Hungry for the wolf

I’m enjoying a coffee, taking a breath, when a woman I met for an hour in a workshop more than a decade ago stops to say hello.

She asks me if I’m still working. I am. Writing isn’t something you retire from, though I’m trying to retire into it.

Her face lights up. Not often do I actually see a face light up but her joy seems luminescent. If you need a beta reader, she says, I’d love to read something for you.

Read something for me. What? What does that mean? No!

Ok, this scene is not true representation of the facts, but a blend of recent experiences. The one truth is that the term beta reader is being thrust at me from unexpected and unlooked for directions.

Remain polite while declining offers like this. And no, not because you’re shy about your own writing, but because a beta reader has to work for you, not the other way around.

And, not to make too many bones about it, some self styled beta readers take as their right the chance to fiddle with a manuscript.

Folks who appear at your writer’s shoulder as if by magic, or are as enthusiastic as a puppy being offered a walk, or who have decided it might be fun to dabble in the creative process… Those dear puppy-dog people have to be regarded with the same distrust as spam email offering you the world – if only you just say YES.

Stay right away from them.

True, a Beta reader can be any casual reader you can get your hands on. It’s best if they read the type of story you’re hoping to sell. They may have writing or publishing experience (again, in your area of expertise) but it doesn’t matter if they don’t, because a Beta reader gets your polished MS. The one you’ve tweaked and burnished and laboured over. The one you’re ready – almost ready – to send off to an agent or publisher.

Remember, they’re Beta readers and Beta means second. A Beta’s job is to read the MS for enjoyment, and to then point out the few (we hope) remaining flaws the author has overlooked during the rounds of rewrites.

If you want any more than that, and you should, then you’ll need your Alpha reader.

Yes, Alpha – not the biggest, not the meanest, not the most dominant, but an individual you trust first to tell you any ugly truths respectfully and honestly, and an individual who can speak from actual knowledge.

In fact Alphas will read the story long before it’s finished, give feedback during the writing process.

Why? Because Alphas can be trusted to ignore the fact the MS isn’t yet polished to a high sheen. They won’t waste their time mentioning typos, grammar etc. (you know, nuts and bolts errors you’ll clean up on subsequent edits).

Alphas can tell the difference between a scene still in outline and one fully fleshed (believe me, many Beta readers can’t) and will know, without asking, that you’re still working a scene over.

More than that, a good Alpha will agree to read your chapters as you rewrite and polish, because an Alpha knows their job is not a one read deal.

An Alpha is there for you. They are your first reader, and the one you trust. And for a long time they’ll be only one you trust enough for this job. Eventually you might have as many as three or four.

Once you’ve finished primping and polishing, then you turn to your Betas, plural. Hundreds of them if you have the time or are anal enough.

Betas bring a new focus. They haven’t been privy to MS development and can see where the author’s intensity, and the alpha’s depth of involvement, may have missed something. The Beta is the writer’s last line of defence.

They read your final draft once, tell you what they loved (a strength), what they hated (a weakness), and go back to their life. Compare reports from enough Beta readers and you can get a pretty clear idea of how the average reader will see the story.

Of course, you might want to cut a bit of red tape and mash up the alpha/beta job description – wait until your first draft is almost finished then ship it to as many readers as you can dig up, get some opinions, edit a little, send it out again, argue with the readers whose advice you didn’t follow because, when it came down to it, you really don’t trust them enough… and so on.

Or you can just face the fact that while Betas are ten a penny,  you’ll never repay  a good Alpha.

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The Art of Story

Arnold Zable

 

Writer, storyteller, educator, best selling novelist and human rights advocate, Arnold Zable, brings his passion for story to WriteFest.

A compelling storyteller, he draws from memory and history to uncover the trauma of displacement, and the strengths of community in his Masterclass: The Art of Story.

The line between fiction and non-fiction is not as distinct as it once was. At the heart of any story, whatever the genre, is imagination, constructed scenes, setting and characterisation.

The question is, how to best tell your story? How to use craft to bring an idea to its full potential.

The Masterclass is full-day, October 8 from 9am-4.30pm at CQUniversity. Breaks are included for morning and afternoon tea (provided), and lunch. BYO lunch, or take the opportunity to book lunch for delivery on the booking page.

 

Self-Publishing a Paperback.

Justin Sheedy will be at WriteFest this year offering an in-depth exploration of DIY publishing.

You’ve screamed, sweated and cried for months, or even years. The voices in your head have finally disappeared, at least for the time being. That stack of pages (even if it is on a hard drive), is finally a manuscript.jenny-a

You’ve pored over your words for what seems a hundred or more times, sent your baby out to others to read and give feedback, you’ve revised and edited, and now it’s the best you can make it. Time to publish. Get it out there and into people hands. Start raking in that longed for fortune.

One question – How?

You’ve probably noticed, or even looked into, publishing businesses who promise to get your books into all the stores, right? The type of business wanting thousands of dollars to begin the publishing process. Surely getting your novel to your readers isn’t that hard (or easy), is it?

The answer is simple. No, it’s not. You’ve been in control of this novel all the way. Why hand it over to strangers now, especially strangers full of promises who want a bucket load of your money.

No. You can publish your book, yourself. All you have to do is follow some instructions.

You can do that, right?

Of course, you can. You’ve written a book. Hundreds of pages. You can do anything. Believe in yourself. That’s the power of being an Author.


No matter who you decide to go with, the first thing to do is purchase you own ISBN (International Standard Book Number), in Australia, through Thorpe-Bowker (https://www.myidentifiers.com.au)


I have used both IngramSpark (Lightning Source) and CreateSpace (Amazon), and can recommend both. Each has pros and cons, so you’ll need to get onto their websites to really look into the workings of each, but here’s some useful info I’ve picked up.

IngramSpark. (Lightning Source®)

Ingram is the world’s largest wholesaler of print and electronic books distributing to more than 39,000 retailers, libraries, schools, and distribution partners across 195 countries. Since 1997 Ingram has been offering print on demand services through Lightning Source®.

 

IngramSpark does charge a setup fee. It’s not a lot of money, certainly not thousands of dollars. Their website http://www.ingramspark.com/ has calculators to help you set the price of your book, and find out how much you will make in royalty sales.

They also have ready-made templates to help you create a book cover. You can either design your own using the template, or send the template to your cover designer.

IngramSpark publishes world-wide, and your novel will be included in their marketing catalogue, which goes out to over 11,000 resellers.

The beauty of choosing IngramSpark is that, when you sell a book internationally, you can have it printed and posted in the country of purchase, direct to your customer.

This saves you the cost and time of having to post a book.

And your happy buyer has your novel almost immediately.

 

CreateSpace. (Amazon)

CreateSpace has been a part of the Amazon giant since 2007, publishing and manufacturing on-demand for independent content creators, publishers, film studios, and music labels. (https://www.createspace.com).

CreateSpace does not charge a setup fee and has an easy step-by-step guide to help you construct your book. They will also give you a free ISBN number, which can only be used on CreateSpace.

If you have any questions, a forum exists to give you answers.

(Hint. Google is also your friend)

CreateSpace has ready-made formatted Word template files you can copy and paste the interior of your book into. They also have a Cover Creator you can use.

Remember to READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS.

You can sell your book through CreateSpace by setting up a store.

Certain distribution disadvantages exist, especially for books in hard copy rather than digital, if you use CreateSpace.

CreateSpace/Amazon cannot make Royalty payments to Australian Banks. You will have to set up a Payoneer Account to be paid for any books you may sell.

If you wish to have books on hand to send to customers in Australia, you will have to order and have them sent to you. While you will only pay the wholesale cost for your books, postage costs from the US can be expensive.

You can order and send books internationally through Amazon/Createspace, but bookstores usually do not order books from Amazon/Createspace.

All it takes is a little time and effort to print your own books.

In Australia I generally choose IngramSpark for ease of distributing my novels internationally

While publishing may seem confusing, if you read the instructions, you’ll be all right.covers

~ J. L. Addicoat

The author of Spirit of Love and Entangled Destinies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short story about how to win

It’s the easiest thing in the world to write a bad short story. You could:

  1. fail to read short stories (eg., collections like Nam Le: The Boat, Cate Kennedy: Like a House on Fire)
  2. write like it was 1964 (Writing has changed since then and competitions are being won everyday by people who are writing like it’s 2015.)
  3. colour your prose purple (Most writers exercise a little purple in the beginning, but practice polishes the melodrama out.)
  4. narrate a Series of Loosely Connected Events (apologies to Lemony Snicket)
  5. believe an excess of poetic language equals fine writing (It doesn’t. It may equal poetry.)
  6. write a story longer than the space it must fit, then hack off the ending. (Think Cinderella’s big sister cutting off her toes to better fit into the slipper – and still failing.)
  7. believe that, because you’re retelling a true event,  you don’t have to write it like a story. (Life is stranger than fiction. Make us believe. Make us Suspend our Disbelief.)
  8. write a story just like everybody else’s story. (This only counts if you’ve nothing new to say.)
  9. tell yourself stories don’t have to say anything special. (Stories are a communication between writer and reader. If the writer has nothing to say, why should a reader care to listen.)
  10. cut a slab out of the middle of your novel. (Short stories and novels are generally very different stylistically. For one thing, short story prose has to be tight, concise, efficient. Novelists can be more expansive when writing.)

If you want to win:

  • Come up with a cracker of an idea.

Aiming to use perfect prose to express a fresh idea will secure a writer a good chance of a win, but if you can’t manage both, remember: more people have been successful with a fresh idea and fairly ordinary prose than have won with an uninspiring story impeccably written.

  • Create three dimensional characters.

Readers must believe in your characters in order to care what happens to them. Give them flaws and weaknesses. Give them something to fight for.  Don’t be afraid to let your characters speak. In fact, encourage it.

  • Remember to create a setting.

Seems obvious, I know, but so many characters float through the story world like a ghost, neither touching nor being touched by their surroundings. Even if the story is happening in the ubiquitous kitchen, give us a glimpse of the red range, the swing in the back yard, etc.

  • Begin where it counts.

Where does it count? In medias res (in the middle of things) is when.
When he throws the knife. When she opens the Christmas card. When she pulls on her clown outfit for the first time. When he learns to tap dance.
You don’t have enough words in a short story to waste them on an introduction.

  • End when it stops counting.

Usually the beginning will help you work out when the story is finished. If he threw the knife to protect himself, then the story ends when he’s safe. If the Christmas Card makes her cry, then the story might end when she’s happy again. That clown suit she was pulling on, the story ends when we find out whether it was a good idea, or not. And the tap dancing – ask Billy Elliot – that story might end when mum and dad realise he can dance better than he can kick a goal.

Some things to avoid (or at least consider carefully) when writing a short story

  1. warmed over ideas
  2. characters with nothing to lose
  3. introductions
  4. stereotypes and cliches
  5. more than one point of view character
  6. dialogue that sounds mechanical
  7. It was a dream endings
  8. a plethora of pulchritudinous, perfectly purple pronouncements
  9. forgetting to include a plot

Download an entry form. Competition closing March 2016

Opportunity for Queensland’s rural and regional writers

QHMPQueensland Writers Centre (QWC) and Hachette Australia have announced a new program aimed at rural and regional Q’landia writers – the Queensland Hachette Mentoring Program.

Now, if you wondering who is rural and regional covers, it’s any writer NOT living in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Ipswich, the Lockyer Valley, Logan, Moreton Bay, Noosa, Redlands, the Scenic Rim, Somerset, Sunshine Coast or Toowoomba.

Those areas are considered part of South East Queensland, as defined by the Queensland Department of Infrastructure, local Government and Planning.

Writers accepted will have the opportunity to work closely with a leading industry expert and major publishing house, to receive professional feedback on a manuscript, and to bring it to publication standard.  Check Queensland Writers Centre for full application details.

APPLICATION  DEADLINES 2015 5:00pm Monday 30 November
Recipient notified: January 2016

This is the real world people. Applications had better be in their hands by November 30, or you’ll have missed out.

Oh, and in case all you bush babies are wondering, submission to QHMP is free.

The Writing in Art

Way back in September our club meet moved to the local gallery to take in some of their collaborative exhibition with Las Cruces, New Mexico. Unfortunately, our web site wasn’t all she could be at the time but now, after some remedial action, she’s getting back to action. 


 

Writers can be nervous when invited to put aside their prose and, having engaged with an art exhibition, come up with some short and sharp words, rich with glorious, vigorous and from-the-heart meaning.

Bundaberg Writers’ Club asked precisely that of members. Let’s be honest here, some people needed convincing. So we dragged those few along to BRAG and to WBHDII, and you know, it wasn’t so bad!

Man, can those artworks speak.

And one writer was heard to comment, with a little squeak in the voice, how much galleries had changed.

Bonus.

Since responding to art is an exercise in seeing through another’s point of view, here’s a few words from a member/traveller who sees Bundaberg daily from a different angle; he lives on the river, just downwater from BRAG.

John Regan has sailed the world a time or two and is well familiar with Woody Island, and the light. His immediate connection, and reaction, was to Trevor Spohr’s piece.

Central section Woody Island Girl

Central section
Woody Island Girl

 

Woody Island Girl

Woody Island Girl
a beacon in the dark
passage through the shallows
history leaves its mark

sailing through the strait by night
we keep a lookout for the light
eased the sheets, now running free
her bowsprit plunging through the sea

 

 

 

 

You can just about hear the swash and buckle. And taste the salt on your lips.

If you’re wondering what it’s really like ‘messing about in boats’ on the Burnett, then wonder no longer. Here’s a quick picture of life on the river from John Regan…

 

 

pelican‘Pelicans are the paddle boats on the Burnett River. Despite their absurd beaks and big round eyes they have an air of dignity as they cruise through the shallows. The beak plunges like a sword into the water and comes up with its prey struggling inside the pouch like a hyperactive Adam’s apple. Two or three gulps and the hapless fish is swallowed whole and the pelican continues on its sedate way.

As the tide falls, a tribe of pelicans come to rest on a mudbank near my boat, always on the lookout for prey. They have much better manners than seagulls and rarely squabble among themselves. They even tolerate the presence of shags on their territory but seagulls appear to be intimidated by the beak and sheer bulk of a pelican.

A family of seahawks that nests in the nearby mangroves present the only real competition for pelicans although they tend to keep their distance. While the pelican fishes in the shallows the hawk circles high in the air and dive-bombs his prey.

Then there are the ibis, curlews, willy wagtails and magpies trying to make a living on the riverbank. Considering all this competition among species, life on the river is remarkably harmonious unless you happen to be a fish, a crab or a worm. Crocodiles have not been seen in the river for many years although a large one inhabits the Mary River, not far away. The only real pest as far as humans are concerned is a little bird that looks like a cross between a sparrow and a swallow. Their unpleasant habit is to perch on the guardrails of my yacht and shit on my deck.’

River

AUTHOR INSIGHT: GRAEME SIMSION

Simsion GIt’s safe to say, I think, that screen writing is different from novel writing in one manifest aspect: A screen writer has to begin by being a master of ‘show, don’t tell’; a novelist may be able to fake mastery until they grow into it.
The path to story mastery lies this way.

Write Note Reviews

Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, is a writer of screenplays, short stories, novels and a couple of short plays, an occasional producer of films (primarily those for which he is screenwriter), and husband of writer Anne Buist. The father-of-two is a former IT specialist (data modeling) and founder of a business and IT consultancy. He once once gave a conference presentation dressed as a duck, has walked the Chemin de St Jacques/Camino de Santiago/Way of St James (a 2000 km trip from Tramayes, France to Santiago) with his wife, and played harmonica with a band. For more interesting facts, visit his website, or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Monique: What prompted your move into writing fiction?

Graeme: I was inspired by Joe Queenan’s book The Unkindest Cut to make a low-budget feature-length movie (shot on a handycam). I was in my…

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