Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: On Writers


Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          This month I've decided to take a break from talking about my (unending) insecurities and in the spirit of thanksgiving (which we don't celebrate in Australia but I'm appropriating anyway!) I wanted to talk about something that has amazed me since I first started trying to be a writer. That thing just happens to be other writers. I'm not sure if I just came at this writing game in a very business minded way but I fully expected writing to be like any other close guarded business in which people hoarded their knowledge and skills in order to get ahead. What I found was a community of people (IWSG is a prime example) who couldn't be more willing to lend a hand. There are writers I know who have read my MS three or four times without complaint and have helped shape my story in ways I never could have imagined. I've read copious advice blogs written by writers solely for the purpose of helping others.
         That's why this month I just want to say thank you to all the writers out there who are making the world of writing a little bit easier for insecure newbies like me!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Anthology Edition - Word Sprinting

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo or just wanted to write more quickly and found yourself struggling to make the word count,  then word sprinting might be for you. Word sprints are also called word wars and are focused periods of writing with a firm time limit that forces a writer to disregard their inner editor and just concentrate on the words.
     If you are just starting out, it is best to limit yourself to shorter sprints and work yourself up. Ten minute sprints tend to be the average and is the perfect amount of time to allow yourself to get immersed in a scene without it dragging on so long that you start to lose concentration.Of course once you are a sprinting pro you can extend the time or shorten it based on your own preferences.
     The key to a good sprint is to know your own writerly habits.  I'm one of those people who gets distracted easily so I have to have it dead silent while I write. Others need music or snacks. Prepare yourself before you begin to sprint so that you don't have to get up half way through. The other important thing to remember is that there is NO editing during a sprint. Those pesky red lines drive us writers insane but to sprint well you need to ignore them. Once then sprint is over by all means go back and give yourself time to fix up glaring mistakes.
    Word sprints can be done on your own or with sprinting partners though the latter tends to be more fun and adds a bit of extra competitiveness to the process. It's always nice to compare word counts after the sprint and get that kudos from others. If you don't already have writer friends who would like to sprint with you the NaNoWriMo forum has a whole section on word sprints with twitter groups that anyone can join.
     Above all else, sprinting tends to help those writers who are plagued by the dreaded writer's block. A sprint helps you put aside whatever issues you're having with the plot or the character growth in order to get words on paper. Sometimes you have a breakthrough but even if you don't it always gets you writing which is kind of the point isn't it?

This is my entry for the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond in the category of Writing.  I give permission for this entry to be included in the anthology.  Here's my bio: Lan Chan writes young adult dystopia and sci-fi/fantasy. She blogs at http://thewriteobsession.blogspot.com.au

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Vocab Misshaps

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
       I've been doing a lot of sprint writing recently in order to build word count while I was doing camp NaNoWriMo and also to try and bypass that little voice in my head that wants me to edit constantly. One thing that these sprints have made glaringly obvious is that I tend to use the same words over and over despite knowing that I have many more words locked up in my brain that could get the point across much better.
       When I read books I'm always impressed by the range of the vocabulary. The thing is, I know all those alternate words that are being used. I know that they're locked up in my brain somewhere and it's as though I have vocab dyslexia where I know what it is that I want to say, I have the words, they just don't come out the way I want them to.
      Does anybody else feel this way? Are other writer's facing the same problems and just have fantastic editors who make suggestions that they never thought of? Or is it the scary thing that I'm afraid of and I'm just not that good a writer? 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Review: Not Until Tonight by Jessica Sankiewicz


THE STORY

Every day after work, Haley goes to the bar across the street from her apartment to get a drink. It's the only time she gets to see Skylar, her bartender and crush. She would like to get to know him as more than a friend but she's afraid he won't be interested and she'll have to go elsewhere for her after work drink.

When Skylar asks Haley to pretend to be his girlfriend for a night, she is more than happy to oblige. She finally has the chance to make something happen without risking anything. But pretending proves to be more difficult than she thought. She's not sure she can resist the pull any longer with her feelings growing stronger, and it seems like Skylar is feeling the same way.

At the end of the night, will they be willing to turn a fake relationship into a real one?


MY THOUGHTS 
 Not Until Tonight is a novella that manages to pack everything into a short amount of words. It's a cute New Adult tale of Haley and Skylar that is both sweet and fun and doesn't try to get our attention by shoving an angsty, broken heroine and hero in our faces which is something that NA tends to do a lot. Who among us haven't visited a bar with a cute bartender serving drinks and haven't had a fantasy about falling in love with said bartender? 
         I have to also give Jessica points for writing a good female best friend dynamic and for being able to give the other secondary characters real charm in such a short book. I'm glad that Skylar's ex who brings about the need for the girlfriend charade isn't painted as some scheming harpie who is trying to claw Skylar back. This book is really about Haley and Skylar taking things to the next step and being brave enough to give their feelings a chance. I enjoyed reading Not Until Tonight and if you're looking for a quick and fun read I would recommend it.

THE RATING

4/5

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A Call to Edit


Wow, it's been a while since I blogged about something that isn't Insecure Writer's Support Group. I want to apologize for my absence and ask that you all be patient with me for a little longer. You see aside from being generally lazy, I've spent the last few months doing Camp NaNoWriMo and also working on the final self edits for my first novel.
        That's what I'm here to talk to you about today. You see I need your help. I'm fast approaching the end of any edits I can do for myself and soon I'm going to have to hand my WIP to a professional. The question is which professional. There are so many editing, cover making and formatting services out there that it gives me a headache just thinking about it. I've trawled through hundreds of web pages trying to get a handle on services vs pricing but nothing seems comparable. Some editors don't even offer the same kinds of edits.
        I'm more than happy to pay for quality but without having used a service before I'm not sure what "quality" actually entails. That's where you guys come in. I know many of you have published before, some of you many times over. Are there any services that you could recommend to me? Bearing in mind that I've written a young adult dystopian novel set in Australia. I'm not even sure at this point whether I would prefer to use an Australian or an international editor so any suggestions you might have would be great. Thanks in advance.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Determination & Motivation

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
       Last month I decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo on a whim. I didn’t really have a story in mind until the night before and I gave myself a smaller word count goal so I wouldn’t be as stressed as I am when I do November NaNo. As luck would have it, I managed to get myself into a great cabin for camp and we did word sprinting which really boosted my word count. By day 9 I had reached my word goal so I decided to up it to 50,000 words because I was doing so well. In the end I also surpassed the second goal by day 23. This time I didn’t change my word count goal and I think without that motivating me I just lapsed back into my usual procrastinating habits.
        I started writing random “Life Goal” lists which happened to include pretty much all of the things that I’ve wanted to do, that I should have been doing instead of writing goal lists. These include writing, editing, exercising and reading. Every day since I reached word count I’ve been honing my lists, borrowing books to read, thinking of edits to change and rolling out my yoga mat and then rolling it back up. 
        Instead of following through with any of these activities I found myself watching yet another Simpsons repeat. Or sometimes staring vacantly at my laptop screen wondering what else I could look up on the internet. I know that most published writers whether traditional or self-pubbed need a certain amount of discipline that I just don’t seem to have. I write daily tasks for myself in my diary adding a little tick box that I continually move from day to day, week to week until months have gone before I even really think about completing the task. I’m not the kind of person who can set a goal and then force myself to complete it that day, which is really weird because I finished my word count goal so much earlier than planned.  
        I’m not sure what changed last month for me to be able to do that. Perhaps it was my cabin buddies. Maybe it was having some kind of accountability to real people and not just to myself. Maybe it was just a good writing time for me. Whatever it is, I am worried that now that July is over I’m going to lapse back into being a super procrastinator. What’s up all you published writers out there? Do you guys have a schedule you work to? Do you make yourself write despite feeling a bit bleh? Tell me your secrets so that I might also be a time champion and not a waster. 


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Going Backwards

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        This month I've been looking through previous drafts of my current WIP and it struck me that the writing in these drafts may well be better than anything I'm currently producing. The plot may have improved through lots of painstaking editing but I feel the writing itself has, at the very least, plateaued. My writing and reading habits haven't changed. I still read articles on writing and have thought about taking a writing class on and off. But I know what I was like as a student. I was one of those kids who either got it right away or my brain would close like a steel trap and I'd be stuck. No matter how much I'd work at something it just ended up going nowhere fast,
        It makes me wonder whether writing skill is like aptitude for art or sports where some people just tend to be born with the goods while others can work hard to improve their skills but there will always be a limit to what they can achieve. I hope not because it probably means I'm at the end of my line creatively and that could be kind of a bummer.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Trouble Down Under



Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
       I am heavily into editing mode at the moment and I've made so many notes in my MS that I need to remember to "Americanise"  certain words so that it will be appealing to a wider audience. (As I type this Blogger is telling me that I need to replace the S in Americanise with a Z!). Ebooks are still relatively uncommon in Australia when compared with the US or the UK and although my novel is set in Australia I have a feeling that my audience will be elsewhere. So much of the entertainment media that is available in Australia comes from overseas and we all grow up watching American and British TV shows so we're used to the lingo.
        I'm afraid that it doesn't really work the other way around and that my reviews will be littered with comments saying that the writing is too Aussie specific and that the reader was confused about what the words mean. On the otherhand as a reader, I quite like coming across new words that I'm unsure of. People still use a dictionary right? What do you guys think? Should I or shouldn't I "Americanise" my book? Is it a big problem for you when you read?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Research How I Hate Thee

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
       My insecurity this month is about research and how much I detest doing it. Have you ever read a book review where the reader has commented on the improbability of  the world building making it difficult for them to suspend belief enough to enjoy the story? This is, without a doubt, my worst nightmare. Not only because an author's credibility can be shot down so much more quickly when their world building doesn't make sense but also because I find research mind numbingly boring. Even when the topic is one that I am interested in.
        I know most research is done to help improve the skeleton of a book rather than to be added to the actual story itself but it still takes up a lot of time. I also know it can't be avoided and that even if I do a lot of research there will always be people out there who know more than I do about any topic who will catch me out. I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! But I will keep doing it, if only because I can at least say I tried if it ever comes up.
     

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Review: Sins & Needles by Karina Halle

The Story:

Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents' latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road.

My Thoughts:

As the title suggests Sins and Needles is not a walk in the park. If you're looking for a story of Disney-esque redemption this probably isn't going to be the one for you. If however you're looking for a story where the characters are flawed but loveable and the romantic chemistry is steaming then is book ticks all the boxes.
      I had no expectations going into this one except for a rave review from Sherre and though she and I don't always agree on books I'm glad I decided to give this a try. I really adored Ellie and felt like her characterisation jumped off the page. I'm a cynic at heart and it often frustrates me when I read books from the POV of characters that are just too good to be true. Ellie has problems and sometimes she is her own worst enemy but at the core she is a good person. She's had to do some bad things and often chooses the easy way out even if it means hurting other people. I get that and this made Ellie seem like a real person. Ellie is determined to give up the life of crime but going cold turkey is hard and she relapses from time to time. She is hard and vulnerable at the same time and I admire Halle for putting a character like Ellie out there. 
      I have to admit that tattoos and by extension tattoo artists aren't really my kind of guys so Camden was already fighting against the tide for my affection. He was a decent guy, objectively a great character but ultimately not one I feel head over heels for. Still, even I couldn't deny the obvious chemistry between Camden and Ellie and some of the scenes were super steamy. 
      As I stated previously this isn't a happily ever after kind of story and it certainly took my emotions on a roller coaster ride. The only negative for me were the large portions of flashbacks. I don't mind short flashbacks but beginning almost every chapter with one is just too much for me. I didn't think they added much to the overall story and it felt a bit like they were there to score empathy points for Ellie which could just have easily been integrated into the story itself. 
       Flashbacks aside, I loved Sins and Needles and if you're not squeamish about sexual I'd recommend giving it a try. 

The Rating:

4/5   
       

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Book Trends



Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        They say you should write what you love and forget about popular trends. As with most advice it's a lot easier said than done. Especially as a writer who reads and runs a book review blog. It's hard not to be enticed by the next big craze and not to want to read and write in a genre that's taking off. So what happens when you're such a slow writer that the trend dies before you've even finished editing? This is the dilemma I'm facing at the moment. I tend to be one of those people who reads book reviews before I decide if the book is for me and one comment I've seen time and again is that readers are starting to get bored of dystopian fiction.
        This does not bode well for my dystopian MS which has taken almost three years to even get to an editing stage. I know dystopian isn't a new trend but I can't help thinking that by the time I'm ready to publish, dystopians will have fallen off the radar completely until it's next cycle of popularity. By which time I'll probably be moving into a nursing home!
       I guess all I can do is forget about what's popular, write what I love and hope that there are other die hard fans like me out there who will always love a good story about a world gone bad.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Review: Gamers' Quest by George Ivanoff

The Story:

Tark and Zyra are teenaged thieves on a quest. In a world of magic and science, where dragons and mages exist alongside drones and lasers, they endeavor to reach the haven of Designers' Paradise. But their world is not what it appears to be and their haven is about to come under threat of destruction. Can Tark and Zyra save Designers' Paradise ... and their own world?

My Thoughts:

I read Gamers' Quest a while back during a period when I was putting down almost every book that I started. One of the things that struck me most was that even though the book is targeted at an MG audience and is decidedly science fiction which isn't  usually my genre, I enjoyed reading Gamers' Quest nonetheless.

Gamers' quest follows the adventures of Tark and Zyra, two opportunistic thieves hell bent on saving or stealing enough money to buy their way into Designers' Paradise. These two characters are the epitome of the word underdog and you can't help but root for them despite their unconventional methods of acquiring wealth. All is not what it seems though and before you know it, Tark and Zyra are thrust into an adventure that they didn't necessarily sign up for but one which changes their lives irrevocably.

Gamers' Quest is non stop action and twists from the very first page. There aren't any huge chunks of exposition to slow the pace down and just when you think our heroes are going to catch a break the rug is pulled from underneath them. This is one of those tales where the bad guy just won't die. Tark and Zyra are surprisingly fleshed out characters despite the relatively short length of the book and I loved their thoroughly rebellious appearance because it's so different from anything else out there.

There was one thing about Gamers' Quest though that spoiled my complete enjoyment of the story and that was the dialogue style. One of my pet hates is dialogue that's written in distinct dialects and accents. It's a personal preference and I know it's tiny in the scope of things but it drives me nuts. It was especially pronounced in this instance because it was used as a tool to highlight Tark and Zyra's lowly status but it really pulled me out of the story.

Overall, despite the dialogue distraction, I enjoyed Gamers' Quest and would recommend it to those who want to dip their toes into the sci/fi genre without too much of the heavy tech descriptions to slow down the pacing.

The Rating:

3.5/5

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Review: If Only We by Jessica Sankiewicz



The Story:

They say all it takes is one wrong move and you lose the game. One false step and you’re trapped. One slip-up in your choice of words and you ruin a friendship forever. That is what they say. They say I lost.

I do not believe them.


At the end of the summer after graduation, Adrienne wonders what happened to cause her life to be in ruins. She isn’t getting along with her mom, her stepsister isn’t talking to her, and, to top it off, the boy she’s been in love with doesn’t want anything to do with her. She believes the turning point was a choice she made at graduation. When she wakes up the next day, she has been transported back three months to that moment, the one where everything started to fall apart.

Adrienne realizes she has been given a second chance—and this time she doesn’t want to mess anything up. Reliving the entire summer, though, turns out to be a lot harder than she thought. As the same days and weeks go by, she starts to see how simple decisions can make a huge impact on the world around her. Despite knowing some of what lies ahead, there are some things she didn’t anticipate. She thought she knew what mistake led her to where she ended up the first time. She was wrong.

And by the time summer is over, she discovers what was really at stake.

My Thoughts:

I don't often venture into the realm of contemporary novels but when I do the experience usually makes me wonder why I don't read them more often. If Only We was no exception to this. It is a story about second chances, taking  risks and at the same time staying true to yourself. 
     Adrienne was a likeable narrator whose reactions were never over the top or too dramatic as seems to be the norm in NA novels. Also missing is the trauma and angst that this new genre has been built on and I for one am glad as I find all the drama difficult to relate to. I love the Adrienne is a normal girl with normal problems. She doesn't see eye to eye with her mother, she's finding it difficult to connect with her younger step-sister and she's declared her love to her best friend Chevy only to have him reject her. These are all things most readers can identify with.
       Unlike us though, Adrienne gets a second chance to do the summer over via the help of a little time travel. This time around Adrienne is determined to set things right, though she soon discovers that there are reasons why everyone acts the way they do and most of the time its got nothing to do with her. Instead of running away from her problems this time Adrienne makes herself face them no matter how painful or awkward. She also makes mistakes despite trying hard to be better and I thought this added a sense of realism to the plot. 
       I really liked that Adrienne was proactive in getting her life together and although there was romance it wasn't the center of the story. Adrienne learns that she has to be happy with herself before she can make someone else happy and that's a point so many other books miss.  Towards the end Adrienne grows as a person and is able to take drawbacks in her stride instead of feeling sorry for herself and just giving up like she would have previously. 
        There were a few things that I felt could have been done better, like an explanation for the time travel and a bit more tension in the romantic relationship. I thought Chevy was sweet but not super swoon worthy though to be fair I prefer boys of the supernatural variety! Overall I really enjoyed If Only We and look forward to future works by the author.  

The Rating

4/5

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Fortune Favors the Bold


Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          As I get further into the edits of my MS I'm beginning to see my book's publication date on the horizon. Along with anticipation and excitement I'm also beginning to feel a good dose of dread. What if everyone hates it and I get all 1 star reviews? Or worse, what if my book doesn't sell at all? What if I publish and then it drops into that black void that is self-published eBooks and is never heard from again? Sometimes the self doubt is so deafening that I consider giving it all up. It's during times like these that I make myself remember one thing:

Fortune Favors the Bold

If I don't publish at all I'll never know if my book could have been successful and I think that will haunt me more than flat out failure (I think! Ask me again once I'm published!). The worst chance my book can have is no chance at all. If every author gave in to their fears and self-doubt no books would be published. I've worked long and hard on my story and it deserves at least a shot at publication. So I keep reminding myself over and over again to be bold. To have the courage to do something I'm passionate about and with a lot of luck it might all be worth it!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Enjoy Life!





Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        This month my post is less about what I'm insecure about (everything!) and more about a habit that I have of dreaming so big it stops me from appreciating the small things. Let's face it, the chances of a writer making it big are slim. Yet who among us hasn't daydreamed about our books hitting a best seller list or being made into a movie? I do it all the time. It's gotten to the point where I've even planned overseas trips based on my future success. All this before I've even written the first draft of my novel. The other day I stumbled upon this quote:


It got me thinking about my current wishful habits and I realised that I will only ever have one debut novel. I may go on to write dozens of books and with any luck they may be well received but this time, right now is the time that I should be relishing. Everything I do at this stage is new and a scary kind of exciting. I shouldn't wish that away hoping for something that may never come. I will only have one round of firsts and even if there are better days to come they won't have that same feeling of fresh anticipation. So I've decided that from now on I will keep a lid on the dreaming and try to remember to enjoy life as it is, right now. Happy New Year everyone. Looking forward to another year of sharing encouragement with you.

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