Category Archives: Currently writing

Just Write For Middle Grade Course

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I’ve just joined Emma Walton Hamilton’s Just Write for Middle Grade Course and I’m so excited for what I will learn during the course. It’s the first time I’ve undertaken a writing study course, but I know from past experiences that Emma is super helpful.

I chose Middle Grade for a couple of reasons, firstly because I’m currently writing a chapter book for the Chapter Book Challenge this month (it runs for the month of March) and I would love to write the best book possible. I also don’t yet feel as confident in the Middle Grade genre as feel writing picture books or young adult (which I have MOUNTAINS of knowledge about).

This is the letter I wrote to Emma Walton Hamilton when I heard about the course that really explains my thought process for signing up:

I currently have a complete chapter book that I feel is a great idea, but I just can’t get it to sing, and another idea for a chapter book that has been in my head for years and I have started writing several times, but it’s just not coming onto paper in an effective/engaging way. I feel like this course is exactly what I need to help me turn these ideas into stories that are engaging and publishable and give me invaluable skills in writing for the chapter book/middle grade genre… I’ve appreciated greatly the advice you’ve given in the past through Write on Con every year (including advice you’ve given me personally) and through 12 x 12. I just know this course would be an invaluable experience.

At the end of the course I will be blogging about my experience with the course and what I got out of it, so stay tuned!

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A Little Bit of Mystery

Memoirs_of_Sherlock_Holmes_1894_Burt_-_Illustration_3I love the mystery genre. I love trying to spot the clues and work out whodunnit. I have a nice little collection of Agatha Christie novels on my bookshelf. Miss Marple stories are some of my favourites, but I’m also a fan of Poirot. For years I’ve had Sherlock Holmes on my ‘to be read’ pile, but never seemed to get around to reading any until recently. I downloaded a free Sherlock Holmes ebook from Amazon for my Kindle a couple of weeks ago and have been enjoying trying to think like Holmes.

It was a coincidence that only last week I noticed The Australian Literature Review was having a short story competition this month with a mystery/detective theme. With my head full Holmes, it was perfect timing to have a go at penning my own murder mystery. As much as I love reading the genre, I don’t often attempt writing it, unsure of my ability to weave in subtle clues without giving too much away, while leaving readers with that ‘aha!’ feeling when they get to the end. I love the cleverness involved in mystery stories, and admire the crafty authors of the genre.

Obviously reading Holmes had a good influence on my writing, despite my worry, as the story I wrote for the competition has been short listed! Pop over to The Australian Literature Review and have a read for yourself. The story is titled ‘Mystery at Beaumont Manor‘ and is written in a similar style to the Holmes/Poirot type stories.

Do you like to read or write mystery? What are your top tips for a great mystery story?

My top tip: Plot backwards. Know how it’s going to end and plot in reverse so you can weave in the clues.

Writing a Novel – Character Profiles

Welcome to the first post in my Writing a Novel series. Today we will be looking at character profiles.

Usually when I am embarking on a new novel, I plot first, then do character profiles. This time around, my characters, specifically my main character, have been clamouring to be heard. My plot, at this point, is still not completely clear in my head, but the characters already have very strong voices. So this time around I am starting off with character profiles (and hoping once I know them and their motivations a bit better, the plot will become more clear).

Simple Bios

A few years ago I discovered ywriter and one of the great features is that you can include character bios (which can be as detailed as you want), including their goals. There is even a tab for including a picture!

ywriter character profile

I spent far too much time searching Google images for pictures that fit my character descriptions, but it really made me think about how my characters look and even helped me develop their personalities (of course Nyssa has to be smiling in her picture, because she is such a positive, happy character). The Mac equivalent to ywriter is Scrivener, though I’ve never used it, so I’m not sure if it has a similar feature.

For the bio, I kept it simple at this stage. I included age, physical features, family, personality traits (both positive and negative) and goals. You can see an example of a character bio on the post NaNoWriMo — Character Outline.

Character Interview

With the character’s basic personality now in mind, it’s time to delve deeper. I like to do character interviews with the main characters to really bring the characters to life. In my post, Creating 3D Characters: The Character Interview, I talk about this more in-depth and provide some examples of questions to ask that really get to the heart of your character. And in my post, NaNoWriMo — Character Outline I show how these questions might be answered (using Harry Potter as an example).

Visualising Your Character

There are so many fun, creative ways to do this. Here are a few of my favourites:

A character collage. Write your character’s name at the top of a piece of blank paper and grab a heap of old magazines, some scissors and some glue. Cut out things that would suit your character and stick them on the paper. Does your character have brown hair? Cut out a actress with brown hair. Does your character love music? Cut out a picture of an ipod. Does you character wear jeans? Does your character love animals? Is your character a doctor?

charactercollage

Sketch. Blank paper + pencil. It doesn’t matter if you’re not very good at drawing, you’re the only one who will see it. Add labels, eg: ‘blue eyes’, ‘sword’, ‘permanent smirk’. Make it more than just a picture to show what they look like, let their personality and the setting of the novel shine through, too.

Powerpoint. This is especially good if you have several main characters. On each slide find a picture to represent how you imagine your character to look, then accompany with dot points that describe your character’s personality.

So is it really necessary to make such an in-depth profile of your character before you begin writing your novel? It’s really up to the author. For me, I find having looked at my characters in such an in-depth way before I begin I am able to really immerse myself in my character’s head as I write and their voices come across more naturally. Also, I don’t have to flick back to page seven to remember what eye colour my MC has or to page fifty to remember if my MC’s best friend has two sisters or three, because I know them so well (or if I really have forgotten, it’s much easier to just refer back to my character profile, than find where I mentioned it).

What do you do to develop your characters before you begin writing? Or do you just jump right in and let them develop as you write?

New Writing Resolutions

happy new year 2013Happy New Year!

My resolution last year was to submit more, but unfortunately, like many resolutions made on New Year’s Eve, this didn’t come to pass. For the most part it wasn’t my usual submission anxiety holding me back, but an insanely busy roller coaster ride of year that stole a lot of focus from my writing world. Regular followers might have noticed my blog has been more quiet than usual this past year and my Facebook author page and Twitter have also noticeably been much quieter, too.

My new resolution for 2013 is to get back into my writing groove. I’ve joined a group called Sub Six with the goal of submitting at least six manuscripts this year (I’ll be polishing some of my 12 x 12 manuscripts from 2012 as well as a few from 2011 that I’ve been polishing over the year). I’ve dusted off my Publisher Checklist, I know which manuscript I want to submit first and which publishers I think will be the best fit. I’m working on a cover letter at the moment.

I’ve also been hit with inspiration for a novel. Since it is a brand new novel, I’ve decided to share my novel writing process as I write, from plotting through to editing, with helpful hints I’ve learned along the way. My first post in the series will be on writing character profiles and should be up within the next few days.

What are your writing resolutions for 2013?

12 x 12 in ’12 Blog Party!

12x12 blog partyWhat better day to celebrate the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge coming to a close than a blog party on the 12/12/2012?

By mere coincidence I’ve been penning my December draft today without realising the date. It was only when I got the reminder on Julie’s blog that today was the blog party I realised. How fitting I should write my final draft for 12 x 12 in 2012 on today’s date.

12 x 12 has been a fantastic journey and I really urge any PB writers out there to have a go at 12 x 12 next year. It’s great motivation to build up a folder of PB drafts to work on and the community that comes along with the challenge is invaluable. Next year looks as though it promises to be even better with a new forum opening up and opportunities to pitch to agents (check out all the details here).

A huge thank you to Julie Hedlund for being the brains and driving force behind 12 x 12, she’s has done an amazing job and put so much into the challenge to make it a success. And thank you to my fellow 12 x 12ers for all the support, sharing and friendship throughout the year.

So how did I progress during 12 x 12 this year? Here’s a bit of a timeline…

JANUARY

I started the year full of motivation and was inspired early on in the month. Heavily pregnant and battling a sweltering Australian summer, I wondered how I would be able to pull an idea from my melting brain, but it was the heat that ended up being the inspiration behind my very first draft. It’s been revamped and overhauled several times already and still needs a bit of work. It’s a keeper, though.

FEBRUARY

After having a story published in Australian Women Online’s Bedtime Stories collection back in November 2011, I thought I might look to their upcoming themes to gain inspiration for my February draft. The upcoming theme for March was ‘Green’. I wrote the draft, revised it, put it through my critique group and revised it some more. (I also had a baby in there somewhere!) Despite it only being a month old (the story, not the baby), I thought it was a a strong story and I was really happy with it. I submitted it literally at the eleventh hour. The next day I got an email saying it had been accepted! I couldn’t believe it! You can read ‘Green Nadine’ here.

MARCH

St. Patrick’s Day was the inspiration behind my March draft. I’m really in love with this one. I entered it into CYA later in the year and although it didn’t place, I got some feedback on it, which will hopefully help me shape it up a bit more.

APRIL

I started a PB draft about a boy who thinks he lives next door to a wizard, but I quickly discovered it just wasn’t working for me. I got a rushed draft about a duck scrawled in my notebook at the very end of the month. Not sure if I’ll do anything with that one, though I adore the name of the duck.

MAY

NaPiBoWriWee!! The aim was to do 7 drafts in 7 days. With a new baby, who had been in and out of hospital the last couple of months, I think I was probably a bit crazy to think I could even attempt this. But I got a few drafts done 😀

– An Australian fairytale based on a play I wrote for kids while studying teaching at university.

– A story about a young chef, which I never finished.

– A house-hunting mouse (this is also based on a story idea I had years ago).

– A country child visiting the big city inspired by a trip to Melbourne with my kids (I believe this was on the first day of NaPiBoWriWee–I was writing the story in my head the whole trip there).

– A family of grumpy monsters, which started as a silly name I made up and just grew from there.

– A simple board book text about fruit.

– The last was more a poem than a story and was written for a magazine (and unfortunately didn’t get accepted–it probably could have done with more rest time and revision, but I was rushing for the deadline).

JUNE

I started a story about a principal with a silly premise, but it didn’t get far. Luckily I ended up with another two completed stories this month; it was a good month for inspiration. The first was based on a rollicking first line I kept singing in my head, with my three children inspiring the three characters in the story. It turned out as an interactive story and if I don’t end up submitting it to publishers, I think I will just make it into a book for my children. The other is really quite a sad story. I guess I had been feeling a bit down, thinking about the baby I lost (and would have been celebrating his/her first birthday this month), and that poured into a story about a boy whose brother dies.

JULY

I wrote my favourite, most favourite story this month. I had been bouncing my baby on my knee singing these silly nonsense words to her, when BAM! Lightbulb! The silly words became the opening line to a rhyming story about a baby echidna. I’ve been revising and rewriting this story like mad, because I really love it and want to submit it. It’s been through my critique group several times, had peer critique at Write on Con and got a great in depth critique from Rate Your Story. As it’s a rhyming PB it needs to be completely perfect in meter and rhyme before I’ll submit it. I hope I can get it there!

AUGUST

I couldn’t find any stories dated from August on my computer, but I do have some handwritten drafts scrawled in my notebook that I haven’t dated and I know I completed a draft in August. I also lost a couple of stories when my laptop crashed that couldn’t be recovered, so I don’t know if there was an August one there. I think the scrawled story about a pirate crew (inspired by my son’s birthday pirate theme party I had been planning) may be an August draft, though it is unfinished.

SEPTEMBER

My son is self-teaching himself the times tables at the moment and my inspiration for my draft this month was a story based on the 3 times tables. Not sure if it works well, however. :/

OCTOBER

Another scrawled, unfinished draft in my note book that I think may have been an October draft. My son got invited to a birthday party and I knew his friend loved cooking, so I set out to find a children’s cookbook for his gift. I found none (except for one on cakes, but their family isn’t really into sweets). So I decided to write a PB about kids cooking, with the intention of including some simple recipes for kids in the appendix. (Note: I’ve noticed in the lead up to Christmas there are actually quite a few kids’ cookbooks around now.) I didn’t actually finish this one as it is going to be a longer PB, but I have a skeleton plot written out.

NOVEMBER

Zip! Zilch! Zero! No drafts this month. Simply too busy, unfortunately. Though I did attempt PiBoIdMo for the first time, since I was forgoing NaNoWriMo this month. I came up with 24 ideas. So even though I don’t have a draft for November, I have a nice little idea bank to dig into.

DECEMBER

I’m halfway through a Christmas/fairytale crossover story that I started today. I believe I will have it done by the end of the month (I already have the whole story planned out).

FINAL STATS:

PBs Complete: 14!

PBs started, but not finished: 6

Lost stories (from the computer crash): ??

PiBoIdMo ideas to get me started next year: 24

What a year!

NaPiBoWriWee is Just Around the Corner

The first week of May is National Picture Book Writing Week. The aim: to write a picture book a day for seven days. The picture book manuscripts do not have to be perfect; they’re just drafts. The point of NaPiBoWriWee (as it is affectionately known) is to get motivated to write. As always, it is hosted by Paula Yoo, who has some great things planned for the week, including Q & As with published authors/illustrators and giveaways!

Fingers crossed I will be attempting it again this year (it will be my third NaPiBoWriWee).  Whereas the 12 x 12 challenge is pushing me to write a picture book a month, NaPiBoWriWee will be an even bigger challenge, since I will only have one day to write each draft instead of a whole month. This year will be even more challenging since I have one more child than I did last year and since she’s just 2 months old, and still feeding through the night, my writing time is rather sparse at the moment!

While some of my PB drafts from previous NaPiBoWriWees are sitting in folders and will probably never see the light of day again, I really love some of the other PBs that have come out of this challenge. In fact, I already saw some success with one of my NaPiBoWriWee PBs when it won second place at CYA last year. Who knows what this year will bring!

Worried you’ll be stuck for ideas? Alison Hertz (who participated in NaPiBoWriWee last year) has a great exercise on her blog to help prepare for NaPiBoWriWee.

Will you be attempting NaPiBoWriWee this year? Have you attempted it in the past? Any tips for new NaPiBoWriWee-ers?

The Final Days of NaNo

NaNoWriMo Diary – The Day After

Total number of words written: ???

Coke consumed on last day: 1 can

Chocolate consumed on last day: 3 Tim tams, ice-cream drizzled with chocolate topping

Yesterday was the last day of NaNoWriMo for 2011. Did I make it?

A couple of days ago I was in a panic. With only a few days left to go I could see the finish line ahead of me, I had passed 40k words, but at the same time I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to 50k by the end of the month. With five days to go I still had 10k to write–2000 words a day. I thought I could make a big dent over the weekend to give me some leeway when my busy week started and I had less time. It didn’t work out that way. I ended up babysitting over the weekend and had four kids aged 6 and under from Saturday before lunch until Sunday after lunch. Saturday fizzled at 1000 words, but I managed to get over 2000 on Sunday. At this point I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact I probably wouldn’t hit 50k by November 30, but that was okay, I would still write as much as I could.

Monday: With three days to go, I still needed another 6000 – 7000 words. Monday is my busiest day of the week and I didn’t quite make 2000, although I did write the most I have written on a Monday for the whole of November, which was an accomplishment nonetheless.

Tuesday: I was looking 5000 words in two days. I thought I would have all day Tuesday free, but ended up having lunch at the in-laws. I got to 2,200 words.

The final day: I needed 2,800 words to finish. I debated skipping taking my daughter to playgroup so I could stay home and write, but didn’t think that would be fair to my daughter, so I took her. It turned out to work in my favour. She was so tired after playgroup she was quite subdued and quiet after we got home, allowing me a good block of writing time. My muse was exceptionally kind yesterday. I was at a part of the story that just seemed to flow out easily. I knew what I wanted to happen and didn’t need to sit and think too much about it. Plus there were some good opportunities for description–that helped.

At around 10.30 last night I crossed the 50k line! I did it. I wrote 50k in a month. My final word count was: 50224. I wrote over 3000 words yesterday, almost matching my highest word count day for the month.

Is it a novel? Not yet. Since it’s a fantasy it will need to hit at least 90000 words before it could be considered complete and I’m nowhere near the resolution yet, so I still have some writing to do. Then, of course, there’s the editing and revisions. I’ll take a bit of a break over December, though. And today I get to celebrate by putting up my Christmas decorations!

Some stats…

Highest word count day: Day 1–3075 words

Lowest word count day: Day 17–0 words

Average word count: 1674 words per day

Highest average day: Tuesdays (average 2582 words)

Lowest average day: Mondays (average 1005 words)

P.S. I haven’t done a Helpful Sites and Blog Posts post for November as I just didn’t get time in the last few days of November, so I will be combing it with December’s post.

The Final Sprint

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 25

Total number of words written: 39740

Words Written Today: 2255

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 2 fun size Snickers, ice-cream drizzled with chocolate topping

Technically it’s the morning of day 26 for me, but I was so busy trying to get a decent word count yesterday I didn’t get a chance to write my blog post, so I’m writing it first thing this morning and pretending it’s still yesterday.

At the moment I’m still trying to push uphill. I should have hit 40000 words on day 24. As it stands now I’m still about 260 words from hitting that mark. Although I’m getting good writing days in here and there (like yesterday when I got over 2000 words for the day), on the other days my word count is low, making it hard to catch back up. I’m finding the time factor to be playing a big role this year. My calendar continues to fill up, my days are packed full of busyness (shopping takes longer at the moment because I’m starting to get organised for Christmas and my son’s birthday), and pregnancy means I’m more tired (and sore) than usual after a day of activities and housework.

Working title will most likely change. I haven't done graphics in months and have never used photoshop before, so it's a rough cover.

Enter procrastination. I’ll admit I spent yesterday morning playing with photoshop to make a mock book cover for my NaNo novel (I had gone on photoshop originally to make invitations for my son’s birthday party, then ended up making the mock cover too). The time spent on photoshop making the mock cover, would have been better spent actually writing the novel itself, though I convinced myself I was doing it for inspiration. After chastising myself for procrastinating, I did end up with a good word count for the day, so maybe it was good motivation after all.

Write or Die has been my saviour. I can largely thank it for my good word count days this half of NaNo. If I’m sitting there procrastinating I just get Write or Die up and I can guarantee myself just over 400 words in fifteen minutes. A couple of bursts like that through the day really helps get the words on the page.

I’m still determined to reach 50000 in the next five days, though it will be a hard uphill battle. Somehow I will fit those words in around babysitting this afternoon, shopping and play rehearsal on Monday and playgroup on Wednesday. 10000 words in five days. Can I do it? I sure hope so. But if I don’t, I’ll have made a good go at it.

Photo Credits: Angelina Jolie, Tomb Raider (Paramount); Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood (HBO); texture by C4D

Not Giving Up

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 20

Total number of words written: 31533

Words Written Today: 1512 (so far)

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: none 😦 We have completely run out of chocolate in the house. There’s not even any Milo left. Oh wait, I ate one of the kids’ tubs of chocolate custard (it was opened and left uneaten by one of the kids, so I did what any good mother would do. Couldn’t let it go to waste after all).

I know quite a few fellow NaNo-ers who have pulled out of NaNoWriMo this year after finding it just wasn’t working for them, whether because the story wasn’t inspiring them or life was just not allowing them the time to write. It can be a brave move having the guts to realise it’s not working and pulling out. I, on the other hand, have a stubborn personality and a competitive nature that won’t let me give up.

Things have not been looking good on the word count front the past week. I had my first zero word count day on Thursday. I’d had a dismal word count the day before and was already behind, but I’d had a stressful morning dealing with business paperwork and screaming kids while also suffering from dizziness and a mega headache (possibly the headache was related to the screaming kids)–not exactly conducive to getting any writing done. By the afternoon the kids had calmed down (okay, so I resorted to putting on a DVD and turned them into zombies for an hour), the paperwork was out of the way and my headache had subsided. But by this point all I wanted to do was relax, so I decided I would have a complete break from my novel that day, even though I knew it would mean a lot of catching up. I think I needed that break, so I didn’t regret doing it

Friday was a scorcher here. We hit 35 degrees celsius. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t cope well in heat, especially when I’m pregnant. But still, I managed to get 600 words written, which wasn’t too bad considering.

Yesterday I was looking at a mountain of words in front of me to catch up. It was daunting. I was sitting about 4000 words behind where I needed to be. I knew it was time to break out Write or Die. I got a few good writing bursts out of it, including 450 words in 15 minutes in one session. Even with a visit to my sister’s in the afternoon I had managed to push past 30000 by the end of the day, and even though I was still behind, it felt good to get past that mark.

I had planned another big writing day today to get me back on par, but waking up with nearly no voice, a sore throat and feeling like death warmed up, my plans were dashed. I’ve managed 1500 despite feeling horrible, but my head really isn’t in it today. Thank goodness hubby suggested ordering a roast chicken meal to be home delivered so I don’t have to cook tonight.

I’ll be starting this week a day behind, but maybe I’ll get a couple of good days in. I’m still determined to hit that 50000 mark by November 30.

P.S. I got a surprise in my inbox the other day: an email telling me my blog had been listed on the ’50 Best Blogs for NaNoWriMo Support’. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo check out the list, there are some really great sites listed.

Hump Day

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 15

Total number of words written: 25076

Words Written Today: 2898

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 3 squares Smarties chocolate

Yes, I know it’s not Wednesday yet, but I’m not talking about midweek hump day, I’m talking about mid-NaNoWriMo hump day. It’s day 15, the halfway point. Looking at my word count this morning I was sitting just over 22,000 words, which meant I needed 3000 today to catch up to where I needed to be at 25,000 words–halfway to 50,000. The only day so far where I’ve written that many words in one day was on day 1 when motivation was extremely high.

The last few days have been tough for me in terms of word count. Over the weekend I was suffering from bad dizzy spells which was making it hard for me to do anything that required concentration, including writing. I have not made the daily word count goal (of 1667 words) since day 10. Yesterday and Sunday I only just scraped half of that.

I knew yesterday was going to be a bad day for writing, and despite knowing I had fallen short of where I needed to be for that day already because of a dismal weekend, there was nothing I could do about it. I was just too busy. Shopping that took most of the morning, a quick lunch, then pick up son from kinder, then only a short break before we had to go to my son’s play rehearsal. Back home just in time to cook dinner. I had basically resigned myself to the fact it would be my first 0 word count day. But then my competitive nature kicked in. I was tired, but I propped my laptop on my knee as I watched TV and thought, even if I only get a sentence or two, it’s still something. I just couldn’t go to bed knowing I had written 0 words for the day. As it happened, once I started writing the words kept flowing and I ended up with over 800 before I gave in to my tiredness and went to bed.

When I woke up this morning I knew I had a tough job in front of me. I wanted desperately to be at 25k at the halfway point, but it meant 3000 words today to get there. By 10am I had written 1000 and I thought to myself, “maybe I can do this after all.” I took a break, did some jobs for the farm, then set up my laptop at the dining room table over lunch. I wrote another 1000 words. Somehow I had found renewed motivation and my story had found new energy. I took another break, did some housework, then sat down and wrote another 800. I hit 25,000. I felt like channeling my inner Dora the Explorer and singing, “I did it! I did it!”

Now I’m over hump day, I’m just hoping I can keep up momentum all the way to day 30. I’m looking forward to tomorrow as I’m going in for my glucose test. No, not looking forward to getting my blood taken, but I’ll have one whole hour of waiting to myself in the waiting room. Instead of taking a book like I usually would, I’m taking a notebook and pen. 1 hour of peace and quiet with nothing to do but write.

P.S. Note the minimal amount of chocolate I consumed today 😀 Banana lollies and caramel popcorn totally don’t count.

P.P.S. The temperature just hit 30 degrees celsius. Even the heat didn’t deter me today! (Though right now it’s starting to hit me hard, so I’m glad I got all those words out of the way before it did hit me.)