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Archive for April, 2009

Calling all Writers

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on April 30, 2009

Just in case there are any aspiring writers out there …

QWC/ Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program for
Fiction Writers

Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) and Hachette Australia are proud
to announce an exciting new national program for fiction writers.
This program has been created for emerging Australian authors of
fiction who are either unpublished or have no more than one
significant work commercially published. Up to 10 emerging
fiction writers will work with publishers from Hachette Australia
to develop high-quality fiction manuscripts. The program is open
to applicants Australia-wide who are Australian citizens or
permanently reside in Australia. There is a $50 application fee
per submission. Download full guidelines and application forms at
[1]www.qwc.asn.

au.

Deadlines

Applications open in May 2009.

The deadline for submission is last post 24 July 2009.

The manuscript development retreat will run in southeast
Queensland from 20-25 November 2009.

References

1. http://www.qwc.asn.au/

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MONSTER WRITING TIPS!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on April 28, 2009

At last! At last, at last, at last! I’ve been such a slack blogger because all of my time, every evening and every weekend, has been taken up with putting my writing tips site onto the web. And finally it’s done! Complete with graphics, and all the icons, links, navbar, everything!

Just in time too, because my Honorary Fellowship at Wollongong Uni has come to an end – they seem to think I haven’t been doing enough research. (Huh!) So that means my dreamweaver software at uni, for putting up sites, is about to be cut off from connection to the web – in fact, it WAS cut off a week ago, but I managed to get a short reprieve. I’ll buy my own software when I buy a new laptop soon, but then I’ll have to spend time learning an updated, more advanced version of dreamweaver.

Anyway, I made it – and I should have most of the new Worldshaker pages up on richardharland.net too, before I get the chop (ouch!) So let me say something about the writing tips site, which is at

http://www.writingtips.com.au

It all started from a Bookfeast event, when senior students from one High School wanted to talk to me about the old writing tips on my author website, which they’d found very helpful when working on their extension English projects. I was flattered – and amazed, because those tips were, well, just the tip of the iceberg of what I could have done. So I decided to perform a public service and do a proper job of it on a separate website.

Somehow it just kept growing and growing. Now there’s a 145 page website of tips for fantasy, speculative fiction and genre writers, as big as a small book and totally FREE. I took four months off from my own fiction writing to write the text, and more than a hundred hours to do all the website stuff. (I’d sort of forgotten what I once used to know about dreamweaver – had to learn most of it all over again.)

The tips range across all levels from basic to advanced. There’s (i) Good Writing Habits, getting feedback and revising; (ii) Action, Setting, Dialogue and presenting Inner Thought; (iii) creating Characters and character’s point of view; (iv) Story from beginning to climax, narrative momentum and pacing; (v) Language, style, first-person narration, names and titles; and, last but not least, (vi) Getting Published – how the publishing system works, how to break into it and what happens afterwards. The lot! It’s all there at –

http://www.writingtips.com.au

Last night, I actually got to do some reading for pleasure. Who knows, I may feel so stress-free by tomorrow, I might do a jigsaw puzzle!

Cheers
Richard

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Planting Clover

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on April 27, 2009

Wordcount is both a blessing and a curse. If you’re anything like me, then drafting a novel is all about keeping track of those little numbers. Sure, you can just write and see where it all turns out, but writing lacks an inherent work structure – we have to create one for ourselves to mark our progress, whether that be keeping track of hours worked (as in an office job) or, more commonly, the actual output.

The trouble is, wordcount doesn’t mean anything. Sure, you might be aiming for a book that is 70,000 words or 120,000 words. Sometimes you even have a minimum number built into your contract, and some books (like category romance) simply have to be a specific length. But often it doesn’t actually matter if your book is 110K or 130. It certainly doesn’t matter if it’s 80,453 instead of 81,292.

More importantly, the wordcount means nothing because it doesn’t specify quality. You can write 5,000 words in a day (cough, splutter, yes, possible) and they might be the best thing you’ve ever written, or the next day you might have to erase them all and start again.

Still, we (those of us who do it) measure word count. When you’re trying to get a large writing project done, especially to deadline, sometimes the only way to get the thing written is to parcel it out. To work out how many words you have to get down a day, or a week, or a month, in order to have a product at the end, even if that product is a rough draft that needs to be stripped down to the skeleton and rebuilt from scratch.

My current schedule is that I have to have the revised version of Book 1 to the publisher by 1 August (mostly done, but needs polish), then Book 2 by 1 January and Book 3 by July/August the following year. If I waited until 2 August this year to start on Book 2, it would simply not get written in time, and that’s even without the fact that I’m having my second child mid-August. Editing can be done intensively over a short period. Writing first draft, for me, cannot.

Nanowrimo was brilliant, with an output of 50,000 words over a month (a first for me) and a completed novel that is apparently pretty close to publishable. Excellent news. But the pace of that was gruelling, and the Book 2 I have to deliver in January needs to be at least 120,000. I can’t just, sadly, throw myself into Nanogear and write maniacally for 3 months, then spend 2 months editing. Works in theory, but it might well kill me, and would almost certainly lead to issues with my family and small business, which also require some of my time.

I’ve been working on pacing myself. My ideal was to get book 2 drafted before book 1 had to be handed in. So far I’ve written 50,000 of book 2 (over the last two-three months) and it has already thrown up plenty of things I have to change about book 1 – a new structural thread and a few characters/events to seed earlier, among other things. After footling around in Jan/Feb (while multitasking on another project) I wrote 15K in March, and decided to up it to 30K in April, once ROR and other commitments were out of the way. This meant, quite simply, 1000 new words written every day. If I did extra, that was nice, but it didn’t count towards the next day’s total.
To my delight and surprise, it went really well. I didn’t miss a single day (unlike Nano where I often fell short of the 1600 words or so you needed to do daily, and had to scurry to catch up later). I wrote it in bite-sized chunks, often checking in with my writing buddy Kaia first thing in the morning and last thing at night (the only times we are both awake thanks to recent time changes and the fact that she still inconveniently lives in Sweden – honestly, it’s all a bit Ladyhawke) so we could do our writing together, something which always makes it go faster. As of last Friday I had gone past my goals for the month with flying colours, and was actually averaging more than 1300 words a day over April.

But there was a problem. I was getting the words done, but they were getting emptier and emptier. I had reached that dread stage you get to somewhere round about week 3 of Nanowrimo where you put entire scenes, conversations or notations to your future self in square brackets – [insert battle scene later] [insert witty conversation hitting 3 plot points] [Make Write Good].

I had an end point I was striving for – the middle part of my book, where there is a climax and then a pause and time jump, and I was allowed to stop drafting and go do some of that essential editing on Book 1 for a while. Also I planned to [Make Write Good] revise this first section of Book 2 before carrying forward. But the closer I got to that essential stopping scene, the worse my writing got. The lazier I got. The less attention I paid to my characters. The more I hated my heroine.

Just because you can write 1000 words a day doesn’t mean you should.

So I took the weekend off. I deliberately busted my ‘didn’t miss a day hitting my quota’ record in April by stopping 300 words short of my Friday goal. I could have waited the 5 days or so until the end of the month, but it was too late for that.

By Saturday morning, I couldn’t read a page of a novel without scribbling down character ideas, plot details I needed to remember, etc. I was feeling energised enough to go back. Maybe I could write a bit extra today to make up for Friday…

No. I got stern with myself. I had to be strong. I had to plant clover, to let the field lie fallow, so good things could grow next season. I found other things to do. Housework. (I KNOW) Playing more with my daughter. Not writing stuff. And now my self-imposed exile is over, and I have a few days to get this section of the novel done. I am hoping I can do it with something of the style and oomph I’ve been missing for the last few weeks.

Wish me luck.

Cheers,
Tansy

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London Book Fair

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on April 20, 2009

The London Book Fair is going on right now (sighs wistfully) and the word for the day apparently is hope and optimism, though that is coming with cautious and realistic advances (never, to be honest, a bad thing).

Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of HarperCollins, is interviewed about the future of the industry, and along with the same message of publishing ticking along with only slightly more cautious steps in the face of the global economic downturn, she discusses the future of publishing and predicts that this will be the year that traditional publishing finally hits the right mark with use of digital technologies. A few interesting comments about Lulu and self publishing, too!

Meanwhile, Agent Kristin is scoping out the London Book Fair herself, with hot new soon-to-be-published YA author Sarah Rees Brennan as her comedy sidekick. While Kristin posts tantalising pics and insightful commentary of the event, Sarah as ever produces a surreal and delicious travelogue of chaos and crazy.

Sighs. Book fairs. Why don’t we have these in Australia? Okay it would be a LONG way to come for German and Finnish publishers who want to snap up book rights, but… we can bribe with lamingtons!

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Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on April 16, 2009

Whenever I sit down and write, this little fellow is sleeping behind me. If you want to know what it is that I see as I’m writing, well, it’s lots of books – dictionaries (oh, but I love dictionaries), novels that I adore, and research material- and, little Ziggy curled up in my reading chair. I don’t write in a regular chair, but on one of those exercise balls – used to have a desk chair but they gave me all sorts of pain, back, arm and the like. Since I started using an exercise ball, all those pains have gone.

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Doom and Gloom and Fantasy

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on April 14, 2009

Here we are in the midst of a ‘World Economic Crisis’ and I wonder — How will this affect book sales?

According to a piece I saw the other day romance sales are up 32%. This makes me think the sale of big fat fantasy novels will be going up. After all, having battled the real world all week, what is nicer than to curl up on a rainy Saturday afternoon with a book that’s going to take you away to a fantasy world where the villains are recognizable and the world’s problems can be conquered?

I’m not saying we should put our heads in the sand and ignore the world. Each week, if I remember, I buy New Scientist and read it from cover to cover. But I can only take so much doom and gloom. I need something to smile about and whether I’m reading the latest Janet Evanovich or a Joe Abercrombie, I’m refueling to go out and face the real world.

For anyone who is interested, Rose Fox has an article here on the way our fiction needs relate to what’s happening in the real world.

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LUCKY ME!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on April 4, 2009

Hi!

I can finally tell my news – I’ve been holding it in so long I’ve almost got a hernia. My next novel, the steampunk/Victoriana fantasy, WORLDSHAKER, which comnes out here from Allen & Unwin in May, has been sold to a major publisher in the US. Yippee! And even more yippees for the size of the advance!

I guess you just never know when the luck will strike. I’ve been writing and writing, 14 books published with fair success, but never the big breakthrough. Fingers crossed, this is it!

Actually, WORLDSHAKER goes back almost to the start of my writing career – I mean, the start when I actually managed to finish books instead of abandoning them part-way through. It’s been 15 years in the planning and about 5 years in the writing – began as ‘Leviathan’, lived on as ‘Juggernaut’ and finally changed to WORLDSHAKER.

It’s been totally rewritten 3 times – and I owe my ROR buddies a huge debt of gratitude. Firstly, for critiquing the first 20k words, which led to a re-write of all the opening chapters; then for reading and critiquing the first full draft, outside of our normal ROR retreat sessions – which led to the first of the total rewrites.

Looking back, I reckon the gods must’ve taken pity on me. ‘Poor bugger,’ they probably said, ‘he’s been working on it so long and so hard, let’s arrange an American contract for him …’

Yippee!
Richard

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