April 2010

Read and learn

If you want to know how to write good, tight, attention-grabbing prose – regardless of your genre – study the opening chapter of Wyatt, the latest book by Garry Disher. This is masterful. It is economic, rich in the use of words yet sparse and sparing, full of information drip-fed to the reader without them being bludgeoned, crammed with action and brilliant in its succinct description of places and people. Read, read, read – and learn.

Bad language

According to Age property writer Marc Pallisco, Central Equity will


20 hectares it has acquired.
Why doesn’t he just say it’s going to hold on to it for the time being?

Spell unchecker

Anyone who thinks Spellcheck is the answer to their spelling deficiencies should note the disaster that has hit Penguin Books. According to the Age, Penguin is pulping and reprinting 7000 copies of its Pasta Bible cookbook at a cost of $20,000.
The reason: a recipe called for the addition of “freshly ground black people”, instead of pepper. A wrong word, but one which Spellcheck would obviously accept, has apparently upset a band of small-minded readers.
The mistake is almost laughable, but it shows what can happen when too much reliance is put on a technological device rather than the good old human eye.
Eye dew weight two sea wear oar watt thee next disaster will bee.

Go with the flow

Writers fall into two broad categories: plotters and non-plotters. There are those who map out every twist and turn before they write the first word, Post-it notes littering their working space. Others (and I am one) simply start writing and go with the flow. Characters appear and move on. Suddenly a door opens and a new character is standing there. Or someone says something you had not expected.
It was therefore interesting to have Michael Robotham reveal in an Age interview by Jason Steger that he, too, doesn’t plot in advance. “If I knew what was going to happen right through from chapter to chapter it would be like a normal job,” said this hugely successful crime fiction writer. “I wouldn’t be excited about going to work every day.”
He added: “Things happen when I write that excite me, things surprise me, things shock me and things frighten me. And if they do me, they must the reader as well.”
It doesn’t always work out. He began his latest book, Bleed For Me, twice and discarded 30,000 words of what were very different novels. According to Steger, Robotham calls this “headlight” writing in which you see just as far ahead as a car’s headlights on a dark night allow you to. And he admitted “the danger is you drive straight off a cliff and there’s no going back”.

First person warning

There were some wise and cautionary words from crime fiction writer Michael Robotham in the Review section of the Australian on Saturday in Graeme Blundell‘s review of his latest book.
Robotham, who uses the first person in Bleed For Me, says it is so difficult to manage the plotting – “You can’t have anything not in the concsciousness of your central character”. But when it works, “The present tense adds immediacy as the reader takes every breath with the character, discovering things as he does”.

Dead Healthy

“It looked quite healthy apart from the fact that it was dead” – Flowerdale resident Don Dawson quoted in the Age today after he viewed the body of a wombat that mauled a neighbour for half an hour.

A messy meal

According to a Department of Defence press release it is undertaking a “revalidation of the recommended scales of issue of victuals that contribute to the formulation of a ship’s menu”. Eh?
Oh, it is looking at the costing and content of meals aboard its ships. So why couldn’t they say so in a language everyone can understand?
Save us from such garbage.

A long hike

When is the media going to accept that walkers go for a hike and interest rates rise? There is no logic in using hike instead of rise; there is no saving of space in headlines and it does not enhance the meaning of the text. But there it was yet again today in a Page 2 headline in the Age: ‘No end in sight to rate hikes’.