Lost arts of the twentieth century: the rendezvous

Back in the day, there were meeting places where you waited for your family or friends to come find you. Under the clock at the railway station, in front of the department store window (yes, ‘window’ singular), at the corner of the school. Eventually, Dad would come to drive you home from the station, or your friends would show up for your shopping expedition, or your little brothers would mooch up to be walked home.

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No mobile phones, so no texts or emails or either, to let you know someone was late, or that they weren’t coming. I guess waiting is a bit of a lost art too. No phone to look at while you stood at the meeting place. (Of course, I always had a book at hand. Always.)

Meetings could be the highlight of your day, or your biggest disappointment. Being stood up by that cute guy I met at school dancing class, who promised to meet me at the bus stop the next week. Such an embarrassing and gauche moment!

On the plus side, at least he didn’t text me saying it was him, not me…

Notions like this complicate the writing process. It can be quite difficult to get into that space, that space where your characters don’t know what’s happening elsewhere, and can’t easily find out. Mind you, writing about the twentieth century is Historical Fiction after all. As a writer, having inhabited a previous era is no guarantee of being able to write it convincingly.

Ah well, back to the typewriter I guess…

Photo: Grenfell Station by Geez-oz from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grenfell,_NSW_-_Railway_Station_1.jpg

Renovating

Ginger Spoodle barked, as in, BARKED!!!! way too early on a weekend morning. Someone coming! Someone on our patch!

It was our favourite tradies. The builders had returned on Saturday morning to finish our bathroom and kitchen renovation. Their final task was to caulk every crevice and gap in the wall tiles, splashbacks, and on the floor. Within two hours, we were all systems go.

Time for our work to begin. Every box, drawer, shelf and cupboard in the place has to be unpacked, every item has to be cleaned and put in its new-or-old place.

Problem is that I have found too many things that I haven’t even missed during the weeks of renovation. Why do I have all these cups and spoons? That tray? This jug? The other thingy?

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Time for a strict household EDIT (yep, it’s an anagram of diet!). Sure, it’s going to take a few days, but the end result will be worthwhile. The house will work better without the excess, unnecessary items.

And so will my writing. A lot of what I’ve written is scaffolding around the core story, scaffolding which has performed its task and can now be taken away. A few days’ housework may help me identify the flabby words when I get back to the manuscript.

Maybe I’ve been renovating my brain as well as my house.

Image by Giovanni Dall’Orto, via wikimedia commons at  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2503_-_Athens_-_Temple_of_Athena_Nike_being_restored_-_Photo_by_Giovanni_Dall%27Orto,_Nov_11_2009.jpg

 

In the city

I just pushed my way in.

That’s the first sentence I heard as I strode across the bridge over the Yarra on my way to a watercolour class. I’ve read about a writing exercise where you put together randomly heard phrases and create a story.

I just pushed my way in.

You can’t wear that.

Are you happy now? She’s crying.

Fifteen.

No, the next one.

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Maybe it’s a poem, or a flash fiction. I liked the words so much I almost walked against the traffic lights. I tried not to see the speakers. I’m imagining how those words would sound, how they would carry meaning, in different settings. When they are not on the bridge over the Yarra.

How would they sound in a snow-bound forest? On an ocean liner? On top of a mountain? In a derelict house? Outside the classroom? In the foyer of a bank? At the kitchen table? In a cafe? At the beach? On a train? In a waiting room? In the Tardis? While Vesuvius is erupting? At the Queen’s coronation? In a container full of refugees?

Perennial problem. Too many stories to tell. Stacked like logs in a pile. Which one to choose? I can’t tell them all 🙁

 

 

You don’t like it??? Gasp!

I’m at that stage in the editing process where I have some big picture feedback. It’s very valuable, and I KNOW that considering and responding to these big picture suggestions will improve my novel. The trouble is that what I KNOW doesn’t always mitigate how I FEEL. I feel like Alexander the Great has just overrun my whole kingdom. Sorry, lady, he says. I’m in charge now.

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I try to keep at the forefront of my mind that ‘what one reader sees, a certain percentage of all readers will see’. That means that it’s definitely worth the effort and time and heart-achings to move, shift, change – and in extreme cases – delete. (Ouch.) I’ve learned that it doesn’t help to interrogate the screen: ‘What do you mean, you don’t understand that sentence?’ The track-changes-comment doesn’t ever answer me.

I find that a workable way to approach this task is to first read through all of the changes, suggestions and comments, and then to put the whole thing away for at least 24 hours. Give feelings enough time to settle, and allow thinking to take over.

Then it’s time to deploy the kill-your-darlings strategy. Accept that these are true, heartfelt, well-meant suggestions. The editor is, after all, on my side. They want my book to be excellent book just as much as I do. And HOW I do!

Living as if

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Year of the Rooster

This year has started with a great burst of energy. I’m trying to keep momentum going as I strive to inhabit the life I want to lead – the life of a writer. I’m a bit afraid that if I pause for more than a few minutes, I’ll lose all impetus. So I just keep going.

It strikes me that while it is quite difficult to imagine oneself as a writer, it is even more difficult to describe oneself as a writer. Do I deserve the name? Am I sufficiently writerly in my habits? Do I produce enough words on the page? How much do I need in the way of publications before I can call myself a writer? As for income! That would be a very high criterion indeed.

But I know that I am never more content than when I am lost in writing, when the words dash along onto the screen, all un-edited and mis-typed, and *my* characters face the lives they’ve been dealt. They *live* almost as if they are alive …

Maybe that’s all we can do. In this year of yes, let me live as if I am a writer.

New Year: the year of yes

Sure, I can do it. 2017 is the year to make stuff happen. I’m very excited about having a publishing contract from the wonderful Odyssey Books (‘where books are an adventure’). That means I have to fulfil my end of the deal: become discoverable, share my writing, and stay alert. In other words, act like a real author!

For someone who spends a great deal of time thinking and writing and reading and generally living inside her own head, the task of maintaining a decent online presence is a little daunting. However, this year is my time to carry on the Obama legacy: yes we can.