Author Archives: Yanicke

Five Romance Publishers Accepting Unsolicited Submissions

This month each of The Print Posse girls will take turns showcasing publishers from around the world in all sorts of genres.

Yanicke is first, and in keeping with our romance theme from last month, she’ll be sharing with you five romance publishers currently accepting submissions from unagented writers.

Because we all need a little romance in our lives…

harper impulse

1. Harper Impulse

Why submit to Harper Impulse?

They have a truly digital first publishing mindset – they think about content and how women want to read it.

They are romance experts – they love reading, talking, blogging, tweeting, waffling on about all things romance.

They are global and want authors from everywhere and anywhere because they are going to reach readers everywhere and anywhere.

They are open to trying new things – for instance, they have a series of Follow Your Fantasy eBooks where you choose the fantasy you pursue!

What they’re looking for:

New writers who dare to be different – and the more the merrier!

Various genres, from fun & fast Adult and New Adult genre fiction to more mainstream novels; particularly contemporary and highly commercial stories with strong romantic elements.

Writers who want to push the boundaries in terms of storytelling – whether that be mashing genres, experimenting with length etc.

Full submission guidelines can be found ♥ HERE

 

escape publishing

2. Harlequin – Escape Publishing

Why submit to Escape?

They’re a small, innovative publisher working within Harlequin Enterprises, a larger, long established company with a rich tradition as a leader in the industry. They are innovative and quick to respond to changes in the industry, plus they have the backing of the global organisation.

You can expect them to be responsive, professional, knowledgeable, supportive, and forward thinking. They’ll also be honest and tell you how they see things.

Escape Artists have formed a vibrant and engaged community supporting each other as independent authors. If you become an Escape author, you’ll be welcomed in that community.

What they’re looking for:

All submissions must include a central romance or romantic elements focused on lead characters and an uplifting ending.

Stories in the following sub-categories:

– adventure
– contemporary
– comedy
– erotic
– fantasy
– gay
– historical
– magic realism
– paranormal
– rural
– suspense
– sci-fi
– saga
– YA/NA

Full submission guidelines can be found ♥ HERE

 

loveswept and flirt

3. Random House – Loveswept/Flirt

Why submit to Loveswept/Flirt?

Their digital program is centered around your brand; focused on building you as an author introducing you to romance readers everywhere.

Their program is managed with the same attention given all of their other imprints within the Penguin-Random House Publishing Group. The process is the same throughout where digital authors will have a complete and unique publishing package. Every book will be assigned to an accomplished Random House editor and a dedicated marketer and publicist. Not only do their authors benefit from working with the finest cover designers to ensure irresistibly eye-catching books, but they are also offered the unique advantage of social media tools and training that will allow them to connect directly with their readers.

All of their titles are available for purchase at major e-retailers, and compatible with all reading devices.

What they’re looking for:

Loveswept and Flirt invites queries for submissions in the following subgenres:

– contemporary romance
– erotica
– historical romance
– paranormal romance
– women’s fiction
– new adult

Full submission guidelines can be found ♥ HERE

 

destiny romance

4. Penguin – Destiny Romance

Why submit to Destiny Romance?

If you have written a gorgeous, romantic story, then the team at Destiny Romance would love to see it. They are looking for love stories of all kinds told by wonderful, new voices. They’re looking for compelling plots, vivid settings and characters they care deeply about. Above all, the focus must be on the development of the romantic relationship and the story must provide an emotionally satisfying ending.

Destiny Romance is a digital-first imprint, which means they have more freedom to publish a richer variety of romances and can publish new books very quickly. They will work closely with authors, providing expert editorial guidance and a marketing and publicity campaign to ensure your book is well promoted to a wide readership.

They want love stories that sweep them away and keep them up late reading because they can’t put them down.

What they’re looking for:

Destiny Romance is passionately interested in all kinds of romantic fiction, from sweet and tender through to saucy and sensual.

They’re looking for all subgenres, including but not limited to:

– contemporary
– historical
– suspense
– paranormal
– fantasy
– sci-fi
– erotica

If you’ve come up with a new style of romance, they’re interested in that too.

Full submission guidelines can be found ♥ HERE

 

forever yours

5. Hachette – Forever Romance

Why submit to Forever Yours?

Forever Yours is the digital-first sister of the Forever romance imprint, which publishes ebook-only editions of a wide array of original works and classic favorites, ranging in length from novellas to epic sagas. Their editors accept both agented and unagented material for submission.

Forever Yours is all about discovery — they are opening their doors for the first time to unagented authors, and are eager to find talented new writers. With a digital production schedule, they can publish works more quickly, and experiment with stories and genres that haven’t yet broken out in the print marketplace.

Forever Yours offers a complete publishing package: editing by Forever editors, top-notch cover design from the Forever art team, a dedicated publicist, Netgalley review copies for bloggers/reviewers, social media tools and training, targeted marketing and advertising budget, and an experienced digital sales team with long-standing relationships in the e-marketplace.

What they’re looking for:

Forever Yours is currently accepting romance submissions from all subgenres, including but not limited to:

– contemporary romance
– New Adult (but not Young Adult)
– category romance stories
– romantic suspense
– western
– historical
– inspirational
– paranormal
– time-travel
– erotica

Full submission guidelines can be found ♥ HERE

 

If you know of any other romance publishers currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts, be sure to share their details in the comments below.

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Romancing the Reader: How to Write Swoonworthy Love Scenes

kiss

Whether writing about sweet first kisses or passionate embraces, here are five tips and tricks to make your love scenes sizzle…

1. Turn up the tension from the get-go

Just like any real-life love affair, it’s not all about the destination – half the fun is getting there. When developing a romantic relationship in your novel, remember to build tension over time, from the first encounter all the way through to the fireworks. That way, when hearts finally collide, the reader is just as invested in the romance as the characters.

kaboom

A good love scene should explode off the page…

Which brings me to point number 2…

2. Let the relationship progress naturally, whatever pace that may be

Every relationship is different. Every Antony has his own baggage, every Cleopatra her own insecurities, every Bonnie and Clyde, their own romantic pace. Some characters fall in love instantly, while others burn hotter over time. Some are inhibited by fear, others jump in feet first.

Don’t force a love scene. Let the story guide you.

Wedding dance lovers man and woman pop art retro style. Feelings emotions romance. Art music ringtones. Girl and marriage. Couple dancing

A good love scene should leave the reader wanting more…

If the characters aren’t feeling it, you can bet your reader won’t be either.

3. Reveal character – no sauce for the sake of being saucy

You might have an Ice Queen who’s cold and distant on the outside, but when you get her alone with her flame she melts like a marshmallow (Frozen 2, perhaps?). Alternatively, Mr Prim and Proper who always plays nice in the boardroom might break all the rules behind closed doors (yes, I mean you, Mr Grey).

Love scenes are an amazing opportunity to reveal character and show an alternative side to your Juliets and your Romeos. It’s also a good way to expose the underlying motivations of characters – motivations they otherwise work hard to conceal.

A good love scene should reveal more than just skin…

Spies have been utilising the age-old art of pillow talk for centuries to acquire classified information. You should use it too.

4. Don’t get caught up in play-by-play action

There’s nothing worse than a love scene that reads like a how-to manual – “She touched him here, he caressed her there, and then they kissed…” and so on and so on.

Show the reader what’s going on inside Rhett’s head. Describe what Scarlett is feeling. Examine the way Tristan and Isolde’s encounter changes everything between them.

Teleport your reader into the story by describing sounds, smells, tastes.

A good love scene should ...

A good love scene should explore the physical and the emotional…

Remember, a really good romantic interlude evokes the senses and explores emotions.

5. Read novels by authors who do it well

Everything you need to know about writing love scenes you can find on the pages of your favourite books. So dig up that romance novel you adored as a teen and that steamy suspense that kept you up all night, and study the art of composing love scenes.

A good love scene should leave a reader satisfied...

A good love scene should leave a reader satisfied…

Your bookshelves are a treasure trove of writerly wisdom.

Some of my favourites for sweet kisses are the works of Maggie Stiefvater and GJ Stroud (you read her extract last week, right? PURE love scene magic right there!). For steamier scenes, I definitely recommend Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I have to admit, I also have a soft spot for anything penned by Johanna Lindsey (the first romance novel I ever read was Silver Angel). Although, be sure to keep in mind, the kind of writing readers enjoy changes over time. Techniques that may have been popular back in the 80s and 90s, may no longer hold the same appeal.

Do you have a favourite author who composes loves scenes as potent as Cupid’s arrows? Be sure to share them with us below…

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Happy 2016!

So, another year has drawn to a close and the time has come for The Print Posse to share their resolutions for 2016.

It’s resolution time…

Yanicke’s Resolutions for 2016

I have to say I’m feeling very excited for the year ahead. So much has happened in the last 12 months, both in my writing and professional lives, I don’t even dare to predict what lies in the coming seasons. Nevertheless, I do have a few goals I’m eager to strive for that, hopefully, I’ll be able to achieve regardless of any obstacles or surprises that rear their heads.

So without further ado, here are my resolutions for 2016…

1. Complete at least one chapter per month of my WIP rewrite.

To date, I have finished rewriting chapter 1 and most of chapter 2 of my YA fantasy, A Nightmare’s Betrayal. If I can rewrite one chapter every month, by the time 2017 rolls around I should have 14 out of 20 chapters done. That would be awesome!

2. Meet The Print Posse gals in person – yes, Gabbie, Fiona and Karen, that means you!

3. Resurrect my personal blog which has fallen to the wayside in previous months.

Every December and January I visit with my family in Tasmania. During the quiet and peaceful times that ensue, I often find myself dreaming of and reminiscing about faraway places from movies & novels I love. I thought that seeing I post about all my writing adventures and escapades on The Print Posse blog, I might divert the focus of my personal blog to more personal topics – namely, my favourite things. Recipes, movies, books and other things that inspire. So that is what I am going to do this year.

4. Attend the Byron Bay Writers Festival – see #2 above.

5. Read more.

Reading is something I don’t do often enough as any free time I do manage to secure for myself I usually devote to writing. However, over the Christmas period this year I read some amazing novels and am keen to continue this practice throughout the coming months.

So, there you have it folks. Five small goals to guide me through 2016. I look forward to revisiting them 12 months time and hopefully I will have achieved them all… plus some 😀

Happy new year!

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A note to my younger writer-self…

Gabbie recently came across a book by Carmel Bird entitled

Dear Writer…revisited….

The book was originally published as Dear Writer in 1988 and Carmel – an accomplished writer herself – wrote the book as a kind of quirky ‘how to’ writing book.

Dear Writer Revisited is a collection of letters from an experienced writer to a woman who has sent her own stories to be assessed.” (p.xvi)

The premise is intriguing – don’t you think?

So the challenge for The Print Posse this month is to write a letter to themselves… what would today’s writer tell the tentative youngster who was just starting out?

As usual, Yanicke leads us into the month…. (cos she is a legend hehehe :p )

note to youger writer self

Dear me,

Run for the hills! Don’t do it! Forget your dreams of being a writer and just be. Be a normal person, live a normal existence. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of maddening passion.

Once you go down that path there is no turning back.

Never again will you be able to enjoy a day doing nothing, an hour relaxing, a minute kicking back. The word holiday will no longer be in your vocabulary. Your mind will be constantly plotting and planning, dreaming and scheming. Every free moment will be snatched, secreted away, devoted to your craft.

Never again will you be able to read a book for the simple pleasure of reading. You will dissect every line, analyse every paragraph, and always with an eye to technique and strategy.

Never again will you hear a song and think of how much it speaks to you. Instead, every word will belong to your characters, every note will chronicle their pain and longing.

Never again will you have enough time – time to think up stories, time to share them with the world.

No, if you walk the path of being a writer you will never know peace again.

But…

All your sadness will be gone and your heart will be full to bursting. Not only with the usual blessings that come with growing up, like love and family and career – although you will have them too – but with plots and ideas and fantasies, entire worlds’ worth.

You will know excitement and yearning – excitement for all the stories you dream of writing, and yearning for enough time to write them.

You will be surrounded by others who share your passion and exuberance – other writers, poets, artists who are just as crazed and tormented as you are – and they will shine a little light on your world.

And you will show your children it’s possible to be whatever and whomever you want to be, that chasing your dreams is a legitimate career-choice, and making those dreams a reality, totally do-able.

So yes…

Run for the hills! Don’t do it! Forget your dreams of being a writer and just be. Be a normal person, live a normal life. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of maddening passion.

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Scenes – to be or not to be? That is the question…

Revision. It’s something every writer must face at some point in their writing journey.

This month, Fiona, Gabbie and I will take turns delving into specific aspects of the revision process.

That is the question...

That is the question…

Scenes. The building blocks of a novel. A well-written scene captures the reader’s attention, holds it and then leaves the reader wanting more. But what makes a scene well-written?

From what I have gathered over the years, from participating in writing courses, researching on the net, and trial and error, is that it boils down to one thing: a scene must move the story forward. Of course, other things are important too – like good grammar, interesting dialogue, vivid world building and all that jazz.

But if a scene doesn’t move the story forward, it’s pointless. It’s weak. It’s failing to live up to its potential. Effectively, the writer is taking a huge risk that they will lose the reader’s attention, and the reader will put down the book, walk away and never return. They’re also squandering the opportunity to make their novel a page-turner.

Scenes are the building blocks of a novel...

Scenes are the building blocks of a novel…

So how does a writer who is revising their novel determine whether their scenes advance the story?

A scene that moves the story forward has three elements:

(i) Setting and Action – it informs the reader of where the character is and what they are doing.

(ii) GMC (goal, motivation and conflict):

  • Goal – what the character wants;
  • Motivation – why the character wants to achieve this goal;
  • Conflict – the obstacle preventing the character from achieving this goal. This can be another character (whose goal is at odds with the main character’s goal) or an external obstacle.

(iii) Twist – something that changes everything.

It can be something that surprises the reader or raises new questions. This is the element that drags the reader into the next scene and makes your novel a page-turner – by making the reader want to know more.

The twist is the key to page-turning scenes...

The twist is the key to page-turning scenes…

A good place to study scenes is – surprise, surprise – in movies and television series. Screenwriters are very adept at crafting effective scenes. It might have something to do with the fact that time restraints (and therefore screenplay length) are extremely limited, so every scene must count.

To illustrate, let’s analyse a scene from a TV series many people are familiar with – Buffy the Vampire Slayer – written by, none other than screenwriting legend, Joss Whedon.

Scene 1, Episode 1 – Welcome to the Hellmouth.

Setting and Action
A boy and a girl are breaking into a school at night.

GMC – this scene is stuffed full of GMC.
The boy wants to go up on top of the gym. He says it’s because the view up there is amazing. But really he wants to get the girl alone and make out.
The girl doesn’t want to go up there. She’s scared and doesn’t want to get into trouble. Or maybe she simply doesn’t want to make out with the boy – after all, if you can see the whole town from up there, the whole town can probably see you.
They hear a noise. She thinks it’s something to be concerned about. He doesn’t.
Conflict, conflict, conflict.

Then BOOM!

Twist
She is a vampire. So there was something to be concerned about – just not what the boy (or viewer) was expecting.

Joss Whedon: The Boring-Scene Slayer...

Joss Whedon: The Boring-Scene Slayer…

Some things to keep in mind:

  • A scene must end after the twist – if the scene continues, you lose the I-have-to-read-more effect on the reader.
  • The twist doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering event – it can be subtle (eg. a new character arriving on the scene, the main character becoming aware of something previously hidden to them). For example, in Scene 2, Episode 1 of Buffy, Buffy is trapped in a nightmare. She wakes up and then her mother calls out “you don’t want to be late for your first day”. This new piece of information is the twist and pulls the viewer into the next scene – Buffy’s first day at a new school.
  • A good way to determine whether your scene moves the story forward is by looking at your character. Does your character arc within the scene (ie. do they feel/act/think differently at the end of the scene than they did at the beginning)?
  • Action doesn’t have to be a car chase or a fight scene. It can be introspection or dialogue, BUT ONLY if it moves the story forward. This can be through character development or by revealing backstory – but this new information must be critical (ie. it affects the main plotline or a subplot). Simply revealing generic information about a character or their past is not enough. For example, if your entire scene comprises your character waking up, eating breakfast and engaging in small talk with her mum about how the toaster keeps burning the toast, you need to get rid of it (even if the banter is witty and clever*) – UNLESS the overzealous toaster is critical to the story line (ie. your character suspects her mum is having an affair with the pool boy who just so happens to prefer his toast burnt)

* in the event that the witty banter reveals something cool about a character or relationship and you REALLY don’t want to throw it away, take that banter from the pointless scene and merge that into a scene that moves the story forward, or salvage the scene by adding some conflict and a twist.

Often pointless scenes creep into our stories because they are transition scenes – boring scenes we think we need to write to fill a gap between two incredible, story-changing, can’t-put-the-book-down scenes. Just get rid of them. Go directly from one critical scene to the next, and only write those scenes you can’t wait to write – these are the scenes the reader can’t wait to read. You can always add a few sentences to explain what happened in between if you feel it’s necessary.

And remember, scenes that are boring to write are boring to read.

Make your novel a page-turner by injecting conflict into your scenes...

Want to make your novel a page turner? Inject some good old-fashioned action and GMC into your scenes… with a twist!

So that’s it from me.

In the next two weeks, Gabbie will be sharing some of her secret revision wisdom, and Fiona will be delving more deeply into the concept of GMC and how it relates not only to scenes but to the story as a whole.

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Pitching Your Novel On Twitter

So, you’ve finished writing your novel… now what?

This month, Fiona, Gabbie and I will be discussing different ways to pitch your novel.

pitching your novel

Pitching in the A-league…

Some of the most exciting things I’ve experienced on my writing journey are Twitter pitch events.

What are Twitter Pitch events?

To state the obvious, Twitter pitch events are pitching events held on Twitter.

For a set period of time (commonly 12 hours but sometimes 24 hours) writers can pitch their novel to agents and editors. Agents and editors then invite writers to query them by favouriting the Twitter pitches (or twitches) that catch their interest.

Twitter pitch events are a regular occurrence these days: PitMad is held every March, July, September and December; PitchMAS every July and December; SFFpit in June and December; and AdPit every February and August.

And now agents and agencies are hosting their own pitch events. For example, every few months Erin Niumata invites writers to pitch directly to her on Twitter and Curtis Brown hosts monthly pitching events at #PitchCB.*

Generally, you can pitch your novel twice an hour (except when directly pitching to agents and agencies – be sure to check their pitch guidelines before participating). And to help agents and editors find your twitches among the sea of tweets on the feed you are encouraged to use category and genre hashtags. Different events utilise different hashtags, so be sure to peruse their lists before you pitch:

Usually when I participate, I make sure I have 24 pitches ready to go and I load them into Tweetdeck ahead of time (as I live in Australia – most pitch events begin when I’m going to bed). Just remember, if you use scheduling tools like Tweetdeck and Buffer, make sure you re-word pitches you plan to use more than once otherwise they may not be posted (Tweetdeck and Buffer do not like duplicate tweets when they are posted close together).

Oh, and remember, whether you are participating or simply supporting writers who are, only retweet – do not favourite twitches. That is only for agents and editors to do.

Twitter button on computer keyboard

Enter the world of Twitter pitching…

What is a Twitch?

A Twitter pitch (or twitch) is a 140 character pitch of your novel.

Most writers focus on one aspect of their novel per twitch – either character, conflict, premise, stakes or voice – the most popular (and highly recommended by many writers) being stakes (ie. When this happens to the main character, she must to this, or else this will happen).

My most successful twitch to date, however, does not have stakes in it. In fact, it was one I threw in on the spur of the moment – my last pitch for the day – and it snagged stars from three agents:

She can tame the undead with her words. He chose to become undead to keep her safe. Love destined or doomed? BUFFY x OUTLANDER #Pitmad YA PR

Why do I love Twitter Pitch events?

1. Hot-querying instead of cold-querying

I’ve had far more requests for fulls and partials from Twitter pitch events than general cold-querying. I think this might have something to do with the fact, right now, my novel is a hard sell (it is a YA vampire novel and historical to boot). Figuring out which agents might be interested in YA historical paranormal novels and worth querying is tricky – but when I pitch on Twitter I know which agents are interested in my premise because they give me a gold star 😀

2. Meeting other writers

Participating in Twitter pitch events is a wonderful way to meet other writers and extend your online network.

3. It is fun

The moment a pitch event kicks off is exciting. One minute the feed is still, and the next – wham! – the tweets start flying.

4. Honing your pitching skills

140 characters is not much. When you spend hours crafting a dozen or more Twitter pitches, you quickly learn how to summarise your novel – a skill that is never a waste to have.

5 stars 1

My Twitches

Here are some of my most successful twitches that have garnered multiple stars from agents/editors:

June 2015

  • She can tame the undead with her words. He chose to become undead to keep her safe. Love destined or doomed? BUFFY x OUTLANDER #Pitmad YA PR
  • Some people can tame horses, others can sweet-talk hounds, but 17yo Boudica can force vampires to their knees…with a whisper #Pitmad #YA #PR
  • In 18c Scotland, a 17yo girl learns to tame vampires with her words. OUTLANDER meets ANITA BLAKE but with panties on. #Pitmad #YA #PR #HF
  • In 18c Scotland, where hellhounds roam & witches spin lies, the survival of an entire clan rests with a 17yo girl. #Pitmad #YA #PR #HF
  • She can tame the undead with her words. He chose to become undead to keep her safe. A 18c love story inspired by Celtic folklore #Pitmad #YA
  • Cute boys in kilts. Witches harboring secrets. Monsters masquerading as friends. Life’s complicated when you’re the Whisperer #Pitmad #YA PR

December 2014

  • In 18c Scotland, 17yo girl must hone her ability to tame vampires if she wants to face the monsters who massacred her kin & live #PitMad #YA
  • Scotland 1723: To save her clan, 17yo girl must hone her vampire taming powers but it means trusting the boy who betrayed her. #Pitchmas #YA
  • 17yo Boudica can tame vampires with her words. But she’s being hunted & must decide if her childhood beau is friend or foe #Pitmad #YA #PR
  • In 18c Scotland, a smithy’s daughter & a cute vampire in a kilt must join forces to defeat the monster who massacred her kin #Pitmad #YA #PR

Some great articles if you want to know more:

* If you know of any other agents/agencies that hold pitching events, please let me know in the comments below

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Two Rules to Write By

When I first started writing I wrote with abandon. Armed only with an academic background and a love for books, I composed sentences on a whim, letting the rhythm of the words guide my fingertips across the keyboard.

Little girl running on meadow with sunset

This is what writing with abandon feels like…

Throughout my years as a writer I’ve been influenced by authors I’ve been reading. I think it’s something a lot of writers do when they’re learning to find their voice. You try out the style of writers you admire, discover what works for you and what doesn’t. Over time your own style emerges, incorporating little bits and pieces of techniques learned along the way.

In the early days, I read a lot of Diana Gabaldon, so back then my prose included a lot of adverbs and adjectives, and long sprawling scenes.

Then I discovered Maggie Stiefvater and filter words slipped into my writing, as well as unusual details and personification to bring the setting to life and make it a character rather than just a backdrop.

I also devoured lots of writing guides along the way, learning the “rules of good writing”. One of my faves (which I’m sure most writers are familiar with) is Stephen King’s On Writing. I usually re-read this masterpiece every year at Christmas when I visit my parents in Tasmania and have a little extra time up my sleeve. And, let me tell you, it’s not just the writing advice I enjoy, it’s the fascinating story of Mr King himself (yes, I admit it, I adore reading about other writers’ journeys to success. It gives me hope that one day I might find success too).

It wasn’t until I finished writing my first novel, though, and embarked on the long and seemingly endless journey of revising, querying and pitching my manuscript that I really began to discover my voice. Which, when you think about it, sounds kinda crazy because you’d assume the time you’d learn the most about writing would be when you are actually writing. But in all honestly, I think I’ve learned more about writing in the past 18 months than I ever did in my life previously as a student, reader and budding writer. The reason? Because it wasn’t until I put my work out there for others to critique that I got objective feedback. And feedback was the key.

One thing I learnt was that you can read all the how-to and rule books in the world, memorise the list of no-no’s and go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb hunting for the sneaky little bastards (excuse my French), but no matter how hard you focus you’re not always going to be able to identify the problems in your own writing. Sometimes, when you are learning, you need somebody to point them out. Then, once you can see the “rules” in the context of your work and not some generic example in a manual, they become a hell of a lot easier to identify.

detective

Writing detective…

I swear on more than one occasion I was certain I’d weeded out a certain kind of faux pas only to have someone else point it out after a single read through. And I’m sure there are still many more lurking in my prose – I just haven’t learned to effectively identify them yet. But I will keep on soliciting feedback and learning from my mistakes – because I know in the end it will make my writing that much stronger.

So without further ado, I introduce to you my two favourite pieces of advice I have picked up along the way that have improved my writing significantly.

1. Strong Verbs

To me strong verbs are the holy grail of powerful writing, and when I discovered these little beauties I couldn’t get enough of them.

Strong verbs can take a simple ho-hum sentence and give it oomph. And since they also make the use of adverbs and adjectives superfluous, you effectively kill two birds with one stone.

For those of you unfamiliar with strong-versus-weak verbs I will give you a few examples from fiction I love – namely The Wolves of Mercy Falls novels by Maggie Stiefvater (in my opinion, Miss Stiefvater is the queen of writing with verbs that kick ass – particularly of the personification kind):

Instead of writing “I angrily closed the phone” she wrote: “I snapped the phone shut.” (Forever)

Instead of writing “I sat lazily on my stool” she wrote: “I slouched on my stool.” (Shiver)

Instead of writing “I quickly got out of bed” she wrote: “I tumbled out of bed.” (Forever)

Instead of writing “She closed her locker roughly” she wrote: “She shoved her locker shut.” (Shiver)

As you can see, in all examples you get rid of a pesky adverb because the verb itself describes the action so well on its own.

And here are some of my favourite examples of personification using strong verbs:

Night crouched in the trees. (Shiver)

His expression poured back into his face. (Sinner)

The heat crept in around the door. (Shiver)

The music slapped its hands against the car windows. (Forever)

Here are some useful links to articles about strong verbs:

Super Verbs

Super Verbs

2. Filter Words and Naming Emotions

This is really two things, but I lump them into one because I learned about them at the same time. Back in August 2014, I entered an online event called PitchPlus5 where I submitted the first five pages of my manuscript and competed against 49 other writers for the chance to win an agent critique and free query pass. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it past the first round, but I was offered some of the most valuable feedback I’ve ever received.

It was actually just a short email, but the advice contained therein really spoke to me and changed the way I’ve written and edited ever since.

Namely, cut out the filter words and don’t name emotions, show them.

Filter words are words such as looked/saw/felt/knew/watched/wondered/thought and they distance the reader from what is happening. Instead of saying “I felt a hand on my shoulder” you should say: “A hand touched my shoulder” – it is more immediate and, especially in the case of first person POV, helps the reader become the character.

As for naming emotions (ie. saying “I was shocked” or “he sighed with relief), this is a prime example of telling instead of showing and should be corrected immediately. You can do this by describing the body language a person would use when feeling that emotion, or making sure the dialogue between the characters conveys that emotion without having to spell it out.

For example, in my submission I had written:

Susan and Breanna exchanged glances before turning to see who’d spoken. I was shocked to see it was Lachlan MacLean, and shocked further still to realize it was me he was addressing.

After receiving this feedback, I changed it to read:

Susan and Breanna exchanged glances before turning to see who’d spoken. I just stood there, blinking up into a pair of ice-blue eyes. Lachlan MacLean was asking me to dance? This had to be a mistake.

See how more vivid the passage is now?

Here are some links to articles about filters and naming emotions and body language:

emotions cloud

Pesky emotion-naming words

On a final note, you might have noticed I mentioned some of these so called writing “no-no’s” when describing how the works of my two favourite authors influenced me. I think the thing to keep in mind is that the “rules of good writing” are not really rules per se but guidelines. Successful authors break them all the time (which can be a bit confusing for us newbie writers), but they get away with it because they do it well – it’s a part of their voice. But not all of us can pull it off.

I think knowing how and when to break the rules, and doing it in a way that is effective, is what ultimately defines a writer’s voice.

I mean seriously, if we all followed the rules strictly we’d probably all sound the same. And that would be sad.

Sad puppy :'(

Sad puppy 😥

And here is a little addendum I found waiting for me on my computer when I returned from putting my boys down to sleep, courtesy of my cheeky, wannabe hubby (he often sneaks onto my computer and hides messages for me in my writing):

But for me, when it came to discovering my voice, I found the two rules above really helpful. The other was a loving partner who gave me the encouragement I deserved. Wow he is amazing! Love you darling xxx

And he thought I wouldn’t notice…

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A Writer’s Life

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A writer’s life…

I’ve heard it said (and seen it written) that a writer should write every day.

If only it was that easy.

I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve written diligently every day for months on end, and I’ve had months on end when I haven’t written a thing.

I don’t believe it’s that desperate. When I hear (or read) someone saying you have to write every day, I can’t help but think they’re worried somehow that if you don’t you’ll lose your passion or forget how to write or some other frightening fate will befall you.

But quite frankly I believe if you’re a writer you’ll always be a writer. And if your passion or skills are so precarious that not writing for a day, or week or even a year will put them in jeopardy, then perhaps you’d be better off (and a hell of a lot happier) not writing at all – because seriously, being plagued by a need to tell stories and not being satisfied until you’ve gotten them down on paper (or onto the computer screen) is a sort of torture in itself.

If you can escape that, I say run for the hills, my friend, and be free.

No, often being a writer means having to find time to write around the rest of your life. And being flexible. And also realising that writing isn’t just about the physical act of putting pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard) – it’s also about thinking and dreaming and pretending, and a whole bunch of other things (like listening and watching and experiencing).

And (because I am so enlightened hoho) that’s how I approach it.

In 2009, when I first began to write seriously, my eldest (and at the time, only) son was in school. This was a wonderful arrangement because I could, and would, write (pretty much uninterrupted) between 10am and 4pm daily. I’m so thankful and sentimental for those early years as I did a lot of my learning and experimenting back then. And I don’t think I would be the writer I am today without them. I wrote the first 140k version of my vampire novel during this period.

In 2011 and 2012, my two littles came along, and boy did my writing life change then. I went from writing consistently day-in and day-out, to writing sporadically whenever I could find the time. That meant maybe getting an hour or two of writing in while they napped (if I was lucky enough to have them both napping at the same time, that is), or sneaking in half an hour of writing in the afternoon if they happened to discover an activity interesting and novel enough to capture their attention for more than 10 minutes.

I remember being heartened by the writing journeys of writers I admired – Laurell K Hamilton, for example, crafted her first novel in the hours before work every day, two pages at a time, and Maggie Stiefvater set aside Wednesday’s once a week (and some Sundays) to work on Lament – the moral of the story being that over time, if you plod away and keep at it, the words start to add up. And it’s true. During this period, I managed to write the second version of my vampire novel (all 105K words of it), and complete revision after revision after revision of the damned thing (until I reduced the word count to 88.5K).

Then in 2014, when my hubby and I started up our own little law firm, I found myself evolving into a night writer. And let me tell you, that was a pretty phenomenal feat for me – my ideal time for clear thinking and creative expression is early in the morning, after a long night of sleeping on ideas and dreaming up scenarios.

But it was either write at night or not write at all – so of course night writing it was. And over the course of six months I plotted and wrote the first draft of my fantasy novel, while dreaming up the premises of two other novels I’m still dying to write.

Knight Rider

Night Writer

But like I said before, writing is not just about the physical act of writing. So even when the demands of my non-writing life dominate my usual allotted writing time, I “write” in other ways – I plot novel number three in my head, I rework novel number one on my iPhone, I listen to songs on my playlist and imagine my characters in various scenarios.

And I know when I turn around the next corner in my life and my time for writing once again changes (and hopefully expands), I will have done so much preparatory work in my head that my next two novels will come flying off my fingertips onto the screen.

And I can’t wait until then.

writing life

Pen and paper and something yummy… sounds like heaven to me 🙂

As for my ideal writing life (a writer can always dream, right?), this is how it would be…

Wake up every morning, grab a nice hot coffee, sit down at my desk, and write. All day. With no interruptions. Well, maybe a break or two to grab something yummy, but that is it.

Ta da!

Lol I know I’m dreaming. With one child in high school and two others under five, I have quite a wait on my hands until my life will be anywhere near my own again. And that’s okay.

In the meantime, I will live like this: every chance I get, I will write – five hundred words here, one thousand words there – and before I know it, I’ll have a dozen works to my name. Well, that’s the plan anyway. Oh, and I’m going to enjoy every single step along the way – both in my writing life, and the real-life I have with my family – no matter what.

In the immortal words of the lovely Nancy Sinatra (and yes, if James Bond can live by them, so can I), you only live twice – once for yourself, and once for your dreams.

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An excerpt from The Mark of the Cagairáin…

Hello Print Posse readers…

This month, each of us will post for you a short excerpt from our novels. My excerpt comes from Chapter 7 of The Mark of the Cagairáin. 

An historical paranormal romance set in eighteenth-century Scotland, The Mark of the Cagairáin is a story about a girl who can tame the undead with her words and the boy who chose to become undead to keep her safe. If you enjoy your romance sweet, with a dash of suspense, then The Mark of the Cagairáin is for you 😀

This is a mock book cover I made a while ago for The Mark of the Cagairáin - complete with an endorsement from my wannabe hubby, David :D

Here is a just-for-fun book cover I made a while ago for The Mark of the Cagairáin – complete with an endorsement from my #1 fan and wannabe hubby, David 😀

Where is that little rascal?

I hovered at the edge of the woods, scanning the knee-high grasses of Duart’s Moor. It was a bonny spot, with tall, scraggly trees speckling the heather-strewn field and a bubbling brook meandering through its middle. Every now and then village markets would clutter the heath, spewing noise and smoke into the highland air. Now all that remained was a broken cart, several shards of wood and a few piles of junk, scattered across the moor like debris washed up on the seashore. Although I could’ve sworn the faint smell of spit-roasted meat mingled with sodden moss lingered in the air like a forgotten thought.

Something flashed white through the grass, rocketing past some boulders and disappearing among the gorse and broom. I took off after it, snagging my skirts on thorny weeds and tripping over rocks and fallen branches. The moor winds assailed me, rifling my sark and lashing my hair across my face. My breath rasped in my lungs.

“Laddie,” I called, between gasps. “Wait!”

I’d almost reached the bridge when my foot rolled in a ditch. Pain speared my leg and I tumbled to the ground, the air rushing from my lungs in an oomph. Overhead, clouds scudded across the sky, wispy ghosts fast on their way to nowhere; a willow warbler mocked me with its cheery song.

I don’t know how long I sat in the grass cradling my ankle. Five minutes. Ten maybe. Long enough for my breath to slow and the pain to dull. Long enough for the moistness of the ground to soak through my skirts and spread across my backside like creeping mould. I pressed my hands to the spongy ground and pushed myself to standing, gingerly applying weight to my injured leg. Fortunately, it didn’t seem too bad. I probably couldn’t run, but at least I wouldn’t have to crawl home.

Oh no! At the thought of home, my stomach sank. I’d left the linen in the churchyard. Mammy was going to kill me.

Awareness tiptoed up my spine, one vertebrae at a time, and I turned, expecting to find somebody standing behind me. But no one was there. Goose bumps erupted across my flesh. I could’ve sworn I’d felt eyes on me.

“Hello?”  Sunlight rained from above, warming my arms and the back of my neck.  I strained to hear something, anything, over the hiss of the wind, the gurgle of the brook moseying by. “Is anybody there?”

A stiff breeze accosted me from behind and I whirled, my gaze darting left and right and back again. I was alone – at least that’s what my eyes were telling me. But for some reason, I couldn’t shrug off the feeling somebody was lurking nearby – watching me, following me, stalking me. Taking one shaky step backwards and then another, I spun on my heels, lunging for the bridge and the grassy knoll beyond.  My ankle shrieked in objection but I managed to stifle a cry.

The beast came out of nowhere, clawing me, shredding me, crippling me with agony. It was so black, as though the deepest, darkest depths of hell had solidified and come to life – a living, breathing nightmare. The impact sent me flying. And when I say flying, I mean literally flying – my feet left the ground. And even though I would’ve only been airborne for seconds, it seemed longer. I was keenly aware of the air howling in my ears, the trees rushing past, the ground hurtling closer, and then the grass tearing at my face. I skidded several feet before I crashed into a tree. Luckily for me, my head cushioned the impact.

Well, maybe not so lucky.

My mouth tasted like dirt and blood. It was murder just to breathe. I rolled onto my back, turned my face to the sky, and every inch of my body screamed. Wind scored my cheeks as sharp as razors. Sundrenched air burned like fire on my skin. And even as the coldness of the earth seeped into my limbs, warmth spread across my chest, thick and wet.

And then I remembered.

The hell beast.

I opened my eyes. Pine needles waving overhead merged into focus and then the bright blue sky beyond. Where was the damned thing? I slowed my breathing, concentrated on the prick of grass into my back, the panicked beating of my heart. The edges of my mind frayed, long strands of cognisance fluttering free, and I honed in on the weak, almost imperceptible pulse of raw hatred radiating from the bushes to my right. The skin at the base of my neck tingled, and very slowly I swivelled my head.

Oh please, oh please, don’t let this be real.

A monstrous dog the size of a small cow crouched among the leaves and thorns. Its eyes were as red as blood, its fur as black as night. And as it crept closer, one big black paw at a time, it was as soundless as the moon. I’d never seen anything like it, but I’d heard stories – stories of giant beasts that roamed the countryside. Phantom dogs. I suddenly had the oddest impulse to laugh. This dog felt pretty damn corporeal to me.

The wretched beast inched closer. My heart beat so fast, I feared it might break through my ribcage. What was I going to do? I didn’t even know if I could move let alone fight off an animal like this. With my eyes fastened on my attacker, I reached for my sgian dubh, stretching my arm, my hand, my fingers as far as they would go. But the knife taunted me – its blade hard against my thigh, but beyond all reach.

Barely a foot away, the beast halted. It lifted its shaggy head and sniffed the air, its hellfire eyes scanning the scrub. I froze, gaping up at long yellowed fangs dripping with saliva, at hackles as shaggy as a lion’s mane. My teeth hurt with every breath it breathed, raw and grating like glass dragged over gravel. Everything inside me screamed at me to flee.

And then the stench hit me, so foul my stomach didn’t stand a chance. Death. Despair. Desiccation. I averted my face, wretched the contents of my guts all over the cold hard ground. When I finally collapsed, red eyes impaled me. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and thought I was going to die.

A snarl so vicious it sent shivers up my arms shattered the quiet, and something white streaked through the heather. The nightmare beast howled and reared up on its hind legs. My ears stung, the cry was so piercing.

Propping myself up on my elbows, I squinted against the glare of the sun. Something was hanging from the beast’s neck, something small and hairy. Whatever it was, it was holding on for dear life and wasn’t about to let go. The beast swung its head, jaws gnashing empty air. Somehow it managed to wrap its paws around the wriggling body and tear it from its throat. The wail that followed ripped my heart in two, high-pitched and distinctly dog-like. I knew that wail.

“Laddie, no!”

The beast sank its teeth into Laddie’s body and with one mighty shake of its head, flung him to the ground. Laddie whimpered once, then fell silent. Ignoring the pain, I scrambled towards him, fingers clawing the earth, knees skidding and tangling in my skirts. The beast hulked possessively over the little mongrel. Very slowly, it lifted his head. I stopped still, paralysed. Two searing red eyes burned into me, and then a voice as ancient as the wind whispered in my head.

Boudica.

Perspiration dripped into my eyes, ran down the side of my neck. Hair clung to my cheeks in wet chunks. I stared at the beast. It couldn’t have spoken to me, could it? The beast cocked its head to one side, stared right back at me, silent, unblinking. And then, taking its time, it stepped over Laddie and padded towards me – coming so close I could see beads of moisture congealing on its black velvet nose. Its rotten scent streamed up my nostrils and I gagged. Thankfully this time I kept from puking.

Blood trickled from its mouth, splattered my arm. Laddie’s blood. I lurched backwards. “Get away from me.”

The beast froze. And in the time it took for me to wipe the sweat from my eyes, it vanished. All that was left, a gaping hole in my chest, and Laddie’s lifeless form in the dirt. “Laddie…”

Sobbing, I sagged back into the grass, shock and grief washing over me like the blood saturating my clothes. I was tired, so, so tired. Blackness pushed in around me like an old friend. I closed my eyes and welcomed it, longing for release from the pain. But just before I lost consciousness, I thought I heard something that didn’t seem quite right. Something out of place. Something sinister.

A laugh. A woman’s laugh.

Or maybe it was just the wind.

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Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Hello y’all! This month’s blog topic is PROCESS. Each week, one of us will share with you a little about our individual writing processes. Today is my turn 😀

Plotting versus Pantsing

When I think of process, the first two words that come to mind are PLOTTER and PANTSER. The third, EDITING.

Plotting vs. Pantsing

For those of you unfamiliar with the terms, a plotter is someone who plots their story before they write and a pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants (ie. without a plan). Since I started writing seriously (six years ago last month) I’ve had the pleasure (or should I say torture?) of being both.

Never having composed anything longer than 4000 or 5000 words (and primarily academic at that), my first attempt at writing a novel was an exercise in futility discovery. I started with a rough idea of where the story was headed – I knew who my characters were, what they wanted, where they would end up – but as far as individual scenes went I had no clue. Then I plonked myself down in front of my computer and wrote and wrote and wrote, letting the story and characters guide me. In other words, I pantsed it.

I have to say writing this way was a very exciting and eye-opening experience. I edited as I went – not moving to the next scene until I’d written the first perfectly (or as perfectly as I felt it could be). Just to explain, writing for me is a little like crafting poetry – there’s a rhythm to the sentences, a music to the phrases, I strive for. Once I find that rhythm, I’m happy. But it can take a long time – and a lot of hair-pulling and nail-biting – to get to that point.

The process of writing without a plan felt a little bit like archaeology – as if my story already existed and all I was doing, with my handy pencil and paper (or rather cursor and empty screen), was uncovering it. When I wasn’t writing, I’d listen to music and daydream about where my characters were taking me. Then, when I’d write, I’d reimagine those scenarios in my mind and transcribe what I saw onto the computer screen. I suppose you could say it was an organic process. It also amazed me how just through the use of words, I could create an entire world from nothing.

Two years and 140k words later I was still plodding along – writing a few hundred words each day and editing them to perfection. But when I was just about to start writing the end of my epic masterpiece, I suddenly realised something was terribly wrong. And, let me assure you, I do not use the word “suddenly” in this context lightly. The realisation hit me like a bolt of lightning – painfully and out of the blue.

Even though each scene was (in my personal and novice opinion) beautifully written, my characters were well-rounded and driven by their own unique motivations, and my world was painted in crisp detail, my story dragged. Even though it pained me to admit it, my manuscript seemed like one big exercise in self-indulgence. I was flexing my writing muscles, as I think every new writer does – you know, trying different techniques and playing with words – but the stuff that was making it onto my page was not there because it served the story, it was there because it pleased me. And as any writer with an ounce of experience knows – this is a big no-no.

It was at about this time I had the amazing honour of participating in a writing workshop hosted by Maggie Stiefvater – who just so happens to be my favourite post-1990s YA author (you can read more about my experience HERE). After listening to her advice and bombarding the poor woman with a barrage of questions (sorry, Maggie), I realised what my story was lacking.

me and maggie

Me and the super amazing talented Ms Stiefvater!

A KILLER PLOT.

Well, a killer plot AND a kick-butt main character who lived in the midst of the action rather than sitting on the sidelines watching – but that’s a whole other topic for a whole other blog post.

Don’t get me wrong, my story had direction – it was hurtling towards a clearly defined ending – but it was the road the story was travelling to get there that was the problem. It was boring. It was a long stretch of uneventful road with the occasional pothole dug out here and there. What my story needed was some twists and turns, some bumps, some bloody scaling-the-side-of-a-mountain excitement.

So I went back to my computer, saved what I had written in a file somewhere deep inside my C drive, and started all over again. That’s right folks – I discarded 140k of prose I’d spent hours painstakingly crafting and started from scratch.

But this time I was prepared.

I studied books I loved to see how they were plotted. I picked apart movies that kept me on the edge of my seat. I grilled other writers about their processes and scoured their blogs for tips and tricks. And then I planned out my novel scene-by-scene.

I became a PLOTTER!

Editing

I also gave up the practice of editing as I wrote – which, I have to admit, was the hardest and most daunting part of the whole process. I’d heard many writers say they wrote their first draft quickly and messily, solely for the purpose of getting the story down on paper. “You can’t edit a blank page,” they’d say. But for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to write like that myself. My first draft was like a final draft – every sentence neatly written, every paragraph slaved over for hours (and believe me, that’s not an exaggeration – there were times I’d spend a whole afternoon perfecting one or two paragraphs). Letting go of this perfectionism seemed an impossible task. How could I possibly move on to the next scene if I wasn’t completely satisfied with the one I was working on? But after throwing away 140k of carefully crafted prose, I knew I didn’t want to waste any more precious time on scenes that might ultimately be cut.

I saw this on Twitter today and it sums up my experiences exactly... :'(

I saw this on Twitter today and it sums up my experiences exactly… 😥

So I came up with a new writing plan: jot down the novel scene-by-scene, write the entire story quickly and roughly, and then read it with a critical eye. Does the plot entice the reader forward? Does the story lag? Are there places my eyes glaze over when I’m reading? Then and only then, once I’ve fixed any of these issues and am completely convinced my story is riveting and well-paced, will I fill in all the details and make the magic happen.

Sounds like a good plan, right? And in theory it was. There was just one problem – for the life of me I couldn’t get my mind around how writers wrote a rough first draft. I searched for examples all over the internet – but they always seemed to be as well written as a final draft. Then I stumbled across a writer who said they wrote their first draft like a script… and finally, I understood.

If I wrote the bare bones – you know, a basic setting description, dialogue, and some stage directions – then I knew could write fast and get a scene down and still feel okay enough to move forward.

I had found MY way.

Here’s an example of how I write my first draft now as opposed to my second draft:

First DraftSecond Draft

My Process

So there you have it.

After much trial and error (emphasis on error), my writing process now goes something like this:
1. Write an outline, scene-by-scene (Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat is my bible when it comes to plotting);
2. Write the first draft like a script – ie. basic description of setting, dialogue and a few stage directions;
3. Read over the first draft and make sure I’m happy with the plot and pacing. Make any changes needed;
4. Write the second draft (this is the pretty draft – the one that reads like a novel and is torture to write);
5. Read over the story again. Enlist the aid of beta readers. Get feedback.
6. Revise with feedback in mind.
7. Line edit.

I think the moral of my story is that we, as writers, are all different. While some writers can pants it and still come up with a story that has an amazing plot, I can’t. Plotting simply doesn’t came naturally to me – not yet anyway. Maybe over time I’ll learn to do it instinctively – after I’ve spent many years writing novels and training my mind to think in a plot-like structure. But for now, if I don’t want my stories to be long, boring, albeit well-written, suck-fests, I have to sit down and deliberately carve out that structure.

I recently finished writing my first draft for my WIP. It took me about four months of casual writing and stands at 31K words. By the time I finish the second draft, I expect it will bulge at 80-90K. It will also take me a hell of a lot longer than four months to write. But at least I know most of what I write will be there in the final version.

So, now it’s your turn… What, my dear readers who also happen to be writers, is your process?

Next week Gabbie will be taking over The Print Posse blog to tell us all about her writing method.

Be sure to check in 🙂

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