The fighter pilot excise of those mousy little words

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Working diligently through my current WIP, I find that I’m honing in on and attacking specific words, busting them off the page like a fighter pilot. These pesky words are triggers for me that I’m not happy with the sentence they find themselves inhabiting. Little cancer cells of a healthy body of work, they are. There’s nothing wrong with the words, they’re innocent and they have a right to be there. I just don’t like them. The list of excised words includes these mousy little culprits below. I’m interested to know if you have a similar list. Add your culprits in the comments below. There’s also a list of favourite words that I like to include in every MS just for the fun of it, words like GUSTO, but I only include them once, let’s not get carried away, and that list is for another day.
















The Nouveau Novel In All Its Forms


Writers absorb the world around them and churn out thoughts through their fingers and onto the page (or screen). As we speak we are waist deep in a communication revolution that is transforming the way we think about the production of the novel.

Perth Writers Festival’s recent Twitter Novella is a perfect example of this new era of novels. Fifty writers (including yours truly) contributed two tweets each to a work read out at the festival, and tweeted via the @PWFNovella twitter handle. Writers were asked not to spend too much time on the work but be instantaneous, keeping with the essence of twitter, so the end result was vibrant if not a little bit strange. The work itself is a pure example of new ways of writing taken from the world around us. You can watch the event here with authors Annabel smith and Andy Griffiths presenting.

The Twitter Novella (which may have been done first by David Mitchell) is a completely modern kind of work, but authors are also blending tradition with innovation. Recently an author invited me to write a long form review of her novel, a book that I had read and reviewed previously in preparation for a panel at the Bendigo Writers Festival. The elements within the novel that called out to be recognised were the use of new ways of communicating – text messaging, tweets, chatroom transcripts – that you won’t find in a traditional novel. You can read the full review at its home with Tincture Journal here.

Annabel Smith’s novel, The Ark, is a perfect example of our world naturally influencing the entire structure of novels. With its use of various messaging systems including emails, and encrypted messaging programs to construct the novel. I love nothing better than to curl up in bed and turn the yellowed pages of a classic, but taking on board the ways people communicate as they go about their normal day, to incorporate in written work, engages people in reading and writing in a way that they want to be interacting, and in the process it has created a whole new genre.

There are whole areas devoted to the discussion of alternative-text within written works (Google Alt-Lit), and it comes with vast and detailed real life involvement, but that  is another blog post.

Stoner, John Williams, the describer scriber.


I’m on the last pages of Stoner, by John Williams, and I’m thinking the thing I will be taking from my reading and learning from, is his attention to descriptions. I could have plucked out any number of passages, but this one of Stoner’s wife, Edith, is a cracker. Edith’s character grows out of the words and you pretty much know who you’re dealing with, just from the description. What a sad sad thing that Williams passed before his book became the success it is now. To not know it. I hope he’s looking down on it and enjoying it all.

In her fortieth year, Edith Stoner was as thin as she had been as a girl, but with a hardness, a brittleness, that came from an unbending carriage, that made every movement seem reluctant and grudging.The bones of her face had sharpened, and the thin pale skin was streathched upon them as upon a framework, so that the lines upon the skin where taut and sharp. She was very pale, and she used a great deal of powder and paint in such a way that it appeared she daily composed her own features upon a blank mask. Beneath the dry hard skin, her hands seemed all bone; and they moved ceaselessly, twisting and plucking and clenching even in her quietest moments.


The bloodrush of a dozen strides brings him into eloquence-writing longstroke


I’ve taken a long book off the shelf to read so I can get the feel of what it’s like to write a long book. It’s a long stretch I know – but it’s an excuse to dwell in a story rather than race to the end line. I’m hoping the long-book-gene will rub off on me. I’m reading Don DeLillo’s Underworld. It’s been on my shelf for years, I think I purchased it as one of the meta-fiction books I’d like to read. It’s got 827 pages and very small writing. I’m hoping to write something a lot smaller, but longer than a novella and bigger than a breadbox.

He is just a running boy, a half-seen figure from the streets, but the way running reveals some clue to being, the way a runner bares himself to consciousness, this is how the dark-skinned kid seems to open to the world, how the bloodrush of a dozen strides brings him into eloquence.


The sky was turning petrol blue and the air held notes of spring. Anna George, What Came Before.

MY NEXT AUS WOMEN WRITERS  challenge read this year is Anna George’s contemporary fiction/psychological drama, What Came Before. It’s her first book, arriving on the scene in June this year (2014) and it’s a punchy page turner. Ms George has a delightful way with words and dispatches the story with style and class. I’ve underlined quite a few one liners in the book that lift the text and make it sing.

The sky was turning petrol blue and the air held notes of spring.

Petrol blue? How good is that?

The story revolves around David Forrester and Elle Nolan. When Dave and Elle meet, an instant and dynamic romance begins. They both revel in what Elle describes as the psychological term, Limerence- the euphoria of romantic attraction – and dream of long term plans.

But Elle is a romantic comedy script writer, and she can’t help but dissect their new found love like it’s a chess game. She questions her every feeling and action, mocking herself, to the detriment of their relationship. Dave, haunted by unhealthy baggage, struggles with the normal mechanisms of human interaction resulting in uncomfortable and unhappy exchanges.

As their tumultuous affair unfolds their desire to be in a relationship that heralds an opportunity for them both to become parents has them naively explain away Dave’s increasingly unpredictable and violent behaviour.

I don’t think it gives too much of the story away to say Ms George draws the reader in from the get go with Dave’s surprising confession of  Elle’s murder.  As the title suggests, we are taken on the ride of what came before the murder with an in-depth and sensitive probing of the emotional side of Dave and Elle’s road to disaster. We spend time understanding the slightly delusional Dave as he unfolds his version of the story and we hover delicately in the mind of the murdered Elle who watches over her own murder scene in lovely dream like sequences.

Elle hovers forlornly above her wall-hung dryer. Outside, the night is cooler and deserted. Nothing is moving, not even a possum. Despite the dozen small houses nudging against hers, no one besides Mira and Doris knows her intimate routine. No one else knows to rap and shout. No one else will be looking. But perhaps that’s not so bad. She’s not ready, she realises, to be found — to be publicly dead.

Ms George has worked in the legal profession, the film industry, and is a reviewer for The Age Newspaper. Her knowledge of what makes a good story comes together to kick this book into a superbly delivered page turner.  Readers will feel they are in good hands.

A shorter version of this review appears in The Bendigo Weekly Newspaper

he curses the child that he seems to drag around with him wherever he goes

My favourite bit is the use of the parenthesis.

As he says it, he curses the child that he seems to drag around with him wherever he goes, and who always shoots his gob off at precisely the wrong moment, embarrassing the all-too-fragile construction of this grown-up Michael (watching). Surely she is wondering what on earth she is doing here with a baby face, on the verge of embarrassing tears.

The Time We Have Taken, Steven Carroll pg 42

Fourth estate 2007

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