Friday, May 28, 2010

Work it for me

I found this post in a recent perusal of the interweb, and it got me thinking about writer groups, workshopping and feedback. Giving a useful critique of someone's work is hard. I'm still improving in this area I have to say, but generally I try to make sure everything I say is helpful in some way.

On the other hand, when receiving feedback, it's a bit like art - I don't know much about it, but I know what I like:

 - NOT a copy-edit. No punctuation corrections please. It can wait til the final edits. I don't need to know I haven't separated two clauses correctly when the whole novel's about to fall into a plot hole the size of the MCG. Unless you suspect I don't know the difference between a full-stop and a comma, in which case go for it.

 - Someone who can see what's missing, not just what should probably get taken out (this is far more common!). It's so valuable when someone says, 'I think what you need here is a bit about how the mother never really loved him and drowned his puppy when he was a kid. That will explain the whole chainsaw thing.'

 - A little bit of praise. It helps. And makes you feel like maybe writing some more.

 - Insights into your characters that you were lacking

 - Insights into situations that you've thrown at your characters ('Did you know that chainsaws actually run on diesel, not petrol? So he couldn't have siphoned the fuel out of her car.')

Fortunately, my workshopping group ticks all of these. If only someone could tell me exactly what to write so it would get published and earn me millions.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Writers - always good for a laugh

I'm really stuck on what to write - about anything -  so yes, I'm resorting to writer jokes

Question: Why did the writer cross the road?


A. To see what that person over there was doing.

B. Because there's this bit in my novel where the mc crosses the road, and I really wanted to get a feel for what that would be like for her.

C. To get a fresh perspective. There's nothing like a fresh perspective to help you see what is working or not in one's trip to the shops.

D. Did I cross the road? Oh yes - you're quite right, I did. The POV has changed from left to right side - and I didn't even notice! Thanks for pointing it out.

(Note: more than one answer may be true.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dropping the Y-bomb (Or, Yarn Bombing, what's that?)

Taking a break from writing today. Well, from writing about writing. Obviously, you know, I AM writing.


When I don't write, the other creative process I get hooked on (ha ha) is crochet - and to a lesser extent knitting. A good friend of mine recently gave me a book about Yarn Bombing, or guerrilla knitting, which involves 'tagging' public spaces with pieces of knitting or crochet. It's low-impact in terms of damage done to property, but has high visibility and 'Oh, would you look at that!' value.

As you can see above, it can be used simply to brighten things up, or be just a little bit subversive. [The 'tank cosy' is a piece by Danish artist Marianne Jorgensen]

The same friend is getting married later in the year, and has asked everyone to contribute some stitches to a yarn-bombing project for the ceremony. We'll be covering a huge river red-gum tree. I have to say it's inspired me, and I have a nice lacy number in progress. Red-gums are the grand dames of the Australian landscape, and I like to think this one won't mind being dolled for the occasion.

For more about guerrilla knitting and what's it all about, have a look at warrenbird, here or here

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sunshine and Dumpster-diving

Nothing like some autumn sunshine to lift spirits. And every man and his dog was out in Melbourne today to do some basking in it.

I went into the city to go to the library and pick up some wool for a yarn-bombing project (more about that later), and when I got off the tram at Flinders St there was a HUGE open skip on the side of the road full of books. Hundreds of them. I don't know who was throwing them out, or why, but the bin had attracted a sizeable crowd.

It was heartening to see the good citizens of Melbourne (City of Literature) picking through a dumpster of books, and I wish I'd had a camera. Everyone was at it - from well-heeled matrons to skinny jean hipsters to fluoro-orange-vested tradies.  All looking for a good read on a Saturday and none too proud to nose-dive into a bin for it.

What a literary bunch we are!