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Friday, 29 August 2014

The Auckland Independent Book Festival, Aug 16, 2014

The first festival of its kind turned out to be a huge success with plenty of members of the public joining the many authors displaying their wares and exclaiming over the stunning range of works that filled two halls. Not a shabby, badly-produced book in sight - rather a collection of vibrant, creative and appealing books that truly deserve a wider audience. How do we get them into bookstores?


Mairangi Writers did our part in adding to the colour and range. Here are Jenny, Erin and Vicky at the start of the day. Erin's new book Cissie sold well and drew a lot of attention.

We were still smiling by the end of the day, six hours later, even though the coffee truck had run out of cups!
 Bev, Jean and Erin, almost ready to pack up the remaining books and count the takings.

Our sign-up sheet for interested passers-by got 24 names wanting to win a free book, and getting carried away by the excitement we decided to give EVERY entrant a book and some extras, all donated by members of the group. This necessitated a working bee this week to select and address the parcels and arrange delivery.

Evan, Pam, Vicky and Erin hard at work (with Bev behind the camera as usual.)

And finally for this week's news, we have to wish Jenny well in her move south of the city to Te Aroha. The locals won't know what hit them! We hope to be in regular contact by email and perhaps have a writers field trip later in the year when the weather warms up.
Here's Evan giving a speech at the farewell lunch on Monday which was an occasion of riotous good cheer at the Browns Bay Club.

OK, there are six pictures there so that counts as at least six thousand words. Blog post done!
Back to writing. Or a cup of coffee first.

Bev Robitai

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Jenny Harrison explains the value of Beta Readers

I couldn’t say it better, so I’m copying Wikipedia’s definition of a beta reader:

“A beta reader is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters or its setting. Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterisation or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking.

It is possible that one or two members of your writing group will be happy to beta read your manuscript before you self-publish or send it to an agent. Here are a few pointers as to who will be the best beta reader for your work:

  • If possible, choose a beta reader (sometimes called an alpha reader) who falls into your target audience. They will respond well to your work if they share the age, gender and general interests of your potential readers. This isn’t strictly necessary, you may know someone who wouldn't be in your target audience but still has all the elements that make a good beta reader.
  • She needs to be honest without being brutal. That means she must not be afraid to say what she thinks is wrong but have the savvy to know how you can fix it. She must also be able to give praise where due. Expect your feelings to get a bit bruised in the process, but look at her advice and see whether it resonates with you or not. It’s still your work and you don't have to take everything she says on board. But beware .... if you ignore what is said you could lose out on an opportunity to make your work a great deal better.
  • Don’t ask your mom, your husband, your wife or your partner for their opinion. Don't ask your best friend who isn't a writer. Or Aunty Mavis. They will tell you what they think you want to hear, starting with “That’s nice, dear...” Also they know you too well and can’t see through their desire to please you.
  • Your beta reader must be a regular reader. Even better, find someone who reads, but not exclusively so, your genre. They will recognise the techniques, structures and expectations of such a book and will know what works or doesn’t.
  • Fellow writers make the best beta readers. They will know what you’re aiming to achieve, what it means to be a writer and, because they will probably have had their own work beta read, will know the value of a good honest evaluation. They will also know the few typos that have escaped your eagle eye do not make a “bad” book. They know you can start a sentence with “And...” without beating you over the knuckles with a ruler. They will also be sensitive to the cadence or rhythm of your work. Beta readers who write also know about plot development, characterisation and creating suspense. They will recognise where your book begins (it may be different from where you started) and whether there is a satisfying resolution. In fact they know what works.

Beta readers are gems so appreciate them and the work they are doing for you.

Jenny Harrison

Editor's note
I owe much to Jenny as one of my valued beta readers, helping me to polish several of my books. And as a member of Mairangi Writers, I can say we'll all miss her very sadly when she moves south to Te Aroha. Every week she comes to meetings with little printed notes of some apt quip or quote to inspire and motivate us, and her critique comments are always crisp, clear and helpful. I hope you make new friends quickly in your new town, Jenny, but you'll never lose your old ones here. You can't escape Mairangi Writers that easily! (And your next blog post is due November 14th!)

Friday, 8 August 2014

Maureen Green on the importance of Copy Editing

I do this every day—writing that is, AND, spend as much time on research or mentoring other authors as writing. I've been told I'm quite an accomplished writer, YET, there is an aspect of writing that really bugs me. Despite my ability to give advice on and edit other's works I'm hopeless at doing so with my own work. With help from my network partners and weekly critique of my writing by my three critique buddies my work becomes honed enough to forward it to beta readers for comment and then to a copy editor for substantive editing.

Recently I came across an interesting presentation focused entirely on that painstaking skill of copy editing. It was so visually appealing I thought it worth sharing.

Weird Al Yankovich Word Crimes -

Keep an eye out for 'Husssh,' the latest of my adult novels.


It has been through all but the final copy editing and it will be released later in the year.


Maureen Green

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Barbara Algie finds friends in many places.

I do it once a week.   Well that’s not too bad, considering my age.   Mostly it takes me three quarters of an hour – but that’s understandable too.   One of the bosses is in the carpark.   Long legged, slim and elegant with eyes to die for (the colour of a cloudless summer sky), he saunters towards me.   My knees wobble even thinking about him.   WOW.   But, hang on, before you go all wobbly too, it’s not what you’re imagining, you rotten lot.  
It’s 9am but inside there’s already plenty of action – that is if you call wheelchairs in motion ‘action’.   It’s a home where the elderly and infirm find comfort and affection beyond explanation from other than the usual caregivers.

Some of these are hogging the best chairs, or curled up on laps, whilst others are still snuggled down in bed with their ‘owners’.   When I open the door at No.38 I find my friend in danger of being smothered by ‘Baggins’ who lies across her chest, pinning her to the bed where he’s spent the night snoring. Her room is his room – the Knox Home is his home.

This is obviously not your normal rest home where the idea of allowing animals is abhorrent and

unhygienic.   How many people do you know who’ve heart-wrenchingly had to have their pets euthanised because they were compelled to move into care.   If not sitting on still-warm car bonnets, Ole Blue Eyes is often seen snuggling up on a lap in the lounge.   ‘George’ (no relation to the Prince) ‘belongs’ to Peg in the next corridor.   This tabby disappears during daylight hours and Peg insists he ‘goes to work’ but I wonder if, with a Church opposite, he doesn’t sit bathed in the colours of the stained glass windows praying for the ‘oldies’ across the road.   ‘Romeo’ is small, with tousled hair hiding his eyes.   He arrives daily by bicycle (in a backpack) to visit Pat.   What joy she gets from these visits.   ‘Whisper’, the small black cat, sticks close to his ‘Dad’.   ‘Oscar’, a small dog with a tail in perpetual motion dashes about like a whirling dervish cajoling titbits at mealtimes.   And there are others too numerous to mention.

The hairdresser, who rescues neglected animals, often brings a selection of livestock in for a day. She arrived just before me carrying two cages, one containing a couple of brown ducks, the other a hen with a clutch of newly hatched chickens.   Incidentally she  has ten ponies and numerous cats and dogs but still finds time to shampoo and set the hair of the ladies of Ranfurly Road.   Yep- it’s not a bad way to help combat the blues that so often accompany  old age – that is if you’re an animal lover.


Pam Laird on 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

The title comes from an old proverb, “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’

Have you read this book? If not, don’t hesitate, I am so impressed, I bought my own copy.

Interestingly, there has been resurgence in the popularity of this novel and as a consequent several new printings of To Kill a Mocking Bird are now available. The recent 50th anniversary in 2010 of the launch in 1960 may have something to do with this. But I guess this novel based on Harper Lee’s own family and local town, would become a much-loved American classic.

Here, as writers, we have lush food for thought. As the pundits say, ‘write what you know.’ This is a shining example of freshness and validity borne of acute observation from an empathetic writer. This is a lesson in writing using a simply told story of a sad aspect of life.

I was delighted to come by this book just recently and ashamed I hadn’t read it years ago. I am full of admiration for Harper Lee’s clever use of language and her interpretation of the thoughts and actions of a young child, i.e. Scout or more properly, Jean Louise. Scout is around seven or eight as the story continues over a year or so.

I believe it has been standard reading in secondary schools, (certainly in the States) for many years and I can guess how much fun young students would have with the thinking, reasoning and logic of young Scout. They would see in her a mirror image of themselves, enquiring, wondering, frustrated, anxious, so much a part of a young child’s struggle to make sense of a big, confusing world.

If The Boy in Striped Pyjamas can be read and enjoyed by some 8 to 10 year olds, then this gently humorous story with the sadness of racism cropping up from time to time, would be a great read for any intelligent 8 to 10 year old and of course older children and adults. Especially those living where pitiless racism is still a given in life as it can be in parts of the States and of course to some degree in most countries.

If you haven’t already read it, line up one at the library because this is a real treat and unforgettable.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Mid-Winter Blues from Evan Andrew

Here in New Zealand it has been a wet and gloomy July just recently. The fact that June was the driest and supposedly warmest on record is soon forgotten as we light the fire, and put on scarves and coats when we venture out. Everyone seems to be coughing and spluttering with all sorts of dreaded viruses lurking about, and the hospitals are once again full to overflowing. Oh well, spring is only a month away, and the daffodils are out, so it can’t be all bad.

My dear mother always told me as a boy, that it is better to give than to receive, and I must confess there is a lot of truth in that statement. In June I put my first novel ‘Shadows In the Night’,  on a Goodreads Giveaway promotional list, offering twelve as giveaways for the lucky entrants here in New Zealand. It finished on the 19th July, and the following day I was duly informed of the fortunate recipients. I could not but feel sorry for the considerable number that had put their names forward, but sadly missed out.

Monday and Tuesday was spent addressing and sending the books around the country to a varied collection of men and women, of different ethnic origins, from the far North to the deep South of New Zealand. Naturally, I am hoping they enjoy the book, and write a favourable review on Amazon. (PLEASE!!!)

However, I really did enjoy packing the books up and sending them off. It gave me a pleasurable glow as I handled the books, while wondering all the time how they would be received at the other end, as I visualized the reader in my mind's eye. I guess only another fellow author can understand the pleasure and pride you get from handling your own work in this way. Certainly, nothing gives you so much pleasure as when you meet a complete stranger who tells you just how much he, or she, enjoyed your book.

I really think that, more than anything else, keeps you writing. Now I will wait with, to be perfectly honest, a certain impatience, to hopefully read my first review from one of the chosen twelve.

As my mother wisely said, ‘It is better to give than to receive,’ but sometimes receiving can be almost as good.


Evan G Andrew

Friday, 18 July 2014

Writing a Killer Synopsis by Mike Wells

A post 'borrowed' from Mike Wells, thriller writer, who has a sure-fire way to create that hard-to-write synopsis - the second most powerful sales tool at your disposal after the cover.
Here's Mike...

If you're like most authors, summarizing your book in a couple of sentences is a daunting task.  However, if you're going to sell your book, it's simply something you have to do.  If you choose to go the traditional route, agents and editors alike are bombarded with so many queries that if they find themselves having to do much mental work to understand the gist of your book, they will simply pass on to the next one.  The same goes for self-publishing--all the retailers and distributors require short descriptions of your book.  For example, Smashwords requires a description that can be no more than 400 characters, including spaces!  That's short, folks!

To help you do this, I want to share a formula I learned a long time ago, one that was created in Hollywood.  I can tell you from my dealings with the people in the movie industry that when it comes to stories and story structure, they really know their stuff.

Each and every story is composed of the same five basic elements.  If you can identify them in their purest, simplest forms, you will be well on your way to writing a good two-sentence synopsis of your book, regardless of its length or complexity.

The five elements are:  a (1) hero who finds himself stuck in a (2)  situation from which he wants to free himself by achieving a (3)  goal.  However, there is a (4) villain who wants to stop him from this, and if he's successful, will cause the hero to experience a (5)  disaster. 

Actually, what I've just written above IS the two sentence synopsis which will work for any story, no matter how complex the plot or characters may seem.

Before I go further, I want to stop for a moment and address the "Is this a formula?" question that will undoubtedly come up in many writers' minds.   Anyone with any experience in writing (or painting or composing music, etc.)  knows that formulas do not work when creating a new piece of art, that the most you can hope for is a cookie-cutter type result that will be mediocre, at best. 

However, what we are doing here is summarizing a piece of art that has already been created.  Because we know that each and every story must contain these five elements, if we can step back from our own story and identify them, it makes the job of summarizing the story much easier.

The only thing formulaic about this approach is the order in which the information is presented, and the structure of the sentences.  You can change this around later and make the synopsis appear as original and unique as you desire.

So, back to the method.  Another way to write this compressed synopsis is to move the goal into the second sentence into the form of a question, as follows:

Hero finds herself stuck in situation from which she wants to free herself.  Can she achieve goal, or will villain stop her and cause her to experience disaster?

All you have to do is identify the elements and plug them in to create the most basic  two sentence synopsis for your own story.  By the way, you don't have to put the second sentence in the form of a question--you could write,  She must achieve goal, or villain will stop her and cause her to experience disaster.    I posed  it as a question only because it emphasizes the main narrative question in the story--discovering the answer to that sticky issue is what keeps readers turning the pages until (hopefully) they reach the very end of your book.

Read the rest of the article here -