Monthly Archives: January 2014

Dundee International Book Prize wants your first novel!

Something to brighten your day, fellow aspiring writers! How would you like to join the ranks of nine writers, who’s careers took off after winning the prize, or the 10,000 pounds, easily exchanged into your native currency?

If you said yes to one or the other, then have a look at the press release and make sure to submit your debut novel by 4 March! Good luck!


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Annual Writer’s Digest competition is open!

Hi everyone, this is just a quick note to let you know that the Writer’s Digest is currently accepting submissions for it’s 83rd annual writing competition. Enter for your chance to win $3,000 and a whole lot of publicity! The early-bird deadline is 5 May 2014 (note that this competition requires a $25 fee).

Want to know more? Then have a look at the details, or review last year’s winners list or read last year’s Grand Prize winning entry.

Good luck!

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Why I write

I have been reading a lot of writing blogs lately, as well as comments posted on those blogs by wannabe and somewhat successful writers. (Really successful novel writers, I noticed, post little online. They must be saving every word for their publishers.)

Naturally, many post or comment about their reasons for writing. Most say that it’s for the love of the craft. Many write to remember and I can certainly understand that, because my own writing started with simple entries in a daily journal. I still have the journal and read it every now and then, wishing I kept it up.

Some writers think of their books as “messages in a bottle” or write to communicate with the larger community. Some do it for self-awareness, others to understand the world. Some even claim they would stop breathing if they were to stop writing (I assume a YA writer). Only one so far admitted that it was all about the money.

I became so fascinated with this topic, while procrastinating away valuable writing time, that i even googled “why i write”. (I know, it’s an OCD). Turned out it’s a George Orwell essay, in which he talks about the four “great motives for writing”, which are ego satisfaction, the pleasure of making up something beautiful, or a historical or political need.

Surprisingly, none of the bloggers (so far) or even Mr. Orwell have mentioned my main reason for writing. For me personally it’s being able to say, under pretence of writing fiction, everything I wish I could say in real life. Simple things, like telling my boss what I think about his brilliant new idea and where I think he should put it. Calling an ex-boyfriend and saying, “it wasn’t me, it was you”. Yelling “shut up!” at someone on the train who believes in letting everyone in on his phone conversation. My protagonist gets to do those things.

Oh, and I wish I could admit that I’m in it for the money. It’s okay, my protagonist will.

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On breaking news and breaking rules

First, the news. After an agonising period of uncertainty and feverish online rumours, Amazon finally announced its 2014 Breakthrough Novel Award.

So, if you have a 50 – 125K original novel draft or you think you can get one together by the 2 March 2014 deadline, enter it for a chance to win the Grand Prize of $50,000! Only the first 10,000 submissions will be considered, so hurry!

Now, on breaking rules. The contest has many, such as rights to publication of the winner’s novel, judging and application procedures, etc. The one that automatically disqualifies my novel is the requirement to obtain concent of every person mentioned in the script by real name. My novel has endless references to the current pop culture and it’s stars, including quite a few jokes at the celebrities’ expense. This is generally accepted in the media, although I’m not sure as to which law governs it (but have a look at the film Dictator or one of the South Park episodes if you don’t believe me. I’m nowhere near that risqué).

Why, Amazon, why? I thought we were friends? I have bought so many books from you, but you don’t want my one and only?

Anyway, I can’t enter, so I hope you can. May the odds be ever in your favour!

By Ana Spoke

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It’s alive!

Have you ever experienced a shock of when something you created started talking on its own, and even getting an attitude? I am not just talking about kids here, although it is a hoot to watch my two-year old niece give commands to her parents and the family dog. I am talking about a fictional character that exists only on your laptop’s harddrive!

Forgive me if this is old news to you, but as I am nearing the end of my first novel’s draft, weird stuff is starting to happen. I had a plot, a chapter outline and character bios and naively thought that I knew where this was headed. The first paranormal thing happened when one of the supporting characters opened his mouth for the first time. He is one of the bodyguards, which were originally intended to lurk in the shadows and were meant to be cookie-cutter identical and dumb (for comedic purposes). As soon as he opened his mouth, though, things changed.

“What’s my name?” he asked.

“You don’t have a name,” I said, “You are a support character. You only have one line.”

“But my partner will be talking to me, so like what, he doesn’t know my name?”

“Fine!” I rolled my eyes, “How about Serge? Is Serge okay?”

“Okay,” he said. Then five minutes later he piped up again, this time with a funny idea for a dialogue. I liked it, so I wrote it down.

“Well,” he said, “Kinda looks like I have a personality now, donnit?”

“Yes,” I said, “You are a dumbass!”

“He sure is!” said the second bodyguard.

“Who the hell gave you permission to speak?” I asked him.

“Well, someone has to be a mastermind of this here unit?”

I was forced to agree. He demanded a name and didn’t like any of my suggestions until we settled on Kurt. Kurt and Serge then proceeded to argue with each other, which I definitely did not expect. It was funny, though, so I just did my best trying to write it all down.

The paranormal did not stop there. I am almost at the end (75K words, thank you very much!) and all of a sudden my protagonist threw a hissy fit.

“Wait a second,” she said, “so I am hot and blonde, but my boyfriend breaks up with me and nobody else loves me?”

“Well, that’s kind of funny, isn’t it?”

“No!” she screamed at me, “It’s not funny! It’s not even believable! Are you saying there isn’t even a male friend who is secretly in love with me?”

“Ahm…maybe in the sequel?”

“I am not waiting for the sequel!” she wailed, “This is not fair! I want someone to love me now! I just want to be lo-ah-ah-ved!”

So now I am trying to write in a male friend for her, which is really hard, as it affects her other relationships and changes her behavior in so many scenes. It makes much better sense now, so she was right.

And that’s the strangest thing of all.

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Happy International Hangover Day!

I know, IHD was on 1st of January and I am a bit late with my wishes of quick recovery and hopes that you lost nothing of value (like, say, your dignity). It has taken me that long to get over mine. I just wrote my New Year resolutions, and “no more drinking” was first on the list, even before “get a book published”.

I still sort of functioned and even went to work, although I’ve accomplished little more than cleaning out my inbox. The effort of sitting up straight and keeping my eyes focused when talking to people was just too much. Remarkably, I still wrote at night! The words may not have been as inspired, but the desire to click on the keys and get my jumbled thoughts on the page was still there. Somehow, despite everything, I am now at 65K words, a mere month away from printing out the first draft.

There has been one noticeable side effect, though. I don’t know if it’s the hangover, or the fact that I am actually approaching the end of the story, but I have suddenly found myself wallowing in self-doubt. This almost never happens, as I’ve learned over the years that blind enthusiasm pays better dividends than caution and pessimism. I’ve started doubting everything, from my writing style (it reads more like a film than a traditional novel) to the plot (just how ridiculous can a comedy get before the reader says ‘that would never happen!’)

Luckily, Google came to the rescue. I spent a few hours googling pathetic queries like “is my writing good enough?” and “can I make it as a writer?”. And you know what I learned? That a lot of people want to sell me ebooks guaranteed to improve my writing style, get me published, and get back my pre-baby body. I didn’t buy them of course, not only because I’ve never had a baby, but also because I suspect that they are not any better writers than me, just maybe more savvy and even more blindly enthusiastic.

Okay, there was one thing I did learn, and for free, too! Just about everybody who ever published a book says you have to keep doing it. No matter what, keep writing, editing, deleting, and writing again. So that’s what I’m going to do today – pick up my writing shovel and throw another couple of thousand words onto my mountain. I know that I will love every minute of it, which certainly helps.

So, in addition to quick recovery of your reputation, I wish that all your ridiculous New Year resolutions come true. And if there is a book in them, then what are you waiting for? Pick up your shovel, eh laptop!

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