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Posts Tagged ‘Publishing Industry’

Felicity makes the Final Three of the Text YA Fiction Competition

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on July 19, 2012

We’re doing a Squee! for Felicity, regular ROR blog reader and guest poster.

(See Fel’s post on using research to give authenticity to your writing. She talks about her time on the tall ship and a balloon ride).

Felicity (writing as Louise Curtis) entered her book Heart of Brass in the Text Young Adult Fiction Prize. She was delighted to hear she’d made the final three. While her book didn’t win, this is an excellent result and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for her!

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Editors, Literary Competitions, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Opportunity for Writers

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 29, 2012

The QWC Hachette Mauscript Development Program has opened again. This is not genre specific, in fact it is not even fiction specific, so you might have a non-fiction book to submit.

Submissions close 5pm, Thursday 12th July.

You can download the Application Guidelines here and the Application Form here.

Posted in Literary Competitions, Mentorships, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Calling writers of childrens and young adults books

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on May 15, 2012

Text Publishing have opened their Children and Young Adults Writing Competition again. See here for details.

‘Both published and unpublished writers of all ages are eligible to enter with works of fiction or non-fiction. Judged by a panel of editors from Text Publishing, the winner will receive a publishing contract with Text and a $10,000 advance against royalties.’

You can see the 2008, 2009, 2010 winners to get an idea. It closes June 1st, so set yourself a deadline and submit.

Posted in Creativity, Writing for children, Writing for Young Adults, Writing goals, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Congratulations to the ROR Aurealis Award Finalists 2011

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on March 23, 2012

First of all a big congratulations to everyone who made the final lists for the 2011 Aurealis Awards. Having worked on the awards for 5 years I know what goes on behind the scenes and I want to thank the team who organise the awards and the panels who read the entries, and agonise over the final lists, all of them volunteers!

Celebrating our ROR 2011 Aurealis Awards – Finalists


The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)


“The Proving of Smollett Standforth” by Margo Lanagan (Ghosts by Gaslight, HarperVoyager)

“Into the Clouds on High” by Margo Lanagan (Yellowcake, Allen & Unwin)




The Business of Death by Trent Jamieson (Hachette)



“Mulberry Boys” by Margo Lanagan (Blood and Other Cravings, Tor)



“The Patrician” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Love and Romanpunk, Twelfth Planet Press)


Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Twelfth Planet Press)


 Best of luck to everyone on the awards night. For more infor see here.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Awards, Fantasy Genre | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Margo Reveals What it’s like inside a ROR Crit Week!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on February 6, 2012

From Margo …

A Deepening ROR—a wRiters On the Rise workshop, from the inside

That's where we were circled in red

First there’s a bit of foreplay. Someone pipes up online: “When’s the next ROR?” Someone at the other end of the country: “I’ll have a novel draft ready by about January; how’s everyone else set?” And all the ROR-ettes speak up one by one, with their first or later drafts that are in synch, or the obligations or health issues or financial limitations or lacks of work-in-progress that’ll keep them away this time.

ROR meets roughly every 18 months to 2 years; I haven’t been able to get to the last couple of retreats but when this one was mooted, I decided that I had a chance, if I went hell for leather during November-December, of getting a super-rough first draft of my colonial NSW fantasy written for ROR’s perusal for the end of January workshop.

Tansy and Andrew scoped out Steele’s Island Accommodation; we discussed timing and settled on the weekdays 30 Jan-3 Feb, because the place is booked out with weddings most weekends.

All went quiet for a while. I dealt with Sea Hearts copyedits and proofs, wrote stories for Twelfth Planet Press, judged the Australian/Vogel’s Award, wound up my time on the Literature Board talked at the Brisbane Writers Festival, launched two other writers’ books, day-jobbed 3 days a week and, by the looks of the calendar, dined with a lot of different people. Clearly I didn’t scratch myself; there wouldn’t have been time.

On 1 November I started writing the draft of Formidable Energies. I registered with Nanowrimo, because I wanted some company, and besides, they have this neat graph that you can use to track your progress against the ideal path towards the 50K words. I like a neat graph, and I’d never make one for myself. Generally I’m not wordcount obsessive; this time, though, I definitely had to achieve a book’s worth.

It was lonely, exhilarating, hilarious, keeping up the pace, papering over the chasms in my research, blithely charging on, jumping in and out of the story, going from jam scene to jam scene and ignoring any bread-and-butter bits, but trying to keep it coherent enough for my ROR friends to be able to see what I was getting at, the nature of this beast.

I didn’t have the know-how, about Celtic gods, about Irish language, customs, culture and history—and only a 20-year-old history degree to help me with the convict ships, penal law and early colonial Sydney. I researched as I went just so I could picture enough setting in which to tell the tale. Perhaps this research was the most fun. I prowled around the State Library, requesting old travel books on Ireland and copying useful pages onto the iPad. I learned so much during that month—but most of all I learned what huge gaps existed in my knowledge, and the enormous job I might have on my hands if I ever went at the research properly.

And I knuckled down and wrote. Here’s my completed Nanowrimo graph, to give you the bare bones of the story of my month:

I was happy with that. I booked my ticket to Hobart. I wrote on for another 2 weeks into December, and managed a draft of 45K, which took the story from (what I imagined was the) beginning to (one possible) end. Manuscripts began to fly between email boxes. I did what pulling-together of the draft I could, wrote some explanatory/apologetic notes to cover the worst breaks, trailings-off and confused bits, took a deep breath and sent it off to my ROR-mates.

There was a flurry of communication as we sorted out accommodation moneys. Then came silence as we read each other’s drafts; that’s a lonely stage too, that one, keeping your opinions to yourself, addressing comments to an unresponsive screen, worrying that you haven’t quite captured what you felt about this character or that piece of plot logic, or that you haven’t phrased it helpfully. Weeks, it takes, reading five novels and assembling meaningful critiques.

Departure date loomed. I anguished a bit more over my reports, then saved them, printed them out for good measure and started packing.

The view up the estuary

Steele’s Island Accommodation: the perfect place for a writers’ workshop. Huge spaces for meeting and lounging in, more rooms and beds than we could fill, even with half our families along. Outside, a river-beach to stride along to the sea, a wooded hill across the water, waves and mountains in the distance, weather pouring across the sky. Only a few distant holidaymakers reminded us that there was a world beyond ROR. And the landscape showed that this was once an extremely popular place to feast on oysters. We kept to that tradition, at least.

Steeles Island Midden

But aak!, Formidable Energies was scheduled for the first critique session in the morning, and I hadn’t thought about it for six weeks—how would anyone’s comments make sense to me? So after the welcome dinner, deep into the first night and early in the morning I went over it again, reacquainting myself with its wild ambitions, its flights of fancy, its longueurs and its pathological avoidance of any form of action on the part of its main character.

Then on the Tuesday morning, all those weeks of solitary work suddenly blossomed into community, and made perfect sense. My story, which had seemed so stale and stuck, sketchy and hopeless, suddenly loosened, lightened and took flight on contact with the possibilities brought to it by my colleagues. From feeling as if I couldn’t progress without wearing amounts of research and tedious clunky plot-making, I went in the space of 2 hours to being excited about the many, many ways this story could go, the means by which I could get my main man moving, the significance I could bring to the powers plaguing him, both in Ireland and the new land. I saw the way forward; I saw several ways forward. I couldn’t wait to get back to the ms. and try out these ideas.

Just as good, if not so directly personally affecting, were the rest of the critique sessions. I would come out of the 2 x 2-hour sessions almost unable to think straight, I’d absorbed so much as I listened to Rowena, Richard, Dirk, Tansy and Maxine’s encounters with the same manuscripts. They’d responded so differently – or they’d felt the same, but phrased their response so differently, or come up with some completely ingenious solution. It was thoroughly absorbing to watch other RORers’ novels fly apart under each critiquer’s hands and then be brought back together in new ways.

Thank you so much, ROR-ettes, for the time and thought that went into your reports. Thanks for the privilege of reading and considering your works in progress. Thanks Tansy and Andrew for finding Steele’s Island, Dirk for the wonderful food, Daryl and David for radiating calmness, Steven for tourist-ing on our behalf, and Raeli and Mima for providing an understorey of questions, songs, sand-sweeping, fruit-eating and general play.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Authors and Public Speaking, Book Launches, Dialogue, Editing and Revision, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Plotting, Point of View, Research, Story Structure, World Buildng, Writing Craft, Writing Groups | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

An alert from Writers Beware

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on December 16, 2011

Dymocks have launched a publishing arm. Writers need to be informed when they sign up for something like this. Here’s what Writers Beware have to say:


First they quote from the contract, then they critique it.

The Author grants to D Publishing a licence…to exercise, including by way of sub-licence, all rights in the Work other than its first volume and electronic publication rights (Subsidiary Rights). Without limiting the preceding, Subsidiary Rights include:

(a) anthology and quotation rights
(b) condensation e.g. magazines, newspapers and ezines
(c) radio and TV straight reading
(d) sound recording
(e) reprint under sub licence
(f) adaptation in other media, including but not limited to internet, apps or other software, collectively, ‘Licence’.


These terms would be a problem if you encountered them in the contract of any small publisher. From a self-publishing service, they are truly awful. And they’re just the start. Dymocks can also change the terms of the contract at will. It reserves the right to publish tie-in editions, if a film or other media adaptation is made. The royalty structure is confusing (and, from the looks of it, actual royalties will be low). The payment terms for subsidiary rights sales aren’t adequately defined. Royalties are paid and accounted only twice a year. And there’s a confidentiality clause that could preclude authors from sharing sales information.


For the full article see here.

Posted in Publishers, Publishing Industry | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Calling Aspiring Writers …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on October 31, 2011

The Varuna Publisher Fellowships is open for 2011.

What is Varuna?

It’s a beautiful house in the Blue Mountains which is run as a writers retreat. (For more see here).

What is a fellowship?

In their own words:

‘The Varuna Publisher Fellowships can provide a pathway to bring your work to the attention of a publisher.  It also allows you to work on your manuscript in the unique residential environment of Varuna. You can work on your manuscript, knowing that there’s a publisher who has chosen to read and consider the finished work for publication.

The Varuna Publisher Fellowships program offers 15 one-week residential fellowships during 2012.’

Five publishers are involved in this particular fellowship program. The applicants send 20 -50 pages of their manuscript with a pitch for the project. The publishers select writers based on this. The lucky writers will get a one week stay at Varuna where they can work in peace on their manuscript. There is a consultation with Varuna writing consultants during the residency and when their ms is finished a Varuna writing consultant will read the ms before it is sent to the publisher.

The closing date for applicants is Nov 30th.  For full details see here. The publishers are looking for a broad range of genres.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get away for a week and do nothing but write?

Posted in Creativity, Editing and Revision, Editors, Mentorships, Pitching, Publishers, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Inner Life of a Successful Writer

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on October 29, 2011

Chocolate and Coffee - also must haves for the writer!

Back in the late nineties after I had my first children’s book published I wrote up a Beginning Writer’s Checklist (here’s the updated version).

Recently, I came across this post The Common Traits of the Successful Writer by Bob Mayer, Part One and Part Two. He starts with:

‘It’s not normal to sit alone and write 100,000 words.  So let’s get that out of the way.  You aren’t normal.  You aren’t in the bell curve and you aren’t necessarily on the good side of the curve. ‘

I had to smile.

He says the publishing industry is changing faster than ever and he’s absolutely right. Once there was one way to get published – Write. Write short stories and books, develop your craft, attend workshops, develop your craft, make short story sales, enter competitions. Do all this while writing every day. Win or place in competitions. Develop your craft. Approach publishers with a CV of published short stories  and placings in competitions, get rejections.  Attend more workshops. Develop your craft. Keep writing. After about 10 years get that first publishing contract from a major publisher. And then you really start to learn, because as a writer you never stop learning.

Was it perfect? No. Good books were overlooked. (Some people lucked onto a book sale with their first book. Then they had to do all their development as a writer meeting deadlines in the public eye).

Now … People can self publish, release their books as e-books and Print on Demand. They don’t have to wait on recognition from major publishers. Of course this means a lot of books that are not ready for publication see the light of day. How do readers sift through these to find the gems? That’s a post topic for another day.

Back to the traits of a successful writer. This is an interesting quote from Bob Mayer:

‘Remember something about the art of writing: It is the only art form that is not sensual. You can see the colors and strokes that make a painting, feel a sculpture, and hear music.  The manner in which each individual piece in those fields impacts on the senses is different.  But every writer uses the same letters on a piece of paper.  You have twenty-six letters that combine to form words, which are the building blocks of your sentences and paragraphs.  Everyone has the same words, and when I write that word and you write it, that word goes into the senses of the reader in the same way.  It’s how we weave them together that impact the conscious and subconscious mind of the reader that makes all the difference in the world.

A book comes alive in the reader’s mind.  You use the sole medium of the printed word to get the story from your mind to the reader’s.  It is the wonder of writing to create something out of nothing.  Every book started with just an idea in someone’s head.  Isn’t that a fantastic concept?’

He’s right about writers all using the same 26 letters and the book going from the writer’s mind to the reader’s mind. But to me writing is deeply sensual. I create a Resonance file (See here and here). The file is packed with images, snatches of research, true stories and, while I don’t collect music, I know what music the characters would listen to. This file is a pale outer representation of the inner world of the story. In my mind the world of the story, it’s characters and society is richly sensual and packed with detail.

Mayer doesn’t actually list the common traits of successful writers because he’s plugging books on the topic. (The Writers Toolkit and the Warrior Writer – Both links were down).

Here’s my list of a successful writer’s traits:

1. A Passion to Write. This is the kind of passion that keeps you awake at night thinking about plots and characters. The kind of passion that drives you to sneak away from the family on Christmas Day to write because you just can’t keep away from the story. Which leads to …

2. Perseverance. The craft of writing is something you can read about in books, but often you have to ‘discover’ it as you write. The recognition of something only comes as you are doing it and you internalise the understanding. All of this springs from …

3. A Love of Reading. (This really means a love of story in all its forms). If you were the sort of kid who got lost in a book, if you are the sort of person who goes to see a movie and spends the next three days thinking about alternate endings, then you are a writer. The more you read, the more you internalise the craft of writing. And writing consists of …

4. A Love of Words for their own sake. I’ve always been fascinated by words, by the history that words contain and by the power of a single word, how it can change the meaning of a whole sentence. But words are just the building blocks for …

5. A Love of Story. Story is not plot. Story is a combination of plot (events that happen) and character (the people who react to these events or trigger them by their actions). Combine these two and you have something that comes to life in the reader’s head. Story. But just having a story is not enough. You need to hone that story with …

6. Persistence and Patience. (Writing is Rewriting) A successful writer needs the persistence to keep writing, but the patience to give your book time to sit while you mature as a writer. When you first finish a book you are too close to it to see the flaws. Time and distance is needed. Working on another project will help you hone your writing craft. Then, when you come back to the original draft of the first book, you’ll see ways to improve it. Published writers have editors who help them do this while meeting deadlines.

Do self published writers need all these traits? Of course they do. They need them more because they don’t have  a professional editor helping polish the story they love. Whether you self publish or are published by a major publisher you want your book to be the best it possibly can be. This means polishing the book and developing traits (strategies) to make you the best writer you can possibly be.

I haven’t mentioned writing groups here. I’ve done several posts on the importance of writing groups. ROR is an example of how a group supports the individual and furthers their craft. Here’s list of posts I’ve done on the topic:

Writing Groups where would we be Without Them?

ROR 101 (How we set up the group)

Critiquing 101


Do you belong to a writing group? Do you write every day? How do you motivate yourself?

Posted in Characterisation, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Editors, Nourish the Writer, Plotting, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

How Writing Competitions can help you …

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on October 11, 2011

Today we’re going to hear from 2 members of the RWA Paranormal Romance e-group, who have been driving their writing craft and writing careers forward by entering writing competitions.

For anyone writing a book that contains characters who are motivated by love they should consider joining Romance Writers of Australia. The organisation is run by smart, supportive women who generously give of their time and expertise to help aspiring writers. The competitions run by RWAustralia and other Romance Writing organisations have been stepping stones for many authors on their path to publication.

(This post was reposted with the permission of the Dark Side Downunder blog)

Check out the Dark Side Downunder Blog

Bec Skrabl

The first year that I entered the contest circuit was in 2009 for the 2010 season. I’d joined RWA the previous year but had missed all the comps because I joined too late and to be honest, I was still feeling my way amongst the organization.

It was about the same time that Michelle (de Rooy) and I became critique partners. Up until then, nobody had ever seen my work. I’d written for myself since I was a child, but I had no idea if it was good or bad. Michelle and I worked on that piece (a historical romance) for a few months and then I decided I needed more eyes on it. I hit every contest on the RWAustralia list bar the High Five, just because I had no idea what I was doing. It was a fantastic experience. The Selling Synopsis forced me to actually write a synopsis for the first time, the STALI and Valerie Parv Award drilled into me the importance of making those first few chapters stand out (or try to) and the Emerald made me realize, really, the entire book needs to be of the same quality as those first manicured chapters.

Then the feedback started trickling in. I find it really hard to actually gauge the level of my own writing, so it was nice to see a lot of the judges enjoyed my writing and said it showed potential. I knew the book had a controversial hero and I was expecting a fair bit of harsh critique, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much people enjoyed it. Yes, there was also the criticism I’d expected. Some of it was incredibly constructive and some of it was simply ouch.

I think that MS finalled in most of its categories. It came second in the STALI, fourth in the Valerie Parv and maybe fourth in the Selling Synopsis. The placings ultimately, weren’t as important as all of the lessons I learned. For the purposes with which I had entered (feedback and to learn) I found the contest circuit more than valuable. It was like having a whole heap of mini critique partners.

The following year, using that synopsis and my newly found skills, I found an agent. That novel never sold, thankfully. I say this now, because my passion for historical romance had faded and I was more interested in pursuing my paranormal/fantasy roots. I parted ways with my agent (for other reasons) and took a good hard look at my career and where I wanted to go with it.

I started The Devil of Whitechapel (now renamed Kiss of Steel) in October last year. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever started a paranormal – there’s dozens of half-finished pieces floating around under the bed – but it was the first time I finished one. I knew that book was better than my first attempt instantly. It practically wrote itself, and using all of the lessons I’d learned in the first year of contest entering made it a much better book than the first. This time my reasons for entering the contest circuit were a bit different. I wanted to gauge how readers liked the story as it was Steampunk and slightly different in genre to what a lot of people were reading, and I also decided I wanted to get this work in front of an editor if possible.

I began with the Australian contests. This time I entered only the Emerald and the Valerie Parv Award, and also the New Zealand Clendon. I was a little bit naughty with the Emerald, as I was only about halfway through the MS when I entered. I tend to be a bit disorganised, so I’d completely forgotten the dates of the finalists announcements. When they came through I had 20,000 words to write in a week in order to make the second round.

Thankfully I wasn’t the only one, as a certain Ms. De Rooy will attest. We pounded out word after word together, fuelled by caffeine and lack of sleep and managed to make the deadline. I sent it off, and only realized two days later that one of the scenes I thought I’d finished ended mid-scene, mid-sentence, because it was a difficult one to write and I’d told myself I’d get back to it later.

I do not recommend this route. At least not without a caffeine drip.

I also started entering American contests for the first time. I spent a lot of time considering the final judges. If it finalled, I wanted it to be in front of editors at houses that might be interested in my work.

My favourite contests were the Valley Forge Sheila and the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie, and not only because I placed first. The contest organisers were very professional and they were also really nice and friendly. The Sheila also got me what I wanted. Leah Hultenschmidt from Sourcebooks was the final judge and requested a full of my work. Two days after I sent it, she rang to offer for it.

I’d decided after the RWA conference to pull out of the other few contests I was already in because I didn’t think it was fair now that I was going to be published, but the Maggies co-ordinator convinced me not to when I finalled. It was something I’d never thought about before. Some of these awards carry a great deal of weight with industry professionals and book buyers. And I think now I might have gotten a slap on the wrist from my agent and editor if I’d withdrawn.

The two years I spent on the contest circuit were very different in terms of what I was after, but both brought home some valuable lessons. I can understand why some people get disheartened by them, as I too have had some ‘interesting’ feedback. I made a conscious decision early on to view each manuscript as a product, so if the criticism could improve it I took it on board, if not then I deleted the feedback and didn’t think about it again. It’s hard because sometimes it stings, but then I have Michelle to grouch to if I need to.

I can see how much I’ve grown in my work since I began and I think a lot of that does stem from the feedback I’ve been given, as well as Michelle’s advice as my CP. It’s been an interesting journey, with a lot of ups and downs, but personally, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have a publishing contract without the contests I’ve entered. I encourage everyone to enter; for feedback, to develop a tough skin (because we’re all going to need that), to learn or to try and get your work before an editor.

  Michelle de Rooy

I joined RWA a few years ago when my sister told me about a writing conference she was going to. Did I want to go, too?

Writing conference? They have those?

Yep. I was THAT green. I had tried to get the story haunting me since I was 16 years old written down for many years, but could never get past the first chapter or two. I didn’t know why. I read heaps, I knew what I wanted to say (kind of), but I didn’t know how. How to get it from whirling around on my head, onto that page with that damned blinking, mocking cursor.

I was gob-smacked, awed and just plain wanted to sit down and cry at being in the same place as so many people who thought like me. They had people in their heads bugging them to write their story, too. It was a revelation. Literally. If I had known an organization like this existed before, I would’ve joined years ago.

Then, I found my new addiction. I entered my first contest right after conference that year. I entered the first five pages of my unfinished manuscript, a romantic suspense. I am a huge fan of Anne Stuart, and while listening to her speak, as well as her workshop, I was fan-struck. I had a kernel of an idea, and one scene that jumped up in my head and grew the three days I was at conference.

I came second last.

But what an eye-opener. The judges in that contest were so encouraging, so darn wonderful with their ideas and suggestions, that I read and reread their comments, rewrote what chapters I had, and entered it into the RWNZ’s Strictly Single contest.

I came second. With a request from the judge for a full (manuscript) – an editor at Berkley.

Oh, hell. I had three chapters. The three I’d entered. I’d made up the synopsis, had no idea if it would actually end that way, but hey, it had to end somehow, right?


Right about now, I know there a several of you reading this and shaking your heads at me. And I know exactly who you all are! Yep, this is where it started.

Meanwhile, I’d entered a new manuscript – the one I had banging around in my head for all those years – in the Emerald Award, just after I’d entered the Strictly Single. Three chapters, no synopsis required. Great! Because I had no idea where it went! I knew the final scene, but nothing in between. I had just about finished manuscript the requested by the editor judge, when I found out I’d finaled in the Emerald. I’d only entered to get some feedback on characters and the world, to see if I was heading in the right direction with my vision for my story.

O. M. G. I had five working days to get the final draft in to the contest coordinator for the second round.

Five days. Five?

I sat down and thought for about a minute, called my boss, asked for the two days that I worked that week off, and made up my mind. I might not get it finished, but I was going to give it a damned good try.

I got it to the post office on the final day I could post-mark it. It was done. Not complete, but I’d written The End. It was the best I could do.

At the same time I was writing these two manuscripts, I had another story rapping on the inside of my head. In particular, one character. A very unassuming young Japanese guy who was telling me he was in love with an older woman. His best friend’s mother, in fact.

I wrote half the book while expanding the one in the Emerald. I entered it in a US contest. I didn’t final, but got some fabulous feedback that encouraged me I was onto something.

At that point, I’d only been a member of RWA for a short while. I was entering contests to see if I had any chance at all of achieving my dream, of being an author. One that people wanted to read. I needed feedback, confirmation that what I was writing was worthy.

And once I started, I couldn’t stop entering. I was learning so much, so fast, I felt like a sponge. Then I stalled. I couldn’t seem to apply it to my own work.

That was when I met Bec Skrabl through the CP scheme. I’d come to a standstill writing-wise and needed some one-on-one help, so I joined up and waited. Nothing. So I forgot about it until I had a request. Luckily for me, she turned out to be the best thing to happen to me at a point I really needed focus. She sees the things I can’t. After working on my manuscript with her, I again entered the Strictly Single, The Emerald, The RWA Golden Heart, then the RWNZ The Clendon, and the Valerie Parv Award. I finaled in all bar the Golden Heart.

By this point I was starting to look at who was the final judge. I wanted to get in front of them, to see what they thought of my books. My focus had changed. I wasn’t just entering to get feedback anymore, I had reached a point where my work was consistently of a higher standard, and I wanted to win. Something, anything!

I wanted that call – the one where an agent or editor judge says they want to see more, please. I entered more and more the next year (which was this contest season), not just focusing on Australian and New Zealand comps anymore, and was totally stoked when I started consistently finaling, even overseas. It validated the time I’d spent away from my husband, my kids. The lack of sleep. The worry that people would think it was utter crap and would she PLEASE stop writing! Yes, we all think that at some point!

During this period, I received some horrible feedback from an editor judge up until then I had admired, if from afar. She’d placed me second in a big contest, but basically told me that it was pointless to continue with this manuscript, that “the author should scrap the project and begin something new and fresh. It is too flawed to be fixed.” Yes, these were her words, not mine. I have it in black and white on a little piece of paper in my office. And that was not all she said. The only thing she’d liked was my voice. I had a “spark to my writing; that something,” and that was why she’d placed me second.

I was gutted. Totally eviscerated. I stopped writing for four months. To be honest, if I had only just started writing and entering contests, it could easily have made me give up right there and then, the feedback was so negative.

It took time, and some wonderful friends who believe in me (thanks Bec, Kylie and Nicky!) who kicked me up the rear and made me realize what the best answer to that heartbreaking paragraph really is – get published. The day I sign a contract is the day I’m going to light myself a little pyre. That contest feedback is going center stage.

That manuscript? This year it came third in The Clendon, second in The Emerald, won me the Reader’s Choice Award in the Clendon, fourth in the US The Emily, third in the US Fire and Ice, and second in the Strictly Single and finaled into the second round of the US The Molly. And I just missed out on finaling in the US Golden Heart by the teeniest percentage.

It also almost got me my dream agent. As Maxwell Smart would say, “Missed it by that much!”

It’s been ‘round!

Basically what I’m trying to say there is that no matter what point you are at, there will be times when you question why the hell you are doing this. And you will come across someone(s) who will make you feel so very terrible and question whether everything you write is utter crap only suitable for burning. Don’t. Stick with it and look what can happen.

Contests are fabulous, but be certain of what you want out of them. And remember that they are subjective. I have almost finaled in so many contests this year with both this and another of my manuscripts; ones that average and don’t drop the lowest score. I tend to polarize judges. They either love it, or hate it. Usually I get two who love it, and one who fudges my chances at finaling. *shrug* That’s how it works, unfortunately.

Look at why you are entering, and enter the contests which give you the best chance of getting in front of that dream editor/agent or mentor; the ones that are going to do the most to further your career and skill. Take what you can from feedback, but if it doesn’t sit well, or suit your vision for your story, don’t change it. Use what you can, discard the rest. It takes a while to sort through all of it, and even longer to stop smarting from the nasty comments you can receive, and believe me, I’ve had them all. It’s not all moonlight and roses, Romeo!

But don’t forget the most important part while doing all this – have fun doing it!

Oh, and my little Japanese friend who fell for his best friend’s mother? He made another lady fall in love with him, as well. He won me the Valerie Parv Award. J

Cheers, and best of luck with your own journeys!


BIO: Bec Skrabl

(Since writing this post, Bec has won the Paranormal section of the Maggies, run by the Georgia Romance Writers)

Bec lives in a small town in country Victoria and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, RWA (Australia) and RWNZ, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. Her latest manuscript, The Devil Of Whitechapel, has won the 2011 Sheila and Winter Rose contests.

When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds.

BIO: Michelle de Rooy

I write science fiction and fantasy. I spend far too much time day dreaming about my heroes; whether elf, human or hot starship pilot. And dreaming of ways my heroine can bring them to their knees!

A member of RWA, RWA (Oz) and RWNZ, I am a place-getter in the Australian Emerald Award, the New Zealand Clendon Award in which I also won the Reader’s Choice Award, and the Strictly Single.

Living in rural Queensland is fantastic fuel for the imagination, my husband and children dragging me away to provide the ‘me’ time in the real world.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Genre Writing, Good Dialogue, Publishing Industry, Query Letter and Synopsis, Writing Craft, Writing Groups, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Ghosts by Gaslight!

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 14, 2011

Stop Press!

Richard says:

Just received some great news from my French publisher. They want me to go over for the Montreuil Book Fair, plus some bookshop signings and schools. They’ll fly me over at the end of November and rent an apartment for two weeks in Paris for Aileen and me. Formidable!!

And …

Whoo! The Ghosts by Gaslight anthology just came out from Harper Voyager in the US—and I’m in it! A very special moment for me, to be in the company of names like Robert Silverberg, Gene Wolfe, Peter S. Beagle, James Morrow and Jeffrey Ford!

I think it was at the Melbourne Worldcon when Jack Dann said he’d like a story from me for a collection he was editing with Nick Gevers, a collection that combined supernatural with steampunk with Victoriana. Right down my alley! He mentioned other potential contributors he was going to invite, like Gene Wolfe and Robert Silverberg, Garth Nix and Sean Williams, and I remember thinking, well, it would be nice if just a few of them accepted. In fact, the final roll-call turned out way way better than Jack ever hinted. So many of my all-time favourite authors, including our very own Margo from ROR,with a very good ghost story called “The Proving of Smollet Standforth”.

I took it as my role to be a strong steampunk representative, since that’s what I’m known for nowadays. And the basic idea for my story had been lurking in my mind for a long time.  It tied in with the first memory that I’m sure is my own real memory—and not recreated from what adults told me—which is when I was about our or five. We were on holiday in the seaside town of Fleetwood, in Lancashire, England, and looking at Fleetwood pier, which had been recently destroyed by fire. It stuck far out into the sea, a wreckage of tangled, twisted girders, and not just tangled, not just twisted, but racked and contorted like an expression of agony, a frozen shriek of pain. That was the seed for “Bad Thoughts and the Mechanism”.

It’s sort of supernatural, but it’s also very definitely steampunk, with steam-age machinery at the centre of the story. Late nineteenth century research into electro-therapy is also involved, as carried out by such pioneer brain-scientists as Eduardo Hitzig, Sir David Ferrier and Friedrich Goltz. Although there are ghosts in the story, these are not ghosts as we have known them!

“Bad Thoughts and the Mechanism” was an amazingly difficult story to write, because I couldn’t get the voice I needed. I started to write in First Person, re-wrote in Third Person, tried again with a different-sounding First Person, another go at Third Person, and finally—phew! gasp!—hit upon a First Person voice that sounded just right. I guess the problem was the contradiction between using formal vocabulary and long sentences, necessary to get the 19th century feel, but also conveying intense emotion and an underlying thrill of horror. My lifeline was Edgar Allan Poe—I confess, I actually read a Poe short story every morning before starting work on “Bad Thoughts and the Mechanism”. I’ve never put myself  deliberately under an influence in that way before, but it worked!

Any questions on writing steampunk?

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Steampunk, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »