Back in the Writing Seat

Logo_no_lamp_text_sampleThis blog has been sadly neglected In the last few months, but being involved in the organising of the KidLitVic2016 Meet The Publishers conference has taken up a huge slice of my time.

It was an inspiring event at which I got to connect with so many wonderful writers and illustrators and publishing professionals.

So here’s what happened. Alison Reynolds, Nicky Johnston, Jacquelyn Muller and I organised an event at the State Library of Victoria that was attended by 11 amazing publishers and one fabulous literary agent, and 160 wonderful authors and illustrators. Michael Wagner was our warm, funny and thoughtful panel moderator, Ian Robinson kept us entertained and informed as MC, and Coral Vass was a dynamic, very competent and welcome addition to our team on the day.

Thanks to our amazing faculty including:

Elise Jones Allen & Unwin
Maryann Ballantyne Black Dog Books/Walker
Suzanne O’Sullivan Hachette
Lisa Berryman HarperCollins
Marisa Pintado Hardie Grant Egmont
Jacinta di Mase Literary Agent
Michelle Madden Penguin
Kimberley Bennett Random House
Clare Hallifax Scholastic
Miriam Rosenbloom Scribble/Scribe
Jane Pearson Text Publishing
Melissa Keil The Five Mile Press
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With writerly friends, Christina Booth and Sheryl Gwyther

To be honest the whole day was a whirl. There were four panels at which publishing professionals discussed picture books, illustrations, chapter and middle grade books and YA.

A highlight for me was meeting Clare Halifax, the wonderful publisher of my new book for kids aged 9+ due out next year.

I also loved hearing about what publishers were looking for and what authors and illustrators need to do in order to get noticed/published.

Thanks to my writerly friends, Bren MacDibble, Candice Lemon-Scott, Sheryl Gwyther and Kelly McDonald who took notes for me. So here are some tips from the conference:

Wonderful to finally meet Kelly McDonald.

Wonderful to finally meet Kelly McDonald.

SOME TIPS ON WHAT PUBLISHERS ARE LOOKING FOR

  1. Humour, weird off-centre.
  2. Picture books with girl characters.
  3. Stories that tell a child something about themselves.
  4. Authors should find out what publishers are publishing and target those who best suit your work. This information can be found by looking at the books on a publisher’s website, in libraries and bookstores.
  5. 5-7 year old characters need to simply overcome an obstacle, but they must get more complex as character and readership get older.
  6. Be specific about the role of each character and what they are trying to achieve.
  7. Books where the author is in touch with their inner child.
  8. Always room for a good book, no matter what the trends.
  9. Voice is what hooks publishers and readers in.
  10. The story that you had to write … that comes from the heart. Not written to meet a ‘trend’.

Now that the conference is over, I’m right back into writing, and I’ll be posting regularly again.

If you were at the KidLitVIc2016 conference, feel free to share your tips and experiences in the comments section of this blog.

See you back here soon.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – THE DARKNESS IN SHELLEY

Kelly initially submitted this piece for Friday Feedback in March. Here’s the link.

I made some suggestions and this is Kelly’s revised version of the excerpt. Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions.

The essence that was Terry stirred in the darkness, hovering in the rafters, still connected to his corpse by a thick silver cord. He was between the worlds, literally, one foot in, and one foot out. His thoughts were scattered, but his mind was still aware, and he was waking. It was because of her. He could sense she was drawing near. He willed himself to become more present in the here and now. Images of his death kept pounding in on him, but he pushed them away, and instead focused on the girl.

He could see his body lying in the room below, the skin marbled in death, the blood pooling under the stillness of his limbs. A sharp pain of disappointment flared through him at the thought of all he had lost. He tried to shrug it away, and focus instead on what he could have.

I feel a lot more connected to Terry, Kelly. I’m getting more of a sense of how he feels being in the situation he’s in. I like the way you focus on him and explore his character and situation before bringing Shelley into it.

I love your first line. It’s so intriguing and compels the reader to keep reading.

Apart from willing himself to be more present, what does he do to try and make it happen, how does he try to fight his current situation. I think there is more room to develop the action and tension here.

I still felt like I wanted to know more about Terry and what’s going on. How has he ended up in this situation? How does he know he is between two worlds? How does he feel about it? Is his death a recent thing?

When you say things like ‘images of his death’, give the reader more. Give them some hint of how he died. Was it gruesome, painful, surprising, accidental, deliberate?  If this is a horror story, then there’s plenty of room for horror here.

I know you might not want to give away too much just yet, but even just a couple of images would give us a better idea of who Terry is and the kind of person he is/was. For example, if his death was a clumsy accident, the reader will feel very differently about him than if it was a revenge killing. What’s motivating Terry? What does he want at this point? We know he has lost something, but we don’t know what. I still think that you could be more specific here. The clearer an understanding the reader has of how bad this situation is for Terry, the more they are likely to care about him and want to follow his journey.

And what is his essence actually doing? Is it trying to break free from his body? At the moment I’m getting a strange picture of him. He is hovering and he has one foot in each world. What does this mean visually for a reader? It sounds a bit like he’s doing the ‘splits’ in space.

I know it’s hard when you can only submit a limited number of words, but the first page of a book has to work hard. I usually end up rewriting mine at least thirty times, sometimes more. Even if it reads well, that’s not enough. It has to engage the reader, connect them to the main character and compel them to keep reading.

I hope you find my suggestions helpful, Kelly. As I’ve said before, you write very well and this sounds like an intriguing story. Good luck with your rewrites.

If you’d like to submit your 150 words for Friday Feedback, please email to Dee*at*Deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Feel free to mention if you have a particular problem or question with the piece you have sent. Can you also please include age of intended readership and approximate word count of intended manuscript and put FRIDAY FEEDBACK in the subject line of your email.

Thanks.

Happy writing:)

Dee

FRIDAY FEEDBACK – KELLY McDONALD

Today at Friday Feedback, Kelly McDonald has kindly agreed to share 150 words from her YA horror novel.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions in the comments section of this post.

The essence that was Terry stirred in the darkness, hovering in the rafters, still connected to his corpse by a thick silver chord. He was between the worlds, literally, one foot in, and one foot out… His thoughts were scattered, but his mind was still aware, and he was waking. It was because of her. He could sense she was drawing near. He willed himself to become more present in the here and now. Here she comes.  He could feel her, smell her… almost taste her. He quivered in anticipation. Here she comes….

*

They were brats. All three of them were nothing but smelly, dirty, troublesome stinking brats. Shelley was annoyed already, and they had only been driving for twenty minutes.

Shelley rolled her eyes at her brother Tim. He was entertaining Robbie and Lochie, other wise known as ‘The Twins’

Love your writing, Kelly. It’s very evocative and flows well and there are many hooks in your opening scene. It’s an intriguing setting, Terry is a character who attracts interest and your opening piece raises many questions for the reader. I know you are deliberately holding back information for the suspense value but I felt like I needed to know more about the situation – perhaps who Terry was and how he had died.

I’m wondering if you could give us more about Terry so that the reader feels as if they identify with him more, and care what happens to him. I felt like you moved out of Terry’s point of view and into another character’s head so fast that we didn’t really have time to get to know him.

I was a little overwhelmed that in the first few paragraphs I had been introduced to five (possibly six) characters and I didn’t really feel as if I knew who any of them were. In a novel like this you have to find the balance between suspense and giving the reader enough information to allow them to know what’s going on.

Especially if this is a YA story and you want YA readers to engage with your characters, I think you need something to identify your characters as being YA. At the moment, this felt like it could have been a piece for adult readers. One way you could connect directly with teen readers is mention the age of one of your characters. Perhaps it’s Terry’s birthday, the day he dies. Another way is to make his ‘voice’ more teen. Make his feelings sound more how a teen might feel. For example, “17yo Terry was really pissed about dying.” Not saying you should use these words, they are just an example of how a teen might think. Look at some YA novels – particularly horror ones and see how other writers have captured the teen point of view and ‘voice’.

Also, seeing as this is a horror story I was wondering if it should get into the horror pretty much straight away.  Horror is scary. I found the beginning intriguing, but not scary. One thing you could experiment with is starting with an action scene – perhaps how he died rather than an introspection scene. Here’s an article you might find helpful in making your story more scary http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/scary.html

I was  pulled up by the phrase “Here she comes” which seemed to contradict the tense of the rest of the paragraph. You could consider using something like, “She was coming”…

*

They were brats. All three of them were nothing but smelly, dirty, troublesome stinking brats. Shelley was annoyed already, and they had only been driving for twenty minutes.

Shelley rolled her eyes at her brother Tim. He was entertaining Robbie and Lochie, other wise known as ‘The Twins’.

Once again, this next piece is well written and intriguing but I’m wondering if you could give some hint of the connection between Terry and Shelley.

Good luck with this manuscript, Kelly. As a reader, I definitely want to know what’s going to happen next.

If you’d like to submit your 150 words for Friday Feedback, please email to Dee*at*Deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Feel free to mention if you have a particular problem or question with the piece you have sent. Can you also please include age of intended readership and approximate word count of intended manuscript and put FRIDAY FEEDBACK in the subject line of your email.

Thanks.

Happy writing:)

Dee