Archive for the ‘Annoying advice’ Category

Writers write and they then need to find readers by being published somehow.

Right now I’m trying to get an agent for my PhD book. It’s a crap shoot as they say. I’ve tried this before in the past with other books. My first, Relic, which I never published but did kind of get an agent for but then decided to part ways mostly because the book was flawed. Then I tried for Dragon Wine and got feedback but no representation until after I cut a deal. I had an agent for Ruby Heart and the book never sold. So here I am trying again.

What is different this time?

My mental state

My preparation

The amount of resources available to assist.

Let’s start with my mental state. I still have impostor syndrome as usual but I’m not in the ‘I’m not worthy’ mindset I had early on in my writing and believe me it is not good to query agents when you are thinking like that because there are rejections and there is silence and that doesn’t help at all. It can make you depressed or at least reinforce those feelings. And there are reasons for rejections that have nothing to do with you or your work. Of course, there are rejections that have to do with your work (not you personally) and your query letter too, but we will assume not.

You might ask why am I querying now? I’ve been there and done that. Well I think I’ve written a break out novel. It’s a novel I would not have written without the research I’ve been doing with my Phd candidature in creative writing. However, I also believe it is going to be a hard sell because it’s different. I have to believe there is an agent out there who will understand it, or if that doesn’t work a publisher. Also, I’m not in a damn hurry. I’m not racing at this as if I need to publish this before I die as I did in the early days.

The bottom line is I accept I may not get an agent or a big five publisher but trying for it costs me nothing but my time and a little battering to my ego. I accept the worst case scenario. I say this but it doesn’t mean I have no hope or I’m not a stack of nerves and so on. This is a mental position I’m trying to maintain through the next few months.

My preparation is not just preparing my brain. The manuscript is written, edited, and checked again. I also had a sensitivity read done by a non-binary reader, which was really helpful and informative. I’m not saying that I won’t tackle the manuscript again and try to refine it. I think it’s good as it can be at the moment but if I get enough rejections where the query includes the first pages then I’m thinking I might have to look again.

I also had an idea who the top agents are so I had somewhere to start. I also prepped a spreadsheet, started to work on my query letter (after some quick research) and a synopsis. I also changed the labelling on my spreadsheet from ‘rejection’ to ‘pass’ because no one needs to see ‘rejection’ all the time to reinforce those negative feelings. Despite the mental preparation discussed previously, there are negative feelings. Such as this other person I know got an agent and I haven’t so my work must suck type thinking. Yeah, forget that stuff. You don’t know what they did, what they wrote, what the agent was looking for, what gap there was in the market or whether their book sold or will sell – so forget that crap. This is what I tell myself too.

What is also different this time is that there are a lot more resources out there to help you write a query, find an agent, research an agent and so on. I have a link to Agentquery.com on this site. I have used it before and it’s a start. My problem was that there were so many agents that I didn’t know anything about and whether or not I should approach them.

I went to an intensive writing workshop last year in Dublin. David Farland suggested that we sign up to writer’s marketplace and use the information on deals to target agents who are selling our genre, selling the big deals and so on. He made me believe it was possible for the first time in my life. Okay, maybe that was on overreaction but yeah…here I am trying it out. I’ts $25 US a month and you can quit anytime.

I did some quick research on the internet to refresh my mind about how to write a query letter. I sent out two queries to my top agents. Probably a big mistake because I needed to do more work on my query letter. Thank god I didn’t sent a shit query to 100 agents. My partner, Matthew, suggested I look at Query Shark and I’m all well I know what I’m doing but I did go there and on my God! That Janet knows her shit. I’ve read most of the archive and I learned heaps even about writing because the tips she gives apply to all writing. I’ve done 9 versions of my query letter, in addition to some agents that ask for things to be done differently. I’ve also sighed up for Query Tracker because it’s free and if I want to upgrade it’s like $25 US per year. I still have a spreadsheet and I’m keeping that.

Next thing is go to each agent’s website and read about which agent you should target for querying. Some of the good ones are closed to new queries and I’m like damn, so I either query someone else at that agency or leave them for another round. That sent me to Twitter to follow all the agents I could find because they often say it there first when they are open again. There is no shortcut here, you must do this: don’t just blanket send your query to everyone because they all require something different. Just a query letter or Query letter and synopsis, Query letter and sample pages, query letter and fifty pages as an attachment, no query letter just a synopsis etc. A few agents are using Query Manager forms and at least that way you get an email or you can check the link.

The bottom line here is there is no excuse not to write a good query letter and follow the requirements because the information is there and free. There are also blog interviews with agents and manuscript wish lists that can help.

I have been reading a lot of these agents’ pages and some I think I’d really like to work with them but I’m not getting my hopes up because there are many reasons why I might not get where I want to go. Not least is the current pandemic situation and the precarious economics surrounding that. Publishers Marketplace are publishing deals so I know they are happening but many may have been in train for some time and some new deals follow the market like non fiction books about Covid 19 and political memoirs etc.

I don’t know about you but I can’t bring myself to write a post-apocalyptic novel right now because we are living very close to one so I think it will be hard to sell one.

Years ago I tried to make a goal of getting 50 rejections because that meant I would have queried 50 agents. I think I stopped around 12 because I couldn’t cope. This time I might take 100 queries before I give up or am successful. My current count is 40 queries. I try to do a couple each day. I’m also trying to revise another project because I’m taking a short break from the exegesis. All this activity will wind back when I get back onto the PhD in September.

I’ve made mistakes too, even when trying to be careful. Called one agent by the wrong name, left out the sample pages, said something really stupid and so on.

The other thing to think about is the questions to ask an agent if they offer to represent you. At first I was dumbfounded. Then I tried to think up a few things. Agent Jim McCarthy has a tweet linking to a post on this. They are good questions.

Also I should note that this approach does not take away from the Indie publishing. It’s perfectly all right to choose that path if that’s what you want. I just think that this Phd Book won’t suit.

Read Full Post »

Yes, I know. I should be all gloom and doom. Things are not as bad as they could be. I’m not going to say they are not as bad as they seem because that’s a different kettle of fish.

I’ve studied pandemic preparedness for my work as an auditor a while ago when bird flu was considered a threat. We got the Swine Flu instead. However, under those scenarios the ‘flu’ was going to be devastating and take a lot of people out thereby disrupting critical supplies such as food and rubbish removal and so on. However, this does not appear to be the case. This is not a widespread failure of everything we know. Food deliveries are still being made etc, food is still be produced and grown. This is not like Stephen King’s The Stand or the movie Contagion. Praise the universe for that small mercy.

The big impact here is on imported food and exported food and medicines. These disruptions to air travel etc have consequences there is no denying. However, I am convinced we will still have baked beans on the shelf. And as toilet paper is made in Australia no potential shortage. I’d like to see people not hoard that stuff. I have plenty of loo paper but I bought it one pack at a time and then found a great big packet from before Christmas in our laundry hidden under guff. As people aren’t going to be visiting in the time of social distancing and social isolation I think we are good–for a while.

We should be alert but not alarmed.

I will be delivering all my tutorials online from now and probably for the rest of the semester. I think this is doable but I’m sure going to miss my face to face classes. I have such a great group of students and I’ve been so impressed by them this year. I feel bad that their first year of university (most of them) is marred by this pandemic outbreak. In one course we have been discussing ‘adaptability’, which is not always easy.

I am also low level scared. It has been on my mind that I might die. But I’m not alarmed by that thought. I think this is because since Matthew’s dad died in December, life has been full of challenges. Bushfire smoke, bushfires and now the Covid-19 outbreak. These events have put a lot of pressure on me personally, although I did not lose my home, it did make me understand that I am not as resilient as I thought I was and that I’m mortal.

So where is the upside here? I think there’s a chance to slow down and connect with ourselves and those closest to us. There is a chance to catch up on books and movies. Social media, often called a bane, might be the only contact people have and for that I think we have to be grateful for technology. We live in a connected world–that helped the virus spread but it will also keep us together.

Today I am baking sourdough bread, an activity I find relaxing and centering. I’m also trying to work out how to put together a half lecture using different technology that is going to be delivered online. A bit of a learning curve.

Stay safe everyone.


Read Full Post »

I don’t know what it is about my writing process, but I work so much better when I have a good run at something, rather than a bits and pieces approach. I guess it comes from the fact that I am either a half-arsed panster or a half-arsed planner and I’m pretty good once I hit my creative stride. (note a panster is someone who writes from the seat of their pants with little planning. A planner is someone who plans their novels out, chapter by chapter, scene by scene). I do a little planning, but not detail planning.

When I had a full time job, writing retreats for at least two weeks really worked for me. I could get a whole bunch of story down and then finesse it during the year. Now that I don’t have the day job (although I do study the Phd most days), I can’t afford to do a retreat in the same way as before. Also, well physical restrictions with RSI and spine problems, which I hate more than anything.

However, NaNoWriMo works for me. NaNoWriMo for those who don’t know is the National Novel Writing in a Month thing that’s been around for ages. It happens in November and the objective is to write a novel of 50,000 words. Most novels are longer than that though and there is an incentive to write more, say 60,000. It is possible to do more if the writer has the chops for it.

As previously mentioned, I am working on Skyfire, Dragon Wine Part 5 and I’m pleased to report it is going great guns. Not readable at this stage as it is a draft, but I’m at over 40,000 words. Picture me happy dancing. Not quite half way with the draft I think but well on the way to meeting the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words. I hope I can keep this up until the draft is done and that it gets done before Christmas because then I’m going to roll on to Moonfall, Dragon Wine Part 6. I didn’t think I’d get to these books until later in 2018. Keep sending me positive vibes so I can get then out in the first part of 2018.

I’m not trying to jinx myself here but finishing another series is a major achievement and I can feel the end point there. That’s not to say that I don’t have ideas for more books. I do. But there is a resting point there at the end of the narrative.

I am also working on the PhD novel and to own the truth I haven’t touched it for a few weeks owing to a technical difficulty. But today I spoke with my PhD supervisor and he suggested a few approaches to me. He hasn’t read the thing. It really is a technical things…like how do I do this to get this effect? I think his suggestion is pretty cool. Well one of them. He had more than one, so I’m now itching to get back to work and try that. For this reason I’m sneaking out off campus early today so I can get back to it. The latest version is on my home computer.

I did my NaNoWriMo writing this morning. I try for an hour in the morning and if I have the will another half an hour before bed. Yesterday, because I was home all morning as the plumber was there I wrote 5000 words. Today was more like 3000 words.

So there you go. For fans of the Dragon Wine series, there is progress. For writers out there maybe some inspiration and for my fellow NaNoWriMo peeps, you can do it.

Read Full Post »

I look at myself lately and I think I’m doing a lot of fiction writing recently, or I seem to be. Fair enough I’ve just come out of a holiday break where I took two weeks off from the Phd. This week I have been head down on the Phd and I put some time in last week too. I have my big moment to prepare for-The dreaded confirmation seminar that I talked about yesterday.

So what am I doing writing fiction or appearing to write fiction?

Last year I finished drafting a trilogy. My first completed one if truth be known. Book two was mostly written so I was tidying up, revising etc. Some parts were rewritten after beta reader comments. Book three was a 50,000 word basket case so technically I did write that book like last year almost from scratch (130,000 approx.). Book two is with the editor. Book three I’m going to revise after beta reader comments (next week actually) and then put in the edit queue. Right now I’ve finished revising Dragonwine Book 3 and it’s waiting for its slot for its editor and currently I’m restructuring book 4, which required some revising, rewriting as I went. I still have a bit to do, but the restructure is complete (I cheated I put the last bit in this morning). Oh and I wrote a 50,000 word novel in November for NaNoWriMo-which needs to be revised (when?!!!).

Now I don’t want to give the impression that I’m slacking off on the PhD because I’m not. Nor do I want to give the impression that I’m some kind of writing machine. I’m not that either. While I’m not too much a stickler for routine, I have been aiming to do an hour a day while working on Dragonwine Book 4. It’s written, I’m just plaiting the narrative threads together different to how I originally drafted it. It was a draft and it’s drafty. Man I don’t think I’ve read book 4 for seven years or more. I’m also revising, polishing as I go. It will need another run through too.

I’m spending my day on the PhD writing this damn proposal and researching and running my surveys and hassling writers etc. I’ve been going home and vegging in front of Netflix for hours (the heat mainly)  and then I put my hour in on the MS before I go to bed. I’m not usually so good at doing this. I’m marking this on my calendar this year so I can gauge how consistent I am. Technically, I could put more time into writing when I get home. I don’t want to overdo it on the computer due to RSI and arthritis issues so I’m pretty good at sticking to the hour. I’ve been at the computer at Uni most of the day too.

When I’m mostly reading, I can spend more time writing fiction. Reading takes place not at the computer you see. Sometimes it happens in bed or on the deck. I usually take a day off on Friday’s to write fiction (and do housework) and that gives me a good go at things. As Matthew is busy writing at the moment I’ve also spent some weekends, say Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon on task. Two Dweebs in adjacent offices pounding on keyboards!

I also have a backlist of works that I can either revise, write sequels for etc. I have to prioritise! So I don’t consider them to be new writing as such.

As well as the PhD this year I want to start on Dragonwine book 5 & 6 to finish this trilogy too. I don’t even have notes for this so it will be all new work! Approximately 170,000 words I estimate. However, I also have to draft my PhD novel and that takes priority. Lucky I touch type!

I probably look like I’m doing a sweep out of my brain, getting these stories out of there and onto paper. I also see it as me refining my creative practice. Finishing a trilogy presents many challenges and each time I work on one I’m learning about my craft. I can’t write as much as I want or work on as many things as I would like while doing the PhD.  That constriction will last for about two more years, but I can manage to do some stuff, particularly if the damn thing is already drafted. I also need a part time job because I have no support for my living expenses. I’ve thought about this and writing is my part time job. I hope in 2017 it will bring in some dollars but I am hoping that I will continue to progress as a writer as well as learn more through my PhD.

What is really doing my head in is the edits. They are coming! Over 400,000 words of edits. And I’ve set myself up for four book edits in the first part of the year. That work load I will have to be careful of. Then as they are going to be self/indie published, I have the dreaded laying out to do, proofing etc, which takes time but isn’t too hard. Covers to source? Egads. 2017 is going to busy.

The message is I guess is that even an hour a day can get you somewhere.

Below are the covers for the Silverlands Trilogy. The only set of covers that I’m organized for. Damn.


Read Full Post »

So I believe since my editor has mentioned the title during her blog tour, I can now mention it here. Kate Cuthbert is doing a blog tour and the interviews are interesting. Somehow she manages to vary the content or the particular personality of the interviewer puts a different slant on things. Links the her interviews are available here. I particularly liked yesterday’s one with Novels on the Run here.

So my young adult novella, Rayessa and the Space Pirates, is going to be released January 10. Nicole Murphy and I are going to brainstorm on the weekend about how I can celebrate the occasion with my friends. As the story features space pirates and a Centauri slave market, I’m thinking of a themed party where people come as space pirates (with a funny name to go with it) or in a’ I dream of Jeanie’ type costume (or male equivalent). I will have to think up some punch to go with it. (As a bit of history I am renown locally for themed parties, such as the Bad Taste Movie night (no dress required), Daggy Zombie Party (dress in clothes you wouldn’t be caught dead in) and the time travel theme for my 50th.) I’ve been busy of late with work so I haven’t done anything themed for a bit.

Where was I? Rayessa and the Space Pirates. This story started as a short story for a local anthology from CSFG Publishing called, Elsewhere edited by Michael Barry. However, at the time it was the longest short story I’d ever written (early days back in 2003) and I was thinking about how to end it when the space pirates turned up. I thought to myself, well that’s not helpful and gave up on it as a short story. I kept writing though wanting to find out what happened next. I ended up with my first novella. I sent it to couple of beta readers, young people mostly but their parents read it. I got feedback on the title, which was Lost Heritage back then and prior to that Space Audit. One parent said it was soft porn (which was shocking because there is no sex-though that might have been the tentacle reference) and the other parent suggested that a character was a bit risque at the end (one of the walk ins). Another beta reader, lovely Chris Andrews, gave me feedback. The most important dealing with a side character Gris. His suggestion was very helpful and made my main character better rounded as a result. Then it sat in my hard drive for many years.

I submitted it to a science fiction anthology looking at novellas. The comment was I liked it but not right. ( I thought year right. Humouring me). I sent it to a big publishing house where it was sent to the children’s section. Nice comments but rejected. I sent it to a small publishing house, which after many, many months I got a standard rejection. That’s it. That’s all it took for me to lose heart.

Over on the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s email list we’ve been discussing rejections and how many times people have been rejected before getting sold. I learned that I’m an utter wimp and that I give up way to easily and for many years words of encouragement were disregarded. I thought those editors were humouring me, just being nice. So for nine long years Rayessa and the Space Pirates didn’t get out much at all. My partner Matthew read it and liked it, but you know I didn’t believe him either. Most of my other friends haven’t read it. It was that deep in my hard drive.

There is a story here. Don’t give up. Don’t let negative self talk get in  your way. I did. I was my own worst enemy.

I wrote Rayessa and the Space Pirates as an adventure story. It was only at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in August that I also saw that it had a romance arc. (so I have cognitive issues as well so bite me). It was Harlequin’s announcement of Escape, their new digital imprint, that made me go back and look at the things that I write. There’s romance everywhere.

Digital publishing-so Rayessa and the Space Pirates is going to be digitally published. You know, I hadn’t given that medium much thought either until (the conference) and talking to Nicole Murphy. I have read ebooks, of course, mostly Angry Robot titles but I hadn’t thought about it. It’s growing of course, but I understand for romance it is already big.

I get with the Escape Publishing’s vision of bringing more titles to readers, of taking risks because there certainly has been a contraction in the print market. I’m grateful Kate and Keran inspired me to submit something. For me, a novella, is a toe in the water. I have other stuff hiding in my hard drive and other more recent stuff looking for agent and that dream deal. Fingers crossed I’ll get more published in future. I like the versatility of the digital medium. Put an ereader on your Christmas list.

A Rayessa and the Space Pirates teaser? Rae has been living on asteroid refueling station with just Gris, a brain damaged fellow, as company. They eke out an existence selling scrap from the station and a small hydroponics bay. One day a ship comes in, bringing an auditor from Allearth Corp and Rae’s life becomes very complicated.

This story was so much fun to write. I love the characters and the jokes and I love the imaginary world of the future where humans are living out in the solar system and beyond. Yes, the hero is an auditor. Odd I know. But I’m an auditor so I guess it’s a bit of write what you know.

I don’t as yet have a cover. (You can’t imagine the anticipation I am experiencing right now waiting to see it) but when I do and when I’m allowed, I’ll be sharing that with you, whether you like it or not.

Read Full Post »

So I’m back to working on my paranormal romance, which I call a paranormal sexmance. It is really pushing the boundaries of erotica, I think, which is okay because that’s all the rage right? It sort of hugs the boundaries, I’m told, because of the bit of kinky sex in it. You see the baddy uses sex to power her magic, or to make it very strong. This causes me problems because there is a lot of sex as a result. (I’m trying to think of a character who hasn’t had sex yet. Oh him…).  My older son (33) said but that was your idea wasn’t it, mum, to make that the baddy’s power? I’m like ,yeah I guess, but really it was a cool idea in the beginning that is causing me problems, or may cause me problems in future. However, I’m not going to worry too much about it now, because the point is to draft the thing and then craft the thing. Sex scenes can be deleted, tension can be created, plot twists can be enhanced etc.  I need the whole thing to balance that and probably about 50 beta readers (lol) to give me hints.
The annoying thing for me is that I don’t think I did an outline. This has caused me problems because I know I worked through the story in my head, and in my head it was pretty brilliant but mmm that was two years ago maybe and I can’t remember key details (if I thought of them). Doh! So biggest lesson write down your ideas, do an outline (you don’t have to stick to it but it helps). So now I’ve edited the bits of what I’ve written so farand I have to write the bit of the story from there until the end. Guess what I haven’t figured out what word length I am aiming for.

Did you know that romance writers are generally clued up to what market they are writing for (category, historical, paranormal etc) and also know what word length etc? Well Ms Casual me is swimming in the mire here. This calls for serious planning, outline, estimated word count and probably an idea of what market I’m aiming for and possible strategies on how to sell it or get an agent. Lucky for me I’m heading the romance writers’ association conference in less than a month so I’m pretty sure I’m going to pick up tips. I need to get more professionally minded about writing and publishing instead of lingering in my imagination dreaming of being published and floating around in stories. This takes effort, of course, and as I’m co-chairing (running) a science fiction convention in April, 2013, my effort will be diffuse until then.

So the other day, I had a bright idea. I will read a paranormal romance that I haven’t read to keep me in the loop about the expectations. I picked up Moon Called by Patricia Briggs and well maybe it wasn’t a paranormal romance after all. I mean no one had sex. So I thought this must be an urban fantasy then. However, there was a lot of sexual tension and all unresolved at the end of the novel. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in two evenings. Needless to say, I’ve ordered the other two books and then I noticed that there is now a whole series of Mercy Thompson stories.

Lesson one-tension. Thanks Patricia.

Briggs used a very clear style and filled in nice, realistic details. I found that rather interesting because my story has some detail but not as much as Briggs. However, the effect was that the detail gave it an air of realism, without affecting the tension.

Lesson two-world building (research). These were things like getting on the freeway, the type of grass that grew in that part of the country, the details of being a mechanic for specific types of cars and nice details of face, clothes and other mannerisms. These I tend to underdo these, I think.

Also, Briggs had a vast array of characters, the main ones very defined, even if told in the first person. She described them from the Mercy’s point of view, but she also let them show themselves through their dialogue and action. Even walk in characters had a distinctive air.

Lesson three-character portrayal, find the little things that make a character stand out, whether its red hair, a slouch or a nasty demeanour.


And still keep the pace going and not get bogged down for paragraphs describing someone etc.

Lesson four-pace. Keep it going. Briggs knows when to dwell on something, and which scenes to milk for effect. Like the alpha using the moonlight and calling the wolves. That was a groovy scene and it was grown for effect. The pace of her story kept me hooked and reading way past my bedtime.

Reading Moon Called did not help me assess the level of sex in my story or the degree of detail when describing sex scenes, but I felt there were valuable lessons in the book for me, which are useful for all forms of writing and it is good to be reminded of them.

I suppose I’ll just have to reread Keri Arthur and hope that some nice readers can recommend some very hot and steamy paranormal romances for me to read for research (cough) purposes.


Read Full Post »