Archive for the ‘Aussie authors’ Category

Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome DC Green, who’s written a fascinating guest post  on plotting a novel. DC’s latest book, Monster School, Book 1 of his City of Monsters series, is just out. I’ve read it and it’s a wild, wise-cracking ride, a feast of the gloriously grotesque. And a great story, too. Over to you, DC.

DC_Green_18There are two types of writers: ‘plotters’, who carefully plan their stories before they begin the writing process, and ‘pantsers’, so named because they prefer to write by the proverbial seat of their derriere garb.

Before I typed even a single word of my latest children’s novel, Monster School, I scrawled over 200 pages of background information. I suspect that lands me in the plotting camp.

Pantsers would argue planning is boring; that the best part about unbridled writing is unquestionably the fun. Pantsers have no idea where their story will take them; their writing becomes a joyful journey of discovery. Wheee!

I agree pantsing is fun, and it is a terrific approach when writing a poem or even a short story. Pantsing a coherent and powerful story in little time, such as a 40-minute class, is an impressive feat. And pantsing can be a wonderful starter tool to tap into one’s subconscious and generate the raw matter of story ideas.

The downside about plot-free stream-of-consciousness writing is that it can only ever apply to first drafts. The second through 32nd drafts is where the ‘real’ writing and polishing takes place. Sadly, pantsers rarely progress so far, as they first need to throw out 90 per cent of their first draft. Why? Upon ‘completing’ that draft, they usually find they have a bunch of random chapters that do not connect. Unplanned characters tend to react unpredictably as their author has not polished their traits, personalities or, most crucially, their voices.

Pantsers often write fantastic scenes that simply don’t fit with the rest of the story. Even worse is when pantsers write themselves into a proverbial corner walled with writer’s blocks. A big enough corner can be a momentum and story killer.

Stories such as murder mysteries need to be structured in meticulous detail so clues and red herrings may be sprinkled through the narrative. The author needs to know all the characters’ secrets and motivations and work backwards from the final resolution. This is impossible when pantsing.

stage 2&3 DC Green visit (8)I had little choice but to plan Monster School. Crammed onto an overcrowded island, the City of Monster’s four million population contains every monster type from every culture in the history of the world. For this bizarre city to make sense and function, from the highest mountain to the deepest sewer, I knew I had to work out the answers to many, many questions. Which monsters are abundant, and which endangered? Which ones are rich or poor, and why? Who are the politicians and who collects the garbage? Is there magic in this world, and if so, what are the rules? Why do zombies hate vampires? What are the religious beliefs of giant spiders? Why do mummies possess super-strength? So I began my detailed monster census and a story that would have crumbled if I was a pantser – for none of my monster interactions would be consistent.

Having to scrap 90 per cent of one’s work is discouraging, to say the least. Many pantsers, including those with great talent, often abandon their story unfinished, or worse, quit writing altogether.

Some pantsers, of course, refuse to scrap anything. They rewrite until their pantsed story glistens with wonderful descriptions, shiny prose and perfect grammar. I call these stories ‘perfectly polished poos.’ They may be well-written, but they also contain extended dull or random sections, character and structural inconsistencies and other flaws that will invariably turn off readers, teachers and publishers.

Far better to test out numerous different beginnings, endings and character traits before typing the first sentence. That way, authors can make the best choices – and avoid massive rewriting. By carefully planning, I was able to retain the vast majority of my Monster School first draft. That represented a lot less rewriting than keeping only ten per cent.

Readers can tell when writers don’t have a plan. The more an author fleshes out their story-line and becomes acquainted with their characters’ personalities before they commence their story, the better their chance of success. Authors who plan well can maintain high conflict and interest levels in every scene.

However, planning doesn’t mean authors have to stick completely to their script. Once an author plunges into their story, they will invariably discover story options that are superior to their original plan. An author’s goal is to produce the best possible story, so they need to be flexible and open-minded. Sometimes my characters come up with their own ideas, or point out the flaws in my plan, or simply say, ‘DC, you may have planned for that to happen, but I simply wouldn’t do things that way.’

When that happens, when spontaneous pantsing meets detailed planning and the left and right brain hemispheres work together, I know I’m on the right writing track.

Thanks, DC.

DC Green is an acclaimed children’s author and award-winning surf journalist. Featuring amazing artwork by Danny Willis, his latest novel, Monster School, has won two pre-publication awards and received multiple five-star reviews on Goodreads.

DC & Monster links

DC’s blog, with all the latest Monster Blog Tour updates: http://dcgreenyarns.blogspot.com.au/

Ford Street Publishing (for Monster School orders): http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com

Amazon.com (for a kindle Monsters): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FDKBTVQ

DC at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4527538.D_C_Green

DC’s facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/DCGreenAuthor


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In April last year, I interviewed Helen Lowe about her newly released The Gathering Of The Lost (Gathering), the second novel in her Wall Of Night series—and now I’m delighted that Gathering has been shortlisted for the international David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy. I spent a couple of hours with David Gemmell at PhanCon,  around 1999, when I was a newly published author. He was a great writer and a lovely, warm, friendly bloke, and as funny on stage as any stand-up comedian I’ve ever seen.  As a fellow Fantasy author, I’ve asked Helen to share what it means for her—and how she sees Gathering in the context of the David Gemmell legacy.

Helen: Thank you, Ian—I was over the moon when I found out, not just because the David Gemmell Awards are international, but also because they are reader voted, so making the shortlist suggests that readers see “The Gathering Of The Lost” as having merit. As a new writer still, that’s tremendously encouraging. Also, the Legend Award was set up to honour the legacy of David Gemmell, which was a formative one for me as an epic Fantasy reader and writer. I love the sweep of his stories and the sense of contending light and dark—but also the many shades of human fallibility between those extremes. And I have always been strongly drawn to his writing of heroism, sacrifice and duty, as well as the ability of friendship and love, in rare circumstances, to transcend ambition and self-interest.

I feel Gathering and my Wall Of Night series is very much its own story, but it does speak to similar themes: it’s heroic Fantasy, but the focus of the story is on the Derai, a people who believe they are champions of good, but are divided by prejudice, suspicion and fear. Gathering in particular is an adventurous story, full of roof top pursuits and forced marches by night, tourneys and battles, bands of brothers — and definitely sisters — but it’s also a story about friendship and love. So although, with a female leading character and a “green” based magic, The Gathering Of The Lost is carving out its own niche, it’s also true to the epic-heroic tradition epitomised by David Gemmell.

Ian: Congratulations to Helen—and The Gathering Of The Lost—for making the shortlist and being in the running to be both the first woman and the first Southern Hemisphere author to win the Legend Award. If you’d like to find out more about Helen you can check out her website and blog, and also read about her influences and love of Fantasy here.

Alternatively, if you just want to go straight to the Legend site and vote, click here (don’t forget to click on “vote” to complete the process.)

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Web of DeceitBestselling Aussie author Katherine Howell’s latest Ella Marconi thriller is out, and it’s a ripper. Just ask NYT bestselling author Tess Gerritsen, who described Katherine’s third novel, Cold Justice, as ‘one of my favourite books of the year’.

When paramedics Jane and Alex encounter a man refusing to get out of his crashed car, with bystanders saying he deliberately drove into a pole, it looks like a desperate cry for help. His frantic claim that someone is out to get him adds to their thinking that he is delusional.

Later that day he is found dead under a train in what might be a suicide, but Jane is no longer so sure: she remembers the terror in his eyes.

Detective Ella Marconi shares Jane’s doubts, which are only compounded when the case becomes increasingly tangled. The victim’s boss tries to commit suicide when being questioned, a witness flees their attempt to interview her, and then to confuse matters further, a woman is beaten unconscious in front of Jane’s house and Alex’s daughter goes missing.

Ella is at a loss to know how all these clues add up, and feels the investigation is being held back by her budget-focused boss. Then, just when she thinks she’s closing in on the right person, a shocking turn of events puts more people in danger and might just see the killer slip through her hands.

You can read the first chapter here. And find out more about Katherine and her books here.

Happy Reading.

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My friend and long-time bestselling Aussie fantasy author Traci Harding has a new series coming real soon. zhougong

Set in ancient China, DREAMING OF ZHOU GONG is a beautiful story of Hudan, one of the mysterious Wu who lives on the sacred mountain of Li Shan. The Wu have been living in isolation for decades while the Shang Emperor and his enchantress have ruled the land. It has been a terrible time for the common people and the noble Ji brothers are keen to bring the emperor′s arrogant bloodthirsty reign to an end. They believe an ancient prophecy has predicted the fall of the Shang emperor and they are keen to enact it, but first they must journey to the mountain and seek out the Wu.

When the Ji brothers join forces with the beautiful, enigmatic Hudan and her equally mysterious tiger sister, they begin a powerful journey of love and adventure.

But the Shang emperor is not their greatest threat. There is a dark curse that has plagued the rulers of the land for generations. And the mysterious Sons of the Sky who visit Hudan in her dreams have a plan to destroy it. Can Hudan trust them?

Book 1 is out February 1, See Traci’s site for details.

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Aussie fantasy author Kate Forsyth, who’s written dozens of books and is published in more than a dozen countries, had a moving article in the weekend magazines about her lifelong struggle with the spoken word, in particular, stuttering and spoonerisms.


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Last year  the brilliant Aussie author Jessica Shirvington, author of a wildly successful series of YA supernatural fantasies beginning with Embrace, did a guest post for my blog. For those who may not have heard, Jess has recently signed a deal with Stephen Spielberg to make a US TV series from these books. It’s fantastic news, not just for Jess, but for all Australian writers, and I hope it goes brilliantly.

The post can be found here: http://ian-irvine.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/jessica-shirvington-murky-waters-of.html

And Jess’s brand new Facebook page is here: http://www.facebook.com/Shirvington

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