What I’ve been up to

I would like to say the reason I’ve been madly behind on blog posts is due to a lot of amazing writing going, but alas, not quite so.

There was a fair bit of amazing editing going on in June and July, though, as my first short story was published in Dubnium, a young South Australian writers collective.

I had a wonderful experience working with my very first editor (shout out to Katie Bryant) who helped me tighten up my short story for publishing. The piece I wrote is called ‘Chitra’ and it was inspired by (unfortunately) some very sad true stories of women I met while living in the Middle East. If you would like to read it (and many other INCREDIBLE talented SA writers), you can get an e-copy  for just $0.99 here.

I also got the opportunity to read an excerpt at the Dubnium launch party in July, which – whilst terrifying – was a fantastic experience.




My Writing Process – Blog Tour

I was tagged by the oh-so-lovely Trinity Doyle, a fellow Australian Contemporary YA writer whose work I can’t wait to read! She has a great blog with lots of reviews and author interviews. Go check it out at trinitydoyle.com

What am I working on?

I’m working on a yet-to-be-titled manuscript that is set in Damascus, in 2011, just before the Syrian conflict started. It’s about an unlikely group of friends from different language/cultural backgrounds whose lives will all be affected by the Arab Spring.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This story, although fictional, is based on real events. I was living in Damascus at the beginning of 2011, studying Arabic, and had to move to Jordan once things in Syria began getting a little dicey. It will be similar to Christobel Mattingly’s No Gun for Asmir or many of Rosanne Hawke’s books, but different in that it will be aimed at an older age group. Compared to the other YA manuscripts I’ve written (and a lot of YA books I’ve read), where the conflict for the character is quite internal (and about their personal journey), the conflict in this will be driven by external events.

Why do I write what I do?

I write YA because I read YA and love YA. I tend to get the most motivation to write after I’ve read an amazing book, and in the beginning, those books were always YA. I do find it very interesting that the stories I’m dying to get on to paper are contemporary Australian YA, because fantasy was my go-to drug of choice, especially as a teenager. In fact, I hated ‘real world’ books growing up. But then I read Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta and it pretty much changed my life. Contemporary YA books are those that hit me hardest and stay with me, and I think that’s why I write in that genre. I think there is a potential fantasy series in me, but it’s brewing and will take a few more years before it manifests itself.

How does my writing process work?

I’m still figuring this out. I lived in Jordan for a few years and I had a very set routine there. I taught English from 7-3, came home, plonked myself on the couch and wrote for a good couple of hours every night. Now I’m back in Australia, my new job involves shift work, so my routine is all over the place (and not much writing getting written).
When I do get around to writing, however, I write every scene/chapter by hand in a notebook before typing it out. I find if I only type first, I sit and re-read, then backspace, then cut chunks out, and then end up with nothing after a few hours. If I hand write first, it can still be terrible, but I can focus on changing it later when I type it up.
With my first MS I was a ‘pantser’ and it took me five years to finish! My second MS had a pretty solid outline, and it only took 9 months to write, so I think I’m a ‘plotter’ convert.

I’ve tagged a wonderful friend of mine and fellow Adelaidean, Jehaliel, on the My Writing Process blog hop.

Jehaliel’s a young Australian who loves penguins, rocks and music. She writes poetry, a little fanfiction and original novels in the TC, LOTR, Chronicles of Elantra and various other fandoms.  Jahaliel is the name of her OC and Enoraryn is the name of her sword. You can find her at Enoraryn’s Shipping Co.

Not giving up my day job

I am extremely grateful that, after 6 weeks or so of uncertainty, I can keep my job working with young asylum seekers.

I work with an NGO, and as you can imagine, given the current political climate regarding asylum seekers, things have been a little bit tense for both the clients and staff.

The good news is that I have been offered the hours I want, which hopefully means I can get back to writing some more. I have a story to tell and I’m pretty keen to get it down on paper as quick as I can.

I’m also in the process of applying for an Arts SA grant for a mentorship with a South Australian author. It’s my first shot at grant writing (an art form in itself!), but I figure you’ve got to be in it to win it. Will keep you posted.

fan girl week

This week has been rather eventful in the Life of Carly.

I’ve caught up with two authors, whose works are pretty much my stand-out favourites in Australian YA (after Melina Marchetta, of course) to have a bit of a chat about writing and publishing and the general awesomeness of Aussie YA.

It is a bit of a coincidence that these catch-ups occurred in the same week, and I would like to state my case now that I’m not a serial Author Stalker. And if I was, I did a terrible job of doing fangirlish things, like bringing along copies of books for them to sign like any true fangirl would. Or asking them more questions about their works-in-progress, of which I’m sure some others in the Tweet/Blog community will severely chastise me for not having done so. I was a bit too star-struck to gather my wits and ask intelligent and comprehensible questions like those.

Nevertheless, both authors were extremely kind and so encouraging, taking their time to give a mere commoner a glimpse of the magical yet ruthless world that is Publishing. But it was a glimpse that has renewed my zeal for querying, so potential publishers beware, for your inboxes will be inundated (by inundated I mean I will send you a polite query that meets all the criteria outlined on your websites, and I’ll only send once from one address with one name and one story title). Supposedly there is such a thing as a Serial Submitter and I don’t want to be labelled that along with Author Stalker.

And if it ever comes out that I have a pair of a very famous American author’s old jeans, it was because she gave them to me and not because I stole them from her in a stalking session.

True Story. If I ever get published, I will reveal whose jeans I (legitimately) own.

First time workshopping

Today was my first ever experience workshopping MS#1 with a critique partner who has a background in creative writing. I’ve never had any formal creative writing training, so it was really great to chat with someone who actually knows all the techie-terms for things.

I was a bit nervous about what workshopping would mean (and if I’d be able to handle the critique well!) but I was surprised at how much of a positive experience it was (my CP can take the credit for that!). The good thing about MS#1 is that I finished writing it over 18 months ago, and I knew that it needed more work, but I was happy to be able to leave it alone for a while and work on MS#2 instead. So it was great to go in with fresh eyes today and I was amazed at the things my CP pointed out – I couldn’t believe I hadn’t picked them up before!

These are some of the things I learnt today in our three hour sesh:

  1. Show Don’t Tell. I ‘tell’ a lot (especially in the earliest written chapters), which leads into point no.2
  2. Descriptions. I already knew that my lack of descriptive language is my weakness — I just want to get on with the characters and the plot, but my CP gave me good suggestions on where and how I can improve this.
  3. Make everything pull double duty.
  4. Kill your darlings. There are a few things that need to go. But having a break for a while has broken down my attachment to those things and I can see that cutting them will actually improve the story.

I can totally see now how having a CP can really help. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages, but it was hard when living overseas and being in a different timezone to other Australians.

Moving Countries

I’ve been silent for a few weeks as I have made the move back to AUSTRALIA!

After two and a half years in the Middle East, my husband and I decided it was time to come home. It’s all a bit exciting, and there were a few hiccups that involved credit cards getting cancelled days before travel and an interesting taxi ride carrying our life savings across Amman in order to get it to a place that could transfer it back to Aus. But we (and our money!) made it safely back in the end.

And what could be a better welcome home gift than an agent requesting the full manuscript of MS #2! Exciting times ahead hopefully 🙂

WIP x 2

I have two new things in progress. Yay!

The first is a fantasy series. At the moment I’m still collating ideas/absorbing information as much as I can. I think this one will be a while in the making. In fact, I don’t plan to start writing for at least a year.

The second came to me when I was woken up by my German-speaking student-neighbours for the fifth night in a row (their hours of wakefulness seem to be 12am-5am which is not conducive to a teacher whose sleeping hours are 10pm-6am), which I’m now not as angry about because if I had not been awoken, then maybe this new book idea wouldn’t have come to me. It’s contemporary YA and I have a feeling it has been born from immense home sickness as I haven’t been back to Australia in 2.5 years. At this stage I can say it is set here:

My farm

editing editing editing

Been a bit quiet lately as I’m editing MS #2. Have had some good critique from friends and the husband, and I finished structural edits tonight. This book was much easier to edit structurally than my first MS. When I first started writing MS#1 I had no idea it would turn into a novel. I just began writing one day. Then I proceeded to write random scenes at random times, with no order whatsoever. Eventually, I knew where the story was headed, but it involved a LOT of chopping and changing the plot and messing around so revising was a nightmare!

MS#2 on the other hand, I planned out right from the beginning, almost scene for scene. And I wrote in chronological order, which means revisions this time round are much less painful. I don’t know if I will follow this process with every book I end up writing, but it worked this time.

Now my dear mama is copy editing it for me, which is amazingly awesome of her because she went to business college back in the day and is great with grammar and punctuation and stuff.
Then in two weeks I’ll send it off for a competition! Inshallah as they say over here! (God willing it all goes to plan!)

Obession with word count

I’ve just hit 44,165 words for MS#2.

This is very exciting (I know, my “what counts as exciting” scale is a bit sad) because that’s the same amount of words I had written when I finished my first draft of MS#1. I’m guestimating that I have another 12,000 words to go on MS#2, which is also very exciting because I’m not having to force words out like I felt I had to when writing MS#1.

From the authors whose blogs I follow, it seems like I’m a bit of an anomaly when it comes to word count issues; most tend to write too many words and end up having to cull a lot. I have the opposite problem. I spent my entire university-life writing papers that ‘got to the point’ and it’s taken me a while to realise that when writing fiction, it’s quite okay to expand a little. One of my major flaws is descriptive writing. I spend too much time on the plot and dialogue and I can go whole scenes not describing anything.

So if you’re wondering why the excited word count updates, it’s because I’m mighty proud every time I write another thousand words and see the little ticker go up.