Saturday, 24 December 2011

And we have a winner!

I’ll be beta reading the first 3k words of…

Very Bad Things by Jon Bradburn

I’ll shoot you an email now.

And because it’s even closer to Christmassy Christmas now, I’ve chosen four other winners who I’ll read the first 500 words for too : )

Cordelia Dinsmore – Shelter Dogs

Ladonna Watkins – Sabre

Adam Sifre – I’ve been deader

Kip Rechea – The Girl Who Slept in the Poet’s Ear

Emails on the way to you four as well.

Thanks to everyone for taking part. It’s been fun! In fact, it’s been so much fun that I’m going to hold a query crit contest in January. I loves me a query. I’ll post details of that in the new year.

In the meantime have a Merry Christmas lovely blog readers.   

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Quick contest to say Merry Christmas!

The contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone for participating :) Winner(s) posted above!

In the Christmassy spirit of Christmas I thought I'd throw a little contest and offer to beta read the first 3,000 words of your manuscript. 

All you need to do to enter is write your name, the title and genre of your ms and your email address in the comments section. The contest will close at 7pm GMT 24th December when I'll pick a winner. I'll read the first 3k words and get them back to you in a week : ) 

1) This is for unagented writers.
Um, yeah, that's the only rule (see Christmassy Christmas spirit - I’m doing this to help.) It can be a finished ms, or a WiP.  

I'm not going to insist that you follow my blog to enter, though I'd love it if you did. I'm not going to insist you post it on your own blog to let other writers know or tweet this post either but I'd love it if you did :D 

Now here's a pic of something cute while you polish up your 3k words for me to get my hands on.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Happy and bittersweet birthdays

Tomorrow it's boy 3's birthday. And since what I gave him for his 3rd birthday was girl, it's also girl's birthday (don't worry, I got him other things that kids actually like too.)

This week I've been stockpiling dessicated coconut, pink sprinkles, magical edible gold dust stuff and mini-marshmallows. I even bought a piping bag for the icing, so let's not talk about how it might possibly maybe have been cheaper to buy a cake. Instead let's look at the pleasing result of a stupid amount of time used by me today.

Girl's girly coconut and raspberry cup cakes

Boy 3's chocolate cup cakes. As manly as a cup cake gets.

I sent my baby to bed tonight a two year old, and tomorrow she'll be three and I'll never have a two year old again.

Highlights of this year with her?
  • A few months ago she made up her first story while we were in the supermarket. 'A man had a peach, then he dropped the peach, then he got the peach back.' Beginning, middle, resolution. It's the perfect story. WHY CAN'T I DO THIS?
  • She accused her brothers of being miscreants. Gotta hand it to vocab like that.
  • I can't count the number of times she's smiled at me, kissed me, snuggled up to me, wanted me over all other people, called me her best friend and smashed my heart to bits with how much I love her.
  • She makes me laugh every day, and what she wants most for Christmas is butterfly wings and a pink screwdriver.
Why did I start this? Every day is a highlight!

Boy 3. Soon to be six whole years old. He writes me sweet notes to tell me he loves me and because he loves writing and because he gets self-conscious about saying it : )

He's thoughtful and sensitive and intense and fun. He's smart and beautiful.

Comedy photo-face.
So there you have it. Mother loves her children. Ground-breaking, right?

Friday, 9 December 2011

It's Christmas, I'm editing, and I read some good books. My head is busy, so welcome to a mish-mash post

I cleverly decided that having two of my children in December, and on the same day no less, was a really good idea, so you will more than likely be subjected to pictures of birthday cupcakes next week.

But for now, this book is great, but you probably already knew that: Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Read it now.

View all my reviews

Also, I read this book and I loved it for lots of reasons, but one of them is because it's British and I was, unbeknownst to myself, drowning in America/Canadian YA. There should be many more books where teenagers get pissed in the park amongst other things because there really aren't enough. I'm hoping to remedy this in part myself. Sometime soon. EntangledEntangled by Cat Clarke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, a book with pubs. British pubs. Go and buy it.

View all my reviews

As for me, I'm mid-way through the second revision clever Agent Julia and I have decided on. At the moment I am adding new material, which makes me happy but is also slower going than writing a first draft because I know the point in the old material that the new material needs to link up to. Weird. But who doesn't like a rising word count, right?

And just because I can, here's a pic of my advent calendar.

Old school non-chocolate picture calendar! Yes, I'm perfectly aware of how old I am.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

With great power comes great responsibility

Ok, maybe that's a teensy bit melodramatic, but still. Remember my lovely pink post-it note plot plan extraordinaire from last week? (still hidden in wardrobe due to covetous hands of small daughter.) Well it gave the girl-child ideas. Ideas that meant I had to hand over post-its and that involved some plotting two-year-old style.

Edgy YA? Possibly

Boy three was less show and more tell when he announced 'I want to write books like mom when I grow up'. So this week I am feeling somewhat proud that my kids want to be like me and somewhat aware of the responsibility of having kids in the first place (not that this is news to me. I've had kids a looooong time), and somewhat delighted/horrified that my agent, my awesome writer's circle (whose blogs you can find here, Amaleen Ison, here, J.D. Field, here Kristine Goodfellow and here Rebecca Hart) and hopefully swathes of random strangers are not going to be the only people that read my book. Mr S is going to read it! My KIDS are going to read it!

This makes me feel funny inside. How do you feel about other people reading your work?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

New book plots, almost-kisses and pink post-it notes

 Probably there are computer fairies out there who make magical software that could do wondrous things to help me manage the awesome-new-plot of my favourite-new-idea for a book. And it's not like I don't like my laptop. I do. We have a very close relationship. I just like A3 paper and pink post-it notes too. Actually, before today, I've done the initial vague plotting of a book on A3 with mere scribbles and then numbered the scribbles to make a scruffily written and largely confusing map for myself. So when you think about it, the post-its are really a big step up and pretty much a technological advancement. Here's the product of this morning's efforts. 

And no, you probably can't see it, but there's a pink post-it down there with 'almost-kiss' written on it with a smiley face next to it (I'm so professional) which I am very much looking forward to writing (smiley face will be removed from end product.) I loves me an almost-kiss far better than an actual one because once it's done, it's done an you've lost that delicious tension and you can never go back*

*Refer teenage self to this point if time travel ever becomes possible.

Ok, that's quite enough silliness for today, but I'm still impressed with myself even if this seems naff to everybody else because I actually have SEVERAL post-its on the bottom piece of paper, which is the end of exciting-new-book. And what's more, they have things other than 'some...stuff happens, and the mc learns...something' on them. I may have to reward my fledgling plotting efforts with wine because future self is maybeprobably going to thank me for this when I have a finished book that has A PLOT.

So who's been plotting this week? How do you lovely people do it? Or maybe you prefer not to? Answers on a pink post-it please.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

I'm sorry I stole the cat's identity

As part of my whole recently closetless existence, I joined Twitter. Anybody else using it? I'm @RuthLSteven if you are.

Using Twitter (love it by the way) put a question in my head. If I'm going to use my real name, how much of it should I use? Ruth Steven was taken (by who, I demand to know. Who the hell is called Ruth Steven?) Anyway, so I had to go with Ruth L Steven or Ruth Steven 20 (seriously, there's 20 of us?) and I got to thinking.

Awesome-new-YA-book by Ruth Steven


Awesome-new-YA-book by Ruth Lauren Steven

It never occurred to me before because I NEVER use this name in my every day life, the reason being that Lauren is my sister's name. I know, I know, what the hell's wrong with my parents? I don't know. It was the 70s.

But I thought about it, and guessed my sister wouldn't mind if I use it for my writing - after all, it is on my birth certificate.

Oh, and after I guessed, I did ask her, and she doesn't mind at all, which is more than I can say for the cat. He wasn't consulted at all (bear with me, this does make sense.)

Last year, after I'd written my first novel, I joined a writer's site. I may or may not have had a glass of wine in my hand while I did this. When I was asked to create a username, I balked at typing my actual name and cast my eyes quickly around the room. My cat looked back at me (in that vaguely contemptuous way that they do), and I typed 'Casper' into the writing site.

Now, as per my last post, I am out of the closet and owning up to my scribblings.

So the cat gets his name back, and I'm left with Ruth Steven or Ruth Lauren Steven. A friend suggested that I go with initials - R.L. Steven, but I like my name better than initials. I want it emblazoned on the front cover of my book - preferably with mini-fireworks and neon lights attached to each copy :D Thoughts?

Just searched for a pic of Casper, but can't find one (note to self: scan old photos) so here's something slightly related but cuter :)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

What's in a name? Coming out of the writing closet

I'm a private kind of person. Like borderline secretive and downright reticent. I don't like people watching me do things; I'd rather be a bit more confident in what I'm doing before I share it with anyone else.

So when I started writing I didn't mention it to anyone. I'd written 40,000 words of my first novel before I told my husband, and even then I guarded my words closely. He still hasn't read ANYTHING I've written (though to be fair, I'm doing him a favour with novel#1 :D)

I've been slowly coming out of the writing closet for a couple of months now, and part of that is losing the anonymity that I'd been using like a kid with a comfort blanket (the small pink creature holding the small pink creature in the pic to your right made me think of that!)

So I've changed the name of my blog to my name. And I'm Tweeting with that name too. And I like it!

How am I going to feel if/when my book is published, and anyone anywhere can see all of the words I wrote and see my story, all new and naked?

I'm going to feel like this :)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Editing with the help of fondant fancies

a little bit like this

So since the phone call that allowed me to write the post I have an agent! and made me feel:
and then a bit like this
I've been mostly engaged in some serious face time with this...

...making some fairly big revisions to my ms. As in, writing out one POV and changing the storyline type of fairly big.

And it's making my ms a more focused story that's just all-round betterer and something I really should have thought of myself in the first place. I can't believe how much I've learned in just the couple of weeks I've been re-working the story. Something Julia (my agent. Yes, you might get tired of me saying that. No, I'm not going to stop :D ) said really resonated with me. Actually, everything she said about my story resonated with me and let me know I'd done the right thing in sending my query to her, but I'm talking about one thing in particular. She said 'a story is a very simple thing'.

My story was not a very simple thing. It was a thing that twisted in the middle and in the end it had become something other than what I set out to do. In the second half, I'd let another idea take over. In straightening this story out, I've been able to see more clearly what I need to do with novel #3 (which is fizzing and unfolding in my head at the moment.)

This weekend I'm taking a break from editing and revising. I was supposed to be taking a mini-break from writing anything, but that proved to be a little difficult. This morning I made a document called Tunguska, typed Chapter 1 on it (I love doing that - it's made me grin like a fool all three times I've done it) and wrote the first paragraph. Now I need to think through a bit more of the story and write a query-like letter. I know I won't be using it as a query, but I found it really useful with novel #2 to write it before hand, even though the book did change in the end. Once I've got the main storyline focused, I'm going make a proper start on it - after this round of the edits on #2 are finished. Excited!

I love learning new things, especially about writing and about myself and what I can make words do. Tell me about something you've learned about yourself or your writing in the last few weeks. It could be something someone else has told you, or it could be something you realised on your own. Like how the consumption of fondant fancies has a direct corollary to the quality and quantity of your word count.

Don't believe me? Try it :D

Friday, 23 September 2011

On My First Publication or Why I Go About Things in a Backwards Fashion

It might seem as though I've done nothing but read and review lately, and although it's true that I've read A LOT since the lovely Mr S bought me a Kindle (did I mention I got a Kindle? Did I mention I love it? Thought so :D ), I haven't been neglecting my writing.

I've ventured - much to the amusement of some of my friends, I swore I'd never do it - into the realms of short stories. To be exact, third person, historical, and, of all things, horror. I've taken much the same approach to writing as I did to birthday cakes (bear with me.) Until three years ago, I'd never made a cake in my life. I'd actually gone to great lengths to avoid baking or cooking of all but the most rudimentary and basic you-must-cook-now-or-starve type. But one day I decided that no more would my children have shop bought birthday cakes. No, they deserved better. They deserved cakes that weren't mere cakes, but creations. And so, the first cake I ever made looked like this:

And I, after hours of wrangling chocolate frosting, and maybe eating a small, reasonable (read: I felt sick afterwards) amount, looked smug. My mother decided that this was more evidence, as if she needed any, of my perverse nature. I couldn't just start with a jam sponge?

No, I could not.

I started writing about eighteen months ago. With a first person, urban fantasy YA novel. I wrote a second novel this year, and then, in the last couple of weeks, decided that maybe I might just get around to possibly attempting a short story. The result was a third person historical that is currently out on submission. After that I don't know why I even bothered to resist the inevitable. I had to write a flash piece. It's in my backwards nature.

Granted, it was NOT my idea - that honour goes to the lovely Amaleen Ison, but my protests were futile. I was fighting actual DNA. So I wrote my first piece of flash, subbed it, and an hour later, sat smiling at my first acceptance email.

'The Hunter' will be published by Pill Hill Press in Daily Frights 2012: 366 Days of Frightening Flash Fiction. The anthology should be available in November. It's not so bad, this going about things in a backwards fashion.

I've still never made a jam sponge though :D

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Giveaway I couldn't resist. I mean, it's books, c'mon.

Book reviewer Holly is having a rather tempting giveaway over on her blog where you can choose any two books you like from The Book Depository. And it's international!

Here's the link to her blog:

If you win, you get books, if you don't, you get book reviews. What's not to like?

Saturday, 16 July 2011


I swear you could type in and you'd be directed to Amazon. Whoever designed Amazon is a genius. (I'll be back shortly. When I typed what I thought was a fictional web address in just above, it went all hyper-link on me and now I'm intrigued. And slightly worried. Ok, I'm back. It was just a list of links to other websites where you can buys cars and computers and whatnot. Now I'm relieved. And slightly disappointed.)

The second I log in to my Amazon account special magic happens. Now I know I'm apt to use the term magic quite often and quite loosely to cover all of the things in the world that I don't understand. Like aeroplanes, which are far too big and heavy to fly and seem to do so just because they want to if you ask me. And TV because, well just because I have no idea at all. Even when it's explained to me. In fact especially when it's explained to me. And basically all of technology. Let's just say I get how a water mill works and anything after that is sketchy.

Anyway, back to the point. Actual magic occurs when I go to Amazon because IT KNOWS WHAT I WANT. It has spent time, while I was away doing other mundane things, compiling a special list of all the books I've always needed (and some I didn't even know I needed but now realise that I really do), and is displaying them in neat rows for me to view in all their glory. Headings like 'New for you' and 'Inspired by your wishlist'  sit atop these rows of tempatation.

Ruth, (it knows my name. It likes to use it. It knows I'll buy more because it personalised this whole experience just for me) would you like the latest series of House? Yes. Yes, I would. Thanks for suggesting it Amazon.

Ruth, you really love your shiny new kindle, don't you? Wouldn't you like a lovely new cover for it? Doesn't it deserve one? Yes. Yes, it does. You're right Amazon. You're always right.

Now Amazon has me in its grasp, it's not letting go. It brings out the big guns:    

One click buying (Sub-text: Don't look at the price. Don't even think about it. None of that matters. It's so easy. You want it. Just do it!)

I'm helpless. Even though I know Amazon loves you just as much as it loves me. I know it knows your name too. I know it's spent time compiling a special list of all the things you need and yes, I know it gives you one click. But I can't help it. The hooks are in too deep. I've been tempted and I've given in.

But it's nice. And my kindle deserves it, right? I mean Amazon said so, so it has to be right. Come on, admit it - who's received an Amazon package in the last two weeks, or is expecting one right now? What did you get? :D

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Kindle, I heart you a lot

I tagged this post Kindle, birthday, anniversary, cake - so you can tell it's about all kinds of lovliness before I even start :D This week it's been boy number two's 10th birthday. I didn't have a great deal of time to make the cake this year (enter lego) but said child was happy. I found candles that employ some sort of magic to make the flames different colours as well, so it was smiles all round when I produced this:

Three days later it was my birthday. As I ran through the living room in my usual I-now-have-minus-four-minutes-to-leave-the-house-and-not-be-late-for-work frenzy, I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of a sleek black package tied with black ribbon. A card with my name on it sat on top. I didn't have time to open it but it lured me anway, enticing me to reach out tentative fingers and actually shake the package. I couldn't resist. It was my birthday after all, and if I was late surely the kids in my class could amuse themselves for a short while - I mean most of them are six now, right? Reason went out of the window and it became of national importance to find out what was under the thick black paper.

I may have emitted a small squeak when I pulled out a plain brown box with Kindle written on it. I may have scrabbled at the aforementioned box in desperation to get to my new toy. I may even have let out an I-just saw-my-first-firework sigh. And there I stood, holding this in my hands:

So sleek, sooooo pretty, soooooooooooo against everything I thought I believed in when it comes to books. I distinctly remember a post-grad student taking one of my seminars when I was an undergraduate (circa '97, yes, I'm that old. Moving swiftly on.) We'd been reading The Name of the Rose - an excellent and rather lengthy tome by Umberto Eco. Post-grad boy assured us that e-books were the way of the future and that there would soon be no need for my oversized backpack carrying no less than two Norton Anthologies. I was affronted. I think (read know) that I actually clutched The Name of the Rose to my chest. How dare he? The very idea of it was sacrilege and the post-grad student should possibly die for daring to utter such blasphemy.

Yet there I stood in my living room, carefully peeling the protective film off my new baby.

Don't get me wrong, I own a lot of books. I have no intention of parting with them (try and take them from me at your own peril.) This is less than a third of the collection in my house:

I love books. I mean I reeaallllyyyy love books.

But my new Kindle? The tiny device that will let me own vast quantities of literature? I marvelled at the screen - the one that looks like paper. I downloaded two books in seconds. I fiddled with facebook on it. I commented to my ever-patient husband 'Look, look, it plays music too! And I can ask it to read to me!' I browsed the huge library of free classics. I even appreciated the new Kindle smell (it really does have one, I'm not making that up.) Yes, I heart my Kindle.

Two days after my birthday (today!) it's my twelfth wedding anniversary. Cake, birthday, Kindle, anniversary.

So how's your week been? :)

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Mini-post for a competition!

See the little button to your right? Yeah, the yellow one that looks like a post-it. My friend Joe is hosting a competition: review a book in 30 words or less to win a 30 dollar Amazon voucher!

(See how I'm practicing brevity with this post? Clever.)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Book Blogger Hop

How is it making me feel that I'm posting on a Sunday and not a Tuesday, you ask? I haven't even thought about it, I say. Because if I had it might reveal a bit of crazy. Good job I'm the well-adjusted sort and, like I said, have not even thought about it.

Reason for post? I saw this on Joe's blog and shamelessly stole it :D because it's a cool idea. Click on the logo and it takes you to a magical place where you can connect with other book bloggers.

                        Book Blogger Hop

This week's question is 'How many books are currently on your to-be-read (TBR) pile?'

My answer? A modest and tidy eleven. I was a voracious reader when I was a kid, but now I have to split my time between my own children, work, writing and real life activities, I've slowed in my reading to an embarassing pace.

Here's some of what's coming up for me:


Can't wait!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


I first learned about Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance from an English teacher by the name of Mrs Blakemore when I was fifteen years old. She was the kind of teacher that likes to go off on a tangent. Once, she climbed up on a chair to stamp on it whilst reciting poetry (the Western Wind was Wild.) She was the reason I took English at A-level.

She used to like to talk about our teenage years. How the 'popular' girls in school wouldn't be quite so popular once we were all adults. 'Soon ripe, soon rotten' was how she described this, and my husband and I (we were in the same class) still use the phrase now that he's an English teacher. Why she chose to tell us about Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance has become a little fuzzy in my mind. Maybe she was explaining how our minds could help us overcome those calamitous events that happened on a daily basis simply because we were fifteen.

Whatever the reason, it really struck a chord with me, and I've never forgotten the theory or ever had cause to question that it is completely accurate.

Here's the magic of Wikipedia to tell you everything you need to know about Festinger without you having to really use your brain (Wikipedia, how I do love thee.)

I've often thought about this theory over the years, and it's even more relevant now that I collect rejection emails from agents like they're faberge eggs. If you're too lazy to click on the link, here's what it means.

You get a request for a partial. You squeak and do the happy dance (in your head, because you're at work and it turns out they don't appreciate you checking how your dreams are doing while you're on the clock.) You wait patiently (you check your emails forty three times before lunch.) You receive a thanks, but no thanks. But you've become so adept at consciously applying Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance (despite the fact that it doesn't need to be conscious) that what you think is: My first book wasn't good enough anyway; what I really want is my far-superior second book published.

And that's the theory of cognitive dissonance applied to the process of trying to be a published writer.

Now because you've sat nicely and done your learning for today, here's the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens. It looks freakin awesome and I can't wait to go and see it. I'm so excited I may have to blog about going to the cinema next week (I LOVE going there.)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Writing Buddy. If you don't have one, get one!

Whenever I think about the issue of getting or having a writing buddy, I hear this in my head:

View more

Tom Hanks Sound Clips

Toy Story Sound Clips

No, I had no idea why I kept hearing it while I was thinking about writing this post. Maybe it was because I've seen the film countless times thanks to my children's ability to watch Toy Story on a seemingly endless loop until surrounding adults know the entire script. Maybe it was because us English folk don't usually use the word buddy and my mind had linked the two. Maybe there's something slightly wrong with me, or maybe I just agree with Woody's sentiment.

In April it was a year since I first started writing. This month it's a year since I joined my first online writing community
They were the first people to have to think of something tactful to say about my writing.

One of the first crits I did was on Chapter 1 of Red Lorry's novel 'Soul Reunion'. My tentative post was shot down with this comment:

Doesn't anybody read the previous comments??

Being new to the site, and the well-mannered and lovely person that I am, I responded with what little dignity I had left to muster.

Yes, I do. I could have said that I agreed with the other posters. I chose instead to make my point by highlighting the parts I thought were telling rather than showing in blue.

(Ok, so maybe I was a little snippy.)

How is that helpful? came back as reply. I had obviously mortally offended one of the other people critting on my newly found writer's site. What to do? Get on my British high horse, that's what.

If it isn't helpful to Red Lorry, she is welcome, as is anybody else here, to politely ignore my offerings.

Not to be deterred, my new enemy thought that they would expand further on just how and why I was so misguided.

I guess I just found it annoying after spending 45 min of my precious free time carefully going through it just to have it repeated. Sorry, I don't mean to argue, guess I'm feeling snarky today! Cheers.

The stiff upper lip came out, and I graciously decided that the opposition had capitulated.

No problem, apology accepted.

After that she started critiquing what I posted. Everytime I put something up, she'd go through it, always offering advice that made sense to me, and always encouraging my efforts. When I suggested that we swap and critique each others novels, she agreed (actually, I think I might have used the word 'super' and she might have said 'you Brits crack me up'.)

Within a few weeks I'd joined and persuaded her to come with me. We'd critiqued every word, line and comma of each other's first novels and we were messaging each other every day.

She read more versions of my first query than can reasonably be expected of any human being, and even professed to enjoy it. We hashed out ideas for our respective second novels and we're now in the process of writing them. She reads every chapter I write before I post it on Scrib (Yes I'm sure I have a degree in English, no I have no idea how those commas got where they were, they must be conspiring against me.)

In short, I can't function as a writer without her.

Those on Writer's Beat know her as EmmChris. If you're on Scrib, you'll probably know her as Ramona. I'm told she has a real name, but I don't use it. She's my writing buddy, and the reason that I'm telling you: If you don't have one, get one!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sabbatical (no, not from writing - from the other stuff that gets in the way of it!)

Those who can't do teach, right? A dubious saying at best, but still one that made me wonder what that would make me come September.

Yep, I'm a teacher. If you'll be so good as to look to the right of the screen, you'll see the small, pink reason that I've been working part-time for the last couple of years. Long story short (insert cut-scenes of me tearing around making terrible packed lunches for various children, wincing at the speed I'm forcing my car to in order to get to work on time, organising endless childcare, shoving way too much washing into an already groaning and overloaded washing machine, NEVER eating breakfast, ALWAYS being tired, and so on and so forth), I'm not renewing my contract with the school I work at when it runs out in August.

Yes, that's right - I'm going to try my hand a being a starving artist type. And that's actually how I'm going to describe my occupation. Other people in my situation might choose stay-at-home mom. I'm listing that as my second job, since it's one I'm pretty practised at. I approach a nappy change like Jenson Button's pit stop crew and I'm pretty sure I can beat their time.

Am I sorry that my career is going on a little hiatus? Nope. I couldn't be more thrilled to be staying at home for the Autumn term. Is it because I get to spend all day with said small, pink person (and take part in NANO this year)? Yes, it is. Is it because I can take my boys to school every day and pick them up every day like my mom always did for me (and write or edit my WiP every day)? Yes, it is. Is it because I plan on taking my girl to Tumble Tots classes and Rhythm Time music classes, and baking, painting and gardening with her (and researching agents and editing and re-writing my query a zillion time)? Why yes. Yes, it is : )

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A useful list of UK agents that accept YA novels

This week I thought I'd share the list of agents that I queried with my first YA novel, Fait Accompli. If you've read my first blog post, you'll know that I had three requests for partials - one from a UK agent, and two from US agents. During the time I was waiting for a response, I started my second novel, and had a major rethink about Fait Accompli.

The major rethink involved realising this: I'm a teacher, and sometimes, to help teach children to write stories of their own, we help them to re-tell other people's stories. So Owl Babies becomes Fox Babies. You get the picture. Anyway, it was time to admit that I'd completed an (only slightly) more sophisticated version of this practice myself. Fait Accompli officially became my training bra novel.

I received three very polite, and very expected rejections, one of which had me grinning all day. The agent in question (from the UK) wrote exactly what I'd already concluded about FA. Here's the message I got:

Dear Ruth,

I must apologise for not having written to you sooner and leaving you without a decision.

Thank you very much for sending me a sample of your work which I have now been able to read and consider. While I enjoyed it, I am afraid that I will not be asking to see any more. Although I thought it well-written and liked the narrative voice, I’m afraid I do not feel the plot stands out sufficiently. The YA market is currently saturated with the paranormal romance genre, and I feel that publishers are now looking for more original plots.

But thanks again for letting me see your work and good luck with finding representation. I attach a list of agents you may wish to try, and would be interested to see anything else you write in the future.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Why am I grinning? Because I believe in the plot of my new novel. And because this agent invited me to send her another query when it's ready : )

Of course, she's now at the top of my agents-I'll-be-contacting-as-soon-as-the-WiP-is-finished list. So I thought I'd share the list with you.

These are the UK agents I chose, not in any particular order. They all accept YA novels, they all have websites, and they all accept query via e-mail.

Eve White
Eunice McMullen
Christopher Little
Caroline Sheldon
Annette Green
MBA (Sophie Gorell Barnes)
Wade and Doherty
Isabel White
Lucy Luck
Diane Banks
Antony Harwood (Jo Williamson)
Andrew Mann (Tina Betts)
Mariam Keen – Whispering Buffalo
Kirsty McLachlan at DGA
Claire Wilson at RCW
 Lauren Pearson at Regal Literary
 Futerman Rose
Anne-Marie Doulton at The Ampersand Agency
Ariella Feiner at United Agents
Laura Cecil

So there you have it. Hope this is helpful as a starting point for some research when you're ready to query :)


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

No ifs, ands or buts about it

Do you really care if I start sentences with words like 'and'? Because I'm going to (see what I did there?)

I wrote Fait Accompli however it occurred to me to do it. Before I joined Scrib and learned about the hitherto unknown passive sentence, or the evil that is (hushed whisper) an adverb. Before I fully understood that the full stop goes inside the speech mark when you're writing dialogue. Yes, I know I have an English degree. No, apparently I never picked that up. Yes, I know how stupid that makes me look.

Then I joined Scrib and a whole new understanding of the depth and breadth of my lack of understanding revealed itself to me. I spent twice as long editing FA as I did writing it. 70k words became 58k as I cut redundancy, re-worded passive sentences and waged war on adverbs.

So when I started work on Write Your Name, I was a little better educated. I knew that each speaker's dialogue needed to be 'attached' to their actions. I knew about tags and beats. Paragraphing is still somewhat haphazard, and commas may never be my friend, but, moving swiftly on, I felt like I could attempt to produce something half decent. However, somewhere during the process, I also started to analyse everything I read. Not in the way that I did when I was at University. Not from a lit crit angle. From a I'm-picking-apart-every-sentence-you-write-to-see-how-you-do-it kind of angle.

And I expected to see little to no evidence of 'weak' verbs. None of those adverbs I'd been warned would be the ruination of my lovely writing, and could be deleted if I just chose a stronger verb. No run-on sentences, no passive writing.

I expected not to see full stops after speech marks. Ok, I got that last one. Nobody does that. Seriously, not even six year olds.

BUT (yes, I started a sentence with it, and there's nothing you can do about it - it's my blog!) the books I scrutinised all used the word (shield your eyes if you must) was. I was reading Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong when I first started really looking at what published authors used or didn't use, and let me tell you, Mr Faulks didn't seem adverse. I'm currently reading the second in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Linger) because I'm on a massive YA kick since last year. She doesn't seem overly bothered either.

Now I know that I'm not in the same league as those authors. I know that in my pre-published state (isn't that a nice way of putting it : ) ) I shouldn't pick and choose which writing 'rules' I flaut. But is it really so terrible if, in telling my new story the way I want to tell it, I use the word was? Can I really not start a sentence with but, or and? When you write, should you worry about rules? (dear God, I just slipped into second person. Am I going to writer hell?) How do you decide?  

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Plotter or Pantser?

This month it's my first birthday as a writer. I started Fait Accompli in April 2010, so I'm pretty much a toddler now, blundering around the internet learning things that everybody else knew already. Before I started writing novel #2, the WiP, aka Write Your Name, I decided that I needed to be more organised about writing. I needed a plan, I needed lists (I'm a compulsive list maker), I needed to plot my novel from start to finish. And when this grand master plan (probably colour-coded; I'm a compulsive colour-coder) was complete, then, and only then, could I begin Chapter 1, safe in the knowledge that I was completely in control (also a control-freak.)

Cue complete change in plot circa Chapter 3. We're talking the actual genre of the book type change. We're talking an additional POV character. Now I love the new direction this story is taking, don't get me wrong. My new plot makes me beyond excited. But I am, in life, a plotter (not the devious kind, well, not much.) I think ahead, I make lists, I'm organised. Spontaneous? Not so much. Surprises? No thanks. But when it comes to writing, I'm beginning to think that I'm a pantser hiding in plotter's clothing.

The farthest ahead I've managed to 'plot' so far is three chapters. But that's not really plotting is it. It's not fully pantsing either. So what am I? A plontser? A plantter? How far ahead do you plan your writing? 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

(Mis)adventures with querying

There I am. Standing in the library at my son's school. It's parent's evening, and yes, I'm very interested in his academic progress. I'm also having trouble dragging my eyes away from a book on the shelf. It's by Diana Wynne-Jones, and her agent has just requested a partial on my first novel. I can't wipe the stupid grin off my face (though I really should. My son hasn't been particularly devoted to his studies.) There's something cool about the fact that this book and I are linked (albeit in a spectacularly tenuous way.) An agent, a real live agent, is reading my work!

So now I have two partials out there, floating around in the magical arena inhabited by agents (otherwise known as London and New York.) And even if they both turn me down, I'll still be grinning like an idiot, sending out another batch of queries, and working on the new love of my life (otherwise known as the WiP.)