Shortlisted for Mslexia’s Children’s Novel Competition

mslexiaA weird thing happened in October. I opened an email from Mslexia, fully expecting it to say that I hadn’t got anywhere close to winning their Children’s Novel Competition. I mean – I’m a writer – I’m used to rejection. Strangely though, it told me that I’d been longlisted.

Well bloody hell.

Stranger still – they’ve now gone and bumped me up to the shortlist.

To be honest, I’m not sure what to say. Followers of my blog will know that I’ve been working towards being a ‘writer’ for over ten years now. It’s shaped my entire career, had me writing into the wee hours and reading every YA book I could put my hands on. And now? I have a book I think could really be something, and a bunch of mega-judges backing that up. It almost feels like the impossible dream might not be so impossible anymore.

So – I guess it’s time. One more round of edits and then I’ll start sending it out. Like I said – bloody hell.

 

 

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Using Pottermore’s quizzes to understand your characters (aka: how to procrastinate)

Over the last month, I’ve become re-obsessed with the world of Harry Potter. I’ve been listening to the audio books read beautifully by Stephen Fry, and – if at all possible – I appreciated them even more this time around. The intricacy of the plot, characters and the world is completely astounding and compelling. I’ve said it before, but J. K. Rowling is a genius.

So, bringing this back around to my own writing and feeling incredibly inferior against J. K’s masterly writing skills, I’ve found an AMAZING procrastination tool. Any Potterhead will know about the quizzes on Pottermore that enable you to find out your Patronus (mine is a Manx Cat), your Hogwarts House (Gryffindor) and your wand (13 3/4 inches, hazel, with a phoenix feather core). Well – why not do this for each of my characters and see what happens? I mean – it’s a good way of getting into their mindset and understanding them, right? And it’ll be useful to think of them in regards to animals, houses and wands. Surely this will help with descriptions and whatnot?

Seriously – I had so much fun doing this. And the results had me laughing out loud and crying. (Perhaps I need to get out more…)

So what did I find out about my main characters, and what did I learn from this?

image1Ele – the protagonist

Ele is a feisty little thing, desperate to know the truth and be accepted. She has a huge imagination, a thirst for freedom and a need for knowledge.

Patronus – A (rare) Granian Winged Horse

House – Ravenclaw

I LOVE that Ele has an ultra-rare patronus. And I especially love the one she has. Ele fantasises about escaping her capture on the back of a steed, and I can’t think of anything more fitting than a winged one. Thanks to her thirst for knowledge, Ravenclaw is also the perfect house for her.

 

image2Willow – the love interest

Willow is a flawed hero. Although he’s caring at heart, he masks it with arrogance and selfishness – not unlike Harry’s dad James in the Potter series.

Patronus – A Dapple Grey Stallion

House – Gryffindor

Yes. Ele’s love interest/best friend is a male HORSE. He is of course overshadowed by her imagination and determination (hence the lack of wings) but he’ll ride by her side for as long as he can. I wasn’t sure what his house was going to be, but I think Gryffindor is a perfect fit for him, actually.

 

image3Him – the antagonist

He doesn’t have a name I’ll share here, but he’s the driving force for everything bad in Ele’s life. Her capture, imprisonment and torture. Despite thinking himself strong, he’s incredibly weak in mind and resolve.

Patronus – Grass Snake

House – Slytherin

Standard bad guy. Although I don’t think he’d have done well in Slytherin particularly – he wouldn’t have the talent or determination.

 

image4Zeb – the lost brother

Zeb is Ele’s brother and the catalyst for change in the beginning of the book, when he is killed by Him. Zeb was determined to escape long before Ele was, but lacked her imagination and resolve. He represents the dark side of knowing the truth.

Patronus – A Raven

House – Gryffindor

Just like Ele – Zeb’s patronus has wings. Unfortunately though, he never gets to spread his.

 

It was really interesting to see the patterns in patronuses in my characters. Any character associated with loyalty were dogs. Anyone dreaming of freedom had wings. But none of them were quite as spectacular and unique as Ele. Houses too, were interesting. Those who prized truth were Ravenclaws. Those who had hidden bravery were Gryffindors. Loyal, secondary characters were Hufflepuffs. And those who thought themselves powerful were Slytherins.

If you’re thinking of doing this, create a separate account to yours and just delete it/reopen it for each character. It’s a different take on doing the Jung Typology Test, and a wonderful way to while away the afternoon, whilst waiting for feedback from readers.

Enjoy!

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Taking the plunge

After eleven years of wanting to write for a living (and actually carving a career in publishing instead), I’m taking some time out to work on my book.

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My new office/shed.

Where I’m at now

I wrote a draft of ‘The Proof of the Outside’ between 2014-15 and decided that it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Yes – okay – it was crap. So I started again, from scratch, and discovered that my lead character, Ele, was a feisty little so-and-so with a really weird, striking voice.

With the help from writing friends at the AWW/Creative Writing Programme, I completed my first REAL draft last month. And – with the help of YALC – completely changed the concept behind it immediately afterwards.

Now, finally, I feel I’m on to something.

Taking the plunge

I’m determined to make this novel the novel. The one that will kick-start my life as a YA writer. The one that will actually be read by real, actual people.

So yes – for a little while, writing is my job. And yes – this is both scary and awesome at the same time.

So I don’t starve, I’m also doing some freelance work on the side – fundraising for charities (don’t you just love a good Arts Council application!), as well as copywriting and events management for some wonderful writing associations. I’ve added a bit more about what kind of projects you might want to hire me for on my blog, here.

Let’s do this thing.

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Competition time!

Summer is a great chance to enter some writing competitions, and that’s exactly what I’m up to.

There’s a great list of competitions going on this summer here.

And to add just one to it – check this out. You need to write an alternate ending to a film and the prize is a lovely £2k. Yes please!

Good luck!

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What to do when your ending sucks

What do you do?! What I’ve been doing mainly is burying my head in the other chapters, correcting typos and doing anything else I can think of. Why? Because I don’t know why my ending sucks. All I know is that my first readers and I were getting to the end of the book with a ‘meh’ rather than the ‘ohmygodIneedmoreofthis’ I was going for. But burying my head isn’t going to fix it. So! Here’s what I did to fix my ending. May it help you, if you ever have that hair-pulling scene you need to fix, but you just don’t know how to.

Step One – write down the facts up to that point. What are your characters’ current situations?Image

Step Two – write each point in the scene on a separate post-it note. This can be the stakes, a major event, a conversation – whatever drives the plot.

Step Three – write two alternatives to each of these points.

Step Four – choose one of these new points, and write the main events that would come after this if it was part of your story. I chose the first point as this was, I think, where things were going wrong.

Step Five – keep doing this until your brain figures it out. I found that after I had written that first alternative point, things started falling into place again. Hurrah!

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The importance of a good blurb

I’ve been lucky enough to work in publishing for nearly three years now, and I’ve seen all manner of manuscripts submitted for traditional and self-publishing packages. One thing I’ve noticed across the board, is how the synopsis and blurb are often rushed. A synopsis is crucial if you want your submission to be taken seriously. And who is really going to buy your book if your blurb has spelling mistakes, poor syntax and gives away the ending? (It sounds crazy, but I’ve seen it done!)

I know I’m one to talk, as synopsis writing is the bane of my life. It’s so difficult to squish your lovely finished novel onto one page. With help from my fellow team over at CompletelyNovel, I’ve crafted a series of tips on how to go about writing a blurb. Find it here, on the ALLi blog (who are an amazing organisation, of you’re an indie author!) I hope they help!

Also, come see me at CompletelyNovel! I’m still learning the ins and outs, but the service is one of the best self-publishing platforms I’ve seen.

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Interview with Julia Kingsford, CEO of World Book Night

Read Julia’s responses my questions on the BookMachine website on all things World Book Night.

If you’re in Brighton on 25th September, make sure you bag your ticket to come along, meet some publishing professionals and hear Julia speak.

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