All posts filed under: process

Look Up

My mind is a rush. For weeks I’ve divided days into categories: See What I Have Done and Blue Mountain. I find it difficult to generate new scenes or ideas for Blue Mountain on any day I need to deal with Lizzie. It’s emotionally and mentally tiring to have to deal with all those characters while they congregate in the same place. Which is frustrating because right now I need to be working on both.  I moved on from See What I Have Done around August last year. Although I was knee deep in edits and still had proof reads to look forward to, I’d fallen in love with a new novel that germinated from a strange dream I’d had years before and which had been waiting for me to come back to it when Lizzie was done (yes, I’m aware I’m beginning to hang a lot of respsonbility on dreaming for writing but whatever). Suffice to say, I got shitty when the Bordens interrupted my dates with Blue Mountain. But on we’d go and …

Bad Days At Work

As much as you want ideas to turn into good then great prose, some days and weeks it just doesn’t happen. Last week was particularly bad. All that turgid writing. I was working on a new section, my characters going down paths so completely wrong in tone and emotion that I felt I’d lost them, that I no longer had control. I’d had bad periods of writing before but this was something else. The things I told myself: this was proof that I was a weak writer, that I really don’t have anything whatsoever to contribute to the world of literature. I told myself to walk away now while the going was good. No one need to know about this failed novel, you imposter. Maybe allow a more talented writer to find the seed of this novel and turn it into gold. I realised after a few days that the problem was that I wasn’t connecting with anything that was happening on the page. And if I wasn’t connecting, what hope would the next draft …

Small Things That Happened Last Week

A small snapshot of last week: My publisher sent me a proof of Sally Abbott’s debut ‘Closing Down’ I returned to Blue Mountain and wrote more scenes for one of the many difficult characters who’ll live in the fictional town of Winton (yes, there are Winton’s that exist in Australia but not quite like the Schmidt version of Winton). I also started notebook 4. Writing longhand. That shit really slows things down. But I love it.  I saw these boys riding their bikes, heard them talk footy, tv and school, heard them sibling-tease each other. Old young friends. I hope when they grow up they don’t shed this particular skin of theirs.  That’s it. There’s nothing else. I was pretty much writing the rest of the time.

When Emma Borden Became a Narrator 

Previously I told you about Bridget’s inclusion in See What I Have Done as a narrator, told you the way your manuscript changes over time can be a miraculous thing. This beast of words that has shape shifted so much over the years has been able to adapt, in various degrees of success, to whatever ‘new visions’ I had for it.  I think I’ll continue the theme of process and drafting, especially as the Australian publishing date of See What I Have Done draws nearer (and as I try to wade through the thicket of mush that is the new manuscri ptwhich is making me have all kinds of self doubt). This post is one of a many I’ll probably do about Emma Borden, Lizzie’s older sister. I’m somebody’s older sister and so I thought even on a loose base level, I might be able to identify and draw out something from Emma, explore  that kind of relationship to a sibling, the way you become a protector.  In a notebook dated 29 December 2012 I …

Beginning and Developing a Scene: See What I Have Done

First attempts at your novel are almost never right. The second and third attempt doesn’t fair much better but it gets closer. Everyone has false starts but the point is to write those false starts one word after the other and build on that,  see what you can make of it. You can’t be proud of something if you never write it in the first place. You also can’t be proud of it if you don’t revise or reimagine. At least, this is how I feel. But beginning’s are daunting. Every time  I start something new I have the same feelings and thoughts: I panic I won’t finish it, I fear the ugly work that will come, I worry I won’t get better as a writer, and there’s always little voice that tells me ‘You’re not good at this. Give up now. You’ve nothing to offer.’ I both dread and embrace the beginning of a new project. But then I start. I’m very stubborn. I hate being told I can’t do something (especially when it’s …

Music for Looping, Music for Recovery

I don’t like to overthink my writing habits too much but music is very important to me both during a writing session and after.  For See What I Have Done I listened to the same songs (adding very few to the playlist) for eleven years. It’s time again to live in an aural loop until a book is complete. Here is a small sample of music for Blue Mountain that I will be listening to until it becomes a skin, the tip of a pen: Below is a very small selection of songs I like listening to after a day of writing. They change all the time (unlike the loop). This week I listened to:

A Little Something to Hold Us Over: Photos

I often forget I should regularly post to this blog. I’m working on a new post about Lizzie Borden and writing history ( I figured rather than my usual  ramblings, I should, you know, plan a post ) but felt like adding some photos here today. I’m in my composting and early writing phase of my new novel and that has led me to be drawn to particular images as I walk around and explore. All of these are foundations for theme and aesthetic but may not necessarily turn up in the novel in quite the way you imagine. WARNING: Some of these photos are of dead animals I came across while walking and may not be your thing. 

How Not To Kill Your Darlings

In the lead-up to my child’s birth, I’d set myself the task to finish yet another draft of my manuscript and send it out to a publisher. I had already written five, six or more drafts over seven years about the Lizzie Borden case. Now that I was pregnant the current drafting felt different, urgent: I had convinced myself that if I didn’t finish it then and there I never would. Writer friends who were parents warned me that once the baby came, I’d have no time for anything else. The brain would no longer have the capacity to move beyond itself. I may not even know who I was.

Never Lets Me Go

I don’t think I’ve ever truly known when to walk away from the work, think of it as done. This may explain why it takes me too long to finish a novel or a short story: this created planet, spinning on its axis, keeps falling into rhythms of day and night that I then eventually accept that’s the way things are, that I have to continue living in the world long after I have to so that the story I’ve told feels authentic, alive. Even today I thought of new ways I could make Lizzie grow into that house on Second Street, make it small like a pocket: there she is hiding dirty clothes in the walls; there rubbing her back against a door knob; there singing at the top of her lungs; there holding clandestine dinner parties while Andrew and Abby are at the Swansea property; there at night going up to the attic to watch Bridget sleep.

Paying Attention, Shifting Perspective: the Borden’s get another visit and I go walking

There’s been another draft. I won’t go into the specifics (not just yet anyway) but let it be known that I’m really beginning to tire of this novel. There’s a small part of me that feels that I could potentially write this novel for another ten years, that I could keep drilling down, write about the Borden’s all the way back to their genesis, write the code of their DNA  and still discover something new about them. To keep my mind focussed I’ve gone on some amazing walks lately. Nothing exceptional – just keeping in my immediate neighbourhood – but these walks have been a crystal time: the onset of winter in Melbourne has produced so many different species of fungus, that I’ve been reminded that there is always something new to be found along well worn paths. And so with that (minus photos of fungus):