Sunday, 18 December 2011
In what other job could you read silly stories like Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale as part of its requirements? What other job requires you to be on top of all the latest children’s fiction, in order to be able to sincerely recommend it?
Where else would you always be the most powerful person in the room, the one who decides upon every activity that takes place in the room? Elsewhere, how often would people turn to you, with an implicit trust that you will have their answer? In what other job could your mind be opened in a brand new way, by a single insightful comment?
Where else can you teach a word like “inferior” and then read twenty-four essays a week later that include it (often with the right spelling and almost always in the right context)?
In what other job can you care so much about a group of people and be determined to do your all to help them achieve their very best? Where else would you receive an “aww” or a round of applause when you explain that you won’t be there after the holidays?
How often does a job have perks like a free performance, where a bunch of youths display their musical talents? Choirs, solo singers, brass bands, pianists and more. In what other job could you watch a free production of Grease, where an all-star amateur cast of adults put themselves on display for the amusement of others? Or where, if you felt brave enough (which I didn’t), you could join them?
The last seven weeks have been exhausting. I’ve never had a moment to myself. Stress has kept me awake many nights. There have been times when I’ve cried. And cried. And cried.
But I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Monday, 31 October 2011
Saturday, 22 October 2011
Lovely way of describing intertextuality, one of the joys of reading.
That episode also moved on to speculate over the future of the written word. One particularly interesting thing about the ebook, which I hadn't thought about before, was mentioned: the possibility of a multimodal text. As technologies advance, an ebook novel could be a hybrid of all sorts of different things like written text, images, videos, sounds and more. What a curious thought! What would that mean for the genre of the novel? It could take it into all kinds of strange dimensions... Well worth watching that episode for food for thought.
It's half term at the moment. And also my birthday tomorrow, which I keep forgetting about. Happy birthday to me... I have lots of planning to do for my teaching. When I go back after half term, I'll need to be ready to teach A Christmas Carol, The Canterbury Tales (a play version), Media and GCSE English Language. It's going to be a busy week!
Monday, 17 October 2011
Friday, 7 October 2011
Friday, 9 September 2011
Thursday, 8 September 2011
For some reason, there's also something satisfying in totting up the books into a nice, ever-growing statistic. We like stats, as humans, don't we? Even though most of them are nonsense (99% of statistics are made up on the spot...geddit?). My Goodreads only lists about 80 books, but that's because I can't be bothered to wrack my brains *too* hard to recall everything I've ever read. Still, I'm trying to start a habit of adding every NEW book I read, and the number's creeping up now.
The website also gives you updates on the authors you've read before, whenever they publish something new. Like a while back, I found out through it that Mary Hoffman has a new book out. Not the Stravaganza series that I like but something standalone. Whenever I have a spare moment to read something of my own choice (doesn't happen very often!), I'll get around to reading it.
You can have friends on Goodreads and compare your reading tastes, which is quite interesting, too. More fun stats. Unfortunately I only have two friends, so if you're reading this and aren't a complete stranger, feel free to add me... my profile is here.
Sunday, 7 August 2011
Now I have a choice: do I send out Between Time electronically to some agents across the pond, or do I send out some postal queries in the UK, or do I e-publish it for the Kindle?
I have exactly one month left before I run out of writing time and start my PGCE.
I think I'll try some electronic submissions to US agents. I'm considering 'translating' the novel for those agents. What do you think? It should be fairly easy, because I know a lot about American spelling (and grammar) already: ize/ise, colour/color, travelling/traveling...etc. I just found a useful site: http://www.translatebritish.com/dictionary which has a neat list of differences!
The only problem is that I've not got much time. I haven't done any writing for a week, because I went away to Liverpool to volunteer. The idea of the week is to give kids a holiday when they wouldn't normally have one. It was really good fun, but very tiring! We went ice skating, laser questing, to a Maise Maze, to a muddy adventure trail, for spooky night walks, to many parks, to a lake, to the beach, to the cinema, to Blackpool Pleasure Beach... and more! I also now know how to tell a really boring story that's certain to send kids to sleep!
And I need to pack today, because I head off to Amsterdam for a mini-break tomorrow. After that, I have a week gap where I *may* get some writing stuff done, but then I have another week of volunteering, and only then do I have a final week to myself where I might get sorted for submissions/writing.
Did I say I had a month? It's more like one final week! :o
I have reached 20K with the new novel I'm writing, at least. The second 'phase' of that novel is now complete and I'm about to head into the next bit. It could be tricky because I have to make around six months pass in this section...
I guess I just have to make the most of the time remaining. I will have time to submit Between Time in the States, but not to then e-publish it when I get a load of rejections. E-publication might have to wait until next summer. It might seem like a very sloooooooow process, but at least the delay will give the UK Kindle market time to grow!
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
It's always a difficult question to know how many agents to send out to at once, especially when some of them seem funny about multiple submissions. A number ask you to make clear if you're sending it out to more than one. I don't understand why they care. Because if one offers you acceptance before any other, you can politely withdraw your MS from the others. I simply don't have time to wait 6-8 weeks for rejection before moving on.
The main argument for submitting only to a couple is that you can, if you're rejected, polish the MS more before you submit to the next batch. I have revised Between Time quite a bit since the last time it was out with agents. Particularly the first chapter, which I thought needed more of a hook.
Well, it's out there. The subject of this blog isn't quite accurate, though. A number of these agents differ from my past experience: they let you know that your work has been received, but only respond then if they're interested. So when I hear nothing after 6-8 weeks, I know that I'm rejected. That's a little frustrating, because, while I don't like rejection letters, they do at least give a sense of closure to a query. Oh well.
Ha, listen to me. Such a pessimist! Wish me luck. ;)
Sunday, 17 July 2011
It's such a dilemma for me!
My brother made a really gorgeous cover for my midgrade/tween novel, Between Time. It made me want to e-publish it even more! Because that novel is now as ready as it will ever be. I just let my younger sister read through to check the vocab level, and she also seemed to enjoy it. Critiques have always been positive. If I made a back cover, a book trailer, and prepare it for e-publication, it could be out in a month!
I had a dream, too, that I DID e-publish it. I was on a website, watching the 'sold' count creep up. Not hugely, but as high as 20 sales in the dream. And it was SO EXCITING!
But I'm just worried that I'd be limiting my sales if I e-publish... because I just can't see THAT many 11 year old kids owning Kindles. I don't know. This thread on amazon.com seems promising... but hmm. What do you think?
This summer is rapidly vanishing. If I'm going to go down the traditional route, I must get a large batch of queries out in the next week or so... so the rejections can pile up before September.
What to do? What to do? I hate query writing. I hate researching agents and pretending I care about them. I don't really get how you're supposed to do it anyway. The UK market, I'm pretty sure, is different to the US one. The UK ones are more elusive.
If I e-published, there would be challenges in a DIFFERENT way, but at least then there would be a clear end goal.
In other news, I finally took a deep breath and made a start on 'Zack'. It needs some major structural work, which is always the hardest part! But if I keep battering at it, I might make headway eventually.
My newest novel is progressing quite nicely, though. I've reached the first 10K hurdle, and considering that the novel is probably tween, that's probably a good fifth of the way. I'm slightly worried this novel might end up being a little too long for its age-range, but I'll just have to see. No point in fretting over that at this stage!
So yes. Things are progressing. But slowly. And there's only so much summer left...
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
To continue on from the previous blog post, my sister and I have now sent off our competition entries. They'll start their journey through the post tomorrow, and should be there by the Friday deadline without a struggle. Good to have something out there. Maybe it'll inspire me to get on with other things too.
To say that today has been a stressful (waiting for the results, which didn't arrive until around 4pm!) and unproductive day is fairly accurate, although I have made a little progress, at least, with something. I started to look through Between Time, to give it another edit before I start researching agents for it. It's always surprising how much you can edit something when you leave it to sit for a while. I want to get submissions out for it before the end of the summer.
Still no Zack related news, of course. Seems like I'm doing everything I can to avoid it. Oh dear, oh dear. Still, tomorrow is a new day!
Monday, 27 June 2011
Reality doesn't have such an achievement. I have written a short story, though. I was doing a little research for my newest novel on the Jacqueline Wilson website and I noticed there was a writing competition there. The winners are published in an anthology and there's an award ceremony at her Literary Festival in October.
I figured I might as well give it a shot, because to have ANY published credit has to help, even though I wouldn't get paid for it. I didn't mind that I'd lose the rights to the story as I would write it entirely for the competition.
Short stories are a pain to write. It took me about three months to think up an idea. Or at least to develop my initial idea into a coherent story. I think I've managed now, though... With some extensive editing, I've managed to keep it to the word count of 2000 words. Yay!
The story continues from where Zack left off, but from the perspective of a character with only a cameo in the novel. It's very different from the original novel!
Now all that remains is printing it off and sending it to the competition. I would have liked to have ran it past Critique Circle, but there are only a few days remaining before the competition closes! My little sister is currently writing her attempt, too. We'll be in separate age categories, which is fun. :)
Anyway, Zack is still unedited. But I'll hopefully make a start on it tomorrow. There's still plenty of the summer left to get it sorted.
In other news, exam results come out tomorrow. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
He was amazing. He did an hour talk, involving some fun facts about himself (yes, his name is his real one and not a pseudonym) and a fun fantasy story about a magical ring that gave him nine years success, which he then gave to the first person who put up their hand (unfortunately I was too slow, though I did put mine up very quickly). Then, he read aloud a bit of a novel that will be coming out next year. There was a question and answer session and finally a book-signing session.
Monday, 6 June 2011
Friday, 27 May 2011
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
I have been interviewed, which is one step to being famous...hehe. Well, it's only for an interview for an online writing circle. Critique Circle. Their annual(?) newsletter. But it's still quite an honour to be featured. Enjoy:
MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: The Fantabulous Lizzie!We love you guys, honestly. Without our members CC would be nothing, and we have some of the best people in the world here. From time to time we like to highlight one of our members. Momzilla sat down with Lizzie, a long time member and asked her some questions.
Lizzie is a familiar username here at CC, both in the Children's/YA Queue, and in the Forums. She's always willing to lend a hand, is passionate about learning and in turn, always share what she knows. Liz has written well over 1000 critiques in her time here, no surprise as she's is one of our 'oldest' members, joining CC as a teen in August 2004.
What more can I say about Lizzie? I think she's a living, breathing example of the perseverance and strength it takes to be a writer! So, sit back and read on to learn more about who she is and how she does it!
1) Since joining CC, how many novels/stories have you written? Are any of them on the query road with agents or publishers, or been published?
I've written another three completed novels, and rewritten one of my old novels from scratch using all the valuable feedback I'd received from fellow critters. The first novel I wrote after joining CC was written using CC's Paragraph-A-Day tool, which I found worked quite well. I've queried a couple of my novels, although I haven't so far grabbed an elusive agent. Over the last couple of years, I've been less active because of time constraints with uni, but this summer I graduate and I hope to send out a bunch of new queries for two of my novels.
2) What genre do you tend to write and what types of characters do you like to write about? Do you find common themes reoccurring in your books?
Tricky question! I've experimented in quite a few different genres, though most of my completed novels are some form of fantasy. I have a YA and MG fantasy, and I'm currently calling my latest dark conception upper YA 'dark fantasy' because I really don't know what else it could be: possibly speculative, perhaps even literary. I've tried out adult fiction, and I have completed one adult crime novel, though I think I feel more comfortable in the children's market, in general. Whether that'll change as I grow older, though, remains to be seen.
3) What are your writing strengths, and how do you apply them to your critiquing style?
I've always been excellent on the grammar front, and I tend to be a rather nitty critter. I'm also quite logical so I'm good at noticing plot holes and logic flaws in other critters' stories.
4) You've been a member since 2004, close to when CC opened! What has kept you here all these years? How has CC helped you develop as a writer?
CC has helped me on so many ways. When I look back over my early works (even the novel I wrote as a Paragraph-A-Day), I can see such a difference in my writing style. It feels so much sharper and more concise, even in the first draft. Thanks to all my critters' help, I've been able to develop a style that really suits me, and because I'm still learning new things and still receiving so much useful advice, I'm still here. I would never sub a novel to an agent without running it past my critters first! As well, I always enjoy critiquing other peoples' stories, and I've made some really good friends here on the site. I can't imagine life without CC now.
5) Give us a blurb of your latest WIP! Is it in the queues now or will it be soon?
Haha, are you sure you want to know? It's a very dark and twisted novel... I blame my uni course feeding me far too much Greek and Shakespearean tragedy! It's currently in the queues, about halfway through, though I'm always happy for people to jump in. A blurb in a sentence or two: Zack (MC) thinks he is has an extreme case of something called photophobia, which would result in his death if his eyes were exposed to smallest ray of light. But when a bully grows suspicious about the condition and pulls off Zack's goggles to torment him, the truth is far worse than either of them could ever imagine...
6) You live in the UK but have traveled quite a bit. What was your favorite place to visit? How many CCers have you met in person?
I travelled to Vancouver last summer, which was an absolutely fantastic experience. I stayed with my closest buddy on CC for two weeks - Helen (Bookish). We had an amazing time and met up with Loralee and Roy (Grampy), two other Canada-based CCers. Loralee now has an agent and it was so fab to hear all her stories and soak in knowledge about life with an agent. I've met a few other CCers over the years, including Emina when I visited family in Chicago, and an old CCer Fiona (350spider) when she was in the UK. I've also introduced a couple of writers to CC including Kirsty, a good friend of mine from uni.
7 ) You juggle so many things-university, a job, family, friends, a social life, travel.and yet you still find room for writing. Give us an idea of how you manage it-walk us through a day in LizzieWorld.
Well, don't blame me if it's quite mundane. At the moment, I'm not really doing much writing, but I'm hoping to get a bit more done in the Easter hols. It's all work work work at uni. However, this term I've made a real commitment to CC, because I want to get my latest novel edited this summer. After a hard day's work of reading and writing essays, I'll spend an hour or so on CC, critiquing. It's a much more productive usage of time than watching online TV!
8) How long have you been writing, and when did you get serious about it? What advice would you give other teens looking to focus on becoming a writer?
I think all writers have stories of the little books they produced as small children, and I'm no exception: I think the earliest stories I ever wrote were about dinosaurs, which I co-wrote with my younger brother. I started on my first novel when I was ten, and I really don't know what possessed me to do that! But I kept at it and eventually finished it around three years later, got a couple of lovely rejection letters to deflate my dreams and then discovered CC. I've been here ever since, and it was at that point when I started to take writing seriously and to consider myself a writer.
What advice would I give to teens? Just to keep at it, I guess. It's a long slog unless you're really lucky, but don't be disheartened. You'll get there eventually. We all get piles of rejection letters, but don't let that stop you! I may not have an agent yet, but I know I'm a much stronger writer now.
9) Do you have a web site or blog where people can find you? Do you tweet?
I have a blog and I'm always very happy when people take a look in and leave a comment! Unfortunately, I don't blog enough to get much of a following, but I'm trying harder to do it a bit more frequently! I've yet to understand the Twitter thing: it just seems like Facebook but with fewer options...
10) Share a window into your soul.tell us something that most people don't know about you-maybe a special talent, a hidden superpower, something you fangirl over?
Hmm, I spent a few years as a vampire in my early teens...and I still have an aversion to sunlight. That was long before the current vampire craze swept the imaginations of YA readers. I was a PROPER vampire--I didn't glitter.:)
Thanks for the awesome interview, Lizzie, and for sharing a bit about who you are! I hope folks will keep an eye out for your work and check out your blog, as you have a lot to offer other writers. Good luck in all that you do!
Friday, 29 April 2011
I'm back in Cambridge at the moment, for the final term! I'm in the run up to exams, which means revise until you're insane (mostly with boredom)...and the exams start on 26th May. Which is soon. Very soon.
In other news, I have a place on a PGCE next year (if I get the required grades, fingers crossed!), which means I won't be a penniless writer next year as I feared. I'll be on a Post-Graduade Certificate of Education, which means teacher training...for secondary English (11-18 years). Perhaps I'm mad. Indeed, I'm pretty sure I'm mad, but I don't see what else I can do at the moment which doesn't cost more than I can afford. You can't simply get a job after doing a degree, these days, but you need internships (a year of unpaid work with the *hope* of a job at the end).
Zack's still making its way through Critique Circle, but I only have two more chapters to submit. I should have received all my feedback by the end of the exams, a perfect time to start editing. *shudder* I stopped writing 54321 when I got too guilty about the lack of Uni work I'd been doing, but I did get it to around 30K, which is fairly impressive. I then started writing a different novel, but guilt dissuaded me from that one too. I may pick that up after the exams, though, because it was quite fun...
Anyway, that's the life update. I need to cycle over to the English Faculty and return a DVD right now. Bleak House on audiobook as I cycle, methinks! (that was another blog idea...because Dickens is VERY good at character).
Sunday, 20 March 2011
I've been writing most of today and I've made some good progress with the re-write of 54321. I'm now up to around 9000 words, and I'm slightly lower in terms of novel progression than the previous draft (by 100 words or so). That's a bit worrying, because I need this draft to be a lot longer than the original draft. I finished version 1 at around 60,000 words, which was far too short for an Adult novel. It seemed like an enormous task to fill it out so much back then, so I just gave up on it.
Now I have some ideas for new things to add, and I'm reworking quite a lot of the plot in general. The first couple of chapters are *mostly* parallel (other than improving the writing itself), but we'll be getting some new things very soon, which is quite exciting.
Anyway, I've noticed that whenever I want a 'local' accent I end up writing something Yorkshirey (home region, don't you know), which was hardly appropriate for a novel set in London. Had to do a bit of research into a Cockney accent and then thought, wouldn't it be brilliant if there were a website that would actually translate Standard English into a dialect? And sure enough, there was:
It's pretty neat. You type in what you want to express then it gives you a 'translation'...which is pretty much literal although it adds things here and there. It lets you change things into Redneck, Jive, Cockney, Elmer Fudd, Swedish Chef, Moron, Pig Latin, or Hacker. (I admit that I don't really know what some of those are!) Far too much fun. :D
"I'll vreete-a egeeen suun (meybe-a)!"
[which one is that? :P]
Friday, 18 March 2011
I saw that my A-Level revision website is doing very well at the moment, over a hundred hits a day! I imagine that will only increase as we get closer to exam term. I'm actually proud enough of that website to share it: www.allinfo.plus.com/levelup. I'll never get around to actually finishing it, but it's a lot closer to being finished than my other websites. Oh okay, you pulled my leg into doing a bit of shameless self-promotion: www.allinfo.plus.com/pokemonultimate and www.allinfo.plus.com/revision-gcse are my other two websites. Hehe. Please not that I was VERY young when I made the Pokemon one!
Anyway, it occurred to me that I might actually get some people reading my blog if I put the link on those pages, and I've now placed it on the Level Up homepage.
So yes, I now have even more reason to try to blog more regularly! (I wouldn't get your hopes up/get worried TOO much, though...) I'm back from university for the holidays now, so in theory I might have a bit more time on my hands. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway...
Feel free to comment if you've found this blog from my website! I'd love to hear from you. :) Now I should get going and write a novel...or something. Good old procrastination, now I'm less busy, I can welcome you back!
Monday, 7 February 2011
However, I have committed myself to Critique Circle this term, and I'm managing to keep active there - chapter six of Zack is currently up for review, so it's making slow progress through the queues. I haven't yet looked through any of the critiques, but hopefully they're okay and there won't be too much major stuff to change when summer comes...
Because I keep going on Critique Circle, I keep seeing the 'hot threads'. A lot of them are about the epublishing fad. It seems as though everyone is getting epublished, or is at least curious about it. I've been thinking more about it, and I think there's a real danger that it could be swamped by people who aren't ready to publish.
Let me elaborate...
We all think we're amazing writers when we first put pen to paper. I remember finishing Shadow Lords and thinking I'd have it published by the end of the year (ahh, eight years ago and still nothing). I discovered Critique Circle after receiving two rejections and put it on there. Only when I received a bunch of honest crits from fellow writers did I realise how much work it really needed.
Thanks to that, I've worked hard over the years, editing, rewriting and writing new things. I know my style has matured and the quality of my writing has improved - but I would never submit something now without running it through Critique Circle first! I may one day find a break, when I have time to submit stuff to the publishers (I'm hopeful about Between Time and Zack).
However, imagine a new writer who has just written a book. They don't know about writing workshops like Critique Circle. They haven't read the 'how to' manuals. All they know is that they've written a book, and when they read it, they think it's great. They might have read it to their family and friends, who confirm their opinions.
So they send it out to agents and publishers, fully expecting something, and don't hear anything positive. Perhaps they're confused, perhaps they're angry. But then they hear that you can self-publish on Kindle, via Amazon and they jump on there, make a rough cover, and publish their book without a second thought. It's out there at last!
There have to be thousands of books on Kindle already like that - books that are simply not ready to be on read by the general consumer. You can usually tell from the cover design - the more amateur it looks, the less time has been spent in polishing in general. Spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, cliches and wonky plots fill the pages, and the negative reviews build up.
What it makes me wonder, though, is what sort of wider implications this will have on the emarket. Has Amazon opened up a path to self-destruction for the ebook? It's easy enough to imagine: if readers have widespread experience of 'bad' books, isn't it likely they will be turned away from purchasing on Kindle? If it happens enough, won't the market fail?
That's one extreme. Another possible future for the market is that Amazon stops allowing anyone to publish online: only people who are represented by an agent/publisher. This would, perhaps, restore things to the old system. This option may not, however, be possible, as the gap left by Amazon ebooks may allow other sites to become popular for epublishing, based on the Amazon model.
Perhaps the emarket and the book publishing market can coincide. It may be that something similar to the production of the "penny dreadful" in the Victorian age occurs. The ebook market will gain a reputation for 'bad' books, but at the same time, because those books are cheap, their consumers won't mind. At the same time, the book publishing market will become the grounds for the more established authors and the 'better' fiction, bought by those who can afford it. It could perhaps even become into a literary/genre divide.
I don't know where children's literature fits into all this, however...
So, what do you think will happen to books? Do you think the ebook market will eventually kill off the printed market? Or is the ebook market, at least in its present form, unsustainable?
Monday, 10 January 2011
But I can't help it. I think of books and I feel all warm and fuzzy. And then I think of this alien device...the Kindle...and...
But it seems that it's growing in popularity in the US, and I heard someone in the UK also saying that it's really good a few weeks ago. They say it's just like reading a book, since you turn pages and it doesn't have a backlight like a computer. It doesn't hurt your eyes like a computer. It's so convenient for carrying lots of book with you. Think of going on holiday without the fear of a load of books preventing you from getting on the plane! Hmm. I suppose I'll take their word for it.
Still, I know there's one thing that will never be the same: the smell.
Remember good old Giles, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I love the quote:
"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower, or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is a - it, uh, it has no texture, no context. It's-it's there and then it's gone. If it's to last, then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um, smelly."
There's nothing like the smell of an old book.
But anyway, it seems that there's a market for Kindle ebooks, and it might be worth investigating. People are effectively self-publishing for as little as $0.99 a copy, but I suppose that adds up if they sell enough. And maybe if they sell enough and get a big enough fan base, it might be a good way of attracting a publisher's attention? I suppose that's the dream.
I have to admit that I'm a little intrigued. There's no upfront cost for the publishing to the Kindle via Amazon.com, at least, not at the moment. I doubt it's for me, in terms of as a children's writer... It sounds like an adult game, and the Kindle sounds like an adult toy. (Correct me if I'm wrong).
But I do have one adult novel, which is pretty much finished. It's crime, with a sprinkling of humour. If I did a major rework (as in rewrite the entire thing) and sort out the plot holes, it might be worth publishing as an ebook. I doubt I'd make a lot of money from it, but right now, it would be wonderful to get anything at all from writing.
So. Hmm. I'm tempted. As much as I am prejudiced against the Kindle, as much as I love the smell, the weight, the feel of a book, the tender aging of a much loved book (can't be good for a Kindle if you cry on it!), I am tempted to explore this market.
54321 could have found its niche!
Saturday, 1 January 2011
Happy New Year, everyone!