Tuesday Writing Tips 2014 – Do You Have a Writing Question?

Do you have a question for me?

Do you have a question for me?

I’ll be starting up Tuesday Writing Tips again soon on this blog.

This year I plan to make it more tailored and personal – to try and help writers with their individual questions about their own work.
Perhaps you have an unlikeable hero or too many themes or a weak beginning, a confusing ending or a sagging middle in your story. Perhaps you worry there is too much telling and not enough showing.If you’re looking for tips or have a question on a particular aspect of your work in progress, email me, Dee@deescribe.com.au, and I’d be happy to do a post featuring your work, and doing the best I can to help you with your writing quandary:)

Feel free to share this with any writer friends you know who might also have writing questions/issues.

Happy writing:)Dee

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Keep Writing – You Never Know What’s Around the Corner

Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 3.18.12 PMMy talented and wise writer friend, Claire Saxby once told me “there’s only a thin line between being published and not being published. One day you’re not published and the next day you step over the line and you are.”

This whole concept really resonated with me because it’s so true. You are still the same writer/person you were the day before, it’s just that you are now published.

It shows how precarious but hopeful this whole writing business is. It just takes one piece of luck to get you over that line.

But some days you think getting published will never happen – and even once you are published, you wonder when you will be published again.

It’s easy to become despondent – to think about giving up.  But the reality is that giving up is actually harder than you think. If you are a writer, it’s in your blood and can’t be denied.

Extrene Ed's Air AdventuresI had quite a slow year on the writing front last year. I had one book out – and a truckload of rejections – some very nice rejections but they were still ‘no thanks’. I even had a couple of ‘not yet, needs more work’ responses.

I start each year full of hope, but of course never really know where it will lead me.

At the start of this year, I began with my usual optimism, but at the time, I felt it might be a bit misplaced because I had NOTHING on the horizon.  I had a lot of manuscripts written, but no promises of publication.

Then things changed. Early in the new year, I had Tom’s Dare accepted by Pearson. It’s a story about two kids growing up in Colonial Australia and it came out last month.

IMAG4710

Extreme Ed's Bike AdventuresAround the time of the acceptance, I also applied to do a mentorship through SCBWI Nevada to work with New York Times bestselling verse novelist, Ellen Hopkins. I knew that competition for the mentorship would be fierce and my changes of getting it were slim, but I had to try anyway.

I also applied for every funding grant known to mankind to help me pay for the program and the airfares from Australia.

Then I sat back and waited – and wrote some more.

In June, I found out that my funding application from the Copyright Agency Limited had been successful.  A couple of weeks later, I learned that I had also been received into the mentor program.

Despite slow beginnings, 2013 was shaping up to be a very good year.

Around about this time, I was contacted by Pearson to see if I would be interested in contributing to their Bug Club books. They wanted me to write a book about extreme sports. I had been skydiving and hot air ballooning and loved both – I thought this book was definitely something I could.  Then one book about extreme sports became two.

Pearson must have been happy with what I had written because they then asked me to write a couple of books about cats – another great topic for animal loving me.

My Cat is Hiding    My Cat is Sleeping

From there followed a book about how to make finger puppets, three books about a girl with a lot of pets, and another three titles.

Scaredy Cat cover    Lost Dog
 Pippa's Pets - Runaway Pony    Make a finger puppet

I had so much fun working on all these titles, and couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be asked to write them.

So for me, a year with no prospects but lots of hope has turned into a truly amazing one.

Who Am I 9781486018598    Butterflies

I Like to Play 9781486018543I just wanted to share my experience with you to show how quickly nothing can turn into something wonderful.

You can’t give up hope.

Things can change for the better at any moment. You just have to keep writing and believing in yourself and submitting your work (no matter how hard rejection can be.)

I’d love to hear about your successes this year. Please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post (and include links to where we can buy your books)

Happy writing:)
Dee

Tuesday Writing Tip – Who Needs Subplots?

Sub plots add interest and depth, but they can’t be allowed to overpower the main story

Spider webI have been working through the maze of my current work in progress, trying to discover the reasons why it almost works, but not quite.

One of the problems I’ve identified is subplot. One of my subplots has grown so big that it’s taking over the story. The other thing I’ve realised is that one of the characters in the subplot (even though he’s dead), doesn’t actually need to be there – he just complicates things – and not in a good way.

When you look at a spider web, you’ll see that there are some threads that seem to hold the whole thing together. They interconnect with and support the more delicate threads – that’s kind of how a subplot works. It has to be strong and relate to other threads, but it’s usually the same size and thickness as the others – at looks like it belongs.

Another thing with my subplot is that I had just used it as a device to explain things about my main characters. It wasn’t actually essential to the story. While it explained a lot about certain characters, it didn’t actually add anything to their story – in fact, it distracts the reader from what the book is really about.

The other thing about this subplot – and one of the reasons why it seemed to take over the story was that it stood out – it didn’t link to other subplots – it didn’t connect to or have a place in the web of my story.

Not only that, but the subplot had a strong theme that was equal in weight to the actual plot – so in fact it wasn’t a subplot, but a plot for another story. My main theme involved drug addiction. My sub plot involved a child being interfered with by a family member – both strong themes – but not ones that really belong in the same book.

So here’s what I’ve learned about sub plots:

  1. A sub plot has to be essential to the story
  2. A sub plot can’t be too overpowering and take over the story
  3. A sub plot should connect with other sub plots
  4. A sub plot shouldn’t be used as a device – it should be essential to your story
  5. Characters in a sub plot should be essential to your story
  6. The sub plot must affect the outcome of your main plot – it must help drive the story
  7. Too many sub plots can confuse the reader and weaken the impact of the main story

Have you ever had a subplot that’s tried to take over your story? What did you do about it? Feel free to share your tips and experiences in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing and apologies to any arachnophobics, but I do think stories plots are like a web – don’t you?

Dee

Tuesday Writing Tip – 10 Tips on Applying for Funding

IMAG0026It always made sense to me that if you want to find out what someone is publishing, you go to conferences to hear them speak, maybe even do a pitch so you get a personal vibe for what they are looking for.

So I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to realise that if you want to find apply for arts funding, you really should speak to the people who manage it before you fill out your grant application.

Applying for funding is not an easy road – I’ve applied many times without success, but when you believe in a project, you just have to keep trying:)

I’d probably still be living in ignorance if it weren’t for my good friend and writing buddy, Alison Reynolds. I was coming to Melbourne for a book launch so Alison kindly booked me in for an interview with the Australia Council to find out all about funding and whether my WIP might be eligible.

It was such an eye opener. Previously, I’d ‘assumed’ that the publishability of the project was a major criteria in the selection process – not true. There are so many other things you need to focus on in your application.

MY TEN TIPS

From my interview at the Australia Council, I realised that these are the things they are looking for in applications:

  1. Passion for your project.
  2. Reasons why you chose this project and why you are the person to write it – what’s your connection to the subject matter?
  3. Why you are doing this project, why now?
  4. Speak with enthusiasm.
  5. Outline where you are in your career and how this project will help your professional development as a writer.
  6. Talk about stylistic devices you are using and why.
  7. What impact will this project have on the literary landscape – if it’s groundbreaking – say so. Why this form and not another?
  8. What are you trying to achieve?
  9. Have a clear rationale, clear goals and a clear plan for your project.
  10. What challenges will this project present and how will you overcome them?

The Australia Council currently has Literature grants available in a number of categories. You can find out more here.

Good luck with your submissions. If you have any other tips about grant applications or would like to share your success stories, please feel free to comment on this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

Tuesday Writing Tips With Josie Montano

I hope you enjoyed the cyber bubbles. Feel free to help yourself to another piece of cyber cake.

Josie Montano is here now to share some fabulous writing tips based on how she wrote her novel, Sunlight.

JOSIE’S WRITING TIPS

  1. Write for your audience;

Research the lingo for the age group you are writing for, i.e.: early teens speak differently to teens in their later years, so if your character is 14, make her a regular natural 14 year old. There’s a big difference between a twelve, fourteen and a sixteen year old, primarily hormones:-)

I research by eavesdropping on the bus, but don’t make it creepy stalky like, or they’ll just think you’re some crazy cat person! Also if possible and if mutually acceptable and appropriate, befriend teens on facebook so you can read how they communicate with one another. You can straight out ask a teen for help with lingo for your book if you feel you are not getting ‘it’. If you have teens in the house, perfect … just make them sit down to dinner with you and listen to the silence …. 🙂

  1. How to hit the US market?

Sunlight is my fifteenth fiction book but the first to be published outside Australia.

Sunlight visited six Australian publishers over four years and none of them were interested in publishing it, I always wondered whether it was because it was a touchy subject, cancer? I never gave up on having it published, never let those rejections get to me and even considered self-publishing when I noticed an add in ‘Buzz Words’ where Solstice Publications were looking for paranormal manuscripts. What the heck I thought, maybe my story borders this genre as the main character travels from one world to another. So I sent it to them and here we are today!

If you have an agent then they may be able to help you get your author tentacles in. Or if you are persistent, and vigilant then keep a keen eye out for opportunities – they are always there.

  1. What is speculative fiction?;

The definition is really hard to wrangle but here are a few dot points that helped me get my head around it!

    • It’s the majorly ‘what if?’ fantastic genre;
    • It is ‘Speculative’ i.e.: fiction that allows you to speculate and ask questions.
    • Over a dozen genres fit under the spec-fiction umbrella that encompass sci-fi, fantasy, horror, paranormal, steam-punk, fairy-tales etc.
  1. Can spec-fiction and YA work?;

Of course! Look at the latest works of Hunger Games and Twilight for example, YA and fantasy/paranormal combined. You can have teen angst, coming of age stories mixed with a spec-fiction sub-genre.

  1. Method write;

Sunlight was part of my university Masters and I wrote the novel and also am researching the exegesis (essay). I chose to research how the tools of method acting can assist with method writing. I won’t say much more as I’d like you all to wait for my paper to be published.

  1. Example of method writing;

OK you twisted my arm, here’s one example of how I utilised method writing into the manuscript. I used memories from my own cancer journey of nearly ten years ago and wrote them directly into the emotions of my teen character in Sunlight.

  1. How to write a real character?;

I always become my character, a little like I allow my character’s ‘soul’ to slip into/takeover my body. I was known to dress like a teen while writing Wogaluccis – around the house of course!

I get to know my character from the inside and out. So not only their physical features, but their emotional needs, concerns, angst, what triggers their emotions, what was their past like, what is their future going to look like. I have a questionnaire that I like to fill out initially that brings out the character onto paper.

  1. How did I come up with the idea for Sunlight?;

Rewind back a few years before my own cancer experience, I was asked by a teacher of a hospital school to visit one of their students as she had read Wogaluccis and loved it, the teacher thought it would be a lovely surprise for her student while she was a patient going through chemotherapy. This visit to a very special young adult lying in her bed wearing her best wig and make-up left me feeling very humbled, and I knew I had to honour this experience, but a story evaded me for years – and I know now why, because I had to experience this myself.

It was then a few years after my own cancer journey that I wanted to get life insurance – which was a frustrating exercise because as soon as the insurance company found out I had cancer (even though now in remission) they didn’t want a bar of me. So I compared that with an ex-prisoner who even though they have done their time and have been rehabilitated, finds it hard to get a passport, enter another country, get a job, gain respect etc because they have this prison sentence over their head.

Click! The idea began to formulate in my head, what if my story is about a young girl diagnosed with cancer, how does this affect her family life, social life, school etc? Will her boyfriend support or dump her? What kind of strength does she need to go through the therapy? How does she cope with that? And I answered my own question with …. She goes into a fantasy prison world which parallels her true world to cope with her diagnosis, pain and therapies.

  1. How did you know you were writing spec-fiction?;

Um I didn’t. My story just fell into that genre. So don’t get caught up in the genre, get caught up in the story … ooh I like that one, copyrighted!!! Write your story with meaning, heart, passion and I always throw in a little humour, yes even with a serious topic like cancer, then work out what genre it fits into. And make your writing mean something, from a picture book to an adult novel, even the simplest story will mean something to someone, somewhere.

  1. Do you have to like spec-fiction to write it?;

I’m not ashamed to say that I didn’t even know what the term spec-fiction meant until I started my university masters. I recognised the genres that huddle under the spec-fic umbrella but didn’t know they had were part of a spectrum.

I also don’t particularly like full-on fantasy stories such as dragons, elves etc, I prefer science fiction and specifically stories with robots, artificial intelligence etc – I seem to be attracted to Phillip K Dick’s writing style.

I also don’t find myself attracted to vampires or the paranormal, have not read any of the Twilight books and yet find it very surprising that I am dabbling with a sequel to Sunlight that may incorporate vampires in a fantasy world that my character will delve in. So that will be interesting!

If you have a question for Josie about her writing, feel free to leave it in the comments section of this blog.

WIN JOSIE’S BOOK

You can win an e-book version of Josie’s new YA novel, Sunlight by sharing a funny or positive cancer experience in the comments section of this post.

BUY SUNLIGHT

You can buy Sunlight at the following locations:

for print version in Australia www.booksbyjosie.com.au

Happy writing:)

Dee

P.S. See you back here in half an hour for a review of Josie’s book.

Tuesday Writing Tip – Spoiled for Choice

Some people suffer from writer’s block because they can’t think of anything to write. For me, writer’s block is caused by having too many things I want to write … too many ideas colliding in my head.

Only my closest friends (and family) know just how many finished, but not quite right/not quite ready/just not quite manuscripts I have stored in the overflowing filing cabinets in my study.

Recently I decided that the ‘system’ wasn’t working. I am usually working on 2 or 3 works in progress at once and if I spread out all the drafts and research for these manuscripts, my study turns into complete chaos. And I have to spread the materials out because I can’t keep all the information in my head.

 

LET THE DOG SEE THE RABBIT/S

So I have embarked on a new system. It’s called ‘let the dog see the rabbit’ or in plain English, ‘let’s see what’s here.’

All my WIPs are going into clearly labelled plastic containers that if stacked, should take up less room than my filing cabinets. And I can sort them into genre stacks…YA contemporary, YA dystopian, chapter books, mid grade adventure, mid grade humour, picture books, non-fiction, adult books …. yep I have some of each.

The theory behind all this is that it should allow me to focus on ONE piece of writing at a time. I plan to get that ONE box off the stack and leave it out while I’m working on it …. and then put it back in the stack.

 

Apart from anything else, this stack system allows me to see exactly what manuscripts I have in which genre so I can target particular publishers or competitions, and just focus on those manuscripts.

There’s also incentive to get manuscripts published so that the stacks don’t become too high and cause a potential toppling hazard.

That’s the theory. Wish me luck.

 

If nothing else, the whole exercise has allowed me to see what I have to work with … and to focus on ONE thing at a time. I guess it’s allowing me to symbolically and practically compartmentalise things.

I used to write on the basis, “work on the manuscript that’s calling to you.” But that doesn’t work if there are six manuscripts shouting at you at once, “Pick me. Pick me.”

So here are some things I’ve learned that help me focus on ONE manuscript at a time.

  1. Mentally and physically separate your manuscripts into ‘boxes’.
  2. Once you have put your manuscripts into ‘boxes’, only take out the ONE you are working on.
  3. Work to a competition/publisher submission deadline.
  4. If you don’t have a competition/publisher deadline, set one for yourself.
  5. Write the name of the manuscript you are working on in huge letters on a piece of paper or whiteboard to remind yourself to stay focussed.
  6. Promise yourself a reward when you have finished the draft of that manuscript or met your deadline.
  7. Tell your family and friends what you are working on… you don’t have to give them the whole story, just the title. When you verbally commit to it out loud, it can help you stay focussed on it.

Do you have trouble staying focussed on one manuscript? What do you do to keep you on track? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this blog.

Happy writing:)

Dee

 

 

 

 

 

 

TUESDAY WRITING TIP – TAKING A BREAK FROM YOUR MANUSCRIPT

I’ve been on a roller coaster with my writing over the last few weeks. Life has taken over at times and like all writers, I’ve had a few setbacks. (Not just the ‘thanks but no thanks’ emails)

I’ve been working on my YA trilogy which is a complex maze of characters, plot and foreshadowing. I tried a series of different plotting devices, but what I realised this week is the thing I need most is to take a break – to stop forcing the issue and allow my subconscious to do its work.

I find that the more pressure I put on myself, the harder it is for my brain to relax…for my thoughts to flow freely…to find the creative solutions I need.

Part of my difficulty has been the discovery that what I thought was book one in the trilogy is actually book two and now I have to basically start from scratch – which is okay, but these characters and their conflicts have been in my head for so long that I feel like I need to put some distance between us.

It’s like spending 24/7 with a bossy friend and feeling that you just need time out to breathe…to be yourself.

Basically, I got to 12,000 words and hit the brick wall. Even though I know what’s going to happen, I need to do more character development and plotting…and thinking. Like a freshly made pot of tea, I need to leave this story to let it brew. So, hard as it has been, I’ve walked away from the manuscript for the time being.

I’m taking a break and loving it…and I know that when I get back to this story I’m going to love it a whole lot more too.

Sometimes you need to walk away from a manuscript. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but it’s okay to let it go for the time being and move on to something else.

Here’s what to I’ve been doing and these are some things that might help you if you feel like your manuscript is managing you:

  1. I’m reading a lot…and loving it. Reading great books reminds you of what you love about being a writer.
  2. Taking lots of long walks with my dog (and sometimes the cat). They think this is a fabulous idea.
  3. Revisiting an old manuscript in a completely different genre. (I’m really enjoying this).
  4. Taking a short writing course.

I’d love to hear your suggestions and tips about what you do when you feel like you are getting bogged down with a manuscript. What do you do to get back the spark?

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

Happy writing:)

Dee