Can I just say, writers rock. ❤️

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We have an incredible community. I mentioned this before about Pitch Wars, those amazing people who were willing to help total strangers with their writing. Everywhere I turn there is an abundance of goodwill and sheer awesomeness. And when I put the call out for Scrivathon raffle prizes, the community did not disappoint.

I want to hug every single one of our generous sponsors. They are amazing. The prizes they’ve donated are INCREDIBLE! I’ve listed them below, and there are still more to come. Keep an eye on the blog and on the twitter hashtag #scrivprize4sr for the rafflecopter raffle prizes. Some are live already, the rest will go live over the next couple of weeks.

All the raffle draws you can enter now are listed here. To enter, follow the instructions in the rafflecopter link on the blog post of each prize. Each donation to justgiving.com/scrivathon is eligible for one prize draw entry. You can make as many donations as you wish. Every dollar is appreciated.

Blog Hop

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To get to know each other, and learn more about Scrivathon and our charity Syria Relief, we are doing a Scrivathon Blog Hop and visiting fellow Scrivathoners. Check them out below!

Gurpreet Sihat || Hoda Agharazi || Deborah Crossland Maroulis || Morgan Hazelwood || Dante Medema || Miranda Burski || Maria Guglielmo || K.J. Harrowick || Rochelle Karina || Adele Buck

If you’d like to join the fun, send me an email (aychao[at]aychao[dot]com).

Raffle Prize List

And without further ado, here are our fabuddabulous raffle prizes thus far:

Plot consultation by author Rebecca Petruck

Query + first 5 pages critique (MG, YA, or Adult CR) by literary agent Beth Phelan

5 page critique by Suzanne Purvis, author & writing teacher.

5 page critique by Brenda Drake, author & Pitch Wars founder.

10 page critique by Maria Guglielmo, author and surgeon.

3 chapter edit by editor Katelyn Uplinger

50 page edit by editor and author Kellie Doherty

50 page edit by author Dana Alison Levy

THREE x “3 chapter edits” by Author Accelerator, home to Lisa Cron’s Story Genius.

One month of writer’s coaching by Tiffany Hoffman, editor and FicFest founder  (includes: editing for 10k words on any cat/genre manuscript, 1 query crit, and weekly coaching via Skype for writing, querying, editing, and all things writing)

6-month subscription to Angela Ackerman’s One Stop For Writers

Signed copy of A Year and a Day, Isabelle Broom’s new release.

Signed copy of Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake.

Signed copy of Finding Hekate by Kellie Doherty

Signed copy of Crown of Ice by Vicki L Weavil (U.S. and Canada only).

Signed ARC of This Would Make A Good Story Someday by Dana Alison Levy

A copy of The Novel Planner, a daily planner for writers by author and writing coach Kristen Kiefer (U.S. only)

THREE x signed copies of The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson

$10 Amazon voucher

TWO x Scrivener downloads (one Mac licence and one Windows licence) from Literature and Latte

Three x Save the Cat! Story Structure downloads from Save the Cat!

A spot on Story Masters, a 4 day workshop with the “Three Tenors” of story: Donald Maas, Christopher Vogler, and James Scott Bell 11-14 May 2017 in Toronto, Canada. From Free-Expressions

….and more to come. Keep an eye on the blog and on the twitter hashtag #scrivprize4sr for the rafflecopter raffle prizes.

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Day 1 #pw16revclub #ReYoNo31 #PitchWars

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As with all best laid plans, throw a young kraken (read: 4 year old child) into the mix and things get… interesting. Make that a sick young kraken… well I’m sure you get the picture. My kraken makes anarchy look like a twinset and pearls Martha Stewart acolyte.

Despite having a kraken underfoot, I’ve managed to make a start on my revisions. The following are top issues in my revision plan:

+ cut backstory chunks in ch2-7 and reweave
+ analyse secondary characters’ purpose/roles and consolidate/cut where needed
+ bring to the fore main conflict thread

+ review characterisation of my MC–need to walk tightrope between special snowflake, agency, Mary Sue, and unique individual personality (man it’s tough to be a woman!)
+review diversity portrayal (descriptions, as well as English as a second language). 
Difficult one, need to think on this. One of the characters is loosely based on my grandfather. He was a rear admiral in the Kuomintang navy, super clever and multi-talented (poet, writer, artist on top of his military career), but as an immigrant to Canada in his 70s, his English was not fluent. *I* know he was clever, as do most people who have had exposure to dual language, but it’s important there be no ambiguity on this. 

I’m blending a few things together–using Janice Hardy’s excellent 31 day revisions framework but adding a few of my own tweaks. I’m taking Janice Hardy’s day one (plot and structure) and swapping it with her day two (character arc) because I believe story is character arc. As Lisa Cron puts it: A story is about how the things that happen affect someone in pursuit of a difficult goal, and how the person changes internally as a result. So my plan over the next few days:

  1. Day 1: Work through Lisa Cron’s Story Genius to hone main character arc. Halfway there!
  2. Day 2 (today): Finish Lisa Cron’s Story Genius exercises, then plot character arc & story turning points into story grid.
  3. Day 3: Analyse my story grid, make any necessary tweaks. Take scene cards (thank goodness I’d done these before. 62 of them, each with GMC, character arc per scene, plot threads etc) and make a plot graph. Highlight weaknesses. Brain storm how to strengthen.

So that’s my plan. Fellow #amrevising peeps, what are your favourite revision tips?

Happy writing all. May the Muse be with you.

Mirror Mirror You’re the Best

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As part of the Pitch Wars experience, some mentors were able to give feedback on submitted manuscripts. I was fortunate to have received not one, but two edit letters. Both were long and detailed and very much appreciated.

I’ll be honest here. I’m no rhino-skinned teflon-coated snowflake. I am sensitive to criticism. Especially when I feel it is unwarranted. If someone speaks to me in a forceful, borderline unkind voice, my hands will shake and tears will threaten. It’s annoying, but I’m guessing a deeply ingrained trait because my daughter reacts the same way.

But critiques on my writing trigger a different response. Don’t get me wrong, I love compliments and praise as much as the next person. But in order to make my writing better, I want to be told where things don’t work for the reader. I need to be told since I can’t see my own writing through a reader’s eyes.

The best way to describe how I feel is to think of my manuscript as a dress. A dress I created from a made-up pattern. In my head, the dress has beautiful lines, nice drape, a good cut. I get out my fabric, scissors, needles, and get to work. I measure, cut, sew, fit, tweak and do my best to reflect the awesome dress in my dreams onto the fabric in my hands. The only thing is, I lack a mirror to see how it looks when worn. If I am unflinchingly honest with myself, I will have an idea of how it might look, but it’s only ball park. I can tell where it doesn’t quite fit, I can look down and see or feel where it bunches. I can do a fair bit of the fixing and picking and restitching etc from my own observations to make that thing as good as I can get it.

But if I want to make that dress amazing? I need to see the dress on me.

I need a mirror.

Critical feedback is that mirror. It offers me the chance to see my work with someone else’s eyes.

That is a gift.

With a mirror, I can decide where to adjust, recut, trim, tuck, re-stitch, reposition. I can make informed decisions. With enough effort, hopefully I’ll end up with something that looks as cool as I imagined. Maybe better.

So, to all my lovely mirrors who have spent time and effort and brain power to provide me a different perspective on my work. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

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Starting Wednesday I’ll loosely follow Janice Hardy’s Revise Your Novel workshop with fellow Pitch Wars contestants. I aim to finish a final edit on my manuscript by mid October. If you’re #amwriting on #pw16revclub, find us on Twitter with #ReYoNo31.

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#PitchWars #whataride

Earlier this summer I spent a frazzled two weeks putting together my submission for Pitch Wars, a contest where published/agented authors and editors (mentors) choose one writer each (mentees). Over the next two months, the mentors help their mentees polish their manuscripts in readiness for the agent round–each mentee’s pitch and first page is presented to a panel of participating agents. This year there are 125 mentors for 1957 hopefuls.

That’s a lot of hopefuls for not that many places. Even with 12 last minute bonus spots that’s 137 mentees out of 1957 entrants. A 7% chance of getting a spot. It’s not high, I’ll grant you. But when historically 50% of the mentees land agents, it puts that 7% in a much more flattering light.

Submissions closed on the 6th August, and the picks announced this morning at 2am London time. (I’m feeling a little gritty now since our little kraken is the household 7 am wake up call. Pass the coffee, please.)

That’s three weeks of waiting around between submitting and pick announcements. I think the most savvy and level headed among the hopefuls might have continued with revisions. I wasn’t one of those–all I could do was obsess over the #pitchwars feed on Twitter where all the conversations were happening between mentors and hopefuls. Lots of teasers, and the inevitable agony of wondering “Are they talking about me?” Pleasant enough torture, but torture none the less.

I lived with my phone stuck to my face.

First thing I did on waking was check the #pitchwars feed AND my spam folder, just in case I missed a request for more pages from a mentor. I did have two emails end up in there–neither were requests (more on that later) though. They were emails from fellow pitchwars participants. I stayed up late reading the feed hunting for clues as to how I might fare, but as a bonus I got to know a lot of the writers hanging out on the thread. It was amazing to be able to reach out through Twitter and connect with writers from all over the world. Mauritius, Scotland, Indonesia, Singapore, Canada, US, England…(*cue music to ‘It’s a Small World’).

Writers tend to be loners. We spend our time in heads, pouring out thoughts and feelings and actions into our keyboards. Writing is, by necessity, a solitary activity. It’s also sometimes difficult for non-writers to understand the whole process. It isn’t a case of banging out a story and then submitting it to an agent. A manuscript goes through several iterations–think first draft as lump of clay, then each iteration a gradual sculpting of the work into its final form. There’s the macro stuff–making sure the plot works and the character arcs are there, streamlining the cast so each character has its purpose, making sure the setting is pulling its weight, then the micro stuff–dialogue, language, flow, cadence. Once that’s done, beta readers and critique partners go over the work and highlight stuff that doesn’t make sense, falls flat, is unbelievable. Then more revision and polishing. Rinse, repeat.

Lest you think that’s the end, once the manuscript is as polished as can be the next step is submission to agents, hoping and wishing someone loves your story enough to take it on. If that happens, more revisions from the agent. And if the agent is successful in selling your story to a publisher? You guessed it. More revisions. A few rounds of developmental edits (macro) followed by line edits (micro) then copy edits (what’s smaller than micro? Nano? Anyways, spelling, punctuation, grammar etc).

All that work happens in the company of your own thoughts and not much more. So to have found a 400+strong tribe is damned fine. A tribe of people who understand the thrill of cutting 108 ‘just’s from a manuscript, or the frustration of needing to cut 10 more words from an already bare-boned pitch or synopsis.

I lost 3 weeks of revision time while I behaved like a social media obsessed squirrel jumped up on caffeine, but the tribe I gained in exchange was so worth it. I had my first introduction to the writing world and I was floored by the generosity and willingness to reach out TO TOTAL STRANGERS. A friend of a friend introduced me to a client who then introduced me to an author friend who was super helpful in honing my query letter. Lyla Lawless was one of the editors offering free query reviews for Pitch Wars participants and she gave me some really helpful tips to whip my query in shape. Not to mention the valuable feedback from my fellow hopefuls. Everyone pulling together to help everyone else. And the craft tips and encouragement gained through Pitch Wars is like an Aladdin’s cave of wonders. Intrepid fellow hopeful Lisa Leoni compiled the most amazing list here of mentor’s posts, and I discovered new mentee Tomi Adeyemi’s writing website. So many shared stories of perseverance, to keep trying, to not give up. Ah it makes me teary just thinking about kindness and cupcake deserving goodness of the Pitch Wars peeps. 🙂

I wasn’t picked, but I’m okay with that. I got enough requests to tell me my MS was at least interesting to some people. That’s a nice boost. My plan whether I was picked or not remained the same–ready my manuscript for querying agents, and then send it out and start work on the next one. And that’s what I’m going to do.

And about the generosity I mentioned earlier–well Pitch Wars itself is run on feel-good fuel and a pay-it-forward ethos. Brenda Drake, the PW team, and the mentors all donate their time and expertise. The only way to come close to paying back what they put into the contest and give to the community is to buy their books as a thank you and pay-it-forward whenever I can myself. My kindle is now bursting with Pitch Wars mentors’ books, and I have a ton more books-to-come on my wishlist (here’s the whole list; go forth and feed your kindle). I’m cheering on the new mentees, excited to see their careers unfold.

Pitch Wars was a fantastic ride. Now I’m on another one–in a boat full of writers riding the white water rapids of their dreams. There will be ups and downs and people falling out of the boat, and getting hauled back in. It’ll be scary and wonderful and heart stopping and exhilarating. I’m excited for this journey and glad for the company because we’ll have the best things on tap: Encouragement. Writer friends. CPs. Tribe. I couldn’t ask for anything better.