Tuesday Writing Tips – Stay Calm and Keep Writing

IMAG4714It has taken me a long time learn to be patient about my writing, but I feel like I’m finally getting there. Hard as it has been for me to accept, the fact is that writing and getting published is a long term process that can’t be hurried. You just have to stay calm and keep going. It takes as long as it takes and that’s just the way it is.

My SCBWI Nevada Mentorship has been an amazing ride and it’s far from over yet. I have hopes to be published as a result of the mentorship, but no expectations.

For me, I’ve already achieved so much.  My verse novel manuscript has gone from an initial draft of 17,000 words to the current version of around 50,000 words – and I know that there’s still a long way to go.

I have a plot that I’m reasonably happy with and two characters that I feel I know almost as well as my own children.  There are still scenes to develop and places where I know I can make the words work harder.

IMAG4710My goals for the project were to hone my verse novel writing skills, learn more about global readers and find an international publisher for my book.

I feel like I’ve already achieved the first two goals. My mentor, Ellen Hopkins has been truly amazing with her helpful, encouraging and perceptive feedback. Under her guidance, my characters have gone from admired acquaintances to close family members.  She is pushing me to be the best writer I can be.

So I guess my point to all this is that nothing happens overnight in the world of writing and publishing. We have to just keep calm and keep going.  We have to be patient.

My verse novel Hating Ric started out life as Street Racer back in 2008 (I’m still debating about which name I prefer). Here are some of the steps I’ve gone through to get it to its current stage.

2008 – First draft and another three drafts completed.
2009 – Rewrote in prose as an experiment to see if I liked it better – I didn’t.
2010 – Back to writing in verse. Queried with a couple of agents with some positive feedback but realised manuscript wasn’t ready – back to the computer.
2011 – Good friend Svetlana Bykovec wanted a YA novel to make into a book trailer. Here’s the result.
2011 – Attended the SCBWI LA conference and did a verse novel writing workshop with Ellen Hopkins
2012 – Many more drafts
2013 – Apply for SCBWI Nevada mentorship to work with Ellen Hopkins.
2014 – Finish the novel and submit it to agents (I’m still working on that one.)

I’m off to Nevada again on 20th April for the next part of the mentorship.

It’s going to be great to catch up with my mentor and all my writing and illustrating buddies again.  I’m looking forward to finding out how everyone else is going with their projects, and I’m going to be attending  a session on how to write a query letter and synopsis – definitely things I need to perfect.

IMAG4962Don’t be disheartened that things aren’t happening fast for you in the publishing world. Stay Calm and Keep Writing.

Writing is like a good wine it has to have time to mature – it can’t be rushed. Eventually, I’m hoping to send Ric off into the big wide world, but not until I’m absolutely sure that he’s ready.

If you have tips on what keeps you going with your writing, feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

My mentorship experience was made possible thanks to the generous assistance of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund which provided me with Creative Industries Career Funding. http://www.copyright.com.au/cultural-fund

Writing Tips – Another Nevada Epiphany – Don’t Rush Out of a Scene

My mentorship with Ellen Hopkins through SCBWI Nevada continues to inspire, and teach me so much about writing and about the way I write.  I’m learning more about my own weaknesses – the things I have to watch out for – the mistakes I keep making with my writing.

I have realised that I have a tendency to rush out of a scene – to be in too much of a hurry to see what happens next for my characters, to not savour the moment and explore what’s happening in the ‘here and now’.

And I’ve come to realise that it’s one of the things that can cause me to tell and not show – that can leave my readers feeling a bit breathless.

IMAG4716Here’s what I mean.

EXAMPLE 1

This is a ‘scene’ from my verse novel, Hating Ric.  My character Kate has just come out of a coma and her best friend Abby is visiting.

My first version

A blonde girl walks in,
says she’s my best friend ,
Abby.

So why don’t
I know her?

ELLEN’S COMMENT:  Can this be a scene? Abby trying to talk to her about stuff she cant remember?

MY CONCLUSIONS:  I can’t believe I didn’t see this myself – that Abby WOULD try to talk to her best friend – and that there would be strong responses from both Kate and Abby. This is too big a moment in the story to gloss over.

IMAG4801My revised version

A VISITOR

Walks into my room smiling.
“Hey girlfriend
welcome back.”

She’s blonde and gorgeous
with a voice like
the rhythm of
the sea.

She sits on the
edge of my bed
leans over
to hug me.

I pull away
Do I know you?

Her eyes
look into mine
uncertain

IMAG4714a single tear
trickles down
her perfect
unscarred
skin.

“It’s me, Abby.”
She glances
across at
the nurse
who nods and
mouths
“Amnesia.”

Pain rips through
my neck
when I shrug.

IMAG4788The girl’s eyes flash
from the nurse
to me.
“I’m Abby.”

She repeats her name
as if that
will help me
remember.

She opens her wallet
and pulls out a photo
of
us
standing close
heads together
laughing.

In the photo
my skin is
perfect too.
no missing hair
or teeth.

I push the photo
and her hand
away
watch mesmerized
as another
single tear
slides
down
her perfect face.

EXAMPLE 2

In this scene, Kate is learning to walk again with her new leg, without using hand rails.

IMAG4962My first version

I get to share it
with Abby.

She’s here to see me
and can’t believe
how far I’ve come.

ELLEN’S COMMENTS: Can this be a scene?

MY CONCLUSIONS:  This really does need a scene to show the reader more about the relationship between the girls, Kate’s strength and Abby’s character.  It’s another important moment that I raced past in my original version.

My revised version

FAST TRACKED

to walking around the room
without rails.

I try increasing my
distance
and
pace
with
every circuit.

IMAG4954This morning
I’ve pushed it
as far
as I can
go

too far.

My good leg
collapses
under me
and I have to grab
onto a wall
to catch my balance.

There’s a gasp
behind me
and Abby rushes over
tries to help me
to a chair.

“No… I can do it.”
sweat trickles
into my mouth
and pools
under my arms.

“Kate, that
was amazing.”
Abby’s eyes
are shining.

IMAG4979I wanted to share the knowledge I’m gaining from this mentorship because we are often told we need to tighten our text, but sometimes we actually need to expand it and delve deeper, to draw the reader more closely into the story.

I hope you’ve find this post helpful. I’ll be sharing more from my amazing Nevada journey – and I’ll be going back there in April – can’t wait:)

Do you have any ‘bad writing habits’ that you have worked through? If so, feel free to share your experiences and solutions in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

P.S. I’ll be talking about my mentorship at the SCBWI Victoria meeting on March 15. Might see you there:)


TUESDAY WRITING TIPS – REVISING – Some Technical Tips

January was  very productive  for me.  I spent the entire month immersed in revisions for my young adult verse novel, Hating Ric.

This is the one I’ve been working on for my SCBWI Nevada mentorship and I’d had lots of great feedback from my mentor, Ellen Hopkins with suggestions on how to make it better.IMAG4962

I’ve added an extra 15,000 words, developed my characters, altered my setting and I’ve even managed to bring two black bear cubs into my story.

During the revising and editing process I discovered a few things that worked for me so I thought I’d share them here.

1.  I printed out the entire manuscript and read it. I find that when I read on screen my mind doesn’t seem to absorb things in the same depth. So I pick up superficial things like typos and vocal, but I struggle to see the overall story problems or pick up character inconsistencies or weaknesses.  I find I need to hold paper in my hand to get close to my characters.

2.  This book has two main characters so I looked at each character’s story arc and rearranged the pages according to flaws I found in the plot – where the tension wasn’t rising and things seemed to be happening in the wrong order.  My mentor was also great for pointing out where these kind of changes needed to be made, and where she didn’t think a scene fitted.

3.  I opened up two new files – one for each of my main characters – and I wrote new scenes for them – scenes to develop their characters – scenes to develop the setting – scenes to create rising tension – scenes to add layers of meaning.  By writing the scenes separate from the story, I was able to create them with fresh eyes and make them lively but relevant.  I printed them out and slotted them into the appropriate places.

4. I checked through my mentors comments and suggestions to make sure I had incorporated the changes that fitted with my vision for my story.

5.  I did a spell check.

6.  Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 10.04.00 PMI did ‘find and replace’ to change certain words. And here I admit I ran into trouble. My character changed from being a rower to a basketball player. So when I did “Find rowing and replace with basketball”, it changed ‘growing’ to ‘gbasketball’. Thanks to my clever writerly friend, Thalia I learned that there is a remedy for this. Tick the ‘find whole words only’ box in the ‘find and replace’ option in Word.

7.  I saved my document as a PDF file – imported it into iBooks and read it on my iPad as an e-book.

8.  I attached it to my email and pressed ‘send’.

I’m sure there will be plenty more work to do on my manuscript, but I feel that now I have a practical way to handle those revisions and edits.

I’d love to know any technical tips you have for revising and editing. Feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and editing:)

Dee

My mentorship experience was made possible thanks to the generous assistance of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund which provided me with Creative Industries Career Funding. http://www.copyright.com.au/cultural-fund