Today is the Origins Blogfest, hosted by DL Hammons (Cruising Altitude), Katie Mills
(Creepy Query Girl)…along with Alex J. Cavanaugh
and Matthew MacNish
(Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment)!Please check out the other bloggers.On Monday, February 13th, you should post your own origin story. Tell us all where your writing dreams began. It could be anything from how you started making up stories as a child, or writing for the school newspaper, or even what prompted you to start a blog. How about stories about the first time somebody took an interest in your writing, or the teacher/mentor that helped nudge you along and mold your passion, or maybe the singular moment when you first started calling yourself a writer. It all started somewhere and we want you to tell us your own, unique, beginnings.
Here's my origins story:
Growing up, I always wanted to write in some form. I loved writing short stories, but back them music was my passion. I composed my first piano piece (which was perhaps a little simpler than "twinkle twinkle little star") at about seven and I wanted to be a lyriacist. I still have books of lyrics and music I wrote.
Unfortunately, I'm no Mozart. I changed instruments a few times (piano to violin to guitar) before I realised that it wasn't the music - it was the writing.
I dabbled with short stories for years, but it wasn't until I became an adult that I starting writing with the aim of writing. I lost three close family members in three years, so I created my bucket list (Underlined items are ones I've completed):
Write a novel
Publish a novel
See the colosseum in Rome
See the acropolis in Greece
Visit Egypt and the pyramids
Visit my ancestor's homeland: Poland
Party in Cappedocia, Turkey
Visit Dracula's castle
Get a Master's Degree
Get a PHD
Swim with the dolphins
Go on an African Safari
Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
Walk along the Great Wall of China
Visit Paris' catacombs
Sunbathe in Spain
See the Mona Lisa
Get a tattoo
See the Northern Lights
Ride a double decker bus in London
Walk the Inca Trail
Learn to play the Drums
Learn to speak Spanish
Learn a form of Martial Arts
Hold a large snake
Sunset horseride on the beach
Visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Sleep in hammocks by Angel Falls in Venezuela
Drink Tequila in Tequila, Mexico
Go bungy jumping
Watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Years Eve in New York
Have a white Christmas
I take my bucket list very seriously and add to it all the time. Life is too short to just think about doing something, and since I'm a perfectionist, when it comes to writing a novel it has to be the best it can be.
This week, to celebrate Valentine's Day, Ravencraft is holding a 7-day blogfest as an ode to first love. Please check out the other bloggers!
For my entry I present the photographic diary of cynical romantic Valentine and her blossoming relationship with Romeo.
Without further ado, please meet Valentine and Romeo in Entry #1: First sight... love or melons?
"Do you believe in love at first sight,
or would you like to walk by and check me out again?"
Thanks to Dawn for hosting The Broken Hearts Blogfest
! Make sure you check out all the other entries!
As a writer for young adults, broken hearts often feature in my writing. The below is an extract from my YA work in progress, IF I SHOULD DIE.
Very rough blurb: When Grace is killed in a car accident everyone blames James. He can deal with their anger, after all, he was driving, and he blames himself too. But when the ghost of Grace starts appearing every time James starts to move on with his life, he finds that life after death isn't as simple as it sounds.
- - -
Catherine looked up at me through her damp lashes. "Neither of us can be with the person we love, James. You're lonely and so am I."
"That's even more of a reason for us to stay away from each other." I stepped back but hit the wall, and she moved even closer to me. "I'll just hurt you, Cat."
She laughed bitterly and drew her fingers down my neck, stopping at the first button of my shirt in a featherlight motion that gave me shivers. "You can't hurt me. You're even more damaged than me."
I placed one hand over hers and used my other to catch of lock of hair and wind it around my finger. "I'm not damaged. I'm broken."
Catherine rose up on the tips of her toes and pushed her lips against mine. I stiffened and moved my hands to her shoulders to try push her away, but they dropped down to her waist and pulled her even closer.
What are you doing, James? Grace's whisper echoed in my head. You're forgetting me.
I have to. I tried to push Grace away. Catherine was right. This empty loneliness was gnawing through me and tearing me apart. I needed to feel something again, but I wasn't sure I knew how.
So I kissed Catherine back.
I kissed her lips, and then her neck, burying myself in her hair, but all I could see was Grace. Grace laughing, her green eyes making my breath catch in my throat. Grace crying tears that made my heart crack inside me. Grace in my arms, so warm and real, where she should have stayed forever.
I wrenched myself away from Catherine with a gasp. She reached out for my arm but I twisted away and held my hands up defensively.
"I'm sorry, I can't."
Catherine's cheeks flushed, and she smoothed her disheveled hair. "Grace is dead, James." She twirled around and headed to the door, pausing in the opening to look back at me. "Eventually you'll have to start living again."
- - -
Thanks for reading! :)
Brenda Drake is holding a 1st line Blogfest competition
, which is not only wonderful because it encourages critiques on your first line, but it's also a competition and Weronica Janczuk is giving away prizes!
1st place -- a critique of the first 50 pages + query
2nd place -- a critique of the first 25 pages + query
3rd place -- a critique of the query
How awesome is that?
If you haven't entered, don't worry there's still time! Sign up here
and on Feb 7 and 8 post your first line, and go crit lots of other first lines.
On Feb 9 post your revised first line one the comments post here
And now, for my entry!Name
: Phoenix's AshesGenre
: YA Steampunk-Fantasy1st line
: Mira's dress swirled around her feet as she glided across the frozen lake, leaving trails of shimmering grooves on the ice.
Revision time!Some key comments were:
- It sounds like her dress, not her skates are making the grooves.
- It's a bit long (could end after lake).
- Could inject some conflict.
My revised line: Mira's dress swirled around her feet as she glided across the frozen lake, her skates leaving behind a shimmering trail of grooves. The whole paragraph: Mira's dress swirled around her feet as she glided across the frozen lake, her skates leaving behind a shimmering trail of grooves. I stood frozen, staring at her like the village idiot. It wasn't until a lump of snow fell off a branch overhead that I realised I'd forgotten to breathe. Even my hands shook, and even though my fingers had a blue tinge, it wasn’t from the cold. Mira Willow, who’d never so much as glanced my way before, was here to see me.
- It's her skates making grooves so I'd better make that more obvious.
- The sentence is long for a specific reason - it contrasts dramatically with the second sentence.
- I could inject some conflict, but it's a smooth sentence that flows off the tongue (I hope) and I think conflict would detract from that. Also, the conflict is contrasted in the rest of the paragraph.
Query letters are something I think a lot of writers have trouble with. I certainly do! So when Jodi from Turning the Page said she was hosting a Query Letter Blogfest
, I figured it was a good opportunity to write mine! Any opinions on how to improve would be highly appreciated!
**Note: Thanks to all my wonderful comments, I've updated my query. For my old query, read it here
Make sure you check out the other entries!
PHOENIX’S ASHES is a young adult fantasy novel complete at 85,000 words. I am querying you because the voice in my head told me to and I always do what it says.*
In a kingdom where predicting the future or levitating objects is ordinary, being normal is, well… abnormal. When it's revealed that sixteen-year-old Azrael may have a Gift, he should be happy. But because the Gods never make his life easy, he also finds himself falling for Kali, a girl whose country despises the Gifted.
Despite their lands being on the brink of war, Kali keeps seeing him and Azrael's not going to complain. Kali's the only one who cares about him, and she makes him feel like he might have a place in the world after all. As Kali's ulterior motive to get information about the Gifted becomes apparent, Azrael is torn between his feelings for her and the responsibility to protect his kingdom that comes with his Gift. But Azrael knows Kali wouldn't betray him unless someone or something forced her to, and in order to be with her, Azrael must find a way to stop the brewing war, or risk losing Kali forever.
While I am not Gifted and lack the ability to read minds, control the weather, or shape shift, I do have a Graduate Diploma in English literature and tutor the subject part-time. I am also an associate member of the New Zealand Society of Authors.
Thank you for your consideration.
Writer's Block NZ
*This bit is what I use to personalize the email to different agents and will change depending on what agent I am querying! Location of this paragraph will also depend on the agent I'm querying - some prefer it at the top so they get a feel for the genre immediately, some at the bottom with the credentials.
When SA Larson over at Writer's Alley
said she was holding a blogfest to honor a blogger buddy, I couldn't resist. But who to choose? I would like to say that there are several blogger buddies that have been wonderful, but I just won a book off Carrie at Peevish Penman
so Carrie, I GOT YOU!.
For those of you who haven't had the honour of meeting her, this is Carrie E. Bailey. See? Doesn't she just look like the kind of person you want as a blogger buddy?
Not only is she a lovely person, Carrie is also the editor for Peevish Penman, a hugely informative blog on writing.
"Peevish Penman aims to encourage aspiring writers to further their careers and entertain"
The below outlines why I've picked Carrie as my blogger buddy:
Click to enlarge!
Now that you know how incredible Carrie is, you can find out if you are worthy to be her blogger buddy too by using my handy-dandy flowchart!
And, if you bothered to read my awesome graphs, you would have noticed that Carrie lives near the biggest new and 2nd hand bookstore in the world. So here is a pic of me and Carrie in the bookstore*:
Writer’s Block NZ
Peevish Penman's "My best advice to new writers
" blogfest got me thinking. For those of you wanting to see my post on that, check it out here
I've also come up with some advice for 'new editors' - that is, those new writers who are at the stage of editing.
I'll admit, I've never been a big fan of the 'editing' phase of writing. Researching, planning and simply thinking about what I could write is the most exciting time. When the words flow the actual writing itself is fun. But editing. That just seems like a chore.
I have no idea how many times I've read the same words over and over. All 130,000. Ugh. I've been editing the same piece of work for nearly 8 months now. Yes, I'm a perfectionist, but I do not find editing fun. It's hard work!
Thankfully I have discovered some useful techniques to make the process a little easier. They may not work for you, but anything is worth giving a go, right?
Up to you. Here are my top ten tips for editing your writing.1) Change the font.
Change from Courier to Arial and you'll pick up on all sorts of things you never noticed before. Change the size and you'll notice even more. Why? Because you've been looking at the same words for so long that changing the font gives your brain a wakeup and you'll notice mistakes that you've probably glossed over ten times without noticing.2) Edit in a different format.
Staring at a computer screen can hurt your eyes, make them blur and therefore increase your chances of missing errors. Try printing out your work and doing the old fashioned red pen edit. Or, for the technologically advanced, read your work on your iphone or something similar. Works the same as changing the font. You'll trick you brain into thinking you're reading something completely new.3) Get help.
Having others crit your work (or at least pieces of it) can be hugely helpful in discovering things you didn't know were wrong. Beg, bribe and beg some more to get some critiques from others.4) Make a list.
What do you need to work on? Spelling errors? Sentence structure? Passive voice? Make a list of what you need to work on and go through your work paragraph by paragraph. Once you've ticked off your list, move onto the next paragraph. Tedious? Yes. Productive? Double yes!5) Computer and online tools.
If you use Microsoft word, you may not know that the grammar check has settings. Most of the time the "passive voice" checker is not on. Go into your spelling/grammar settings and turn everything relevant on.Autocrit
is a fantastic tool which points out overused words, repeated phrases etc. It has a free wizard (limited to about 800 words) for those of you too cheap to buy it but you can use it five times per day. Worthwhile for looking at individual scenes. 6) Macro before Micro
There's no point in editing every sentence of a chapter that could potentially get cut. Before you even bother looking at things like sentence structure, macro edit. That is, get your plot sorted so that you've cut any unnecessary scenes.7) Read aloud
Yes you might sound like an idiot but who cares? Reading aloud forces you to read every single word and prevents skim reading.8) Edit in the morning
If you're like me and are a nocturnal writer, you may need to edit in the morning. Ideas flow better for me at night, but in the morning our brains are more switched on and able to look at the tiny details.9) If in doubt, cut it out
Most of us are too wordy. If you're even considering whether a scene is necessary, then cut it. Every scene, every WORD must be needed. Cut anything superfluous.10) Save multiple copies!
Just in case you cut something you want back later, save everything with the date on it. You never know. Cutting is necessary but its always best to play it safe.
Thanks to Peevish Penman for hosting today's blogfest! You can find out all about it, and read all the other entries here
. I've also done a post (for those interested) on tips for 'new editors' - or rather, new writers who are editing. You can check that out below or here
(It's actually a lot better advice than the below blog :-P)
What defines a new writer? It's a tricky one. I wrote my first full-length 'novel-style' story at eight years old. I may have moved on from shipwrecked adventures, but I still feel very much like a new writer. I've been working on my novel for nearly two years now, and it is the first one I have ever completed to a point where I'm actually terrified at the thought of my USB dying, my laptop getting stolen, my home computer shorting and the back up versions in my email, sisters laptop and friends computers all disappearing. Everything else I wrote ended up getting the good ol' "move to trash" click of the mouse.
I still feel like a new author. Even if I get published I doubt I feel any 'older' as a writer. After all, writing is learning. About yourself, your characters, your world and most of all your writing.
Even so, I have been given some good advice that I can share. Here are the top five tips for 'new' writers that I have been given. They helped me so I hope they help you too!1) Write a novel.
The sense of accomplishment you get when you write the final line of your first draft in incredible. To 'finish' (I'm ignoring the months and possibly years of editing when I say this) a novel is huge.
To pour all your heart and soul into such a huge piece of work and actually complete it is a feat not many people achieve. How many people can actually say they've done it? We are an elite few. We should allow ourselves to bask in the glory for a while.National Novel Writing Month
is an exhilarating experience. 50,000 words in November. It's insane
and not for the fainthearted. I wrote "Phoenix's Ashes" in Nano 2009. I'd been working on it since 2008, but decided it wasn't working so literally ripped it up and started again. It was the best thing I could have done. If you haven't taken part in NaNo before I highly recommend it. For those in the Southern Hemisphere, Kiwiwriters
also hold SoCNoC
, which is 50,000 words in June. 2) Work on more than one writing project at a time.
It's ok to work on more than one project at a time. I'm working on four. Concentrating on one, but the other three are stewing away. The way to finish that novel is to keep writing. Sometimes, when I'm ready to throw the towel in, I just work on one of my other WIPs. That way I'm always working on something and never have an 'off' day.3) Critique other's work
Join a local crit group. Network online to find crit buddies. Critters.org
is one I'd recommend for fantasy, sci-fi and horror writers. Not only will you get others to read your work, but you will learn so much from pointing out flaws in others work. My writing has grown 100% since I started critiquing. You start to notice repeated mistakes that make you look back at your own work and find the same ones.4) Never (and I mean NEVER) let anyone read your first draft.
Other than the fact that it will be full of spelling and grammatical errors, cliches, horrible sentence structure and no flow, the person you give it to will probably never want to read anything else of yours again. You could end up with some harsh crits that make you want to give up. Take the time to edit first. Take the time to edit it several times! You will get relevant ideas from your critiquer that way, rather than having them point out every spelling mistake.5) Don't be afraid to put your work out there.
Even though I said don't hand over your first draft, that doesn't
mean you shouldn't let anyone read your work ever. Get friends and family to look at it. Yes, they will probably sugar coat everything and tell you its the best thing since Harry Potter, but they may come out with a few gems. Ask them the right questions
and you may get some information out of them that is helpful. Plus, they'll make you feel good about your writing!
Then, be brave and search further afield. Join writers and readers networks like Books Down Under
(who have a crit group!) and get to know other writers. Join Critters
. Hop on twitter and find other writers. Find a local writers group like kiwiwriters
. Meet people, and crit their work. Then find people to crit yours back.
Yes, some people might rip your work to shreds. Rise above the bad ones and learn from everything. Your writing will thank you.
That's all folks..