Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Agentopia: Jen Hunt and a Pitch Party!

This month Jen Hunt from the Booker Albert Agency is in the Agentopia spotlight, and things are working a little differently!

Check out Jen's interview below. If you think your manuscript is a good match, feel free to leave a short pitch of approximately 35 words (and only the pitch!) in the comments.

Set it out with:

Category & Genre:
Word count:

If Jen wants to see more, she'll let you know. You can then send Jen your query along with any other requested materials to the submissions email below. Don't forget to put 'Agentopia' somewhere in your subject line!

Although she became an agent only recently, Jen Hunt has been in the publishing world for quite some time. With  B.A, In English Literature from the University of Reno, Nevada, she started out as a reviewer for Divertir Publishing and ended as the Acquisitions Editor where she saw several books from start to publication. Even though that process was rewarding, Jen always had the desire to not be a step in their journey, but apart of it. To share an author's highs and lows, through every project. Thankfully, Jordy and Brittany gave her that opportunity to live her dream and it is amazing. 

To query Jen:  query[at]thebookeralbertagency[dot]com

1. What are you looking for in YA/MG submissions right now? 

I want strong characters that don't cry all the time. Angst is fine but I don't want a lovesick teenager. Why? Bookstores are drowning in those. They're a dime a dozen. Let's not chase genres, let's trend set! I want something clean for the age range. Also, and this might ruin a lot of my submissions, nothing in high school. I know, I know - but I hated high school growing up. Put that environment in a different era/time/place and I am very interested. At Divertir, Tony Russo is about to put out YA Diesel-punk where the female lead goes to flight school and it has a high school feel. THAT'S what I want (I was VERY lucky to edit that one). Give me scene setting with unique detail (as in not cliche) and a decently flushed out world.  

2. What's an immediate turn-off in a query, something guaranteed to get the author rejected? 

Let me approach this a different way. If a query is straight forward, clean, and linear, I will most likely read the first few lines of the attached story. A query all over the place without any idea who the main characters are, their plight, and what they need to overcome usually results in me clicking over to the next email. I like simple and straight forward. Also, submitting to me what's not in my genre. No horror, straight thriller, sex, etc. As an author, I understand how important and special it is to be championed by an agent, but if an author cannot take the time to write a clean query, I won't give them my time. Do your homework.

3. What's the story got to have to make you want to represent it?

That is a tough one. I don't want retellings of the same plot lines. Give me age ranges in places we normally don't see. Give me unique descriptions, things described in your own voice. Keep one POV per chapter/section. 

If Jen sounds like the agent for you, please leave your pitch below in the comments. Good luck!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Refresher: The Three C's of Queries

Another Pitch Wars (the amazing contest run by the extraordinary Brenda Drake) has come and gone (Well, for the mentors! The mentees are hard at work revising before the agent showcase in November.).

I love this contest. This is my third year as a mentor, and each time, it's a glimpse into the agent side of this business: both the joy that comes from reading through the slush and finding stories that demand you read more and the frustration when a story sounds like it might pull you in, but the query fails to deliver what it must to entice you to read more.

As part of the run-up to Pitch Wars, I offered a free query or first-page critique to writers who ordered a new copy of Becoming Jinn or preordered Circle of Jinn (an offer that still stands: email me a copy of your receipt at summerofjinn@icloud.com). Between these critiques and the Pitch Wars submissions, I've read more than 100 queries in the past month.

I found myself giving the same advice for revising and polishing queries and figured it was time for a refresher.

1. Give the 3 C's: character, conflict, consequence. Sounds simple, right? It's not. But think of drafting the query pitch in three paragraphs, each one centered on one of those C's. In paragraph 1, lay the groundwork for the character and the world of your story. In paragraph 2, set up the main conflict--the character's story problem that will guide the course of the novel. In paragraph 3, amp this up and take it a step further, giving us the stakes and consequences. These are essential.

2. Tell one main plot thread. Even if you have many subplots and layers, the space of a query only allows for the telling of the main plot. Cut the extraneous and give us a story problem and conflict we can follow. Don't bring up a topic that needs explaining unless you can explain it. Even if it is core to the story, if it's not core to what you are telling us in the query pitch, cut it. We trust that there will be more depth to the story itself. But the query isn't the place to tell every subplot and name every single character (in fact, try to keep your characters to three named ones; it's too confusing and too many people to keep track of otherwise).

3. Avoid "movie trailer" language. "It's a battle of a lifetime"; "Will Mary finally open herself or lose the love of her life forever?"; "XYZ will change the world"; "one woman's journey"; etc. These grandiose statements are cliche and more than that, they don't tell us anything specific about your plot--and that's what a query needs to do. Give us the stakes and consequences specific to your character and your story and eliminate the hyperbole (especially in the form of a question! What if you ask a question about our interest in following this character and we answer "no". Oops. Don't open yourself up to that risk).

4. Give specifics. Building on above, you need to give us details about your characters and plot. Avoid generic language. We need to know exactly what is going on in your plot because that's what differentiates your story from all the rest. Don't say "she'll lose everything she's ever loved". Tell us what it is she loves that she'll lose.

5. Don't apologize for your writing, don't be too familiar, don't be "cutesy." Above all, this is still a professional relationship and you need your query to reflect that. There's no need to say this is your first novel and so you are ready for feedback or for the agent to rip your work apart. Stand behind your work. If you won't, who will? Avoid being too familiar. Be sure to add personalization so the agent knows why you queried them, but keep it on a professional level. And don't worry if your bio is short. Don't pump it up with cute facts about you or your pets or children. It may be cute in query 1, but by the time the agent is reading query 100, he or she is sick of it, and it won't earn you extra points to say you wanted to be a writer since age 3. Most writers have. Only put in your bio things related to writing or the concept of your book (if you are a nurse and writing a story set in a hospital, for example). It's okay if that section is short.

6. Polish, polish, polish. This is your first impression. You don't want to meet your boyfriend's mom with spinach in your teeth and you don't want to present a query with typos or grammatical errors to an agent. This is the first time they "meet" you. Make sure your query is polished in every way. Have many sets of eyes. Hire an editor. It's worth it. (And I say this as someone who offers copyediting services but who also paid for her own query critique and editing.)

Queries are hard, but they are your foot in the door, and they have a lot of heavy lifting to do--so do you in writing them.

I offer query critique services as well as manuscript consulting. Visit my website for more details.

Lori Goldstein is the author of Becoming Jinn (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, now available!!, sequel, Spring 2016). With a degree in journalism and more than 10 years of experience, Lori is a freelance copyeditor and manuscript consultant for all genres. She focuses on the nitty-gritty, letting writers focus on the writing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

How to Leverage Your Personality to Bolster Your Writing Productivity

I recently attended a religious woman's retreat and during one of our sessions, we discussed our personality types. The Myers-Briggs test from the '50s is a wonderful way to figure out your strengths and weaknesses, what type of career would play out your natural gifts, and may other facets of life. As I explored a topic I've already studied in the past, I realized that the dry spell I've been having in my fictional writing might be due to the fact that I wasn't playing up the needs of my personality.

Re-discovering What Makes Me Feel Accomplished

I haven't changed a bit. That is to say, I've become great at adapting to life's curve balls, but I'm the same person I was ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago. We all are unique, with quirks and needs that affect every part of our world. We have things that make us tick, that make us happy or content or even giddy. Those things can be leverage to make us productive and overflow with inspiration simply by being true to who we are and what works best for us.

Unfortunately, in the last few months, my inspiration well has been drier than a grain of Sahara sand at high noon. Focusing was impossible, words stopped up somewhere between brain and fingers, and I'm fairly certain intelligence chipped off and escaped my body. Lazy, bored, uninspired, and frustrated, I sat in front of a blank screen and stared, mentally begging the words to come.

Turns out, I'd been so wrapped up in life that I'd forgotten a fundamental part of who I am. Specifically, where I got my energy.

One of four parts of a personality according to the test I mentioned above is about how you recharge, how you gather yourself back to being okay. Do you need to be surrounded by people and socializing to feel whole, or do you prefer the quiet solitude to think and imagine?

I am an extrovert. The months I've spent cooped up in our rental, trudging through life in a infuriatingly silence were literally leaving me exhausted and empty. With a simple day retreat with other woman and a 20 point questionnaire, I realized my writing life won't ever be fulfilling if I don't let my need of people, of recharging with many others surrounding me, to be a regular part of it.

Additionally, the final element in my personality made me realize it may be time to take advantage of structure. A schedule, follow through, and completing small goals might help me feel more accomplished. I might even need to be a *gulp* plotter though I've proudly been a pantser for years. Perhaps the plotting will help me focus and complete projects.

I've taken a hold of these bits of myself and developed a plan that I hope will lead my writing in a forward motion. It may require creating my own real-life writing group since I can't find one. It may mean that I need to go to a bookstore or library to write instead of holing up in my office at home. You can do make your own plan once you know your personality type and examined your current habits against it.

Types and Tendencies

If you've never checked out what your personality is, even if you are very self aware, I'd highly recommend it. Insights such as this may help you develop a writing, plotting, or marketing campaign that works better for you than your current one. Keep in mind, some people take on roles or tendencies outside of their true personality, but this is about what is most comfortable or natural to you. Feel free to fill out this "knock-off" personality test (the Myers-Briggs one costs some money) that you can use to get a better sense of your strengths and weaknesses so you can leverage them for your writing.

The four categories used to analyze your personality are:

  • Extrovert/Introvert - Do you get your energy recharge from group settings and the energy of others or from quiet time alone in personal or spiritual activities? 
    • Regular in person critique groups will appeal to extraverts, while secluded or quiet writing time might appeal to introverts.

  • Sensing/ Intuit - How do you take in information? Do you rely strictly on facts of the world around you or do you follow gut instincts?
    • This can affect your research style or help you analyze critiques to better your manuscripts.
  • Thinker/Feeler - Do you use logic or your feelings to process things?
    • Thinkers may be more willing to ask questions of beta readers or feedback, while a feeler may need to take some time to process before replying.
  • Judging/ Perceiving - How to you use the information and how important is structure in your life? Do you need a regular, scheduled routine or is spontaneity important to your process?
    • The good ol' pantser/plotter come into play here. Do you need more structure than you realized previously? Deadlines are important to Judgers, while perceivers may consider deadlines flexible.

By knowing the way you best handle these elements, you can bend your writing time and process to better accommodate your writing.

Click to Tweet: "E.G. Moore discusses how your personality should affect your writing habits on @YAtopia_blog"

I'd love to know what you discovered! Please share your personality type and any ah-ha moments you may have had when you read about it in the comments below. Pinterest is also a great place to find out more about your type one you discover it. Just enter your four letter combination into the search bar, and have some fun.

E. G. Moore is a poet, freelance writer, and storyteller (the first of which her mom still has recorded on a cassette tape.)  She is a long distance member of For Pete’s Sake Writers Group in Washington, active in an email writer’s response group, and a Rocky Mountain Chapter SCBWI member. When she’s not telling “Mommy Made stories” to her two daughters or nagging her husband to edit her latest manuscript, she can be found off-roading in her suped-up ATV, baking some scrumptious bread, or in a long, plot-refreshing bubble bath. She’s represented by Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary. E.G. Moore tweets, posts on Facebook, and blogs at: www.emilygmoorewriter.blogspot.com

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why I Converted from Pantser to Plotter

Pantsers, let me hear your wild hollers! 

Plotters, wave your notebooks and charts from side to side!

I used to consider myself a die-hard Pantser. Character questionaires bored me to tears. Outlines made me gnaw my fingers into bloody stumps. What I wanted was the thrill of raw discovery--the kind you get from the twist in that scene even you didn’t see coming.

But I paid for this thrill in countless revisions. The lack of character prep left me with characters I didn’t know, who only became clear after waaaaay too many rewrites. There were a few surprising twists, sure, but there were also plot holes and disconnected…things. All the things were disconnected.

With my current WIP, I wanted to avoid all that. I wanted to learn from my past mistakes instead of rewriting them. My CP encouraged me to try plotting, and she ensured me that in her plotting, she’s still surprised by the unexpected turns.

Well, folks, I tried plotting. I’m still trying it. And I have to say, there’s no turning back. This is revision number one for my WIP, but the story’s so different from the first, un-plotted draft that I may as well be writing a whole different story. I understand my characters on such a deep level. I’m figuring out the twists and turns and still getting giddy over them. All the things are connecting. It’s bliss. There’s no doubt in my mind this will cut my future revision time, which means less work. Who doesn’t like less work? 

In case anyone’s curious as to how I’ve gone about this plotting thing I love so much, here’s the sauce: K.M. Weiland's website. Yes. I suggest going through her How to Write Character Arcs series and answering the questions at the bottom of each post. The questions provoked me to explore my MC’s character arc within the plot on a much deeper level than I ever would have on my own.

If you give it a try, I’d love to hear your experience! And what better time than in October, to prep you for NaNoWriMo in November!?

Write on,

Friday, September 25, 2015

Guestopia: Interview with author Julie Fison

Today I am delighted to welcome Aussie author Julie Fison to YAtopia.
Click for OptionsJulie is the author of eleven books for children and young adults. The latest, Counterfeit Love, about an ambitious young television reporter trying to make a name for herself, was inspired by Julie’s time as a reporter in Hong Kong. Her books also include the Hazard River series for young adventure lovers and titles in the Choose Your Own Ever After series for girls aged 10 to14.

Is this your first published book?
Counterfeit Love is my third YA book. The other two are Tall, Dark and Distant and Lust and Found – part of the Smitten series (Hardie Grant Egmont). I have also written a series for young adventure lovers – Hazard River (Ford Street Publishing) and two books in the Choose Your Own Ever After series. The stories have multiple endings and let the reader decide how the story goes (How to Get to Rio and The Call of the Wild).

Which genre?
It’s a contemporary romance.

Which age group?

It’s promoted as a book for young adults (14+), but plenty of fully-fledged adults have also enjoyed it.
Click for Options
Is it a series or standalone?
Counterfeit Love is a standalone novel.

Are you an agented author?
I don’t have an agent.

Which publisher snapped up your book?
Counterfeit Love, along with Tall, Dark and Distant and Lust and Found were published by Hardie Grant Egmont.

Do you have another job?

I have two teenage sons who keep my busy. I also write the occasional travel story and do some marketing work.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?
I pitched the idea of Counterfeit Love to Hardie Grant Egmont, after writing two other YA books for them, and they agreed to take it. This was a very fortunate position to be in. But I had plenty of rejections before I got my first publishing contract.
What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?
Counterfeit Love is about a young television news reporter, trying to make a name for herself in Hong Kong. She falls for a guy who turns up unexpectedly as she tries to get to the bottom of a big story. The novel was inspired by my days as a television news reporter in Hong Kong. Lucy Yang certainly isn't me, but I used my experiences as the basis for the story.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?
I spent a few months letting the story ferment in my head, before I got started. I always know where a story will start and how it will finish – the details in between are generally a bit scant and tend to evolve as I write.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?
Once I got started, the story flowed pretty quickly. I write an average of 2000 words a day.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

I sent the first four chapters off to my publisher and we thrashed out a few character problems before proceeding with the rest of the first draft.
Click for Options
How many drafts until it was published?
The story went through three draft stages before it was ready to be published.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?
The plot is largely unchanged but the pace of the romance is different and my editor was able to smooth out the rough edges of my characters. I love the way she can do that!

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?
I don’t ever reread a story once it’s published because I would not like to find things that I wanted to change!

What part of writing do you find the easiest?
Once I’ve got an idea in my head, I love immersing myself in the story and pounding away on the keyboard.

What part do you find hardest?
Self-doubt is a terrible thing. I feel that the more I know, the more uncertain I am of what to write.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?
If I get stuck with something I literally take a walk with the dog, throw on a load of washing or take a nap. I need to let my subconscious mind recharge and let ideas drift of their own accord. I can’t write my way out of a problem. I just end up writing rubbish.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?
I have my head in one story at a time, but once I have a first draft written I might go on to something else. This means that I go back to my first draft with fresh eyes because I have forgotten the details of the story.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I think a lot can be learned. I know I’ve learned a great deal since I started writing fiction. But of course there is also natural talent and great writers obviously have plenty of that.
How many future novels do you have planned?
Click for OptionsI have loads of ideas for stories, but I can’t say how many will actually become novels.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?
Click for OptionsI blog on writing, travel and parenting. I’ve also just written a short story for Rich and Rare – a collection of Australian stories, artwork and poems for teens, published by Ford Street Publishing. That one comes out later this year. I have also written the first draft of a gothic play for high school students and I will get back to later in the year.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?
I was pretty elated when Ford Street Publishing agreed to take four books in the Hazard River series. It’s also incredibly rewarding when a shiny new book arrives in the mail from the publisher. Seeing one of my books in a bookshop is exciting, too.

Give me five writing tips that work for you.
1.       Give your ideas a chance to germinate before getting started.

2.      Write as much as possible without going back to edit it.

3.      Each day reread the previous chapter so you are back in your character’s head at the point you left off.

4.      Be tough with yourself when you edit. If there’s an inconsistency in the plot that you hope a publisher won’t notice, change it. The publisher will notice it!

5.      Try to engage your reader, not impress them with fancy writing that doesn’t fit the story.
And one that doesn't.

Click for OptionsFollowing a trend.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?
I’ve just started working on another YA novel. It’s a contemporary romantic thriller with a hint of gothic menace. The idea came to me while I was visiting New Zealand last year. The wilderness is so beautiful but it has that lonely, remote feel to it. It’s very inspiring.
Thank you so much, Julie. Good luck with all of your novels, new and old!
If you'd like to find out more about Julie and her books, check out the links below.
Website/blog: http://juliefison.com/

Monday, September 21, 2015


This year, 2015, I’m an MG Pitch Wars mentor. I’m having a ball! From writing my ‘Why choose me?’ blog post, to receiving 64 submissions, to the headache of picking my mentee, to the surprise thrills of being able to pick two mentees, to now working with my gorgeous new friends for life (Stacey and Judy) on revising their manuscripts ready for the agent round in November. Major fun. And I can only thank Brenda Drake over and over for inviting me to join the gang. I’m privileged, and will work my socks and knickers off to ensure my mentees receive a bunch of agent hugs in just over a month’s time.

But, having read through all the first chapters sent to me by an incredibly talented group of writers­, there was a recurring issue that appeared time and again. And the same problem I see come up in the manuscripts I edit in my day job. It all boils down to the book starting in the wrong place, which of course affects that all important hook, the pull, the magnetism that makes a reader want to keep going, turning the pages and finding out what’s going to happen. I’m not kidding here when I add, this problem is so easily fixed.

Honestly, more often than not, in my Pitch Wars submissions, simply deleting the first two or three pages, and sometimes the first few paragraphs, was really all the author needed to do. It is an issue all writers have, not just newbies, but seasoned writers too, and you only need to check out posts and articles littering the internet to know how true this is. We, the story tellers, want our readers to understand the whys of our characters, and to do that we’re convinced we need to get the back story across as soon as possible.

Wrong. We don’t.

Most readers want in first; they want a taste of the action, of the tension; they want subtlety and clues; they want to be intrigued; they want to be thrown bam! straight into that life-changing moment of the main character, and the whole point of us, the authors, writing the story.

Back story is important and needs to be included, but not in paragraph after paragraph of distant narrative, or a character unrealistically and far too conveniently thinking about their lives to date. I’m afraid it’s downright boring. If you have books on shelves or a manuscript in the slush piles, boring isn’t a faux pas you can afford.

And this goes for the rest of the book, not just the first chapter. It’s absolutely fine to do this in earlier drafts, in fact, as an editor and writer, I would encourage you do to this. For one, it gets it out of your brain and allows you, the creator of this character’s past, to ‘see’ it and iron out any inconsistencies, rather than have it cooped up in your mind. I also encourage authors to complete biographies or character profile sheets for everyone in the book for the same reason. Plus, this is a separate document you can refer to as you write.

Once that first draft is finished, work through your manuscript with a brightly coloured pen (real or virtual) and highlight the back story. Then decide if it really really needs to be there. If it does, don’t just tell the reader or have the character once again conveniently consider it, blend something in subtly. A clue, a snippet, a cheeky insight. Don’t put the whole chocolate mud cake in front of the reader on page one, just smear a little ganache here and there. Make their eyes light up, make them lick their lips, make them drool. ‘Ooo, chocolate cake. Must turn page. Must find cake.’

Get the picture?

Example? OK.



‘Just two years’ ago, John’s heart had been broken. Carol, his girlfriend of five years, his childhood sweetheart, had dumped him. Packed her bags and left for a younger model. He knew it was coming, but was too nervous to mention it. He didn’t want to lose her. He didn’t want to be alone.

John spent many weeks and months afterwards staring at the TV screen, neither watching whatever was on nor thinking of anything in particular. He’d been emptied out of all thought, all emotion.

So when he met Liz, six months’ ago, he was wary. Cautious. Afraid to ever feel that way again.’



‘John breathed in deeply, trying to push aside the tightening of his stomach. This was all a bit too familiar. The iPhone in her hand. The stupid grin on her face. Only this time it was Liz, not Carol.

He released the breath slowly through his nostrils. Should he say something? Or sit there, on the same couch just like last time, and wait for the break up to happen? Could he deal with that pain again? Probably not.

John opened his mouth, but all that came out was a strange squeak that he quickly disguised as a cough.

Liz looked up and frowned. John smiled and averted his gaze quickly back to the TV screen.’


The second excerpt puts the reader in the scene. They see John, his shyness, his nerves, his worry. They’re introduced to his previous heartbreak. In the first, they’re being told this through a back story dumping, unable to engage fully with any action. I know which I prefer, and I know which would make me keep reading. The second. Is Liz about to dump him? Will John build up the confidence to ask who she’s texting? Let’s keep reading and find out.
Be subtle. Blend. Intrigue. Show, don’t tell.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

YAtopia Facebook Group is now open

As a writer I know that it's not a solo career, despite how it may appear. Writers need support, and YAtopia is offering it to you!

The YAtopia Facebook group is now open for applications! It is a group that will support writers of YA, NA and MG, both aspiring and published. It's a place to connect, learn and grow. Writers will have the opportunity to:

  • Network with other aspiring writers and published writers.
  • Learn about upcoming pitch contests, conferences, festivals and other professional development opportunities. 
  • Find Critique Partners, Beta Editors and Alpha Readers.
  • Consult the hive mind when faced with a writing problem.
  • Ask questions of special guests (ohhh mysterious).
  • Participate in writing sprints (a great way to get over writer's block).

YAtopia blog members will be admins of the group to make sure that it stays a positive place and achieves the goals it set out to achieve. 

If you want to be in writing Uptopia we would love you to join YAtopia! See you on Facebook. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NaNoWriMo Prep

Every year, NaNoWriMo seems to sneak up on me taking me completely by surprise. This year, thanks to a random friend's twitter update, I realized NaNoWriMo is less than two months away! Now, I've attempted the 50k words in a month challenge before... and failed every single time. I'd like to say it's because November has always been my busiest month given that I'm a teacher and it's always a mad scramble to get reports out and put together a concert before Christmas, but really it's because I'm totally unprepared by the time November 1st rolls around.

While I don't think I'll hit 50k this November for reasons mentioned above, I am taking all my previous experience to heart and at very least attempting to set myself up for possible success. Here's what I'm doing to give me the best shot at being able to write that many words in a month.

1) Research. Since I write speculative fiction, you might be wondering what kind of research I could possibly need and my succinct answer to that is, for world-building. In order to create a complex, nuanced, plausible world, I will need to do a lot of research about the real world, making sure I get as many details in my made-up world as realistic as possible to provide a truly immersive experience for my readers.

2) Plot planning. This is a weak area for me. I tend to know what'll happen in my story in very broad strokes only by the time I start writing. This time I want to have at least a 1-2 page synopsis written to give me a more detailed map of the plot so that I hopefully won't stall around the 25k mark as usual.

3) Character planning. Almost more important than plot to me, is character development. Before I start any story I like to have a clear picture of where my character is going and how they'll change. How that happens I generally leave up to the writing process to figure out but this time I want to develop clear milestones in my story, even sketch the important scenes, that will propel the character development and undoubtedly tie into the plot.

4) An ending. I hardly ever start writing a book knowing for sure how it will end. I know who I want my characters to be by the end, but I rarely have a clear image of how the story will tie up. This has proven a mistake in the past and something I want to fix this time around. I've promised myself I won't start writing until I know how my story ends.

So, 6 weeks away from the start of NaNoWriMo this is what I'm working on. Given the demands of my day job I don't have a lot of time to write any more. This level of planning isn't only going to stand me in good stead for NaNo, I think it will also make a huge difference to my writing process in general. And if I'm going to continue writing while working, I really need to figure out a better system for maximising what little writing time I do get. NaNoWriMo 2015 will be an experiment to see if what I've got planned will actually work!

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How do you prepare for it?


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Which Way is Write?

There’s something I feel a lot of people forget what with all the advice flying around out there.

This is your dream. These stories are your stories.

Every single person approaches things differently. Each one of us has had experiences which shape the way we look at the elements that contribute to how and what we write.

So all of this: You should write every day. You should always plot. You should pants. You should only write when you feel like it.

None of those are absolutes. All of those pieces of advice are the sum of someone else’s experiences.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good idea to look at what has worked for people who’ve been through this whole thing before. But always remember – just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Take the bits that do work for you, and mold them to your unique set of circumstances.

If you need to, pluck different parts from everywhere and make your own set of rules. Because ultimately, you have to figure out how you write best. And since no one else is you, no one can 100% definitively tell you how to write.

How to write? Sit down, and do so. But the when, the method – that you need to find out for yourself. Just like everything involved with writing, this takes time.

Remember it’s your dream – make sure you do it your way.

And in the end, it'll be worth it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's All Right

I feel the dust is still settling after this years Pitchwars, and what a year it’s been. There were over one thousand entrants, and from them, 125 were picked to be mentored. It’s pretty exciting stuff, and while I wasn’t involved in Pitchwars in any way this year, working on Whiskey, Wine, and Writing meant that I was very aware of the mayhem going on behind the scenes.

Obviously, not everyone could be picked. So as the molecules drift to the ground, I have a couple of things I’d like to say, and hopefully I’ll cheer a few people up along the way.

It’s all right to feel like poopers. 

Seriously, it is. You got all excited and now that you didn’t get picked you’re feeling a bit meh. That’s perfectly fine. Meh away. It’s cool. I’m holding surgeries with cake and tissues, let me know if you want to attend.

It’s all right to growl at your manuscript. 

As a person that growls at people in the supermarket (yeah, I do that…quietly), I feel it’s okay to growl at paper or a computer file. You can be angry with it, and you can be angry with yourself, but ask yourself why. That’s your baby your growling at, so growl softly or under your breath (like I do at the supermarket) and then give it a cuddle and go back to work.

It’s all right to quit. 

Yep. It really is. As long as you’re only quitting for a couple of hours or maybe a few days. It really is okay to feel as though you don’t want to write anymore. I’m sure we’ve all felt that way at some point, but you have to have to have to move on. Unfortunatley you’re going to be rejected many, many times, but as my good friend Kathleen Palm says, every ‘No’ brings you closer to the only ‘yes’ you need.

It’s all right to drown in ice cream. 

Not literally though. You can eat the tub, or two…or three if it makes you feel a little better. Whatever your poison of choice is, just don’t do it for too long, your bottom will not thank you for it!

It’s all right to become a baking obsessed zombie. 

As long as you don’t eat any brains because yuk, and hello prison. What I’m saying, is that it’s okay to go and do other things that will distract you from your disappointment. It can really help. Maybe channel it productively. Got any DIY projects around the house you’ve been putting off? Go do them, just make sure you come back to your writing at some point soon.

So there’s the ‘all rights’ and I feel I should add that you will be all right too. Hopefully you’ll get some feedback so you can look at some areas that may need working on. Also, don’t forget to congratulate those that did get picked. They were on the very same emotional rollercoaster ride, regardless of the results.

Have faith in yourself and your writing, don’t lose that. That would not be all right.