Jul 29, 2010

5DI - What an Experience!

Posted by AJ Blythe at Thursday, July 29, 2010 14 comments
Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to participate in RWA's inaugral 5DI  - Mentoring for Excellence, a five day intensive manuscript development workshop.

I was mentored by the wonderful Lilian Darcy over the week, and was afforded some amazing insights into my work. Weaknesses and strengths were highlighted and a clear direction for my writing established.

After just 5 minutes with Lilian I decided I would firmly switch from aiming for the Sweet/Romance line to SuperRomance. The manuscript I started the week with was pushed to one side (never to see the light of day again) and a new manuscript started.

Oh my gosh. I cannot say how brilliant it was to be able to plot my new ms and develop my characters with Lilian keeping my work focussed. Once the plotting (the strongest I've ever done) was complete I started writing... and re-writing *grin*.

By the end of the week I had the first two scenes written and polished and the love scene (about ch8) well under way. This scene will be the moment where the story starts moving towards the black moment, so is quite pivotal.

I'm very excited about this story and am looking forward to the journey it will take me on.

In addition to the writing I *loved* the experience of being with a group of romance writers for an entire week - and the fact I had no cooking, cleaning, home responsibilities of any sort. :o) I also met some lovely people and made some firm and lasting friendships.

5DI was everything I hoped for and more. Thanks RWA!!!

Jul 26, 2010

My Excuse Monday

Posted by AJ Blythe at Monday, July 26, 2010 2 comments
Poking fun at the but in all of us...
Printed with permission of Sam Morrison.

Jul 19, 2010

My Excuse Monday

Posted by AJ Blythe at Monday, July 19, 2010 0 comments
Poking fun at the but in all of us...
Printed with permission of Sam Morrison.

Jul 15, 2010

Post in Absence

Posted by AJ Blythe at Thursday, July 15, 2010 3 comments
I'm at 5DI this week (a week with no internet). In fact, today will be the last day I meet with my mentor, Lilian Darcy. Tomorrow we'll be packing up and heading home; no doubt with heads brimming with information, and hopefully excited about the new potential to be had in our manuscripts.

I'll post next week about the week I've had.

Jul 12, 2010

My Excuse Monday

Posted by AJ Blythe at Monday, July 12, 2010 0 comments
Poking fun at the but in all of us...

Printed with permission of Sam Morrison.

Jul 8, 2010

20 Do's and Don'ts of Writing

Posted by AJ Blythe at Thursday, July 08, 2010 1 comments
I was reading Mem Fox's web site recently and read her 20 Do's and 20 Don'ts for writers of picture books. I thought it was interesting to note how many of them applied to me as an aspiring romance writer (I've struck out the bits that aren't relevant):

"•DO read recent picture books over and over again.

•DO make friends with a bookseller or librarian or stoyteller: their advice and guidance can be enormously helpful.

•DO be original: try not to copy the ideas or structures of recent well-known books.

•DO become familiar with the nature of rhythm in exquisite prose or poetry by reading it aloud: learn speech from Shakespeare, or several verses from the King James version of the Bible, or a long peom for children. Understanding brevity, rhythm, and cadence in prose will keep rejections at bay.

•DO ensure your story makes an emotional impact: the reader should be changed by the reading.

•DO ensure that the content of the story will interest both children and adults, not just adults—a common fault which might well lead to publication but will never lead to best-selling status.

•DO write with narrative tension ie. solve a problem.

•DO ’show’ and do not ‘tell’: try to reveal action and character through what the characters say and do.

•DO keep the text under 500 words if possible. Minimise description. The fewer words the better, since the pictures will provide many of the visual details in the story. A picture book is always thirty-two pages.

•DO remember that the secret of good writing is re-writing.

•DO constantly re-read drafts aloud during the drafting process: hearing is one way of perceiving what’s wrong in the text, especially in regard to rhythm.

•DO send the text to publishers without any accompanying artwork unless you are both the author and the illustrator.

•DO ensure the text is written grammatically, and the spelling and punctuation are correct.

•DO type the manuscript on one side of the paper, with decent margins, double-spaced. It is acceptable to write the story in blocks of print, which suggest appropriate page-breaks, or simply as a straight telling from start to finish.

•DO remain confident and up-beat after rejections. Re-write, re-think and send the story off to another publisher.

DO stay out of the illustrator’s way. Interference by an overbearing author is rarely appreciated.

•DO retain humility, even after a best-seller. Success may not last and you may need the comfort of friends. Those who boast have no friends.


DO NOT write down to children. If the story makes adults wince, it will make children wince too. Write always for extremely clever, well-adjusted, lively children. Young readers will appreciate the compliment.

•DO NOT write about inanimate objects such as shoes, a coin, a kite, an ice-cube, a piece of sausage or similar. Stick to people, toys, animals, birds or engines.

•DO NOT use alliterative names or titles, such Izzie the Ice Cube, Kenny the Koala or Tommy the Tired Teddy. Use names, which reveal something of the character.

•DO NOT write your story in rhyme. Prose is more effective. Most editors detest rhyme.

•DO NOT assume that plot is the most important element is a story, or even the only important element in a story. Character comes first. Next comes the precise choice of words and the correct rhythmic placement of those words. Then trouble

DO NOT forget that the rhythm of the text is the element which will, or will not bring the reader back to the story again and again.

•DO NOT write things like: he gasped, she spluttered, etc. Use the word said. The gasping and spluttering, etc., should be obvious from the situation, if the writing is effective.

•DO NOT write a picaresque story merely filled with one episode after another, with no tension or problem or resolution.

•DO NOT forget that if the writer couldn’t care less about the fate of the characters the readers couldn’t care less either, and the book will fail.

•DO NOT write stories which end: ‘…and then they all woke up.’ Dreams as stories are frustrating and will certainly be rejected.

•DO NOT write to teach. Heavy morals are detested by children and publishers alike.

DO NOT attempt to bring up other people’s children through your text.

•DO NOT get the name of the children’s editor wrong when you send off a manuscript. Check the spelling by phoning the publisher, if possible.

•DO NOT get the name of the publishing company wrong, nor its address. Check that company does publish children’s books and that its books are of high quality and are readily available.

•DO NOT forget to send a brief covering letter and DO NOT be ‘cute’ in this letter.

•DO NOT be surprised not to hear from a publisher for two or three months.

•DO NOT be surprised to find yourself working on a picture book text for a couple of years and DO NOT give up too soon. Also, DO NOT lose heart after rejections: be courageous and tenacious.

•DO NOT forget that simple does not mean simplistic.

•DO NOT expect to be accorded real respect as a writer of children’s books. It will never happen."
Quoted from Mem Fox

Jul 5, 2010

My Excuse Monday

Posted by AJ Blythe at Monday, July 05, 2010 0 comments
Poking fun at the butin all of us...

Printed with permission of Sam Morrison.

Jul 1, 2010

VPA Result - a Perspective on Judges Comments

Posted by AJ Blythe at Thursday, July 01, 2010 4 comments
Woops, I seem to have messed up the scheduling of this post (it was supposed to have appeared last Thursday) - better late than never I guess.

I got my Valerie Parv Award results back the other day. It was quite interesting really, because it demonstrated the variation in people's perspective. The two most consistent criticisms were to include a scene that occurs before the story starts and to have more of a secondary character. The thing is, in my rewrites for M&B these were the very two things they asked me to remove *grin*. Obviously, the advice I followed is M&B - after all, they are the ones I want to buy my books.

But it was these two points that were the basis for two of my judges scoring me down. I wonder what my scores would have been if they knew M&B's take on these issues?

I guess the thing to remember when entering competitions is just that, it's one person's perspective and not the be all and end all. I think when reading the feedback the best thing to do is to take what you like and toss the rest.

My third judge loved my entry, and provided my favourite comment: A well written entry and I can't wait to find out the ending. After all, that's what you want, a story the reader can't put down because they want to know the ending :o)

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