Dancing Monkey Post 2: Memories of Brisbane’s Ferry System

The Dancing Monkey challenge from lauragoodin: “write a blog post about being on a Brisbane ferry. At night. And it’s raining. And you’ve spent your last money on the fare.”

I suspect it’s not what Laura intended, but every time I read that request all it translates into is “please tell me what it was like being twenty-three.” It’s all the qualifiers to the original request that do it – when I was twenty-three I’d just finished my honours year in which I wrote a lot of poetry, just moved to Brisbane for the first time, and just started my PhD. Being at the tail-end of my love-affair with goth as a movement, I was prone to attaching all sorts of significance to thing that happened in moments of poverty, rain and night.

Lets not make this *all* about nostalgia though. Instead lets talk about exactly how lucky you are if you live in a city with a decent public transport system, because I’ll admit that my first few years in Brisbane was largely spent listening to people bitch about the buses, trains and ferries while resisting the urge to shake them and scream “what the fuck are you complaining about.”

Everyone I’ve ever met is adamant that the public transport system in their home city is the worst available, but I think I can mount a safe argument for the Gold Coast (aka the city that I spent most of my teenage years growing up in) has one the worst of the lot. Part of it is an infrastructure problem – the Gold Coast bus service is privatized and the city expands faster than pretty-much everywhere else in Queensland. Part of it is cultural – the Gold Coast is a tourist city with a lot of beaches. But the basic gist of the Gold Coast public transport system is this – if you don’t want to travel along the highway that rarely strays further than a block and a half from the shoreline, you’re screwed. In order to catch a bus to uni as an undergraduate (a 30 minute drive), I used to have to hike out to the highway (about twenty-five minutes) and catch three transfers at various tourist malls in order to travel along what was, more or less, a straight line (about two hours, maybe longer if the drivers were feeling fickle or you missed a service). All this was, of course, essentially impossible if I had classes that started before nine (a surprisingly common occurrence, given that I was in an arts degree). Add in the Gold Coast’s tendency towards continuous roadworks and the once-a-year insistence on spending a month setting up an Indy Car race track in the heart of the tourist district (which *every* bus in the city passed through) and you start to get a pretty good idea why I look at buses, even Brisbane buses which are comparatively well-run, with a look of disdain and horror.

So when I was twenty-three, broke, and moved to Brisbane where there were options such as trains and ferries, lets just say I went a little crazy with the options. Hence it’s nearly impossible for me to separate the ferry from that particular age. Between twenty-three and twenty-four I spent a lot of time on the trains and ferries, often purchasing tickets with fistful’s of spare change that was scavenged from desk drawers and couch cushions. By the time I was twenty-five I’d fallen out of the habit – I started working back on the Gold Coast regularly and many of the fellow Brisbanites with whom I car-pooled stopped, so I was basically driving everywhere instead. It’s only within the last year or two that I’ve really started working to break that habit and make a concerted effort to use the trains again.

(Yes, I realise there really isn’t much to this, but truthfully I’m a much bigger fan of Brisbane’s train system than I am the Ferry system. I think people tend to fixate on one form of transport in particular depending on where they live, and I’ve primarily lived in Brisbane suburbs where the train is your best choice for getting anywhere you need to go).

Claw Update.

Went away after the last post, wrote 898 words, then realised I was done. The net for Draft One is 20,799 word, and there is a part of me that’s still kind of shocked that I’ve written something that long. I don’t do long that often, and I can still remember two years ago when writing the 10k novella for my AHWA Mentorship was a long, drawn-out battle to get words on the page; when I look back and realise that this has all been done in less than a fortnight, it freaks me out.

I can safely say without looking at it that this is one of the most god-awful draft I’ve ever written, full of random asides and irrelevant scenes that aren’t going to make any sense to anyone who isn’t me. Which is okay, really, because I’m slowly starting to figure out that this is going to be the process I end up using for novellas (or, at least, for this particular style of novella) – it’s literally a race to the finish line where I keep writing until I’ve got the shape of the story worked out, some of the key moments nailed down, and an ending that everything is working towards. Tomorrow I’m going to compare what I’ve written to the plan I started with – I suspect there’s not going to be many similarities between the two short of the occasional image.

Draft two will be about going back and adding a bunch of stuff in – I think at least two scenes will be replaced altogether, one character needs to be given a lot more page-time in order to make the ending work, and I suspect one scene will be pulled forward in order to serve as a much stronger end to the act-one part of proceedings than what I’ve got there. I’m also toying with the idea of pulling some chapters apart (since I seem to write novella chapters in binary scenes that play off each other, both hitting a particular narrative beat in the three-act structure) and adding in additional stuff around them.

Claw Update

Claw Draft
Projected Total: 21,000 (which will probably expand out to 25,000 next draft)
Total Words to Date: 19, 881
Words Done in Previous 24-hour Period: 3236
Deadline: April 30th

So close to the end, and yet I find myself paused but a thousand words (and one scene featuring the reconciliation of the hard-boiled detective and her possessed Russian Blue sidekick) from being able to say the draft is done. I had a significant bout of insomnia last night which left me crabby and unfocused for much of the morning, then a family visit this afternoon for lunch and coffee and cake and chocolate. I’m about to go wash up, have a shower, and rug-up in bed to do the last 1000 words of the draft before having an early night.

Which is good, ’cause I have to write a lecture tomorrow. As well as notes on the next drafting project which will occupy this space in the blogging schedule as of Monday evening…