Tag Archives: Random

Dyslexia awareness, it should be a thing.

20 Oct

it’s been a little while since I’ve been able to post something, so while i was sitting here procrastinating instead of doing home work i though i may as well put my procrastination to good use. Time for a rant post!

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The Saturday just gone, I was lucky enough to be asked to be a panelist for an organisation called Square Pegs, an organisation that is trying to spread awareness about dyslexia across my home state of Tasmania. As anyone who had read my blog before knows, i have dyslexia. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times not so much. So it’s a subject I feel strongly about.

As a writer I cop a lot of criticism when I make a mistake, either in a post or in a draft or a report and while I work hard not to, it still happens. So to say I have a passion for speaking out about dyslexia is an understatement. I’ve had many an argument over the subject and frankly I’ll have many more. So when square pegs approached me and asked me to join their panel I was happy to. Because hey, that’s the kind of person I am. I love to talk, and I love to talk about things I know a lot about, so it was really a win-win for me.

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What I was surprised to find out, well actually not really all that surprised as I kinda already guessed this, but Tasmania has practically nothing to help support people, children in particular with dyslexia. Children with learning disabilities, not just dyslexia, but all of them fun things, in Tasmania, have no support, while every other state in Australia dose.

Growing up, i figured that out first hand, and I was one of the many kids that had to struggle through school, being called stupid, all because my brain decided it doesn’t want to work the way other peoples do. It’s estimated that 10-15% of the population suffer from Dyslexia. 10% you say, well that’s doesn’t sound like a lot, actually, it is. Think of it this way there is a estimated 513,400 that live in Tasmania, so if my maths is correct and i think it is, i’m amazing at math, potentially 51,340 in Tasmania alone have dyslexia. Fifty-one thousand people, who grew up thinking they were stupid, because they had trouble reading and writing. Fifty-one thousand people who stared at the pages of books and wondered why, why was it so easy for the kid next to me when I’m sitting here trying to decode this gibberish they call English. Fifty-one thousand people who had no support, no guidance, nothing to help them through it. That’s a lot, but to bring it down to a small scale 1-10 children suffer from dyslexia. In a class of thirty children, three of them will be dyslexic. The sad thing about that is those three children won’t get the help they need. They won’t love school like their friends, and maybe, just maybe they’ll start to believe all those people calling them stupid.

Dyslexia won’t kill someone, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Children with dyslexia often feel, alone, different, frustrated, and angry, because of it in school. As much as our bad spelling and grammar annoys you, it annoys us even more. We know how to talk, we just have trouble getting that on a page. Have you ever been called dumb, even when you know your not? Have you had it happen so many times that you start to believe it? I have, and so have so many other kids out there have as well. In the school, i was written off as stupid and lazy. The only reason I learnt anything at all was because I refused to believe that, well most days anyways. I knew I wasn’t stupid, and here I am, 23, science student at university and a published author. Was it easy? hell no!  had to work my butt off to get here. Will it ever be easy? definitely not, but having support, having the resources to learn, giving these kids a chance, will make it easier for them. having help, having people who understand how we learn, and how we work is going to make a huge difference.

So if any of you out there actually made it to this point please Check out Square Pegs (links below!). It doesn’t matter if you are a native tasweigan, Australian, or form anywhere else in the world, please share because awareness and support is the only way this amazing organisation is going to be able to do the good i know it can.

website: http://dyslexiatas.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/squarepegstas

dyslexic

Another Query post

16 Apr

As promised I am brining you notes from the recent class I attended on query writing and what I learned was so different from what I had learned previously. I’m starting to think that query writing is a subjective thing and it will differ depending on who you talk to a lot of this stuff will be totally different than what was in my other post, but all this info came from a literacy agent, so it must be good.

 

First off let’s talk about word count.

I’d always read that the shorter the better and 250 words tends to be the maximum but according to the class, 250 should be the minim. You want your query to be no less than 250 but definitely no more than 700. Around 400-ish words is perfect according to Bree.

Agents don’t like opening and email, or letter, to see a huge 1000 word query. They must open hundreds of letters a day and seeing that, would be a real turn off. Also on the other hand, having one that is too short will only harm you because it’s near impossible to do you MS justice in so little space. Not impossible and I have seen it done, but extremely hard to do. If you can do it, and do it well, props, seriously I mean it major props, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being to minimalist.

Set yourself a word count starting at 250- and maxing out and 450 then go from there. If you keep it between that range, it’s perfect.

 

I probably should have mentioned this point first but appearance is very important.

How your query looks is a huge part to whether an agent reads it or not. They receive something in tiny, weird font and they aren’t even going to bother to try to read it. Remember a query is a business letter, it is the first impression that an agent is going to get of you, as a person and as a writer, so keep it professional.

Fonts should always be kept to something standard, and easy to read. Arial, Times, Calibri all make excellent choices. Usually the agent will mention in there submission criteria what they like so if they do, do exactly as they ask. They want Times at 12pt, do it. Who cares if you like it, they do and that’s the point. If nothing is stated always choose a sensible, easy to read font.

That being said font size is just as important, you don’t want it to small. The agent needs to be able to read it without straining their eyes. Making the font smaller, might allow you to fit it all on to one page, but other than that it will never help you cause. I suggest 10pt – 12pt you may be able to get away with 11pt in some fonts or bigger in other but as a rule of thumb stick to 12. You don’t won’t a comically huge font either, because though easy to read, it looks very unprofessional.

Spacing can also be important, though this might be out of your control if you send it in the body of an email. If possible space the query so it is easy to read (do you see a pattern here?)  Use paragraphs, 1.5 – double spacing and keep it neat. I personally like 1.5 though many agents prefer double. If it’s not specified in the submission criteria use personal preference though anything lower than 1.5 is much too low.

This point is only for post-in submissions, NEVER and I mean EVER hand write a submission. I don’t care if you are a master of penmanship, don’t do it. Always type it and print it. Hell even break out the old type writer and do it the old fashioned way but never hand write it. This falls under the readability point, as awesome as you are with a pen, it will always be easier to read typed, end of story.

Finally keep it professional, no pictures, no colours, no silly fonts. I mean it, professional people! Okay?

 

 

Next big point is Personalization.

General rule of thumb queries should be 3% personalized to the agent, 97% exactly the same as the last one you sent out. This is where the research I talked about in my last post comes in handy.

Always address it to the agent. Dear Mrs Doe, Dear Jane ect. Never address it generically. No To whom it may concerns, Dear Agency’s name, or the classic Dear Sir/Ma’am. No, just no okay? It is always better to address the person you are talking to so they know it’s not just a burst email/letter. At times an agency will say in there submissions that if unsure address it to the agency and an all agents will receive it. I would suggest against doing that. Yes, we all want an agent, but not every agent out there will be right for your book, be picky, even if it’s just a little bit because you will be trusting your work to this person, so you want to know they are right for it. Whenever possible query an agent, never an agency.

The reason I say query an agent is because you are going to want to start with one or two sentences as to why you want them as your agent. What made you query them? Writing, I queried you because I want an agent is not a good reason. They realise that since you are querying them, but why do you want to them as your agent. A good point here is not to brown nose, or try and be a kiss arse. It gives you as a writer, a negative image and people hate arse kissers.

Say things like:

I noticed you represented such and such’s (description of book), because of this I think you’ll also like my (description of MS), TITLE

Or

I read an article you wrote on something and it inspired me in some way to query you about TITLE.

This is where the research really pays off, so do it and you will  have no trouble with this little detail. Of course, don’t overdo this part, yes you have spent time e-stalking them but don’t come off that way. One or two sentences are all you need. Don’t spend paragraphs telling them why they are the perfect agents for you, because A) they don’t want to hear that and B) you have a word count to stick to remember.

Do not fake the personalization because they will know. Saying I saw you represented such and such, there for I think you will like my MS and having no cluse who such and such even is or what they write about, will only make you look bad. Because if it turns out you’re wrong and your MS is nothing like there’s, the agent will know and it will only serve to annoy them. Agents talk remember and you do not want to look like a liar.

 

Now down to Writing the query itself.

Here are some pointers on actually writing it.

First don’t sell yourself short; a query is a way for you as a writer to show an agent who you are. You write witty satire, show it! (Within reason, it is a professional letter after all) use your way with words to make a query that is unique to you and your story.

Spell check and edit! (My biggest nightmare!) Super important, make sure there is no mistakes, none, not even a little one. Read it, leave it a while and come back and read it again. Get someone else to check it, a couple of people even, make sure that baby is mistake free.

Focus on the project that you are pitching. One query per project.

The whole point of a query is to leave the agent wanting to more. Be specific but don’t give away the ending! Give all the necessary detail, but don’t give every character, every romance, and every disaster. Don’t try and fit everything that happens into the query. Pick out the main conflict, the main character and roll with it. The MC may have lots of drama going on but don’t tell them about it all. Give enough to hook them, that’s all you need.

Always include the first five pages, after your closing sign off, unless other amount is specified. The right agents will not reject you if you attach five pages and they said not to. If they liked it they will read on anyway. It will give them an idea of your style and voice which can be a good thing.

When sending out your query don’t email blast, do a hand full at a time and wait. That way if you found out that something needs to be changed you haven’t burned every bridge.

 

Some things Queries must have:

Personalized salutation

Personalized tidbit about agent

Title

Genre

Word count

Protagonist name

Description of protagonist

Setting

Inciting incident

Villain

Protagonist’s quest/purpose

Protagonist’s goal

Bio

Author’s credits (optional)

Your name

 

Query Recipe: (as written by Bree, I didn’t think I could sum it up any better than this)

* Keep in mind… Queries and synopses are two different things. Unless an agent specifically asks for a synopsis (which is not the norm) do not send one. Agents want an overview of Who, What, When, Why, and just a PART of the How.

Introduction:

Include word count, genre, and title. Show the agent you’ve researched them, that this isn’t an email blast.

Your book:

Things you’ll need to include in your description: Who is the main character and why are they special? Why are we reading about them? Why do we want to read about them? You don’t need to explicitly tell us this information, but you’ll want to introduce them in a way that gets us excited.

What is the plot? What happens in the novel and how is your main character involved? How does this affect what your main character wants and needs? How does it affect their emotions?

Make clear the central relationship in the novel.

Your bio:

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being a debut author…especially in fiction. If you don’t have writing credits, do not worry. We expect that the majority of querying writers are going to be debut. Just tell us a bit about yourself. Where you live, what you do for a living, and whether or not this is your first novel.

If you do have writing credits, list a few of your highest profile publications. Avoid listing out everything you have ever published ever! In fact don’t just “avoid it”…don’t do it!

Other important facts to include in your bio section:

1.    If you’ve had previous representation

2.    If the manuscript you’re querying has an offer on the table, and how much time we have before you need an answer

3.    If the manuscript you are querying has been submitted to editors at any point

Who YOU are is secondary to what your manuscript is about. We will eventually want to get to know you before signing you, but it’s important to hook us on your concept and not on yourself (unless you are writing nonfiction). You have a very finite amount of space to make us want to read your manuscript, so don’t blow it on personal information. ~ Bree Ogden

Another important thing is to know you genre.

Know the market, know who you want to market it to and be specific. Is it syfi, fantasy, romance, paranormal, adult, action, suspense, horror, the list goes on. There are hundreds, so if you not sure google is always your best friend. After you have classified the type state the age group. These are the standard age groups.

Picture book (ages 0-4)

Easy reader (ages 4-6)

Chapter book (ages 6-8)

Middle grade (ages 9-12)

Upper middle grade (ages 12-15)

Young adult (ages 14-18)

New adult (ages 19-29)

Adult (ages 30-up)

When classifying age group, you want to look at the age of your main character. They should always be within a few years of your target audience age. But keep in mind it’s not just about “age” but about the tone and the experience that the character is going.

 

Finally the best way to learn is by reading, look up successful queries online. Once you have finished writing it there are tons of sites where other writers will critique your query and give you advice on how to improve it, if it needs it.

There we go everything I could think of about writing a query all in one post. Keep in mind this is not an easy process, it’s a lot of work and very time consuming, but if you do it properly it will be worth it to see the finished results and start to get some requests rolling in!

 

Happy writing!

Query writing part one: research and finding an agent

3 Apr

As promised here is the first part of what I have been learning. I’m taking an online class taught by the lovely Bree  Ogden, who is a literacy agent herself.

Most of the stuff in this first post will be stuff that you might already know, but if not here are some important steps on the way to querying.

 

  1. Polish!

Make sure you manuscript is complete, polished and free of errors. This might seem like a no brainer, but it’s essential. You don’t want to have an amazing story turned down by something technical.

 

  1. Research, do it.

Get a big cup of coffee get comfy and do it. This is an important step. Familiarize yourself with all aspect of the publishing process and get your info people. Do not test the waters until you know what you are getting into. Here is an awesome list of publishing terms, incase you are ever caught off guard…  http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/08/book-publishing-glossary.html

 

  1. Nail down your genre.

If you have already done this, good, but this means more than just fiction and nonfiction. Sub-genre is important it will help you determine what agents are right for your manuscript.

 

  1. Write query

I’ll go more into this in the next post, but for very basic tips you van check out my last post  http://justatasmanian.com/2013/12/11/writing-tip-number-four-query-writing/ it’s a start 😛

 

  1. Research agents.

Another super important step, know the agent you are going to be querying make sure they are a good fit for your manuscript. Make a list, try to have about a 100 or so agents. Make sure you this list can be simple just name and agency. Next research each one, look at twitter, blog, Company website, just to make absolutely sure that you are the agent are a good fit.  (below there will be a list of westies that will help you in this step) google will always be your best friend in research. This will narrow down you list.

Once you are sure that an agent is right for you, create another list, an excel sheet is probably going to be the neatest for this and keep details. How they like submissions, genre, preferred contact method and of course agency. Also include what you have sent them and what they have requested of you. Colour code it if that helps. Useful things to keep track of are: query sent, Partial requested, partial sent, full requested, full sent, Pass on partial, pass on full, haven’t received response, etc.

Don’t query too many agents at a single time, this is a burning all your bridges thing. Do it in lots of about 5-8, that way if you find out that you have something wrong in this first round you can fix it before sending it off to the next.

 

Useful websites

PublishersLunch.com

PublishersMarketplace.com

PublishersWeekly.com

Agency Websites

Twitter (use Twitter directories!)

WritersMarket.com

WritersDigest.com

GuidetoLiteraryAgents.com/blog

AgentQuery.com

AbsoluteWrite.com

Literaryrambles.com

All for today, more as I learn it people 😀

 

Happy writing!

 

shan

Sort of Writing tips: Every writer should have a critique partner :)

18 Feb

Been a bit slack with posting lately, between work and my newest Ms, I’ve had no time to slip in a post.

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Today I want to talk about Critique Partners or CP’s.

Until this year I have never had a CP, other than Lauren, though I don’t think she counts.  I was always to weary to try such thing. I have looked at the local listing for critique groups and I’ve wanted to join, never worked up the nerve. So I did the next best thing, I got a CP. A couple in fact, and they are amazing.

I think getting your work Critiqued should be a critical step in you path of writing a novel. I don’t care how good you are there is always room for improvement and even the most unskilled CP can be very helpful. They give you a take on your work that you don’t see yourself. They are a fresh set of eyes, and can greatly help point out flaws, mistakes, flow issues and many things that you might be to invested to pick up yourself.

Recently my CP, who is lovely, we email all the time and I have come to think of her as a friend, picked up something that seems so obvious now, but before she pointed it out I hadn’t even noticed it was there, it was a flaw that wouldn’t have been overlooked.  Since I started working with my CP my MS has improved 100% I have really found it that helpful.

It’s not only that you get awesome help, but you also get to read what your CP’s working on and return that favour. By reading other’s work you really start to see how your own can be improved, and it helps you both learn as you go along.

There are some cons though; most of them I’m sure anyone who writes already will be pretty familiar with this. Sometime CP’s will say thing you don’t want to hear, and putting your work out there is hard, I know, and not every comment you receive will be positive.  Some people can be mean, people can be harsh and after spending, months, or years on something to have it tore down before your eyes sucks. As a writer you need thick skin, you need to be able to roll with the punches, deal with the critics, and improve.  Once you get past all the negativity the comments might just be helpful.

I experienced this before, I had one of my CP’s (well ex-CP’s now) tell me that there was no way I could ever be a serious writer because of my dyslexia, and that I should give up and find a new dream. That being said to me hurt, it also really pissed me off. So my grammar sucks, yeah I know it does, but I’m doing all I can to improve myself.  Each time I pick up a mistake that I have made, I learn for next time. So what, it’s going to be harder for me than others. So what, I will have to work harder than to ensure little things are fixed. So what I have dyslexia. That does not change my passion, my creativity, or my ability to create a good story.  You know what that taught me? it taught me there will be people out there that only want to knock you down, but they are the reason why you shouldn’t give up.

I didn’t, I had a bad experience but I got new CP’s, made some awesome new friends, and improved my writing with the help of people who know what I’m going through. They have been there, they know what it’s like and sometime they can be the best support group, a writer needs.

So while this might not be a tip, I really would suggest you try peer critiquing, because in the long run you won’t regret it.

On another note, I’m always looking for CP’s, so if you’re a writer and want to give it a go give me a shout. I’m always happy to help 🙂

shan

The affect of crappy voices on fictional boyfriends :P

1 Jan

wow sorry it’s been so long since our last post!

it’s a hectic time of year and I haven’t had time to sit down and write anything, not even a small post 😦

thankfully the lovely Lauren  has come to my rescue with this small post she has been thinking about.

i hope you all  have a awesome Christmas and a amazing new year, (i know i did!)

shan

Ok guys so you know how when you start to read a new book and your brain builds this image of the characters, what they look like and how their voices sound. Well I was recently listening to an audio book and the whole time I kept thinking that the main characters voice was just wrong, it wasn’t even close to what he sounded like in my head and it kind of made me dislike the poor guy. Now I’m not sure if this has ever happened to anyone else, but it was like my brain didn’t want to listen to the audio book readers voice and after a while I just couldn’t stick with the story because I was so distracted by his voice. I mean come on the main character was supposed to be a twenty something fit guy, not someone who sounded out of breath and pushing half a century! Ok that’s probably a bit mean, with a different book and an older character it might have worked, but with this book it almost destroyed my image of my newest fictional crush! :\

So anyway enough complaining not all audio books are like this one. I have listened to a lot, that have both an interesting story and readers (narrators?) whose voices are well matched to the characters. I honestly think that when the reader enjoys the story, it then becomes more enjoyable for the listener too. Reading the book in a monotonous voice with no emotion, isn’t what I would consider a job well done. Not that I would ever be able record books for a living, I would probably be fired for yelling at characters who do or say stupid things.

Clearly the author sometimes has an image in mind when they create a character that is totally different to what the reader sees. An example is Shannon’s book Into the Night, for some reason I always see Damien with dark brown hair, no matter how many times Shan tells me it’s dirty blonde. It even says that multiple times in the book! I guess what I’m trying to say is everyone is going to have their own impression of a character, so we will never fully agree on one voice or one ‘look’, do not get me started on book to movie transformations!

Anyway like I said we are all different so that is why I bought the paperback version of  offending audio book. I read it, enjoyed it but sadly my fictional bf has now been replaced by the hero of my newest read. What can I say I love a good book 😀

Lauren