Friday, December 31, 2010

300 word pitch


So here's the pitch I've written for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It's slightly different to the one I used last year.

Tragedies have punctuated Casey’s life, but she has never explored them – until an creative writing assignment forces her to drag them into the light. Exploring painful and traumatic childhood memories is not easy, even as a seventeen-year-old who thinks she’s put them behind her.

When Casey meets Mark, she discovers he is struggling with his assignment too. Their connection is immediate and the two are drawn to one another. Casey wants their relationship to blossom, but is terrified by the possible outcome - everyone close to her ends up abandoning her.

As they write their ‘Assignment 9’, Casey and Mark discover things about themselves, their families and each other that will change their lives forever. One big question remains unanswered: are they really soul mates, or nothing more than damaged goods seeking solace and empathy? If Casey dares to find out, the answer may be one she doesn’t want.

ASSIGNMENT 9, a 75 000 word contemporary YA novel, interweaves Casy and Mark’s tentative relationship with Casey’s assignment in which she explores the traumatic childhood events that have left her wary of intimacy.

What do you think? Too long? Too involved? Not enough? Have your say!

Dear Me

So yesterday we looked at 2010's goals. Since I found writing them down like that so helpful, I've written myself a letter with my goals and ambitions for 2011. On December 31st, we'll revisit it and see which of these things I've managed to achieve...

Dear Me,

2010 was a great year with many successes and I learned so much about the publishing world. So I’m feeling far better prepared in 2011 to drive my writing career to the next level. Since writing my goals down was so useful last year, I’ve decided to do it again.

I will enter Assignment 9 in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest again. It made the semis last year, and I think the latest revision has fixed the problems my previous drafts had. Or at least, I hope so… But I’m not going to leave it at that and hope to win. I’m going to punch up my query letter and start submitting again. Hopefully someone will bite.

Prayer and Prey, my Western/Romance novel was read by a couple of agents in 2010, and both came back to me with similar feedback. So a revision needs to be done, adding 20K to the manuscript’s length, probably all in Alice’s POV. I hope to get this done before June so I can re-submit it to the agent who said she’d take another look, and start submitting it to others.

With my NaNo novel (tentatively called Chasing the Taillights) still in a very raw, first draft state, I need to dive into major revisions and get the chapters up for my critique group to review. My aim is to have this book polished and ready to submit to the Delcorte Press First YA Novel contests that closes in December 2011.

I also want to continue writing and publishing short fiction although with so many novel projects on the go, I don’t think I’ll be submitting at the rate I was in 2010. I will continue to write and publish in as many genres and styles as I possibly can, always seeking ways to extend and expand my capabilities as a writer.

I will remain active in my critique groups and plan to get back into a regular routine with my reviewing again. As soon as I get back from vacation, I’ll schedule regular reviewing time, to go along with my regular writing time. I plan to be very productive in 2011, in every facet of my life.

I plan to continue blogging regularly, and hope that I can keep the blog engaging and interesting for the people who stop by regularly. Hopefully I will be able to run more contests on the blog too.

As far as my day job goes, I think 2011 may be a year of change. I have a new boss and there seem to be a number of interesting avenues I may be able to pursue. And even if there aren’t, at least I’ll still get to see a lot of really great films.

On a personal level, I’d like to lose some weight (don’t we all). I’d like to say 10kg, but that’s probably a little crazy. I’d weigh the same as I did in high school then… But it’s a goal, anyway. I hope to be able to up my gym-going from 3 days a week to four, and I’m going to be very careful about portion sizes in what I eat, and not eating up my kids’ leftovers because its wasteful not to. Also, no chocolate biscuits after dinner!

So, that’s a bunch of things to aim for!

Love, Me

Do you have any goals or ambitions for 2011?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How'd I do?

As it is so close to being 2011, I thought I should dig out the letter I wrote myself at the beginning of 2010 to see how many of the things I resolved to do, actually came to fruition. So here goes...

Dear Me,

2010. Wow! How did that manage to creep up on me? I swear, every year seems to be getting shorter and it is getting harder and harder to achieve everything I want to achieve in each one. So, in an attempt to organize the chaos that is my life, I am going to put on paper some of my goals for 2010. Perhaps having them written down will focus me more towards actually making them happen.

But before I go ahead with 2010, I think I should reflect for a moment on 2009 because the successes and failures of that year are certainly going to color my ambitions for the future. I went into 2009 with only one concrete goal: to get published. And in October, I was. Okay, it wasn’t exactly what I’d been aiming for which was to have my novel, Assignment 9, accepted for publication, but even the little 800 word story that wound up in a barely-read women’s business magazine, so badly formatted that it made little sense anymore, counts. Right? Right! Published is published. And then I had another story accepted for an anthology coming out in March 2010, so I felt that I had achieved my goal.

So in 2010 I want to build on those successes. I want to publish more, and publish widely. Done! I published 18 stories in 2010, in a wide variety of publications. I want to get my stories into some publications that people actually read. If I can get paid as well, then that’s just gravy! Done! Okay, so I'm not in a position to give up my day job, but with the royalty check I got last week, I've made $37 US as a writer in 2010. Hmmmm.. . Sounds kind of lame when I think about it. Some of my friends are setting themselves goals as to how much money they would like to make, but I don’t think I’m ready to do that yet. Maybe in 2011. I have a feeling that 2010 is going to be a year of as many rejections as acceptances as I get a feel for the marketplace and where my particular style might fit into it. But at least I’m prepared for that. My approach is to aim high, submitting first to the most prestigious or highly paid market that looks suitable, then to move down as the rejections pile up, re-writing on the way if necessary.

I haven’t abandoned my ambition to get my novel published either. In 2009 I joined several different novel review forums on WDC as well as rather audaciously seeking help from a local YA author, and have completed an extensive re-write of Assignment 9. And three more since then... It is out with a publisher at the moment, and I have my eye on a contest to enter it into as well. Fingers crossed 2010 will be Assignment 9’s year to shine. Even if nothing else gets accepted, if this book finally manages to make its way out into the world, I will be more than satisfied. Well, it didn't get published, but it did make it to the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which I think is pretty good. To be in the top 50 of 5000 entries isn't bad. But it's not published either.

Staying with novels for a moment longer, my other book, Holding it Together, has been somewhat neglected for over a year, but with Assignment 9 being out in the world now, I plan to focus my attention onto this one. In the Novel Focus Group, my turn for being read and reviewed comes up again in April and I would like to have a new draft ready to go by then. I’m taking the book and a great swathe of critiques I’ve received for various chapters with me on holiday next week. Without internet or cell-phone coverage to distract me, I hope to make some significant inroads into this rewrite while I’m away. I just hope the kids will leave me enough peace to do it! This one has become my trunk novel. I've done extensive rewrites, the most major of which changed it from a third person narrative to first person from dual perspectives. But it still doesn't work. I think I'm too close to the story and the real-life characters on which it is based to ever make it into a working novel. But... Never say never!

The review groups I am a part of are so incredibly helpful and supportive that I cannot ignore them. I intend to continue being an active reviewer of other peoples’ work. I have learned so much from reviewing, and can be much more critical of my own work as a result. And when one of the stories or books I’ve helped with gets published, it feels fantastic to have had a hand in getting it to that point. It’s not quite as good as being published myself, but a close second! Done. I've remained very active in my writing community and to date have given almost 900 reviews! Hopefully they're helpful. But more importantly, I've made some wonderful friends through these groups, and I value their input into my work and their support when the rejections start getting me down immeasurably.

Because I am committed to these groups and want to give reviews that are as helpful and well thought out as possible, I am going to make a weekly schedule for myself, outlining which group, and what pieces I will review each day of the week, ensuring that I also leave time to actually write myself. I have taken a rather scattershot approach to reviewing in the past, and have often found myself struggling towards the end of the month to get through everything I have taken on. I had this happening for a while, but have slipped a little since doing NaNo. Must try to get back on schedule...

I would like to participate in NaNoWriMo in 2010. Did it and won! I didn’t in 2009 because I thought I was going to be at a conference for a week in the middle of November. As it turned out, I didn’t end up going and could have done the NaNo thing after all. So this year I will get myself prepared and will attempt to write an entire book in a month. Given it took me almost twenty-five years to get the other two done, it will be a miracle if I do. But hey! I believe in miracles. At least sometimes. I have at least two ideas for novels tripping around my head, so I’m sure one of them will make an appearance in 2010, NaNo or no NaNo. And you know what? The book I ended up writing was something completely different. But I like it anyway. And those other ideas? Who knows what they might have been or if they will ever get written.

With two children’s picture books completed and ready to go to a publisher, I would like to see these in print in 2010. And I would like to continue to collaborate with the very different artists whose work I have been privileged enough to be associated with. Dave Boyle is such a prolific painter that should our Jessie And The Witches garner the success we’d like it to, I foresee more Jessie adventures in our future. Okay, epic fail here. Dave and I sent out our MS a few times, but got nothing but rejections. And the other artist I work with left his paintings by a leaky window and they got destroyed. He said he's re-do them, but I think they were fairly low on his list of priorities because I've seen nothing yet...

I have grown so much as a writer in the last twelve months. I would like to continue to grow, tackling genres and subjects that are outside my comfort zone. Done. I wrote Sci-Fi, Horror, Romance - a whole novel's worth in fact, YA, Literary, Experimental and so much more. I have thousands of stories to tell, and I look forward to putting them down on paper and sharing them with the world. I may even take another stab at poetry, something I have almost a phobia about. In fact, I am going to ensure that I write and submit at least one poem in 2010. I don’t think I can call myself a writer unless I’m willing to push myself to write poetry, however bad it may be to begin with. And it will never get better unless I practice. Again, fail. I tried. But I'm not a poet. And if I'm honest about it, I don't really like poetry. Not to read or to write. So I'm not beating myself up about it.

With all those writing goals to take care of, I’m going to struggle to find the time for my day job! Or my kids. But I tend to work best when under pressure, and I am far more productive when I’m busy. So it looks as if 2010 is going to be a busy year! Stop musing about it, girl, and get on with it! Am I going to have to kick you in the pants already? It’s only January!



Not bad. A few things I could have pushed a little more. How about you? Did you manage to achieve many of your goals in 2010?

Monday, December 27, 2010


It has been 2 years today since I joined and truly began my journey as a writer. Two years does not seem a long time, yet I have achieved so much in that short space of time. Before I joined this writers' community, I was a writer, yet an unfocused one, one without concrete goals or ambitions. I had two novels I thought were finished, but no clue what to do from there.

Since joining, I've discovered how terrible those two books actually were, and with the support and encouragement of other writers, have rewritten them, making them so much better than they were. I had no idea about submitting, agents, queries or any of the stuff that goes along with being published. Now I do.

With the guidance of the fabulous Let's Publish group I've learned so much about short fiction publishing, and have gained the confidence to submit my stories. I've published 20 short pieces, and have even made a little (very, very little) money from them.

So, on this happy day, I want to express my gratitude to everyone at WDC for helping me become the writer I wanted be, and for continuing to encourage and inspire me to write every day. Thanks WDC!

Friday, December 24, 2010

We Have Winners!

Well, not a whole lot of entries into the contest, but that doesn't matter. Thanks to everyone who did enter.

So, first prize goes to Loralie Hall. She wins a chapter or short story critique.
Second prize goes to Gideon 86. He wins a critique of his first 3 pages or a short story up to 1000 words.
And third prize goes to Robert Dean. He wins a query critique or a critique on a flash fiction story.

Congratulations guys! Just email me your pages

And as promised, everyone wins a discount coupon for Drastic Measures for entering. Just head here and the code is FQSR8WWF.

Have a wonderful holiday season, wherever you are, okay?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Graveyard stories

I had to go away for work this week, and had an opportunity to catch up with my cousin briefly yesterday before coming home. One of the things he's done this year, is research the history of the graveyard in his town, and yesterday he took me for a walk through it. I've always liked cemetries and enjoyed walking through the crumbling headstones, reading inscriptions and names of people long gone. When choosing names for my children I often walked through looking for those old fashioned names nobody much uses anymore.

Yesterday though, I heard stories about the lives and deaths of the people beneath the stones. These were ordinary people trying to forge a new life in an unfamiliar and often hostile country. The headstones spoke of drownings, shootings, deaths in wars and duels, a surprising number of poisonings too, both intentional and not. My cousin gave me tiny snippets of these lives and I found myself spinning these snippets into stories, wanting to explore them more deeply.

Do you find the dead an inspiration?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Real conversation

Earlier this afternoon I had the privilege of taking part in a Skype chat with some members of my YA novel critique group. Five of us took part, two in Australia, one in the US, one in New Zealand and one in the UK. After spending almost two years working with these people online, finally having the opportunity to talk to each other, was amazing! Beforehand, I'd been worried we wouldn't be able to find things to talk about, or that the whole thing would be stilted or weird.

I was wrong.

In fact, it was like any reunion of old friends, with everyone talking over each other and the topic of conversation constantly morphing and digressing off on tangents. It's amazing how easy to talk to they all were, even though we've never physically met.

A few years ago (well, more than a few) I had a similar experience when I was a part of the online community for my favorite band. We organized a gathering in Berlin over a weekend and once again, I was amazed at how easy it was to get along in person with people I'd only spoken to online before. In that instance, I did have a few weird moments where people I had assumed were men were women and vice-versa. One disadvantage to using nicknames, as opposed to real names.

Anyway, I really enjoyed talking to my crew, and hope to be able to do it again in the future. And perhaps with members of my other groups too!

Have you entered the contest yet? Only one week to go....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On First Chapters...

I was critiquing a friend's opening chapter last night, and it occurred to me that in some weird shift of consciousness, I now have some very definite ideas about what needs to be in a first chapter. You need to learn who the protagonist is, and you need to begin hinting at what their journey is going to be. If I'm going to read on through an entire book, I need to know from the start whether the person taking me with them is someone I want to spend time with. I'd also like to know what they want, and perhaps begin to understand why they can't have it. So I took a look back at each of my novels, to see what I did in the first chapter of each, and whether it fits with my newfound revelations.

In Holding It Together, my oldest novel, the first chapter is an introduction to the characters. Nothing much happens, but because there are 5 main characters, they are each introduced, and the menacing environment they live in is hinted at. BUT... the real plot does not start until chapter 2. Probably a mistake. I should probably scrap the first chapter and begin in chapter 2. The different personalities will show themselves in the different ways they react to the events.

In Prayer and Prey I haven't written in chapters, so this doesn't exactly work so well. But, the first 10 pages or so introduce the three different POVs and sets each of them on their individual journey. I think Danny's section probably works better than the other two in that his motivation is bigger than that of the other two characters.

In Assignment 9 I introduce the protagonist and her dilemma right off the bat. Then I throw in a second character and suggest a relationship may develop. Then, right at the end of that first chapter, I introduce the idea that her family is messed up, which leads into the second story thread that makes up the book. I think this opening chapter achieves what I need it to.

In my newest WIP( provisionally called Chasing the Taillights), I am writing in dual POVs, so the first chapter only introduces one of the protagonists. They don't end up in the same space until around chapter 4. The book also opens with the inciting incident, the big plot point on which the entire book hangs. I'm not sure if this is the right place to have started, but when I tried writing from further back, it didn't work at all, so this starting place may have to be it. The chapter doesn't do everything I usually like a first chapter to do, but I think it works in a different way: because it leaves so many unanswered questions, you feel compelled to keep reading for the answers.

Do you have any thoughts on what makes a great opening chapter?

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I did something to my neck last week, and for the last four days have been in serious pain. It seems to be getting better now, (fingers crossed) but it's made me think. I've been really irritable the last few days, partly because of the pain, and partly because I haven't been able to sleep. We take our bodies for granted, I think, assume they'll keep carrying us around indefinitely. But like any precision machinery, our bodies need TLC.

It's only when something starts hurting, that I realize how little consideration I give my body. I exercise, I eat reasonably well, I don't smoke or drink to excess (often), but I don't do anything particularly good for it either. No massages, or acupressure, or even Pilates these days. I spend long hours hunched over a keyboard, pounding keys with my fingertips and squinting at a screen. And now, my body's protesting about it. Fair enough.

So, I am resolving to be more careful in the future, to start listening to those little signals my muscles send me to tell me enough is enough. Maybe I need to re-structure my workstation at home, the way I did my workstation at the office. Maybe I need to take a little break from writing to let my body recover. I don't know.

What do you do when your body tells you you need a break?

And don't forget the contest.... There are still plenty of opportunities to win a critique!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

more contests

With everyone in the holiday spirit, there are so many awesome holiday contests going on! There's mine, of course, but I thought I'd let you in on a few others too..

There's the Epic Contest of Epic which looks just incredible!

My good friend Loralie Hall is also running a wee holiday giveaway.

And of course, there's Cassandra Marshall's contest, offering a free edit as a prize.

So what are you waiting for?

Go enter!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Tis the Giving Season

Well, nobody offered up any suggestions as to what they might like as a giveaway, so I've decided to just go with things I'd like to win in a contest. So, I have three prizes to give away to lucky followers. So all you need to do, is follow the blog and leave me a comment! Easy eh? New followers welcome, of course!

So what are the prizes?

- first prize is a chapter or short story critique (up to 5000 words). I'll critique you the way I do for my critique groups, so if you're not ready for serious criticism, don't enter.
- second prize is a critique of the first 3 pages of your MS. Or a short story up to 1000 words.
-third prize is a query critique. Or, if you don't have a query, I'll critique a piece of flash fiction (up to 500 words)

And, as an added bonus, everyone who enters will get a discount coupon to buy the fantastic Drastic Measures anthology which includes a story by.... me! And a lot of other great authors including George Clayton Johnson, author of the original Oceans 11.

So... Get entering! Winners will be selected on Christmas Eve, so you have just over a week to enter and let your friends know about the contest.

Good luck y'all! And Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Where...

Do you find that where you choose to write makes a difference? During my marathon novel writing month I discovered a few interesting things about location. I tend to write either at home, or at work. At home I have a certain way I go about the actual writing, where at work I snatch moments of free time as they come available. I keep whatever I'm working on open behind my work email, spreadsheets and whatever else I have open on my computer. Then, when I have a spare ten minutes or so, I can spend them reading and tweaking or adding a few lines.

During NaNo I knew I needed more concentrated writing time, so on Wednesdays, when I don't work and the kids are both in school and daycare, I decided to spend a good four hour chunk of time writing. But where to do it? At home the chores would prey on my mind. The dirty dishes on the bench mock me, the pile of laundry creeping out of its basket grows ever nearer, threatening to smother me. The crumbs and dust on the floor seem to rustle and squeak. At work the phone rings and people need questions answered that only I can give answers to. Even when I tell my staff "I'm not here," they put calls through and yell upstairs for answers. So neither of those places was going to be a viable option.

So I went to the library. It's always been a favorite haunt of mine - how could it not be? Floors and floors of books just waiting to be opened and explored. I was concerned that might distract me, I'd catch sight of a book I just had to read and forget all about my own writing. But it didn't happen. I found myself a cozy desk just behind the YA section (hoping the vibes from all those published YA writers might flow into me) and settled in. The chick-lit shelf was just in sight and every time I went I giggled at the sub-section labelled 'rich kids who go to exclusive academies and form cliques' - that's specific!

Even now NaNo is over, I intend to keep my Wednesday morning library date. It's a time I can focus and work solidly without interruption. Hopefully it will make the revision process go more quickly this time around.

And on a completely different matter, I'm getting into the holiday spirit and thought I ought to do some kind of giveaway here on my blog. Is there anything any of you readers would like to see me give away? Query critiques? Chapter critiques? Books? Recipes? Film recommendations? DVDs? Let me know in the comments and sometime later this week, I'll set something up!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Awesome contest

I've mentioned it before, and I'll mention it again. Cassandra Marshall is a fabulous editor, and once again she is being generous enough to hold a contest for a free edit.

So what are you waiting for?

Go along and enter. You know you want to win!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Done, Done, Done Done Done!

Yep. I finished. At 6.47 this morning I finished my book. Just under 69K in 31 days. Phew...

NMow, I know it's a long road ahead. I'm already swimming with revision ideas, and I haven't even read the book yet! That's my job for tomorrow. I'll write myself some notes while I read, then put it aside until January or February. There's a lot I need to add. As I wrote, I discovered more and more similarities between my characters who think they have none. Music also needs to be threaded through it much more. The key to me finishing was music, a specific song by the Beach Boys which will have to be referenced early on for its reappearance later to make sense.

So am I happy? Yes and no. I'm thrilled that I managed to do it. I think there are moments of beauty and wonderfulness in there, but they are buried in a lot of overwritten garbage. I'm going to need to do a lot of cutting and tightening to get it to where I want it to be. I also need to make the two character voices more different. Somewhere along the way I realized Tony is much more observant and sensitive than I thought he was, and Lucy is much more self-centred. So their voices need to shift to reflect that.

In terms of shape, just printing it out has shown me that the early part of the book is way too long, while the middle, leading up to the climax is too short. I'm going to have to try and shift some of the events from early in the book to a later stage, or just scrap them and write new scenes. We'll see. I also think I've done some wonderful tricky stuff in several places, leading the reader to believe one thing, then throwing them off with it being something completely different. Even I didn't know the last one of those was going to happen! It just made sense when I was writing this morning.

Have you managed to finish anything lately? And does it feel good?