Think writing a book is easy? You can cram it.

Thsis is about a million times more likely than you becoming the next J.K. Rowling or Steph Meyer.

This is about a million times more likely than you becoming the next J.K. Rowling or Steph Meyer.

Occasionally I say to people things like, “I have written a book, and I hope it’s published someday.”

And occasionally they reply with things like, “Oh, I could write a book. I’ll do that someday.”

Good for you.  Wanting to write a book is a fine aspiration. But. Often when folks say “I want to write a book”, what they really mean is “I want to become fantastically rich and famous like J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer, and writing a book is an easy path to riches and fame.”

No, it isn’t. Writing a book is hard. (Seriously: it’s really, really hard. Mine took almost five years and it’s still not finished. It’s tough.) Writing a good book is harder. Landing an agent is even harder. Landing a publisher is harder still. Becoming a bestselling author is so hard that the previous steps seem no more difficult than plucking the petals from a flower by comparison. And becoming the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer is not only hard, it’s so phenomenally improbable that you are literally more likely to stand on the moon someday than achieve their level of success.

So if you want to write a book: do it. Do it because you want to a story you’re passionate about. Not because it’s a get-rich-quick scheme any idiot can exploit.


The love/hate relationship with writing

BooksToday I was chatting about our various writing projects to my friend Rachel, and she suggested that I don’t seem to be very fond of the actual book thing that I’ve written.

Fair enough. I admit to being a tad negative about it at times. (I may have even declared that “I. HATE. IT” at one point. Erm. I guess I felt dramatic that day.)

Part of that negativity comes from the fact that I’m revising it at the moment (well, not so much this week, but only because I’m working on a short story I’ve been plugging away at since, like, the 17th century), so I’m hypersensitive to everything that needs to be fixed; I need to be critical to improve it.

And yes, sometimes I have “dramatic moods” where I’m convinced it’s the worst 95,000(ish) words of drivel ever committed to paper a hard drive, and I’m tempted to drag it into the trash and permanently delete it. (However, I read today that a grumpy writer is a better writer, so maybe dramatic moods are a good thing?)

But you know what? Ultimately, I’m proud of what I’ve written. I’m proud that it’s complete, in the sense that I can give it to someone to read from A to Z and there aren’t any gaps in the storyline. And at the risk of sounding masturbatory, I enjoy reading it. There are bits that make me chuckle, and I like the characters. It’s not that I’m not fond of the thing – my book is like a sibling who I’m either comfortably close to or furiously frustrated with, but I always like that it’s there.

Even if it never ever gets published (which, let’s be realistic, is an uncomfortable possibility), at least I can say I’ve written something that I like. I assume (I hope) this sort of love/hate attitude is common among writerly types?


Gays on Glee

I love Glee. Love love love. I download every episode as soon as I can wait patiently for each episode to air on Australian TV. I listen to the soundtrack so much it’s worn out my iPhone. I have a picture of the cast next to my desk at work. Et cetera.


Something about Glee bothers me. This:

No, not by Chris Colfer. Chris Colfer is rad. I interviewed him when he and the rest of the cast were in Australia in September, and he seems like a lovely, sweet kid. (People have asked me if he talks the same way in real life that he does on TV. Yes, he does.)

I’m bothered by his Glee alter ego (his alter Gleego?), Kurt, the only (openly) gay character on the show. I don’t mind that he’s sensitive and soft-spoken. Plenty of guys are like that, gay or straight. I guess I can swallow the fact that Kurt is way into fashion. There are guys, gay and straight, who are way into fashion. But almost everything else about him is so screamingly stereotypically gay that I have a hard time resisting a full-body cringe when he prances onscreen.

In one episode where the Gleeks were split into male and female teams, Kurt tried to join the girls’ team (and later sided with them to sabotage the boys’ team). And in the latest episode, Kurt helped Finn (Cory Monteith) out solely in the hope of seducing him – as if gays only befriend straights as a shortcut to getting them into bed. (That’s only true some of the time!)

It’s a blot on an otherwise wonderful series – one which should be busting gay stereotypes, not wheeling them out dressed in fancy new outfits. Glee ought to do better, both as a show co-created by a gay man and as a show with such a strong gay following. More Kurt teaching the football team ‘Single Ladies’ and bonding with his macho dad, and less Kurt prancing about in two dimensions, please.


Come so far (got so far to go)


No, not the song from Hairspray.

This week my mum finished reading My Book. Which is rad (though it does make me feel strangely exposed, like she’s seen me in my underpants). She said she enjoyed it, but added it’s “no A.K. Rowling”.


I supplied Mum with a PDF which she printed out to read. Which is terrible for the environment, but I’ve now inherited this physical copy of My Book, the first time I’ve seen it printed and bound. I can hold it in my hands!

Unfortunately having the words there on an actual page makes every awkward sentence, every bloated stretch of text, stand out like it’s been highlighted in fluroescent blood. The thing still needs an arseload of polishing before it’s ready to send out. I already knew this (I didn’t spent the last several weeks revising it just for fun) (even though it has been kinda fun), but having a physical copy of Book holds it to a galactically higher standard than if I were just reading it on my Macbook’s screen.

One the bright side there are a lot of bits in there I’m really happy with – proud of, even! The less-than-spectacular bits will one day, fingers crossed, be equally rad. Head down; revise, polish, edit. I’ll get there. … 


Suuuuupeeeeerteeeeed… SPRTD!

Rhiannon Hart has posted about the amazingness of The Trap Door and Count Duckula and T-bag (hee, “T-bag”), three serials I inhaled as a child. Remember how Trap Door‘s Bert had the unseen master known only as “The Thing Upstairs”? In one episode there was a teensy tiny glimpse of the Thing – which revealed him to be a sort of Lovecraftian horror – and my childhood self thought that was the raddest thing ever.

As a kid I was also partial to SuperTed, though even back then I knew it was kinda lame. So SuperTed is a defective teddy bear, who is brought to life by a spotty alien man (how Spotty achieved this was never, to my recollection, explained), then taken to a magic cloud, where Mother Nature gives him special powers? Huh? How does that make even a lick of sense? Talk about your convoluted backstories.

My mum had a theory that SuperTed’s magic word was, in fact, “magic word”. I reckon she was on to something.


Book review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon

Yiddish Policemen's UnionA year ago I’d never read anything by Michael Chabon, but in 2009 I’ve read his short story collection Werewolves in their Youth (that title alone is full of win), his Pulitzer Prize-winner The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and now The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.

I think Policemen’s Union is my favourite. And that’s saying something, because I loved Kavalier and Clay a lot. (It’s possible I favour Union because it’s fresh in my mind. Kavalier and Clay is an extraordinary book, so I reserve the right to change my mind.)

Chabon is a stunning writer. Snappy, smart, witty, gloriously inventive. Some of his synonyms are so unexpected they cause gleeful fireworks to pop in my brain. If I could write a tenth as well as Chabon does, I would be the second-best writer in the world, is what I’m saying. … 


The vampire lamentation

Edward Cullen
Cards on the table: I am no fan of Twilight. Luckily no one reads this blog, or I’d probably be flamed by fangirls wearing Team Edward tees for writing that. (For the record, I am Team Jacob. One. Hundred. Per. Cent.)

But while I’m happy to sit around picking Twilight apart, there’s one criticism that sticks in my craw. One criticism that actually inspires me to – gulp – defend Twilight:

“But vegetarian vampires is stupid! Vampires don’t sparkle in the sun! A vampire would tear a human apart, not fall in love with her!”

Uh, yeah. Vampires aren’t actually real, don’tchaknow. It’s impossible to decide what a real vampire would or wouldn’t do – there are no real vampires. Pop culture has many things to say on what a vampire is, those things aren’t laws.When people complain that Twilight‘s vampires aren’t “real” vampires, they’re really just complaining that Twilight‘s vampires aren’t the same as the vampires in a book/film/comic/etc that they like better. Any writer is free to interpret vampire lore how they choose.

Maybe this only bugs me because I, like Stephenie Meyer, have written a book featuring non-traditional vampires. (Sadly, unlike Stephenie Meyer, I am not an uber-bestselling bazillionaire.) (Yet.) But if you want to rag on Twilight, don’t rag on its vegetarian vampires. Rag on the fact that Edward Cullen is a creepy stalker.


Saturday morning LOLs

First up, two unrelated things: coffee is so good; Vegemite on toast is so good.

The Rejectionist held a contest recently to write the most amazing form rejection letter in the history of the universe, and the winner is a truly astounding cavalcade of LOLs. A sampling:

Please don’t be offended. Your query’s horrendous.
We can’t understand why you’d bother to send us
a missive so deeply in need of an edit
we wanted to vomit as soon as we read it.
Its hook was insipid, its grammar revolting,
its font microscopic, its manner insulting,
its lies unconvincing, its structure confusing,
its efforts at comedy less than amusing.
We think that on average the writing is better
in comments on YouTube than inside your letter.

That’s gold, Jerry! The complete opus is here. I reckon most writers would be pretty chuffed with a rejection like this.


Why are US covers so fugly?

With examples!

Unseen Academicals
At left, the American cover for Terry Pratchett’s latest Discworld novel Unseen Academicals. At right, the British/Australian cover. When I was in the States in October I stumbled across Unseen Academicals for the first time and came thisclose to buying it… but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. That US cover, while not completely awful (love the skeletal hand and orangutan paw), is still pretty awful. The British/Australian cover, so pretty!

(For the record, my copy of Unseen Academicals and its so-pretty cover arrived in the post today! Even though it is yet another book to add to my already teetering pile of unread books.)

You know who is one of the worst victims of bad US covers? Jasper Fforde, whose American covers are so dreary compared to his oh-so-stylish British/Australian covers, here and here.

Of course I’m ranting very generally (and subjectively) here. There are loads of stunning US covers made by very talented designers, some of which I have written about here. Nevertheless…