Writing With Love

Writing about what you love is such a joyous experience.

Not only that, your passion for your subject comes through in your writing, and makes it sparkle.

Recently, I realised that both my new books due to be released this year involve dogs. And I LOVE dogs.

In Reena’s Rainbow, to be published by EK Books, Reena meets a stray dog and it changes her life. (I love illustrator, Tracie Grimwood’s sensitive and beautiful interpretation of my Dog).

In K9 Heroes, to be published by Scholastic Australia, all four stories are about amazing dogs who have saved people’s lives.

Here are my tips for writing about what you love. I hope you find them helpful.

WRITING ABOUT WHAT YOU LOVE

  1. Remember that your reader might not know as much about your passion as you do … so some explanation might be required.
  2. Story comes first … so don’t let your love for your subject distract you from the art of good story telling.
  3. What you love is part of who you are, it’s part of your natural voice so allow it to filter through organically in your work. Don’t let it become contrived. For example, me bringing dogs into my story happened in my subconscious, and while I love writing about them, that doesn’t mean I should have a dog in every story.
  4. Enjoy the experience. It’s okay to love what you do … even if it’s not paying the bills … yet.
  5. Look for markets that publish pieces about your passion.

What do you love writing about? Do you find recurring themes or symbols in your writing. If so, we’d love you to share your experiences in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

 

How to Stay Optimistic About Your Writing

Today’s world is controlled by economists and accountants.

So unfortunately, the reality is that a great deal of modern book publishing is more about making money than making a difference.

It doesn’t matter how lyrical your lines or how moving your monologues, the publisher’s decision about whether to publish your book will be based on how much money they think it will make.

Fortunately, these days there are other options open to storytellers and creators who want their work to be read by others.

There are smaller presses and there’s the opportunity to independently/self-publish your work. (Although as I warned in last week’s post there are pitfalls to avoid here as well.)

Last weekend I went to a fabulous Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) workshop run by the very talented and inspiring Simmone Howell.

During the breaks I had a number of discussions with other authors about the current market. We are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been published or not, it’s very difficult at the moment, particularly in Australia to get your work published through traditional channels.

So here are my tips to keep you optimistic in the face of publishing adversity.

DIVERSIFY

At the SCBWI meeting I was surprised to discover how many of my children’s writing colleagues had entered the Scarlett Stiletto Women’s Crime & Mystery Short Story Competition.

It’s hard to slave over a novel for a number of years only to find that nobody seems to want to publish it at this time, in its current form. So it can be quite satisfying to work on shorter pieces like short stories (or paintings) and have the satisfaction of completing something you can feel good about in a much shorter space of time.

E-zines like Buzz Words and PIO provide information about publishing opportunities for shorter works, particularly in the fields of Children’s and YA writing. Your writer’s centre may also produce a magazine/e-zine which lists publishing opportunities in these markets.

BE PREPARED TO ADAPT YOUR WORK FOR A DIFFERENT MARKET

If you’ve tried a particular market for your book, for instance Australia, and there has been no interest in it, consider overseas markets like the US, UK and Europe.

Sometimes you won’t have to change much about your book to make it more relevant to these markets. For instance, my book Eddy Popcorn’s Guide to Parent Training had a lot of interest in Australia but in the end, wasn’t taken up by a publisher.

UnknownI’m now rewriting the manuscript to adapt it for an international market. Instead of setting it in Australia, I’m having my main character Eddy, an Australian boy move to Chicago. This will not only make the story more relatable for the US market, but it has also added a whole new dimension to the plot.

DON’T GIVE UP – YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD TO HAVE YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED

It’s not about how old you are or where you’re from, it’s about the book you create and whether the publisher determines that people will want to read it.

Dorothea Tanning‘s first book Chasm: A Weekend was published in 2004 by Overlook Press, New York in 2004 when she was in her nineties.

imagesHarriet Doerr published her first book Stones for Ibarra to critical acclaim when she was in her seventies.

Unknown-2Helen Hooven Santmyer published the bestselling  And Ladies of the Club at age 88.

It was published originally in 1982 by Ohio State University Press and sold only a few hundred copies. Thanks to the efforts of several enthusiastic and well-connected readers, the novel was chosen by the Book-of-the- Month Club and given a 150,000-copy first printing. It was adapted as a television miniseries, and its author was compared with Jane Austen, Thornton Wilder and – yes, even Tolstoy.

The book that made Helen Hoover Santmyer a celebrity was in the works for more than 50 years. (And I thought that taking 10 years to write Letters to Leonardo was a long time 🙂

ADJUST YOUR GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS

It’s great to have goals. I’m a big goal setter – it’s how I get things done.

But most of what happens in publishing is beyond your control.

You might have written a great book, but publishers have one on their list already that’s similar. Or marketing might have decided no more horse books, or a bestselling author might have been commissioned to write a book on the same topic/theme already.

There is so much happening inside a publisher’s office that you don’t know about. So try not to take it personally.

Their decision not to publish is not about you. It’s not about your writing. It’s not about how you look or where you come from.

It’s about whether the publisher thinks that your book will earn its keep and hopefully make a profit for them.

Try to be realistic about your goals and expectations.

Even if a publisher has expressed strong interest in my work, I always have a backup plan – someone to send the manuscript to if the deal falls through.

I ALWAYS have a plan for where I’ll send my manuscript to next if it is rejected.

Even though a rejection is disappointing, sending it out again means there is still hope and the possibility of acceptance.

And you never know when something might come back into vogue. Sometimes you need to put that manuscript aside for now.

I wrote a play in 2009 that was rejected. That same play has just been accepted by an educational publisher.

DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS

Unknown-1There will always be someone who seems to get the lucky breaks with publishers and there will always be someone with more bad luck stories than you.

Try to ignore what’s going on around you and focus just on you, on what you’re writing, on your goals, on making your own luck.

With social media constantly bombarding us with other people’s successes, it can be easy to lose sight of our own achievements. Sitting down to write is an achievement. Completing a manuscript is an achievement. Editing a manuscript is an achievement. Sending it out is an achievement. These should all be celebrated. They are not things that just anyone can do. Celebrate these achievements.

Remember that social media is a promotion tool. People never post on Facebook when they had a pitch with a publisher who said, “That story’s not for me.” But they post in big headlines when they pitch and a publisher asks to see their work.

People never post pictures of themselves being photographed with a waiter at a conference dinner – it’s more likely to be a photo of them with a celebrity author or publisher. It’s all about keeping positive, but it’s also about exuding an aura of success.

Be happy for the achievements of others, but most of all be happy for what you achieve. And remember that social media always makes things look glossier than they really are. For all you know, the food was terrible, the conference speaker put everyone to sleep and the accommodation had a rat in it. It’s just that people don’t tend to post these things on social media. They’ve spent all that money going to a conference, they want to believe that it was worth it. And honestly, most of the time it is.

I only mention this because social media gives a distorted reality. Try and keep things in perspective. If the conference looked great and you wished you were there – try and put $10 away every week so you can go to the next one and see for yourself.

Remember why you write. You write because you love it. You write because you have something to say. So keep writing and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Write for you, write for the people who will one day read your words. Don’t give up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Feel free to share your tips on how you stay optimistic in the face of adversity.

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:)

What Will I Write About? – Tuesday Writing Tip

Today’s post is for young writers who follow my blog but the principles apply to anyone who wants to create inspiring and unique stories.

Ever find yourself staring at a blank screen or piece of paper and wondering where to start? I do and I’m an author.

Here are where some of my best story ideas come from:

  • Things that have really happened to me or to people I know;
  • Memories of people, events or places;
  • People I see on trains and buses;
  • Conversations I overhear;
  • Newspaper articles;
  • Other books;
  • A picture in a magazine;
  • A place I have been to;
  • A smell, sound or feeling;
  • A problem or dilemma being faced by someone I know;
  • Playing with two words that don’t quite go together eg Flower attack;
  • Using the last line of a story I have written as the first line in a new piece of writing;
  • Thinking of a secret that someone might want to keep and what would happen if it was discovered
  • Imagining getting a letter or email from someone I have never met

If I’m still stuck, I think of a character/name and match them with an action to try and get me started.

For example:

  • Ashley fell
  • Ashley twisted
  • Ashley tumbled…
  • Ashley rocketed…
  • Ashley flew…
  • Ashley flopped…
  • Ashley leapt…
  • Ashley shook…
  • Ashley dropped…
  • Ashley shivered…
  • Ashley trembled…
  • Ashley bobbed…
  • Ashley soared…
  • Ashley is…

Then I ask myself why this action happened to Ashley, where this action happened, when and how?

THINGS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR STORY

Every story needs a catalyst – an action that starts the story on its course. At the start of your story, something will happen that changes things for the main character.

Every story needs a problem for your character. There is something they want and someone or something is stopping them from getting it. That’s what your story is about.

As a writer, you need to decide how your main character is going to solve their problem – and that’s where you will finish your story.

EDITING

After I’ve finished writing my story, I edit it to make sure it is the best it can be. I ask myself these questions:

  • Have I hooked the reader in from the start?
  • Does the beginning of my story give the reader some idea of what it’s about?
  • Does my story say what I wanted it to?
  • Will the meaning be clear to others?
  • Is there enough happening in my story to keep the reader interested?
  • Will readers like my main character and care what happens to them?
  • Are my characters believable?
  • Have I used similes and metaphors and interesting language?
  • Have I used the strongest, most effective words possible?
  • Is my ending strong enough to satisfy the reader?
  • Have I checked to make sure that all my spelling and grammar is correct?

Give your creativity free reign and see how a small idea can become a really big story.

If you have any other tips about where story ideas can come from, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

IF THE WORDS WON’T COME, DRAG THEM OUT KICKING AND SCREAMING

Today’s post is dedicated to the NaNoWriMo writers around the world.

I am pleased to report that I am on target to reach my 50,000 words by the end of the month. I kind of knew it was achievable already seeing as I’d written 56,000 words for my month long May Gibbs Fellowship.

I hope you are all on target, and if you’re not, it really doesn’t matter. To me, NaNoWriMo is all about the journey, and if you achieve your word goal then that’s just an added bonus.

For me, NaNoWriMo is valuable on so many levels. For a start, it has brought some discipline back to my writing. How easy is it to “not write today” because you’re too busy? How easy is to be distracted by kids, work, school, elephants playing on the front lawn, a fly crawling up the window? Anything, really.

Some days at my house over the past couple of weeks have been so chaotic that I wonder where I’ll find time to brush my teeth, let alone write the 1700 words required each day.

Then a beep in my inbox reminds me I have mail – a notification from a moderator that the next Word War is about to start (Don’t panic; that’s “Word” not “World”)

Word Wars are something you can do with your own writer friends. Set a time, and write as much as you can for an hour. You can write a lot more than you think in that time. The thing about a Word War is that you commit to write at the same time every day; you commit to write with other writers; you commit to write full stop.

To start with, you might sit there looking at a blank screen, but I find that the pressure of a time constraint spurs me on. If the words don’t come, drag them out kicking and screaming. Later, you can decide they’re worth keeping. To me, writing is what matters – getting your manuscript to the publishable stage is editing – it’s something that holds you back. I never try ti get it right first time, I just try for words on paper – and the more words I get, the more that seem to come.

Every day I participate in at least one Word War and I average around 1500 words. Imagine doing this for a month and seeing how many words you have by the end. For me, this has been not just about bringing back discipline, but also about cutting my writing into manageable pieces. I don’t have to allow myself seven hours a day to write – so much can be achieved in a single hour – or even half that time.

Okay, I confess. There have been many times over the last couple of weeks when the words have not flowed smoothly. When in spite of a detailed plotline, I have thought “where to from here?”  I’ve had to do more research to take the story to the next step – and that has been loads of fun too. Last week I discovered how to saddle a camel, how to light fires without matches, how to cook and eat termites – and even what they taste like (woody carrots – apparently)

So if there are two things I’m learning from NaNoWriMo it’s to cut your writing time into portions that are manageable for you, and to be disciplined in your writing – even ten minutes a day is better than nothing.

And if you can’t write, sit down and do it anyway. Drag those words kicking and screaming onto the page. Don’t let them defeat you.

I hope your NaNoWriMo novels are going well and even if they’re not, try and work through the dark days and keep going.

If you have any tips or stories about your NaNoWriMo experience, I’d love to share them with my blog readers. Feel free to tell us your NaNo tips and troubles in the comments section of this blog.

Happy writing:)

Dee

P.S. The pics in this post, will give you a hint of what my NaNo novel is about.

SICK OF BUTTING HEADS WITH YOUR WRITING? TOMORROW’S POST IS FOR NANO NOVELISTS

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo like me, you are probably feeling the pressure of having to produce words on demand. Tomorrow’s post at DeeScribe Writing is all about not letting those words defeat you. Fight back!

Drag them kicking and screaming onto the page and worry about shaping them later. That’s what I’ll be talking about tomorrow at https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

Hope you can join me then and I’d love to hear about your NaNoWriMo adventure.

Happy writing:)

Dee

TUESDAY WRITING TIPS – PREPARING FOR THE NEXT DRAFT

Writers and creators work in different ways. Some progress slowly, deliberating over every word until it’s perfect – these are usually the ones who don’t need to do many drafts of their novel.

Others like me, race ahead at a million miles, writing down everything that’s in their head before they forget it, then do many drafts to polish and add layers.

I’ve just finished the next draft of a YA novel I’ve been working on for a long time. I started it in my early days as writer before I really knew much about plotting or story flow. So a lot has changed from the early drafts and I’ve done quite a major structural edit.

I think this has made my story stronger, but it hasn’t been without its problems. Moving chunks of your story around can cause your narrative to become disjointed and inconsistent so that’s something you have to look out for in your next draft. In my story for example, my main character’s brother stole their mum’s car and for the sake of the story structure I had to move this event to the middle of the novel. When I read my draft, I discovered that my main character was now talking in Chapter Four about her brother stealing the car when it hadn’t actually happened yet.

I marked this on the manuscript but I also added it to my ‘Notes for editing the next draft’.

I keep this running list as I’m working on a draft and I find it’s a really helpful tool. It has all sorts of notes about character, setting, themes, plot consistencies etc. It probably won’t make much sense to you, but fortunately it does to me. It’s just a great way of keeping track of all the detail that becomes a mish mash in my head if I don’t write it down – all the things I need to look out for or add to my next draft. Here’s the list for the next draft of my current novel – some are things to add, some are changes, some are reminders of things to keep in the foreground:

  • school musical
  • sort bits with counsellor (that’s one of the problems arising from restructuring the story)
  • make sure plot flows
  • eliminate too many references to Cleo
  • Maintain retro clothes theme
  • sewing costumes
  • What happened to Mum’s car? (That was the stolen one)
  • More showing less telling (that’s on my permanent list)
  • More setting and character detail (I tend to just get the story action down first)
  • Different teen settings  – teens don’t always sit around on lounge suites all day
  • Other settings – party, school, train, sports training, sleepover, nightclub, cafe, milk bar, railway station
  • Exercise routine
  • Teen Girl (that’s a magazine)
  • White ceiling, cream curtains and pastel walls (mc is redecorating her bedroom)

These aren’t all the notes, they’re just a sample to show you what I mean. The other thing I have done with this manuscript is a chapter by chapter summary to help me ensure that everything is happening in the right order. Some agents actually ask for a chapter summary as part of your submission.

This is what one of my chapter summaries looks like, but you can use whatever format works for you:

CHAPTER THREE:

ACTION: Tara has to deal with consequences of kids at school finding out about Ed.

SETTING: School yard at lunch time

TIME: Friday

Now that I have my editing notes and chapter summaries I feel ready to tackle the next draft, knowing that I have suggestions and solutions for structural and detail improvements to give my story more continuity and depth.

I’d love to know how you prepare for your next draft. Feel free to share your tips in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:-)

Dee