Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

NaNoWriMo is over, thank goodness! Did I enjoy it? No. Do I regret doing it? No. Will I do it again? No. At least I don’t think I will :)

Winner-120x240I always wondered what it would be like to be a part of National November Writer’s Month, and now I know. This year instead of sitting back and reading everyone’s up-and-down stress and triumph stories, I decided it was time to try it out. I launched in with much enthusiasm and at about the half way mark, desperation kicked in. That’s when my writing went from readable to rubbish. By the end on NaNoWriMo, I hated the way I was writing. It made me feel terrible that I was churning out such rubbish just to make a word count target. 

The good thing about this last month, was that I wrote a number of scenes that belong in future books. The total word count for each of my YA fiction books is about 36,000. So I knew when I started the project that I would have a chance to start on some other ideas that have been tucked away for future use. This was a good way of making sure I reached my 50,000 word count for the month of November. So, God willing, I will have another two books in the Operation series in the coming years.

So, thank you NaNoWriMo for the experience.


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It is an honour to be the Ambassador and promotor of the Armadale Young Writers’ Award.

Last year (2011), after conducting more than 50 writing workshops in schools and libraries in only 3 months, entries were received for the inaugural Armadale Young Writers’ Award. At the end of the 3 months, I was exhausted. But I knew the first year would require a lot of work, and I was satisfied that I’d done as much as I could to promote the writing competition.

This year, I conducted 26 writing workshops over the 3 months – which was a much more manageable exercise. These workshops where entirely funded by two Rotary clubs – both outside the City of Armadale. So last week I was asked to speak at the Mill Point Rotary Club, to explain about the award and how I used their funding.

To say that I was dreading the event would be an understatement. I’d never spoken to just adults before. And the fact that they were highly educated business people… who was I in comparison?

Boy, was I in for a surprise. It was the most fun event I’ve been to all year! As soon as we arrived we were caught up in the hilarity of the group. Everyone was happy, greeting each other with hugs and handshakes (kisses for the ladies). These grown men and women seemed to take immense pleasure playing tricks on each other – and the ‘Fines Master’ was a hoot! He was dishing out fines for wearing flowery ties, to fines for dobbing in others. I spoke for  20 minutes, and it was not long enough. I read out three very short stories that had been produced in my workshops, and explained what I did in a writing workshop. There was so  much more I could have shared. They were so impressed that there is talk of more funding for next year.

And what did I learn? That they were just regular people like me! Would I do it again? You bet! I can’t wait for my next invitation. And we are now looking for a Rotary Club to join :)


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During a recent writing workshop, a year 5 student asked me why I wrote crime stories. This is what I told him…

Living in a small country town, I always wanted to grow up and be a police officer or a spy. My favourite comics were detective/spy ones and I learned all I could about secret ways of messaging, writing with invisible ink etc. At one time I went through a phase were I would smooth out a patch of dirt late in the afternoon, in a strategic part of our back yard, then first thing in the morning I would hurry to my patch of dirt and see what/who had walked through it.

All around my back yard I could identify who in my family had been there by the size or tread of their footwear. I could even pick out when a neighbourhood dog or cat had wandered through.

When I hit high-school, I chose subjects that would help me in my quest to be a police officer. In my final year of high-school, my English teacher helped me achieve my dream by contacting the Police Academy and arranging for application papers to be sent to the school. The Academy said that providing I passed the entrance exam, they would make special allowance for me to come straight from high-school to be in the first intake of the new year.

There are no words to describe the excitement and anticipation as I began filling out that paperwork. I was going to fulfil my dream. But then… on the last page, it said ‘Must be an Australian Citizen or a British Subject.’ I was almost 17 years old, was a US citizen at the time, and I felt as though my life was over! The guidance counsellor was no help, asking, ‘Well, what else do you think you’d like to do?’ There was nothing else – I was BORN to be a police officer! It wasn’t fair.

I ended up taking an office job, and discovering that my life wasn’t over. It was just beginning in a new direction that I hadn’t anticipated. I never lost my desire to be a police officer, and I watched all the crime shows I could through the coming years. More than 20 years later, when I sat down to write my first novel, I wrote about what I knew. Police procedure, crime, detecting…

You could have heard a pin drop in the class as they thought about the loss of my dream. Then the same boy asked ‘It’s not too late. Can’t you still become a police officer?’ Bless him… Some dreams are to remain dreams.

Do I regret the path God chose for me? No way. I sometimes wonder what I’d look like in a Police uniform :) but I have had a life I wouldn’t trade.




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Guest Blogger:

Let me introduce myself – my name is Detective Sergeant Scott Backer, and I’m the lead character in the Operation Series of  YA crime fiction thrillers by DJ Stutley. She’s been working on Operation Romeo Sierra since 2003… Will someone please tell her to get busy and get this case solved! I’ve been languishing in the depths of DJ’s computer for so long, that after 4 successful books, I feared she was not going to be able to continue our successful association.

Let me tell you where she went so wrong.

DJ was one of those writers who never made notes. The whole story unfolded in her mind as she wrote. When she began typing, with just the smallest spark of an idea, the story unfolded page by page. Even she had no idea what was going to happen in the next chapter. Don’t ask me how she did this, but she actually wrote the first 4 books in the Operation Series this way. Not one note on a scrap of paper anywhere!

Then in 2003, along came a real villain, who attacked her with a baseball bat because he wanted her car. Her injuries were significant – recovery was long and slow. By the time she sat down to work on Operation Romeo Sierra, the storyline had gone from her head. It was like she was reading it for the first time. She agonised over it for hundreds of hours, followed advice from numerous other authors and friends, before finally facing the awful possibility that she may never write again.

Fortunately her good friend and fellow author, Simon Higgins, suggested that she put Romeo away and write something new. So in typical DJ style, she had an idea, and started typing. This time she had a notepad beside her and jotted down any ideas that could be used in the story. To her surprise, she discovered that she was actually plotting! For the first time, she could see ahead, make notes and fill in the details. 6 weeks later, the first draft of Operation Uniform Echo was finished. 2 weeks later she sent it off to her writing mentor, Marg McAllister, who sent her an email saying ‘… you’re back!’

During the past 18months, DJ has been able to pick up the threads of Operation Romeo Sierra again and has managed to write 10 chapters. And I am excited to see how the case is looking :) She keeps telling everyone that Romeo will be finished by the end of the year. So come on, DJ – get busy! you’ve still got 5 chapters to go and  hours of editing and proofreading ahead of you, and half the year has gone.

Lesson to all you writers out there: take notes, notes and more notes. Don’t leave ideas in your head where they can be traumatised away, never to be thought of again.

Scott Backer (& DJ)

(c) DJ Stutley 2012

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Today I thought I’d give an update of the various projects on the go…

1. The picture book is up to creating the story board – I will soon see all the illustrations and there will be a small window to make any changes. But Katie is doing such a great job, I’m not expecting to have to make changes :) The book will be in print late October.

2. I’m guessing that Foxtrot has been printed, though I haven’t actually heard.

3. Delta is nearing the typeset stage.

4. Alpha has just started the first edit stage.

5. Romeo is still languishing in the depths of my computer, unworked for about 6 months now :(  I’m coming, Romeo, I’m coming…

6. I’ve pulled out some of my other picture book ideas and are seeing which ones are worth pursuing.

7. Scripting has started on the movie trailer – they hope to start filming in September. At this stage, there is just going to be a 5 minute trailer to gauge interest in making the ‘Operation’ Books into a TV series.

As you can see, there is plenty happening on the writing front :)



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Tate Publishing (in the US) is keeping me busy. So far this month, I have done the final proofs for the print run of Operation Foxtrot Five, done the final edits of Operation Delta Bravo and done the final edits for my picture book – It Doesn’t Matter. Now it’s time to start working with the publicity department.

One thing that I’ve learned is that no matter how good you think your work is, there is always room for improvement. No matter where or who you are in the chain of production, there is always room for improvement.

For example, this is the third edition of Operation Foxtrot Five – which means that it has been edited by three different publishing companies since 2001. Each time it was edited, the manuscript became tighter and tighter, and I was given the chance to update and modernise it a little.

Everyone needs their work given the once-over by an editor. An editor is invaluable when it come down to producing professional product. Listen to your editor, consider their advice carefully, and pick your battles. Don’t challenge every change they suggest, there must be a reason for what they are suggesting. Negotiate if you feel strongly and put your point-of-view out there. A good editor will listen and work with you to find a compromise.

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Welcome to my new site! Every now and again it is exciting to start something new, like buying a new book, one that has never been read before, the pages still crisp and resisting staying open when you want to put it down, I think this is what this is, a new book, or perhaps just a new chapter that has attached itself on to the end of a favourite book. I hope you enjoy.

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