Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Positives

Christmas is the time to celebrate. It's also the time that a lot of people find difficult (for a variety of reasons). So I thought this was a good opportunity to look at when life hands us lemons and how we can use them to make lemonade. To that effect, I'll use some of my negative experiences, and show you how I turned them into positives. Granted, not everything worked out the way I wanted, but I can at least appreciate the good places they can lead me to. By doing this, I hope you can look deeper into your situation and find the light that guides you to a better Christmas.

Let's take a look at my top fails this year and how they became my positives:

1) My agent stopped representing my age category, so I needed to go on another agent hunt. Yes,. this bites. Hard. However, it also taught me two things: 1) Resilience and persistence. Never get lazy. Know that things can change and that you must keep working hard all the time. 2) I have another chance at seeking out an agent who will gel with me. If I can get one agent, I feel better that I can find another. This is my positive.

2) My epilepsy blipped, and I started having stronger verbal ticks and noises. Now I've had to add a third medication. I have 15 days to try it and see if it's going to work for me. Yes, that sucks. But the positive? I have a neurologist that is on my side, helping me through this. My friends are supportive. My family is right behind me. And my partner is the biggest pillar of support. I am reminded by this blip in my health of the people who matter and the people who care. I realize how blessed I am.

3) I've been diagnosed with a neurogenic bladder (linked to my epilepsy). Now I know why I pee 20 times a night (yes, you probably didn't want that knowledge). However, now I can use my new meds to help fix that and get back to a regular sleeping pattern! Hurrah!

4) I have to go for back surgery, as my spine has gone a bit squiffy. Am I frightened? Like a big baby, I am. Am I positive? Yes. It could solve my walking issues and allow me to live my life freely again.

5) My joy of flying was crushed by a terrible flight. I loved flying. Loved it. Now I am terrified of it. The positive? I've learned that things can change and that it's okay to be vulnerable (a huge issue for me, and it extends to this post. Vulnerable feels weak to me, and this flying thing is beginning to teach me it's not. I'm a work in progress about this bit). However, it's also taught me empathy for those who have the same fears. It's helped me understand just how brave I can be when I do step on a plane. It helps teach me what my spirit can do.


So there you have it. Those are 5 things that might not mean anything to anyone other than me, but they are five things that I am looking back at during the Christmas holidays, thinking "I did this", "I got through that", "I learned", and that, for me, is what celebrating Christmas is about - appreciating what you have been given, good and bad.

Merry Christmas to you all, and may you all find the light in your lives!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Revision tips - Part Three

This post is five days late due to life bumping in the way :-). However, I still want to cover it. When it comes to revising, the next step that I look at is my pacing. Pacing is super important as it can make the difference between you reader turning the pages eagerly, and your reader putting the book down and going out instead.

Pacing is what controls the speed and rhythm of your story, and you must be in charge of when and where to speed things up, slow them down, or suddenly spike. These things really shouldn't be left to chance if you can help it.

When I focus on looking at my pacing, I divide it into two separate categories: structural, and word choice/sentence construction. Let's look at structural first.

STRUCTURAL PACING

This is the overall scene pacing and how they connect together throughout the book. You need to look and see whether your action scenes balance out your slower scene. Are you all action all the time? Your reader might get a bit tired with all that rushing about (though this sometimes works well in a thriller). However, the most likely case is that your pacing might sag in the middle. This is where you've got caught up in the story, showing lots of things, but forgetting to keep momentum. Personally, I make a list of my scenes and see whether they are action packed or not. Then I look to see how I can balance one against the other.

Another technique you can use is a cliffhanger. Or a prolonged answer. This leaves the reader desperate to know more, and will speed up sloppy pacing. However, should you be rushing ahead too fast, don't forget to get inside your character's head a little more and explore your novel a little deeper. For speeding up, you can also use short summaries occasionally instead of full blown scenes, cut any unnecessary scenes, or have a few big things happen all at once.


SENTENCE LEVEL PACING

Which words you choose and how you use them can have a big impact on your pacing. If you want to slow it down, then you'd be looking to use longer sentences, softer paragraphs, more descriptions or internal thought, for example. You can even get into more world building, theme ideas, and subplots (which are a fantastic way to flesh out a book, too).

If picking up the speed is your goal, then using fragments, shorter sentences, punchier verbs, active phrasing, and zippy dialogue can make or break it for you. A rapid fire, tense dialogue section will get things ramping up, full of power and tension. Just as a more relaxed conversation talking about the complexities of life would slow it down.


You need to combine both structural and sentence level pacing in order to have full mastery over your writing and pacing. If not, then it might just be left to fate to decide for you, and it's usually much better if you do the choosing!

Thanks for stopping by the blog this week! As the holiday season is upon us, I might be a little patchy with blog posts until the New Year is over. Don't worry, I've not forgotten you!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Revision tips: Part Two


Right, we’re getting into the thick of editing. You’ve checked that your character motivations (logic) and plot logic are in place. It’s all looking like it makes sense. Your plot holes are no more, your character a shining beacon of themselves. Is that all? Not really.

So, here’s the next step I take when looking at my revisions:

TENSION

This is a huge one for me. It’s so important that the reader wants to keep turning the pages. However, I’ll caveat by saying this: At this stage, I only look for the major overall tension on this edit. The micro-tension I save for later. This is the way I tackle it, and perhaps my process might help yours, so here we go:

I look at my biggest plot points and ask the question “What could make things worse?’ For example: Annie has just found out she’s pregnant, but doesn’t know who the father is. What could make this worse? Maybe her parents are highly religious and will be appalled at her choices. Maybe her husband realizes he couldn’t be the father because he was out of town at the time. Perhaps her sister walks in on her and says she'll tell everyone? As you can see, there are any multitude of ideas to use, but what you want to do is make things worse.

However, here’s a caveat: personally, I tend to keep a slight cap on this. By this, I mean I keep it tense and I up the ante with the “What could make this worse” question, but as soon as it diverges too far from my original plot, or becomes a little too outlandish, I put the brakes on it. It’s all about balance – lots of tension vs realism and authenticity.

Okay, so after I've looked at my major plot points, I look at my overall chapters. How is my tension? What could make things worse in this chapter? What else could go wrong? Is it an emotional bump on the road, or a physical one that makes things worse? Can I take something away from my character that they need? There are a lot of options, so you’re going to want to keep searching out those possibilities until you find the one that best meets your story’s needs.

And then, you got it, scenes. Rinse and repeat. From scene, to chapter, to plot points, to whole book, you’ve got to give your character something to struggle against, and you can’t make it easy for them!

It’s also worth bearing in mind that tension can come in the form of not telling the reader something. It’s not always about adding a hurricane or a secret spy. Sometimes it’s the reader knowing something the main character doesn’t (but needs to) . Or the looming dread of a situation.


For me, tension is a biggie, and it ties into so many other areas, such as pacing, but this is the name of the game in writing…it’s a domino effect. You can't change one thing, without it affecting another. So, if you worked on character motivations and plot logic, it will have altered your story. Then you edit for tension and you've altered your story even further…all to the benefit of your book!

You might have noticed that I do revisions in rounds, which is just to keep my head clear. Some people are more than able to do everything at once, but this is just my process. I hope something helps you here! Next week, I’ll go into more again!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Epilepsy and writing

Hi!

Today is an extra post, and it's about something I rarely talk about. However, as it's epilepsy awareness month, I wanted to cover this topic for fellow epileptics, their carers, and to help any writer who wants to write about an epileptic character.

So why am I qualified to write about it? Simply put, because I'm an epileptic myself. I'm fortunate that I have a lot of my seizures controlled by two wonderful medications. However, some do slip through the cracks (like last night, which prompted me to write this blog post).

Epilepsy can be fairly misunderstood. In fact, a lot of people know it only as seizing on the floor - thrashing, loss of bladder control, eyes rolled back, unconsciousness, etc. While this is certainly true, and one of the most common types of seizure, there are a lot more. If you want to learn the full list, or are just curious, it's really good to check out this link.

It's good to know that seizures come in many shapes and sizes, and though there are definitely similarities between each person's seizures, they are also quite unique to the individual. I suffer a few types of seizures:

I have Grand Mal - the thrashing one where you're unconscious. This one I am super fortunate with, as I haven't had one in a long time! Hurrah for great medications! Also, this one is actually the easiest for me. As I'm unaware of it, it doesn't freak me out. I just wake up really sore and tired (all that flailing is like a mini-work out, people!). Oh and a tip while we're at it: Don't wake someone after a seizure; let them sleep it off.

I also have Simple Partial seizures - people describe these as auras, or a strange feeling or sensation. Me? I get a very fuzzy head and tongue (kind of like that feeling you get when you hit your funny bone...but in my tongue).

And I have Complex Partial seizures - this includes (for me) automatisms (repetitive movements, lip smacking, fun stuff like that!), motor issues (jerking of different body parts - which me and my partner lovingly call "off roading"), and sensory issues (my senses have a party - once I felt like I was covered in menthol! I also have speech issues.). These seizures can be 30 seconds to about 2 mins. Just one, or a cluster of seizures. Mine tend to come in clusters, because I'm special like that. If only winning lottery numbers would come to me in clusters...


As I said, there are plenty of different variations of epilepsy, and I want people and writers to know that there're a whole host of areas they can find out and write about. There's a big audience out there (more people have this condition than you might think!), and knowing the different forms of seizures can really bring an authentic slant to your work. Personally, I'm not offended if someone makes a little slip up in their writing about epilepsy, as I know they are coming from the right place (hopefully!), and for me, awareness through creativity and writing is one of the best ways to pass on knowledge of this condition.

Most epileptics get pretty used to their condition, and it's usually harder for the person watching to deal with it emotionally. However, sometimes it can be a little surprising if seizures change. Mine did last night. You'll probably find that the sufferer may a) be scared, b) panicked, c) mortified. Some people get all three. I try and get people not to watch if I know I can handle the seizure on my own (or have my partner make stupid jokes and try to ignore it's happening). Some people prefer the comfort of someone there. If you can, try and see how they react when you're near, and see if you can interpret what they want (okay, this is not easy, but worth a try!),


Fun side story: I was having a seizure with automatisms where I was hitting myself over and over again on the leg and arm while we were driving home. We had to slow down to pass a policeman directing traffic. My partner turned the music up full blast, started copying me, and the policeman gave us such an odd look, trying to work out if we were dancing! Now that is my sense of humor and it helps me relax. Some epileptics really won't like, but it just depends on their personality. Mine, I like carefree and fun if I can get it!


I also encourage writers not to be afraid to ask questions if they see the person is open to it (some are a little embarrassed). I'm pretty open to most questions, as I want to open this topic up so more people understand that epileptics are totally normal (kind of ;-) ).

If you're too shy to ask (some people worry about offending), you can always email me anonymously.

One of the things with epileptics is that they don't usually want sympathy or pity. Pride and the ability to handle their own sh*t is pretty important to them most of the time. Again, depends on the person.

Alrighty, so there you have it. If you're writing an epileptic character or just wanted to have a listen, I hope this helped!!!


Friday, 25 November 2016

Revision tips: Part One


So, you’ve tackled the first draft, and you have all these shiny new ideas on the page. Huge congratulations and kudos for this! I’m impressed. Go you!
Now, I want you to remember this feeling of complete awesomeness, because this is what’s going to help you stay the course during the editing process. Unless you’re like me…and the editing is your favorite bit. In that case, reward yourself for getting through the first draft without imploding.

Okay, so I thought I’d do a little mini-series on how I tackle the revision process. This has changed and morphed over the years, taking in bits of advice that work for me, throwing out bits of advice that don’t. My suggestion is that you do the same – take it all in, then use what works for you, and junk what doesn't. Hopefully, my view on it has something useful to you.

Now, I vary between being a panster, plotter, and planster. I can’t help it; some books demand different things. However, I have learned one major thing about my writing, especially in recent years and it's this: logic, logic, logic. I sometimes forget this in my wild jumps of faith, and chase for cool ideas and quirky plot twists. So, my first and foremost edit is to look for plot logic. This is how I conquer it:

LOGIC

Character motivations: Do they make sense? Is my character following their own path, and not just my plot? I need to check that the reactions they have are consistent to their personality, upbringing, and background. In order to do this, I have to get to know my character. Some people like to know everything right down to their favorite color and shoe size. That person is not me (but kudos to you if it’s your thing – go rock your organized self out!).

Rather, for me, I know my character’s emotional baggage. I know who they are, what shapes them, what they are morally ambiguous about, what they would never do, what promises they would break, why they want what they want, what events in their life shaped them. I know what their darkest secret is and what they would do in order to hide it. In other words, I like to look into the underbelly of my character’s life and see what wriggles and crawls out. Then I check my logic in the plot based on this; I check my character’s actions are correct and consistent throughout the book. Oh, and because it’s important…I do this for all of my characters, secondary included. I think it’s worth it, and gives texture to the world, and a sense of authenticity.



Plot logic: Now that you have character motivations in place, hopefully you should see what plot changes need to be made in order to accommodate the character’s personality. For example: in the first draft, Danny loves math but is bullied for it, so he burns his math homework, and that sets the house on fire. Upon researching Danny’s background, I discover he’s actually terrified of fire, because of a house fire in his past, and he delved into math because he needed an obsession to take his mind off the trauma. See where I’m going with this? He’d no longer burn his homework, but if he did, there’d need to be a super good motivation behind it. Maybe I need the house to burn down...if so, I need to ask myself: what would make Danny do that?

You also need to make sure that you keep your plot in there, too, as I’m pretty sure you don’t just want to have your character running around willy-nilly, ignoring your awesome concept. So, here’s where the balance comes in. You need to have a framework within your plot. Plansters love this as it’s the ideal outline/pantsing combo. However, this is EDITING not first drafting, so you pansters and plotters best get to grips with two facts: You need to let your character have room to breathe and make their own choices, AND, you need to give a framework. Now, in order to solve this problem of “X need to happen in my plot, but Y character wouldn’t do that and allow it to happen”, you need to think “what would make Y character do that X plot point.” Figure that out and you’re on your way to balancing plot and character logic, IMO.



So yeah, that’s what I do first. I look at my character and plot logic, and then balance them out against one another, and make sure one doesn’t swamp the other. Next time, I’ll fill you in on my next step in the revision process…

Friday, 18 November 2016

NANOWRIMO pep talk!

Now that Nanowrimo is in full swing, it's time for a little pep talk. You started off flying - a new idea, a bustling community, a lot of coffee (or tea)...and then you hit week 3. It's like the brick wall of writing. You know you only have a week to go. You know you're way short of your word count. Or your way over but still can't see the end of the book. Well, I'm here to say "Don't Panic!".



You see, it's a self-imposed goal (and a lofty one at that) and you need to ease off on yourself in places. Writing a WHOLE novel in a month? Amazing if you can. Amazing if you even get halfway. Be proud of yourself no matter where you are in the process. Don't write out of desperation. Don't write out of stress. Write because you love it.

If Nanowrimo works for you and the deadline surges happiness through your veins, then awesome. But if you feel your life force seeping away when you see you've not quite reached your goal, don't push yourself to the point of self hatred. Love what you do instead and celebrate the small victories along the way.

Whatever happens, if you even got a handful of words down, you won. You got closer to the end of your book. Take it word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page. Regardless of what happens, you ARE a warrior.

If you complete Nanowrimo you have a huge congratulations from me. If you don't, you still have a huge congratulations from me. Now go love that story of yours!


Friday, 11 November 2016

Should you give up writing?

It happens to the best of us. You hit a slump. A bump in the road. A huge well of despair. You wonder if there's even any point trying to break into publishing. And I don't blame you. This is one hell of an industry and it is not for the faint of heart. You need to be pretty much a steel clad warrior in order to survive (okay, maybe not, but it sure does feel like it sometimes!).

This is when we ask ourselves the brutal question: "Should I give up writing?"

Now, I'm not going to condescend to you with a big cheery "oh no, you shouldn't". Because, to be quite frank, there are some cases that mean you should give up writing...or at least take a break. We tend to troop on despite the damage to ourselves and think asking whether we should write or not in an objective way is tantamount to defeat - mutiny against all other hopeful writers out there.

But it really isn't. And here's when I think you might need to take some time away:

1) Your mental health is suffering. If you think of writing and all you get is a whole lot of anxiety and stress, then perhaps you need a break. Perhaps it's not for you. Only you can know the answer. But be honest with yourself. Is it worth it? We all have moments of stress and despair, but if it's a lot more stress than it is enjoyment, then you have some soul searching to do.
 

2) You don't enjoy it. Quite simply, people write and don't actually like the process or what they end up with. Too many people say "I hate my book". You have to learn to love it. And you have to love parts of the process (note, I didn't say all of the process). For example,  first drafts aren't really my favorite part, but editing...sign me up with a glitter stick, honey! If you don't enjoy any of the process or the book you finish with...consider whether you really want to do it or you're just trying to be published so you can call yourself a writer.




3) If it is badly affecting your everyday life. Now, I don't mean it's a bit of a nuisance and you have to shuffle things around. I mean if you're badly affecting your job (your only income), you're causing marital rifts through not being there for your family, your health is suffering, etc, etc. This may be cause to take a break until you are back on an even keel. Self care is SO important.


I know so many of you are troopers. You are determined, ambitious, positive, boots on ground survivors who will do anything to get your book onto the shelves. And I'm not trying to convince anyone to stop writing. Certainly not. All I'm saying is be careful with how you balance writing with your life. Writing shouldn't be your life. It should be a part of your life.


Again, let's say this one more time: SELF CARE IS IMPORTANT.

Friday, 4 November 2016

What do I do?

Today I wanted to share with you a little about what I do. Since most of you know me as an author and scriptwriter, I thought you might like to know a little more about that. So let's start with author first.


My passion is for YA fantasy. I do love all YA and have dabbled with some other genre ideas, but fantasy tends to be the one I gravitate to. Why? I love the wonder and awe that comes alongside it. In daily life, it's hard not to get side swiped by the mundane - bills, chores, work, etc. When I escape into writing, I want to go somewhere magical where anything is possible.

That's why I wrote my novel A HARMONY OF STRINGS (if you want to know more, you can click on the "My books" tab above). This book was inspired by two things - quantum physics and the idea of life after death. I wondered if the two could possibly be linked and thus the endless research began. As it happens, there is some theoretical science thingies you can bastardize to fit with the idea of finding the answers to life after death. And an idea for a book was born. However, I didn't want to do sci-fi. I wanted to do fantasy. So that led to a magic system based on quantum physics. And yes, that was a big aim lol.

Now to the other part - the day job. I was lucky enough for an independent production company to take me on as their lead scriptwriter (having little experience in the area at that time). We've now been working for two years together and the process continues to amaze me. There is simply SO much involved. It's astounding. And it helps my dialogue hugely. Would I think of writing a script for my own passion though? Probably not. I love it, it inspires me, but novels are where my heart lies. Our script is based on unusual historical facts and stories, combined with word meanings. It's kind of Horrible Histories meets the dictionary lol.

So that is me as a writer. As for anything else? I am summed up easily in a few short words:

Loves German Shepherds, horses, books, kindheartedness, the mountains, and being in the middle of nowhere.






















So...what about you?

Friday, 21 October 2016

To use Scrivener or not?

I've been playing around with Scrivener* of late (yup, I'm very late to the party!). However, let me explain: I originally tried Scrivener a long time ago, and it just didn't work for me. I found it overly complicated, I kept dotting from one thing to another in the binder, I couldn't keep a continuous flow...ugh. But now? Yup, you guessed it, I'm using it! But what changed?




Quite simply, I don't use it to write my novel. In fact, I still use MS word to type all of my chapters. However, what I do now is use Scrivener to help me keep track of my scenes, chapters, characters, etc. I don't write the scenes in there. I just make a little card on the bulletin board, type in a few sentences about what's in the scene, and hey presto, there's the macro view of my novel. This is particularly helpful for me as I'm working on a multi POV novel (good plan, Fiona, good plan).

So I'm a 50/50 kind of user for Scrivener - I use it for planning and noting down what I already have, but I keep it well away from my actual writing.

What are the cons for me?

Not many, to be honest. I only use the basic functions, because to be frank, I didn't want to spend hours going through the tutorial. However, it can be a little distracting. I have to be very conscious of not spending too much time on there.

Also, the other con for me is simply from a fussy point of view - I hate how difficult it is for me to open the files on another computer. If it doesn't have Scrivener, I'm pretty much flummoxed.


There you have it - my thoughts on Scrivener. If you didn't love it the first time, try using it this way. It might work, it might not, but it does for me!

Have fun!



* Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Tips and tricks for writing YA Fantasy

Welcome, welcome my fantasy lovers (and you actually don't have to be writing just in the YA category). Today, I wanted to talk to you about YA fantasy and how we can make it original, high concept and relevant to modern teens (did you notice that last one? Yup, just like last week's post on contemporary YA, fantasy needs to appeal to the modern teen, too!).

There are countless sub genres within fantasy, and each has it's own list of tips and tricks to look at. However, at the moment, we're just going to focus on the genre as a whole.




By Nidoart - Own work http://nidoart.blogspot.fr/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23756701


Here are my top tips to getting your fantasy work into shining condition:

Be bold. Don't shy away from making your world bold and real and vibrant. Your world is a fantasy, make it one! However, remember your world building rules. Keep your world in keeping with the rules and don't break them just for effect. You need to maintain the suspension of disbelief. This even applies for magic in the real world (say, in urban fantasy for example).

Know the conventions of your genre, but don't be afraid to mix them up or genre blend (just do it well!). Epic fantasy is normally quest based, but what if you mixed that up with something else? Keep your reader on their toes.

Don't get sidetracked by your world building. Writers either give a) way too much, or b) afraid of giving too much, they give way too little. Read your favorite fantasy books - how much do they give? Read recent fantasy books. Yes, we have our golden oldies, but see what the market is looking for right now.

Want some ideas of great modern fantasy books?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle


As you can see, this is a tiny selection and there are SO many good books out there in the fantasy genre. Go read them!

Think about what modern teens care about? These things should be present in your modern fantasy. They might be in a different world, but the MC should still feel the way teens in the real world might feel. They need to be layered and complex, and modern!

Don't get complicated. It can be so easy for writers to create such a vast world in their head that it becomes super complicated (I know, I can be guilty of that), but the best advice I can give you is make it simple. Don't let your world (or plot) be overly complicated, especially if this is your debut. You want people to grasp your world easily and then they can focus on your amazing characters.

Alright, so that is a little bit to get you started. However, go web surfing. There are TONS of hints out there. Read your craft books. Experiment and have fun!

Happy writing my fellow fantasy people!!!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Tips for writing contemporary YA



Writers can fall into one of two camps: those who stick to one genre, and those who like to dot around. Today, I’m talking to both camps – but only if you both like YA Contemporary!

YA Contemporary books are fascinating, deep and full of emotional layers. This is the time of life where teenagers are developing into adults, learning their place in the world, tackling new (and sometimes weighty) issues that are now coming their way. Plus a whole lot of other stuff, too.

If you’re not sure what contemporary YA work is, it’s basically books for teens that come under the realm of realistic fiction. It’s real life, in the now, tackling modern issues. Some people say it’s imperative to have a love story in the plot, and while this is often a big part of the writing, it’s not 100% mandatory. Some stories just don’t call for it.

If you’re writing in this genre, here are some tips to help your writing stand up above the crowd:


Read the genre you write in.


 By Eneas De Troya from Mexico City, México - Lectura para unas vidas, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24676730


There are some amazing YA books out there:

The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Well, you get the gist.


But above that, there are some other, concrete tips you can use:

Don’t forget to use technology. Whether we like it or not, it’s part of teen life and to omit it would be to make a mistake.

Actually research what teens like. Don’t just rely on your own experience. What are they listening to right now? What are they watching? Do they care about what’s on the news (you’d be surprised – I didn’t when I was a teen, but some of them do nowadays!)?

Give your main characters a diverse experience – by that, I mean let them be individuals rather than cardboard cut outs. It’s easy to avoid a stereotype, but sometimes it hard to avoid a generic character. Give your teenager passions outside of the normal “I like football” or “oh this is cool music”. Some teens do like those things. However, others might like L33T speak, some might be heavy into moshing (not that they should); others still might love to be squirreled away in museums. Remember, it takes all kinds, and just because they are teenagers, doesn’t mean they don’t have diverse experiences and tastes!

We all hear this (and most of us hate to hear it) - it's all about the voice. But how can you know whether you're getting it right or wrong? Well, here's an idea: give it to a teen and see! When you have your ms ready, ask a teen to read! Sure, this is actually scarier than getting a fellow writer to read, because this is your target market, and if they don’t like it...well, if they don’t, find out why. See how you can make it better, more relevant.

I take my hat off to everyone who writes contemporary YA as it’s not as easy as it looks. Here’s to much success for everyone and I look forward to all the new young adult books that will hit our shelves in the upcoming years!

Friday, 30 September 2016

One off writing contest!

Welcome to this week's blog post! I've decided to get myself in gear and do weekly posts (so stick about for every Friday). I've also added a contact form on the pages tab. Now you can use this for any reason. Some ideas of questions you might want to ask (or things you might want to say):

1) Could you do a post on X topic?
2) Do you have any advice on X?
3) Where is the best place to find good contests or competitions?
4) Are writing conferences a good idea?
5) Can you tell me about your books (feel free!)?

Etc, etc, etc. Basically, I'm here to help you in any way I can. And if I can't answer something, then I'll point you in the right direction to someone who can.

Also, if you join up on the email subscription, you'll not need to remember every Friday to check in - it'll be straight in your inbox! Huzzah!

Right, that all said, I have a little contest going on this week, and here it is:

 
I have a list of 5 writing prompts. Any writer who wants to enter can choose a prompt and write a 500 word (or less) piece of flash fiction. The prize? Well, look after the prompts to see, so you can choose which one suits you:


PROMPTS

 1) A bear, a moon landing, a girl in a red dress

 2) Doves, underground, lightning, sisters

 3) Snake, magic, palm trees, pilot

 4) Pirate, submarine, storm, television

 5) A cyborg, pink roses, war, best friends


Hopefully, these will get your mind whirring!

Now onto the prizes (the winner can choose one prize of their preference):

1) Their entry fee for the Bath Novel award paid.

2) Editing feedback on their first 1500 words.

3) An e-book or paperback of their choice (delivery times at Amazon's discretion!!).


CLOSING DATE: 21st OCTOBER 2016


Just send your flash fiction through the contact form (put your preferred prize in there, too!) and I'll announce the winner in 4 weeks time!!!

Good luck!


Photo by Cygnus921 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Four_Leaf_Clover_068.jpg

 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Getting an agent phone call!!



The time has come, you're expecting The Call. That's a huge achievement so celebrate like there's no tomorrow. After that...sit down and get your business cap on! When you get The Call from an agent who wants to represent your work, there are a lot of things you need to know. The best thing is to be prepared with some questions, so here are a few to start you on your way!


Photo by Kornelia und Hartmut Häfele - http://www.pixeleye.com/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29308


Agent Questions
 


Is there any more information you need from me or anything else I should send you?

Do you think my manuscript is ready to send to editors now, or do you recommend edits or revisions?

Do you get involved in the editing yourself, or use someone else?  Are you more editorial focused or sales orientated?

What are your likes and dislikes in terms of manuscripts/genres/etc?

How are you planning to circulate my manuscript?  What houses?  What editors?  What strategy?

How does your agency collect fees?  And what are those?

Does this offer only cover this manuscript or would it be other writing I’m working on as well?

How many times do you usually submit a manuscript before deciding that it’s time to move onto another project?

Would it be possible for me to talk to one or two writers you represent?

Also, could you tell me about some sales you have made recently?

What is the best way for me to communicate with you if you become my agent – telephone, email, or mail?

Will I know who has rejected my stories/how will you let me know if they have been accepted?


Now, there will probably be a lot of other questions you want to ask, and you might not get the chance to ask them all on the phone. But remember, you can email any follow up questions you have. Don't worry about asking these sorts of things - agents expect it and you need to know for your future career!

If you've got The Call coming - CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Character Internal Conflict

Hola wonderful writing friends!

So, you might have noticed last month was total radio silence, and I'm pretty sure ALL of you know why. Lol. Pitch Wars ms reading for my mentee. Oh, and a few lovely new clients who have amazingly good books for me to work on, too.

That all said, I thought it was time I put up a writing tips post. This week, I want to look at the internal conflict your characters will struggle through. Now, it's important to note that it's not only your protagonist who will have an internal conflict(s). So will your antagonist and secondary characters, and it's good to bear this in mind as it will help you to make all of your characters fully rounded.




There are various types of internal conflict and each has its own level of power. Here are some ideas for you to consider:


* Deep, dark secrets are a wonderful way to create internal conflict. What does your character never want to reveal? What happens if they have to reveal it to get what they want or to help someone they love? Using secrets as a motivator is a great way to get your readers hooked.

* An internal need that contradicts an external goal. What happens if your character has a desperate need for something in order to feel complete but they can't get it because they have an external goal they need to achieve? That kind of conflict can create an almost impossible choice: another page turner!

* Give your character a moral dilemma - what do they want and what do they have to do to get it? How much are they willing to sacrifice to get what they want? How far across the line are they willing to step? Really push your characters into their most uncomfortable zones. If they're not outside their comfort zone, you're not writing hard enough. Force your character to make the choices they don't want to make.




* Use distrust. Making your character not believe others makes it hard for them to sort out what's right and what's wrong. If they don't trust themselves (mentally, emotionally, physically) then all the better. If your character can't find their bearings, it makes for great internal conflict.

* Let your character know something they'd much rather not know. Do they know a friend is cheating on his wife? Did his wife just ask him? Is there a business deal about to go south but your character can't tell his friend who invested because of confidentiality agreements? Whatever it is, make your character sweat!


When dealing with internal conflict, there are a myriad ways you can go, so really dig deep into your character and their life and see what they have to offer. This is the time where you use your back story - in your planning, not in the majority of your book!

Good luck with your character conflicts!!!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

How to develop character

Hey Pitch Wars peeps (and anyone else who's stumbled across the blog! lol). Here's our top tips for improving your characterization!

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What is setting?

Here are our top tips for using setting to its best effect in writing!

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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Our Writing Tips for Pitch Wars!

Hey!

Here's an impromptu video of our writing wishlist and writing tips!


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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Books to love!

For those amazing Pitch Wars hopefuls, I thought I'd stick up a little extra post about the kinds of books that I love. I'll see if I can get my co-mentor Dionne to do the same later, but she's traveling right now, so you might have to put up with just me. Lol

NOTE: I don't mentor all of these categories or genres, but they all have elements I love through any genre, so good to note down!

Okay so here goes:

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle - a surreal, amazing read. This has an amazing ability to tease a reader along with a great mystery and the writing is to die for.





Bone Gap by Laura Ruby - again, surreal and intriguing. I like me some intrigue!




The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater- now this is my kind of fantasy! Aside from my ridiculous love of horses, this has gorgeous writing, wild creativity and characters that have such bravery and heart you can't turn away from them.




The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R Donaldson - twisty, clever, dark and deliciously unreliable!



My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carole Oates - this has heartbreaking emotion and such a real and thought provoking main character. Besides, the quirky format and character notes are very engaging.




The Maze Runner by James Dashner - I love the complexity of this and how it grips the reader from the first page and ups the stakes all the way along.




The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - this is one of my favorite books ever. It is so intelligent, dreamlike and clever. Give me all of this. We keep asking for Neil Gaiman to submit to us for PWs, but he hasn't so if you have a similar kind of book, please sub to us and we'll love you forever.





Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - no explanation required. See above.



Life of Pi by Yann Martel - now, caveat here: didn't like the opening. However, stunning ending and imagination. Really, really changed my mind when this ending came around. Phenomenal talent there!



I am Legend by Richard Matheson - oh so clever on the ending. I like good endings. A lot. No, really. A LOT.



And the odd ball. I wonder if anyone knows this: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (has a few various different title formats) - stunning look into the human psyche. These characters are so real. Push through the old-fashioned writing and you'll be rewarded with an amazing book.




Okay, must stop. This is just a tiny selection of what I love and I'm hoping you have something along these lines!!!


Oh and obvious choices: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, etc, etc.