Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sad Comedy

On Friday night, we went to see one of the acts at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. It was one of the top 5 acts chosen by The Age.

What a disappointment.

We were ushered into a small room at the Melbourne Town Hall (there were small shows like this all over the building), and chose seats in the third row just in case the comedian chose to unleash her barbed wit on patrons up close. We needn't have worried.

The comedian did her best to make us laugh - and I did my best to find her material funny. Sometimes I forced a laugh in the hope that it would put me in the mood to laugh more, or it might encourage other members of the audience to think it was funnier than it actually was. Unfortunately, it only got worse, and the only thing that stopped us from walking out was sympathy. And knowing that the torture would only last an hour.

Poor comedian. She tried so hard to be funny, and she did possess some talent. Her acting skills were good enough that I could envisage her making people laugh in a sitcom or film. She was able to engage the audience with her facial expressions, gestures and even the characters she'd devised. It just wasn't very funny. When the lights faded between skits, there was silence, instead of raucous laughter and applause.

It made me think about writing. Sometimes you're almost there, but it just isn't working. And it's much harder than you think it's going to be when starting out. Most of all, it's hard to figure out what's NOT working, and how to fix it. It also made me think about the wider community of people who are putting themselves "out there". In comparison with the comedian's public shaming, writing something, sending it off and having it rejected seemed like small potatoes. I left feeling sad for her. I hope she doesn't take this setback too seriously, I hope she goes on trying to improve her skills, because there was good stuff there. It just wasn't quite working yet. Who knows, one day she may be as famous a comedian as Jerry Seinfeld. In a recent interview, he said that his first gig was so bad the only reason he attempted it again was to prove to himself that he could do it.

Hiding Away

School holidays are such a contradiction. On one hand, there is the break from the usual day-to-day routine, which is sort of refreshing. But on the other, the days seem almost to be as hectic - or worse.

This week, I've been out four nights in a row. A play on Wednesday, dinner with two other couples on Thursday, the Melbourne Comedy Festival (and dinner at Fed Square) on Friday, and dinner at the pub with friends from the country last night. Oh my! I am exhausted, and since my best writing time is at night when the house is quiet, I haven't been able to get to the computer at all.

Next week I've arranged to 'run away' from my house to the holiday place at Rosebud. I'll have the kids with me, but at least while we're there, everything is put on hold. We spend the days lazing about, going on walks to the beach or around town, looking for treasure in op-shops or going for relaxing drives around the Mornington Peninsula. And at night... nobody comes, nobody invites me out and I can write late into the night knowing the next day I'll be able to sleep in. What bliss.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rainy Holiday

It's raining. Funny how strange it seems in these times of no rain. I remember years ago how it used to rain for a whole week. My children can't imagine how that would be. No wonder the reservoirs were full.

But though the rain is a blessing, it is still rain, and one of the intrinsic features of rain is its arbitrary nature. Years of drought have affected my washing routine so that I'm now thoroughly spoiled. Yes, the showers are shorter, but at least you can hang washing any time and be virtually guaranteed that it will dry. Even the ineffectual 'showers' we get now don't have any impact on drying time. So I have a couple of loads of washing to do and now I'm wondering if I should just do them and do the clothes-horse thing around the house till the rain stops.

And another thing. Our building project is about to get off the ground, and husband began it with some minor demolition the other day. He started with taking the roof off the large shed. There were still some things left in there, but we figured we'd move them when it suited. Now it's been raining for two days, everything is thoroughly soaked. All the stuff we were going to do something with because it was too good to throw out - like the wad of large sketch paper that the kids would use for their artwork - well, the decision's now made for us. It's all for the bin.

The rain has also meant that we've been cooped up in the house. There have been play-overs, lots of DVD's, games that make the house unrecognisable. Right now, right outside the door to this room, there is some wild, giggling, yelling, thumping, jumping game going on involving two of mine and a play-over friend. I know that in a matter of minutes the benevolent noise will turn to a screaming argument, but until then, I can't rightly go out there and tell them to SHUT UP! Not yet, anyway.

And the writing... The writing has kind of gone on through all this. Chapter 7 is in rehab and yesterday I lost a whole chunk of revisions through 'Word' just deciding to disappear off the screen. One step forward and two steps back.
Better go now... I hear World War 3 starting.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Oh, what a busy few weeks it's been. I haven't posted because I simply haven't had the time. Work has been exceptionally busy lately, and probably due to an early Easter, a lot of things have had to be 'squeezed' in. Last week I worked my usual part-time fraction but continued to work on related projects at home, and by the end of the week, I had worked myself up to a killer migraine that saw me arrive home on Friday and go straight to bed.

So the writing took a back seat, and I've only just resumed. I think ten days went by with no writing, and the night I finally sat down to my laptop was divine bliss. Last night I finished chapter seven (out of twelve), and tonight I plan to go over it with fresh eyes and edit.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying a great book. My neighbour lent it to me saying that she'd earned her husband's wrath late at night because she just couldn't put it down. The book is "The Other Boleyn Girl", by Philippa Gregory, and I'm enjoying it very much. Don't know if it's "unputdownable", but pretty good nevertheless. Most importantly, it's a book from which I can learn a lot. One of my problem areas is pacing, and Gregory handles it beautifully in this novel. From a big picture point of view, nothing much is happening. No wide-ranging, fast moving plot, here, just a King increasingly tiring of his Queen and turning to the Boleyn girls, first Mary, then Anne, as diversion. But what makes the novel fast-paced is the complex behind the scenes plotting by the Boleyn/Howard family on one hand, and by the Queen and her Spanish and Roman Catholic allies on the other, as well as the many and varied small scenes that make up Henry VIII's courtship of the two Boleyn girls.

As I read, I try to store Gregory's tricks away so that I might practice "moving" my writing along at a faster pace than I manage to do now. She seems to pack a lot in by giving just a little visual/sensory detail, and relying on the reader to fill in the blanks. Such a good lesson, and one I sorely need to learn.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lightbulb Moment!

Yes, it's the lightbulb moment I was writing about in my last post! I actually can't believe it happened almost on request.

The problem was that my characters weren't behaving themselves, or rather, I felt I was losing a sense of them as characters. What resulted was a bland, tensionless disaster of a chapter. My friend/critique partner pointed this out, and though it was painful to admit there was a lot wrong with the chapter, I sucked it up and made changes.

What needed to happen wasn't obvious at first. I let her comments simmer in my head, and it didn't actually take that long for the ideas to start germinating.

My lightbulb moment was that I hadn't lost my characters, but rather, that the chapter wasn't working because their actions were OUT of character. Once I figured out the natural thing for them to do, I could hear the story's engine revving once more. All sorts of possibilities grew out of the one change I made to the chapter. Now I have options. Before the realisation, the story was laying flat and stagnant, with hardly a sign of life.

I have re-written the chapter and received the tick of approval from AbFab. Right now, I'm at the start of chapter 7, right smack in the middle of the novel. The characters are doing what comes naturally and it's given me a believable 'Point Of No Return', which in the previous version (the dud chapter) was nowhere in sight.