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TESTIMONIALS

Your feedback is extremely valuable to me and has enriched my story so much – James

It was great using the pictures to create characters – Ashlee

I enjoyed asking my character questions and finding out more about them – Bill

INSPIRING YOUNG WRITERS

Today I spent time with a group of year 7 students talking about my favourite subject, writing.

They are hard at work writing for the Write across Victoria competition.

I was there to talk about plotting and story and how to UNMASK great characters.

We discussed the fact that every story has to have a strong beginning and hook the readers in and every story starts with something happening for the main character which makes it a day like no other, and changes their life or who they are.

We studied plot arcs and looked at rising tension in stories and the fact that ‘post it’ notes do fall off a page when you hold it up to show the class.

But one of the most important things we discussed was the fact that writers have to ask a lot of questions

  • Who is the story/action happening to?
  • What is happening?
  • Why is it happening?
  • When is it happening?
  • Where is it happening?
  • How is it happening?

We talked about writing and where you get story ideas from and all the fun things about writing. I walked out of their classroom thinking, these are all writers. They have enquiring minds, good ideas and they ask a lot of questions.

I felt truly inspired by them and I hope they gained something from sharing my experiences.

Thanks to M Healy’s class at Braemar College.

Feel free to ask any more questions about writing or your stories in the ‘comments’ section of this post.

Happy writing:-)

Dee

HOW TO THROW OUT YOUR 65,000 WORD STORY – And Use The BEST BITS To Build a Better One

I’m currently working on my next YA novel, Street Racer.

This novel was one of those ones that just came to me. The main character sat on my shoulder and told me his story – and I knew who he was and what he wanted from life.

The problem was, he told me his story in verse.

This wasn’t actually a problem for me, but it was for my publisher. Apparently, verse novels don’t sell.

More important than the publisher’s comment was the feedback from my teenage son. My eldest reads just about anything, but he told me he wouldn’t read a verse novel and neither would any of the boys he knew.

Street Racer was a book that I WANTED teenage boys especially to read. This story was really important to me so I had to try and rework it in prose.

I’m now on the fifth draft and it’s better – but still not working. In the transition from verse to prose I’ve had to add a lot more detail and here’s what’s happened:

  1. I’ve ended up with character ‘devices’ that don’t ring true.
  2. I’ve ended up with too much plot detail that takes the focus away from my main character.
  3. The setting needs to be more clearly established.
  4. Some of the character reactions aren’t authentic.

All these things were pointed out to me by my editor on the weekend – and she is absolutely right about every single one of them.

I read my latest draft over and over, and had it workshopped by a number of writer friends, but none of us picked these things up. Of course we’re not trained editors, but it made me wonder why.

Another author friend, Sandy Fussell and I were talking about this and I think she’s right. She says that workshoppers and the author can get distracted by beautiful writing…and I think it’s true.

If something sounds good when you read it, it can be hard to recognise the fact that it’s not actually relevant to the story or doesn’t move it along…and shouldn’t be there.

After thinking about what my editor had said and my discussions with Sandy, I realised exactly what the problem was with my story. In the transition from verse to prose, I LOST my character’s voice – and to some extent, my character.

So hard as it is,  this means discarding my 65,000 word current draft and starting again. There are lots of parts I can use. I think the plot is sound and I think that most of the other characters in the story are working well. There are some action scenes that I like that will hopefully just need a ‘tweek’ and I don’t think the dialogue needs a whole lot of work. So these are the good bits that I can use in the next draft.

But for the rest of it, I’m going right back to basics. I’ve started by doing another interview with my main character and trying to find his voice again.

I’ve asked him all sorts of questions about

  • where he lives
  • what his relationships with his family and friends are
  • what makes him happy or sad
  • how he spends a typical day
  • how he sees himself
  • how others see him
  • the best thing that could happen to him would be
  • the worst thing that could happen to him would be
  • his biggest problem
  • how he’s going to solve it
  • things/people/situations that are stopping him from getting what he wants

Fortunately, despite the fact that he’s a teenage boy, he has had plenty to say. He has let me inside his head again… and although he’s not quite sitting on my shoulder yet, he’s getting closer.

I’ve also realised there are too many issues in the current draft so I’m taking out one of the main characters to simplify the plot and strengthen the themes that will stay in the manuscript.

And I’m starting my next draft of Street Racer from a different point – from somewhere further into the action.

Have to go now. Ric is calling me. He’s impatient for me to tell his story – and get it right this time.

Happy writing

Dee:-)

MY AMAZING MAY GIBBS ADVENTURE DAY 28

Today my Amazing May Gibbs Adventure officially ends, but for me and my new manuscript, it is really just the beginning. We are about to embark on a journey outside this May Gibbs apartment and who knows where it will take us.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here 28 days. What’s even harder to believe is that I’ve kept my promise to blog EVERY DAY.

I can’t wait to see my family, but when I reflect on the four weeks I have just spent, I’d have to say this has been the most wonderful and inspirational creative experience of my life.

When I came here, I had a goal to plan my three part YA psychological thriller series, and perhaps get 30 pages or so of the manuscript completed. I also planned to use the speedy internet to explore chat rooms and do valuable research.

In the twenty-eight days I have been here, this is what has actually happened.

  1. I have breakfasted, lunched and dined with some wonderful writerly friends, and made new ones while I was here.
  2. Completed the research I set out to do.
  3. Conducted eleven writing workshops for children.
  4. Plotted the three books in my new YA psychological thriller series.
  5. Developed character profiles for the important characters.
  6. Written a first draft of just over 55,000 words.
  7. Made a list of issues that need to be addressed in the next draft.
  8. Came up with a very rough new book idea and title.
  9. Came up with a second new book idea which I have researched and plotted.
  10. Did some of the edits for an existing YA novel.
  11. Blogged daily at this blog.
  12. Posted a writing tips blog every Tuesday.
  13. Became the new children’s book blogger for Boomerang Books and blogged regularly there for the last two weeks.

I have achieved more than I ever thought possible, and to me this goes to show what an inspirational experience a May Gibbs Fellowship is.

Thanks so much to Judith Russell from the May Gibbs Literature Trust for making me feel so at home (even moonlighting as the Easter Bunny). Thanks also to the May Gibbs Literature Trust itself for giving me this opportunity.

Thanks to all the staff at the State Library for organising my workshops and helping to keep them on track, and to my beautiful niece, Emma who came all the way from Byron Bay to visit me.

Thanks to my wonderful Brisbane writerly friends for making me feel as if I really am a resident of Brisbane; Sheryl, Julie, Maree, Lynn, Tina, Ally, Karen and Belinda.

Thanks also to everyone who has read this blog and supported me with  your comments and words of encouragement.

Last but not least, thanks to my wonderful husband and children who have given me the love, encouragement, support and freedom to explore my creativity.

And now I’m off to join my family, but I’ll most likely be back on Monday with news from the ‘real’ world and of course my Tuesday Writing Tip.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)

MY AMAZING MAY GIBBS ADVENTURE DAY 10

Being far from home on your birthday isn’t easy – especially being away from your husband and kids, who you were already missing like crazy.

Just as well I have such great writerly friends in Brisbane.

And some of them travelled a long way to help me celebrate. Thank you Tina, Sheryl, Jules, Lynn and Ally for making this birthday in Brisbane so special.

It was lovely to dine out and talk about writing and lots of other fascinating things.

Plenty of writing and creating done today. I’m doing the tandem thing – writing and finalising my plotting. That’s how it works sometimes, the steps and processes are interwoven – developing character gives you ideas for plot and writing makes you see where the holes in your plot are.

After the bubble brainstorming of the plot, my next stage in the process is developing the plot arc. For this I also use my trusty butcher’s paper. Any ‘bubbles’ that are related to plot, I write on ‘post it notes’. I then arrange these in order of increasing intensity and basically, in order of  how I want the story to unfold.

Now I know where my story is going to start and how it’s going to end, and some of what’s going to happen along the way. Of course this can change in the writing process when characters like Lia decide to take me in a whole new direction.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)

TURN YOUR STORY UPSIDE DOWN – CREATE THE UNEXPECTED

I know we already had one ‘bunny’ post this week, but I’m afraid I couldn’t resist this one.

My bunnies have regular toe nail trims, and up until recently it has always been a bit of a trauma for everyone. Bunnies have powerful legs and it’s hard to hold a kicking bunny still while you trim their toe nails.

But recently I discovered that if I lay them on their back to do it they become mesmerised…completely docile…completely co-operative.

At the time, I was working on a book that kept throwing up problems for me. That’s when I realised that I could apply the same principles to writing stories as I did to bunnies.

Turning your story upside down can actually HELP you get it under control.

Don’t be afraid to make your good characters a little bit bad, and your bad characters a little bit good.

Don’t be afraid to introduce something completely unexpected into your story. I have found it’s a great way to invigorate a tired story line or show you a completely new dimension to your main character.

I guess it comes back to the same thing – as writers we are always taking risks – always prepared to try something new.

Happy writing.

Dee:-)

(and the bunnies)

DEVELOPING CHARACTER – to cook, sing or do the Fandango?

After working for the past few weeks on a really dark period in my MC (main character’s) life, we are almost ready for him to emerge out the other side.

Looking back, I can’t help but shake the feeling that this time, I have been just a tad too mean to him. I know what you’re thinking…”You’re just a bit softy”. And of course, you’re right. I’m pretty sure that the whole world knows by now that I am truly pathetic when it comes to being mean to my main character – but I force myself to do it anyway.

This time however, I think I need to follow my instincts. It’s not that I’ve gone too far – it’s just that there has to be light and shade.

My story is true to life – it’s sort of based on something that actually happened – but it definitely needs some light relief.

So, this is my quandary! I think the lightness has to come from my MC. He is the one who needs to have some fun. He is the one who needs a trait/a quality/a goal that’s going to create humour – that’s going to provide the colour and light.

At first I thought he might want to create the biggest ever Crockenbush, but as teenage son pointed out, who even knows what a Crockenbush is?

Then I thought he could harbour secret desires to sing in a heavy metal band. Perhaps he could dance the Fandango or be someone who can spin 43 times on his head without getting dizzy (but then as a parent all I could think of was the cost of the physiotherapist bills – and possible brain damage).

Sigh…oh well, back to the drawing board, the computer screen, the meditation tent, the walking of the dog, the eating of chocolate…whatever it takes to get the creative juices working.

Of course my MC and I would welcome your input/suggestions.

Dee:-)