Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

My Book News & Advocate for the Writing Community ©

Be Brave…

August 26, 2010
mandyevebarnett


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With eight months of editing and revising behind me, I made the decision to be brave and actually send my novel out into the big wide world. Now that is scary. It’s one thing having friends and family saying your story is great but a whole other thing to let a publishing company look at it.

My first problem – how was I going to find a publisher that would be interested in this particular genre? By searching the internet you can have reams of publishing house names appear but it takes a long time to refine that search into different genre’s and find a particular fit. My novel comes into a fairly new genre – speculative fiction as it is neither sci-fi nor fantasy but is set in an alternative future. Now you can see my difficulty? With several weeks of research I settled on three possibilities. Two accepted email submissions and one snail mail so after making sure they did not require exclusivity, I took a deep breath and let ‘Life in Slake Patch’ free. Now it is a waiting game.

Who would have thought – especially me – that in less than 2 years from joining the WFSC, I would not only write a novel but send it out for publication? I have come a long way with my writing in a very short time and it is due, in a very large part, to the incredible support and friendship given to me by the members of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. No matter what happens I will continue to enjoy my writing and this fellowship.

What Next…?

August 26, 2010
mandyevebarnett


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With my NaNoWriMo experience behind me, with its 30 days of frantic typing anywhere and anytime, I was suddenly at a loss. The answer to my ‘What do I do next?’ was a resounding ‘Make it into a novel,’ by my friends, family and writers group.

So then I had to face another unknown, namely the editing and revising of said volume of work to turn it into a ‘proper’ manuscript. Strange as this may seem, I think this task was harder to accomplish than actually writing the story, which had literally flowed from my mind into my finger tips. I suppose I could have just left the story but my friends were so enthused by the tale and so supportive, it was certainly worth the effort.

For the next eight months my fellow noveller’s and I met once a month. We would then swap chapters to be read, revised and edited of our own work and each others. Having a fresh perspective and suggestions, helped a great deal to formulate my manuscript. I began to learn the art’s of dialogue, showing not telling and story arc’s, all of which will be on-going projects.

The one suggestion that did have me stumped though was – what if a publisher wants you to ‘finish’ the story? It is thought better to have resolution at the end of a book, unless I was going to write a sequel – that was definitely not happening! So I had to work out what paths my characters could take and came up with three possibilities. Once I had settled on my preferred ending, I revised the penultimate chapter and wrote a new one.

During these ‘editing’ filled months, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to meet an author on a one-on-one basis. This was organized through my group’s annual conference. This very personable lady was enthusiastic about my story inspiration and very open with her expertise. I have kept her amendments as a guide and will follow up on her promise to read the ‘finished’ manuscript.

With the intense work the revisions took, I nearly missed an opportunity as a NaNoWriMo winner. It was by pure chance I remembered one of the winner’s perks was to have a proof copy printed. I submitted my request just before the deadline but after a couple of errors and subsequent submissions, I thought I had missed this great opportunity. Luckily for me the company involved; Create Space; were kind enough to send my proof copy anyway. I was absolutely ecstatic to receive a copy of my book in the mail. To hold a ‘proper’ book that you have written is almost beyond words. It is also the tantalizing talisman that keeps me on my path to publishing.

Trial by Fire…

August 26, 2010
mandyevebarnett


As I set up my account on the NaNoWriMo site, the enormity of my task hit. What was I thinking? How, on earth, was I going to achieve fifty thousand words in just one month? Was I deluding myself? My alter ego answered – Don’t sabotage yourself even before you start – see how it goes.

When I passed the five thousand mark, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment – it was the most I had ever written – a milestone for me. As I became infatuated with this project, I could be found typing furiously all over the place, at my son’s soccer practice and games, at my daughter’s gymnastics or reptile meetings. I became oblivious to the strange looks I received, too focused on transcribing the words that popped into my head.

As I reached fifteen thousand words, the story seemed to find a mind of its own as though I was the vessel it was channeling through. I had no idea where the story was going – I hoped it would read well once finished. My obsession became clear when I was squeezing in a couple of paragraphs between starting the evening meal and serving it and in my lunch break – it did make me rather anti social! As the days and weeks passed the story flowed and although I had no idea where it was heading or how it would end – it was really cool – an undiscovered journey inside my subconscious.

After spending three hours typing furiously; one evening; trying to break the twenty two thousand mark I eventually got there but disaster struck. I hit save and closed the lid, but wait what did I see? Going back into my document I saw the damn thing hadn’t done its automatic 3 minute save all night and the save button hadn’t worked! All my words gone forever, I felt physically sick. My husband tried all sorts of clever electronic tricks to try and get it back but to no avail. I had to start again. It was a real low point in my NaNo challenge, I can tell you.

Determined not to be beaten by technology, I pressed on and finished the following evening with 26592 words. At this point the story was flowing nicely and seemed to be taking over. I hadn’t planned a plot or truly understood where the tale would lead. To be honest it was much more fun, letting the characters take hold of the story.

I received an email invitation to meet fellow NaNo writers at a local restaurant. The opportunity to meet and ‘see’ other mad individuals was great. We had a quick bite to eat then from 5pm – 8pm it was almost constant writing – no kids, no husband, and no interruptions – absolute bliss. At the end of the evening I had managed 1108 words taking my grand total up to 31,161. To have past the 30K mark made me very happy. With an evening at a friend’s house planned, the following day, I knew I could get another ‘chunk’ done.

The story seemed to be flowing directly from my main character and he surprised me all the time – it was so cool. Having the time limit had focused me and I was enjoying it – no really I was!. With only six days left I had 41287 words at 7.15pm. I could see I would have to really push myself to reach the target – working around household and family commitments and all that jazz wasn’t helping. My characters input was also slowing down, at that point, which meant panic was creeping in. This resulted in ‘blank page’ syndrome at the 46001 word mark – my cure? I walked the dog in the dark – torch in hand – I came back chilled but with a refreshed brain and the next chapter came to me.

Success came at 10.44pm with a 50,323 word count the night before the deadline. The story had a cliff hanger ending – let my readers make up their own conclusion. I read through the whole thing the following morning before submitting it. Printing off my winner’s certificate felt so good. It has pride of place hung beside my writing desk.

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A Challenge…

August 20, 2010
mandyevebarnett


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My confidence has slowly grown with each circle meeting that I have attended and piece of writing, I have compiled. The generous encouragement and support of my fellow circle members is helping me on my journey to learn the ‘skill’ of writing.

Attendance at my first ‘workshop’ evening was a real eye opener. A theme was chosen by the hostess and writing ‘exercises’ were timed. The challenge of writing within a designated amount of time was thrilling. I found a deadline really focused my thought processes. Another delight was to hear the variety of answers that came from the same assignment. Each writer interpreted the prompt differently and in their own unique way. As I enjoyed these exercises so much, I began searching the internet for word and picture prompts, which has lead me to several great sites. With the creation of my own blog on the circle’s web site, I started posting small pieces of prose and the occasional poem. The responding comments have helped me improve and sometimes restructure a piece – my own virtual class room.

Daringly I decided to post on a couple of sites to see if I was good enough to be ‘published’. To my surprise and delight I succeeded – a happy dance ensued for each piece accepted. Now I am braver and post on several sites on a regular basis. Some are voted upon and others are reviewed – both types of response give me valuable feed back.

Then I was given a real challenge by a writing circle friend. “Why don’t you enter the NaNoWriMo?” At that time I had never heard of this contest so listened with growing trepidation as she outlined the premise – fifty thousand words or more written within the month of November. Well, up until that moment the most I had written was a couple of hundred words! Was she serious? As it turned out she was – and would join me in this quest. At the time I was just stunned – how on earth could anyone do such a thing? I had to work, parent children, keep a household – I didn’t have the time. However, I logged into the NaNo site and read several participants stories. One, in particular ‘hit home’ – a young army recruit in Afghanistan, who wrote after her day’s maneuvers. If she could complete a NaNo, I had no excuse! So I signed up for NaNo 2009. It was certainly a challenge, an adventure into my imagination and ending in a surprising result.

Discovering a Passion…

August 17, 2010
mandyevebarnett


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When my family and I, moved from our small English village to a large Canadian city, it was most certainly a shock to the system. We were used to bird song, baa’ing sheep and the wind in the trees not constant sirens and traffic noise. Adjusting took time but we adapted to life within covered malls, wide streets and enormous vehicles. Until we found a treed acreage and peace and quiet again, away from the city.

It was here, in this smaller town, that I happened to find a writing group and my life as a writer began. I went to my first meeting with feelings of trepidation of the unknown, only to find a very warm, friendly welcome. I was embraced by the members and in a very short time, I have forged friendships amongst this group that I count myself lucky to have.

With gentle encouragement, I read my first piece and managed to complete the whole thing even though my heart was racing and my face was puce. The monthly newsletter was a source of inspiration, as it set  word challenge’s and I plunged in with both feet. This sparked a fascination for word and picture prompts, which I still enjoy immensely. Now as secretary of the group, I set weekly prompts every Saturday on the group’s web site. To give you a taster, this piece came from the words : Clock, Certainty & Fire.

  Firelight flickered on the walls and ceiling as Joan sat with a glass of her favorite red wine. Watching the flames lick the logs and send little sprays of ash and sparks upward, she tried to calm her mind. It was a certainty that Thomas would be angry with her once he knew of her accident.

  The clock ticked as its hands made their gradual path towards 9 o’clock and the inevitable argument. Joan had tried to cover up the dented fender with a casually placed cloth but Thomas would immediately know something was wrong as she had parked in his place in the garage. Such a creature of habit, her husband, he had rules and very particular likes and dislikes. His routine had to be strictly adhered to or there was hell to pay. She knew he would go over the top with his recriminations and probably ban her from driving for months.

  The clock struck nine and she heard the garage door open as Thomas drove up to it. Straining her ears she heard his car drive forward and then shriek to a halt. His place was taken up by her car, now he would be mad. A slam of the driver’s door told her he was walking through to the kitchen and she could feel his presence enter the lounge.

  She squeezed the trigger slowly as the instructor had told her and Thomas’ face flew apart. No more shouting, no more rules, no more living in fear. Watching Thomas’ foot twitch as the life left him gave her a rare feeling of joy. No more tormentor.

I know my development as a writer has only just begun – it is a mere, one year and three months old, to be exact – but I am willing to work at this all consuming passion. I feel blessed to have such a wonderful supportive group, whose encouragement knows no bounds.

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