Monday, January 28, 2008

Writing Workshop

This weekend I did a writing workshop with my writers' group. The workshop was led by Peter Matheson, a dramaturg and was about storytelling. There was a lot of emphasis on character building and planning, which is in total opposition to the way I usually work. I admit it - I'm a pantser - I fly through a first draft by the seat of pants, rarely planning any further ahead than the next scene or the next couple of scenes. I choose a situation or a concept i.e. Diary of the Future I started with the idea of being able to write the future in a diary and have it come true. With I'm with the Band, I started with wanting to capture the feeling of being 17 again through the reunion of a favourite band. Making the Cut started with an idea of a film festival in a small country town, the characters came after the situation. The character for me only comes after the writing starts.

I have tried plotting and planning it all out in the past. Kissing Toads was more or less planned out with a chapter outline but new chapters kept popping up and stuff I hadn't planned on kept happening throwing the immediate trajectory in a new direction. And that one took the longest for me to write - 4 long years. And why? Because I'd lost interest. For the most part, I knew what was going to happen. As a writer I want to be surprised by my characters as if I'm reading it.

So yesterday when I took a photo of a woman that I'd never seen before and tried to build a background based on her as a character, I was falling back on cliches. Because the character was not organic for me. Perhaps if she'd been in the middle of an action or a situation, my imagination may have been triggered more but I just had this face smiling at me with her too pink lipstick and overdone make-up.

Today I took Kat from I'm with the Band to the workshop. We did an interesting exercise as we interviewed each other's characters. Nothing really new came up for me during the interview, but the perception of Kat I gave to others was interesting - much more passive than I intended. And the word groupie kept coming up. Middle-aged groupie. It's pretty sad really. She doesn't intend to be a groupie. She considers herself to be a huge fan, not a groupie. And when Alex invites her to sing with the band for a song or two, then she's 'with the band' not a groupie. It's her friend Maddie who's the groupie - in fact, she's such a groupie that if there was a show created called Australian Groupie (instead of Idol) she'd probably take out the title.

Certainly much to think about now. I'm still a fan of the shitty first draft (as Anne Lamont calls it) or the 'vomit' or binge writing as Peter referred to it over the last few days.
During the 'Twelve Days of I'm with the Band' I not only added to the manuscript but I also examined some of the previous writing and rewrote certain scenes, making them stronger. I'm over the 88k mark now and I need to stop the dialogue - the characters spend too much time talking, for some reason (probably a symptom of being a muso) they don't like sleeping much, but if it keeps up I'm just going to start jumping from scene to scene and only writing the absolutely pertinent stuff. I don't need to eavesdrop on everything they say and do. Do I?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Writing, recording and dodging kangaroos

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
86,461 / 90,000

Word count is now at 86, 461 words and I've got this old fart 70's rocker Billy Badd who has turned up at a gig with his two blonde bimbo daughters (referred to by Kat as the Bimbettes) and is desperately trying to pull focus. I think he wants the story to be about him. But tough luck Billy Badd - we're moving on and leaving you behind, and I'm hoping that he doesn't show up at another gig.

Bought a DVD recorder yesterday. Haven't been able to record stuff for quite a while but now it means that I can record all the late night TV stuff such as the Countdown episodes which are screening on rage at the moment. Watching it now - Neil from The Young Ones hosted the first one I recorded. I loved the character of Neil from that show. The rest of the characters seemed to need each other to bounce off for real comedy to work (I found Rik Mayall's stand-up routine as the character Rik really dull, but when he was just himself doing stand-up, he was great) but Neil was one of those characters that seemed to be able to create comedy just by himself. I've got his Heavy Concept album but it's extremely scratched so I'm not sure how much I could salvage off it even if I had a record player.

In the second episode, as well as Tim and Debbie (remember them from Australia you're standing in it - when will they release that on DVD?) , they played Moving Pictures performing 'Where they Belong'. At last, something other than 'What about Me?' and it focused on Alex Smith singing. So now I'm happy. I really want to get hold of the televised concert Moving Pictures did in the early 80's at the Hordern Pavillion. I did have it taped way back then, but of course many moves later and even before the moving, I think it was taped over. If anyone can help me out with the footage, let me know.

I'm independent again - I picked my car up after the accelerator cable was fixed, after 4 weeks of car sharing. Then on the way home, one of the tail-light covers fell off, smashed and bounced off into the bush. A few minutes later, I drove around a corner and a kangaroo was standing there. I hit the brakes and the kangaroo took off so I was lucky because my car and the roo could do a lot of damage to each other. So yesterday morning, we went out on a mission to get a new tail-light housing - at the second wreckers we found the part, and that problem is now solved. Then we bought the DVD recorder and I bought the Vicar of Dibley last 2 episodes - it is so funny.

It took about an hour to set up the recorder because Robbie wasn't listening to my instructions and its quite confusing when you want to plug in both Austar and a set top box. Finally, after much arguing and wrenching the TV out of the entertainment unit and untangling chords, it was all set up and I was able to test it out. So recording is great, but for some reason it doesn't like my Vicar of Dibley DVD and won't play it. It's not the disc - it plays on the old DVD player - but maybe the recorder doesn't like English comedy. It has played every other disc I've put in, so I've got no idea what's going on. Robbie thinks it won't play dual layer DVD's but I think it only won't record on dual layer. Anyway, I can always watch the Vicar on the laptop if I need to.

Well, its back to 'I'm with the Band'

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Okay, I admit it. I have a few addictions. Everyone has to have some vices don't they?

I have a mild addiction to Moving Pictures and collecting their memorabilia. So I have a search set up from Ebay to alert me of any items. The above picture came from a Japanese magazine, and I was lucky enough to do a deal with a guy from America who wanted the other pics that were on offer. Anyway, I ended up with some very nice photos of the Alex Smith and the band and a magazine article in Japanese - shame I threw my Japanese language course after a year but a new job meant a scheduling conflict and I could no longer attend the classes. Thinking back on it now, it would've meant changing my work hours one day a week by an hour - you think my boss could have accommodated that.

This week I also picked up a very nice Chris Wilson poster. I need to get these posters laminated at some point. They are no use to anyone wrapped up in poster tubes. They should be displayed.

And now I'm bidding on a few writing books. Can't seem to get enough of them and there is very little variety of writing books available in Coffs.

Must stop. Must stop. Must stop.

Yeah right.
At least, I am operating in reverse. I'm selling a few old mags (mainly movie mags) which are too good to cut up for collage. Those sales may pay for my recent purchases.

I have a major internet addiction. Myspace, Facebook, Blog Explosion, and it sucks up a lot of time. But on the other hand, I have met a lot of wonderful people on the internet, I've learned a lot about writing and I receive encouragement for my writing. So it's not an addiction that I'm about to give up. Just reign it in a bit!

I often spend time on Blog Explosion in the Battle of the Blogs and surfing other members' blogs. On the weekend the site was down and giving strange error messages. Now the site is backup, there are 12 active battles, and 24 more BE members with battle challenges waiting to be accepted. Which makes me wonder why they don't battle each other? I have never seen so many battles waiting to happen before. Guess we're all addicted to the challenge.

Speaking of battles, my cat and Lucy Pig are currently in a battle of their own on MySpace to see who can get the most friends. At the moment Lucy Pig is beating Dorkus with a 2:1 ratio so Dork is not impressed. You can befriend either the cat or the pig at the above links.

So as for writing, that can be both a battle and addiction. I've forgotten what I'm up to in the Twelve Days of my novel in progress I'm with the Band. As my last post was on Sunday for Day 18, I guess today must be Day 21 because I was posting one day behind. The word count is now over 84,000 words, the pictures for the collage are nestling between two pieces of cardboard so that Dorkus will not mess it up, but I'm still looking for some pictures. I also think I've slowed down in the writing because I don't want to let go. But at least it's still moving forward.

Now I need an early night. My insomnia is acting up again. Guess I have an addiction to being awake and the weekend (when I can be addicted to sleeping and sleeping in!) seems like years away.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 18 of 12 days of 'I'm with the Band'

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
82,985 / 90,000

The word count and percentage are going up but the bar remains the same - I don't know enough html to change it.

Although I'm getting closer to my estimated total word count, I'm not sure that I'm getting closer to the end of the book. Hopefully, I'm not finding new scenes to add. Matt and Alex had been planning a glamour makeover and photoshoot for Kat, but now she's gone to the hairdresser herself and had her long hair cut and coloured, so I guess all she'll need now is a makeup artist. I've been flicking through Cleo's and Cosmos looking for an image of Kat's new hair and everyone has long hair again. When did this happen? When did short hair become unfashionable? Kylie still has short hair.

So on Day 18, I reclaimed my writing room. After decluttering it back in September, my laptop then died and we hauled out the old computer to connect back to the net. It had a monster monitor which took up all of my writing desk and I seriously debated buying a new flat screen for it to give me more room to work. A few weeks later the laptop was fixed, I went wireless and I stopped venturing into my writing room, and started using the laptop in the loungeroom in front of the TV (which was very unproductive). I'm pleased that we didn't buy a flat screen for the old computer, it completely carked it a couple of weeks ago, and now I have my writing room back. The computer has been banished (we'll retrieve the info from the backup hard-drive off it and the monitor which still works will be donated to a local which refurbishes computers) and I have space again.

Yesterday, we were debating the spare room which is filled with stuff including a big desk, entertainment unit, TV, a full bookcase and is the dumping ground for the clean washing. We want to turn this into a guestroom/entertainment room so need a sofabed for it. But the desk was taking up a huge amount of space. The desk is now in my writing room and has enough surface area for my scanner/printer, laptop, collage files (the coloured drawers) and a collage workspace.

Note: I'm still in the stage of this collage of 'where does this picture go?' so not a single image is fixed to the cardboard.

I'm happy and Dorkus is happy that I'm spending time out here again with him.

Dorkus now has his own myspace page and his goal is to round up more friends than Lucy Pig. Can you be his friend?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Day 13-17 of 'I'm with the Band"

I've got to do something about this addiction. But when there's all these beautiful glossy magazines sitting in the charity shop, well - I can't walk out empty-handed, can I? More photos for collage, more text for collage poetry. And the magazines are being recycled and the money's going to a good cause. Another 12 magazines added to my collection today. That was all I could carry back to work today but there was a lot more left in the store. Somebody must've cleaned out their shelves. So I may need to take another walk down there on Monday at lunchtime.

Day 13 - 17 of I'm with the Band have been obstructed with a little thing called work. So much happening in the workplace, I've been quite exhausted each night (yet still suffering from insomnia) and have only added a few words. Plus I've been sucked into the world that is facebook (very addictive) and have been hunting for friends for a pig - see post below.

But words have been added since my last blog, and scenes have been finished - still moving forward. Kat has got herself a new image - hair cut and colour, new clothes. It may be time for me to do the same thing!

Total word count is now 81,745 and I plan to write much more over the weekend.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

This Little Piggy needs some friends!

We interrupt the regular broadcast of 'I'm with the Band' to bring you a special announcement.

Lucy the miniature pig is on a quest to become famous.

Babe, eat your heart out! Lucy is real, a miniature pig and a real little peformer. Have you ever seen a pig vogue?
Lucy now has her own myspace page to aid her quest. Will you be her friend?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Day 12 of 'I'm with the Band'

Total word count is 80,252 - so I've passed another milestone on the current manuscript.

And its an emotional milestone for my heroine Kat. She's just walked out on her husband, he's asked how he can contact her and she's suggested he tries her mobile, which lies in pieces on the floor after he's smashed it.

So the 12 days focus has been quite successful, but the story is not yet finished so for now I'm going to pretend I can't count and continue with Day 13 and so on....whatever it takes to get the first draft finished.

Unfortunately, it's back to work tomorrow but that's okay because it removes my internet temptation.

Day 11 of 'I'm with the Band'

Its amazing - at the beginning of the weekend, you wake up believing that an infinite stretch of time lies before you...until you have to go back to work.

Then you wake up again Sunday morning (if you're lucky!) - usually more likely Sunday afternoon, and that infinite feeling has gone and the pressure of the time remaining is upon you. The weekend is all over.

Who decided that five days at work and two days off was a good idea?

Unfortunately I do need a day to do nothing, even at the expense of the one of the days of my 12 day focus.

The rain is gone, the river has subsided and we are surrounded by heat and humidity.

I have 50 best 80's Aussie bands playing on Music Max reminding me why I'm writing 'I'm with the Band.' Nie to see Noiseworks, The Mentals, The Choirboys, INXS etc.

Hunted for more collage pictures on Day 11 - this combination will definitely make it into the collage - I laughed when I found the couch picture in an old HQ magazine - couldn't find a credit for the photographer. I haven't tracked down my photo of the Big Prawn and I don't have a decent picture of the Big Banana (amazing - considering where I live) and they are both important scenes and mark a contrast between Kat's past and her present.

So Day 11: procrastination, day dreaming, no new words, just new thoughts, and some new pictures.

Hopefully, I'll be able to return this evening to report that Day 12 has been more successfu.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Day 10 of I'm with the Band.

Catch up post - Day 10 of 12 Days of ' I'm with the Band' was Friday!

Soon Kat will be away from hubby and back with the band. I can't wait!

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
78,779 / 90,000

It seems like it will never stop raining. After work yesterday, we stopped at the supermarket and stocked up for the weekend. It's a half hour drive into town for us, only 15 minutes to the supermarket but with this constant rain, there's a good chance that we will be cut off over the weekend. There's very little chance of our house flooding because it's a lot higher than the river but there are swimming pools in the driveway and the yard.

Here are photos from last August:

Somewhere beneath that water is a park. Can't even see the flood measurement sign in this photo.

And the alternative route to town:

The river has flooded again this morning, and while the other road to town is not yet cut, there is a lot of water on the road, and its still raining. So, it's likely that this afternoon we will be stranded.

It's cool! I have chocolate, I have Coca-cola, I have food and now I have no excuse but to write, write, write.
I may venture out later and take some photos.

Day 9 of I'm with the Band

This is a catch-up post: Day 9 of my 12 day focus of current work in progress was on Thursday.

Total word count 77,386.

Still moving forwards (which feels much better than moving backwards) and still moving thought the conflict between Kat and the return of her husband. Kat didn't want him to come back. I didn't want him to come back. But some characters have a mind of their own. It's actually better for the story that he returns from his vanishing act because somewhere in the rest of the story, Kat will have to make a decision about whether she wants her future to be like the present or the past.

Anyway, I got sucked into watching Dexter - fabulous episode- and flicked through magazines looking for more pictures for a collage of this story.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Day 8 of I'm with the Band

77,174 words and its time to call it a night even though I've just commenced a new scene. Something to be going on with tomorrow.

I've been avoiding this section for a while now because it's the part where Kat's husband comes back into her life. I hadn't planned for that to happen - but she was dropped back home after the north leg of the band's tour to discover the lawn overgrown, dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piling up and her hubby drinking and watching football, six weeks after his disappearing act. He's taken her out to dinner at the pub now (because that's his idea of a good night out) and she is SO NOT impressed. Kat's not happy that he's decided to make another appearance just when she's finding herself, and I'm not too happy either because I have to write out their conflict.

Anyway, it's after midnight. I've sketched out the next few scenes earlier today (yesterday?) so I will be able to pick it up easily on Day 9.

It's interesting that the scenes can work so well in your head while you are daydreaming about them, but as soon as you sit down to commit them to the page, that beautiful phrasing, that perfect wording has vanished. And you just have to keep writing until you find it again
And then you finish a scene, and later as you're cooking dinner, the perfect line for that conversation will sail through your mind, and you have to capture it, and hold it until you can get back to the draft to write it down.
In the end, it's all about the rewriting. The replaying of the scenes over and over in your mind until they solidify like an actor's performance and take on a life of their own.
Now I'm just rambling. I hope sleep comes quickly and my characters don't keep me awake all night!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Day 7 of 'I'm with the Band'

I did the stereotypical writer thing today. A great start to the new year. I slept in late, woke up and thought about my characters and a pivotal scene. Decided I needed to rewrite it. So got up, got out the laptop and wrote in my pjs. Ah! The writer's life.

1986 new words today (so far). And yet I only have a total of 76,430 words because much of it was rewriting the pivotal scene. A scene of temptation and betrayal. I feel pretty good about the new scene because I think it captures how torn Kat is in the scene, much more than in the original writing. And I have echoed the dichotomy again in a later scene, but this time it shows that there is no dichotomy and that her mind and body are now in harmony. Still, I will probably ask some people for some feedback on these scenes, to see if I have indeed made the right choice in the rewriting.

After the original scene Kat was pretty laidback about it and forgiven Alex quickly for his misbehaviour! But after the rewriting she was extremely angry with him and also pissed off with her own behaviour. So that meant more rewriting in further scenes.

I'd been talking about how I wished I'd taken more photos of Moving Pictures when I was younger. But I didn't always take a camera with me and I didn't have an SLR back in those days, so I think I was stretching whatever camera I had to the limit anyway.

Here's an example of what happens when you use the wrong speed of film:

Freaky, hey?