I had just started working in the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet in 1988 when a former colleague rang to let me know that Harry Mulisch would be visiting the University of Melbourne on 19 September. Harry Mulisch (1927–2010) was one of the towering figures in postwar Dutch literature and my colleague, knowing how highly I thought of Mulisch’s oeuvre, was kind enough to invite me to join the party for lunch at University House. I was blown away by the invitation and immediately went to see my supervisor to beg for a day’s leave. So far so good… Continue reading
At 1,160 words it is a very slight short story. It evokes a special morning in the life of a schoolboy in Belgium in the 1960s. And yet its publication feels like a milestone to me. This is the first time I have published fiction since I was peddling stencilled poetry, way back in the 1970s. The years in between have been filled with writing annual reports, policy papers and guidelines. The world of stakeholder management, deliverables and competitive tendering. Benevolent in its vision but orwellian in its language. At the start of this year I decided to become a full-time writer. The great ‘tendering’ of looking back in, reconnecting with people, emotions and the past. An indie author – break out the quinoa, I am coming home! Continue reading
It’s not zen at all to brag. It’s poor form. It’s borderline impolite. Self–centered and narcissistic. All of that, absolutely.
Okay, so here I go: I have just completed the first draft of my novel. It has taken me four years of planning and plot development and six months of intensive writing.
Have you ever noticed how the pilot episode of a sitcom is weaker than the first series? The acting is wooden and the dialogue shrill. Themes and conflicts are introduced so emphatically that the characters seem like caricatures. Series get better as the writers and actors find their groove.
All of this came to mind as I reread the opening scenes of my novel. They were my pilot episodes and they suffer from all the vices listed above. It is clear I will have to edit those scenes quite heavily. The good news is that I also notice that my craft has improved in the course of the writing process. Continue reading
Scapple comes from good stock: it is produced by the folk at Literature and Latte, who brought us Scrivener, a writer’s best friend (after inspiration and momentum). Scapple is a free–form note–taking app. It allows you to type anywhere on the page, and notes can be connected by arrows.
Hm, a mind–mapping app, you say. Not quite, since you can use Scapple without relying on any central idea, linkages or hierarchies. It is more of a brainstorming, content development app. I use Scapple to develop scenes for my novel. Let me show you what I mean.
My big news over the past month is that I have attended Euan Mitchell’s Digital Makeover course organised by Writers Victoria at The Wheeler Centre. The 12–hour program was spread over four weeks and I found the course both comprehensive and stimulating. Euan gave us an overview of self–publishing and then taught us practical skills for formatting e–books and uploading them on Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle. It was a fantastic course, ranging from purchasing ISBNs to marketing your work. Do not despair if you’ve missed the course: Euan’s immense practice wisdom can be found in Your book publishing options (2014). A fantastic resource, especially for Australian authors. Check out Euan’s website for details.
Meanwhile I keep hammering away at my novel. I am up to 63,000 words now (~58% into my first draft). Joy. Bliss. And yes, I intend to put Euan’s teaching into practice. I am planning to publish two short stories later this month. Check back here for details or on my brand new author’s page on Facebook.
You haven’t heard from me for a long time. It can be good to take a break from reviewing productivity apps and to focus solely on Getting Things Done®. For me, that has meant a new landmark project: I am currently working on my debut novel, and I am well into my first draft. Let me tell you what that means to me.
I started writing when I was nine years old (poetry, short stories) and I have written—mainly in a professional capacity—ever since. Reports, manuals, school books, briefings, speeches, websites, literary criticism, e–learning modules—you name it.
But never a novel.