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

BUT

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.

I CAME A CLOSE SECOND!

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?

Rebecca

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.

Rebecca

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

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.

Write for Free? I’d Like to Decide That for Myself, Thank You.

UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that the article that was republished without my consent has now been removed from the offending website.

###

Before I turned my attention to novels, I had a fairly successful freelance gig writing for magazines. I wrote short fiction and some pretty personal non-fiction, which I sent out for sale. At times, I was also commissioned to write feature articles on predetermined topics. Things were kind of sweet…until hard times hit the magazine industry and the work slowed to a bare trickle.

I remember receiving an email one day from a regular client. It read, We value your work but due to the current downturn, we are unable to continue to pay for it. Saying that, we hope you continue to submit to us because of the valuable exposure it will give you. Or something along those lines.

Exposure. Like none of my previous paid work did that? Like anything I now write for free will suddenly put my name up in lights?

Um, thanks but no thanks.

That was a number of years ago and I haven’t submitted to them since. I haven’t given them much thought either. Until today, when I found out they have published my work on their website:

  • Without my consent. No one approached me to ask for permission.
  • Without rights. They only ever had the right to publish the piece in question once, in one print edition of their magazine. Which they did, like I said, years ago.
  • Without any further monetary payment to me. Not a cent. Yet they are using their website as a means to make money, through advertising revenue.

Now there are times when I write for free, for example, for blog posts (like this one); in emails, tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts; for non-profits and charity events; in diary entries, love letters…you get my drift. Writing that I don’t intend to make money from.

But if my writing will be used by someone to help make money for them, I expect to be paid for it – Okay, I know social media sites make money from ads but I use their platforms to make friends, build community, etcetera, so I see them as providing something to me in return.

What I’m trying to say is that if a magazine or other publisher wants to use what you have written to help them make money, they SHOULD pay you for the right to use it. And if you do sell them the right to use your work, they should only do what that right specifically says they are entitled to do.

If we, as writers, don’t expect to be treated as professionals, no one else will see us as professionals. Treat yourself as one, and don’t let others treat you as anything less.

As for the piece that’s been republished without my permission, I’ve sent the company a kind but firm request to remove it from their website.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Rebecca

Do you write for free, and have you ever regretted it?

Has your work ever been used without your consent, and did you do anything about it?

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

One Memory

The end of year is a time to reflect, a time to remember The Year That Was.

This year especially so.

So many memories, but one I remember most. Not of Covid, lockdowns, or masks. Not of bushfires or smoke.

One of you. And me. Lying on your outdoor lounge, gazing out to sea.

My last visit.

Sometimes we spoke. About books, my writing, our families, your impending departure.

Mostly we didn’t.

Calm. Pure. Silent. Nothing between us. The sea stretching out in front.

Time stopped.

Time passed.

Time to let you rest.

As I walked away, I turned and blew you a kiss. Gave you my best smile.

You gave a half-crooked smile in return. Your usual.

I saw it in your eyes, but chose to lie to myself instead: I’ll see you again. We’ll lie on your lounge, we’ll gaze out to sea.

But we didn’t.

You left.

It was always going to be too soon.

This year leaves me with many memories.

This is one.

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.

Rebecca

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 Pexels.com

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.

IT”S NOT READY YET

IT NEEDS WORK

AND THIS IS WHY…

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.

 

 

Should Your Novel Catch a Virus? To Write or Not to Write Covid-19 Into Your Book

You’re in the middle of writing a novel, set in the first half of 2020. You’ve outlined your plot, developed comprehensive character sketches, and weaved together compelling story and character arcs. First (or second or tenth) draft is done, edits have been made. Things are looking good.

book on linen sheets
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Then the Covid-19 pandemic strikes. Do you:

a) continue on with your existing story, as is, or

b) modify it, to some degree, to include the pandemic and its horrific fallout?

This question came up yesterday during an online author event I attended – the author’s book is set in March 2020. I don’t believe it made any difference to the book in question, but there are other stories where it might.

It’s safe to say there are many novels being written, as well as some recently published, that are set in 2020. And some of these novels use prevailing political and social conditions to help drive the story, almost as a character. Given books published, or due to be published, in 2020 were written one, two, even five years ago, there is no way their writers knew back then what would transpire, come 2020. But it may affect the authenticity of some of their stories.

So I suppose my answer to the question above is: it depends on the story.

While my middle grade manuscript is set in present day, there is nothing in it that specifically says it is set in 2020. Also, I’m not prepared to tinker with my manuscript to include the pandemic, when the pandemic holds no relevance to the inciting incident, progress, or outcome of my story. To be honest, I’m not sure middle-graders want to be reminded of Covid-19 while reading stories that are supposed to be escapist in nature and (hopefully) funny. I know I wouldn’t at that age (will we want to be reminded of it at any age)?

However, I do wonder how many writers are considering changes to their work to include what has become the most defining event for humanity (so far) this century.

Time will tell.

Rebecca

How Covid-19 Will Change (Make That, Has Changed) Book Publishing

Hi all,

Quite by chance this morning, I came across a Los Angeles Times article from a month ago. It mirrored a conversation I had last night with a fellow writer and, although it’s a month old, I’m sharing this article now as it still provides relevant (and unsettling) thoughts on where the book publishing industry is headed: How the coronavirus will change book publishing: now and forever.

IMG_3817

I believe things will get better, in terms of the pandemic anyway. I’m not so sure when it comes to book publishing.

With many bookshops closed (and no guarantee of them reopening), with book tours and writer festivals cancelled, with publishers deferring new releases and book printing adversely affected, the industry is currently on semi-hold.

Since early March, Publishers Weekly has been compiling a list of cancellations, closures, policy changes and more. For an industry long regarded as slow to act, this list shows how the book publishing industry is reacting to survive.

Much of this list refers primarily to the US industry, the dominant force of the book publishing world. However, Australia’s industry is by no means immune from this crisis. In fact, given the much smaller size of our industry, we may be far greater affected than our northern hemisphere counterparts.

Seven years ago, my regular magazine writing gig all but dried up when hard times fell on that industry. I fear this is far worse. The struggles the book publishing industry faces are huge.

The Australian Publishers Association has compiled a list of regularly updated information on resources to help Australia’s industry weather the viral storm.

But is it enough?

It’s not hard to imagine publishers, especially small and independent publishers, closing their doors for good. It’s also not hard to work out which global publisher is most likely to be the one left standing when the dust finally settles. Any guess who that will be?

Rebecca