Monday, September 28, 2015

Why I Converted from Pantser to Plotter

Pantsers, let me hear your wild hollers! 

Plotters, wave your notebooks and charts from side to side!

I used to consider myself a die-hard Pantser. Character questionaires bored me to tears. Outlines made me gnaw my fingers into bloody stumps. What I wanted was the thrill of raw discovery--the kind you get from the twist in that scene even you didn’t see coming.

But I paid for this thrill in countless revisions. The lack of character prep left me with characters I didn’t know, who only became clear after waaaaay too many rewrites. There were a few surprising twists, sure, but there were also plot holes and disconnected…things. All the things were disconnected.

With my current WIP, I wanted to avoid all that. I wanted to learn from my past mistakes instead of rewriting them. My CP encouraged me to try plotting, and she ensured me that in her plotting, she’s still surprised by the unexpected turns.

Well, folks, I tried plotting. I’m still trying it. And I have to say, there’s no turning back. This is revision number one for my WIP, but the story’s so different from the first, un-plotted draft that I may as well be writing a whole different story. I understand my characters on such a deep level. I’m figuring out the twists and turns and still getting giddy over them. All the things are connecting. It’s bliss. There’s no doubt in my mind this will cut my future revision time, which means less work. Who doesn’t like less work? 

In case anyone’s curious as to how I’ve gone about this plotting thing I love so much, here’s the sauce: K.M. Weiland's website. Yes. I suggest going through her How to Write Character Arcs series and answering the questions at the bottom of each post. The questions provoked me to explore my MC’s character arc within the plot on a much deeper level than I ever would have on my own.

If you give it a try, I’d love to hear your experience! And what better time than in October, to prep you for NaNoWriMo in November!?

Write on,

Friday, September 25, 2015

Guestopia: Interview with author Julie Fison

Today I am delighted to welcome Aussie author Julie Fison to YAtopia.
Click for OptionsJulie is the author of eleven books for children and young adults. The latest, Counterfeit Love, about an ambitious young television reporter trying to make a name for herself, was inspired by Julie’s time as a reporter in Hong Kong. Her books also include the Hazard River series for young adventure lovers and titles in the Choose Your Own Ever After series for girls aged 10 to14.

Is this your first published book?
Counterfeit Love is my third YA book. The other two are Tall, Dark and Distant and Lust and Found – part of the Smitten series (Hardie Grant Egmont). I have also written a series for young adventure lovers – Hazard River (Ford Street Publishing) and two books in the Choose Your Own Ever After series. The stories have multiple endings and let the reader decide how the story goes (How to Get to Rio and The Call of the Wild).

Which genre?
It’s a contemporary romance.

Which age group?

It’s promoted as a book for young adults (14+), but plenty of fully-fledged adults have also enjoyed it.
Click for Options
Is it a series or standalone?
Counterfeit Love is a standalone novel.

Are you an agented author?
I don’t have an agent.

Which publisher snapped up your book?
Counterfeit Love, along with Tall, Dark and Distant and Lust and Found were published by Hardie Grant Egmont.

Do you have another job?

I have two teenage sons who keep my busy. I also write the occasional travel story and do some marketing work.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?
I pitched the idea of Counterfeit Love to Hardie Grant Egmont, after writing two other YA books for them, and they agreed to take it. This was a very fortunate position to be in. But I had plenty of rejections before I got my first publishing contract.
What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?
Counterfeit Love is about a young television news reporter, trying to make a name for herself in Hong Kong. She falls for a guy who turns up unexpectedly as she tries to get to the bottom of a big story. The novel was inspired by my days as a television news reporter in Hong Kong. Lucy Yang certainly isn't me, but I used my experiences as the basis for the story.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?
I spent a few months letting the story ferment in my head, before I got started. I always know where a story will start and how it will finish – the details in between are generally a bit scant and tend to evolve as I write.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?
Once I got started, the story flowed pretty quickly. I write an average of 2000 words a day.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

I sent the first four chapters off to my publisher and we thrashed out a few character problems before proceeding with the rest of the first draft.
Click for Options
How many drafts until it was published?
The story went through three draft stages before it was ready to be published.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?
The plot is largely unchanged but the pace of the romance is different and my editor was able to smooth out the rough edges of my characters. I love the way she can do that!

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?
I don’t ever reread a story once it’s published because I would not like to find things that I wanted to change!

What part of writing do you find the easiest?
Once I’ve got an idea in my head, I love immersing myself in the story and pounding away on the keyboard.

What part do you find hardest?
Self-doubt is a terrible thing. I feel that the more I know, the more uncertain I am of what to write.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?
If I get stuck with something I literally take a walk with the dog, throw on a load of washing or take a nap. I need to let my subconscious mind recharge and let ideas drift of their own accord. I can’t write my way out of a problem. I just end up writing rubbish.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?
I have my head in one story at a time, but once I have a first draft written I might go on to something else. This means that I go back to my first draft with fresh eyes because I have forgotten the details of the story.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I think a lot can be learned. I know I’ve learned a great deal since I started writing fiction. But of course there is also natural talent and great writers obviously have plenty of that.
How many future novels do you have planned?
Click for OptionsI have loads of ideas for stories, but I can’t say how many will actually become novels.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?
Click for OptionsI blog on writing, travel and parenting. I’ve also just written a short story for Rich and Rare – a collection of Australian stories, artwork and poems for teens, published by Ford Street Publishing. That one comes out later this year. I have also written the first draft of a gothic play for high school students and I will get back to later in the year.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?
I was pretty elated when Ford Street Publishing agreed to take four books in the Hazard River series. It’s also incredibly rewarding when a shiny new book arrives in the mail from the publisher. Seeing one of my books in a bookshop is exciting, too.

Give me five writing tips that work for you.
1.       Give your ideas a chance to germinate before getting started.

2.      Write as much as possible without going back to edit it.

3.      Each day reread the previous chapter so you are back in your character’s head at the point you left off.

4.      Be tough with yourself when you edit. If there’s an inconsistency in the plot that you hope a publisher won’t notice, change it. The publisher will notice it!

5.      Try to engage your reader, not impress them with fancy writing that doesn’t fit the story.
And one that doesn't.

Click for OptionsFollowing a trend.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?
I’ve just started working on another YA novel. It’s a contemporary romantic thriller with a hint of gothic menace. The idea came to me while I was visiting New Zealand last year. The wilderness is so beautiful but it has that lonely, remote feel to it. It’s very inspiring.
Thank you so much, Julie. Good luck with all of your novels, new and old!
If you'd like to find out more about Julie and her books, check out the links below.

Monday, September 21, 2015


This year, 2015, I’m an MG Pitch Wars mentor. I’m having a ball! From writing my ‘Why choose me?’ blog post, to receiving 64 submissions, to the headache of picking my mentee, to the surprise thrills of being able to pick two mentees, to now working with my gorgeous new friends for life (Stacey and Judy) on revising their manuscripts ready for the agent round in November. Major fun. And I can only thank Brenda Drake over and over for inviting me to join the gang. I’m privileged, and will work my socks and knickers off to ensure my mentees receive a bunch of agent hugs in just over a month’s time.

But, having read through all the first chapters sent to me by an incredibly talented group of writers­, there was a recurring issue that appeared time and again. And the same problem I see come up in the manuscripts I edit in my day job. It all boils down to the book starting in the wrong place, which of course affects that all important hook, the pull, the magnetism that makes a reader want to keep going, turning the pages and finding out what’s going to happen. I’m not kidding here when I add, this problem is so easily fixed.

Honestly, more often than not, in my Pitch Wars submissions, simply deleting the first two or three pages, and sometimes the first few paragraphs, was really all the author needed to do. It is an issue all writers have, not just newbies, but seasoned writers too, and you only need to check out posts and articles littering the internet to know how true this is. We, the story tellers, want our readers to understand the whys of our characters, and to do that we’re convinced we need to get the back story across as soon as possible.

Wrong. We don’t.

Most readers want in first; they want a taste of the action, of the tension; they want subtlety and clues; they want to be intrigued; they want to be thrown bam! straight into that life-changing moment of the main character, and the whole point of us, the authors, writing the story.

Back story is important and needs to be included, but not in paragraph after paragraph of distant narrative, or a character unrealistically and far too conveniently thinking about their lives to date. I’m afraid it’s downright boring. If you have books on shelves or a manuscript in the slush piles, boring isn’t a faux pas you can afford.

And this goes for the rest of the book, not just the first chapter. It’s absolutely fine to do this in earlier drafts, in fact, as an editor and writer, I would encourage you do to this. For one, it gets it out of your brain and allows you, the creator of this character’s past, to ‘see’ it and iron out any inconsistencies, rather than have it cooped up in your mind. I also encourage authors to complete biographies or character profile sheets for everyone in the book for the same reason. Plus, this is a separate document you can refer to as you write.

Once that first draft is finished, work through your manuscript with a brightly coloured pen (real or virtual) and highlight the back story. Then decide if it really really needs to be there. If it does, don’t just tell the reader or have the character once again conveniently consider it, blend something in subtly. A clue, a snippet, a cheeky insight. Don’t put the whole chocolate mud cake in front of the reader on page one, just smear a little ganache here and there. Make their eyes light up, make them lick their lips, make them drool. ‘Ooo, chocolate cake. Must turn page. Must find cake.’

Get the picture?

Example? OK.



‘Just two years’ ago, John’s heart had been broken. Carol, his girlfriend of five years, his childhood sweetheart, had dumped him. Packed her bags and left for a younger model. He knew it was coming, but was too nervous to mention it. He didn’t want to lose her. He didn’t want to be alone.

John spent many weeks and months afterwards staring at the TV screen, neither watching whatever was on nor thinking of anything in particular. He’d been emptied out of all thought, all emotion.

So when he met Liz, six months’ ago, he was wary. Cautious. Afraid to ever feel that way again.’



‘John breathed in deeply, trying to push aside the tightening of his stomach. This was all a bit too familiar. The iPhone in her hand. The stupid grin on her face. Only this time it was Liz, not Carol.

He released the breath slowly through his nostrils. Should he say something? Or sit there, on the same couch just like last time, and wait for the break up to happen? Could he deal with that pain again? Probably not.

John opened his mouth, but all that came out was a strange squeak that he quickly disguised as a cough.

Liz looked up and frowned. John smiled and averted his gaze quickly back to the TV screen.’


The second excerpt puts the reader in the scene. They see John, his shyness, his nerves, his worry. They’re introduced to his previous heartbreak. In the first, they’re being told this through a back story dumping, unable to engage fully with any action. I know which I prefer, and I know which would make me keep reading. The second. Is Liz about to dump him? Will John build up the confidence to ask who she’s texting? Let’s keep reading and find out.
Be subtle. Blend. Intrigue. Show, don’t tell.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

YAtopia Facebook Group is now open

As a writer I know that it's not a solo career, despite how it may appear. Writers need support, and YAtopia is offering it to you!

The YAtopia Facebook group is now open for applications! It is a group that will support writers of YA, NA and MG, both aspiring and published. It's a place to connect, learn and grow. Writers will have the opportunity to:

  • Network with other aspiring writers and published writers.
  • Learn about upcoming pitch contests, conferences, festivals and other professional development opportunities. 
  • Find Critique Partners, Beta Editors and Alpha Readers.
  • Consult the hive mind when faced with a writing problem.
  • Ask questions of special guests (ohhh mysterious).
  • Participate in writing sprints (a great way to get over writer's block).

YAtopia blog members will be admins of the group to make sure that it stays a positive place and achieves the goals it set out to achieve. 

If you want to be in writing Uptopia we would love you to join YAtopia! See you on Facebook. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NaNoWriMo Prep

Every year, NaNoWriMo seems to sneak up on me taking me completely by surprise. This year, thanks to a random friend's twitter update, I realized NaNoWriMo is less than two months away! Now, I've attempted the 50k words in a month challenge before... and failed every single time. I'd like to say it's because November has always been my busiest month given that I'm a teacher and it's always a mad scramble to get reports out and put together a concert before Christmas, but really it's because I'm totally unprepared by the time November 1st rolls around.

While I don't think I'll hit 50k this November for reasons mentioned above, I am taking all my previous experience to heart and at very least attempting to set myself up for possible success. Here's what I'm doing to give me the best shot at being able to write that many words in a month.

1) Research. Since I write speculative fiction, you might be wondering what kind of research I could possibly need and my succinct answer to that is, for world-building. In order to create a complex, nuanced, plausible world, I will need to do a lot of research about the real world, making sure I get as many details in my made-up world as realistic as possible to provide a truly immersive experience for my readers.

2) Plot planning. This is a weak area for me. I tend to know what'll happen in my story in very broad strokes only by the time I start writing. This time I want to have at least a 1-2 page synopsis written to give me a more detailed map of the plot so that I hopefully won't stall around the 25k mark as usual.

3) Character planning. Almost more important than plot to me, is character development. Before I start any story I like to have a clear picture of where my character is going and how they'll change. How that happens I generally leave up to the writing process to figure out but this time I want to develop clear milestones in my story, even sketch the important scenes, that will propel the character development and undoubtedly tie into the plot.

4) An ending. I hardly ever start writing a book knowing for sure how it will end. I know who I want my characters to be by the end, but I rarely have a clear image of how the story will tie up. This has proven a mistake in the past and something I want to fix this time around. I've promised myself I won't start writing until I know how my story ends.

So, 6 weeks away from the start of NaNoWriMo this is what I'm working on. Given the demands of my day job I don't have a lot of time to write any more. This level of planning isn't only going to stand me in good stead for NaNo, I think it will also make a huge difference to my writing process in general. And if I'm going to continue writing while working, I really need to figure out a better system for maximising what little writing time I do get. NaNoWriMo 2015 will be an experiment to see if what I've got planned will actually work!

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How do you prepare for it?


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Which Way is Write?

There’s something I feel a lot of people forget what with all the advice flying around out there.

This is your dream. These stories are your stories.

Every single person approaches things differently. Each one of us has had experiences which shape the way we look at the elements that contribute to how and what we write.

So all of this: You should write every day. You should always plot. You should pants. You should only write when you feel like it.

None of those are absolutes. All of those pieces of advice are the sum of someone else’s experiences.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good idea to look at what has worked for people who’ve been through this whole thing before. But always remember – just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Take the bits that do work for you, and mold them to your unique set of circumstances.

If you need to, pluck different parts from everywhere and make your own set of rules. Because ultimately, you have to figure out how you write best. And since no one else is you, no one can 100% definitively tell you how to write.

How to write? Sit down, and do so. But the when, the method – that you need to find out for yourself. Just like everything involved with writing, this takes time.

Remember it’s your dream – make sure you do it your way.

And in the end, it'll be worth it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's All Right

I feel the dust is still settling after this years Pitchwars, and what a year it’s been. There were over one thousand entrants, and from them, 125 were picked to be mentored. It’s pretty exciting stuff, and while I wasn’t involved in Pitchwars in any way this year, working on Whiskey, Wine, and Writing meant that I was very aware of the mayhem going on behind the scenes.

Obviously, not everyone could be picked. So as the molecules drift to the ground, I have a couple of things I’d like to say, and hopefully I’ll cheer a few people up along the way.

It’s all right to feel like poopers. 

Seriously, it is. You got all excited and now that you didn’t get picked you’re feeling a bit meh. That’s perfectly fine. Meh away. It’s cool. I’m holding surgeries with cake and tissues, let me know if you want to attend.

It’s all right to growl at your manuscript. 

As a person that growls at people in the supermarket (yeah, I do that…quietly), I feel it’s okay to growl at paper or a computer file. You can be angry with it, and you can be angry with yourself, but ask yourself why. That’s your baby your growling at, so growl softly or under your breath (like I do at the supermarket) and then give it a cuddle and go back to work.

It’s all right to quit. 

Yep. It really is. As long as you’re only quitting for a couple of hours or maybe a few days. It really is okay to feel as though you don’t want to write anymore. I’m sure we’ve all felt that way at some point, but you have to have to have to move on. Unfortunatley you’re going to be rejected many, many times, but as my good friend Kathleen Palm says, every ‘No’ brings you closer to the only ‘yes’ you need.

It’s all right to drown in ice cream. 

Not literally though. You can eat the tub, or two…or three if it makes you feel a little better. Whatever your poison of choice is, just don’t do it for too long, your bottom will not thank you for it!

It’s all right to become a baking obsessed zombie. 

As long as you don’t eat any brains because yuk, and hello prison. What I’m saying, is that it’s okay to go and do other things that will distract you from your disappointment. It can really help. Maybe channel it productively. Got any DIY projects around the house you’ve been putting off? Go do them, just make sure you come back to your writing at some point soon.

So there’s the ‘all rights’ and I feel I should add that you will be all right too. Hopefully you’ll get some feedback so you can look at some areas that may need working on. Also, don’t forget to congratulate those that did get picked. They were on the very same emotional rollercoaster ride, regardless of the results.

Have faith in yourself and your writing, don’t lose that. That would not be all right.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Agentopia: Rebecca Angus

Welcome to the September edition of Agentopia! For more information and to see other Agentopia posts, click here.

This month Rebecca Angus from Golden Wheat Literary is in the spotlight.

I'm a graduate of Texas A&M University, SFF Author, and Jr. Literary Agent at Golden Wheat Literary. I have an obsession with all things #KidLit, and my main focus as an agent is Children's Literature. As a new agent, I'm currently building my client list, but I absolutely adore every author on my team so far. I currently live with my Army husband and house full of animals in Washington State.....until the Army moves us elsewhere which could be tomorrow. I have an obsession with Cat gifs and Dr. Who, and in my free time I watch way too much Netflix. You can follow me on twitter @R_EliseWrites, but be prepared for cat pictures and Disney references. 

Submissions Guidelines: Please email query + 15 pages to Rebecca@goldenwheatliterary.comMy response time is usually less than a month, but sometimes I take a bit longer for requested material.

1. What are you looking for in YA submissions right now? 

Send me diverse characters. What I'd really like to find is an emotionally driven Young Adult Contemporary. I believe the best translation of this would be--hit me with all the feels and make me cry. Also, I'd like to find a story about a teen from a military family. I'm always on the look out for strong female characters in fantasy or historical settings. I love historical retellings we haven't quite seen yet, and I really enjoy unlikely/unexpected narrators. My most recent Young Adult book obsession is Gregory Maguire's, EGG & SPOON. If you've read his book and can comp yours to themes or aspects similar to EGG AND SPOON, I want to see it. I also really want a story similar to THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA but from a female POV. 

2. What's an immediate turn-off in a query, something guaranteed to get the author rejected?

Cluttered Queries. I like the 'meat and potatoes' type of queries--give me the yummy basics without overfilling the query with too much extra. If your query seems daunting when I open it, I will likely only read the first few lines. A long , endless, query makes me worry that the manuscript will need substantial edits. 

3. What's the story got to have to make you want to represent it?

It needs to have character driven voice. I don't mind multiple POV, but I want to get to know a character and love/hate them from page cover to cover. I don't mind snarky/unlikeable characters, but their voice needs to be consistent. I want a story that has a voice I can't escape even after I'm done reading.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Writers' Self-Doubt can Bleed into Other Areas of Your Life and How to Stop It

Let's talk about Self-Doubt. 

You know the monster. All writers (artists really) have battled it when it rears its fowl head. It's so unpredictable and devastating. One minute you're cruising along, fingers flying across the keyboard, and the next you're curled into a ball, slurping ice cream with a straw, and wondering if your words are worth anything. It's normal (or is it just me?).

What isn't normal is letting that self-doubt seep like a poisonous tea into other waters of your life. I've struggled to maintain control like so many others. Yet I've had this crippling issue move its way into my parenting, my spiritual sphere, and my other relationships. How do we damn it up? How do we curb it in the first place?

What it comes down to is tripping up the thoughts that build up self-doubt and then resisting the pull to stay there.

Get Some Support

Surrounding yourself with people either going through the same thing or enthusiastic about you and your writing will lessen self-doubt and keep it at bay. Getting involved in a local writers group, plugging into online support through twitter, facebook groups, or other blogs with feedback and encouragement are all great examples. Even taking writing breaks or chatting with a non-writer friend about your self doubt and being affirmed can help.

Think Happy Thoughts

Coping mechanisms for non-writers can work for writing self doubt as well. Do things you love between drafting or edits will keep you from being hard on yourself. Reread parts of your manuscript that you love, such as snappy dialog or beautiful imagery. Chances are if you love it, your critique partner/agent/publisher/fans will too. Even a few good laughs, time with pets or loved ones, or cute cat pictures on Facebook will do in a pinch.

Don't Rely on "If Only"

It's easy to do the "if only" mind process and try to focus on how you'll be better at things if you only had an agent, a book deal, etc... but the truth is even the most successful author deals with whether what they have written is worthy of their fans. Just because a writer has an agent or has published a book doesn't mean they are free from uncertainty.

Things to Remember

When I'm being rough on myself, these are what I try to remind myself:
  • Every writer feels like this once in a while
  • I will be successful if I keep at it
  • No one can tell my story like I can
  • I really want someone to read my work
  • I'm writing because I love it
  • I can do this! 
Every one of these statements is true for every writer, so use them over and over. Stop self doubt so you can meet your writing goals and enjoy every moment.

What are you're stragedy for dealing with self doubt? Please tell us in the comments!


E. G. Moore is a poet, freelance writer, and storyteller (the first of which her mom still has recorded on a cassette tape.)  She is a long distance member of For Pete’s Sake Writers Group in Washington, active in an email writer’s response group, and a Rocky Mountain Chapter SCBWI member. When she’s not telling “Mommy Made stories” to her two daughters or nagging her husband to edit her latest manuscript, she can be found off-roading in her suped-up ATV, baking some scrumptious bread, or in a long, plot-refreshing bubble bath. She’s represented by Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary. E.G. Moore tweets, posts on Facebook, and blogs at: