September 8, 2012 in Dag

Hey you – are you talking to me?

Hope that got your attention. If not, well I guess you’re not reading this anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

Today I’m going to be talking about talking. Or talking about dialogue to be more precise. Yes that’s right, I’m actually going to talk about writing for a change. Even I’ve had enough of all that complaining and whinging. So, here goes…

I love writing dialogue. I reckon writing dialogue is my favourite  part of the whole writing process. You can take your flowery descriptions, or your heart-stopping action. I’ll happily write scene after scene of nothing else but people talking to each other. Come to think of it, there are a couple of short stories I’ve done which pretty much contain nothing else except dialogue. They’re rather good too, if I might say so myself.

Am I short changing readers with my focus on dialogue to the detriment of the other components of story? Not at all, in my opinion. As a reader, dialogue is my favourite bit as well. I’ll skip over long passages of description. I’ll even yawn at action scenes that are meant to excite. I’m always in a hurry just to get to the next bit of dialogue. And given that the first person I’m writing stories for is me, it makes complete sense for me to take that approach.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I completely neglect the other aspects of the story. Beyond the short story form, it’s pretty much impossible to write nothing but dialogue. And there have been times when I’ve been rather pleased by a descriptive passage or a bit of action I’ve just managed to compose. But dialogue is still the best bit. It’s how characters get to show who they are, and the way they bounce off each other is the way relationships are established and plot is progressed.

I’m really inspired by some of the great dialogue writers, the ones who can really make their characters come to life with distinct voices. Dickens is one obviously example. Another less obvious one is J.K. Rowling. In all the talk about the success of Harry Potter, one thing I think that is often missed is how good she is at voicing her characters. But my big inspiration is Douglas Adams. I love how, especially in the first two Hitch-hikers books, the dialogue just zings off the page. A lot of it was originally written to be performed via the original radio series, and it shows.

I don’t know if I could ever reach the heights of some of those masters but it’s something to aspire to. When I write dialogue, I try to hear it in my head. I try to imagine how each character will sound –  sometimes I’ll even make notes to describe it, e.g. this one sounds like a TV gameshow host, while another sounds like an overly hammy British stage actor.

Sometimes it’s a tricky thing to get right. Every line has to serve some sort of purpose to the bigger story, whether revealing character or plot (hopefully both together) while also sounding natural and unforced. I suppose it’s up to my readers to decide whether I achieve it or not. But it’s certainly fun to try.

 

Scribbling update

 

Speaking of dialogue, there’s an awful lot in my new novella, Scribbling. Scribbling is a sequel (of sorts) to Doodling and features more of the strange and unexpected adventures of Neville Lansdowne.

Currently, it’s in the final stages of editing so hoping to have it available in late October/early November. Keep posted here for more news. 

September 1, 2012 in Dag

Happy birthday to the Indie Exchange – September Social Smash

September Social SplashThis month I’m excited to be part of a special event.

A year ago, a great friend, Donna Brown, established an event called Adopt an Indie. It was a terrific event and I was privileged to be able to take part in it. Over the following year, this evolved into a really great and supportive group for independent authors called The Indie Exchange. Now, a year has passed and I’m pleased to be able to be involved in the birthday celebrations. From an event supporting dozens of authors, the Indie Exchange has grown into an 800 member strong – and growing – group.

To celebrate, this success, they are holding their best ever giveaway: The September Social Splash.

Main prize: $100 Amazon voucher

Second prize: $10 Amazon voucher

There are so many ways to win – just check out the Rafflecopter below. You can complete as many actions as you like to enter the draw and be in with a chance of winning the $100 prize.

It’s great to see so many members and visitors making The Indie Exchange such a success so far! Visit The Indie Exchange: Website ** Facebook Group ** Facebook Page ** Twitter

So let me finish with a big thank you to Donna Brown, Coral Russell, and all the other wonderful people who make the Indie Exchange such a great resource for writers everywhere. May your group continue to go from strength to strength.

Happy Birthday The Indie Exchange

Happy Birthday

a Rafflecopter giveaway
August 26, 2012 in Dag

How to be a cynical optimist

I’ve decided that I’m a cynical optimist.

I’m not totally sure what that means, but then again, I’m never quite sure what anything much means.

What I can say for sure is that at various times, I have been accused of being overly cynical.

I’ve never agreed with this assessment. I don’t think I’m overly cynical at all. I just figure that I look at things in a practical and realistic way. When you read the newspapers. When you listen to the guff that politicians spin. Ok, let’s not single out politicians unfairly. When you listen to the guff that lots of people spin, cynicism seems like a completely reasonable response.

And it’s not just the stuff that’s covered in the rarefied world of the media. Just getting through most days seems to require a healthy dose of it. Whether you’re working in the public or the private sector, there’s more than enough rubbish you need to wade through every day. I should know – I worked in universities for the better part of 20 years. Supposedly, universities are full of the smartest people in the country – god help the rest of us is all I can say.

As for being a writer, a dose of cynicism is more than required to get through the day. It was needed back when I was trying to deal with publishers, and their various prevarications for why they didn’t want to publish my stories – especially after I saw the stories that they did publish. And it’s even more necessary in the self-publishing world, where the variables that define success still often seem to have little to do with the quality of the writing.

So why the hell do I do it? Why do I put myself through all this daily torture? Because, as I said, cynicism is not the only side to me. I’m also a ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky optimist. Every day, I get up, I put all my grumbling and cynicism to the side, I look up and tell myself that there’s a bright side to all of this.

It’s a bit like one of my stories: Flidderbugs. I suppose it’s a bit of a satire about politics and all that stuff. I’ve had reviewers say it was overly-cynical. I’ve had others say the ending is too contrived and optimistic. I like to think it means I’ve somehow got a good balance of the two.

Because that’s the thing about us. We’re all a contradiction. We all have a mix of different qualities. You just have to make sure you make the best of all of them, and don’t let any take you over.

Seems to me, being a cynical optimist is the best approach to take. It means you’ll always be aiming for the sky, but you’ll also be aware of where the dark clouds are. because how else will you be able to avoid them?  

August 19, 2012 in Dag

29 Days of Fantasy – a great anthology for a great cause

Back in February, I was excited to be involved in a really great online event. 29 Days of Fantasy was organised by Thomas A. Knight and involved a whole bunch of posts by a range of authors covering just about every aspect of fantasy you could possibly think of. There were posts about how to construct worlds and how to develop characters. There were posts about fantasy for young adults and romance in fantasy. It was a really great collection of articles by a bunch of interesting and talented writers.
The really great news is that Thomas has now collected all of this material together and published it in the form of an ebook – called, of course, 29 Days of Fantasy. All of the great articles can be read in one simple and convenient format, and at the exceptionally convenient price of just 99 cents. I could say more, but I’ll let the blurb for the book on Amazon give you a better idea of what this is about:
What is 29 Days? It’s a celebration of the fantasy genre, and fans have every reason to party! The fantasy genre is bigger and better than ever before, and shows no signs of letting up. This celebration is for the authors, the creators, the artists and producers, publishers and promoters of fantasy, but most importantly, this celebration is for the fans!

Fantasy author Lorna Suzuki writes about incorporating reality into fantasy, author J. Robert King brings is The Heart of Villainy, world renowned author and game developer Jeff Grubb spills the beans in an in-depth interview, and much, much more.

But that’s still not all the great news.

Thomas has very generously decided to share the royalties for 29 Days of Fantasy with an organisation called Reglue. You can learn more about them at their website, http://reglue.org, but in summary, they work to provide access to technology to underprivileged kids – a pretty worthy cause if you ask me.

So there’s a bunch of really great reasons why you should check this out. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in fantasy, you may find yourself swayed by some of the terrific posts captured here. And the chance to help a worthy organisation is always a good thing on top of that.

About Thomas A. Knight

Thomas A. Knight has spent most of his life either immersed in or building fantasy worlds and bringing characters to life.

From Middle Earth, to the skies of Pern and beyond, no world is too great a challenge for him to conquer. His favourite places include a pair of worlds that spawned from his own imagination, one of perpetual light, and one of perpetual darkness.

When he is not living a life in one of these worlds, he is a husband, father of two little girls, software developer, and avid role-player. He grew up and currently resides in a small town in Ontario, Canada. Holding a diploma in Network Engineering, he works as a software developer at one of the world’s leading vinyl siding manufacturers.

You can learn more about him and his writing at his webite – http://thomasaknight.com/
 

August 11, 2012 in Dag

Sunshine on a rainy day – or is that rainshine on a sunny day

I’m in one of those moods today.
I can’t figure out why. I can’t even figure out what.

Maybe it’s just the weather. It’s what we would describe as “a typical Melbourne day”. One minute, the sun is up. The next minute it’s cloudy. The next minute, the sun is up again. The next minute, it’s pouring.

I think I’m feeling a bit like that today. One minute, I’m feeling that I’m really motivated and moving and on top of things. The next minute, not so much.

It’s been a bit like that all week. Partly it’s my head. One minute, I have a headache. The next minute, it’s clear. And so on. I’m getting a bit sick of it. Can my head just make its mind up. Be sore, and then I can take some tablets and have a nap, or be fine, and then I can go outside and dance around in the street (assuming the rain lets up).

Work has been a bit like that too. I have a bunch of pending deadlines. One minute, I think I’m fine and I’ll meet them all, no problem. The next minute, I’m suddenly not so confident. Then, I suddenly realise that I have nothing to worry about and it’ll be fine. But then I tell myself that maybe I’ll meet the deadlines but the quality of the work will not be so great. Honestly, I tell you it’s hard work being me.

I like to watch people. I guess that’s a typical hallmark of any writer. Everybody seems so clear and confident and sure of what they’re doing. I know, in most cases it’s probably just a bluff, but gosh some people are good at it. I wish I could at least figure out how to pretend that I had some idea about what I was doing.

Gee, this has been a bit of a down post, hasn’t it. Here’s some good stuff to finish it off. I got some great feedback from a beta reader who had a look through Scribbling (the sequel to Doodling, which is hopefully not too far away from release now). Also made substantial progress on my other WIP – the YA/MG one I talked about in my last post. So what the hell am I complaining about?

Have a great week. Hope the sun breaks through the clouds for you. And if it doesn’t, break it through yourself.