Saturday, June 26, 2010

No Knack for Happiness

Well, Book Three is no longer book three anymore. I even know what the ending might be like. Not the scene or anything, but defiantly the feel. Been quite a weekend for things coming together. I had a quick look over the first six chapters of The Manda, and came to the realisation that I may not be finished line-editing wise, but I am sick to death of looking at it. I don't think the prose is terrible by any means. Is it the best it could be? Probably not, but because my idea of what is good prose and what is not is influenced by whether I yawn or not, all I know is that it holds my interest.
Also, it's a fantasy book, for crying out loud. Not a literary one either. I might as well make sure the bloody thing is readable, and then give it to other people to read. They will have different perspectives and tell me if it's shit or not.
Five times I've rewritten that thing, four times from scratch. There are still three chapters, I think, that need fixing. I came up with a solution to a major plot problem, where the character gets on a ship because the plot needs her too, not for any other reason.
Now I have her stowing away, being found by the man who in the original draft took her in because it was implied that he recognised the same terrible things from his life, in hers. What a load of crock.
Anyway, after she's found, he needs a messenger and filer, so he uses her.
Why that took me five drafts to think of, I have no idea.
So, the Book Three, the one that is going to need a hell of a lot of research, now has a name. No Knack for Happiness. Got a nice ring to it I think.
I've also realised something strange. The books that I'm writing (at the moment, The Manda and Varrick) and the books I'm planning (No Knack for Happiness and a thrillery thing) follow a strange pattern.
The Manda was the book I wanted to read. Varrick is also I book I enjoy reading and writing, but I imagine it being the book my father would give me after he'd read it.
No Knack for Happiness is not something my father would ever read, but my mother defiantly would. Then the thriller (it does actually have more plot in my head then "No Knack for Happiness" at the moment. I didn’t say: oh, thriller is the next genre I should try out. I just think "No Knack for Happiness" will be harder to write for me, so it's coming first, before I go to Med school, while I still have time on my hands)
The thriller is something I hope my brother would like.
So, I have subconsciously been working my way through my family in the ideas that materialise and take form in my head. I enjoy all the things and idea I have, but each one is slanted slightly more to one family member than another.
Uncanny, huh. Well. The next thing I get to do is make up spaceships. I'm writing the Varrick book so fast that I'm trying to describe things that are not only imaginary, but I have no idea what they look like.
Amazing fun. Bloody hard work.

Varrick Plan

Well, I finished plans for one book. The Sci-fi one that I was talking about earlier. It's very brief, not much in the way of how things are going to go or how anyone is going to solve a problem, but it's better than what I started with. It has a start, a middle and an end. It's going to be rather long. I also have a faint and not very happy feeling that after I write it once, I will have to add a heap of detail and thoughts. Then I get to edit and cut things out.
Going to take a while, I think.
This is good though. It's nice to think about something else other than: The Manda, and Varrick had a nice way of coming into my head. No plot, but characters pretty much full formed.
I also realised something else. A lot is going to happen, but the overarching story won't have any hidden mechanisms behind it - no grand conspiracies or anything like that.
However, I have characters that all have substantial things to hide, which should provide more than enough in the way of plot variation.
Now, I just get to write the thing. And edit my way through The Manda. I split it into four sections today - I plan on editing the four sections, one a week, and then send it round to whoever will look at it, and ask them to comment on where they think it's weird.
Then, I might as well send it to someone who, if they're insane enough, will publish it. One can only hope.
I have been slightly more productive, but I keep twaddling off to uselessly browse the internet or sleep, or do something else. I like the fact that I have two things going on at the moment. If I line edit for more than an hour, I start screaming. Being able to switch to the more creative side of things will be nice.
Tomorrow, before I go out, I will write. Some would argue that I should be studying Chinese, but I get a fair amount of study out of it simply by living here. And Chinese is not my favourite language in the world. It's just a language of necessity.
So, I plan to do something productive with my remaining two and a half weeks. Must concentrate...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Andrew Bolt, thank you.

Now, for people who aren't Australian (not that anyone not Australian will be reading this) I'm going to briefly explain who Andrew Bolt is. He's a man that writes a column in the Herald Sun, a Victorian tabloid。 His opinions often stretch into the right, and he seems ( I can't claim to read his mind, but this is what I have gathered) to not believe in climate change, blame migrants for a fair share of everything ( I incidentally remember almost walking out of a SAC because I felt his opinion was rubbish and insulting. and I had to analyse his opinion in a calm manner. So difficult) and doesn't (as far as I can tell) think there were any forced removal of Aboriginal Australian's for purely racial reasons. I disagree with him on most points.
So, yesterday, I spent the day mooning around the ABC and The Age, in a slight ecstasy over the fact that a female is our prime minister. Not only that, she's a ranga! And not married, atheist ect. ect.
Then I realised that, raised as I was, and given my own left leanings, that I was deliberately doctoring my view.
So I went to the man who's opinion I often hate. Hello Andrew Bolt.
I was pleasantly surprised. Not ecstatically surprised, it only took him a day to start wondering a bit more and for her personal life to come up - but it was done in an analytical way. Not typecast rubbish. So then I skipped over to the Australian. Again, pleasantly surprised. They didn't think she was going to win the upcoming election, I'm not sure they liked her (this is both the Australian and Andrew Bolt) but...
I think, somehow, that no one knows what to make of her. As Bolt pointed out, one of her major supporters was the workers union - and they were pushing the strongest on the miners tax. Yet Gillard's first action was to declare a truce with the mining industry.
I'm not sure what to make of it at the moment. Give it time. Opinions will form. Yesterday, the opinions were still not quite formed. From the people I expected the most venomous response from, they were carefully measured pieces.
For the first time in my known history, I agreed with Andrew Bolt. I thought it would take a miracle for that to happen.

A miracle somewhat like Australia's prime minster being sworn in by Australia's Governor General. Both of them women.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Doctor Who and Vincent Van Gogh

Well. Firstly, let me say for those who don't know, I am obsessed with Doctor Who. Yes, the geek revealed (if you already didn't get it from the writing, the never been with a guy thing and the wanting to write sci-fi). Fortunately for me, I manage to have other sides to my personality, which means I'm not a total bore when vodka shots are involved. Nor can I talk only about nerdy things. At least, that's my opinion (I'm pretty sure Sebas, Edgar and Joel don't even realise that I spend most of my waking hours making up purely imaginary stories and agonising over choice of words). Courtney knows, because I told her.
Anyway, I've been busy doing all the other things that life has to offer. Going out, having dinner with people, partying ect. So I haven't watched doctor who for a while. The last episode I watched, a main character died, and I was quite pissed off.
There are some moments in doctor who, however, some episodes, where I just can't get over how well they are made, how intelligent they are, how human, and how good that acting was.
This particular episode was one of those. The doctor and Amy travelled back in time to help Vincent V.G get rid of a monster. Normal enough fare.
The guilt the doctor feels over Rory, the depressions of Van Gogh, the portrayal of how he sees the world, the way the depression destroys him even though he becomes aware of how famous he is...
It was just so real. Nothing went right. The monster wasn't all that evil, in the end, but they only realised after they killed it. Amy and the Doctor weren't able to save the Doctor from his depression. But there was hope, and happiness, and sadness, and loss that the body felt but the mind didn't know.
It was beautiful. In the way that sometimes a book can be beautiful in style with tons of adverbs, adjective, metaphors and similes, yet the writing only enhances the story and characters, not takes away from them.
I got teary at the end. Someone was able to make something which made me feel physical pain and grief, and made me want to rush off to Paris to see all of Van Gogh's paintings.
I only wish that something I create will do that to someone, preferably in my lifetime.
Amazing. A round of applause to the people over at BBC Wales. May charming accents, redheads and moving stories live forever.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Plans, plans, plans

Well. I get home in three weeks. Kind of weird, actually. My parents probably think I've forgotten about them, simply because there isn't that much to write emails about, and I keep thinking "well, I'll see them in 3 weeks."
I will write to them tommorow. That's plan number 1
Plan number two - stop swearing. It's a habit that is easy to pick up when no one understands you.
And then what to do with the next six months.
If I don't force myself, I will just waste all that time.
I have people reading: The Manda. I will get more people to read it.
Then I have tow other books. One is Sci-fi, pure and simple, but more the sort of Sci-fi I like than what my father reads, which involves lots of figthing and spaceships.
My book still involves a fair amount of fighting and spaceships, but focases on the relationship between three key people. That's what I'm most interested in. The fighting plays a large part in that, so I'm going to have to figure out how to write a space battle. Good luck to me. Hugo award winners, here I come.
Then there is another book. This one won't be plotted, not in the way the scifi one has already been. I'm not even sure how it's going to go.
All I have at the moment is a aborigional girl of 18 meeting a white australian boy by the sides of the river. What happened to get them there - has something to do with a book. His brother is somehow going to be involved with the girl. She doesn't even have a name yet.
I can write this book from the boys perspective. I would fall flat on my face from the girls perspectibve. As it is, I'm going to have enough trouble getting her right.
Something tells me I have to get her right. And the boy. I make him a stereotype and the whole point of it all will be lost.
Weird, isn't it, that I can go from young adult speculative to something that is firmly sci-fi, to something that has no magic, and what seems already to be a lot of themes.
That's what I want to do, in the next six months. I want to edit and finsh the Manda, so I can send it to someone. I want to write my sci-fi book (after reading a ton of sci-fi fiction. Not that I haven't before, but being 18, it's been decidely more young then what I'm aiming for)
And I want to finish the research for this book. at the moment all I have is a scene. I hope something grows from that, because I really want it to.
Motivation is what I lack. That or structure. So I have to do two things - come up with a structure, and then get motivation.
Sound simple. I will obviously also work. Not as much as I did previously - 40 hrs was too much when I was working at a nothing job. I admire those who put in the hours for their family's - maybe one day I'll do similar. But not while I have other options. 30 hrs sounds good, especially for a checkout chick job.
Please let this work. I want to achive something this year - something more than : I went to china.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Line Editing

There are some things in life, that when you start out doing them, you think: Oh yeah, this will be fine. Then, after you've done it for a while, you realise it will be the bane of your existence.
Line editing is one of those things.
First, to differentiate. Editing, or more commonly know by most as either revision or rewriting, is when you look at your manuscript, go : that's crap, that's crap, that's crap, delete it all, and get to make up new stuff to go in its place. This is fun. Because you get to create stuff to go in its place. I love creating stuff, be in characters, plots or small and big events.
I know some people who despair at this destruction of a manuscript. I am not one of them. I rewrote (as in deleted the entire file and started again) this "thing" ( my MS) four times. I have one last thing to correct before it works itself out plot and character-wise in this draft but still, that's a lot of words.
I also wrote the next three books in the series, then came to terms with the fact that they were unusable simply because they relied on a quirk of character that would never actually happen. It just wasn't realistic.
I think those three files exist on my family's computer somewhere. My mum also has the first draft of the "thing" printed out and hidden away.
I will never use any of that again. The only thing similar between the first draft and the last one of this particular book is several characters (although some have changed so much it's uncanny) and the Manda.
Everything else was crap, so I chucked it.
After all the tearing and shredding and starting over, I think I have a workable story. Whether anyone will buy it is another question, but I think it's good. I could live with it.
So after you correct the characters (motivation matches up with personality, actions match up with motivation and personality and so on) and plot holes (wtf did she do that? There is no reason for that to happen other than I want it to) you come to the writing.
And here is where it all comes undone for me.
I read a lot of books in my childhood, and teenage years. I'm pretty sure it was part of my family's makeup that I would receive a 300 page book for my birthday, then have it finished before we went out to a restaurant for tea. I remember one particular incident where a classmate said she would give me ten dollars if I could read any book in one night. We agreed, and she handed me something twice the size of the last harry potter book. I finished it. The little brat never gave me any money because we hadn't "shook" on it.
The point of this spiel was I picked up certain major things when reading, but not others. I read every word, but they stayed in my brain was the information from them was processed in .5 seconds. As such I read really fast, and knew a lot about characters and plot by the time I sat down and wrote my first book at 12.
But. I didn't even realise that the writing had to be good. Never, ever, ever did I come to that realisation. Never, during my childhood did I stop at a sentence in one of the thousands of books I read and go - well, isn't this nice.
I wrote two books before I realised language actually mattered. In the charming way that 12 year olds have of thinking they are the world, I was all set to publish the second book. Then I read John Marsden’s "everything I know about writing" and realised - wait a moment, the words have to be pretty.
Not pretty in the "look at me" kind of way either. Pretty in the "I'm only here to tell you what goes on, deliver theme, atmosphere, character voice, author voice, and a thousand of other things in as little amount of words as possible” kind of way.
To make writing do that, you have to line edit. Which means going over every single word and asking "why the hell are you here?"
I don't hate it for any emotional reason. I know some people who have the same reaction to line editing that they do to "big" editing - they feel as if they are ripping out their souls.
For me, it just takes a bloody long time.
You sit there, for four or five hours, yes, hours, with three pages of text. For me, because I never realise anything about language when I'm reading normally, I have to approach it analytically. Which means :
Rewrite any passive sentence into an active sentence. Compare the two. Challenge every single word in each. Sometimes go through all that just to let the original one pass ( I hate rules that aren't context specific. Every change I make is context specific, so why shouldn't the so called: rules of writing, be?)
Challenge every adverb. Could you use another verb? Sometimes, no, you couldn't no matter how much people will say you can't use adverbs without being weak.
Next come the adjectives. According to some, adjectives are just props for nouns. If you are using adjectives, you're not being specific with the nouns. Can someone please describe a grass tree to an American without using adjectives? Good luck. Sometimes, however, you should be choosing different nouns.
Then we get on to the poetic writing. Does it make sense. Does if give theme and atmosphere. If not, why is it there?
Why doesn't this sentence have any theme and atmosphere? Can I put some in? If so, then I have to go over every word in the new sentences, making each one justify why it's there.
In the end, you end up rewriting three pages so many times its unbelievable. You have to learn to trust instinct. If you follow rigid rules (stunk and white anyone) then you end up murdering any type of originality. But you don't want your originality to make people groan either.
It just takes so long. You spend at least five minutes over every word, more when things don't seem to be working. I hate it.
But hate it or not, it has to be done. Because if I don't put the effort into making it readable, no one will want to read it.
(By the way, all hail Maria, who is kind enough to tell me when my style is crap, when I should get rid of my abundant comma’s, and who corrects my grammar. Many thanks to her, otherwise this would be a longer post bitching about grammar correction as well)

That's her with her stylistic and attacking Sian's crap writing knife too, by the way :P

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Left step, Right step, turn in the middle

I believe I was seventeen when I proudly thought to myself : aren't I adaptable. Look at me! I have friends who will be the next leaders of this world, and I have friends who never finished year 10. Aren't I wonderful.
What a load of bullshit. Fine, I will concede to my then 17 yr old self that I didn't make any of those friends with collection of demographics in mind - I made those friends because I liked them.
I also remember being proud of my bi-partiality at one time. Yeah, I'll listen to everyone’s views on politics and the world today. From Andrew Bolt to the local greens representative.
Again, what a load of bullshit. In this case, I really was reading Andrew Bolt to seem well rounded.
I firmly believe everyone has a right to say what they want. Doesn't mean I want to listen to them. Doesn't mean I won't stoop to throwing a newspaper across the room. Or has lately been, my computer.
I live in China. Right now, I am in a city that is smaller than Melbourne, with a population that is half of Australia's. The air shows the strain of it - you can carry it in your hands.
My only connection to totally understandable literature, movies, family, and friends is my laptop. I could go to a internet cafe, but they scare the hell out of me. The occasionally one is known for being a front for prostitution. Comfortingly, they're never called internet cafes, but internet bars. (网吧)
But sometimes, when I read about the politics in my country, I feel like throwing the computer into the wall and watching while it breaks into a thousand little pieces.
I feel like I can't vote for Kevin Rudd, because he promised a heap that I actually wanted (namely action of greenhouse gases and the problems they cause) and then abandoned it all at the first sign of someone not liking it. My main thoughts:

News flash mate. You will never please everyone. Please decide what you stand for, and quickly. There gets a point where walking the middle of the road doesn't work. The moment you step a little left or right of the line, the other side will try to pull you back their way, and you will end up back in the middle again. With no position.
On the other hand, I have no plans on voting for someone who says that global warming in nothing but spin, and says virginity is something to be treasured, who runs around in budgie smugglers to show his manliness, and who says most of what comes out of his mouth is a lie. My virginity is my business, and I like an honest man who doesn't always have to prove he is a man.
But, god damn it all, I respect Tony Abbot more than I respect my Prime Minister. I disagree with everything that comes out of Abbot's mouth. Every word he says is opposite of what I think. But at least he has a position and a spine.
I respect him. I hate his policies. I would never vote for him.
So the question eventually becomes - what to do? If this was any other country, I would just not vote at all. Well, maybe not, but it would be tempting. A hell of a lot more tempting then the decision between a weasel and someone who I disagree with on every turn.
But I am Australian. For anyone who doesn't know the county, voting is compulsory. You get fined if you don't do it. Until this point, I always thought this was a good thing.
At this point, whatever way I vote, I will be ultimately responsible for degrading my country further. Come November, it will be the choice of two evils. I will be expected to choose the lesser one.
Ultimately, I will vote green as my primary vote, then sit in the booth and figure out preferences. I will put of voting for Labor or Liberal as long as possible.
But in the end it will have to be done.
Damn it; can someone in politics that has a possibility of ruling please either grow a backbone or some policy that I can agree with?
Swing right, swing left, turn around in the middle. Problem is the middle is nowhere. Is nowhere really better than a bad decision?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rip, slash, arghhhh ( was in a piraty mood)

Sometimes, life is just life. Sometimes its good. Other times its great.
This is one of those times. I have a story. I story I knew I had problems with. But I've gone over it so many times that even though I know something wrong, but I have no idea how to fix it.
Then comes along someone who tells me the stories crap in certain areas, and I feel shit. Then I feel excellent.
Because bigger editing is so much more funner than line editing. Line editing is where you go - do I really need all those adjectives, abverbs and commas? Bigger editing is where you deleat entire pages. Sometimes it doesn't work.
This time, it has. I feel like an axe murderer, standing over his prey - never let it be said that someone telling you your work is crap is a bad thing.
First, I cut two pages of the first chapter, and merged it with the second. Then I get to decide whether to do away with two chapters entirely, and what to replace them with. There has to be something there, otherwise it doesn't work.
The basic thing I have to do with these chapters is introduce the Manda, and impliccate them in what is going to happen next.
Implication. whuwhuwhu. I feel evil already. No idea what I'm actually going to do, but the Manda tournaments dissappear after the first book. I don't need to go into so much detail.
And it's a really sucky introduction of Rowan. There's no logical reason why he would even be there. I just need to make something happen, and then get her back to her house, so all hell can break loose.
watch out manuscript, I've got a rather large knife.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Antagonist found - please get back to me :p

Okay, firstly, an explanation. I came to the realisation just before I started this blog, that my main motivation for doing anything comes when people say I can't.
I don't get angry. Not in the way I suspect most people do anyway - I get that when I get frustrated with a brick wall of a person.
But when someone says I can't do something , I say, "damn you, just watch".
That was how I survived Japan, that was why I learnt so much more Japanese in Japan then I did Chinese in china. In Japan, someone was telling me I would never adjust. In China, they smile, say I'll be fine, and then lock me in a classroom with no teachers. That's more frustrating than antagonistic.
I just found the perfect antagonist to motivate me to write better. This person, who shall remain anonymous, just shredded the story I have re-written five times, and that has been a part of most of my life since I was 12.
When I say shredded, there is nothing wrong with that. He just didn't suggest anything worthwhile after the shredding. Or what he did, other people already had.
Of course, this is his opinion. He's entitled to it, I'm not going to argue with him about it. But I desperately had the urge to punch someone after reading what he wrote. After calming down, I realised this particular person was gold. If I can convince him to suggest how he would make my story better, then I would happily have him shred my story into confetti. That doesn't mean I'll necessarily listen to everything his says - I'm liable to ignore most of it. But because he doesn't actually like what I've written, he will be perfectly and totally honest. And for some of the things he hates, he might hate for more reason then it "just didn't work for him"
I learnt, both in Japan and in China that you can laugh at everything. My meimei (younger host sister) keeps asking me about why I'm laughing, because frankly, the things I laugh at aren't all that funny.
There is more than one type of laughter. And laughing - even if it is an angry laugh, a frustrated laugh, a "wtf" laugh, a resigned laugh - feels a hell of a lot better than any other reaction.
This guy made me laugh. Weirdest laughter ever - there was no physical reaction to any emotion in my chest. Normally, you get a tightening, or a feeling of dread, or as I did the other day, a stomach ache.
Turns out for me, anger shows itself physically more in its absence than anything else.
But I desperately hope this person finds my kowtowing email ( well not quite, I started off with something that could possibly be labelled arguing, depend how he takes it) good enough to get back in contact. I want him, so badly, to critique my piece. I want him as my antagonist, and thus my motivation, just because he would do such a bloody good job at it. I might not even hate him so much by the end of it :P