Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A fresh perspective

After failing to make the cut on sunVsnow, I figured some work might be needed. So I made a plan:

1. Obtain some critical feedback
2. Make some changes
3. Identify the agents and
4. Submit some queries

Then I put my plan into action. That was two weeks ago. My first stop was to visit the lovely group of people who frequent the Sub-It Critique group on facebook. I posted details of the story and quickly got three happy volunteers to read AF:O. I sent out the copies of the manuscript and waited nervously for a response.

Now writing is hard, but giving out your story and waiting for feedback is insane! Constantly checking mail, expectation of damning reports, lack of sleep cos everyone is in a different time zone, then.... The first response:

A positive! Fantastic news and some great feedback for me to start thinking about. As part of the process I thought about trying a different perspective. Switching from 3rd person past tense to 1st person present. I rewrote the first chapter hoping it wouldn't work... But it did. It transformed parts of the story so much for the better! Oh well, a full rewrite was needed.

Then the second response came in, another glowing positive! And shortly after a third very positive critique! So, armed with my feedback I set out on rewriting the whole novel in a new perspective and bringing in some huge changes. Not least was a fully revamped ending. The best part of this was it made me read every word and check every verb and piece of dialogue.

After two weeks of hard work, and writing in the evenings, I had a finished product. Each of my readers was eager to see the ending and give some extra feedback, which has so far been positive again.

The next stage was to trawl some agent websites and pick just those whose target novels were firmly in the same range as AF:O. I'm still working on this and have sent out half a dozen queries so far, but hoping to add to this over the coming days. I may even do #pitmad this coming weekend for some extra nerve wracking hours.

Waiting for responses to my queries is actually easier than the responses to the read throughs. I know now that there are people out there who seem to really like both my writing style and the story. So it is hopefully just a case of finding the right agent and the right publisher!

New updates as soon as I have them! Wish me luck and keep writing :)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Le Grand Réécrire!

It seems like many, many years ago now, that I first embarked on the marathon task of writing my first full length middle grade novel. In actuality, back then I hadn't really encountered the term 'middle grade'. All I really knew was that I had an interesting concept for a story. So let's back track slightly...

In or around 2006, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at writing a book. I had spent the majority of my youth being creative, either in music or drama. I had played in bands, to varying degrees of success, written songs for my bands, to varying degrees of success, and performed in many plays, to varying... well, I think you get the idea!

I decided it was time to try something different and started on writing. My first idea was a simple premise. I had an initial scene, a hole ridden plot, and a character (loosely based on my younger self) that I thought would be fun to write. 'Argyle' was born. It is a science-fiction adult humour short(ish) story, which was never really completed. Argyle is a space-archaeologist who has a terrible run of luck, goes out on the lash with his best mate and wakes up 1,000 years in the future. He must then use his skills to unearth his own mysterious period of incubation, accompanied by his best mate, who was also frozen in time, and his great26-granddaughter. Suffice to say, it was fun to write, but it was severely lacking in structure.

So effort number two. I dreamt up a great idea in my other favoured genre of fantasy stories. Through some planning and luck, it transpired that the main character would end up being a 10/11 year old girl. I began writing the book and completed it in relatively short order. Then I got busy at work and everything was put on hold.

Years later, I revisited the story, finished things off and tried my hand at self-publishing. It wasn't for me, the market was saturated with slush and it felt that I was just throwing another book into the pile that no one would ever get around to reading. So I back tracked, withdrew the book and began a significant revision (number 3). The revision has now been finished and the word count has been increased from around 27,000 to 50,000+ in just under a month.

And so the real work begins. 50,000 words of 'idea' have been put down in writing and now I have to sort them out into some sort of sense. Improve the dialogue. Make sure that the characters actually develop. Make sure that the world is real, the rules are real. Basically, give the story the best chance I can to being a worthwhile read.

Thankfully I have been helped along the way by some readers on sites such as WriteWords, Scribophile and Twitter (see a review of revision 2 on by @breezymarie7). And I have just made contact with a few critique partners to get this edit underway.

The next few blogs will focus on my editing experience as this is the first time I have done this and with no formal training I hope my experiences can help others in my position. Eh bien, mes amis, allez! Wish me luck and I hope to be back soon with an update!

Monday, 2 February 2015

No sun or snow... just rain over here

Unfortunately I didn't make it through to the mentor round of SunvsSnow, but lots of wonderful writers did, so there is always a bright side!

So, onwards and upwards! I have decided to finish working on my query and submission for project codename: THE MONSTER!

The monster is a children's picture book written entirely in four bar rhyming quadruplets - is that even a term? Whilst I strive to write a successful full length novel, I tend to find writing in poem form more natural for my style.

With e-mails ready and stanzas prepared I go forward, head held high ready to tackle the next challenge.

I'm not finished with the AF:MG manuscript that was submitted to SvS, but will work on some revisions before taking it forward! Anyway, congrats to the authors who made it through:

Team Snow:
Mystery at Geek Camp
Ninja Squirrels of the Hundred Acre Wood
Karma Khullar's Mustache

A Murder of Magic
That's Just Fabulous
Silent Beauty
I Have No Name

Getting Wyrd on Albion

Boldly Go
Birthday Disaster
Hanna Buys the Farm
What the Hell
The Stepping Stones

Team Sun:
The Hideaway
Missing Emily

New Adult:
Picked Apart

Young Adult:
The Sinner Rose
Of Night and Stone
Beneath Our Skin
The Heartsmith
In Darkness We Rise
Suspension of Disbelief
Forces Beyond Our Control (Free Pass Winner)

Middle Grade:
The Secret at Seachase
Lost in Never (Wonder) Land

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Nervous wait on Sun Versus Snow....

No, i'm not talking about what the weather is going to be like tomorrow! Although there has been talk that we might get a smattering of the white stuff. Two very kind ladies, @atrueblood5 and @Michelle4Laughs, have been running this awesome little writing comp called #sunvssnow through a combination of their blogs, e-mail and a series of daily twitter parties.

In short, you submit a brief comment on whether your MC in a manuscript prefers the sun or the snow and then include a query letter and the first 250 words of the novel.

So, I made my first entry to this type of thing with one of my manuscripts, a middle-grade fantasy story. The 200 available places were filled up within about 6 minutes, resulting in some overrun and eventually 208 entries were accepted.

These were then whittled down to 15 entries to mentored by a team put together by each of the two hosts (for a total of 30 entries). The bad news is that we don't find out until Monday at 8.30 EST who the successful entrants are that get through to the next phase.

However, the ladies have been giving out some hints and, so far, there has been nothing exclude me from the final 30. So, i has been a nerve wracking weekend, guessing whether I'm in or out. I still have hope, you never know! But I will be put out of my misery tomorrow either way... watch this space!

A big thanks goes to Amy and Michelle for hosting!

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Being a fan of all genres, it often takes me some time to get around to reading the classics that I should have read many years ago. This is definitely one of them.

When it was first released, 'Spy' was a roaring success and international best-seller, shrouded in mystery over speculation of the true identity of its author as many readers and critics believed it to be a piece of work from someone on the inside. Of course, when John le Carré's true identity was revealed, this turned out to be true - although he maintains that this was a piece of true fiction that passed the agency's screening process.

The book itself is well worth a read. It follow's Alec Leamas, a field operator from the Circus working out of Berlin, who has his final agent taken out from under his grasp by the famous Abteilung (East Germany's equivalent of the MI6). Leamas is returned to London and put on the shelf.

Under the pretext of a mission to take out his key adversary from the Abteilung, Mundt, Leamas forges a strong cover story and lures a key member of Mundt's team to recruit him in order to put the bigger plan into action. Leamas is picked up, transported to Europe and interrogated. All the while, he plays his part in the plan to have Mundt killed.

However, events take a turn for the worse which result in not only Leamas's life becoming endangered, but also the girl that he befriended as part of his cover. A gripping twist in the story sees a dark resolution and surprising end to the tale.

Le Carré is a master of the arts and truly is one of the great spy storytellers out there. Even today this performs admirably and reads like many of its contemporaries. Fans of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (the film adaptation of Le Carré's novel of the same name) will love this, as will all Bond fans. A hearty recommendation to read this book even if you are only a dabbler in the genre. This is a must read for all diehard spy fans!