Saturday, April 30, 2016


It's May! The air smells fresh, public holidays are coming, and there's a layer of possibility springing out from the blooming flowers.

OK, so in reality it's actually either pouring hard or there's snow on the ground depending on where you are in the world, but hey, we're starting this month full of positivity. And so should you!

But wow! Where has the year gone? We hope you're enjoying all the fantastic info we're posting on the site, and you know that you can hit us up with any questions not only in the blog comments, but also via Twitter anytime. We love to hear your feedback, so don't be shy!

May is a great month. For one, it means Pitch Wars is gearing up behind the scenes. Mother Brenda is running some workshops on her blog and this year's mentors are being gradually announced.

And we have a fab month of blogging coming up for you too. It's YA month, so expect a wealth of juicy, delicious bites from some gorgeous mentors to help you hone your YA novel.

But to make a positive start to this sunnier time, we have our giveaway. And it's pretty darn special, if we might say so ourselves. Are you ready? Below you'll see all the prizes on offer. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment here with the following:

Your name
Your Twitter handle
The category and genre of your WIP (so if you win we can match you up with the best mentor)

And then go tweet the following to the world:

I just entered the @WWTMentor MASSIVE MAY MENTOR #GIVEAWAY! You should do the same! #PitchWars

Yes, that's it! If you don't have a Twitter account, don't panic, just leave a gushing comment below and that will guarantee your entry.

So, here's the list of prizes on offer...

1. Kim Long: a three-chapter (max 30 pages) critique, preferably MG or YA

2. Katie Bucklein: a query critique

3. Sharon Johnston: e-book of Divided

4. Kes Trester: a 3-pass query critique

5. Julie Dao: a query critique

6. K.T. Hanna: a first chapter (or 10 pages) critique

7. K.T. Hanna: e-book of Chameleon

8. Molly Lee: a paperback of Edge of Chaos (US only)

9. Michael Mammy: ten page critique preferably SF/F/Thriller/Mystery

10. Kara Leigh Miller: first chapter critique preferably romance

11. Kara Leigh Miller: e-book of Dangerous Love

12. Lynnette Labelle: 3-pass query critique YA, NA, or adult

13. Fiona McLaren: a synopsis and first chapter critique

14. Samantha Joyce: ebook of Flirting with Fame (US only) as well as a swag pack (US/CANADA)

15. Juliana Brandt: a query and first chapter critique

16. Kelly Siskind: e-book of Chasing Crazy

17. Kelly Siskind: e-book of My Perfect Mistake

18. Michelle Hauck: a query critique

19. Trisha Leaver: a three chapter critique (up to 30 pages)

20. Alexandra Alessandri: a first 10 pages critique (MG/YA)

21. Kendra Young: a 10 page critique

22. Marty Mayberry: a 10 page critique 

23. Rachel Lynn Solomon: a query critique

24. Kelly Hopkins: a 3-pass query critique



That is a lot of goodness right there. So, don't hang about, enter now. The giveaway closes on May 14 so check back shortly afterwards to see if you're the luck winner!

Share us, RT us and spread our love. We want to reach and assist as many writers as we possibly can.

Thank you, and good luck!

Monday, April 25, 2016

New Adult in Australia

When I first wrote Divided I had never even heard of New Adult. I queried it as a Young Adult story. An agent asked me to rewrite it so that the main character was in high school rather than at university. But a student having an affair with a teacher is a bit more taboo than with a university professor.

I believe New Adult is an important category as people usually read up, and there's a lack of stories out there for teenagers about what they can expect when they leave school. I know university life wasn't what I expected, and maybe getting the opportunity to read stories set straight after school would've helped with that.

I was so relieved with I heard about New Adult. Finally my story fit somewhere. Unfortunately for me, New Adult barely exists in Australia. In fact when I raised it at a writer's conference, someone else wrote a sneering tweet along the lines of "Of course someone brought up NA. Ugh."

We have stories that would fit as New Adult, like Rebecca James' novels, but they are categorised as Young Adult still. And we have authors such as CJ Duggan who are championing Australian New Adult. You can read an interview with her on it here.

I was excited to find that Booktopia now has a New Adult section. And some publishers (but not many) have NA submission options, like Escape Publishing and Bloomsberry Spark.

But the take up is much, much slower than in America. And I get the impression that Australian authors with New Adult novels are more likely to find an audience in America than at home. That's certainly been my experience.

The good news for Australian authors writing New Adult is global reading is definitely growing. Readers what to be transported in their books, and they do love visiting Australia in their books.

Hopefully the grassroots writer support bases in Australia, such as writers' centres and writers' festivals will embrace, support and promote New Adult by including courses on it, including it in their programs, and allowing education opportunities. Some have started, but there's a lot more opportunities out there.

If this base support starts, maybe one day I'll get to see New Adult Sections as a standard thing for Australian libraries and Bookstores.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Writing the Male POV ~ By: Kelly Siskind

The old adage “write what you know” is sound advice, but if I only ever wrote about women who sold cheese and dragged their butts to yoga and drank Chardonnay like water, my writing career would be short-lived. Adding bits and pieces of ourselves offers dimension to the stories we create. Still, we need to push our writing outside the comfortable.

All my novels are told through alternating points of view (POV), from male to female. Sometimes, I swap chapters evenly. Other times, I switch them at whim, depending on whose internal reaction is needed to drive the story. When it’s my hero’s turn to strut his stuff, I get to channel my inner dude, and I love it.
As a woman, writing the male POV is a blast. There are tricks to nailing those voices, devices you can use to set the tone when your hero takes charge. I’ll break this down into three categories—word choices, setting, and dialogue—and I’ll use examples from my novel, CHASING CRAZY, to illustrate my points.

Word choices:

The easiest fallback when writing a male POV is tossing out shits and fucks like a gun slinger. Not necessary. Abrupt, hard action words can conjure a similar image, without all the dirty words. Don’t get me wrong, damns and shits and fucks have their place (and they’re fun to write!), but it’s important not to use them as a crutch. Below is a paragraph written from a female POV. I’ve then flipped it into male (as it is written in my novel) to illustrate the differences.
Female POV: Squeezing through the entrance, I slip off my backpack, place it beside one leaning against the wall, then I roll my aching shoulders. I glance around. Some travelers are in a lounge area on the left—two on computers, others seated on an orange couch. A girl around my age is at the bookshelves, dragging her finger along the spines.

Now from the male POV: Squeezing through the entrance, I drop my pack beside one leaning against the wall. I crack my neck and poke around. Some travelers are in a lounge area on the left—two on computers, others hanging on an orange couch. A chick’s at the bookshelves, dragging her finger along the spines.
In the male POV, I use sharp action words, such as drop, crack, and poke. The girl saw people “seated,” whereas the guy noticed them “hanging,” and he used the term “chick.” Each word was chosen to create a sense of voice and perspective. Nothing is accidental. Also, men tend to be direct in their thinking, and shorter sentences can reflect this.

Men and women see the world differently. Whereas women tend to attach more emotion and meaning to situations, men tend to be more abrupt in their thoughts. This affects setting. I work setting into scenes gradually, through actions. Again, below is a paragraph originally written in a male POV, but I’ve flipped it into female first to show the difference.

Female POV: I open my can and take a sip while our group mingles around the sparsely wooded area beside the meetinghouse. The charred barbeque smell from the deep pit in the ground lingers, our dinner of roast chicken and potatoes as good as my grandmother’s cooking, the food and memory warming my belly.

Now from the male POV: I crack open my can and take a generous gulp while our group mingles around the sparsely wooded area beside the meetinghouse. The charred barbeque smell from the deep pit in the ground lingers from our tasty meal of roast chicken and potatoes.

Again, word choices have been made: open vs. crack open, sip vs. gulp, but it’s the second line that exudes gender. My guy didn’t think much about his meal, beyond the fact that it was tasty. He was probably hungry, he scarfed it down, and that was that. But my female version connected the meal to a time in her life, adding a deeper emotional reaction. This type of character development can be done for the male POV, too, and I do it often, but pick and choose your moments, and your words.

Two things come into play when writing dialogue: the action tags, and the dialogue itself. For the tags, male reactions are often more physical: jaws clenching, necks cracking, shoes crunching gravel, hands tightening into fists and scrubbing chins. It doesn’t mean men can’t ponder life around their speech. Both have a place in a manuscript, and all writing is dependent on the hero you’ve created.

But the dialogue itself is somewhere a man’s voice can shine through. Often, men—especially tough, alpha males—chop their sentences, leaving off subjects, even verbs. Examples:
Instead of “Are you going outside?” the man may say, “You going outside?”

“I’m not sure” can become “Not sure.”
And “I’ll see you later” becomes “Catch you later,” or even just “Later.”

Every character is unique, as is each point of view and voice. The above examples may not work for the hero in your novel, but they are suggestions that will hopefully help you examine your writing and encourage you to make active choices when crafting words.

Happy writing!
Kelly Siskind


Wielding Words like a Warrior

Words are gorgeous, glorious things. They have the power to convert, uplift, tear down, and shatter. They have the ability to evoke strong images and emotions that leave us blubbering messes for days. They also have the gift of hope, nestled between the folds of their robes.  

As wielders of words, we have amazing power at our fingertips!

When I’m writing my first drafts, I try to focus on the characters and the story. I’m still careful with word choice, but I don’t let my inner editor take over. If I can’t find the right word immediately, I use a stand-in.

But when it’s time to revise? That’s where the real magic happens.

Here are some tips to help you shine those words until they are the best, most powerful words they can be.

Choose active verbs

As you read through your manuscript, pay attention to verbs you’re using. Weak verbs can water down your fabulous characters and plot, while strong, active ones can create powerful images with fewer words.  

Consider variations of the verb to walk: gait, pace, tread, amble, stroll, hike, march, saunter. Each of these offers a different visual. Someone who is marching has a very different aim than someone who is strolling.

On a similar note, to be and to have verbs (e.g. is, was, were, has, had, have) tend to water down the images. They’re not wrong and at times they can be perfectly good and necessary. But if you’ve got a page full of these, you’re cheating your reader from a visceral experience.

And verbs like see, feel, and hear process sensory descriptions for your reader, also telling instead of showing. Again, a handful throughout the manuscript is fine, but too many close together can be problematic. Consider the following:

Maria saw an endless ocean in front of her and cool water pooling at her feet. She smelled the saltiness in the air. She heard the waves crashing against the shore. (31 words)

Now consider this revision:

Maria ambled to where the cool water pooled around her feet. The salty ocean spray lingered in the air and the waves crashed against the shore. (26 words)

If Maria is at the scene and we’re in her POV, then we know she’s the one seeing, smelling, hearing. We don’t need to be told as well.

Avoid wordiness…

As shown in the above examples, weak verbs and verbs that process sensory descriptions lend themselves to wordiness. The more concise you can be, the better! Using two or more words for something that could be said in one adds mileage to your word count and zaps power from your writing. You want every single word to count.

Some ways to combat wordiness is to comb through your manuscript for places where you’re being redundant or where there are too many words strung together to say something simple. Read it aloud, too. This helps catch wordiness your might miss when reading silently.

Consider the following:

Maria fell onto the bed exhausted, having stayed up until three in the morning. “I’m so tired,” she moaned. “I’m never going to wake up tomorrow.” (26 words)

And then consider a more concise version:

It was three in the morning when Maria collapsed on her bed. “I’m never going to wake up tomorrow.” (19 words)

“Three in the morning” and “collapsed” show exhausted. There’s no need for her to also say “I’m so tired” and by cutting out some of the words, we’ve reduced the word count by 7. Sometimes, we fall into a trap of redundancy without even realizing it. Consider for example, the following:

She nodded her head.

You can only nod your head, so “her head” is redundant and wordy. Removing these takes two words off your word count!

Passive voice can also lend itself to wordiness. Passive voice is when the subject is receiving the action instead of doing the action. It will make use of a past participle verb form and will often have “by” introducing the noun or noun phrase doing the action. For example, consider this sentence:

Maria was driven to the doctor by her mother. (9 words)

Here, Maria is receiving the action (she’s being driven) and “by” introduces what should be the subject (her mother). And we see the past participle “was driven.” Changing this to Her mother drove Maria to the doctor removes 2 words from that phrase. It doesn’t seem a lot, but if you’re counting, we’ve eliminated 16 words in the examples here. Do this page after page and you’ll have a tighter manuscript.

…and excess adverbs

Stephen King has famously said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Adverbs are not inherently bad. They serve a function: to describe a verb. The problem with adverbs, however, is that they tend to tell what can be better shown and they tend to be overused. Too many adverbs too close together becomes wordy. Instead of relying on an adverb to tell the reader, aim for stronger verbs and more vivid nouns.

Consider the following:

Albert walked nervously.                                VS                    Albert paced.
Susan spoke loudly.                                        VS                    Susan shouted.
Lola wept bitterly.                                          VS                    Lola wept. “It’s not fair!”

Sometimes, you might add a handful more words, as in the case of example #3 above. This is not a bad thing so long as the result is a stronger image and the usage is as sparse as it can be.

Quality vs quantity

At the end of the day, your focus when revising should be on the quality of words and not the quantity. Your words should serve your characters and plot, and they should be wielded with precision. Avoiding filler words like adverbs and other qualifiers as much as possible will lead to stronger, tighter manuscripts.  And software like can help with strengthening your story at the sentence level.

Happy writing (& revising)!

Monday, April 4, 2016

New Adult: Themes and Expansion

Let’s talk about the New Adult genre. This is one of my favorite genres to write in, so much so my debut novel, EDGE OF CHAOS, happens to be a contemporary NA romance.

When the genre first hit the book world I remember how much confusion surrounded it, as well as the excitement for a new age group of characters to follow. Confusion over what the rules were to the genre: did the characters have to be set in college? Did the characters have to have sex or could it just be hinted at like in some YA? Is there a certain age that the characters have to be to fit into the genre?

As with any genre, these “rules” can always be broken, but as I’ve watched the genre blossom over the years, these questions have started to work themselves out. The difference between young adult and new adult consists of many things, but one of them is the age of the characters. They can range anywhere between 18-26, and normally they are within a college setting, but this isn’t a hard-fast rule. Luckily, with the popularity of the genre, authors are now trying to expand the settings and roles and even sub-genres to include fantasy.

What I love about the age range is the new set of stakes that come with no longer being a teenager. The character has survived high school, finding themselves at least in part, and now, as they go out into the big wide world alone, they have a whole new set of conflicts to deal with. It’s no longer about pleasing the parents—though of course that can always be a goal for any aged character—but the focus is more on how the character can function in the world around them on their own. It is in these moments—whether that be in college far away from home, or in a trade-school in their hometown, or during an internship at a huge corporation—that they discover who they are at their core. The journey in this period of life will set up the reactions to certain difficult situations throughout the rest of their lives. The transition to adulthood is such an intense time, because it’s one of the last phases where they dig deep to find out who they are without question.

The discovery of one’s own self worth is a beautiful character arc, in my opinion, and I find it to be one of the most fun periods in life to write about.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore writing young adult too, but there are such different things at stake for teenagers as opposed to characters who are on their way to donning the “adult” title. Teenagers are intriguing to write because everything is a new experience. New Adult is interesting to write because after learning their likes and dislikes in high school, the characters are free to own their passion and go after what they really want—as for my main character, Blake, in Edge of Chaos, she’s reached the age where she can finally go after her dream of being a meteorologist and chasing storms.

I’m excited to see the genre expand into both newer sub-genres—like fantasy, thrillers, historical—and to see characters placed outside a college setting—like going straight from high school to a trade job, or a work source program. The possibilities are endless and I hope readers continue to respond to the genre in order to keep the spark alive.