Friday, 22 November 2013


The desire to write is like an itch in the middle of your back.  Some days you can reach it, have a good scratch (write a couple of thousand words) and it goes away leaving you feeling calm and satisfied. 
Other times no matter how much you reach up your back (drag the thoughts from your brain), slide up and down the sharp edge of the doorjamb (pound the pc and shuffle the words about) you simply can’t stop the itch and satisfy the urge to write.
When the itch won’t go away the answer is to scratch away until it settles down.
Once upon a time authors scratched away on pads filling the lined spaces with untidy scribbles, hoping to get the hieroglyphics transcribed into something readable.  Then shock/horror,  if their manuscript had been typed and they wanted to add or delete a passage, this meant the whole chapter had to retyped.
Enter the computer. (An arpeggio of triumphant notes) How lucky can we be? Yes, voice recognition programs now exist that will transcribe our verbal mutterings into script, but it is far more satisfying to type, auto-correct, cut and paste, backspace, highlight and delete, add a paragraph in the middle of a chapter or delete a page here and move it to there. Oh! Bliss and joy.
Add to that we have track changes so we can view another author’s efforts, add comments and leave the original document intact. What luck.
If you are getting that itch and it’s making you cross, think about the speed at which we can write these days. We flick an email across the world and the whole manuscript arrives at a publisher’s site on a distant shore. No postage costs, no heavy paper parcels posted into the unknown ,never to be returned with the terse note of rejection.
The only downside to all this is everyone is now doing it. There is serious competition for the limited number of spaces that publishers have. People are self-publishing and this is one of the advantages of democracy. My only plea is please edit your work and have someone else edit it as well. Let’s keep the standard of content high.
If you want to satisfy that writer’s itch do so with the end view of presenting a professional piece of literature. This extra care will make your manuscript rise to the top of the ‘slush pile’ on your chosen publisher’s desk.
Meanwhile get scratching!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


The result of entering any competition can only be a ‘good’ result.
What you gain from deciding to enter is a fresh look at your work. You will be delighted at some of the prose you’ve created, possibly stunned at the errors you find in the piece when you thought it was ‘perfect’. But most of all you’ve probably tightened up the manuscript and possibly fleshed out the bones before submitting it.

Just like a skeleton every story’s bones are different, although they follow a basic structure. Your bones are your individual voice and style. Don’t let them hang around. Give them a shake, wrap some flesh around them, change the heads about, and alter the path they are walking.
I refuse to pay huge amounts to enter a competition but this is my individual choice.  You may be happy to invest in your work with this expense. Make sure you are going to get feedback. Pick one that appeals or could apply to a piece you have already written; and tweak your effort to suit the contest. Have fun recreating your story to fit the parameters given.  This is such good writing practice.

For the small cost of entering a contest run by Romance Writers of NZ you can have three people read your work and receive back three different opinions. This is great value for money.  Often you will find the judges in agreement on a particular part of your submission which must tell you it needs revision. It doesn’t matter if two of the judges love it and one hates it.  This is what happens when your creation goes out into the wide world and is read by others. Everyone’s taste in reading matter is subjective. If you belong to a book club you will know this. Rarely would the whole group enjoy the same book.

Be positive about comments received. We are like artists who paint pictures. Writers paint pictures with words. Just as the artist always wants to get out his paints and alter his finished work,  we writers are never satisfied either; a word to add just here; a sentence to delete up there.
At first I couldn’t bear to lose the work I had to delete and I created a file for ‘discarded pieces’ in case I ever needed them again.  I realized the other day that I’ve stopped saving them. I’ve never reused any of the deleted paragraphs, sentences or delicious phrases.  I now just backspace and they disappear into the ether.  I’ve learned that I can create more words just as great, and I don’t need the file as a backstop.  However, it’s taken two years for me to get to this point.

 Make the changes suggested in critiques, rewrite and rewrite, then send it off to find a new home. As I said at the beginning: it’s irrelevant who wins. You are a winner by the very act of entering. Do it today!