A whirlwind of a Year
.I think 2020 is going to be a year of breakthrough moments for me.
Have you ever had times in your life when you find yourself quite content, doing what you are doing, living your best life, enjoying the serenity of finally having worked out all the hard stuff ... and then WHAM! you've switched tracks, and now hurtling down a new path at breakneck speed, no brakes in sight, no idea where it's going to lead, and it's thrilling and new and exciting, but also scary?
Well ... that's me right now.
1. I lost my mum to cancer two months ago. We hadn't spoken in two years. We'd had a pretty good relationship before that and yet finding the words for both us to reunite was much harder than it should've been. So, it got left.
2. We've had a couple of weeks of wondering whether we were safe in our home, having 3 bush-fires closing in around us. But as scary as it was, it also engaged what was needed.
3. 5 days ago, I swallowed my fear and put myself out there as an author. And I mean, really put myself out there. I am no longer doing the part-time thing, failing to promote myself or my work, or looking at myself as an imposter. I've ignored all the self-belief stories I've been telling myself for years that I'm not good enough.
And now, I've come out the other side of the storm.
My lesson - don't keep quiet when you have something to share. Don't put off what lights you up. And when you get scared, be brave and move forward.
Does your first pages have these?
1. Do you introduce the theme?
2. Do you have an inciting incident?
3. Do you set the stage for your story?
4. Does your main character cross a threshold?
5. Do you determine your point of view and narrative voice?
6. Do you clearly introduce your protagonist?
7. Do you have a lot of action?
Also, one of the most important issues and hardest to figure out, when getting your book ready, is having the right title. Authors can take weeks poring over the right title, but you'll know it when you hear or see it. Another concern is having a catchy hook. I remember Oprah once saying during one of her book club sessions that if the FIRST sentence of the book isn't exciting/compelling or intriguing, then more than half the time she would put the book back and choose another. The blurb or back cover summary is also the best chance you have to lure a new reader in, so make it amazing.
Starting with the weather or a dream or back story is not only cliche, but sorry ... boring!
Begin your book in the middle of action and it will hook the reader in.
In the beginning, I knew nothing of writing, except how to spelling well. I wrote my first books with excitement and naivety, only to discover the do's and don'ts of writing. Cliches should be banned from books because it shows the authors lack of imagination.
Here are some examples of cliches
How to successfully pitch to agents and publishers by Natasha Lester. I have just finished this online course in December 2015 and found it very useful
FlameMaker final edits
Happy to inform FlameMaker has been through its final edits. I'm happy with how it has progressed. I had a professional editor, Tony Berry, make the last changes and I'm ecstatic with the results.
WaterLover is almost finished too. Have a few more chapters until done and then begins the editing stage.
I am also embarking on an online course of How to Pitch to Publishers and Editors with the Australian Writers Centre, and am excited about the course next March I have booked with Kate Forsyth in Plotting and Planning your Manuscript.
The AWMP was very insightful with lots of great tips learnt from Kathryn Heyman.
I am also keen to start a Creative Writing Stage 1 and Advanced Writing 2 next year, again with the Australian Writers Centre.
I sent The Last Descendant of Eve off to the 21st Annual Writer's Digest Self Published Book Awards a few months back and although I didn't win a place, the review I received was pleasing.
Books were evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "needs improvement" and 5 meaning "outstanding". The scale was strictly to provide a point of view reference, it was not a cumulative and did not reflect ranking.
These were my scores
Structure and Organisation 4
Production Quality and Cover Design 4
Character Development 4
Here was the judges commentary:
I thought this story was very successful. Evie was a great protaganist and very clearly fit the YA mold. The mystery was very compelling. The opening line, which is your first chance to impress us, was wonderful. The writing was really good, but did have some grammatical issues. Destinys should be destinies. There was some misuse of semi-colons. The use of apostrophes, too, wasn't always correct and there were some issues with preposition choices. However, there was a good flow to the dialogue and I liked the fact that you weren't afraid to leave off dialgue tags and trust your reader to understand who was speaking. Jada, Zach, Evie and Sully were all excellent characters. There was a great creepy, mysterious vibe that I found very commercial. The idea of the beads reflected the tasks/virtues Evie had to complete was really interesting and nothing I'd seen before. I did think that having Evie in Eden might have been a bit much. It's already a stretch to believe the modern Adam and Eve end up together without that detail. The cover was very chilling and showed an excellent branding and attention to detail. My one criticism is that the vibe was a little too horror-like when the story was really more of a contemporary with paranormal elements. However, I did think this was a commercial, well-executed story overall.
Some exciting news. I've just been accepted into the Australian Writers Mentoring Program with Kathryn Heyman. The next six months will be spent whipping FlameMaker into shape and polishing it until it sparkles.
Five meetings with Kathryn plus she looks at 10,000 words of my work every month. Can't wait!
Cooma Writers Group
At the Cooma Writers Group, we not only share ideas and worries about our writing, but brain-storming and critiquing each others work. Critiquing can be a very valuable tool, not only in learning how to accept constructive criticism but also points out the pitfalls in others work that you, yourself, have had problems with.
I am happy to say, the last few chapters of FlameMaker are coming together nicely. Only a few more weeks and the first of the Elementar series should be finished.
I came across this on the Writers Digest Website and thought it would be a great place to start.
7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter
Previously, I attended the Writer Idol Event at Boston Book Fest. It was not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to brave public ridicule, it was a great way to get helpful feedback
An actress picked manuscripts at random and read the first 250 words out loud for the panel and the audience. If at any point a panelist felt he would stop reading, he raised his hand. The actress read until two or more panelists raised their hands, at which point the panel discussed the reasons they stopped, or in cases where the actress read to the end, they discussed what worked. Helene Atwan (Director of Beacon Press) and agents Esmond Harmsworth, Eve Bridburg, and Janet Silver (all from Zachary Shuster Harmsworth) served on the panel.
These panelists were tough! I’d say less than 25% made it to the end of the passage. Here are some of the common reasons panelists stopped reading.
1. Generic beginnings: Stories that opened with the date or the weather didn’t really
inspire interest. According to Harmsworth, you are only allowed to start with the weather if you’re writing a book about meteorologists. Otherwise, pick something more creative.
2. Slow beginnings: Some manuscripts started with too much pedestrian detail
(characters washing dishes, etc) or unnecessary background information.
3. Trying too hard: Sometimes it seemed like a writer was using big words or flowery
prose in an attempt to sound more sophisticated. In several cases, the writer used big words incorrectly. Awkward or forced imagery was also a turnoff. At one point, the panelists raised their hands when a character’s eyes were described as “little lubricated balls moving back and forth.”
4. TMI (Too Much Information): Overly detailed description of bodily functions or medical examinations had the panelists begging for mercy.
5. Clichés: “The buildings were ramrod straight.” “The morning air was raw.”
“Character X blossomed into Y.” “A young woman looks into the mirror and tells us what she sees.” Clichés are hard to avoid, but when you revise, go through and try to remove them.
6. Loss of Focus: Some manuscripts didn’t have a clear narrative and hopped disjointedly from one theme to the next.
7. Unrealistic internal narrative: Make sure a character’s internal narrative—what the character is thinking or feeling—matches up with reality. For example, you wouldn’t want a long eloquent narration of what getting strangled feels like—the character would be too busy gasping for breath and passing out. Also, avoid having the character think about things just for the sake of letting the reader know about them.