Preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo

So it’s almost July again.

And you know what July means! That’s right, it’s Camp NaNoWriMo time. For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Clever, right? The proper NaNoWriMo is held in November, where a bunch of crazy writers decide they’re going to write a novel in a month (well, 50,000 words of one). Camp NaNo is the same, except with less participants, and it’s more informal in the amount of words you should write.

Last year I participated in the July Camp NaNoWriMo at the very last minute. It was on the 1st of July that I decided, hey, I was going to write this thing anyway, might as well do it quickly! That’s when I wrote the first draft of The Daisy List – about 60,000 words of awful writing within the space of 31 days. I still haven’t finished the second draft of The Daisy List, but I’m getting there!

A quick rundown of what happens during any NaNo period: 

Day 1. EVERYTHING IS AMAZING I CANNOT WAIT TO START WRITING THIS STORY.

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Day 2. Still excited.

Day 5. Still feeling pretty good.

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Day 15. *sobbing* I don’t know what to write anymoooooore….I’ve run out of ideas….I’m a failure…*wails*

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Day 25. I don’t even care anymore. I just want to finish this story.

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Day 30. Almost…there…

Day 31. I HATE WRITING WHY DID I EVER THINK I COULD DO THIS.

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Day 1 of the new month.

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But seriously, I have three tips.

1) Don’t edit. Seriously, just don’t. It’s going to be awful, because it’s a first draft. Just smash that keyboard and keep going.

2) Plan something. If you don’t have any idea what you’re going to be writing, it’ll be REALLY hard to get all the way through NaNoWriMo. Even if you’re a pantser, have some idea of where you’re headed.

3) Don’t be too hard on yourself. Even if you don’t get to your goal, realise that life sometimes gets in the way – and besides, you’ve still got more words than you started with!

I’ll be writing Wanderland, my Alice in Wonderland retelling (EEEEK SO EXCITED TO START). I’ve still got to write my scene-by-scene outline, which I will not follow at all, but is always really useful. Plotting a fantasy is so much harder than contemporary, that’s for sure! But it’s coming along well. Do you want to hear some of the setting names? DO YOU? Well, you don’t have a choice. So basically it goes through all the colours.

Red – MADDENHEART

Orange – TRAMAUTUMN

Yellow: SOLSABBIA

Green: EDENJARD

Blue: LAMMENTEAR

Purple: AMENERO

Pink: VALENDUSK

(lots of Google translate was used. I also enlisted the help of my sister to ask if she could pronounce the names. They changed a lot when I found out most of them were un-pronouncable. What do you think of these ones?)

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? If you are, good luck! Do you have any tips? Questions? GIFs that express NaNoWriMo perfectly?

Writing Diverse Characters

Many of my friends and family live diverse lives. Yeah, I have the cis-gendered, heterosexual, white and able friends/family, but also those of different backgrounds, sexualities, gender identities, ethnicities and abilities/disabilities. So my writing reflects that. Here are some examples.

In The Daisy List, the main character’s mum suffers from cancer. Her best friend Kevin is half-Taiwanese, and her friend Niff has African heritage.

In The Ballerina Painting/ Blind Spot, there are two main characters. William is blind, and white. Ashley is deaf, and Indian. One of their friends (I can’t even remember her name!) is a lesbian.

In Wanderland, the story I’m plotting right now (the name might change), Alice is Asian and is paraplegic, meaning she gets around in a wheelchair.

I’m not listing these things so I seem all noble or anything (although that’s true as well).

Most of the time, these characters occur to me as they are – I don’t change them just so that they can be more diverse.

I totally understand that writers are afraid of writing diverse characters. Afraid of offending particular groups, or not getting it right, or portraying it incorrectly. But I’ve always thought of my characters not as a product of their “diversities” but as, first and foremost, people.

My characters aren’t just deaf or blind or Indian or gay or paraplegic or sick or Taiwanese or fighting depression. They’re also complete people who live with these things, who deal with these things – often, they’re not a huge part of who they are. I mean, being white is not something I think about every day. It just is.

I have the luxury of not being a published writer. I can write what I want without fear of offending everyone. I know that’s a real pressure on published writers.

But as readers, we have a certain power. Readers are just as diverse as writers. If authors get something wrong in a book, we can speak out and say hey, this isn’t right. We don’t need to condemn writers for getting things wrong, because at the very least, they’re paving the way for more diverse characters in the future.

And it helps to research as well – not just to look things up on the internet, but talk to people similar to who you want to represent in your stories. That helps with authenticity. Hazel Grace was inspired by Esther Earl, but Hazel is her own character.

We are not our labels. Diverse people are just people.

And if we write them that way, that will shine out. We might get things wrong – I’m sure I’ve got things wrong even in this post, which I’m really nervous about. But if we can help correct and expand knowledge, then that will show in YA fiction. Hopefully.

Writers! Do you write diverse characters? How do you do this sensitively?

 

Write Life Saturday: how long are your chapters?

Today is Write Life Saturday, where I talk about all things writing-related (although to be fair, most of them are also reading-related). I really should make a banner/image thingy. Remind me for next time.

Today I want to talk chapters.

I like short chapters. Let’s get it out right now. I have a short attention span, and I like finishing at the end of a chapter. If the chapters are quite short, I basically just keep reading. But if they’re really long chapters…

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Except not as cute. There are exceptions, of course. If a book is really well-written and has long chapters, I won’t mind so much. And the short-chapter thing is just a personal preference. It’s obviously not going to stand for everyone. That’d be boring.

I also tend to write short chapters. I went back through the last few of my WIP. These are the word counts of them.

1) 1797 words

2) 1357 words

3) 2511 words

…not exactly consistent. It’s probably 1500 words on average, which I know is pretty short. But everything is relative. In YA contemporary books, chapters tend to be shorter. Then there are books like Eragon that have chapters ranging from a page to…well, a LOT of pages. Some make use of funny chapter titles that pique your interest, like in Percy Jackson. Some might not be your usual chapters but diary entries, like in Writing Clementine.

percy jacksonImagewriting clementine

 

 

 

There are so many different ways to write chapters. Whether they’re a single line, or a single page, or 1500 words, or 5000 words, or 10,000 words, there’s room for them all. I will always stick to short chapters because my scenes usually tend to be quite short, and I like breaking things up frequently.

The biggest thing is not to force the end of a chapter. If you usually write a chapter with 2000 words and this one’s 2500 so far, don’t force the end of the chapter just to keep your average word count the same. Let it go on until it’s reached its natural ending – if you’re really worried about it you can cut it later.

How long are your chapters, usually, or does it depend what you’re writing? Readers! Do you like short chapters or long chapters?

Write Life Saturday: I’ve started querying again!

QUICK NOTE TO START: Past Emily is scheduling this post. Present Emily is almost in the car, on the way to the beach for a week. She will have no internet. This is quite a scary thought. But she will definitely be reading lots of books. When she gets back next Saturday, she will catch up on all your blogs and stop typing in third person 🙂

For those of you who aren’t writers, I’ll give you a quick rundown of querying:

It’s when you send off a few paragraphs to an agent, in the aim of acquiring representation (agents help sell your book). They may also ask for a synopsis and/or sample pages from your novel.

At the moment, the novel I’m querying is Mutual Weirdness. It’s about unconventional relationships and science and stars and not fitting in the right boxes and friendship and family and orange things and dandelions and Dr Seuss and finding out who you are. No matter what happens, it will always be one of my biggest accomplishments.

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There seems to be this trend among writers that we don’t talk about rejections, or negative things. Which seems weird to me, because as a writer, there will be rejections. No matter what happens, that’s part of the business.

So over the next few months, I’m going to talk about all of that stuff. Rejections, awful queries, the whole lot. And I’ll probably look back and cringe. But I have already improved so much, and I actually like getting rejections. It means this writing thing is real. I’ve even kept all my rejections 🙂 I just imagine the agents doing something like this:

Somehow that makes it better.

I’m not going to share my actual query on here, at least not yet. But I’ve sent off three, to three different literary agents, over the past few days. I’ll let you guys know when/if I hear back from them!

Now I’d love to share an excerpt of Mutual Weirdness. I hope you enjoy it! Excuse the formatting – it didn’t come out very well.

PART 1

“It all began with a shoe on the wall. A shoe on the wall shouldn’t be there at all.”

~ Dr Seuss

CHAPTER 1

James was never late. But 7:00 had come and gone, so where was he? Traffic, maybe. Or a plague. Probably not a plague. Unless James had somehow invented one and then caught it himself…

‘Calm down, Jess,’ said Mum from her spot in the dining room. She was wearing a very nice dress that looked like a lampshade, all pale orange and wide at the bottom. ‘He’ll be here soon.’

‘But it’s 7:06. And James is unfailingly punctual.’

She shifted some of the knives and forks at the table. Eight places for all of the relatives coming over. ‘Sounds like an exciting person.’

‘Mum,’ I said, joining her at the table, ‘please try to like him. For me. Can you do that?’

Dad entered the conversation, plucking a piece of carrot from a dish. ‘No way. If he tries anything—’ He demonstrated a fighting stance— ‘The gloves are off.’

‘Dad, he’s a nerd. He’s not going to try anything on me.’

Then the doorbell rang.

Right before I opened the door, I smoothed my hair back, adjusted my shirt approximately thirteen quintillion times and breathed a silent prayer to the science gods. Please let this turn out well.

So yeah. That’s the beginning. I’m nervous, obviously, about these queries.

But I will always love writing more than I’m scared of sharing it. And I think that’s important. To all the writers out there, embrace your rejections! To the readers…run away from writers. They’re nuts.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings today 🙂

Write Life Saturday: how long does it take you to write a first draft?

A lot of you will have heard of the massive November writing event, NaNoWriMo. This event is where people write 50,000 words in the space of one month. In both 2012 and 2013, I surpassed the 50k and proceeded to finish the whole first draft. Yes I am bragging, even though MANY people did way better than that.

It’s a process which ranges from this:

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To this:

If you’re not a writer (I know a lot of you aren’t!), writers are weird, okay? We range between loving to write and hating it, or at least I do. Sometimes I think something I write is pretty good, and then when I re-read it I’m like whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy did I think that was good???

But the GREAT thing about first drafts is that none of that matters. It’s going to be awful anyway, so why spend a long time on it?

I haven’t written that many first drafts, or not proper ones, anyway. Three were the result of a NaNo period – two during the Novembers and one during Camp NaNoWriMo July last year. The fourth was during two months before November, where I wrote about a thousand words a day, give or take.

And even at that kind of pace I’m all like:

^^^In fact I think this dude has the right idea.

But if I’m not pushing myself like that, I really tend to lack motivation. The second draft I’m working on now? Yeah, I started it at the end of 2013 and have written 33,000 words.

That’s okay! I’m happy with my progress. Because it’s not a first draft, it’s bound to take longer.

I think it’s important not to think too much during a first draft. If you start overthinking, you start censoring yourself – some of my best ideas seemed stupid to start with before I fleshed them out and they became things I still really like. Reading first drafts back is not fun. It’s actually kind of scary.

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There is such a big different between each of my drafts, and I know that each one is better than the last. I also know that some people like to draft slowly, while others prefer to do it quickly (or ridiculously quickly, like a certain someone I know whose name I will not mention *cough*CAITDREWS*cough).

How long does it take you to write a first draft? I’d love to hear from you! I mean, maybe I’m doing it wrong. I’m not sure there’s a wrong way to write, though. 

Write Life Saturday: Ampersand Project and Putting Yourself Out There

I submitted my manuscript Mutual Weirdness to the Ampersand Project two days ago. 

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The project is for unpublished YA writers (like me) from Australia, and is part of Hardie Grant Egmont. Basically I’m terrified

But I also think it’s tremendously important to submit your work – otherwise, what’s the point? Before I talk about the importance of putting yourself out there, though, here’s a bit more about Mutual Weirdness: 

Genre: YA contemporary

Length: 68k

(and actually, the first draft was 75k so my rewrites have been good at shaving off unnecessary words)

Two sentence pitch: 

When James tells Jess to stop being weird, the last thing she needs is Mike, who collects dandelions and is on a quest to find a word rhyming with orange.  MUTUAL WEIRDNESS is a contemporary YA featuring an orange minivan, 673 doll shoes, and a girl trying to figure out the balance between herself and what others want her to be.

I’ve been working on this since November 2012 (NaNoWriMo) and thinking about it since well before then. But I’m never going to be completely happy about it. I don’t know why. I’m never completely confident about my work. 

But that doesn’t stop me from showing it to people

It’s hard for me to balance my subjective and objective views of my novels. Objectively, it may need work, but subjectively I may think it’s worse (or better) than it actually is. My advice is to chuck your writing over to a critique partner or three – they can view it more objectively than you can and will offer great advice if you have awesome CPs like me. 

Submit your writing wherever you can! Short stories can often help to build up resumes. Once you and your CPs are happy with your MS, submit it to literary agents or publishers or whatever you like, really. 

But if you hide your writing in a drawer forever, it’s never going to get published. 

This applies to other things as well. I don’t buy into the fact that being modest means putting yourself down. Be proud of your talents! For example, I am very proud of the fact that I bought new school shoes at the start of this year and still haven’t done up the laces. 

Disclaimer: if you just want to write for fun and don’t want to get published, I hereby give you permission to hide it in a drawer forever. 

Or, you know, in a pineapple. 

Is it hard for you to show your work to others? Do you, like me, tread the line between loving and hating your writing? Let me know in the comments!

Write Life Saturdays: Short Stories

Write Life Saturday is where I share what I’ve been working on lately. Some of you may know that I’m in high school. More specifically, I’m in year 11. Even MORE specifically, I do both advanced English and extension English, and we have a write a short story for both.

I mean, technically I could just write one short story and submit it twice (it’s allowed, I checked) but being a perfectionist and all, I didn’t like the first story I wrote. I set out to write another one and you know what?

Short stories are REALLY HARD.

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No joke, I would rather write a 60-70,000 word novel than a short story. I have ideas that work for novels. What kind of ideas do you need for short stories? I HAVE NO IDEA.

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Here’s what my two short stories are about:

The Goldfish Shower

(oh gosh, I’ve forgotten the main character in this story. What was it? Oh yeah! Lilly!)

Okay, so Lilly’s Mum asks her to feed the goldfish. She realises she doesn’t have a goldfish, only to step into the bathroom and come across a whole shower full of them. The story follows the weird happenings of her house, including talking goldfish, a talking lawnmower and a floating dining table.

And seriously, I started this story expecting it to be serious. It was not.

Strawberries and Sausages

If you’ve seen the page on my blog talking about my upcoming writing projects, this was one of the ideas. I’ve used it loosely for my short story, but I still want to use it for a novel! My main character (forgotten HER name as well…maybe I haven’t given her one yet) talks to Tessie, who is like an Aussie version of the Loch Ness Monster. They’re both lonely, and they both have no family left, because MC’s father was given the death penalty.

I think the trick with short stories is not to have too much going on. There’s only so much you can develop (in terms of character, plot, world-building etc.) in a short space. Creating a huge epic is not viable, and often a single moment in time is enough for a whole short story.

Another thing that helps is keeping a document with ideas. I have a Scrivener file full of photos and Tumblr posts and little snippets of writing, just waiting to inspire me. It’s often the really odd things that inspire me (but then I’m a bit of an oddball). Writing a short story really has taught me the value of every word, sticking to a limit, and developing character quickly.

Do you write short stories? If you find them easy I NEED YOUR TIPS!

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Yours loonily,

Emily.

What Happened This Week: Odd Socks, Long Legs and Top Tens

I realise this is a confusing title for a blog post. Bear with me. Here are the things that have happened this week:

1) I got a uniform detention for wearing a pink sock

We have to wear white socks. But I regret nothing. (also odd socks are cool)

2) We did some awesome things with curtains at school dance

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Yep. I have really long legs.

3) This week was Top Ten Week at The Loony Teen Writer

All through this week, I posted lists of top tens (or fives, in some cases!). Here’s what I wrote about:

Monday: my top ten pet peeves in YA fiction (featuring insta-love, stereotyping and more!)

Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday, and I talked about the top 10 books that will make you swoon

Wednesday: Wednesday is Loony’s Musings, and this week it was about why part-time jobs are awesome

Thursday: Emily’s grammar masterclass! The top 10 grammar mistakes I see the most

Friday: I posted the top ten things about been a teen writer (there are lots!)

Saturday: Write Life Saturday (new title for this feature), in which I told you guys my top ten places to find inspiration

This week I also made a new page on the blog, where you can read all about my current writing projects! 

What I’m reading at the moment: 

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 Yes, still! I haven’t got much further with it, considering I just finished The Fellowship of the Ring (phew!). At the bottom of this post is a poll for you to choose what I read next 🙂

What I’m writing: 

The Daisy List, 20,000 words into it

The Goldfish Shower, a short story about talking fish and floating dining tables

GIF of the week: 

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Best part of school this week: 

Getting an awesome Shiny New Idea in legal studies.

Most interesting thing that happened: 

My boss’s daughter setting a packet of Tim Tams on fire

So tell me, blogglings…

I hope you’ve all had a fantastic week!

Yours loonily,

Emily.

Loony’s Musings (2): 5 Best Things About Part-Time Jobs

I’m in year 11 at school. And I’m a big fan of money. School means I can’t work too often, but wanting money means that last year I did in fact get a job. I work two days a week for a total of 10 hours, and it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, both as a person in general and as a writer. So here are my favourite things about my job (which, BTW, is as a waitress at a Thai restaurant):

1) Awesome People

Working at a Thai restaurant means that most people working there are…well, Thai. But the wait staff I work with are a mixture of Indonesian, Chinese and Indian – there is also a chef from New Zealand. The diverse cultures and experiences they bring with they are really amazing to hear about, and I feel so privileged to know them! There are so many things they’ve told me where I’ve thought, hmm, that could go into a story somewhere…

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2) Unintentional eavesdropping is great

UNINTENTIONAL. I SWEAR.

(maybe sometimes I accidentally-on-purpose listen to conversations that are really interesting, but only because I’m about to take their order and I HAVE to stand there)

People talk about really odd things, sometimes. Once I overheard the single phrase “strawberries and sausages” and I thought, DUDE, that’s an awesome name for a title. I spent the rest of my shift thinking up a plot to go with it (if you’re curious, MC’s father is on death row and his last meal is strawberries and sausages). In that shift I also broke a few wineglasses but that’s another story.

Unintentional eavesdropping is a great part of my job.

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3) Money to buy books!

You may have noticed that people work in exchange for money, which they use to purchase items. This money can be used to buy BOOKS from my local DYMOCKS, which is AWESOME.

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4) I get to use my Irish accent to confuse people

There’s a story behind this one. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m doing Irish accents for drama at school. Occasionally I use this accent on new customers to see if they’ll think it’s legit. Unfortunately, I used it on a regular customer last week and they were like, “how did you turn Irish?”

But at least they thought I was Irish, right?

5) Doing something different

Often as a writer things can get alarmingly…well, not boring, but something like that. If you’re just sitting down to write every day, what are you going to write about? You’re experiencing nothing. That’s not to say that you have to experience everything you’re writing about, but certainly there is a LOT of influence from “the outside world” in my writing.

I mean, I’m not a big fan of the outside world. I’m a big fan of what Neil Gaiman says:

Neil Gaiman my people we stay indoors we have keyboards we have darkness

But, you know, sometimes the outside world has good things to offer. Things that inspire and influence your writing.

For all those reasons and more, my part-time job is great, and I love it.

What about you? Teens, do you have a part time job you love…or hate? Adults, do you have a day job to support your writing? Does it help you?

Celebrating Aus Blog Hop: Finding Nemo, Markus Zusak and Other Awesome Aussie Authors

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Today we’re celebrating Australia Day (AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE! OI OI OI!). While it’s an excuse for most of the country to get dunk, I’ll be celebrating by…reading. Which is just fine by me.

Here’s a welcome from our Prime Minister:

ImageAussie Owned and Read turns one today! How exciting! I’ve loved blogging over there, and will continue to do so until the sun burns out (maybe not quite literally). Let’s give it up for awesome Aussie literature!

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Okay, so basically I’m going to let Finding Nemo do the talking for me. In 2013, I was really excited to read more Aussie YA books than ever before, by authors like Ellie Marney, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Emily Gale, Karen Foxlee, Steph Bowe and lots of others. This was my reaction when I found them all and loved them:

imageAnd when other people tried to borrow the Aussie books that I wanted:

imageBut definitely, my favourite Aussie author is Markus Zusak. Fun fact: my dad went to the same high school as Markus, and my uncle used to play footie with Markus’s brother! Anyway, his writing is so literary and different and AWESOME.

And there are so many GREAT Aussie authors, so in the end I’m just like:

But it’s kind of inspiring. I mean, if they can do it, I can do it, right? Steph Bowe is one of my ultimate idols, because she was published at, like, 16 years old – with an agent. And not just any agent but Ginger Clark. That’s pretty amazing. Then there are also great Aussie book bloggers, promoting Aussie writing and doing what they do for free. I just want to MEET all these people, but I’ll probably come off as completely psycho, something like this:

So yeah, those are the Aussie authors I love, and I look forward to discovering many many many many many many (many) more. Props to Lauren and Stacey from Aussie Owned and Read for organising all of this!

(Wow, I should let Finding Nemo talk for me more often!)

Don’t forget that as part of this blog hop, there are some awesome prizes up for grabs. You can enter for them here: 

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And you can enter the linky list here:

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Who are your favourite Aussie authors? What do you like about their writing?