Monday, 27 February 2012

And the Academy Award goes to...

I have just finished watching the Oscars - Not the entire broadcast mind you, I pretty much fast-forwarded to the Top 8 Categories... Best Original Screenplay; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Director; Best Actor in a Supporting Role; Best Actress in a Supporting Role; Best Actor in a Leading Role; Best Actress in a Leading Role and; Best Picture.

(No disrespect to the FOUR hour extravaganza, it's just that it aired here in Sydney smack bang in the middle of the day and I had to work...cough...)

For an unabashed lover of the cinema, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed all the films that scored the acting awards - The Help; The Iron Lady; Beginners; The Artist. (Special mention to A Week With Marilyn, too).

For all storytellers, originality or the closest thing to it, is something that we revel in and strive for. How to stay true to your voice and write with passion - to not follow the path that others have laid, but to forge your own (all the while being sane enough to take note, respect the craft and the trusted storytelling archetypal framework), is the ultimate goal for many. That is why I found this year's disparate Oscar-nominated films a wonderful example of exactly that - unbridled creativity. 

None so more than the winner of Best Picture - The Artist.

A silent film? Who would finance this? Who would believe in the creator of this wild concept enough to take a chance? And who would see it ('how many people would pay to see it' is probably the more important question for the commercially-minded)?

Most writers look at their own work in the same hopeful way. 'Who will take a chance on me - on this?'

Watching 'The Artist' win today - and seeing 'The Help' succeed so wonderfully (the author, Kathryn Stockett was soundly rejected by over 60 literary agents), is wonderful food for the creative soul.

May this inspire further creators out there to spin tales - and to never stop believing.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


As I am polishing, revising, and cutting my YA novel for the umpteenth time in an effort to adhere to the "less is more" idiom, I did something that I'm still in shock over...

I killed a character.

Not in a dramatic one-two punch that's designed for readers to first fall in love, and then, lose a character (and hopefully by that stage, a friend). No, I've decided to annihilate every last trace of the character so that she never even existed.

This troubles me. I didn't see it coming. It certainly wasn't premeditated. And she's a major player in the unfolding of events - sometimes, she actually is the only one who knows what is happening, and therefore informs the reader through her presence. But despite her importance, it became clear a few days ago that she had to go. She was so weak. She didn't belong. She wasn't real...

And so the axe fell.

The messy aftermath is there for me to clean up. There's no need for luminol and black-light to see the hidden traces of blood spatter - it's all there in the succeeding chapters after her introduction (and now demise). I find I am having to erase all notions of reference and find other creative ways to use 'heralds' throughout the stories to propel the narrative in her stead.

The carnage is brutal, but it is containable. And when I am done with the clean-up, the story will be a tighter, more cohesive entity that will serve the manuscript well.

When I devoured Stephen King's excellent book, 'On Writing,' years ago, I didn't realize I'd take his "kill your darlings..." quote beyond editing prose and into dispatching a character. But I have.

And now I feel guilty. And my hands feel a little dirty...

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Ultimate Athlete?

As an avid tennis fan (it's the only sport I am remotely decent at), I was glued to the television during the men's singles final of the Australian Open between Djokovic and Nadal. After nearly six gruelling hours of punishing tennis, the World No.1 triumphed and lifted his fifth grand slam trophy (he in fact has won 4 out of the last 5).

Perhaps it's a little bit of a stretch to insert the analogy of being a writer into the realm of a being a tennis player, but indulge me a little. I promise not to use too much latitude...

Before the beginning of 2011, Djokovic had a single major under his belt (way back in 2008). Nadal and Federer were firmly entrenched as the dominating duopoly of the game. So what it is that made Djokovic suddenly go on a tear that has crowned him a clear Number 1?

At that level they all play amazing tennis, and their athletic prowess is otherworldly. So what indeed makes up the difference between these gifted athletes in a sport where there must only be one winner? If physically, you are a solid specimen, and you've put in all the required hours on the practice court, in the gym, with nutrition, etc, then all that's left behind is that hard-to-quantify and cliche ridden, grey matter: mental strength.

When he was asked multiple times last year how he had managed to suddenly usurp his competition, Djokovic kept replying that it was his belief - his new mentality that was the difference. That he as a player did not suddenly play a radically different game. The men's final on the 29th January was indeed a microcosm of his burgeoning belief. He did not give up. He believed in his ability. He stood toe-to-toe with an athlete who is arguably the fittest player on the tour and he refused to break...

So, why am I blogging about this? Sure, as a tennis fan, this story is both entertaining and intriguing - but as a writer, I found some interesting parallels. There are indeed so many wonderfully talented writers already in print, and others waiting to be discovered. You compete among thousands to be represented by a literary agent, who then competes with countless others to place your work with a publisher who only has finite slots to fill, who then attempts to sell the finished product to the saturated market in order to make substantial capital. The question for the aspiring author is, why should your manuscript be the one to compete - and win - against such tall odds and plentiful competition?

When you have put in (and continue to put in) all the hard yards; when you keep reaching out, learning all you can from those who have gone before; when you hone those unique set of storytelling skills, and you continue to write - what is the nebulous extra bit that will get you over the line?