Category Archives: Currently writing

3 Symptoms of the Week 2 Blues (and How to Cure It)

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 10

Total number of words written: 16283

Words Written Today: 250 (so far)

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 1 fun size Crunchie, half a cup of Milo–by which I mean just dry Milo, no milk or hot water involved (so far, but it’s only 2pm) (have sadly run out of milky ways) I should probably also mention the caramel popcorn and starbursts, but technically they’re not chocolate 🙂

In NaNo land there is something known as the ‘Week 2 blues’ and unfortunately it seems to have hit me the past few days.On top of that, it’s been a super busy week in Mummy land. I’ve had antenatal appointments, immunisations for Miss 2 (which turned out to be much more of a drama than it was supposed to be), an afternoon at the cinema with a group of playgroup mums and the usual weekly shopping trip. I’ve just signed my son up for the local Christmas play, so we’ll be attending rehearsals for that every week, the first one was on Monday. I also decided this week the fridge was in desperate need of a cleanout, not to mention the cupboard under the sink. And November’s calendar is filling up fast!

Sunday and Monday were both low word count days. On Sunday I consumed at 3 cans of Coke, ate a great deal of chocolate and ended up getting KFC for dinner, but still didn’t get near the daily word goal. I did go to the movies in the afternoon, though, and even though I lost a few hours writing time, I think I needed that break and to get out of the house to reenergise.

Since there’s nothing I can do about life’s happenings, I’m going to focus on getting over these week two blues.

The Symptoms:

1. Motivational high of week one has pretty much all fizzled out. All the excitement of going into a new story, all the buzz of new ideas, that spurred an initial surge of words spewing onto the page has died down.

2. It’s getting harder to push words out onto the page. You find yourself staring at the page, letting distractions take over. Whereas in the first week the words seemed to flow onto the page easily, this week you feel like you have to pry them from your brain.

3. You know where you want your characters to go, but don’t know how to get them there. You have your plan, you know what your next plot point is, but trying to get them there has you stumped.

So how am I supposed to get past this week two slump? I know other NaNoers who have simply quit, deciding NaNo just isn’t working for them this year. Some have changed stories and gone into a new idea with renewed motivation (I did this last year). Some have decided to take the pressure off by not worrying about the word count and just writing what they can, when they can.

I still love my story idea, and I want to keep on, so here are some ways I’m going to try to tackle the week two blues that have worked for me in the past.

The Cure:

1. Stay focused on where I want my story to go, but also let it surprise me with plot twists and extra details. My characters have just found the first clue to a conspiracy that I had not planned at all. It was an interesting surprise and a nice addition to build upon my plot.

2. Push past the ‘writer’s block’ by just writing. Write or Die has been a big help with this in the past in getting from one point to another.Wordwars/wordsprints are helpful too, and there are always NaNoers around on Twitter who are up for some word wars.

3. Decrease distractions by writing on my laptop (which has only Word programs and is not connected to the internet).

I am so grateful for that week one padding I built up when my motivation was still high, it has helped a lot this week. At the moment I’m trying to keep just ahead each day. I find if I think, “I only have to write 900 words tomorrow to reach the goal”, it gives me motivation going into the next day, because the goal isn’t as overwhelming as staring at the prospect of writing 1667. And then when I’ve hit the goal, I think, “Well now it’s only 700 more and I’ll have written 1667”. It breaks it into chunks, which makes the goal seem easier to reach.

Author Jody Hedlund has a great post on writing after the initial passion has fizzled: How to Keep Writing When the Honeymoon is Over

How is everyone else going? Have you been hit with the week 2 blues? How are you coping with them? What strategies are you using to keep on going?

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My 2 Year Old Whip Cracker

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 5

Total number of words written: 10231

Words Written Today: 2121 (so far)

Coke consumed: 2 cans

Chocolate consumed: 6 fun size Milky Ways, 4 squares Marble chocolate, bowl of ice-cream drizzled with chocolate topping (so far)

As it stands, day one was my best day in terms of word count. Day two was pretty good, considering my morning meant getting child one ready for kinder and dropping him off, followed by playgroup for child two and a trip to the library, meaning my morning was a complete write off. But in two days I had managed to reach the day three goal. Things went downhill a bit after that.

On Thursday morning I managed only 70 words before breakfast, and I was lucky to get that. Dear daughter was having a rather demanding morning and every time I put fingers to the keyboard I was pulled away by whinging, nagging, fighting, or sometimes just plain old wanting a chat. I gave up trying to type. I also realised, after the last two days of writing, it was time to get stuck into some housework as the toys were taking over and the washing piling up. Between bits of housework, when the kids were playing nicely, I slipped in a sentence here and there. With a burst in the afternoon and another big burst after the kids went to bed, my Thursday word count wasn’t looking so bad after all.

Friday. Oh, Friday. ‘Twas really not a good writing day. I woke up tired. No words at all before breakfast, despite being up quite early, as my brain just couldn’t think straight enough to put words on the page. Got a little bit written after taking son to kinder and before I had to take daughter to her swimming lesson. Then to the in-laws’ for lunch and an afternoon spent with my hubby’s sister who was visiting with her family from interstate. Got a little writing done before cooking dinner and a bit more after kids were in bed, but went to bed early with only 800 words under my belt for the day. Was thankful to have that extra padding from previous days.

Which brings me to today. Although Saturday is my ‘day off’ from housework, I was worried with the expected hot temperatures I wouldn’t get much writing done since I don’t cope well in the heat while pregnant (brain turns to mush). So I endeavoured to get as much writing done as possible before it got too hot. But I found my story had hit a point where I wasn’t sure how to push forward, so the writing was slow. On top of that, my motivation was low after receiving a short story rejection in my email (one I had been feeling quite positive about). I found myself procrastinating on the internet, but my husband was my saviour (though he doesn’t know it). He wanted to watch a movie on the computer, so I transferred my story over to my laptop, which not only had no internet to distract me, but also only has Wordpad, which doesn’t show the word count like Word does, so I couldn’t obsessively keep checking my word count. I ended up staying on my laptop for the rest of the day and as a result hit 2000 words for the day, pushing me over the 10000 word mark in total. And the heat turned out to be not so bad after all, I managed to keep the house relatively cool, plus the dining table is a much cooler place to write than the computer (as that room gets quite warm in the afternoon).

As for the 2 year old whip cracker… Sitting at my laptop, and getting a wee bit distracted, I started singing along to the children’s show that was on TV. My daughter, who was sitting opposite at me, looked at me with the sternest of looks and jabbed a pointed finger at my laptop as if to say, “Stop singing, keep writing.”

Point taken.

Off to a Racing Start

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 1

Number of words written: 3075

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 3 fun size Milky Ways, 4 squares Marble chocolate, 1 fun size Kit Kat

I’m off to a positive start on my first day of NaNo. My motivation is high. I got on the computer at 7.30am and made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t turn on the internet until breakfast. By 8.15am (when I stopped for breakfast) I had written 700 words. I should make this deal with myself everyday! Although, when I first sat down to write I wondered whether I would get more than a sentence written as it seemed like every time I put my fingers to the keyboard my 2yo came up to talk to me or asked me to help her into her princess dress or started crying over something that was frustrating her and I needed to help her or give her cuddles. Thankfully she settled in the end.

I alternated housework and spending time with the kids with writing bursts throughout the day. I wrote one or two hundred words here and there when the kids were occupied playing and my pregnant body needed to sit down after hanging washing or vacuuming the floor.

The second deal I made with myself was to hit the daily word goal of 1667 words before the Melbourne Cup started. At 2.30pm (half an hour before the race was due to start) I hit 1668. After the Cup had finished I decided to keep going so I would have extra words up my sleeve for later in the month when my motivation is waning or I have days when I don’t have as much time to write. I aimed to double the daily word count (3,333 words) before PB Lit Chat started at 9pm (kids were in bed by 8pm–late for them). Didn’t quite make it, but 3000 is a pretty good effort for day 1, I think.

I’m feeling really good about this story. I’ve already introduced the two main characters and set up their relationship to each other and I’ve just hit the inciting incident.

I also got some good news today regarding a children’s story I wrote, which is going to be published in an online magazine later this month. I think that’s given me some extra writing motivation.

National Poetry Week

It’s National Poetry Week in Australia this week. I know I’m overdue for a post on Write on Con and my monthly helpful sites post for August (I’ll be combining it with September’s post), but I love poetry, so couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write a little poem to share. This is just a fun rhyme I was inspired to write after waking up with a few lines in my head yesterday morning.

Danny Likes to Disco Dance

Danny likes to disco dance,

The hustle makes him happy,

At school he’d do the boogaloo,

And could cha cha in a nappy.

 

His mum and dad are fancy folk,

Who like to dance the tango,

(And secretly on Sundays,

They dance the new fandango.)

 

But Danny likes to disco dance,

It’s the only dance he’ll do.

He doesn’t care the craze died out,

In nineteen-eighty-two.

 

His sister likes to ballet dance,

In a tutu pink and frilly,

She pirouettes across the stage,

But Danny thinks she’s silly.

 

‘Cause Danny likes to disco dance,

Wearing flares and platform shoes,

His afro hair is debonair,

John Travolta is his muse.

 

His brothers are both headbangers,

They do not like to dance,

They thrash their heads and smash guitars,

While wearing leather pants.

 

But Danny likes to disco dance,

Pointing fingers in the air,

He rolls his arms and taps his feet,

With disco-dancing flair.

 

His grandma is a country girl,

She likes to dosey-do,

The line dance champ of Gooligamp,

With trophies all on show.

 

But Danny likes to disco dance,

Beneath the disco ball,

He dances at the roller-rink,

His moves enthral them all.

 

There are many kinds of dances,

Like the salsa and the samba,

Hokey pokey, heel and toe,

The mambo and the rhumba.

 

But Danny likes to disco dance,

His groovy moves are fly,

Forget hip hop, hard rock and pop,

For disco will not die.

 

It’s still a work in progress (the meter needs smoothing out in a few places), but I’m thinking it might work as a picture book once polished.

Have you written any poetry for Poetry Week? Why not give it a go. It doesn’t have to rhyme, there are lots of forms of poetry you could write.

Happy Book Week

It’s book week this week; a great week to celebrate all things books and reread some of your old favourites (maybe introduce them to your kids or recommend them to some friends).

Remember at school how book week meant dressing up as your favourite book character? I can remember dressing up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Emily from L.M. Montgomery’s Emily Climbs and a fairy (though I can’t remember which book it was from). As a teacher I remember one year dressing up as Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter series. I can’t wait until my son starts school next year and gets to dress up for book week.

All week I’ve been sharing some of my favourite books on my Facebook page as part of the book week celebrations. So far I’ve covered my favourite picture book, chapter books and YA book/series. Watch out for my favourite adult book and all time favourite in the coming days. Feel free to tell me some of your favourite books.

In the spirit of book week, and following a great three days at Write on Con, I’ve been busy revising some of my writing, including several picture books, a chapter book for boys and a young adult contemporary thriller. I’ll be posting a Write on Con follow-up post soon.

And as if book week wasn’t already great, I got some fantastic news at the start of the week: my picture book Monster Sister was shortlisted in the preschool category in the 2011 CYA conference competition. The winners will be announced at the conference on the tenth of September and unfortunately I can’t be there. I’m so excited just to be shortlisted though, since it means my story will be seen by publishers!

Seven Picture Books in Seven Days

Writing seven picture books in seven days is a lot harder than it seems. I’ve just finished NaPiBoWriWee where that’s exactly what I had to do.

Finding Ideas

On some days the ideas came easily. One morning I woke up with an idea already formed in my mind. Other days inspiration didn’t come quite so easily. In fact, it got to seven o’clock one night and I was fretting that I wouldn’t find an idea at all. Some of my ideas were sparked by the world around me (a picture book set on a farm) or a memory (the theme song to Postman Pat reminded me of a funny line my siblings and I used to sing when we were younger and it formed into a picture book idea). Some of my ideas came out of thin air (such as the one I wrote about a pirate) or from staring out the window blankly (what if there were fairies in the garden?) Asking my son for ideas didn’t work out very well as all he wanted to do was count (hence one of my picture books ended up being a counting book), though he came up with some good character names for one of my picture books.

Time

For the most part I waited for my children to go to bed before I sat down to work on my picture book for the day. On a couple of days my son was my sounding board while my daughter napped. The fact we went on holidays with two days of NaPiBoWriWee to go left me worried I wouldn’t get those last two picture books for the week written. As it turns out our very long car trip gave me a lot of time to think and work out a story in my head (which I typed up on my laptop the first chance I got) and my final idea was inspired by the trip itself.

The Writing of a Picture Book is a Complex Exercise.

Although picture books appear simple on the surface, it is their simplicity that makes them complex to write. Writing picture books is a lesson in using concise language. Word choice is especially difficult as it mustn’t be too flowery or difficult for a child to comprehend, yet an odd word every now and then that encourages the child to explore language beyond their own vocabulary enriches the text. Picture books tend to have a rhythm and flow, whether a rhyming text or straight prose. It must sound right when read aloud.

Far From Finished.

The picture books I wrote for NaPiBoWriWee are no where near finished, they are simply rough drafts. Two of the picture books I wrote will probably never be explored further as I just don’t feel I like them enough or that they have enough potential. Some of my other ideas I really love and I will definitely be revising and reworking them until they’re polished. (My picture book critique group can expect to see some of them in the near future!)

Did you do NaPiBoWriWee this year? How did you go? Was it easier or harder than you anticipated? If you didn’t do it, is it something you would consider doing in the future?

Pitches and Queries and Updates, Oh My!

I want to cover three separate topics today: the Twitter pitch, query critiques and an update on the 100 Stories for Queensland Anthology.

The Twitter Pitch

Earlier this week literary agent Jennifer Laughran (aka @literaticat) of Andrea Brown Literary agency decided to have a bit of fun on Twitter. She gave everyone one hour to tweet her a pitch of a (real or fake) manuscript. I LOVE Twitter pitches. You think it’s challenging to condense a 50-100k word manuscript into a 250 word query? Try condensing it into a 140 characters or less pitch. Not only do you need to capture the essence of the main plot of the story, but you have to make it hook too, which really boils down to showing what makes your story unique.

Following her ‘Tweet-a-query’ session, Jennifer Laughran posted her conclusions about Twitter pitches on her blog, stating “…the lessons here are applicable to the regular query process too.” You can find her post here, as well as the four pitches she thought stood out above the rest.

As another follow-up to the Twitter pitch session, teacher and writer Tamara posted on her blog a breakdown of the Twitter pitch. You can find her post here.

Query Critique

Last week I blogged about my endeavour to continually improve my query. As a recap, I’d been writing, revising and rewriting a query for my YA fantasy. I submitted to ABNA as a test for myself to see how effective my query was before submitting to agents. I didn’t pass the pitch round. So I have been revising and rewriting the query some more. In the meantime, I came across author Susan Dennard’s blog and she just happened to be starting a new feature on her blog where once a month she takes on ten queries and critiques them. She then randomly selects two of these queries to also go up on her blog for community critique (either as it is or with revisions following Susan’s critique). I was lucky enough to be one of the first ten to submit my query to her when she opened the gates for queries this month. She gave my query a fantastic critique (my main problem was being too vague, I needed to be more specific). Then, my query was selected as one of the two to be put up for community critique. I’ve received some more great feedback already. You can see it (and offer your own critique if you want to) here.

Susan next opens her doors for queries for critique on the 4th of April. It’s well worth submitting, because Susan gives great critique. You can opt not to be put in the draw for the community critique if you don’t want to, but Susan’s critique alone is worth it. Be quick though, because only the first ten get in each month.

Anthology Update

The 100 Stories for Queensland anthology (an anthology to raise money for those affected by the devastating floods in Queensland) was meant to be due for release on the 8th of March. Due to unavoidable circumstances, the release date has been pushed back. At this point I’m not sure when the new release date will be. I do know the anthology has already been edited and formatted and is currently being looked at by proofreaders. I’ll let you know when I know more.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing Query Letters

I recently decided to enter ABNA (Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards) as a test to see if I could get past the pitch round. I’ve written and rewritten my pitch/query dozens of times, but still wasn’t sure if I was hitting the mark. I didn’t make it through the pitch round, and this confirmed for me that I need to work more on my pitching skills before I start querying my MS. Yesterday I wrote and rewrote my pitch a dozen more times. I read blog after blog on writing queries. Then I rewrote again. I’m still not sure if it’s there yet. I’m letting it sit for a few days now before I go back to it. But after reading so much information on queries, I thought I would share some of the most important things I’ve learned about writing queries – not just yesterday, but since I first started researching queries.

1. Make sure you include both the TITLE and WORD COUNT for your MS.

2. You need to include WHAT YOUR PROTAGONIST WANTS, WHAT IS PREVENTING THEM FROM ACHIEVING IT and WHAT IS AT STAKE IF THEY FAIL.

3. Keep your query BRIEF and CONCISE – don’t ramble or try to include every single plot point. 1 – 2 paragraphs is sufficient for describing your MS. Try to keep it under 250 words.

4. In your bio paragraph only include information relevant to writing or your subject area. Include relevant publishing credits and writing associations you are a member of. Don’t include how many dogs you own or that writing competition you won when you were twelve.

5. ALWAYS CHECK SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! I made this red, because most agents will tell you it’s their biggest pet peeve when writers don’t check guidelines before submitting. Make sure you spell the agent/editor’s name right. Make sure the agent/publishing house actually accepts submissions in your genre.

If you’re looking for some GREAT SITES ON QUERIES, here are some of the best I’ve come across:

Query Shark

How To Write A Query Letter

How I Got My Agent (The Parts of a Good Query)

Cover Letters and Query Letters

10 Common Query Mistakes

Checklist for Submitting

Some GREAT QUERY HASHTAGS to follow on Twitter:

#queries

#queryfest

#querychat

And finally, if you head over to Write on Con they have some great query critique competitions running at the moment. All you have to do is comment on the prize you want and you could win a query critique for your YA, MG or PB manuscript.

Why You Shouldn’t Ask Your Spouse’s Opinion

Many writing sites will tell you that when you ask someone to critique/beta read your work you should never ask your spouse or mum or anyone closely related to you. The reason for this is that they will most likely give you a biased view because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. I’m lucky enough to have both a spouse and mum who are very honest with me, and it’s something I appreciate, because I’m always openly honest (I’m a terrible liar).

I found my husband to be a fantastic sounding board in the drafting stage of my novel. I would ask his opinion on certain plot points, if he thought there was enough tension, if the ending was strong enough, etc. As yet he’s never actually sat down and read my novel. I thought in light of his usual honest opinions I would ask him to read my pitch for some feedback. This is our conversation:

Hubby (having just finished reading my pitch): Uh-huh

Me: So what did you think? Does it make you want to read the book?

Hubby: It’s about a girl.

Me (rolling my eyes): If the main character was a boy would you read it?

Hubby: I don’t read books. (This is true, he’s never been a reader and hasn’t read a novel since he was forced to in high school.)

Me: Pretend it’s for a movie, would you watch the movie?

Hubby: If the girl was hot.

Me: …

Hubby: Maybe you should ask someone else to read it. Someone who knows about this kind of thing.

All I can say is, thank goodness I have a great critique partner who does know about this kind of thing. Thanks Beth!

An Exercise in Pitch Writing

I’ve been working on my pitch for my YA fantasy novel this past week and I couldn’t help feeling my pitch wasn’t hooking the way I wanted it too. So I came up with a little exercise to help inspire me to make my pitch hook more and I believe it has helped me write a more effective pitch. I thought I would share it with my fellow writers.

STEP ONE

Go to your bookshelf and find books aimed at the same age group and same genre (if possible find books with a similar premise/catalyst) as your novel. For example, my novel is a YA fantasy where the main character is transported to a strange land, so I picked books like The Wizard of Oz and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

STEP TWO

Have a look at the blurbs of each book, then on some note paper (or on Word) write out a blurb for your own story based on the blurb for each book. For example, this is the blurb on the back of Alice in Wonderland:

When Alice decides to follow the white rabbit down a rabbit hole, it is the start of a most extraordinary adventure in the nonsensical world of Wonderland.

There she meets some strange and delightful characters, including the King and Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Duchess and the grinning Cheshire Cat.

Now here is the blurb again rewritten using my own novel:

When Katie is transported to a strange woodland, it is the start of a dangerous and magical adventure in the mysterious parallel world of Middle Realm.

There she meets new friends and enemies, including oddball Travis, twins Hannah and Ava, an old healer woman, a reclusive wizard and the foot soldiers of an evil sorceress.

STEP THREE

Grab a highlighter and go through all your blurbs (I ended up with six altogether). Highlight the lines that stand out at you. For example, in the blurb above I highlighted ‘the foot soldiers of an evil sorceress’.

STEP FOUR

Rewrite the highlighted parts on a separate piece of paper and cut them out individually (or if you can’t be bothered doing that, you could just cut out the highlighted parts without rewriting them).

STEP FIVE

Rearrange them until you work out a suitable order and stick them onto a piece of plain paper in that order. Use a pen to fill in parts that are disjointed or cross out parts that are repetitive. One of my blurbs was in a different tense to all the others, so I had to change the tense with that part to make it fit.

STEP SIX

Write it out neatly in its new form. Use this ‘blurb’ as inspiration for writing your pitch. Just remember when you write your pitch to avoid ambiguous words like ‘mysterious’, etc., which are often used on book blurbs. And please DO NOT plagiarise the wording of the original book blurbs in your pitch. Make the pitch your own. This is all about inspiration, not copying from other books.

Have fun with it and see if you can’t improve the hook part of your pitch.