I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Sunday, December 19, 2010

We interrupt these proceedings...

Hasn't 2010 been a big year! I've learnt so much, completed my first draft of my current WIP and dived into revisions, met so many awesome peeps, and had such a fun time with my blogging and my first Crusade. I think it might be time for a little break (*nods*).

So, I'm going to close down my blogging for the rest of 2010, and I'll be back bright and chirpy on January 1 to see in the new year. My January 1st post will be pretty cool - I'll be interviewing Marieke and giving a little more information on our top secret project, which we'll reveal soon after. Can't tell you much at this stage, but it may or may not involve trilogies, contests, and fantabulous prizes galore!!! What a way to ring in the new year.

In the meantime, I'll be:

Wrapping presents (Source)

Unwrapping presents (Source)

Having Christmas feasts (Source)

Writing, well revising mostly! (Source)

Oh, and sleeping (Source)



Friday, December 17, 2010

What am I reading? (and an interview)

I'm being interviewed...

I'm being interviewed by Michelle Merrill over at Perfecting the Craft today, so pop on over and say hi!

What am I reading right now?

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

What have I just finished reading?

Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When revising your manuscript seems too daunting (Part 2)

In yesterday's post I spoke about Step 1 of my Revision Plan of Action - printing out my manuscript and revising/editing on paper rather than on the computer screen. This gives you a completely different perspective on your manuscript and can help to break the dreaded revision-block. I loved reading everyone's comments, and it was really interesting to see the different revision methods that people use (revising all on the computer, revising all on paper, or combining the two).

Today I want to talk about another way to make your revisions seem less daunting: breaking your manuscript into sections. This works well for both computer revisions and paper revisions.


Step 2 - break your manuscript into sections

I suspect that part of the cause of my revision-block was the 300 page manuscript in front of me. My thinking went something like this: How on earth am I ever going to get my revisions finished, OMG there's 300 pages!!! I was focusing on the size of the whole task ahead of me, rather than on what I could do that day, that week, or that month.

The funny thing is, I knew even as I sat there that I shouldn't be thinking this way. I just didn't know how to break myself out of the mindset.

Here's a little tip that might help you if you're ever in a similar position:
  1. save your document into a new file (so you don't lose/delete your manuscript while you're cutting and pasting);
  2. using the new document, cut a section out of the manuscript. I have 4 parts in my manuscript, so I cut out the whole of Part 1. But you may prefer to do this by chapters (eg 4 chapters), or pages (eg 30 pages). Whichever approach you take, I wouldn't go much higher than 50 pages in total;
  3. create a new document and paste the section you cut from your manuscript into the new document. Save this under a label you can easily find (I called mine "Part 1 - From The Other Side");
  4. Repeat until you have fully divided your manuscript into sections;
  5. Close all the documents except the first (eg my Part 1).
Whether you print out the document or work by computer, you now have a very short document to work on. And it's amazing how quickly you can revise and edit a 30 or 40 or 50 page document when there aren't 250 plus pages waiting to be revised behind it. With me, this actually tricked my mind past my revision-block AND got me all psyched-up about revising again.

Once you're finished with the first document, simply move onto the second. Once you've finished them all and made the edits in your computer (as many rounds as necessary), simply copy the revised sections back into the one document. Then rinse and repeat as appropriate...

Obviously this may not work if you're still carrying out structural revisions, so it may be more appropriate to wait until your structure is in place and you're revising by scene or by chapter or working on line edits. But once you're in that place, give it a go, hopefully it will do the trick for you as well.

Have you ever tried anything similar? How does it work for you?

Monday, December 13, 2010

When revising your manuscript seems too daunting (Part 1)

I hit a wall in my revisions recently, a great big high one. I stared at my computer screen for hours, knowing I still had heaps of revisions left to do but not able to bring myself to continue. I tried to pass off my mental block as a one-off event, only to find myself in the exact same position the next day. And the next.

Eventually I admitted defeat, closed down my computer, and went for a walk. The change of scene worked wonders and I came up with a plan of action that has since helped me immensely. I thought I'd share it with you over the next few posts.


Step 1 - Time to print out my document and start working on paper. 

Some of us prefer to do all our revisions on the computer. If this works well for you, that's great, there's no point trying to fix what ain't broke. But, if you're like me and find your focus narrowing to an area the size of your computer screen (minus the toolbars), and often tunnelling in until you can only concentrate on the sentence you're revising at that particular moment, you might need to print out your document and start working on paper.

I've found that the shift from computer screen to paper immediately broadens my perspective, enabling me to look at the manuscript/part/chapter/paragraph as a whole rather than revise sentence by sentence. This has obvious benefits to my manuscript, particularly when I'm focusing on "big picture" revisions rather than line edits.

When (or if) you make the shift from computer drafting and revisions to printed-out revisions is up to you. After I finished my first draft, I found I had a lot of scenes and paragraphs that needed moving around, and I did most of this on the computer. Once I had my manuscript structure in place though, revisions on paper became a must.

How about you, do you revise on the computer or on paper? When do you make the shift?

Next Revision Step: dividing your manuscript into sections...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Something is Coming...(Part Two)

Water slushes against the empty docks, inky-black in the dark of night. A lone figure dressed in a trench coat stands near the edge, checking his watch. It's three AM.

He looks up when a pair of heels click toward him. The moon glows gently on the owner--a tall woman with thick auburn hair, pencil skirt under a thigh-length coat, and red, red lips. She runs her half-hooded eyes over him.

"John Smith?" she asks, her voice sensual and seductive with a slight accent.

His eyes dart over the docks. This isn't Joe Stranders. "Who asks?" He takes a step backward, ready to flee.

"Cho Sanders. You have something for me," she says with a meaningful look.

Damn. He shouldn't have hired that foreign exchange student for the summer. This wasn't the first time that imbecile mixed up the names. At least he got the location right this time.

"You have the money?" he asks. He reaches for the cream envelope tucked safely in a pocket of his trench coat.

She starts to answer, but the deep rumbling of thunder cuts her off. Purple storm clouds race toward them.

The woman throws herself into into the man's arms with a gasp. "Something is coming!"

"Yes." He breathes deeply, the scent of lavender clouding his brain. His eyes remain fixed on the heights above the small village. "Can you feel it?"


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Marieke’s Midwinter Blogfest

Here’s my entry in Marieke’s Midwinter Blogfest, told from the point of view of my main character, Verity, in FROM THE OTHER SIDE.

The idea is to describe what my MC does for Midwinter in less than 500 words. Must say, this was rather fun to write!

Hope you enjoy.


I used to love Christmas. Well, not just Christmas, the whole month of December really. Audrey and I would go shopping to buy presents, sometimes two, three, seven times. Slipping in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other, making snow angels on the way to our car. Mom and Dad were always so happy, holding hands, laughing, singing. We would decorate the tree together and drink way too much brandy-spiked egg-nog (Mom and Dad, not us, though we managed to scam a sip here and there).

But then things changed.

Dad died first, and Mom shacked up with Trav-the-loser. Then Mom died of cancer eighteen months ago, leaving Audrey and I alone and in the care of a man who hated us. Not as much as we hated him though.

When Audrey left me as well, Christmas stopped having any meaning for me. And now…

I guess there’s no point in Christmas when you’re a ghost. I don’t have time for it anyway. Places to visit, people to kill and all that. I watch as my target’s family laughs and sings and holds hands. The lounge room lights twinkle in the Christmas tree decorations and paint rainbows on the wall of the room. How pretty.

I make my move.

And cross another name off my list.

Merry Christmas.


I hope you found this little insight into Verity’s world entertaining.

Check out the other entries in Marieke’s blogfest here. There's still time to join if you want to have a go (the blogfest runs for three days), and there's a fantastic interview on Marieke's Musings and a critique prize up for grabs as well.

100th Post (Woot!!!). And a little nostalgia...

I had a whole 'nother post scheduled today, but I happened to glance at my Dashboard and (*gasps*) this is my 100th post. So I've dropped everything and decided to get a little nostalgic instead. I hope you'll forgive me.

Grab a slice of cake, relax, enjoy!
Today I want to send a huge shout-out. A shout-out to you, all my followers and awesome peeps, who make me smile, brighten my day with comments, read (and, I hope, enjoy) my various posts, and peer at me from my sidebar all day long. In a non-stalkerish way of course!

I still can't believe my blog has only been running for 6 months. It seems like yesterday that I wrote (probably quite badly) my first ever post, and then thought long and hard about whether I was even ready to blog in the first place. A few short weeks later came WriteOnCon, the first writing conference I'd ever attended, and an amazing eye-opener for me. I'd never realized that such an awesome writing community existed, and as I made friend after friend, met more and more of my fellow bloggers, and learned so much about writing and the opportunities available to us writers, I've grown ever more thankful that I'm a part of this fantastic community.

Glass of champagne anyone?
I've discovered that I LOVE blogging, but even more than that I LOVE getting to know you guys. I can't wait for another 6 months, another year, another 5 years of fun times as I continue my journey toward publication, and follow you as you continue yours.

I think (*nods*) that 2011 will be a fantastic year for us all. And I can't wait to share it with you!



Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Really Cool Awards

I've received some really cool awards lately, which I've put on my Awards page, and I wanted to thank the people who've given them to me. So go ahead and check them out, they're all awesome!

Clarissa Draper (Listen to the Voices)

Jessica Byam (Jest Kept Secret)

Kangaroobee (Kangaroobee's Blog)
The Blogger Formerly Known As The Enigmatic Masked Blogger
Michael Di Gesu (In Time)

The Golden Eagle (The Eagle's Aerial Perspective)

L'Aussie (L'Aussie Writing

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Twitter Tip Thursday (Christmas Special)

This will be my last Twitter Tip Thursday for 2010. Enjoy!

I've put up my tree
EVERYONE SHOULD CONSIDER THIS: Is your blog linked to your user profile? Have you checked lately? If you're not linked, you're missing out...http://t.co/1ga2guT @RachaelHarrie

On writing:

Great point made on my blog by @JosVolpe:“start the story right in action” does not mean starting in the VERY MIDST of the inciting incident @HollyBodger

Basics 101 : Character Creation: Given life, characters pursue experiences you would never dare. http://bit.ly/htRcEK @4KidLit

Plot Road Blocks: how do you break through? http://bit.ly/eKCDfz @juliemusil

If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech. JOHN STEINBECK @AdviceToWriters

#writers of #kidlit specifically YA and MG -- contractions are your friend. @Georgia_McBride

How do you know when your book is ready? http://bit.ly/icJWwH via @ElanaJ @juliemusil

Hung some lurvely decorations
Planning a Series Can Be Dangerous: Think of ways to expand instead of planning. http://bit.ly/dR6A5X @4KidLit

Tweeting newbie writing advice today. Why? Cause I don't feel like blogging. Original post http://bit.ly/9OTMfT @Georgia_McBride

Active vs. Passive Voice in Writing - blog - ourlittlebooks: http://bit.ly/gpgVkc @4KidLit

Check it out: @finesarah discusses YA characters with emotional and mental disorders: http://tinyurl.com/22r4uzg @KOrtizzle

Don’t Do As They Do: How many times have you read a bestselling novel and let it influence your writing, but wh... http://bit.ly/dUX6YU @StinaLL


Revisions Week - Outlining & Plans: Another option -- outline after drafting. http://bit.ly/fLc6Vl @4KidLit

#writers--when revising, consider how adding/removing impacts story, characters, scenes, etc. Changes may need to happen in several places. @Georgia_McBride

Friends Don't Let Friends Overwrite*: Seven things to look for in your own writing. http://bit.ly/hjKGLK @4KidLit

#writers -- watch not only for repetitive words but phrases, ideas. No need to hit reader over head with same idea, word. We get it. @Georgia_McBride

On the blog: Some thoughts on line-editing, and especially Imaginary Readers: http://bit.ly/ff4QMN @chevalaque

Re-Write Wednesday: Send up the (Red) Flag: Words That Often Spell Trouble: FANTASTIC post that will ... http://bit.ly/fUsckw @4KidLit

How cute are these snow penguins!

RT @jkoyanagi In which I express my corny gratitude & offer advice on soliciting & receiving beta critiques: http://bit.ly/gaj52V @cvaldezmiller

A Question of Betas: Where to find them and what makes them right. http://bit.ly/fqntlK @4KidLit

Although writing is a solitary endeavor, the path to publication is not. It's essential to find & accept feedback on our work. @JodyHedlund

Need a critique partner? 4 tips for finding a workable partnership: http://bit.ly/fjKVIX @JodyHedlund

Picture Books/Early Readers/Chapter Books:

Resource for Picture Book Writers: wp.me/pIkHt-Xe @scubacor

Announcing my brand new blog series: How I Got My Agent (for picture book writers) http://wp.me/pIkHt-XL @jafhedlund

Book Reviews:

RT @malindalo: I think that if you want an author to read your review of their book, you should email the link to them. << YES @ElanaJ

Presents anyone???


How To Keep Blogging From Being a Popularity Contest: http://bit.ly/gFAImO @JodyHedlund


12 Ways to Scare Away Twitter Followers: http://bit.ly/eQSVnp (via @RoniLoren) @JodyHedlund

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I write like I speak...

I had an interesting revelation the other day - I write like I speak. When I talk to my friends and family, I speak very descriptively and my sentences are riddled with adjectives, adverbs, and modifiers. I've actually been told in the past that I have a rather (*coughs*) "dramatic turn of phrase." Go figure! Interesting, then, that I've been noticing this in my writing as well. This might account for my love of exclamation marks and emoticons too perhaps!!!

The same holds true for my non-writing writing. You know, the every-day stuff you don't really think about, and you definitely don't spend hours and days and months revising.

One lovely critique partner of mine you know who you are! banned me from ever using the word "frantically" in a manuscript again. Since then, I've been frantically concentrating on removing this word (and most other adverbs) from my manuscript (*chortles*). Imagine my surprise, then, when I read over an email I dashed out to a friend the other day, and noticed not one, but two "frantically's" in the one email.

Yep, I write like I speak! And I write like I write. If that makes any sense...

I'm getting so much better at writing my manuscript the way we're supposed to - that's a blog post for a whole 'nother day - and I'm working toward it looking nice and professional when I've finished.  But it makes me wonder, should I be aiming for this type of perfection in my daily life as well? I'm not sure I should - how boring would things be if I had to speak properly all the time.

What think ye? Are there any other gramatically flowery peeps out there??? Does the way you speak influence your writing?

DISCLAIMER: No adjectives, adverbs, or modifiers have been harmed in the making of this blog post.

SECOND DISCLAIMER: I may have written this post a little bit more descriptively than I usually would. For dramatic effect of course (*grins*).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Here's some brain-teasers for you (just for kicks and giggles...)

Have a go at these. The answers are at the bottom of the post (no cheating though!) :)

(1) Suppose there are three men who are frozen and two of them died. How many are left?

(2) If a man is at the bottom of a cliff and he is dead and he has half of a match in his hand. How did he die?

Hmm, bananas anybody?

(3) A man walks into a restaurant and the waiter says good day Admiral. Why did the waiter call the the man an Admiral?

(4) You are in a cabin and it is pitch black. You have one match with you. Which do you light first, the newspaper, the lamp, the candle or the fire?

Having a lightbulb moment?

(5) Each day a lady gets the lift from the 12th floor to the ground level, so she can go to work. When she comes home however she only goes up on the lift to level 8. Why is this - it is not to keep fit?

(6) A ship is sailing in the Atlantic ocean ... it sinks and every single person dies.....how is that possible?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg???

(7) The maker doesn't need it, the owner doesn't want it, the user doesn't know he's using it, what is it?

(8) Which word, if pronounced right, is wrong, but if pronounced wrong is right?

Here's the source. Scary thing is, these are supposedly for kids!!! How did you go? What's your favorite type of brain-teaser (or do you really, really hate those twisty little suckers)???


(1) (Answer: None! You were only supposing)
(2) (Answer: The man was in a hot air balloon with some of his friends and the balloon started to go down so the group of friends made a decision to draw sticks (matches) and who ever got the shortest stick had to jump off. The dead man got the shortest stick so he had to jump off!)
(3) (Answer: Because he was wearing his uniform!)
(4) (Answer: You light the match first!)
(5) (Answer: Because she is a midget and can only reach the up to the button for level 8!)
(6) (Answer: The couples lived and single people died!)
(7) (Answer: A coffin!)
(8) (Answer: Wrong!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Interview with Tessa Quin (Wait! Is that--? Something is coming...)

Today I'm interviewing Tessa Quin, my fantastic friend, co-conspirytor (I know, but I like this spelling!!!), critique partner, fellow blogger and Crusader, aspiring author, and owner of a cute little hamster who has an unfortunate book-eating fetish.

I've come up with a few (relatively) easy questions for her to answer, so we can all get to know her a little better.

Question 1: What inspires you to write?

I have always had it in me to write, but I wasn‘t serious about publishing until after I became pregnant. So I guess it's safe to say that my boys inspire me to write and the idea that when they become eight or nine, they might read my MG books, and when they become teens, they might read my YA books. They love books and I read to them every night. I've also had ideas for picture books that are directly inspired by a sentence they frequently use. I'm thinking about making it into a series and self-publish here in Iceland (I was told that most picture books were self-published in Iceland these days). They’ll be “boy-books”, because I pretend to know what boys like to read about.

Rach: That's so sweet you want your boys to read your books! And it's intriguing you've got PBs, MG and YA on the go, wishing you the best of luck with them all.

Question 2: What's your all-time favourite book (and why)???

May I mention a group of books? Harry Potter! You can't just say one Harry Potter book, you have to include them all. What‘s not to love about them? The entire world in the books is fascinating and they're packed with fun, imaginative things. Honestly, although the Twilight series became a craze, I doubt it ever reached the magnitude of the Harry Potter craze. It also inspired me to write, which is something I'll never forget (fan fiction, anyone?).

Rach: Gosh, there are so many HP fans out there!!! 

The offending hamster. It is pretty cute though!
Question 3: Do you listen to music while you write? Is there anything in particular that gets you in the writing mood?

Absolutely not. The only noise around me is the clicking of keys as I hammer away, which is music in itself. A friend tried to get me to listen to music about breaking hearts (no, not Achy Breaky Heart, it was something a little more heartfelt) to inspire my writing of a breakup scene, but I ended up chucking the CD out the window (in my mind – I take good care of my stuff).

Rach: Tee hee, glad you clarified, for a second I was picturing you sitting there and listening to Achy Breaky Heart!!! Oh no. Ok, so how do I get that song out of my head already?

I never thought I'd see the day when Billy Ray Cyrus appeared on my blog!!!

Tessa, one last question: Is there anything you want to add?

Yes, something is coming...

Rach: Hmm, whatever can you mean? (*chortles*)

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Tessa. Make sure you all head over to her blog, The Quest for a Literary Agent, and say hi.

And I'm being interviewed by Marieke (my other co-conspirytor) today - my very first interview, woot!!! So pop on over to Marieke's Musings and check it out... :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

To be an avatar or not to be an avatar, that is the question...

I think I'm going to make the change from avatar to me (*gasps*).



Yep, I've finally worked out how to upload a photo of yours truly onto my blog. It's only taken 6 months (and the breakthrough actually came when I discovered my broken phone was the problem, not my techno-incompetence), but all's good now.

I'm going to miss little Lain. But all good things must come to an end. I'll make the change on my avatar icons over the next few days (once I'm over the embarrassment of plastering a mug shot of me on a blog post!!!). (*grins*)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Twitter Tip Thursday (Agents and Querying Special)

There were so many great tweets on agents and querying this week I thought I'd concentrate on those. So here they are:

When should you query:

There aren't rules about queries except what's in the agent's guidelines. No days are off limits. It's just weird getting them on a holiday. @RachelleGardner

Wise to Query Agents Around the Holidays? -- One Novelist's Opinion. http://tinyurl.com/yc3eauc @BookEditorLM

'Tis the season to query? http://bit.ly/fzMc35 via @QueryTracker @juliemusil

Query letters:

Agent Bob Silverstein On: Query Letter Tips: Four things that make a great letter.http://bit.ly/eo7yES @4KidLit

You know what really grinds my grits? When a published author thinks they get to not follow query directions. No shortcuts! Sorry! @Natalie_Fischer

I think it's cute that I'm getting queries from writers reassuring me this novel was not a @NaNoWriMo concoction. @ElanaRoth

I never need to know in your query EVER why you want to be a writer. I get it already. You wrote a freakin' book @ElanaRoth

How to interpret rejection letters:

I think one thing you CAN read into is if you're ONLY getting form rejections. That should be a clear sign something is awry. @ElanaRoth

@ElanaRoth I don't know about you but I feel like there's a lot of stuff that's "good" but it has to be more than that... @sztownsend81

Yup. This. RT @micolz Don't know if it's been said but also important to look at agent criticism in aggregate @ElanaRoth

Most queries just get the "story isn't right for me." Seems the most basic way I can boil it down. Something isn't right for me. @ElanaRoth

"Not enough hook" can really be a death sentence. Have a CONCEPT and then a plot to expand that concept. @ElanaRoth

"Not enough hook" means I know I can't make that book sound exciting to an editor. @ElanaRoth

"Too close to something on my list" means just that. I have too many dystopians, or whatever. @ElanaRoth


Getting The Call Means Your Work Gets Harder: Be sure you are ready to go pro. http://bit.ly/fKQflU @4KidLit

Agent Spotlight: Ann Behar: Looking for children's PB to YA as long as it's beautifully written. http://bit.ly/hxrqks @4KidLit

NEW: Open Forum over on the blog - questions answered! http://bit.ly/dmsmdO @Natalie_Fischer

Reversion of Rights: Important questions with excellent answers. http://bit.ly/dH6Wh9 @4KidLit

New Agent Alert: Stephanie DeVita of Dystel & Goderich guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/New+Agent… @juliemusil

Should you put feelers out before leaving an agent? http://ow.ly/3icR9 @Kid_Lit

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogging Tips: Link your blog to your user profile

I thought I'd do a series giving some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your blogging. I'm focusing mainly on Blogger rather than WordPress or LiveJournal, though some of my tips might help users of these other blogging platforms as well.

Today I'm talking about linking your blog to your user profile. During my travels around the blogosphere, I've noticed that a number of bloggers haven't actually linked their blogs in this way. What this means in practice is that, although I can see their name and some personal details when I click on their avatar (either in my Followers widget or on my Dashboard or when they leave me a comment), I can't follow them back to their blog.

To put this another way, it means that those who don't have their blog linked to their user profile are missing out on followers and possible comments for their blog. So you should check this to make sure.

Here's how to do it:

Checking your user profile - is your blog linked up?

(1) Open your blog

(2) Click on "View My Complete Profile" if you have an "About Me" sidebar gadget


(3) Click on "View Profile" in your Blogger Dashboard

(4) This takes you to your user profile

(5) Look down the bottom of your profile, under the heading "My Blogs"

(6) Is your blog name listed below "My Blogs"? (NB, you can have multiple blogs linked here)

(7) If "Yes," that's great, you're all good. If "No," keep on reading.

Linking your blog to your user profile

(1) In your user profile, click on "Edit Profile"

(2) Next to the heading "Show my blogs," click on "Select Blogs to Display"

(3) Check the box next to your blog name (that's "Rach Writes..." for me, the other blog is my old blog which is no longer operational)

(4) Click "Save Settings"

(5) And that's it. So relax, have a cookie, and enjoy!!! (Though I'd probably pop back to your user profile and make sure the link has gone through, just in case)

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