Tag Archives: writing

Undiscovered Voices 2016 – Finalist!

24 Jan

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll have seen that I had some good news recently. I reached the final of Undiscovered Voices 2016 (under my real name), the competition for unpublished authors and illustrators in the SCBWI-BI. It was a total shock to find out that I was shortlisted – the call came when I was at school, so all my colleagues got to see me leaping around the staffroom like an idiot!

So, what does this mean?

Firstly, the brilliant team behind the competition arranged a brilliant workshop for us finalists, kindly hosted by competition sponsors Working Partners. It was great to meet lots of other writers working at a similar stage, but nonetheless diverse in background and experience. Also included were the winning illustrators, which gave me a fascinating insight into an area of publishing I’m unfamiliar with.

The main part of the ‘prize’ is inclusion in the UV anthology, available for download as an e-book. It is sent out to industry professionals who are also invited along to a networking event taking place in a few weeks. Needless to say, I’m nervous but excited about getting the chance to meet agents and editors.

Whether that leads to something concrete for ‘The Hunt is On’, or whether it is just a stepping stone in its continuing journey, I’m immensely grateful for the opportunities presented so far and still to come. Watch this space!

 

Advertisements

Goals, Resolutions and Pie Crusts

28 Dec

As the year wends its tired, bloated way to a close, it’s time to think about the dreaded ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. Of course, sometimes we need to have goals and aims rather than just ‘I resolve never to…’. For many years, I had only three: read more, write more and be less of a loser. All three probably still apply for 2016.

Last year I set some more specific aims in response to a post on one of my favourite blogs, Fluent in 3 Months. Benny had some good advice, which was to make sure your goals are concrete (a bit like the SMART targets we’re always setting with the kids at school).

As you can see in his comments, I set out the following aims for myself (with a languages slant, as per the blog):

Learn enough Japanese to get by in Japan: Achieved! I learned how to read hiragana and katakana plus a few basic kanji, which meant I was able to locate a Monjayaki restaurant in Tokyo with no romaji sign. It was really delicious so the pain of doing my Memrise/WaniKani reps was worth it! I was also able to ask a few basic questions of tour guides and bus drivers. Okay, I wasn’t conversing freely, but I learned enough to make the trip fun. I should probably revise this at some point because I haven’t done any Japanese since August.

japanesehappy.gif

Continue reading

The Exchange – Part One

10 Oct

Over fourteen years ago, I took part in a quintessentially British rite of passage, the French Exchange. It was an experience both memorable and highly awkward, as I, an ungainly teenager, tried to simultaneously navigate the unfamiliar environs of France and associating with the male sex. Whilst this account endeavours to capture some of the true events of the trip, needless to say some artistic licence has been taken where memory has become hazy. With that, I apologise in advance to those who were there, and indeed the French nation, for any misrepresentation on my part. And now, let us begin. 

Le Voyage

It’s February 2001, and I’m sitting on a coach wearing a bright blue fleece and a pair of jeans that doesn’t quite fit. The world is innocent right now and so am I, fourteen years old and blessed with a pair of overgrown eyebrows and limp hair that’s rapidly heading for dishwater blonde. Around me, other girls in head-to-toe Tammy and clutching drawstring Nike sacks and Jane Norman carrier bags are checking their make-up. We’re off to France, but we can’t leave without the boys. We’re picking them up from the school down the road, and this is probably the most exciting thing since the Junior Choir got a male drummer for the Christmas Concert.

Continue reading

In the middle of nowhere

18 Nov

One of the most frustrating things people ask me a lot is ‘how is your writing going?’. I don’t mean that to sound churlish – actually, like any writer I love getting the chance to talk about my work and I am pleased that people are interested enough to ask me. The problem is…it isn’t really going anywhere?

That’s not strictly true. I am sloooowly finishing THIO (my current ms) and hope to have made my final edits by the end of the month. Going back to full time work has made it more difficult to dedicate myself to it, but I have found time here and there and I plan to give it a couple of Saturdays to do the last polish.  I’d love to query before the end of the year (maybe before the start of December)!

The previous ms is, sadly, heading out to pasture for a while. I will always love this book, but it’s clear that the market isn’t quite right for it at the moment. Perhaps in the future I can return to it. I certainly hope so, mainly because my love for my babies A/J and F/N will never die!

I decided to try and get some new words down during November, not as a full NaNo but just to break the ice on this fantasy piece. Turns out writing a secondary world fantasy is HARD. I also started in the wrong place in the story *headdesk*. The flow is just not happening so I’ll have to rewrite the beginning and try and get properly into the MC’s voice.

So, overall, I’m pretty much ‘in the middle of nowhere’ with my writing right now. Please do continue to ask me how it’s going, but please be prepared for an extreme lack of excitement -_-

On Writing Love Interests

7 Oct

I know some people disagree with me, but I feel like a great romance is a really important ingredient of YA. In fact, I think the combination of genre and romance is what draws me to YA so often – sure, adult genre works like ASOIAF have relationships in them, but they’re hardly romantic. A great romance can make or break a YA. However, having read a couple of books recently in which the love story was luke-warm at best, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes for a successful one – and the love interest is definitely a massive factor.

My favourite love interest comes from my favourite YA: Margaret Mahy’s The Tricksters. Felix Carnival is as swoon-worthy as they come, and, most importantly, complex. What I like about him is that he challenges the heroine, Harry, in all sorts of ways – acting as the physical embodiment of a sexual and creative awakening that ultimately ushers Harry into adulthood. Like many YA boys, he is lovable but with a hint of danger – in his case the presence of his unstable twin brother, Hadfield, whose night-time assault leaves Harry confused about her attraction to Felix and afraid of the lurid fantasies she writes in secret. Moreover, Felix also has his own motivations beyond just loving Harry. His struggle against his brothers is a powerful force in the story, giving him a complexity beyond simple stereotype.

In writing my own love interests – and I’ve now written four guys and one girl – I try to adopt similar principles. I want the LI to be their own person and have their own goals, but similarly to provide something for the MC to bounce off. If the LI is only about mooning and moping over the MC, I find that the romance can be stale and unbelievable.

Who is your favourite love interest and what do you think makes a successful one?

Planning – a slowly-reforming Pantser’s guide

6 Aug

Two lovely people (Soizic included) asked me about planning novels and how exactly I’m going about the transition from pantser to plotter.

For the uninitiated, ‘pantsing’ comes from the term ‘to fly by the seat of your pants’, i.e. to start writing with perhaps only a vague (or no) idea of where you’re going, and just make it up as you go along. My first MS, a Nanowrimo project, was one of these. I did get a full manuscript out in the end, but it was pretty rambling. Although I tried to salvage it with some post-planning, it was never enough to make it into a coherent whole. I know there are writers out there who can pants brilliantly and produce a perfectly plotted book, but…I’m not one of them, clearly.

However, as I mentioned before, I’m very impatient with my ideas, and for the last couple of books I’ve sort of half-planned and then got lazy and jumped in. This means I still have problems like plot holes and bits where I’m totally stuck. I know I need to knuckle down and plot properly before I start anything new. I’ve got two brilliant ideas I’m working up at the moment – one of them is my Esador project, and another is a sci-fi – so I’m practising my plotting skills.

Worth emphasising – there isn’t a right or wrong way of doing this. You need to play around and find out what suits you – and, as I say, it might also depend on the story.

Under the cut, find my top resources:

Continue reading

Tales from Esador #1 – a fantasy one-off worldbuilding type thing

6 Jun

My latest Hunt draft is with beta readers right now, so I’m starting to crank up plotting and planning my next project. It’s another new experience for me – a secondary world fantasy that has been clamouring for me to write it for the last three months. I’m trying very hard to be disciplined and actually plot it all out properly before writing. Hoping this will be the last phase in my transition from Pantser to Plotter!

Anyway, to satisfy my itch to write it but without breaking my plotting promise, I decided to write a few scenes from the backstory in order to consolidate worldbuilding and character. It’s been brilliant so far – has helped me realise a lot about some of the secondary characters. I would recommend it!

The scene below takes place 25 years before the main story, in a city called Esador, where two castes co-exist uneasily: the ruling Pale and the oppressed People. Irida meets Amaris at the riverside:

Continue reading