Author Archives: fionamillerstevens

About fionamillerstevens

Reader, writer, teacher, toddler wrangler.

Five Publishers Accepting NA Submissions

New Adult as a genre tip toed onto the literary scene about six years ago and has slowly gained momentum. Initially, NA was considered “older YA with sex” with publishers and agents generally steering clear. Little by little, authors have convinced the literary world that the NA category has a place and a lot to offer.

Initially predominantly romance, NA texts are expanding in genres. Basically any texts where the central protagonist is between the ages on 18 – 25, having left school and is finding their place in the adult world are considered New Adult. New Adult has appeal to older YA readers and to adult readers.

Despite the growth in the market, it can still be hard to find publishers who are accepting unsolicited NA manuscripts. To help all you budding NA authors out, here are five publishers accepting unsolicited NA manuscripts:

1. Entangled – Embrace

Embrace_logo_black_font - Copy

From their website:

Embrace, Entangled’s new adult imprint, is seeking fresh, strong voices that capture the emotions and complexities of characters straddling the line between high school and the adult world of work and family. Our ideal protagonists are 18-24 years old, and still finding their way to adulthood, separating from their parents, heading off to college, and/or experiencing full-time employment for the first time, all the while searching for love. We are looking for books told from the point of view of the emerging adult, defining a critical period of decision making and growth.

Embrace is looking for engaging voice and bold, fresh stories in the following genres:
Near-future science fiction with social undercurrents


2. Carina Press – A Harlequin Enterprises Ltd Imprint


From their website:

Carina Press is now accepting submissions in the new adult genre. We are looking for submissions with a strong story and fully developed, very definable protagonists, 18 and above (or at an age eligible to enter college), in their early to mid-20s. While at least one protagonist should fall in this age range, it is possible the other protagonist may fall in their upper 20s.

We’re looking for manuscripts of 50,000 words and up and though we are particularly interested in the contemporary genre, we will also consider books in other sub genres as well (such as paranormal, post apocalyptic, dystopian, etc).


3. Bloomsbury Spark

bloomsburysparkbig - Copy

From their website:

Bloomsbury Spark is a one-of-a-kind, global, digital imprint from Bloomsbury Publishing dedicated to publishing a wide array of exciting fiction eBooks to teen, YA and new adult readers.

Launching in Autumn 2013 our outstanding list will feature multiple genres: romance, contemporary, dystopian, paranormal, sci-fi, mystery, thriller, and more. If you’re an author, Bloomsbury Spark is the premiere place to publish your work

We are acquiring teen, young adult, and new adult fiction across all genres, including but not limited to romance, paranormal, contemporary, dystopian, science fiction, mystery, thriller, historical fiction, and more—from writers all over the world.


4. Reuts


From their website:

REUTS welcomes all full-length novels written for the Young Adult and New Adult audiences. We are interested in diversifying our collection with genres across the spectrum, from authors in every corner of the globe. This includes any age, ethnicity, gender, location, sexual orientation, ability, and class.

We don’t limit ourselves within genres, but we require stories to be fictional and geared towards Young Adult and New Adult audiences. We’re looking for 50,000+ word novels in all YA/NA genres.


5.  Soul Mate Publishing


From their website:

Soul Mate Publishing welcomes you to romance, where two become one. We offer high-quality romantic fiction for readers around the world. Our novels, written by only the finest authors, will be available both electronically and in paperback.

Whether you enjoy traditional romance or are searching for stories that push the limits, you’ll find what you’re looking for. We are NOT the same old thing!

If you are a budding author who needs a publisher to seriously look at your work, just follow the instructions under the Submissions link at the top of this page. We WILL look over your materials and provide a personal response.

Remember, blending of genres is allowed and encouraged. Varying levels of sensuality are welcome, however all stories should have an upbeat ending.


So what are you waiting for? Dig out that NA manuscript and send it off today. Who knows, maybe one of the publishers listed above will be the perfect home for your NA baby.

Categories: Publishers, Querying, Writing | Leave a comment

Love is in the (Writing) Air


I do.

February might be all but over but romance is here to stay – the romance writing industry that is. It is estimated the romance writing industry is worth well over one billion dollars each year. That’s just in the US. Mills and Boon claim on their website that they sell four books per second. Per second! That’s a lot of covers with men sporting luscious flowing locks and ripped abs.

Romance writers are often called the rock stars of the literary world. Listening to New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Kylie Scott, talk last year at the Readers and Writers Down Under Conference, it was easy to see why. Scott is just damn cool. Her practical advice for aspiring writers and her delivery is straight down the line.

The RWDU was my first conference. Understandably, I was nervous. Would I know what I was doing? Would it be obvious to everyone that this was my first time? Would I feel different afterwards?


Did someone say, ‘Writers Conference’?

It was fantastic. I learnt so much and now jump at the opportunity to attend more conferences.

A writer’s conference is usually filled with panels, workshops, industry talks, signings, meet and greets and an event such as a cocktail party or masquerade ball. Many also have pitching sessions where you can book in some one on one time with agents and publishers. Romance writing conferences have all this and often some of the cover models. Ahem.

There are several reasons why I love conferences:

They are about building relationships and connections 
If you go to a conference, make sure you go to at least one social function. You can meet authors, fellow writers, agents and publishers. Just don’t go expecting a publishing contract. The social events are designed for you to meet people and to have a good time – not to pitch your manuscript. The agents and publishers are at the social events to enjoy themselves, not to work. Consider it more like a first date. It’s an opportunity to make first contact, to see if there’s any chemistry between you. You can later mention in your query letter that you enjoyed talking with them at the conference.


Conference social events are a great way to meet industry professionals in a relaxed environment.

Learn industry information
Find out about publishing trends, tips on marketing, whether to traditionally or self publish, if you need an agent, what industry professionals look for and much more.

You can tailor your day to suit your interests
Some conferences let you pay for the sessions you wish to attend, others allow you to purchase a full day pass. Either way, grab a hold of the program as soon as you can and book in to the sessions you will get the most out of.

Pitching opportunities
Many conferences hold pitching events where you can book one-on-one time with an agent or publisher. The advantage of this is you receive instant feedback (no months of agonising waiting) and the best part – the chance to ask questions. I had this opportunity last year with my dream publisher and while I didn’t walk away with a contract, I did get clear insight as to how to make my manuscript work so that it would be published. Be aware these sessions are usually not included in the ticket price and will cost extra. They can also be nerve racking. Would I do it again? You bet I would. As soon as I’ve finished making those recommended changes.

Meeting like-minded writers
Conferences can be a great opportunity to meet other writers and have the chance to form writing or critique groups. Writing is definitely something you can do by yourself but it’s a lot more fun if there’s someone else to join in.

Meeting editors
Meeting an editor in person gives you the opportunity to clarify just what an editor does with your manuscript. There’s a whole lot more than picking up on spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Improving your skills
Conference workshops provide the opportunity for your to improve the technical aspects of your writing skills.

Book swag!
I love freebies. From the name tag lanyard to the bags full of bookmarks, conferences deliver on the swag. At RWDU I ended the day loaded up with books, bags, jewellery, lip balm, post cards, signed pictures and more. Swag heaven.

Feeling inspired to check out a local conference? Contact the Romance Writers Association in your state or country and they can let you know what is happening in your area. Otherwise, check out some of the links listed below.

Just remember the following conference essentials:

1. Enjoy yourself and relax – don’t force your manuscript on any one. Being pushy is the fastest way to ensure no second date.

2. Don’t be shy. Everyone is there to meet new people. A lot of people will not know anyone else and would really appreciate a smile and a, “Would you like to join me?” at lunch time.

3. Romance writers are generally friendly and welcoming people. At the conference you will find others at all different stages of the writing and publishing journey. Enjoy yourself, meet new friends, and be comforted in the fact that you are now part of the biggest grossing literary industry in the world.


The world loves romance novels.

There are HEAPS of romance writing conferences in 2016. Here’s just a few:

Romance Conferences in 2016

Readers and Writers Down Under
March 4th – 5th, Gold Coast, Australia.

The Passionate Pen
April 11th – 12th, Las Vegas, USA

The Love Letter Convention
April 24th -25th, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg, Germany.

Romancing the Capital
May 6th and 7th, Ottawa, Canada.

Romance Author and Reader Event
July 9th, Edinburgh, Scotland

Romance Writers of New Zealand
August 12th – 14th, Auckland, New Zealand

Romance Writers of Australia Annual Conference
August 19th -21st , Adelaide, South Australia.

Romance Writers Organisation of SA
September 24th -25th, Johannesburg, South Africa

Have you been to a romance writers conference? What was the best thing about the experience for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Categories: Pitching, Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

My Writing Resolve for 2016


What lies ahead?

This month’s theme is about resolutions. It’s January and that means it’s time to look at the year ahead through rose tinted glasses and lay out all we wish to achieve.

Except I don’t. Not this year. My resolutions haven’t changed much from last year which highlights my failure to achieve them. Instead of setting out another list for me feel crummy about in January 2017, I’m bringing my goals back to one fundamental of my writing: this year I am going to improve my process.

A diagnosis of the current state of my writing process will let me see where it is thriving and where it is staggering around in dark corners failing to contribute to the possibility of success.

Generally speaking, an effective process can be divided into five parts:

1. Pre-Writing
2. Drafting
3. Revising
4. Editing
5. Querying

It seems a succinct list. How bad could my process be? Surely whatever way I do things is the right way… Yes?

1. Pre-writing

This includes ideas, research, character information and writing exercises.


Some of my reference material.

Ideas – Check. Well, I start off with one basic idea and during the drafting stage more ideas come. Usually.
Research – Check. I am on my way to obtaining my certificate III in Japanese Demonology. I wish! (Seriously though, how great would that be?) I wonder if there is a course… *googles Yokai courses*
Characters – Check(ish). I start off with one clear MC and gradually discover new characters while drafting. I’ll profile them and explore their music interests, fashion sense, likes and dislikes, physical appearance, hobbies and interests. Pinterest is great for this, though I do like to print out the pins and stick them in a scrap book for easy reference.
Exercises – Nope. Why would I want to do writing exercises about my book if I am a reckless pantser with no interest in plotting? Where’s the excitement? The uncertainty? The mystery?

I admit I have done a few character exercises during the drafting process of my second ms. The exercises did enhance my understanding of the characters, their personalities and their possible reactions to situations. In fact, it was a really useful experience. As I’m currently re-writing my first ms, doing some exercises would help my develop the GMC of my characters.

Self evaluation:
In the pre-writing stage I spend time with my ideas before jumping into drafting. I find value in the elements of pre-writing so I need to dedicate more time to them before I start.

2. Drafting

This includes a look at routines, writing habits, goals.


My gorgeous new writing space. How could I not be inspired?

Routines – Nope. A writing routine sounds lovely. So does having a house elf but so far both elude me. The only consistency to my routine is the cups I drink from. I write any where and any place I have time. That sounds like I write a lot but it varies week to week, month to month. I juggle a fair bit as most writers do, I don’t drink coffee or work well late at night or early in the morning. My routine needs to change. Hopefully my beautiful new writing space will help foster a strong routine.
Habits – Check(ish). I have music I listen to with set play-lists for each manuscript and I try to minimise distractions as much as possible.
Goals – Check. I have word count goals for the overall word count, for each chapter and for each writing session. I’ve determined I can do an average 650 words in a half hour sprint. I use that as a guideline for each writing session. I also like to finish a scene or a chapter before I walk away for the day.

Self Evaluation
Not too bad. Routines could use some work though. I will use my goals to establish set writing times each week.

3. Revising

This includes looking at consistency with time-lines, plot and structure issues, plausibility and beta readers.


Do you know where your story is going?

Time-lines – Check. I keep a calendar/time line in my journal to ensure consistency. Often I will revisit the dates to test for plausibility.
Plot and structure issues – Check. This one is harder to do by myself. I try and work through each step of the story to determine order. Occasionally pieces are shuffled around.
Plausibility – Check. Again, a tough one to do by myself. I need to take a good hard look at the action, characters etc and ask, ‘Is this believable? Are there any glaring omissions or things that don’t quite add up? Am I assuming the reader knows something without giving them enough clues?
Beta readers – Check. When I’ve done the above three revision points to the best of my ability I’ll send it off to the beta readers who then do a much better job than me at identifying issues with time-lines, plot and structure, and plausibility.

Self Evaluation
Pretty good. It is difficult to check my own work for these issues so the beta readers definitely help. I do enjoy having someone else point out problems with plausibility, plot etc. I relish the opportunity to improve my work.

4. Editing

This involves reading your work in a different format, cutting it out, cleaning it up.


A new perspective can give, well, a little perspective.

Change the view – Check. I like to print out a hard copy and go through that with my green highlighter and sparkle pens. It makes it easier to view mistakes. After about a gazillion reads this way I’ll convert it to a mobi file and upload it to the kindle. Then I cringe with embarrassment at all the errors I missed in the printed edits.
Cutting it out – Hmmm, not so much. Cutting large chunks of text – especially description – tightens prose. I need help with this.
Clean it up – Check. As my writing skills improve so does my ability to clean up sentences. Each word must count. I spend lots of time cleaning up ‘was’,‘that’and other ‘to be’ verbs. I also seek to destroy passive voice (by zombies!).

Self Evaluation
I need to be ruthless with cutting it out. I read somewhere agents and publishers look for lots of dialogue and are put off by chunks of description. My cleaning up of sentences is progressing but, gosh, it would be nice to get it right the first time.

5. Climb Aboard the Query Coaster

This can be the hardest part of the writing process. Having to create an elevator pitch, extended pitch, query letter and synopsis then start querying fills many with dread.

Write an elevator pitch – Check. A succinct summary of of the book just in case I ever take a lift with an agent or publisher. Note to self – use more elevators.
Extended pitch – Check. After completing the Pitching to Publishers course I’ve learned the trick to creating a pitch that sets the tone, conflict and obstacle for the story.
Query letter – Check. This is the one part of the query coaster I enjoyed. In it I’m allowed to admit all the dorky reasons why I love writing and what inspires me.
Synopsis – Check, though this one was by far the most painful. Having to reduce your thousands of beloved words to 300-500 feels like taking a gourmet meal and turning it into a powered format. Blurgh.
Start querying – Check(ish). I diligently check submission guidelines and format the manuscript as requested but I haven’t done any traditional querying. I am scared to. Weird, right? I do enter a lot of pitching competitions and have had good responses from there. I’m going to hold off querying this year until I know my first ms is as shiny and polish and READY as it needs to be.

Self Evaluation
While painful to create, I have the pitch, query and synopsis for my first ms. I do however need to face up to querying and throw my work out there once it is finished. Creativity takes courage.


Find what works for the writer as an individual.

So bring on 2016. I’m not going to dream about things that may or may not happen. I am going to work on my process. I am going to make the writing process work for me. Anything else that happens on top of that will be a wonderful bonus.



Categories: Goal, Writer's Life, Writing | Leave a comment

A letter to my younger writer-self

Dear Me (aged 16),

You are bursting with expectation and impatient to start life, I know, but just bear with me for a moment because there’s something I need you to do: don’t stop writing.

When you leave home just before you turn seventeen, you will enter a world where writing doesn’t seem to fit.

Make it fit.


At 16, you feel as though you can take on the world.

For though this new world will be exciting and liberating, it is one that holds unimaginable lows. And though these times are not permanent, writing – as you will discover much, much later in life – will be your release. It will be your escape hatch.

So when you’re awake and alone in the hospital at 3am and the pain threatens to drown you, write. No, you won’t be able to sit up or even concentrate on words printed on a page, but there will be a cassette walkman and it can record.

Use it.

Writing is the best drug. It can set you free, it can stop you from falling over the edge.


To write is to find the light through the darkness.

You’ve always loved to write. You’ve always intended to one day write a book. Don’t wait for the right time.

Keep writing.

You can not control anything in life except for the words you write on the page and the worlds you create in your imagination.

When the most important friendship in your life fails, and grief and despair engulf you, write.

When life is hard, write.

When life is good, write.

Write for yourself. Write for the characters in your mind. Set those daydreams free and you will be amazed at the weight they release with them.

Write because it is one of your favourite things in life to do and because it brings you pure joy.


To write is to feel a beautiful freedom.

Don’t let your writing feel like a childish past time you need to leave behind.

It is not. It is part of you and always will be.

Don’t ever stop writing.

x Fiona

Categories: Writer's Life, Writing | Tags: | Leave a comment

Is Life Too Easy for Your Main Character?

“Write the book you wish to read.”

It’s an inspiring thought. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I did. This was a big problem for my first manuscript.

Here’s what happened. I was fed up with reading about characters I liked having life dump on them continuously. Things kept getting worse for them. Why couldn’t they just be happy? Maybe I was fatigued from Songs of Ice and Fire but I needed books to become my happy place again. So that’s what I wrote – a sweet, inspiring, romantic tale of joy. The storyline contained some minor complications but generally, we watched as the MC fell in love for the first time.


couple-919018_1920 (2)

A feel-good story about love does not necessarily make for an enthralling read.

It was sweet. It was lovely. It was not the way to write a story.

In July this year I attended the CYA Conference and had the opportunity to hear author Kaz Delany deliver a workshop on GMC -Goal, Motivation and Conflict. The workshop was called, ‘How to Avoid a Saggy Middle’ and as I sat and took notes, a trickle of doubt slowly filled my stomach.

My first manuscript had minimal GMC – Goal, Motivation and Conflict.

G: – What does your character want?

M: – Why do they really want it?

C: – What stops them from achieving or obtaining it?

Check out Debra Dixon’s book, Goal, Motivation and Conflict for more information.

I attempted to ignore my GMC doubts and continued on my querying way. But the thought remained – my MC had things way too easy. Was that the deal breaker?

In September, I sent my work to an editor for feedback and guess what the overriding issue was?

Not enough GMC.


Out came my notes from Kaz’s workshop and I set about plotting some problems for my MC. At the same time I was reading Queen of Shadows by Sara J. Maas and noting how every single chapter had loads of GMC, not only for the main players but for the supporting ones as well.

Maas takes me on a ride of emotions in each of her books because NOTHING comes easy for her characters. She bleeds them – emotionally, physically and mentally. As a reader, we journey with them and it’s all because of GMC.

With writing my WIP, The Yokai Hunter, adding GMC to each scene came more naturally than it did with my first manuscript. Let’s look at my (very, very rough and unedited) first draft I shared previously on The Print Posse blog.

Goal: Leighton wants to be good at being a Yokai Hunter.

Motivation: She wants to make her dad proud and prove her own strength.

Conflict: When she finally comes face to face with a yokai, she is too stunned to react and lets the demon walk free.

While the scene has a LONG way to go before it is polished, you can see the GMC building blocks.

Now let’s look at how the experts do it.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer Once More With Feeling

One of my favourite ever pieces of television is the Buffy The Vampire Slayer Once More With Feeling episode. This episode was written and directed by the master of writing himself, Joss Whedon, and is heavy in subtext, character development and laugh out loud moments.

In this episode a demon named Sweet has been summoned to Sunnydale and cast a spell making everyone sing about their deepest fears and secrets. Buffy opens the episode with the song, Going Through the Motions as she stakes vampires and rescues the handsome guy, all in a day’s work.


Going Through the Motions

Goal: Buffy wants to feel. Something, anything. She also wants her friends to believe she is happy and that her optimism towards life is real even though it is all an act.

Motivation: Since her return, Buffy has been indifferent and detached from life to the extent where she places herself in near-suicidal situations. She is numb.

“I touch the fire and it freezes me/I look into it and it’s black/Why can’t I feel?/My skin should crack and peel/I want the fire back!”

buffy i want the fire back omwf

Walk Through the Fire

Conflict: Being sent to kill Sweet and rescue her sister is not the conflict she must face – it’s being forced via song into confronting and revealing her feelings or lack there of, to her friends.

Here’s the same episode but with a focus on Anya.

Goal: Anya wants Xander to tell her what she means to him and be convinced they will live happily ever after.

Motivation: Anya has a deep-seated mistrust of men (not surprising considering all her years as a vengeance demon) and is doubtful of Xander’s true feelings for her. She is worried he will betray and break her heart.

Conflict: With the spell cast over Sunnydale, Anya and Xander are forced to sing about their relationship fears and communicate their emotions through this very personal form of expression. They don’t want to hurt the other but both harbour doubts over the longevity of their relationship. Rather than clearing the air, expressing their concerns adds weight to the shadow looming over their engagement.


Supporting characters Anya and Xander experience their own GMC.

Identifying GMC in other works such as books or TV shows is a great way of sharpening your own skills. Next time you lose yourself in a fictional dream, ask yourself:

Goal – What does the character want?

Motivation – Why do they want it?

Conflict – Why can’t they have it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and make my characters’ lives much more difficult.

*rubs hands together gleefully*

Categories: Motivation and Conflict, Writing | 2 Comments

My Writing Dance on the Edge


I’ve been writing close to this lately.

My writing self has two personalities. Let’s call them Brenda and Phoebe.

Brenda is a struggler. She enjoys being a writer but often wonders if there is any point to putting the work out there.

Phoebe is full of confidence. She knows the work is good and that it’s just a matter of time before the debut novel is on the shelves and doing the review rounds on Goodreads.

She is confident and best of all, believes in the story.

Brenda thinks that it doesn’t matter how many times revisions are done, the manuscript will always be a ‘bottom drawer’ job.

Phoebe is proud of being shortlisted in a national writing competition and that the work has had several partial and full requests with much positive feedback from betas, agents and editors. Her characters have inspired comments such as, “Their witty banter and easy rapport made them truly likeable characters with a lot of depth,” and “We fell in love with this couple and rooted for them to be together.”

Brenda cries in the shower over being told she was in the bottom 10 of a local competition. She will never be good enough. She is an amateur. She gets rejections that say, ‘I couldn’t connect with the voice’ and tweets from agents saying, “SO tired of stories where girls swear off boys only to find ‘the one’.”

Phoebe imagines what she would say on a panel at a writers’ festival.

Brenda pulls the doona up over her head and wonders if the despair will ever subside.

With such conflicting discourses – who do I listen to?

It depends on the day.


The shadows of my writer self alternate in their strength.

I entered a competition earlier this year with the lure of two judges reading my manuscript and providing detailed feedback.

Fantastic. Feedback is a drug that my writer self craves.

The feedback received illustrated the dichotomy of my writing self perfectly:

Judge #1 Judge #2
Total Score: 110/206

Hated the work.

Total Score:192/206

Loved it.

Were you drawn in straight away? 3 9
Has the writer raised questions you want to see resolved? 3 9
Does the writing seem natural, give necessary information and advance the story? 3 9
Does each scene promote or advance the plot? 4 9
Do you care about the characters? 2 9
Does the writing have a distinct style or voice that impacts positively on you? 4 9
Did the writing touch you emotionally – either with the characters and/or the situation they were in? 2 9
Did you enjoy reading this entry? 3 9
How do you rate the readiness for submission? 2 9
The X-factor 2 9

So what do you do when the voice saying, ‘Why bother?’ roars louder than the one with the pom poms? How do we as aspiring authors, never ever give up? So much of our sense of worth as a writer is invested into these queries and for some reason, it’s the No that is louder than the Yes.

I had a face-to-face meeting with an editor from my dream publisher earlier this year. She didn’t offer me a contract but was clear on the areas to work on before it was ready. I was directly told, ‘Don’t give up on this manuscript. It’s nearly there.’ She believed that with a few revisions it would be ready for publication. Phoebe was ecstatic and that entire night she was buzzed. She had notes and ideas and was ready to get to work.

The next day, Brenda woke up and realised it was not good enough.

For months I couldn’t bring myself to write a word. My WIP and my completed MS sat untouched.

It was too hard.

I could not make it good enough.

The edge of the cliff loomed – would it really matter if I threw my writing self off it?


There’s such a long way to go.

I teetered.

I imagined the free fall and the end of my very short writing carer.

I was/am not ready to give up. So I did what I do when things are dark and endless: I made a plan.

Fiona’s Plan For Not Falling In

1. Reach for Support

We all need a personal cheerleader or two. Mine are my hubby and a few others who have read and love my work. My Print Posse are my writer life lines. They get it because they live it also.

2. Identify the Positives

I take a copy of all the positive quotes from agents, publishers, etcetera and re-read them when I need a lift. I’m making them into a picture I can frame and keep on my writing desk.

3. Step Away

Just take one step back. Take time to think about something else – a new story, project or idea. A wise woman once said, “It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small.”

4. Learn

I tell my students that every wrong answer is an opportunity to learn something new. It’s the same for rejections. What can I take away from this that will make my writing stronger?

5. Just Keep Writing

You don’t win an Olympic Medal by being in only one race. If you want it (and I really, really do!) then you must never, ever give up.

Categories: Writer's Life | Leave a comment

Ready. Set. Pitch.


It’s time to start querying. Terrified? You’re not the only one.

You’ve finished your manuscript. It’s been revised, edited and polished. You’ve written a synopsis, honed your pitch and practised what to do if stuck in an elevator. You’re ready. It’s time to query.

After meticulous researching of which agent/editor/publisher is a match for you, you’ve created a short list and are prepped to begin. Your mouse hovers over the ‘send’ button. Fear, excitement, self doubt, anticipation all war together. With one click your stomach drops. You did it. You’ve started querying. You sit back and wait for a response.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wonder, ‘did they get my query? It’s been months and I’ve heard nothing. Should I resend? Is it a rejection? Maybe it went to spam. I’ll just refresh my inbox a few thousand more times.’

The agony and the elation of writing your ms dissipates during the querying process. If only there was some way to speed it all up…

Enter the pitching competitions. Yanicke took us through the numerous twitching competitions available on Twitter. You cast your line out there and know immediately if there is a bite.


Querying takes patience. You never know how long until you get a bite.

Another option is the on-line pitching competitions whereby you submit your 200 – 250 word pitch (or thereabouts) by a due date and know within a short period of time if you’ve had a nibble. Perfect for those inbox refresher obsessors like me.

Generally your pitch is posted on a blog page where publishers, agents and/or editors read and make requests for partials or (ideally) fulls. Due to the short time frames, the wait period is considerably less painful and you get to by-pass the slush piles. It will also give you an idea of if your pitch is up to scratch. If you don’t get any requests, it might be time to re-work your pitch. Here are some great tips from Gabbie’s time at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival.

There are a few rules to remember when entering these competitions.

1. Read the guidelines thoroughly. If you don’t stick to the formatting/word count etc you run the risk of being excluded from the competition.

2. Understand what the competition is for. If it is a romance competition and you are pitching fantasy, be prepared for disappointment. This also applies to the people you might be pitching to. Do your research.

3. Be on time. There is often a submission window you don’t want to miss. For me this usually falls in the middle of the night. I set my alarm, wake up bleary eyed and press ‘send’ on my pre-prepared entry. The window might be as short as two hours or even open only to the first 50 so watch that clock!

4. Make sure your manuscript is completed. Don’t enter if you aren’t ready to send off a finished ms.

5. Have fun. It’s exciting to be part of the process so join in the twitter parties. It’s a great way to meet other participants.


Who knows? Your writing BFF could be one competition away.

Pitching competitions I’ve entered include:


This was not only my first ever pitching comp but my first time pitching anywhere! This was such a boost to my confidence as a writer as I received positive responses. In this comp, publishers made requests for partials and fulls AND there have been several success stories. Pitcharama ran in 2013 and 2014. No word yet of a 2015 round but here’s hoping for 2016.

Agent Match February

Samantha Fountain is one of the queens of pitching competitions. For this Valentine’s Day themed comp, you submit your correctly formatted pitch for agents to request a ‘date’ with your ms.

Pitch to Publication June/July

Another gem from Samantha Fountain where writers select five editors to pitch to. The editors narrow their favourites down to one each. They then work with their chosen ms to hone the entry for pitching to a publisher. The editors donate their time for free. How cool is that?

Other comps:

Nest Pitch Easter

Submit your pitch and if chosen as one of the top 100 – 120, your pitch is posted on blog sites for agents to select from.

Pitch Madness March

Run by another pitching competition queen, Brenda Drake, writers submit a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of your ms for agents to request from.

Pitch Wars August (2015 entries close 17th)

Another competition from Brenda Drake, Pitch Wars sees industry professionals mentor selected manuscripts and give advice on pitches. To enter you must submit a query and the first chapter. After a two-month mentoring period, the revised manuscripts are then pitched to agents.

Miss Snark’s First Victim and Michelle Hauck also run some great pitching comps.

Here’s a secret of mine – I’ve not yet done any traditional querying, yet thanks to pitching competitions I’ve had several agent and publisher requests. It’s so exciting!


Pitching competitions can be a short, fast ride. Perfect for impatient writers (like me!).

Have you had a success story with a pitching competition? Are there any competitions I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.

Happy pitching! 😀 FMS

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Getting to Know Your Imaginary Friends

Writing tips can be a writer’s best friend. This month The Print Posse is sharing some of our favourite writing tips. Gabbie explored another approach to Show Don’t Tell and Yanicke discussed the use of strong verbs as well as filter words and naming emotions.

I’m taking the opportunity to look at characters. I learnt the importance of this from Kaz Delaney and Laini Taylor. Their lessons on characters sit at the forefront of my mind each time I sit down to bang away at the keyboard.

Tip: Know your characters

That may sound obvious but you do need to know your characters before you can write them. Not just names, you need to know as much as you can about who they are – values, beliefs, likes, dislikes etc. The more you know them, the better you understand how they react, how they speak and most importantly, what they want.

I start off with a Pinterest board and collect the basics - appearance, clothes and accessories.

I start off with a Pinterest board and collect the basics – appearance, clothes and accessories. From here I move to my notebooks and writing apps where I take a deeper look.


Character profiling can help with this. I took my Write Club students through this a few weeks back and they were surprised at how hard it was at first. The reason? They did not have any depth of understanding about their characters.

Try it for yourself. You may discover something about your characters – or even your storyline – you weren’t expecting.

You can find down-loadable profile sheets by clicking here or here.

Capture 2

Here is my WIP profile. There is so much I want to add to this. The more time I spend with the character, the clearer her journey becomes to me.

Character exercises also expand your knowledge of who these people really are. Try taking the MCs out of their usual settings and throw an unusual situation at them. How do they react? Perhaps try interviewing them. What would their responses be?

Anything you can do to gain greater insight into the minds of your characters will strengthen their portrayal.

“Character development is vital when writing a strong story. Weak characters make for weak stories.”    – Beem Weeks

You want your characters to be real and relatable no matter how unreal the situation might be. For this to happen, your characters need a goal, motivation and conflict. This is referred to as external or internal GMC and is outlined in depth in GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon.

Essentially it is this:

Goal – What does your character want?

Motivation – Why do they want it?

Conflict – What’s stopping them from getting it?

Your characters need to struggle towards their goals. Make them sweat! If things come too easily for them you might find the story starts to sag and no one likes a soggy middle.

If you are a fan of George R. R. Martin’s work, you will see he is a fan of this strategy. He is good at throwing obstacles in the paths of his characters. Each one has a goal and the motivation driving it. His work is full of complex characters as the author knows them intimately. All his characters endure conflict. And then some.

And as much as audiences love and hate the people in his stories, one thing is clear: he knows his characters.

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The Writer’s Life – It’s All About Me

This month The Print Posse looks at the writer’s life. Yanicke explored the dream versus the reality and Gabbie looked at the evolution of being a writer. This week it’s Fiona’s turn to examine the life of the writer.


The aim.

My writing goals at the start of this year were:

1. Write regularly.

2. Do writing exercises.

3. Be more diligent noting down ideas.

4. Blog weekly.

5. Start approaching publishers.

6. Start approaching agents.

I’ve since reduced the list:

1. Make time to write.

Note it’s not find time to write but make time to write. I’m realistic here. My life is hectic with three different personas to juggle.

I am not complaining, most aspiring writers balance several roles until they ‘hit the big time’. Even then, I hear it’s not a walk in the park. Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, stated she once had to check herself into a hotel to focus on finishing a book without any distractions.

It’s the distractions though, that feed the writer in me. The details of the everyday enhance my creativity and so need to be experienced.

When I wrote my first MS, I wrote at every opportunity. The story demanded to be written. It also allowed me to cope with a difficult time and emerge a stronger person.

The memes tell me repeatedly I should be writing. In most cases I would prefer to be writing than say, doing the fourth load of washing for the day or marking a class set of papers on The Crucible. *shudders*



I think about writing. Every day. I love the advice to actually write every single day, but in my world that is not always practical. I spend time with my stories daily – even if the pen doesn’t actually hit the paper. My most productive time is when I’m exercising at the gym. Maybe it’s the adrenaline or perhaps the endorphins that help me escape into the waking story.


For a long time I felt I could not consider myself a writer because I was unable to consistently allocate a set time allowance to develop my craft. I’ve moved past that now and accepted it is not currently realistic for me to expect to write each day. Sometimes I’ll sneak away for 30 minutes or so and madly scrawl down a scene.

One episode of Peppa Pig and two Peter Rabbits allows me to throw 400 words or so at the computer screen. Other nights I’ll write for 15 minutes when it’s not my turn to read the bedtime stories.

Then there are the weeks where the days steal every moment and all I’m left with is 30 minutes before bed to stare glaze-eyed at some hotel renovation program. My characters are left to their own devices for there is nothing in me left to give.

This is not ideal. When I have no time to write it is because I have no time for me.

The longer the stretch of no writing time, the more stressed I become. The direct correlation here is that I write for me. Simply put, it is my escape.

I don’t have or need a set space to write at though I dream of a desk just for me and my words. At the kitchen bench, at the beach, on stage during school assembly – where ever I can tune in to my story and step away from reality is a place where I can write.

Music helps. It allows me to shut out distractions. My concentration is shaky at the best of times and I am far too easily ripped out of the writer’s fictional dream and thrust into the sharpness of reality, damaging my writing rhythm.

Another reason why some weeks see a writing drought.


When my young daughter took naps I was guaranteed two straight me-time hours. Every day.

I did not know how good I had it.

Not surprisingly, it only took me four months to pen my first draft of LWC. I was writing an average of 1500 words a day. A day!

Note to past self: cherish that time.

I am lucky my career allows me regular holiday time and so every ten weeks or so I schedule in that wonderful event: Me Time.

This is what it looks like:

I’m alone for the day. I do a work out at the gym in the morning then come home and write. During lunch I might read or watch one of my shows before writing some more.

That’s it. And boy is it bliss.

I can‘t help thinking if I had this every week I would not appreciate nor utilise the time properly. It is because my writing time is so precious that it sustains me so much when I have it. It replenishes the drive that the daily grind wears away. It fills me to the brim with the utmost joy.

And so when I need to, I make time to write.


Categories: Writer's Life | 2 Comments

An Excerpt from the Yokai Hunter Series

Hi folks, Fiona here. This week it’s my turn to share an excerpt from my Young Adult work-in-progress. The working title is the Yokai Hunter Series: Book 1. You can read the blurb here.


“What the hell happened to your face?”

Leighton swiped the customer’s membership card through the scanner and bit down a retort that would get her fired. Or worse.

“I’m in a role play club. Today was my turn to be the annoying customer. Every time I asked a stupid question, I’d get whacked in the head with a stick. It’s sooo much fun, you should totally try it sometime.” She gave him her sweetest grin. The customer narrowed his eyes at her, frowning as he assessed whether she was mocking him. Leighton was still smirking at his confusion when the bell above the door signalled his departure.

Leighton snatched one of the lollipops off the counter, gave a guilty look around before popping one in her mouth. She realised she did look a mess. She really had been beaten around the head with a stick but telling it as truth to a complete stranger was likely to have her removed from Ari’s custody by child services. ‘Oh this? My dad beat me around the head for a bit but it’s fine, we were training how to fight demons.’ Right. That would go down well with precisely nobody.

Leighton had been learning karate since she was four. Ari had insisted she spent every Saturday morning at training while other girls her age wore tutus and dressed like princesses. Had that impacted on who she was now? Leighton didn’t know but she liked to think she was who she was regardless of the parenting choices Ari had made. Or maybe those choices was why she was who she was.

Leighton shook off the thought and stretched her calves out. The DVD store was always quiet for the early Saturday afternoon shifts. It picked up at around five as people prepared for their night in at home. She probably could have called in sick but she felt great. Well, maybe a bit achy where she had been too slow to avoid Ari’s swipes with the Bo stick. But she had impressed him. Ari thought she would be slower since she’d stopped regular training at the start of senior year. She’d even managed to land several blows herself. Leighton’s lip twitched when she thought of the slight limp Ari had ended the session with.

Learning to be Kakurenbo with Ari was one of the best things that had ever happened to her. She felt sharper, surer of herself and of her purpose. She wasn’t just some weird teen anymore, she was a hunter. Her duty was to protect her family, her friends, heck, everybody in the town. They would all be (unknowingly) looking to her to keep them safe. And she could. Leighton would train and be the best Kakurenbo ever seen.

Her cell phone buzzed in her bag stashed away under the counter. She rummaged through it, the bell above the door chiming as she checked her message.

How are you feeling? Sore?

She smiled at her father’s concern.

Feeling buzzed. Did you want me to bring crutches home for you?

Twenty seconds later Ari’s response rang through.

Ha Ha.

Leighton chuckled to herself.

“Excuse me? Do you have any Jim Carey classics?” The latest customer’s voice rang out from the stacks towards the rear of the store.

“Try comedy in the family section,” Leighton suggested.

A minute or so later the female customer, aged somewhere in her early twenties approached the counter. Leighton froze.

“I realise that’s a complete oxymoron, you know? Jim Carey classics? But I’m hosting a movie marathon night at a sorority I’m trying to join and this is what I was instructed to get.” The woman opened her mouth to smile at her. Then her tongue extended out and divided into three.

Leighton swallowed and silently screamed at her body to move – to do something, anything except stare at the demon hiring out a DVD in front of her.

“Huh,” Leighton managed to choke out. “Yeah. I think his movies suck.” Concentrating on her hand she forced it to go through the motions of collecting the disk and scanning it out.

The demon in front of her blinked. Sideways.

What should she do? What could she do? Should she jump the counter and restrain the demon or tell her that she has three dollars owing on her account? Her training had only started that morning and yet here was a Yokai, standing in front of her, talking with her, and Leighton had no idea whatsoever of how to respond. There was no phoning Ari for help this time.

“Enjoy the movie and here’s a coupon for your next visit.” Leighton pushed the disk and slip of paper across the counter.

“Thanks, hon. Bye.” The demon left the store.

Leighton looked at her trembling hands. Adrenaline coursed through her. Her heart pushed against her chest. She had been face to face with the very creature she had spent all morning preparing to kill and she had handed it a buy-one-get-one-free voucher for next time.


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