Writing Reviews

I’ve picked up a book that at over 900 pages might possibly keep me going for a few weeks. It is dense reading with many short stories and some critical articles about those short stories. The first few pages are about Writing About Fiction. As I was reading those pages last night I found myself distracted. It made me think about how I write about fiction. I don’t do formal reviews. A friend this to me some years ago and it affronted me, but she was entirely right.

A formal review examines the work in more detail, talking about the themes and other things that I rarely do. I use the piece of writing as a springboard. Sometimes I write about the writing and sometimes I write about other things that have sprung to mind. I do try to come back to the writing at some stage to show what I’m trying to say but I don’t always manage it. I think you’d need far more writing discipline than I have in order to do this properly. I read formal reviews with interest, partly to see what they do and partly to see what they’re seeing in the work that I’ve not seen.

What this means for my blog is that books are rarely tagged as Book Review. I used to do this until Olga suggested I don’t actually write reviews. She’s right, I don’t, so I rarely use this tag any more.

In this book, of which I’ve not bothered to give you the title as yet, and in this first few pages are three pages of questions you can use to enter the piece of fiction you’re reading. You can use any of these questions to write a more formal review than I do. What would be an interesting exercise would be to take a short story and write about it using absolutely all the questions. You’d never want to publish anything using those answers as that would be far too long and potentially confusing. But it would be an interesting exercise and would teach you so much about the writing within that short story.

The book is The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction by Richard Bausch and R. V. Cassill. It’s the shorter seventh edition and is not this one that I’m giving you the affiliate link for. If you click on the link you’ll see this is twice the length with many more short stories. It’s the eighth edition rather than the seventh. If you happen to have the money to spare you’ll notice I’ve linked to the more expensive edition (no good reason, I don’t expect you’ll buy it anyway). It’s aimed at tertiary students, unless you have some tertiary education you might find it a hard slog to get through and I’d suggest you allocate a lot of time for it.

Why do I emphasis the tertiary education? It’s because university gives you a different way of thinking, it gives you discipline and it teaches so many other things. I find I have much more discipline about reading than ever before. But I also have less discipline about books I have issues with. I’ve abandoned a Game of Thrones book (and therefore the entire series) and also a Vikram Seth book. I have issues with both books and no patience with them.

One thing I’ve noticed since getting to third year university is that I’ve got a higher tolerance for writing that is a little more complicated. I don’t head towards the easier reading novels but drift towards those which are a little harder with themes that are more challenging to unpack. I expect I’ll make my way through this book eventually. Until then what you’ll get is articles about the many magazines I’ve been reading these past months. I’ve mostly been writing about the odd book I’ve read but as I expect this current book will take me a few weeks I’ll work my way through writing about some of these magazines.

New Year, New Something…

I write this just prior to going to bed. I’m not planning on staying up to see the new year in, it’s not something I see relevant to me in 2018. I might regret this decision in 2019 but my body is telling me I’m tired and I’m going to listen…as soon as I’ve scribbled a few more words. I like to publish at least 150 words on whatever subject I’ve picked to talk about and 150 words sounds very short until you’re tired and want to stop. So why am I continuing to talk about nothing? I’m stubborn.

Anyway, as we head out of the old year I want to reflect on what I plan to achieve in 2019.

  1. I plan on getting through the Australian Discworld Convention. It will be the eighth Discworld Convention in Australia (I like to count the ‘little’ one in Adelaide in 2012) and the first one where I’ve been the head honcho.
  2. I then plan on somehow getting through Passover the following weekend. Following that I will be officially very tired and intend to have as many days doing nothing much as my uni schedule allows.
  3. My next plan is to finish uni. I’m currently studying over summer and that will leave me with one subject in order to complete my degree. After the convention I’m likely to have about six weeks worth of study. I’m confident I’ll pass.
  4. My plans then include a few more days doing nothing. I might watch some TV or see family but that’s about it.
  5. Then I need to head into the back bedroom and clean it up. I’ve been collecting a lot of potentially useful stuff for crafting or cosplay and I’m going to downsize that collection. I plan on keeping no more than 10% of it all. It will go to good homes and I’ve already started identifying which kinders will receive my largess.
  6. Once that is done I’ll get rid of the surplus furniture and buy the appropriate desk to ensure I can finally stop sitting at a tall person’s desk. I really want to focus on sitting in an ergonomic position, it’ll be much better for my body and might help me to not get RSI again. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is real and can cause many problems. I had it 30 years ago and when I type too much and too fast I feel the pain starting up. Sitting ergonomically will help to ease the pressure.
  7. With a room set up for my lack of height I will head back into writing the book I started in 2015. I need to fulfill the promise I made to so many people when I interviewed them and there will be no uni classes or assignments to distract me. I will have my writers group to help keep me accountable, they keep asking for stuff I’m writing.
  8. I also want to wrap up some short stories I’ve written and start submitting them for potential publication. I submitted something a week or so ago and am waiting on news so I can announce either a publication or a negative response. I’m excited they wanted to read it, I wasn’t expecting a positive response to my emailed request for Submission Guidelines.
  9. With the lack of uni and assignments I also plan on taking some time to sit and read. Even adding in a couple of hours a week will mean I’ll make proper inroads into my To Be Read Pile and might even be able to start looking at books sent to me for potential review. I’ve still got two I promised to read last July and several more requests have come in since then. If your email is one of those and I’ve not responded, all I can say is mea culpa.
  10. There is something about the number 10 when writing lists so I’m including two more things here rather than divide them up. I want to start experimenting with decorating cakes. I may not be very good but I intend to have fun and the family will enjoy eating the results. I also want to take up the cello again. It’s been a very long time since I last held a cello and the way I feel when I hear 2Cellos shows me I really need to try playing once more. Again, I may not be good but I’m going to try.

On that number I’m going to bid you all good night and hope the next year is good for you. Stay safe on the roads.

I thought I was all newed out

I was struggling with reading new books. I tried several books in a row but either didn’t like them or couldn’t read them. I put it down to being all newed out.  This is a term I coined a few weeks ago to explain why I couldn’t read anything new. It all started with my new class. Hardly new at that stage but we were moving onto a different part of the subject and it felt new.

The way the subject worked is that in the first few weeks each student wrote a 2,000 word piece. This piece of writing was then marked and added to the slush pile. The new part was that we were divvied up into groups and told to put together an anthology. Support and guidance was given along the way but there were problems.

The first problem was all about the slush pile. As authors we were not allowed to accept more than two offers for our stories. This became problematic when everyone desperately wanted two or three stories. When we were turned down for this reason we had to do what everyone else did and head back to the slush pile.

There were 89 stories, each loaded into the course resources divided up into various folders with 15 stories per folder. Our team divvied up the folders. With four of us in the team we each took a folder, at the time that left one folder unallocated, folder six with yet more stories was added later. We’d each read the stories in our folders and marked some stories for further thought. When we had our moment of panic because we’d been turned down and had used up our spares I headed back to the slush pile. I worked my way through the stories I’d not yet read; highlighting some for the team to have another look and discuss.

We finally had our five stories and I stopped reading. But that was when I’d read the bulk of the stories. As of today I’ve now read 79 of the 89 stories available. And it was at this point I couldn’t read anything new. I resorted to Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey and Tom Holt just to enable me to keep reading.

Anyway, we finally got our ebook together and submitted on time. I then wrote my personal report and submitted that a couple of days early. I’ve completed and submitted everything for my other subject, I think I’m tired and I’m now on a slight break. Although, I wonder if I’ve broken my brain with all of this work. Yes, I’m back blogging but I’m having trouble even thinking. Anyway, I’ve got a few weeks before uni starts again so hopefully my brain will come back into gear soon.

I am apologetic

This is yet another apology. I’m finding I’m swamped with work and not over-endowed with energy and time. I see a couple of options for ensuring I get all the important things done. One is to sleep less and the other is to drop my blog.

I have considered dropping the blog altogether but the concern then is that I might not pick it up again. I know I’m coming up to my ninth anniversary in writing this blog and I feel sad when I think of not making my tenth anniversary, so I will continue writing but only when I have the time. I will endeavour to blog every week

One of my problems is my current uni timetable. In a couple of weeks things might improve as my timetable changes. I currently have a lecture on Tuesdays but this will drop after the Easter break. Then I have two hours on Wednesday with an 8am start, I find I don’t get much done when I get home on days when I’ve been up that early. With blogging on a Wednesday if I don’t have time to schedule anything on a Tuesday (and I’m often reading for a class) then it often doesn’t get written until the evening. Last night I was frantically trying to do the readings for my four hours of uni today.

I will reconsider my blogging every week and hopefully will be back to a regular schedule. I type this on the bus going to uni when I really should be doing some reading for class. I did all the short readings but not the long one.

Tomorrow my blog is all written for me, I just have to find what I’ve been given and set it in place. I’ve not had time to even look at what the author has given me so I hope there are no swear words that I need to censor.

Second year uni

As at the time of writing I am that close to finalising the last couple of assignments to complete second year uni it’s not funny.  One assignment I just need to make it look pretty and then submit. I should just bite the bullet and do it so I can call that one finished. The other assignment is a little further off. It’s a 2,000 word essay focusing on anthropocentrism and to say I’m struggling is a slight understatement. I have 1,550 words and as I need to have plus or minus ten per cent of the 2,000 words what I really need is a minimum of 250 words to be within coooee of finishing.

But it’s not just word count that makes an essay, it’s also whether it makes sense or whether it addresses the essay question. I’m not sure that what I have does actually address the question. It doesn’t go ‘hello question!’ and wave. And I’m sure it doesn’t make sense. According to the calendar I still have time to write the whole thing from scratch as it’s not due in till the 9th February. The reality is far different. The longer I don’t finish it the harder it gets and I find it getting even further from the question or even making sense. Although maybe that last bit is just me as I’ve read it so much.

Not only that but I have lots of other stuff to do that are nothing to do with uni. We’re trying to launch the website for the Seventh Australian Discworld Convention. Today I like the blue background you can see, some days I don’t. But we’re planning on changing it to something entirely different. And we’re changing the fonts and other things. Things are in progress but it won’t be going live today.  Once I’ve finished my essay and submitted I’ll be working on doing the other things such as ticket prices and any other changes I have the skills to do.

Then there’s housework and gardening, some of which has been sadly neglected, most especially the garden.

The last thing I need to do is get moving on my book. I’ve been researching and writing the history of my synagogue for a couple of years now. I keep being waylaid by little things such as uni but it’s getting to the point where I really need to do some heavy work on it. I’ve managed to squeeze in the odd hour or so and have 10,000 words but it just shows me how much research I still have to do and what I have to reread to remind myself of what still needs writing.

Today I will do what I can. We have people coming to dinner and the basic housework must be done. I can’t have people coming here before some of this stuff has actually been done. While I’m doing this physical stuff I’ll also mentally celebrate that I’m almost two thirds of the way through a degree at uni. I’d been wanting to be at uni for such a long, long time that I was always focused on just being there. It was something I never thought would happen but I’ve been there now for two years and I need to change my thoughts. Now I need to focus on finishing and getting some letters to put after my name. I won’t finish this year as I have one subject that can only be done in the first trimester and I don’t have the time this year. Instead I’ll do it next year and all being well that will be the final part of my degree.