Cheeseburger Gothic

Huzzah!

Posted January 5, 2010 by John Birmingham
At half past some time this morning I opened Google mail, attached a very large file, and sent off the second draft of After America. I immediately realized I had forgotten to include the prologue. After much cursing and a small amount of faffing around, I sent a second mail out with the offending document. The

That is not the end of the matter, of course. There are still three chapters at the end with which I am... displeased. They shall be corrected most severely in the next few days. And of course there is the line edit to get through. All of which takes place in hard copy and is thus a little slower and a little less convenient than we are used to in the digital world. On the upside it does provide a magnificent artifact of an actual A3 manuscript for me to take a slightly out of focus photograph of, for the purposes of taunting your worthless arses.

"Oh, did that line really describe a character called Havsy in a hibiscus print two piece bikini designed by Jodhi Meares? It's so hard to tell. This damned photograph seems to have been taken out of focus on purpose."

Only the Rhino knows. And Murph. And my editors Cate, Betsy and Joel.

I had kind of been hoping to catch up on some old episodes of Angel tonight, but having crawled out from beneath the crushing weight of one deadline I find myself confronted by another. 3000 words for The Monthly.

And so I strap myself into the dictating harness, take up my sword and shield and cry, "This Is Sparta!"

176 Responses to ‘Huzzah!’

NBlob reckons...

Posted January 5, 2010
well done sir

photo? or is that only for the twitterati?

.

.

.

the

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Abe swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 5, 2010
What's the Monthly article about?

The

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted January 5, 2010
How very odd. Is this hanging definite article a new internet fad?

Abe. Submarines. How to build expensive, risky submarines.

Mmmmm... submarineylicious.

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Catty mumbles...

Posted January 5, 2010
Expensive risky submarines? Easy. Hovercraft + Selley's polyfiller. It worked in your pool on boxing day.

The

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Albion Love Den swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 5, 2010
The

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WarDog asserts...

Posted January 5, 2010
Well done JB.

Another milestone.

Another roadblock removed.

The human tide awaiting the fruits our your hard labour salute you.

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Albion Love Den mutters...

Posted January 5, 2010
BillyBoy... what

The

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted January 5, 2010
Lolz. Now I understand.

The the is the product a the that went feral in the dictation sofware I am still using.

The

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted January 5, 2010
Well done on finishing the manuscript. Maybe a teaser for the faithful?

The

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Albion Love Den is gonna tell you...

Posted January 5, 2010
Yes, right after your smug re-tweet regarding Dan Brown's foibles. Cumeuppance, Birmingham.

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Albion Love Den mutters...

Posted January 5, 2010
Shit.

The

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Scott reckons...

Posted January 5, 2010
Birmo, ever been down on one?

Btw congratulations on completing.

May I humbbley suggest leather straps for the correction of the last 3 chapters.

According to mistress MM it works wonders.

the

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Catty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 5, 2010
A round of applause for JB!

clapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclap

Sorry, I mean a round of drinks, of course. He has a lot of catching up to do.

The

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Quokka mutters...

Posted January 5, 2010
Well done.

The maltesers are on me.

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Catty mumbles...

Posted January 5, 2010
Quokka, that's because you didn't dodge the splashback from the malteser chunder bucket.

The

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sparty would have you know...

Posted January 5, 2010
the the

great band

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John mutters...

Posted January 5, 2010
Can't wait for it to come out. Photo link?

The

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Scott swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 5, 2010
Catty puss love I thought we agreed not to tell Birmo about our experiment with his hovercraft-submarine.

On a more serious note maybe if this time around the fucknuckles in defence and there equaly mentally challenged political bosses allow a prototype to be built.

This would allow for new inervations to be tested out

If memory serves they built all 6 Collins at once trying to save money. All that happened was that the same defects aflicted the entire class.

Birmo the cost and risk often appears to be caused by pollies changing requirements mid project.

The Joint Strike Fighter is a case in point.

the

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 5, 2010
Scot, the cost of the risk is mainly the amount of risk associated with the specification of the subs capabilities. eg..its a fkn big wish list the Admirals and pollies have, usually some of which is not currently meshed together or even fkn DESIGNED. EG!..this new speced series of subs. BIGGEST fkn NON NUKE boats ever to be built they will be...FFS...R & D on a massive scale and..well. I'll save the rest for another time.

NOW..to matters at hand..HAVSY hey!........ya reckon old man...All together you three muppets or one at a time..however you, Rhino and Murph want it!

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Bangar has opinions thus...

Posted January 5, 2010
My proof reading rates are very reasonable ... Congrats as well ... the important question when will the rest of us see it?

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Timmo reckons...

Posted January 5, 2010
Nice work, JB!

I bet that's a load off the shoulders...

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Scott is gonna tell you...

Posted January 5, 2010
Havock, my point exactly most of the tech either is on the bleeding edge of possibility or has never been meshed together.

Hence the need for a prototype, I was only 17-18 the last time and new f all about such things but even then I new they should have built a testbed before placing the sub in production.

I don't have a problem with the project I just hope they have learnt from the last go around. Like you said its a big mf of a project.

Looking forwards to Birmo's artical.

the

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted January 5, 2010
Timmo....sml load, for obvious reasons

OH and now that BUSINESS is out of the way, I must turn to pleasurable pursuits..QUOKKA...HAVSY will come back to fkn HAUNT YOU...OH HWO IT WILL!

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HAVOCK would have you know...

Posted January 5, 2010
SCOT!........DOWN on WHAT?!!!!!!!!!!!!......

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EnjoyMedway has opinions thus...

Posted January 5, 2010
Good work, Birmo. Soon I'll read something of yours. The

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Scott is gonna tell you...

Posted January 5, 2010
A sub of course Havock! What else would I have been talking about?

the

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Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted January 6, 2010
Birmo, I will reiterate here in a public forum what I sent to you via private "circle of trust' secret email:

Do you really think that it is wise to portray Havsy in the way that you do in AA? I mean, fun's fun and all but he really is unstable and it could be dangerous for you. At least Murph and I are safe(er) being half a world away. Since I am not there to provide personal protection I would counsel you to consider editing those parts - or, at the very least, tone down some of the more explicit aspects of the trans-gender, cross-dressing homoerotica. (Personally, I'm appalled that the Caitlin stuff was edited out but the gratuitous donkey show episode made it through your Aussie editor's review). Also, there are the draconian Aussie libel laws to be considered. I know that you'll stand firm as a pillar of artistic integrity - I just felt that it was my moral and ethical obligation as your loyal beta reader and all around Havsy provoker to raise these issues.

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Tarl has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
Off-topic somewhat...

The 2010 Hugo nominations are now open, and I'm not sure whether Without Warning qualifies for them or not - it was published in the U.S. in 2009, but in Australia in 2008. I don't think you published anything else in 2009 that I can nominate.

Either way, I nominated it. I'll let the Australians on the committee decide if they have to bump it off because of publication dates.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan asserts...

Posted January 6, 2010
I know the kind of writing I do isn't quite as - for lack of a better term - romantic, but I have awful deadlines for drafting and filing all kinds of stuff. Right now. I just completed and sent out for filing and service three petitions for writs of mandate and a government tort claim. In the next ten days I have six more writs, a couple of complaints for damage and two appellant's opening briefs to get filed.

I gotta get me one of them dictating harnesses.

And then a couple of cases of beer.

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jennicki reckons...

Posted January 6, 2010
Paul, don't you have a paralegal to do that stuff for you?

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jennicki would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
...because if you are one of those attorneys who does all that work himself, I am more impressed with you and I just didn't think that was possible.

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Rhino swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
Rhino politically incorrect joke FTW on Blunty today.

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Rhino swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
But since it is 4:44 am in Oz I'm sure that I won't see it for several hours ... or at all if the spam trap gets it.

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lostatlunch reckons...

Posted January 6, 2010
Bravo That Man... another Everest has been scaled and now K2 should be much easier.

The

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mutters...

Posted January 6, 2010
Jen - First, you are far too easily impressed (for which I am grateful). Second, paralegals can do some basic things (no offense to you excellent paralegals out there). What I am writing isn't within a paralegal's perview.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
Rhino - Re: politically incorrect Blunty comment: I actually laughed out loud, buddy. It has been a really hard, dark day, and I am in your debt for lightening it for a moment.

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
The bikini left nothing to the imagination.

Congrats on "gittin' 'er done," Birmo.

Now, what about this next American tour/escape from the clutches of Havsies revenge? Any ponderings on that?

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
Havock settle down and go try on some shoes, would you?

You can't wear a bikini down Caville Avenue without them.

Its mandatory dress code this side of the border. We don't want to shock the seppos.

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Dark car, dudes with ski masks... mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
The...?. THE.............?. FINISH THE FARKEN STOOOOOOR-RY!.

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Therbs would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
Congrats JB on manuscript mailing and articles both definite and indefinite. Rhino, that was a gem at Blunty.

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robW mutters...

Posted January 6, 2010
hibiscus-print, two-piece bikini?

hibiscus, print-two, piece bikini?

or hibiscus-print bikini? (assuming all bikinis, though one piece or the other is always optional, usually come in two pieces)

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
Hibiscus..the mere fact the author knows what they ARE!...concerns me FKN GREATLY...

robW...I sure do hope you are running state of the art encryption and stealthing software buddy!...

QUOKKA..I just bought BOOTS!..Big, god dam Lace up, steel toed CATIPILLAR, dont fk with me BOOTS. The tread pattern I figure should ensure grip on juglar areas..even when they might be rather slick and slippery.....

As much as I really really do hahte to be even in minor proximity to the same sorta camp and that horned bloody git, I find no cause to WORK OUT. Genetic selection has ensure that those above , thats above god, which means I am the consultant he comes too, Kinda like a really really cool and spanky looking TITAN I reckon, which means. I don’t do that girly stuff..pump weights, work out in the dark..these attributes and work practices are for the meek. They shall not inherit the earth.

I SHALL!

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
Robw are you trying to say 'Too Much Information'?

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NBlob mutters...

Posted January 6, 2010
Wern't CAT boots, like an NFL tie? advertising for "Fun times nothing serious" in the tastefully dressed section of Oxford St. ?

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
Nbob.. Subtlety stylish, yet steel framed within, their full capabilities hidden within a rather classy exterior.

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
the

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted January 6, 2010
better convene the OH&S comittee.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/01/06/2786306.htm?section=justin

bwah hah

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Chaz would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
All I want to know is when is it due to be published?

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girlclumsy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
Congrats, JB! Must be a relief, albeit a brief one.

Sorry to be a screeching harpie... but do you think you'll be able to come along to Felafel?

A few of the Burgers are keen for me to pick a night to be "Burger Night" - my thoughts are either this Saturday 9th January, or closing night on Friday 15th. I also have cast members who want things signed. ;)

Also, the Brisbane burgers should check out page 60 of today's Courier-Mail!

Once again, sorry to be a shameless pimp ho!

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Mayhem mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
Pimp away GC, I shall add my screech to yours, maybe if we make enough noise he'll pick a night just to shut us up.

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HAVOCK ducks in to say...

Posted January 6, 2010
mmmmm, I detect Faff....jesus that shit is hard to kill.

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Mayhem reckons...

Posted January 6, 2010
mmmmmm, I detect hypocrisy! Havock dear, how is it not faff when you are threatening Quokka, (and btw you do remember it was Abigail who dubbed you Havsy don't you)? but when we are trying to arrange a night out it suddenly becomes faff? Incidentally, I don't remember reading anything about the Melbourne Burger pre-Christmas catch-up. Did it happen? Or was it a little difficult to arrange?

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
Women and memories are like elephants.. thats remembering the LITTLE stuff I reckon. Now that you mention it..yeah Abi...oh well, Abigail, Quokka and Mayhem...I will lump all you oh so lovely ladies into the same pot. I only do that co's I figure I would get some cash sent to me by OTHER blokes is all.

I did manage to catch up with mr B and G Bob..however, given we WORK..away from an APRON it can at times be a mite harder. Thats not, altering the venue and so forth several dozen times, its selecting THE BEST time and going for it.

AND....AND..MEN NEVER..EVER..TALK FAFF!.. EVER!, I see why QLD has so many issues getting stuff done. I fear that the female population has been let off the leash somewhat. I might just have to arrange to straighten that out up their at some point I think

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Mayhem has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
"given we WORK..away from an APRON "

"Would you care to elaborate on that statement Havsy my love?" she enquired sweetly, her dulcet tone completely at odds with the dangerous glint in her eyes.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted January 6, 2010
Did anyone know that Havock can knit?

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Mayhem ducks in to say...

Posted January 6, 2010
Really Quokka?

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Quokka mutters...

Posted January 6, 2010
Yep.

My eyesight is getting worse too.

When I refreshed this page I saw JB's last line 'And so I strap myself into the dictating harness' and I could have sworn it said 'Dieting Harness'.

It was an odd moment, wondering what such a contraption would look like and if it was made by Apple.

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Mayhem mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
What sort of things does he knit? And Catty and I have decided that perfect eyesight is overrated. The blurring in your sight allows you to overlook (or just plain not see) the little inconveniences of life, e.g. age spots, wrinkles, the truth etc., you get the idea.

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted January 6, 2010
FKN GENIUS would be interspersing AA with loads of FKN FAFF to bring up the word count. Sorta like Neal Stephenson's diversions into the correct temperature of milk for Cap'n Crunch except that in the middle of Havsy and Richard Simmons doing a Matrix Style entrance into the lobby of Wal Mart HQ, you'd plant a 15,000 word dissertation on the correct technique for containing a zombie outbreak on Oxford St during Mardi Gras.

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Catty is gonna tell you...

Posted January 6, 2010
I'll drink to that.

The

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Catty puts forth...

Posted January 6, 2010
Actually, Blarkon, JB doesn't need to write a novel around the faff. He can write a whole book of faff, and it gets made into a movie AND a stage play. You do know that Felafel is Greek for faff, don't you?

The

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
wasn't there a blue room for faffing in?

el

for a touch of continental penache

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Timmo ducks in to say...

Posted January 6, 2010
Scott - I assumed you were asking if JB'd "been down on" a deadline, i.e. missing it, said in some kind of odd fancy-speak.

Failing that, editors came to mind too...

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Catty mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
Where do you think Havsy spends all his spare time? Which you should know, NBob, considering how often you visit. (Don't think we didn't recognise you without your miniskirt on).

Le

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted January 6, 2010
MAYHEM./......NO..I'm not elaborating anymore on THAT issue. For Security reasons of course and National interests

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
catty,

total posts / NBob posts = X

total posts / Girlie faffaliscous posts = X to the power of N (where N = a bazillion)

Respond to this comment

Mayhem mutters...

Posted January 6, 2010
Havock...... Security and National Interests? You're a cricketer aren't you? May I suggest that you raid the clubhouse for "Security" equipment in the event that we ever meet.

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
NBOB..i think its time we went fishing and left the ladies to their tupperware or frilly stuff or gossip or dress making, or cleaning house, or washing , ironing, and entertaining the kids, or cooking my dinner or whatervere other trivial stuf it is they manage to fill their days with.

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Madam Morgana reckons...

Posted January 6, 2010
Havock, just a little word on your choice of footwear. I'm worried that A CAT boot, meaty though the tread may be, will provide insufficient traction in the face of oozing or spurting body fluids. Surely metal spikes would be the go?

The

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Mayhem has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
Havock, it's good to see you like living dangerously! Have I mentioned that there is a strong possibility I will relocate to Melbourne sometime this year? Just saying....

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
Havock, I'd be proud & very pleased to go fishing with you anytime, just don't take it the wrong way if we take separate cars. Not that I don't like the WB, just I know how vindictive some women can be.

You've got a full nomex suit, a kevlar vest & helmet don't you? The MotoX armour would be a minimum.

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
OK..I propose we SINK the fkn JAP whaling FLEET right here and right now!. The stealthy boat ( anti whaling) Andy Gill was cut in half recently by the...Japanese Secuiryt vessel ( one of 2 ) provided to the fleet by the JAP! FKN GUMMIT. Ref SMH on line. and not those exact words either.

now...where did i put my submarine.hmmmmm

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HAVOCK ducks in to say...

Posted January 6, 2010
YA bloody girl NBOB...then again...mmmm, where is me passport

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Mayhem would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
....and bear in mind NBob has actually MET me!

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Catty has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
Not sure about the other cats, but I like FM boots - knee high, stiletto heel, suede for preference. Nice choice, Havsy. Should look good with that hibiscus-print two-piece.

The

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Madam Morgana reckons...

Posted January 6, 2010
The

Oh, yeah, Catty Baby! When I was a young mistress, there used to be a shop in Brissie called Suchi Shoes. Witch boots, slut boots, awesome black slouchy boots with silver skull buckles. I loved my lace up pointy stiletto ankle boots for much, much longer than I've loved any man.

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Chaz would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
When was the last time we tested one of the RGM-84's on our ANZAC frigates? there's a few targets in the southern ocean. Then we could see how the Japanese feel about been attacked whilst being defenceless.

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
yeah, kinda agree chaz, conduct endangering life, and fk..I would classify it as a Terrorist ACT..SINK THE FUCKING MUPPET HEADED GITS!

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Catty would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
Ain't that the truth, Madam Morgana! I wore mine on my wedding day - actually, I had two pairs. Both pairs, now sadly deceased, were partially to blame for my large family. Them, and an amusing incident with a bindi patch that I really shouldn't go into.

Don't wear stilettos in a submarine, Havsy. The PSI exerted by high heels is greater than a sherman tank, and you wouldn't want to puncture the hull.

The

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
so on BLUNTY tomorrow, I guess we are capping either INDIANS at HOME or JAPS in the Southern OCEAN..HEY!!!!!!

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
Catty..I kinda like Tose Boots that Shania twain wears in the Video clip..DAM!..DAM!..AAND JESUS EFFIN WEPT!

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Mayhem mutters...

Posted January 6, 2010
Havock has been infected with the FAFF virus. Hav, there is NO cure known to man.....'tho a couple of women might know of one if you care to keep us sweet. (By which I mean grovel!!!!!)

Also seem to recall a promise from JB to The Fabulous that Felafel would get a mention on BT first week back?

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Bangar would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
A couple of war head de-activated torps would do the trick, right into the props.

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Chaz puts forth...

Posted January 6, 2010
Bangar, a tigerfish or adcap at full speed would punch through most hull plating. 1.6 tons of metal running at over 55 knots (80 in the case of the spearfish) don't need a warhead against a civi ship!!

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Catty mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
Oh, dear. How will Havsy concentrate on capping Indians while visions of Shania in a submarine are dancing through his head?

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Catty mutters...

Posted January 6, 2010
The

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Bangar reckons...

Posted January 6, 2010
It'd be a deniable accident then?

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Madam Morgana would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
I'm there. I think there's a sub for sale in WA. Whip around, people?

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HAVOCK would have you know...

Posted January 6, 2010
Temporary.. Insanity

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Mayhem mutters...

Posted January 6, 2010
In. Your. Dreams.

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Mayhem puts forth...

Posted January 6, 2010
Morgana, I'm in, as long as you'll let me use it every now and then to pop down to Melbourne for the weekend.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6, 2010
Not that I'm one to condone violence at sea, but if anyone should want to sink the Japanese whaling fleet somewhere, I believe there's still a bit of space available 2km below the surface @17km south of Moreton Island.

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Catty has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
My despondent and defeatist opinion of Japanese whaling has been voiced time and again. I was right. My lone voice has been drowned out by the beeping of Playstations....

Hey, I've just had an idea. Let's buy that sub, Madam Morgana. Take it to Melbourne (fancy a lift, Mayhem?) and get Havsy to pack it full of all the explodey goodness at his disposal. (And maybe that bikini - the yellow ages you dreadfully, dear, your Autumn skin is crying out for the caress of a rich burgundy, or a silky chocolate. I'll send you a Seafolly catalogue). Then we paint the sub to look like a whale and dump it in the Japanese research area. Run (swim?) like buggery, fingers in ears, and KA-FKN-BOOM!

What do you mean, illegal?

The

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Brian has opinions thus...

Posted January 6, 2010
Havock . . . .I thought they'd let you out of the Gulag come New Years. Yet . . . .Still with the Havsy? Jeez Louise.

Did anyone else watch the cricket today? I only had it in the radio - but terrific stuff I thought.

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Mayhem mumbles...

Posted January 6, 2010
Actually Brian, today may be the first time I have called the good sir "Havsy". However you would surely agree he brought it on himself. Wouldn't you? Sure about that now? Final answer, want to phone a friend?

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Madam Morgana swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 7, 2010
Genius, Catty, my perspicacious feline friend.

The

I'll just check which whales are the most endangered - also the tastiest, erhm... I mean, most in need of scientific research - so we can get the camo paint job sorted.

Mayhem, of course you can take the sub on joyrides - you and Fireman Sam could join the Half Mile Under Club. If we get an old Collins class, the oxygen deprivation resulting from the lousy air reclamation system should enhance your enjoyment.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan reckons...

Posted January 7, 2010
I've said it once and I will say it again: the real issue underlying the whole whaling debate is the one thing no one wants to face - that whales taste wonderful, especially sauteed in a light cream sauce with tarragon. I am told Whale meat also grills very nicely and makes for an excellent, high protein/low fat curry.

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Scott has opinions thus...

Posted January 7, 2010
PNB, sounds lovely, I'm going to try it!

Anyway what are all the complaints about? Didn't the Japanese say that whales are the roaches of the sea?

3

2

1

Haha I love throwing bombs!

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Chaz mumbles...

Posted January 7, 2010
PNB not going to fall for that one. Whalemeant is extremely fatty!!

However i am very in favor of declaring the area in question a live fire exercise zone

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted January 7, 2010
WEll, PNB whales are different because they have big Disney (tm) Eyes and they breathe air. Apparantly. It seems entirely acceptable to kill pretty much all other marine species (edible or otherwise)in a variety of exciting ways. To suggest green groups capable of hypocricy, well that's just unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, I'd like whaling to stop as much as the next man or muppet and I'll happily engage in a debate about the values of biodiversity. I still think there are way more pressing issues that are let go through to the keeper.

Captain Watson is a clown who measures his success by the collum inches he generates. I respect the direct action aspect but there are better ways than placing the lives of his crews at such a risk. Try the biography of Greenpeace for some interesting insights into the man. Like the Jehova's Witnesses the absolute conviction that all must bend to his version of the truth makes me gag.

Disjointed & incoherant, but that's what you get from me at this time of the day.

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Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted January 7, 2010
Nbob actually whales are different because they are higher mammals not pisces.

Cetaceans are not much different in brain capabilites than primates now hands up anyone who thinks that it's acceptable to shoot gorillas to study them? Anyone?

I agree that many green groups are hypocritical and that they do lie to further their own aims. But what the japs are doing is illegal and in OUR waters.

Watsons direct action is happening because the mainstream antiwhaling groups are not making any progress. I've seen the footage as well and yes from sea level (and with the widest perspective) the Whaler purposely rammed the tri.

This has happened in our terratorial waters and yet the guvmnt is not willing to do a damn thing except wring it's hands. I recken we'll see an increase in direct action and it won't be pretty, unless the guvmnt starts to take a stronger line.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mutters...

Posted January 7, 2010
Chaz - Not if the whale is scared before it dies. You would be surprised how much oil a whale gives off when its really scared. And, for the record, I think it is acceptable to shoot gorillas to study them. Research is important.

Bob - I have to admit that whale tastes about as good as Giant Panda, which tastes great if prepared using Julia Child's boeuf bourgingnon recipe substituting the "bouf" for Grande Panda.

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Chaz asserts...

Posted January 7, 2010
Paul, isn't there a greek dish with dolphin meat and feta cheese?

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Bangar puts forth...

Posted January 7, 2010
There's certainly a Japanese one.

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Madam Morgana puts forth...

Posted January 7, 2010
No feta cheese in a Japanese dish - high prevalence of adult lactose intolerance in Asian countries.

Actually, whale meat isn't very popular with the younger generations of Japanese people - a lot of the last catch ended up ground into discount burger patties and force fed to school kids cos it didn't sell well. The economic pressure most likely comes from those old school gentlemen who have untold trillions of yen invested in the fleet, markets, whale slaughter infrastructure, commodities trading, etc.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 7, 2010
And that's a bad thing, Morgana?

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Quokka puts forth...

Posted January 7, 2010
JB it's 6.36pm and the Death Star refused to post this.

It insisted three times that the security code didn't match.

It damned well did.

I'd checked the word count and seemed to be calculating to stay under DeathStar Meltdown Trigger levels and that seemed OK but perhaps back at base another Bean Counter disagreed.

I was going to do a second part, but when things like this happen, it puts me off.

Sigh.

I thought they promised to fix it all before XMas?

******

It is terrible that this poor boy is dead.

But I wonder how the government proposes to make it safe for ANYONE in this country to take a short-cut through parkland without being accosted by knife-wielding lunatics?

We live within walking distance of the Brisbane CBD and in the 22 years I've lived here I have never deemed it safe to walk the streets around my home at night. Ditto for the parks.

My spouse used to scoff at my concerns about walking home through the Botanical Gardens at QUT at night until one day his usual path led past crime scene type, blood stains and the scattered contents of a backpack.

Other places I won't go after dark include the local nightowl, where several businesses close up shop early because the drug dealers come out at night and the street is full of crazed junkies.

I had to duck out to a late night chemist on the southside just before Xmas and I was accosted by a Creepy Man in the carpark.

Part of my martial arts training as a teenager was 'Be aware of the people around you and don't put yourself in potentially dangerous situations and environments.'

So I noticed the Creepy Man watching me while I was in the chemist. When he then followed me to my car and rapped on the window, I made damned sure that every door was locked and no way was I going to roll down the window to give him the $2 he wanted to get back to Inala.

Really? He wanted $2? Then why didn't he ask me for cash until I was alone, unless he wanted to punch me in the face, knock me unconscious, nick the car and then dump my body in bushland as an afterthought?

******

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 7, 2010
My point being that some places just aren't safe for any vulnerable group in society.

As a female, I grew up with that knowledge - I'm an easy target, and as such, my personal safety is my responsibility.

Anyone who wants to tell me that I'm paranoid can go read the article about the woman who was dragged out of a park in Stafford in broad daylight yesterday, and then raped.

I'm really sorry for what the Indian students are experiencing - and I don't doubt that they are being harassed - but for Dog's sake, please have a care to your safety.

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 7, 2010
I'm not going to argue that whales should be killed for meat.

I would sugest that there are many _much_ more important issues that should be tackled but as there are no exciting pictures Watson and his crew of well intentioned but misdirected self styled eco warriors ignore them.

Eutrophication of inshore reef systems.

Acidification.

The overfishing of sharks, tuna, billfishes & other apex predators.

The overfishing of foundation species like anchovy.

The method of otter trawling that clear fells the sea floor. Once described as like clear felling a forest to catch possums.

I could go on.

Anyone of these issues I consider 10 times more important than the harvest of whales.

As for cetacion's having special rights because of their pineped anatomy or large brains I say crap. Utter crap.

A cow is the equal of any dolphin or whale. A civilised person wouldn't kill a steer with an RPG (well not for meat anyway) so we shouldn't do it to a whale.

I aint a Japanophile, but the public claims of the Sea Shepard don't match their actions.

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Bangar reckons...

Posted January 7, 2010
Aunty Q, you make a good point. As an average height (rapidly being eclipsed) male of increasing density, I've always paid attention to the situation and area. However I'd still like a dark alley to leave these poor pieces of an excuse of existence in.

Yes being aware and smart is good, eradicating the predators is better.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted January 7, 2010
I worry every time The Bloke walks home from the Gabba, too, given some of the riff raff in our street.

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Chaz mumbles...

Posted January 7, 2010
NBob. I don't disagree with any of your other concerns but what Japan is doing via it's whaling practices is a microcosm of all that is wrong with how we treat the seas.

But will disagree with you about a whale being no different than a cow. Sorry mate but cows are domesticated food animals. Whales are not. Did three years of marine sciences and we need them more than cows.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mutters...

Posted January 8, 2010
Shepherds eat their flock...

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2010
Ok, Chaz, I'll cede that point. There is a fundamental difference between a domesticated & bred in captivity steer and a wild harvest species like a whale.

I guess my point is; If the whale harvest was sustainable & done in a humane manner I would have 0.0 problem with it.

My gripe with Watson et al is their selection of easy targets. It's heaps easier to vilify a Japanese industrial fishery than Old Man Cane Farmer who allows half the supaphosphate he applies to his field to run off into the creek.

The Iconic Species thing sh!ts me.

What's causing a major burr in my boxers at the moment is the forestry processes that clear fell a coup then make no sediment controll efforts. That lost topsoil doesn't just degrade & devalue the resource it directly & massively harms the surrounding waterways through tubidity, sediment & nutrient load. I spend a fair bit of time on the water and talk to a lot of old timers. I understand the gulf between proper scientific survey and opinion, but the changes they describe would (should) alarm the most disinterested punter.

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Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2010
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RHINOS!!!

Talk about your loss of an important species.

Rat bastards.

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Rhino would have you know...

Posted January 8, 2010
It looks as if the whale's cousins are gettin' some payback...

http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/trainer-injured-by-falling-dolphin/story-e6frfku0-1225817107585

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 8, 2010
Only the whitey Rhino's. Down to a dozen individuals I believe.

Rhino's of colour are in plague proportions.

Apparantly ground up in tea they are good for one's yang.

That's probably explain Havoc's massive war yang. Fighting the good fight one Rhino at a time.

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Havock is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2010
Fkn gonna have a rhino carcass on me wall at some pointy

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Chaz mutters...

Posted January 8, 2010
Paul allegedly thats not all they do with them! Especially the welsh ones.

Nbob, no argument with the clearance issue there should be a massive push to re-forest. there's alot of land up for sale at the moment that was cleared and should really be reforested. Maybe the crown could start buying it back.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan would have you know...

Posted January 8, 2010
What is this with all the abuse of the Welsh going on? As far as I know the only thing that you can say bad about the Welsh - other than lack of personal hygiene - is that they complain a lot. So what is it with all the Welsh jokes? Dwi iawn 'n siomedig ag pawb chennych - and I mean that.

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Mayhem reckons...

Posted January 8, 2010
Rwyf innau hefyd yn siomedig Paul. Cymru y rhan fy etifeddiaeth mongrel yn siomedig bitterly.

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Scott would have you know...

Posted January 8, 2010
Hay, Mayhem if you are going to insult Paul could you do it in english so we can all enjoy it?

Unless you are engaging him in a pissing contest in which case go right on ahead!

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Mayhem has opinions thus...

Posted January 8, 2010
Pissing contest Scott!

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Scott would have you know...

Posted January 8, 2010
Well Mayhem, unless Paul pulls the finger out you have it won!

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Bangar ducks in to say...

Posted January 8, 2010
Just finished watching The Cove, the Japanese have a recipe alright (with a side order of mercury), the ancient Greeks a death penalty.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted January 8, 2010
I have some Welsh in me from a great grandfather.

Which obviously makes me the only gay in the village.

I can't speak the lingo but I can whip up some fairy dust.

Although Zombie Dust is easier to access; just run a finger along my window sills.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted January 8, 2010
Mayhem can you and Madam get JB to put links to your sites off at roll call here, or are you both shy/afraid of trawling trolls? I keep having to flick around to find something you've both said to click on. Its bad for my carpal tunnel. And my temper.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2010
Its official, BTW. I've enrolled to study this semester so no way am I setting up my own blog site. Its fucking pharmacology too, so 1. it may kill me when my brain explodes from the shock of actually using it, and 2. I will have less time to Faff.

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Bangar swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 8, 2010
Aunty Q, 1) wear a helmet, 2) there's always time for Faff.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted January 8, 2010
Aunty I recomend extensive home study.

Cosmetic nueropharmacology is one of my hobbies and I find the hours whizz by in a most entertaining manner.

What's that Mr Purple Giant Squid? No they are all nice people (except Lobes) I can't burn them all down. No Mr Purple Giant Squid they are not all sinners. Well I have my doubts about Prof Boylan, but most of them are nice people who give regularly to charities and ring their mums every sunday. Don't you ? (c'mon guys back me up here this guy is nuts.)

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted January 8, 2010
Nbob keep up with the Ladies Lounge.

Catty's parents have no idea where she is (the unlisted number and the restraining order helps) and mine are six feet under.

We phone our mothers on Saturdays?

You think we're that mad?

BTW Nbob what's the name of that itchy stuff in Moreton Bay that proliferates due to the high nutrient content provided by the cane farmers and their runoff?

The Bloke went for a kite surfing lesson out there today and wound up hitting the water face first at least a dozen times. He came up red and very itchy. I said it was bound to be that sea grass thing that really shouldn't be there and is really, really bad for the fish.

Chaz? Anyone?

It'll drive me nuts till I remember the name of it.

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Mayhem ducks in to say...

Posted January 8, 2010
Nbob, I regularly give to charities, and I call my Mother every day.

Mr Purple Giant Squid probably isn't interested in my good points.

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savo ducks in to say...

Posted January 8, 2010
Congrat's JB. What's the pubication timeline?

The

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2010
Aunty Q caulerpa?

I had a half a dozen widsurfing lessons for a birthday present a few years back. The. Single. Worst. Thing. One can do after a session with the kite is to hang washing on the line as lifting ones arms above the horizontal is worse than a kick in the balls.

Apologies to miss Catty, didn't intend to disturb old phantoms.

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NBlob reckons...

Posted January 8, 2010
Or Salvinia

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted January 9, 2010
Mayhem - Okay, be that way. See if I care.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted January 9, 2010
Okay, I do care. I simply hate it when someone thinks that just because I speak a little Welsh I am Welsh. You think you're disappointed? Imagine mine.

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Madam Morgana puts forth...

Posted January 9, 2010
Quokka - I'd be happy for JB to link to my site but maybe he's scared that all the faff is contagious. You could bookmark me, perhaps? It would be an honour. On the subject of Pharmacology - woah, sister. Heavy stuff. I graduated many moons ago from U of Qld and pharmacology was one of THE WORST subjects. All those freaking micrograms and crap. Of course, perhaps you're not innumerate like me. Best of luck!

Nbob and Nice Mr Purple Giant Squid - My mum comes to stay with us, 2 days a week, and phones everyday. And even though I have caller ID, I answer! Please spare me from your psychedelic rampage. BTW, is cosmetic neuropharmacology when you take drugs so you have hallucinations that you are more attractive than, objectively you actually are?

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted January 9, 2010
Ladies - I could bookmark you but its easier if JB does these things for me.

If he doesn't I'll stick another pin in the voodoo doll's left eye and see what happens...

Nbob I think it started with c or l. Heard a marine biologist grumbling about it on 612 radio. He didn't mention your purple squid.

MM I am quite innumerate. Part of the synesthesia, I've been told.

Thankfully its at Brisbane's school of Witchcraft and Wizardry and it's all about herb drug interactions. Mostly heart medications and antidepressants. So I'll have to wrap my head around that. I did OK in the pre-req pharmacology subject but will have to pull out my notes and try to remember the workings of various seratonin reuptake inhibitors or whatever. And statins. Gah.

Nbob The Bloke will be just fine.

He swims laps with me and does yoga for an hour every morning.

Which means that the only time he gets migraines is on the drive home from the coast after visiting his mother.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted January 9, 2010
Madam M.

Cosmetic Nueropharmacology is a concept I stole from a recent ABC Radio National broadcast.

The Cosmetic bit relates to the optional nature - JB's Migraine meds would fall outside this as there is a pre-exsisting condition the therapy seeks to control.

CP is more about optional augmentation, for mood, attention, etc. The classic example is the USAF who have been "Doping" pilots for forty years. Flying for 17 hours would be tedious in the extreme and any lapse in concentration would be ah problematic. So they give them honking great doses of ADHD medication. Ditto uni students swatting for exams. Or me for mood elevation.

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Mayhem puts forth...

Posted January 9, 2010
Paul, I never meant to imply that I thought you were Welsh. I got curious about what you wrote and google translated it. I then wrote my reply in English and for shits and giggles decided to run that through the translator too. I like that if I want to, I can now be a bitch multilingually.

Quokka, I would be honoured to have JB add me to the blogroll, however, as a relative newcomer to these parts, I have hesitated to ask, just in case there was some sort of ritual hazing to be undertaken before I could be admitted as a full blown burger dontya know. I suspect that's my military upbringing feeding my innate paranoia.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted January 9, 2010
Mayhem, you've met Lobes.

And you're still here.

That makes you a survivor worthy of rollcall.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 9, 2010
Mayhem - Oh. Well, okay, then.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted January 9, 2010
Hey, wait a minute: Google translates Welsh? Really?

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Quokka puts forth...

Posted January 9, 2010
I wonder if it translates into Vulcan, too.

That could come in handy.

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Madam Morgana is gonna tell you...

Posted January 9, 2010
Thanks for the info, Nbob. And I'm so far free of giant purple squid attack so I guess I'm in the clear there, too. Phew!

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted January 9, 2010
Mayhem's blog kicked me off.

MM, want to give it a test run and see if its just my IMAC misbehaving?

Otherwise, Mayhem, I fear you have CyberSpace Goblins.

If only you could fix them with mortein.

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Timmo puts forth...

Posted January 9, 2010
PNB, I believe Google also translates to Swedish Chef, Klingon and Elmer Fudd, so don't assume that makes Welsh a real language!

Well, it did once at least - a quick check says it doesn't anymore...

Quokka,

Do you and The Bloke do laps at Yeronga pool? (I believe you mentioned that somewhere in the past?)

I've been going most Saturday mornings, just as a way to kick off the weekend positively and energetically.

I'm almost getting to like it, even!

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Mayhem asserts...

Posted January 9, 2010
PNB Really, at least I hope it does. If not, I have no idea what I said to you, and if it was revolting my apologies. If it was just bitchy, then it was probably correct.

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Mayhem has opinions thus...

Posted January 9, 2010
Hey Quokka,

Have checked that my blog is behaving otself. Seems to be okay my end, tho' you could be right about the goblins. I've had some mega problems with my emails the last 24 hours. Anyway, I did a bit of housework at my place, and there are mrtinis galore. Check it out if you can, and let me know here or in the lounge if you have any further problems.

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Mayhem swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 9, 2010
Strike that, reverse it! Since I changed my blog, it appears there is a problem adding comments. I won't let me do it either. I've had a migraine all day, and not really feeling up to stuffing around at the moment. I will have a look at it later tonight or tomorrow. Comments (everyone) are turned on, so not sure what's happening.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 9, 2010
That's my pool Timmo. Not so much in the school hols due to infestation...er...extra small people about. Have you had one of Goran's breakfasts yet? they're good.

Have been at Somerville when death by Water Polo Maniac isn't on the cards. They're vicious down there.

Mayhem I've got a house guest so drink up and ignore your probs, shall be busy for a bit here.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted January 9, 2010
House guest told me off for sticking pins in the JB voodoo doll.

So I took the pins out and left it in the pool for the night to snort chlorine and decaying marsh frogs that have made misguided life choices.

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Mr Purple Giant Squid has opinions thus...

Posted January 9, 2010
Nowhere Bob. Your reluctance to enact my vision for these people displeases me. So does your reluctance to change your undergarments instead of merely turning them inside out every third day.

As such, I am leaving you.

Knowing your need for guidance and advice, I have arranged for my friend, Mr Enormo Lurking Spider, to take up residence with you. At least, until you stop taking the blue pills with the yellow ones. He should be there already. Check under the couch, Bob....

I hope we can still be friends, though. Keep in touch - I'll be right here at Mr Birmingham's - and intend to stay until I have finished viewing his extensive collection of tentacle porn.

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Mayhem has opinions thus...

Posted January 9, 2010
Quokka, comments problem now sorted. Apparently the new layout means I had to change the way comments appear, so now they come up on a separate page instead of at the bootom of the post. I posted an anonymous test comment successfully, so you're good to go.

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Madam Morgana puts forth...

Posted January 11, 2010
Disturbed by the appearance of enormo lurking spider... How do we keep in his good books, Nbob?

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 11, 2010
Strangely Mr Enourmo Lurking Spider has a policy platform all but identical to MR PGS. Lots of burning and flagilation of sinners.

As they are both denizens of my fevered & addled subconscious I suspect it says more about me than them.

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Madam Morgana would have you know...

Posted January 11, 2010
Nbob, lovey. How about a nice big dose of Vitamin C... freshly squeezed pineapple juice is lovely this time of year... and a good night's sleep. With -

-

are you sitting down?

-

no drugs. Then you can get up, all refreshed, and get messed up again. Just a thought.

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Mr Enormo Lurking Spider would have you know...

Posted January 11, 2010
Boooooooooooob...

Drink the pineapple, Booooooooob....

It tastes soooooooo gooooooood.....

Like Meeeeeeedway diiiiiiiid.....

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Catty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 11, 2010
I think, Mr Giant Purple Squid, you will find the correct term is "tentacle pr0n". Accuracy is important, especially when using Google Search.

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NBlob reckons...

Posted January 11, 2010
OK, slight freak-out commencing in 3.2.1.

now

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Quokka asserts...

Posted January 11, 2010
Fark I hate housework.

Bloke back at work. No excuse to ignore it, now.

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Mayhem would have you know...

Posted January 11, 2010
There's ALWAYS an excuse to avoid housework. Try harder.

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Madam Morgana ducks in to say...

Posted January 11, 2010
Here's a good one. The ultra extreme fire danger in SA and Vic means that the national electricity grid should be conserved in case of catastrophic emergency. So no vacuum or steam mop for you, Quokka!

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted January 11, 2010
Swooooosh....That scampering sound is the boys all rushing to switch off their x-boxes.

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted January 11, 2010
I'm late for this opne - again.

"Submarinelycious" ?

Le new year gold.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mutters...

Posted January 11, 2010
Ah, another fine faff-fest in which I am secretly ashamed to have participated. But what is wrong with a little shame? Nothing! It builds character! No kidding. Seriously, there is this study that followed the lives of people who were hit in the face by a fruit pies in the 1960's (apparently that sort of thing happened a lot back then). The study group was disproportionately successful in business and unusually long-lived. The conclusion was that public humiliation not only spurs the humiliated to "get even with life" and so work hard to succeed, it also stimulates the immune system. I personally believe the study was flawed.

But in the event the study wasn't flawed, I wear the shame I feel from faffing here with pride! It is proof of my existence. Yes! I faff, therefore I am!

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mumbles...

Posted January 11, 2010
Okay, even I don't believe it. Damn. There is no upside to this faffing, is there?

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Mayhem reckons...

Posted January 11, 2010
The upside is the smile it leaves on your face.... either genuine delight and the enjoyment of some offbeat humour, or the self-congratulatory smirk of those who believe themselves above such activities. I know which one I'd rather be wearing.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted January 11, 2010
Meh.

I thought no boys were allowed in here unless they had chips or PMS.

Am I in the wrong room again? Its full of cigar smoke, lifeless bodies and empty bourbon bottles.

Looks like our joint to me.

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Mayhem reckons...

Posted January 11, 2010
Yeah they all blur together after about the 150 comments mark don't they? But have to agree, difficult to work out which is which with the boys taking over every room. Bet you'd hear them roar if we faffed up their alt-hist thread though.

God, must be the PMS talking, I actually don't mind the boys dropping in every so often, gives us something to laugh at, as well as more ammunition.

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Mr Enormo Lurking Spider asserts...

Posted January 11, 2010
Yesssssss Mayyyyhemmmmm....

Annnnnd moooooorrre vicK-timmmmms tooooooooo......

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 11, 2010
My computer glasses suck. I keep reading that as 'Mr Emo Lurking Spider'.

And I'm picturing this nerdy looking Harry Potter style spider monster, but with a mohawk, harry's glasses, and an ipod that plays nothing but Morrissey.

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Scott reckons...

Posted January 12, 2010
Tentacle pr0n, you too Catty?

Sometimes

the mind boggles and you just have to do a net search!

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Madam Morgana would have you know...

Posted January 12, 2010
Emo lurking spider... hehehe.

He wears mismatched Converse sneakers, too. Purple on one foot, green on the next, spotty then stripy. And goes through more eyeliner than Barry Humphries

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And in other news… « The World According to Me… mumbles...

Posted January 15, 2010
[...] John Birmingham reports that the latest draft of After America has gone off to the publishers… -39.121821 175.394487 [...]

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Respond to 'Huzzah!'

More of a Friday Writing Thought than a Friday Writing Blog.

Posted December 18, 2009 by John Birmingham
Because the hour or so I'd spend on a long blog article would be best spent on my novel rewrite today.

Anyway, Jennicki asked me a while ago about self-censorship, about the internal editor whose blue pencil strikes through just about everything you write. How do you turn down that nagging, negative, rather insensitive voice?

I'm afraid, that like a parent with a whining child, you just have to ignore it at certain times. And the time you completely ignore it is in your first draft.

It's a draft. Nobody else has to see it, not even your real editor.

A first draft is your dirty little secret. It can be as woeful, as horrible, as embarrassing as you care to make it. Nobody ever has to know.

It is only in the later drafts, the ones where you let the editor run free with his diabolical blue pencil, that ever see the light of day.

Some shockers from my own first drafts?

Using the phrase "non-male Americans" instead of "American men".

Or a personal favorite, "the human wave surged towards him like a surging human wave."

Both those bits of garbage writing spewed out of me in the first draft of Weapons of Choice. They got cut on the first read through, of course. But sometimes your textual errors don't stand out as starkly as dog balls. And that's where you can spend hours, sometimes days, and in the worst cases years, worrying over what you've written. Is it good enough, should I change it, should I just give up and walk away?

Save all that shit for the second draft. After you've had a break from the text. You'll be a lot more objective about what needs to go and what can stay.

But right now, I have to go.

57 Responses to ‘More of a Friday Writing Thought than a Friday Writing Blog.’

Abe is gonna tell you...

Posted December 18, 2009
I guess if you are shameless enough to let your editor see stuff like "the human wave...etc" there is no chance I am going to shame you into paying up is there?

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted December 18, 2009
Oh, I have something very special planned for you Abe. But the chances of me blocking out the two or three hours it'll chew out of my day to set it up, before I send off this manuscript, are pretty much zero.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted December 18, 2009
Abe - I believe your arrangement with this "John" Birmingham is an enforceable contract. Feel free to contact me if you wish to explore your options.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted December 18, 2009
Hey, I'm just kidding. You're screwed, buddy. Sorry.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 18, 2009
http://www.theartistsway.com/

Girls and SNAGS I really did find this book full of useful tools for freeing up your your mind and getting an intrusive inner critic to shut the hell up.

The idea of keeping a journal of morning pages to expel The Crap from your head seems to work much like taking the garbage out.

The other suggestion of having a weekly 'artist date' i.e taking yourself out on some sort of adventure to do something you wouldn't normally do - seems to counteract the inclination to sluggishness and it opens you up to new experiences and ideas. She talks about the need to 'restock the creative well'.

Its very good.

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Havock ducks in to say...

Posted December 18, 2009
Abe, Paul, should you care to extend the contract to include some "wet work" or perhaps minimal violence, just give me a call

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Madam Morgana would have you know...

Posted December 18, 2009
Thank you.

(I had written several hundred words of detailed thanks, including an extended lyrical metaphor in elegaic form, comparing JB with Socrates - minus the hemlock and pederasty - but after a read through I cut the lot)

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Orin ducks in to say...

Posted December 18, 2009
JB - do you ever use print outs as a part of your writing/editing process, or do you do it all digitally (I remember you once mentioning getting galleys/pages from a publisher in physical form)? My process is entirely digital (then again it is reasonable to assume the people I write for have the most recent version of Word and know how to use all the markup/revision functionality ;-)

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Moko is gonna tell you...

Posted December 18, 2009
Abe.

I know ... some people ... with talents. VERY ... special ... talents. They are ... persuasive ... let's say.

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Abigail ducks in to say...

Posted December 18, 2009
I'm pretty busy as leaving in a couple of days for 6 weeks holiday- the beach (yay, I know).I can't find to comment on it , and don't know when online up north.

But thanks for this JB ,it was very amusing to read your bloopers (they'll never eclipse mine) you're a real darling , hugs and thanks

To everyone at the burger- I hope Christmas is lovely and happy and you do something you enjoy. Safe travels all. Mwah.

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Rhino has opinions thus...

Posted December 18, 2009
Birmo, I ain't sayin nothin bout nothin but if you need some guys to, you know, pet the kitty cats of some sausage maker then I can have some guys there pronto.

Just sayin circle of trust n'all dat.

R

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Rhino is gonna tell you...

Posted December 18, 2009
Oh, and I got my eye on you Boylan. One a them smart guys.

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted December 18, 2009
Ori, paper is still imopt. I'll expand on that l8r when I have time.

Rhino, you and me, we got some bidness to discuss.

Havsy, have you forgotten what happened to you the last time you tried to get into the Compound. Don't make Miss November put it up on Youtube.

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jennicki ducks in to say...

Posted December 18, 2009
Abe, what Moko is trying to say is thatI can be very persuasive using my feminine wiles.

I mean look how I got Dirk Flinthart on Twitter and all.

Oh.

Wait...

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jennicki ducks in to say...

Posted December 18, 2009
And JB, thank you, it's like you KNEW I needed to read this post today.

Merci mon ami.

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fknsanta puts forth...

Posted December 18, 2009
just holler and we'll put anythunks on the fknsantanet.

like what are wishlists for ehehehe.

fully patched'll cost ya and we're currently short on concrete slip-ons but you'd better stop hummin' that bing crosby dreamin' of white stuff rubbish and point your browser to - From First To Last - X12 Days of XXXMASX.

like now already.

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted December 18, 2009
"A first draft is your dirty little secret."

Just hypomathetically, without reference to any person living or dead, here or nowhere, just how many dirty little secrets can one theoreticaly have without triggering excess baggage penalties?

Like a mother seabird I can vomit copious quanities of ideas onto a screen. My ideas, what if's and daydreams are legion and I think many of them have merit. It's the polishing, refining and fine tuning that I struggle with. I slave away at a sentance or paragraph for an hour polishing a turd till it reaches mirror status, but my lack of confidence (probably fully justified) makes me sure that the turd is and will always be a turd. My Fan Fic pieces are examples of this - I'm am pretty sure that the ideas behind them are worthwhile but my apalling lack of skill inhibit idea transmission rather than make it the silken flow of a experienced jugerauthor.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted December 18, 2009
Hav, I reckon Abe probably hangs out at Queanbeyan Leagues Club for the Friday Meat Raffles, with a wad of tickets clenched in his fist and a glint of hope flickering in his eyes. If he doesn't win he'll be the one in a cold rage, shaking his head, repeatedly muttering "Birmingham. Fkn Birmingham."

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Chaz reckons...

Posted December 18, 2009
Abe, just accept that ten dollars and an author are not easily parted, except when it comes to food.

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Sweet Jane Says is gonna tell you...

Posted December 18, 2009
Flint, if you ever hit Twitter you must add me to your list.

J.

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jennicki asserts...

Posted December 18, 2009
Only after he's done dragging the rest of our shocked corpses off the ground, J.

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Rhino mumbles...

Posted December 18, 2009
Bidness you say? Sweet.

Ohhhhh Havsy ... did you hear that? The Boss has bidness for me ... you know what that means.

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Madam Morgana has opinions thus...

Posted December 18, 2009
Hey Bob, Try being kinder to yourself! Uber juggerauthors don't just check out of the neonatal unit and start churning out master works on their Etch-a-sketches.

Write. As much and as often as you can. Con as many people as you can into reading it - join a writer's group, then you'll have a captive audience. Listen to what your readers say. And keep writing - eventually the crap will turn into mulch, then compost, then... well, sometimes it's still crap but won't you have had fun and made some great friends!

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted December 18, 2009
Therbs,

I got a call from a ACT Number about a CONTRACT, TOW CONTRACTS actually, one up Nth and one on a bit fkn git over in the states who happens to reckon he might be SFAE..well I tell ya..HE AINT!...

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Catty would have you know...

Posted December 18, 2009
Here was I, fantasising about being Abe's kitty cat. Then I read Rhino's comment. *shudder*

I'm outta here. Sorry Abe.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted December 18, 2009
Rhino - I vehemently protest your utilization of an obscure colloquialism when you refer to me as "a smart guy."

Bob - I feel your pain, but I do not sympathize. Why not free yourself of your fan fic angst? Follow my example. Where you take very cold comfort in hoping your literary attempts are based in worthwhile ideas, I achieve real pleasure and a palpable joy not caring at all whether my fan fic is worthwhile.

Come, join me in my dada paradise. Be free!

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Catherine Howat mumbles...

Posted December 18, 2009
John, how is the new "America" book going? more to the point, when? :)

cathy

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted December 18, 2009
Paul, would it make you feel better if I referred to the rhino as a "made guy"?

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted December 18, 2009
I think he's more the Moscow Biznizman.

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jp asserts...

Posted December 18, 2009
"And that’s where you can spend hours, sometimes days, and in the worst cases years, worrying over what you’ve written. Is it good enough, should I change it, should I just give up and walk away?"

Some of the smartest writers I know can't get behind that hurdle. I spent six year at the Age, and a family friend who writes there and everywhere else (and she's pedigree too) was working on a novel for like 12 years. Just came out this year I think -- and many a trip to writer's retreats looking for the answers in between. Saw similar in many of the grad students I've taught too, but I guess I expected it there.

Nothing like a deadline to get arse into gear and pull the story out in all its ugly glory. I was telling Naut the other day about my next nightmare: got 100k words down, but it's ugly, makes no good sense to anyone other than me (and I'm damn sure has some libel and copy-write issues in relation to dozens of news-sites used for research... wont be donating those early drafts to a library). The fine stuff came just a few weeks ago, thank fuck. It's like I went into the woods, cut down my tree, and finally saw to it to put on some tinsel and make it pretty. I think the key to writing a novel is that you need have 100% belief that you can pull it off, and do do a damn good job of it (however misguided that notion may be to others). Then you re-write it, edit it, read it a million times, edit it again, it comes out, you work on the next one, and you never want to see or hear about that piece of shite again. Then some time passes, royalties and nice emails come in, and you think back to that sweet little book and think, ah, shucks, that was a good one... but that kind of reminiscing is fool's talk, poisonous procrastination, deadline dreams, beer under the bridge.

Oh, and one other point, which JB may want to add his thoughts on: I find the shorter the piece of fiction writing, the longer it takes to edit (the same abound of words), eg a 3000 word short story takes far more time to get right than a 3000 word chapter of a novel.

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jp asserts...

Posted December 18, 2009
"Copyright" issues even. How I miss having subs to make my words better...

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Therbs mutters...

Posted December 18, 2009
JP - I'm getting some back catalogue stuff for summer reads. Sweet. Blowing up shit 'n stuff. Sort of like what Hav wants to do in Queanbeyan.

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jennicki puts forth...

Posted December 18, 2009
Whoa, that was fantastic to read. Thanks JP!

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Chaz would have you know...

Posted December 18, 2009
JP if the text is ugly, are you describing Naut just asking is all....

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Rhino swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 19, 2009
Havsy old boy ... you should see the email that I just received.

Wow.

Just wow.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mumbles...

Posted December 19, 2009
Damian - Yes, that would make me feel better.

Bob - I take that characterization as a compliment. I like Russian "Biznizmen" (although the class extends far beyond Russia). I like the way they think, in the same manner I appreciate the purity of any feline, and their appreciation for former field operators is sincere. But they never, ever pick up the check after a meal. I admit that annoys me.

JP - Your use of the term "sub" confirms what I've long suspected about the blogs Birmingham hosts - i.e., that these places are really a front for a clandestine segment of the so-called bdsm-d/s "community." It explains many things.

Although I am a bit surprised that you "Doms" use subs to edit text. From what little I know of the habits and customs of the subculture, that seems like a waste of time and effort.

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Madam Morgana mutters...

Posted December 19, 2009
Thanks, jp! You've inspired me to persist with the rewrite.

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fknvty has opinions thus...

Posted December 19, 2009
appreciate the sentiment birmin'am which is particularly pertinent given todays plethora of poppycock print media.

i do remember, once upon a sydney morning herald there was ne'er a grammatic or syntax fault to witness.

and gone are the days of the august proof reader or obelistic editor, 'tis the blind misleading the blind so to speak.

it appears the intrinsic value of a word or claus has lost it's predicate in this digital abyss.

like a steeping redang smarting from the days slow simmer

to execute or not to execute, that is the question.

pz.v.

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Abe reckons...

Posted December 19, 2009
ANything too nasty and I'll post my freshly minted gallstone to you in all its glory.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan reckons...

Posted December 19, 2009
I would love to see them, Abe. Seriously. I am fascinated by gall and kidney stones.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted December 19, 2009
Okay, I'm kidding again. Seriously. I am not fascinated with those things. I just couldn't resist saying I was.

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Patricia would have you know...

Posted December 19, 2009
*emerges bleary eyed from the cave of grant submission writing*

I missed the Blunty drinks??? Oh woe is me!

*stumbles back inside the cave*

*small whisper from the cave*

*sniffle* *sob*

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted December 19, 2009
On re-reading I caught a small glimpse of the labour involved in turning out a coupla hundred page novel. Not so much heavy lifting, but hours, weeks even months of bum on chair faff free application on a single project which span gulfs of imagination.

I can find satisfaction & frustration in writing a scene or two, like building a coffee table or some book shelves. A novel must be akin to building a freakin bridge.

Any fault in construction, while possibly not Tasman Bridge Disaster catastrophic does weaken the whole product.

Kudos for the large & hairies it must require to comit, persevere & deliver.

I unilaterally declare an momentary moratorium on hassling you on when we get AA.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted December 19, 2009
Times up. Get back to it, under whatever cricket must surely take a back seat to my immediate gratification.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mumbles...

Posted December 19, 2009
Two minutes. Not bad.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted December 19, 2009
Abe. Minty gall stones? Sounds tempting.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted December 19, 2009
PNB, Fair & reasonable, that's how I roll sir, fair & reasonable.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted December 19, 2009
Oh and FWIW, my Tasman Bridge Disaster analogy totally sucks donkey balls.

There was nothing wrong with how the bridge was constructed. All fault lay in operator error.

Barge skipper's sub-optimal professional performance killed people and as a result he lost his ticket for 6 whole months. Geeze I bet that'll learn him good.

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donna ducks in to say...

Posted December 19, 2009
Thanks JB you are inspiring me to greater heights, well, greater than nothing heights, er ok smallish heights...ah forget it...

I'm probably not a writer anyway, but I'm a good reader mmm love reading mmmm, just finished your Without Warning, absolutely loved it and hanging out for what happens next!!

Am now onto Under the Dome - Stephen King just to compare, couldn't resist it. Very quickly realising there is no comparison, you win hands down!!! Just stop faffing around on the internet and get the next book done!!

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Rhino swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 19, 2009
Oh my Havsy ... you are NEVER going to believe what happens.

Good Gods man, I may have to ramp up production on the Rhino Action Figure franchise sooner than I thought.

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Abe ducks in to say...

Posted December 19, 2009
Hmmm u gave me a clue for a new sausage recipe... might have to send some up there.

But I hope that the 3 hours u spend on this new idea will result in some sort of evidence, the kind that can be pawned on ebay. Can't imagine i'm going to pay for a great xmas with an ebay ad like "Fresh gallstone from overweight p/time sausage gimp and unappreciated bureaucrat who in his spare time saved you lot over a billion bucks last year."

Even if it is one humdinger of a gallstone.

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Havock has opinions thus...

Posted December 21, 2009
Rhino, I am simply to cultured and calm to go apoplectic . I will however knee cap both you fkrs at the first oportunity

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Paul Nicholas Boylan mutters...

Posted December 21, 2009
Fuck. That must have been some email Rhino references.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted December 21, 2009
PNB, its based on the kinda intelligence that Jnr received when he went into IRAQ.....lo. and the fact that I have decided that a PREMPTIVE strike on this pair of muppets will not only result in LESS of this shit, but make me feel fkn good as well. The only thing saving the PAIR in the near term is distance.....in time!

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 21, 2009
I dont think this will get up at the GEEK..well, maybe after editing IT MIGHT!.

RIGHT!, It’s a case of “ what can I and can’t I get away with here”. NOT SURE, but one thing is for sure JB..I’m about to puch the fkn boundaries.

Prediction..not a wish..well sometimes.

Maybe we just might see in the coming decade the first CAPPED fkn muppet headed panty waisted, goody fkn too shoed thumb sucking media & public fkn opinion pole whole of a PM TOPPED. FK that would be good news. BAH,, cant say I want the fkn muppet dead…just both legs broken maybe..hell, NO, GAGGED, would be better so I don’t need to listen to his out fkn dated generated b y a consultant cos he never had an original idea in his life bloody tool.

Our roads user numbers have consistently increased every year JB and the numbers of DEATHs, have by and large come down, yet, these tools in CANBERRA and STATE GUMMIT insist on fining and policing the shit outta us in the vain fkn hope we get to what!.....ZERO FKN ROAD TOLL. Yeah right. FKN space fkn cadets pollies are. MONEY GRABBING. FK with your life for no GOOD REASON bunch of DK wadded, CK pulling, air thieving prolly cannot drive a fkn computer arse wipes.

As long as my furry oh so good looking arse points to the ground the tosser who is in gummite sprouting this shite will never get my fkn voted.

I dream of the day when bot bot ruddy, blonde, wanker boy is broken down on the side of the road. I STOP, get outta the car, tell him he is a fkn air headed , got no ideas fkn GIT and the FKR can walk to get fkn help. CO&@ SUCKING, mongrel headed, well fix it , by filtering it DIC@ HEA&..

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted December 21, 2009
DAM..it was posted, part B has been sent as well JB. Slighly late for the GEEK, but hey. Better late than never

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donna mumbles...

Posted December 22, 2009
Quokka

http://www.theartistsway.com/

Girls and SNAGS I really did find this book full of useful tools for freeing up your your mind and getting an intrusive inner critic to shut the hell up.

OOh Quokka, looked into this one and I liked it, and as i get up really early, and usually read for a couple of hours before work, now I am starting the day with a stream of conciousness writing vomity blat...which strangely is quite cathartic...wooo hooo...will tackle the inner critic next, take that you bastard critic (laughs maniacally)

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Respond to 'More of a Friday Writing Thought than a Friday Writing Blog.'

Friday writing blog: Voice.

Posted November 6, 2009 by John Birmingham
But first some housecleaning. I have updated the blog roll to the left as per everyone's requests of a few weeks back, although I have left some of the older inactive links in place. I simply cannot bring myself to delete kitten heel for instance.

Also I had an e-mail from Fairfax the other day telling me they'll be a few tweaks to the blogging format over the weekend. It won't go anywhere near addressing all the issues we raised but it's a start. I think the first thing they're looking at doing is changing the number of comments that can be viewed in the thread to save people having to click through multiple screens to get to the end of the discussion. At least that's what it looked like from the e-mail. I guess we'll see.

So, on to today's topic.

Voice.

I wanted to talk mostly about voice today, because it's an issue that came up in the comment thread of a previous writing blog. A couple of people weren't entirely sure what voice was, and others didn't know and how to find their own voice. So we'll start with voice first.

Perhaps a little personal history to illustrate. I wrote Leviathan to escape the gravitational pull of Felafel. In many ways Leviathan was a return to first principles for me. For 10 years before I wrote Felafel I had written feature stories for magazines, i.e. nonfiction. There were certain magazines such as the Independent Monthly which had a very formal, very old-fashioned 'house style'. Although the articles were all bylined there was very little difference between the in the forms of expression they used. A Helen Garner article would read very much like a Peter Robb article or even one of my articles. That was not an ironclad rule, especially where I was concerned, but it was a general principle. We wrote in a formal 'high' style which you can see reproduced in any number of British or American magazines currently available. The New Yorker is the obvious example.

At the same time as I was writing for the Independent, I was also filing copy of Penthouse, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Inside Sport, Wisden and occasionally for the broadsheet newspapers and their weekend supplements. Again the copy I submitted to each magazine was subtly different depending on the house style. Good Weekend for instance was very similar in style to the Independent, in that generally speaking it did not allow for any great rhetorical flourishes of slanguage, swearing, neologisms and so on. That doesn't mean the stories were boring. Some great writers worked on that supplement and produced some quite beautiful pieces of work, but they did so with very plain and simple rhetoric.

Rolling Stone on the other hand was a different matter. Rolling Stone was the magazine where Hunter S. Thompson came to prominence. It was the magazine with PJ O'Rourke published some of his earlier, funnier political pieces. It was not a magazine afraid of correspondents with strong individual voices. In fact so strong were some of those voices, such as Thompson's, that you can hear them echoing through the copy of a generation of writers who followed them.

If we look at a couple of quotes from Thompson and O'Rourke we can begin to see just how striking the sound of their voices on the page could be, compared to more conventional journalists.

Thompson: “The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”

O’Rourke: “After all, what is your host’s purpose in having a party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they’d simply have sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi.”

In these two short bits of text we do not find every point of difference between two writers who otherwise share many points of commonality, but we do find two very different voices. In Thompson’s case he speaks from the black shriveled heart of a true believer turned cynic. His writing often lands on the page like hammer blows pounding his chosen target to a bloody pulp. To do that he chooses his words like a boxer chooses his blows, comparing good men to dogs, presenting us with the alien almost inhuman environment of “a long plastic hallway” populated not by business people or television executives but by “thieves” and “pimps”. His words are harsh because the thoughts he wishes to express are harsh.

The O’Rourke quote on the other hand comes from a piece about hosting a dinner party in his first edition of collected works, Republican Party Reptile. In that particular piece O’Rourke achieves his comedic effect by writing in the very refined, almost prissy style of a 1920s guide to etiquette. You can hear him in your head as you read and he sounds like someone wearing a cravat and nursing a frosted martini. That is the form he has chosen; the content however is subversive of the form; positing a moral universe in which cravat wearing ethics teachers drop pants at the first opportunity and snort cocaine off hooker’s boobs. (Incidentally, that distancing effect, a rapid wrenching away of meaning and subtext from the formal text creates an immediate sense of tension which is resolved when the reader laughs. It is one of the basic techniques of comedic writing.)

Given that magazines have different house styles, but that authors also have their own styles, how do we resolve the question that then arises; which style takes primacy?

There is no easy way to answer this, but being brutal about it, it’s a question of power. If the magazine has commissioned the writer the chances are they are buying that writers byline as much as they are his or her copy. In that sense even if they have a house style they will be willing to allow the writer a degree of freedom on the page, possibly total freedom depending on who they have commissioned. You don’t pay PJ O’Rourke to write stock standard op-ed political columns, for instance. You pay him to write jokes, his very particular brand of jokes.

This question arises for me on a regular basis, because of the features I write for The Monthly. Writing for them feels very much like writing for the old Independent Monthly to me. The house style is formal and literate. It should be possible to take a paragraph from one story and compare it to a paragraph from another story without being able to tell who wrote which piece. The author’s voice is impersonal. On the other hand, if you look hard enough in each piece, particularly the long feature articles written by senior correspondents, you will occasionally see small stylistic flourishes which set them apart from each other.

For instance in this month's edition you will find interviews with Mr. Flinthart and Mr. Bedak, both of which appear in a 3000 word feature written by me about the future of the National Party. At one point in the story they are referred to as Flinthart of Tasmania, and Bedak of Book Book. This sort of faux classic Boys Own adventure phraseology is something I’ll throw into a story every now and then just to break up the atmosphere if it’s all feeling a bit formal and learned. There is a similar small ironic distance between the form of the words and the intent of the author as I mentioned in the O’Rourke extract above. Thompson does something similar quite often when he uses biblical turns of phrase in his work. Indeed somewhere in one of his collections he talks about always keeping a Bible nearby him for inspiration when he writes.

Voice is then something which can be amplified or turned down. You’ll find my voice at its loudest and often most unpleasant in my blogs for Fairfax. Because blogging is almost conversational form of writing, it makes sense that the voice of the blog author should sound almost like spoken word. It doesn’t have to be, of course. A blog can be written as formally as a PhD thesis. But mostly they are not, mostly they sound like the writer is talking to you. Their voice comes through clearly.

In a previous writing blog somebody, possibly Jennicki, asked how difficult it is to switch from one form of writing to another. From Blunt Instrument to The Monthly.

With practice it’s not that difficult at all. It’s akin to switching between languages. It all depends on how fluent you are. If you’re still at the learning stage it can be very difficult indeed, but if you have been speaking a dozen languages, or writing in half a dozen voices all your life you can switch between them without any conscious effort at all.

So, the final question. How do you find your voice?

The same way you found your real voice when you were learning to speak, slowly at first, awkwardly, while making lots of mistakes, some of them quite embarrassing.

In a sense you shouldn’t go looking for your voice, you should just let it come to you. In the same way that our accents and our manner of speaking are largely determined by the home in which we learn to speak, your written voice will be determined by those places in which you dwell when you were learning to write. You will find your voice through listening to the voices of those writers and authors you most admire. Does this mean you will imitate them slavishly? If you are a teenage would-be author, almost certainly. But that will pass. And the more you read, the more influences you allow to play upon your own style, the richer and more interesting it will probably be.

107 Responses to ‘Friday writing blog: Voice.’

DrYobbo mumbles...

Posted November 6, 2009
I think one of the hardest things for any writer - published and credentialled or otherwise - is stepping outside their own voice (or at least the voice they're most comfortable in) and working in another. That's one of the talents that differentiates the handy writers from the very good ones. I don't really have it, not enough to carry off (say) a 600 page technothriller. It'd inevitably descend into unshaven bogans drinking beer and chasing women not in their league.

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FKNHVK reckons...

Posted November 6, 2009
O'coursa if ya got a FKN distintiv style ya find FKN CLWNS Immitating ya AWSM voice all OVa the Place like a telletubby in an old bridesmades dress at 5pm in the carpark at flemington on cup day

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Allan Dunbar asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
So when are you going to start teaching?

I found this interesting because it's not something I've ever thought about when reading my own work. I think when I edit my own writing, be it an essay or work of fiction, I look for consistency in the tone and language - which is the same thing as voice, I think. It's good to be able to put a name and concept to it.

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Sweet Jane Says mutters...

Posted November 6, 2009
Voice does not change with genre. Mood, tone, and other literary elements change with genre. Voice is a writer's soul; everything else is cosmetic.

J.

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beeso asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
Bloody good piece. I was wondering how much rewriting and editing you'd do for the blogs. Looking back just then i think the bits i've written the best are the ones i've done in my mind for a fair bit first before writing. They sound the most how i think i should sound.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
"...and good men die like dogs, for no good reason."

And we are all poorer for the lack of him.

Very interesting stuff JB. Thankyou again. As a mug punter, I was all content content content and had given very little thought to voice. I do like 80 cent words and cheesy alliteration, but hadn't considered the effect it had on a hypothetical reader, except of course blinding him / her with my genious.

Dr. Yobbo- "snip ...unshaven bogans drinking beer and chasing women... snip " What's not to love? I'd like to see more of this in my impossibly dry & impenatrable Marine Legislation.

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Havock would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
Ok so it was worth the wait , you missing the deadline and all that. I'm on the iPhone so a longer piece od probable diatribe shall have to wait. But!, that's extremely interesting espesh the language ref you make. Theb take it a whole order of magnitude up and layer in not just characters and their voice but pace as well...... I wonder how many writers cut their wrists! I'll say it and you might want to frame it.

Nice piece

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Medway has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
Damn... My actual voice is one of those that is always spoken over and ignored half the time, and occasionally trails off into randomness.

*writes on hand "Find your voice you pansy"*

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Naut ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2009
I have been conscious of voice but never realised the depth of its importance.

Great post Birmo, you definately had your thinky, edumacating voice in there!

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
Just one thing with the list - you might want to add a link that works for the new Blunty:

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/blog/blunt-instrument

I suggest keeping the old one too, though.

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Chaz puts forth...

Posted November 6, 2009
Noice, and thought provoking. The question is what voice do us struggling wannabe's Havock, Meself, Jenn etc speak in? our Own? or some verdamn uitlander from Cape Town?

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Flinthart is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
One of the very few pieces of advice I will readily give to new authors is worth repeating here. Read shit.

I mean it.

When you read shit like L Ron Hubbard or Matthew Reilly or Jackie Collins, the 'voice' of the author is cracked, and weak, and the things you notice most are the horrible affectations and errors. Hubbard taught me that exclamation points do NOT belong outside dialogue. He also taught me that a page full of single-clause sentences is an experience, for the reader, not unlike being repeatedly bashed in the head with a nerf bat.

You see what I mean? You read shit, you can learn what NOT to write, and it doesn't interfere with your own development. You're just getting a quick primer in avoiding certain mistakes.

On the other hand... I read "Crime and Punishment" in a single 36-hour frenzy back when I was just starting to write. Dostoyevsky's voice was so damned compelling, even in translation, that I could hardly bear to put the book down long enough to eat.

For two weeks afterwards, everything I wrote came out like bad Dostoyevsky. Because a powerful voice is not easily emulated, and a poor emulation is a pitiful thing indeed.

So: read crap, and enjoy it. That way, you'll understand all the better what makes the really good stuff so amazing - and you'll have a chance of getting there for yourself.

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Medway reckons...

Posted November 6, 2009
I noticed something along these lines the other day while I was reading a book called "Myst: the book of Atrus" (Rand and Robyn Miller). It's one of my favourite books and it has a very soft and delicate voice to it.

And when John mentioned about his loud and obnoxious voice in Blunty, I agreed.

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted November 6, 2009
"I wrote Leviathan to escape the gravitational pull of Felafel. "

Hows that worked out for you?

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HAVOCK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
Actually CHAZ raises ..lets call it a though in the head and thats very dangerous territory for me on what Dirk and JB have said.

So here goes my interpretation.

With commercial non fictional works I suspect its far easier to change the tone, based on both the article and the demographic the publication is pitched at. Thats Skill based or perhaps having some longevity in the game, for commercial non fictional pieces of proses it's also I suspect a required talent if you wish to prosper.

But for Fictional work, the reader identifies with the authors style of writing, be it loud, blunt, eloquent or tech laden. Its here in the fictional arena I think, that a consistent level of voice is not only a requirement, certainly if its serialized works, but because its very natural perhaps somewhat easier to maintain.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
oooooaaahhh.

Juicy stuff.

I remember reading something about the code monkeys in WW2...the morse code people, that is, the tap tap tap clickety click folk, and how they'd spy and intercept each other's codes.

this being a German/French/English thing.

And the people who were doing the spying became very adept at recognizing voices that were done in code.

I'm sure it was morse code because I remember being absolutely intrigued that people could have a distinct voice and style and be recognizable through FKN code, of all things.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
Zing.

1 to Barnesm

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HAVOCK has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
DAM, I'm gunna go OFF topic here JB ref THE MONTHLY Article. Smashed the fkn nail into the piece of timber with a sledge hammer. FK, it aint rocket science....yet they manage to fuck it up at every turn, being from the BUSH I will call it, they want, what the city folk want and in most cases already have by the bucket load.

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virty asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
my voice broke when i was 11 .... neva came back.

pretty fkn obvious huh

then this insane 60's rock scene hijacked a christian classical upbringing to the dark side. not that the dark side is evil mind you but it does ratfark many a decent artiste.

- many parallels with musical expression do scribblers have, with theme and variation appearing to be the key providing you stay within a firm set of ground rules / guidelines such as vocal development, do re me ect

problem being there's always an exception to any discipline that blows all the text books way.

e.g. a old uni mate, ross bolleter threw the fundamentals of harmony away, much to prof tunleys dismay, and is now (well purports to be) one of australia's most prominent avantgarde composers and indie improvisation gurus.

he plays brubeck and granger with pnash and style but he blatantly stole that from yours truly ;)

trouble is he can't make any fkn money outta his love and mastery of the contemporary stuff so he lugs away in a bar 6 nights week playing covers.

develope and maintain the voice ? follow your dream ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am05yZehlAM

methinks it all comes down to agents (no, we're not recommending harry m at all), havin' a marketable product and the eternal fkn $ these days unless you go indie, but what do i know, hey. pz.v.

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Catty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
What about the people with a voice, but nothing worthwhile to say? What do we do? It's depressing. I'd give up writing altogether if it weren't for Andrew Bolt - I figure if he can earn a living from writing, I sure as hell should be able to.

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simon bedak swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
At NIDA Playwrights Studio nearly 20 years ago, we had to submit wk in hard copy for criticism. Two-hander, three hander scenes. My wonderful tutors Ken Healy & Terry Clarke would place a ruler in the character name columns and expect to be able to tell the diffferent characters from the way they spoke.

I know it's not what you meant by voice JB and all, but for those interested in dialogue (particularly from an ex-cattleman comet still orbiting the Felafel pulsar), this literal bent on your kindly shared thoughts might ssit as an interesting footnote. SB

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted November 6, 2009
Simon..good call. EXCEPT the bit about KINDLY SHARED THOUGHTS..We built his fkn GOLD PLATED FKN HOVERCRAFT so the fkr was due to ante up or be fkn capped i reckon...he used the excuse CARMA...well ..whatever. But I must admit, it is good.

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
Right on , Flinthart. I couldn't agree more. When peeps start rubbishing great writing (from lit and genre), I just want to point them in the direction of crap so they appreciate the difference. But, you get called a snob unfortunately.

May I indulge myself and add Ayn Rand, the writer I love to hate (on oh so many levels) ?

A narrative voice you could set concrete with.

JB- Thx. I agree- when are you gonna teach ? nonsense that "those who can't ,teach". I never believed that.

Voice is a great subject to think about because it's endless. You could discuss it forever and never run out of voices to analyse,praise, learn something from.

It was very interesting to read what you said about the less obvious individual voices of contributors to 'The Monthly' because it made me think that being forced to write within those confines is very good for developing a voice. I think it makes you hungrier.

About Blunty for a sec- it's funny, I don't think of that voice as "loud and obnoxious". But I can definitely hear a very flamboyant character in it- kind of 1970's; that free way people had back then. Loose but tight- makes no sense, but, you know, thats what I got. I just love that free voice. To me it sounds more like a cool, self-assured, iconoclast coming through. Actually, I can hear a lot of different writing forms in it, as though you read very widely. I don't know if you do read especially widely, but it sounds in your blog as if you do.

But that's just my opinion.

I mention this because it makes me more conscious of how a voice is the primary thing readers are identifying with (or, not) so it better be one readers can live with for 300 pp. A voice can get too anything- too rigid; too gentle; too obnoxious, and endlessly so. The "obnoxious" style can make you switch off because you feel like all you're listening to Kyle. May God help us.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
No, Simon, that stuck in my head last time you said it.

I was about to bring it up but you know, the Dog Walking Hour and all.

When I was at some QWC thing years ago, Tara from Curtis-Browne said that voice was the big thing they looked for when they were reading a manuscript. And that even if the writer hadn't quite nailed it in the first chapter, if they could hear 'the voice' and it held you, they'd persist with reading the MS.

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Quokka reckons...

Posted November 6, 2009
Which reminds me, occasionally I'll like something an author has written so I'll go to the next thing but they've lost their voice.

Its really strange. And sometimes the third thing that comes out is even worse.

Not that I end up reading the third thing...just skimming in the bookstore.

I wonder how much pure panic there is that makes an author lose confidence in a second novel.

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Abigail ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2009
Yes Quokka, Tara makes a good point. That is what they look for, but it makes me ask myself (and anyone else)- How the bejesus do some fiction authors get published when they are really, really bad? The only answer I can come up with is the publishers concur on "strong, consistent voice" , perhaps a tired old godforsaken soy milk drinking, lavender honey of a whining screech of a voice, but it seems to spell Best Seller. Bizarre. Chaps, this know because I attend two book groups and the crap we read but it seems to appeal.

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simon bedak mutters...

Posted November 6, 2009
quokka, if you wanna hear a fucking voice, this week on the writing show on ABC-RN Don Walker was reading his yarn 'Shot'. Mate, I was being evicted, had a car full of memories heading to the tip, down a potential $2m on where we thought we were a month or so ago, and it was so fucking true, I had to pull over and just listen. I was amazed and, somehow cleaner for having been able to believe.

Oddly, I had a similar conversation off-handedly with me old next door neighbour Bruce who's a fucking successful movie director type. I've no interest in writing for film because its solving things with an economy of available objects in theatre that I dig. Anyhow, I asked him that seeing he had to read a metric fuckload of scripts daily, how could he tell the good one from the bad and how long did it take? Bruce reckoned two pages. Said, TOO MUCH DIALOGUE and not enough allowing the camera to tell the story - how about you and a theatre script?

I confessed quokka that I'd drop them in the bin after a single page if I saw an adverb in a stage direction.

Say, Tara's a cute name. Was she hot?

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sparty mutters...

Posted November 6, 2009
very interesting- just realised that i read alot of fiction authors for "their voice" and when they lose it on a particular book (Dreamcatcher Stephen King?, John Lecarre The Night Porter?)I tend to hate the book.....

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hughesy ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2009
Marketing Abigail, marketing.

Dan Brown's DaVinci Code is a gold plated text book on what to avoid when writing. Runaway world wide best seller. Go figure.

It's paractically comedy it's so bad. Runaway best seller in this case can only mean that there are millions of suckers born every minute.

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DrYobbo ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2009
I like the 'voice' of Blunty but I wonder if people sometimes don't 'get' it. Certainly there's a strong representation of overly earnest posters since the NT migration who haven't quite picked up the overarching tone. And I've certainly found that people have misread the tone of stuff I've written on my own blog which, while about a million miles from Blunty, borrows the same hyperbolic rantiferous slash-and-burn approach to whatever issue has been invented as the reason for rantation this time by. I've been asked by people who know me IRL whether those opinions are mine and whether I hold to them or would be held to them.

Tara is a cute name. Except the way the Seppos pronounce it which makes it sound like Terror, something you'd declare war on if you were so inclined.

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damian would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
Hee - when I dipped into this earlier for a moment and flicked through, I caught myself working out whether you meant Hunter Thompson of Jim Thompson :)

Myself, I still haven't dealt with the fact the world lost HST during the GWB years. I'd say that 10,000 GWB's are not worth one HST, except it's likely the value of the former is negative so it's not really a fair equation.

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 6, 2009
Yobbo - for a long time I misheard the line "She had a mind full of tyranny and terror" in the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song "Do you love me?" as "Tunry-and-turn" for similar accent related reasons, and he's bloody Australian.

And even notable for doing what I often call an Australian-accented version of "blues".

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2009
I liked her. She seemed like a 'don't fuck with me' kind of a girl.

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Abigail reckons...

Posted November 6, 2009
Hughesy- Yes, quite so. I see how marketing is responsible for the success; they push and push. But I also wonder what makes them say in the first place, " The Da Vinci Code hey? this is a masterpiece, let's give this a big spin" ? Yet, they might also publish something far better. I don't understand their standards at all

Dr Yobbo- I know precisely what you mean about people not 'getting' tone anymore- the audience dont get each other, either (not always like that, of course). I would argue that it works both ways and the problems are: we no longer understand each other's subtler signals so well, and I put that down to the reliance upon emoticons; deep PC anxiety about offending so we are faster to take offence; lack of exposure to a wide lexicon of styles/ irony. I mean, I contribute to Blunty and Geek regularly and sometimes I am very earnest but I absolutely 'get' what is happening, it's just me feeling serious about an issue sometimes and not conforming to the mood going on around me because I don't feel like it. So it might be like that for some other people.

But occasional contributors who criticise certain articles, and blog such as Blunty *in the way they do* I think , wow, are you just not aware of your surroundings? Makes me want to tell them, for the love of all things kind and merciful,stop reading, one day it's going to kill you stone dead.

Remember when we used to 'get it' (voice) ?

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Orin mutters...

Posted November 6, 2009
Oh and Havock - want a great example of voice - finish reading Transmetropolitan.

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Medway would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2009
@Hughsey: it's funny. Every time I hear "#1 Best seller" I always look at it in confusion because it's like one of those words you repeat over and over in your head and you just lose meaning of the whole thing in the first place and wonder "Am I even saying it right? Beast Sallah... Bist Sellaw... Beef Salad..."

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2009
Flinthart - I agree with a proviso. You still have to read some good stuff. Otherwise, you won't know what it's like, and if you read enough shit, you won't even remember that writing something that isn't shit is even possible.

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DrYobbo puts forth...

Posted November 6, 2009
90% of everything is crap, and it's usually the 90% that's most popular. The highest rating show on TV is Two And A Half men for fuck's sake, scripted by morons, watched by fuckwits who can accept the prevailing concept of a fat, faded clown in a bowling shirt shagging a bunch of women he shouldn't even be allowed to share a lift with. The top 40 singles charts are full of unexpurgated arse, most Hollywood blockbusters are cretinous rubbish... I guess it's not that surprising that poorly construed but brilliantly marketed books are just as successful as other similar forms of art/entertainment are.

I'd add to Flinthart's good points about reading crap (so long as you can recognise it as such) - write crap. You have to write a lot of crap to find your own voice. There's handwritten manuscripts of mine in drawers and folders which are lame attempts at co-opting the voice of Ian Fleming or Len Deighton or Freddy Forsyth. Writing in someone else's voice is often about as natural as having David Strassman's hand up your arse trying to operate your mouth, while he gargles a bottle of water.

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virty ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2009
hmmm the ha'penny hasn't dropped ha' it (well maybe catty is on it)

each to their own, it'd be a pretty borin' place if we all wrote the same way with the same "voice" wouldn't it now.

i briefly referred to him today over at that godforsaken place

- grab a copy of alexander buzo's "i don't want to sound incredulous but i can't believe it" some shit hot illustrated non fiction about tautology (penguin 1982)

- love the parting words from bob ellis quote "he was sued by david hill, and then re-befriended"

well worth the effort ladies and gentlemen, he graces about a foot or so my book shelves with wonderful memories.

gotta fly. pz.v.

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DrYobbo asserts...

Posted November 6, 2009
Virty, Buzo's handy tome 'Kiwese' is still my ready reckoner for translating the local vernacular into the Queen's Australian English for communication purposes.

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jennicki puts forth...

Posted November 6, 2009
Loved this. I always look forward to getting up and reading these posts on Friday mornings.

And this PJ O'Rourke is now on my "must read" list.

Is your Monthly article with Simon and Dirk available yet?

(Doc, a bit harsh on Two and a Half Men. I mean it's not brilliant or anything, but the writers throw in some pretty funny lines in most episodes I've seen)

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2009
Doc Yobbo : "Write some crap" Indeed, following instructions here is all I can say. I've just written 4 pages of shite.

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Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted November 7, 2009
Great article. I'm not sure I have much to add.

I would agree that "finding" one's voice can be difficult. Sometimes I suspect academic training does not help in this respect. When I left grad school in 2001 I figured it would only take me a year or two to break into fiction. After all, everyone told me that I was a good writer. I never had trouble getting published in the past (granted, at the very lowest levels).

Turns out that over the six years of my life as a security guard (the Uniguard Era) I had to completely relearn how to write. My initial pieces sounded very much like my grad school papers on Ancient Rome. Great if I am telling a story about a bunch of historians trying to purchase lost texts from book collectors in the first century AD (Turtledove, I might add, already wrote that one). Not so good for other types of stories.

I've noticed that it is especially difficult for academics who try their hand at fiction writing to find a voice they are comfortable with. Academic writers are trained to write in a distant voice where they never fully commit to a point of view. They often struggle with this when they try to transition.

And just on a personal note, I found that when I first wrote dialogue for characters, they all sounded like yours truly. Bedak alludes to the importance of creating distinctive voices for each of your characters in his comments on play writing.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2009
Murph is spot on with his point about academic writing. It kills any individual voice you may have had. Does it on purpose too.

I'll pop back in here l8r in the weekend to pick up a few of these points. Gotta get to cricket now.

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Abigail asserts...

Posted November 7, 2009
May I gloat? In cyberspace noone's going stop me anyway...

Have been writing a short novel (about 80pp) over the last 12 months while I've been home.

Just slammed draft 2 down on the table, baby.

Stayed up all night getting it finished , "1 year, 1 year, 1 year..." (sorry, stealing from Karl Lagerfeld and twisting it around a little) Another few months outta do it.

Style: Lit fic.

Voice : Very F***ING EXCITED, BABY.

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Abigail ducks in to say...

Posted November 7, 2009
And oh, just btw- sorry, too tired to remember to say this-

JB, you don't know how this last few weeks of the writingblog has benefitted me, you really truly don't. I've come back again and again looking at what you say about applying yourself and don't worry too much if you write shite just go through it, etc etc, and all of everyone's comments and I want to say huge thanks so much to you JB -and to everyone who responds- for keeping each other writing. But I musn't get too emo, there's some peeps here who'd call you a "pantywaist" for Far Less. (Ohh, I mean that in a kind way:)

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 7, 2009
http://thingsboganslike.wordpress.com/the-full-list/

Dr. Yobbo some of us like bogans, and would pay good money (in bookstores and cinema) to see much more of them.

Tramp stamps most particularly.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted November 7, 2009
I suspect in the fiction arena, creating voice assisted by character creation. This may be a character based on an individual or purely one you have made up, either way, defining who they are and attributed I suspect helps. Then as you progress and become familiar with the characters, speaking in their voice...Should theoretically become easier.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted November 7, 2009
I still think though, that Voice and style are completely different. You may get into your characters voice, this might temper what is defined as your style, but style will override the characters voice, sufficiently to identify, but not kill off the characters voice. If that makes sense.

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Abigail puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2009
Before I retire.. Murph- what you said was interesting- about 'the academy' and how it ruins the immediacy ,for all time in some cases. Especially if you major in Lit. (yep).

For one thing, it's you against the great voices and don't they let you know it. Very intimidating.

Iris Murdoch is a classic example to illustrate what you're saying. I'm not a fan for precisely the reasons you're talking about. She had a background in moral philosophy and gee, you couldn't forget that when you read her stuff. At some point the lecturn would come out , you're in an echoy hall, you're taking notes...

Robert Dessaix is another example, except I like him a lot and thats why I'm bringing him in. (He taught Russian Lit at ANU years ago) He has a distant, some would say pompous voice, but it's very effective and affecting (as far as I'm concerned) because of the subject matter.You know, he's SO controlled in his voice, yet he's talking about the most emotional of things and because of that tension it gets in. So, even if you can't kill the academic voice ,you can use it well enough if you're not afraid to use it as part of your style and in fact it can be a great style.But that's true only for the minority, I guess.

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virty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 7, 2009
re: abigloating.

what doc yob said .....yeah .... in the beginning there was

"unshaven bogans drinking beer and chasing women"

party time or in W.A.speak ((((it's show time))))

lets get vocal, backing courtesy of sugarhill

i say hip hop da hippie da hippie

to da hip hip hop, ah you dont stop

da rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped da boogie MAN

to da rhythm of da boogie, funk dat beat boy

ferkin' mother of mary it's too early for this dudes fkt.

there's a few milk crates of homebrew kickassmulebubbystuff we call champers in the cellar, is by definition bopperstyle alcopop with a "lot'o'voice".

anyone got a straw ? No? lets see now, there's all these garden hose end pieces with the reserve bucket bong in a box in the basement .......

pz.v.

commiserations on the "fine", like you know, it's just like virtual & his art of motorcycle travel, there's always another juicy corner or two or three after the one you've just hooked into. i.e. life is an endless parade of tight corners (read phrases)

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NataliatheRussianSpy is gonna tell you...

Posted November 7, 2009
Awesomeness-ness Birms. The observations you made in regard to O'Rourkes has helped me to pinpoint what I have been trying to achieve lately. Over time I have absorbed that style of writing but had not consciously defined it's parameters. You see I used to write skewering but obvious articles about songs I hated but recently wrote a satirical piece in which the voice was that of a hallucinating defense lawyer. I was pretending to defend when in fact I was lampooning the practice of lip-syncing. Mucho gratifying.

QUOKKA: Your comment about the morse code I found most intriguing! Though I may not comment much here anymore I am always lurking and you crack me up Aunty!

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Abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted November 7, 2009
Virty-

I'm pretty tired should be asleeep, a bit wired, so perhaps am a bit stupid a present. But were you calling me "abigloating" and having some kind of go at me because I mentioned some work I just finished? (or were you merely picking up my own jokey way of saying it?) Sorry if I'm taking it the wrong way and it's difficult to read it's true intent ; it was a fairly obscure comment you made ; I'm really not sure.

If it was a sling of some kind, I'm going to call you on it and say it's unfair and it does a blog no favours at all,and I won't participate in a club. Again, sorry if I've misread it; it really was obscure, but I have no way of knowing the truth if I don't raise it here, seeing as I don't know you in any other context.

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robW would have you know...

Posted November 7, 2009
What a nice, quick essay and criticism. It reminded me of the "voice" in essays written by Anthony Burgess for the LONDON TIMES back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Well done and kudos to you.

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Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted November 7, 2009
Abigail, I have a minor in English Lit so I know some of what you allude to with Lit majors. My observation of English Majors is that they seem to excrete words with the same pain that might accompany passing shards of glass during a bowel movement.

I tell my students and peers in creative writing classes this.

The First Draft is Crap.

That gives you permission to write without thinking too much about how pretty it is. You can fix that later and in the meantime, maybe one finds their voice in the process.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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DrYobbo mutters...

Posted November 7, 2009
Agree with Murph, the first draft IS crap, even when it's not. Otherwise you'll end up sitting there fretting over coming up with THE solution to the particular problem you've run into in plot development or characterization. And also that academic writing - whether in the humanities or in the passionless factuality of the sciences - is not of much use for creative writing other than practice in putting one word after the other and ploughing through wordcount. AND his Fort Hood piece was very well judged as well. Dammit, agreeing with Murph three times in a paragraph isn't sitting well with me, I'm going for a lie down.

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Murphy mumbles...

Posted November 7, 2009
Dr Yobbo, I find I get hung up on plot and character issues all the time. That usually happens when I'm about one-half to two-thirds of the way through the draft. Sometimes it will take me years to figure out just what is wrong with something.

While we are at it, I'd add that voice also applies to teaching, especially if you are in a field where lecture is the primary means of delivering course material.

Often the urge among academics is to stand there and give a stilted, distant, very emotionless lecture. However, the best lecturers tend to be very much like stage performers. They watch the students/audience to gauge their understanding and their reaction to the material. Sometimes the best instructors will change their delivery method (their voice) to get the students reengaged with the material.

An example. I was giving a pretty dry lecture on Augustus at the start of the Roman Empire in my Western Civ One class. Worse yet, I was using my grad school notes from 1998 which means I had not really had a chance to put my own spin on them yet.

I came across a bit where the notes stated that Augustus was pretty hard on writers who criticized him. The notes stated that this made writers of the era very cautious.

That bored the students and I was losing them. No wonder since I had just gone over the Julian and the Treason Laws.

So I switched it up. I said, "Imagine there is a website on the Roman Internet called Rate My Princeps dot com," spoofing RateMyProfessors, which college professors dread for some reason.

"Now imagine writing all those nasty things you wanted to say about Augustus in much the same way I know you all will about yours truly."

They got a chuckle out of that because they know about the site. They can imagine Augustus surfing along one night after a hard day rebuilding Rome into marble and seeing an entry that says he is a big fat poopeyhead who is no fun at all. They can see him throwing the mouse against the screen and ordering the Praetorian Guard to follow him to the Gaius Dorkus Maximus.

I believe PNB uses similiar tactics in switching things up while he teaches.

As for Hasan, Puma remarked at my blog that the entry seemed a bit out of character. It isn't really.

Why would we punish everyone for the actions of one man? If it were some nutty Southern Baptist from Alabama, we wouldn't throw all people from Alabama out of the Army, nor the Baptists for that matter.

Hasan made the mistake, not the entire Islamic community.

And maybe, just maybe, nearly three years of teaching history is changing me just a notch. I have to concentrate on more than just science fiction, technology and matters military these days. It is possible that I'm slowly being corrupted by my profession.

It could also be, given what I have been dealing with over the last year, that my desire to make the keyboard bounce under my fingertips with anger is not what it was. It seems I have better things to do with my time.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted November 7, 2009
Huzzah for Abigail and her just completed first draft.

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 7, 2009
Abi-G, I didnt read V's comment as a smackdown.

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Abigail swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 7, 2009
Thx JB, much appreciated.

And re Virtycomm- ok, I guess I wasn't sure, hard to know when we don't know each other's personalities. But it's alright. Forgotten as of now.

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Sweet Jane Says has opinions thus...

Posted November 7, 2009
They were complex, driven and skilled; their voice remained clear even in code, but peace would leave the best silent.

J.

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virty would have you know...

Posted November 7, 2009
not a malicious bone in my scrimshandered bod AB, ta for tha backup birmingham, tumultuous apologies and KOW TOWS on this parched bare earth if you feel sorely or taken back (many people do).

selfish contra bass word-smithing, it'll be my demise one fine day, some c***s gonna go me a cropper in real time.

you call it obscure, i prefer cryptic most just say it's fkn bullshit. each to their own .... voice.

isn't imagery a goddam wonderful thang?

should see what we do to wee kiddies (especially in eurythmy workshops, shoppin' malls & on public transport, riotous fun indeed)

- if i may divulge a little, in the beginning (no, not of the thread, but of the BT birthing process) my raves and hissyfits @ blunty were such that only birmingham had the ..... lets say savvy for want of a meatier word ..... to understand even slightly what the fk i was on about. comments in here like "but what will we do about virty" re the transition from BT to NT were commonplace.

pre transition was like ... this guy (me)is an stark starin' ravin' fkn idiot .. and in fact was often publicly admonished as such, but in this business you gotta be thick skinned, if you dish it up be prepared to have it thrown right back at you which is the quintessential blunt instrument take.

with a little persistence and education plus the help of like minded contributors taking the piss i've built some floor space and with due thanks to that gothic yungersack birmingham i have a seat in da house.

sweet dreams.

chocostout time.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted November 7, 2009
Tsk tsk.

These little contretemps and misunderstandings are getting terribly wordy.

In future, out of consideration for the fact that its the weekend and some of us have trouble following, much less thinking clearly, I'd be grateful if you could keep it simple.

ie. 'Gerbil up your arse, Virty?' or similar, which requires a simple yes/no/FKU type response.

If the response is 'yes' then you offer to find and attach the nearest vacuum hose so that the creature can scurry out and off into the wilds of Darling Harbor to seek shelter and trauma counseling among it's own kind, and if its 'No' then we're all good, Yes?

I for one am willing to vouch for Virty's character...well actually the less said about that the better but we do take the same shoe and dress size so when the annual Cheese Cutters Ball clocks around its a cinch to find something suitably glitzy in Virty's expansive wardrobe which more than suits the occasion. Its saved me a fortune in ballgowns and sequined heels.

Oh and well done on the second draft, Abigail. Must admit I posted here early this am before we took off to Bogan Ville so didn't hear a word y'all said. Nice work.

I myself have a first draft on the old PC which I work hard to ignore.

I leave the windows unlocked in the hope that junkies will steal it and save me the bother of looking at it again but what can I say, they're picky bastards around here and no respecting junkie will truck with any machine that's infested with Windows Millenium.

Sigh.

Is it naptime now? It feels like naptime.

Bogans. They're exhausting. We saw bogans on boats (i.e. Jet skis) and I will have you know that EVERYTHING they said in that link above about bogans and petrol is absolutely true.

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Abigail mutters...

Posted November 7, 2009
Virty, Virty, Virty! thanks a lot.Allow me to flatter you wildly to make up for any miscommunication.

At 7 am agfter literlly no sleep getting this thing finsihed and elated I was, I saw yours and I thought, "is this guy having a sling at me because I'm saying aloud that I completed a draft? wtf?", It was just the wording and my suspicion of the internet. But I always feel it's best to air those questions- not like a sledgehammer,politely, and get it sorted. Like I said , I really wasn't sure, because I'm fairly new here and thought I might have been getting rolled, Roysten Vasey style. But as soon as JB replied I knew he'd have read into it properly so I forgot all about it. You'll like me Virty because I know what Eurythmy is. Bet you didn't expect an ex steiner person to sneak up on you. (I said "ex") You can be my latest best friend if you like.

Q.- thanks so much and I am very happy to learn that you can share shoes and dresses with Virtual. I trust the dresses are returned to you 'unharmed'.

First draft, well there should be a term for us draft makers so we sound Very Important. Let us know if you get further with it, huh. :)

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virty ducks in to say...

Posted November 7, 2009
all your cups still in the cupboard macropods? no Q bar gold free entry till you drop dead key rings for you me dear.

speakin' of irritatin' animals, this fkn scrub turkey down the bottom gully behind the dam is about to go to god fkt. like he's must be on steroids AND crystal meth or sumptin', he ain't built a goddam nest, is a fkn ten story tower with aircon!. the blue tongues and goannas can't even work it out.

maybe the trusty mule'l sort it. pz.v.

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted November 7, 2009
Murph: "My observation of English Majors is that they seem to excrete words with the same pain that might accompany passing shards of glass during a bowel movement."

I did a double major in English, and I attest the truth of Murph's words here. One day I hope to develop enough scar tissue to write easily again.

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2009
Damian...lol..Come with me for a while and I guarantee to fkn undo all the word...

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2009
ooops...try, ALL THAT FKN WORK!

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted November 7, 2009
HVK, we're talking HE here, are we?

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted November 7, 2009
Murph, I am glad to see what you've written here and in your own blog in the last couple of days. Given what may come, what is indeed likely to come, it's nice to see an intelligent conservative drawing the line between truth and falsehood honestly and correctly.

You ask, is your profession changing you. I don't claim to have answers along those lines, but I do think that it's the duty of an academic in any field to pursue the truth, regardless of faith or feeling. There is always a very great distance between what any theory of the world says what should be and what is indeed the case. Ideologues will insist that distance is small and for their version of the world inconsequential, while any true scholar will insist upon that distance being an interesting object of study in its own right. For my part, I like Terry Pratchett's rule - that it's okay until you starting thinking of people as things, after that point you become a monster. But that's just basic humanism and has been with us, as a more or less central theme of our Western culture since the 15th century or so.

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Murphy mumbles...

Posted November 8, 2009
Damian, with Hasan, it is simply common sense. It is impractical to purge all the muslims even if we wanted to and more to the point, the purge would be more damaging than anything Hasan might have done.

Besides, his biggest mistake is that he did that in Texas. He is lucky he did it on an Army installation. I suspect if he had been off post and tried that then he would, as Ron White said, "go to the front of the line," with regard to the death penalty.

The Army will probably give him life at Fort Leavenworth.

Sorry to hear about your writing affliction. One might try some Preparation H as a remedy (do they even have that outside of the US?).

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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damian asserts...

Posted November 8, 2009
Murph - no idea about Preparation H. I do know the more directly named Anusol is popular here. That's a product where there is simply no doubt about its purpose.

As for a literary equivalent, if one exists and whether it's legal in countries who are signatories to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs - these are all questions for another time.

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Abe would have you know...

Posted November 8, 2009
Nice one JB. Most of my writing for work is pretty technical and formal, almost but not quite academic in style, whereas my uni essays are, by definition, academic, so my range of voice is somewhat constrained in the writing I HAVE to do. This is the reason for my blogging - to let my flippant and cynical sides have a voice too.

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virty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 8, 2009
how very a.l.tenno of you AB, gives one definite goosebumps or those thingmejigs when your approaching menopause and anthroposophic thinkys to ponder this fine sund'y morn tra - la, rack of lamb = lack of ram (overheard on abc nat. at 3.00 am, semi conscious but still rendered a loud WTF) and

"at the foot of thy crags, O sea!

but the tender grace of a day that is dead

will never come back to me."

slings:

- both birmingham and i had/has an arm in one for way too fkn long

- the intrepid mule is fairly partial to experimenting with them in the breville from hell, with fruit, much suga & ice

- preferred method for hurling shurikens @ these fkn scrub turkeys

- bollocks do this in a wayward wind when playing pirate

- prusik knots have a habit of losing them and their load at anything over a hundred feet hence the term "geronimo" (think carving up a mega wall at fairy bower and the leg rope breaks)

pz & ta.v. (blows sweet nothings at all and sundry)

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted November 8, 2009
Virty I had two of the FKN mongrel birds taken away before finally I managed to break someone's spirit at the EPA and they gave me some useful advice.

Brush Turkeys require 90% shade canopy in order to keep their mound at a stable temperature. You know those little holes in the side of their snouts? Temperature gauges, which is why you see them head down and arse up in their shit pile so often.

If you do some selective pruning in the tree above their mound then they can't keep it at the 36C required to incubate the devil's spawn housed within.

Get thee to Bunnings. All that you need is a brush cutter.

hasn't stopped the MFs roosting in the neighbour's nut tree but at least they're mounding elsewhere and there's less destruction in the garden. Albeit there's considerably less shade, too, but I added an extra two AC units in the recent renovation so we can endure a bit more heat.

Brush turkeys 10: Environment Nil.

Stupid FKN birds.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted November 8, 2009
Yay Virty,I get it. I offically get it. You referred to Alfred the Lord. See, once upon a time I'd have seen the a.l. tenno bit by itself and not had a clue what you meant, but now I see you're cleverly cryptic, I'm going to have loads of fun. Aww, how sweet, you're trying to help me out ...But Anthroposophy on an empty stomach? I don't think so, baby.

I was once attached to PNB; we had drinks planned, serious kinds of drinks. He Offered. But since my suggestion of Stones Green Ginger Wine in Oaklands, (yes, it really was that classy) his silent has been significant. So Virty, what do you say? Some Rescue Remedy in a fairy dell with the other tomtens?

Oh, and :

The languages, especially the dead,

The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,

The arts, at least all such as could be said

To be the most remote from common use,

In all these he was much and deeply read...

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted November 8, 2009
I was wondering if people switch off writers' voices because they're so seduced by daily language?

I can see how this is the case for teenage readers ; very few coping skills re., diversity. (Murph, so true about needing a lit teacher who makes people feel, or they're simply not going to engage). But scarily, there's all of this corporate speak now and some people , especially professionals, seem completely at ease with it.

Example- I asked this guy what his wife did. The guy is a political cartoonist so irony is his thing. But with No Such Irony , he replied: "She's a nurse but she's working on a (project) so she's **crunching mortality data** "

And then there's Don Watson:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/10/31/1067566083688.html

It makes me wonder if this ghastly trend further damages people's ability to cope with written expression? Or will it encourage a renaissance?

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Abigail mutters...

Posted November 8, 2009
I should explain that better. I think Sweet Jane said it aptly - that voice is the writer's soul. But I was thinking , more and more do readers expect a more constrained one? Do people really want you to "be yourself" as a writer. Reading critics is what makes em think about all this. They don't like emotion or god forbid any trace of sentimentality; they don't like anything other than "tight, well considered writing" and you're not allowed to be too expressive, put plainly. The closer you are to the template Don Watson describes,(critically ,I may add) then the better it is. Some vicious critic in The Guardian (name forgotten- Brent??) makes me fear writing lest I commit one of the several sins on his list, especially about voice. Thats really what I was getting at in previous post.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted November 8, 2009
In fact, on the question of voice as soul, I rest my case with this platinum-standard example:

Since 2006, The Cookie Monster has been saying , and I quote:

"Cookies are only a sometimes food"

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted November 8, 2009
OMFG Abigail, are you teling us that The Cookie Monster sold out to the slouchbiking food police?

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Abigail ducks in to say...

Posted November 8, 2009
What is this thing called a slouch bike? I keep hearing it from you lot.

But. Yes. Yes, he did.

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Bangar has opinions thus...

Posted November 9, 2009
Abigail, a slouch bike is recumbent bike. One of those low slung things you don't see but feel as it passes underneath your wheels. Slouchy was a foolish slouch biker who inspired a Blunty and then was even more foolish enough to appear at said Blunty.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted November 9, 2009
Abigail.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recumbent_bicycle

Surest symptom of a holier than thou, leaf & twig muncher.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted November 9, 2009
OK. I've caught up.

NatV - thanks. I lurk in guilty silence at a few blogs around here, but I still feel like I've gatecrashed the whole gig somewhat. Speaking of which, NwBob where's your link? Stealth mode? Troll Proof Wire Fence?

And Bedes - I've been wondering why you were so quiet. That's rough. Keep us posted hey. And I'll watch for the Don Walker book. I found it on RN but the IMAC wasn't in the mood to play it and I was a bit too sleepy to push it.

Hughesy, if you're out there I'd like your input on what you think happens when a writer seems to 'choke' and lose it in their second or third book. As an agent you must have seen a lot of it, I'm sure I recall you saying something (one of your links) about how the slush piles are full of published author's second and third attempts. And I remember listening to an editor speaking at the QWC about how much effort an editor will make to 'save' a known author's manuscript and make it readable. She offered an example of an author's work before and after editing and I couldn't believe that they'd bother with such a rancid pile of rat droppings.

I know I'm obsessing but when you've read something that is really good - and then the author can never recapture that - it just makes me wonder 'WTF happened? Where did the magic go?'

It makes me wonder if there is something inherently toxic about fame; I suspect lots of good writers don't have the temperament to live in the public eye (and I'm not saying that as a bad thing - just maybe that the current tendency to demand an author be a circus performer is not a healthy thing) or else if maybe its some sort of destructive perfectionism. They sit at their desk and crumple at the thought of how they can live up to the success of their previous effort. Or maybe its the thought of having to do the three ring publicity circus with the next one. I know if it was me it'd be 'Fuck that.'

Still, it baffles me. They had a voice. Where the hell did it go? What silenced it?

I like reading memoirs and bios, because I want to know what makes people tick. And often what they leave unsaid says volumes. I read a memoir by Carrie Fisher and I thought it captured what it was like to live with bi-polar. And then in borders, I saw her most recent effort and I just thought 'Yikes! What were they thinking printing this?'

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virty is gonna tell you...

Posted November 9, 2009
now look at what happens when casey falls off on the fkn PRACTICE LAP.

- macropods, no sweat, we ain't about to have tree sitters camped on the boundary for six months (friar tuck and his queens english band of feriles is bad enough) so after the moto GP & a half barrel of saxon style schwarzbier we fired up the bates, hooked up a dozer blade & exercised our right to some extreme gardening.

http://cache.wists.com/thumbnails/6/ef/6ef9e513f576ba407353e0f1dba98493-orig

- AB's empty stomachs and babys in the same line of questioning and all within seven words .... speechless ....

as is green ginger wine, what with all those fkn ger-nomies down in canberra. which is presumably why the brief flotsam & burgasome with PNB left you with that pussy in the well sorta feelin'.

pz.v.

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NataliatheRussianSpy is gonna tell you...

Posted November 9, 2009
QUOKKA: The adorable Nowhere Bob can be found here: http://desthpicable.blogspot.com/ I'm certain your readership and comments would not go unwelcome amongst the fraternity.

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NataliatheRussianSpy ducks in to say...

Posted November 9, 2009
OH and BIRMO: Cos I was late to the party when you orginally asked for writing questions for Friday's column I will post this question here in case you missed it.

I noticed that in WW you kept physical descriptions of some of the characters to a minimum. Can you give me some background on your reasoning for this? I quite liked not knowing and deciding for myself. I get the shits with writers telling me ‘her hair was the colour of bottled honey’ before I even know who she is character-wise.

At other times physical descriptions are cleverly woven into the either the action or dialogue (eg. 'Bla Bla' said So-and-So whilst rubbing his weathered face)

Would you please discuss your processes in relation to this area of writing.

Cheers NatV

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 9, 2009
Nat, we might just do this a stand alone topic on character, I reckon. Maybe for this Friday.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted November 9, 2009
So that's what this mule of yours is, Virty.

And Nat - thanks.

RE: your question, I read an article a while back about Jane Austen's writing and it was essentially 'What does Elizabeth Bennett look like?'

Nobody knows. There are so few physical descriptions of her and yet she's one of Austen's strongest and best loved characters.

And whoever wrote the article was saying that the strength of her writing lay in the fact that she drew character, and behaviour, and how characters interface with each other and within various dramatic settings. And because she'd been an acute observer of personalities in her own life, she was able to reproduce them on the page.

The most obnoxious characters resonate with us because we've all met one.

i.e. I read a psych paper which postulated that Mrs. Bennett was pretty much textbook Histrionic Personality Disorder.

However the thing that captivated me wasn't so much that Austen had nailed the character type - but she'd captured how the people in the environment respond to that kind of personality. Everything from irritation, frustration, and attempts to change it (Elizabeth) to resignation, mockery and defeat (Mr. Bennett ) disgust and confusion (The Darcy circle) to the way that some of the daughters manipulated their mother's weaknesses in order to achieve their own ends. And then there was the social circle that indulged the behaviour.

Twenty five years ago when I was studying lit at JCU I could never have imagined myself putting Austen up for discussion but having gone back over it now that I'm in middle age, I think she really was an astute observer of human nature and human interaction.

I know that there's shows and books here that some of us love to hate (Charlie Harper and Twilight being the obvious targets - and Australian soap i.e Home and Away being my greatest irritant) but whenever something like that becomes ridiculously popular I end up being intrigued because I want to understand what they've hooked into. The writers must have tapped into something. Because there they are, giggling all the way to the bank.

If I could do that, I'd sell my soul up the river to the highest bidder. Count on it.

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Abigail ducks in to say...

Posted November 9, 2009
Virty- LOL. You don't miss a trick.

Slouchbikers- thx Bangar and Mr Nowhere Somewhere. Oh I know those things because they proliferate in Canberra. Talk about acute loss of dignity.

Quokka- interesting. Later.

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NataliatheRussianSpy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 9, 2009
QUOKKA: Yes Mrs Jennings in Sense and Sensibility gets varying reactions to her gossiping silliness as well. I always wondered how Austen managed to get her characterisation so spot on when in fact she led a very solitary life. I'm presently doing up a book review for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters...a mash up novel that incorporates common sea monster tropes...bit of Steampunk here, bit of piracy there...some Lovecraftian horror thrown in for good measure. It's an absolute riot of a read! The guy from Quirk books who threw it together managed to maintain the elegance of Austen's style...even when the the subject matter became decidedly inelegant eg. Colonel Brandon's face is afflicted with tentacles and when Marianne finally marries him the quote goes: She found, in the event, that his face was not the only region of his physiognomy that could be described as multi-appendaged, and she found the fact to carry with it certain marital satisfactions. Tentacle PORN!!!!! HA!

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Quokka mutters...

Posted November 9, 2009
So that's where JB's tentacle porn references come from.

I just assumed it was better not to ask...

I've read that Jane Austen's mother was the inspiration for the Mrs. Bennett character and, having a few nuts weighing down the branches of my own family tree, was probably the reason why she required copious quantities of peace, quiet and solitude in her adult life.

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted November 9, 2009
Aunty Q, I don't know why I'm not on the usual suspects list.

I think either- the content I talk about is pretty domestic, rather than Murph & NatV's more broad appeal, or perhaps it's a hold over from a tiff JB & I had around the time of his not getting a Booker? Who knows. Either way I'm about & I post about once every 6 weeks.

Depending on which machine I log on with, I usually have my link in my name - blue has a live link, grey doesn't.

Thank's for the response Nat, I was away at (more) pointless Govvie training.

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NataliatheRussianSpy asserts...

Posted November 9, 2009
I'm not sure that's where it came from but when I read that passage it reminded me of a particular Blunty entry...

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NataliatheRussianSpy reckons...

Posted November 9, 2009
Nowhere it was my pleasure. It's a wonder you haven't fainted at all this bonnet discussion!

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 9, 2009
Nat don't worry about the menfolk, they're all off reading Georgette Heyer when they think we aren't looking.

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted November 9, 2009
Yes well ladies, it wasn't until about the 1920s that Domestic lit. became women's reading material. Before that, men read a lot of domestic lit. In a study iof what men were reading during the first world war, Jane Austen was a big fave on the front line.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted November 9, 2009
was not

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Abigail puts forth...

Posted November 9, 2009
Nowhere Bob- you're psychic! your comment appeared the second I posted mine, thereby putting a spin on what I just said.

lol

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Elena is gonna tell you...

Posted November 9, 2009
Thanks for this post on voice, JB.

Part of the reason I started blogging was to flesh out my own voice, and I find while it's helped with my non-fiction writing, I think fiction voice takes longer to cultivate.

And while I agree that reading and imitating writers you admire will help develop your own voice, it's a long and frustrating process. I found that of all the writers I admire, there are some that are easier to imitate than others.

For example, it's much more comfortable for me to slip into a Miranda July type 'voice', but having read your work, JB, I realised my words could never pack the same punch: I just don't have it in me :P

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted November 9, 2009
Well you may not have my voice in you, but you have your own, Elena.

As for the rest of you, what's all this Jane Austen rubbish doing in my blog?

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Abigail ducks in to say...

Posted November 9, 2009
Jane Austen? where ? (psst, quokka, nat v, umm, we have some serious petticoat issues to delete)

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NataliatheRussianSpy ducks in to say...

Posted November 10, 2009
Yeah...but...but I also mentioned pirates, Lovecraft and tentacle porn in the same breath as Jane. Surely that counts!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted November 10, 2009
works for me baby

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted November 10, 2009
Tell, you what Bob, because you had to wait so long for a listing, why don't you enjoy the amenities of the executive suite for a coupla days. On the house. Just, er, take it easy on the room service, okay? We fly a lot of it in from Europe.

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savo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 10, 2009
I feel whole again

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted November 11, 2009
Your hospitality overwealms me Sir. I feel a bit Dad & Dave standing here in engineers overalls & laceup boots surrounded by this Euro luxury. The Italian Marble & Slovakian Crystal is intimidating and check this out some goose has put 2 toilets in here.

If you'll excuse me, the Bunnies are calling me from the spa deck.

*Ziiiiiiip, flumpf. thump.thump*

Wooo_hoo

*Splash*

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Respond to 'Friday writing blog: Voice.'

Friday Writing Blog: Preparation, planning and where ideas come from.

Posted October 23, 2009 by John Birmingham
Sifting through the comments to last week's inaugural Friday writing blog I found a couple of questions that I thought went well together. Some of you asked about how much planning goes into a manuscript, a few touched on other matters of preparation such as research, and Jennicki and Girlclumsy amongst others wanted to know where ideas came from and what you did with them once you had one of the little fuckers. For me these all related questions.

A common mistake of the baby author is lightbulb fascination. The big cartoon lightbulb goes on over their heads with a big cartoon flash and Eureka! -- they've got it. The idea for the Great American/Australian/what ever novel. Unfortunately so bright and blinding is the light thrown out by the big cartoon lightbulb that they are blinded to everything else. Rushing to the desk they start pounding the keyboard, still blinking and half blind, tripping over the furniture, knocking over the desk toys and last nights half empty moth-filled glass of wine. They type for hours, maybe for days, in a flurry of excitement because of this great idea they've had for a book.

And then...

And then...

Nothing. The words stop flowing. The idea which seemed so brilliant and so close to fruition, suddenly seems vague and almost impossible to grasp as it retreats and retreats for ever out of reach. What the hell happened?

I'll tell you what happened. You exploded out of the blocks and sprinted away as though you were running 100 m race, when in fact what you had signed up for was a year-long ultramarathon, a brutal, grueling and unrelenting endurance race that is as much about attrition as it is about skill or willpower.

To deliver a manuscript for a 160,000 word novel (Falafel was 47,000, Weapons was 155,000, Without Warning was 200,000) you need to plan for at least a year's work. And that's if you are a full-time writer with goldplated hovercraft and an army of Playboy bunnies to massage your aching shoulders and pop peeled grapes into your mouth while you hammer away at the keyboard. As a part timer, squeezing in whatever writing you can, when you can... Man, I don't even want to think about that.

So what does planning and preparation involve?

Unfortunately that can mean different things to different people. Not everybody storyboards their manuscript like a movie. I have done it with Designated Targets, after having got myself into all sorts of trouble with Weapons of Choice because I charged into it exactly as I described above. Weapons was based on a great idea that came to me in the library one day when I was avoiding work on Leviathan by flicking through Matthew Reilly's Ice Station. Time travel meets technothriller. What's not to love? And that was pretty much it for planning and prep.

With Targets I took six weeks to methodically lay out the plot from the first page to the last. Each chapter was broken down into its POV elements and summarized in note form long before I wrote the first page of the book. So on day one I could tell you what was going to happen in the second section of Chapter 37. Or at least that was the plan. What happened of course is that the characters took over. If they are good characters they will do that. For instance in weapons, Dan and Julie were never supposed to get together. They were just characters who met on the page early in the book and hit it off. They hit it off so well that their unexpected relationship became a significant narrative arc through the entire trilogy.

You cannot plan for serendipity. If your characters come alive in your imagination they will do what they damn well please and you will have the devil's own job getting them to stick to the plan.

Does that matter?

No, as long as they do not diverge so far from the main line of your story arc that they pull everyone else off course as well. When you are writing genre fiction in particular you need to have at least some idea of where you were going, and where you intend to end up on the last page. It will happen, if your story develops a life of its own, that subplots and characters develop under their own steam. But you need to maintain some level of control. There are plenty of books which got away from their authors. I'm not going to name any of them, but I'm sure you can think of one or two you've read that would have been a lot better had the editors and publishers been a little harsher with the blue pencil.

I am mindful that in advising you to put some effort into plotting out your story before you write it I am flying in the face of the established practice of some very successful authors. Garth Nix in particular has given me exactly the opposite advice, saying that the sacrifice of spontaneity and the loss of the magic of happenstance involved when you storyboard an entire manuscript is just not worth it. But both Garth and I are published writers of long experience. Most of you are not. So I'm telling you, you are much more likely to finish your first book if you invest some time in figuring out what the hell you're going to write before you write it. It's not easy and there are some elements of every plot which can only be worked out in the writing. Only when you have created and immersed yourself in your imagined world will you understand it well enough to be able to say with true certainty how the world and the characters in it will react to certain developments. That's why a plan for a manuscript must necessarily be looser and more free-form than, say, the blueprints for a warp engine.

That's planning. How is preparation different?

I guess it's the difference between drawing up the plans for D-Day and actually gathering the resources, the men and matériel, building the landing craft and troop transports, manufacturing the weapons, training the personnel, raising the capital to pay for the whole fucking thing, and, well, do you get the idea?

Preparing to write a book like Leviathan was not that much different from preparing to write Weapons of Choice, even though they are very different products. For both I spent months reading and taking notes, just as though I was preparing to write a PhD. I gathered my references. I did my interviews. I tracked down the relevant experts and talked through everything I did not understand about the topics I was about to pretend I knew all about. Are you writing an alternate history set during the hundred years war? Then my friend, you have some very long and tiring days ahead of you in the library as you become an expert on the hundred years war, on the people who fought it, on the technology they used, on the institutions and the states and the personalities involved. And of the vast amount of knowledge you acquire about this topic only the smallest fraction will actually appear in print. The rest will sit like the frame of a soaring high-rise, hidden away, while it supports the great weight and stresses you will load onto it.

But preparation can go even further than that. If you are setting your story in a purely imaginary realm you have taken on the difficult task of getting the reader to believe in something they know not to be true. We call this the suspension of disbelief, and we commonly make the mistake of assuming the suspension is the work of the reader. But it's not, it's the work of the author. Your characters must stay in character, which means you must know all about them before you start writing their story. That is why so many authors write long, detailed biographies of the characters before they set the first line of their novel down on paper. Genre authors and literary authors all do this. But genre authors have another demand on them. Not only must they invent characters, they must build worlds.

But that is a topic for another day.

Finally, I see that I have said very little about where ideas come from. Well they don't come from sitting around scratching your arse, staring into the middle distance. They come from thinking, and reading, and watching television, and movies, and conversation, and magazines, and ditzing around on the Web, but mostly they come from thinking. Not just consuming media passively, but from watching, listening, and reading actively, critically, but most of all imaginatively. This is something that writers do all the time. Pretty much every minute of every day without even be conscious of it. And it relates to planning and preparation because thinking, actively, critically engaging with media and ideas in all the forms is where the idea for your next story is coming from.

98 Responses to ‘Friday Writing Blog: Preparation, planning and where ideas come from.’

Havock mumbles...

Posted October 23, 2009
Nice one!...very interesting as always

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Miranda Freeman is gonna tell you...

Posted October 23, 2009
Sound advice! And all this time I thought my sporadic writing blocks were due to too much gin over the course of the week. Plan happy is the way to go then.

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Orin mumbles...

Posted October 23, 2009
Pratchett used to say, when it came to the question of "where do ideas come from" that one "shouldn't ask the tightrope walker where his balance comes from when he's on the tightrope".

Orin's rules of writing non-fiction.

(1) Find somewhere quiet.

(2) Apply arse to chair.

(3) Don't give yourself excuses to miss deadlines.

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Sylmobile ducks in to say...

Posted October 23, 2009
Damn it! I will prove you wrong Mr. Birmingham.

I will provide clear evidence that arse scratching is the ultimate ideas generator!! Now, let's see, where will I start on my thesis?

*sits back in chair, scratches arse, and dissolves into a day dream*

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girlclumsy asserts...

Posted October 23, 2009
Thanks, JB. I'm really enjoying these posts.

A question with ideas though - I definitely agree with the interacting and engaging with media, and I like to think I do a fair bit of that. But how do you work out which ones are worth pursuing? I've tried some things and then end up ditching them as duds...

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Chaz puts forth...

Posted October 23, 2009
I find that last paragraph very true.

An advantage I feel I have is that I'm used to creating biogs for characters from my RPG design days.

But then i fall down because I'm a crap typist.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 23, 2009
As a part timer, squeezing in whatever writing you can, when you can… Man, I don’t even want to think about that.

YOU GOD DAM BLOODY GIRL!.......yeah..fkn persistance

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Naut puts forth...

Posted October 23, 2009
So where does the room full of monkeys with typewriters fit in?

I mentioned sometime ago when you ask for feedback on the future of the cheeseburger, that I would love to see some of your preparation documents. Character bios, sketches of locations or any kind of storyboarding you have done. Not only would it be useful for prospective writers, it would also be downright interesting!

Kind of like the chapter that was your last post.

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Claudia has opinions thus...

Posted October 23, 2009
Nice one JB.

How do you know when to stop editing and changing? How do you know when the refining process and the wordsmithing is over? I guess your editors do that....I can change and adjust and add and delete forever...I've got 4 unfinished blogs 'cos I can't quite "get it right". maybe that just means I'm shite. Or I need more practice.

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damian asserts...

Posted October 23, 2009
I kinda like the idea of taking an old, manual typewriter to some remote location without electricity (I'd say the beach, but I'd prefer to avoid the increased risk of rust in my nice 1940s Imperial).

I once fantasised about coding that way. Type -> scan -> OCR -> copy -> paste -> build -> compile -> link -> test. Pointless, but in a mildly satisfying way. Never actually did it, of course but I'd be impressed by anyone who did (though also worry slightly for their sanity).

I've actually considered writing stuff longhand, but I think the motor control has faded and the muscles have atrophied...

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Medway reckons...

Posted October 23, 2009
Certainly something I wanted to hear, Birmingham.

I was already thinking that waiting for some ninny with a hammer that says "ACME INSPIRATIONAL TOOL" to bonk me on the head was a bad habit.

Now to work on "I am Claine"...

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savo would have you know...

Posted October 23, 2009
See, it is art, planning process excecution deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.

Shit, John a couple of decent lesbution scenes and parental angst and the next novel will be literature.

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KFD would have you know...

Posted October 23, 2009
Great post but I can't help wondering why so many writers feel compelled to write about writing? I am dabbling myself btw so the advice is valuable and encouraging. 9 to 5 I work in I.T. by comparison, nobody ever writes at such a personal level about how to be an I.T. dude... or maybe I'm just not that well read. Or I was too busy imagining and not paying attention.. which I now know is a good thing anyway.

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Orin is gonna tell you...

Posted October 23, 2009
I’ve actually considered writing stuff longhand, but I think the motor control has faded and the muscles have atrophied…

Neal Stephenson writes longhand - which, when you consider the size of some of his books, is pretty hardcore.

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Andrew has opinions thus...

Posted October 23, 2009
Wow I couldn't have read this at a better time. I have two ideas on the go and was struggling with how to approach it. Cheers JB.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 23, 2009
KFD, I'm doing the friday writin' blogs purely as a karmic thing. It can't all be about the bucks.

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Ian Kath has opinions thus...

Posted October 23, 2009
Thanks, just as I was starting to consider doing something I'll forget all about it. That save me years of angst.

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Abigail reckons...

Posted October 23, 2009
Just picking up on KFd's comment as well :

JB- I thought a similar thing - not about why writers write about writing (there's a sentence) - but it crossed my mind that it'd be awful to see you tire yourself out doing so, considering your weekly output/ obligations. But , so long as you choose you do it, you'll never bore me on the subject. It's just fascinating.

(btw- a few yrs ago on ABC Radio National there was a fab series of talks by many different writers talking about their writing process).

If I can put a more self-centred question to you for later consideration (and if you don't ever get to it, that's fine!!) :

As far as the cognitive side goes, I feel like I'm on the right track, just reading what you've said today. For example,absorbing lots of information and staying awake to what's going on around me- tick; i like to do that anyhow. Letting ideas go around in my mind -tick, Plotting things out before it's on paper yes- A LOT, but ...that brings me to my problem: I get loads of ideas and I know what the story is about - ie on a deeper level what it's about, and conceptually I understand what I'm trying to do and I sort of know how to write ; I just can't seem to get a PLOT going- the "superficial" part in a way but its the thing that makes people read a story or not!! Major problem , yes???!!!

Help!! JB? anyone? Be savage. It's not I lack a feeling of freedom in myself, but I just freeze when it comes to the thought of developing a character and just the playful whimsy it takes to turn an intellectual idea or an emotion into , you know - A STORY!! WHERE THINGS HAPPEN!!

I feel so terribly frustrated by it because I feel like I understand where it can go, on an intellectual level and emotionally , but h.t.f does one just have a whole story inside them ? Is this the great unanswerble question? Do I just accept that w/o that natural attribute it will never happen - ie are there peope who naturally have a story sitting there in their heads and others who simply don't ? I knew this person who could write prolifically because a story would come out , but it was the crappest writing on other levels so it didn't seme a fair universe to me- still I SO envied the ability.

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jennicki puts forth...

Posted October 23, 2009
Oh my god. Thank you so much for this. I should so print these out, highlight key passages and tape them to my mirror to read over as I get ready every morning.

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Moko reckons...

Posted October 23, 2009
Scratch ur arse long enough something will pop out, guaranteed. Just wanna hope an idea is the first.

Sorry, had to get that off my consciousness.

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted October 23, 2009
Double plus excellant. Good stuff JB, I've read lots of ritin' advice, but not from someone who's Kung Fu I admire as much.

"doing the friday writin’ blogs purely as a karmic thing"

I had the Karmic Repo man around the other day. Net cost $800 and my Hilux off the road for a week.

I hate that.

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Timmo mumbles...

Posted October 23, 2009
[i]Neal Stephenson writes longhand - which, when you consider the size of some of his books, is pretty hardcore.[/i]

Wow, that is some serious scribbling... I just picked up Anathem the other day (it's joined the pile of books-in-waiting) and it is a hefty tome - around 1000 pages at a guess. I hope he doesn't suffer from writer's cramp...

I'm also picturing one of those oft-seen movie scenes of a longhand manuscript sailing away on the breeze. Surely in this day and age, the availability of backup copies would make doing it via electronic media worthwhile...

...although I guess scan and/or OCR, or photocopying is a backup option of sorts?

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Orin puts forth...

Posted October 24, 2009
Timmo - good link on Stephenson writing using fountain pen:

www.inkygirl.com/neal-stephenson-writing-and-editing-with-a-fountain-pen/

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Murphy mumbles...

Posted October 24, 2009
Here is a method I use which is sort of a compromise between the massive step by step outline and going without an outline at all.

CLOCK is an outline format which can be effective at generating a workable plot. It is a very slightly modified version of a method put forward by James Scott Bell in Plot and Structure.

C=Concept

L=Lead

O=Objective or Objectives

C=Conflict or Conflicts

K=Knockout

The Concept is a general statement which describes the story you intend to tell boiled down into a few sentences. It is difficult to start if one is not entirely certain of their concept.

The Lead is the hook, the carrot which entices readers to start and continue reading your story. One example of a lead is to place a dead body in the first scene. Most readers will continue to read in order to discover how the person died. One cliché of this concept is the saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

The Objective or multiple objectives is the desire of the protagonist, who is the lead character in the story. A standard story engine is driven by human need and desire. Understanding what the lead character’s objectives are will determine the next stage of story development.

The Conflict or multiple conflicts are the fuel for the story. They challenge the character and in Western Literary tradition they represent the difference between fiction and non-fiction. A conflict against an antagonist gives the protagonist an opportunity to grow, to change, to come to a realization.

The Knockout is the summation of your story, a way to leave the reader feeling as if they have completed the story.

It is worth pointing out that among more recent writers there is a desire to move away from this model to a vague, undefined story structure which often leaves matters of plot unresolved. Further, some writers feel that plot is a burdensome restraining device and work without any concern for the conventions of plot.

The above is from a handout we use where I teach in the Alternate History seminar to get students started if they are planning a fiction project. I've also talked about this method in the creative writing class I take over and over again with Terri Lowry where I teach.

When I use this method I find that the Knockout is often vaguely defined or not at all. I like to allow for the characters to make their own choices, just as Birmo did with Dan and Julia as the AoT trilogy evolved.

I think the above gives you maximum flexibility while retaining at least some structure.

As for the rest of the article, I concur with everything Birmo has said. Research is especially important for alternate history projects.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Michael Adams mumbles...

Posted October 24, 2009
This is brilliant.

Up there with the most instructive, illuminating and encouraging passages in King's On Writing. It'd be great to see this make its way into the international creative-writing world wordsphere.

What you've described is what the great actors talk about when they research a character obsessively, or when David Fincher dresses the Zodiac set with 1970s newspaper piled 20-deep. The "vibe" permeates, creating the person or the place, beyond what's on the screen or page.

Hats off, JB, for putting it so honestly but encouragingly.

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted October 24, 2009
The thing about longhand is that, unless you have someone else do your typing, you're guaranteed to revise your text at least once, before the material is committed to file.

Timmo, OCR is no good for handwriting, but gray-scale images compress quite nicely and storage is cheap, so yes digitisation is very suitable for backing stuff up.

But I think most of us could not really write much without a keyboard these days (adventures in speech recognition notwithstanding). I certainly can't write as fast as I can type, but maybe that's the point - some resistance from the medium that slows you down and forces spending more time thinking.

KFD, presumably you've come across the BOFH, or perhaps you remember alt.sysadmin.recovery on usenet. More seriously I'd recommend Limoncelli and Hogan, The Practice of Network and System Administration, which perhaps is not as introspective as this sort of thread, but has a lot of answers to similar questions posed in the IT realm. Some of Eric Raymond's writing is quite introspective along those lines, but be prepared to disagree with a lot of what the fellow has to say. Likewise Stallman, now I think about it.

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jennicki swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 24, 2009
I just want to say that I have my bachelor's degree is in Creative Writing, and several semesters of my time plus an outrageous amount of money have nothing on the two writing posts JB's put up here, for free.

Seriously.

John, if your schedule ever allows for it you should definitely teach a class at your local university every semester ala Paul Boylan.

I wish I'd read this stuff five years ago. I would've been so much farther along in my writing.

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Abigail swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 24, 2009
To Murph-

Thanks for CLOCK.

I know you weren't addressing your coment to me personally, but I found it very, very useful.

Without stating it explicitly, you've made me see what I resist (jn the same way I resist talking abolut new technologies) : I don't like thinking mechanistically; I like to think the story is going to 'feel' its way onto the page w/o robotic method , but the reality is, it won't; you've got to be a bit robotic and "how to" to get it there. The guide you've set out is actually very good- like a long ladder and each part of the sequence takes you to the next plot point (which is what I can't naturally do)

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Carolyn Cordon mutters...

Posted October 24, 2009
Great stuff here JB. You've given us more in this one blog than we might get in a library of tomes.

And Murph - I just love that CLOCK idea - I think I'll run with that for my current WIP

And to everyone else - if you get a great idea at 2.00am for godsake get up and write the damned thing down. You will not remember it in the morning!

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Sweet Jane Says asserts...

Posted October 24, 2009
Good god, people, it's different for every published writer. And you, Birmingham, why do you close your eyes to the real US and insist upon making every American character white?

J.

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Sweet Jane Says is gonna tell you...

Posted October 24, 2009
You people want to be writers? Get two cats.

J.

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Sweet Jane Says has opinions thus...

Posted October 24, 2009
Trivia: Che Guevara was Irish. Patrick Lynch (of County Galway), an emigrant to Argentina, was an ancestor of Che Guevara.

Open your eyes.

J.

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virty ducks in to say...

Posted October 24, 2009
kudos on the karma thingy birmingham.

we're most definitely old school including the 2b lead pencil applied to just about anything you can scribble on.

even toy with a slateboard and chalk at times.

music notation is the same.

for some reason it feels better, brain appreciates it too but most prob'ly senility or altersack disease.

we do use chainsaws (the axe works better on foxes) for the totems.

with rhyme, or anything deemed top shelf i goferit with a fountain pen or quill dipped in whatever leftovers are floating around. (a thumbnail dipped in tar :)

all my uni assignments, every fkn one of them was a handjob.

pz.v.

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damian reckons...

Posted October 24, 2009
William Burroughs' 'Word of advice for the young' had a great line that I'll always remember, even if I've never actually followed the advice: "Do not proffer sympathy to the mentally ill - it is a bottomless pit". I guess it's the same principle as "Do not feed the troll" in a usenet and/or web based forum context. Thus, a rule that everyone feels ought to be adhered to, but which most people ignore at some stage or other :)

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Abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted October 24, 2009
Sweet Jane-

"You people want to be writers? get 2 cats" WTF?

Are you just joking around or are you one of those people they talk about who likes to hang around on the internet determined to make people feel bad about themselves? If so, why would you want to do that?

Unless you either explain that it's your sense of humor, or you are willing to apologise for trying to be cruel to people for wanting to write, I'm going to completely blank you every time I see your comments, because I dislike sadism and Im not buying in.This is a forum for writing, I believe.

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Orin would have you know...

Posted October 24, 2009
Actually one of the best pieces of writing advice I've got through this site was from Hughesy. It should be required reading for anyone with dreams of making it as a writer. Here is the link.

http://annettehughes.blogspot.com/2009/01/who-needs-agent.html

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Bangar asserts...

Posted October 24, 2009
Abigail, Jane is our pet troll, so feed at caution. It's mostly harmless, generally off topic (yet to read any of JB's books obviously unable to operate a library card) and occasionally entertaining and useful.

PS everyone pretty much takes your approach as it cannot explain it's sad existence and persistence.

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KFD asserts...

Posted October 24, 2009
Feel better now. Karma is a good thing to feed. Y'all have a great thing going here. Been following Blunty since reading WW recently (just had to take WW to the cash register at the bookshop I picked it up in after reading the subheading). Looking fwd to AA too.

Decided that writing about writing is a good thing. Most people have their own style and approach but I think most writers grow from reading about how others do it...

It's not a self indulgent thing either. If it helps to get more people to write something meaningful in an interesting and readable way, that's gotta be good.

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Matthew K swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 24, 2009
"Wow gee, my cousin's dog was an Irish setter so I guess that makes me Irish too!"

No. Irish people come from Ireland.

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Orin reckons...

Posted October 24, 2009
Birmo, is link spam enough of a problem on this blog that posts that contain links (I have two in this thread that have yet to appear as I type this) don't turn up? I'm getting to the point where I'm sorta thinking that I won't post links in future because by the time you are able to moderate, the conversation has long since moved on.

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damian puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin - it's not consistent. I have got links up, and I've lost comments not containing links or rude words as far as I recall. I'm assuming some programming Cletus behind it all.

Last week I couldn't spell Bayesian algorithm, now I are, erm...

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Murphy reckons...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail and Carolyn, glad you liked that. Keep in mind, it isn't my tool per se. I didn't invent it. I only modified what James Scott Bell had in Plot and Structure.

As for books on writing, Bell would be a good place to start. I'll have some other suggestions later. Unfortunately I have to go earn fifty bucks listening to people tell me how to run my college classroom for two hours.

Sigh. The things I whore myself out for.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Orin would have you know...

Posted October 25, 2009
Damian - it is an approval thing rather than a spam script - and it blocks all hyperlinks.

If you are logged on with the account/browser that you used to submit the comment, you can see the comment (but no one else can until it is approved). That's why it looks like some are auto-approved.

If you log on with a different browser, you won't be able to see the comment.

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Orin swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 25, 2009
It is probably also why no-one has really mentioned it - unless you regularly browse the site from multiple computers in a short amount of time, you won't notice that your comment containing the hyperlink hasn't turned up for other people as you can still see it (you'll probably just assume that people are ignoring you ;-).

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Abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted October 25, 2009
Bangar & Damian-

Ohhhh, I seee. I get you, thanks.

Murph & JB-

Last night I was thinking about research and how you use it in a story and I wanted to ask something- just a open-ended question really:

With regard to research, you'd really have to watch how much was going into the book, wouldn't you, so that it didn't read like "and here now is all of my mind blowing knowledge of hot air balloons during the French Revolution period"- d'you know wot i min?

lol- Maybe I just want to say that so I can criticise the practise because it drives me insane.

But then again, there's Moby Dick where there are full chapters on the whaling industry and it works because the book is so epic it can carry it.

I am asking how do you guys feel about research as a story device? I mean, say you do miles of reading on a specific thing, do you then feel "I have to put all of that in because it took me so frigging long to read it" or do you maybe use three facts of a possible 300?

But anyone , please, jump in a answer- it was just that JB and Murph brought it up.

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virty is gonna tell you...

Posted October 25, 2009
as the name implies.

word.

press.

discriminatory and unprincipled modbots are abhorrent.

what we need is .... here WP Fk this link over.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMYrz_3pfgs&feature=related

pz.v.

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
oops- I should expand a little on the Moby Dick example:

Another reason it seems to work is because the actual story is very simple (but runs deep), so it can afford to work as an expansive, vivid portrayal of life on a whaling boat- almost as a relief from Ahab's obsessionality. But if the story moves along at a faster pace, then elements like staying true to the real world must be a lot harder to collapse into the rest- yes?

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damian mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin, in the case I'm thinking about, someone else had responded to my post with a link in it within a few minutes. This doesn't contradict the approval process you mention, though. Mind you, it was a link rather than a bare URL and I wonder if that made a difference.

Abigail, I share your interest in this issue with research and the temptation to put too much in the end result. When you consciously pare your writing down in order that it does not contain anything unnecessary, how far can you go? A certain amount of explanation is usually required to carry the reader. That leaves you with the "show don't tell" injunction, or rather the various tools writers have to infodump upon the reader what is essential for the plot.

Some writers can be very clumsy with this, even widely read, published bestseller authors. Some feel that having a character other than the narrator tell counts as showing. For example, two soldiers have a casual conversation while pissing in the snow, which improbably results in their explaining exactly who they are and what they are doing in whatever place they are in, optionally also including something about the history of the place and/or their military unit.

Most good writers are more subtle, however, and more or less successful at slipping the necessary information in. What interests me is the process of withholding, rather than dumping, necessary information. What's the absolute minimum we can get away with revealing? The classical detective fiction writers are the masters of this, where the reader is given a promise that they are given exactly enough information they need to identify the murderer themselves (actually both Christie and Conan Doyle broke this promise repeatedly, as I recall, resorting to all sorts of bizarre tidbits that the reader could not possibly have known to come up with the wished-for surprise twist).

I think the important take-home point here is 1) do the research; but 2) don't get/feel too precious about it.

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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail, whether it is fiction or non fiction, you always have to make a judgement call on how much research gets into print. With fiction, perhaps the best analogy is the iceberg example.

On the printed page of any bit of fiction readers probably only see five to twenty percent of the world the Writer has created. The Magic comes from that unwritten eighty percent that is research. And not just traditional research on institutions, history, events, whatever but research into the characters you have created, the worlds they live in and how they'll react to them.

It would be impossible to explain everything that is driving a given character or situation. As one of the research assistants I can tell you that there is plenty that never sees print yet it informs how the characters behave. That research makes them authentic to the reader.

And it is the little things that do the job.

"Its' fucking jammed, Sergeant," the Private said.

The Sergeant took the Private's M-16, slapped the mag, pulled the charging handle and looked into the chamber. A bent round flicked past his nose. He released the handle, tapped the forward assist and pointed the weapon down range.

A squeeze of the trigger rewarded him with a satisfying pop. He safed the weapon and handed it back to the Private.

"Didn't you learn anything in basic?" he asked. "I'm not going to have time to hold your hand, wipe your ass and help you breathe when we get into the Sandbox."

"Sorry, Sergeant."

A writer could probably cut and crop that a bit and Birmo does when I give him a chunk like the above. Sometimes he refines it, other times he leaves it about like I've got it above. Other vets read that and go, "Yeah, SPORTS. Slap, pull, observe, release, tap, squeeze. I remember that."

And bammo, Birmo's got the veteran reader following along.

The problem is that the civilian reader goes, "Wow. Did I really need to read all of that?"

It is a balancing act and there is no right answer for it.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted October 25, 2009
Good stuff Murph & all.

Many many moons I did some "writing for the mass media" subjects at uni. Something that has stuck with me for 15 + years was discussed in a writing for radio lecture.

Say it out loud & bold.

"This 38 calibre pistol which I hold in my right hand is loaded."

Stupid & clumsy eh? Why?

It was a lesson in what you can trust the reader/audience to assume and what they don't need to be explicity told.

I suspect (not having Birmo or Murphs cred to know) that there are strong paralells between radio scripts & a novel's content.

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin: 'Birmo, is link spam enough of a problem on this blog that posts that contain links (I have two in this thread that have yet to appear as I type this) don’t turn up?'

It is, actually. You guys dont see it because i never let it get to the threads, but there is a heap of link spam in my own trap. I do clean it out a couple of times a day, usually. Yesterday was different cos I was away all day.

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Sweet Jane Says mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin, your link to Hughes was visible and readable.

J.

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Abigail has opinions thus...

Posted October 25, 2009
Murph and Damian-

Your wise words very much appreciated. Too tired/busy to write properly now but I've read both comments thoroughly and found myself nodding my head about a lot of things you both said.

I don't know if you're familair with Elmore Leonard , but gee can that guy "show, don't tell" -he's like a sentence savant.

Orin- thx as well for putting up the "hughesy" link on writing.

JB- what's so good about this idea of yours -apart from your words of wisdom and everyone else's experiences- is having "somewhere to go" to discuss writing w/o putting anyone to sleep. I do have one friend who is a published writer but the very last thing she wants to do is talk about it (it's like a bad luck thing for her and fair enough), consequently I get very lonely as far as writing is concerned, so I for one am very excited to see this dynamic little corner of the blogoverse spring up. Thanks again.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 25, 2009
JB, do you have days, where you find that you are not happy with what you have written. do you push on, thinking you will come back to it and improve..or do you cut your losses and head for a different scene

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sibeen ducks in to say...

Posted October 25, 2009
Isn't there an intosuctory course, "Writing for Enginners - a guide for the socially inept"?

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Orin puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2009
If you've got time to write but you aren't happy with what you've written, you should keep writing anyway. Just write something else.

How often do you find time to sit down and write rather than having to arse about doing something else? Don't waste the time. If you can push through and write something golden, you'll come back to that the next time the words are coming out like a slurry of sewerage. You've heard Birmo talk about writing muscles? Well not giving up when it all looks like shit is part of building them up.

If you arse off today, you're likely to arse off in future. Take a break, but don't give yourself an excuse to bail.

Apply arse to chair.

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Abigail mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Does anyone mind if I ask a nosey question?

What genre do you guys work in ? ie fiction/ non/ blog/ lit fic/ genre fic/ (What have I missed?) Backgrounds in writing? I'm just curious to know what people are drawn to but if you don't feel like saying, that's fine.

I write lit. fiction (now there's a laugh, I mean, I try to write it) as well as essays and poetry. I used to to be a very small-time peanuts "song writer" (elevating myself beyond my talents there) for a couple of bands I was friends with in the early 80s and my only claim to fame (which I dont care about , it is just a good story) is that when I was 20 I wrote some lyrics and left them sitting on the table ,lost them, wondered where, forgot about them. A few years later they turned up on the radio coming out of the mouth of the lead singer of a band (who were friends of my band friends I was sharing a house with and who often came around) who made a great deal of money on them. I just thought "hey! thats my lyrics!!!"

Not suggesting the lyrics were anything spectacular- this person was a much better song writer, take my word for it, (and far more successful than me) and he added verses which it needed- but I always felt , you know...damn that! So, after that happened, for reasons I can't articulate, I lost a lot of writing confidence for quite a few years and it's really only in the last couple of years that I've returned to it. (apart from dry, boring old academic writing which I had to do for years at uni but I don't count that especially apart from the discipline it instills) Anyone else? What do you like to write? how long you been doing it?

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Orin ducks in to say...

Posted October 25, 2009
I write textbooks, which isn't really a genre. Writing textbooks isn't as exciting as writing fiction. On the other hand I do get regularly paid enough to support my family off my books.

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HAVOCK puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail, I'll give you some links of the ferals who frequent here.

What do they write..well all sorts of stuff to be honest. From Just blogging about..anything, to short stories, some published. most not..(laughs), most would like too. I'm not going to say killing is a theme...but EXPLODIE GOODNESS as it get referred to is WICKED!.

If you take a stroll down the links on the left of JB's page you will come across they crews sites. Mos like me, put up their stiff on their blogs. And then there is the mini Burger of JB's as well. Thats submitted stuff from us or and others...some good shit. Have a cruise around..but its FICTION with a significant Military / action bent!.

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin.. reckon you are right..I just kept at it today. Its funny actually, because it was the continuation of the HILL scene from Intense and I have not written anything on that section now for some months. I suspect part of it was getting back into the grove with the scenes and the characters and I simply have to push through.. to re familiarise myself and get IN CHARACTER with them again.

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El Coqui would have you know...

Posted October 25, 2009
My problem is that I am writing in a second language and at times, I get two wordy. By example, this is the opening scene of the story that I am working on.

***

“Shit, Steve, help me turn this goddamn turkey towards the river,” Elizabeth Tricozzi shouted as she steeled herself. She knew that regardless of whatever they did, they were going to crash. Even if all the alarms blaring on her ears, the tattletales’ red lights that flooded her instrument panel and the fast approaching hard ground were not enough of a clue. Since her first day of rotary flight school at Rucker, she been inculcated with the idea that there had never been such a thing as a gliding helicopter and had learned to always keep an eye out for emergency landing sites. So with her copilot help, she continued to fight the controls to keep them upright, and moving in the general direction of the only clearing they could reach as their Chinook threatened to shake itself apart. It was not on her nature to give up easily and she fought the controls, all the way down, hoping for a soft landing spot. However, as the ground reached for them with a decisive finality, the aviator last coherent thought were for her husband and children before the crash impact and darkness engulfed her.

***

And that was me trying to be brief.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail, "What do you like to write?"

Speculative horsehs!t is my speciality.

As with others here I may daydream of being as fantasticly wealthy & powerful as Birmo as a consequence of my failed mental-state and the frippery & inanity it creates, but in reality it's only for my own entertainment. The day someone pays for my brand of dribble must herald the last days of a corrupt culture. EG: What does Race Car spell backwards?

But just because it's onanism at it's worse, I still want my ideas to escape into the meme pool @ large, which means the will, skill & patience to craft sentances & hew paragraphs. Not saying I have any of the above, just recognising the need.

Of us all it's Orin whom I think about most. Us Fiction freaks can just kill of an idea, charachter or scene if it aint working. The Man requires Orin's material to cover X,Y and Z.

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John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted October 25, 2009
Havock, what Orin said. I have days where I look at my finished copy and think, what shit. Usually when I'm doing non fic, but sometimes with novels too. He's right. You just hunker down and punch through. If you are a writer, you write, whether it's working for you or not. It's a bit like being a bowler, particularly a fast bowler. Sometimes you are the speed, it's just streaming through you, and sometimes you're no better than a very pedestrian medium paced workhorse. But you still have to run up and bowl no matter what.

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damian mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
Totally second Orin and Birmo. Pointless, pretentious crap written down beats the Humble Revealed Word of God not written down. The only way to make it happen is to sit down and do it. That's precisely the bit that's missing for me, and I make no excuses at all.

Abigail - as for genre stuff? What I *want* to write is somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Joseph Conrad. What I *can* actually write is probably different again, but since what I am in fact writing right now is nothing at all, so you might not want to attribute that "wise" tag to my advice :).

FWIW I wrote songs too in the 80s. But whoever remembers me would most likely do so for covering Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen songs, and (very remotely) possibly for my punk influenced covers of Gram Parsons and others. Mostly the Story Bridge Bomb Shelter Bar, but a few other locations (4ZZZ occupation for instance) come to mind.

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Abigail would have you know...

Posted October 25, 2009
Orin, Havock, NowhereBob (I love that name btw, lots of character)

Thanks! That helps me make sense of things a bit. :)

Orin- to write a text book means you're clever and certainly moreso than me, and christ knows the world needs more smart people who are contributing hugely to peoples' education. And besides, you can always try other forms of writing some day if you feel like it.and writing's writing, doesn't matter what really, if it's your own composition.

Havock- thx for your help. I just went and had a look in "mini burger"- a bit of girlclumsy and Dr Yobbo- WOW!! That's terribly exciting to discover. Can anyone submit "fanfiction" or is it a closed thing? (Hvk you seem to know the ropes around here so i ask you:) I take it fanfic is just a name for words by unpublished writers.

NowhereBob-"Spec Horseshit"? I won't hear of it sir! To feel you are creating something, gee you know, that's the most important thing in the world (I mean thing, as opposed to the people we care about).

Although my own leanings (ie what I can do sort of kind of) are toward the literary, I just like all kinds of writing and I'l look forward to reading soemthing of yours if you offer it some day.

Best, Abs.

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Abigail mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2009
Damien-

Well, maybe this: just write one sentence. (but I'm not trying to tell you what to do. I hope that didn't sound bossy)

Why wouldn't your advice have given me something? It did. just because you're not putting something on a page at present doesn't mean you don't have something intelligent to say and god knows Im used to doing all of this in a vacuum until two weeks ago when I became aware of this Friday writers' blog, so thoughts on the subject hold legion benefits for me.

Conrad/ Chandler, two of the best writers there were. I know their style, so I know what you're talking about.

What you *can write will just develop and develop.I'd venture that's true of all writers.

Oh, btw- interesting you wrote songs then too!- great fun, is it not? Im not familiar with 'Story Bridge Bar'- I was in Sydney and I've not heard of that place at all.

About just accepting it isn't all going to meet your dreams and pushing on anyway- I have to add my voice to the consensus view.

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HAVOCK asserts...

Posted October 25, 2009
Abigail, the mini burger primarily relates to FAN fic from JB's novels, Having said that, the Intense pieces I posted are up and relate in no way to FAN FIC, its more a case of Persons from here...tuckerised i guess in my writings and the final thing is..ITS NOT MINE, the Mini Burger that is. Its JB's. His decision alone.

How it works. well post what you write and then the big god like, I dont break my arm boss will will either post it or not i guess, or e/mail the man and have a chat.

The rest of the crew of sorts, more like a gather of ratbags ferals and some educated boffins gather Tues / Thur at the Blunt Instrument and Fri, with his writing blog, any day here abouts and saturday at the GEEK. All on tags here on the left side at the top.

hope that helps anyways!.

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NBlob reckons...

Posted October 25, 2009
Miss A, there are some of my bits & pieces over @ the miniburger.

For me miniburger fan-fic comes from those who enjoyed JB's novels and want to flex their writing muscles. Without the effort required to create a world from scratch.

Caution; much of it will be inpenetrable without having read (at least) WW and the AoT trilogy.

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NBlob mutters...

Posted October 25, 2009
Oh and another thing.

Intel has been brining me disturbing reports about the Arch Anti-Birmo, a certain Mr Earls(SFX thunder & dramatic organ chords)

Sources indicate that he is becoming even more shevelled & couth, while our Glorious Leader continues in a the opposite directions.

While recieving a low veracity score on the admiralty scale, rumours & scuttlebutt persist that the next Candoo Campbell Erection is to be the Nick Earls Bikeway. Not only daily funneling more wan vegan slouchers into our fine megapolis, but lauding a hack & perpetuating a myth, while disregarding the contributions our Dear Leader has made to the literary wellbeing of the community and ignoring his selfless public service providing accomodation for polymath Playboy Bunnies.

This is intollerable. Something Must Be Done.

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Annette asserts...

Posted October 25, 2009
This is really helpful and I've passed the url along to other interested parties. Thank you.

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted October 26, 2009
NBob. Indeed.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 26, 2009
Chin up. Mebbe there's a Birmingham Effluent Treatment Plant on the way.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted October 26, 2009
ER...said by one half of a duo that routinely christens Wankerisms with much more appropriate titles.

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Sweet Jane Says would have you know...

Posted October 26, 2009
You know, if I were to create an alter-ego to switch into in order to protect my hard drives - it would be so obvious what it would be. So, so, obvious...

J.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted October 26, 2009
Jane, if you chose to double your ego I'm sure there'd be an eager army of exterminators to volunteer to take it out.

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted October 26, 2009
Not obvious enough. Is this you speaking or your alter ego?

Hmm "protect my hard drives" suggests its your OCD speaking

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Sweet Jane Says mumbles...

Posted October 26, 2009
Only I can end "Jane." And the only thing it suggests is a change of careers.

J.

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Crashguy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 26, 2009
JB, I just wanted to say thanks for this Friday blog. I've really been enjoying reading it.

That is all. Move along please.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted October 26, 2009
Me too, Crash guy.

I have another question for that growing list, JB. When you get to discussing productivity, I'd like to know what's a reasonable word count to aim for per week.

If you're working on that 12 month commitment timetable.

I imagine that you'd have to break it down into planning, structure, writing, and then editing.

When you think its ready for a test read, should you send it off to an agency, or what?

I was at a seminar at the QWC a few years back and there was a woman there from Curtis Browne, Tara someone, I think - and her suggestion was get it proofread independently before the agent sees it.

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted October 26, 2009
Actually Hughesy, if you're out there, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted October 26, 2009
Good questions, Q. And worth a stand alone thread. The Tara of whom you speak has repped for me once or twice. She's the goods. And she's right about getting it independently assessed. But more of that later.

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jp is gonna tell you...

Posted October 26, 2009
Here's my 2 cents:

"Thinking" is a very underrated past-time. And I'm not just talking about when I zone out when someone's talking, thinking about an interesting way to kill. I find a change of pace and or location is good: going for a walk, the movies, the beach, cooking, etc. Actually, cooking for me is the most meditative thing I can do -- the one time where, if I want to, I can quieten the thinking mode and concentrate on the food. Usually some good ideas emerge out of that clarity.

Re writing discipline, I wrote my non-fiction book and first two novels while still holding down a real job at a newspaper. Subsequent 3 were written at home as a full-time novelist and it took the first of those to settle into a loose routine that works for me: I start each day at a local cafe for a couple hours, do a couple hours at home, then if it's a nice day a couple hour's writing/planing by hand in a beer garden in some pub (Hav, Naut, you've seen said pub). Evenings are editing, researching, emailing, and when the deadline's looming, writing. I do something, eg write/make notes/read, every day of the year.

Re planning, I always know my major story beats and the ending (at least the FEEL of the ending) and I'll do all this, and my research, by hand in notebooks. With FOX HUNT I made about 100 pages of notes, and mapped out my action scenes. PATRIOT ACT had a similar amount of notes and I structured like a mo fo. BLOOD OIL was minimal as it was written with pure fury -- deadlines, anger of my character, and my own (eg, what's the world gong to be like when we have Bible Spice and John McBush in the White House?) all driving it along. I think of these notes as rehearsal: when I write I don't need to refer to them, it's just the place where I ironed things out for the real run at it. (Oh, and these notebooks and papers can then be donated to libraries and such as a tax offset.)

All that said, I wrote my first teen novel last summer over a couple weeks, with no planning at all. That's been my fav writing experience. As Birmo pointed out, there's no right way to tackle a novel and experience certainly helps -- I waste hardly any words these days (eg stuff that gets edited out), and I've never been more than a 10% waster from the get go. You just have persevere, and blindly believe that you can do it time and time again. I'm freaked out with each new book (can I do it again? will it be better?) and it takes the first 100-150 pages for me to lose those nerves and settle in. And, when you're in the zone, and typing like mad, and storylines come together and characters do things you didn't see coming a week ago... that's the magic. That's the rush that reminds me why this is a fun gig.

Apart from a couple short stories per year, I can't bring myself to write anything else for anyone else -- not even regular blogs for my own site -- writing the novels is work enough. That's why Birmo is the king.

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Quokka puts forth...

Posted October 26, 2009
Ooh this is good. thanks JP.

I found it very reassuring, what you said about nerves. I want to go back to a manuscript I wrote about 4 years ago and it just flowed. Needs work and teasing out and putting together but I'm scared to touch it in case I screw up The Flow.

I had so much fun with it at the time but now it's a bit like looking back at an old love affair and wondering if you can rekindle the spark (And I'm not known as a sentimental romantic) or nope, Its Dead, Dave.

JB at the very end of your list, I'd like to hear your thoughts on dealing with agents and publishers, too. I often listen to radio national and if I'm around I like to catch the book show. A while back I heard a few publishing types speaking about new authors and the publisher (think it was someone from Hachette) was very dismissive about first time authors selling the film rights to their stories. She seemed to think they should take whatever they get ($500 and lucky to get it was the figure she quoted) but when I was at the QWC I'm sure Tara said something about trying to wrangle a good deal for the author if film rights were an option and she was disappointed if she couldn't get them a good deal on that, if the book would obviously translate to a good movie.

Anyway, it put my shackles up a bit.

I can't think of a lot of examples off the top of my head - frankly, after doing the rounds of Sydney Harbor yesterday in all that rain and swell I still feel like I'm on the Balmain Ferry - up, down, sideways, lurch - and then more of the same on the plane home - but there's things like Melena Marchetta's 'Looking for Alibrandi' and 'Mao's Last Dancer' (OK I know that's autobiographical but it was just beautiful).

I'd hate to think that those writers only got a measly $500 for the film rights.

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Orin mutters...

Posted October 26, 2009
Hughesy has a service mentioned on her blog where she will go over a manuscript and offer realistic feedback from the perspective of someone who worked as an agent.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted October 26, 2009
Ta. I'll check it out.

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jp has opinions thus...

Posted October 27, 2009
Like book advances, unless the film option has gone to auction with two or more peeps bidding each other up, the option $'s won't be huge. I'm sure $500 was a figure of speech though - $5k is more like the ballpark average of a low figure for Aus film.

Whatever an author gets for film rights up front they keep, no matter if the film is made or not, and the buyer usually has the rights for 2 or 3 years and then they revert back to the author. If the film does get made, the author gets a percentage of the production budget, usually 3%.

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 27, 2009
That's better.

The radio national interviewer sounded a bit aghast too and she said 'so what's the incentive for the author to write the kind of story that will make a good movie?' and the response was 'The increase in book sales.'

Thanks JP.

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Sweet Jane Says is gonna tell you...

Posted October 27, 2009
Did you get a cat?

J.

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 27, 2009
Cools, JP cleared that up for you quokka...gunna say. 500.00 and thats IT. NO WAY. to low for starters and yeah..its an options gig and term to either pre production, adaptation ( script prep ) or whatever the hell else is agreed to.

JP.. YEAH...THAT! is a good pub, perfect for that and or a stagger home...at least for you.

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jennicki reckons...

Posted October 28, 2009
Writing question:

How do you protect people while simultaneously writing them into your stories?

Basically making a real person into a character--how do you know what details to change and keep in order to both preserve and protect the identity of real people in your stories?

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Orin mutters...

Posted October 28, 2009
Change the name and one detail - for example if you said "Diction was of paramount importance to Andrew" no one would figure out you were talking about Havock.

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HAVOCK mumbles...

Posted October 28, 2009
I'm finding myself in a place I suspect JB you have already been. Dan blacks death. At the moment I have just finished a section where, Havock & Jolls cleared out the guns line attacking the other two sections, , thats described only from Als perspective and shows no detail on WHAT and how the action of H & J took place.

If I was now to describe it, from H's POV, it would by the time line be in the past and I'm leaning towards NOT describing it from that POV. The reader may well not like that, so I am thinking, it might be better to have another party, arrive on scene and the sort of PIECE together the action, like describing their thought process and they figure out the basics.

I suspect it NOT done to now go back, especially with an action scene that could have been a core component, although I have done it with other scenes, thats only to build the story line and slowly allow the reader to see a bigger picture start to emerge...

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jennicki would have you know...

Posted October 28, 2009
ROTFLMAO, Orin.

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Neil puts forth...

Posted November 4, 2009
I've never understood the need for writers to get all their fact straight. Seriously, who cares as long as its a good read. If I want facts I'll read non fiction.

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Wereviking would have you know...

Posted November 4, 2009
The old chestnut I swear by is that the trick of writing is to write. Editing comes later. This does not preclude planning, by any stretch of the imagination. I think some time writing essays and working with words on a professional level is also extremely beneficial, but obviously not the rule for all. The couch is also your best friend and your enemy. You must know when laying down your head is helpful and when it is a crutch.

Zephyr -- a superhero webcomic in prose

http://wereviking.wordpress.com

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Theo. Bennett is gonna tell you...

Posted November 4, 2009
Oh yes, JB. Orgasmic sense, written as you know you know it.

I'd not dare do other than share jenicki's salvation. Thank you.

But Neil, I've considered your thought for a millisecond, and decided I'd much much rather Shakespeare had known how to disguise Loyola by first quoting "the facts".

And the research sweat and travail of Arthur Hailey whose novels - including 'Wheels', 'Hotel', 'Airport', all stand up topically and today.

Then there's Tom Clancy's blockbusters that have firm foundation of research and facts.

Not to forget the splendid C19th novelists of Russia, Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Latin America - and a couple homegrown too.

But, of course, writing a 4,000 word flam from "pure" imagination is a facile wank. Like making a 6'00" video drama without a script.

A much easier toss.

- tdb

.

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Abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted November 4, 2009
Theo- I don't know. I mean, certainly that's true about the part of research in a lot of lit we like (try saying that after 2 bottles of red wine).But it can get in the way and especially if they get a detail a little bit wrong.

I didn't take what Neil said as a deep criticism of the practise, myself.I guess it means it doessn';t matter iof the whole thing is some made up stuff. I never carfe either. Sometimes research in a book reads like research and it can be clumsy and boring, so I don't think there's an absolute here.

I think I said elsewhere on this blog, Hermann Melville could do it; a famous Australian female writer who specialises in blockbusters which sometimes get made into mini- series , cannot.

I know a few brilliant people who can indeed improvise a great 6 min vid drama; savants; its there in their heads. doesn't mean its wank. Again, nothing's absolutely the case when it comes to creativity. Anyway, my view, I guess.

Great book on where your cultural tastes come from which I'd direct anybody to called 'Let's Talk About Love: Journey To the End of Taste' by Carl Wilson, a Canadian music critic who analysed his hatred of Celine Dion's music. Excellent read. Covers what you're saying really.

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Ngarmada has opinions thus...

Posted February 11, 2010
"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking."

Albert Einstein

Touche John.

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Respond to 'Friday Writing Blog: Preparation, planning and where ideas come from.'

Some answers to questions from Friday's writing blog.

Posted October 21, 2009 by John Birmingham
Got a pretty good response to the idea of running a regular writing blog and I've clipped quite a few of the questions and discussion ideas into a separate file to run as standalone threads in the future. There were a couple of you who asked questions, however, which I reckon I could deal with briefly.

Medway sort of turned the blog topic back in on itself by asking what is writer's block. He wasn't sure how to tell the difference between a genuine lack of inspiration and just being a bit of a lazy knob. I guess the difference is sweating blood. Those of you who've done any kind of academic writing will recognize the signs of laziness. You have an assignment or an essay due and all of a sudden daytime television becomes immeasurably more fascinating than it was just last week, the apartment needs cleaning, your toenails need clipping, anything, please God anything other than sitting down and actually doing the work you've been assigned. That's procrastination. When you do it on purpose with the full knowledge of what you doing, it's laziness.

Writers block is something different. It's when you desperately want to write, and you don't get distracted you don't watch TV you don't put on music you don't fuck around on the net you don't restump the house -- you just sit staring at the screen sweating bullets of blood from your forehead because Nothing Is Coming. Well, sorry, that's wrong: one thing is coming. Your fucking deadline. It's rushing towards you like a black tsunami of doom and the terrible world ending roar of it is making your inability to think of anything worth writing all the worse, like some sort of evil feedback loop.

Hope that clears a few things up, Medders.

Kieran asked whether I try and get around occasional creative blockages by writing out of sequence, a suggestion his girlfriend made to him. Sometimes I do. One of the nice things about writing multithreaded narratives is that when one isn't working for you you can abandon it for a short time and pick up one of the other threads. It happens occasionally that a character or story arc will simply stop engaging us. Often the best way to deal with it is just to walk away for a short time. That's as true of any job as it is of writing. Sometimes you just need to step away from the desk even if it's only for a quick cigarette break. And of course if you're not intent of dying from lung cancer one way of stepping away from a story is to just work on another story. I thoroughly recommend this technique.

Since we're on the topic of writer's block, and there's weeks worth of other questions to answer, I might finish up with a few more suggestions for how to get around it.

Sometimes it helps if you change the point of view from which the scene is being narrated. You can do this even in a first-person POV story, even if your narrator is the only person in the scene. If it's just not working for you, try switching to a third person POV. If you have multiple characters in the scene switch to a minor character and try writing it from their point of view, or switch to an antagonist and do the same thing. You'll be surprised how often that frees up an imaginative logjam.

Sometimes you just need to rush the thing like a bull at a gate. This can be particularly so when writing nonfiction. You paint yourself into a corner, or at least convince yourself that's what you've done. If you just can't come up with a form of words to get your idea onto the screen in good order, step away from the screen. Grab a notepad and pen, walk out of the room, sit down somewhere else and work old school for just a few minutes. Ask yourself "what the fuck am I actually trying to say". Then without worrying about spelling and syntax, grammar, the ugliness of what you're writing or any of that shit, just write in longhand as quickly as you can every thought that comes into your mind about what ever topic you're writing about. Fill the page, take a minute or two to have a break, then go back to the computer with your scrawled, virtually unreadable page of notes, and type them up. Then spend the next 15 minutes turning them into readable paragraphs.

Finally, here's a little trick I use in the most desperate of straits. Take yourself off to the nearest bookshop and have a look at some of the worthless crap that has made it into publication, and tell yourself if losers like Birmingham can do it, so can I.

91 Responses to ‘Some answers to questions from Friday's writing blog.’

Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted October 21, 2009
This is so much more fun than cleaning the dead cockroaches out of the pantry.

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Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot reckons...

Posted October 21, 2009
Great tips, I especially the last one. Not that you write crap of course, just another of your jokes, but some people do get utter rubbish published. Ah, must be the joys of the agent's couch.

Hard to believe that you suffer from writer's block. Your sheer prolific writing nature and of course genius too have certainly inspired me. And even inspired me to write about you as a writing inspiration! It looks as if you've learnt how to deal with writer's block when it does strike so thanks for sharing your tips with us.

I say a big YES to the regular writing blog and a hip hip hooray to you for penning it for us and keeping us on our toes:)

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beeso swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2009
I'd just like to add a small story that sort of furthers what birmo is saying here, about braking the zone. I did a bit of public speaking in my youth and particularly liked the writing for it I always wrote longhand and then transcribed to palmcards in full, even though i rarely used them. I turned up to a rostrum event thinking that there would be ah um a rostrum so i had no palmcards. No. So in the hour that i had before i spoke i rewrote the speech onto palmcards, but in small grabs, like triggers. When i came to speak i had a vastly different one to what i had turned up with and it went on tangents during talking as well, because i wasn't wedded to my notes. One of the best speeches i ever did. I wonder if i should try editing longer blog posts this way, or setting them out way first before i jump on the machine.

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NBlob mutters...

Posted October 21, 2009
"black tsunami of doom"

Sooo been there.

Good thinks, thanks JB.

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El Coqui ducks in to say...

Posted October 21, 2009
JB:

Thanks for the laugh as I struggle with another story.

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Quokka puts forth...

Posted October 21, 2009
OK, I know I said I'd do that yesterday but I went to the movies instead. And then The Bloke started whining about toothache and I became convinced he's got a peridontal abscess (I've temped in a dental clinic. I know how to pick it)

And then I started to obsess that this is going to fuck over our long weekend in Sydney and dinner at Longrain.

See? I understand this procrastination thing.

Its simple. If you really want to ramp it up, add neurosis. It really sparks things up.

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Medway puts forth...

Posted October 21, 2009
Yay for name recognition!

That does give an accurate description on my big piece that I have. The amount of times I've sat down in front of it, reviewed it, made notes of what I want to rehash, and attempted to figure out where I want to go with it has frustrated me to no end. I guess it's fortunate that I don't have any actual deadlines (except death or senility, whichever comes first), just a desire to get to 250 pages.

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SJPONeill mumbles...

Posted October 21, 2009
Good stuff, cheers, keep it coming...

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HAVOCK reckons...

Posted October 21, 2009
funny your last para..I have numerous times gone.." shit...does that work or is this the right way"..NFI. Then grab abook off the shelf and have a read..AHHH, thats how its done again...

I just need to be able to FKN replicate it on god dam paper!..

Yours, Coyle and eric L Harry get a thumping on that stuff some days

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HAVOCK is gonna tell you...

Posted October 21, 2009
Question..this may apply less and less I suspect the more you write.

Have you ever writen a scene and then thought..SHITE..I reckon I have read that or its ....very similar. then had to modify it!

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Abigail mutters...

Posted October 21, 2009
Wow John, I think it's amazing that you're doing this! Thx for putting the time in.

To all you suggested:

Yep, yep and yep. Point taken.

It's funny, when you mentioned two things, ie, getting tired of one strand of the story so you leave it alone for a while, and secondly, looking at badly written books and feeling encouraged by that (LOL): when I saw those things, I put the two together in my mind. Since I've been writing quite a lot in the last couple of years, I have started to be able to tell when a writer has lost the plot or they've laboured the point, or whatever it is. I mean, I don't do it on purpose and I'm not sniffing down my nose at any writer while doing so, I just start recognising funny little things about the process (rather than the story).Don't people find, you just start develop this critical faculty and you don't even feel it happening?

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Abigail swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2009
oh, ps- about the difference between procrastinating and getting a complete block: yes, it is good to get an expereinced writer's definition of the difference between the two, because, via the evil that is the right hemisphere, you can *believe* it is the latter; it feels like a block, when in fact, it's just avoidance. Gotta face the truth. Harsh, but true.

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Quokka mutters...

Posted October 21, 2009
Abigail I suspect that sometimes an author takes great pleasure in killing off a character or feeding them to the scorpions for exactly that reason.

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Allan Dunbar swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2009
I hope you're going to do a blog on nuts and bolts stuff like planning and shit. I like to write and I rarely have writers block, but I think my biggest issue is I get an idea and just start writing. I do that to explore the idea a bit, but sometimes I think I need to do that, then go to a whiteboard and just plan the hell out of it.

I don't write multi-POV narratives most of the time, I write single POV. However, when you write a multi-POV, do you plot out the story, then section off blocks that each character will tell? Or do you have a story worked out for each character before you start writing?

Seriously though, it's great to read this kind of thing, a real insight. Thanks. :)

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Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted October 21, 2009
Hum...I"d like to know how much you have to actually get out there and sell yourself.

I saw an author at the WF recently and if she got any more Chipper I swear to God someone was gonna toss something at her. Probably me. And if I wasn't wearing lace ups it might've been a shoe.

I was seriously tempted to ask her if she'd double dosed on her medication that day.

And you could see that it was putting people off.

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Steven Danno ducks in to say...

Posted October 21, 2009
The grim spectre of the deadline looms large in our collective unconsciousness, black tsunami of doom indeed. We turn ourselves inside out and all give knowingly grave nods when the term is mentioned. I would like to know if anyone has actually missed a deadline? Or one that uhh actually mattered because they were too drunk too stoned too selfish too disorganised too fucked in the head...if this is the case you need to wonder whether they are in the right gig. Deadlines are the procrastinator's friend. But I bet there are some doozies all the same? I missed a Devo concert once for all of the above reasons, arrived after the encore had finished wrote the review anyway. No great loss on reflection.

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NBlob mutters...

Posted October 21, 2009
" too drunk too stoned too selfish too disorganised too fucked in the head..."

Hey, I resemble that remark!

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Medway would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
NowhereBob: An example to us all

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Orin is gonna tell you...

Posted October 21, 2009
I saw this posted the other day, the Turkey City Lexicon - some good advice in it for writers:

http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/

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jp asserts...

Posted October 21, 2009
While in the bookstore we can go to the "Big L" Lit section to see what real writing pain looks like.

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Chas Dean mumbles...

Posted October 21, 2009
Birmo - no need to put yourself down re the final par. My motivation? Two words.

Paranormal. Fiction.

I gotta be able to produce a more worthy effort than the "I can has hot vampire sexings" horde. Seriously.

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Chaz swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2009
Nothing better to make you feel more upbeat than to check out the fantasy sections. The amount of crap there is amazing, along with all the trek and WofW novels.

Yeah have to agree though that Manchester bloke is a real loser.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted October 21, 2009
Wow. I actually cleaned the FKN pantry. Progress.

WhadidImiss?

And where's Doc Yobbo?

Spam Trap gobble him up?

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted October 21, 2009
Chaz, I'll put my hand up as a closet HALO lit fan.

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