More on the Art of the Synopsis

Diana Peterfreund who claims to love writing synopses is doing her very best to try and get out of writing one. Her methods include, well, actually you really have to see it. It’s very very funny, and I may steal it for our workshop on synopses in March, especially the interpretative dance!

C’mon, Diana, just write the damn thing!

Speaking of which I’ll be getting back to writing my own damn book . . .

A Lack of Musings

A friend just asked if I’m ever going to write another musing again. She wonders if this blog has destroyed them for all time.

Tis true that I didn’t write a single one in September or October, but then I hardly wrote an email in that time either. But just as I will write emails again, so too will I muse again. I’ve even got a bunch of half-written ones: about podcasts, the artist who’s back to being known as prince again, about city hatred, being Australian, travelling, and about the nightmare of writing a mathematically gifted character (Reason in the Magic or Madness books when I am so not and how it gets harder with each book—not doing that again!).

It’s mostly not the blog what ate them. It’s trying to write two novels a year, plus Daughters of Earth, plus the various other ideas I’m turning into proposals and like that. I’m crap at multi-tasking. To be honest, I’m not even that good at single-tasking. Working on five different writing projects at once breaks my brain.

But blogging ain’t like that. It’s easy, relaxing, instant-gratification writing. I don’t slave over my posts the way I do over my musings, I don’t try to make them structured or particulary coherent. Thus they never take much time to write. And I love the response I get from the people what reads me posts. I was particuarly thrilled by the really cool discussion of translating in response to this post. (I’ve been meaning to ask David Moles for ages about his suggestion that the Australian and USian sections of Magic or Madness could be translated into Mexican and Argentinian Spanish, which way he was suggesting. Mexican=Australian; Argentinia=USian? On account of Mexicans are known for being laid back as are Australians—yeah, yeah, I’m an exception, okay?—and Argentinians like USians are known for, um, how do I put this delicately? their confidence.)

The conversations are the coolest part of blogging. I’m much less interested in blogs that don’t have a comments section.

And, er, um, to sum up: there’ll be more musings when I finish another one. In the future.

Writers are the Best Whingers

Just read and giggled all over this post by Diana Peterfreund in which she wittily whinges about all the work she has to do (and skewers Star Wars). It struck a chord cause I was just about to whinge about the pageproofs of Daughters of Earth which just landed in my life with a very heavy thunk.


Diana (I’m taking liberties referring to her by first name, I don’t actually know her, but I read her fabbie blog, so I feel like I know her) starts by referring to a harder working writer who has family on top of it all, whereas Diana just has her sailor boy and a full-time job. I’m going to lower the bar still further: I have neither children nor pets nor a job (other than writing).

And yet I feel my case is worse than either of theirs because I am suffering (horribly) from post-paradise-adjustment syndrome (or ppas). Just days ago I was in Mexico living an admin-free existence: no shopping, no housecleaning, no dishwashing, no cooking, no laundry, no paying bills, no nothing—except writing. Luz Barron did all that for me, not to mention telling me excellent stories, mending my clothes (!), and taking me out to all the best fun bars in San Miguel. Luz made me food like this:

Mushroom-stuffed chillies on tomatoes & onions served with plantain & pomegranate & garlic rice.

Now I’m back in reality, but where is the counselling and social services team to help me through my ppas? No where! How am I supposed to cope without Luz? How am I supposed to live in the real world where I have to finish Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi, the third Magic or Madness book, go through the staggeringly long Daughters proofs, finish the great Australian mangosteen cricket Elvis fairy book, write the proposal for this jaw-droppingly brilliant idea I just had and do all that adminy stuff!? How is that possible?!

You know I used to have no sympathy for rich folk like Paris Hilton et al, what with their silver spoons wedged firmly down their throats. Rich bastards, I used to think, but now I know the truth: without their staff they’re helpless. Look what happens when someone like Paris takes dressing into her own hands. Not pretty, is it? Imagine her trying to get it together to make her own coffee. Or figure out how a washing machine works. Wow. Her life is really, really hard. Not quite as hard as mine given that she’s still in paradise and not in the land of ppas. But how much worse will it be for poor old Paris when her fall comes? How hideous will her ppas be?

Makes ya think, don’t it?


We’re only getting to the internet place once every three days (or so) and there’s not enough time for me to do all the internetty stuff I wanna. Have to do all the biz, admin, and research stuff first. Sigh. So, I’m behind with all my fun correspondence. If I haven’t writ it don’t mean the love is gone. Honest. I haven’t read anyone’s blog, or newspapers, or anything since we left NYC. I have no idea what’s happening in Sydney, NYC, or the rest of the world, or the blogsphere, or anywhere except our little bit of San Miguel. (Ask me about Luz’s life and I can tell you anything you wanna know! Short version: she’s doing great.) I’ll catch up some time in November. I hope.

Georgette Heyer

I read Cotillion while on the recent London/Glasgow trip. Yes, that’s right in eleven days I was able to read only one book. That should give you a measure of how busy the trip was and how knackered I was at the end of each day.

Anyway. I was delighted by the response to my recent throw away comments on Heyer, but because I was on said trip with scanty interweb thingy connectivity I was never able to respond to the response. Sob.

In those discussions Harriet mentioned Cotillion as one of her favourites which spurred me to pick it up for a reread. I adore the book. But I didn’t always. On my first read as a teenager I found it a terrrible disappointment for the very reason I love it now: Heyer buggers around with your expectations, the hero isn’t who the teenage me wanted it to be. Why, he isn’t even in the petticoat line! She shows the reader exactly how selfish and awful a rake really would’ve been. The book is delicious and clever and subversive and funny and full of delight at messing with her own formula. Divine!

As are Frederica and Venetia. (And if I could stand to reread it I’d probably find the same of The Grand Sophy.) All those books were first published in the 1950s or early 1960s. Many years after The Black Moth was first published. By which time she must’ve been well and truly ready to mess around with the genre she pretty much created.

I’m dying to reread all her books in chronological order to see if this theory is even remotely true. Tragically, the rest of my Heyers are back in Sydney in storage. And more tragically I have many other books I actually have to read, not to mention the ones I have to write. Like this one and the final Magic or Madness book. Sigh.

Just Quickly

We’re in Glasgow. It’s gorgeous and fun and you just can’t get bored by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Trip so far:

London: great (though bloody expensive) food (Niki and Lauren & Andrew have been most excellent guides), brilliant markets, cheap clothes (bought the most gorgeous 15 pound skirt). It’s not the city I remember, though I did get some awe-inspiring rudeness—so it hasn’t completely changed. Best restaurant was David Thompson’s Thai one in Soho (I forget the name). Thompson’s Australia’s guru of Thai food. Was wonderful watching Lauren and Andrew’s delight in finally trying decent Thai food. I also gave them their very first mangosteens. Heavenly!

Glasgow: gorgeous, love all the Rennie Mackintosh everywhere. Had the most brilliant black pud and organic cider at Cafe Gandolfi. Cider in the UK is the best I’ve had in my entire life. Superb.

And tonight WorldCon begins. In the meantime the second test is on the tellie and Warne is bowling beautiful.

This is the life.

(Internet access continues very intermittent.)

(Oh and the time date for this is NYC time. Couldn’t be arsed changing it. Time here is 2:34PM.)

Off to London

Done packing. Car gets here in 30 mins. Then it’s into the big jetplane and across the skies till we get to London where my sister lives. Can’t wait.

Except that it’s cold there. Sob. And even colder in Glasgow. Double sob. Just as it was getting to be a proper summer here we go somewhere damp and cold. What were we thinking?

Not sure what my internet access will be. Dunno if I’ll post. But I’ve become a blogging addict so if I can I will.

Enjoy yourselves while I’m gone.

Mumble Mumble

Should be writing, shouldn’t be flibbergibberting all over the interwebby thingie. I think I’m addicted to spirit fingers. It’s my favourite blog eva! What’s not to love? Its name is a reference to the finest film ever made (except for all the other really good ones). Must stop reading through the archive, must stop spraying water over my laptop from laughing too hard. Must do some actual work.

Blogging has eaten my brain. I knew it!

This is My Blog

and I’ll write about sports if I want to! So stop emailing to tell me to post about “more interesting things.” The very idea!

But there won’t be much posting about anything—interesting or not—over the next few days. This is my last day to fix Daughters of Earth and the copyedited Magic Lessons just arrived and has to be back with my publisher by Tuesday morning.

Bye for now.

Writer’s Block

Raymond Chandler would lock himself in a room for four hours every day. In that time he didn’t have to write, but he wasn’t allowed to do anything else. Not write letters, do crossword puzzles, play solitaire, read the newspaper; he could only write. Eventually boredom forced him to it.

A writer friend of mine claims there is no such thing as writer’s block, only writer’s procrastination. "Writer’s block," she claims, "has taken on a kind of mythic status for writers and wannabe writers, and become this curse or disease the hapless writer catches. Crap. It’s laziness pure and simple. Anyone can write any damn time they want to.

"If I’m having difficulty getting going I just type anything at all. It might suck and have nothing to do with what I’m supposed to be writing, but I keep at it, and before too long I’m back on track. Nothing simpler."

Yeah, but what if you start off by typing "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"? What then, eh?

I tend to wander around. Right now I’m sitting in the hallway with my feet in the bedroom and my laptop perched on my knees. I’m supposed to be rewriting, but it hurts my head, and I keep getting stuck. Difficult to see a way to transform the monstrosities sprawled across the screen into elegant, or even, coherent sentences. Easier to write this.

My excuses for not being able to write today are, in order of malign impact: a hangover, jetlag, and having run out of good books to read (necessary to get the creative juices flowing). Also, cricket season is in full swing back home—Steve Waugh’s final test series coming up—and I’m in New York City which is so depressing it dries up all inspiration.

Scott reckons that were we in Sydney, I’d be getting no writing done at all cause I’d be lying on the couch in front of the TV watching the cricket (or we’d be at the SCG if there was a game on). It’s a filthy lie. I’m well able to write and watch cricket and bitch about Keith Stackpole, the world’s most tedious and annoying cricket commentator. All at the same time. If we were at home right now, I’d be writing what I was supposed to be writing.

I never have writer’s block. No matter what I can write. My problem is that while I can always write something, that something is not always what I’m supposed to be writing. These musings are dead easy. No deadlines, no editors to deal with, no pressure, no reviews. And most glorious of all, I can always tinker with them long after they’re "published" online. They’re not frozen on the printed page, all errors intact, until the end of time. Writing the articles, introductions, books that are due, well, dead, maybe, but not easy.

I really don’t understand why it’s so hard. I love writing. Since I was a child I’ve written stories, poems, essays, novels, limericks, the entire contents of a school magazine, anything at all. Once I get going, I’m fine. It’s the hours of staring at a blank screen, getting up and wandering around, tidying up, remembering that we’re out of olive oil and that I should really go buy it now, answering emails, deciding that I haven’t seen so-and-so in ages and must—this very minute—meet them for lunch, reading the Sydney Morning Herald online to laugh at the latest epic Paul Roebuck account of the cricket: "a large crowd sat in the shelter of Moreton Bay figs and children played their games as their seniors batted and bowled, ghostly figures settling ancient scores", opening up a different document and working on it instead of the thing that is becoming more and more urgent as the minutes, hours, days tick by. Then when it becomes really, truly, terrifyingly urgent, then all of a sudden I can write. Like the wind. And most perverse of all, I enjoy it.

So why do I go through this performance every time? Why can’t I just sit and write. I love writing. Why do I have to trick myself into it? Offer myself rewards and punishment? Why can’t I just write what I’m supposed to, when I’m supposed to, and thus have more time to do it absolutely right? As Justice Brandeis, or Aldous Huxley, or someone, once said "There is no good writing, only good rewriting". Or as Sylvia Kelso says "You can’t edit nothing, but you can edit shit".

Here in San Miguel de Allende after the first run-around-and-have-lots-of-fun week I’ve been writing what I’m supposed to six days a week. The most productive, disciplined period of my life. I keep having to pinch myself. And all it’s taken is moving to a different country where—other than Scott—I don’t know anyone, where we have no internet connection, where the cricket is even more inaccessible (of course, now the test series against India has come and gone, Steve Waugh’s international career is over, and I’ve missed the whole thing), where there’s Silvia (the housekeeper) removing most housework procrastination, and where we’ve taken to reading our latest chapters out loud to each other every two or three days so there’s no possible way to hide a lack of productivity.

And even so, I still can’t just start working on the novel. Oh no, first, I have to gossip with Silvia in my faulty Spanish, make sure my water bottle’s entirely full, work on a musing, draft an email, look out the window—especially if there’s a bullfight on (we can see the crowd from here, but not the gory action), fix up my web site, bite my nails. And then, as a very last resort, write what I’m supposed to be writing.

I love it.

Here’s hoping I can keep the writer’s block as micro and under control when I return to those cities chockablock with distractions for me: Sydney & New York.

New York City & San Miguel de Allende,
25 October, 2003-9 January, 2004