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It’s Here!

14 Oct

Current Status: Migraine-y

Food Consumed: My nerves

On The iPod: Page One; Katie Noonan & The Captain

Word Count: Lots of (longhand) pages!

Remember a while back I told you I’d won a place in a writing retreat? Well, the weekend of the retreat is finally here, and I’m a bundle of nervous energy.

My weekend of intensive writing starts tonight: the meet-and-greet retreat dinner. I’ve never been too good at dealing with meeting new people (hence part of the nervous energy), and I’ll be on my own, too, as opposed to being with my husband, who is only slightly better at meeting strangers than I am. If you’re anything like me – shy, awkward, doesn’t like public speaking or public scrutiny – then you’ll understand my trepidation.

I also get my manuscript report this evening – this is where most of the nervous bundle of energy comes in! I’m trying to prepare myself for the worst – that my novel is a big ol’ mess and is beyond repair – but there’s still a little voice in the back of my mind (or heart) that loves my novel so dearly that I can’t even begin to fathom why someone else can’t love it the same as me.

I have this sinking feeling that the night may end in tears: my tears.

I’ll let you know…

Literary Censorship: On a Soapbox

23 Sep

This post has been brewing in me for a while. I didn’t want to write it angry, because then I tend to yell and come across as this crazy person who stands on her soapbox and shouts to force others to listen – anyway. So I waited until I was calmer, until I could get my point across clearly and without too much finger-pointing.

I should start by saying that this post isn’t about Ellen Hopkins at all, though it was the censorship of her books that spurred this post.

Ellen is a great advocate for YA literature that is a little left-of-centre, a little out-of-the-box, and since that’s where my literary interest lies, I have great respect for her as an author. I will admit that her books aren’t for everyone: they deal with very sensitive issues, and I get why some people are offended by them, why they don’t want their children to read these novels, why they think these books shouldn’t be available for just anyone on the shelves – I get it.

But this post isn’t about Ellen or her books (which, for the record, I adore). It’s about the censorship.

I’m going to use an analogy here. I’m going to use Vampire Diaries because, quite frankly, I’m obsessed with the show, and want any excuse to talk about it. Here in Australia, Vampire Diaries occupies an 8:30pm time slot. Back when I was a young teen, I was in bed by then. Most teens these days, however, are not, so they can access shows like Vampire Diaries (and other perhaps more risque shows that are on in a similar time slot), with sex and violence and issues that the younger end of the YA scale shouldn’t necessarily be subjected to. Yet we let our children watch shows with sex and violence and adult-type issues and we don’t really bat an eyelid about it.

Enter the controversial YA novel. It has sex. It has violence. It has issues that we perhaps don’t want our young teens to read about – drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse – the list is endless. They’ve seen all this stuff with their own eyes in movies and on television shows. It looks real. They’re accustomed to it. Yet reading a novel with all this stuff they’ve already been exposed to in it is suddenly not acceptable.

We don’t want our kids to read books that explore the darker side of teen life; of life in general.

We don’t want our kids to be able to hire these books from a library.

We want to ban these books in case someone else’s child reads them and corrupts our children.

If you don’t want your child to read certain things, that’s fine – I understand. We’re all different and we’re all raising our children differently. I don’t hold you not wanting your child to read Ellen’s books – or books of a similar nature – against you. I really don’t. But don’t stop everyone else’s child from reading these “controversial” books just because you’ve decided your child can’t. That’s all I’m saying.

I know I’m probably not making my point very eloquently – forgive me. But I hope, in all of that rambling mess, you were able to see where I was coming from. Because it isn’t about Ellen’s books at all. It’s about the double-standard in the industry, and the cruel message that we’re sending to our authors: that’s it’s not okay to write these types of books, to write from the heart. That it’s not okay to write something that doesn’t have a happy ending or teaches teens that the world can be a dark place.

That it’s not okay to put a piece of our soul on a page – unless it’s a socially-accepted piece of our soul.

My Elevator Pitch

3 Aug

Aspiring author Karen Tyrrell recently wrote a thought-provoking post on elevator pitches and just what it takes to get your manuscript noticed by an agent or publisher. (If you haven’t read Karen’s post, you should! It contains lots of handy hints to get your pitch just right – read about it here).

It got me thinking: what could I possibly use as an elevator pitch for my manuscript? For a while there I was stumped. I literally kept drawing a blank whenever I thought about it – kinda like when I thought about writing my CV or my synopsis, total mind blank.

I started questioning what my novel was really about. I mean, it’s a post-apocalyptic tale set in Australia, with a young male protagonist and a whole lotta angst, but that’s not exactly the most eye-catching pitch ever developed, is it? And then it hit me in the shower this morning – my elevator pitch:

“Everybody is capable of killing. Fourteen-year-old Ollie just needed the right trigger.”

Okay, so it’s probably lame and it doesn’t make mention of the end of the world, which is kind of the whole premise, or where the story really begins anyway. But does it describe the basic undercurrent of the story? Does it highlight exactly what makes my novel tick? Yes, I think so. My elevator pitch is pretty much my novel, in a really tiny nutshell.

But what do you think? Does it grab your attention? Is it punchy enough to gain the interest of a literary agent or a publisher?

NB: I christened this post with a picture of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, simply because I want to look at him.

EDIT: I’ve updated this post with my new and improved elevator pitch, thanks to Karen Tyrrell’s lovely advice.

CV’s & Synopsis’ & Applications, OH MY!

2 Aug

Current Status: Freaked out

Food Consumed: Raspberry lemonade

On The iPod: Life on Earth; Band of Heroes

Word Count: 1,000

I’m in the middle of writing an application for an upcoming writer’s retreat and I am literally freaking out. I have no idea what I’m doing. I have the manuscript part done – I guess you could call that the important part. As for the CV and the synopsis the retreat is asking for… yeah, I’m stumped.

I think my biggest problem is that I don’t know what to tell them and what to leave out. What do you put in a writer’s CV, anyway?

The Writer’s CV

I’ve just googled the kind of content that should be included in a writer’s CV (because I seriously had no idea what to write AT ALL), and this is what I’ve come up with so far (please correct me if any of this sounds wrong):

– Your Writing Bio: a brief 150-200 piece touching on your successes as a writer, your future expectations, as well as a short introduction about yourself and the kinds of areas you like to write in.

– Comments: a listing of any testimonials you have received, either from industry giants or fellow writers (basically the kinds of things you find on the back cover of novels).

– Awards/Achievements: if you’ve won any kind of writing competition, no matter how small, this is where you mention your win. Also mention any highly commended or notable shortlistings.

– Publications: if you’ve ever had any of your work published – be it short stories, poems, or even reviews or newspaper articles – this is where you list those kinds of achievements. Unfortunately for the aspiring writer, blog reviews don’t count.

– Education: got a bachelor’s degree floating around in your drawer, but it’s not a writing-related degree? Who cares – list it anyway! Any kind of self-education counts and should be listed on your CV (though a degree in creative writing or english lit would certainly look a lot better to an agent or publisher than a degree in science).

– Work Experience: no matter what you’ve been doing with your life while you’ve been struggling away with your novel, list it here. This section is all about life experience.

What’s in a Synopsis?

Contrary to popular belief, a synopsis is NOT:

– a short story version of your manuscript

– a teaser

– a book blurb

– a piece of creative writing.

In short, a synopsis is one giant, two-page SPOILER that only your editor/agent/retreat judge should see. It’s all business, so the synopsis should be free of any creative flair that your manuscript has. It should cover the basic structure of the novel’s plot and character developement, and TELL rather than show exactly what your manuscript is all about.

Blunt writing is what makes a good synopsis, so keep it short and leave the fluffly stuff for the novel.

Phew! I’m glad I googled. I suddenly feel a lot less overwhelmed now that I have a better understanding on it all. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m about to write the perfect CV and synopsis. As with everything in the world, practice makes perfect.

I’m off to practice! (And finish the application!!)

What do you think should be in a writer’s CV and what should be left out? Is my blunt approach to synopsis writing how you would do it? Please discuss in the comments.

You Had Me At Generous Margins

28 Jul

At some point every writer has to bite the bullet and start down the submissions trail. It’s not easy taking that last leap – and nor should it be – but it’s something every writer needs to do if they wish to be taken seriously in the industry. After all, you can’t really call yourself a writer if you never put your work out there, cross your fingers and hope, can you?

This is where I’m at right now. I’ve put the novel on the backburner for today (or at least for the morning) while I work on a submission for a short story I wrote a few months ago. It’s been sitting in my “completed works” folder on my Mac for a while now, just waiting for the right competition to come by so I can send it away and wish it luck in the world. I think I’ve found the right comp for my story – but how do you ever really know?

The submission guidelines were easier to understand than I thought. If they’d simply said “industry standard,” I would have been freaking out, because who in the amateur world knows what “industry standard” really means? Thankfully they’ve made it easy for me: 1.5 line spacing, typed, white A4 sheet, one-sided, generous margins.

Oh, the generous margins conundrum! How wide is too wide? What is considered “too thin” in the world of margins? I don’t really know. But I’ve been told that editors love a good 3cm margin, so that’s what I’ll be using from now on… or until an editor tells me otherwise. So if you’re an editor reading my blog and you don’t like 3cm margins, please speak now or forever hold your peace!

Soon, “Heart” will be released into the cutthroat world of acceptance and rejection. How do I know the story is ready? I don’t. I’m just going to cross my fingers, close my eyes, give the envelope a little kiss and let it go. And hope for the best. It’s all any writer can ever do.