this one.

Our society, our time, gives us taste, colour, vocabulary. Be careful that if you’re aiming for timeless prose what you’re not really aiming for is bland. That’s simple enough without trying.

Leave Time to sort out the timeless, and just write the best you can.

What fiction do you think is truly timeless?

*OK, I work in a bookstore, where my main job is to do returns  (that is send back the books that don’t sell), and I have run the returns department at several bookstores. My view on the lifecycle of a book is a bit different to most readers and writers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »