Thursday, February 24, 2011

Module 1 - Creative Writing Course

I did the first module of my creative writing course.

It was all about voice, narrative, and tense. Good start. These things are basic, but something that you seem to take for granted.

After listening to the module, and reading the handouts, the group had to write a first paragraph. We had to write it to make is stand out from the 'slop' pile of manuscripts that a publisher might get.

This was mine:

Quiet. Got to be quiet. The darkness is solid black, but her eyes are wide open. Her little body is curled up in the womb of her sheets. Wet. The acrid smell of her own urine, but she lays still, unable to move. There is one strip of light, shadows moving across it, where the voices are coming from. Her father's rage. Her mother's screams and sobs. She is frozen on her mattress, listening for what seems like ages, her heartbeat rocking through her whole body. Then the thumping began, the pounding into the soft flesh of her mother. The shrieks. Then silence.

I wasn't conscious of some of the things that we learnt in the module, though. I obviously used the third person, but tried to get a personal narrative happening. I tried to keep the sentences short, so the speed of the paragraph flowed fast and created more tension. However, I jumped around with my tenses a bit, and my grammar wasn't fantastic.

Here's the comments from the online tutor:

Oh, Jacqui, this is heartbreaking. And technically very well done except for some small niggles.

Good use of sentence fragments and internal discourse. Nice pace and good suspense.

The niggles? You shift tense. You are in present tense the whole time until ‘began’, which is past tense. It should also be ‘lies there’, not ‘lays there’.

Otherwise, this is working well. However, I want you to think about why you are using present tense, which is more demanding both of readers and of you. It is technically harder to tell a story in present tense, so if you choose it you should know why. I’m not saying ‘don’t use it’ – but make it a conscious choice, not something you just fall into.

Good work.

So far, so good. I'm learning, which is the main thing. Just got to write!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

I just finished reading The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey. This is one of the most touching stories I have read in a long time. The characters and the love story are unique and real. It's heartbreaking.

The book is split into 2 sections. The first half is based in Trinidad in 2006, when our main characters are 75 years of age, and have been in Trinidad for 50 years, since soon after they were married. The husband, George, decides that he has to make his wife love him again. He wants to make some grand gesture of how much his wife means to him - he wants to question the brutality of the black government. He ends up dying, however, and the wife seems to wake up from 40 years of depression and realises how much he meant to her, and how much time she had wasted. She goes out and commits a horrendous crime, seeing as she has nothing left to lose.

The book then jumps back in time to when the couple first arrived. The second half is based in the first person, with the wife, Sabine, as the narrator. It goes through their early years in Trinidad, establishing a family, establishing themselves, and Sabine's growing interest in the politics of the country, and her growing unease of being a white woman in a country that she thought hated her. It was a dangerous time, in the 60s and 70s. Sabine sinks into depression, and her love for her husband becomes hate.

The story is incredible. The characters, like I said, are so unique and alive. The writing is easy to read, and flows very well. The change for third person to first person is touching - like Sabine looking back on her life, when she knows the end is close. Brilliant.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Night Street - The Beginning

On 23 October 2010, I was staying with my parents in Canberra. We went to the National Library. In the bookshop there I bought Night Street by Kristel Thornell. It was the winner of the Vogel literary award in 2010. The main reason I bought it, though, was because there was a little sticker on the front cover for a competition to win $3,000 from Allen & Unwin, the publisher. The money had to be put towards creative writing courses and/or a manuscript assessment.

I won!!!

I have written short stories before, and have won the odd competition in local newspapers. I have written one novel, but it's still in its first draft and I hate it too much to do a second draft. I hate my own characters.

I've been too busy to write much in the last couple of years, but winning this competition is everything. I am motivated and inspired, and I have ideas gushing.

I am going to make the money stretch as far as possible.

The first course I'm doing started this week. A 5 week creative writing course through the Sydney Writer's Centre. So far, so good. Keep reading ...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Books I've read in 2010

Part of my goal to be a great writer is to read as much as possible, which I hope can only improve my writing. The books I read last year were:

2010 was a wonderful year of reading, but I didn't achieve much writing!