Dogs, Kids and Books – My Dog Doesn’t Like Me

Recently, our beloved 14 year old dog passed away. She drifted off peacefully, but she left a big hole in our heart and lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy youngest son was not much more than a year old when Puff came to us so she has been part of his life for nearly all of it.

Dogs and kids have such complex relationships, but they can form the strongest of bonds.

This week it seemed right to pay tribute to a great new book My Dog Doesn’t Like Me about kids and dogs, and to my special girl, Puff.

Pets make great inspiration for stories. Like any character, you have to think what sets them apart from others – what makes them unique – what makes them someone readers can connect with?

What made Puff special was her gentleness. Our pet rabbits sometimes jumped on her while she was asleep and while she woofed at them when she woke in fright, she never harmed them.

I don’t have Puff’s story yet, but one day I will. I often find that reading books about characters similar to those I want to write about can help me find the core of my story.

My Dog Doesn’t Like Me by Elizabeth Fensham is about another very special dog called Ugly, and a young boy, Eric who wants so desperately to bond with him, but doesn’t know how.

My Dog Doesn't Like Me_978 0 7022 5017 0_CoverMY DOG DOESN’T LIKE ME – REVIEW

One of the things I liked most about this book was the perspective it was written from.

Eric really does think his dog doesn’t like him and this is just the kind of thing a young boy might think in the situation Eric finds himself.

Eric is disappointed with his dog Ugly. Ugly was supposed to be his special pet, but he seems to like everyone else in the family better.

It’s not that Ugly doesn’t like him, it’s just that Ugly doesn’t know him as well as he knows Mum who feeds him or Grandpa who spends time with him when Eric is at school.

If Eric wants to bond with Ugly he’s going to have to spend a lot more time with him.

And now he’s facing a deadline because Eric has limited time to train Ugly and get him under control or his dog is going to be sent to a new home.

I love the way the author presents this very authentic character dilemma in such a realistic way.

We can feel Eric’s pain and worry, and the tension builds as Eric finds himself running out of time to train Ugly.

The author sought expert assistance when researching dog handling and you can tell this from the believable way in which the story unfolds.

This story has a life lesson, but it’s woven seamlessly into the narrative and I can see this book appealing to pet lovers, parents and teachers.Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.10.07 am

It is published by UQP.

Another dog story you might like is Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Bauer.

 

RHYMING POETRY WRITING TIPS – WITH STEPHEN WHITESIDE -The Billy That Died With its Boots on

Today, acclaimed poet and author, Stephen Whiteside shares his secrets on writing rhyming verse.

Tips for Writing Rhyming Verse by Stephen Whiteside

Stephen_WhitesideWhen I was young, my father introduced me to the poetry of Banjo Paterson. Later, I discovered the poetry of C. J. Dennis. Both of these poets write rhyming verse or, as it is sometimes called, ‘bush verse’.

This comes from the idea that these poems were often recited from memory ‘around the campfire’ in the days when there were no computers, radios or TVs, and newspapers were few and far between. Bush dwellers, like shearers and drovers, had to make their own fun. Even a guitar was too bulky to take on a long trek ‘outback’.

Bush verse often tells stories. The wordplay of the rhyme is great fun, but the poetry is about much more than the rhyme – it also about the ‘metre’, or rhythm. In fact, this is even more important than the rhyme.

Here are some tips to writing rhyming verse.
1. Read some examples of classical ‘bush verse’ to familiarise yourself with the genre. Some classic ‘Banjo’ Paterson poems can be found here and here. A very famous poem by C. J. Dennis can be found here:

  1. Give some thought to the rhyming pattern that you want. The rhyme that stands at the end of the first line is traditionally called ‘A’, because that is the first letter in the alphabet. If the end of the second line rhymes with the end of the first line, it is also designated ‘A’. If not, it is designated ‘B’. AABB is probably the most common rhyming scheme employed. It is also one of the easiest to write. These lines with matching rhymes are called ‘rhyming couplets’, for obvious reasons. Another popular rhyming pattern, though it is much harder to write, is ABAB.

TBTDWIBO_INT_38-39

  1. Remember that rhyming verse is not just about rhyme. It is also about rhythm, or ‘metre’. When you have written two rhyming lines, read them both out aloud. Does their rhythm match? If not, you might have a problem. I find that a good way to check this is to tap my foot, or slap my thigh, while I read out the words.
  1. You don’t have to tell a story when you are writing rhyming verse, but it is a good way to begin. Also, don’t feel that you need to know how the story ends before you put pen to paper – or start to type. Often the only way to find out how a story ends is to start writing, and see where it takes you. Don’t worry, too, if your first poems end up a bit of a mess, or you don’t know how to finish them. The more you practise, the better you will get.
  1. Your patterns of rhyme and rhythm can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. It is entirely up to you. You might start out with simple patterns, but become more ambitious as you gain in experience and confidence. It is important, though, that there is some sort of pattern to the verse, and that you find a way to communicate this effectively to the reader.

© Stephen Whiteside

TBTDWIBO_CVR_HRTHE BILLY THAT DIED WITH ITS BOOTS ON

I was drawn to this book not just because I love bush poetry. It appealed to me because it’s different and it’s funny and it’s very Australian.

It introduces readers to a world and situations they might not have much experience with, but it also shares experiences that kids will connect with.

There are some typical “bush poetry” themes, but they have been brought up to date to engage contemporary children.

The rollicking rhyme covers a huge range of topics from the Australian outdoors, sporting life and animals, as well as the domestic world of the average Aussie kid. – with history and sci fi thrown in for good measure.

For easy reading and reference, poems have been grouped according to topics like around the house, dogs and cats, sport, Australian birds and animals, at the beach, weather, history and Christmas.

There’s often an interesting twist at the end to keep the reader guessing.  Here’s an example.

THE ICE-CREAM THAT HURT 

I had an ice-cream yesterday,
And, boy, that ice-cream hurt.
Ice-cream’s always good to eat.
It’s taken as a cert!

Massive scoops of butterscotch,
And boysenberry, too;
Sort and creamy, luscious, dreamy,
Flavour through and through.

I walked a little, licking hard,
And here’s the bit that hurt.
The ice-cream toppled off the cone,
And landed in the dirt.

Lauren Merrick’s black and white papercut illustrations add another lively dimension and stimulus for discussion.

TBTDWIBO_INT_108-109

The Billy that Died with its Boots On is the sort of book to be enjoyed at leisure – where you pick out a verse that appeals to you or is relevant at the time. Reading aloud enables you to enjoy the full beauty of the rhythm and language in these pieces.

If Australiana doesn’t appeal or you’re worried that bush poetry isn’t for you, even dinosaurs and aliens feature in this collection.

The Billy That Died with its Boots On is great for classroom read alouds or performances. Poems suit a range of student abilities – some are very straightforward, others are more challenging to perform. This book is for readers 9 +

THE CROC AND THE PLATYPUS

The-Croc-and-the-Platypus-COV-webToday The Croc and the Platypus is stopping at DeeScribe Writing on its tour through cyberspace.  The Croc and the Platypus is a gorgeous new picture book written by rhyming poetry queen, Jackie Hosking and illustrated by the very talented Marjorie Crosby-Fairall.

They’re going to share some fabulous tips on how they created The Croc and the Platypus.

JACKIE’S INSPIRATION

The seed was planted a long time ago. Not to necessarily write this book but to write a book for Walker. I like to tell the story of being in a small book shop and picking up The Dot by Peter H Reynolds. Much to my embarrassment, as I read the book my eyes began to fill with tears. It really is the most beautiful book. I turned it over to see who had published it and saw the bear carrying the candlestick. Candlewick Press is the American arm of Walker Books and so my journey began. That was over ten years ago.

Then, when a friend of mine, author Claire Saxby had her rewriting of There was an Old Lady who swallowed a Fly, (There was an Old Sailor) published by Walker, I thought AH HA! I’ll rewrite a rhyming classic too. I chose The Owl and the Pussycat because my grandmother used to sing it to me when I was small so it has always been a favourite.

Jackie head shotJACKIE’S WRITING TIPS

1.  Once I’d decided that I wanted to do an Aussie reimagining of the The Owl and the Pussycat, the first thing I did was find the words to the original poem by Edward Lear.

2.  Then I read it over and over so as to better absorb the rhythm. So the first line, if you recall goes like this…

The OWL and the PUssycat WENT to SEA in a BEAUtiful PEA-green BOAT

The capitals denote the stressed syllables, the drum beat of the line. I needed to copy this beat exactly and so…

The CROC and the PLAtypus TRUNdled OFF in a RUSty old HOLden UTE

3.  This process was then applied to the whole poem.

4. There’s another line that I borrowed, though I’d not realised it at the time, from a song called Gypsy Rover. The line in song goes like this…

He whistled and he sang ’til the greenwoods rang,

My line goes like this…

Platypus sang till the hubcaps rang.

This was not intentional. I used to sing this song at school and it showed up again just at the right time.

5.  After I finished the text I was awarded a Maurice Saxby mentorship. One of my mentors was author Elizabeth Honey. She was instrumental in helping me improve what I thought was a pretty polished story. Writing buddies, critics and mentors are gold and I would recommend everyone to give their work to someone else to read before they submit to publishers. It’s just a sensible thing to do.

The-Croc-and-the-Platypus-Web-22-23Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.03.43 amMARJORIE’S INSPIRATION AND TIPS FOR THE ILLUSTRATIONS

Inspiration for the illustrations can come from many places including an initial emotional response or even from unexpected sources. When I read the text for The Croc and the Platypus my first impressions was that it was ‘bouncy’ and ‘joyful’ so I wanted to reflect those emotions in the illustrations. This can be quite literal, like the Ute bouncing along a dirt track and the curved and bouncing type treatment—or it can be more understated, like the joyful dancing under the stars and the fluid curves of the landscape.

It is surprising the different paths you might wander down when you meet some unexpected inspiration. For example, the ‘rusty old Holden Ute’ features prominently in the text so it was important to get that image right. Unfortunately, I’m not really fond of cars, so I was not looking forward to drawing the Ute. However, once I started to delve into the research I fell in love with the 1950s Holden Ute. The Ute became another character and began to spark a number of other ideas for the book—I suddenly wanted to give a nod to the 1950s road trip. This became the jumping off point for several more elements including the fonts and even the colour palette.

Ute-webFive Illustration Tips Relating to The Croc and the Platypus:

  1. Read lots of Picture Books, they can be inspirational in unexpected ways.
  2. Study the painting process of other artists. I decided to use under paintings and drawings after researching Renaissance painting. It’s amazing what you can adapt to your own style!
  3. If you want to use pencil on top of the acrylics, you can try using gesso instead of white paint—it helps to create a ground for the pencil.
  4. If you use a heavy watercolour paper you don’t need to stretch the paper.
  5. You can use your final roughs as a value study.

DEE’S REVIEW

The Croc and the Platypus is an Australian version of The Owl and the Pussycat, and I couldn’t decide what appealed to me most about this rollicking Australian picture book. There were so many things to like about it.

There’s a lilting quality to the rhyme that I just love, and who wouldn’t enjoy wrapping their tongue around words like hullabaloo?

The Croc and the Platypus is one of those books where you feel like the writer is sitting next to you telling her story, the author’s voice comes through strongly in a unique and engaging way.

But the text is only part of this entertaining story.

Marjorie Crosby-Fairall’s illustrations perfectly compliment the words. They take the humour to a whole new level, and the ochre’s, tans and greens of the truly Australian setting are captured so authentically.

The scenery is stunning and there is so much movement and life in Marjorie’s illustrations that you can picture yourself in the setting – perhaps even coming across these colourful characters along the road.

One of the other entertaining aspects of this book is the incongruous pairing of the Croc and the platypus – and this makes the tale even funnier.

For those who might struggle with the very Australian vernacular, there’s a glossary at the end of the book that provides translations.

Aug 11 – Aussie Reviews
Aug 12 – DeeScribewriting Blog
Aug 13 – Write and Read with Dale
Aug 14 – Children’s Books Daily
Aug 15 – Stories are light
Aug 16 – Kids’ book Book Review
Aug 17 – Pass it on

Marjorie Crosby Fairall on Facebook | TheCrocAndThePlatypus.com | Jackie Hosking on Facebook

Please note that Stephen Whiteside’s profile and tips have now been rescheduled for next Tuesday 19th August.

POETRY WRITING TIPS – WITH SALLY MURPHY – Writing Verse Novels

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.02.18 amToday, I’m very excited to welcome writerly friend and award winning verse novelist, Sally Murphy. I’m going to be talking about Sally’s latest wonderful book, Roses Are Blue, and Sally will share some great writing tips.

ROSES ARE BLUE

Roses Are Blue by award winning, Sally Murphy is another deeply moving verse novel about a real life family dilemma that a young child, in this case Amber Rose, must face.

Amber Rose and her family are dealing with tragedy and change. But sometimes hope blooms suddenly.

I have not got used to my new mum.

Even though I love her

(I absolutely love her),

I miss my happy,

painting,

dancing,

gardening,

smiling mum.

Something terrible has happened to Amber’s mum. After a serious car accident, she looks different and she can’t do many of the things she used to.

She’s still the same person inside, but will the kids at Amber’s new school understand that when they meet her at the Mother’s Day High Tea?

Amber is a beautiful, sensitive, and totally believable character learning to cope with massive changes in her life.  Her emotions of fear, embarrassment and love are so authentic.

She is vulnerable and flawed and  Sally Murphy skillfully draws the reader into Amber’s world and heart.

I love the way Amber changes and grows through the story with the truths she learns about families and friendship, and the things that are really important. She also learns a lot about herself.

Sally MurphyThe writing in this story is beautiful and tender, full of imagery and symbolism that present difficult issues in a way that young children won’t find confronting.

There are so many parallels to be drawn in this story and I love the way Amber expresses herself through her art, and it provides a strong connection to her mother, and to the past and the future.

This is a heartwarming story about compassion, understanding and trust.

I can see Roses are Blue being read by many just for its sheer beauty, but it will also be a valuable classroom book to be read and discussed.

SALLY’S VERSE NOVEL WRITING TIPS

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.09.11 amMy love of verse novels developed when I discovered those written by Margaret Wild (Jinxed and One Night). I decided then that I wanted to write in the form one day, and that infatuation continued to grow when I discovered works by Steven Herrick, Catherine Bateson, Lorraine Marwood and more. It took a while to find the right story for a verse novel, but when a girl called Pearl started telling me her tale, I wrote my first verse novel, Pearl Verses the World. Later, I met (in my imagination) a boy named John who similarly wanted his tale told that way, in Toppling. Most recently, Amber Rose was intent on sharing her journey to coming to terms with big changes, also in verse.

I love writing in verse, but when I started writing verse novels I did it instinctively. I didn’t know how to do it, I just had a go. Having now written three, I still work largely by instinct, but when I reflect there are some things I do which work well for me, and may help you if you choose to try the form. Here, then, are my five tips for writing a verse novel:

  1. Love the form. Don’t try to write a verse novel unless you love verse novels. This may sound obvious, but lots of writers are tempted to try a new form because it features in awards list, or because another writer is doing it. Be true to yourself as a writer and write what you love. That passion shines through in your writing.
  2. Read lots of verse novels, but don’t try to copy them. I have been influenced by the work of Australian verse novelists like Steven Herrick, Lorraine Marwood and Sherryl Clark and also those from further afield including Sharon Creech. But it is important that my work has its own style, a point of difference. Reading widely assures that I see lots of different techniques and encourages me to try different things. I don’t want to write like any of those writers – though I do wish to be as good as them, one day.
  3. When you decide to write a verse novel, decide whether the story you have in mind is likely to work in this way. Most verse novels are written in first person voice (though they may have multiple voices rather than just one) and the form seems best suited to topics with a high level of emotion or conflict. If you prefer lots of description, lots of narration, or even lots of dialogue, you may find prose is a better fit.
  4. TopplingBe clear on your story arc. Yes, this is a series of poems – or perhaps one very long poem – but it is also a narrative. Is there a clear conflict and resolution? Are there twists and turns? Does the tension build? Other story elements such as character development and dialogue are also really vital.
  5. Consider whether your verse novel works as poetry. Although I write in poetry, I usually do so instinctively at the draft stage, and then during the revision process I focus more on the poetic techniques, looking for layers of meaning, considering line lengths and also reworking my use of techniques such as rhythm, repetition, onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, imagery, and rhyme.

Thanks for these great tips, Sally.

I look forward to reading more of your wonderful verse novels.

Dee:)

P.S. Next week we’re looking at a different form of poetry – Bush Poetry – and resident expert, Stephen Whiteside will be here to share his tips with us.

 

Writing Clementine – With Kate Gordon

9781743316634I just finished Writing Clementine by Kate Gordon, and it has been a while since I’ve read such a beautiful and uplifting book.

In a world where so many things seem to be beyond our control, Clementine is a character who embraces life with bravery and an optimism and imagination that can see her through most situations.

Her life is not without problems. She doesn’t fit in with the cool crowd, she blames herself for her brother’s withdrawal from the world, and her perfect sister Sophie seems to be falling apart. On top of this, Clementine seems to be losing her best friends, and life just keeps getting more and more complicated.

An extraordinary teacher and a geeky guy in a pork pie hat might just be what she needs to drag her out of the mire. But Clementine will have to draw on her courage and her unique strengths, and self knowledge.

Clementine is a fixer, but one of the things she has to learn is that the only person whose life you can truly change is your own.

There are so many things I loved about this book. I really connected with Clementine as I think most readers will. Teens will relate to Clementine’s struggles as she tries to juggle all the priorities and people in her life while on her own personal journey to find out who she really is.

This books is so authentic – the characters are vulnerable and multidimensional and the issues they face are very real. The dialogue, relationships and interaction between the characters will resonate well with teens.

There’s a lot happening in Writing Clementine, but each story thread reaches a believable and satisfying conclusion.

The writing is lyrical and the book is interspersed with beautiful poems written in free verse.

There’s also some great humour and a lightness that stops the book from feeling over laden with the number of serious issues it raises.

Clementine’s growth as a character throughout this novel is empowering. She’s a great role model, particularly for girls who are trying to find their own individuality in a world that values those who are thin and ‘cooler than cool’.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

SONY DSCKate Gordon grew up in a very booky house, with two librarian parents, in a small town by the sea in Tasmania. She spent her childhood searching for fossils at Fossil Bluff, wondering about the doctor who rode his horse off the cliff at Doctor’s Rocks, and eating the best chips in the world at the fish and chip shop at the wharf. She also spent much of her time dreaming about being a writer.

Kate’s first book, Three Things About Daisy Blue – a Young Adult novel about travel, love, self-acceptance and letting go – was published in the Girlfriend series by Allen and Unwinin 2010. Her second book, Thyla, was published by Random House Australia in April 2011 and her third book, Vulpi, the sequel to Thyla, was published in April 2012. Her latest book,Writing Clementine, was published in June 2014 by Allen and Unwin.

Kate has generously agreed to share her tips on writing Clementine and her inspiration for the book.

KATE’S INSPIRATION AND TIPS FOR WRITING CLEMENTINE

This book means more to me than anything I’ve written before. For one thing, it was the first book I completed after becoming a mother – it was the book that told me I could do both. I could still write. It is also the book that is closest to what I want to be writing – the direction I want my writing “career” (for want of a better word), to take. And Clementine is the most “me” of any of my characters. And it’s set on the North West Coast of Tassie, my childhood home. I’m proud of the writing. I’m grateful to the talented people I worked with to create it. It’s been the perfect experience and I’m so thankful to have gone through it.

I started writing the book in the first place to work through a difficult time in my personal life. Writing has always been my therapy and this was never wore true than during the process of Writing Clementine. It started out being a way to examine one issue – mental illness – that was touching my life at the time. It ended up being an unravelling of all sorts of experiences from my past. And I just fell in love with Clem as I was writing her. She inspired me to be braver and to smile and even laugh when it was the last thing I felt like doing. I will always be grateful to her, to Allen and Unwin, and to this book, for bringing the sunshine back into my life.

Five Writing Tips

  1. Don’t be afraid to write what you know. It’s the biggest writing cliché, but your story is interesting. Nobody else has lived your life. Don’t ever think that your experiences aren’t compelling enough to turn into fiction.
  2. Don’t be afraid to tackle tough issues with lightness and even humour. Laughter is what gets us through the darkest of times. Sometimes it is finding the ability to laugh at the tough times that helps us emerge from them.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make your characters both powerful and confident and flawed. We’re all both.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Clementine went through many drafts before it hit its stride. Write every day. Set yourself a word limit and reach it, no matter how many rubbish words make it up. Rubbish words are better than no words at all. You can always rewrite them tomorrow. That’s the point of tomorrows: to rewrite our yesterdays!
  5. Don’t be afraid to swim against the stream. Just because everyone is writing about vampires or zombies or dystopias, it doesn’t mean you have to. Do your own thing. Be genuine. That’s what will catch an editor’s eye – they can spot a mile away when you’re not being true to yourself.

Writing Clementine is available at all good book stores or online through Allen and Unwin here.

Thanks for visiting, Kate and sharing your wise words with us. I particularly like the tip about swimming against the stream. As writers, we have the power to influence change through what we do, which is why it’s important for us to do our own thing.

Happy writing:)

Dee

 

 

Writing a Strong Character Voice

IMAG4333Character Voice is such a difficult thing to define in writing. It’s made up of so many elements. It’s the way a character talks and thinks, it’s what they believe and how this governs what they do, it’s what makes them unique, its what makes them stay in a reader’s mind long after they have finished the book.

We are a product of our past, our present and our hopes for the future. So too are our characters, and these things are reflected in who they are and in how they express themselves.

Voice is what makes your characters memorable, it’s the way in which they speak to and connect with your readers. It’s expressed through their internal thoughts, their dialogue and their actions and reactions.

Your character’s voice also reflects your voice as a writer because our characters are like our children, they are a reflection of who we are.

Don’t be put off if you don’t find your character’s voice straight away.

IMAG6942Often, it’s not till I finish writing a novel that I realise I have finally found my character’s voice, and I have to go back and rework the start to reflect all the things I have discovered during the writing process about my character,  their internal and external motivations, what makes them unique and who they really are.

That’s why I recommend you don’t spend too long fiddling with the start of your novel, just write it to the end, then go back and rework the start. Fixating on the beginning and ‘trying to get it right’ can prevent you from moving forward with your story.

Below is an example to show you what I mean about being able to strengthen your character’s voice once you know more about them. These excerpts are from the start of my YA suspense novel, The Chat Room.

EARLY VERSION – (About 2 years ago)

When I walk out the front door for good, Dad will have to trust that I’ll be okay. He’ll have to trust that he taught me to be smart about stuff – that I value my life too much to throw it away.

He’s a policeman who’s ‘seen bad things’, but like I keep telling him, “that doesn’t mean they’re going to happen in our family”. If Mum wasn’t on my side, I’d never be allowed to go anywhere. I definitely wouldn’t be having my seventeenth birthday party at our house tonight – with no parental supervision.

I’m still amazed it’s happening. Mind you, it took about twenty “you can trust me” promises before Dad finely caved – and that was only thanks to Peter Chew’s self help book, “Build your teen’s confidence through trust”.

Trust is my promise to keep my little sister alcohol free, drug free and safe at my party. Trust is what stands between me, and being grounded for life. Trust is my friend and my nemesis. If anything goes wrong here, I’m screwed.

I won’t let that happen. I’m not stupid. I haven’t made this party public. Just invited close mates and a couple of online friends. That’s how I want it – laid back – no big deal. Just a bunch of guys and girls, hanging out and having fun.

I’m so determined to keep it casual that I’m still sitting at my computer two hours before people are due to arrive. My bedroom door bursts open and Mum walks in, wearing her “in a hurry frown”.

CURRENT VERSION

Five years ago nobody thought I’d live to celebrate my seventeenth birthday. But here I am, eating chocolate cake, enough to overdose on, and unless you know where to look, you can’t even see my scars.

Even more of a miracle, I’ve convinced my over protective policeman dad to let me have a seventeenth birthday party – just a small one – no mess – no loud music – and no morons. My fifty handpicked guests have been chosen for their potential to have fiasco free fun. I had a bit of extra leverage this year. It’s my parents’ twentieth wedding anniversary today, so Mum demanded a celebration of her own and talked Dad into taking her out for dinner.

I shove the last chocolate crumbs into my mouth, and place my empty plate next to the silver tray with the knife that Mum used to cut the giant cake slabs.

Lia’s plate is empty too. “I’ll load them into the dishwasher.” She leans across to take my plate and accidentally bumps the knife and it clatters off the silver tray, straight onto my foot that I left bare to allow the nail polish on my toes to dry.

“Shit!” I look down to see blood seeping out.

Lia’s eyes go wide. “I’m so sorry. I’m such a klutz.”

Dad bends down to look. “It’s okay. It’s just a small cut.”

Mum comes back with disinfectant and a pressure bandage.

Lia crouches down for a closer look. “Oh Mindy, I can’t believe I did that. I’ve ruined your birthday.”

I put my arm around her. “No, you haven’t. You’ll hardly even see the bandage once I put my shoes on.”

“But it must hurt.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve had worse.”

Everyone goes quiet. I guess like me, they’re remembering back to the accident, to the time I almost lost my life.

COMPARISON

Although the first version gives the reader an idea of who Mindy is now, it doesn’t really give you any idea of her deeper motivations, of what she might have gone through to get to this point, of what has made her the way she is today.

There’s also a lot of ‘telling’ in the first version which is more about me discovering who the character is for myself rather than revealing her to the reader.

In the second version, the reader learns about Mindy’s accident which has a huge influence on who Mindy is now and on what she will do. It adds another layer to her character and gives the reader more reason to connect with her – to care about what will happen to her in this story.

Seeing Mindy’s interaction with her family also gives us a stronger sense of who she is.

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverTIPS ON FINDING  YOUR CHARACTER’S VOICE

Don’t be afraid to try new things with your characters to find out who they really are.

  1. Interview your character and don’t be afraid to ask them curly questions
  2. Get them to write letters to you
  3. Get them to write letters to other characters in the story
  4. Explore their past
  5. Explore their relationships with other characters
  6. Ask them to tell you the most memorable thing about their character
  7. Make a character collage
  8. Put your character in difficult situations and ask them what they would do

If you have any other tips on how you find your character’s voice, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

Tuesday Writing Tips – I’ve finished writing my book, what do I do now?

I’ve finished writing my book, what do I do now?

I’m often asked this question, particularly by new writers who have finished writing their first manuscript and are unsure about what to do next.

I’ve recently completed the next draft of my YA thriller, The Chat Room, so I thought that now might be a good time to address this ‘what next’ issue on my blog.

Before you even consider sending your manuscript to a publisher or an agent, it will need to be edited so it sparkles. Don’t be impatient. Don’t waste your chance to impress – make your book the best it can be before you send it out.

Have you edited your manuscript to make it tantalising?

Have you edited your manuscript to make it tantalising?

Here’s how.

STEP 1 – BACK TO THE BEGINNING

Revisit the start. I find that I write myself into my books, that I don’t quite have the character’s voice right when I start a manuscript, but by the end of it I know exactly who he or she is. So I always go back and check to make sure that the start is consistent with the rest of the manuscript – that my character’s voice is unique and strong right from the first page.

STEP 2 – EDITING

People edit in so many different ways. I’ve blogged about this before so rather than go over old ground, here are some previous posts that you might find helpful.

Some articles on editing:

  1. Editing the shape of your novel
  2. Editing language and dialogue
  3. Editing bit by bit

Online editing resources

There are also some online resources to help you with the editing process.

1. Self Editing Tips and Techniques Webinar – July 15 (US time) – July 16 (Melbourne time) THIS IS TOMORROW

In fact, tomorrow at 3.00am Australian time, I’ll be attending this course through Writer’s Digest, How to Be Your Own Editor: Self-Editing Tips and Techniques from Editor and Revision Maven Harold Underdown.

If you’re interested in booking in, you’ll find out more here.

If you miss this course, don’t worry, I’m sure Harold will be offering other courses down the track.

2. Revise Your Novel in a Month

Literary agent, Jill Corcoran and Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson have joined forces to create A Path to Publishing which aims to increase writer’s understanding of concept, plotting, character development, scene development, action and emotional arc development, as well has how to pitch your work to agents, editors, and readers.

They have developed a Revise Your Novel in a Month video series to assist writers with the editing process.

You can also follow Jill and Martha’s Facebook page.

STEP 3 – GETTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT READ BY OTHERS

Critique Partners

When I’m happy with my manuscript I get someone else to read it. Even if you’re an experienced writer, it is difficult to distance yourself from your work enough to be objective – to identify things that need fixing.

I’m lucky to have an amazing critique partner, the talented and perceptive Alison Reynolds who I regularly exchange manuscripts with.

The right critique partner will be someone you can trust to be completely honest with you about your work. They will be someone who wants your success as much as they want their own.

You can find a critique partner by attending writer’s conferences, joining writer’s groups and organisations and networking online.

I’ve set up a page on this blog where you can find a critique partner. You just register your details and wait for someone to contact you, or you can contact someone whose details you see on the Find A Crit Buddy page. A number of successful writing partnerships have been formed here.

A manuscript assessor must be someone who 'gets' your book.

A manuscript assessor must be someone who ‘gets’ your book.

Manuscript Assessments

In the past I’ve paid hundreds of dollars in manuscript assessments or appraisals and to be honest, I don’t think it was money well spent. None of these assessments have led to books being published, and I haven’t come away from them feeling like I learnt a lot to apply to my next manuscript.

Having said that, I think that manuscript assessments can be good if you have something specific you want the assessor to look at – if you are having a particular issue with a manuscript.

But if you do decide to get an assessment done, here’s what I recommend:

1. Insist that the assessor be well published or have extensive editing experience in the genre and readership you are writing for.

2. Get a partial manuscript to start with so that you can see whether the assessor is doing what you need them to do – this means you don’t waste hundreds of dollars on an assessment from someone who just doesn’t ‘get’ your manuscript or isn’t providing the depth of analysis you need.

My Mentorship through SCBWI Nevada was amazing

My mentorship with Ellen Hopkins through SCBWI Nevada was amazing

Mentorships

Mentorships are where you get an advisor who not only analyses your manuscript but they also guide you through the publishing process.

Mentorships are far more flexible than manuscript assessments, and a good mentor will not just help your manuscript, they will help you develop as a writer.

A mentor can also give you advice about where to send your manuscript and how to approach publishers.

In Australia, mentorships are available through the ASA (Australian Society of Authors), and you can also apply for professional development funding through CAL. I could not have done my SCBWI Nevada mentorship without their assistance. SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is a global organisation and they offer mentorships and other professional development opportunities.

Once you are satisfied your manuscript is complete and perfect and you’ve had it read by people who concur, it’s time to send it off into the literary world.   Good luck:)

If you have any other tips on what to do with your manuscript after it’s finished, please feel free to include them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and editing,

Dee