What does “YA fiction” mean to me?

I completely forgot that I was interviewed during Supanova last year! They’ve just posted the episode, so click on the video below to hear me chat about everything from what “YA” means to me, to my take on insta-love in fantasy fiction! (Plus some other fun answers!)

I’m up first, but after that you can keep watching to listen to the super-cool Vic Mignogna, or just skip straight to the end to watch the magnificent “God of Thunder” himself — Chris Hemsworth!

Writer’s Block

“How do you deal with writer’s block?”

This is easily the most common question I get asked. But the very fact that so many people ask implies that it’s a real thing that writers struggle with, so I figured I should finally post my advice for all to read.

Do I struggle with writer’s block? Maybe. I’m not convinced that I do. I definitely struggle from “writer’s lack of motivation” and “writer’s procrastination.” But writer’s block? When you’re facing imminent deadlines, as the saying goes:

That said, there have been moments where I’ve hit a wall in my writing and have had no idea how to proceed. Things like characters causing unforeseen problems and plot holes that I don’t know how to write my way out of. And things like having no idea what to write next, or — worse — having too many ideas and not sure which is the best way to go. These things all make it really difficult to continue writing. They “block” the path, so to speak.

So, what do I do when I hit these blocks? Here are a few things that help me:

1. Get active

I’m not a natural plotter. Every time I’ve tried to plot out a novel, it hasn’t worked for me — my characters decide they want to go in a different direction to what I’ve planned, and they drag me (kicking and screaming) after them, trailing ink and paper in my wake. (Okay, not really, but you get the visual.) When this happens and I have no idea where they’re taking me or how to write their journey, I find the best thing I can do is to get outside and get moving. Something about being active really helps get my “creative juices” flowing, the stimulation of exercise heightening my imagination. Personally, I like to get my heart pumping for this to be most effective, but if you’re not inclined towards that kind of thing, then just a relaxing walk in the sunshine can do wonders for your creativity. Go to the beach, go to the mountains or the forest or the field or wherever you live, just get outside and amongst nature. Breathe it in, still your mind, and let the ideas flow naturally. Some will be inspiring, some won’t, but they’ll all help nudge you forward so that when you’re back with your laptop or notebook, you’ll have some motivation to press onwards.

2. Read a book

This is the oldest trick in the book (excuse the pun). There’s nothing more inspiring than reading a (good) book. There have been way too many times in my life where I’ve been reading something and have had to put it down just so I could stare into space and think, “This. This is the kind of magic I want to create for people.” There’s something so incredibly motivating about being inspired by the words of others. (Also, when I’m really struggling with my equivalent of writer’s block, I’ll often re-read an old favourite, knowing that it has encouraged me in the past, rather than risking a new book that may not be wonderful enough to give me the push I need.)

3. Spend time with family and friends

Don’t be so hard on yourself — sometimes the reason we struggle so hard with writer’s block is because we’re pushing ourselves too hard. The “I should be writing!” reprimand is dangerous, because the more we say it to ourselves, the worse we feel, and the harder it is to actually get writing. So, don’t. Instead, do something you love. Spend time with your family or your friends and just experience the world. Gain a fresh perspective. Go easier on yourself, and soon you’ll feel ready to give writing another shot. Rinse and repeat.

4. Seek entertainment

Don’t underestimate the power of a good movie or TV show or game. These are all called “entertainment” for a reason, and the power of storytelling is strong in them. Like reading a good book, it can be incredibly inspiring to watch or play something, and like exercising, it can relax your brain enough for your writer’s block to unblock.

5. Get creative

Do something else on the creative side of things that is unrelated to writing. Buy one of those colouring books. Paint or sketch something (or even just doodle). Knit something. Act out a scene from your favourite book or movie. Bake something. Pick up an instrument or sing along to your favourite tunes (it doesn’t matter if you’re tone- deaf — just have fun and belt out those notes!). Do some scrapbooking. Go out and take some photos. Just do something — anything — creative.

NOTE: If you’re up for it, try and do something that is related to writing, but not the project that’s causing you problems. (For example, right now I’m at a sticky spot in my current manuscript, so I’m writing this blog post instead. And now that I’m coming towards the end of it, I’m already feeling refreshed enough that I’m ready to get back into the manuscript!)

6. Just do it

This last point is the one you won’t want to read, but I have to add it from a “tough love” perspective. I’m sorry to say, sometimes you just have to give your own butt a kick and, as Nike’s slogan encourages, “Just do it.” By this, I mean, just write. Write messy, write bad, write nonsense. It might (and likely will) be awful, especially if you’re so blocked that you have no idea what to write. You’ll probably cringe your whole way through it. But — and I promise you this — you’ll eventually write yourself out of your block. You’ll reach a place where you find some momentum, and your story will start coming together again. And that’s when you can go back and clean up the messy words that got you from the bad place into the good place.

Writing is mostly about discipline. Hopefully it’s something you love to do, but it’s also hard work. And like any hard work, it is mentally and emotionally draining. (Sometimes physically, too.) So when you reach the point where you’re blocked, where you can’t go on, where you don’t know what to do, sometimes you just have to make yourself get on with it. That can be challenging. No — that can be impossible. You may want to rip out your hair and scream at the top of your lungs. You’ll consider throwing your laptop out the window. You will likely want to give up. You will have self-doubt and, on the worst days, self-loathing. It’s painful, tiring, endlessly frustrating.

But… if writing means something to you, then you have to take the hard days with the easy days. You have to press on and push past whatever is blocking you, and more often than not, it’s that writerly discipline that will get you through. To use the common exercise example, to strengthen any muscle, you have to work it. Over and over again. Same with your writing muscle — to get through writer’s block, you have to keep writing. Over and over again. No matter how difficult it is, no matter how messy the result. Because, as Ernest Hemingway says:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

The Medoran Chronicles: A Disney Perspective

I’m heading into my writing hobbit hole for the next few weeks to punch out Whisper’s sequel before everything gets crazy with the release of Graevale, so I won’t be as active on here for the next little while. I’ll leave you with this gift: in a recent interview, I was asked to attribute a song to each of the main characters in The Medoran Chronicles, and these are the responses I gave.

(Credit to Disney for the lyrics and images!)

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

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 10.52.01 pm

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!