The Lonely Writer’s Guide to Making Writer Friends

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Do you write alone?

When I wrote my first manuscript I did it shut away from everyone. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a novel. My second time around I’ve got a support group – not one that leaves trays of chocolate and tea at the door then knocks and runs (I wish!) – but one, actually two, groups of marvellous writers who know what it is like to be, well, a writer.

Writing a manuscript is like becoming a parent – you know vaguely what it will be like before it happens to you, but then WHAM you experience the reality and there are so many more shades than you could ever have imagined.

Having a support team of writers is great because you have a connection with people who get it. They get the obsession, despair, exhilaration, trepidation and frustration that comes from being a person who breathes words. They understand.

The writing itself may be completely different: different genres, target audiences, word counts, settings etcetera. The writing style might be at odds – plotters, pantsers and free stylers and those who simply throw words at a wall. We write. The differences don’t matter.

My first writing group is a bunch of ladies whose literary opinions I trust, and mean more to me than I can say. Yet, I’ve never even met them! We met through a QWC online course and now we work together to run The Print Posse. Behind the scenes we offer support, give feedback on each other’s work, vent, cheer, sob and most importantly, understand.

My second group meets up regularly where we have writing sessions. We meet in a library or similar space, do writing sprints, chat, do more sprints and then finish up with a lot of encouragement. We help each other be accountable for meeting our targets.

I’ve come to cherish the support from both groups. It’s a benefit from being a writer I never expected.

 

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So, here’s how to start your own writing group:

1. Participate in online writing courses and ask other students to keep in touch. I’ll forever be thankful that the wonderful GJ Stroud asked this of me.

2. Go to master classes and introduce yourself to fellow participants. Hand them your email and say, ‘Contact me if you are keen to form a writing group’.

3. Attend writing conferences and festivals and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you.

4. At writing conferences and festivals look for the person who is unsure where to sit at lunch, ask them to join you and talk about writing.

5. Join facebook groups like Sub It Club and Sub It Club Critique Partners.

6. Chat with writers on Twitter and ask for writing group members.

7. Contact your local library or Writers Centre to see if they can advertise for you or suggest other like-minded people.

Just like writing styles, writing groups differ. Have a think about what the best style would be for you – in person, online, small, large, unstructured, formal… And you can always be in more than one.

If you would like more information on starting a writing group have a look at these sites:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/7-questions-to-ask-yourself-before-starting-a-writers-group

http://thewritepractice.com/writers-group/

Are you in a writing group? What does it offer you? Would you like to start your own group? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sarah, Sara and Super Cool MCs

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“The Assassin” Fan art by walkingnorth

When I finished reading Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch I just wanted to tell everyone about it. The strangers at the supermarket were not impressed, so it’s up to you, dear blog reader, to experience my excitement at one of my favourite reads of 2014.

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Snow Like Ashes is set in a world where magic is controlled by each kingdom’s reigning monarch. This power was unbalanced when Spring’s king murdered Winter’s queen, destroyed their magical conduit and enslaved all Winterians.

I haven’t been this excited about a series since Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass and, not surprisingly, similarities exist between Meria and Celaena Sardothian. Both are blonde, beautiful and deadly. Both are trained fighters who do not shy from battle. Both have a wicked sense of humour. Both have had the people of their land murdered and enslaved by a cruel and corrupted king.

Despite the similarities, the storyline and the characters of Meria and Celaena, head in different directions. Celaena is a trained assassin and employed by the king. Meira, one of two dozen refugees who managed to flee the destruction of the kingdom of Winter, is an orphan who has spent sixteen years on the move, learning about her lost homeland through shared memories and campfire stories.

Celaena wants revenge. Meira wants to matter.

It’s hard to pin point exactly why these books grab me more than others. To weeks earlier I read The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Her Legend books are great and I eagerly anticipated her next series. Unfortunately The Young Elites left me disappointed. My problem wasn’t with the writing or even the storyline – both were good. It was the main character I couldn’t connect with. I realise she was struggling with the darkness within her but there was little in her personality to redeem her. I didn’t want Enzo to develop feelings for her because, well, she was a bit of a jerk. To be truthful, I could understand where the monarchy was coming from wanting to remove people with dangerous abilities. This made me cross; I didn’t want to side with the “bad guys”. I certainly did not approve of their methods, but Adelina had a dangerous ability, was not a very nice person, and was known to put people’s lives in danger.

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Celaena Sardothian struggled with her own darkness in Maas’ Heir of Fire. Hers was a journey so emotionally exhausting and all-absorbing that my own mood became an extension of hers. Much to my family’s displeasure. Sorry family. Even so, for every one of her character flaws, she had a redeeming feature. I wanted her to succeed.

Meria too, she’s young and desperate for acknowledgement that she is capable and that she can help Winter but her desperation is tempered by her determination and self assurance that she knows what she wants.

I was elated to learn that Throne of Glass is a series of six books. I’m just as excited to follow Meria’s journey. Thank you Sarah J. Maas and Sara Raasch, for writing such kick-arse characters.

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As for the Young Elites – maybe I’m just not ready for a YA anti-heroine.

Top Ten Book Related Problems I Have

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

These are my book problems that drive me crazy!

1. I’ve loaned out the second book in the All Souls Trilogy (Shadow of Night) to someone who’s since left the country and now my set is incomplete! I can’t yet bring myself to pay for the book again but it pains me to see it missing.

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2. I was desperately waiting on the final book in a trilogy to be released only to unintentionally read spoilers on Twitter.

3. Not having enough time or patience to re-read the previous book in a series before progressing onto the latest even though I really needed to.

4. Finishing a book an hour before going to sleep but it’s too soon to start a new one. Emotionally I’m not ready to commit, but physically I need to read myself to sleep.

5. Not waiting until the right reading time to read the last few chapters of a book. Often when I’m nearly finished a book I’ll keep reading even when my four-year-old is demanding my attention every second line. What I should do is put the book away for a couple of hours. What I inevitably do is keep reading. The distractions stop me from entering the ‘fictional dream’ and, thus, from enjoying the ending as much as I would have otherwise.

6. Enjoying a series but having to wait five or more years for the next book as the author is too busy on other projects E.g. screenplays for the television series. Not mentioning any names here…

7. Being excited and blogging about a book I’m looking forward to only to not enjoy the story one bit. *Quietly slides book to the back of the shelf and never mentions it again*

8. When the covers in a series are changed. Ugh.

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Different colours AND different sizes. *sobs*

9. When a person hears that I love reading, hands me a book and proclaims, “You HAVE to read this, you’ll love it.” How long do I hang on to the book before I can hand it back and politely explain I have no interest in reading that book/what on earth were you thinking? Book suggestions I appreciate, book demands I do not.

10. There’s too much life/daily grind in between reading time.

 

These are my issues and I do my best to deal with them… What about you? Do you have any bookish problems?

January Sequel Joy

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This morning I woke up to an email from a book store informing me that my pre-ordered copy of Fight For Me by K.A. Last was available for download. Woohoo! I’ve been eagerly anticipating the second book in the Tate Chronicles so much so that I may have tried pre-ordering it more than once. Turns out that does not help the release date arrive any faster.
So now that it’s mine, should I halt the book I’m halfway through and pick up again with the Tate Chronicles? I think… yes.

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Another sequel on my radar is that of Isla’s Oath by Cassandra Page. Book two in the Isla’s Inheritance series is released January 20.

If you want to read some Aussie paranormal YA lit that holds its own against the big international titles then check out Fall for Me and Isla’s Inheritance. You won’t regret it!

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So after all the release excitement of the next three days, we then have The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon releasing on January 27th. The Mime Order is the sequel to Shannon’s The Bone Season. The Bone Season is unique and strange and different and I loved it. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey.

After all this sequel anticipation I’m going to need a holiday to recover. Oh wait, I’ve just had six weeks off and am heading back to work on Monday. *sigh* Oh well, I guess I can squeeze some work in around reading.

“How’s the novel coming along?”

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“How’s the novel coming along?”

I love and loathe that question. I love it because it shows that the person asking is interested in my writing and my writing is my passion. How great is it when someone remembers what you are passionate about?

The problem is the inevitable follow up question: “So, when is it being published?”

Oh if only it were that simple. The road to publication is a long drawn out process but not one that people outside of the industry are always familiar with. Many people have heard the tale of J.K. Rowling being rejected by 12 publishers before landing a deal for Harry Potter. It’s a good way of putting it in perspective for those oblivious to the inner workings of the publishing world. I like to mention Rowling and then admit I’ve only had four rejections, I need to earn a lot more than that before I find a home for my book.

The other issue is that I’ve fallen in love again and am now seeing new characters. When I wrote Life Without Clouds, it was an all consuming process. I was completely caught up in the story and had to make an effort to participate in everyday life. It took me around two and a half months to write it, six months to edit it and then, well, I tried writing other things but the thrill wasn’t there. I fumbled my way through ideas hoping that the love would come. It was like going on blind dates in the hope that someone would be compatible. They weren’t.

It was the week before Christmas past when I saw her. I was in my favourite indie bookshop when this girl walked past me. My breath caught. I may have followed her around the stacks for a bit (poor kid). There was something about her that made my fingertips twitch. She had to be my next main character. I don’t know who she was and I probably wouldn’t recognise her again if I saw her, but those few (kind of weird stalkery) moments were enough. My next story was born.

Now I have a group of characters that excite and ignite my writing passion. I have a plot line with twists and whirls and spins and turns. I have one hell of a cool main character. Her name is Leighton and she is a demon hunter. I am head over heels in love with my new WIP.

So be prepared. If you ask me, ‘How’s the novel coming along?’ expect to have this lovestruck lass talk your ear off about bloodlines and demons and high school. Oh, and about the girl in the black and white striped knee-high socks who walked past me in a book store.

Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2015 — bookish, blogging or otherwise!

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This is a good TTT as it will help make me accountable for my goals for 2015.

Reading Goals

1. Finish Eleanor and Park. I loved Fangirl but I struggled through the first few chapters of E & P. I want to revisit it and actually finish it.

2. Read more books by Aussie Authors. I dedicated last July to Aussie authors and it was great.

3. Read more steampunk. I’ve read The Book of Days, which was pretty darn cool. Also the Infernal Devices which I enjoyed. I need more steampunk in my life.

Writing Goals

4. Write regularly. While writing everyday would be a dream, I’ll aim to write regularly each week and see how that goes.

5. Do writing exercises. I need to strengthen my prose muscles and that means reps, reps and more reps.

6. Be more diligent noting down ideas. I’ve become lax in this, especially when the ideas come to me at 3am. Turns out I will not remember those brilliant gems when I wake up later.

7. Blog weekly. Well, maybe fortnightly. Oh, and learn how to do .gifs. I really want some Buffy and Supernatural .gifs in my posts. I think that would improve things.

8. Finish and publish my blog post about ‘Strong Female Characters’. I’ve been working on this one for a while and just when I think it’s done, something else about females and stereotypes sets me off again.

Publishing Goals

9. Start approaching publishers. I’ve been dragging my feet on this because it seems a daunting task.

10. Start approaching agents. Again, I need to get my act into gear.

Do you have any reading/writing goals for 2015?

Top Ten Books I Want to Re-read

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I have no problems re-reading books. I’ve done several re-reads this year. Just one dance with a book is not always enough. Especially if there is another in the series about to be released.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I’m currently re-reading this and am enjoying it more the second time round. So much research must have gone into writing this book.

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The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours and The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Morton’s storytelling is exquisite and perfect for a summer holiday curled up on the couch.

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The Passage by Justin Cronin

I read only half of this one the first time. I loved it but I was spending a lot of time awake in the middle of the night (thanks to the newborn) and the book was freaking me out too much.

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The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

I read this when I was a teenager and thought it was excellent.

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Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Reading this is my happy place.

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The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

With the announcement of the upcoming release of Prince Lestat, I’m keen to revisit the original Vampire Chronicles.

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Grave Mercy by Rachel LaFevers and Dark Triumph by Rachel LaFevers

Mortal Heart, book three in His Fair Assassins trilogy is released this week so I will be doing a re-read of the first two in the series before delving into LaFevers’ latest instalment about the St Mortain assassins.

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What about you? Are there any books you are planning on re-reading?

A Sharp Whack on the Knee is the Universe Speaking to Me

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I wanted to write a novel. It’s been on my Life Goals list since I was about 14 and started making Life Goal lists. Last year the time was right to make a proper effort. I had a basic idea for a dystopian story set in a school that is a sinister microcosm of society. I had character names, ideas for plot developments, twists, obstacles etcetera but I knew I was not ready to write it. I mean, I’d never written a novel before. My notebooks were filling with tidbits and treasures but I didn’t want to stuff it all up by writing a piece of diatribe-laced dribble. So what to do?

I would write a practice novel. One that would teach me about the writing process. I knew some basic creative writing fundamentals as outlined annually by The English Teacher (see post) however knowing them did not automatically translate into any said literary skill.

A few random sections of text were written. A few joining bits were added and by about chapter nine, I had discovered the characters’ names. I also learnt that the storyline I had imagined was not as simple as I thought it was going to be.

Before I was aware of what was happening I had completely and utterly fallen in love with writing. Losing myself in the writing process was exhilarating and totally unexpected. Several times I stumbled out from my writing cave to exclaim to the hubby, ‘I can’t believe what just happened in my story!’ Cue blank look from hubby followed by reassurances from me that, yes, I was the one actually writing this tale. The story took on a life of its own – I found myself discovering it as it emerged on the page. This probably breaks numerous rules about writing and planning. Indeed The English Teacher constantly badgers the class with the adage, ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. Shhh, *whispers* don’t tell the kiddlets!

During the initial drafting process I didn’t want to share with many people that I was writing a novel or that I was writing a novel for teenagers. I became shy and nervous and when I did talk about it I tended to do it while staring intently at the ground with a slightly manic grin on my face.

Just over four and a bit months later, the first draft was done and the editing began. Six months later I entered Pitcharama 2014 hosted by the wonderful team at Aussie Owned and Read and was privileged to be selected for the first round. The editor round blew my expectations so far out of the water that I walked around in a daze for ten minutes contemplating whether or not I was hallucinating the responses. Once the daze wore off the excitement began. The excitement of a child who has consumed copious amounts of chocolate and red candy. I could not sit still to focus on my computer screen.

The adrenaline buzz was overwhelming. Forget jumping out of a plane, give me some minor interest from a publishing company and I become invincible. Thankfully the universe centred me quickly. A sharp whack to the knee (that may or may not have involved an incident with a skateboard *cough*) was my reminder to settle down, breathe and put all this in perspective. Yes, I’d had interest and some ms requests but that was only one small step on a long journey to publication. I limped back to my desk and calmly set about sending some emails.

So where am I now with this journey? I am waiting. I have a feeling that this is a big part of the process. I’ve learnt about rejection and how I deal with it. I’ve learnt to expect it but also to hope for the best. I will continue to wait as patiently as I can while learning more about writing.

It’s hard to believe it has only been a year since I first sat down to write. Now, I’m writing my second novel, I have a blog and have even joined twitter. Best of all, I learnt something wonderful: writing thrills me. It tells me I am alive and that within the words on my page, anything is possible. In a world that constantly feels out of my grasp, here is somewhere I have control. Somewhere I am completely happy.

Image credit: “The center Galaxy of Cat’s Eye” by JPL – JPL NASA. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Review and Author Interview – Isla’s Inheritance

I’ve finally read Isla’s Inheritance and not only do I have my review to share, I also have an interview with the author and a giveaway. 

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Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page

Genre: Young adult urban fantasy

Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press

Release date: 9 October 2014

Summary from Goodreads:

Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.

Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.

SHE IS NOT DEAD.

Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.

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My thoughts:

Isla’s Inheritance is an urban fantasy coming of age story about Isla, a girl who’s family heritage turns out to be more complicated than most.

I’ve been hanging out to read this one and was interested to see how the Aussie capital would fair as backdrop for a fantasy story. Page easily made Canberra as plausible a place as anywhere for a fae story. The characters connected and the dynamics of the fae world were intriguing. I have picked a ‘team’ and really hope that ‘my’ side wins later in the series. I’m a Dominic fan (rather than Jack) and hope to see his character develop more in book two.

This was an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to book two.

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Interview with Cassandra Page, author of ‘Isla’s Inheritance’

Can you tell us a little about ISLA’S INHERITANCE?

It’s a young adult urban fantasy set in Australia, and is about a girl named Isla (surprise!). Isla’s seventeen and a bit of a sceptic, in that she always looks for the sensible, mundane explanation for things—something her single-parent father has always encouraged. At a Halloween party, she agrees to take part in a séance because a hot guy she used to have a crush on wants to go; it’s a shock to her when the “spirit” they contact claims her mother isn’t actually dead, as she’s always been told. Of course, she doesn’t believe it at first, and is quickly distracted by said hot guy, whose name is Dominic.

Of course, that’s when things start to get interesting. 😉

Isla’s Inheritance is the first book in a trilogy. The other two books are coming out in the first third of 2015, which is both exciting and utterly terrifying! Getting everything ready is going to be a bit of a mad rush, but the flipside is that readers won’t have to wait years between instalments. GRRM, I’m looking at you!

I notice you write using Australian English spellings. Is the book written that way too?

Yes, it is. Even though Turquoise Morning Press is based out of the USA, the team decided that since the story is set in Australia, it would be more authentic to use Australian spelling and terms where possible. However, I did try and choose words that had common meanings, to minimise the chaos and confusion for readers. As an example, a thong in Australia is a type of shoe that I’m told is called a flip flop in the US. We’d never say flip flop here but, on the other hand, given what a thong is in other parts of the world, I didn’t really want people to get mixed up! There have been a few different decisions like that.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Writing the last few chapters of a book, definitely. I’ve drafted four now, and that’s always been the best part of the experience. It’s such a heady rush, seeing all the plot threads come together and the plot accelerate. Also, usually by that point I’m doing mean things to my characters, which is always fun!

The other thing is that it takes me a long time to write a first draft—somewhere between six and nine months—so it’s always satisfying to reach the end of that process. I’m a single mother and work full time, so I have to squeeze in my writing where I can: after my son’s in bed, on lunch breaks, that sort of thing. I also do a lot of plotting (and scheming) in the car.

Given the reference to iron in the blurb, it’s not a surprise to learn the “fantasy” part of your urban fantasy relates to the fae, which are part of European mythology. How did your fae come to be in Australia?

I decided very early on in the drafting process that I didn’t want cute Disney elves. Not that I have a problem with Disney—I’m a mum and therefore know the Frozen soundtrack verbatim—but I felt something darker than Tinker Bell suited young adult readers better. My ruling class of fae are renowned for their vanity, and their cruelty to those in their service. As a result, the fae in Australia are almost all refugees of one kind or another: “lesser” fae who want to live free of oppression.

Where in Australia are the books set?

They set in Canberra, Australia’s capital, which is, in some ways, an overgrown country town. What that means is we have a lot more green spaces than either Sydney or Melbourne do: reserves running through suburbs; low mountains covered in walking trails and with lookouts perched on top; parks for the kids to play.

It’s a great place to set a story when your supernatural population likes green spaces. Werewolves and fairies in particular would love it here—there are places with hardly any iron or steel, and green corridors a wolf could sneak through. I wondered at first whether setting a supernatural tale here would somehow lack credibility. But then I thought, if Sookie Stackhouse can run into vampires in a tiny town like Bon Temps, why can’t Canberra have its own supernatural stories, that element of magic?

When I see the sunlight sparkling off the surface of Lake Burley Griffin on a crisp autumn afternoon, or the glittering lights of the city from Mount Ainslie at dusk, I think that magic is already there. All I’m doing is telling people about it.

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