What I learnt from award winning author Leanne Moriarty

We were in for a great morning with Leanne. 

Over one hundred book lovers attended the Noosa Library interview with award winning writer Leanne Morirty on 2nd  August 2016. Ably interviewed by Marylou Stevens (formerly from ABC) – an author in her own right.
I gleaned the following from this successful Australian author-

-“I become Irritable when not writing.”

– There is a Cringe factor in her books – writing about ordinary people in their own towns. New York Times best sellers list.

Book awards have been won:

  • The Husbands Secret- New York Times best sellers list
  • Big Little Lies – won a prize in America. – Number One seller.
  • ‘Surely Madly Guilty’ is Leanne’s latest novel.

A keen observer of people.

I discovered that the actress- Nicole Kidman – phoned her. Wanting to meet Lianne, to discuss turning one novel into a TV series. They met in a coffee shop in Sydney. 

Her book has turned into a TV series. Reece Witherspoon in the TV publication team. Early next year will be on our TV screens.

When asked whether she plans and plots her novels, or writes as it comes to her.

“I am a pantser writer. Not a planner. Things surprise me at the end”, Leanne said. “Writing as it comes to me. Development of a character is automatic. Things I need to add in a document, I just go back and add. Writing this way can make the timeline hard.”

Her husband is not a reader. Despite this, he gives her advice on writing. Telling her, “keep on doing what she is doing, as it appears to be working.”

Aspects of Leanne’s novels include – 

  • Complicated feelings about sex is observed.
  • Deals with the darker side of life. Yet filled with humour. 
  • Allows the humour to come through naturally.
  • Neurotic characters in last novel. Her characters start with a personality attribute. 
  • There is an IVF theme through her books.
  • Titles- conflict between USA and English and Australia.
  • Takes a year to write her books. 

Suggestion build an Author platform– use social media, talk in local libraries, news letters, hire own publicist. Slow process (15 years)

“What is your writing process?”asked someone.

Her reply – “I edit as I go, followed by the structural edit (explaining the characters motivation). Next copy editing follows. (colour of eyes,changes etc). Final proof reading follows next.”

Her suggestion is that it’s important to finish each book before sending it onto publishing agent. 

Also – “Get it out there. Into book shops, libraries, book presentations and  signings.”

Leanne’s added, “Write a regular shift per day. Fit it in with other things. ”

Finally, Leanne suggested,”As an author, we need to read everything and anything.”

Naturally I queued up and chose two books to have signed, impressed by this successful author. It’s time I learned from her writing. Looking forward to a great read ahead.

Thanks to Mary Lou and the Noosa Library for bringing this successful author to us all.


Finally – 

“The Fortune Seekers” is being published this week in ebook format. And within two – three weeks in paperback and hard cover.  Published by Xlibris.com. Prices and Ordering details below.

How You Can Order My Book –

  • Everyone -friends, family, and other interested buyers can order my book through the Xlbris Book Ordering Department by calling Xlibris at (USA) 888-795-4274. 
  • Additionally, you can order through the Xlibris online bookstore: http://www.Xlibris.com/Bookstore. 
  • Or search for “The Fortune Seekers” book – online:
  1. using my  name, (Glennis Browne), 
  2. or the  book title, 
  3. or by selected category- historical fiction at http://www.Xlbris.com/bookstore 

Book Pricing and release details  – 

My Ebook  will be available on Xlibris’online bookstore within 3-5 business days. 

(this weekend – about 13 th August 2016.) It’s a good read, 600 pages being two stories in one. Enjoy.)

The hard cover and paper backs will be available in about three weeks. ( late August)

The prices of the Fortune Seekers novel will be as follows:

Paperback: $39.99.           Hardback: $59.99.         Ebook: $3.99
For local readers: There is a celebration of my book release at Noosavlle in Queensland on Saturday 24 th September. Four other local authors are joining me, promoting, sharing extracts and chatting with those attending. Books will be signed.

Check out details on my website: 


Local Queensland Authors networking at the release celebration with their novels also available are Maggie Christensen, Jack Kregas, Anne Moorhouse, and hopefully Jo Kadlecek . Carol Brunello is now not able to attend. Next time Carol.


Happy reading. Cya


How not to get started writing

img_4374Writing 201: Intros and Hooks
Your opening lines are your first chance to hook readers — or to lose them. This week, learn to use your piece’s angle to craft an engaging, compelling opening that commands readers’ attention.
Welcome to Blogging U! This course isn’t currently active, but you can learn more about what we offer and register for upcoming courses on the BU home page.
Jump to any section of this week’s workshop:

– What makes a great opening?

– Translating the big question

– From question to angle to hook

– How not to get started
Dandruff shampoo commercials don’t lie: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Your opening lines are your first chance to hook your reader — but also to lose them. Nowhere is this truer than on the internet, where we make near instantaneous judgments on whether to stay on a page, or move on.

Last week, you found your story’s angle. Next, make sure people stick around by crafting a compelling opening: a question your readers can’t refuse, asked in a way only you can.
What makes a great opening?

Throughout this workshop, we’ll explore the openings and hooks of famous novels, and touch on nonfiction and film. Remember that these techniques can be applied to all genres and styles, from memoir to journalism to experimental prose.
You might not love The Catcher in the Rye — I can’t say it’s one of my favorites — but there’s no denying that it’s got an effective opening:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

— J. D. Salinger
Salinger sets up the entire novel in this sentence, giving us previews of everything from sentence structure to our narrator’s personality. You may not know exactly what’s going to happen over the next 250 pages, but his mood and style are established with these 63 words.

The crux of the intro, though, is the question it prompts us to ask: who is this kid, and what’s the bee in his bonnet? Once the question is out there, there’s no turning back. There are few things more tantalizing than the hope of understanding the unexplained, and so we turn the page.

Of course, a great opening doesn’t need 60+ words. A third as many can do a dandy job:

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

— Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
Or even a tenth:

All this happened, more or less.

— Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Feeling pithy? These authors also mastered the short but effective intro:

“Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
— E B White, Charlotte’s Web

They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.
— Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked

My sharpest memory is of a single instant surrounded by dark.
— Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club

My high school friends have begun to suspect I haven’t told them the full story of my life.
— Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
— C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
In six words, Vonnegut establishes the storyteller as an unreliable narrator and prepares you to dive into an off-kilter, multi-layered story. Most importantly, he provokes a tantalizing question: how do I know what to believe? Wanting the answer keeps us reading.

One Hundred Years of Solitude sets off a cascade of specific questions. Who is the Colonel? Why is he facing a firing squad? Why does it remind him of the day with his father, and why did anyone need to “discover” ice? For a novel that’s a keystone of magical realism — where fantastic stories are relayed as mundane, everyday occurrences — these questions lift the reader out of the ordinary and prepare them to confront the unexpected, but do it in a matter-of-fact way.

marquez diagram

Each of these authors presented their fundamental questions through the lens of their particular viewpoints, and that’s what makes their opening lines sing. If you can distill your subject into the question or two that your piece seeks to address and you’re clear on the perspective from which you’re writing — your angle — you can do the same to craft a great opening.

(If you aren’t clear on each of those, you probably need to do a bit more thinking about what you want to accomplish. Refer back to Krista’s workshop, which includes tips for figuring out your angle.)
Translating the big question

A strong opening can take a variety of forms, but in every case, it presents an unanswered question meant to draw the reader in. How you turn your topic into a question is wide open to interpretation — and is firmly rooted in your unique angle — but we can rewrite most great hooks as questions.

One of my favorite columns from humorist Dave Barry condenses great works of literature into single-sentence synopses. My favorite is his funny but astute take on Dostoyevsky’s epic The Brothers Karamazov:

Dear Reader,

Is there a god? Beats me.


Talk about a focused angle! The novel sprawls across hundreds of pages, but it all hangs together — and keeps us intrigued — because Fyodor never loses sight of his fundamental question.
In Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides takes a page from Gabriel García Márquez’s use of fascinating detail but gives it his own spin, introducing irresistible questions cloaked in quotidian details:

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

Translation: Can a person’s life change so much that they’re literally reborn as someone else?
Tolstoy, in an opening line often hailed as one of literature’s best, sets up the underlying theme of Anna Karenina without sharing any detail at all:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Translation: Why do unhappy families differ?
Quick Tip: Think about your favorite movies for inspiration. How do they begin? What’s the opening shot? In Chuck Sambuchino’s post on how to start a novel, he asks you to visualize the opening of the film True Lies and go “inside-out” when starting your story. It’s a nice read for all writers, not just novelists.
True Grit — a novel before it was a film by the Coen Brothers — opens with a huge spoiler, but withholds critical details. The effect? We have to keep reading to discover the who, what, when, where, why, and how:

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say that it did not happen every day.

Translation: What turned a fourteen-year-old girl into a vigilante?
The classic opening to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar places the story in a specific time period, but isn’t specific about much else:

plath diagram

Translation: What’s it like to be unmoored in your own life?

This isn’t to suggest that a great opening needs to be short, shocking, or mysteriously devoid of details to hook a reader. E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News opens with an abundance of detail:

Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate town.

Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into his thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing. He ate prodigiously, liked a ham knuckle, buttered spuds.

His jobs: distributor of vending machine candy, all-night clerk in a convenience store, a third-rate newspaperman. At thirty-six, bereft, brimming with grief and thwarted love, Quoyle steered away to Newfoundland, the rock that had generated his ancestors, a place he had never been nor thought to go.

Translation: What drives a repressed man into the unknown?
That we can picture Quoyle creates the same compulsion to keep reading — we can see him, maybe even identify with him, so we need to know what happens to him (and why).

Notes for bloggers and nonfiction/essay writers publishing online:

There’s so much to read on the web, your piece needs to stand out right from the start — you’ve got a few seconds to hook a reader. Some quick tips for a timely, attention-grabbing post:

Start with an epigraph. Open your piece with a quote that resonates with you, or a great passage from a recent relevant article you’ve read.
Grab ’em with a trending story. No matter what style you’re writing in — personal essay, journal article, memoir — you can use a news or viral story to introduce your post, if it’s relevant to your subject. This attracts readers searching for material on the topic, and makes your piece part of a larger discussion on the internet.
Enhance with imagery. Insert a stunning photograph to accompany your opening — one that complements your words. If you’re not the world’s best shutterbug, check out these sites for free images.
Nor is a great opening the sole province of fiction writers. Check out Rachel Maddux, introducing her nonfiction piece “Hail Dayton“:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, or maybe he didn’t, but either way vast ribbons of peat came to rest under what became the foothills of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, and in time the peat became coal, and later the railroads arrived, along with mines and coke ovens, and near one lazy arc of the Tennessee River workers built homes to return to after their long days of burrowing and burning, and the homes became a town, and the town was called Dayton.

Translation: What’s so special about Dayton?
Never have I been so interested to read about Ohio.

Try a few test runs to pump yourself up to write your own opening:

First, pick up a few of your favorite books or articles, pieces that you always remember because they commanded your attention from the first line. Read the first paragraphs, and translate the authors’ lines into a question or two.
Now, look back at a few of your already-published pieces — pick one of the posts you’re proudest of, or one that got a particularly positive response from readers. Read your openings. Did you start with a big question?

From question to angle to hook

Insofar as any creative process like writing can be distilled into a bulleted, three-step process, here’s what you’ll do next:

I know, I know: step three is the rub. Did you really think writing a great intro had a foolproof formula? If only.
Start with your subject. (This is the big question you’re exploring. What are you writing about, and why?)
Next, consider your angle. (Remember, this is the unique way you’re approaching your question.)
Finally, smoosh ’em together. (This is where you figure out how to ask your big question in a way that’s unmistakably you.)
When combining your big question with your angle, consider the difference between “I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies,” and “I’m in an office, talking to two men.” The former is from the great David Foster Wallace in Infinite Jest, setting the scene and hinting that the speaker doesn’t view the world quite like the rest of us. The latter is me, sans angle. (I know which piece I’d keep reading.)

Sometimes we don’t know exactly what our big question is until we’ve written through it. You can return to this workshop later; these tools will still work whether you’re starting from the beginning, or starting from the end.

Even if you think you have the perfect opening now, revisit it throughout the writing process. As Joyce Carol Oates said: “The first sentence can’t be written until the last sentence is written.”
As the examples we’ve looked at illustrate, you could open your piece in so many different ways. Here are some approaches to try on for size:

A simple statement. “It was a pleasure to burn,” begins Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451. Burn what? Why? Why does the speaker take pleasure in the destruction, and will s/he reflect any further on this? Just like the intro of Slaughterhouse-Five, these six words do the work of many more. This approach works well for pieces with a matter-of-fact style, or pieces where you want the reader to quickly identify with your topic.

A not-so-simple statement. “We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge,” writes John MacDonald, who stops us in our tracks at the start of Darker Than Amber. We know someone is up to no good, and we know the book won’t be pulling any punches.

I also love how Frank McCourt begins his 1996 memoir Angela’s Ashes. He writes: “My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four, my brother, Malachy, three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, and my sister, Margaret, dead and gone.” It begins with no surprises, but ends unexpectedly.

John Scalzi employs a more lighthearted take in The Android’s Dream: “Dirk Moeller didn’t know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.” Phrases like these make us do a virtual spit-take, and are great for jarring readers into paying attention.

The middle of a moment. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” At the beginning of George Orwell’s 1984, we know when we are…but we also know something is amiss in this world we’ve entered.

Hunter S. Thompson also goes this route in the opening of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

thompson diagramStarting in the middle creates an immersive experience for your reader.

An introduction of voice. Consider this line from Augusten Burroughs’ memoir of his bizarre childhood, Running With Scissors: “My mother is standing in front of the bathroom mirror smelling polished and ready; like Jean Nate, Dippity Do and the waxy sweetness of lipstick.” We’re introduced to Burroughs’ sharp and distinct voice immediately.

The same goes for Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn: “You don’t know about me without you have read a book called The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter.” For a piece where language, voice, or cadence play a starring role, this puts them front and center.

A statement of principles or values. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is the poster child here, but many authors have done this effectively, including Margaret Atwood in Cat’s Eye (“Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space”) and V.S. Naipaul in A Bend in the River (“The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it”). Give this a try to kick off a philosophical or reflective piece.

A richly detailed picture. In the nonfiction classic Hiroshima, John Hersey sets the scene with great detail: “At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk.”

In A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy O’Toole shows us that detail can also be brief. He introduces main character Ignatius J. Reilly as: “A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.”

In The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler focuses instead on details of a place, rather than a character:

chandler diagramLike starting in the middle, this immerses the reader, but the effect is a bit different.

A description of mood. Some writers, like Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar and Susanna Kaysen in Girl, Interrupted, choose to steep us in the mood of the story to come. In her memoir chronicling her stay in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s, Kaysen writes: “People ask, How did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well.”

The Grapes of Wrath does the same: “To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”

Dostoyevsky creates a similar effect in Notes from the Underground, in which the protagonist tells us, “I am a sick man…I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I think my liver is diseased.”

A straightforward introduction. Gimmicks and tactics aside, some stories make a convincing case for just starting at the beginning:

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,” writes Stephen King in The Gunslinger.

“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested,” begins Franz Kafka’s The Trial.

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler,” writes Calvino.

This can be a great set-up for nonfiction pieces, and, funnily enough, for fiction — the juxtaposition of the mundane and the fantastic can be quite engaging.

* * *

Time to roll up your sleeves! This is a time to play — write five different intro sentences, or ten.
If you’ve had a lightbulb moment and have an opening that moves you, hooray! If not, start with a few of the options above, and see whether one helps you express your angle. This is a time to play — write five different intro sentences, or ten. Which ones express what you hope to say? Riff on them, and mix and match elements from all of your attempts to create just the right opening, which we hope you’ll share in the Commons.

Along with the facts you want to present, think about how you want your reader to feel and what parts of your story you want to emphasize. Do you want to shock them? Make them laugh? Make them uncomfortable? Bring them into your story gradually? Have them begin reading in a good mood? An apprehensive mood? A gloomy mood? An excited mood? These are questions that will inform the way you translate your question.

How not to get started

Knowing your angle and figuring out your question are critical, but having both don’t ensure an amazing hook. There are ways we can go wrong in introductions.

Consider this reimagined intro for Slaughterhouse-Five: “Billy Pilgrim, an optometrist, time travels to various points of his own life (and death). The World War II firebombing of Dresden plays a major role, and also there are aliens. He gets shot at the end.”

With all due apologies to Mr. Vonnegut for that synopsis, is that a book you’d want to read? (I wouldn’t.) The simple “All this happened, more or less,” is far more intriguing.
We give away too much. It’s easy to fall into the overkill pit; we want to entice ALL THE READERS, so we throw ALL THE DETAILS up front hoping that everyone will find something that intrigues them. The problem: why should the reader keep reading?

None of these openings we’ve looked at give away the whole story; even the spoiler-filled True Grit or richly detailed The Shipping News withhold key facts.

We bury the lede. Your “lede” is your big question, the point of your piece. You bury it when you begin with lots of non-essential details that push the point of the piece further away from the beginning — the longer it takes for your big question to hook your reader, the more likely it is that they’ll check out before they get there.

We start from the very beginning. This is a common way of burying the lede. If I’m writing a post about a particular moment in this year’s Little League World Series, it makes sense to include information about the history of Little League baseball somewhere in the post. But if I start my post in 1880 and trace that history before I ever get to my actual subject (or introduce my angle), most readers aren’t going to make it.

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.

— Mark Twain
We don’t discern among details. This is another easy way to heap dirt on the lede. All details are not created equal; some of them add richness to your piece, and some are a distraction.

Including every detail is the written equivalent of your friend who can never get to the point of a story because he can’t remember if it happened on Tuesday or Wednesday, or if it was 1 PM or 2 PM, or if the car was red or blue. If a detail plays a role, either because it’s key to the timeline or a character or creates the feeling you’re aiming for, great. If not, keep it out of your opening.

* * *

Okay, that’s enough words spilled in the service of an introductory paragraph!

Time to write: take your pick of the exercises outlined above, or just start typing and see where your fingers take you. Then, head to the Commons to share your opening lines and see what other participants have come up with for their own posts.

Images from A Diagrammatical Dissertation.

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I want to:   Write a Cover Letter

In researching the  writing of cover letters and advertising promotional letters, I came across this helpful information. Thank you to my Guest Bloggers –   “The  Queensland Writers Centre”.

A cover letter is the brief letter that accompanies your submission to an agent or publisher, otherwise known as a query letter. The purpose of the cover letter is to present your manuscript to the publisher or agent. While in this letter will also introduce yourself, the primary focus should remain on the manuscript and on your writing.  

Read the submission guidelinesIf you are preparing a submission for an agent or publisher, the first place to start is with their submission guidelines. In most cases, each will ask for a specific set of materials to be delivered in a certain way. This information can be easily located on their website.

Book Release Promo

  • If a cover letter is requested, the below information forms some general tips on how to craft one.
  •  How to format it

The cover letter is just one part of your submission package, so it doesn’t have to say everything. 

This letter should fit on one A4 page (two at the most) and be made up of a few brief paragraphs.

  •  Even if you are submitting your pitch by email, unless otherwise requested, format your letter in the standard way (use a block template if needed) and send it as an attachment. 
  • Address your cover letter correctly, using the name and title of the person to whom the submission is to be sent. Taking the time to find out this information and include it is as simple as searching the publisher or agent’s website, or consulting The Australian Writer’s Marketplace, and will be appreciated.

What to write
Begin by introducing your manuscript, including the title. 

This paragraph should summarise the plot in two or three sentences. The best way to do this is to focus on the key elements of your story. 

  • Who is the main character, 
  • what they are trying to achieve, 
  • and what is getting in the way of their goal. 

Any further plot details, twists and other characters can be revealed in the synopsis.

  •  If you have written a hook or tagline for your project, you may like to include it here. 
  • The next sentences will give context to your novel: specify the genre, the length of the manuscript and the target audience.

Now that you have introduced your manuscript, you can add a note about yourself. 

Keep this brief. 

  • In a short paragraph include any writing credits or courses you may have done.
  •  If you have a particular area of expertise or experience in the subject you’re writing about, you should mention it here. “As I was the captain of a pirate ship for fifteen years, I am eminently qualified to write a novel about a pirate captain”.
  •  In the last paragraph, return the focus to the manuscript. 
  • You may like to mention what inspired you to write the book, and note any authors whose work is similar to yours.
  •  As a courtesy, if you’re submitting to other agents/publishers, mention that as well.

 Sign off professionally, inviting the publisher or agent to get in touch.

Below is a sample cover letter

Dear Agent/Publisher,

Please find enclosed a synopsis and three chapters of my [insert genre if relevant] novel, Imperfections, which is approximately 80 000 words in length.

Imperfections is the story of Louisa, an orphan from Outback Australia at the turn of the century, from her humble beginnings to her rise to become one of the richest and most powerful madams in Sydney. [Ideally this should be a pitch more than a description. You can take up to two paragraphs for this.]

 The target audience for this novel is most likely to be women in the age range of 30 and up who enjoy the work of authors such as Kate Grenville and Thomas Kenneally [or relevant writer].

 I am a Brisbane-based writer of literary fiction [or whichever genre you write in]. My previous publishing credits include short stories in Island Magazine, Meanjin and Overland Journal – a full list of my publications is attached. I am a graduate of the Queensland University of Technology Masters in Creative Writing Program.

I undertook the writing of this book after discovering some family secrets in old letters my grandmother had hidden away in her glory chest. The character of Louisa is based on my grandmother’s mother – while she was not actually a brothel madam, there are certainly some dubious gaps in her history and I found myself thinking ‘What if?’ [only include such a paragraph if there’s a real story there –or fold this into the description/pitch, above – this kind of information isn’t as important as the pitch]

Please be advised that I am sending this submission to other agents/publishers. I do not require the manuscript to be returned [increasingly this won’t apply as agents/publishers accept electronic submissions].

 Many thanks for considering my work, and I look forward to hearing from you in this regard.

 Yours sincerely.

 A Writer
 Where to send it

The Australian Writer’s Marketplace (AWM) is Australia and New Zealand’s only guide to the writing industry. AWM is a comprehensive resource providing submission guidelines and contact information for the publishing industry, details of support organisations and information services, a range of writing courses and workshops, literary events and competitions, and services for each stage of the writing, editing and publication process. http://www.awmonline.com.au

 Still have questions? Contact Queensland Writers Centre on +61 (07) 3842 9922

or email qldwriters@qwc.asn.au

Welcome to Shaping Your Story

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Welcome to Shaping Your Story!

We know there’s a lot to read here, so dive into our guidance at your own pace — absorb it all in one day, or tackle parts of it throughout the week.

If you’d like feedback on posts you publish, be sure to use the #shapingyourstory tag so others taking the course can find you, or visit the weekly Community Pool thread here and ask for constructive criticism; a new thread opens each Monday.

Week One: What’s Your Angle?

What’s your story? It’s all in the telling.
— Rebecca Solnit
They say that there are no new stories. In fact, author Christopher Booker suggests that every story ever told is a variation on seven basic plots. So, how do you differentiate your story from every other comedy, tragedy, memoir, quest, or rebirth? The answer is in the specific angle you use to tell your tale.

Consider Eric and Charlotte Kaufman’s story.

  • According to CNN, the Kaufman story is a dramatic US Navy rescue. The Kaufmans’ storm-damaged boat is far out at sea — three weeks away from medical attention — when their baby becomes seriously ill. Legions criticize the Kaufmans for putting their daughter’s life in danger simply by being so far from land and modern medical facilities.

Same topic, distinct angles: Think about how people from all walks of life tell tales on a single topic. In the New York Times‘ column, Modern Love, you’ll read a mix of stories about love, relationships, and marriage.

What’s your take on a topic?
Ira Glass tells Eric and Charlotte’s story on This American Life, but from a very different angle: Eric and Charlotte are experienced sailors. They’re similar to many families who routinely make the same sea crossing with very young children. A series of mishaps forces Eric to call for help to ensure their baby’s safety. Calling for help, Eric and Charlotte knew they’d lose their boat — their family’s home — and all their belongings.

Anyone can tell a story using straight facts — the who, what, why, when, where, and how — of a story. What makes for the most interesting writing and the most interesting reading is discovering a new angle from which to tell that story.

Writer Rebecca Solnit on stories:

  • “Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice.”
    Consider Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby. In the book, she examines her somewhat fraught relationship with her mother through boxes and boxes of apricots harvested from the tree outside her mother’s house. Solnit could have just stated that her mother was a difficult, jealous woman. It’s much more interesting to consider a relationship through the metaphor of a box of fruit. Solnit writes:

Sometimes a story falls into your lap.

Once, about a hundred pounds of apricots fell into mine. They came in three big boxes, and to keep them from crushing one another under their weight or from rotting in close quarters, I spread them out on a sheet on the plank floor of my bedroom. There, they presided for some days, a story waiting to be told, a riddle to be solved, and a harvest to be processed…The reasons why I came to have a heap of apricots on my bedroom floor are complicated. They came from my mother’s tree, from the home she no longer lived in, in the summer where a new round of trouble began.
To gently nudge your muse:

  • Is your story simply about a childhood trip to the beach, or about how your perspective on your dad changed when he taught you how to swim that day?
  • Is your story about a fight you had with your best friend, or about how you learned that in giving in, you’re really gaining?
  • Is your story about the drudgery of taking your know-it-all, impoverished father-in-law out for lunch each week — or that sometimes love and duty are the same thing?
  • Is your story about the chaos and culture shock of traveling to Vietnam, or about how much you need and crave the growth that traveling offers?
  • Is your story about the fact your mom was often mean-tempered when you were a child, or that you’re terrified that you’re exactly like her?
    Finding your angle

Finding your angle can be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the writing and editing process. Here are some ideas to help you find your angle in a piece of writing.

1) What makes you you?

Which elements of your experience and unique perspective couldn’t possibly be present in someone else’s story?

Canadian author David Bergen recalls overlooking the unique story angles that were right before his eyes as a young writer:

  • At the age of twenty, having published nothing, and having had little guidance in my reading, I decided that I wanted to write. I was driving a feed truck that winter, making runs to the Canada Packers in Winnipeg where I picked up meat meal, ground-up bones and meat that would be mixed in with grain, which would then be fed to layers and broilers. The smell permeated my clothes and my nostrils. As I waited in line behind other truckers, I decided to use that time to write.
  • Looking back, I should have been writing about the characters I met at Canada Packers, about the stories they told, spoken in great vernacular, about their lives, which were so different from mine. These were men who were in their forties and fifties and had worked at the same job for years. I was young, working a temporary job. I had my whole life before me. I was aware of these men, but didn’t see them as subjects for a novel or a story.

2) What original details do you see in your story?

Collecting original details:

  • “If you ask a group of people to write about the contents of their closet, each person would likely approach the same subject from a different angle.” Adair Lara offers more tips to help you find your specific angle and gather the details you need for your story.
    In Solnit’s case, the apricot tree (and one-hundred pounds of its fruit in various stages of decay) was the original detail that makes her familiar mother-daughter conflict unique. For Canadian author Lisa Moore, original details she collects during her day form what she calls the “glimmer of a beginning.”

Something might coalesce, a story charged with the significant, shimmering detritus of a single day, the flotsam of dreams and flux of crowds, intimate moments with strangers in elevators, errant lusts, the crunch of a peanut in a curried prawn dish. The thick scent of the organic oil of oregano I’d bought to fight a cold, a dense furry smell still clinging to the hotel glass I drank it from, just before dawn, a long way from home.
3) How can you mine your personal history for just the right angle?

Finding fodder in your own life:

  • Dig into memories of “magical” childhood adventures.
    Tap into your inner world of dreams.
  • Think about the experiences that have moved, affected, or changed you.
    Recall fleeting, unexpected encounters.
  • Consider your peculiar passions, esoteric interests, and pet peeves.
    In Seeing, Annie Dillard begins her essay by recounting a story from her personal history — her childhood delight in hiding pennies for others to find. She expands that idea into writing advice to us all, to always be on the lookout for the small treasures that surround us.

When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions.

After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.

It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny?

If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kid paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny.

But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.
4) Once you’ve got detail, look even closer — a new angle may be waiting to surprise you.

Identifying new angles in the familiar:

  • Revisit old diary pages or letters and compare past you and present you.
  • Research an event you once attended to gather big picture details and to place yourself within it.
  • Compare notes with others who were also there.
  • “Build up” a memory with outside sources — then see where and how your perspective fits.
  • Take a page out of Amy Tan’s book. She finds new details by looking closely at familiar items.

I try to see as much as possible — in microscopic detail.

I have an exercise that helps me with this, using old family photographs.

  • I’ll blow an image up as much as I can, and work through it pixel by pixel. This isn’t the way we typically look at pictures — where we take in the whole gestalt, eyes focusing mostly on the central image.
  • I’ll start at, say, a corner, looking at every detail. And the strangest things happen: you end up noticing things you never would have noticed.
  • Sometimes, I’ve discovered crucial, overlooked details that are important to my family’s story.
  • This process is a metaphor for the way I work — it’s the same process of looking closely, looking carefully, looking in the unexpected places, and being receptive to what you find there.
  • When you consider an event in your personal history, try to immerse yourself in the memory: what did it feel like to be there?
  • What emotions did you have, if any?
  • Thinking about this event years later, have your perceptions of that event and the emotions around it changed or evolved? It’s perfectly okay if things feel nebulous or you’re not sure where a thought or memory might take you. Revision takes time and perseverance. The important thing is to keep at it.

5) Consider using an object as a way “in” to the story.

Writer Andrea Badgley suggests that objects hold their own stories — that any object can be a talisman infused with meaning.

Objects are evocative; they hold stories…

Take something small, and concrete — a thing, a noun — and use that as a starting point.

  • You may simply want to describe the object: what does it look like, how does it feel, does it have a scent, a flavor, does it make a sound?
  • Or you may want to use an object as a focal point to expand into something bigger. I wrote about rolling pins once, and a cookbook another time, and both led me into old kitchens, and musings of grandmothers, and recollections of favorite family meals. A piece on pie led me into my son’s Buddha soul. You never know where you might end up.
  • Show us where an object leads you.
    What objects are most important to you, that you keep from move to move, refusing to throw away? WordPress.com editor Krista has a chipped, yellow ceramic teapot that sits on her fridge. She never uses it to make tea. Her husband hates it. Why does she keep it? It belonged to her grandmother, who has long since passed away. Every time she sees that teapot, she sees her grandmother’s smile and remembers her easy laughter.
  • What objects speak to you and what do they say?

Using an inanimate object might be the way to find your unique spin on a universal story.

Apply it

Sometimes, the struggle to find the right angle becomes part of the story itself. Consider Wendy Rawlings’ love story on Bending Genre, in which she struggles to find the precise angle from which to write about her romance with an Irish man.
And now, over to you.

  • Choose any piece of writing you’d like to improve and reread it.
  • What’s your angle?
  • What’s your spin?
  • Which original detail is a doorway into your story?
  • How can you approach this topic or issue or tale in a way that shows your imprint and your experience?

Worry not if the angle isn’t immediately apparent to you. Editing takes time and thought. Writing often needs to sit and steep, just like the best tea. If you’d like, set this piece down for a while. Take a walk and return with a fresh mind later today — or in a few days. You never know: the perfect angle might come to you while you’re in the shower or doing the dishes.

If you’re not interested in working on a personal essay or piece about you, you can still apply these ideas and techniques to other forms of writing, or if your subject is someone else.

Also, remember that there are no official assignments this week, and you don’t have to publish anything on your blog (unless you want to!). If you’re not sure you’ve pinpointed the angle for the particular piece you’re working on, or have questions about the ideas in this workshop, ask your peers — they may think of an angle that never occurred to you.

Week Two: Intros and Hooks

– What makes a great opening?

– Translating the big question

– From question to angle to hook

– How not to get started
Dandruff shampoo commercials don’t lie: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Here are the top five worst writing mistakes and how to avoid and correct them.

Top 5 Most Frustrating Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)By KIMBERLY JOKI · 

I thank and attribute the post to https://www.grammarly.com/grammar-check


Recently Grammarly asked its social media communities which writing mistakes were the worst kinds of errors. Our fans tend to find substantive grammatical trip-ups, like verb errors, far more frustrating than typographical errors and “stylistic” errors, such as homophone misspelling and preposition placemen

Here are the top five worst writing mistakes and how to avoid and correct them.

1. Incorrect verb forms — 51%

Irregular verb forms are one of the most difficult grammar concepts to master, even for native speakers—many of whom use incorrect irregular forms without realizing it. While these “mistakes” are part of English dialects all over the world, these non-standard forms carry a stigma that can significantly damage your credibility if used in formal settings, like business or school. Here are the most common verb conjugation mistakes:

I seen vs. I saw

  • I seen the movie last week.
  • I saw the movie last week.
  • I been vs. I have been
  • I been there!
  • Ihave (I’ve) been there!
  • I done vs. I did
  • I done the homework.
  • I did the homework.

We was vs. we were

  • We was just about to start the reading.
  • We were just about to start the reading.

   2. Subject -verb disagreement — 20%

In many languages, it is important that the subject of the sentence aligns correctly with the verb conjugation in terms of number and gender. Since English does not conjugate verbs to reflect the gender of the subject, you only need to pay close attention to the number of the subject—is it a singular or plural noun?

  • The struggles that the horse experiences while climbing the mountain is intense.

Here the subject the struggles does not align with the verb “is.” Because struggles is plural, the verb should are.

  • The struggles that the horse experiences while climbing the mountain are intense.

In English, irregular verbs and compound subjects make subject-verb agreement somewhat tricky. Irregular verbs, like those above, must be memorized, but compound subjects follow a simple rule—they are plural. See below for an example using the compound subject Jane and Mark.

  • Jane and Mark are running a marathon this month.

3. Run – on sentences — 10%

According to Grammarly’s research, run-on sentences are among the top grammar mistakes made by writers worldwide. A run-on sentence contains two or more independent clauses (a group of words that contains a subject and a verb and that can stand alone as a sentence) that are not connected with correct punctuation. Though there are different kinds of run-on sentence errors, most often writers neglect to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, etc.).

  • I enjoy writing immensely but my deadline is looming I am starting to feel overwhelmed
  • I enjoy writing immensely, but my deadline is looming; I am starting to feel overwhelmed.

Each independent clause must be set apart from other independent clauses with punctuation or a comma and conjunction. Punctuation marks that are ideal for marking complete sentences are periods (full-stops), semicolons, and em dashes.
 4. Comma Splices  — 6%

Comma splices and run-on sentences go hand in hand. In fact, all comma splices are run-on sentences.

  • He was very hungry, he ate a whole pizza.
  • He was very hungry. He ate a whole pizza.
  • He was very hungry, so he ate a whole pizza.

To splice means to connect or join. When a writer joins two independent sentences with a comma instead of separating them with a period or a coordinating conjunction, that’s a comma splice.

The comma has its own jobs to do, but connecting two independent sentences isn’t one of those jobs. Besides, the period gets testy when his sister, the comma, steals his thunder. Periods have their jobs, and so do commas, but never the twain shall meet—unless it’s in the form of a semicolon. Semicolons can also take the place of a coordinating conjunction, such as “and,” “but,” or “so,” among others.

5. Pronoun–  antecedent disagreement — 5%

  • John had a card for Helga but couldn’t deliver it because he was in her way.
  • John had a card for Helga but couldn’t deliver it because Tim was in Helga’s way.

When you use the pronouns “her” or “him,” readers need to know to whom those pronouns refer. A pronoun without a clear antecedent is ambiguous.

In our example sentence demonstrating an ambiguous pronoun, the reader is unsure who the second “he” is. Was John in the way, or was there another “he” involved? As noted in the corrected example, the pronoun “he” refers to Tim, who is card-blocking Helga. Always be sure your pronouns refer to a specific antecedent.

Additionally, 5% of respondents said that the worst error was not listed in the poll. Participants listed homophone, apostrophe, and contraction spelling errors as the most frustrating, while others cited using textspeak in professional settings and plagiarism as the most egregious writing mistakes.


What do you think? We love hearing from our community.
Grammarly weekly polls are published every Wednesday and cover a range of subjects related to the state of writing, grammar, and education. You can find and participate in our most recent poll here.