Day 16: A third of the way!

It’s true, it’s only day sixteen and I’ve already written a third of the manuscript.

Chapter 5 turned out to be difficult to write but I took it slowly and gave myself plenty of time to “think”. As you know, I’m a planner. As far as I’m concerned, planning is essential but that doesn’t mean the plot is set in stone. No, certainly not. In chapter 5 even I have had a surprise. There’s a small turn of events that I wasn’t expecting but fits in well with the plot and the characters and I’m going with it. So…anyone who tells you that planning takes creativity away, doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Chapter 5 is complete and the word count so far is 10,148. At this rate, I’ll be finished the entire manuscript by the end of October! 🙂

Muck Up Day!

For some people life is just beginning. Welcome to the world, William Johnson, first son of Darren and Jo.

For others, the first stage of their life is ending and it’s time to move onto something new. Today, in Australia, is the last day of school for Year 12 students. This traditionally is known as “muck up day” because, well, the students do things they wouldn’t normally do.

My youngest son is one of those students. I expect him to come home with his shirt written on with messages from friends wishing him well in the future. I expect him to be in high spirits and happy. Yet when the excitement subsides, I expect him to be nervous about the future.

I remember my last day of school. I was surrounded by girls who couldn’t stop crying yet all I wanted was to be given permission to walk out of those gates for the last time. When I did, I never looked back. I hated school.

Life out of school is much better.

To all those Year 12 students, especially my son, I wish you longevity, happiness and good fortune (and the best of luck for the final exams next month).

Writing a Good Query Letter

Following a recent rejection I received on behalf of the 2004 Anthology stories, it’s time to hit the query stage again. However, I want to revise the query letter I was using so I’ve been looking around for some hints on letter writing.

Most of the following is common sense, but I’m going to make a small list as a reminder to anyone who has to write a query letter:

1. Be professional. If you look like an amateur you’ll find your manuscript in the slush pile.

2. If you email a query, it doesn’t mean you can be any less professional. If you are then you are wasting your time because you will be rejected.

3. A query letter should be no longer than one page. Get to the point quickly and clearly. Never waffle on.

4. This is your only chance to make an impression, don’t blow it. Proofread your letter until you know it’s 100% correct.

5. Always ensure you include your address, phone number and email address because if you don’t, how are they going to contact you? Sounds stupid really, but from what I’ve read some people forget these essential things and then wonder why they never get a reply. You should include these things when doing email queries too because some publishers will not reply in the form of an email, they only send out letters.

6. Never beg or try to make deals in your letter, and never ask for comments. You’ll be rejected faster than you can ever imagine.

7. Never use coloured paper or fancy scripts. This is a sign of an amateur.

8. Always address the letter to the right person – use their name but make sure you spell it right. One thing that gets up people’s noses is seeing their name spelt wrong.

9. Know your market. Don’t send a fantasy story to a publisher who’s only interested in horror. You’re wasting everyone’s time and making yourself look foolish.

10. Make your letter stand out from the rest. Publishers and agents receive thousands of letters a year, so you have to show them that you’ve got spark…writing ability…professionalism.

Oh, did you catch on by now that you must be professional at all times? Those who are not, will remain in the slush pile.

Day 10: Pace slows down

This evening I found it difficult to get the words out. It was almost painful. There was no flow and I had to work at every single word. After two hours of struggling I gave in to defeat and had only added 472 words to the tally.

Never mind, I still wrote and that’s all that matters.

Until now, I’ve been giving a daily update but I fear this might become tedious to visitors to the site so I have decided to give updates less frequently. I’m not sure how often, it will depend on the mood. I will, however, change the progress metre in the side bar on a daily basis.

My neck is aching from staring at the screen in concentration so now…it’s time to head off and find a cosy corner to sit in and read.

Go with the flow v. Meeting obligations

I have a dilemma. My writing is going so well right now that I don’t want to break the flow to do other things. Past experience has shown me that if I stop for one day, I’ll stop forever (well “forever” might be going too far, but you know what I mean).

However, I have obligations to meet. I’m a member of two crit groups and should be doing crits in order to post my own work for critiques. Although I love receiving comments, I find giving them tiresome. I know that sounds selfish, and it is. The thing is…I read slow and I dislike reading on the computer, so I have to print the chapters/stories out. It takes forever (there’s that word again) to read the piece and then I find I have to let my thoughts stew for a day before I can write the report, which usually takes a few hours in itself. In other words, it takes at least two days to do one critique.

But the worst thing is that by reading a story in edit mode, I have to switch off from my own story and I find it difficult to switch back. I’m not good at multi-tasking. I’m a one project at a time kind of person. Yet if I leave the crit groups I get no help for my own writing.

Hence, my dilemma!

I would like to allocate one night a week for critting. For this to work, I would have to be able to read the piece and write the report in one night…and I honestly don’t think I can do that. What am I going to do?

Day 9: Chapter 4 begins

Oh my, this is just brilliant. When I opened the document for chapter 3 this afternoon, I had 50 words. I’ve been writing on and off for several hours (approximately 5 hous) and I’ve finished the chapter and started chapter 4. It was difficult getting started (with chapter 3). I knew what I had to write about but I wasn’t sure of the angle I wanted to use. After two false starts I finally hit on the right one and away I went.

The tension in chapter 3 picks up a lot. The reader knows something is going to happen but they don’t know what. Then “snap”, and … well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out what happens. 😉

My word count is based on “words per page” not what the word processor calculates. Like all novels, publishers want certain lengths in manuscripts (especially for unknown, unpublished writers) so when I work on a manuscript that isn’t a short story, I always calculate words in the proper way.

This link will give you the formula so you can work out your average word count per page.

My word count is 236 words per page and it seems that I like 8 pages per chapter because all three chapters have panned out at eight pages. Remember, this is a children’s book so eight to ten pages is plenty. Anyway, this means I’m averaging 1,888 words per chapter and if this keeps up I won’t reach the 35,000 word target but that doesn’t matter either because as long as my final count is between 25,000 and 40,000 words…I’m fine.

Day 8: Chapter 3 begins

As it’s the weekend, writing is much easier because … I don’t have to go to work and I have more time to spare. Hmmm, well that theory is out the window because I still didn’t get to my computer until the usual time in the evening.

Life has a habit of spoiling plans. Although there was a reason for being out and about today. 🙂

The chapter plan is working like a dream. I know exactly what I have to write, so there’s no sitting and thinking for long periods of time – which is something that I do when I “just write”. Chapter 2 has been completed and I’ve started chapter 3 so that I don’t have to face a blank page tomorrow. I’ve never been keen on blank pages.

I even went back and edited chapter 1 (again) because I made a decision about how I was going to refer to my main character’s parents. Things are coming together nicely.

Birthday Books

Lunch was wonderful. We joked and laughed, and ate until our bellies were at bursting point. Then, we were thrown out of the restaurant (with a smile). First in, last to leave – that doesn’t happen often.

I received some lovely presents. Among them was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6). I’m in no hurry to read this book because book seven will take a couple of years to be released. I have the set and have read the others and will read this book sometime in the next two years. There’s no hurry.

Charlotte’s Web by E B White was really good. Why didn’t I read this as a child? I have no idea but I’ve made up for that now. There was some head hopping which I found annoying but when I did manage to turn off the internal editor, I discovered a wonderful story about talking farm animals which was refreshing to read. The reader learns a lot about the habits of spiders while reading this story and there is one scene which left me feeling especially sad. If you have children, get this book and read it to them. You’ll both enjoy the time spent together and the story.

This afternoon, after my nap from being full to the brim 😉 , I started reading Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One> by Patricia C Wrede. This is another set of books I’ve never read and although I’m only 35 pages into the book, I like it. It takes the traditional fairy story elements and twists them around. It’s well written too, so I think I’m in for a treat.

Now, I have some writing to do…