30 April 2011

Royally Romantic

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Sigh. Well that was a beautiful departure from every day life, wasn't it? Nothing I could say would add to the magnificence and simplicity that was the royal wedding, but I can't help blogging about it anyway. It makes me proud to be part of the Commonwealth, to know that they are my Duke and Duchess too.

One of my favourite parts was when William and Catherine exchanged a look and a smile during the sermon. They didn't say anything, but you could tell they knew what each other was thinking. It spoke of such intimacy and joy.... and it was so cute. Apparently William said "I'm so proud you're my wife" as they stepped into the carriage, after Kate asked after his happiness. I can't even begin to imagine everything she was feeling.

Other moments that proved what a down-to-earth heir to throne William is include:
- How he had an unscheduled walkabout among the waiting crowds the night before
- How he showed up at the church much earlier than tradition dictates, so that he could greet everyone
- How he drove himself and Kate away from the palace after the official reception, in his father's Aston Martin.
- And of course, how he dropped not one but two kisses on his new princess' lips.

I believe they want to come to NZ later this year for the world cup. William and Kate, we can't wait to see you!

24 April 2011

Dialogue Domination

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I read recently that the three elements of writing are narration, dialogue and description.

I'm beginning to think I write like a scriptwriter. When I quickly write down scenes as the muse strikes, it's nearly all dialogue. It's only later I put description or narration in, to illuminate more about what a character is doing or feeling. Because I can see everything in my head, and hear the words being spoken, I don't feel the need to write anything but the dialogue to get the essence of the scene. Now that other people are reading my work and I'm able to step back a bit, I've realised this is one of my weaknesses. Even though I've tried to flesh things out, sometimes I haven't done enough. My readers can't imagine my world in the detail I can, so I have to provide that detail.

I find this challenging, because the other thing I struggle with is the old 'show don't tell'. I'd thought I'd done a good job of 'showing' with the dialogue. What, you mean I now have to go back and do some telling? I know, I know, I'm supposed to do more showing... but that's really hard for me, when I feel like I've already shown everything and this is really just prettying up the dialogue.

Which of the three elements come the most naturally to you? How do you write in a hurry when you're inspired?

P.S. I've looked at the word "dialogue" so many times while writing this, the word has gone kinda funny. Dia-log-gew... isn't it strange? In the end I googled it to double-check I was spelling it right!

20 April 2011

Writing Yourself into a Corner

I've always been stubborn about sticking to plans. If I decided I was going to catch the 3 o'clock bus, well I was going to bust a gut to get there, even though rationally I knew I couldn't make it. And sometimes I'd end up sitting at the bus stop for 55 mins waiting for the next one. For some reason I make up my mind to do something, and I find it extremely difficult to waver from the plan.
I've noticed the same thing in my writing. I decide a certain scene happens at a certain time, and I tear my hair out if I can't fit it everything else around it. Or I say that the character does this every Tuesday, and it means I can't have something else happen on a Tuesday six months in. Perhaps a character lives in a certain location or has a certain family composition, which stops me from imposing a plot twist on them. It had a mini-lightbulb moment when I realised that imposing these restrictions on myself was making the writing process harder than it needed to be. It seems so simple... just change it. But for some reason I have a brain-block on some of these things. I have to remind myself that I'm in control, and I can do anything I want in the worlds I create. (The main exceptions to this is when I've based scenes around real-life events - I'm still struggling to make things fit in properly in these cases).
It's quite freeing to break free of restrictions you've placed on yourself. Does anyone else struggle with this?

17 April 2011

Things Happen in Threes

Isn’t it odd how you could go through your life not being aware of a particular name, place, or thing and suddenly, within a short space of time, you are bombarded by it?

An example happened to me a little while ago: Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I was vaguely aware that Burbank is a suburb of Los Angeles (or a town? Not sure). The name of the place hasn’t been in consciousness at all. Then I was watching an episode of Chuck, and the General said, “It’s been great working with you in Burbank.” The name stuck in my head for a few minutes.

The next day I was catching up with Lonely Planet’s feed in my RSS reader and found myself reading an article on what not to do in Los Angeles. It recommended flying into Burbank airport instead of LAX.

Then I was driving home on my usual route, and when I looked up at a random road sign. It said, “Burbank Avenue”. I kid you not.

This happens to me all the time, as I’m sure it does you. Perhaps your friend buys a new car, and even though you’ve never heard of it before, now that type of car is all you seem to see. Or perhaps you’ve been looking for a particular out of print book for ages, and then all of a sudden you see it in three different shops.

What things have come in threes for you?

09 April 2011

The Pleasure and Pain of a Life Well Lived

Today we dug compost through the vege patch (and by "we", I mean my husband), then we transplanted some baby strawberry plants and sowed our winter veges (both of us). Fingers crossed everything grows! Once that was done I went around dead-heading the roses, some of which are still going great guns even though we're officially well into autumn.

There's one particular rose that is a lot of work, because it's always covered in hundreds of blossoms. It's an old-fashioned "coral" rose, dark pink with only five petals on each flower. The profusion of blooms is lovely, but it means I have to spend a lot more time snipping off all the dead heads. And I need to do this to make more flowers come.

My brain drifted into thinking about how this is like life. If you'll indulge me...

The first way is that sometimes we need to cut things out of our lives before we can move forward. Perhaps we need to literally clear clutter out of our homes before we can take up a new hobby, make room for a child or downsize to a smaller house. Clearing physical space can also lift weight from our spirits, making it easier to move through life. Other times, we may need to prune bad influences from our lives, whether that is negative people, poor media choices or clinging to old habits... anything else which stops us from moving forward.

The second thing that occurred to me is that with much beauty comes much work, with much risk comes greater reward, and sometimes with much pleasure comes much pain. The bigger lives we lead, the more potential there is for hard times. If we choose to love, we may be hurt. Putting ourselves out there artistically comes with the inevitable stab of rejection. In order to be successful in business, you have to put in the hard yards. Some people live smaller lives, doing just enough to survive with what they're given. But I hope I have the courage to live larger, to work hard and love fully in the hope of a richer existence.

08 April 2011

Daily deal sites... How do I love thee

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Yesterday I had my hair cut at a salon, which might not sound that exciting, but I seriously can't remember the last time I visited a salon... it must be at least 10 years ago. I've always thought of it as an extravagance. I've visited hair dressers who work out of their homes a few times, but mostly I've just had either my mum or my husband trim the ends for me once in a while. I've never had a manicure or pedicure, and until recently I'd never been to a spa for a massage. Why throw that sort of money down the drain?

So what's changed? Daily discount sites have arrived! 1-dayout, Groupon, Grabone, Groupy, Spreets, Dailydo and now Treatme... I love them all. They offer anything from food to beauty to accommodation, all at least 50% off. I don't mind paying $30 for a 45 minute massage (and I have, thank you). And I didn't mind paying for the wash, conditioning treatment, style cut, blow wave, straightening and take home product I got last night for the princely sum of $37. I wouldn't like to pay that for a cut on a regular basis, but as a treat it was great. The only problem was there was a language barrier with the guy who actually cut my hair which was a little frustrating, so I don't know if I'd go back there. But he did a nice job with the cut. My husband is still adjusting - he's never seen me with 'styled' hair.

I'm actually reasonably selective about the deals I buy - if it's too far from home or work, or if I've already bought something similar I won't bother. But courtesy of these sites we've already enjoyed our wedding anniversary dinner, and ridiculously cheap pizza and gelato (3 different vouchers). I have vouchers that we'll use in the future for the Stardome planetarium (can't beat discount stars!) and an hour long Swedish massage. Without these sites we wouldn't be doing these things, and life would be just a little bit more tedious. Bargain-hunters of the world, rejoice!

05 April 2011

Leaving the Nest

I am starting to share my WIP with some beta readers. Just drip-feeding it by chapter, so that:
a) I can keep working away on the rest of it in the meantime and
b) So they can opt out at any time, like products you get from an informercial
It makes me excited, to finally share what I've done. It also makes me petrified, because maybe what I've done is absolute rubbish. But I'd rather have these readers tell me that, than send it off to agents in a sorry state. I have some readers who are writers, and a couple who are good friends/avid readers. At least for those who've read my previous stuff, I'm pretty confident that this is a whole lot better.
I knew my first chapter needed the most work, because I'd added so many extra notes in there while I was completing the rest of the draft, and when I first wrote it I was telling myself the story so there was too much exposition. I cut over a thousand words during this edit, but I also added stuff in to flesh out the characters (now that I know them better) and lay some more groundwork for what's to come. I did a fair bit of editing as I went with the latter chapters, but as I tackle them again I know I need to step out of the story and focus on the other elements. And I'm looking forward to reading it again because, you know, I like it.

03 April 2011

Are Your 'Fit to Fly'?

In case you missed it, I thought it might be fun to share the latest somewhat entertaining inflight safety video produced by Air New Zealand. They've got some American guy called Richard Simmons to make it like an 80s exercise video. Does anyone know who Richard is and why they might have chosen him?

Air NZ broke the mould with their 'Our Low Fares Have Nothing to Hide' themed video.

Yes, everyone's naked. Very clever, but the giggling and cheesiness got a bit much after a while.

Next, they felt the need to remind us that they sponsor the All Blacks.

And now, this latest offering. There's a lot of Kiwi "celebrities" and in-jokes, but it's still fairly funny if you don't understand those.

I'm not hugely brand loyal to Air NZ.They flaunt their monopoly on many routes, they are condescending if you need help or something went wrong (and have unneccessarily plumbed hundreds of dollars from us a few times), and those 'Rico' ads were just embarrassing. But I have to admit they're on the bleeding edge of innovation, I feel a surge of pride every time I see that Koru in a foreign land, and they do know how to make an interesting infight safety video.

P.S. Their April Fool's joke was to send an email out saying that they're now going to charge for flights based on weight (person + luggage). I actually think that's a jolly good idea.