Write Mentor 2020 Summer Programme

I’m so excited to be a mentor! I was lucky enough to be selected as a Write Mentor mentee in 2018 (and a Pitch Wars mentee in 2016), and I am so grateful that I finally have the opportunity to give something back. I went on to sign with my amazing agent (Heather Cashman) in May 2019, and my YA fantasy (CHASING BLOOD & SCOUNDRELS) is currently on submission with publishers.

This year I’ll be co-mentoring with my critique partner, Claire Winn & we can’t wait to get our hands on your YA manuscripts! We’ll be offering a full manuscript critique & will help you polish your sub package until it shines!

My strengths as a mentor will be developing compelling character arcs, sharpening dialogue, & crafting an irresistible pitch. Claire has one of the keenest editorial eyes around (I regularly pinch myself that I get to work with her)!

What we’re looking for:

Claire and I share a love of character-driven stories & world building that feels fresh and exciting. Fantasy is near & dear to my heart, but we’re also open to Science Fiction, Adventure, Paranormal, Contemporary Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Contemporary.

I’d love to see…

– A compelling fantasy with a romance I won’t forget.

-Complex female characters with agency (bonus points for witty dialogue).

-New takes on magic.

-Adventure stories that are packed with plot twists.

-Atmospheric settings (if you consider your setting a secondary character, I REALLY want to read).

-Stories celebrating diversity.

-Mystery.

-Compelling villains & antiheroes.

If you can comp your book to any of the following, we would love to see it:

Authors/Books- V.E Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, Claire Le Grand, Kiersten White, Adrienne Young, S.A Chakraborty, Renee Ahdieh, Emily A. Duncan.

Movies/TV shows: Guillermo Del Toro movies, Dragon Prince, Stranger Things, Princess Bride, The Witcher, Killing Eve, Derry Girls (I’m obsessed), Fleabag, and Taika Waititi movies.

I’m not a fan of pushy love interests, lack of consent, or stories that aren’t inclusive.

I’m a big fan of craft books. If you’re chosen as our mentee, you should expect some homework as well as an edit letter. We’re eager to work with a writer who is determined to make their story shine & is open to honest & considerate feedback,

A little about me!

Nicole A. Brake was born in a small coal mining town in the South Wales valleys. Her earliest childhood memory is convincing her younger sister that she was radioactive after she used a torch to make her sibling’s hand glow red.

After graduating from Swansea University with a degree in History, she settled on the South Wales coast with her two mischievous children. She is proud to be a member of 2016 Pitch Wars and 2018 Write Mentor alumni.

When she’s not writing YA fantasy about headstrong, capable young women or devouring an ever-growing TBR pile, you’ll likely find her fangirling over all things geek, baking sweet treats, indulging her wanderlust, or wrangling her two small children on a Welsh beach.

Nicole loves nothing more than curling up somewhere cozy with a great book. Her favorite authors include: V.E. Schwab, Leigh Bardugo, S.A. Chakraborty, Renee Ahdieh, Katherine Arden, Katherine Rundell, and Sabaa Tahir.

Write Mentor Success Story

My interview with Write Mentor is live!

I was lucky enough to be selected as a Write Mentor mentee in 2018, and it will always be one of my favourite summers. There was a lot of hard work, a lot of last minute anxious DMs to my mentor Melissa, but the mentee group were all incredible people & I feel lucky to have shared that experience with them.

If you write fiction or you’re thinking of giving it a go, definitely check out Write Mentor & Pitch Wars. They’re both fantastic communities that give tirelessly to writers (regardless of whether you’re selected as a mentee).

You can read the interview here (if you so wish). Thanks again to everyone involved in Write Mentor for making me feel so welcome!

Now back to revisions on Bounty Girls! : )

Big News!!!

I’m delighted to announce I’m now represented by Heather Cashman and Storm Literary! April was a complete whirlwind of emotion and disbelief (I’m still pinching myself to make sure this is real life).

You can expect a post on my road to getting an agent at some point down the line, but right now I’m frantically revising in the hope I can get my bounty girls book out into the world someday.

Huge thank you to everyone who has supported me and this book! I can’t wait to see what happens next!

x

Novel aesthetics AGGTT (1)

Surviving querying & rejection: A writer’s first aid kit.

I’ve read (and enjoyed ) so many blog posts that celebrate the highs, but very few take a moment to acknowledge how painful and confidence-crushing the lows can be. Querying, receiving negative feedback, missing out on competitions, CP rejections, going on sub–all these things can take their toll on a writer’s poor shrivelled ego. 

Querying is tough & rejections bruise even the healthiest of egos, but both are inevitable. Hopping in & out of the query trenches is exciting, it’s terrifying, and it doesn’t seem to get easier. Form rejections and near misses both unleash their own special kind of heartache. Which got me thinking…

How can writers weather bad news?

How can we keep writing through the silence & rejection?

I don’t have all the answers, so I called on the Write Mentor class of 2018 to share their best tips & tricks for surviving the query trenches.

Word of the day: Subjectivity!

“Remember, it’s not personal.” Mel Stephenson

This is crucial! An agent is making a business decision when considering your work. Maybe they already represent something similar, maybe they don’t feel they can love your book as much as they should. If I’ve learnt anything from querying, it’s that agents hate sending bad news almost as much as you hate receiving it.

“Remember that this is a subjective industry. One agent could love your work (YAY) and the next agent not so much.” Khadijah VanBrakle

Stay organised!

The Write Mentor class of 2018 are an organised bunch! This was overwhelmingly the most popular tip & everyone agreed that a colour-coded excel doc to track your existing and future queries is a querying must have!

Another organisational tip was to filter the rejections so you don’t dwell on the negative. Whether this is using the excel filter function or a separate email folders for closed queries, many of the WM class recommended an out of sight out of mind approach to recording your bad news.

“It was the one way I felt like I had control throughout the process. I knew I was doing my job and had to let the agents do theirs.” AJ Sass

Keep moving forward!

I’m a big fan of this tip. Nothing soothes the rejection pain like falling in love with a new project. QUeerying can often make you feel hopeless, but having another project in the works can really take the pressure off. If it’s not this book that nabs you an agent or book deal, it could always be the next!

“Have something else to focus on. Whether it be a new story, a new project, a job, family, etc.” Rebecca Gibson

Focus on the positive!

“I print out every request. I print out the rejections with good feedback, and highlight the “send us your next work.” Leslie Rush

You wrote a book! Hopefully, you dug deep to make it better! Take yourself back a year, or two, or five. If past you could see all that you’ve achieved or the struggles you’ve overcome, would they celebrate? If yes, then so should you! Never forget to take a moment and appreciate the things you’ve already achieved.

“I try to remind myself that I’ve done SO MUCH WORK…someone else cannot make me value my work any less. And they can’t make me value myself any less, either. Every rejection means I’m trying” Kimberley

Keep your eyes on YOUR page

Nothing brings on the impostor syndrome faster than coveting other people’s achievements, but I am still SO guilty of it.

Don’t belittle your own accomplishments by measuring them against someone else’s. 

Self-care

I make no secret of how bad I am at this. I forget to eat well, exercise, stay hydrated, sleep properly (and I don’t want to think what else) when I’m too busy beating myself up over writing woes.

For me, self care breaks down into the following:

Get active: Exercise is scientifically linked to elevating confidence & nothing blows away the negativity like getting outdoors (for me, anyway).

Less screen time: If my phone/laptop is within reach you can bet your bookshelf I’m refreshing my emails! Social media breaks do wonders for your mental health & perspective. I encourage all tired & overwhelmed writers to TAKE A BREAK when needed.

Relax (or try to): With two little ones & a day job I have to keep pretty strict writing hours to get anything done.

Be a little kinder 

If I could give any querying writer one single piece of advice it would be this: When you’re getting down on yourself and voicing your negative thoughts about yourself take a minute and question if you would say those things to someone else.

I hope the Write Mentor class of 2018 & myself make querying a little less painful for you guys. If you’ve written a YA or MG book, don’t forget to enter the Write Mentor Children’s Novel Award! Entries are open until the end of January. Wishing you all full requests and future book deals!

How do you stay positive and take care of yourself while querying?

 

Improving your craft while watching the pennies

I struggle to think of any skill or pastime that doesn’t have invisible barriers to those who worry about their bank balance. Even writing (which many people may argue requires just a pen, paper & imagination) can prove expensive.

There are a lot of obvious costs: laptop/computer (mine is currently making a death rattle sound and I am TERRIFIED), software etc. But this post is going to focus on how you can develop your craft without incurring uncomfortable costs.

Critique Partners

I’m positive this topic will merit it’s own post in the very near future. The truth is, I would probably still be writing in circles, stringing together confusing sentences about aimless characters if it wasn’t for my beloved critique partners. Some of them have been swapping chapters with me for years, some are recent friends, but all are TREASURES.

Nothing will develop your writing as quickly as sharing your words with other writers AND there are some simple & free methods to find your writing tribe:

  • Susan Dennard’s website (more on this later) has a CP match forum. This is where I found my CP Genna (*waves* Hi Genna!). You can post a brief blurb about your book and what you’re looking for in a CP and hopefully someone will respond saying how desperate they are to swap chapters!
  • There are several CP matching services promoted on Twitter, but I’ve only used Wendy Heard’s. The great thing about this scheme is that it will match writer’s who are at a similar skill level.
  • NaNoWriMo for the uninitiated is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place each November when fearless writers across the globe aim to write 50,000 words in just one month. They have a nifty little website, yes I did just say NIFTY, which has all kinds of forums, pep talks, and a place to log your word count. This is where I found my very first CP, (Hi Amy!), and we are still exchanging WIPs years later.
  • Get involved! I’m an introvert through and through, but the best way to make writer friends is to just jump in with both feet. Many competitions foster a friendly environment (see Pitch Wars, Pitmad, AuthorMentorMatch,WriteMentor). If you’re entering a competition, it is so worth taking the time to make friends. Would you love to read someone’s shiny new WIP? Tell them! Who doesn’t want to hear their book sounds amazing?

*Tiny disclaimer: You should always be mindful when sharing your work. Most people have only the best of intentions, but there are people out there who will prey on fledgling writers.

Craft books

You will either love them or loathe them. Personally, I love them. Nothing makes me dig a little deeper than a thought-provoking writing exercise, BUT craft books can be a little pricey. Most libraries will have at least a small selection for you to borrow (even my quiet corner of the world has a few). You can often pick them up cheap secondhand–Amazon is great for this. I’ve also exchanged books with CP’s.

If you can make it work, craft books can be a great investment! Feel free to get in touch via the comments section if you’re looking for recommendations or check out my Goodreads!

Writing conferences/retreats

This is always a touchy subject for me. Nothing fills me with more longing than the idea of beautiful writing retreats where the faculty is a line-up of my favourite authors, every meal is cooked for you, and my brain overfloweth with knowledge and new words. But I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that this dream is currently beyond me.

HOWEVER, there are cheaper options!

  • WRITEONCON is an annual online writing conference. There is an enormous amount of talks, articles & resources by new and well-known authors. You can pitch agents! AND this year access costed as little as $5.
  • THE HAY FESTIVAL will always have a very special place in my heart. Firstly, it’s in my home country. Secondly, this is where the inspiration for the Bounty Girl book struck me. I was combing through the basement of a second-hand book store (Hay-on-Wye is famous for them) and I started picturing three very different girls who all wanted one thing: revenge. Anyway, the Hay festival holds events across the globe and you can attend the festival for FREE. You do pay to attend the lectures (there are usually several free events), but ticket prices are incredibly reasonable (I saw Sarah J Maas talk a few years ago and it cost me as little as £6).
  • Many keynote speeches end up on Youtube. I recently discovered Victoria Schwab’s Tolkien lecture and it is wonderful!

Online resources

If you’re not ready to spend on craft books, you can find a wealth of writing knowledge at zero cost just by doing a little digging. I LOVE writing blogs (you might have guessed). I could read them all day long. The best part is they are COMPLETELY FREE!

Here are just a few of my favourites:

Book Twitter can be beautiful. It can also be baffling. But there are many authors dishing our great writing advice on a daily basis. These folks are some of the best:

Chuck Wendig

Victoria Schwab

Delilah Dawson

Naomi Hughes

Claribel Ortega

Joanne Harris

Kate Brauning

Fiona McLaren

There’s also a wealth of hashtags that allow you to absorb brilliance while you scroll: #pubtip #writetip #pitchwars

I hope this helps you develop your knowledge whilst saving you pennies! Do you have any tips for those looking to develop their craft on a budget?

 

Time to Write!

I have a superpower.

I can’t fly or bench press the Hulk. I’m not capable of controlling things with my mind (best superpower, just saying), and I can’t make hearts stop the way Captain America does (yes, that is his main superpower). But I can make time from absolutely nothing!

This is how I write.

Juggling a stressful job, wrangling two small children with no childcare & squeezing in time to write is TOUGH. It is TIRING. But it’s not IMPOSSIBLE.

As a rule, I usually keep regular writing hours of 8-10PM most weeknights. This isn’t always possible to stick to, but I try. If I can’t make those hours work, I turn to these handy little tips…

Write everywhere.

My current WIP has been everywhere with me. EVERYWHERE.

I’ve written it waiting for the toast to pop. Waiting for the school gates to open. Waiting for swim lessons. Waiting for the bath to run. Waiting for a meeting to start. Are you sensing a theme?

We’re all busy, constantly rushing from one thing to the next. However, if we take a step back, many of us will discover that we’ve got tiny pockets of time. Moments that we fill with scrolling social media, reminding ourselves to do that thing we really don’t want to do, daydreaming about Chris Evans (just me?). Imagine you skipped Twitter just this once and wrote a sentence.

Now imagine you did this a couple of times a day. Sentences quickly add up and you know what books are made of….

Take your hands off the keyboard!

Not all writing is writing. You don’t have your hands on a keyboard? Doesn’t mean you’re not working.

-Reading in your genre.

-Daydreaming.

-Reading outside of your genre.

-Listening to podcasts.

-Reading for critique partners.

-Sourcing opportunities for writers.

-Reading craft books.

-Daydreaming (repeating this one because this one is IMPORTANT & JOYFUL)

None of these tasks amount to laziness. Every single one of them will enrich your writing. Don’t feel guilty about devoting time to them.

Never end with a question mark.

Even if I’ve had a glorious writing day, one of those really rare days when I manage to sneak out to a coffee shop and churn out 2k, I never stop writing until I know what I’m tackling tomorrow. For some people, just having a vague idea of the next scene, the next conversation, might be enough. But this is the only thing that works for me.

I leave myself an inline comment with the following (example courtesy of bounty girls):

SCENE PURPOSE: Reveal the secret Annora has been keeping & hint at the chaos that will ensue if it is ever exposed.

CHARACTER WANTS: Annora wants to ensure she has the tools to help her survive the desert. Also, Koa (swoons)!

SCENE STRUCTURE:-

Beginning- Annora treks to the foothills flanking Pulucha and wonders if she should really have left poor Carina with a very grouchy Hellion. She replays how the morning has turned EVERYTHING upside down. Will anything ever be the same? 

Middle- Annora is not alone! Just as we think she’s in danger, her shadow is revealed to be Koa. She’s safe. BUT then we realise just how many secrets she has been keeping…

End & Hook- Koa is alarmed when Annora reveals she’s heading into the desert the next day, but she manages to convince him to teach her everything he knows about surviving there. “But there’s only one way to survive the desert,” he says. “Avoid it at all cost…”

TA DA! It sounds simple, but saves me so much time trying to force my way into a scene. I only finish a writing session when I’m happy with the plan I have for the next scene.

Get your butt to bed!!

This is the sensible tip. The bit where I tell you that you’re only as good as you feel. The part where I preach the importance of self care & making your well-being a priority. In other words, this is the tip I never take any notice of myself.

BUT it matters. It really does. Burnout is real, mental health is fragile, and writing sucks when you forget to enjoy it.

So my last tip is to take yourself to bed 30 minutes early tonight. Spend the minutes you’d have wasted flicking through too many channels or scrolling on Facebook. Go to bed and daydream about the next scene you’re going to write, the character you just can’t wait to meet, the conversation you’ll create that will make you laugh and/or cry. Because those extra minutes indulging your imagination could lead you ANYWHERE. That’s the joy of being a writer.

I hope these micro tips help! Feel free to share what works for you and how you find time to create! x

Welcome, Book lover!

This is where I’ll share what I’m currently working on, what books have me fangirling & any other news!

Expect headstrong heroines, swoon-worthy guys, epic adventures, and cake….LOTS of cake.

This site is currently under construction, but you can find me on Twitter (@nicolealana).

Thanks for stopping by!

Nicole 🙂