Launches, Chocolate Cake and How to Write a Great Novel

Maxine doing her thing

I went to the launch of the new Peril magazine on Thursday night. It was a great night, which you can read about over at Maxine’s place. The entertainment by the Ladies of Colour Agency provided some of THE most amazing dancing I’ve ever seen. Tom Cho’s witticisms on language were f**ken enlightening, and Maxine’s performance poetry was as good as I remembered it being the first time I saw her and fell a little bit in love.  Maxine and I went out for a coffee (and very decadent chocolate cake) after the launch and had a good old natter about all things writerly and womenly and I came away feeling warm, fuzzy, and creatively inspired.

Tom Cho f**ing with language

I’d like now to direct your attention to this great article in The Wall Street Journal, How to Write a Great Novel: From writing in the bathroom… to dressing in character…, 11 top authors share their methods for getting the story on the page.

Margaret Atwood says “Put your left hand on the table. Put your right hand in the air. If you stay that way long enough, you’ll get a plot.” Not that she’s ever had to resort to such a thing of course.

Interestingly, Junot Diaz seems to be afflicted with the same curse that I am – as soon as you commit an inspired idea to paper, it ceases to be inspiring. And I thought it was just me. Of course, he spends half the time writing his novels while perched on the end of the bathtub, which really isn’t me, but maybe I’ll give it a go, see how it feels. (Uncomfortable comes immediately to mind.)

Booker-prize winner Michael Ondaatje writes the first three or four drafts by hand and then cuts and pastes with, you know, scissors and sticky tape, to create notebooks with four or more layers on each page.

Nicholson Baker videotaped himself giving poetry lectures for his latest novel, trying to get inside his protagonist, and ended up with 40 hours worth of tape and 1,000 pages of transcription.

Most people seem to have some level of fascination with how writers do their thing. Many writers of course, hate to be asked. If anyone wants to know my own writing process it involves a whole lot of procrastination followed by extreme remorse. See? Nothing fancy.



Filed under Art, blogging, Book Launch, Books, Criticism, Fiction, Melbourne, Performance Poetry, Poetry, Political Writing, Reading, Review, Writing, Zines

11 responses to “Launches, Chocolate Cake and How to Write a Great Novel

  1. It’s Maxine! The very definition of fabulousness. Your process sounds very like mine. Especially the extreme remorse bit. I recover from it quickly though. When is the next poem due?


  2. whiti

    Woo hoo! Scissors and sticky tape (well scissors and thumb tacks and a whole lotta wall) I’ve done that. Great fun and a good way to get over “that paragraph is perfect I don’t need to cut it even though it makes no sense”itis.


  3. I suspect Margaret Atwood actually said ‘lose the plot’ but the interviewer misheard! I’m not sure how anyone could do anything much perched on the edge of a bathtub…except perhaps trim their toenails, and as for doing anything actually IN the bath, I think writers who say this are just trying to sound clever…surely everything would get rather soggy?! 🙂


  4. Are they being serious? Your hand in the air I mean really. I’m sure it’s a nice book with a bit of humour, I like laughing no matter what I’m reading it has to have a funny line or two… Now I’m craving cake honey, what you and Maxime described is torturing me now.. I went to her slam blog and her poetry is fantastic, no wonder you fell a bit in love. I bookmarked her for later.. I need cake


  5. pittsburghflashfictiongazette

    I’m lucky, being a flash fiction writer and a professional blogger. A little inspiration goes a long way. Any idea I come up with only has to sustain a few hundred words. I can’t imagine writing something as long as a novel.


  6. Pingback: Launches, Chocolate Cake And How To Write A Great Novel « Into The

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