Tag Archives: writing process

What’s your Daemon?

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As my research into anthropomorphism and animal stories continues, I came across this lovely snippet from The Guardian whilst pondering Philip Pullman and his powerful use of daemon in His Dark Materials trilogy. I love the characters in Pullman’s series, particularly Iorek Byrnison; my all-time favourite character (along with Reepicheep and Eeyore). The article features illustrators drawing their own imaginary soul animals.

While I like to think my daemon would be some kind of large, shaggy dog (sorry little Harry), or a wolf or whale-shark, I remember once dozing on a plane and having a very strong sense of a wise, black crow on my shoulder. Or perhaps it was a raven. Either way, the image stayed with me. It felt like it was important and needed to stay.

Having googled Crow, the Universe of Symbolism site says this animal,’opens us to the gifts of ancient wisdom and sacred law.’ That seems to fit the sense of letting the crow stay. Alternatively Raven is, ‘the black winged messenger from beyond’. That sounds rather interesting too …

In a paper entitled What Makes a Classic? Daemons and Dual Audience in Philip Pullmans His Dark Materials, Professor Susan R. Bobby writes that:

… in The Golden Compass, the seaman tells Lyra that she can’t choose her daemon’s form, that he will choose his own (167-68). This is akin to saying to a child that one cannot reject part of one’s nature: if one prefers serving others, one’s daemon will settle as a dog, but if one is deceptive and crafty, one’s daemon may settle as a serpent. Pullman has revealed we should ask our friends what forms our daemons would take, because our friends may be more honest about our true nature than we would be ourselves (“Philip Pullman in his” 4). In fact, children may be surprised to know that Pullman sees his own daemon as a jackdaw or magpie, since he explains ” ‘A magpie is a thief: it takes the things that belong to someone else, bright and shiny things–and makes them his own. And that’s what writers do, isn’t it? ‘ ” (Andronik 43).

Philip Pullman is a writer I greatly admire. I guess if he has a magpie, then maybe having a crow on my shoulder is not such a bad thing, even though I think I’d prefer to be followed about by a grey wolf…

Daemon are interesting things to consider. If you have one (imaginary daemon included), I’d love to hear what shape it takes. And if you haven’t read Pullman’s His Dark Materials, an amazing journey awaits you.

 

 

Wordcounts

WA author Sandi Bowie recently shared an interesting article about the word count habits of several well-known authors. I found their different feedback on ‘a successful day’s work’ fascinating. And then I looked at my own approach…

The article claims that writing routines are important. That is so true. Reading the different methods of these successful writers reminded me again of the value and importance of ‘just writing’, especially whilst working on the first read-through draft of a new manuscript. Not censoring, researching, or checking emails, just setting a daily word count deadline and getting on with it. Permitting yourself to write junky sentences, but not leaving the desk before the word count is achieved .

The word count tab on my laptop is my favourite function. I often set myself mini targets and update the figure on the first page at least once a day. When I write, it also helps to know that what I am working on is a draft. And that I will edit it many times. Arthur Conan Doyle’s entry in the article states: ‘Anything is better than stagnation.’ Again, so true!

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Another quote I liked was by Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

After years of work and countless drafts, my YA novel The Shark Caller is now out of my hands being typeset. One part of me is relieved, another part wants to take back the manuscript and do another draft (or two or three). I know that it’s time to ‘let it go’, but each time I read the story, some sentences still feel clunky.

So this week I have returned to my other semi-completed novel, The Dog with Six Names. After reading the article Sandi posted, I decided to revive the word count habit. Yesterday I managed 700 words, enough to creep over the 29,000 tally. Those authors who achieve 3000 words a day are an inspiration. Today was an ambitious (for me) 1000 words. I was itching to pass the 30,000 mark. As I type, the story now sits at 30,194.  Two thousand more words to go till my final target of 32,000. Then the hard part begins; editing!

 

 

‘The Shark Caller’ swims again

After setting aside my ‘Shark’ manuscript for 4 months, I’m now back underwater at last.

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I’ve come to learn that letting stories settle is an important part of the writing process. It’s tempting to send away a manuscript after the first few drafts but I’ve found it’s usually better to wait. Not usually as long as this one, however…

I have emails that go back as far as 2006 mentioning this story!

But the good news for my long-suffering family and friends is that I think Shark Caller is getting closer to being publishable. I hope. It’s also one of my two PhD Creative Works so it needs to be completed by September.

The Shark Caller is an underwater fantasy story that I hope readers aged about 10-14 will enjoy. Here are a few beautiful illustrations by Year 3 students at St Mark’s Anglican School. They were created in response to Granny Grommet and Me, but the artwork has helped me shift my focus underwater again and so I wanted to include some here. There are more beautiful drawings but they don’t all fit. Thank you Year 3’s for giving them to me.

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More details on The Shark Caller soon…