28 December 2010

Setting achievable writing goals

It's this time of year: stock taking, New Year's resolutions, setting goals.
Have you been thinking how to become a better writer? A successful one? Published?Finish that b***y manuscript?
What is your writing goal?
Do you know how to achieve it?

I admit, I'm addicted to setting and achieving goals. If we don't count the evergreen weight loss, I have achieved everything I've ever really wanted, sometimes a little later than I initially thought, but generally as planned.
The key to my successes has always been the word: REALLY.
I believe that you can achieve everything you really want, although there is a price for it. A lot depends on whether you want to pay the price.

When setting a goal, any goal, you need to ask yourself a number of questions and answer them as honestly as you can.

1. What is it what you want to achieve it? Name it. Don't be shy. How will you know you've achieved it?

2. Do you really want to achieve it? Because if you don't - what is the point of trying?

3. Are you prepared to pay the price? Whether it's money, time, or some other sacrifice, there is always a price for getting what you want - can you afford it?

4. Why do you want to achieve it? This is a question about your motivation. It will come handy in times of struggle!

5. How you want to achieve it? In one big go? or as a series of little steps? If you set a smaller goal or a series of 'baby steps', keep the bigger picture in mind. Try to break big goals into smaller steps - it'll help you getting where you want to be.
Keep track of your steps, review your journey, celebrate little successes on the way. It will make it easier.

6. When do you want to achieve it? By the end of next year? within the next couple of 2 years? Be specific, but also realistic, think about potential pitfalls, like family holiday (I find it hard to concentrate on writing when on holidays), or school breaks if you have kids; it's not a very good idea to set yourself a goal of finsihing your novel in a year when you're also planning to get a new day job, sell a house, move countries, settle into new life, and... well - you get the picture (that's why my first novel is still unfinished: it's been with me through 1 baby, 2 continents, 3 countries, 4 jobs and 5 houses).

7. Set yourself up: get rid of unnecessary things, irrelevant activities, distractions.
Hard, I know - I'm guilty of checking my emails or Twitter account umpteen times a day, too.
There are ways of deleting addictive games from your computer, there are programmes, which won't allow you to use Internet for more than pre-set amount of time; mobile phones have 'Off' button, landlines can be unplugged. It's your writing time - your decision.
You can track your writing progress with progress meters -I find it very motivating.

8. Get support: from your family (it may be difficult but it will pay in the end - if you manage to convince them that you REALLY want to finish that novel they may want to support you and share some of the chores so you have time for writing!), friends, and particularly from other writers - they know how hard it is to be a writer.

Here is the graph I use when setting a goal:

My goals for 2011 are:
- sell a fiction manuscript or get an agent
- finish that b***y novel
- get another non-fiction proposal accepted

What are your goals for 2011?

17 December 2010

How to get feedback on your manuscript

So you have finished your first draft (just like me) and now are getting ready to take it to the next level (a.k.a. second draft - I'm still letting my MS ripen)?
Have you thought of getting feedback on the quality, sellability, brilliantability  brilliantness of your manuscript?
I have, and I have also thought about how to get it done.

Here's 9 ways of getting feedback on your manuscript:

1. Join a writers' group, whether in real life or online. One of my favourite writing communities Chapter79 has a few sub-fora dedicated to novels.

2. Enrol onto a writing course; there are several writing courses available online and in the real life; I've done Fiction Writing with Writers' News; but there are many out there, including university courses (at some point I thought about enrolling on OU Creative Writing course.
Downside: they can be expensive and of variable quality; I would suggest checking the reputation within the writing community before investing any money.

3. Join in one of the feedback sites, like YouWriteOn, Critique Circle, Authonomy or have a look at NaNoWriMo Critique, Feedback and Novel Swaps forum.
The downside: you may discover that not all reviewrs are as thourough and honest as you would like them to be.

4. Pay for a professional manuscript assessment and editorial advice. Again, there are many agencies and individuals who offer this kind of service, use Google and recommendations by your writing friends. I have read a lot of positives about Cornerstones and The Literary Consultancy; Joanna Penn used The Novel Doctor)
Downside: expensive

5. Find a critique partner. I have found one thanks to RWNZ critique partner scheme. If you are a romance writer, have a look at eHarlequin Community site - there is a thread for writers seeking a critique partner.
Read an interesting post on What makes a good crit buddy.
Downside: can't think of any, once you've found a good match!

6. Use Beta readers (like Joanna Penn).
Downsides: Anyone knows of any?

7. Join a reputable writing organisation, like Romantic Novelist Association, Romance Writers of Australia, or any other, preferably in your favourite genre; many of them have contests (e.g. Golden Heart by RWA, or The Clendon Award for members of RWNZ), schemes (e.g. fantastic New Writers' Scheme by RNA) or critique groups, which offer the members opportunity to receive feedback on their manuscript.
Downsides: it can be expensive, but my RWNZ membership is my best invested money in 2010.

8. Send your manuscript to a contest.
Keep your eyes open - there are many of them. Choose those which will send back the feedback sheets to you, so even if you don't win the contast, you win the feedback.
I have sent my work in progress to Strictly Single and Get your Stiletto in the Door and although I didn't win, or even got to the second round, I have recieved lots of invaluable feedback (interestingly most judges agreed on what's good and what needs more work).
If you win/get shortlisted you may (or may not, as Scott Eagan points out on his blog) even get a request for a partial/full or The Call!
Downsides: can be expensive

9. If you feel your novel is perfect (or near perfect) submit your manuscript to the chosen agent or publisher.
The upside - if it's brilliant, you may get a publishing deal.
The downside - if it's crap not so brilliant, you are unlikely to receive any feedback at all.

Whichever way your choose, make a good use of the feedback. Read it (and reread as many times as you wish as I have done with mine), but let it rest for a while and then come back and think again. Here is a piece of advice on handling conflicting critiques..
If it feels right, follow the advice, it if doesn't - don't.

Good luck!

13 December 2010

So you think you can write?

Have you written a novel? Or at least a first chapter and an outline? Or maybe, like me, you've done NaNo and have a first draft?
Can your novel by any chance be classified as romance?
Wondering what to do with that?

How about sending it to Harlequin - the global leader in series romance and one of the world's leading publishers of books for women?
It's the last challenge of their So You Think You Can Write project which featured a series of very informative and encouraging social media events in the first week of November.

All you need to have your submission considered is to sent a synopsis (5-7 pages) and first chapter (max 22 pages) of your novel (can be unfinished, but you'd better be prepared to have the rest handy in case you get a request for more in January!). Your novel can be targeted at any of Harlequin/Mills&Boon lines.

Here you will find some pointers regarding how to write your chapter and the dreaded synopsis. And if you need more info on Harlequin writing guidelines, have a look here.

Deadline: December 15, 6pm EDT. Results by 31 January 2011 (pretty fast, innit?)
I've just sent my submission - my NaNo medical romance.

Good luck to everyone :)

05 December 2010

Writing synopsis (2)

I'm writing synopsis for my NaNo novel to submit to SoYouThinkYouCanWrite contest. As I find writing synopsis much more difficult than writing the actual novel I've tried to gather advice on how to do it first.
There is a summary of what I've found.

5 rules of writing a synopsis:

1. Synopsis is narrative summary of your novel; it tells the story, hence goes beyond the plot, introducing your characters and showing the conflict and the main emotional arc; the events of the story should be shown as they appear in your novel

2. You need to start with a good hook and end up showing the resolution of the story conflict (no cliffhangers allowed!); include major plot twists and turns, but not every detail

3. In the next paragraphs you introduce your characters showing their goals, motivations and conflict; you need to show how they change as the effect of the emotional journey they embark at the beginning of your story (action-reaction-decision); focus on the main characters, introduce secondary characters only if necessary and relevant to the emotional journey of your H&H

4. The body of your synopsis should have three major parts: Introduction (The precipitating event, which sends your heroine and hero on their journey), The Bits in the Middle (the journey through obstacles and escalating conflict towards the Resolution), the End (the Resolution of the conflict); remember to show how your characters develop and are tested during their emotional journey towards the resolution

5. Be tight, use strong verbs and cut extra adverbs and adjectives; try to reflect the pace and style/voice of your novel; write in present tense, third person and format your synopsis as per your targeted publisher requirements (or other publishing standards).

ps. more resources on Lou's blog. and there is more on writing the dreaded synopsis by editor-at-large Leslie Wainger at eHarlequin website.

01 December 2010

The importance of happy endings

Photo by graur razvan ionut
at freedigitalphotos.net
Happy ending is one of the ingredients that define a romance novel. Although the story doesn't have to end with the wedding bells, a satisfactory ending incorporates at least an assumption that Heroine and Hero will live happily ever after. You need to give them a good chance to stay together for the forseeable future. This is what your reader expects from your novel.

Kate Walker says (in her fabulous 12 Points Guide to Writing Romance) that
- your first page sells the book you're writing now, but
- the ending will sell your next one.

Enough to say why a satisfactory, believable, resulting naturally from your characters happy ending is vital to a romance novel.

I have a bit of a problem with endings, so I've been worrying that my characters will never make it to the end.
I can't believe I did it!
Not only I won NaNoWriMo (that is wrote 50,000 words) but also finished my novel.

I struggled through week 2 and 3 to the point there were days, when I spent 4- 5 hours in front of the computer and wrote only 500-800 words. That's pathetic, but at least I was moving on.
I have generally very low writing output - maximally 500 words/hour, which is much less than other people can.
But I wanted to get the Nano laurels, so uploaded the novel as soon as I reached 50,000 words, although I was still a few scenes away from the end.

What was really important for me was to finish the novel. It's my very first finished novel (my other novel has been work in progress for the last 5 or 6 years!).
I got my hero and heroine to their Happily-Ever-After yesterday morning. It's my very first happy ending.

Now I need to fix the plotholes, eyes changing colours, people changing names and the like - a.k.a. known as editing and revising process. I also need to write a synopsis.

I want to submit 1 chapter plus synopsis to The Final Challenge of SoYouThinkYouCanWrite at eHarlequin and the deadline is 15/12/10.
I also want to enter The Clendon Award 2011, which is a competition for members of Romance Writers of New Zealand.

Still a lot of work to do. But what a happy ending!

Congratulations to all NaNo Winners!

10 November 2010

Are they gonna make it to the end?

Conflict in romantic fiction

I'm in the middle of chapter 4 of my NaNoWriMo project; got stuck a little partially because of This Thing Called Life getting in the way, and partially becuase I've started having doubts.
Are my characters really three-dimentional or a little flat?
Is the plot believable and not contrive?
Is the conflict strong enough to keep them apart for 200 pages?

The plot of a romantic novel can be described in three steps:
1. Boy meets Girl
2. Boy looses Girl
3. Boy gets Girl back.
They have to meet on the first page (or at most the first chapter; I've got them together on the first page), feel that instant chemistry, but usually don't realise they've fell for each other until half way through, so something MUST make it impossible for them to be togheter for the rest of the book, otherwise my novel will be finished on page three.

I admit, the biggest problem I have is with the conflict, which is one of the most important ingredient of a romance, and actually the one which incorporates all the other. Believable, fully fleshed-out characters can only get involved into a conflict, which derives logically from their personalities and will resolve it in a believable way.
The events of the plot need to reflect the progression of the tension between the hero and the heroine.

The emotional tension (a.k.a. conflict) is what keeps them apart and makes the reader turn the pages, biting their nails and worrying how they are going to get together. The obstacles to intimacy and happily-every-after need to be strong enough to prevent them from getting together and they should be of internal (values, character traits, ambitions) rather than external (circumstances) nature. If miscommunication is the reason they are still not together in Chapter 8 (out of 10) I'd better make sure it's yet another effect of their personality clash.

In the two medical romances I've finished reading so far and one of the unfinished the conflict is really well thought-out. Looking at the personalities and their values of the main characters I wondered if they were going to ever be together. External conflict (related to work) was only an addition to the internal one.
Of course they made it at the end. It wouldn't have been a romance if they didn't.
For a change, the conflict in one of the unfinished ones felt so forced and artificially 'blown up' that I put the book down. In the other unfinished the external obstacles to being together (they discover they've fallen for each other in chapter 4/5 and then had a major medical and family crisis to get over before they can walk off into the sunset), although very exciting (a cyclone and a lost child) were not interesting enough for me to read on.

I have a difficult task.
So Anne hates when men assume that because she's so attractive she's silly and earned her professional position only because she's slept with her boss. In the first scene Geoff thinks that Anne is just one of those pretty, silly girls, who he doesn't have time for. And then he learns she's his mate's little sister, and then that she's his... new neuropsychologist, whose help he needs badly to rescue the reputation of the unit he cares so much about.
As for her. well... Falling for her boss is a/ unprofessional (and she is desperate to come across as professional), b/ would be a perfect evidence that she is one of those pretty silly girls who...

Anyway, I haven't written a single word in my NaNo novel for 2 days, I'd better get back to it and see if they are going to make it to the end and happily-ever-after.

04 November 2010

Living in 3 times zones

or NaNoWriMo and SYTYCW and my week long holidays day 4.

I've just finished Chapter 2 of my NaNo novel targeted at Mills&Boon Medical Romance, but in the meantime I decided to write a scene from the penultimate chapter for SoYouThinkYouCanWrite Challenge 3.
I must admit I'm knackered tonight - it's all that timing. Because of the time difference I really cut it fine with Challenge 2 (I only had 1 hour to patch a query letter together), so I decided to wait until well after midnight to at least read what the next challenge was going to be before I went to bed. But it didn't work - they didn't post it until must later. I must have got it all wrong again.
This is what happens when your body resides in IDLE (International Date Line East), your mind still  in GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and trying to meet deadlines set in EST (Eastern Standard).

Luckily I had enough time this morning for Challenge 3. It was meant to be about drama, tension, and that x factor, 'which keeps a reader turning the pages until three in the morning', so I decided to go for one of the scenes of 'TheDark Night of the Soul', when Hero and Heroine think that everything is doomed and there won't be any Happily-Ever-After. I kept jumping between the scenes I'd had 'drafted' in my head only on Monday, and 10 minutes before the deadline had a moment of 'enlightement' that it was all wrong, because it wasn't emotional enough. But I just stuck with what I'd written and sent it off.

Now, fingers crossed that I get picked up for critique.

02 November 2010

NaNoWriMo and SYTYCW - day 1

Oh, the joy of waking up on the first day of a week long holiday!
More: the week which will be spent on your two favourite activities: writing and walking (to get those creative juices going).
What a shame that I had to waste so much time finishing a few little jobs that have been waiting for me for days.

But I have written 2226 words of my NaNo novel, so I'm ahead of the 1667 words daily limit and I have enjoyed it. I've even managed to edit the first page (awaiting clarification what word count it actually means) and I'm going to email it to eHarlequin editors for So You Think You Can Write first Editorial Challenge. I may get a free critique!

I like my characters and I'm looking forward to meeting them again tomorrow.
I know...


30 October 2010

More on plotting your novel

NaNoWriMo starts in 2 days and the Web is teeming with advice on all aspects of writing a novel in a month, plotting included.

Dani Greer at The Blood-Red Pencil shows how to use a mind map to plot a novel.

In preparation for NaNo Paulo Campos at Yingle Yangle talks about outlining a novel worth reading, why outlining your novel is essential, and how to prepare for the moment when your outline will fail.

More on novel writing strategies at Burrowers, books and balderdash.

At Girlfriends Book Club Novelists Saralee Rosenberg and Ellen Meister discuss the neverending issue of what it takes to write a novel: Inspiration or perspiration?

My writing tends to be plot-driven, but classic romance is usually character-driven (more about it at editorrent), so I'd better read a little about plotting from character (Theresa at editorrent).

Ah, and then I need to think a little about my conflict.

25 October 2010

Planning/plotting a novel

NaNoWriMo starts in a week. Time to start planning and plotting my novel.

There are several ways of planning/plotting a novel (e.g. The Snowflake Method, a four-steps one, and many, many others) and there is probably a book for every kind of writing and planning..Generally speaking, you should do whatever works for you.
For me it's James V. Smith's framework from his "You can write a novel" book (I own a You Can Write a Novel Kit - complete with Chapter Log, Major/Master and Minor Character charts, Scene Development and revision Tracker)

I am writing a category romance, so I have 50,000 words and 10 chapters to make a good use of.
I have used Daphne Clair and Robyn Donald's (Writing Romantic Fiction) tips to 'translate' James V. Smith's advice into the world of romance.

1. Opening scene, where my Reader is to be thrilled.
Well, apparently I have now only 300 words to get my Reader's attention, so I'd better get the opening scene right.
In romance this is Their First Meeting, that First Sparkle between Her (beautiful, smart AND caring) and Him (Alfa male, no doubts!). Best is to have it happen on the first page, and ever since none of them is allowed to leave the page (= if one of them is not physically present on the page, he/she must be present in the other's character's mind).
As far as I've noticed category romance have POV switching between hero and heroine.
This will be Chapter 1 of my NaNo novel

2. Pivotal setup complication, where the action can fall a little, but never below the point of interesting
This part is simple - I just need to come up with enough conflict (source of tension), internal (emotional) and external (life circumstances), to keep them apart for something like 180 pages. Easy-peasy, isn't it?
well, we shall see ;-)
This will be Chapter 2 and 3

3. Point-of-no-return complication, where the action rises to reach the thrilling level again
In romance this is usually the moment when they fall for each other and despite all these things in point 2 realise they can't help the attraction
In Chapter 4

Points 4, 5, 6 - pivotal complications with the action rises and falls swinging my Reader between Interested, Excited and Thrilled
The consequences of the conflict as laid out in point 2, plus some minor additions, usually of external type; a jealous ex jumping out of a box maybe?
Chapters 5, 6,and 7

7. Worst complications possible, where my Reader should be more than Thrilled
It's all about that conflict, really.
Chapter 8

8. Worse than even the worst complications possible - the climactic scene, where I should have my Reader blown away by the titanic, epic, final struggle of my hero/heroine facing their worst adversary; heroic conflict is resolved in the characters' favour, important lessons are learnt and no coincidence or divine intervention is allowed
Simply speaking: they both realise they can't live without each other, this is The Love Of Their Lives, so they have to do something about all them things laid out in point 2, plus the minor additions and get together
Chapter 9 and beginning of Chapter 10 (as I'm planning A Dark Night of the soul moment, when they realise there is no happy ending for them)

9. The End, where they live happily ever after and my Reader can wipe his/her forehead and sigh with relief
They get together; may sail off into the sunset, clutching their wedding invitations but no actual wedding is necessary on the scene.
The end of Chapter 10

15 October 2010

10 rules for doing your research

picture by jscreationzs
via freedigitalphotos.net
"Thou shalt do you research"
As a Pattern Spotter and Theme Finder I decided that my recent struggle to get some facts right in the novel I'm currently writing, the setting I'm planning for my NaNoWriMo novel and three (Jody Hedlund, Helen Ginger for the BloodRedPencil and Mark Terry) blog posts enough to reflect a little on the importance of doing the research.
To be honest - I don't like doing research. I feel like I spend a lot of time browsing the Internet, composing fora posts, reading books, speaking to people  - and I can still get it wrong.

Here are my 10 rules for doing research (applies to fiction and non-fiction)

1. Write about what you know - you won't have to do much research, and you'll instantly know which sources are most reliable, be it books, magazines, places or experts.
Needles to say - it's my favourite rule.

2. Try to get information first-hand. If you can afford to go to a place where you want to set your novel - go, or write about places you have been too. Photographs can be helpful in getting geographical or seasonal info right. I know of authors who have enrolled on courses to have first hand experience and access to experts, or went on field trips (like Joanna Penn).
It doesn't have to be a big, serious course - a few weeks tester is sometimes enough to give you an idea, hands-on experience and some pointers. Check your local college, library or community centre for details of courses available.

3. If you have to get your information second-hand, try reliable and well tested sources first: books, libraries, librarians, experts.I have heard many positive and encouraging stories about helpful librarians all over the world (just email them; from what I've heard from other writers, librarians love being asked all these quirky details - it makes their job a little more exciting). When I was writing a short story set in a little town in northern Norway and needed some local info, I emailed the local council and got a very prompt and helpful reply.
Don't forget to mention particularly helpful people in your acknowledgements!

4. Ask your family, friends, work colleagues- people who, although not experts may have been to the places you want to write about (and have photos and little stories); attended those courses mentioned in Rule 2; or may know someone who has and put you in touch with them.
I prefer to 'innocently' steer the conversation towards the subject and weave my questions into the general conversation inconspicuously. It's happened to me that people refused to answer my questions once they knew it was for my novel or short story, often because they felt they weren't 'expert enough' to give me the information I needed (rubbish! If they weren't expert enough I wouldn't have asked them).
5. Use trusted web resourses: specialist websites, specialist fora, etc.
Writers are rarely only writers, they often have day jobs (like me), and from what I've found - they always more than happy to share their professional experience with you. And they live in different places on the planet, too. and you don;t have to pretend that this is for your cousin who's trying to adopt a disabled dog because her previous dog....

6. Use other brilliant tools available online, to mention only a few: Google Maps, photo libraries, webcameras placed in the place you're writing about

7. Use search engines wisely. Here's some advice on mastering the skill of asking the right question

8. Don't let the facts get into the way of a good story. Jody advises to "Go deep but stay narrow", Greg declared his duty to the Fiction. Ask yourself if you really need all those details in your book -can it be skipped or 'mumbled over' or happen in the background?
You can always consider getting someone to do your research, and pay for it.

9. If you're still not sure you got it right - get rid of it. Ever found any inaccuracies in a book? Have you put the book away? Well, you know what may happen if you get it wrong then.

10. Enjoy your research.
(I think I may skip this one though)

And what are your rules or trusted techniques?

05 October 2010


This year it's serious.
No more I'll_see_how_it_goes, I_may_join_in_later, or even I_think_I_could_do_it.
I'm doing it!

I've just joined in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. It starts on 1ts.November, ends on 30th; and I'm expected to write a 50,000 words novel. Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!

I don't have a title for my novel yet, but this is going to be a Mills&Boon medical romance (it's usually 50,-55,000 words so ideal for NaNoWriMo). I'm thinking of setting it somewhere between neurology/neuroscience and psychology. more details to follow.
I'm going to start planning the novel, draw the characters and think out the conflict later on this month (I'm taking a few days off for that).
Oh, yes - I am a Planner.

A NaNoWriMo widget will keep track of my word count.

03 October 2010

Get your permissions (copy) right

Ooh, managed to get all the copyright permissions for my non-fiction book on OCD at last. Even though it didn't take me long, it has been a painful process. The most difficult task was to find the copyright owner for the NICE publication. I've lost count of emails sent into the void, but luckily in a sudden enlightement I decided to ask a copyright holder of another publication for advice and lo and behold! they happened to be The Right One.
Big thank you to all helpful people and my intuition.

If you writing a non-fiction book or article and quoting directly material other than your own, don't rely on your intuition only.

1. Find out who holds the copyright. For unpublished materials it's usually the author, for published books, magazines, other periodicals - check the copyright or editorial pages. It may be a bit trickier with photography, but start with the publisher (and remember that even when you're using your own photographs you may still need a permission such as model or property release). The fact material found on the Net is anonymous does not mean it is not copyrighted. When in doubt - don't do without!

2. Get your permissions early. Some publishers take up to a couple of months to reply to your request. Copyright owners in foreigh countries may take even longer! And you have that book/article to finish on time. Although there is nothing wrong with carrying on writing your book or article while you're waiting, you can't afford it going into publication without all the permissions in place.

3. Get your permissions in writing, even from your friends or relatives (this can be a particularly risky move because you may potenitially lose not only money or reputation as an author but also a friend).
Society of Authors suggests this model permission licence letter for use.
My publisher is happy with emails, but check with your publisher if you need to have your permissions in hard copy (e.g. a 'proper' letter), or if an email would do.

4. Have your purse ready. You may need to pay. How much? It depends on many factors, such as the lenght of the excerpts you're using, the circulation of your publication, etc. Copyright permissions for many academic publications can be obtain through Rightslink and Copyright Clearance Center. Rightslink can give you estimated released fee - which is particularly important if you're about to use what may be a very expensive quotation (I decided to make a minor change in my book after I saw the quote for my quote. Sorry, guys, it wasn't worth the £360).
Before commiting yourself to any payments (and asking for the invoice!), check your contract - it will usually contain information on who is to pay release fee. There may be some room for negociation with your publisher.

5. Make sure you understand the key word - substantial.
'Substantial' is not defined in Copyright Act, but is 'a matter of fact and degree', and is more about quality of the used excerpt, how big a portion of the original work you're quoting, how it affects your book/article, etc rather than the quantity. If in doubt- always ask.
In case of reviewing or critique a rule of 'fair dealing' applies and you may not need to seek permissions to quote - see Society of Authors guidance on the matter for further details.

6. There is no copyrights on facts, titles or ideas.

More details on copyrights, moral rights and permissions on Society of Authors website. The history and international copyrigths agreements on Wiki, and Top Ten Questions about Copyrights and Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Permissions on Writing World.
Happy quoting!

22 September 2010

Get your flattie in the door

I don't wear stilettos, never even owned one, let alone a pair, but I was going to see if I could enter this contest by ChickLitWriters and nearly forgotten.

When I first saw the info about Get Your Stiletto In the Door, I thought I'd have my ChickLit novel well under way by the deadline, but, as you know, life gets in the way of writing sometimes. So I'm still nowhere nearer a developed plot, let alone the first chapter.

So I decided to enter what I have, which is half of my very first novel in Women's fiction category.
Luckily, as it's been just confirmed by Brooke Wills, Contest Coordinator, it doesn't matter that I've sent my manuscript for another contest (see post below). As long as I am not contracted by the deadline (2.10.2010) I am eligible to enter. I don't expect miracles in this case, so I'd better get my entry ready - there is a lot of work to do with formatting and submitting (I hate formatting!).

If you unpublished (or published but not contracted for the last 3-5 years, check website for details), have something suitable (it's better be finished or nearly finished - agents and editors DO ask for fulls or partials as the result of the contest - see previous winners' lists), think about submitting your MS: first 5000 words of your novel, 500 words o synopsis is optional and not judged.
It costs USD25 for non-members and USD15 for members; the prize is a USD50 Amazon voucher, but it's not about the voucher. Score sheets with judges' feedback will be returned to entrants.

A $25 for feedbacks by insiders? Cheaper than sending your MS to an agent/editor and you don't risk that dreaded 'thank you, but no-thank you' rejections slip!
I'd better try to get my flattie in that door.

Good luck to all entrants.

20 September 2010

Strictly Single strictly on time

Contest of the Month

I've promised myself to send my stuff to at least one contest a month. This is my quota for September - Strictly Single by RWNZ. If you a member of Romance Writers of NZ, unpublished in the past 5 years - send the first 7,500 words + max of 1250 words synopsis of your novel in by 1st October.

Just sent my entry off, well before the deadline.
Now, back to writing, 'cos my novel won't move on without my help.

16 September 2010

I have 300 words to save the world

Apparently, it's no longer the first chapter, not even the first page - a writer's chances to grab attention of a reader dwindled to 300 words (see James McCreet's article in October Writing Magazine). Editors want 250 words queries (see Query Shark), publishers - lots of 'white space' on the page, marketers - 20seconds sound bites.

The web shatters focus and rewires our brain, writes Nicolas Carr in Wired.
As our attention span has shrunk in time to allow expansion in space. It's all that TV watching, Web surfing and texting at the same time. An average Brit can cram 8 hrs and 48 minutes of media consumption daily into just 7 hours. Young peope are even better: 9,5 hrs into 6,5!

But dealing with diffused audience comes at a price - you may overlook a really important piece of information. This article in NYT talks about the downsides of being Always On, but I haven't finished it - it's just too long.

Natalie Whipple advises that 'blog posts shouldn't get too long' to improve the blog readability.
I go by an old rule Do not do to other as you would not have them do to you.
Ah, and don't add too many links - they increase cognitive overload and disorientation.

So I have 300 words to save the world that I put in danger in the first line. If I fail the test, my reader will never finish the story, and my world will never get saved.

I'd better get back to writing.

12 September 2010

Writing synopsis (1)

Writing synopsis is like performing keyhole surgery - it takes ages to master, there's no time for waffle and you'd better know where you're going.
[by Scribocin]

I'm rewritting a synopsis for my novel. Target word count under 1250.
Attempt no 16.

07 September 2010

Quakes, shakes and breaks

About the importance of switching off your inner editor and ignoring the spellchecker

Last week's earthquake in Christchurch, Cantenbury reminded me that New Zealand is not a land of milk and honey. And living on the North Island is not all that safer, because although the 56 volcanoes of Auckland Volcanic Field are considered extinct, the field itself is dormant.
Beautiful but scary!
Rangitoto Island, one of Auckland's dormant volcanoes, seen from Shekespear Regional Park

Shaken a little by this realisation I've decided to get that home insurance sorted ASAP. I mean, when I have a day off.
Well, but a while ago, when I first started my non-fiction project, I decided to use my days off for writing.
I have a day off today - what shall I do?

Dunno, gone writing :]

Chapter 5 (of 8) of my non-fiction guide is nearly finished - hurray! It seems that the system of taking a day per week instead of a week off in one go is working for me. Knowing that I have only so many hours I can dedicate to writing I am in fact writing.
I think this may the same mechanism that makes working  mothers so effective - the less time you have, the better you use it.

Another newly adapted technique I can swear by is 'switching off the inner Editor'. Whatever you're writing, just carry on typing, don't stop to correct the sentence, look up a synonym, or check that word you have just at the tip of your tongue - just keep typing away. Leave a gap with ?, write 'thesaurus/dictionary' in the space you want to put that special word in. It also doesn't matter if you have bits and pieces of your chapter in the right order ; doesn't even matter if you have them in the right chapter, because as long as you have them written down, you can then re-juggle your paragraphs, as you edit your first draft.
But you have to have that first draft finished.

And now, for that annoying spellchecker... Is anyone else finding the underlined words so challenging? Everytime I see this thin, wavy, red line my hands are shaking and I have to correct it. It interrupts the flow of writing, of course and often by the time I've chased out all the wavy rd lines my Muse is also gone.

I've tried switching the spellchecker off but I need it on, 'cos sometimes apart from the first couple of letters, I've no idea how a word I want to write is spelled.
But as the book I'm writing is on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and what is trying to get in the way of my writing is, well - my own touch of OCD, I've decided to take my own advice and fight my Inner Editor/Spellchecker/Perfectionnist using a renown anti-OCD technique: Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).

So from now on, I'm going to delibarately misspell words and look at the blimming wavy red line,  and ... try to do nothing. Nothing. Just let my hands shake until I can no longer hold the mouce.
And then take a deep breath and.. a break?
OK, why don;t I start now?

[sign out]

29 August 2010

Unhappily ever after?

Why I haven't been able to write romance

Romance Writers of NZ conference was indeed An Affair To Remember. I came back with a bag of goodies, a notebook full of tips, lots of inspiration and - last but not least - a couple of reflections.

Still the most popular genre, generating billions in sales - Romance certainly is not dead. No wonder that Mills&Boon are seeking new voices.

So far so good, let's jump on the bandwagon!
I've tried.
I've tried writing womags' short stories, time travel romance, mistery romance, medical romance, women's fiction and... whatever characters and plot I've come up with it always ends up bad.
Unhappily ever after.

What's the problem then?
Well, it seems that it's my daytime job. If you, like me, see people when they are unhappy, with their relationships going badly, whatever your marital status, you may find it hard to believe in happy endings.

Karina, thank you very much for helping me understand it.
Now, where is that bag full of books with happy endings?

23 August 2010

Be sparing with perfume

Just came back from Romance Writers of New Zealand annual conference - An Affair to Remember.
I will certainly remember it. A well organised, jam-packed with useful, practical advice, full of nice, friendly people.

Although I am not a romance writer, and certainly not a romance reader, I  have found the conference inspiring and motivating. Because it doesn't really matter what type, genre or kind of creative writing you write - there are some elements of the craft that are transferable.
Like advice on the use of flowery language, adjective and adverbs.

Be sparing with perfume!

15 August 2010

Vit S - Scribocin

Scribocin (Vitamin S) - a vital ingredient of good writing; the magic element that makes words 'leap off' the page and compels the reader to read on. If it cannot be synthesised in sufficient quantity by the organism of a writer, it has to be obtained from diet.

I'm an aspiring writer on a quest for this essential ingredient.