Update on my Writing Year

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

So, we have hit August, and I thought it might be a good time to update how my writing life has been going.  This is for all the lovely people I see IRL who ask me ‘how’s the book going?’ as well as those who are writers themselves and hear me natter away on Twitter about “Christmas story” and “Third Drafts” and “Nano 18 edits”. 

The Librex

In October last year I was feeling a little stuck.  I was in the process of working on the second draft of my novel The Librex.  While I loved it, there were some aspects that made me wonder if it would be a difficult sell as a debut.  I also knew I needed some sort of incentive to get it done.

My friend KD Kells was about to do the AWC Write your Novel On-line class. With less than a week until sign-ups closed I took the plunge and joined her.  It seemed the perfect way to get the next draft of the Librex done, while also up-skilling and having an opportunity to work out if this novel was worth investing in.

It was wonderful! I learnt so much about writing from the feedback and the tutor, I met a great group of critique partners, and everyone seemed to enjoy and believe in my book.  I got my second draft finished by the end of March and as of last week have taken on the class feedback and finished draft three!

So now what? I’ve sent this next draft of the Librex out to a few people for some more feedback, to see if the changes I’ve made between drafts have solved the issues my class-mates found in the story.  Then my plan is to enter PitchWars.  PitchWars is a mentoring competition where writers enter their completed manuscripts for the right to be mentored by an industry professional, to get that manuscript up to scratch.  Then Literary agents can read their submissions and if they like it, offer to represent the author and their book. (If you want a book published by one of the big publishing houses in America, you generally need an agent to make that happen)

I am nervous about this next step, and am tempted to second guess myself and my beloved book.  But I know, if my nerves had their way, I would never submit my novels anywhere! Pitch Wars is a great incentive to get my book up to scratch, and whatever happens, I will have submitted my manuscript for the first time and that’s a pretty cool milestone.

AJ

AJ is my NanoWriMo Novel for 2018.  It has been mostly on the backburner with occasional tweaking.  Because I am me, instead of being an easier, more straightforward novel than The Librex, of course instead it’s a complex secondary world, dual POV, trilogy monster!  I have had two writing friends look at it, who have given me some great feedback as to what isn’t working (namely- most of it!)  But that hasn’t dampened my excitement and I’m looking forward to getting the start up to scratch for critiquing on my upcoming Writing Retreat.

Savey & Mason

My Fantasy Romance isn’t quite shelved, but I’ve put it aside for the moment.  I wrote it as part of my Fantasy Novel writing course with CS Pacat, and while the characters are super dear to me, I know it needs a tonne of work, and I’d lost my faith in it.  But when I had the immense pleasure of meeting CS Pacat face-to-face this year, she remembered the characters! So that gives me hope that there might be some merit of dusting it off in the future and giving it another try.

Christmas Anthology

Part way through the year, the wonderful Emily Wrayburn suggested we start at #6amAusWriters hashtag on Twitter as a way of gathering early morning Australian writers, and motivating each other to write.  A gang emerged and it’s been a wonderful incentive not to hit snooze! One of us was writing a Christmas story, and then V.E. Patton suggested we do a #6amAusWriters Christmas anthology. 

Random but fun, hey!

It’s happening and I’m contributing.  This will be a great chance to dip my toe into the self-publishing world, and I have a Christmas Sci-Fi story that won’t leave me alone (I’ve entered two versions of it into Furious Fiction already).  So now I can expand it out and see what happens.  The plan is to get it published in time for Christmas.  Can’t wait to finish mine and see everyone else’s stories come together.

Furious Fiction

I’ve continued to enter the AWC Furious Fiction competition each month, making it 19 out of 19 since it began last year.  It has been one of the highlights of the year, a great chance to get my creative brain pushing out new stories (which let’s face it, is my favourite part of writing). I haven’t been short-listed since June last year, but that matters less and less to me with each month.  The enjoyment I get from the process, and the constant chance to improve is reward enough.

Writer in Motion

I won’t spend any time on WiM as I’ve done a whole blog series about it, but if you are interested in seeing my process of bringing a short story from first draft to edited polish- see here for the first post.

My New Years Writing Treats, an update.

At the start of the year I decided rather than having writing resolutions, I would give myself permission to get writing treats over the year.  My aim was to attend three writing events, to buy more new books, and to go on a writing retreat.

So how is that going? Rather spectacularly!

I’m averaging around a writing event a month! As well as some more formal writing events (YA Day, Emerging Writers YA Day, and KidLit Vic), I’ve also been to several book launches and catch ups with writer friends.  It has been wonderful to move out of the haze of early babyhood and be once again immersed in the world and people again. 

As for the other two aims, I am already at twenty-two new books read this year. And a group of Sci-Fi Fantasy friends and I are all set to go away on a writing retreat at the end of September.  We’ll give each other time to write, but also do some critiquing and world building chats and I can’t wait!

It’s so affirming to prioritise things that are good for my writing career, and I’m grateful for a husband and Grandparents/Aunts/Uncles who are committed to making that possible.

Thanks folks for listening to my ramble-ly post.  It has been a fun writing year, and while the steps ahead are huge and a little scary, I’m excited to have so many people in my life cheering me on.  So thank you!

Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

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Reading books is an absorbing experience for me.  I find it very hard, in the middle of reading a new story, to put it down and return to the real world.  Reading new books usually involves sneaking off to my room to avoid interruptions, nights of “just one more chapter” insomnia, and doing all my daily task and human relating through a fog of other-worldliness.

So as much as I love diving into new fiction, I have to pick and choose when is the right time to do it.

Walking through the seaside town of Lorne on holidays, I walked into a bookstall and saw Veronica Roth’s new book “Carve the Mark”.  It had been on a list of “Most anticipated YA books of 2017”.  That was enough for me to get it, and my family had spacey-other world Belinda for the next day and a half.

I had enjoyed Veronica Roth’s first ever novel Divergent, though the subsequent novels in that series had lacked a bit of the originals spark.

But Carve the Mark is a much more complex, clever, and entertaining than her previous books.

Carve the Mark takes place in space, on a series of planets that are part of the “current”.  The “current”, which appears as a visible coloured line in the sky, runs through people and is viewed as almost a spiritual essence.  It can power ships, it can be used in weapons, and it even causes flowers to bloom at the right time.

When every child in the galaxy comes of age they receive a “current” gift, an super-natural ability that comes from the current and continues with them for the rest of their lives.

The book follows two main characters, shy Akos of the Thuvhesit and Cyra of the Shotet.  They are two people groups, living on the same planet, and great enemies.  When Akos and his brother are kidnapped and held captive by the Shotet royal family, these two characters are forced together and must decide if they will remain enemies or will work together.

Cyra’s  current gift that doesn’t feel like a gift at all.  The current exists as pain on her skin, she is in constant agony and whenever she touches a person that pain get’s past on to that person.  This “gift” would be terrible enough fate, but as the sister of the tyrant ruler of the Shotet, her gift is used as a means of control and torture.

But Akos’ own current gift could prove to be the solution she has been craving.

I loved Carve the Mark.  It is such a creative, different world.  The concept of character’s developing magical skills when they come of age is not new in Fantasy stories, but the idea of the current’s role and the sheer scope of unusual manifestations is one of the highlights of the book.

The two main characters come from warring enemies, with negative views of the cultures they have observed from afar.  But as the two observe each other, they see a different side to the culture they have loathed, and to take a more critical eye to their own deep-seated prejudice.

A key example of this is the “mark” in the title.  The Shoet people carve a tattoo to mark every life they have taken.  For Akos with his preconceived notion of this “warrior” race, he viewd this as an aggressive boast.  Yet as time goes on, he learns to appreciate it, as he sees the appropriateness of having a physical and ceremonial acknowledgement of the cost of taking a life.

The highlight for me was the unique cultures of the book, how their histories informed their practices, and particularly how each had such a different take of the role of the current in their lives.  The book has faced some criticism of racism based on some misunderstanding of the basis of the two main races.  Veronica’s response is worth reading not only for her humble, thoughtful reply, but also for the insight into her process of creating the languages of the people.  Her post has helped me think more carefully about the way I create cultures within my own series.

My bug-bare is that while this book is the first in a series, there was no indicator on the book that it wasn’t a stand-alone book.  It is frustrating to get to the last page of a book and say, “Wait a minute, you mean they are not going to resolve that?” The ending would have been much more satisfying if I had been prepared for it.

It is very much a young adult book, filled with teenage hormones and complicated romance.  I found those aspects of the Divergent series not particularly subtly done, and while Carve the Mark was a step up, it still jarred occasionally.  The concept of two enemies learning to respect and then care for each other is not new, but the way Veronica uses their gifts and cultures in their relationship is entertaining and new.

As someone who has friends who struggle with chronic pain conditions, it was helpful to get a window into the life of Cyra and to see the impact of her “gift” on her.  Veronica even acknowledges her friends with chronic pain at the end of the book as the ones who inspired her to write of Cyra.  But I did have some hesitation about this connection.  Chronic pain is a difficult thing for much of the community to grasp.  I worry that some of the story elements of the gift (that it is somehow ‘chosen’ by Cyra and the ‘romantic’ source of relief), makes trite  a very serious and debilitating reality.

If you liked Divergent, or if you just like Young Adult/Teenage books with a little with a fantasy and/or space thrown in, then I recommend Carve the Mark as an entertaining example of the genre, and a very enjoyable way to loose yourself for a few days.