Who am I?

I am a writing and publishing guru. What I dont know about the market just isn't worth knowing. So what if I'm unpublished? I choose to give other writers the gift of my wisdom and experience* that the other 500,000 writing blogs out there fail to give.
* No actual experience

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Had to share..

The writers’ prayer.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the words that don’t need to be changed;
courage to edit the things that do;
and wisdom to know the difference.

- sorry, I cant attribute this quote to anybody. If you know who corrupted the Serenity Prayer, lemme know.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Search for Perfection

On a cold evening there’s nothing I enjoy better than to curl up on the sofa with a warm cup of something soothing and read the telephone directory. Not just any directory – hey, I have standards here – but the paper version of the White Pages.
The drama! The intrigue! The humour! I laugh out loud, and diligently resist the temptation to skip to the end to see how it turns out.

My husband questions my mental health. It’s research, people, truly.

I want the perfect name for my characters. I’ll know it when I find it.

Scientifically Proven
Names are important!
One’s name has an impact on one’s self-perception and the path one chooses in life.
A study of names in medical and legal professions showed there was a slightly higher proportion of doctors with the name Doctor or with the letters "Doc" in their names and lawyers called Lawyer or with Law in their names, than predicted by chance.

The study is linked here  if you could be bothered.

Furthermore, doctors called Wee were more likely to practice Urology than other branches of medicine. I couldn't make THAT up.

I’ve noticed these trends myself. A dietician called Candy, a veterinary called Dr Catt. A lawyer called Conquest (although I seriously wonder whether the latter changed their name by deed poll to sound macho and go-hard. If I were choosing legal representation, I’d be more likely to select somebody with a winning name, rather than say, Slack or Dowdy. I just wouldn’t date somebody called Conquest. Or Slack or Dowdy.)

Writers have used this for years; suggesting personality traits in characters through their names. Rowling was a champion at including puns in her characters’ names. My favourite was Dolores Umbridge, from Order of the Phoenix. Dolores means pain and umbrage means both shade and to take offense.  Yes, she was an offensive pain who cast a shadow on life at Hogwart’s.

So back to my telephone directory ramblings.

I’ve come across names that give me a chuckle at the image of a character it inspires. 

I would only use the family name Sweet for an absolutely foul character. Block would  be a henchman.  But these are quite basic. My mind boggled at what a person called Ear would be like ( a spy, maybe?).

How would you picture people with the following names (all currently listed in the Melbourne White Pages)?
Stallion (ok, I got a giggle here)
Slockwitch (Dickensian)
 I eventually found the perfect name for my character: Perfect. Or so I thought, until I saw the next name –Perfetto. Perfectionist and pretentious.  Suited her. Perfectly.
Tell me – would these games be possible with the e-directory?

BTW - sorry if I've used your name here. No offense intended. But seriously, dude, consider changing it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Having hung around writerish blogosphere for some time now, I was vaguely aware of an annual writing event, National Novel Writing Month. Kind of like an orgy in which quantity is the key.

As I understand it (not that I've been researching) published and wannabe writers aim to complete a 50,000 word novel in the one month, averaging about 1600 words per day. Ok, sounds great for some who have time and/or stamina, and horrifically stressful for those who don’t. I think they've adopted and adapted the Nike Just Do It philosophy.

As it happens, November is a quiet month for me, work wise. I’m self employed but rely mainly on one company for work, and they are super busy in the middle of the year, and slow down between November to February. I was well aware of this when I agreed to work for them, and allowed for the lull. I took on more projects than was wise over the busy period, knowing I could postpone some things until now. Such as writing. And other stuff.   

December is ridiculously hectic. End-of-school-year activities and Christmas-is-coming functions fill the diary (at least people in the Northern Hemisphere are smart enough to have split these between July and December. Down 'ere, we pack 'em into a single mad, mad month). January is school holiday time, so I might squeeze 4 words per day between the demands of child-wrangling. And in Feb., work starts to pick up again.    

So, happy coincidence, NaNo seems to have been tailor made for me.

Except I put the No in NaNoWriMo. I’m not a joiner. I’m not even sure of the logistics, as I only skimmed through the web page.  

Plus, I would have been cheating if I had, seeing as I already had about 10,000 words of a newish project (YA paranormal) done by Nov 1. My aim was to develop it this month. So far, so good. 

So far,  I have exceeded the NaNo (daily) total- I can manage an average of 2000 words (more during school days, less on weekends). So I expect to have added about 60K words to my WIP by Dec 1 provided I dont get tanlged up in any inherant contradictions, or need to go back and change a character's motives or decide there's not enough substance in the plot to carry it over 25K words. And so on, the usual reasons I might hit a wall.

Nevertheless, knowing that others are powering through their manuscripts is inspiring, particularly as not everybody can dedicate as much time to it as I can. And I’m sure that if I got into it, I would be delighted for Ella of Eltham completing her MS within the allocated time. But the reality is that I don’t need the distraction of posting my own, and following others’ totals. I’m a solitary old grump, not a cheer squad. The other merit of the NaNo approach is that just writing until something happens is a good way to get into the writng zone. It's ok to go back and delete the first few useless paragraphs. Waiting for inspiration to hit is a great time waster.  By "doing it", I get more done (well, duh).

However.... even without the burden of an employer, I've got a life. The "other stuff" gobbles up my time.  Such as attending Professional Development seminars, to maintain my professional registration (I have a two day course and a one day course in the next two weeks); getting some much avoided dental work happening (it’s not just writing I procrastinate) and pushing myself to do regular exercise (the scales scream and run when I approach). So a month may sound like a long time, but it's far from empty.

In other words, I still need to juggle my White Whine concerns.

I could still be persuaded to join the NaNo culture. What benefits have others found from being NaNo participants? Please share!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

On writing

“How come you write so funny?”

Something I heard many times as a child – pity it was my appalling handwriting and ridiculous pen-hold they were referring to, as opposed to my flawless wit.

Have a look at my party trick. That’s my thumb.

I can effortlessly bend it like that. What used to be called double jointed is now “hypermobile”.  And, no I can’t lie on my tum and swing my toes in front of my face- that would be way cooler. I’d be posting that instead.

It simply means the ligaments in my thumbs, and to a lesser extent, my fingers, aren’t good at their job of stabilising a joint. It means my fingers suck at controlling a pen. And I have to keep a death-grip on my pen to form legible letters.

If you were to see anything I’d handwritten at school, you’d find the first few lines reasonably neat, followed by a rapid decline in the quality as my hand fatigued. After a few paragraphs, you’d swear somebody else started to write, because I’d shift the position of the pen in my hand, and the letters would slope in the opposite direction. The writing would be neat for a few lines, then deteriorate again, and I’d find a different way to hold my pen. And so on. A page of my handwritten text looked as if it was a joint effort of three or four (messy) people.

As a teen, I stumbled across the “science” of graphology – or personality analysis through the study of handwriting. Yep, it’s as valid as personality analysis through astrology or phrenology (the study of bumps on your head), but I was not to know.

Seems that meek people have small handwriting, letters leaning forward (ie, to the right) are a sign of an impatient person, while you really can’t trust those who don't close the circles on their o’s, liars did that all the time! Those whose writing sometimes fails to stay on the line are easily led. And so on.

Well, my mixed up writing had dire implications: I was an introverted extrovert, meek, pushy and easily led. But I never lied.

So there ended my study of graphology.

In the early 90’s I shared a house with a German lady, who was applying for jobs. She duly sent off handwritten applications until the rest of us suggested it made her look slack. She was shocked. In Europe at the time, a graphological analysis was a standard personality screen of applicants. To send in a typed letter meant that you were hiding your inherently evil nature.

I don’t know if this practice is common today (if any Euro readers could comment, I’d appreciate it) but I guess no European company would have hired a fruit cake like me back then. Unless I could have persuaded a neat person to write my application for me.

It all came back the other day, while watching my younger son’s fingers grasping his pencil so tightly his nails were white, and how laboured the whole task of writing was for him. Yep, his fingers are even more mobile than mine were.

Another introverted extrovert who was both meek and pushy....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


A recent post about doing exercises to take myself back to childhood and relive the sensations got me thinking about memory and how trustworthy recollections could be.

Here’s an exercise. If you want to start an argument with a sibling (like that’s difficult), just ask him/her the simple question: “Who first came up with the idea to...” and fill the blank with a practical joke, executed jointly that worked beautifully; or a project you both put a lot of effort into as kids. Chances are both of you will claim credit for coming up with the idea, and get annoyed with the other for failing to recognise this simple historical fact.

Why? Because memory is highly fallible.

We might experience memory like a tape recording. Rewind, press play, and the scene unfolds in front of us. The times when we’re unsure, we have to consciously reconstruct it, think harder, fill in blanks, and perhaps seek confirmation from others. The point is, even the times we feel quite sure of what happened, we are not replaying an undistorted scene. Because we recall by reconstructing the event. We follow a series of neural pathways, and jam together incidents and feelings that may not have actually happened in the sequence. Neural pathways are linked – associated. It’s easy to see how the pathway that portrays ourselves in a positive light is the one that gets chosen. It’s not hard to make a wrong turn and feel 100% confident that the memory is true.

There’s proof for this view. A recent study asked people exiting Disneyland to respond yes or no, regarding which characters they’d seen during their visit. “Mickey Mouse?” “yes” “Donald Duck?” “yes” “Bugs Bunny?” – many responded “yes”. Impossible, because the wascally wabbit is not a Disney character.

Yet, because it had been suggested, and because cartoon characters are filed close together, a large portion of people accepted they had seen him. On follow up a few weeks later, the same people were asked to list the characters they had seen at the park. Many who said “yes” to having seen Bugs included him in their list, and felt no need to question their memory. Why? Because it’s perfectly plausible. They’ll probably  wonder why they failed to take a photo of Bugs on the day.

Now, I’m sure if the study had asked whether they’d seen Hannibal Lecter at Disneyland, few would have thought they had. Serial killers tend to not be closely associated with the Happiest Place on Earth. It’s harder to suggest something completely incongruous.

The thing is, misremembering happens every day, and it’s damned difficult to recognise when it does. As an example, many years ago, we had a pet rabbit. A girl came to visit and refused to hold him, as she’d been bitten by a bunny a few days earlier at a petting zoo. The other day, the long-deceased rabbit came up in conversation. The girl (now adult) scowled and said “I remember him, he bit me.” Well, one of us is misremembering here.

So what’s that got to do with writing?

Plenty, if you’re writing a memoir or a non-fiction piece which includes “eyewitness accounts”. Particularly if they refer to third parties.

As for fiction... well. In my earlier blog entry, I said I was aiming for authenticity by immersing myself in sensations of childhood. But I started to question how true my memories were, and got tied up. Finally, I asked myself - does it really matter? Fiction is about making things up. Writers are notorious for trawling through their own and other people’s lives for incidents to include in their work. If I’m going to steal others’ stories, the least I can do is modify them, even if I don’t mean to.

My only warning is: we tend to misremember incidents in a way that portrays us (and out pet bunnies) in a positive light. If we’re going to retell stories from our own childhoods, just expect siblings and close friends to feel we’re hogging credit for incidents they reckon they were responsible for! Let’s be generous and give kudos to others – even when we’re sure the credit belongs to us.