Tag Archives: detective

Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

It’s been quite a busy week for me this week. Firstly, I’ve spent a lot of time working on editing my story A Rose By Any Other Name in preparation for submitting it to the Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award. I’ve made some changes, tightened it up a bit, and then sent it to some trusted people for reading, reviewing & critiquing. I’m interested to see how similar the feedback from different people turns out to be. I’ve asked for a critique from (a) a published writer, (b) an unpublished writer, (c) an editor, and (d) a reader. I’m curious as to whether each of them find the same strong and weak points, or whether their different experiences and perspectives will mean that they have different viewpoints.

I also came up with an awesome idea (if I say so myself) for a Flash Fiction story. It came to me in the shower one day, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Nor could I figure out a way to turn it into a full short story. I had decided to sit down and write it anyway, when I remembered that the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre in W.A. have a Flash Fiction competition that closes this week. I checked out the details, determined that I had 600 words to work with, and wrote my story.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, he was Prince Charming. All was roses and clover until he offended a witch, and was cursed to live as a troll. But that was just the beginning of his troubles. I mean, how do you ever live down the fact that you’ve been beat up by a goat?

I’ve posted my entry in now, and will wait to see how it goes. Whether it gets noticed or not, I’m incredibly happy with the story I wrote.

Thirdly, I’ve reworked the start of my novel, and have changed some of the major details. My protagonist, Michael Storm, was originally going to be a PI working on normal cases in between getting mixed up with every supernatural threat in the city. But I’ve come to realise that every second Urban Fantasy novel being published right now has the same set-up. Seriously. How many magical PIs can there possibly be? Most of them seem to be female PIs, which at least gave my character a slight POD, but even still…

After rethinking things through, I’ve changed my mind. He’s no longer a PI. There are plenty of other, more interesting and original, ways for him to get involved with supernatural threats. I don’t have to actually change his personality, or the plot of the novel. I just need to start with a hook that’s different to the standard “I’m a PI and I’ll take this job because I need the money, even though I damn well know that it’s a bad idea” that every second Urban Fantasy novel seems to begin with these days.

Phew.

Finally, I suffered a mini-meltdown when I realised that at some point over the last 3 years, I’ve lost a HEAP of my writing. I’ve changed computers twice during that time (both times because my old one more or less died of old age), and somewhere in the process, I’ve lost quite a few short stories. Being an idiot, I didn’t have them in hard copy or on any back-up CD that I could find. So they’re just… gone.

One of the stories I lost was a vampire fiction that had been accepted for publication in an anthology, before the company printing it went out of business. A second was the only short story that I’ve had published AND been paid for. Sure, it was back in 2003, and it was only US$15. But payment is payment in this business, right? Fortunately, I was able to find my copy of the magazine it was published in, and retype it from there. But the other stories are lost forever. (For any fans of Jasper Fforde, you can find them in the Well of Lost Plots.)

On to my next major disappointment. In retyping my story, I realised that it was… crap. Okay, maybe not crap. But close. It may have been published, but the writing was horrendous compared to my writing now. I was initially mortified to know that something so badly written was out there in the ether for anybody to see. Then I realised that this is actually a good thing. Surely it means that I have an even better chance of being published now. Right?

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Book Review: The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep is Raymond Chandler’s first novel, published in 1939, and adapted into movie format in 1946 and 1978. It is the first book to introduce detective Phillip Marlowe, who then appeared in a number of Chandler’s later works.

I wanted to read this book because I’ve long been enamoured with Raymond Chandler. He was one of the first writers to introduce a smart-talking “tough guy with a heart of gold” written in first person narrative. Chandler’s quotes on writing, and his writing itself, have long been an inspiration for me as a writer, and I often see parallels between him and some of my other favourite authors (such as Jim Butcher and The Dresden Files). Chandler’s writing influenced, directly or indirectly, a huge number of modern authors.

The Big Sleep has Phillip Marlowe hired by the elderly and infirm General Sternwood to deal with a blackmailer, who claims to be a purveyor of rare books. The subsequent investigation leads Marlowe to a pornography ring, multiple murders, a potential kidnapping, and a missing gangster. The story is fast-paced, complicated, and exciting, and Chandler delivers it with strong characterisation and an obvious love for language.

Reading The Big Sleep was like being immersed into the seedy underside of 1930s LA. Chandler’s writing style is both descriptive and inclusive. Not only does he paint a picture of people, places and events, he welcomes the reader into the picture and suggests that they make themselves comfortable. The opening paragraph of the novel is a perfect example of this.

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

There are so many evocative sections of prose in this novel that quoting them all would be tantamount to posting the entire novel online. There is barely a page without an inspired moment of brilliance. To illustrate this, I open the book at random and the first paragraph my eyes alight on is:

The black candles guttered in the draught from the open door. Drops of black wax crawled down their sides. The air of the room was poisonous and unreal.

I highly recommend anyone with an interest in language, reading, writing, or detective stories read The Big Sleep, and any other of Raymond Chandler’s novels. Although Chandler was quoted as saying that there’s no such thing as a ‘classic’ when it comes to detective fiction, I’d have to say that his books come close enough that the difference is negligible.

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