Monthly Manuscript Makeover – Tips to Help You With Your Work in Progress

Author, Taryn Bashford has asked for some tips on her current work-in-progress.

Taryn, I hope you find my suggestions helpful. If you have some suggestions of your own for Taryn, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Taryn is a YA writer,  and winner of a couple of writing awards ie Varuna House and Scribe Publishing. Thanks to CYA Brisbane where she had the chance to meet an agent, she is represented by Alex Adsett Literary Agency. This is her second completed YA novel, the first is out on submission.

The following excerpt is from Taryn’s manuscript, The Purple Wars

The concept

For 17 year old tennis superstar Harper, winning Wimbledon is a challenge and prying open the dark secrets that belong to her doubles partner Colt, is confronting. But hiding her love for her twin sister’s boyfriend is an epic test that starts a war. In trying to put their lives back together again, Harper needs to win the war between what people want and what people need.

Taryn’s question

It’s the first page of the novel – yes the one we all agonise over… so wondering if I’m pulling the reader in, setting up the character and plot in an interesting way…

The excerpt

The dining room is where the ghosts and monsters play. That’s what Jacob from next door said back then, when we were six years old, our necks curling around the half open door, our eyes blurting fright. Even now it’s my least favourite room in our house. It’s where adults belong, where serious topics are discussed, where it smells of calla lilies instead of brownies and popcorn, and it’s the only room in the house where I can’t see the Purple Woods.

So when Dad and Coach Kominsky invite me to take a seat at the solid jarrah table, the cream cushioned chairs imprinted with the bums of ghosts, I wrap my arms around myself and respond with a brisk, ‘I’m good.’

Dad’s grey eyes can’t seem to find anywhere comfortable to rest. He tries my face, but that’s like staring into the sun. He slides a zapped glance toward Coach Kominsky instead. Coach K has been the sun for these past few years, our lives revolving around his every word and action, so that’s no good either. Dad’s gaze weaves out the window into the afternoon sky, glazed behind his frameless spectacles. He’s doing a good job of keeping his feelings locked up; when I first joined them in the dining room there was a hurricane happening behind his eyes, the devastation rippling off him like heat waves in a desert.

My feedback

The dining room is where the ghosts and monsters play.
Great opening line, but is there a way to relate this to your character’s experience so you can bring her into being the main focus straight away?

That’s what Jacob from next door said back then, when we were six years old, our necks curling around the half open door, our eyes blurting fright.

Another great line. I really get the feeling of fear. Perhaps you don’t need, ‘back then, when we were six years old’. You could just say, That’s what Jacob from next door said when we were six years old,

Even now it’s my least favourite room in our house. It’s where adults belong (Not sure you need ‘where adults belong’ and it’s more like something a very young kid might say.), where serious topics are discussed, where it smells of calla lilies instead of brownies and popcorn, and it’s the only room in the house where I can’t see the Purple Woods. I think that, “it’s the only room etc” deserves a sentence on its own.

So when Dad and Coach Kominsky invite me to take a seat at the solid jarrah table, the cream cushioned chairs imprinted with the bums of ghosts, I wrap my arms around myself and respond with a brisk, ‘I’m good.’

You mention the ghosts again here – and this sounds more like the ‘voice’ of your character. Is there a reason you didn’t start here? It would also connect readers with your character straight away.

Here’s what I mean:

When Dad and Coach Kominsky invite me to take a seat at the solid jarrah dining room table, the cream cushioned chairs imprinted with the bums of ghosts, I wrap my arms around myself and respond with a brisk, ‘I’m good.’ The dining room smells of calla lilies instead of brownies and popcorn. It’s the only room in the house where I can’t see the Purple Woods.

Dad’s grey eyes can’t seem to find anywhere comfortable to rest. He tries my face, but that’s like staring into the sun. He slides a zapped glance toward Coach Kominsky instead. Coach K has been the sun for these past few years, our lives revolving around his every word and action, so that’s no good either. Dad’s gaze weaves out the window into the afternoon sky, glazed behind his frameless spectacles. He’s doing a good job of keeping his feelings locked up; when I first joined them in the dining room there was a hurricane happening behind his eyes, the devastation rippling off him like heat waves in a desert.

This paragraph takes us away from the main character and changes the focus to Dad. I think it could be more through your main character’s eyes.

Here’s an example,

“I can hardly bring myself to look at Coach or Dad. Coach is glaring at me. Dad’s head is bowed, his devastation ripples off him like heat waves in a desert. My chair makes a groaning noise as I fidget in my seat.”

This is just an example, Taryn to show you how you can swing it back to your main character’s point of view.

Perhaps this is also the point where you can introduce the main character’s name; perhaps someone says something to her and calls her by her name. You need to ground the reader in your story and your character, and name and age is always a good start although it’s not essential to give all this information all at once. But the reader needs to have an idea from the start who she is, and why they should care what happens to her – it should be clear what gender your character is.

Also, your imagery is fabulous, but when you put a hurricane and a heat wave in the desert in the same sentence, this can create confusing imagery in the mind of the reader. Each of these images on its own is very strong so you don’t want them competing with each other.

Make sure the meaning is clear for the reader. When you use long complicated sentences it can create ambiguous meaning.

For example, “He’s doing a good job of keeping his feelings locked up; when I first joined them in the dining room”, could be construed to mean that the character is joining her father’s feelings in the dining room.

You can avoid this sort of thing by showing the action as it happens.

For example, if you showed your character’s reaction as soon as she entered the dining room.

I think you could also show more of your character’s reactions to the whole location and situation. Do her eyes dart about? Does she sit on the edge of her seat? Does she think she hears something? Is the room dark? Is it closing in on her?

When your main character wraps her arms around herself, that’s the only reaction you’re showing us, yet you are showing how Dad feels. It makes your character seem a bit detached.

You need to get right into your character’s head right from the start. You want the reader to connect with your character and her turmoil, not her dad’s.

I hope you find this helpful, Taryn. If you have have questions or aren’t sure what I mean, feel free to comment on this post, and I will respond.

Happy writing:)

Dee

ABOUT THE MONTHLY MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER

If you’d like to get some feedback on an excerpt of your manuscript, Here’s what you have to do.

  1. Send me 200 words of the manuscript with your question or outline of what you need help with OR
  1. Alternatively, you can just send me the writing question itself. For example, “My main character isn’t very likeable, what can I do about it?”

Email your 200 word writing piece or your question or both, together with a paragraph about yourself and a paragraph about your work in progress.

Also, if you’d like to see a blog post about a particular topic, please feel free to make suggestions.

Email to dee@deescribe.com.au

Paris Hunting – Introducing Cara Jamieson – An Emerging New Character

There’s something really exciting about delving into the minds and lives of fictional characters.

My good author friend, Sheryl Gwyther was invited to participate in a Character Blog Hop by fabulous author, Wendy Orr whose post explores her famous character, Nim.

On Sheryl’s blog, she shares wonderful insights about her compelling character, Adversity McAlpine. I love Addie and her story set in NSW during the depression.

Now Sheryl has asked me to lift the lid on one of my characters so I’ve chosen to talk about a new character from my current work in progress, Paris Hunting.

Paris Hunting is a Young Adult adventure/suspense set in Paris in the present day.

IMG_0048My main character, Cara Jamieson is living in my head at the moment, but I’m looking forward to finding out more about her and her life when I spend time in Paris in April.

What is your character’s name?

Cara Jamieson

Is this character based on you?

Not consciously, but I guess parts of her are. She’s inquisitive like me. She’s quite headstrong and she’s adventurous.

I have never lived the kind of life Cara lives, but maybe a part of me always wanted to.

How old is the character?

Cara is 17 years-old.

What should we know about the character?

If you met Cara it wouldn’t take you long to get to know her. She’s an outgoing, honest kind of girl.

Cara is living in Paris because her father has a diplomatic posting there. She’s an only child so her friends are important to her.

She has just discovered that her Great grandfather, Phillipe Gautier was an important member of the French Resistance in World War 2. Her Great grandfather was a taxidermist (the research on this character has been interesting to say the least) and there’s a rumour that he concealed something important inside one of the animals he stuffed. Cara is determined to find out what it was and where it is now, but the only clue she has is a letter written by Phillipe just before he was murdered.

imagesCara has travelled a lot because of her parents’ work and her friends are the kids of other diplomats. She is someone who likes to learn about and immerse herself in other cultures and traditions.

Cara is a daredevil, and is always challenging her friends to something extreme. Her latest dare involves breaking into the Paris Museum of Hunting to take a selfie with a unicorn horn.

What she doesn’t know is that the Museum holds a clue to her family’s past, and finding out about it could put her life and the lives of her friends at risk.

Cara is very determined and single minded and is hard to talk out of a course of action, even if it’s dangerous

What are your character’s personal goals? 

Cara wants to find this thing that was so important to her Great Grandfather that it probably got him killed. Cara also wants to fulfil her need for adventure.

Where can we find out more about the book?

Paris Hunting is still a work in progress but I’ll be sharing more news about it on this blog as the story develops.

My good writer friends, Alison Reynolds and Sally Murphy have some great new books coming out this year so I’m tagging them to share their character’s stories.

Be watching their blogs at Alison Reynolds and Sally Murphy to find out more.

 

Sally Murphy – Researching Historical Fiction

SallyMurphyToday I’m very pleased to welcome writerly friend and author of many fabulous books, Sally Murphy. Sally’s latest book, 1915 has just been released and she’s here to share her tips on researching historical fiction.

1915, is my first foray into novel-length historical fiction. Historical fiction uses real events, but blends them with fiction. Even when we write about real people, we can’t always know exactly what they said, and certainly not what they were thinking. And, of course, often historical fiction uses fictional characters, set amongst real events and/or time periods. This presents a different set of challenges than writing contemporary fiction, or fantasy. The writer of historical fiction must also be a researcher.

With that in mind, here are my five tips for researching historical fiction.

  1. Once you have an idea, start with the easy sources. In my case, I wanted to write about Australian soldiers in 1915. The first two things I did were visit my library and use the internet. At the library I borrowed every book they had on Gallipoli and World War One. Some of these dealt with the topic in depth, others were short and focussed only on a few key points. Online I searched key terms such as “Gallipoli’, “AIF” and “Australian Soldiers’. Really basic terms that gave me way too much information. But from browsing the books and the websites I started to see recurring themes and also learnt lots of little pieces of information, which helped me to refine what it was I wanted to write about. These ‘easy’ sources are only a beginning – you will need to go further and further and further, but they will give you a very productive starting point.
  2. Deepen your search by looking at primary and secondary sources. These are things that come directly from the time, or from recollection of the time. In my case, I realised I wanted to write about someone from the 11th Battalion of the AIF, because I’m from Western Australia, and so were these men. So I went and read their unit diary, which outlined key events – where they were and when, what key battles they took place in, and so on. Other sources I read included the diaries of Captain Bean, who was Australia’s official war correspondent, and who I wanted to include as a character in my book. One of my favourite sources was Trove, the National Library’s digitised collection of newspapers, which allowed me to see what was being reported about the war as it happened.
  3. Create a timeline, and find a way of organising all the information you collect. I started with a basic timeline of the main events of the Gallipoli campaign. Then, as I learned about the 11th, I added their dates in. Later, when I started to think about what was happening on the home front (back in Australia), I added more events. I printed and photocopied lots of information and notes that I’d made, and I set up a file, with a divider for each month of the year. This meant that as I wrote, I could look up what was happening to my character as well as what was happening elsewhere.
  4. Don’t just look for key events. Remember that this is fiction. It needs to be like real life. In between big events like landings and battles, there are small events like cooking dinner, or writing a letter. Although you might make these up for your character, you’ll find lots of mention of these in your research, which will help you understand, for example, what writing a letter was like in the mud and chaos of Gallipoli. Then, when you’re writing, your story will be both interesting and believable. I would have loved to give Stanley, my character, a nice chair to sit in, and the time to write long letters home. Instead, I had to remember he would be snatching time in a dugout, maybe even scrabbling for paper.
  5. Remember you can’t put everything into one story. If you have a viewpoint character, it is hard to recount the events that he or she couldn’t have witnessed. I couldn’t put my soldier, Stanley, in the midst of every battle. At the same time, the point of the series is to explore Australia’s experiences in World War 1. So, I had to consider what Stanley might have seen or done himself, and how he might learn about other events. He does hear about things outside his own experience, particularly through letters from his sister Elizabeth, and by meeting Charles Bean, but it isn’t a complete history of Gallipoli. So as you research, focus on the events which will build the story you are trying to tell.

1915Overall, writing historical fiction can be really rewarding. Once I’d started researching I found it difficult to stop. In fact, even though the story is finished and published, I am still learning new things about the war. Along the way I also discovered that I quite like the challenge of this novel form, so perhaps 1915 won’t be only historical novel.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Dee.

My pleasure, Sally. I must admit, Trove is a favourite of mine too:)

ABOUT THE BOOK

When Australia throws its support behind Britain in its fight against Germany, young teacher Stan Moore is one of the first to join up, swapping the classroom for adventure in Europe. But the 11th Battalion is sent with the newly formed Anzac Corp to Gallipoli, where Stan is confronted by the hard lessons of war. Though conditions are dismal and death is everywhere, so is the humour and bravery that is the true spirit of Anzac.

Part of the Australia’s Great War series from Scholastic Australia, 1915 was released in time to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the landing of the first ANZACs at Gallipoli.

You can learn more about 1915 at Sally’s website or her Facebook page.

Monthly Manuscript Makeover at DeeScribe Writing

IMAG7613Happy New Year and I hope your 2015 is off to a happy and inspiring start.

This year I’ve decided to try something new on this blog to help writers who are wrestling with their manuscripts.

It’s the Monthly Manuscript Makeover, and it’s your chance to have your burning questions answered or perhaps get assistance with a problem you are wrestling with.

Every month on DeeScribe Writing, I’ll give one blog reader a chance to get feedback on a writing dilemma or question to help that next draft of your manuscript sparkle.

Here’s what you have to do.

  1. Send me 200 words of the manuscript with your question or outline of what you need help with OR
  1. Alternatively, you can just send me the writing question itself. For example, “My main character isn’t very likeable, what can I do about it?”

Email your 200 word writing piece or your question or both, together with a paragraph about yourself and a paragraph about your work in progress.

Also, if you’d like to see a blog post about a particular topic, please feel free to make suggestions.

Email to dee@deescribe.com.au

Happy writing:)

Dee

Squish Rabbit Is Now Even Smaller to Fit in Your Christmas Stocking

Lovers of Squish Rabbit will be pleased to know that he now comes in a board book, the perfect size for a Christmas stocking.  So he’ll also fit in your handbag or backpack to be read anywhere, anytime.

AWARDS

Squish Rabbit was shortlisted for the CBCA Crichton Award for New Illustrators in 2012.

The same year it was also awarded a CBCA Early Childhood Notable Book.

ABOUT SQUISH

Squish Rabbit is a little rabbit with a BIG problem…he doesn’t have a friend.

Simply told, this book is so insightful. It delves right into the heart and mind of a small child, making up a pretend friend because he doesn’t have a real one.

Then he meets a squirrel who invites him to play, but can Squish save his new friend from danger?

Squish has a very large heart but nobody can see it, because they don’t look at him, seem to notice he’s there. As small children, how often do we feel unnoticed and afraid in the big wide world?

Although Squish is a rabbit, his feelings, emotions and fears are very genuinely those of a small child.

Squish thought no one was watching so he threw a tantrum.

This response is so childlike yet even when he is scowling and throwing himself on the ground, just like a small child, Squish manages to look cute.

The authenticity of Squish’s dilemma and the way he handles it makes the story all the more poignant.

Kath

Katherine Battersby, creator of Squish Rabbit

Squish Rabbit is written and illustrated by Kath Battersby who has clearly captured her characters feelings of being alone and small in a big world. Even as adults, we still experience these feelings and this is probably one of the reasons this book will appeal to adults as well.

She has an obsession with textures and she has brought this to the story, using all sorts of materials to provide the layered illustrations in the book. Here use of this method is combined with clean lines and bright colours to provide an original and striking look for Squish Rabbit.

The words and pictures work in perfect harmony in this book. So much is left unsaid in the text and told in the pictures.

The illustrations are deceptively simple, yet they convey so much. The text is sparse with not a word out of place, not a word wasted.

Squish Rabbit is written and illustrated by Katherine Battersby and published in Australia by UQP.

The Squish Rabbit Board Book has been released by popular demand.  Teachers’ notes are available:  www.uqp.com.au

 

A Path to Publishing – Revise Your Novel in a Month

I don’t normally talk about writing products on this blog. In fact, I don’t think I EVER have before, but I found the PlotWriMo Revise Your Novel in a Month videos so helpful that I wanted to spread the word.

Jill

Jill Corcoran

The videos have been produced by US Literary Agent, Jill Corcoran and the Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson. They have put together the PlotWriMo program to help authors get their book published and to learn how to revise their own novels to make their manuscripts shine.

I found the PlotWriMo videos are also great for when you’re starting on a new project and trying to work out what will happen in your story and why.

There are eight videos in the PlotWriMo series, and you can work through them at your own pace, in a month or longer if you need to.

I used the videos to revise two of my novels – a young adult thriller, Submerged and a middle grade survival story called Game On.

I always do a lot of work on my characters so I feel I know them quite well when I’m writing my story.

What the PlotWriMo videos did for me though was to bring my characters into sharp focus so that the reader could understand why the protagonist was taking the journey.  They helped me to identify my characters greatest goal – the one that was bigger than themselves – and the flaw that was stopping them from achieving it.

Through the use of Energetic Markers (described fully in the videos), I identified the most important scenes and honed in on them. I identified the lowest point in the story for my character – when their flaw has brought them to their knees – when they have to acknowledge their responsibility for what has happened in the story.  This is an important point in a story that I don’t think I had identified before – it’s the point where the character acknowledges who they are, and that they will need to change in order to achieve their goals.

Martha

Martha

Martha Alderson’s plot planner helped me to identify and develop this vital scene in my stories.

MY FAVOURITE TIPS FROM THE PlotWriMo VIDEOS

  1. You need to keep putting your characters under pressure and see how they behave
  2. You need to have an understanding for all your main characters of their flaws, strengths, loves, hates and fears – these are what will drive their motivations and what happens in the story.
  3. In the last quarter of your book, your character has to make a conscious decision to change and do things differently, and this will be what makes them successful in reaching their goal.
  4. Characters should be introduced into your story in order of importance – but not too many at the start – don’t overwhelm your readers with information.
  5. Each quarter in your story needs a big turning point and by the end, your character has to be able to do something that they weren’t able to do for their entire story.
  6. By the end of your story, your character has to have made a major transformation from who they were when the story started.
  7. A scene needs to work on seven levels (you’ll find out more about this in the videos).

There are so many more great tips in the videos about things like cause and effect, where to start and end your story, strengthening voice and adding back story, just to name a few.

Watch video 1 for free here.

Here’s How the Video Series Work

Each video includes an in-depth look at the specific elements promised and how to consider these essential story principles as you write, revise, rewrite, sell your story. Writing assignment(s) guide you with step-by-step instruction.

Whether you decide to watch all the videos in a row and then go back and do the exercises or jump right in to the 1st video’s exercise, work at your own pace and take more or less time on the step-by-step exercises. The series are designed to fit into even the busiest of schedules. Sign-in and watch video lectures, complete homework assignments, and ask questions in a public forum on a timetable that fits your needs.

As well as the Novel Writing Videos, Martha and Jill also offer a series of videos for picture book writers and a number of other services to writers. You can find out more by joining their A Path to Publishing Facebook Group.

A Path to Publishing

WIN!!!

Comment on this post, and enter Jill and Martha’s competition to win a FREE observation spot in an upcoming OFFICE HOURS workshop (a $45 value).

A PATH TO PUBLISHING BLOG TOUR

Find out more about Jill and Martha and how they can help your writing by following their blog tour. Here’s where it’s stopping:

December 1 https://www.facebook.com/nordlinger
December 1 http://writingclassesforkids.com
December 1 http://inkandangst.com/
December 1 taffyscandy.blogspot.com
December 1 Rebeccalacko.wordpress.com
December 2 https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com
December 2 http://1st10pages.com
December 2 http://thestorytellersscroll.blogspot.com
December 2 www.katherine-hajer.com
December 3 http://www.jordanrosenfeld.net
December 3 http://robyn-campbell.blogspot.com/
December 3 http://aditebanerjie.com
December 4 lje1.wordpress.com
December 4 http://writtenbymikey.blogspot.com/
December 4 www.PenInHerHand.com
December 5 www.ChristineSang.com
December 5 Susan P

 

 

 

 

 

Withering-By-Sea – Writer/Illustrator Jude Rossell Shares Her Tips

Judith Rossell photoJudith Rossell is the author-illustrator of  Withering-By-Sea, a truly beautiful book set in Victorian times and presented in hardback with stunning illustrations and a royal blue ribbon bookmark.

It was part of hotly contested auction in the US, and sold in a lucrative two-book deal to Simon and Schuster America.

Jude is the author of 11 books and illustrator of 80 more, and a colleague and friend, and I’m thrilled to welcome her to my blog to share her writing and illustrating tips, and more about her new book.

 Jude’s Tips

  1. It’s going to be difficult. That’s ok. Keep going.
  2. Ignore that voice in your head that tells you it’s too hard, or that you’re not good enough, or that you should be scrubbing out the shower instead. Whatever it’s saying, it’s not helping. But at the same time, be tough on yourself, and always look for ways to make your writing better. Keep going.
  3. If you’re mainly an illustrator, avoid writing scenes only because you want to illustrate them. The characters and the story should always come first! Also, I’ve found that making little drawings of characters and scenes along the way is helpful and inspiring. And keep going!
  4. Sometimes you’ll find you want to completely rewrite whole sections of your story, and you’re resisting because it took so long to write in the first place. Remember: if in doubt, chuck it out. Probably. And keep going.
  5. When you finally get to the end, you’ll want to send it off straight away. If you can make yourself wait for a few weeks (or a bit longer) and come back to the story, you’ll find heaps of things you want to change. And this will make your story better.

ABOUT WITHERING-BY-SEA

withering front coverWithering-By-Sea is a beautifully illustrated junior novel that lovers of intrigue and adventure will not be able to put down.

Eleven-year-old Stella Montgomery leads a miserable existence with her three awful aunts, Aunt Condolence, Aunt Temperance and Aunt Deliverance, living at the damp and dull Hotel Majestic.

But things become far from dull when Stella witnesses a murder.

This sets in motion an adventure more terrifying and more wonderful than she could ever have hoped for.

What’s in the bottle that Mr Filbert hid before he was killed and why does the Professor want it so badly?

Will he find out that Stella now has it, and come after her?

Of course he will, and that’s where the action for Stella really starts.

There’s so much to love about Withering-by-Sea apart from the great tension and fast paced action.

Stella is a very likeable character. Readers will have sympathy for her circumstances, but will also admire the courage with which she tackles her unexpected adventure, and the fact that witnessing the murder and prior events, have put her life in danger.

She is a smart and very level-headed young woman who struggles to cope with her aunts’ attitude that ‘children should be seen and not heard.’

Withering-by-Sea is a dreary coastal town, but this story is far from dreary. The town provides a perfect setting for intrigue, adventure and betrayal.

Set in Victorian times, this book is full of atmosphere, enhanced by author/illustrator Jude Rossell’s gorgeously detailed pictures.

There are so many great characters for readers to connect with apart from Stella. There’s feisty Gert who is captured along with Stella, the evil Professor, and clever Mr Capelli and his singing cats.

Withering-by-Sea is an historical adventure with a hint of magic. There’s also gentle humour, and authentic and endearing relationships between Stella and Gert, and Stella and Mr Capelli and his cats.

I’d love to see these characters featured in future Stella Montgomery intrigues.

Withering-by-Sea is a book of substance – it’s entertaining and hard to put down but there is also some complex exploration of relationships, and the vulnerability of children and their openness to things that adults often close their minds to.

While this mystery comes to a satisfactory conclusion, the reader is left with unanswered questions that will make them want to pick up the next Stella Montgomery book. For instance, who was Stella’s mother and what really happened to her, and how did Stella end up living with the dreadful aunts? Stella also has a special ability that she must have inherited from someone.

I can’t wait to read what Stella does next.

It’s easy to see why Withering-by-Sea was so sought after when it went to auction in the US.

It is published in Australia by ABC Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Judith Rossell is represented by Jill Corcoran Literary Agent. You can find out more about Jude and her works here.