It’s time for a new look

Screenshot of this blogWhile the standard look and feel for this blog’s current theme grabbed me when I first saw it, I’m a little over it now.

Actually, I’m a lot over it.

I’m looking for something a little simpler and cleaner.

If you’ve got any suggestions for a nice, easy-to-setup, WordPress theme that doesn’t annoyingly hyphenate words all the time, I’d love to hear it.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments section, or else can contact me via the social media buttons on this page. There’s also a “contact me” item in the drop down menu under “About Me”.

Thanks!

Creating Compelling Novels – ACT Writers Centre Workshop

The ACT Writers Centre LogoI’m going to be giving a full-day workshop at the ACT Writers Centre!

The workshop, called Creating Compelling Novels, is on from 10am–4pm Saturday 25 July.

Here’s the blurb:

“Readers have certain expectations that go far beyond genre. At the very least they expect to be entertained, but entertainment is subjective, even within genre.

Fortunately, there are story elements common across all forms of fiction, such as conflict, theme, and structure. Creating Compelling Novels will teach you to identify and apply these elements and many more so you can meet or exceed expectations.

Through practical exercises and group activities you’ll learn how transform your ideas, characters, and storylines into a cohesive whole, potentially taking your stories well beyond the borders of genre— and all without selling out.

Discover exactly what each part of a novel must accomplish, why so many stories suffer from ‘middle sag syndrome’, and why so many novels fail to be compelling.

You’ll gain a clear understanding of how to:

  • apply story structure without appearing formulaic
  • meet or exceed readers expectations
  • troubleshoot story problems
  • draw readers into an intense emotional experience they’ll be desperate to share with all their friends.

You’ll leave with the keys to making your novel resonate with the people who matter most – agents, editors, and readers.

If you think that sounds like something you’re interested in, get onto the ACT Writers Centre website.

Cost: $125 members, $90 concessional members, $190 non-members (includes 12 months of membership), $140 concessional non-members (includes 12 months of membership)
Venue: E Block Seminar Room, Gorman Arts Centre (formerly ACT Writers Centre workshop room)
Bookings: You can book by phone on 6262 9191, online or at the office. Payment is required at time of booking.

New post on CMS: Translating the Story in Your Head

Translating the Story in Your HeadHey all, I’ve put up an article on my Creative Manuscript Services website: Translating the Story in Your Head.

It’s about making the story on the page worthy of the one you’ve dreamt up.

“When working as a fiction editor I’m sometimes asked by my braver/more enthusiastic clients: Did you like it?

It’s a big question with a lot of emotional baggage.

Its also the only question that really matters to both a writer and a reader.

Being subjective, there’s only one satisfying answer…”

It’s well worth the look, I promise.

 

The Long and the Short of It

Angeline Trevena
Angeline Trevena

Today I’ve got Angeline Trevena over to talk about her struggles with writing longer works such as novels. Like myself and about half the writing community, Angeline discovers her stories as she writes them. This can be problematic for a whole bunch of reasons, as she’ll explain:

I have written loads of novels. Hundreds of them. Although, you can’t actually buy any of them. Because, well, I never finished them.

My hard drive is a monument to my career as an unsuccessful novelist.

Ever since I realised I wanted to write, I assumed novels would be the result.

That’s what writers do, isn’t it? It’s the obvious, the default. As we’ve already established, that didn’t exactly pan out.

You see, I don’t plot.

I walk straight into a story with little or no idea where I’m going. Which is fine, and fun, and there are many successful novelists that write this way.

But I have an incredibly poor sense of direction. And my characters are unruly, and far braver than me.

And I have tried.

One year as NaNoWriMo approached I decided I would be a plotter.

I watched videos, read books and blog posts, got first-hand advice. I was fully prepared.

I spent a month on my outline, and as October turned to November, I was ready to go. I had my map.

About 15k words in my characters took over again.

By 30k I was following them around like a puppy on a rope.

I concluded that I simply  wasn’t designed for plotting, and duly shelved the book. Another plaque for my monument.

But I still wanted to write. I couldn’t stop.

So I tried a different kind of writing. A kind that embraced the discovery writer, the spontaneous writer, the no-clue-where-this-is-headed writer.

Guest PostI wrote  short stories.

When my first one was published in 2011 I decided that this, clearly, was the kind of writer I was meant to be, and I’ve been a very happy short story writer ever since.

But those novels still nagged at me.

Cutting the Bloodline is my stepping stone.

Coming in at around 21k, it is the longest piece I’ve seen through to completion.

And this one had an outline.

I’d written it back in 2010 as a stage play, so my outline was a little unconventional, consisting of just dialogue and a few stage directions.

The story has changed notably, but this was an outline I could follow, and stick with, and a method I wouldn’t be against using again in the future. Because we all have to find our own way of doing things.

As writers, we’re bombarded with advice.

I spent years in a state of crippling guilt because I didn’t write for several hours every single day.

Because I wrote when I felt like it.

I was led to believe that I would never, ever make it as a writer, that no one would ever take me seriously.

I felt like a failure because I couldn’t turn in detailed chapter-by-chapter outlines. Because I didn’t spend a year doing research, or create detailed character crib-sheets.

It held me back, and stopped me from doing the one thing I loved.

If only I’d known then that every writer’s path is different.

You can take advice, you can try out different things, but if it doesn’t work for you, it’s not right.

And I don’t care who said it, how many awards they’ve won, or if they’re your favourite author.

Their writing journey is not yours.

The Cover Image for Cutting the BloodlineSo beyond being my first solo project, Cutting the Bloodline has been a huge learning curve.

I’ve learnt to code an ebook, to promote it, to utilise my network.

Most importantly though, I’ve learnt that a short story writer with some kind of aversion to plotting can learn to write a novel.

And I’ve got no doubt that if I can do it, you can find your own path too.

Angeline Trevena was born and bred in a rural corner of Devon, but now lives among the breweries and canals of central England. She is a horror and fantasy writer, poet and journalist. Cutting the Bloodline is her debut novella, and she has several short stories published in various anthologies and magazines.
Amazon buy link for Cutting the Bloodline: http://authl.it/B00W3AP0VY
Angeline’s website: http://www.angelinetrevena.co.uk

The Easiest-Ever Guide To Story Outlining!

Easiest Ever Guide to Story OutliningI have a guest post up on Cholontic – The Easiest-Ever Guide to Story Outlining.

It’s definitely worth a look if you struggle with outlining.

It’s a simple two-step process, each step broken down into easy-to-do parts.

http://jenchristopherson.wix.com/cholontic#!The-EasiestEver-Guide-to-Story-Outlining/c1q8z/551e2ab90cf215f35a384c8e

 

Things I wish I knew about Author Promotion when I started writing

Everything I wish I knew about Author Promotion when I started writingIt’s really tough getting word out about your creative endeavours, so it’s good to know what works and when to start doing it.

With this problem in mind I asked a group of writers to throw their best tips at me, and they responded with some fantastic advice.

My own tip: Be the kind of person that other people want to be friends with by helping and supporting them whenever you can. (It doesn’t hurt to put the name of your latest book or your website address in your email signature either.)

Here’s some more great tips:

“My biggest one-day bump came from an article a newspaper reporter/recent acquaintance wrote about books featured locally. The second was from doing a reading at high school that then ordered a classroom set of books. Both involved being open to the opportunity. Neither was based on a sale or a paid advertisement. In 20 months as a published writer have seen no appreciable return from sales or paid advertisements!” Robert L. Slater

“Connect with – and support – other authors by commenting on their blogs, hosting them on your blog for releases, Tweeting about their books, etc. People are more willing to help promote authors that they already know and like.” Quanie Miller

“Every now and then try a new author promotion strategy. Ask yourself – Have I done anything new lately to promote my books?” Aditi Chopra

“Promotion also is all about presentation to the right market who is interested in your writing.  Make sure you are targeting the market for success.”  Debra Hargrove

“Promote soft or hardcover editions via a public book signing and leave a copy or two to be discovered in a public place to create a public awareness of your work.” Douglas Moore

“What I learned was that resistance is futile and you need to embrace this part of the process. Sometimes it is even – gasp! – fun.” Janine Donoho

“Think outside the box. That is where the growth occurs and if you don’t grow, you stifle.” Karin Halford

“Be patient. Maintain personal integrity, and hold on to your moral and ethical beliefs.” Armando Almase

“Create a writer’s platform, starting with a blog you own.” Carly Compass

“Social media is a must for any author who wants to earn a steady income from writing. Update your blog(s) and make use of Twitter and Facebook and Google + with a mix of self promotion and reposting other articles of interest. Self promotion alone will lose you followers on social media platforms.” Douglas Moore

“Write, write, write, join a critique group, critique, critique, critique. Then, rewrite what you wrote! [Start with a great book!]” Cholontic (Jen Christopherson)

“An author platform online should encompass many sites. Twitter, an FB page, website optional but definitely a blog, Google Plus, maybe YouTube trailers, Instagram & Pinterest, WattPad, Goodreads, if on Amazon fill out your bio area. Fill that out everywhere and utilize the free online real estate at your disposal. Update your LinkedIn.” Tosca Johnson

“Author promo is separate from book promo. Author promo begins long before you have a book on a shelf, the attention of an agent, or hit ‘upload’ on your first self-pub’d masterpiece. Author promo means standing up in the world, both visceral and virtual, and saying ‘Hello, I’m _ and I’m a writer.’ Author promo means connecting with peers, networking with the writing community, and making sure potential readers know your name long before you have anything other than yourself to promote.” AmyBeth Inverness

“Do what you love.” Joe Machney

“I wish I had known how to do it. I didn’t really promote my first book very much. I wish I had been friends with writers who could point me towards the better sites for helpful hints.  Have an author page on all the major social media sites and keep it up to date with  anything appropriate. They are a great way for people to get to know you as a person and want to buy your books because of it.” Karin Halford

Check out some of the other posts in the “Things I Wish I Knew About” series: Point Of View, Critiquing, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own Work, Short Stories, Creating Characters, Story Development, Worldbuilding and Writing.

CMS Structural Analysis Report giveaway.If you’re looking for a little help with your own writing, head over to Creative Manuscript Services and enter the free Structural Analysis Report giveaway.

Structural Analysis Report – giveaway!

CMS Structural Analysis Report giveaway.Creative Manuscript Services (my editing business) is giving away a free Structural Analysis Report, which is normally valued at $550.

All you need to do is subscribe to the CMS blog and intrigue me with your best one-liner for your book.

If you win, Creative Manuscript Services will produce a structural analysis report for you based on your outline or synopsis.

Simple.

So get over there and throw your novel’s one-liner at me! I can’t wait to see it!

If you’re not sure what a Structural Analysis Report is, it’s about audience expectations and meeting all the criteria an audience will expect – whether they know it or not.

Please remember though, you’ve got to follow ALL the guidelines on the CMS website – don’t just drop your one-liner here!

Book reviews: Aurora Darwin, Arrived, Haven – A stranger Magic, The Lethal Oath, Light Touch Paper Stand Clear

It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed any books here, so during my week off I picked up my kindle, determined to finish a book I’d started a while back and then take a crack at a few more I’ve downloaded over the last year.

Aurora: Darwin by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman has been a guest blogger here on a couple of occasions, and her posts are worth looking up if you’ve got the time.

Aurora: Darwin is a slow burn despite a introductory teaser delivering expectations of a fast-paced action thriller.

The story follows the crew of the Aurora and their investigation of a problem on a research station. A good half of the book was devoted to setting up the characters, situation and story world.

I won’t go into details so as to avoid spoilers, but once the crew arrive at the station the squishy brown stuff hits the proverbial spinning air-circulation device and things start going very badly for the Aurora crew.

The character development was strong, the action and underlying politics believable for the most part, and the resolution was solid while leaving plenty more for the sequels.

Overall, three-and-a-half stars out of five.

Arrived by Keion Alexis

I’m not sure how I came across this – most likely a freebie advertised on social media. Written with a lot of enthusiasm but little skill. Rating: a generous one star.

Haven: A Stranger Magic (short story, novella) by D.C. Ackers

Another social media download freebie, Haven: A stranger Magic is a promotion for D.C. Ackers longer works in the same world.

As a story, it’s mostly just an introduction to the characters and world, with a mini-adventure thrown in without any real resolution. Still, it got me interested enough in the characters that if I stumbled across the next one as a freebie, I’d take a look. Rating: two and a half stars – it would have been three if it had been a complete story in itself.

The Lethal Oath (The Viking Series) by John Snow

This is a short story/novella with a lot of promise and fairly solid characters and conflicts, but the author’s style failed to draw me in. I struggled through about half of it, skipping ahead regularly even then, before giving up.

I think the author was more interested in the story world and events than the characters themselves, but there’s lots of potential there. Rating: two-and-a-half stars.

Light Touch Paper Stand Clear – short story anthology

I’ve only gotten through the first four stories so far, but here’s the round-up.

The Bone Chime Song by Joanne Anderton – pretty darn good. A very well written, solid story with strong characters and a gritty world I’d be happy to revisit. Four stars.

Five Ways to Start a War by Sue Bursztynski – kept me reading to the end, though I’d probably have appreciated it more if I’d been a fan of Homer and ancient Gods of Olympus. Not so much of a story in itself as the exploration of a concept. Three stars.

History: Theory and Practice by Dave Luckett – the manipulation of a developing civilization by an advanced society. Essentially a small event set against a bigger backdrop, it’s well-told and drew me in. Felt a little bit like I’d only gotten half the story though, and the rest was in the works. Three stars.

The D____d by Adam Browne – couldn’t get through this one. The concept was wonderfully visual – the exploration and colonisation of the Circles of Hell – but I kept waiting for the story to kick in and eventually gave up on it. Two stars.

That’s it for now. Overall, it was just nice to have the chance to read.

Time to do some writing of my own.

2014 Roundup

Drawing of trees in snow2014 has been an interesting year. I:

  • signed with an agent who’s now shopping my fiction around
  • wrote a couple of short stories (writing short stories is pretty rare for me)
  • critiqued a bunch of novels and had one of mine critiqued in return
  • gave a workshop on story structure at the local convention which was exceptionally well received (very happy about that!)
  • gave two presentations at a writers day: one on story structure, the other on blogging
  • grew the Fantasy Writers community on G+ to well over 8000 members
  • changed careers thanks to government cutbacks
  • edited half a novel
  • wrote the best part of a non-fiction book on story structure

So what does all that mean for me in 2015? It means:

  • I’ll be writing and editing a lot more in the evenings/at night
  • I’ll hopefully sell my first novel to a major publisher
  • I should have a non-fiction book ready-to-go in the next few months that will help a lot of writers with their stories
  • I still have three fiction novels that are written and need editing
  • I have far too many more books I want to write.

How’d you go this year, and what does that imply for your expectations in 2015?

So, you want to get your book noticed on social media, huh?

Screenshot: A mermaid holding jewellery while half out of the ocean
Screenshot from the Fantasy Writers Community on Google Plus

If you’ve been playing around on social media for a while and you tend to follow a lot of writers like I do, you’ll probably notice your feed filling up with book advertising.

Some of it will be blatant, some less so, but it’s still advertising, and few people want to see it.

So what’s the solution?

Consider this. My favourite social media playground is Google Plus where I run a community called Fantasy Writers. It has almost 8000 members, and it’s growing rapidly.

When I started Fantasy Writers I was trying to build a helpful and supportive community, not an advertising forum, so I banned self-promotion.

Unfortunately, the issue wasn’t so simple. People ignored the rule or found ways around it, and I spent far more time moderating the community than I wanted to.

In response I created a category and called it ‘Self-Promo Saturday’ for members to get their advertising out of their system, usable on Saturdays only.

It worked a charm. The list is clear of promotional stuff most days, while Saturdays see a deluge of it.

But guess what? The self-promotional stuff gets ignored anyway.

Why? Nobody wants to see advertising.

Even the people who advertise don’t bother to look at what everyone else is advertising and support each other.

And there’s the key.

Nobody cares about your book except you, but people do care about their friends, and friends help each other out.

So here’s the secret to promoting your book on social media:

  • comment on other people’s posts
  • interact with people on social media as you would your real life friends
  • share their stuff if you think it’s appropriate
  • crow about your book victories and achievements on occasion, but only if it’s newsworthy (like a new cover or contract).

With a little bit of luck people will care enough about you to promote your book when they see something newsworthy.

In short, show you care about others and they’ll respond in kind.

And like Forest Gump, ‘that’s all I’ve got to say about that’.

Now get on your butt and write something people will want to share because you’re so awesome!

Find out more about Fantasy Writers.

Good things come to those who persevere

Today I’ve got Justin Woolley here with some great advice on an essential skill every writer should develop. Justin puts much of his success in writing and finding a publisher for his debut novel down to that skill.

Over to you Justin…

Head and shoulders shot of Justin Woolley‘Good things come to those who wait’ might be the worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard.

But ok, while you’re waiting for good things to happen I’ll be over here mashing the keyboard like an infinite number of monkeys.

You see, there’s much advice out there on the craft of writing, some of it good, some of it not, but all of it designed to help you master the nuts and bolts of various aspects of process.

This might be novel structure or showing and not telling or developing characters or building rising conflict while cutting adverbs and killing darlings.

While all that is obviously important, I think the single most important skill a new writer can develop is not related to the craft of writing at all, at least not directly, and that skill is perseverance.

I say that because the craft of writing will come if you work at it.

Take the advice you think works for you. Chuck out what doesn’t.

You’ll hone your skills. You’ll find your voice.

But all that will only happen if you’ve got the drive to persevere.

Writing a novel is hard. Damn hard.

You’ve got to turn up, day after day, and you’ve got to get the words down.

Sometimes the cogs spin like a dream and just like all those infinite monkeys you write yourself some Hamlet.

Other days it’s like hitting your face up and down on the keyboard until your eyes are black and your nose is bloody.

That’s where perseverance comes in.

You need to persevere because you need to finish things.

So many people probably have three and a half chapters of a manuscript saved somewhere in the dingy back-waters of an old hard-drive living in a garbage can and barking indecipherable nonsense at passing files.

Unfortunately unfinished work can’t be edited (and writing is rewriting after all) and unfinished work can’t be published.

Finishing the first-draft of a novel is a significant achievement, it’s the first step toward a completed novel and ask anyone who’s done it, it took perseverance.

So, that’s all well and good you say, but how do I help myself persevere?

Well I’ve found one of the most beneficial things you can do is set yourself a daily word count goal.

Start with 500 or 1000 words, whatever you think you can accomplish in the time you have factoring in however much punishment your face can withstand.

Be realistic but don’t make it too easy either.

You want to ensure you can meet it every day but also setting a goal of six words is cheating.

Consider this little fact brought to you by the magic mathematics: if you write 500 words a day, in 180 days (six months) you will have written 90,000 words.You need to persevere because you need to finish things.

That dear friends, is a book.

Don’t underestimate the small chunks of time you can find during the day to write either.

Maybe it’s on the train to work or waiting for an appointment.

Perhaps you can only squeeze out 100 words, maybe 50, maybe only 20, but the fact that you spent that time on your writing and not staring at your phone matching coloured pieces of candy is exactly the discipline needed to persevere.

The other key reason you’re going to need perseverance is that once you’ve got that book written (and then rewritten and probably rewritten again a few times) and you finally get it out into the world you’re going to get hit with the sledgehammer of rejection, probably numerous times.

This is where you get to flex those perseverance muscles you’ve built up.

When the rejection hammer smashes your teeth in for the tenth time you head back to the dentist, get patched up and put that book out there again.

This sucks. I get that. I’ve been there.

When you’re hunting for your big break, when you’re desperate to catch that first novel sale, when you’re thinking about giving up or just slapping that sucker up on Amazon yourself, you’ve got to dig deep, take feedback on board and maybe rewrite again.

Ultimately you need to know that persevering here makes you a better writer.

This writing game is a marathon not a sprint.

For some of you my harping on about perseverance may sound a bit preachy, or you be thinking it’s not really a skill, but let me just say this, I had to learn to persevere with writing.

I really do consider it a learned skill and sure, while I obviously developed my craft, I think perseverance is what finally got me my first novel sale.

Perseverance will make your writing output higher, it will make your writing better; it will make your chances of success greater.

At the end of the day perseverance is the trait that turns aspiring authors into published authors.

Justin Woolley has been writing stories since he could first scrawl with a crayon. When he was six years old he wrote his first book, a 300-word pirate epic in unreadable handwriting called ‘The Ghost Ship’. He promptly declared that he was now an author and didn’t need to go to school. Despite being informed that this was, in fact, not the case, he continued to make things up and write them down. 

A Town Called Dust: Justin’s debut novel will be published November 13th, 2014 by Momentum Books.

In his other life Justin has been an engineer, a teacher and at one stage even a magician. His handwriting has not improved. 

You can find Justin’s website at http://www.justinwoolley.net/ or on Twitter: @Woollz.

A Town Called Dust

A Town Called DustStranded in the desert, the last of mankind is kept safe by a large border fence… Until the fence falls.

Squid is a young orphan living under the oppressive rule of his uncle in the outskirts of the Territory. Lynn is a headstrong girl with an influential father who has spent her entire life within the walled city of Alice.

When the border fence is breached, the Territory is invaded by the largest horde of undead ghouls seen in two hundred years. Squid is soon conscripted into the Diggers – the armed forces of the Territory. And after Lynn finds herself at odds with the Territory’s powerful church, she too escapes to join the Diggers.

Together Squid and Lynn form an unlikely friendship as they march to battle against the ghouls. Their journey will take them further than they ever imagined, leading them closer to discovering secrets about themselves, their world, and a conspiracy that may spell the end of the Territory as they know it.