Friday, February 19, 2010

Launching Pads

Last night I had the great privilege of (at last) attending the launch of the latest book by Julia Lawrinson, a good friend and also one of my afore-mentioned "Julia's".

I had been living too far away to attend any of her previous launches, so I was very pleased to finally be able to share this with her, and see what really goes on at a book launch. I had grand visions of sipping champagne, munching on canap├ęs and gaily chatting with the elite of Western Australia's best writers for children and young adults. As it was, I nearly missed the whole thing – having forgotten quite how snarly peak-hour traffic can be – and after an hour and a half of bumper-to-bumper 'Car Invaders' (like Space Invaders, but played with way more expensive toys), I sidled in late, grabbing a back row pew... and a glass of chardy on the way.

Thankfully, I did catch most of a fabulous launch speech by a very well-spoken teenager – he really did make me wonder what the hell I was doing with my time when I was his age – who may just turn out to be our next Prime Minister, so clever was he at weaving just enough of Julia's oft-hidden sassiness into her incredible list of achievements.

Forgive me if I mess this up, for I was still sipping my chardy, but Julia herself did very eloquently put forward the answer to a very important question: What is the purpose of holding a book launch? Apart from reasons that are totally obvious to me – sipping wine and rubbing shoulders, included – she said it was to celebrate the 'coming out' of the story, for one spends months (or years) with one's shoulders hunched over the computer, in a very solitary environment.

Now THAT, I can totally relate to. When I start to wonder what the hell is the point of slogging away, trying to get my characters to speak on the page as they do in my head, or how on earth I will ever think of another 8,570 words to write when the first 31,430 were so damn hard... I shall try to remember that one day I may also have to opportunity to introduce you to my 'other' friends. The ones in my head. And I don't mean that in a crazy psycho way.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Free time comes at a price...

It's quiet in the house right now, which I do love, but I'm getting an attack of the guilts. Mummy Guilt, perhaps, or just the plain old regular kind.

Number One Son is off at his first afternoon Kindy session, which just happens to coincide with Number Two Son's nap time. And so here I sit on the couch, playing Scrabble, checking emails, and playing around with blogs. Already conscious of the fact that next week begins Number Two Son's day care roster, and I will be the grateful receiver of more two-hour sessions of doing whatever-the-hell-I-want. (Technically, I'm supposed to be gainfully employed for at least part of this time, in order to justify the hefty fees, but there's so many more things screaming for my attention.)

Will I be a 'proper writer' and take every available moment I can scrounge to dive head first into my almost-forgotten manuscript? Or will the call of a new business set-up take priority? Or maybe I'll finish reading the bootleg Midnight Sun draft (by Twilight's Stephenie Meyer) that a friend emailed me. Yes, I think that definitely wins. All in the name of research, of course...

(What I can tell you for sure is that unless Julia and Tracy don't stop kicking my butt, I will need to invest a lot more time in Scrabble!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Firsts and beginnings

Number One Son started his first day of pre-Kindy today, the very first rung of his educational ladder. Got me thinking about my first manuscript, which still hasn't progressed very far, and then to the book I'm reading at the moment, which begins with two introductions, one biography and a foreword. No less than 49 pages before one even begins the story. Hubby is an avid non-fiction reader, so he's quite used to that, but it isn't something a die-hard Fiction Chick comes across too often.

My own manuscript has been reworked countless times, usually starting at the beginning with each read-through (a very good place to start). So if my final chapter has been edited 10 times, then the first chapter has probably been changed hundreds. My first line though, has remained exactly the same as when I first put pen to paper on this, years ago. I don't even need to look it up now, I could probably recite the whole introductory paragraph word-for-word. First sentence is:
  • This past summer was a big one for me.
And it goes on about other 'big' stuff. Boobs included.

Taking a scan of some of the more recent* books I have read, I find first lines such as...
  • I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the ones where you have to run, run until your lungs burst, but you can't make your body move fast enough.
  • All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.
  • I'd had more than my fair share of near-death experiences; it wasn't something you ever really got used to.
  • Hannah Willis was a second-year law student at Virginia, and everything that lay ahead of her seemed bright and promising – except, of course, that she was about to die in these dark, gloomy, dismal woods.
On reading this list now, and then re-reading my own first line, I am left wanting to change it. It has survived a zillion drafts, and I give it due credit for avoiding the delete button this long, but doesn't have the same 'wow factor' as the ones on my bedside table. Or perhaps I would be better served by not starting at the beginning after all, but by lifting a scene from a later chapter – something right in the thick of the action – and inserting it before my current beginning, to form a more intriguing new beginning.

Actually, it sounds like something that would be quite handy in real life.

*I was going to list my favourite books in this post, but as everything bar the last few months' worth is currently packed away in boxes, patiently awaiting the erection of some fabulous Ikea shelving, I chose to go with the ease of grabbing the most recent reads off the shelf nearby. I've been too slack to add these yet to the monstrous collection in the garage.