Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

editorial respect

I submitted my drafted novel manuscript for its first substantive editorial assessment yesterday. I meant to do it the day before but got distracted by an evacuation of my office building (due to a suspicious package being delivered to the mailroom) that kept me out of the office and away from my manuscript for over half a day. The event (the evacuation that is) made the nightly news.

It will take the editor six weeks to work their way through the manuscript for the first time (later iterations will take less time subject to how much rewriting I need to do after the constructive feedback on the content).

I actually like this stage of the editing process. A good editor will provide comments on everything - character, plotting, writing style, dialogue, point of view, pace, narrative, tone, structure, marketing possibilities, audience targetting, even use of research! The objective of this type of editorial is to offer feedback that can assist a writer to improve the content of their manuscript. (Aside: Grammar correction editorial occurs much later in the process when the content is bedded down substantively.)

I have never been a writer precious about the exact form of the words I commit to paper - the sort of feedback offered in manuscript assessment is intended to inspire fresh ideas generated from a fresh perspective. Sure, re-writing some content takes time, but I can unequivocally say that the independent editorial view ultimately supports the delivery of a better end product.

First drafts are never perfect. Final drafts are not either. And the five redrafts in between rely on a symbiotic and trusting relationship between an editor and a writer.

I think this acceptance of the need for feedback is a bi-product of a professional (day job) career focussed on advising. My very first written briefing delivered to a government minister a long time ago (it seems like the dark ages now) was edited several times by folk far more experienced than me. It has been a long career in learning the nuances of communicating and marketing non-fiction messages effectively on challenging public policy issues. (Aside: there are times when I find the editorial done on my fiction writing so much less stressful!)

By the way, I do not need to agree with all the feedback given to me by my editor. Suggestions are after all just that, suggestions. It is nonetheless important to listen to the wise counsel a good editor provides. Respect your editor. The end result will be a better manuscript.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I committed to paper for the first time a synopsis of the trilogy as preparation for the drafted second novel going to an independent editor for assessment. While I have outlines for each of the three books that make up the trilogy, and have had in my head some very strong over arching themes linking the books, it was the first time I had put the pieces of the puzzle together on one page.

I have struggled in the past to write my story summaries. These one pagers have to sell the story to others who do not have an emotional connection to the story so the pressure to get the content right is higher. I used 'taglines' in my synopsis this time around to boil down the main plots in each of the novels (and the high level plot across all three) into a pithy picture. Lines to entice the intended audience to choose to read my story. (The sort of lines that might one day be used on the movie posters if the novels are ever made into a film.)

The pieces fitted together really well. It could be that I have a strong conceptual idea and that is why it presents well. Hopefully the editor will agree! It could also be that the idea works for me and me alone and it might not be marketable at all. Either way, I was very happy with how the synopsis appeared on the page.

And, as always, I was inspired to write some more as a result.

Friday, November 19, 2010

days of future past

I'm still on my Moody Blues album title references bandwagon this week (see title of this blog entry). Perhaps because I have been cooped up inside for most of it. My week so far: home, hospital, home, work, home. I will be seeing real people today and tomorrow (woohoo!) even if I have to be doped up on pain medication to do it.

I don't like that I have to take the pain medication at all. It bothers me that my body is being a bitch. It bothers me that I wake up in the morning and wonder if I will ever have a perfect day health wise again (usually it is my second thought after I wonder about the weird dream I have just had). It has been such a long time.

On the plus side (there is always a positive in every situation), being cooped up for much of the week has not been wasted. I've spent most of the time editing the second novel (in between the drug induced sleeping through the pain and the borderline obsessive viewing of the Terminator - Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, as I have a tendency to do when procrastinating).

And the editing kicked off with my excitement over finally figuring out a time conversion model for the novel - the story covers two worlds whose measure of time is different and consistency of timelines is paramount to the quality of the story. So an excel spreadsheet later, I finally found a solution that had me (and I expect some of my geekier eventual readers of the novel) feeling like I had discovered the Holy Grail. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit, but it was just the "pick me up" I needed. With the added bonus of now being able to include a modest appendix in the novel with a historical timeline that will please any discerning fantasy novel reader.

The other thing that got my brain engaged this week was an article that a friend of mine posted on FB this week:

The premise of the article was that 'daydreaming' was a contributer to unhappiness. I have to admit I was surprised by this theory. Though it did lead me to think that meditation - clearing your mind - is aimed at giving a person peace. I'm pretty sure I've been a mind wanderer since, well, birth so now I'm going to worry if I was born unhappy! I'm going to treat mind time as "me time" and the real world as the distraction from now on so that I don't have some psychologist telling me that one of my key sources of creativity is bad for me!

By the way, I've made no explicit reference to why I chose the particular title for this week's blog entry. I am leaving it to the reader today to connect the dots.

Back to the editing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

in search of a lost chord

It has been a tough few months (and last few weeks especially) for me health wise and tomorrow I will be in hospital for the third time in as many months, though this time the doctors are taking a surgical route to try and sort out the source of my pain. There'll be another biopsy taken and, fingers crossed, the source has not gone nuclear just yet.

I have to confess that the pain and pain killers have had an interesting side-effect on my writing task. My mind and body seems to alternate between being numb and highly charged , the former delivering trance like prose and the latter offering a feast of intense dreamscape fodder that might just inspire the next three decades of story telling from me. I almost understand how substance abuse might become an integral part of some writers' creative process though I doubt it will lead me down such a path given my predisposition for letting my body and mind take me where it chooses to take me naturally. Above all it is far too strange to type when you cannot feel your fingers on the keyboard!

I have been gunning along editing the second novel to incorporate the feedback I have received on the first draft, well on track despite the above circumstance to complete the first editing loop before Christmas. I don't have too much to say about this stage of the editing process as it is basically an exercise in checking the document for things like timeline consistency and character development. I am reworking the early storyline in particular to retrofit developments later in the story, the plot lines that emerged as part of the evolution of the characters through the story.

This is all fairly mechanical so I will return to the topic of the music that inspired me through a tough period in my life several years ago (see blog entry "procrastination moment number ninety nine"). The title of this blog entry, "in search of a lost chord" is a reference to an album title by the band the Moody Blues whose lead singer, Justin Haywood, had one of the finest voices I have ever heard. Beautiful lyrics sung to soothe any fragile mind and an album worth listening to in its own right given the strong orchestral overlay in the music.

Beyond listening to Justin's voice (and another staple seminal album by Pink Floyd, "the dark side of the moon" - arguably a listening must for any fog ridden person), I burned three CDs at that time that thematically compiled songs associated with death (volume 1), loss experienced as part of relationships (volume 2), and the bitter sweet hope that comes after both of those things (volume 3). For the record, the track list is as follows:

Volume 1:
- old friends, bookends theme - simon and garfunkel
- here comes the flood - peter gabriel
- wish you were here - pink floyd
- almost with you - the church
- mad world - tears for fears
- state of graceful mourning - died pretty
- ghost of love returned - the clouds
- lightning crashes - live
- local boy in a photograph - the stereophonics
- philadelphia - neil young
- one headlight - the wallflowers
- last stop this town - the eels
- touched - vast
- hear you me - jimmy eat world
- world i know - collective soul
- end of the world as we know it and i feel fine - REM

Volume 2:
- strong enough - sheryl crow
- letting the cables sleep - bush
- piece by piece - feeder
- chemical heart - grinspoon
- home away from you - jakatta
- writing to reach you - travis
- your sweet voice - the reindeer section
- free falling - tom petty
- brittle then broken - pollyanna
- don't believe anymore - icehouse
- colorblind - counting crows
- in between days - the cure
- feeling oblivion - turin brakes
- under the milky way - the church
- time of your life - green day
- times like these - the foo fighters
- drift away - dobie gray

Volume 3:
- island in the sun - weezer
- in your eyes - peter gabriel
- i melt with you - broken english
- now we're getting somewhere - crowded house
- to look at you - inxs
- shimmer - fuel
- venus - the feelers
- black the sun - alex lloyd
- least complicated - indigo girls
- semi charmed life - third eye blind
- let there be love - simple minds
- dream on - depeche mode
- wicked game - chris isaak
- yellow - coldplay
- c'mon people (we're making it now) - richard ashcroft
- collapse on me - oblivia
- wonderwall - oasis

It is not apparently obvious my taste in music leans towards the alternative end of the spectrum though most of these pieces can be found on YouTube. I have a whole bunch of songs that have inspired me since the circa pre-2004 offerings listed though the playlist above is one that I still dip into every now and then when I feel a little helpless. The next three days will deliver some air time.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

visualising characters

I fell off the coffee drinking wagon this week. After almost four years of denying myself the substance, a sip then more a cup tasted so good I could not bring myself to stop. It has been a gradual slide to this demise over the last few months, first through the the purest cold form of the substance (Coke), then greater quantities of the leaf version (tea) and finally the Cafe capitulation for the warm and soothing beverage. The tiredness during the day caused by physical pain disrupted sleep at night probably didn't help and so I find myself no longer caffeine free.

Perhaps not a bad thing timing wise as my creative juices started flowing again with a vengeance earlier this week and I am now well into the throes of caffeine substance abuse as I write feverishly.

It all started with my mentioning to a good friend that I had seen a memorable acting performance from Thomas Dekker (of Terminator Sarah Connor Chronicles note) in a horror film I watched on DVD the weekend before during yet another bout of writer's block procrastination. To which she responded almost immediately, he is Gabriel.

Gabriel is a key character in the second novel (aka the second part of the trilogy) and it is his back story that forms the basis of the prequel to that novel (aka the first part of the trilogy) and, ultimately, it is his journey across all three novels that that helps to form the over arching story. So pretty important really.

When I write characters, one part of my creative process is to imagine which actors would play them if a movie were to be made of the book. It helps me to visualise the characters as the plot develops. Like a movie playing in my head. It also means that I have 'dreams' about the characters - effectively my sub-conscious mind moves the plot along for me. I go to bed thinking about the story and wake up with fresh ideas for scenes to write. Marvelous stuff.

As I was writing the second novel, I had Jack Davenport (of This Life note) in my mind for Gabriel in terms of a physical look but this was not quite working for me given Gabriel is a young adult for much of the story and one that has a angelic boyish yet brooding outsider hint of darkness demeanour. Jack is lovely though has had far more success playing mainstream roles. Wrong age aside, it was just too difficult to imagine Jack as Gabriel. In contrast, Thomas Dekker is Gabriel. While Tom may have a thousand characters he could (and I expect will given the fellow can act!) play over the course of his career, he captures the essence of 'outsider' roles perfectly.

I said just one word in response to my friend's observation. Yes!

I have my Gabriel.

Since that eureka moment, I have developed more of the plot lines, ideas for possible book covers and figured out the perfect tagline for the trilogy.

And, if the books are ever made into movies, hopefully it will be soon enough that my Gabriel can be played by the actor who helped to inspire me.