Tag Archives: writing

Where DO ideas come from? Tips for kids…

Emma Mactaggart Ideas

And tips for adults searching for their inner child!

‘I just can’t think of a good idea…’

I want to tell you right now, you have thousands of ideas already in your head and it just a matter of letting them land on the piece of paper in front of you!

You are looking at me, pleading for help! It is so tricky to come up with an idea on demand, on the spot, when there are so many other fun things to think of.

Well, actually – write down those fun things. Answer the question – what do you want to do this weekend if you are allowed to do ANYTHING!

  1. You are sitting there, chewing the tip of your pencil! All you can think about was the very funny thing your friend said at lunchtime.

Right! Write down that funny thing! Fill in what happened before and what happened afterwards.

  1. You are so distracted. The boys beside you in the classroom said some really mean words and you feel like crying.

OK – so write it down. Now describe those boys (make them smelly animals!) and describe what happened afterwards when you told them to be nice!

  1. Your teachers says, ‘Hello? Are you here?’ because you are so distracted you have missed the school bell ringing and the classroom is empty!

Grab your pen – write down that daydream – quickly, now, before you forget what distracted you in the first place.

  1. Finally, you were getting ready for sport on Saturday and you felt that funny feeling in your tummy, nervousness! You had a flash, a great idea of how you were going to deal with it…

Yes, you are onto this now – WRITE IT DOWN.

Every experience you have, good or bad, can be the base ingredient for a story. And the only difference between a story and a flash of an idea – it is written down.

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The Journey Begins

Following several rides on The Giant Drop, I took a rather giddy step back. It felt as though the manuscripts I’d submitted were starting to turn on me. ‘Oh, you think we’re so good. You think you’ll be turning publishers away with all the attention we’ll bring. You think your books will be up in literary lights… think again! We’re nothing, but wish-wash! You’ll never have your name on a book if we’re all you have to offer!’

Ah, the old seed of self-doubt, angrily sprouting away. Wondrous, isn’t it?!

I needed to view the bigger picture. As difficult as it was, I decided to put those pesky manuscripts aside and start something fresh. My morale yearned for it. In early 2014, I created a character; a curious, young boy on a quest to problem-solve, using his active imagination. I had hopes of turning his adventures into a picture book series. I drafted the first story and within a few months of daily rewrites and edits, he was ready. I knew it this time. This little guy was not going turn on me!

I submitted my manuscript to Kids’ Book Review for assessment and was delighted with the feedback. My idea was unique, entertaining and picture-book-appropriate. The one thing letting it down was that I had written the story in rhyme and the meter was inconsistent in most parts. The irony of a musician failing to write rhythmically, but I later realised my struggle may be because there’s no musical accompaniment in a book! No instrumentation to fill gaps and complete phrases.

Although there were many positives to my creation, the manuscript still needed work.

A highly experienced and professional author and editor, from the KBR team, saw promise in the story idea and my approach to improving it, and offered her services to work with me. How grateful I was, to have her knowledge and expertise helping my story (and me as a writer)! I’m thankful every day, for this experience.

Seeing my story take much better shape, I decided there were to be no ‘giant drops’ with this one. I knew it shone and my editor agreed. I showed the complete manuscript to fellow creatives and they also agreed. All signs were pointing the same way, urging me to transform this story to book. Following thorough research, I decided to self-publish. A 100% guarantee that my work would see the light of day and 100% creative control over its publication. I like having control. Some say, I need it. I’m relieved and thankful that I followed those signs because it was the beginning of a long and wonderfully rewarding (and challenging!) journey.

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Catch you next month for the next leg. 🙂

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Filed under Author Business, Book News, Publishing Tips, Renee Price

The Giant Drop

Many times, I’ve been told the writing game is an emotional roller coaster ride. Ups, downs, hill climbs, racing downhill, loop-the-loops… From my experiences, I’m more inclined to match it to The Giant Drop; one of Dreamworld’s ‘Big 9 Thrill Rides’, particularly the vulnerability of submitting manuscripts to publishers.

Note: If The Giant Drop is unfamiliar to you, please click here. 🙂

Stage One: Emotional preparation AKA plucking up courage
Six months in the making and my story is complete. I’ve had it professionally edited and it shapes up really well. I’ve researched a list of publishers accepting manuscripts and cross-checked that my story meets their submission criteria. I’m pumped, confident, ready-to-go. I even get my friends and family involved in the pre-ride excitement. This book is going to be the next best-seller. Hurry! Let’s get on the ride!

I submit.

Stage two: The waiting line
All pepped and ready, I approach the line-up. Ugh… The long, tiring, mood-busting wait. Honestly, do these hundreds and hundreds of people all want to be published authors, too? Hopefully, my hidden gem will pop out of the pile and the editors will call me to the front of the line. Quick! I’d better refresh my email account. Inbox = 0.

Oh…

The wait continues.

Stage three: The lift
After three (sometimes more) agonising months of waiting, I finally arrive at the front of the line. The publisher’s email has arrived (this example is a fortunate occasion where I’ve actually received a response).
I stare at the unopened message that blinds me with its bold font and confronting subject line; ‘Re: Your manuscript submission’. My finger hovers over the mouse. Do I really want to open this?
The bars come down over my shoulders and across my lap. I’m bolted in and the rise begins. There’s no turning back now. I feel sick, my breathing is rapid. If I close my eyes, will that make it easier to deal with? As I look down at how far I’ve travelled, slight confidence hits. I really am excited by this. I can do it. It’s going to be okay.

The ride locks in place and I anticipate its release.

Click.

Stage four: The drop
My stomach slams into my throat and it’s difficult to catch my breath. I want to scream, but can only manage a gasping shriek. ‘Thank you for your manuscript. Each year, we receive hundreds of submissions, but are only able to publish a select few. Unfortunately…’

When am I going to stop falling? Who can I blame for encouraging me to endure this horrid feeling? I’m doomed. Going on this ride was a BAD decision. How foolish must I be to think this would end well?

Never again!

Stage five:
The recovery

The ride pulls up and comes to a ‘gentle’ stop. Despite my doubts, I survived, and although I’m left with a slight feeling of nausea, I feel accomplished. I challenged myself and I was brave. Now, I’m left with no regrets. Although the drop was scary, it’s shown me I can do it, and next time, I’ll have a more experienced approach.

The bars are lifted and I feel free and a little more confident. I did it! I am okay. After a few deep breaths (and maybe a nice, warm bubble bath and some ‘me’ time), I’m ready to go again.

And, so, it begins once more…

Q: If you were to compare your writing journey to an amusement ride, which would you choose?
Q: Which ‘stage’ of the ride are you on right now?

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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Six

6. Write

You may be described as a ‘pantser’ – someone who can make decisions, flying by the seat of their pants, embracing creativity as it strikes. You may be a ‘planner’ – someone who needs to methodically map out their story, using page numbers and a prescribed plot line. Neither is right or wrong, nor mutually exclusive. Really, the advice is to do what it is you need to do and however you need to do it!

Of course, it does involve striking a keyboard or pen to paper – words, more words, and even more words again. Approach the process with abandon. No-one ever needs to see the first (or thirtieth!) draft… It is yours and yours alone, so write. Words beget words and even if you get stuck, one word will naturally want to follow the one you already have on the page.

Each time you revisit the page, you will scrub and polish those words. For a children’s picture book, EVERY single word needs to have earned its place. Not one word is there by whimsy!

Personally, I write when I walk. It is such a pain! Ideas stew and develop and ferment, and occasionally, the glorious ‘one line’ which ties the entire story together ‘pops’ into my head – as I duck-waddle at a pace on my predetermined path! I can’t even start with pen to paper until I can ‘see’ page 32 (or, ‘the end’) It is as though the movie is completely distorted and I am turning the aperture to gain clarity. The haze starts lifting and when I write, it may only take an hour or so. It may have been months (or years!) in the haze!

Walking, computers, new notebooks, café’s… It fascinates me to hear people beg of authors to share their working routine in a bid to gain some insight into the ‘how’ of success – when really, it is already there right with you. Your way of working is the right way!

The only ‘mechanical’ approach that is of value is the idea of blocking out time to be creative. Like booking a long wished for adventure, allow yourself to go off grid, to leave your world as it is, and create. Culturally, we are so comfortable with the idiom ‘I am going to work’ or ‘I am at work’ and we know not to interfere or to persist with annoying that person with phone calls or personal issues… So apply that to your writing.

You are ‘at work’. So, now work!

x

Have fun!

Writing for YHTR Emma Mactaggart

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The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 2

shelly unwin jwfk                                                               zoo shelly unwin

Today is Part 2 of my interview with Shelly Unwin – newly signed author. For part 1 go here

(I’ve highlighted some themes to pick up on at a later date)

So Shelly, you had an editor interested from the Sutherland Shire Writer’s Festival editor consultation, and you had sent the manuscript to an editor you had met at a SCBWI conference. What happened then?

With an interested editor the pressure was on to really polish the other four first drafts. My critique group was fantastic, agreeing to give me email feedback as I worked, as well as face to face during our meetings. The other four manuscripts were also very compliant and came together very willingly. The publisher from the Southerland festival was excited by the two manuscripts and asked for the other three.

I was also booked in to the Literary Speed Dating event through the ASA on the 15th November and I wanted to have five polished manuscripts by then. I pitched the series to two publishers at this event and both were keen to see the full series. I also pitched it to (my now) agent Alex Adsett, who could see the commercial potential of the series and after some additional dialogue agreed to represent me. In the mean time I was also doing a course at the Faber Academy for my Young Adult novel, and I was asking my tutor for advice on signing with Alex. My tutor asked me about the series I was discussing with Alex and then asked if she would be able to pass the series on to the Children’s Publisher there at Allen & Unwin – of course I said yes. So it was now in the hands of five publishers, all of whom were showing an interest.

Wow! Five interested publishers how exciting! But with five interested publishers why did you feel you needed an agent?

Having it in the hands of five publishers was a dream come true, in fact it was beyond what I’d ever let myself dream. But I was suddenly dreading the phone ringing. What did I do when one of them made an offer? If more than one house made an offer how would I manage that process without upsetting anyone? The fear of the next stage was taking the shine off what was otherwise an incredibly exciting situation. So an agent really was the answer. Alex has great industry knowledge, and specializes in contract negotiations so she was the perfect agent to provide me with unbiased, commercial guidance.  So at this point I really handed the reigns over to Alex. Once the first offer came through, which was fantastic, Alex gave the other four publishers a week to respond. By the end of the week we had two publishers who had put offers on the table, and the exciting decision process started there.

How did you decide who to go with? That couldn’t have been easy?

It wasn’t! Both offers were from incredible publishing houses. I would have been happy to sign either contract the minute it arrived on the doorstep. That’s where Alex really helped. We discussed both of the offers in great detail and really worked through what was important to me. I then had a meeting with both publishers to get an understanding of what they were hoping to achieve with the books and how they envisaged them looking and feeling. Allen & Unwin were so aligned with my thoughts, but not only my thoughts, also with my enthusiasm and ambition for the books. I also met with the CEO there, who had read my blog!! And who told me how excited he was by my work, I walked away from the meeting buzzing! And slightly apprehensive about writing my next blog piece – the pressure was on! Alex then led the contract discussions, and walked me through the complexities of world rights, film rights, discount sales percentages etc – all of which were new to me. And from there it was done. Allen & Unwin was home to the series and it feels so right. Should I point out here that although my surname is Unwin, I am no relation!

You may not be a relation, but it’s a great fit with your name! Do you have an illustrator signed?

No illustrator signed just yet, but some very exciting conversations in progress. I’ll tell you as soon as I can!

So now you just twiddle your thumbs until the books come out?

Yes, I might head off to an exotic island and relax for a year or so 🙂

No. I have another picture book that is looking very promising and I am also working on a new manuscript that I am totally buzzing about. Plus I have a tonne of manuscripts that I have been working on over the last few years that I continue to tweak. I have also written a Young Adult novel that is currently going through the re-writing, re-writing, re-writing phase, and one day it might be ready to leave the nest. I will continue to take courses, network, critique and do all things writerly in the mean time – it’s all so much fun!

 

I appreciate Shelly’s willingness to be interviewed for this blog – we may still be able to squeeze another post out of her experiences next month!

For Shelly’s website: http://shellyunwin.com

For Debra’s website: http://www.debratidball.com

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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Five

YHTR - Ideas - Emma Mactaggart

5. You need an idea!

Whaaaat! I hear you say! So late in the process!

You have already decided to create something from nothing haven’t you? Well, the actual idea of the topic or the subject matter doesn’t need to be determined until right now. Insane to shift the paradigm like this, but I am still struck with the bravado of Rachel Birmingham (4 Ingredients) when she said her goal was to be the Number One female author in Australia – she just hadn’t lifted a pen yet. She looked at the categories in the market selling, who was buying and what their number one ‘issue’ was. Cookbooks, busy women with no time… She needed a partner, enter cook Kim McCosker, and the rest, they say, is history!

I am going to be very lazy and simply link you now to Chapter One in my textbook ‘Child Writes: Creating a Children’s Picture Book is Child’s Play’. Don’t be distracted by the title! Having worked with hundreds and hundreds of children, the step by step methodology for creating a picture book is IDENTICAL to that used by adults!. I have simply used more appropriate examples for the different age groups.

http://www.childwrites.com.au/Free-Stuff-Imagineit.html

x

Have fun!

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