Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Things have been a little quiet around here recently, the reason being that we have been hunting for a new place to live - our landlord has decided to sell this place. House hunting is hideously time consuming!

We move in two weeks, so my hope is that things will pick up again after this.

I have finally emailed my entry into the Katherine Mansfeild competition. I have been frantically editing and rewriting for the past few days, on top of sorting and packing, to get it in on time. The ending was nice and predicable so had to be scrapped and re-written, and character's determined to survive eliminated. Sigh. Sometimes it is tough being a writer...

On the plus side, it is nice to have it done, out of the way, and not hanging over me anymore.
Now we sit, cross our fingers and pray, and wait and hope to hear.
If we don't hear we know we failed!

I have two entries sent into the NZ Christian Writer's competition; winning entries will be published in the August mag.

And on the 8th of July, I'll find out how I did in our local Writer's Workshop Competition. It should be a good night. The winning entries will be read aloud. All the entries will have been critiqued and I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of feedback I will get on the pieces I submitted.

So, on top of writing and homeschooling and moving and gearing up to study a journalism paper next semester and trying to find some very part-time work, life is pretty quiet.

Whoever said a writer's life was cruisie? They lied!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vocab Slot #1

Back in the day, after the evening meal, my Grandpa would read a page or two from the dictionary. Whether it was just because he liked words or because his own father had been a journalist and instilled the habit into him I don't know.

I love words, their history, meaning and music; they intrigue and fascinate me.

While I was musing today about the joy words bring and thinking sadly that my vocabulary is not as vast as I should like, I was struck by a flash of inspiration:

Wouldn't it be fun to include a vocabulary slot at the blog? Of course it would!

I shall share with you a new, wonderful and/or weird words I have stumbled across, and, if you want to get in on the act you can comment with one or two your own. I challenge you to a duel of words! What fun...

So, with out more ado,

lithe: pliant, supple, bending and twisting and turning easily (like an eel).

----The lithesome eel glided through the murky water.

To "hop the twig" is to depart suddenly just before being caught (like a bird taking to the air just before being shot).

----"Och, it hopped the twig!" Conner said, lowering his shotgun in disgust.

That was fun wasn't it?

Writing Tip # 3

These writing tips are coming to you in no particular order of importance, in case you were wondering at the random and disordered nature in which I am presenting them.

Today's tip takes us back to the fundamental groundwork behind the story.

When we embark on the journey that will bring a good story to life, no matter how long or short it will be, we first need to ask ourselves a few questions. The "5 Ws and an H."

Who is the story about?

What will happen to him/her/them?

When will it happen?

Where will it happen?

Why will it/does it happen?

How will it happen?
How will it be resolved?

I once read (I don't remember where) that when you write a story you must put a man in a tree and then, somehow, get him down again. The story must revolve around a crisis (physical, emotional or psychological) and its resolution. And the character/s should develop or change in someway through the crisis.

These questions are the skeletal framework of your story; the way you answer them will put flesh on the bones.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Query Letters

If you are at all serious about writing and getting your work published you are going to have to write a query letter. For those of you who don't know, a query letter is a nice letter you send to an editor/publisher telling them a little bit about your book in order to get them excited enough to ask to see your manuscript in its entirety.

When you have written and polished your novel to perfection it's time to write a query letter. They are incredibly hard to write and require a huge about of work, and so they should. After all, it isn't going to matter how wonderful your novel is, if your query letter sucks you are never going to sell it!

Where am I going with this? No, I'm not going to tell you how to write a query letter. What I am going to do is point you in the direction of The Public Query Slushpile over at: http://openquery.blogspot.com
Here you can submit your query letter and have others comment, critique and give you brilliant advice.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mugging the Muse

I am reading a great book at the moment by Holly Lisle entitled Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love and Money, a fun and insightful little read about how (and how not) to write.
I highly recommend it. In fact, I thought I'd post some of her tips for general story writing, just to get you excited.

1) Avoid passive voice
--- don't be boring!

2) Use active verbs
--- extend you vocab

3) Eliminate most adjectives and adverbs
--- "ly" words slow down the story

4) Use concrete detail
--- five senses

5) Tell a story worth telling
--- purpose, theme or message

6) Know your characters

I have left out all the meat sandwiched between these points, you will have to get the book to read the rest. This was just a teaser. In Mugging the Muse, Holly talks about everything from starting to write through to finishing a novel. Her style is witty, relaxed and encouraging, yet baldly honest about the realities and pitfalls of being a professional writer. Speaking about the personal cost of following the dream to be a writer, Holly says, "Every dreamer pays a price. But so does everyone who fears to dream."

So, hunt up the book, read, then get dreaming and get busy!

You can visit Holly Lisle's site at: http://www.hollylisle.com

Monday, June 1, 2009


I haven't blogged for a while, so I thought to start off the new month I'd update you on what has been keeping me away.

I am very new at writing for competitions but this is what has been consuming most of my writing lately.

I have recently entered four stories in a competition. They were due in at the end of May. I am excited about this, not only because there is a little bit of prize money involved, but because quite a few of the entries will be selected for an anthology which will be published. There will be a special presentation dinner and everything!

Our local writer's workshop also has a competition coming up (I mentioned I was working on some pieces for it a while ago), the stories are due in on the 10th of June. We will find out the results next month. I am entering four "True" stories here. There is no dosh involved with this one but the winner will receive a trophy. (I like trophies!)

The NZ Christian Writer's group which I am a part of has monthly competitions so I have been working on a couple of pieces for this too. The winning pieces will be published in the magazine.

The biggest competition is the upcoming BNZ Katherine Mansfeild Competition. This is probably the most prestigious short story competition in NZ. I am currently working on a piece for this. Submissions are due in by 30th of June.