Watching and Waiting and Staying Up to 2am (Part 2)

Like most things in the world of book publishing, writing competitions can take a loonng time to result in…results.

I recently posted about my experience entering #RevPit in Part 1 of Watching and Waiting and Staying Up to 2am. #RevPit is an annual contest where editors chose a writer, and work with that writer to polish and prepare their manuscript for agent submission. Living on the other side of the world from where #RevPit was held, I stayed up to 2am (my time) to submit as soon as the window opened, so I didn’t miss out on a consideration slot with my two editor picks. My middle-of-the-night venture paid off – I was shortlisted soon after the window closed. I didn’t end up as the editor’s final choice (would you believe results were announced 2am my time as well? I did NOT stay up), but my shortlist did earn me a zoom chat with the editor. She gave me great feedback and direction on how to move forward, so it was still a win for me!

Anyway, on to Part 2 of Watching and Waiting and Staying Up to 2am:

So I entered a second writing event not long after #RevPit. It was the WriteMentor summer mentoring program (WriteMentor is based in London so yeah, it’s heading into summer over there). Now unlike #RevPit, I did NOT have to wait up to 2am for fear of missing out with this program. The submission window stayed open for a couple of days and accepted anyone who entered. A lot easier – and less tiring!

So I chose my three preferred mentors at a leisurely time of day, and this is how I went. (These mentors are listed in no particular order of preference.)

Mentor 1 – did not request additional materials from me. 😒

Mentor 2 – did request additional materials from me. 😀 I sent them off within 24 hours – and waited…

Mentor 3 – announced he would not request additional materials from anyone, but would decide his mentee solely on the initial submission package. 😲

Like I said, I had no preference for any one of these mentors over the other two. All looked amazingly talented and nice and I’d be honoured to work with any of them.

And how did I go? Well, here comes the 2am part. Again. Yep, for the second time in a couple of weeks, a contest was being announced at 2am my time. Again, I did NOT stay up.

And the result? I wasn’t picked by Mentor 2, the one who requested my materials, and I wasn’t picked by Mentor 3 either


Mentor 3 did email me to tell me how difficult it was for him to decide between me and his eventual choice. Unfortunately for me, he decided on…his eventual choice. He said I came a close second.

At first I didn’t know whether to scream with joy or frustration (I seem to be developing a track record of coming close…but never first). But after I thought about this result for a while – and contemplated hitting my head repeatedly against a wall – I read his email again. Slowly. Then took the positives in it and held them to my chest.


So what’s the morale of this two-part post? No morale, just that if I hadn’t entered #RevPit and WriteMentor, I never would have met these wonderful people over cyberspace, people who willingly give up their time to support and encourage writers to realise their dreams. And I never would have received such wonderful and constructive feedback on my work.

These two comps were worth the time and effort I put in to enter. Oh, and I didn’t need to watch and wait long to find out how I went. Results for both were announced a couple of weeks after they closed. And even though I wasn’t picked for either, any watching and waiting (and staying up to 2am) paid off.

Now, what can I enter next?


Have you ever been picked for one of these contests? Or for something similar? Whether you were picked or not, how was your experience?

Watching and Waiting and Staying Up to 2am (Part 1)

UPDATE: I’ve now had my zoom chat with the editor, my prize for being shortlisted in #RevPit. Not only was she a lovely person, but she gave me great feedback and direction on how to move forward with my story. Her name is Jeni Chappelle, and you should check her out if you’re in need of editing services.


Writing is all about watching and waiting (and writing, of course)!

Watching your inbox, waiting for an email.

This month’s watching and waiting was proudly brought to me by two writing opportunities. The first one was #RevPit

Home | Revise & Resub

#RevPit is an annual contest where developmental editors chose an author from a pool of 100 eager candidates. They then work with their Chosen One over two months to polish and prepare their manuscript for agent submission.

And how do writers become an eager candidate? Writers submit their query letter and first five pages to two editors. Only to two. Then they do what writers do best. They watch and wait (and hopefully keep writing, of course)!

So how do I fit into this story? I stayed up until 2am – yes, 2am – one quiet night so I could submit as soon as the #RevPit window opened (this is what it’s like when you live on the other side of Planet Earth from where most of these writing opportunities are based).

Now unlike most competitions, #RevPit editors only take 100 submissions, so once their list is full, it’s closed. No more entries. Hence, the staying up to 2am. You gotta get in quick.

And I’m chuffed I did.

For I received an email from my top choice editor in her first round of requests (I didn’t have to wait long for this). The editor started her email by saying lovely things about my story and writing skills that will be forever imprinted in my head. Plus, she said I made her must-read list!!! She also requested my full manuscript, a two-page synopsis, and answers to a shopping list of questions. About my work, where I felt I needed help, what I would fight to the death not to change.

I sent everything within 24 hours of receiving her email.

And waited.

Okay, I’ll be honest with you, I did NOT sit on a rock or a tree stump or whatever to stare out at an awesome view like the unknown person above but…you get my drift. My life is busy enough that I didn’t really have free time to dwell on things. But even if I did, one of the best things about #RevPit is you don’t have to wait long. Results are announced in two weeks. That’s barely enough time to calm down from receiving a request!

The winners of #RevPit were announced…yep, you guessed it, 2am my time. But I didn’t stay up for it. The result was going to be the result, whether I stayed up or not. But I did check my phone as soon as I woke.

And did I win?

No…but yes. Kind of.

What I mean is, I won’t be receiving the winner’s prize of a two-month developmental edit with my editor of choice 😢 but as I made her shortlist, I will receive a zoom feedback chat with her to discuss my work. 😃

I’m looking forward to that. And I won’t have to stay up to 2am for it.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of Watching and Waiting and Staying Up to 2am.

Books Don’t Go From Author to Bookstore (as Explained by Diana Gabaldon)

I have to share these words from mega-successful author, Diana Gabaldon. As most of you would be aware, Diana is the hugely-talented acclaimed author of the Outlander series (among others). Her original classic Outlander novel was published thirty years, so I think it’s safe to say that Diana knows a thing or two or ten about the book publishing industry.

And as someone who is both a writer and bookseller, I wanted to share her words on how detailed (and time-consuming) the process is for a manuscript to go from author…to bookstore. I’ve chosen to share Diana’s words without any breaks in the bulk of her explanation, because that’s how I read it – barely taking a breath.

And here we go…

As my husband often remarks, “’FINISHED’ is a relative term to a writer.” This is true! I thought y’all might be interested in just what happens to a book after the writer is “finished” writing the manuscript: (NB: This is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). When there’s a tight Production schedule—such as there was for MOBY and THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume 2–a lot of these steps can be done concurrently, rather than sequentially, and a few repetitive steps may be skipped. But by and large, this is how it works.)

Books don’t go directly from the author to the bookstore. Books go from the author to the editor, who reads the manuscript, discusses the manuscript with the author, and suggests minor (we hope) revisions that may improve the bookB. The book goes back to the author, who re-reads the manuscript considers the editor’s comments, and makes whatever revisions, amendments, or clarifications seem right. The book goes back to the editor, who reads it again, asks any questions that seem necessary, and sends it to the copy-editor. This is a person whose thankless job is to read the manuscript one…word…at…a…time, find typos or errors in grammar, punctuation, or continuity (one heck of a job, considering the size not only of the individual books, but of the overall series), apply “house style” to things like numbers (e.g., do we write “two” or “2”?), and write queries to the author regarding anything questionable, whereupon the book comes back to the author—yes, again— who re-reads the manuscript answers the copy-editor’s queries, and alters anything that the copy-editor has changed that the author disagrees with, and adds things inspired by the copy-editor’s comments that seem like a good idea. After which, the author sends it back to the editor—yes, again!—who re-re-reads it, checks that all the copy-editor’s queries have been answered, and sends it to the typesetter (aka compositor, these days), who sets the manuscript in type, according to the format laid out by the book designer, who decides on the layout of the pages (margins, gutters, headers or footers, page number placement), chooses a suitable and attractive typeface, decides on the size of the font, leading and kerning, chooses or commissions any incidental artwork (endpapers, maps, dingbats—these are the little gizmos that divide chunks of text, but that aren’t chapter or section headings)—or, for something like the OC, a ton of miscellaneous illustrations, photographs, etc. that decorate or punctuate the text, designs chapter and section headings, with artwork, and consults with the (NB: people always want to know how many pages the book will be. This depends entirely on the book designer’s decisions, so there’s no telling ahead of time. The font, leading, kerning (leading and kerning are, respectively, the amount of space between lines and between letters) and page layout will all affect how many words fit on a page.) Then there’s the cover artist, who (reasonably enough) designs or draws or paints or Photoshops the cover art (this often happens earlier in the process, but I put it here for convenience), which is then sent to the printer, who prints the dust-jackets—which include not only the cover art and the author’s photograph and bio, but also “flap copy,” which may be written by either the editor or the author (I usually write my own), but is then usually messed about with by the marketing department, whose thankless task it is to try to figure out how best to sell a book that can’t reasonably be described in terms of any known genre, to which end, they try to provide seductive and appealing cover copy to the book (which the author normally approves. I usually insist on writing it myself), compose advertisements for the book (author usually sees and approves these—or at least I normally do), decide where such advertisements might be most effective (periodicals, newspapers, book-review sections, radio, TV, Facebook, Web), try to think up novel and entertaining means of promotion, such as having the author appear on a cooking show to demonstrate recipes for unusual foods mentioned in the book, kill a pigeon in Times Square and examine the entrails in order to determine the most advantageous publishing date for the book. OK. The manuscript itself comes back from the typesetter, is looked at (again) by the editor, and sent back to the author (again!), who anxiously proof-reads the galleys (these are the typeset sheets of the book; they look just like the printed book’s pages, but are not bound. (NB: of recent years, galleys are often provided in electronic form)), because this is the very last chance to change anything. Meanwhile (somewhere in here, recording begins on the audiobook, which is normally released at the same time as the hardcover. Ideally, the narrator is given a version of the manuscript that’s pretty close to the ultimate printed form, but they may get earlier or partial versions from which to prepare their performance (choosing accents and pacing for different characters, for instance).)) A number of copies of the galley-proofs are bound—in very cheap covers—and sent to (NB: This is SOP, but we haven’t been doing it for the last few books, owing to the fact that the book itself is coming out on the heels of production; there’s no time to distribute ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies).) (NB: These days, it’s often PDF’s, though paper ARCs are still used, too.)) The Reviewers, i.e., the bound galleys (or PDF’s) are sent (by the marketing people, the editor, and/or the author) to the book editors of all major newspapers and periodicals, blogs, website, and to any specialty publication to whom this book might possibly appeal, in hopes of getting preliminary reviews, from which cover quotes can be culled, and/or drumming up name recognition and excitement prior to publication. Frankly, they don’t always bother with this step with my books, because they are in a rush to get them into bookstores, and it takes several months’ lead-time to get reviews sufficiently prior to publication that they can be quoted on the cover. With luck, the author finds 99.99% of all errors in the galleys (you’re never going to find all of them; the process is asymptotic—vide the typo in the very last line of MOBY…), and returns the corrected manuscript (for the last time, [pant, puff, gasp, wheeze]) to the editor, who sends it to (the ebook coding happens somewhere in here) the printer, who prints lots of copies (“the print-run” means how many copies) of the “guts” of the book—the actual inside text—are printed. These are then shipped to the bindery, where the guts are bound into their covers, equipped with dust-jackets, and shipped to the distributors. There are a number of companies—Amazon is the largest, but there are a number of smaller ones, and the large publishing houses have their own warehouse facilities, too—whose business is shipping, distributing, and warehousing books. Arrangements are made in this phase for ebook distribution through retailers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, etc..) and bookstores, but bookstores can only house a limited number of books. Therefore, they draw on distributors’ warehouses to resupply a title that’s selling briskly, because it takes much longer to order directly from the publisher. And at this point, [sigh]…the book finally reaches you, the reader.

And we do hope you like it when you get it—because we’re sure God went to a lot of trouble to make it for you.

So there you have it. THAT’S why is takes sooo long for the next book in that series you’re hankering to read, to hit the bookshelves. Please don’t take it out on booksellers.

I think I’ll go lie down now.


Writing Retreat Rule No. 1: Must Have Distracting View

Hi all,

My husband’s gift to me last Christmas was a few nights away in a waterfront studio apartment. After the Year That Was 2020, to say I was excited was a massive understatement. A few nights away!!!

Anyway the trip was last week, but hubby didn’t come with me. That’s because it was a DIY writing retreat, especially made for one. Just me, my laptop, and a bunch of revision notes – a BIG bunch. Oh, and this awesome view:

I rocked up to my accommodation with my laptop, phone, heavy manuscript, heavier folder of notes, plot outline poster, enough big paper to make another plot outline poster, an every-colour-in-the-rainbow set of highlighters, sticky notes galore, enough food to eat non-stop all day when frustration set in, wine when the food didn’t deal with the frustration, comfy clothes, and sport shoes to go for that run I secretly knew was never gonna happen.

Yep, I rocked up to my accommodation, took one look at the view, and thought, I’m doomed. THAT’S gonna be too distracting.

Now carving out a decent slab of time to write is never easy in my household, but writing with this view right outside my window? Now I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but had my husband not thought things through when he booked somewhere so…lovely? Would I be more productive if I stayed somewhere with a view much less distracting? Like somewhere facing a brick wall? Okay, that’s not the best example. Made me think of the proverbial brick wall that I had a good chance of hitting on this retreat…but you get what I’m saying. Don’t you?

Turns out the view did prove to be distracting. But in a good way. It became my meditation tool, my focus when I needed to clear my head and solve one of the (many) manuscript problems I came away to, well, solve.

Lemme explain.

See that boat in the middle of the picture, in front of all the other boats? It’s gentle bobbing on the water helped me trim my lengthy Act One. And that palm tree on the left? The rustling of its fronds calmed me when I hit a supporting character roadblock. And a dog that swam between the boats will never know how much his antics helped me seamlessly move from one plot point to the next without…dare I say, drowning.

The view was soothing, carthartic, like a yoga child’s pose without the threat of banging your forehead on the floor. It gave me something to look at when I was fed up with looking at my laptop screen, my manuscript, my notes. I looked at the view without really looking at it, my eyes on the landscape while my mind mulled over writing issues. Without panicking.

And it WORKED.

I re-ordered scenes, improved character motivations, and even came up with a juicy new plot twist. I improved my story.

And while I came away from my DIY retreat without achieving everything I wanted – who does? – I did solve some big-picture issues with the help of nature’s picture in front of me.

Distracting in a good way.

How I Became a #MGWave’r

It’s been a pretty crazy year, but one thing that helped keep me sane was #MGWaves. What is #MGWaves, I hear you ask? Let’s start at the beginning…

I’m an Australian writer who believes you only live once. Which is why I do things like this:

I’m also an Australian writer whose publishing success to date has mainly consisted of a series of short stories and feature articles I wrote over a number of years for an Australian parenting magazine (if you don’t include the writing of annual reports, press releases, and technical reports that I did for government…) Anyway, when the magazine’s income dried up, my income from the magazine also vanished.

Not to worry, what I really wanted to do was write for Younger Me, not for parents. So I wrote a young adult novel which I queried. It received multiple partial and full requests, but…after two years of trying, no agent.

Not to worry, what I really REALLY wanted to do was write for Younger Younger Me. Middle Grade Me (middle grade is, after all, my sweet spot). It just took me a while to muster up the courage to try. When I found this courage, I wrote a novel about a chatterbox twelve-year-old who must rob a casino using an unusual (ahem!) skill, in order to save his little sister. I was thrilled when it received runner-up this year in the WritingNSW Varuna Fellowship. More on that here. In the meantime, let’s move on.

On a high from my runner-up award, I submitted to Pitch Wars and guess what! I WON! Well, I wasn’t selected as a mentee but I still won.

Let me explain.

Through one of the many ways that one finds things in the writing community (AKA Twitter), I joined a chat group of Pitch Wars middle grade applicants. The group was called Magnificent MG and like all things that turn out to be magnificent, I did NOT expect this group to be so…magnificent. Here was a group of wonderful writers that really understood my need to write middle grade. They got me. They also like Zoom.

Over the last few chatty zoomy months, through the highs and lows of writing, critiquing, querying, applying, and more writing, we’ve become closer than the plethora of middle grade books on my crammed bookshelf. We’ve shared highs and lows, and more than a few pics of dogs, cats, cooking, and kids. Our writing endeavours have rippled out into the world, gathering momentum to become waves. Naturally, this led to a change in name for the group.

Welcome to #MGWaves!

(As an aside, I’m also now in a Facebook group that, like #MGWaves, offers so much it’s a writer’s Christmas. It’s early days for me with this particular group, but I hope to give back as much as I can once 2021 kicks in. Because let’s face it, we are all paddling through the life we choose as writers in the best way we can.)

So what is the real point of this post? It’s to tell you to go out and find YOUR community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to ask for help. Keep showing up, keep putting yourself out there. Many writers will have the same fears, concerns, and hopes as you. And they’ll be nice. You never know, you might even form a group with a hashtag name!

I am grateful to have met mine, and to be riding the writing waves with them. Who knows where it will take us?

Interested to know more? Comment below. And while you’re at it, check out some of the amazing #MGWave’rs I’m proud to call my friends:

Malia Maunakea

Jennifer Mattern

Anushi Mehta

Daria Pipkin

Thushanthi Ponweera

Beth Gawlik

Susan Leigh Needham

Maureen Mirabito

Taylor Kemper

Sabrina Vienneau

When the Big 5 Become 4 (3, 2, 1). Where to From Here?

This week’s decision of Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House, to buy Simon and Schuster sent alarm bells ringing through the book publishing world. The deal, due to be completed in 2021, will combine the world’s biggest trade publisher with the world’s third.

Penguin Random House CEO, Markus Dohle, is quoted in a letter to employees, saying that the decision marks a “good day for books, book publishing, and reading.”

Umm, really?

With the consolidation and cost-cutting that will invariably come, this decision means there will be less imprints (and publishing staff), leading to a shrinking catalogue of titles. As if it wasn’t hard enough already, opportunities for debut authors will also become that much harder, and agents will also have a harder time achieving favourable deals for writers – or any deal at all.

Monopolies impact culture. Monopolies favour trends over diversity.

Now more than ever, we need to support small presses and indie publishers. Now more than ever, we need to fight for a healthy publishing industry.

It is up to all of us, as consumers.


The Excitement of the Unexpected Runner Up

Hi all,

I’m thrilled to bits to announce that my quirky middle grade manuscript has been selected as Runner Up in the 2020 Writing NSW Varuna Fellowship. I can hardly believe it (and my bumbling blabbermouth MC has not stopped talking about it in my head)!

Photo by Pixabay on

A HUGE thank you to the judges, Writing NSW, Text Publishing and the Varuna Writers’ House for the opportunity this award brings.

Click here if you are interested in learning more about the fellowship, including the winners, my fellow runner up (who happens to be a writer friend of mine so double the celebration!) and the highly commended.

Massive congrats to them all and I can’t wait to read their work one day!


How to Get Better Beta Reader Comments (Better Than “I Liked It”)

I had a chat with a writer friend yesterday, who was lamenting the fact that a beta reader’s sum feedback on her WIP was: I liked it.

I kid you not, a sum total of three words. Nice words, I admit, but only three.

My friend pushed for more, asked why the reader liked it: It was good.

And what made it good: Ummm…the story.

And what about the story…

You get the point.

Now my friend is the first to admit that she is the one to blame, not her beta reader, for the lack of detail. My friend (now) knows she should have asked specific questions to help her reader give specific feedback on the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because let’s face it, all our work has at least a little bad and ugly. Maybe the reader was scared to hurt my friend’s feelings. Or maybe my friend chose the wrong person to give feedback in the first place. But that’s another story.

The point of this story is that I’ve now given my friend a list of questions I use whenever I seek beta reader feedback on my work. It’s a list I also refer to when I edit my own work, or when I read for others. It was compiled by award-winning Canadian author and editor, Jodie Renner, who graciously shared it with the world. I’ve used this list for a number of years now and it has never let me down. This is it:

Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?

Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?

Could you relate to the main character? Did you feel her/his pain, excitement, etc?

Did the setting interest you and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?

Was there a point at which you felt the story lagged or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly? What parts could be cut out?

Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?

Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?

Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likable? If so, how so?

Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Are any of the names of characters too similar?

Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?

Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?

Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest? Why, or why not?

Was the ending satisfying? Believable?

Did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors? Examples?

Do you think the writing style suits the genre? If not, why not?

Hope the above helps any others who seek it.

And I’d love to hear of your experiences, either as a writer seeking beta reader feedback or as a beta reader yourself.

May your writing give you joy,


Thank You, Doubt

Doubt is a loyal friend and is more helpful than you may realise.

I came across this quote when I stumbled upon a recent blog post by Australian writer, Nigel Featherstone. You can find the post here. There’s a long list of quotes at this post but this one spoke straight to my heart, with the decision I made today.

selective focus photography of woman near trees
Photo by Anderson Martins on

You see, Doubt sits on my shoulder every time I write. It whispers in my ear and takes enormous pleasure watching me squirm:

This sounds silly. You can’t write. Why are you even trying? Who are you trying to kid?

Doubt is also the one who forced me to enlist a third beta reader for my middle grade manuscript because, let’s face it, sooner or later I’ll find Doubt in human form. Or maybe, just maybe, this new beta reader will love my work to bits and tell me to hurry up and enter it in that publisher’s competition that closes at the end of the month.

Anyway…over the weekend, I received feedback from the beta reader.

And guess what they said.




Um, okay. 😞

Twenty-four hours later (after the slap and sting had faded), I realised the feedback was an epiphany. It showed me there is so much more to my story than I have allowed out on paper (or computer screen). It opened my mind to possibilities I hadn’t yet considered, it told me to be brave.

It also convinced me that now is NOT the time to enter the competition, that I would not be submitting the best version of my story, my best writing, if I did.

It hurts to receive such feedback (especially when it’s right), but the best way to lessen the pain is to take action. PROVE it’s right. Be brave. Be patient.

Because let’s face it, opportunities are not limited to one. Others will pop up.

Without Doubt on my shoulder, I never would have sought out another beta reader. Never would have received the feedback I needed to receive.

Thank you, Doubt.



A Big Weekend is Coming!

Hi all,

one of the only good things to come out of lockdown has been the surge in online writing/book events, making them easier to access for those of us who don’t live in major cities. And this weekend’s event by Australian radio station, ABC Radio National, is gearing up to be great!

ABC Radio National

The Big Weekend of Books is entirely devoted to conversations about reading, writing and (of course) books with best-selling authors from around the world, including Elizabeth Gilbert, Hilary Mantel, Trent Dalton, and 2019 Booker Prize winner, Bernardine Evaristo.

Click here for the event program and how to check it out, on air or online.

Will be worth a listen.