Category Archives: Writing

August 1, 2013

It’s all about the characters

Filed under: Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 7:15 pm

Even now, on my new once-a-month schedule, it seems that blogging comes around so quickly. But that’s more about last month’s blog on the fluidity of time and not today’s!

peopleonchessboardToday, I want to talk about characters. You see, I do think different types of books need different levels of characterisation. My Sophie books, as most people reading this know, are what I’d called forensic-based murder mysteries with a good dose of criminal psychology in the form of profiling. They are essentially whodunits and why-dunnit and these two questions are the driving force to keep the readers turning the page. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can ignore character and character development in thrillers or murder mysteries — in fact, readers will quickly put down a book if they don’t feel like they’re connecting to the main protagonist. Characters can never be cardboard cut-outs or two-dimensional. Every character, just like every person, has a story. However, I do think that the importance of characters and the relationships between characters is much more instrumental in novels that explore drama or family dynamics as their central theme and plot.

Last year I finished a book that I’d describe as a mainstream drama, not that dissimilar to Jodi Piccoult. And while I finished it last year, it has literally been sitting on my desktop gathering bytes (manuscripts don’t gather dust any more, do they?). Finally, late last year I paid for an assessment/developmental edit. Probably not such a common practice for a published author, but this book was so different to what I’d written before I felt the need to dig deeper and I felt like I needed professional and objective eyes.

But the process didn’t stop there…then I needed to let it stew for a bit. For a lot. I needed to get more objective myself and I needed to go back to the drawing board in terms of characterisation. It’s been an interesting process. Armed with David Corbett’s book, The Art of Character, I started again, as it were. I dug deeper into the characters, deeper into their psychological motivations.

With the new character work complete, I started edited. The editing process is taking me longer than I’d hoped (it always does!), but I’m up to chapter 5 and really happy with the changes in the first four chapters. I feel like I’m transforming this book, and making it so much better in the process.

Good writing is always about characters…but to me it’s about the balance of characters and plot. It’s about knowing when you need character development and when you need something to happen—and preferably you can bring both to the page simultaneously.

It will still be a couple of months before I have another draft to show for this latest spate of work, but already I’m looking forward to seeing the transformation on the remaining 25 chapters. I know I’ve still got a long way to go, but this story is worth the time and the effort.

Originally called Crossroads and Deadends, through my psychological delving I’ve come up with a new title — Adrift. I like it and I hope that one of these days it will make its way to readers.

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March 28, 2013

What’s in a prologue?

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: , — PD Martin @ 4:00 pm

For some reason, I think every book I’ve written includes a prologue. It just seems like while I don’t want to cram clunky ‘back story’ into my books, there is some basic information that’s needed before readers start on chapter 1. Know what I mean?

Couple of examples…my first Sophie book, Body Count, includes a prologue of Sophie as a child, so it’s 30 years or so earlier. Yes, the main story is complete without this prologue, but it gives readers some important character information (namely that Sophie’s brother was abducted when she was a little girl).

Another example is from my current work in progress. This book, tentatively called The Pulsars, includes a prologue from 18 years earlier when a woman (who’s the mother of my main character) finds out she’s carrying a Pulsar fetus. Again, while the main, present-day story works without it, there is scene-setting in the prologue. Plus, the reader discovers that the scans are compulsory worldwide and that if the fetus is a Pulsar, the governments around the world have enacted the Pulsar Termination Act, which means all Pulsar fetus must be terminated. So I guess the story works without it, but the short, two-page prologue also does a lot. Yes, as the reader moves through the story they would discover that the main character is a Pulsar whose mother and father went on the run so they could keep their child. But I do like the way the prologue, as it is, launches the reader into this new world.   

As you can probably tell, I like prologues. Like writing them, like reading them. Funny thing is, after I’d written about three books I met someone who said they NEVER read prologues. That they figure it’s not necessary for the story. This shocked me. I consider a prologue to be part of the story, and as long as it’s pretty short and tight (and well-written, of course) I think they’re a great writing device. Many novice writers make the mistake of packing in back story in large chunks in the first chapter or two. A prologue (as long as it’s bare essentials!) can get rid of this more clunky ‘reveal’. It can set the scene, deliver character motivation or back story. Ideally, a prologue should also capture a reader’s attention. Make them want to read on–instantly.

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March 14, 2013

Tricky research – the near future

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — PD Martin @ 3:58 pm

I’ve always loved the research that goes along with being an author, particularly a crime fiction author. I’ve posted here on some of my different research subjects, such as cults (part 1 & 2), handwriting, Kung Fu and Dim-Mak, real-life vampires and being a hitman (or woman).

I’ve also mentioned that I’m currently working in another new genre, writing a young adult (YA) novel. But this little YA novel has been giving me grief. Like, quite a lot of grief. But it’s not the writing process (which has actually been pretty easy), it’s the research. And what makes it hard, is that the book is a pre-apocalyptic novel set in the year 2030. So, it’s the near future. And I guess I’m pretty hopeless at speculating what the world will be like in 17 years’ time.

A little background…the book is set in the US and much of the action takes place in the environment of the Secret Service. In some ways, I figure the near future setting means perhaps I’ve got a bit of leeway. If I don’t get a specific Secret Service procedure right, maybe it’s just that things changed from how it’s done now to how it would be done in 17 years in the future. Right?  

But there are so many little facts and questions that are bugging me. Here are just a few:

  • Will a new power source have been discovered by then or are we still talking the current methods, including nuclear power?
  • Can my main character raise her SIG 9mm to take a shot? Surely guns will still be around and SIG SAUER will still make them. Or will they?
  • Will the US election system still be the same?  
  • Will the President still fly on ‘Air Force One’ and ‘Marine One’? And presumably planes and choppers will still be our primary method of fast transport. Won’t they?
  • Will countries have merged to make new countries or super powers?
  • What will the world look like in terms of water shortage and greenhouse gases? Surely 17 years wouldn’t have much effect…or will it?
  • Will people be reaching for their phones and tablets or something entirely different?
  • What will the internet look like in 17 years’ time?

It seems this particular area of my imagination is pretty pathetic! Problem is, when dealing with the near future I think you tread a fine line between what’s plausible and what’s short-sighted.

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March 12, 2013

Guest blogger – Lindy Cameron

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 3:55 pm

Today I’d like to welcome fellow Aussie author Lindy Cameron to my blog. I met Lindy through the fantastic Victorian chapter of Sisters in Crime. A great woman who’s moved from author to author/publisher I thought it would be interesting to hear her story. Why did she start her own publishing company?  Over to Lindy…

The Segue, by Lindy Cameron 

There are many things in the life of this author that try my patience. And the fact that I can actually do that, to myself, is somewhat ridiculous.

I am the Queen of Procrastination. And I say that like I am the only author who can say that, which is also ridiculous, because all writers mainline Avoidance like it’s a drug.

In fact, if you don’t find everything else to do but write, then you’re not really a writer.

Got a book deadline? Time to try out a new laksa recipe. Hmm, might have to wait until the zucchinis finish growing. Write another chapter while the stock is doing its thing – done. Oh look – the dog wants to go out; come back in; go out; eat the kitty litter. Finish chapter 10. Clean up the shredded six-pack of toilet paper. Start Chapter 11. Do a load of washing. Rewrite Chapter 11. Research just how that particular bullet will react with that metal after it’s gone through Bad Guy No 4.  Oh look – that Facebook meme about how to write is hilarious. No I really, really don’t want to change my power company, young man. Just because I answered the front door because, yes, I am AT home doesn’t mean I’m not working AT home. I’m a writer – damn it!

It is totally beyond me how I’ve managed to write five crime novels and co-write two true crime books, plus blah-blah-blah, in the last decade or so. And that always seems like a lot, until I realise I know some authors – like actually know them – who write one or two (egad!) crime novels a year.

And then I remember my biggest, weirdest and – as many people (including my partner and me) have suggested – craziest avoidance technique of all.

I started a publishing company.

I did this (in 2010) for a number of reasons. Mostly because I realised I had all the necessary skills to do something so utterly wackadoo – and in the middle of what everyone else was calling the GFC (whatever the hell that was).

I did it because I discovered there were two or 20 authors out there – apart from me – who were a little dissatisfied (understatement much?) with the Way of Big Publishers.

I also did it because I was lucky enough to snaffle some of those very same authors. Yes, I talked them into my fold, enticed them into my web, convinced them I wasn’t a complete loon, and welcomed them into my Clan.

I managed this, in some cases, because I wanted to publish certain books – by those established authors, I mean – that their existing Big Publisher didn’t want to touch because they might confuse the author’s existing readership.

[Ooh, can’t possibly ruin our crime writer’s rep by letting them go all paranormal, or write a historical novel, or something with a pirate in it!]

As an Independent Publisher, I also set about finding new Australian crime and thriller writers; publishing the back lists of existing thriller writers; republishing out-of-print crime and historical fiction; mentoring debut authors; and seeking out sf, f, duf, h, c, tc, and all the other fabulous letters that go with being a ‘capital G’ Genre publisher.

Crime and thrillers are my first love – they are what I write, after all; when I do write, I mean; you know, when I’m not publishing; really, you need to go out again? Get off the cat! What?…

But in the third year of my little company, Clan Destine Press, I’ve also discovered I needed to add r, rr & e (romance, rural romance & erotica) to the list. 


Because I can!

And there are also ‘trends’ which, as a publisher, one needs to be aware of.

One of the joys of being an Independent Publisher in the 21st Century is that we are not confined to paper.

Most of our books are paperbacks; but they are also eBooks.

And this year, more and more of our books will be eBooks first – to test the waters, to launch new careers, to get more voices out there sooner, to bring the world more fantasy, spec fic, science fiction, erotic adventures, historical fiction, and best of all: more crime and thrillers and thrilling crime and…

Now Chapter 12, where was I?

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February 28, 2013

Falling short

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: — PD Martin @ 3:50 pm

Ever feel like you’re falling short? Not quite meeting your own expectations or the expectations of others? Last week, fellow Murderati David talked about his intensive promotional schedule at the moment and, like David, I too feel stretched— but in different ways and for different reasons.

Like most people, I have several ‘roles’ or parts that make up my whole. In my case, it’s mother, wife, author, breadwinner and at the moment I’m also on a bit of a health-kick/diet. Problem is, I feel like I’m falling short in pretty much all of these areas.

Four weekdays, I’m the primary caregiver of our 21-month-old son and our six-year-old daughter. And of course, weekends and mornings/nights it’s shared duty! I’m blessed with two amazing children and I love being a mum. Yet, there are things I’d like to change. I feel so disorganised in the motherhood stakes some times. Every morning, I allow myself just over an hour to get ready and out the door. Yet somehow, I still find myself frazzled and yelling to get my daughter moving. Maybe that’s normal, but it feels so chaotic and stressful and by school drop-off time I feel like I’ve run an emotional marathon. Which is ridiculous! It shouldn’t be that hard to get two kids out the door. I’m clearing doing something wrong…falling short. And I really somehow need to find more patience so I can be a better mum.

I’m an incredibly vague and forgetful person, which is not easy to live with. I’m one of those annoying people who asks a question and then can’t remember if the person answered me or not (let alone what the answer was). Yes, I’m busy and my mind is full, but is that an excuse?

Well, the actual writing process is going amazingly! Even with only having 15 hours a week (eight hours on one day and then the other seven hours are scattered all over the place) I’ve managed to write the first draft of a YA novel (58,000 words) in less than four months. I’ve now moved into the editing stage and so far I’m pretty happy with the novel.

But the problem is, I’m not bringing in enough money from my writing pursuits and my ebooks, which brings me to the next point…

While I’m not the primary breadwinner, we do rely on a fairly decent part-time salary from me to make ends meet. In the past two years, I’ve taken on teaching and freelance work and if I don’t manage to get an advance for this next YA book (and/or my ebook sales remain at their current level) the reality is I’ll need to spend my 15 hours a week on paid freelance work not on MY writing. And that sucks! I’ve probably got until July to make something happen.

My health kick/diet
I’m also currently on a no wheat, no sugar (including fruit) six-week plan. The goal is to see how my body responds to getting rid of these two things in my diet and lose 6kg (13 pounds). I’ve actually been going pretty well with this one. I’ve had a few lapses, but three weeks in I am 3kg lighter. Still, I know I won’t lose this week and I have broken it. So I guess I’ve fallen short on this one this week, too!

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February 14, 2013

The writing high

Filed under: Writing — Tags: — PD Martin @ 3:47 pm

My last blog was on my love-hate relationship with writing. However, I did mention that at the moment I’m in the love stage of writing. In fact, I’d say I’m on a writing high. Do you know what I mean?

For published authors it’s that feeling of: “This is the one. The breakthrough novel that will get me from being a mid-list author to a best seller.”

And for unpublished authors it’s more like: “This is the one. The novel that will get me an agent and/or publishing deal.”

Sound familiar?

I guess for me at the moment, it’s kind of both of those things. Having tried the ebook route last year, I’ve decided I’d like to go back to the traditional agent and publisher option, at least for some of my projects. And this one I’m working on at the moment is one that could probably be quite successful as an ebook (young adult, pre-apocalyptic) but I also hope it would catch the attention of an agent and then a publisher.

But I’m wary. Wary of that writing high. It’s the most amazing feeling. Kind of like you’re invincible. Like you’ve got this pooled energy of positive butterflies in your stomach whenever you write or think about your novel. You want to dance around, punch the air. You want to celebrate. But then the logical part of you knows that there’s nothing to actually celebrate yet. Sure, there’s the fact that you’ve written (or are writing) a novel that you believe in, that you’re enjoying writing and that you think will keep readers turning the page long after their scheduled bed time. And don’t get me wrong, that is something to celebrate…sort of.

You see, being a pragmatist, and having been around the block a few times, I know I have to temper that feeling a little. First off, it’s naïve and egotistical to think that a book you’ve written is a guaranteed, sure-fire best seller. Partly because writing is a roller coaster. One minute you love the words on the page and think it’s the best thing ever…the next you’re wondering how you could have thought that such a pile of drivel was actually any good. Know the feeling?

It’s also partly because I know this business is also about luck. Obviously you start with a quality manuscript, yes. But that manuscript needs to land on the right person’s desk at the right time. It needs to have the ‘right’ cover art, it needs to be promoted in some way and, somehow, word of mouth needs to start. This is still the big unknown. I’ve had people in my publishing houses with 20+ years of experience tell me they (meaning the person and publishers in general) still don’t know why one book takes off and another of equal or better ‘quality’ doesn’t. That kind of sucks. But it seems it’s the truth. And we’ve all been trying to crack social media for that word of mouth surge, but if I’m honest I’m still clueless about that, too. Well, not clueless but my efforts in the ebook sphere haven’t resulted in a top 10 or even top 100 book. Sure, I do the obvious — get people to review my books, put up stuff about it on Facebook and Twitter and email my website subscribers but I’m not sure how to take it to the next level.

Anyway, I’m off topic. Back to the high. I mentioned that sometimes that high is also naivety. As a writing teacher, I see that a lot and it’s a fine balance. Someone in your class says they’ve quit their day job to finish their book and then sell it. You want to inspire them, keep them positive, but I think it’s important to counter some of that naivety. They’re on the writing high…great. But it would be negligent of me to at least not mention what the average book deal is worth in $ and how many first-time manuscripts actually get published. Of course, I also mention the writers who have had amazing success with their first novels (JK Rowling comes to mind). Like I said, I want to inspire them, too.

So, I’m about 90% through my first draft of this YA book and I already know what I have to refine in the edit. But I’m still incredibly excited. I want to live that high. Embrace it. And I know I have a tendency to be a glass-is-half-empty person so I don’t want my rational mind to bring me down too much. But I must also remember I’ve been in this place before. Last year I finished my first mainstream drama that focused on motherhood while also touching on some much more difficult issues of fertility, sexual assault and abortion. I was sure I had a winner. And despite some very positive feedback from test readers my first round of about 15 agents all passed. I stopped sending it out and paid a very experienced editor for a structural edit. I’ve yet to action those edits because I’m too caught up in my current story. And I hope that when I fix the problems I can go out to my next tier of agents and have more success. But my point is, when I was writing that I was sure it was The One.

 And now I’m sure this one is The One. So, I’m excited, I’m loving the writing and I’m enjoying that writing high. It’s inspiring me, driving me forward. But I’m also scared. What if I’m wrong?

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February 1, 2013

My love-hate relationship with writing

Filed under: Getting published,Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: — PD Martin @ 6:00 am

I wrote this post before I saw Gar’s Murderati post yesterday – amazing synchronicity we have at Murderati sometimes…

Heart1I’ve realised over the past few months that I have an ‘unusual’ relationship to my writing.  Or perhaps it’s pretty normal…you tell me. In some ways how writing makes me feel and my attitude towards it are contradictory. A love-hate relationship.

On the one hand, I love writing. I don’t get much time at the computer these days as a full-time mum to a young toddler, but the time I do get I cherish. I covet. I get cranky if something stands in the way of my writing day. My basic routine now is one full writing day (my husband works four days a week) and 1 hour on the other four days of the week during Liam’s naps.

The end of last year and the start of this year saw my limited writing time crunched even more…my daughter’s birthday, school holidays (21 December to 31 January here), Christmas, New Year, and our beach holiday. Three out of the first four weeks down at the beach I didn’t have my writing day (my husband was still working and commuting). At this point I was frustrated. Cranky, even. I needed to write. Finally on 11 January I had my first full writing day. And I wrote 7,500 words. Not surprisingly, I was pretty happy with that word count, and the words themselves. It made me realise how much I’d missed writing. It literally gushed out of me. And like Gar, I’m currently writing a story I want to write. I’m loving writing it and seeing how the characters and plot unfold. And while I do hope it’s commercially viable (which, of course, is code for a best seller), it’s probably not the best story to write from a business/marketing perspective. It’s a different genre (again) for a start!

Now, we’re still on the love part of my relationship with writing…I do love writing. I do.  But sometimes I feel hypocritical because I don’t write at night. Problem is, usually I’m just too plain tired to sit at the computer. I find a day as a full-time mother much more tiring than a day at a full-time job. Plus, this is my time with my husband. Our time to sit back and have a nice dinner and perhaps a glass of wine. And maybe catch up on our favourite TV shows (Dexter, Person of Interest, Homeland and our latest discovery is the UK’s Sherlock.

So now onto the hate part. At times, I feel like my chosen path has taken many things away from me (or at least denied me things). I look at my friends who are still in the corporate world, and I do notice the differences in our lifestyles. Bigger houses, better cars, dinners out…etc. etc. And on the one hand I feel: “No, that’s all material stuff. I’m living my dream — literally.”  Then I answer myself back: “No, your dream is to make a living from writing, or better yet be a best-selling novelist.” And I hate that my love and skill doesn’t equate to making a decent living.   

At times, I think I have to give up for my own sanity. Not to mention financial freedom.  If I went back into the corporate world (even part time) things would certainly be a lot easier financially. But if I’m this cranky when I’m only getting a few hours here and there to write, what would I be like if I didn’t write at all? Or if I wasn’t writing at all, wasn’t trying to finish a book and write that best seller, would I simply be able to let it go?

I’m thinking many of the writers out there can relate to this dilemma. There are at least a few of us at Murderati who’ve been circling or blogging directly about how hard it is to do what we love and make a living.

So, what’s the answer? Go back into the corporate world? Work harder at my writing? Maybe I need to force myself to write at night to add a couple of hours to my weekly quota.

I’m actually feeling pretty good about my current work in progress, but I usually do when I’m in the middle of the first draft. I have that writing high — which deserves a dedicated blog, so that will be in a fortnight’s time.

Safe to say, I’m in the love cycle of my relationship with writing, as long as I don’t think about the dream. The author’s dream.

I’m thinking maybe it’s normal to love writing but also resent it (almost kind of hate it) because of the financial repercussions of choosing this path. Particularly these days. I’m going to try to focus on the love at the moment. It’s the best and only thing I can do.

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November 23, 2012

Blast from the past

Filed under: Body Count,Writing — Tags: , , , — PD Martin @ 2:31 am

BodyCount04-smallThese last few weeks I’ve been experiencing a real blast from the past. You see, a couple of months ago I contacted both my US and Aussie publishers hopeful that the rights to my Sophie Anderson series (Aussie FBI profiler) had reverted back to me.

Reversion of rights used to be the kiss of death for authors. Generally, no publisher would buy the book again to re-launch it (except perhaps if you went on to write a best seller and your new publisher was keen to acquire your back list). Then, ebooks happened. Now, reversion of rights is actually an exciting prospect for an author. Especially given one of the keys to ebook success is volume — having more than a handful of titles available to build your name and, of course, sales.

So, I was very happy to find the rights had reverted for ALL my Sophie titles with Pan Macmillan Australia. My contract for the US required much longer time frames to be served, but I was hopeful maybe book 1, Body Count, would be up for reversion. Unfortunately, not. Even though it’s out of print in the US, because I gave my North American publisher worldwide rights (excluding a few countries) it just has to have been printed some where recently (or due for a reprint). In the case of Body Count, apparently a reprint is scheduled of the French edition. While it’s great the reprint is happening, it’s frustrating that I’ll only be able to make my Sophie novels available to people in Australia and New Zealand.

This is particularly concerning given we represent such small markets on the global side of things (given our populations), plus so far Aussies have been very slow to adopt Kindles and other ereaders. (I’m not sure about New Zealand’s adoption rate of ereaders.) After some debate, I decided it’s still worthwhile to get them up there. Maybe I can be one of the Aussie authors getting in at the ground level, before Kindles take off!

So, for the past two weeks I’ve been taking another look at Body Count. It’s the first time I’ve read the book since the page proofs, back in 2005. There are a few minor things I’ve always wanted to fix, and other things I’m finding along the way. For example, I really steer away from dialogue tags now (he said, she said) and aim to use descriptions to attribute dialogue instead. To give a very basic example,

“I don’t know, Sophie,” Flynn says.

Might become something like this:

Flynn’s blue eyes fix on me. “I don’t know, Sophie.”

I’m also now mindful of the ebook medium and will be doing one pass entirely with the aim of breaking up a few chapters. I think some shorter paragraphs and shorter chapters work well for the ebook format and help give a book that page-turner feel. Plus, I’m concerned the book starts too slow so I’m hoping to cut out around 5,000 words from the first 1/3 of the book. That’s going to be a tough job, though, and I’ll devote one editorial pass just to that task. Deleting scenes is never easy for an author.

Of course, I’ve also been getting the cover designed. Like it?

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November 22, 2012

Congratulations to the Boroondara winners

Filed under: Events/appearances,Writing — Tags: , , — PD Martin @ 10:12 am

On 16 October I posted a blog about how I’d just completed judging the Boroondara Literary  Awards – open short story competition.  In that blog I talked about the judging process and what makes a good short story. However, I wasn’t able to say much about the winners because it was all hush-hush until the official awards ceremony. Well, I’m just back from that Awards Ceremony so now I can say a little bit more about the entries, and congratulate the winners…

This year’s stories explored a broad range of topics. There were many stories of childhood (particularly coming-of-age stories) and also stories of growing old.  Stories of war also featured, ranging from war-time stories to stories of veterans trying to fit in back at home. Important global and local issues that affect us all were also addressed, such as racism, refugee camps and climate change.

A short story competition wouldn’t be complete without touching on the classics of love and death — two incredibly strong emotional drivers that have the ability to create drama when crafted well. Entries also covered other classic genres, such as fantasy, science fiction and crime fiction.

There were also some stories that offered interesting points of view. One told from a tree’s perspective, another a statue, a house, a dog, a ‘simple’ man, and several entries told from a very young child’s perspective.

So, I’d like to congratulate…

The four highly commended stories:

  1. Double Glazing by Kate Rotherham, which took me on an emotional and difficult journey with the mother of an autistic child;
  2. The Angel by Amy Bisset, which offered a refreshing take on point of view, telling a well-crafted story from a statue’s perspective;
  3. Delivered by Sulari Gentill, about a young man who delivered the pink slips during war time (I loved the last sentence of the first paragraph, ‘After all, Gus Merriman delivered death’); and finally
  4. Fighting for Breath by Paul Threlfall, a story with an incredibly strong voice that followed a boxer turned New York taxi driver.

Another story was extremely close to a highly commended prize, so close I wanted to at least mention it. Two Bucks for Living by Jessica Lye was a touching story about a homeless man reunited with his daughter.  This story simply needed professional editing for some craft elements to take it to the next level.

Now, on to the first, second and third prizes, plus the Boroondara Prize. These stories were all extremely different, yet each one was powerful in its own way.

The third prize goes to One Day in the Life of a Societal Corpse by Alexandra Coppinger. The writing in this piece is strong, atmospheric and in many ways daring. I’m a stickler for grammar and sentence structure, yet this story’s powerful one- and two-word sentences somehow work. The story gave a moving insight into a protagonist who’s struggling with life, and contemplating death.

The second prize goes to Something was Wrong by Michael Doyle. In this story, the writer has perfectly captured the voice of a five-year-old boy being led to a holocaust gas chamber with his mother. The reader can guess what’s going on, but the child doesn’t. The story is both well-written and touching, and as the highest placed entry from a Boroondara resident, it also wins the Boroondara Prize.

Finally, the first prize goes to what could be described as a more quirky story. While in many ways the language and sentence structure are ‘simple’, this is a perfect reflection of character and voice. Derek Pickle by Aaron Firth Donato is the story of an intellectually handicapped man whose caregiver, his grandmother, dies. Soon after her death Derek decides to go to his first concert, and because his grandmother always told him not to go anywhere without her, he takes her — her ashes, that is. He even makes sure to get her home on time for bed.

Congratulations again to all the winners and the other entrants. Keep writing, and it’s great to see we’ve got such strong writers in Australia.

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October 25, 2012

Lost in translation

Filed under: Murderati blogs,Writing — Tags: — PD Martin @ 10:10 pm

Question Mark Key on Computer KeyboardAbout a year ago I came up with an idea for a new novel. It was the kind of idea that kept eating at me, kept calling to me “Write me”. I knew it was an idea I’d get to sooner rather than later, that it would ‘jump the queue’ in terms of the projects I had planned. This is the order I’m supposed to be doing things in:

  1. Books 2 & 3 in my Guardian and Wanderer series (Pippa Dee)
  2. Book 2 in my new “RB and The Committee series” (as a follow-on to Hell’s Fury)
  3. Another mainstream drama project (I was hoping to have an agent and a sale by now for my first mainstream drama novel, but alas it hasn’t happened yet).

Then, and only then, would I move onto this ‘new’ idea, something that’s completely different again to what I’ve been writing. It’s a post-apocalyptic YA thriller/action adventure.  I know…I’m all over the shop.

However, when I was in bed at night, I’d literally think about scenes from this book. I’d see and hear them in my head, compose the sentences and dialogue. I had the character down — a tough 18 year old who’d been imprisoned since she was 10 because she was a ‘danger to society’. But I didn’t write any of these scenes down. I trusted my subconscious and conscious to let the idea brew, to fully form. But now, I’m not so sure…

I’ve finally answered the call of this book and put all of my 1-3 points above on hold. After a little bit of initial but essential research, I started writing last Thursday. In fact, it’s the first thing I’ve written since we collected Liam in Korea a few weeks ago. And I am also aware that my writing stints are going to be an hour here, an hour there, and then one full day (Thursdays).

Now here’s the problem. The book isn’t coming out at all like it’s been in my head for the past year or so. The main character, instead of being a kick-ass bad-ass chick with a major attitude problem, is turning out to be a young woman who wants redemption for ‘her kind’, who wants to prove she can do more than only destroy society. But I just don’t know. Is the book lost in translation or is this how it is meant to be, how it always would have turned out even if I’d answered its call twelve months ago, or even six months ago? It’s not that I’m not happy with what I’ve written so far and I am only 5,000 words in so it’s hard to tell. But still, why is it so different to what I’d envisaged?

So, now I have to decide…should I go with the flow, what’s coming out on the page, or ditch my 5,000 words and start again trying to be true to the original vision?

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