Tag Archives: Five Parts Dead

Deja Vu

Saturday’s Herald Sun featured a Q & A interview with author Tom Rachman, who is described as a London-born, Vancouver-raised, Rome-based journalist. As I read it, I was struck by how similar some of our thinking was, given that I’m your average home-brand Victoria-born, Victoria-raised, Victoria-based journalist/author.

One of the questions asked was, “Was it always your goal, even before you became a journalist, to write a novel?” Mr Rachman’s reply is: “I became a journalist because I wanted to write fiction, as backward as that seems. I had planned to be a film-maker…but toward the end of my time at university I realised that it was fiction and stories that I really wanted to be writing…”

I entered university with no real idea what I wanted to do for a crust. I knew I wanted to write, preferably fiction. I considered script-writing but the career information seminar made it sound too cut-throat. (I think the phrase “like being raped by a two-tonne gorilla” might have deterred me.) I decided to have a crack at journalism, my logic being that I could write news stories by day and fiction by night. Naive? Totally.

Mr Rachman then speaks of being more confident in his work with his second manuscript, compared to his first. “I felt much more technically able… I had the misconception that a lot of people have about writing: that there are people who have talent and there are those who don’t. So when I sat down at my computer I was terrified that maybe I was one of those who didn’t, which was incredibly inhibiting, because you write something and then look at it and say, “My God, that doesn’t sound like Tolstoy to me, therefore I am completely untalented”. But in my case … I realised what was most important was having an idea, and, very, very incrementally, reaching that idea. And that involves a heck of a lot of work.”

OK. Let’s just say I know what he’s talking about. I read my stuff sometimes and wonder whether I should give up and go back to lawn-mowing. Or breaking rocks. My confidence ebbs and flows big time. Low tide is like, way, low, as my teen workshoppers might say.

I wouldn’t say I was any more confident with this manuscript than my first – apart from knowing my ever-enthusiastic agent would read it. But I certainly believe in the worth of fresh ideas and the power of perseverance. I’m on my 8th draft of Five Parts Dead and the final deadline is approaching fast. More sweat has gone into this story than anything I’ve written before. So I certainly understand the “incrementally” comment. And the “heck of a lot of work”.


Coming up to Christmas the media fills up with list articles. Top Tens of this and that. Bests and Worsts. Most memorable. The Season/Year/Decade/Century in Review and so on. It will be even more rife this year as we’re ending a decade.

Why do so many of these get published? Because they’re easy to write. Because people like them and argue over them. And because they’re usually a great filler at a time of year when less newsworthy stuff happens.

I indulged in lists here last year. This year I’m so befuddled I’m listing sideways myself. Better to be listing than listless, I guess. Here be some recommendations from me:

Favourite things I read in 2009, (old or new)

A Beginner’s Guide to Living – Lia Hills
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Faceless Ones – Derek Landy
Henrietta – Martine Murray
Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
Paper Towns – John Green
Somebody’s Crying – Maureen McCarthy
Ten Mile River – Paul Griffin

Picture books:
Mannie & The Long Brave Day – Martine Murray & Sally Rippin
Isabella’s Garden – Glenda Millard

2009 favourite listens

It’s been an odd year for my iPod. Normally I buy albums. This year I purchased individual tracks and largely sat with favourite albums from 2008 – or delved into the past to discover Tom Waits, John Coltrane and retro Wilco.

Of the few new albums that have had regular rotations, my favourites have been Smoking Gun from Lady of the Sunshine, Wilco from Wilco and White Lies for Dark Times from Ben Harper & Relentless7.

2009 favourite films

Man, there were so many flicks I wanted to see this year but didn’t get to in time (District 9, Samson & Delilah, Balibo, Blessed, The Changeling, Coraline). I’ll catch some of these on video over the silly season. Of those I did get to, I really enjoyed Ponyo, Watchmen, The Reader and The Hangover. I saw the latter with a bunch of mates on a boys’ night out. Laughed until my jaw hurt.

Given my aforementioned befuddlement, I know there will be things I’ve forgotten.

Personal highlights from the year have included finding a passionate publisher for Five Parts Dead, some of the workshops I conducted with students around the state and getting to know several other authors … and then realising we all struggle with the same stuff.

Every year has its tough times too. My thoughts are with those whose lives were altered forever by the February 7 inferno, along with those confronted by cancer or mental illness. Hang tough.

Putting ideas into action

Here’s a good piece from Aussie author and blogger John Birmingham on how to plan and write a novel.

The prevailing wisdom is that a full time author will need the best part of a year to write and rewrite a novel.

For part-timers like me, it’s a matter of taking every free moment and guarding it like gold bullion. Game as Ned was completed in an empty room over some friends’ garage so I could sandbag away the distractions that come with small children, the Internet, email and sundry domestic demands. Five Parts Dead has been part-written in a web-free upstairs living room supplied by other generous friends who knew my study wasn’t as author-friendly as it should be.

Venues aside, it takes discipline and sweat to write a novel. It’s not easy. It can steal your sleep and sap your confidence. But when the muse is singing, it’s magical.

Here are some other novel writing tips, coming via the Wall Street Journal.