Sunday, 30 September 2012

Quick Cross Promotion

Hello 100firstdraft readers!

For those of you who don't know, I've just started up a fitness blog to continue practicing my writing on my other love (along with God, but haven't got around to a blog on him yet, all in good time.)

If you find fitness interesting, and want answers to questions, ideas, challenges and some motivation, come across to

Would love to see you there. 

Also, did you realise you could become a follower to my blog? Check up the right hand side where it says 'follow by email', then you will never miss a post.

Plot Mash-Ups

Anyone that watches Glee will understand the concept of a 'mash-up'. Basically, you take two songs and mash them together to make something greater than the sum of the parts. 

Well, I found out the other day that stories need plot mash-ups. 

I have a good plot point for my current story: three children discover a secret railway used only by animals. 

Unfortunately, that is not a story. 

Listening to Writing Excuses, Season 1 Episode 1, they talk about how plots actually need to be two ideas to make a full story. Based on a theory by Orson Scott Card (I think), they stated that plots should be made up of a mundane plot idea and an extraordinary one. Though, I have to admit for a lot of their examples it sounded like just two awesome ideas. But, hey, if you have two awesome ideas, just go with it!

So, I have plot point number one, what I need is plot point number two. 

What can you do with a secret railway, children and animals? Well, my first plot has no conflict, just a method of movement. So, obviously I need a second plot that introduces conflict. 

My answer: creatures from another dimension that have found a way into this world.

Not yet sure how best to mash these together so that it makes a coherent story, but hopefully it will come as I write. 

Perhaps the creatures are currently bound to a particular location, but if they could capture the train, they would be able to take over the whole earth... 

My other idea was that halfway through just when the kids are about to win, the creatures take their memories and leave them stuck perpetually on the train, until they manage to regain their memories and fight themselves free...

Votes? Suggestions?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Practical Implications of Writing as Worship

So, today as I was walking to work I thought about what it would practically mean to try and live out writing as worship.

Now this blog post is going to use a lot of Christian terminology, but the principal applies just the same in a secular context. 

Imagine the big sports game is coming up (pretty easy for Melbournians, as Grand Final is on Saturday). Think of your anticipation, you've put in your footy tipping bets, got the esky, beer and snacks, cleaned up your house so you can actually get to the couch, checked on the standing of all your favourite players. Anyone injured, unable to play? Then, on the day, you stock up on ice, putting on your jersey and sit down in front of your wide screen TV not to be disturbed. 

Just taste your pleasure as the game comes on, as those men in way too tight shorts run through those banners. 

Imagine if sitting down to write was THAT exciting. That you would put up a big 'do not disturb' sign on your life for hours.

Or if football/sport is not your thing, imagine shopping. You've worked hard all week and told yourself that on Saturday you are doing to the shopping centre. You get up early, try to wear something nice because it is always depressing looking at beautiful clothes while dressed like a dag and you drive out there. You enter the sacred halls (I'm picturing Chadstone here, but whatever works for you) and you buy your favourite smoothy which has become a sort of ritual. You wander through the shops, your fingers just softly gliding over the silky satins. 

These are all forms of worship. Guy (that's his name, not just some random guy, but my Guy, that is my pastor Guy, Guy Mason) defined worship as ascribing value to something. With the Footy, dedicating your Saturday afternoon, when you could be doing anything, to watching those beefed up men running around after an inflated bladder, you are saying this is the most valuable thing you could be doing with your time. When you look forward to shopping all week, and spend hours passing through all the shops, you are saying that this is important to you. 

So what I'm arguing is that I should be ascribing value to my writing, because I think it is something God has called me to do. Not in that whole 'everyone must read my books because they are a revelation from God.' They might never get published. It might just be a discipline and learning experience for me. But that is enough. If God says it's valuable, than I should think it is valuable too.

Okay, so after that super long set up, I'm going to continue with the Christian stuff, but try if you can to apply it to your situation and worldview, whatever that may be.

The following is from a post from 2009 on Crossways Baptist Church's and is titled How To Prepare For Worship (topical, no?) I'm going to copy it here and then see if it works for writing.

"Αcceptable worship doesn’t happen spontaneously- you must prepare yourself. Let’s look at Hebrews 10:22. “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” That verse begins with the phrase “let us draw near”-it is our call to worship. What follows are four checkpoints to help you prepare for worship.

The Checkpoint of Sincerity – We are to draw near “with a sincere heart.” That speaks of a genuine heart, devoted to pursuing God. It is hypocritical to be worshiping God when you are really apathetic or preoccupied with self. Draw near to God with your whole heart.

The Checkpoint of Fidelity – We are to draw near “in full assurance of faith.” ... [cut bits as not highly relevant to this] You too are to be fully assured that God accepts your worship, not because of what you do, but because of what Jesus did in providing atonement for you.

The Checkpoint of Humility – We are to draw near to God “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.” That is, you come to God with the knowledge that you are unworthy to be in His presence. The only reason anyone can come to Him is the blood of Christ, which was shed on the cross as a cleansing for sin.

The Checkpoint of Purity – We are to draw near having “our bodies washed with pure water.” That refers to the daily cleansing by the Word of God. The process of sanctification ferrets out sinful thoughts and exposes sinful behavior. Before you worship, confess the sins that God uncovered through His Word so you can draw near in purity."

The first aspect that needs highlighting is the whole drawing near thing. I actually have to come to write in order for this whole thing to work. 
Action: Make appointments to write and keep them. 

Sincerity: I'm drawn to the whole 'don't be apathetic or preoccupied with self.' It's true, these are really detrimental to writing (and watching sport: if you are thinking about work the whole time, everyone throws things at you and tells you to get off the couch.) 
Action: take a few minutes before starting to drop all thoughts of self, and find my excitement in the exercise. 

Fidelity: For me this means trusting in my Muse. I do the turning up faithfully and trust that he is doing the rest. (Sort of like my whole thing with Walking on Water with Tap Shoes.)
Action: Trust my Muse.

Humility: Just as we are humbled that we can't play as well as those men can, or that we can't design and makes clothes as beautiful as the ones we see in the shops and must have, so in writing as worship, I need to acknowledge that I can't actually write brilliantly myself. Any gifts I have are from God. And the purpose of this is not to make me feel bad or worthless, but grateful for what I have been given. And relieved, because the pressure is not on me.
Action: Admit that any good writing I do is from God, and let that release me from fear.

Purity: For me concerning writing, this means letting go of all thoughts of writing for the money/fame/men (who wants more women? I have plenty of those, bring on the good looking men!). I need to approach my writing with a purity of intent that focuses on telling a story because it should be told, even if there isn't a 'market' for it at the moment, etc. 
Action: Focus on the story and the process, not potential results. 

Those are my thoughts on worship. What they actually amount to in practical terms appears to be:
1. stopping before I sit down to write, 
2. put aside my worries for the day, 
3. listening to some worship music (this just helps me focus my mind) and 
4. laying my heart before God. 
Then going from there. Tried it tonight and I think it worked sort of well (have more words, though now have three starts to the Secret Railway, which really would have been better if I had moved forward with just one of them. Oh well).

I don't know, do you think I am stretching this all too much? Do you have another interpretation?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Worship and Writing.

Have just come back from my first small group meeting convicted about my writing.

Following on from the sermon on Sunday, we were looking at John 12:1-8, where Mary takes a bottle of perfume worth a year's wage (so, what, around $60,000?) and pours it over Jesus' feet and then dries his feet with her hair.

One of the things we were looking at was just how extravagant a gesture of worship it was, in cost and in personal humility.

A while ago, before I started this challenge, I was lagging in my writing and felt God trying to connect it to worship: my writing as an act of worship for God. 

Today that came back to me. 

Am I being extravagant in my writing? Well, the general premise of writing a draft every 2 weeks is pretty out there. But is my attitude towards it equal to it? Do I rush to write, trying to hold on that little bit longer, putting everything else off so I can spend more time on it? 

And the answer is no. Today I got a total of about 2,000 words done, and then went and had a four hour nap. Yes, this is a children's book so it's going to be shorter, but I don't want to be justifying why I'm not spending time doing it. I just want to be doing it.

So, I've told my small group that I want to try and approach my writing as worship this week, and asked them to hold me accountable next week.

I am now opening it up to all of you as well. 

Writing will be my extravagant, sacrificial, public worship of God (I think those were the main points of the sermon). If you hear me being negative or with an ungrateful attitude, pull me up on it. 

Comment and remind me.

Also, feel free to add your name to the accountability list. Maybe writing is not your form of worship, but let us know what you want to focus on, and let us know how you go.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Exciting Discovery for Christian and/or Australian Unpublished Authors

Well, am continuing in my search for places to submit my manuscript, in case I just happen to get rejected by the first few (which would totally never happen to me, just all those other not so good authors, like J.K. Rowlings).

And as I'm going along, I thought I would share some of the places I've found in case other people are interested. Once I feel I've gone through and exhausted most of the options, I'll do a summary blog post. But you might as well read this blog post now that you are here.

Today I submitted to Pan McMillan's Manuscript Monday (who take unsolicited manuscripts on Mondays), as well as to the American Christian Literary Agent Steve Laube (I had to do a query letter for first).

A friend then pointed out that I should check out Allen and Unwin (another of Australia's biggest publishers). And guess what? They accept unsolicited manuscripts on Fridays for The Friday Pitch! So, guess what I'll be doing on Friday. (though can't work out if it has to be submitted only on Fridays, or they only check their emails on Fridays. Pan McMillan made it very clear it had to be submitted on Monday between 10 am and something like 4pm, but not so clear for Allen and Unwin). Am glad that the big houses do still take some unsolicited manuscripts. I know that it will be read super quickly by an unpaid intern, but they promise that it will at least be read. 

My other discovery today was Authonomy run by Harper Collins. I found it because it was recommended by Zondervan. Previously I've mentioned Christian Manuscript Submission which I thought I would try if my other options fell through. This is a website where you can upload a proposal for 6 months, with a fee of $98 (USD I assume). It is supposedly browsed by a lot of the big publishing houses in the US looking for Christian material.

Authonomy is pretty similar, except it's free, based in the UK and is run by one of the big publishing houses. Also, it has this strange process of recommendations by readers which I'm still working out.

Anyway, it's free and might bring my manuscript to the attention of more people, which can only be a good thing (I think, feel free to tell me otherwise). And it's covering the UK, which I haven't done yet. 

So, yah for free stuff!

Once I test it out a bit more, if I discover anything more useful about it I'll let you know. 

As to my own writing: spent quite a bit of time dancing around my apartment and cleaning it (can now see most of the kitchen bench which is super cool). Also rather annoyingly found out that you shouldn't put a newly serviced bike on white carpet. Didn't even think about the oil. And carpet cleaner is not really cutting it. Any cleaning advice welcome.

But what has this to do with writing? Okay, you caught me, not much. This is made slightly more embarrassing as I gave a talk at work today on Time Management and staying focused.  The talk went really well actually, in that my colleagues didn't want to stone me for being a pretentious prat, which I was afraid of. Whether it actually speeds up work is yet to be seen. (And if anyone from work is reading this blog at work, I'm really glad you are reading this, but bad assessor, bad!)

Though, after I cleaned my apartment, tried to save my carpet, had dinner and did some researching into manuscript submissions, I started work on my new draft - The Secret Railway. 

Side note: I googled the title to make sure that it wasn't already a book, because it just sounded like such a good title I couldn't believe it would still be free. Turns out it is the name of a Canadian anime series in French from like the late 1970's. As I am pretty sure my readers won't get it confused, I'm sticking with my title until someone sues me. Though, the anime did look rather cute and interesting. There was some on Youtube, though I haven't looked at it yet, saving that for later procrastination.

Anyway, my Secret Railway is the children's story that I came up with after waking up from a dream. The dream itself was rather scary and dark, but has given me an idea for a rather sweet and hopefully interesting middle grades story. 

So I started off planning to just write up the brief outline I had from my notebook (sleeping with notebook next to head pays off!), but got carried away and have been writing out the chapters in rather a lot of detail, and then got caught up in bits of dialogue, etc as I went along. I now have it planned out in detail until chapter 8 (2,000 words of plan, which for me is a lot), I think that is 1/3 of the way through the book. Though I might have just worked out all the easy bits. But still, the rest will hopefully come to me. 

Tomorrow I will start writing it out in full and see how I go.

Will put up a brief synopsis on the synopses page, though might have to leave the ending ambiguous... well, more ambiguous than synopses usually are, that is. 

Good Night and Sleep Tight.


Voting Is Closed.

Voting has now officially closed. However, that doesn't mean if you have come across this late that I don't want your opinion.

I'll leave the first chapter up and you are welcome to post a comment on the page if you missed the voting. (I'm also going to be taking down the poll, so if you are reading this after Tuesday 25th September 2012, you will have no idea what I'm talking about, but please enjoy my first chapter).

And I just sent off my proposal and first three chapters to Steve Laube literary agency. Exciting, no?
(as well as actually getting a load of washing done, which is not so exciting because I've done that before, but people I work with might be happier about the washing than the proposal.) 

Have a nice day everyone.


Monday, 24 September 2012

Thank You Everyone!

First of all, as the title suggests: big thank you to everyone who voted and commented!

Second, obviously my blog is working in American time, because why would a blog where the author has stated they are in Australia work on Australian time? Because of that, the voting which I thought would close this morning is still open for another 3 hours.

So, if there are any last minute voters out there, feel free to go for it.

Overall results: am very glad that people like it, that is always a good start. And that I have some guaranteed sales, that's also very nice! For the moment I'm going to keep the first chapter of Sally Hunt how it is, because more people appear to be voting that way.

I sent in my application for Pan McMillan Manuscript Monday which included the first chapter, and tomorrow I will send off the proposal and first three chapters to Steve Laube, literary agent.
If both of those don't get back to me, then I will test out moving the description to be interspersed with the action.

By the way, putting in to Pan McMillan was a big and slightly scary step for me. First of all, it's approaching a publisher directly. Second, they are a commercial publisher, and commercial publishers in Australia really don't print Christian stuff (so I was very bluntly told by the representative of Penguin that I spoke to at a writers conference). But all they can say is ... well, nothing in this case. If they like it they will contact me, if I haven't heard from them in a month, they're not interested. So that can't been too bad. They've been silent towards me all my life, which I never noticed before.

Anyway, new writing has fallen a bit to the wayside as I try to get Sally Hunt up to scratch. Also, the weekend was amazingly busy, in a good way. Had a great time at City on a Hill's women's conference 'She'. And on Sunday drove down to the Peninsula and went for a trail jog along the coast (was pretty impressed myself for being able to jog most of it). Rushed back in time for church, then went out to dinner with friends afterwards.

Today I went to see Swan Lake with my aunt after work, and then in a moment of, well I'm blaming tiredness, I just jumped on the first tram that came long, even though I know I only have a 1 in about 10 chance of it being the right tram! It then took me about twenty minutes to realise that I hadn't even looked at the number when I got in, which I mostly realised because I wasn't where I should have been. This resulted in my walking almost the entire length of Chapel street at 10pm at night. (For non-Melbournians, it's a miracle I'm still here to write for you).

So, I'm exhausted, happy, and my house looks like a bomb has hit it because I've been walking in and dumping stuff for days now. I have used all my favourite mugs, really need to throw out some stuff in my fridge, and am close to running out of clean(ish) clothes.

Therefore, tomorrow no one is talking me into going out after work. I'm going to send off my proposal tomorrow morning, and then tomorrow evening I'm going to potter around my apartment and get it back into a state that someone could write in. If I get a chance, I'm going to sit down and start my new book. If not, I'm going to bed early!

That's my plan, and anyone that tries to get in my way... be prepared for war (or tears, I'm not quite sure which).

Love you all,


Friday, 21 September 2012

I Need Your Help! Vote on My First Chapter.

First of all: 999 page views as I'm writing this: super cool! Thanks everyone for dropping by.
Wish I should have one of those flashing things that says 'Congratulations! You are the 1000th person to read this site!' But I'm not that tech savvy, and it would also probably look like I was trying to sell you something, or give you a virus.

Second: guess what? You know all those query letters (ie. the whole three) that I sent out? Well, one of the agents got back to me today saying I could send through a proposal!

So, I know that I'm meant to be all cool and like 'whatevs, I get agents emailing me all the time', but stuff that! This whole blog is about being new to everything and while it probably means nothing, I still think it is super exciting. Especially since the agent's website was like: yeah, we don't like international authors, and very rarely accept young adults stuff. So then I was like: yeah, hey, I'm an international author writing young adults stuff, you interested? So to have them write back and go: 'show me what you've got' is sort of big. They could have just ignored me, or written a copy and paste email saying: read our website, we don't want you. 

Now comes the problem: My First Chapter.

Here's the deal. I really like my first chapter. Everyone who has read it so far (except for my little sister) really likes (or at least says to my face they do). Even the reader who was critiquing it for the writing competition liked it. However, they also pointed out that young adult works generally jump straight to the action, and while she liked my description, she thought I should drop it.

So, I'm putting my first chapter (of my very first completed novel, exciting, no?) up in the tabs across the top of the blog. 

I've just put up a poll on the main page: Sally Hunt Chapter 1: Should it stay or should it go?

This poll is open until Monday morning (when I hope to send a reply to the agent with my proposal and first three chapters of my manuscript). 

Let the People Speak: should I shorten the first chapter and just jump straight into the action (Sally on dirt bike, riding up to greet friends), or keep it with its description?

All people who have said to my face they love it, are welcome to vote here with the truth. 

If you want to nuance your reply more than the set answers allow, feel free to just comment below. 

Hope to hear from some of you at least.

(And even if you don't know me, and stopped by here thinking it was a porn site, I would appreciate it if you took the time to have a quick read, even the first paragraph of the chapter, and vote. But no, I won't take my top off for you.)

Off to get some sleep.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Well That Solves That Problem: I'm Not Meant to Be a Full Time Writer

Today was my first day back at work. 

It was also the first time in a week that I wrote for about 4 hours. 

I had a total of two, maybe three, successful full days during my holidays, and a lot of that included working on this blog and writing agent query letters etc.

The concept of a full day where I have nothing to do but write I thought would be amazingly liberating, would let me write so much more!

Wow, was I wrong. 

It was horrifying. 

But then I started to think that maybe all writing had become horrifying, that maybe I had just lost my will to write.

But no, do not fear. I just needed to be a bit more busy.

Was listening to Writing Excuses last night, an episode called 'pantsing'. They were talking about discovery writing, also known as by the seat of your pants writing, which is what I am currently doing a lot of. One of them was pointing out that when you do discovery writing, you really need to have a large block of time so that you can really get into the narrative flow.

Then another pointed out that this wasn't always good. Writing expands to fill the amount of time you have, like a gas. Having very strict writing times can actually help you to write more.

Wow, I thought to myself, wow. It's like they are talking about me!

Though, that was not all of my problems. It is definitely true for me that if I give myself too long a period, I just slow down and also get intimidated by the amount of time. However, it is also true that if I say I can write at any time in the day, I can very easily end up not writing at all. 

The third thing I found out today is that part of the problem might be the Castle Innis series. Well, not it, but me, but me to it, not just me. If you see what I mean.

I sat down again this morning to continue the amazingly slow work on book 3 (slow, largely because I haven't spent that many hours on it but also slow because it just isn't coming out). I then got a text from my sister saying I should try to get my first book published in Australia, and John Marsden's publisher, Pan McMillan has Manuscript Monday, where anyone can submit the first chapter of the manuscript along with a 300 word synopsis, and they promise to read it. 

So I went back to my first novel, Sally Hunt Book 1. I had spent quite a few hours yesterday editing it (how did it STILL have so many typos?) and had gotten to the part where I knew I had to re-write an entire scene. This morning, after spending about half an hour on Castle Innis, I then went and spent an hour and a half editing then beginning to write this new scene. 

The speed and easy with which it came out was like watching champagne overflow down a pyramid of glasses; beautiful, delicious, bubbly. And it wasn't because I knew what was going to happen, because I didn't, I hadn't expected what happened at all! 

And tonight night came home from work and said I would start writing at 7.30. Since I finished dinner at 7pm, I started reading Stephen King's Gunslinger. However, after finishing the intro, I decided I wanted to move straight into working on Sally Hunt, just because I felt like writing.

I spent the next two hours and think I have nailed most of the new scenes.  I just need to weave it back into the old text. I also need to change one or two more things later on (evidently my readers did not like that I left a lot of things until book 2, so will give some hints at how they are going to work out). 

So, obviously my mind is just in a young adult's language mode. I have had no trouble writing in regency period English before, so it is strange that I have it now, except perhaps I needed more time to switch over. 

But this is the end of the fortnight. And since my next book is a children's story (think E Nesbit style of thing), I might keep the simplified language and come back to Castle Innis after I've done some other historical practice. 

So, back to work, back to writing, back to trying to have it all.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

And the Winner Is...

Thank you to everyone who told me your tales of writing in a nice and concise form!

Using the very scientific method of an internet random list generator ( the winner of the pre-giveaway giveaway is:

Kate Scarlett!

With the winning entry of : Like winter sunshine.

The book is on its way from The Amazon, and will arrive here shortly, unless eaten by piranhas, or cats.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Monday Moans

I've decided not to unleash on you my whinge about why my writing isn't working and why I kept letting myself get distracted etc. etc. Instead I'm expressing my angst in cat-form:

Writers Block Cat




And finally, not true, but so, so cute:


And now, your turn. Here are a few images from, have a go with your own comments.

1. Caption this picture

2. Caption this picture

3.Caption this picture 

P.S. Final 24 hours to enter the pre-giveaway giveaway!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

General Update.

So, have given up on the whole giving up caffeine. First of all, it's amazingly boring. There is so little that you can drink except for herbal teas. Second, I used to have a cup of coffee in my second hour of writing, and now that I've stopped, I've dropped down from 2,000 words to 1,000 words per hour. It's a pretty big difference. It might not be the caffeine (as I'm still drinking Jasmine tea which has quite a bit), but anything that might possibly help or even give me a placebo effect I'm utilizing. (What is this placebo? Where can we find it? Maybe it's over in this truck marked 'Killer Bees'! Ah, the Simpsons).

Writing-wise... not going at all well. Working at half speed for less hours somehow does not result in more words. Go figure. Up to a grand total of 12,000 words for this story and am a week (ie. halfway) in. The problem is I don't know why it is going slow (when I'm sitting down and writing. I understand why it's not as long as it should be in that I've been busy with family stuff.) I know the characters well enough, I have more plotted out in my head than I usually do, I'm giving it free reign to be as ridiculously corny as it can be, and yet it is just coming out at half speed. Where is my flow? Muse, why have you deserted me?

On a completely different note woke up this morning from a vivid dream with a really great idea for a children's book. Noted it all down, but restrained myself from starting on it straight away. Once I've finished this fortnight I'll decide whether to jump to it or the one that's planned (which also happens to be a children's story, an Australian fairytale, sort of a cross between Dot and Kangaroo and Alice in Wonderland.)

While my writing isn't going all that well, I have managed to send off query letters to two literary agents and to one publisher directly. Am going to wait and see if I get any useful feedback along with the rejection letters before sending out a few more. But boy, trying to get a Young Adult, Christian series published when you are an overseas writer (to America, obviously they are the overseas agents to me) is really difficult. I found one publisher that specalised in young adult Christian works, but they wanted absolutely no profanity. I have a handful of swear words dotted through out, because my main character and her friends are all non-Christian to begin with. There is not a secular Aussie teenager alive that does not use the lesser swear words, and to take them out would be inauthentic. I played with the idea, and knew this might be a problem for an American Christian market, but still don't think I can do it.

A lot of publishers and literary agents appear to refer to Christian Manuscript Submissions, which is a website that allows you (for a fee, of course) to upload your proposal and sample chapters and then agents and the big publishing houses refer to it from there. Don't suppose anyone has heard of it and have reviews/feedback about it?

I thought I would wait until I've been rejected a few times, and then look into it.

Oh, but life is not all bad. I'm still working on the whole lifestyle of a writer and so on Friday (while unsuccessfully trying to avoid my house cleaner, as I had absolutely no idea what time she usually came) I went out for breakfast and read Dorothea while eating at Laurent (beautiful French patisserie near my house.)


Green tea with a ham and cheese croissant and an almond croissant to finish. Perfect. (Well, didn't actually help the writing, but you can't have everything!)

Final words: am halfway through Dorothea's Wake Up and Live, and other than the great 1930's psychology and self-help nature, it has given me some interesting ideas to think about. She sets a challenge of just trying out her theory (no, am not going to spoil it by giving it away... just yet). So, I'll finish the book to make sure that it doesn't go super weird and report back on how the challenge goes for me, but I highly recommend you read it if you are feeling in a bit of a life rut.

And just a reminder: you have two days left to enter the Pre-Giveaway Giveaway! It's open to absolutely everyone, anywhere in the world. At the moment I'm loving the comments, so might have to put all names in a hat because I can't differentiate based on merit.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Zero-Drafting the Sanity Saver.

Awhile back I offhandedly mentioned zero-drafting and said I would do a post on it later. Well, that time has come. 

More years ago than I would like to think possible, while I still had hopes and dreams of being an academic, I was reading about how to improve my thesis writing for my PhD (rather than actually researching for my PhD, which might be one of the reasons I'm not now a doctor). In true Buffy style, I have now completely forgotten the name of the book which the idea of zero-drafting came from. However, it was a very useful and interesting book as they presented the concept of zero-drafting as a means for overcoming thesis block (it's a bit like writer's block, but with a much greater feeling of inadequacy and that the world might end). It was also particularly aimed at helping to transition from research to actually having a thesis.

The concept is pretty easy: everyone understands the concept of a first, second... final draft. A first draft is basically everything you want to say, the second and subsequent drafts is actually making that comprehensible, and the final draft is to make it all shiny. Well, the zero-draft is the first draft, minus any structure. It is a place where you can do stream of consciousness writing, put in notes to self, keep a list of things you want to change, etc. 

The book suggested that from the very beginning of research you should start your zero-draft. For at least fifteen minutes a day you should put away your reading and notes, and just write all the ideas you have been thinking for that day. (Now I come to think of it, the book might have been called something like: How to Write a Thesis in 15 Minutes a Day). This was your zero-draft. After months of research, you would then go through your zero-draft pulling out the bits that were good and ignoring the bits that were not. From this you would find that you had a large part of your first draft already waiting, just needing to be ordered and joined. It was actually an amazingly useful tool.

I have adapted the idea slightly for creative writing. For every series I work on I have a zero-draft (I started off with every book, but you will see why I moved to every series). The first page is usually my attempts at summarising the series which I play around with as I write. This is very useful for when you want to put together query letters or proposals. 

The second page currently has four sections:
1. Names of characters. Here I list every character I give a name to and a brief description. This saves SO much time when I'm writing sequels.
2. Things I want to add in. As I am trying to write first drafts rather quickly, I don't have the time to go back and add in things as I think of them, as some ideas will be three books back. Instead, I just put a dot point under this list, and when I edit the book I can chuck this in. 
3. Research I need to do. This is for just general things I think I might need to give a scene more detail. For example, I might have: description of sleeping quarters on average merchant vessel 1800's. Yes this will add flavour to my book, but no it is not necessary to stop right now and research it. 
4. Individual References. As I write things keep popping up where I need a specific bit of research. So instead of stopping and finding it, I just put in the first draft [REFERENCE 1, 2, 3, etc.] and then put a note of it in the zero-draft: [REF 1] name of ambassador's wife for Portugal in 1810. Then I can look it all up in one session, and go back and add them all in. 

The pages on from that are where my true zero-drafting begin. It's for all those times that you look at your first draft and can't think of anything to write. The first draft somehow feels official and should only have stuff in it that you know is good or will be part of the story. My zero-draft on the other hand has no such rules. I often start it by talking to myself. I ask myself questions about the story, character motivations, what might happen in certain situations. I also talk to my characters and ask them to explain themselves or what they might want to happen. If I get a really wacky idea which seems too experimental to put in the first draft, I try it out in zero-draft first.

And after all that, anything that works gets copied and pasted into the first draft, and anything that doesn't gets ignored. I keep it open in a word document along side my first draft and flit between the two.

So, if you are doing a lot of research, I would recommend using zero-drafting as suggested by the book and spending 15minutes a day (at least) writing up how the research you have done could apply to your story, a sample scene it might be used in, etc. 

If you are trying to just complete a first draft, use it like I do as a note taking place for things to work on later and a testing ground for various ideas. It is often very helpful to start a writing session by sitting down and just talking to yourself for a bit to get yourself back into the swing of your story. 

So, that is zero-drafting as used by me. I hope some of you might find it useful.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

More Dorothea!

For those of you who have been reading for a while, you will know my love for the Dorothea Brande, a 1930's author who wrote a very practical and helpful book for writers called 'On Becoming a Writer'. 

Well, yesterday I was looking for the link to download the PDF so I could share Dorothea with all of you and I came across another of her books Wake Up and Live.

I've only just started reading it myself and am still in the introduction but I thought I would share it because it promises to be good (and it is free. Can't go past free stuff! And don't worry, it's free because it's out of copyright, not because I'm sending you to dodge pirate sites). 

Also, did you notice that I've spent the day going through earlier posts putting in labels and fixing up the formatting? Was planning to do all of them but had to go unpack boxes for my grandmother. However, scored a whole lot of stuff for my kitchen! Also, might have 'borrowed' quite a few books from my parents. Though, I only took ones that had doubles or were mine originally or I intend at some stage to give back but actually wanted to read. 

Will hopefully finish updating the blog tomorrow (though with so much new reading material...)

So, since this is a short post, you have time to start reading Dorothea. Apologies now if it turns out to be awful. Will read more tomorrow and delete this post if it is.

Also, don't forget your entries for my competition.



Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Something New! Pre-Giveaway Giveaway!

This is something I haven't done before, but I feel it is time. I feel that I am really ready now. I'm still a bit shy, a little bit nervous. You all seem so scary, distant, unknown. I bare my soul to you and am greeted with only silence (except for you Ben, because you rock.) 

Another author is going to be doing a guest post in November (which, by the way, I'm super excited about. It's like I'm a real blogger and stuff!) and she asked if I wanted to do a giveaway on my blog. A giveaway? Yes, a giveaway. For the best comment related to her post, she would offer a signed copy of her new book, posted anywhere in the world.

Sounds awesome, no? But then I thought: but no one comments. Is very embarrassing to tell another, much more established blogger that you don't actually get comments. So, before doing that, I thought I would test out this whole idea of a giveaway.

So, welcome to the Pre-Giveaway Giveaway!

The purpose is not just to make you comment on my blog. I am quite happy that you even stop to read it. However, if this is a non-commenting blog community, I sort of want to know before my guest asks for comments.

Also, I have been thinking about doing it for quite a while, just because giving away stuff is fun.
So, for the person who comes up with the best (as judged by me) 3 words describing their writing life I will send them a copy of Stephen King's 'On Writing', because it is one of the most awesome books about writing I have read and I think all writers should have a copy. (I could just send you a link to Dorothea, because I do love her, and she is free to download, but that feels a bit scummy. So if you want, you can download Dorothea Brande's On Becoming a Writer without having to leave a comment. Also, you could just google it if this link doesn't work).

(Cannot promise that this is the edition you get, there are various covers, but the stuff inside is the good bit.)
3 words on your Writing Life.

In exchange for Stephen King's 'On Writing: Memoir of the Craft'.

Good deal, huh?

You have one week, starting today. Entries close Next Tuesday 18th Sept 2012, 10pm Melbourne, Australia time.

Look forward to meeting some of you.

(And if it doesn't work I'll still believe that you love me, just in that stalker-ish mute sort of way. I'm an optimist like that.)

Also just drawing attention to my awesome skills: as this is my first picture. I have stolen it, it's not actually my work, but I think it is pretty self-publicising so shouldn't infringe copy write. 
If I'm wrong, I'm sorry Stephen! (or dude who designed cover!)

Monday, 10 September 2012

A 9am - 5pm Day.

I did it! I sat down at 9am, had a tea-refill break at around 11am, 45mins for lunch, and then worked straight until actually about 5.30pm. Go me!
Result? Less words than I usually write, but more research, some editing, and finally getting around to drafting a query letter to send to agents.

Okay, so it is sad about not getting as many words written. Will definitely have to improve on that.

I'm currently  having a few issues with beginning this new story:

1. I had written the prologue and part of the first chapter about 4 years ago (did not think it was that long ago until I did the maths, which is very sad for many reasons.) At the time, I had thought it was a brilliantly written piece (though in need of minor editing), full of emotion and atmosphere. Looking back at it today...  well, lets just say I spent the first three hours this morning editing and then reediting. And I mean the type of editing which is cartoonised as someone standing over a screaming page with a bloody cleaver and a mad gleam in their eyes.  

2. Having not actually finished writing the book before turns out to have consequences. Sad, but true. I know in my mind that the main character is going to get framed for murder and possibly treason by a group of bad guys, ends up floating at sea (somehow), is picked up by a Spanish privateer ship and this book starts three years later. However, I hadn't actually got around to working out: what treasonous things, exactly, did the bad guys do that he was framed for? Who are these bad guys, and how many of them are there? What did he do for three years on the privateer ship, exactly? I had brainstormed that he started chasing down the guys, or running secret missions for England, but when it comes writing from that point onwards, a bit more detail is sort of necessary.

Not knowing all these little bits did have quite a large debilitating effect on my ability to write. So I will need to spend a bit more time brain storming, and then just free writing to see what comes. I'm past the prologue and onto an entirely new bit, so that should help in my next session. Will try the technique of writing out my problems with the story just as I go to sleep, and see if I can answer them as soon as I wake up in the morning. Though, to be honest, 10 to 1 I will wake up and the first thing I will think of will be breakfast, and it will be while I'm biting down on my toast that I suddenly remember I was meant to write out my first thoughts, by which time it will be too late. Toast is the downfall of us all.... well, not us all, as it was the making of the Roman Army, but you get my point, I think/hope/wish.

On the actual business side of things, today was great. I've been meaning to get my act together and start the not so creative process of actually getting my Sally Hunt books properly published. I know we discussed self-publishing, and I think I will do that with the Castle Innis series, as it is unlikely to be taken on by a traditional publisher as it is not in a clearly defined marketable genre (not enough romance to be considered historical romance, and I don't think historical adventure is so big at the moment.) But for Sally Hunt, my first ever series, which I love deeply and actually think is really pretty good, I want to try and do the best by it.

So, I'm starting with trying to get an agent. Is it bad of me that I'm looking to America instead of Australia because their Christian market is so much larger than ours? It makes it sound like I'm doing it just for the money but not really. I'm doing it just for the fame! Well, not fame for me personally, I just want the largest number of people to read Sally Hunt and hopefully feel a bit brighter about the world because of it.

For those of you thinking of looking for an agent, there is a lot of information out there. I spent four hours today basically just reading info on how to write a query letter, which is the letter you send before you send the proposal, which is what you send before you send the full manuscript, which is what happens before it actually gets seen by someone who could publish it. It's a slow process, what can I say?

Looking around I came across another writing blog which again appears to be super famous and also really informative. The blog is written by Nathan Bransford who is himself a published young teens author and literary agent.

I just want to copy out some of his advice on writing a query letter, because it is priceless. This was written in 2008, and he has added some updates since then, so please check out the original post if this amuses you as much as it did me:

You know those "mad lib" games you'd play as a kid, where you start off by writing down a list of verbs, places and adjectives, and inevitably the words "snot" and "farted" were involved, which made any story HILARIOUS?

Well, we're going to play query letter mad lib today. Here's how it works.

First I'm going to need these things:

[Agent name], [genre], [personalized tidbit about agent], [title], [word count], [protagonist name], [description of protagonist], [setting], [complicating incident], [verb], [villain], [protagonist's quest], [protagonist's goal], [author's credits (optional)], [your name]

Now, look how your query turns out:

Dear [Agent name],

I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

[title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author's credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
[your name]

That's all you need.

Now, granted, this is the most formulaic query ever written (you know... because it uses a formula), and I'm crossing my fingers that I don't now receive a thousand virtually identical letters. But if you can't fill this mad lib out in two seconds and craft a pretty decent query letter, something might be wrong with your novel. 

The saddest thing? I had spent about an hour prior to this drafting a complex and meaningful letter, and then just for fun tried this out. It kicked ass over my carefully crafted, way too self-centred and long earlier attempt. I then went on and fiddled with it a bit and plan to check over it again tomorrow, but over all, it is super awesome.

Am thinking of typing up templates like this for Arts essays for my tute students.

Eg. [name of scholar1] has argued [outline theory] in their seminal work [title of work]. This has been roundly trashed by [name of scholar2] who complains that [objections to theory] clearly demonstrate that [name of scholar1] should be teaching elementary school instead of running a university department.

Could be so much fun.

Anyway, other benefit of 9-5 day is that I felt absolutely no guilt about curling up after dinner and watching Grimm. Can't watch TV all the time I'm not writing, as I still need to be reading and spending wordless time, but it was nice to know I had fulfilled my duty to the world, if not myself.

Tomorrow might be a bit less structured as need to take car (whose name is Tommy, by the way, and it suits him very well) in to get a roadworthy and then go out to lunch with my aunt (which I'm looking forward to, in case that didn't come out in my sentence structure). I'm also possibly being forced into slave labour by my mother to help unpack all my grandmother's boxes. But that should be my charity for the month, so can then be super rude to everyone I know and sit down and write. Yah!

Ta ta til then, darlings!