Update: Buying more books than I can read!

July 28, 2010 in Blogging, Book Reviews, On Writing

Recently I’ve been enjoying the idea of reading books more than actually reading the books themselves.  I don’t know why that is.  I love the feeling of browsing a bookstore for hours, randomly picking up books with interesting covers, those recommended by staff, or those classics that I’ve never had the chance to read.  It makes me feel motivated and makes me want to write (though I rarely ever do anything worthwhile as a result).

Today I bought another couple more at this cheap bookstore (selling “specials” only), bringing my total book purchases for the year to more than 20.

But the problem is, I’m not reading nearly as much as I want to or should be. Including books I’ve borrowed off others and the free ones I’ve received for review, I’ve only read a dismal 12 books for the year (according to the reviews I’ve got on this blog).  I’ve still got 3 or 4 books borrowed from others that I am yet to read.

It’s not like I don’t have the time.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I used to read more when I was working full time.  Every day I’d get at least half an hour on the train, sometimes a whole hour if I didn’t work late (rare, but it happened).

Another problem is that I’ve been having trouble getting into books lately.  I’d be stuck on the first chapter for days and only read sporadic chunks every second or third day.  I’m not sure if it’s because I had been reading too many short stories and extracts of novels for my writing course over the last few months and it’s put me off long stories.  Or perhaps I’m starting to realise what good writing is like and I’ve become too picky with the stuff I’ve been reading.  Either way, it’s frustrating.  Perhaps I need a really good book to help me get back into the swing of things.

Nevertheless, class recommences next week.  This semester is all serious, non-fiction stuff.  Lots and lots of non-fiction reading.  Maybe that’ll help me redevelop my interest in fiction.

I was reading Anne Rice’s autobiography at the same bookstore today and she said that she was a horrible reader until later in life, even though she acquired a masters in English literature.  So maybe there’s hope for me.

PS: I’m finally starting to submit stuff for external publication.  Nothing substantial, just short reviews, etc, but at least it’s a start.

Update: Writing, Writing and More Writing

July 19, 2010 in Blogging, Novel, On Writing

Image: knowabouthealth.com

It’s been brutal.

My parents and sister have left the country again and I have just returned from a short trip to the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

Now, with a couple more weeks to go before the next semester in my writing course begins, I am determined to make the most of my time and write, write and write a bit more (with a bit of reading tossed in there).  I want to experience full-time writing and see how I like it.

Day one — so far, so good.  There are only two problems.  First, I lack the stamina and concentration to last all day.  After a couple of hours I may need to watch an episode of Seinfeld/Scrubs, or have a snack, or surf the net for 20 minutes.

Secondly, there is always more stuff to write.  It never ends!  I finally finished my Indian Journey series of posts (about my recent trip to India), but I still haven’t put up the posts on my culinary adventure in Hong Kong (which followed the trip), my even more recent trip to the Hunter Valley (which will be a series of posts for non-drinkers visiting the wine region), plus reviews of the books and films I’ve seen.  And did I mention a couple of weeks ago I visited the house of a published author who shared some of his insights with me?  I need to put all of that stuff up.

Which brought me to the realisation that I’m never going to get to work on my novels (yes, I have two now), enter into any writing competitions or accumulate writing credits if I keep working on my blog posts.  There’s just always more!

So as much as I love writing them, tomorrow is going to be the last day that I’m going to try and catch up on my back log of posts.  After that, one post a day (two tops), and I will dedicate the remainder of the day to real writing.

Let’s see how that experiment works out for me…

How to Look and Feel More Like a Writer

July 10, 2010 in Novel, On Writing

Get one of these babies!

Ahhh…I feel more “writerly” already!

Creative Non-Fiction With Lee Gutkind

July 5, 2010 in On Writing

This one’s a little overdue.  Weeks before my trip to India and Hong Kong, I attended a free session presented by the “Godfather of Creative Non-Fiction” (not originally his own name but more recently it has become self-proclaimed), Lee Gutkind.

Just what the heck is “creative” non-fiction?  Aren’t the two mutually exclusive?

To be honest, the seminar never explained exactly what creative non-fiction is.  Fortunately, I had come across the term before and had a fair idea.  Essentially, it’s writing a true story (ie non fiction) in a creative way (ie like a story).  I believe Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is a good example of creative non-fiction.  A bad example would be James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces (just kidding, that’s just pure fiction parading as non-fiction).  Other names for creative non-fiction include literary or narrative non-fiction.

What I expected to be an informative seminar about how to write creative non-fiction turned out to be an hour-long pitch by Lee Gutkind to budding writers (such as myself) about how wonderful creative non-fiction is.  Lee was down in Australia for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, and was promoting his magazine Creative Nonfiction and his new book about travelling cross-country with his son.  The session had the same problem as my main issue with the Sydney Writers’ Festival: too much promotion and not enough learning.  Nevertheless, his website can be found here.  The website for the magazine can be found here.

Of course, this is not to say the talk itself was not fascinating.  According to Gutkind, creative non-fiction was the future of writing and publishing.  Creative non-fiction was breaking into education.  Law, medicine, engineering — disciplines previously dominated by textbooks are now using creative non-fiction to teach the new generation.

I can understand why, because textbooks are bloody boring.  It’s much easier to remember elements of a story than rote learn a list.  That’s why when I studied law, it was always easier to remember the facts of a case than sections of a statute.

Actually, a lot of the creative writing stories I have been doing for my classes could be classified as creative non-fiction because many of them were based in fact, if not entirely true.  I definitely see the appeal in such writing because it’s a different type of challenge.  Rather than coming up with a brand new story from scratch, you already have the story right there — you just have to find a way to tell it in a way that is compelling and connects with your audience.

Lee finished his talk with an extract reading of Gay Talese’s creative non-fictional piece, “Frank Sinatra has a Cold”, which was published in Esquire in April 1966 and is regarded as one of the best creative non-fiction stories ever.  Esquire even declared it the “Best Story Esquire Ever Published” in 2003.  It actually is very good.  Check it out here.

PS: When I entered the auditorium, I saw copies of the latest issue of Creative Nonfiction and Lee’s new book on a table by the front.  Thinking that it was free, I almost grabbed a copy, only to find out later that the whole point of the talk was so that he could sell them.  Oops.

Update: Let the Writing Begin!!…Maybe…

June 14, 2010 in Blogging, On Writing, Study, Travel

Just a quick one.

My assessments are all completed and I am now a free man for quite a number of weeks.  Lots of fun and exciting stuff happening, beginning with a trip to India (to attend wedding) and a stopover in Hong Kong on the way back.  Looking forward to adding more travel and food posts to my blog.

Also almost finished reading Lolita, an amazing book.  Have a couple more lined up that I hope to finish during the trip (if time allows).

Began writing again for Bleacher Report and just did one on the 10 most underrated draft prospects.  Knocked it up in a couple of hours, have to admit it was pretty crap!

Hopefully will get a lot more time to write too after I get back if not during this trip!  Can’t wait.  Lots of projects in the works!