The Amazingness of Proofreaders!!

This is an appreciation post to highlight the wonderful work of my Australian proofreader, Desanka Vukelich, who I’ve worked with on three of my four Medoran Chronicles books. I’m currently going through her edits of Graevale, the fourth book in the series, and gah, she’s just so amazing!

The thing is, when you write a novel, there are a LOT of words involved. Sentences, paragraphs, sooooo many places where mistakes can slip by unnoticed. And truthfully, there’s probably not a book in existence that doesn’t have some kind of mistake (the trick is to have it be so engrossing that readers don’t notice those mistakes, or if they do, they don’t care). But while errors in printed books are almost always inevitable, you still want to have as few as possible. That’s why authors really need to be able to trust their proofreaders, since those proofreaders are, essentially, the final line of defence.

To be perfectly honest, it actually scares me a little every time I receive a proofread manuscript and see just how many mistakes Desanka has managed to uncover. I mean, she only ever sees the manuscript AFTER all the editing stages (structural edits, copy edits, line edits, ALL THE EDITS), so in most cases, many eyes have already checked (and re-checked) for problems. So when there are STILL problems, it just really brings home how integral it is to have a professional (and experienced!!!) proofreader checking things right until the very end. (She even looks over my ‘Acknowledgements’ section!)

Will there still be errors in the printed version? Probably. I mean, hopefully not, but when we’re playing with around 130,000 words (give or take), the chances are pretty high that something might still slip through the cracks. But just think of how many more mistakes there would be WITHOUT an amazing proofreader?

All I can say is that I’m so incredibly grateful to Desanka and her meticulous eye when it comes to my books, and I hope I get to work with her on many more projects in the future!!

I wish I could give multiple examples of the (sometimes hilarious) mistakes she’s found, but for fear of revealing Graevale spoilers, I’ll just share this one. It’s only a simple typo, but I actually laughed out loud when I realised how it would have read if she hadn’t flagged it:

… Because everyone wants their clothes to be insulted, right? LOL! (And oops!!)

As far as I’m aware, Desanka actually works freelance, so for any writers who might be on the hunt for an amazing proofreader, be sure to check out her website here.

 

How Do I Get My Book Published?

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is along these lines:

“I’ve written a book… but how do I get it published?”

The thing is, as simple as that question might seem, the answer is considerably more complicated—and lengthy. But given how many people ask, I figure I should try and answer it as best as I can, so here goes.

Continue reading

My Upcoming Book Plans

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I started my vlogging series today – Q&A With An Author – and my first video is now available for viewing!

In the vlog, I answer what my book plans are after The Medoran Chronicles, but (for some reason) I can’t get the YouTube video to link straight here this time. So if you have a spare four minutes and want to have a watch, you’ll have to click on this link:

https://youtu.be/1tNpGfP0U2g

I’ll upload the next video in a couple of days, with me answering a question about which characters I loved writing the most!

Q&A With An Author

I had so much fun vlogging the other day that I’m thinking I’ll do a series of shorter videos in a kind of “Q&A” theme. Sort of like “Q&A With An Author” – the author being me!

SO… If you have any questions you think would be interesting for me to answer via vlog, then hit me up in the comments below! It could be anything regarding The Medoran Chronicles (Akarnae, Raelia, or the rest of the books in the series – but I won’t reveal spoilers!)… to other upcoming projects… to writing questions in general… to books I’m reading or have read or loved etc… Or really, ANY question that might be fun to answer!!

(Though, let’s avoid all mentions of orange juice, okay? I learned my lesson in my previous vlogging adventure! *Awkward laugh*)

The Necessary Discipline Of Writing

I wrote over 11,000 words today! If you read my Facebook post earlier, you’ll know some of those words were spent trudging through a particularly challenging scene, which wasn’t all that much fun. Here’s an honesty moment: I desperately considered giving up and binge-watching repeats of The 100.
 
BUT… I didn’t do that. Instead, I pushed on until I got to the good stuff and I’m only stopping now due to the necessity of sleep. (Annoying!)
 
I get asked this a lot, but it’s important enough to reiterate: sometimes writing is more a matter of discipline than anything else. It’s like climbing a mountain—the upward trek can be difficult, but once you reach the summit, there’s a stunning view and an enjoyable journey back down.
 
If you’re a writer, let me encourage you to press on through the hard parts, because if you do, you’ll eventually reach a place where things will begin to flow naturally. The discipline will be worth it, guaranteed!
Neil Gaiman Quote

How To Write A Novel

For this post I’ll be giving some insight into my novel writing process in answer to a request that came from Jenna after my ‘Christmas Present From Me To You‘ offer (*waves* Hi, Jenna!).

Writing a book—or anything—is a funny thing, mostly because no two authors have the same technique. Sure, there are a number of processes we all cover in order for a novel to come together, but how we go about them is where it all can get interesting. But to narrow down an extremely lengthy topic, I’ll be discussing three different processes I believe all writers have to consider in order to get from the first page to the last. And those processes are planning, writing, and editing.

Planning

I’ll be honest here: I always tell people that I suck at plotting. And in my mind, this is true. I’m definitely a pantser (aka, someone who writes by the seat of their pants and has no idea what might come with each new sentence). But that said, even though I’m not the kind of writer who can sit down and plot out every single moment that will be happening in the book, I do have to have some idea of the direction I want the novel to go in. There is, at the very least, a vague plan.

Think of it like going for a car ride. I’m not talking about those trips where you know you’re heading to the beach or the shops or your grandmother’s house. I’m talking about the random, “I have no idea where I’m going but I’m just gonna go for a drive and see where I end up” drives. Has anyone ever done that? If so, and even if not, I’m hoping you’ll be able to see with this metaphor that, unless something unexpected and untoward happens, regardless of the fact that you have no idea where you’re going to go once you sit behind the wheel, you have a starting place and an ending place. You start at home (or wherever your car is parked), and you’ll end up back there once you’re done. Or, you’ll end up somewhere else, but along the way during your drive, you’ll figure out where that is because, ultimately, you can’t live in your car forever. You’ll need to eat and sleep and shower and, well, live outside of your vehicle.

So, my point is, you might decide to turn right out of your driveway or you might turn left, you might head to the mountains, to the river, to desert, to the snow, to your friend’s house, to the library, to nowhere at all… but whatever you do, you’ll experience it as you go, and when the time comes to find shelter, you’ll either head home or you’ll end your car ride somewhere else. But, again, you’ll always have a start point, and you’ll always finish with an end point.

This is how I write (most of the time). I’ll always have a starting point and I’ll always have an ending point. There will also generally be a few things I want to experience along the way—like how with Akarnae I knew I wanted there to be a kind of magic that wasn’t ‘normal’ magic (including a very special library!), I knew I wanted there to be kickass classes like Combat, I knew I wanted my antagonist to be charismatic and strangely likeable but also very clearly not good, and I knew—I absolutely knew—that the romantic elements of the story would be built up over time in the Harry Potter/Ginny Weasley kind of way, rather than any kind of insta-love that detracted (and distracted) from the overall adventure of the plot. These were all things I knew I wanted, but I had no idea how they were actually going to come about. To keep with the car metaphor, they were what I had to discover during my ‘drive’. I knew how Akarnae would open—a girl stepping through a doorway and becoming stranded in a fantasy world—and I knew vaguely what would take up most of her time—she would attend a school for teenagers with extraordinary gifts and face all kinds of challenges along the way—and I knew where it would all end (this I’m not sharing here, because, well, SPOILER ALERT!)… but the rest was a mystery to me until it unfolded at my fingertips.

BUT…. For me, planning isn’t just something that happens at the beginning of the novel writing stage. It continues throughout the entirety of writing the book. That’s likely because, as I just mentioned, I don’t really plot very much, and certainly not scene-by-scene. So if I suddenly find my protagonist in the middle of an Archery class, since I’m not exactly Katniss Everdeen or Robin Hood and I have no idea how to shoot an arrow let alone string a bow, that’s when I have to open up my internet browser and research, research, research.

For the record, this happens a lot. And again for the record, I’d definitely be one of those people who gets raised eyebrows and unending interrogations if the law enforcement were to suddenly demand to see my internet browsing history. Poisons, explosive devices, sword fighting? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because Google is integral in helping to bring a novel to life and making something that is, essentially, a fantasy into something that comes across as reality.

World building and character development are also a huge part of the planning phase, but since, again, I’m a pantser, these two very much tend to come out for me in the second stage, the writing stage…

Writing

love the writing stage of creating a novel. It’s where I get to submerge myself in fantasy worlds full of exciting characters for entire periods of time. Developing these characters and building these worlds is one of the most incredible aspects of being an author, I believe, and seeing them come together—and, especially, the end result—is nothing short of beautiful.

Over the last few months alone I’ve travelled all over Australia and presented multiple workshops and masterclasses specifically tasked with teaching about ‘World Building and Character Development’, so I’m deliberately not going to discuss either of those topics anymore in this ‘writing’ segment here. BUT I’m sure I’ll be giving more of these workshops/masterclasses in 2016, so if that’s something you’re interested in checking out, keep an eye on my events page to see where I’ll be headed and when.

I will say that a huge part of the writing process for me is very much discovering the voice of my protagonist—of my main character—because that voice will often set the theme of the novel. Alex, my protagonist in Akarnae, is kinda kickass, but she’s also extremely real. For anyone who has read book one, you’ll know that she’s thrown into a number of challenging situations and she doesn’t always come out so well on the other end. (…*cough* Like her first ever Combat class *cough*…) But the beauty of Alex is that no matter how many times she falls—literally and figuratively—she doesn’t give up.

I’m saying all this because, if I had gone with a shy, anxious, sweet, vulnerable girl, there is no way I could carry her through the events that my protagonist has and will continue to face over the course of five books.

HOWEVER.

I also have another book I’ve written where my main character is practically imprisoned by fear to the point that she can barely function—and that novel is very much about the development of that girl to the point that she can find an inner strength to… do what needs to be done. For this book, there is no way that an Alex-like (mentally and physically strong) character could play the lead. It just wouldn’t work for the story to make sense.

So characterisation is important, and the voice of the character in particular in order to drive the story to where it is going.

(I say all that with the caveat that it is also super important to show the development of characters over the course of time. Alex certainly doesn’t start out as kickass; indeed, I’ve written three of the books in her series so far and while she definitely has moments of kickassery, by the end of book three—with two books still to go—she’s still very much real, very much liable to make mistakes, very much an uncertain teenager at times, and very much needing help from those stronger, smarter and more experienced than her… And yet, she also isn’t the lost and confused girl who first stepped through that doorway into Medora. She’s learnt a lot—not the least of which is to fight for what is important to her.)

I’ve just realised this post is getting crazy-long, so I’m going to skip a whole heap of stuff in the ‘writing’ segment and jump to answer Jenna’s specific question (also part of this segment), since that was the main point of this post. She asked, “… how do you know how long to make each chapter, and how do you know when your chapter is finished?

The short answer is, I don’t have any idea!

As for the long answer, it’s going to sound a little whimsical, but to be honest, I just kind of feel it. It’s like… Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end, right? There’s a story arc, following from the introduction right through to discovering the conflict and then leading to the climax before (sometimes) smoothing out at the ending. Well, I kind of feel as if each chapter has its own arc, of sorts. Something has to happen, otherwise it’s just wasted and needless words, and what does happen has to be leading onwards. Driving onwards. Like the car metaphor from earlier, you push down on the accelerator because you want to go somewhere, but you also know that if you don’t push enough, you won’t get there fast enough, but if you push too hard, you could end up missing something important along the journey. (Not to mention, have an accident or end up with a speeding ticket.)

All of that holds true for me for chapter length—and I guess like when you’re learning how to drive, it takes time and practice to figure out just how much pressure is needed to get the right level of acceleration.

It also doesn’t help that there aren’t exactly any rules for this sort of thing. As my own personal rule, I tend to keep my chapters between 3000-6000 words each (closer to 3000, which is approximately 10 double-spaced pages), but again, that differs from book to book. I do like to be consistent, so I won’t have like a 500 word chapter followed by a 5000 word chapter… but there are plenty of incredible authors who do exactly that, and they do it well. So, as I mentioned, there are no specific rules. Which is why I think I have to stick with my whimsical answer of just ‘feeling’ it. (I hope that helps, Jenna!).

There’s so much more that I could say about the ‘writing’ stage, but I’m going to jump onto the final process instead.

Editing

Really, the subtitle here says it all. Editing. The ‘E’ word. A lot of writers dread—and sometimes even hate—editing. I kind of love it. (And by ‘kind of’, there’s no ‘kind of’ about it—I just love it, full stop.)

Don’t get me wrong here—editing hurts. Especially when you get your manuscript back from an editor or proofreader and all you see are the red lines and notes freaking everywhere. But you have to push on past the stinging pain and the screaming internal monologue of, “SOOOO MUCH RED!!!!! I SUCK AT WRITING!!!!!! NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO LIKE THIS PIECE OF CRAP!!!!!! I’M NEVER WRITING ANOTHER BOOK AGAIN!!!!!!” (And, for the record, every writer has this internal monologue at some stage!!). Because once you push past all that, take a good, deep breath, and actually start making the suggested changes, you begin to realise just how much better off your manuscript is for the editing.

But ignoring the wonders of professional editing for a moment, it’s super important that before you ever get to that stage, you edit your own work—over and over again. A piece of advice I would give any writer, and particularly aspiring authors who are seeking agents or publishers, is to edit, edit, and edit as much as you need to, until you get to the place where you literally can’t make it any better without help. And don’t do this halfheartedly. Send your ms out to reader friends or teachers or find an online critique group or beta readers or whatever—because the more eyes you let see your work before you send it to an agent/publisher, the more feedback you’ll receive that will help you make improvements in your editing stages. But make sure you give it to honest readers, because if they’re not willing to give you a proper critique, then it’s just a waste of both their time and yours.

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Okie dokie! There are a gazillion more things I could say on all three of these processes, from planning to writing to editing, but I think I’ve given enough for a broad overview of how I personally create novels. Or, at least the basics. As always, I’m happy to answer questions, so feel free to comment below or shoot me through an email (or hit me up on any other social media) if there’s anything specifically that you’d like to know regarding any of this. I am elbows deep in writing at the moment so please allow me a little grace time-wise with my responses, but I’ll always endeavour to reply as quickly as I can!

To end, I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas—I personally had a fantastic day with my family that included waaaaaay too much food, after which I passed out on the couch and, unable to move from the waking-food-coma I was in, watched a five hour unplanned marathon of Cake Wars (Christmas special). I should be totally ashamed to say I didn’t move an inch in those five hours, but has anyone ever seen that show before? I hadn’t even heard of it, yet I was completely mesmerised by how creative they all were!!! It was like I couldn’t stop watching—some kind of compulsion kept me glued to the couch and to the screen just so I could see what icing magic they came up with next! And in my defence, my mother watched all five hours with me, so at least I wasn’t being a weirdo on my own. (Love you, Mum!)