Friday, 21 January 2022

Resolutions Déjà vu!






So another year - be it three weeks in! Another list of resolutions. But this year I’ve shaken mine up.

A few years ago we started a new family tradition. We go out for brunch between Christmas and New Year (pandemic permitting) and we all write our ‘aims’ for the New Year. We than create a family list of New Year resolutions, along with our individual ones.

My individual list is always the same. A rehash of every previous year. There are some differences, depending on what’s going on, like this year which is a BIG EXAM year for both kids, so I have ‘support kids through exams. And ‘Help them tradition to their next step’. But my person stuff is always the same. ‘Eat better’. ‘Look after myself’.

My writer’s resolutions could be copy and pasted from any year. In fact whilst brunching we found my New Year’s Resolutions form 2017, they included…

  • Finishing editing book.
  • Enter more competitions. – (get long-listed!)
  • Submit to agents - (sign with agent!)
  • Submit to publishers – (sign a contract!)
  • Read more
  • Blog more.
  • Attend more writer events.
  • Social media.


In fact these were EXACTLY the same as I had written down for 2022 –well apart from the book I’m editing is different – but other than that identical. Actually it is pretty much a carbon-copy of every New Year’s resolutions list I’ve done since 2011.

This is actually rather depressing. It means that for over a decade I haven’t actually achieved any of my resolutions. So for 2022 I have decided to simplify. Obviously I still have my list of aims and dreams, but I only have one resolution, which is simply…



Be move creative!



Why? Creativity is good for the imaginations - it feeds it, which is great for a writer and it’s good for mental health.

SO WHY NOW?

Well in September I succumbed to Covid. It was horrible. So was the isolation. One of the things that got me through it with my sanity in fact was drawing. This is a return to my roots, as I studied Art and originally came to the world of kids lit by a desire to illustrate. Re-embracing this part of me really made me happier.

So my resolution for 2022 sis be more creative. Simple. Achievable. Of course I am still writing and pursuing publication, but hopefully when 2023 rolls around I will have at least one resolution that I’ve nailed!

Happy New Year too you all. Good luck with you resolutions, dreams and aims for 2022! We can do it together!




Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Pitch Perfect


Tweet ready for a physical pitching competition



I love a good pitch. I am actually pretty good at pitching too. To clarify - I’m obviously talking about pitching books NOT singing acapella. Believe me- no one wants to hear me sing, my husband (who is a trained musician and used to be a professional singing teacher) has told me; I quote … [I] ‘can’t carry a tune in a bag!’

My badge for winning the  short pitch comp at the 2013 SCBWI Winchester Conference

 

I can pitch a novel though. I tend to write high concept, commercial stories with a literary edge which I’m passionate about – and this luckily tends to makes it easy to talk about and make sound exciting.

I also am in the habit of starting my new projects with a pitch. Usually an elevator pitch which is the essence of the book. In addition I write the synopsis (hole ridden though it may be) of where I see the story going and including key elements. I use this as a rough map whilst penning the first draft. Of course writing and creativity often take you to unexpected places (this is one of my favourite parts of a new project) so when I’m writing I tweak the pitch and synopsis. So all three, the manuscript, synopsis and pitch are constantly evolving.


 

I often enter pitching competitions, especially twitter ones, not because I expect anyone to request to see my work, (as I always think my tweets get lost in a sea of pitches) but to force me to work and improve my pitch. With Twitter pitching events you have to keep your pitch tight, distilled down to bare essence of the story, PLUS leave room for hashtags that communicate the genre, sub-genres and age group of your novel. Also many twitter pitching events allow you to pitch the same novel multiple times as long as the pitch is different. This is great for forcing me to be creative and experiment until I have an array of pitches for each project. Also the feedback of comments and re-tweets (and if I’m lucky a ‘like’ from an industry professional) help me gauge which of these pitches works the best. This can also help to reassure me which pitch to use on submissions letters.

Pitching at the 2019 Golden Egg Academy Big Honk Competition 

 

So I tend to do a lot of pitching events and I have more often than not had at least one ‘like’ from an industry professional, opening up an opportunity which after I’ve researched them, and I am ready, can be seized.

I have also had some luck with other pitching competitions, at SCBWI and Gold Egg Academy events, some of which have resulted in requests to see manuscript , which has been great - always a little confidence boost if nothing else!

With my prize for winning ten word pitching comp at the 2019 SCBWI Winchester conference.

 

Here some of my tips for penning pitches…

  • Think of what the TAG LINE would be if your book was adapted into a movie.
  • Write it longer and edit if down. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paragraph, or even a full page. Get everything written down and then keep halving it until it is only a sentence. This will make you really think of what you can delate but still communicate what the main elements and ISP (Individual Selling Point) of your story.
  • If you are gifted at grammar, grammatize the hell out of it, so it can be longer but still a sentence. For an example of a master of this read ‘Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh’ by Robert C. O'Brien – this is actually taught in universities to illustrate this exact point!
  • If you can add a good comparison quote do. Compare your project to things people know, don’t go for obscure compassions. Also don’t be afraid to use movies or popular TV shows if it fits better, for example…

for my mammoth book…


Ice Age vs Doctor Dolittle with a dash of Jurassic Park



  • Keep a Pitch Document with all your pitches ready to copy and paste. In here you can have multiple versions of twitter pitches, elevator pitches, compassion pitches, or longer blurb type pitches.
  • Lastly, take your time. Do it over a week. Do some then leave it and come the next day with a fresh set of eyes and do some more edits.



Happy pitching everyone!
And Good Luck!


Monday, 8 November 2021

#NaNoNoGO!





It’s November, which means National Novel Writing Month, or #NaNoWriMo. The annual staple of every writer’s calendar, where you write a first draft in a month, by setting a target daily word count and tracking your progress on the website. It’s also full of peer run events to help support each other on the month long writing sprint.

Usually #NaNoWriMo is a fruitful time for me. In past years I have successfully started and completed first drafts. Or written a new project to the 3/4 stage, and finished it in the following months. On more than one occasion I used it to revisit a partially penned project that’s been stuffed in a draw but has been yelling in my brain for attention.

#NaNoWriMo is a great tool for focusing my mind and sharpening my discipline – USUALLY.

However this year for me it has been much more of a #NaNoNoGO!


 

Firstly November snuck upon me. Despite having spent the day before celebrating Halloween and knowing it’s always followed my All Saints Day also known as November the first, the official start of #NaNoWriMo, I forgot! With both my teens being still home on half-term, and using every inch of available space to revise and do course work, I neglected to get prepared or write anything.

Day 2 - I told myself was the day. I would use #NaNoWriMo to help me concentrate on finishing my current edit on my WIP. So with the offspring back at school. And all my stuff ready, and crucially my head in the right place; I embarked on my #NaNoWriMo journey. Life had other plans. A big disaster concerning my eldest school and her UCAS Application arose and demanded my immediate undivided attention. This took ALL DAY and drained me of energy.

Day3 – brought drama with regards to the house renovations.

Day 4 - was a delight with the lovely lingering effects of Covid19 – making my POTS worse and bringing on a dose of cotton-wool brain. PLUS a drama with my business that I had to rectify.


 

By Day 5 I was despondent and felt like a failure. I so I didn’t log on to the NaNoWriMo peer support group on Facebook that I belong to, due to embracement – stupid I know - as they are all so lovely and empathetic. So instead I decided I needed to do something to get out of my funk. Walking – my usual remedy – is out THANKS AGAIN COVID. So I took myself off out of the house of many distractions to be creative in a café, where I drew and doodled.

This helped BUT is wasn’t words. I got 0 words written. 0 words edited. I still felt like a failure. But this I realised was me NOT looking at the wider picture.

The wider picture looks like this…

I am living with my family in a building site, which brings daily challenges, - no heating. Limited hot water – if any. Dust. Mess. Noise. Then there’s the drama of actually building.

Both teens are gearing up to do there exams next summer, GCSE and A-Levels, so are stressed and revising. Plus my eldest is in the midst of UCAS Applications and entrance exams. So I am working extra hard to support them especially considering the chaos the house is in.

My partners work has gone bonkers and he has to travel more now that life is returning to a pre-pandemic status quo.

I’m suffering from the ever generous lingering gifts of COVID, which has made my existing health struggles worse and added new ones.

I had forgotten that I am in fact NOT A SUPERHERO. It took the weekend to get myself out of the rut and for me to say, it’s ok to start again, and actually start #NaNoWriMo a week late.

#NaNoWriMo is there to help not add stress. So I started my #NaNoWriMo today. So far I’ve edited two chapters and penned this post. Fingers crossed the rest of November will be this positive and productive!






So, for everyone who is participating in #NaNoWriMo, please remember…



BE KIND TO YOURSELF!