Posts Tagged ‘Marcus Zusak’

SURF'S UPI’m like Tank the penguin in the movie Surf’s Up. Between action scenes, I’m holed up in my room, endlessly polishing my ladies.

It’s a guilty pleasure, which I have shelved (temporarily) after eavesdropping on other authors’ daily word counts on facebook.

There’s John Birmingham, working to deadline on his new thriller, with chest-thumping accounts of his daily tallies:

“Haaaaaar!!!!! Smashed thru the last eight hundred words & carried on for another three. Five thousand words for the day. This IS SPARTA!!!!!

He is Writer, hear him roar. Thank God I’m a girlie, or my goolies would have shriveled at the mere thought of trying to compete with all that writerly testosterone. Talk about inducing performance anxiety: his word count is sooo much bigger than mine.

I am Re-writer, hear me keep my word count to myself. Once I did manage to unwrite five thousands words of pure shite in a single day. But write – uh uh, no way.

No less impressive is the versatile and productive Kim Wilkins, who gets up before her two kids to knock off a couple thousand words before breakfast. Now that’s commitment. Which, incidentally, is also the key difference between the professional writer and the amateur.

The professional writer writes, even when it’s hard. The amateur waits for inspiration.

(That’s from “Confident vs delusional writers” in A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. It’s an entertaining post, well worth the visit.)

I’ll be honest. I struggle with the first draft. Its imperfections bug me and I’m constantly side-tracked by the need to fix them.  But as Hemingway said ‘All first drafts are shit’. Get over it.

So each day now, I tell myself, just concentrate on getting it out. Write first, then you can polish with impunity, later.

I’m not alone in my fixation on polishing. Kate Grenville did thirty-eight complete drafts of The Idea of Perfection – and won the Orange Prize for fiction.

Melina Marchetta says she must have rewritten the prologue for Finnikin of the Rock fifty times; it won an Aurealis Award and she’s been at the top of her game for more than a decade.

Marcus Zusak says he would have rewritten sections of the The Book Thief a hundred times – and he made it onto the New York Times Children’s Bestseller List.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that first, we must write. In my case, a thousand words a day till it’s done. And then, the exquisite pleasures of the rewrite. Polishing my ladies, without feeling guilty, until I am spent.

Being a writer makes a virtue of my bad habits. I was a shocking liar as a kid, but now that I’m an adult, I’m using my powers for good rather than evil.

Q. If that’s your virtue, what’s your secret vice?

A. Turkish Delight and writing something that makes me laugh or cry out loud. Now that’s addictive.

Q. How long did it take you to write your first novel Dust?

A. Way too long. I did everything wrong in the first draft and had to pull the whole thing apart and start again from scratch. It taught me a lot though and I hope never to make any of those 147 basic errors again.

Q. What was the motivation for writing your first novel?

A. Long story. I’ve devoted a whole page of my website to the answer so Click this link On writing Dust if you haven’t already. It’s for everyone who loves writing and loves their Dads.

Q. What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

A. Don’t give up after the first draft; the real writing starts with the rewrite. Write every day – the more you write, the better you get. Join organizations like the Queensland Writers Centre. Do courses, be prepared to learn from other writers and never be afraid to show people your work. QWC workshops I did with Veny Armanno, Kim Wilkins and Kate Eltham taught me things that I may never have been able to figure out for myself.

Q. Do you have a pet hate?

A. Advertising – it’s horrible that people are manipulated into wanting a whole heap of stuff they don’t need.

Q. Who are some of your favourite authors?

A. Peter Temple – he’s probably going to hate me saying this, but I just love all his early work, the Jack Irish novels, Iron Rose and Shooting Star – he just nails dialogue and the Australian vernacular. In YA, I am a big fan of Marcus Zusak and Melina Marchetta, and Karen Foxlee’s debut novel The Anatomy of Wings is just wonderful. Ditto the Mallory detective novels by US writer Carol O’Connell and the Jackson Brody novels by British writer Kate Atkinson.

Q. If you were an animal, what would you be?

A. I’m a fool for my dog, Huggy, but have to say that personally, I’m more of a cat – I have the requisite laziness, attention to personal hygiene and tendency to bite if rubbed up the wrong way!