Literary superfood versus literal garbage – how to keep the creative juices flowing

It’s a struggle these last few days. My brain feels dry. Like a giant leech has sucked the very essence of creative juices from my mind. It’s a sign of tiredness maybe, but it’s also a sign, I think, of not reading.

Now let’s be clear. I read. A lot. My life is an endless stream of report reading, news, Twitter feed and amusing 30 second videos on Facebook…no, wait, I think I diverted there. Dogs on mops. That’s what’s amusing (see, I didn’t even have to issue the rhetorical question to lead you into the answer).

No, I read. The trouble is, I don’t read enough of the right stuff. Reading is like eating. There are healthy superfoods, reasonably healthy, a little naughty, and downright garbage. 

Healthy superfoods, in reading, are the classic greats, not just oldies like Dickens, but new blood like whoever won the Booker Prize in 1965. What’s that you say? There was no Booker Prize in 1965? Oh, well, OK, 1975 then (it was around by then surely). There are non-fiction too, the kind of books that completely absorb you and drive into a philosophical journey of epic proportions, traveling the imagination highway at warp fucking 9. ‘Give me more Mister Crusher!’ yells Picard. ‘Give me more!!’ (Being a Star Trek TNG fan I must hold up my hands and admit that was never in any episode, but I’m sure it probably appeared in some form of fan fiction, depending on how you read it).

Reasonably healthy are the decent reads, the measured oddities that don’t quite reach greatness but keep us intrigued, interested and draw us in I like to class lesser known fiction by well known writers. For example, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is for me like kale. Cook kale in the right way and it’s delicious and healthy, read In Cold Blood the right way and it’ll do the same for your brain. His other novels though, like Summer Crossing, they’re more like chicken. Healthy in many respects, but cooked in the wrong way probably have some drawbacks. Not many though, chicken is awesome. You could just eat chicken, but you need something like kale otherwise you’ll get scurvy. OK, maybe not that bad. There are other foods out there that are nutritious and healthy without being ‘superfoods’. I guess though you set the bar lower for yourself if you don’t indulge in what’s best for you.

Slightly naughty, now there’s something. Chocolate. Tastes delicious, but death. Bacon, it’s as bad as smoking but it’s soooo good. So what fits in here? Well, it’s the slightly crappy novels that have some semblance of story, and character, but really they just go through the motions and you’re looking for simple trash you can enjoy. Here I might mention books of my youth like the Belgariad, or Dragonlance. Enjoyable fantasy romps (except Tanis – fucking shave you moping dick, it’s obvious you want to), but not exactly breaking literary barriers.

And the garbage. That’s Twitter. That’s news. That’s Facebook. It would also be Fifty Shades of Grey, but i haven’t read that so cannot comment (It’s utter shit – read Twilight because it’s the same story, and then read some Black Lace for all the “fifty shades of fucked up” FSOG will do you). 

But Twitter? News? How can these be so bad? I hear you cry. Well it’s simple. These things can be stimulating in a way, like a McDonalds Cheeseburger fills an empty spot in your stomach, but creatively it’s dead weight. Thinking Twitter develops your creativity is like thinking watching Naughty Lesbo Nurses 9 builds professional team building skills. Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter and it can be stimulating – Donald Trump (senior AND junior) is keeping me quite occupied at the moment – but for my creative needs it’s not doing it.

So, I’m not reading. Not really. I still haven’t finished A Clockwork Orange, and at the same time I’m trying to finish off an entertaining faux factual book about some Greeks travelling in Britain and Ireland during the Dark Ages called 500 AD (it’s a ripping yarn, as Michael Palin would say). None of this is building good foundation for boosting my mind. I need some fiction; something structured and in depth. My penchant for reading recently has been for non-fiction, but everything I’m writing is practically fiction. I need better stimulation.

So yes, reading is important. It’s a type of energy that the brain needs. I exercise the brain through thinking, contemplating, wondering, and wandering (in my mind, not physically aimless because I have Googlemaps). Good food for the brain is critical. So I will set myself the goal of finishing Clockwork Orange and 500AD this weekend, and then start to rejuvenate myself with some solid fiction reading. 

I’m stuck on writing. Solution? Random short story.

Yesterday was a real struggle to get something together for my blog, and today’s no different. In search of some material I have opted for a random word generator to produce some kind of guide as to what to write. The story is short – I need to complete by the end of my train journey. That’s little room for planning or organisation or even too much editing, and I’m issuing a caution about language and content, so buckle in kids it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Four words are: band, mould, wriggle, ferry.

Gavin’s eyes roamed the cabin. Not literally of course, that would be insane. Roaming eyes, but the owner still sees out of them. Gavin had a new idea for a song. Being in a band, travelling to Tasmania for a series of gigs, Gavin was desperate for something to fill out their repertoire. Despite assurances to the organisers, they only had a few original songs to play. They needed inspiration.

Returning to the roaming eyes, Gavin caught sight of some mould on the wall, Gavin gave his nose a wriggle. Disgusting. It was bad enough being in a four bed cabin with three other male death metal performers. Good thing it was non-smoking; there was enough methane in the room to power South Australia.

The ferry rocked and vibrated.

“Fuck.” Said Pedro – real name Peter, but, you know, nicknames… – sitting up. “Maybe we hit something.”

“Mmphhh mmmh.” Said Danny, lying prone face down in his bunk. Gavin was inclined to agree.

“What?” Said Pedro. “I can’t understand you doucheface.”

Danny turned his head slightly.

“Stop worrying. Let me sleep.” He uttered.

“This boat isn’t safe.” Said Pedro.

“You’re the one that wanted to come by boat and not fly.” Said Steven, directly below Gavin.

“That would be way more dangerous.” Said Pedro.

The boat shuddered, and for a moment Gavin felt a queasy vibration in his stomach. Sea sick or hungry? Gavin opted for the later, and with a neat twist sat up on the edge of his bunk, legs dangling over the side. He jumped down, stumbling a little with the swaying motion of the boat.

“Any food left?” He said, glancing over at the collection of half-eaten savoury snacks.

“Hear.” Said Steven, passing him a bag of crisps.

“Where were you keeping that?”

“Who knows?” Said Steven. “People go there and never return. But they produce nice crisps.”

“Shit crisps.” Murmured Danny. He was falling asleep again.

Gavin opened the packet and munched a handful. Salt and vinegar. Great, now he’s need something to drink.

“We need some song ideas.” Said Gavin.

“What the fuck?” Said Steven. “Why?”

“I thought we could expand our routine.” 

“We just worked on some” said Pedro.

“Yeah, we need more.” Said Gavin.

“We have enough songs.” Said Steven. “Why do you want more?”

There was just the slightest hint of suspicion in Steven’s voice.

“We have Reguritate Cats Vomit on Your Mother’s Corpse.”

“Yes.”

S”Anal Fisting Angels in Heaven, Hammer Fuck to the Face, Napalm Scrotum, Deep Throat Zombie Jizz.”

At each title, Steven counted off on fingers.

“We’ve got enough dude.”

“We may need more.” Said Gavin. “I made promises.”

“What kind of promises?” Said Pedro, peering up at Gavin. 

A long snore drifted out from Danny’s bunk.

“I promised five gigs.”

“What!?” 

“What fuck you mean?” Said Steven. Gavin always knew when Steven became anxious because he started talking like a Neanderthal. 

“Five gigs in Tasmania?”

“Yeah. Five.” Said Gavin.

“It’s Tasmania. Fuck we’d be lucky to do five in Sydney.”

“Some bikie meet apparently. We’ll get paid more.”

Gavin reflected that he should probably have mentioned that part earlier.

“And you want one more song?”

“Well, let’s start with one and see where it takes us.”

“Any ideas?”

Gavin thought for a moment and looked about the cabin. His eyes rested on the mould. He smiled.

“Mouldy roaming eyes double-p your girlfriend.”

Steven and Pedro looked at each other. Pedro shrugged.

“Okay.” Said Steven. “But you’re writing the lyrics.”

Gavin held up his hands, in a show of acquiescence.

“Cool.” He said. “Now, what was your girlfriends name again?”

Light and composition – enjoying the fundamentals of photography with 35mm point & shoot camera

Wherever you sit on the photography spectrum – amateur or professional, film or digital – there are two fundamentals to how we take a photo; light and composition. It’s easy to get distracted with an array of settings and functions, and sometimes just limiting your choices can help set your creativity that little bit freer. 

Equipment and Preparation

One of my favourite past times is to go out and just take photos. I probably put in a little planning before deciding on a destination, but it doesn’t have to be some complex journey. On one occasion I just walked from my house to the city centre, taking photos as I went. Roadtrips are good, and traipsing along country paths. The great thing about photography is that location is easy, because you can take photographs anywhere.

It has been a while since I was out taking photos, and I’d planned for a little while to go out one afternoon and take some film shots. Wanting more of a challenge, I opted for a point and shoot camera, my Yashica MF-2 Super. The benefits of this camera are its limited controls. Shutter speed is constant. The aperture only alters depending on whether the flash setting is selected or not. The lens is fixed, so there’s no control over depth of field. The best control I have is the ISO of the film.

I used two rolls of film in the end. One I picked by accident (good lesson to check the film first); a 100 ISO Perutz film (probably expired). I used this first while there was more light. The second was a 400 ISO film – an Agfa black and white roll. I also brought a 3200 ISO Ilford roll, but time had moved on before I got to use it. Next time maybe.

I brought my Olympus EM-1 purely as a light meter, but after examine some basic light variations (indoors, outdoors, in shadow) I didn’t use it at further.

Using the Light

I started shooting mid-afternoon, meeting up with my friend Tim at Perth CBD. No route was established, so we were left at the mercy of available light depending on where we wandered. It was a bright day, but being in the middle of a city meant lots of shadow and pockets of places with little light. It’s a frustrating thing to see good opportunities lost because you know the light isn’t good enough. Many times I just knew not to bother. 

The benefit of this frustration was that it made me think much more about the relationship between light and shadow in my pictures. I could make determinations about the shot without having to think about the settings on the camera. This gave me more focus (forgive the pun) on the composition itself. 

Composition

In terms of composition, I had free reign within the limitations of the camera. Digital cameras can be almost too liberating in that respect. Don’t get me wrong, you need that flexibility for so many shots, but there’s always the risk that the photo becomes the settings, not the composition. It helped me see the city in better terms, and think more about the unusual qualities of urban landscape. Not having any idea what the final image will look like was also liberating, because it meant I didn’t develop anxiety of getting the ‘right shot’. 

I’ve gone on more solo photo trips than I care to remember, but it was beneficial to have someone else around. Not only is Tim good company in general, but he’s a great photographer. I’ve tried to apply the social norm of not stealing other people’s shots on these kind of trips. What this means is that if someone sees a shot they think is interesting and distinctive, you don’t then try to take the exact same shot. It’s quite annoying to have another photographer come up and take the exact same image that you spotted.

In this way, having Tim around made me think more. Sometimes he would spot something and that meant I had to move on and look elsewhere. Rather than get frustrated by this, I used it as an opportunity for ‘what else can I find’ mentality. In other words, it forced me to look harder for a good opportunity and experiment a bit more. 

As I write this I have no idea what the images look like. I’ve linked to my photography blog some iPhone shots I took, to give you an idea of the type urban terrain we had at our disposal. When I get the images back I can look in more depth at how they came out. With 60 shots to pick from surely a few will be ok at the very least. 

Regardless, I had fun. It was great to free myself from the complexities of which lens, aperture, shutter speed, and think about really makes a good shot. More than that, it was just an enjoyable experience all round, taking photos for the sake taking photos, and enjoying the freedom that can come from limitation. In photography, whatever doesn’t kill you sets you free.

Winter Write-up or How I’ve neglected my writing and I need to change

Something happened. Something snapped. I’m hoping it wasn’t a muscle. I’ve been working out more, so that might explain it. Then again, this is a mental thing. 

Let me start again.

Last night I was writing. Well, rewriting I should say. Any hoot, in the midst of my literary lat pull downs it occurred to me that I don’t write often enough these days. 

There were a group of us talking about how much time we commit each day, often to unnecessary futile tasks. If we committed just 7 minutes a day to writing that would be 200 words a day (assuming 30 words a minute). 365 days x 200 = 73000. A novel.

I like my morning preparation for the day. The routine works. Early bus. Arrive I. Plenty of time for a coffee. No rush and easy start to the day. Time on the bus to listen to music, get in the mood. It’s almost meditative.

No doubt it has its benefits, but in the meantime important words are being left unsaid. Or, rather, unwritten. I do two bus journeys each day. 20 minutes or so each. Even if I was to reduce my writing time to 20 words a minute, that would be 800 each working day. In 6 months that would be over 100,000 words. 

Writing can also be meditative. And I exercise most days so I think I am sound in mind, spirit and body. I definitely need to rethink the routine. 

I kinda persuaded myself that university work was a good excuse to set aside the blog, but I’m not so sure. Seems like a cop out to me with hindsight. I reckon I could easily have made the time for both.

So the blogging is back, each weekday, and maybe the weekend if I get a chance (fuck, I just need 7 minutes). In the meantime, I need to reacquaint myself with writing projects, which I’ve handled with kid gloves for the past few months. Not acceptable. Bad mental-projection-of-myself-as-a-writing-slave-monkey.

Looks like the bus has nearly arrived.

Remember, 7 minutes.

The Council of Elrond as solution focused approach: the danger of storytelling over prompt decision making

So today, being Friday, I felt in somewhat whimsical mood. In the midst of my organising work for next week, I realised I need to have a meeting about a complex situation next week. I need to tailor the purpose of the meeting carefully, to avoid a significant level of distracting story telling and to make sure the focus is on some key decisions moving forward.

As I considered this I thought, not for the first time, of the many occasions meetings are subject to ‘storytelling’ and become burdensome for relatively simple outcomes. This is a matter of narrative, providing an overall flow of information that imparts just enough detail without becoming overly expositional. To illustrate, I have decided to write a description of the Council of Elrond from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and apply it to the Signs of Safety Assessment Framework (a solution focused framework). This is not a reflection in any way of the LOTR (which I enjoy immensely) or the Signs of Safety framework (it is simply the medium for describing the council, since I use the SOS every day at work). This is purely a tongue in cheek look at overlong meetings and faulty decision making.

The Council of Elrond

Attendees: All the good guys doing zero fighting up until this point, including

Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn (in fairness he used a fire brand at one point), four Hobbits that are in. Over. Their. Heads.

Bilbo, Bilbo Baggins, he’s only three feet tall. 

Some dwarves, including a cameo.

Some Elves, including Elrond (acting as chair) who is a master at delegating hard work to other people.

Some random jobber who turned up unexpectedly this morning (how convenient) and will be brought to the meeting without shower, breakfast or anything. 

In the interests of equality we should point out that while no women are named as present, it doesn’t mean there weren’t any (we can’t make that stick – everyone here is a guy or a pseudo-child male Hobbit)

Purpose of meeting

To decide how to stop Sauron, who intends to conquer the world using some hand crafted jewellery. We have his Ring.

What are we worried about?

If Sauron gets the One Ring he wins, for no other reason than the Ring giving him all the power. But it will be bad, very bad.

Sauron has a bigger army and will probably defeat us in open combat (see Missing Information for more on this).

Danger Statement

The Council of Elrond is worried that if Sauron gets the One Ring he will use it to take over the world, infest everything with Orcs and force all races to be subjugated to his will for all time. The CoE is worried that the Orcs will eat everyone while engaging in an orgy of Sauron worship, even though Sauron is so obsessed with the Ring he’ll be more interested in engaging in some kind of mind sex with it.

Complicating Factors

We could have destroyed the ring a long time ago, but didn’t because Elrond didn’t want to have an argument with his mate while standing next to a cavern of molton lava. Elrond is responsible for countless deaths.

The Elves are really, really bad at fighting battles. It’s bordering on sadomasochistic the way they keep serving themselves up for defeat 

We have allowed our enemies to spend centuries preparing to fight us, but we ourselves have done nothing.

Sauron has 9 bad dudes called the Nazgul.  

We will form a party of 9 men to match them, including GANDALF! Aragorn, random traitor/last minute redemption jobber, an Elf, a Dwarf and four children, even though their powers in no way match the Nazgul.

Aragorn is the heir to the throne of Gondor, and will for some time reject this notion, unless he needs to mention it to get respect or get into certain places. At some point he’ll just accept the notion, and this will constitute the whole of his character growth.

The rest of this meeting will be spent talking for hours, literally hours, about stuff going on in the world, but very little will be done to make a decision on anything.

What’s Working Well?

We have Gandalf!

We’ll get Gandalf the White later, which will also be the sum total of his character growth.

We’ll benefit from an insane level of friendly help, while our enemies will remain usefully anonymous (thus undermining their effectiveness and danger).

We have the Ring, but can’t actually use it. On the other hand, it means Sauron can’t use it or even see it, except at times it’s important to the plot.

Saruman is a bit useless as it turns out. 

The Nazgul are very powerful, yet throughout will be defeated by a sparkler (a flaming stick), some water (twice), a Hobbit with a magic penknife, a female warrior masquerading as a man and constituting one of the more interesting and detailed characters, Gandalf with a torch, and an exploding volcano. They will have very little actual impact.

We’ll be aided at various times by fortunate unexpected late arrivals of reinforcements.

Sam can carry an awful lot on his back.

The Elves have magic superglue for Aragorn to have his sword fixed.

Missing Information

Even though Sauron’s forces outnumber everyone else by many times, he’ll barely attack and will be defeated in every battle. He even has elephants. Elephants?! And he still loses.

It’s been asked many times over, but seriously you didn’t even consider the eagles to fly to Mount Doom?

In the past, when desperately outnumbered and close to defeat, the Elves sailed west and asked the Gods, the actual Gods, to come and help. They cut off Morgoth’s (Sauron’s former employer) hands and feet and chucked him into hell. Are we really saying that isn’t an option this time? I mean, they let Sauron go free originally so they do bear some responsibility here.

We don’t know where Gollum is, but really we think that will turn out good in the end.

Sauron created the One Ring by infusing a significant portion of himself to do it. Gandalf is actually the same kind of creature as Sauron (so is Saruman and Radagast). Are we really saying that it never occurred to three wizards to spend centuries working out how to make a good version? Or a super magic Ring finder and invincible flying creature?

What needs to happen?

After several hours talking about all sorts of things going on in the world, we’ll stop the Council and spend weeks collecting more, and somewhat superfluous, information before finally, finally, deciding to walk east for chuck the Ring in molten lava.
So you see, even in the realms of fantasy, people end up having long winded and ultimately inefficient meetings. Have a nice weekend.

Taking a thought and running with it

In the first stages of my blog writing I used to write the everyday things I saw on my journey to work. Over time the blog has involved into something more focused. This morning though, fighting off the remnants of a cold, I’m feeling a little unfocused. So today I’m going with observation, an initial thought, and running with it.

As I approached the bus stop, I could hear the voice of a man behind me. He seemed to be talking at length to someone and it was one sided. As he passed I saw he had a handfree mic and ‘phones. As I heard a little more of his conversation, and realised he wasn’t waiting for acknowledgement from the person he was talking to, I began to get a little suspicious. 

He started to wander the bus stop area (Canning Bridge, so a few stops and the train station). He walked past me, walked back, went down the lift to the train platform to catch the Perth. Moments later he reappeared on the other side of the road, coming up the steps from the same platform. He then went over to the other lift to go diwn to the other platform for the Mandurah train. This whole time he still seemed engaged in conversation.

When he came back up onto my side again I was not surprised. I watched him walk all the way down bus port past a waiting bus, realised he could walk no further and then boarded the waiting bus. My bus arrived at that point.

Was he really talking to someone? I know some people prone to auditory hallucinations use mobile phones to disguise the fact, so that it looks less unusual. If he was experiencing such an episode maybe it works for him. On the other hand, maybe he was just an over zealous talker who got too distracted to pay much attention to where was going. 

Which would be more compelling? Sure, auditory hallucinations sound more interesting on face value, but consider the whole picture. If he was talking to imaginary person then it is simply a manifestation of his own mind. On the other hand, if he was having a conversation with a ‘real’ person then what about the person on the other line?

Who might they be, that would be willing to listen to a rambling monologue? Is it a friend? A family member? A social worker? Maybe some kind of helpline and the operator at the other end wondering ‘why am I doing this job?’ 

Now I could think that person’s response, their motivations. What if it’s a distant relative, who feels sorry for this guy having no immediate family? That would be an interesting relationship. 

I wish I could write more, but my bus stop beckons.

Rewriting Dialogue in a short story

I am tantalisingly close to finishing a short story. After going a year without finishing one, it feels good to start getting some completion. 

So the story is about a woman being chased by a mob of men. She flees down a haunted path to escape, but then becomes ensnared by the evil spirit residing there.

I’m happy with the structure of the story, and the general flow. Some of the description needs tidying up, but this is minor polishing now. 

The big thing is the dialogue. The interplay between the two main characters (indeed the only two characters) is a crucial part. It opens up the protagonist (and thus the reader) to the realisation of her situation. 

Unfortunately the dialogue thus far is a little stilted, as I still need to adapt the story to meet the antagonist’s point of view. I’m definitely proceeding from the perspective that the antagonist’s actions fuel the protagonist’s actions. The difficulty is representing that in dialogue.

I’m going to focus on developing the antagonist’s motivations a lot more, so that this will enhance the dialogue and so propel the story. There are three sections of dialogue, so I need to work on tying those together. Separate moments of the same narrative.

I’m confident it will all be done by the weekend, along with some final polishing. Then it’s time to submit it, somewhere, and move onto the next project.

Time, but time; the difference between professional and personal time management 

Why is my spare time management so woefully inadequate compared to my professional day-job organisation? 

I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday about organising work, time management etc. and the difficulties people have in general organisation. We also work in the social work sphere, an area of work renowned for lack of resources and work pressures. I understand the struggle, and training is woefully inadequate in these areas of planning, organisation and timekeeping.

I’ve prided myself on my ability to organise my work and effective time management. It wasn’t easy getting to that point. As a case worker I struggled for a long time to get organised, being sucked into the death spiral of child protection casework anarchy. Eventually though, I got to a point where I finally got on track, and this grew and developed as I moved into middle management. Now I feel firmly in control, even in crisis.

With personal projects though, I am a little more scattered. The most succes I had recently was with my NaNoWriMo, and that was at he expense of everything else. In terms of actual projects, the one project at a time approach is good, but I have a range of interests and a range of mediums. It sometimes seems more than can be possibly managed. I imagine I am managing my projects quite well sometimes, and perhaps it’s a case of setting the bar too high with unrealistic expectations.

I feel I need to rethink my priorities and about how to manage them. Some aspects, like photography, have been woefully neglected. I have some impending personal changes as well, including university and moving house, so some allowance will have to be made.

Centrally though, I think the biggest problem is that I have not yet fully worked out how to market myself. I have yet to find a way to tie together my professional and personal aspirations into something cohesive, so that’s where I need to start. Having diverse interests is good, but it’s about tying them together into something productive, marketable and consistent. Only then will it be easier to organise my time outside of work like I do at work.

Book Worm: researching a new personal project

You’d think, with all the masses of other writing to do, I wouldn’t be keen on taking up a new project. Maybe give it a few months, hold off, focus. Well, yes, it does make sense, but I’ve always been restless, and this is a project that’s been on my mind for a few years now.

So what is it?

Here’s the one liner – It is a book about Australian country communities and how the decline of rail has changed them.

I need to work on that. It imparts the dry, objective, description, but it lacks sexiness. It’s frumpy. It needs spark.

The working title is ‘The Beaten Track’.

The why’s and what for’s? I suppose I first had the idea living in Mount Gambier in South Australia. There was a derelict station and train line running right through the city (I believe some of it is now converted to public pathways – very smart). There were lots of little towns dotted about that at one time or another had a busy railway, mainly servicing industry. One little town, Kalangadoo, certainly caught my eye.

After travel in Tasmania, with disused train lines weaving their way up and down valleys, and the Western Australia, I came to see that the trains represented an era gone. At that point I began to think about these small communities and how much life must have changed since the industry, and the trains with it, vanished.

So my aim is to develop a book, using interviews with locals and photos, to tell the story of some of these small towns. For many towns the railways vanished decades ago, so if I’m still to reach those who were around at the time now is a good time to start.

Firstly, I need some research. I have zero knowledge about trains, their history or the context of Australian history. I need to know if it’s been done before, or whether there’s an avenue to introduce something a little different. So tonight I paid a visit to the state library in Perth. My little collection of books I reckon constitutes the near entirety of what has been written about trains and their communities. I’m sure more written material is available, particularly online, but the library was a good place to start.

I’ll need to look at the practical elements of a book like this, how to organise it, get testimony, interviews etc. All in good time.

For now I’ve got plenty to get me going, and start the project off. Choo Choo! 🚂🚞

The Big Read: Reading through my novel first draft

I had a moment of empathy for despairing USA citizens and, bizarrely, Cory Bernadi, asking myself “How did this happen?”

While US voters get to wonder about their political naïveté leading to the election of the orange demagogue, and Cory asks himself “how did I misjudge President Trumble so badly?”, I read my novel and ask “How did I write this?”

As the first part of the rewrite, I am reading through my novel. I’m making no corrections or changes at this point, as I’m only making broad notes about themes and issues cropping up. I spend about half an hour reading, then make some notes, and then another half hour and so on. As I read I get to see all the little errors I made, the confusing sections where attribution is severely lacking in dialogue, and sections where I clearly lost my temper and gave up (one line said [what happens here? Fuck.]).

So far I’ve got through about a fifth of the novel, and I’m barely past the inciting incident. It makes me wonder how much I may have underwritten the later sections, but I’m getting ahead of myself. You can’t judge a piece of art by only seeing a section of it, so I just need to be patient. Perhaps the story will organise itself.

I see some strengths. I like the flow of the story so far. There’s action and crisis. I could probably do with more conflict amongst the main characters, but there’s enough. I hope by the end the spirit of the story is holding up. There’s still a long journey ahead.