Saturday, December 18, 2010

Write something/ anything!

I´ve just finished my contract in the bush and now I am back in the city. Life in the last few weeks of work was insanely busy. Of course, writing became the innocent victim, mowed down by the other commitments.

The wheels turn slowly when they´ve been left out in the elements for a while and today I´ve been looking over my notes and it all seems a bit rusted.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Uluru/Ayers Rock

As I eluded to with a picture in a previous post, I visited Uluru not long ago. My parents had actually arranged the trip for me without me knowing. I am quite an independent person and sometimes find it difficult accepting gifts from others, but I was quite happy to receive this one. I boarded a bus at 5.45am packed full of French tourists and set off.  The centre of Australia lays flat on either side of the road for nearly the whole 500 kilometres there.

As you approach, it sits alone in the landscape.

Ayers Rock is the world´s largest. Like an iceberg, only a fraction its entirety is above the surface. Geological activity millions of years ago thrusted Ayers Rock out of the ground and it twisted on its way up.

It´s very important to the local Aboriginal community whose camp is not far from the rock. Visitors are not allowed to visit their camp which is a shame because, for the most part, no Aboriginal people were to be seen.

It has been raining over the last couple of weeks and the water slowly runs off the drop down these cuts in the side.  The colours make it look silver, as if it is mercury.

A pretty cool erosion pattern.

Are they are set of lips? I am not sure..

Everyone was trying hard to avoid the tree. It was the only thing around of any decent height. I thought I would add it for good measure as this shot was taken kilometres away from the rock.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A thousand little bridges.

Writing continues as my time here in the desert is coming to a close. It has been the wettest year for the last twenty years here. 75 mm of rain was all the land could capture last year. This year it is well over 600mm.

Rivers continues to flow down into our giant lake system. The lakes which are normally dry are covered in a thick layer of salt. Water makes its way quickly through the soft desert dirt into the system. These desolate salt pans explode into life with birds, flowers and even frogs.  I feel very lucky to have seen the desert at its best.

The work in progress is running its own course, albeit riddled with switchbacks and falling boulders. I have core sections of the story written. They stand like volcanic islands in the Pacific, shooting out of the ocean. From the top of one, you can see the others sitting in a chain. What I need now is a thousand little bridges to connect them all together. Also,  I see my subplot sit underneath them like a continental shelf. If only I could jolt it up.

My story is written from a third person/ omnipotent perspective.   I chose this style because I wanted to move between characters, particularly the lead, the love interest and the antagonist. What I have discovered, however, is that my work is dialogue driven.  Characters come into a space, they converse and then they move on and reflect.  This gives me the impression that the story is progressing really slowly. The dialogue acts more as a tightrope across the islands rather than a bridge. Also, the story is set in a small rural town and there seems to be a lot of getting into and out of cars and the drinking in bar. Characters can only drive around and drink so much before that in itself becomes a story!

What I need right now is a real model. Sadly, most of the books I’ve really enjoyed reading are first person narratives.  I didn´t think I could confidently pull this story off in that style.
I would value any recommendations of books written in the third person/omnipotent perspective. I also wouldn’t mind a couple of Golden Gates to connect my islands if you could spare them.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pictures of Orange, Blue and Red.

 In an effort to quash the overthink I went into the desert.  
The sky went for a billion miles over my head and orange rock erupted from the earth.

I took a moment of solice down by a waterhole.
In the shade with my eyes closed, I imagined I was in another place.
 Drops trickled down cracks and over ridges even though it hadn't rained for weeks.
Time means nothing to this place.
To sit on a rock that shot up from the ground millions of years ago,
 where people have scooped their hands into pool to drink for thousands of years,
made me feel so small and insignificant.

As the sun tracked across the sky, I got talking to a group of French travellers.
We joked and laughed.
They invited me to stay with them next time I go to  Paris.
We drank champagne and looked out at a setting sun.
I couldn't help thinking that time will be sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Over the overthink.

My mind times a million more overpasses.

I started planning this post long after midnight. Talk about overthinking.

Only two more months and then I am finished out here. I can go back to our place in the city.  This long distance relationship has worked quite well as times, but lately it feels like a disaster.  For me, disasters equal overthinks.

Key stumbling blocks:


I want to go away this Christmas. The other doesn´t have the time. I want to work overseas again. The other doesn´t have the career opportunities to do it.


My work opportunities are somewhat limited in Adelaide. The other works for a good company with good prospects. I am ready to branch out somewhere new, meet new people etc.. The other needs to stay in our city for career development. The other seems happy with a limited number of friends.

It looks bleak, but at the end of the day I want to continue this relationship.  We get on very well together and I haven´t felt this way before. Right now I am unsure of how to balance these issues.

I'm looking at short term contracts overseas (like the China post). I hope that this is enough to let me travel a little but not be away too long. The question is whether this is just a Band Aid solution.

How long can a long distance relationship be?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When the river runs

The rain came and everyone was happy. The desert flowers sprang to life and the land laid a carpet of green. Then the rain went quickly, as it tends to do in the desert. The sky went back to the lightest of blues and high thin cloud skitted across it.

Now the rain is back. It has rained everyday this week and it will continue to do so until the end of the week. The Finke river normally sits on the land as an empty shell. Now it is filled with waterholes and seabirds.

These trees sit in the middle of a sandy creekbed. Water has surrounded them and now they are islands.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Swearing in books.

In real life I swear.Lost keys, a bus running late and overcooked pasta will all make me swear. We all do it.

Where the game changes is when I read. Usually the first one or two on a page stick in my mind. There are obviously characters and scenes which lend themselves to swearing - someone walking in on their lover with another for example.

I can´t imagine too many people saying:

Goodness me! Why are you in our bed with another? 

It just doesn´t cut it  in today's gritty world.

What I don´t like is swearing for swearings stake. Some authors and screenwriters push swearing prehaps to fill space. F this and F ( or maybe even C) that on every page.  On one hand,there is a strong desire to reproduce the actual or real language of the characters. On the other hand maybe people would already assume that the characters would swear - why include it in the dialogue?

I am struggling with this idea in my own work. A have a coming of age story and my main character is 22 years old. Most 22 year old males swear. I did. Trying to justify and exclude situations to minimise the swearing is proving to be a difficult task.

So here are my questions :

1) Do you acknowledge swearing in print?

2) If so, how much do you tolerate?

and most importantly

3) Is it possible to write scenes of strong conflict between adult characters and NOT include any swearing?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When the river runs dry.

The Ross river.

Work had been very busy this week and I had been counting down the days to the weekend. On Saturday I got up very early and took a trip out to Ross River, about 100 kilometres from Alice Springs. It is peak tourist season here and the highway was full of campervans and interstate four wheel drives. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood as although the sun was shining ,it wasn´t the normal sweat dripping heat that you come to expect in the Central Australian Desert region.

The river itself was now empty but this photo shows the debris that had washed downstream. It settled finally at the base of this tree. All around the banks of the river you can see debris scattered, even in the branches of trees.

From the main highway there is a turn off onto a dirt track. It cuts through the dry river beds and over rocks. As I live in the city ,any opportunity I get to drive like crazy down rocky tracks I savour! At the end of the turn off is N´Dhala Gorge National Park.  This place holds special signifance to the Aboriginal people of the area and there are a few rock engravings which tell traditional stories.

A rock engraving telling a dreamtime story.  The dreamtime is a collection of stories linked to the creation of the Earth and the history of the Aboriginal people.  Storytelling is very important to Aboriginal people and dreamtime stories are filled with morals and virtues.

There was a small amount of water in the gorge which was collected in a few rockpools. Suprisingly, some of them even had tadpoles. There are frogs that live here in the desert, although I am yet to see one.
From the gorge I followed Binn´s track and turned off back towards town. Cattle were casually meeting and feeding beside and on the road. They are quite tame and will simply wander off the road at the sight of cars.  It also appears that they are pretty photogenic as not one left the road while I stopped the car to take this photo.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tomorrow When The War Began

( not the original cover, apparently it's too old for the Internet!)

Hidden away between  my adult favourites, the Steinbecks, the Atwoods and others, are a few Young Adult gems from my awkward teen years.

However, only one series of books (seven in total!) sent me racing off to the library, wrestling, bargaining and stashing its titles out of the keen grasps of other mid teens.

Tomorrow When The War Began.

Imagine, you and you friends set off camping over a long weekend  and return to your quiet country town only to discover that the nation has been invaded! You must fight any way you can to save the country!

So here is the formula for any struggling YA author who was looking for a quick fix:

Teenagers + Guns + Action + Angst + Romance =  Teens descending into hair pulling, name calling, any chore that would turn a profit and non stop conversation over lunch for about five years.

John Marsden, Australian YA author par excellence, really found his stride with these books which have gone on to sell nearly as many copies as the Bible in Australia.

Marsden, who had always been quite cautious of TV or film adaptions, has finally given the nod and the first film will be released in September.

The Australian film industry probably deals with the same issues many small to medium size entertainment industries do ( e.g - lack of international exposure and limited budget) but with such a well known series there will be an unusually high level of exposure.

This is helped by fans of the teenage series writing about it in their adult blogs.

Tomorrow When The War Began has an offical website - with a trailer and a few sneak peeks.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Surrounded by water

Work has been quite busy so I jumped  at the opportunity to take a road trip over the weekend. Alice Springs is a great place to be at the moment because it isn't scorching hot (yet) and there aren't the distractions of home. Just me , work and writing ( and the camera of course.)

These photos from the West MacDonnell National Park which begins on the edge of town. 

All around Alice Springs the rivers and waterholes are teeming with life. Ducks are quacking about here in the normally dry centre of the continent. Unlike most places, the water does not drain out into the ocean, it just sits around creating these temporary lakes.

Very brave kids out paddling in a tiny inflatable raft in Ellery waterhole.

The Ochre Pits were used by the Aboriginal people to decorate themselves for ceremonies and also to trade all across Australia. I love the wave effect, bending across the rock like a river.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Looking out at Simpson's Gap (taken in a short lived sunny break in the weather.)

Last week I was at work in the city chatting with my colleagues about how slow the office had become. They told me that this time last year there was a lot of work around but the GFC and a strong Australian dollar have meant clients have cancelled or delayed. I took this to mean that if I wanted work, I would have to look overseas and so I put the feelers out for work ( see China post).

I feel quite lucky to work in an industry ( the education sector) where there are always work and travel opportunities. My job has taken me to large cities and exotic locales, but imagine my surprise when I saw a short term posting in the centre of Australia.

I sent off my c.v with the memory a family holiday into Central Australia rerunning in my mind. The heat, the flies and an infinite blue sky . It was an amazing trip, one that I wanted to do again.  I pressed 'send' and went back to looking out of the office window, below the drone of traffic and above a slate grey sky.

Now, a week later, I am here in the centre of the continent as far and as close as I can be to any other place on this island.

With a camera in hand, I got a car and went out to the mountains. The infinite blue of the sky I remembered was hidden behind a winter haze and it has been raining, on and off, since I arrived. Imposing mountains and geographical features are somewhat humbled behind low clouds.

Rain flowing over the dry flat country and flowing into dormant waterholes and creekbeds

I will have a lot of free time up here to work on my writing, and hopefully, photography.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Like a... like a... like a...

Going back through my work I notice a hell of a lot of analogies. The layout of the room, the weather, facial expressions or behaviour all seem to include an analogy in some shape or another.  This gets me thinking - are analogies a help or a hindrance to creative writing?

Do they really help set the scene or just block some of the reader´s imaginative flow?

Take the following example.

Scene : An old woman and a young boy are sharing a train compartment.

He turned on his mp3 player, the music blaring in the silent compartment. She looked  across at him, her face screwed up like a piece of old newspaper. ¨Would you keep it down!¨.


He turned on his mp3 player, the music blaring in the silent compartment. She looked across at him. ¨Would you keep it down!¨

For me, the little newspaper addition gives me quite a nice visual, however I could probably imagine it without the analogy included.

Anyway, I am looking forward to your ideas. See if you can guess the following analogies. Feel free to post your own!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Story Comp.

Flicking through one of the smaller papers and noticed they are running a short story competition. I have one or two lying around in the depths of my hard drive that I might be able to enter. It´s definetly a small comp, not million dollar book deals here. The judges are Professors of Creative Writing and I wonder if my stories will be too ´mainstream´for them..

Has anyone ever entered a story comp before? Is it worth it?


Love this photo. A late night phone call from an outer suburban phone booth, crying into a bottle of red.

There´s a book in it. Better make that a short story...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Out with the old and in with the new.

Julia Gillard - Australian Prime Minister

Woke up this morning to discover that Australia has a new Prime Minister! That´s something that doesn´t happen everyday. Wonder if she ( our first female Prime Minister too)  can win the election later this year?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


An opportunity has come up to for me to work in China at the end of the year. I´ve worked with a lot of Chinese in the past and I have always wanted to go. The Harbin Ice Festival ( pictured above) is probably one of things I want to see most, probably because I come from a corner of the world where it barely rains, let alone snows! Tsingtao beer is another movitating factor - love that stuff.

Apart from the obvious attraction of a real winter with snow and ice, I am really keen to get overseas again.  I see a lot of backpackers loitering around train stations and bus stops here in the city and I am really envious of them. However, being settled does have its advantages - no bed bugs being a notable one.

More details to follow on that development.


The book goes on. It´s over a third written and 70% planned. The final 30 percent of the planning still haunts me in my sleep. Not sure how it´s going to end.

 I´ve really got into reading other peoples´ blogs and some have mentioned this - National Novel Writing Month  or NaNoWriMo which is still a mouthfull. Basically  the aim through November  is for participants write a  completlely new, totally original novel.  Firstly, what a cool idea. I am sure there´s loads of support with other writers too. Secondly - I might be in China writing a novel in a month and it would be freezing so even more reason to write!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The rabbit warren

Today for the first time in about a month, I can see the light.

I´ve emerged from a rabbit´s warren after turning, nose first, down every dark and damp deadend with the novel plot. 

I sat down today and looked at the once feared story arc and realised:

The main character does have an aim strong enough to pull through the crisis.

The antagonist is hell bent on not letting that happen.

It´s funny how after so much struggle - reworking ideas and straining your mind to come up with new ones , the answer can just be there.

It´s all above ground from now , following the reinforced story arc all the way to the end!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


It´s 5.47pm and pitch black outside.


This weekend I finished Richard Flanagan´s ´Death of a River Guide´.  Flanagan is one of my favourite authors and possibly my favourite Australian writer. This book was his first fiction book and is a pretty impressive debut. Landscape plays an important role in any story and Flanagan has this ability to paint Tasmania, where most of his books are set, in this eden like light. Lush, green, but also captivating and mysterious.

´Death of a River Guide´ touches on elements of Magic Realism which is a passion of mine.


My characters are developing and I am looking for little kooky traits that would suit their personalities. It´s quite interesting brainstorming habits, vices and obssesions for them and makes me think alot about human behaviour.  How does the ex smoker react to a whiff of smoke floating from a next door office or the control freak comes to grips with a series of poor decisions they haven´t been able to remedy?

I´ve also decided to aim for a novel of 85,000 words. It was never my intention to write some epic saga that runs through reams of print, but to have a contained story with a hell of a punch.  It´s a great feeling to be able to look at my own word count and plot it against my goal.  It makes me feel like I am in control of the book more than it is of me. ( not a control freak!)

I am aiming for an equally sized beginning and end ( 15,000 words each) and the bulk (55,000 - if you´re not good at maths ) for the muddle / middle.

Chipping away at this project, I have written bits from all parts. I think this is another good strategy as if I am bored, lost or frustrated with a character or situation - I can just move to another part, pick up the baton and run. The only downside to this might be a lot more editing at the end, but I am expecting a fair bit anyway.

With that said, it´s back to the story.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

You in a book.

Before writing, I´d notice little things like funny conversations on the bus or odd things on the street. Sometimes I´d note them , but most of the time they would just slip from my mind. Lately that´s changed and I feel a renewed curiousity towards everything. Writing is a great way to improve your skills of observation of the world, but also a vessel in which to observe yourself.

Currently a character of mine is reflecting on a moment spent repairing a car with his father. Like a flash of light, the images of my own childhood came back. Trying to work these into the story without being too real is an interesting challenge. Autobiographies, as a genre of book, have never really interested me. In the past, I have found them to be too dry and heavily scripted. The person usually comes off as a lighter shade of themself. However, I like the idea of introducing autobiographical elements to work.

Where do you fit in your work? Should your work be somewhat autobiographical or does there need to be distance between the writer and their work?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The character without a purpose

This is a big no no as I have read.  Although off the page, mysteries abound, none can be left in the story.  Everything has its reason and purpose.

I wanted a character to wander as we do in real life. We  all stroll, get lost and ,hopefully ,don´t end up in a ditch.  The writing gurus shake their heads in unison. ´Motive´  they chant.  You would think finding a motive for every character would be simple. There would be those characters who want to be loved or avenged etc, but what happens to those who don´t know what they want?

This is where the gurus and I differ. Our real world is filled with those who are half sure or not completely sold on the idea or situation. The question is -  how do you factor them into writing?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Battle of the How To Writes

The story is firmly moored like a boat at a pier, bobbing in the waves , as at least one of my major characters, is throwing up overboard. The other characters are firmly in their seats, ready for push off on their journey.

All that is missing now is plot structure. There is a beginning and and end, but what´s between? I´ve been reading a lot of fiction lately by writers I enjoy and I am puzzled by how to make the middle not so much of a transit lounge on the way to the end.

So I have enlisted some help from How To Write gurus. At first, I was cautious. For starters, I have never heard of any of them. Sure, they might know how to write a book, it doesn´t mean any of them have actually sold very well. Keeping in mind this was a little experiment, I cleared my mind of doubt and began to read.

´Novel Writing - Sixteen Steps to Success´by Evan Marshall is concise, blunt and well planned. Marshall offers an interesting technique that centres heavily on planning every minute action of the character´s interactions, thoughts and development - all this before allowing you to begin writing a word of your story. I liked this book so I hit the photocopier the next day to copy his template and got cracking.

But I, like a child with chocolate, was tempted too much. I fell of the wagon, so to speak, and began writing away with the story. I also went back to the library to see if any other writers advocated this approach.

´The Writer´s Little Helper´by James V. Smith Jr. was standing on the shelf. I was guided to it by a compass as it was the polar opposite of Marhsall´s book. It appears to be the Rubrix Cube of writing books with its design meaning you need to flick through various sections back and forth to make sense of it. Another difference is that it doesn´t not promote any real planning beyond a handful of key scenes. Not every thought , feeling or itch that a character has - just guts is important.

I fall somewhere between the two. I like the planning, but it also frustrates me. I want to turn my mind to cruise control and bang out the book, but I also love a well written story.

I´ve decided to take the advice of both authors on board and plot along out to sea with my characters. In my hand is a map, like the first European explorers used to navigate Australia. On one side there is a well mapped coast filled with reefs, jutting peninsulas and beaches. The other side disappears into the blankess of the page.

Here´s hoping there´s no end of the earth lurking around the next bend.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Young Adult vs Adult Fiction.


Some where between these perhaps?

Just busy writing away and thinking about the divide between young adult and adult fiction.

My protagonist is young ( early twenties) and the story is a coming of age story. Although there are older characters, the story centres on the life and times of the lead and friends growing up and finding themselves in the world. On this basis alone, I think it leads towards young adult fiction.

Now, there is no intention to litter the story with sex, drugs or violence but I don´t feel as if it is a story I would share with a 16 year old, even though most teenagers would relate to it.
Is there a definite divide between the two genres or is there some kind of middle ground? Would it be too ambitious to market an idea like this to a purely adult audience who might find certain parts rather juvenile?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New year, new project.

To be writing my first post for 2010 on the 11th of March is probably a little slack. Sorry.

I have moved back to Adelaide and am now working. You would think with all my free time, I would have updated this blog.You would have thought wrong.

It´s funny how things impact your life. I really wanted to develop this blog, but I guess other things got in the way.

Well now I am back. Back to square 1. Back to basics. Back.

This year is all about writing for me. Writing, improving on my writing and learning about how the writing industry works.

At the moment, I am tinkering with an idea. It´s in gestation and the moment and I am predicting the birth of a book at sometime in the near future. I have never been so focussed and it seems everytime there is an opportunity to sit down, I am back onto the idea again.

I will be linking a lot of writing resources that I have found in the last couple of months to this blog and if you are out there and tapping away at a major piece, I´d like to hear about it.