Saturday, 31 October 2009

first or third?

A few days ago I tweeted something like this: aaarrrrrrgggh, first or third person? Coin suggests... first.

Of course I was talking about the novel I plan to write during NaNoWriMo. Usually it would have been a no-brainer as I would have assumed first person without a second thought. But I toyed with the idea of using several of the character's points of view and being me, had difficulty making the decision.

I went with first, as the tweet suggested, and even though the decision was made, I was surprised with the response, as if first person is writer-suicide. And I just don't get it.

To me, writing in third person is tough. Particularly in the way I suggested in this case, but even if limited to the main character. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever used third person without a good reason. But feedback suggested one should only choose first if there's a good reason.

Now this fascinates me. Sure, I know all the arguments for and against each case, but I've always felt that in general, first is the best choice. For me anyway.

What about you? Do you prefer first or third? Anyone else toss a coin to help them decide?

In other news, I know I'm supposed to be tucked away by the Murray somewhere, but plans are meant to be broken, right? The time I actually look forward to going camping, disaster approaches and... just when it's time to grab those last things and head off, one child starts to vomit.

But, all is not lost, as hubby took the other two, and while he's sure to do an adequate job of restocking the tokay shelf, I should get off to an excellent NaNo start. Win-Win really. Especially as Hamish has managed to keep an afternoon snack (of plain toast) and a bowl of (plain) pasta where it belongs.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

What was I thinking?

I've been interested in having a go at it for years. Can't recall how many exactly, but last year it would have been insane to try with a two month old baby and the year before was crazy enough with the million things I was doing anyway (like finishing 2nd degree, teaching at TAFE, producing magazine, preparing for 2 week camping trip).

So, now I've finally plunged into the acceptance and enrolment stage of NaNoWriMo, I'm not really sure why I'm suddenly starting to have that WTF was I thinking feeling?

Perhaps it's that November begins in just 4 days. Perhaps it's because I feel like I haven't done enough planning and my head isn't in the right space (yet). Perhaps it's because I haven't even made a schedule for when I'll sit down to write. Perhaps it's just because so many other writers seem to be so far ahead, much more prepared, or perhaps it's just because it's the kind of thing that's bound to produce a bit (or a lot) of anxiety.

I mean, 50,000 words is a lot of words. 30 days ain't so many days. And it's so like me to make a decision like this without necessarily thinking it through. That is, after all, the way page seventeen started.

Yet I did kind of feel like I had thought this one through. Before I signed up, I asked myself how I'd feel if I failed to complete, or win, the challenge. I decided that rather than think of it has having failed, I'd come away feeling good about what I did manage to achieve. Assuming I gave it a fair effort, of course. And it seemed like that was all that had to be decided.

Other than making a schedule of when I'd write, because I just wouldn't be me if I didn't do something as anally retentive as that. Because of course, I won't be writing when the kids are in my care. Which is my life for a large portion of NaNo time (just like every other month). As a general rule, that leaves me with writing time during school hours on Thursdays and Fridays. Which, especially given the first week will mostly be spent preparing for the launch of page seventeen Issue 7, doesn't seem like nearly enough time.

Sure, there will be evenings, and some weekend time, but I don't like the uncertainty of relying on being awake enough to write late (particularly if Dylan continues to wake at 5.30am), or for the Nano experience to eat into family time (or to reneg on attending so many fab book launches).

Which kind of brings me to another aspect of NaNo that I've noticed so many people doing. Setting personal guidelines.

For instance, I'm happy to sacrifice TV time, but not family/husband time, I'll head for the library/cafe if home offers too many distractions, an extra double espresso on writing days will be fine, I'll sacrifice any household chores that aren't absolutely necessary (which may not sound like anything different), etc. I'm not trying to suggest these are my guidelines, as I haven't got as far as making some, but these are examples of what mine might be like. With the exception that the housework one will be a definite priority. Writing must come before the vacuum cleaner.

There are two things I have decided on though. They both involve the kids.

One is that the littlies can have one full time week at creche, which they will absolutely love, and the other is to organise schoolboy to go home with a friend for each of the Fridays, which will give me an extra two hours a week. (I will probably swap the favour for another day that I don't expect to be writing.)

As for the preparation, I've been trying to tell myself it doesn't matter. That I'll be in my character's head in no time, because that's how it usually works. That even though I don't feel like I'm in the right space, I did enough work months ago to feel secure that it's all there. That I've done fine in the past without necessarily knowing where a story's going, what's going to happen next.

Oh, and I've decided too that I'll use first person. Because I love first person. It fits well within my comfort zone. And is probably the best choice for the story anyway. Even though so many people have suggested third (I may ponder this further sometime.)

Anyway, get your purple pom-poms ready, because I know I'm going to need a few cheers every now and then. But not until I get back from camping on the 3rd (with at least a few thousand words down... right?)... or maybe even before November begins. Eeek.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Guest post on SPLOG: the SPUNC blog

Now, don't go getting used to me posting three days in a row, because it isn't likely to happen too often. But thought you might want to know I've written a guest post for the SPUNC blog, SPLOG.

It's called 'A Way to Work with Everyone: The Page Seventeen Editorial Process' and you can check it out by clicking the title.

Meanwhile, this afternoon's plan is to get my head back into the space it needs to be by November 1, and to find out where the pens keep going.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I will NOT relent!

I'm sick of people judging me for my parenting when it comes to being strict about TV time (and sugar intake, but that's another matter entirely).

I know most kids have more TV time than mine, and so long as the parents of those kids are happy with it, great. I'm happy to be quizzed when it comes to the way I do things as, like anything, people are interested in learning, whether just for their own curiosity or in case they might want to take anything on board.

But I don't expect my 7 year-old's teacher to open her eyes wide and say 'Really?' when I suggest he rarely watches TV. Let alone to add that I will relent as he grows older and makes more demands about preferences. Because she has kids, and she did.

Firstly, being a TV-Nazi isn't something I 'fell into' one day when I just couldn't be bothered, but something I struggled to maintain for years because it's something I feel strongly about and something which was damn hard to persist with. Secondly, said 7yo is already more demanding than his two siblings combined with their father, so I can't imagine caving in. After 7 years, I'm past the hard bit. Saying 'no' comes much more easily now.

This morning I dropped in to see 7yo's teacher. During this term, Show & Tell has a different theme for each week. In general, I think this is great. But this week's theme is 'Favourite TV show or movie.' This happened last year too, and I remember feeling conscious about what he might choose.

By then, he'd really only watched Play School, Hi-5, the Wiggles and Bob the Builder, and I had concerns about the social implications of him declaring his love for any of these publicly (although I may have steered him towards Bob after noticing several of his peers had Bob school bags). In the end, he chose Spiderman, after remembering a ten minute 'movie' he'd seen once a few months earlier. Fine.

By now, he watches even less TV than he did in the past. In fact, almost-4yo daughter watches the most out of all three kids, with a maximum of three hours per week. Yes, WEEK. One hour on Tuesday, one on Wednesday and one at the weekend. If we're home. She predictably chooses either two episodes of Play School or one PS and one Hi-5.

Actually, 7yo quite possibly watches less than one hour of actual TV each month, given he chooses to use his limited time to play a Wii game instead. And for him, it's usually only 1 hour a week, after school on Friday. I used to let him play on Thursday too, but wasn't impressed with the display when his time was up (that lasted beyond bedtime). You can probably guess there are no violent games in our house, which means he chooses one of two sport games or a children's one where you wander a school yard and collect stickers for competing in different (sporty) activities.

Over breakfast, I talked to him about his Show & Tell and responded to his blank expression by suggesting he talk about Wii Sport. This wasn't going to get him laughed at, and is more true to who he is anyway. I figured I'd let his teacher know, so she didn't try to stop him and ask him to choose an actual TV program. Show & Tell is, after all, about kids developing confidence.

So I opened with a reminder that today is his S&T day and saying he hardly watches any TV, and her response was the wide-eyed 'Really?' I think she followed with a few 'Not even...?'s but I hadn't quite recovered enough to listen properly. It took a few efforts to proudly announce that he's never seen a movie at the cinema, although I'm not sure if I mentioned it to help with context or to see if she could be more... let's say... shocked.

After she blinked, her head swayed back and forth a few times as she advised I would relent, which she repeated as I left. As a trained teacher myself, I'm pretty sure it's not a good idea to make parents feel inadequate for trying to limit their kids' TV habits, or anything in fact, that is purely parental choice related to a family's values. Society does a good enough job of that already.

It's bloody hard to make tough parenting decisions and to stick with them against the grain of society (hmmm, a topic I could go on about...). You'd think you'd have the support of teachers.

I wonder if she'd have said anything dsifferent if she knew I was more inclined to get stricter the more demanding he became rather than to give in.

Of course, none of this will apply this weekend, as the kids go to Nana's while Bryden and I head off to my cousin's wedding.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Scrivener or... ?

It seems like everyone is talking about how fabulous Scrivener is, including Lisa Dempster, who reckons she'd still be writing the recently released Neon Pilgrim if she'd used Word. Well, maybe not everyone so much as everyone with a Mac. And as I don't have a Mac, it seems I won't ever get to talk about how good it is or isn't. Which, in my case, it isn't if I can't try it out on my PC.

Now, with just days (don't want to remind myself exactly how many) until NaNoWriMo begins and me having done, oh, zero prepaption thus far (if I don't go back as far as May), I'd be keen to trust software reviews of others. Like you. Or else use Word as I'd planned. Well, maybe not planned so much as just not thought otherwise. And from I hear, using Word is insane (which could mean it will suit me perfectly well).

You'd think that as I married a geeky computer nerd (hiya honey), I'd maybe know something about software options without having to resort to google and/or other means (although perhaps this is why I remain clueless when it comes to this kind of thing).

It seems I need help. The recently released Reader from EWF (have you got a copy yet?) includes a review of such software, courtesy of Cameron White. In his review, Scrivener comes out on top, with another Mac-only option in second place. As far as PCs go, he mentions Open Office and yWriter and, while the good news is that they're both free, I'm not convinced that either of them seems like the right option.

Unless you convince me otherwise.

Anyone used either of these, or maybe something else entirely? Please talk me into using something other than Word. And with just days of October left, please convince me soon. Did I say please? Please.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Reader launch

The launch of The Reader on Monday was a heap of fun and even inspired a discussion of bowl licking. You see, the chocolate mousse was served in shot glasses in which the bottom could not be reached with the spoon. Used the correct way, anyway. Thankfully a friend and I problem-solved our way out of this without the need for (totally) inappropriate behaviour.

And it wasn't just the mousse that was fabulous.

If you haven't seen the book yet, you need to get yourself a copy. Here. It has an absolutely stellar line-up, and I don't say that just because I have a piece included (although mine is certainly excellent). And because they have summed it up better than I could, here's a bit of what EWF say about it themselves:

The Reader is a peek behind the curtain at what goes on in the offices, workshops, garrets and studios of Australian writers. It contains everything from practical, how-to advice on surviving as a freelancer or improving your grammar, to thoughtful, critical and hilarious reflections on coping with rejection, balancing writing and parenthood, and how to cultivate the ultimate author profile shot.

It includes (but is not limited to) sections about the craft, the story, the process, the industry, the writer, the mentor and the circuit. It is a must for any writer.

And I recommend reading it with a serve of chocolate mousse. Although you will have to supply your own.

Monday, 12 October 2009


We're planning another camping trip and this time I'm part of the plan. My usual technique for such occasions is to remain in denial until it's time to pack.

Although negotiating location and potential activities can help me actually look forward to going, and this might be one of those times. We've booked Corowa, which means I'll be just twenty minutes away from reinstating my tokay supply from my favourite wine region, Rutherglen. I've been without tokay for over a week, but thanks to a barrel and bottle or two of muscat, I'll probably cope until camping time.

The kids just love that I'll be going too. (I wonder if they love it so much they'll actually sleep at bedtime once we're there?)

I'm determined to believe too that the timing won't cause problems. Melbourne Cup weekend. One weekend before the page seventeen Issue 7 launch as well as the beginning of NanoWriMo (although I figured the first week of the latter would be a slow start due to the former, so that will probably work out fine). Now all I need to do is work out what hubby meant when he wrote this in my diary: till Tuesday. Friday?? Eeek.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

EWF Reader

The launch for the Emerging Writers' Festival Reader is next Monday, 12th. Details here, including a list of contributors. After writing a piece for it about balancing parenting and writing, I thought I wasn't going to be able to balance life so that I could go. My husband thought this was the balance, but his plans have changed and it seems I will be able to go. Hurrah!

Maybe I'll see you there.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Have I forgotten the... ?

It's the time of year I simultaneously love and hate putting together a magazine. Mostly I love it, but what I hate is that there are some things I just have to do almost all at once, whether I like it or not. Whether I can or not. And at least for some of them, I can't.

In fact, it's the time of the year when one or two people learn first hand that being a writer, editor, publisher and mother of three is something that I actually can't do all at once. Some discover that I am indeed human.

Perhaps I shouldn't have scheduled the last week of getting the next issue of page seventeen ready for the proofreaders during school holidays. Although I'm sure something else would have come up to slow me down.

On the bright side, I took the kids to the zoo on Tuesday and spent yesterday at the Melbourne Museum with Hamish to see the 'A Day in Pompeii' exhibition. And the dinosaur section. Of course. The zoo highlight for Hamish and Claudia was patting an alligator, and for Dylan, well, digging in chipbark is generally underrated.

On the not so bright side, I had to wait until today to get back into the layout, and the proofreaders are expecting parcels on Monday at the latest, so all had/has to fall into place. Mostly though, I am done. What is left is mostly just fiddly bits and pieces, and trying to somehow rid that lurking feeling of... what the F have I forgotten?

But really, by issue 7, I'm pretty sure that feeling is just part of the deal. By tonight I will be finished, and I assure you, there will be tokay.