2012 – The Year of Possibilities and Learning

Last year I had a list of goals a mile long. It was my year of chasing rainbows.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t been back to revisit my goals. The thing about writing goals is that they’re not easily measurable. You can’t say, I’m going to have a book published this year (unless it’s been scheduled) because there are so many factors that are out of your hands.

So, when it comes to writing goals, I look at them more as a means to get me to focus on what I want to achieve for the year.

I guess it’s a bit like doing an elevator pitch. If I can’t contain my goals to a paragraph then chances are I’ve made them too complex and that makes them hard to achieve.

So, if I could sum up my goals for this year, they would be to make the most of opportunities and learn as much as I can about my craft.

2012 is going to be my Year of Possibilities & Learning.

I have a number of manuscripts polished and ready to go. So this is going to be my year of getting them ‘out there’, of biting the bullet and being brave, and submitting. (They are my possibilities)

It’s going to be my year for exploring new genre, for trying my hand at things I’ve never tried before; different ‘points of view’, different styles and new skills. See, I’ve probably set too many goals already, but when it all boils down to it, it’s about honing my skills and working harder at becoming a better writer.

So this is the process I’ve gone through to work towards that goal.

1.  Look at the things I’m not so good at – the things that always seem to come up when I’m having my work critiqued. I’m going to share them with you.

The Things I could Do Better:

  1. story beginnings
  2. story endings
  3. simplifying plot
  4. exploring setting and developing it more
  5. strengthening my characters by focussing on the things they don’t say.
  6. avoid word repetition

2.  Buy books that can help me. I know I’m going to have to work hard at these things. Two books I’ve bought to help me are Martha Alderson’s, ‘The Plot Whisperer’ and mary Mary Buchkam and Dianna Love’s “Break Into Fiction’, so I’ve got a bit of light reading planned this summer:)

I also got some fabulous tips from Michael Bourret at the SCBWI LA conference last August..and the fabulous Ellen Hopkins.

3.  Enrol in short courses like Mary Buckham’s Master Classes online on Active Settings and Body Language and Emotion.

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything like these online courses so I’m very excited. I’ll be sure to share what I’ve learned.

My US author friend, Laura Elliott has decided that 2012 will be her Year of Just Do it!

My Australian author buddy, Karen Collum seems to have the ‘measurable writing goals’ thing worked out. You might like to read her blog.

Hope you have a happy and inspirational year in 2012. I’d love to hear about what you have planned for this year.

Happy writing:)
Dee

Advertisements

THE WAITING GAME – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

Do you ever feel like time is skewed?

Despite the fact that we live in such a fast-paced world, we seem to spend more time waiting than ever before…especially if we’re writers.

We wait for agents and publishers to respond to our painfully pondered query letters and meticulously written manuscripts…you know the ones where the story idea came to you in a minute but you spend ten years pulling it all together…writing…rewriting?

Then if we are ‘lucky’ enough to get our manuscript accepted (although years of hard work can’t really be called luck), then we wait for the contract, and the editorial comment. We wait for the cover design, the proofs…and finally, the finished product. But the waiting doesn’t end there. Next we wait for the reviews, the sales figures, the blog responses. We wait to see if our next book will be accepted.

Is it any wonder that writers sometimes feel they are going slowly crazy? I mean, when I was pregnant, I found the waiting hard, but that was only nine months. The birth of a book from initial idea to publication and beyond takes years.

So how do we cope? How do we stop the waiting from eroding our sleep, our confidence, our sanity.

Here’s what I do.

1.    Try not to resort to chocolate…tasty, but not a long term solution (although I’m only human and I do have lapses)

2.    Always have a new Work In Progress that I can immerse myself in

3.    Make a list of where my submissions are so I don’t have to carry this information around in my head and I can try and put it out of my mind.

4.    Keep myself busy doing other things

5.    Find something else to focus my creative energies on (which could be my new WIP, but might be a painting or a sketch)

6.    Walk the dog and the goat…a lot. (Exercise can definitely be a great distraction and it just has a way of making you feel better afterwards.)

7.    Plan a work schedule so I can focus on what’s ahead and realise that my days will be full of challenging, interesting things regardless of the outcomes of submissions or other things I’m waiting for.

8.    Talk with colleagues who are going through the same experience. Nearly every writer you speak to will be waiting for something…even if it’s their next brilliant idea. Sympathy is good. It validates that yes, you really are a patient person, but at some stage, this waiting gets to everyone.

Find a hobby to distract you

9.    Accept that waiting is a major part of this business and that there’s nothing else I’d rather do so I just have to suck it up and move on. There are a lot worse occupational hazards than waiting.

If you have any tips on how to pass the time/stay sane while you’re waiting for responses, we’d love to hear them.

Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this blog.

In the meantime, happy writing…and waiting:)

Dee

WRITERS HELP QUEENSLAND FLOOD APPEAL

Over the last few weeks, Queensland has been devastated by floods resulting in devastating loss of life and destruction of property.

Members of the writing community have set up the following fundraising initiatives to assist people who have suffered such awful losses. Perhaps you can help.

WRITER’S AUCTION FOR QUEENSLAND FLOOD APPEAL STARTS TODAY

Writers from all over the world have donated books and services that are being auctioned to raise money for the flood appeal.

I have donated a 20,000 word manuscript appraisal, two copies of my YA novel, Letters to Leonardo and a 50 minute Heroes & Villains workshop for a school within a one hour radius of Melbourne.

You can bid for these items and heaps more great things and help the people of Queensland by going to http://authorsforqueensland.wordpress.com/

See the Youtube clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5VVxos6bWSc – ! 100

100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND

Another great writer’s initiative to aid the flood appeal is 100 Stories for Queensland.

They are producing an e-book and print anthology for sale and all profits will go to help victims of the Queensland floods.

Copyright remains with the authors and submissions are being considered in any genre as long as they are uplifting and contain messages of hope.

Stories need to be 500-1000 words and can be for any age group. Submissions close on 28th January 2011.

More information is available at their Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/100-Stories-for-Queensland/159460610768434?ref=ts

SETTING YOUR WRITING GOALS FOR 2011 – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

The end of 2010 is fast approaching so now seems like a good time to talk writing goals for next year.

When I set this year’s goals, I drew on past experience. I reminded myself that it doesn’t pay to set too many goals because it’s easy to be overwhelmed by them. So in 2010 I set myself just six:

  1. Finish rewrites/edits for Street Racer
  1. May Gibbs fellowship – first draft of first book in the series and complete series outline for The Chat Room.
  1. Apply for funding to work on The Chat Room
  1. Get The Chat Room accepted for publication
  1. Get more ‘writing coach’ work
  1. More school visits

Looking back on the year that was, I’m surprised to discover that I have achieved nearly all of them. In fact the only one I haven’t succeeded in is number 4 – and let’s face it, that goal was just not realistic.

I know from experience that starting, finishing and getting a novel finished in the same year is pretty much a pipe dream. I know it happens for some people, but I don’t think it suits the way I work. I need to write, then set my work aside for a month to get some distance from it – to have objectivity in my editing. I really need to do this for every draft.

Then after I think the novel is ready I need to send it to my beta readers and rework it based on their feedback.

So that’s my lesson for this year…don’t set goals that aren’t realistic – that aren’t attainable.

Another thing I have realised is that goals should be the things YOU WANT, not the things you think you should be achieving based on what others are doing around you. Every writer works differently, every writer has different backgrounds and financial restraints and commitments.

Writing for me, is really like golf. The only person you are playing against is yourself.

So, what do I have planned for 2011? More of the same:

  1. More school visits
  2. More editing – this time focussing on getting my two YA novels, Cutting the Ice and Head On to the ‘submission ready’ stage.
  3. Reworking my 2010 NaNoWriMo mg novel, Text Me When You Get There to completed second draft stage
  4. Get my Halogen Watts inventor series ready for submission to a publisher
  5. Helping my 12yo edit the next draft of his novel
  6. Complete the second draft of book one in The Chat Room series

Some things I do haven’t been listed as goals because these are things I have done all through 2010 and will continue to do in 2011 – for example, blogging here every week and at my Kids’ Book Capers blog.

This year I have tried to make my goals:

*    Things I want to achieve
*    Things I can definitely achieve – that I have control over (you’ll notice there’s nothing there about acceptances or publication dates)
*    A manageable number
*    Specific but realistic achievements

I hope you achieved your goals in 2010 and that you have a great writing year in 2011.

I’d love to hear your tips for goal setting. Feel free to include them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

AWASH WITH IDEAS? – TUESDAY WRITING TIP

Our creek is flooding for the first time in ten years so it seemed kind of serendipitous to talk about what to do when your head is awash with ideas and you don’t know what to do with them all or which one to start working on.

I’ve been having that problem lately. It could be because my mind is in overdrive with so many things happening in the lead up to Christmas. When I’m really busy it always seems to generate far more ideas than I can cope with at any one time.

And I don’t know about you but I get horribly confused when I try to compartmentalise everything in my head. I find the only thing that brings me peace is to write it all down – get those ideas out of my head and onto paper (or computer screen) and work out what to do first.

For example, here’s what is floating around in my head at the moment:

  1. 8 book submission to educational publisher for series for the new National Curriculum;
  2. Rework two YA novels;
  3. Work on next draft of the MG novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010;
  4. Work on possible e-book on writing tips;
  5. Work on a series I pitched to a publisher at a conference;
  6. Work on the next draft of the novel I wrote for my May Gibbs fellowship in March;
  7. Submit a couple of articles to magazines.

And that’s just on the writing front. When I look at this list I realise there’s actually probably about five year’s work there and here I was thinking I could get it done in the next twelve months.

See that’s one of the great things about being a writer – yes, it can take a while to get your work accepted but until you do, you don’t actually have any deadline so you can spend as long as you want perfecting your work.

When I look at this list I realise that the key to avoiding total meltdown is to prioritise. This is the order that works for me.

1.  The first thing to work on is ANY project that has the REALISTIC possibility of bringing me income some time in the near future.

2.  My second priority is any rewrites that a publisher might have requested before they decide whether they are going to publish my work.

3.  My third priority is anything I have pitched to a publisher where they might have requested more.

4.  My next favourite thing – probably relates to my headspace and the main character I feel closest to at the moment.

So I guess what I’m saying here is set yourself short and long term goals – but make them realistic. Allow yourself enough time on one project to get it right before you move on to the next. Unless you have a specific publishing deadline, you don’t have to be in a hurry.

It’s great to get all of your ideas out of your head and into a journal or whatever format works for you. Then you can concentrate on each task, one at a time.

Once you have worked out the order of things, it’s a lot easier to switch off from other ideas and just focus on what you are doing in the here and now – what your priority is at the moment.

Every writer will have a different sense of which tasks are the most important – which ones to tackle first.

I believe that if you just take it one rung on the ladder at a time, you will reach the top and fulfill your goals in the end.

Good luck and happy writing!

Dee:)

P.S. I’d really love to hear about your strategies for when the creative juices overflow and you have more ideas than you can handle. Just leave your comments here:)

TUESDAY WRITING TIP – TO WRITE OR SUBMIT

I’ve been kind of busy lately…okay, I’ll admit that life has been completely chaotic. And one of the things I’ve realised recently is that it has taken it has toll on the quality of my writing.

Letters to Leonardo came out last year and had lots of positive reviews in national print and online media. It’s still being reviewed on blogs and just last week I had some great feedback from readers with comments like ‘amazing, fantastic, and it’s brilliant’.

Of course there’s nothing more rewarding for a writer than getting that sort of response to your work, but when readers ask you when your next book’s coming out, you really like to be able to tell them.

So I have been frantically rewriting and tweaking my two follow up YA manuscripts all year in the hope of getting a publication date for at least one of them. Publishers schedule so far ahead and time seems to be slipping by so fast and I have been worried that people will forget who I am, and that they liked my book.

But you know what I’ve realised? None of that matters. I can build another profile, I can reconnect with my readers. I hope that Letters to Leonardo fans will find my next book when it comes out, but apart from promoting it as much as I can through online, media and personal appearances, the rest is really out of my hands.

In reflecting on the whole publishing process I’ve  rediscovered that what’s really important is the writing. That’s why I’m a writer. I LOVE writing. Of course I want people to read what I write, but when it all boils down to it, the writing is the most important thing. And when you are busy worrying about when your next book is coming out, your writing suffers.

This is what I mean. While I have been flitting from manuscript to manuscript in the hope of getting one of them across the line, my characters have faded. In the chaos of ideas and people inside my head, individual characters have fought to be heard. I have struggled to identify who they really are – to find their original voice.

So now I’m bringing it all back into focus. From today, I’m going back to doing things the way I used to – before I worried about getting my next YA novel published. I’m going back to working on a single manuscript.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to win the Published Author section at the CYA conference for my YA manuscript, Cutting The Ice and from now on that’s the one I’m going to focus on.

I really like this manuscript and I’m going to take the time to immerse myself in it again – to get to know my characters – to carry them around in my head until I know them so well that they tell me where the story should go.

I still believe you have to have ‘something’ out there with publishers because no news can be good news, but from now on I’m not going to spread myself so thin.

As writers, it’s so hard to juggle writing with submitting and I guess for me this recent journey has been all about finding the balance.

I’d love to hear how you balance your writing with the ‘business/submission side’ of publishing. So feel free to leave your comments at the end of this post.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)

TUESDAY WRITING TIP – PLANNING AND PITCHING YOUR SERIES – by Aleesah Darlison

Aleesah Darlison, author of the popular new Totally Twins series is here today to generously share her tips on how to plan and pitch your series.

PLANNING AND PITCHING YOUR SERIES

By Aleesah Darlison

Four years ago when I started writing for kids, I was told never, under any circumstances, pitch a series to a publisher. Mentioning the ‘S’ word would, apparently, ensure a rapid rejection of your manuscript and see the publisher scurrying away in fear.

Now, all that has changed. It seems that series are the way to kids’ hearts, particularly in the 7 – 12 year age group. I think this shift was helped along by some phenomenally successful series (too many to name here) but perhaps the better known ones in Australia are Go Girls and Zac Power.

In Australia, Hardie Grant Egmont, in particular, seems to be a powerhouse for successful series, but other publishers are also cottoning on to this brilliant marketing technique. The first book hooks kids in and launches the series. Subsequent books consolidate readers’ loyalty and secures their purchasing dollar time and time again.

And why wouldn’t publishers love series? Series give publishers greater shelf space in bookstores, the opportunity for ‘dump bins’, promotions including ‘free’ gifts with purchase and merchandising.

Here are my Seven Simple Secrets to Planning and Pitching a Series

  1. First and foremost, your idea must be original and it must be marketable. Kind of obvious, I know, but at the end of the day, the publisher needs to make money (and so do you).
  2. Write a comprehensive and well thought-out Series Proposal, which includes: an overview of major characters, details of the setting, the series concept or rationale, information on the current market and competition, and an outline, or mini synopsis, of the books planned for the series.
  3. Think of the proposal as a sales pitch and use persuasive, upbeat and positive language. Don’t be afraid to let your passion for the project shine through. You don’t need to go overboard, but just like you wouldn’t write a dreary and uninviting story, you shouldn’t write a dreary and uninviting series proposal.
  4. Ideally, the series concept should have a USP, which in marketing speak is a unique selling proposition. This goes back to the idea of your series concept being original. Make sure you know what it is that makes your series different from all the others out there. Something that is going to make people buy your books. Something that is going to tell publishers how to place it in the market.
  5. It’s always good to have at least the first instalment in the series written, or at least the first few chapters for longer works. Submit the sample story or chapters with your proposal.
  6. The first book in a series is the key to hooking a potential publisher and your target audience. Make it as perfect as it can be. No matter how impressive your proposal is, your story writing must still be exceptional. Just like a stand-alone novel, you only have one chance to impress.
  7. Digging deeper to the books themselves, the key to success in writing for kids is what it’s always been: stand-out characters that readers instantly bond with and care about, well-paced plots, loads of tension with a twist here and there, and a satisfying resolution.

Truly, if you’re a children’s writer, the time is ripe for pitching your series. So if you’re sitting on the next brilliant idea, get it out of your bottom drawer, dust it off, and start reworking it. Write an irresistible Series Proposal and send it out there. If you pitch it right, if you pitch it well, you might just find your series is the next big phenomenon.

Aleesah Darlison is a children’s writer and a book reviewer for The Sun Herald. Musical Mayhem, the first book in Aleesah’s new series for girls aged 9+, Totally Twins, is published by New Frontier Publishing and was released this month. The second book in the series, Model Behaviour, is due out in October. Find out more about Aleesah at her website: www.aleesahdarlison.com.