elena ferrante: my brilliant friend (2011)

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Naples streetscape – copyright ilolab 2016

You have to love a novel that starts with the disappearance of one of its protagonists. When Elena discovers that Lila, her childhood friend, has not only disappeared, but also removed all physical traces of her existence, she gets angry. She resolves to write a novel in which she will record all she has found out about Lila over the past sixty years. Story-telling as a corrective, an act of vengeance.

Having thus framed the novel in the prologue, Ferrante takes the reader back to 1950s Naples, a gritty and at times violent urban environment, where being male is a distinct advantage, and being streetwise a necessity. Enter the unlikely protagonists: two six-year-old girls.

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liane moriarty: the husband’s secret

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Photo: Wolf Soul (2007) by Romel, under Creative Commons licence.

In the opening scene of The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty introduces Cecilia Fitzpatrick as “a school mum and part–time Tupperware consultant.” Happily married, mother of three, memories of her younger self stored in the attic in neatly labeled plastic containers, checking off tasks as she moves through the day. As readers we know that so much control and organisation constitutes hubris; it is rattling the cages of the gods of narration. Continue reading

resilience update #4: bragging rights

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.

Portrait of the artist as a young man

Portrait of the artist as a young man

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resilience update #3: finding your groove

Character or caricature? A Wayang Kulit puppet.

Character or caricature? A Wayang Kulit puppet.

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

develop a scene for your novel with scapple

Scapple_flowScapple 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.

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resilience update #2: back to school

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.