As regular listeners may know Kel and Pam are both proud advocates for Room To Read and in Season 1 Episode 22 we chatted to RTR Writer Ambassador Susanne Gervay about the 2018 World Change Challenge.
Originally conceived by author Tristan Bancks in 2012, the Challenge aims to raise funds to help build libraries, support girl’s education and aid literacy programs in developing countries.
This year, with so much talk about equality for women, the time is right to focus on Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program which empowers girls through education and helps them navigate life’s tough decisions.
It costs just $365 for Room to Read to support a girl through the Girls’ Education Program for a year.
To achieve the goals of the World Change Challenge we need 50 schools to support 50 girls for a year. This brief RtR blog will help you understand the key milestones achieved since this program launched in Nepal in2001. So far more than 50,000 girls have benefited.
If you have a child at school why not ask your school community to take part in the challenge and help educate 50 girls for a year?
Please share this link with anyone who would like to make a donation to Room to Read: https://give.roomtoread.org/team/155100 and help change the world with the gift of education.
The moment I realised I was just another white writer perpetuating the race problem.
By Kel Butler
I have always considered myself a fairly socially progressive, equal minded individual, sensitive to minority issues across the many spectrums. I know that I am a cavernous pit of ignorance BUT I always held myself with a quiet self satisfied confidence that I was on the right side when it came to representing, respecting and supporting minorities (and their voices) in the right way.
Recently those arrogant beliefs where shattered within me by a mirror reflecting a blindingly disappointing picture…and I am ashamed. I really am because the lessons that mirror held in the form of Winnie Dunn, I should’ve already known and were I truly looking to represent minority voices and diverse stories in the right way, I would’ve seen. But it wasn’t until I interviewed Winnie, Manager of Sweatshop, for the Writes4Women podcast, that I learnt the truth. What I had done, what I had written in my first book, was a part of the overarching problem of race in literature. I was just like every other white writer out there using someone else’s cultural story to their own end.
You see in my first book one of my 2 key characters is meant to be Nepalese living in Australia, having escaped a sex trafficking ring disguised and functioning as a cult, many years before. This idea sprung up from a lot of the reading and research that came from my support of Room to Read. My book is about female empowerment and I wanted to show different forms of patriarchal cages that these women had to break free from. One box involved religion and sexual imprisonment and the other involved domestic and sexual violence.
In doing so I chose to draw from the research and reading I had done instead of my everyday life, to create a character steeped in a religion and culture I know little about. I now understand that I have no real right to do this. Not if I want to be true to my mission of promoting, amplifying and uplifting minority voices in a world overflowing in white, anglo perspective.
In the interview I did with Winnie about the work she, Michael Mohammed Ahmad (Sweatshop founder) and the team are doing, I asked Winnie how she felt I should approach this character in my book. The storyline hadn’t sat right with me for months but I thought the solution was more research, that I didn’t know enough, hadn’t gone deep enough to connect with my subject. But I couldn’t be further from the issue.
The problem, the glaring problem (that I couldn’t see) was that I was writing this story and this perspective at all. When I asked Winnie what she thought she turned the question back on me, asking me to deconstruct why I was using that particular vessel to tell the story, a vessel and story other than my own and did I really need to? Was I not just perpetuating the problem of taking up the space, that a voice from that culture and background, with that story, should be filling? Was it essential to the message to tell the story in that way?
The answers to these questions were simple and quick. Yes, I was perpetuating the problem, no it wasn’t essential. And yes I was worried about being just another white voice representing white voices in a sea of white but now I realise it is ok to be a white voice. It is the colour of the sea we need to change not the colour of the voices.
I can’t change the colour of the sea of literature by writing the experiences of minorities and cultures I am not a part of. I CAN change it by uplifting and supporting and broadcasting from the highest mountains, the authors who are. Thanks to Winnie Dunn I’m starting to really understand that now. My role isn’t to change my whiteness, that’s just like a man trying to pretend he understands a woman’s view of the world, my role is to use the access my white privilege gives me to create a larger, more equal space for the minority writers who are already telling their own stories.
So I am going to rewrite my book and my character and I am happy to do it because now I can write knowing that the path I am following, I have a right to tread. It has liberated my storyline and character into a familiar space that I can write confidently, from my experience of the world and I don’t risk getting it horribly wrong, like so many others have. It has also made me question other storylines and characters in my book and I am going to get some advice on them now, rather than risk making the same mistakes.
In short it has made me ask “why,” to so many of the choices I have made in this first book and I will be asking ‘why” a lot more, in everything I do and write from now on. The biggest lesson this revelation has taught me is not to underestimate my own ignorance and to listen when people who know more than you, tell you that you’ve got it wrong.
You can hear all of this unfold in its entirety on the What’s Cool With Women (WCWW) Minisode with Winnie Dunn released on the Writes4Women podcast this week. Check it out at www.writes4women.com or subscribe in iTunes.
Please check out all of the incredible projects Sweatshop are doing, including the Diverse Women Writer’s Collective, at their website www.sweatshop.ws They will launched their book “Return of the Big Black Thing” at the Sydney Writer’s Festival on the 5th May and can be downloaded via the website along with the first part “The Big Black Thing” Follow Sweatshop on Facebook and Twitter @sweatshopws.
Finally, I must say a huge thank you to Winnie Dunn for her forthright honesty and respectful patience in our conversation. Her openness in bashing this out allowed me to see myself and humble myself without fear of ridicule or rejection and for that I am as grateful as the lessons themselves. This is how the world should work.
Listen to the next Writing episode of the Writes4Women podcast to hear Pam and Kel unpack this issue further and go deeper on the complexities within.
In Episode 13, during Mentoring Moments, Kel and Pam tackled that often difficult beast: revision. Here, Pam details how she goes about revising her novels and gives 5 top tips to keep you sane during the process.
Let It Rest
You need to try and be as objective as you can when reading through your first draft – to read it like a reader rather than as the writer. Complete objectivity is impossible of course. This is your writing and your story and it can be tricky to separate what’s in your head from what’s on the page. But leaving the draft to sit for a while will help you gain at least some degree of objectivity. How long you leave it depends on whether or not you have a deadline with an agent or publisher. If you don’t I would suggest leaving it for a month or two (some people leave it for 6) and then come back to it with fresh eyes.
Read the draft straight through.
Sure, have a notebook and pen handy to jot down any obvious plot holes or glitches but don’t get bogged down in the line by line errors. On this read through you’re looking at the big picture. The overall plot. The structure. The character arc.
- Is there the bones of a story that has a beginning, middle and end?
- Are there definitive turning points where the character has to make tough decisions and changes course?
- Is there rising tension that builds to some sort of climax and then resolves?
- Is the main character different at the end to the beginning?
- Does the pov change erratically?
- Is the tense consistent/
There are other questions that will arise for you, but the main thing is to read it through fairly quickly to get a feel for how it works as a story. I’m in the midst of revision and this time I wrote down any changes I wanted to make on index cards, one card per change. As I revise I’m going back over the index cards and making sure I’ve covered them all. It will be a great pleasure to recycle them all when I’m done.
Plot comes from character in conflict – the problems the character faces, the situations she finds herself in, the choices she makes, the internal and external conflicts she experiences.
Now is the time to put flesh on the bones of your character. You want the reader to see her as a real person not a cardboard cut out. There are some important things to consider:
- What is her wound? This is the event or series of events that occurred when she was younger that changed her in some way – made her more guarded, changed her world view, put up barriers between her and others.
- What does she want? What is her goal in the story? This works on a couple of different levels – what she wants on the surface (or what she thinks she wants) and what she wants underneath (which may be a subconscious desire, one that she’s not even aware of). For example in Close To Home, my third novel, the main character Charlie wanted to do her job and avoid any issues with her family (in the small town she returned to work in as a vet) but underneath what she really wanted was a sense of belonging, family and love. You can see how these two goals are in conflict with each other and that provides plenty of opportunity for tension in the plot and in the character.
- Are there things about your character you don’t know? If so now is the time to work them out. You can do a character bio, charting all her likes, dislikes, food preferences etc but you can also go deeper and work out how she feels about different people and events in her life, and why she feels that way. One option is to write a letter to your character asking her some questions and then write the reply from her pov. It can be quite revealing!
One thing I do at this point is a plot graph. This allows me to see how the plot unravels, how the tension rises and falls and also where the major turning points are. I generally use Michael Hague’s Story structure template as a model. This isn’t for everyone and your story may not fit this model but if you’re struggling with structure it’s a good place to start. The first pic below is the one I did for Close To Home and the second is from The Crossroads. This one had three main characters and multiple viewpoints so I did a graph for each character and worked out where the storylines intersected. I also do other notes on character developments and turning points. there are loads of great templates for this at onestopforwriters.com
- Start by writing a dot point list of your scenes. If you are working in scrivener this should be fairly easy
- List the events on the bottom axis and the level of tension on the vertical (blahhhh – maths terminology, my apologies)
- See if you have turning points at the 10%, 20-25%, 50%, 75-80% and 90% points of your story. For a 100,000 word novel this would be at 10,000 words (set up), 25,000 words (plans change), 50,000 words (mirror moment where the character realizes there is no turning back or charts a new course), 75,000 words (black moment, a major setback) and then at 90-99% the climax. Followed by the wrap up or resolution. Again this is a guideline only and not set in stone.
- You can also chart the development of your themes
- This time around I’m adding in the emotional changes my POV character goes through so I can make sure there’s enough emotional development happening
Plot graph for The Crossroads showing the plot arc for each character and where they intersect.
Psychology and mirror Moments for Rose, Stephanie and Faith in The Crossroads
Revise In Scenes
Once you’ve noted down your changes go back and start revising one scene at a time.
- Each scene should reveal aspects of your main character, and any other main secondary characters, AND move the plot forward.
- Each scene is a mini-story with it’s own beginning middle and end.
- In each scene consider what your main character wants (goal) and what’s going to stop her getting it (obstacle)
- There should also be conflict in every scene, internal and external
- Aim to create tension on every page.
Focus on the micro
Once you’ve sorted out the big picture and you’re back to working through your novel one scene at a time look at the micro, the small details. Either work through your whole manuscript focusing on one of these aspects at a time or revise each scene multiple times making sure you cover each element. Make sure there is a blending of:
- internal dialogue (thought)
- body language.
Get rid of any extraneous words, phrases and repetitions. Scrivener has a useful tool under the edits button, text stats and then word frequency. You can see which words you’ve used multiple times and change as needed. In word you can use the find and replace function but beware of using replace all as it can lead to disasters!
Tighten everything up.
Tension On Every Page
This advice come from writing guru Donald Maass. Tension is what hooks the reader in and gets them turning the page. There are numerous ways you can create tension:
- dialogue – having the characters hiding what they really think or feel, talking at cross purposes
- setting – use the setting to reflect the action or mood of the characters
- body language and non-verbal cues – what the character says and does can be in conflict.
- Leaving things unsaid
- Using backstory as breadcrumbs scattered throughout the story rather than revealing it all up front.
- Read any Donald Maass book for more info
Point Of View
There’s a whole range of points of view you can use ranging from first person (I), second person (you), third person (either close or more distant) and omniscient (all seeing, all knowing outside narrator). If you’re not clear on these make it your business to get clear and then decide which one/s you want to use and stick to them. It’s ok to use multiple POV’s as long as you know what you’re doing and why. The problem is when you jump from one to the other mid paragraph or mid scene and then confuse the reader.
Emotions and Distance
Deep POV is currently on trend. This means getting as far into the character’s skin as possible and removing most or all of the narrator intrusion. Check out a few recent novels and see how far the authors take this and then decide how deep you want to go. There’s no right or wrong here but you can use some of the deep pov techniques to improve your narrative:
- reducing the use of distancing words like felt, thought, wondered, realized etc. Just give the thought, realization or whatever it is rather then telling the reader the character thought it. This puts your reader more in the character’s skin
- using body language and nonverbal cues to show what the characters are doing, which might conflict with what they’re saying
- reducing or removing dialogue tags (said, yelled, screamed) and using actions instead. (‘Get out of my way.’ He pushed his way past and strode out the door)
- including only things the character would really think in the internal dialogue and no info dumps
- including a variety of emotions in each scene. We all have a range of emotions, often conflicting, so readers will relate to characters who do too. Remember to show the emotions not tell.
- Check out The Emotional Craft Of fiction by Donald Maass for more on this but be prepared for a complex read.
You’re going to be doing multiple revisions so be prepared.
- The more experienced you get the less time it will take but remember that in the early stages of your writing you are learning how to write.
- Pull apart books by authors you love and see how they do it. Read like a writer.
- Let one round of revision sit before you come back and do it again. Find yourself some writing buddies or beta readers but try not to give them you ms until you have revised it as much as possible. Take on board what they say but remember it’s your manuscript and your choice to change things or not. If multiple readers are giving you the same feedback it’s probably right.
- Once you’ve done all you can do, let it go.
- Don’t send it to an agent or publisher until you’re sure it’s ready. You generally only get one shot with each of them and you don’t want to blow it.
I could yabber on about this all day but I’ll leave it there. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section or you can email me: Pamela@justwrite.net.au
Be In The Draw To Win An AMAZING Literary Lovers Pack Worth over $300!!!*
For the last 2 episodes of the Writes4Women Podcast we have been calling on you to donate to our Room to Read Holiday Fundraiser to help raise $1500 toward the Room to Read Girls’ Program AND be in the chance to win some kick ass prizes. $1500 will help Room to Read educate 5 girls for another year so…
You can donate via our Everyday Hero link at:
EVERY $10 DONATED TO OUR EVERYDAY HERO FUNDRAISING LINK GIVES YOU A CHANCE TO WIN THIS INSANE PACK OF LITERARY GOODIES:
1 x Leaving Microsoft to Change The World by John Wood (Room to Read Co-Founder)
1 x Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford
1 x Crossroads by Pamela Cook (signed)
1 x On Doubt by Leigh Sales (signed)
1 x The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
1 x Print from “La, La, La” by Kate DiCamillo and Jaime Kim
2 x Pamela Freeman / Hart books (signed)
1hr Mentoring with Pamela Cook
That’s over $300 worth of value that you could win for $10 worth of good natured generosity.
*Open to Australian residents only
The Room to Read Girls’ Program supports girls emotionally by providing mentors and coaches to help them stay in school when things get tough, materially by providing all the books, uniforms and tools they need to stay in school until the end and financially by paying for the cost of their education. The success of this program is evident in the results. To see the stats and read the numerous success stories check out the Room to Read website at www.roomtoread.org
The world’s girls need THIS kind of support more than ever right now.
Thank you. x
Key Takeaways from Our Chat with Pamela Freeman / Hart
This year we thought it might be cool to follow our interviews with a blogpost about the things that stood out to us as writers and women. For our latest episode we were on the convo couch with Pamela Freeman who is a bounty of information and stories. If you haven’t heard it yet go back through the feed on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/writes4women/id1275851144?mt=2) or via our website (www.writes4women.com) and check it out.
There were a gazillion interesting tid bits in this interview but the 3 we found the most striking were:
Spend time imagining your setting – this is important regardless of whether your setting is real or imagined. If it is a real place that exists in the actual world somewhere, then it is always best to ground the setting in researched fact. As Pamela points out, Google, Google Earth and Tripadvisor are lifesaving tools for being able to “travel” the world at your desk and get a sense of the backdrop to your story. But in order to give real dimension you have to go beyond the mere physical construct of the world creating, to the sensory one that supports it. By triggering the reader’s senses through the detailed nuances of setting, you can truly transport them into the heart of your story. These crucial details are the gifts that come from taking the time to imagine the many layers of the setting and the characters’ relationship to it.
Pick pen names to satisfy your different audiences – Pamela Freeman has 3 Pen’s names (for now) because she writes to 3 distinctly different audiences. When asked about the complexities of that choice its was clear that for Pamela it was a no brainer. She didn’t want her kids seeking out and reading her adult books and she didn’t feel her adult audiences would be interested in her kid’s stories. So she separated them by creating new names for each.
How does she manage the different persona’s on the digital stage? Easily, she says. although admittedly she doesn’t spend huge amounts of time on it. Her main tools are her websites, pamelafreemanbooks.com and www.pamela-hart.com and her Facebook pages. Pamela also has a twitter account for each and she has created certain voices for each persona…for example Pamela Hart is a ‘lady’ whereas Pamela Freeman is a little more relaxed. So if you are planning on writing different genres with vastly different audiences it might be time to start thinking of some cool pen names. From an audience perspective it helps manage expectations and makes the author easy to find and follow and from a publishing perspective, it allows publishers to define, market and sell your books to a targeted audience.
Everybody Has A Story To Tell
There is no such thing as a boring family, a boring life. You just have to see it properly” – This is one of our favourite lines from the whole interview. It’s a sentiment we could not agree with more at Writes4Women and something we discuss constantly. Life is all about how you see and experience. The perspective you choose to take. Every single person has a story to tell, every single family has their dramas. Every relationship has it’s rollercoasters, crashes and rescues, and every child has to grow up, surviving sometimes horrible mistakes along the way. We all have regrets we never want anyone to know about and shining moments of pride we wish we could broadcast. We have all been the ‘good’ person and the ‘bad’ and we have all survived something. As writers and creatives it is our job, nay our duty, to excavate these stories of life and shine up the gems for all to see.
So get digging.
These are just a few of the great writing tips from the Pamela Freeman interview. You can hear lots more in episode 12 of the W4W podcast. To learn more about Pamela and her fantastic books go to her websites
Pamela Freeman – www.pamelafreemanbooks.com
Pamela Hart – www.pamela-hart.com
Or like both Pamelas on facebook and twitter for all the latest book updates.
Keep your ears pricked for the next fun episode of the W4W podcast dropping in February…all about setting up your writing/creative goals for the new year and then making sure you actually reach some of them.
With Mandi McIntosh from Book Bazaar Umina Beach
Following on from our recent Writes4Women Minisode and Facebook Live experiment below is the complete list of books and authors recommended by Mandi in our Holiday Reading Recommendations bonus ep. A little something for women of every age and stage. Enjoy!
Mandi’s Best Holiday Reads:
Storyland by Catherine McKinnon
http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460752326/Mandi’s Best Reads for Women:
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
The Call by Peadar O’Guilin
A Galaxy Of Her Own by Libby Jackson
The Book Of Dust by Philip Pullman
Thornhill by Pam Smy