Quotey McQuoteface

I’m re-reading Jurassic Park for my thesis (oh, how wonderful is that statement?). Here’s a quote I like, because I think it’s true but also because it relates so well to writing. To other things also, but especially for writing, because there is a pervasive belief that writing is something people can just take up and be good at next week.

Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. … President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever is it you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it is your power. It can’t be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.

— Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, p306

Sunday Circle #8

This Sunday Circle is an initiative of Peter M Ball (see here). I don’t get to it every week, but this is one of them, so here goes.

What am I working on this week?

I’m marking this week, and when that’s done I’m developing a new course for second semester at UQ. In the background, I’m subconsciously going over the several weeks of academic work on the neural underpinnings of reading stories, and trying to make sense of what is a huge, complicated and sometimes frustratingly muddled discussion around brain science and narrative.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’m taking inspiration from the You Are Not So Smart podcast episode 100, which had the tagline, “Science is wrong about everything, but you can trust it more than anything.” See, my PhD confirmation readers took significant issue with me using a scientific approach to understanding stories. I was challenged as to why I was “privileging science” (I don’t think I was, but anyway), and the approach was called variously crude, overreaching, and ignoring the “rich traditions” of literary criticism/theory. Despite the fact that neither of my readers have to my knowledge a background in science (or creative writing that much) I was really taken aback to find such hostility towards a scientific approach. I’m coming at this in a spirit of cooperation, interested to see what science might support (or challenge) in traditional literary fields. I’m interested in the fundamental “why” questions that I think only science can robustly begin to answer. And yet, I can’t help feel very much out of place in my faculty. So that podcast is inspiring because it acknowledges science has limitations – of course it does – but that doesn’t make it useless. Evidence is quite to the contrary. So, onward I go.

What part of my project am I avoiding?

I’m avoiding (legitimately) the big edit of my next women’s fiction novel, The Lucky Escape. I must begin next week, and it will need a lot of work (as my first drafts always do). I can hope it isn’t as bad as I imagine, but that isn’t always true. Hopefully I can subconsciously summon courage along with everything else.

Sunday Circle #7

This Sunday Circle is an initiative of Peter M Ball (see here). I don’t get to it every week, but I am this week, so here goes.

What am I working on this week?

I’m editing my sci-fi time-travel Victorian Tesla novel (for my PhD). The first draft was horribly awful in many ways and this edit is incredibly challenging. I’ve just come through the dark point with it. Since the last Sunday circle, I’ve finished the draft of my next contemporary novel, and gone through PhD confirmation. It wasn’t a positive process. I’ve been left destabilised as to the whole rationale of my project, which is echoing through my edit. The destabilisation goes something like this: Me: I’m a writer, interested in how writers make their stories work, and when I say “work” I’m interested in that idea at a deep, neuroscientific level. *whispers of confirmation readers*: why don’t you read X literary theory? We don’t understand what or why you’re doing this. Me: … I say this solely to acknowledge that working on the sci-fi novel also means grinding subconsciously on how to attack the project critically, and whether I’m even capable of satisfying an academic audience. Onward we go.

What’s inspiring me this week?

Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook. It’s a stunning illustrated guide to writing, that fundamentally imagines stories as strange living creatures. Vandermeer’s thematic and tonal fingerprints are all over it. While not everything resonates with me, it’s still a beautiful experience.

What part of my project am I avoiding?

For the last week, I avoided dealing with the “spaghetti junction”, which is where a whole new beginning to my sci-fi novel had to merge with the old beginning (much later in the story). I have actually resolved that (largely), but now I’m avoiding dealing with the fallout of the merge, which means scraping/rewriting/resetting the next six chapters or so. That’s what I’m about to force myself to address now.


Sunday Circle #6

I haven’t responded to a Sunday Circle in a while (an initiative of Peter M Ball, see here) because I haven’t felt the time to post has been worth it. But since the toddler is out in the garden doing things with dad, and I’m about to embark on a BIG PROJECT, today is one of those days.

What am I working on this week?

I’m starting the next contemporary women’s fiction novel this week. That means about two months of grinding out the words of the first draft, about 2000 per day so that I can finish it before the end of March, and have a good month to rest it before editing. At the same time, I’m working on my PhD confirmation presentation (just submitted all the documents last week) and the next chapter of the thesis, so I have to be organised. Lots of index cards planning and working at night whenever I can.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’ve just finished It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. An amazing book. Heavier than my next project (just a little) but a truly surprising book, and a careful balance of romance and seriousness. I have to try to do the same. I’m also into Yellowlees Douglas’s How Neuroscience Can Make You a Better Writer. The book focuses on non-fiction, but it dovetails nicely with my PhD research into the neuroscience of narrative and reading, and what makes engaging texts. Attempting to transfer and marry up where the principles in that book apply to fiction. My PhD novel first draft is finished (but is awful) so I’m resting it and letting all the research percolate until I need to revise. I’m going to be thinking and applying it to my next commercial book, though.

What part of my project am I avoiding?

Resolving the ‘B’ story in my new book. I have the ‘A’ story down for my protagonist, but the history behind the accompanying characters is loose and dark. Need to firm and illuminate so I don’t dig myself into a hole.


Sunday Circle #5

This post is again for the Sunday Circle, an initiative of Peter M Ball (see here). I work every Sunday, but I sometimes don’t post the Sunday Circle, simply because with limited time, working on a project is preferable to posting a blog. But I do it when I can.

What am I working on this week?

I’m continuing to work on my PhD project. I’ve been having real trouble not trying to let the academic side push the creative projects into directions it wasn’t meant to go. I have an opening, and the characters, but I need to go back and do some development before I go further (see next section) so that’s what I’m doing today.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’ve been reading How to write science fiction and fantasy by Orson Scott Card. It’s reminding me of all the things I’m being lazy with in my world development. I also finished this week Fear the sky by Stephen Moss which was surprisingly rollicking sci-fi thriller.

What part of my project am I avoiding?

All the backstory stuff, which is why I have to look at it today.


Sunday Circle #4

This post is again for the Sunday Circle, an initiative of Peter M Ball (see here). I work every Sunday, but I sometimes don’t post the Sunday Circle, simply because with limited time, working on a project is preferable to posting a blog. But I do it when I can.

What am I working on this week?

I’m continuing to work on my PhD project. After a month of being intermittently lost in the woods, reading articles and coming at it backwards, I’ve finally seen the vision of what the creative project is. Not the novella I’d been working on (though it’s useful background and testing, all 11k of it). Today and for the week, I’m doing work tandem – planning the novel (working title The Incident at St Alberts) and reading “antecedent works”.

I’ve also met with my writing buddy to get her feedback on The Paris Wedding. As usual, she found a bunch of stuff I’d been hiding from, or hadn’t considered. I’m letting that turn over in my subconscious. Once we’re on the plane to Paris in 2 weeks, I’ll be doing revisions.


What’s inspiring me this week?

The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s a serious technical novel, which is where my focus is heading for my PhD. I’m listening to it on audiobook, and the techniques used to navigate all that technical material are both interesting and impressive, and the reading by R C Bray is really well done. I can see why it’s an award winner.

I also finished Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (also on audiobook). An awesome (but very different) story; not really at all technical in the sci-fi spectrum, but full of ironic humour and savage humanity. At 26+hours in audiobook, it was a serious investment, but worth it to have the voice actor reading those lovely phrases in Middle English and Latin. Not technical sci-fi, but meticulously researched all the same.

We were sick this week, so I’ve also revisited that old fave, the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, complete with Colin Firth. Always a winner.

Why these three things inspiring me? Because levity is an essential part of any narrative, as essential as serious consideration (Aristotle said: “Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.”), but it’s the part of writing that challenges me the most as a writer. Anyone can be a serious bore, or be fluffy (I tend in the former direction) – balancing both is difficult but so critical. Discussion of this aspect of narrative will form an essential part of examining the technical novel for my PhD project, so I’m sucking up as much example as I can and trying to improve myself.


What part of my project am I avoiding?

I’ve been avoiding being too concrete with the plan for the novel, because it starts to change form once I write it down. Starting to break that today I hope.


Bek and Char review: Deadpool

We ride again …

The Escapades


Bek: Directed by Tim Miller in his directing debut, Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds as the red-clad anti-hero, Morena Baccarin as the love interest and Ed Skrein as the villain.


The plot goes something like this: after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, former Special Forces-turned-mercenary, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) undergoes experimental treatment by the nasty Francis (Skrein). By the end of it, Wade is kind of immortal, but also hideously deformed and takes on the alter ego, Deadpool. The rest of the movie is Wade hunting Francis, so he can get his pretty-boy good looks back and return to his true love.


So, I didn’t mind this movie. It was a thousand miles better than Deadpool’s first appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which left me wanting to gouge my own eyes out with my slushy straw.

Get-PaidChar: Wait, are we talking about that scene where Deadpool had his…

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