Five lessons I’ve learnt on the path to my debut: ‘The Lost Stone of SkyCity’

9781925815948_WEBLARGEMate. There are no decent maps to show the path you’ll take to your debut and beyond!*

My middle-grade fantasy adventure ‘The Lost Stone of SkyCity’ came out this month. As my debut, it’s been a whirlwind of preparation and editing and excitement and <eeep> stressing about the unknowns.¬†Which there were a lot of.

Still are, actually.

My book was originally scheduled for publishing Q1 2020, until one sunny day in February I got a phone call from my publisher. A spot had opened up for October. Could I get everything done in time?

To which I replied, ‘I have no idea what “everything” is, but yes.’

(Note to self: awesome on-the-spot thinking! This was totally the correct answer!)

I’m still learning at this game, but for what it’s worth here are five lessons I’ve learnt on my way to getting published:

*Note: this post probably isn’t a good map either!!! If you feel like you’re stuck in a forest, and my path sounds like I was up a mountain, relax … I think that’s how most of us feel! ūüôā

Lesson 1. Find the writing process that works for you (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo rocks)

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Motivation: what makes writing fun and writers proud of themselves

Let’s talk about rejection and motivation and why we’re doing this writing gig. What motivates us?

And what maybe should be motivating us instead?

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Because I’ve been writing a while now. Writing and querying and hoping. And getting a whole heap of (encouraging) rejections.

But… nonetheless… they’re still rejections.

I signed up to NaNoWriMo again this year. NaNoWriMo rocks.¬†But – I’ll just come out and say it – my NaNoWriMo 2018 sucked. Badly. It sucked even before I got knocked down by the flu and had to completely stop to recover.

So… why did writing – one of my favourite things – suddenly suck?

Real talk here, people… it sucked because I was forcing the story

Whoever says that writing isn’t fun and you’ve got to push through the hard bits is talking a language I don’t understand. Kudos to them, but I’ve had an epiphany about how I write. And it ain’t about dragging a story out¬†kicking and screaming, while simultaneously bashing my head against the keyboard.

Why was I doing it? Continue reading

The spiky issue of positive relationship role models in YA – the clever ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’

acotar.jpgMan, I had fun with this series! I wanted to read ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ by Sarah J. Maas¬†because firstly I love her writing, but mainly because I was intrigued as to how a series with a blatant love triangle could garner such positive reviews of said triangle… a love triangle is like a death knell to most books.

So how did this one not only keep readers happy, but have them cheering for the new guy?

I had to read ACOTAR and find out.

I didn’t expect to then have to read the next one. And the one after that.

I didn’t expect to not just enjoy the series, but to be impressed with the messages it was sending.

I want to talk about two things here.

  1. How Maas sets the scene at the start of ACOTAR
  2. How the love triangle totally redeemed itself in my eyes.

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Poking around perfection with a bird-tipped umbrella: ‘Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow’

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When you hear of a children’s book exploding onto the scene like those whizz-bang fireworks that keep on sparkling (complete with everyone going ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’) what you absolutely want to find out is HOW DID THEY DO IT?

‘Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow’ by Jessica Townsend is one such delightful explosion. It’s surrounded by stories of bidding wars and movie rights that make me happy-sigh, because stuff like that is still possible, and books are still awesome and kids still love reading, and more will love it after reading this book.

And that’s all awesome!

So, how did Townsend do it?

What is so delightfully scrumptious about her book?

  • A huggable world you get immersed in
  • The laughs and clever whimsy
  • The intricate extras in the story.

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Three reasons why your writing goals should be elastic and your imagination free

pablo (1).pngI love to treat my goals a little like my plotting. Give them freedom, and watch them grow and mutate into something better (preferably with superpowers or rainbow hair).

I feel the point of a writing goal is to give yourself a basic framework so you ACTUALLY START WRITING and then you can feel free to escape on the tail of whichever idea takes you.

Remember that little goal I set myself for January? Janowrimo? Newsflash – I didn’t make my 50,000 words (I wrote 35,000). And I’m not disappointed in the slightest. In fact, I’m totally stoked with what I achieved!

So, why shouldn’t you mind if you don’t achieve your writing goals?

1) You got in there and wrote! *celebrate!*

Okay, so when I’m suggesting you didn’t achieve a goal, I’m presuming it still inspired you to write and connect and plot and create. If you wanted to write 50,000 words and you managed 400 before giving up and turning the tele on, your goal clearly hasn’t worked at all. Go find yourself a more awesome goal. Continue reading

Crafting a great story: deconstructing ‘These Broken Stars’

TheseBrokenStars.jpgHello beautiful cover. I think I’ll read you…

It started with the gorgeous cover, but this is a clever and crisp novel that followed through on expectations.¬†¬†‘These Broken Stars’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner was a fab accompaniment to a great holiday.

And it only got better on my second read, because it was so crafty I didn’t notice some of the cool things the authors were weaving into it until I started analysing.

‘These Broken Stars’ is the first in the successful The Starbound Trilogy. We have society girl, Lilac, and low-born army hero Tarver. Sparks fly, their spaceship fails to, and they find themselves stranded together on a planet with too many mysteries.

I loved the clues and suspense, and the gentle beauty that came from two people hiking and learning about themselves as they went. I also love hiking, but I don’t think that’s a prerequisite to enjoying this fab book.

So, what was great about it?

Let’s do some deconstruction… and beware the occasional (read: frequent) blatant spoiler… Here are three areas I’m going to focus on for this novel.

  1. Multiple plot themes = ongoing interest
  2. Characters and POV (I know, I sound like a broken record…)
  3. Subtle introduction of ideas so you don’t even notice you’re noticing them

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How to take critiques without crying – 5 steps to awesome

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Made by me using pablo…

Critiques and beta readers… they’re how our craft gets richer, our writing more fab-tabulous, and our manuscripts closer to published. But do we all know how to accept the feedback when it comes?

I didn’t.

I think I’m better now. I’ve taken a crash course in how to receive feedback. Here are my top five tips:

1. Take it and nod

Seriously people. Someone’s just taken the time to read your work and give you feedback.¬†That’s huge. So maybe the feedback isn’t what you wanted to hear…? Continue reading

Entertaining and heart-warming – ‘The Memory Shed’

thememoryshedI got drawn into this book by the awesome idea of a sinister garden shed. I admit, I don’t like delving into the depths of my rickety back shed (hello red-back spider, and <hooly dooly> what made that scuttling noise?) but I always love discovering¬†long-forgotten things.

I wasn’t disappointed by the read. In fact, it pleasantly over-achieved!¬†‘The Memory Shed’ by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith, was a delightful read. It is¬†beautiful, well-written and give-yourself-a-hug warm.

The stats…

  • Junior Fiction
  • 5 chapters
  • 55 pages
  • About 2,500 words
  • Chapter 1 –¬†intro to¬†characters (including shed!) and inciting event (going to clean shed out)
  • Chapter 2 – trepidatious entry into shed to start clean
  • Chapters 3-4 – fun and memories
  • Chapter 5 – realisation and happy finish.

What did I love?

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Ponies + Mermaids = Gold… ‘Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn’

LuluBellBirthdayUnicorn.jpgI’ve just read that the Lulu Bell series by Belinda Murrell has sold >200,000 copies.

Just a moment while I put the laptop aside and bow in tremulous awe.

Okay, I’m back. So today I’m reviewing Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn, the first in the Lulu Bell series. The book instantly caught my attention, thanks to the vibrant illustrations by Serena Geddes. And then it kept it, thanks to the clever writing.

Awesome thumbs-up aspects:

  • Cute animals (everywhere)
  • Mermaid costumes (what kid doesn’t want one of those)
  • Humour
  • Diversity
  • Gorgeous illustrations

That’s the short of it. But, of course, I had to look a little deeper into the workings of a very successful book idea.

Want some tips on how a great chapter book works? Read on…

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