Monday, 20 March 2023

Omega Writers | Call for 2023 CALEB Award Judges

It is almost time for the 2023 CALEB Awards from Omega Writers.

CALEB stands for Christian Authors Lifting Each other's Books.

The CALEB Award:

  • Supports excellence in Australasian Christian books by encouraging and educating writers, regardless of genre.
  • Encourages excellence in Australasian Christian books by recognising and rewarding our best writers across a range of genres.
The CALEB Award will open for entries on 1 April 2023, so if you’re an unpublished Christian writer from Australia or New Zealand, it’s time to polish your manuscript!

The categories for the 2023 CALEB Award are:

  • Unpublished Adult Fiction
  • Unpublished Young Adult Fiction
  • Unpublished Adult Nonfiction
CALEB Award 2023 Call for Judges

In order to run the CALEB Awards, we need judges.

Who can judge?

Anyone! Well, almost anyone.

  • We’re looking for writers and/or keen readers who can read and judge the first fifty pages of between four and ten entries between 1 May and 18 June.
  • This is a contest for Christian writers, so ask that judges agree with the Omega Writers Statement of Faith.
  • Entries are provided as Word files, so you will need to read on your computer, tablet, smartphone, or Kindle device.

All we ask is that you judge each entry fairly, according to the judging criteria.

You can judge any category you haven't entered (so if you enter Adult Fiction, we'd love to have you as a judge for Young Adult Fiction or Nonfiction).

Can I volunteer to judge if I’m entering the CALEB Awards?

Yes! Judging is a great way of giving back to the Australasian Christian writing community.
  • If you’re entering the Nonfiction award but also read fiction, then we’d love to have you judge Young Adult or Adult Fiction.
  • If you're entering a fiction category (Adult or Young Adult Fiction), then we'd love to have you judge Nonfiction or the other fiction category.
  • If you’re not entering the CALEB, then we’d love to have you judge whatever category you like!

What do judges have to do?

First-round judges will have approximately two months to judge between three and ten entries in the category and genre of their choice (so if you hate reading young adult romance, we’ll do our best to ensure you don’t get any romance entries. If you can only judge three entries, we’ll send you three. If you can judge more, we’ll send you more). 

The Unpublished contest is the first 10,000 words of the manuscript, plus a 1,000-word synopsis. Depending on how fast you read, judging should take between 30 and 60 minutes per entry. 

 Those judging the Unpublished contest will be asked to provide written feedback to support their scores, and this feedback will be given to the entrants. 

Feedback is one of the main reasons to enter an Unpublished contest, so we do ask that judges give fair, considered, and prayerful feedback. 

Final-round judges will have approximately two months to pick a winner from three finalists. They will be asked to read the full manuscript (entries are capped at 120,000 words).

Interested? Click here to volunteer!

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Critique Survivor

 

October, 2022: I [Barbara McKay] attended my first Omega Writers Conference at Kingscliffe, NSW as a CALEB finalist. At 78 years of age, I was probably the oldest participant, but with 2 Tim. 1:7 ‘God has not given us a spirit of timidity, or cowardice or fear’ uppermost in my mind, I head-butted my fears.

Nola Passmore from the Toowoomba Chapter of Omega Writers (Quirky Quills) drove me to the resort. I pretended to be intelligent in my conversation. After that weekend, I joined the Toowoomba group.

On the 4th Feb, 2023: came the directive: ‘Bring two pages of writing, double-spaced, for those who will critique your work.’

My children’s story (about 500 words) was about rescuing an injured koala. We broke out into small groups, landing me with fellow Chapter members, Adele and Pamela, who took time to read my story. I felt as if I were in a court of law: The judgement of my writing began—with both written and verbal words.  


In feedback, I received comments such as:

‘Show [do] not tell’ 

‘POV – whose point of view?’  

‘Clearer story progression needed’

‘Use strong verbs’ 

I was in a daze as I walked away and spoke to another new writer to the group, about our ‘Crit Session’. For me, writer’s block set in. For two weeks I contemplated ‘Point of View’ when writing. ‘How do I re-write this story?’ I asked myself.

The 17th Feb (two weeks later): Pamela sent a message on the Writing Messenger thread.

‘How are you going with your story, Barb? I can see the picture you painted with you writing. Look forward to reading it again.’ 

Shock set in as I read her words. I responded. 

‘O dear, Pamela, a writer who is taking me seriously! [I feel like] I’m sitting in the Year 6 classroom listening to the teacher explaining “Point of View”. How do I write from the perspective of an 8-year-old? And you, the teacher, will not let me out of the classroom till I do this task?’

Pamela responded:

‘Oh Barbara. I don’t want to see you give up! [A]bsolutely—you can write from an 8-year-old point of view. It could be fun!’  

She added:

‘I rather think we who have been writing a while have developed a kind of rhino hide. And have forgotten how very hard it is to be in the early days, feeling so vulnerable at sharing your work.  You and Donna are so brave.’

Pamela’s words were the stimulus I needed. ‘I’m not scared of these authors,’ I told myself.

I sent a text asking a question about a suitable thesaurus and ‘Point of View’.

Dear Mazzy, who was on Day 1, Post Surgery, responded from her hospital bed with very encouraging words, and personal exhortation.  

In tears, before tackling the re-working of my koala story, I wrote:

Those Omega writers in Toowoomba … giving us a critique of our work, and then having the audacity /courage to check up on me to see if I have rewritten it. 

Maybe, the Holy Spirit is giving me a gift revealing to me that, ‘Yes, I can write’, but also saying, ‘You can improve, and [those] girls are here to help you.  You go girl!’

Maybe, God is saying [to me and all of us who write], ‘Release your uncomfortable, uneasy thoughts to Me, for I am a God full of compassion and love.  Yes, you are overwhelmed and refuse to write, but hey, people say, “you have a gift”, so keep writing.

Thanks, Omega Writers from Toowoomba.  You are the best!


Barabara McKay is a new student to the classroom of writing (year 6, that is πŸ˜‰) and determined to leave a written legacy of her life for her family and the generations to come. A minister's wife for forty-one years, she now resides in the peaceful town of Crows Nest, Queensland, writing adventures of the highs and lows of her life and God's faithfulness in every circumstance.

Thursday, 9 March 2023

'Write it Down' by Jo Wanmer

There is no more important time to write than now. Across the world we see God moving in a new way. A few weeks ago, in Asbury, Kentucky, we saw students at a Wesleyan Bible College start to pray and worship 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Why? It seems that one young student had a revelation of his sin and publicly started to repent at the end of a chapel service. Just as John the Baptist’s call to repentance made way for Jesus, so this repentance opened the way for Jesus and He came! Then He came to other universities, schools, communities. He is pouring out his spirit on Generation Z. It’s a revival marked by worship and love of Jesus.

God is up to something big. There are reports of revival from Indonesia, Uganda, Philippians….. and, yes, here in Australia. Every move of God comes with fresh revelation and new understandings of the Word. Such a revelation caused Martin Luther to nail his thesis to the door, regardless of threats against him. New understandings caused the Wesley brothers to be kicked out of churches. They continued to preach in the fields, highways and byways, while writing over 6,500 hymns.
It is imperative for us to write. We must journal as we sit with God and record the ideas he drops into our hearts. Well known bible passages open wider, mean more, go deeper, affecting our hearts. As writers called by God, we have a responsibility to share the new, to find the words to explain what He’s saying. This is why we are wordsmiths. Where would we be today if those called by God didn’t stop and put pen to paper? God said to Habakkuk, "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so heralds may run with it.” (2:2) He spoke similar words to Jeremiah, John, and others.

 On Mt Sinai He used His own finger to write on the stone tablets. God instructed Moses to write. Because of this we have a record of the birth of history. He watches over His Word zealously. During World War II, Warsaw was completely destroyed. Only one wall remained standing vertical. It was part of the building the Bible Society occupied. On the wall was written "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never pass away."    

He guards His word to the extent that even if it is hidden for centuries, He can bring it to light just as He unearthed the Red Sea Scrolls. Could our words be that important? If we are following Him I believe so.

In the age of the internet, methods of communication have changed. Tic-tok, live stream, zoom and other similar apps have pushed us to verbal and video communication. However, I believe the Lord is still saying, ‘WRITE IT DOWN!’ Maybe one day your grandchild will find an old journal and God will use it to speak to them. Or someone will open and old book you’ve written and find Jesus. Take the revelations God gives you at this time and write booklets. write poems, songs and memes. Insert the ideas in your novels. Let your characters walk out deeper spiritual understandings. 

This week I have heard several people quote Esther 4:14. See picture for the verse, but I’d like to rephrase it for us, for today. 
"If you keep quiet (stop writing) at a time like this, deliverance and relief for our world will arise from some others, but you and your relatives will miss out. Who knows if perhaps you were made a wordsmith for just such a time as this?”

Esther had to risk her life to pass on a message. It was impossible without prayer and fasting, determination, wisdom and self-sacrifice. She could have claimed she was too young, too inexperienced, insignificant. All that was true. But she said yes and God made a way. 

All God is asking us for is a ‘Yes’. A willingness to lay down the old long held precious beliefs and embrace Him as he leads us, his church, into the new. Our agreement and prayer enable him to get the right words on our paper.

 Father, I pray for every son and daughter of yours who read these words today. May your spirit quicken our hearts and minds. I pray you will open the eyes of our hearts and our imagination that each of us will know You and Your power on our writing.

Jo Wanmer is sitting in her chair in North Brisbane. Today she has pushed past the heavy opposition to write, the opposition that comes against us all. Pray for her that she too will write everything He would have her to write.

Her book 'Though the Bud be Bruised' was published ten years ago. There are other stories in anthologies. Other books are waiting for her to jump the publishing hurdle

Monday, 6 March 2023

Highlighting Editing

 by Jeanette O'Hagan





The End! 

Typing these simple two words can give a rush of excitement, the sense of achievement. Like a runner putting their all into the race and feeling the tape break against their chest as they cross the finishing line. Something long planned for, something that has taken up so much time and energy, is now finished. It's surely time to celebrate.  

And indeed it is. You have achieved something that many, many writers never do - finished that book or even finished the story.  Well done.

So now, all you really need to do is send it off to a publisher or upload it to Amazon and your job is done. Right?!

Well, not quite. 

What often distinguishes a great writer from a so-so one is feedback and editing.

Why Edit?


Why Edit? Because both publishers and readers have expectations. 

A well edited manuscript can be the difference between your manuscript catching the eye of an agent or publisher rather than languishing in the reject pile.  In the past, publishers may have accepted a manuscript that needed work, but not any more, not unless you are famous. Publishers are inundated with manuscripts - the slush pile - and have limited time to decide which manuscript is worth investing time and money. 

But what if you self publish? True, you can upload almost anything to Amazon.  But readers can be scathing in reviews or report your book to Amazon for quality issues if they see (or think they see) errors or if the book does not meet their genre expectations.  It's the plethora of unedited or badly edited books that often gives self-publishing a bad name. 

But, you might say, I'm good at English, maybe even an English teacher, I don't need someone else to edit.  Firstly, as writers, we see what we expect to see plus we don't know what we don't know - especially in terms of stylistic and genre expectations which have changed over time. 

Different Levels of Editing

Not all editing is the same. There are different levels of editing. 

Structural or Developmental Edit


Structural or Developmental Edits are like an architectural plan, It looks at the bigger picture, at the basic structure of the book and how it all fits together. 

In a novel, the editor would look at  the story, the plot and how it is narrated and by whom as well as the structure - introduction, inciting incident, turning point, climax etc.  In addition, point of view, the characters, setting, themes, suspense, pacing, foreshadowing, dialogue, consistency, accuracy, and believability will all be scrutinised.

Different genres have different expectations and structure - a romance generally has a HEA (happily ever after conclusion) whereas woman's fiction or chic lit might be unresolved. A murder mystery needs clues, red herrings, a decretive and the big reveal at the end.

Non-fiction also has expected structure and conventions  depending on whether it is a text book, self-help, a memoir or biography or creative non-fiction.




Style or Line Edit


A style or line edit is more like the finishes and furnishings of the house. While a structural edit looks at the manuscript as a whole and often results in a manuscript report - the stylistic or line edit looks at the the manuscript line by line. 

While the editor might pick up inconsistencies of point of view, of the characters, setting and genre etc. they will particularly look word use and sentence structure. For instance, the use of weasel words (filler words or qualifiers that don't add meaning like "that", "very", "almost" etc), use of passive language, or dependence of adverbs and too many adjectives rather than strong verbs and nouns, the repetition of words or use clichΓ©s, as well as at the accepted use of dialogue and action tags, the effective use of metaphors and other rhetorical devices. 

A strong, fresh style that reflects the author and is appropriate to the story keeps the readers engaged.

Proofreading

Proof reading is like the quality assurance or final inspection once the building is complete. A proof reader looks for those pesky persistent typos, grammatical and spelling mistakes, punctuation as well as obvious mistakes. 

Better to first get the structure and style right before proofreading sections that might end up on the cutting floor. 

Different Kinds of Editors


Who can you ask to edit? 

Self-Editing


The very first editor - is yourself.  Often it's a good idea to give the book a few weeks rest (to get some distance), then take off your creative writing hat, put on your editor's hat and read through the manuscript yourself as a demanding reader would. 

The more editing you do, the less editing someone else has to do. Plus, it helps you learn and develop your own voice.

Crit-reads


If you are part of a writers group or connected with other writers, particularly in your genre, then getting feedback on each other's work can be helpful (even before your book is finished).  Sometimes, writers of the same genre can swap their finished manuscripts for critical feedback. 



Beta-reads

Beta readers are non-professionals, often fans of your genre or part of your target audience who are prepared to read and give their personal response to your book.  If you can, get a few beta-readers.

Professional editing


In general, before you send your book to a publisher or publish it yourself it's advisable to get professional editing, preferably an editor who knows your genre, is up to date with current trends and knows what they are doing.  

Not sure how to get a professional editors? 

Check out Omega Writers , ask in the group, or make an editor's appointment at the upcoming Omega Writers Retreat (Toowoomba Chapter) in May.

Proof Reader

Once you are happy with the final result, then it's time for  a proof reader. 

Accepting Feedback


Receiving criticism or suggestions can be hard. All six kinds of feedback and three tyes of editing are useful. Hopefully the feedback is constructive - though even brutal criticism (once we get over the shock) can be helpful.

Once you receive the feedback, take a deep breath, listen to what is said and reflect on it, weigh it up, take it seriously. 

That said, you don't have to accept everything that is said. This is still your book and it needs your voice, your vision and your passion.  

One the other hand, if a reader stumbles over a part of your book, then others are likely to do so also.  And if four or five people say the same thing or have the same problem, then it is worth taking note. Still, when readers indicate a problem, once alerted to the fact, you may have a better solution than the ones they suggest. 

Take seriously what a reputable professional editor says.  I find it helps to know the 'why' of recommendations as well as the what. To break the rules effectively, it helps to know them. 



Publishing a book is a triathlon  - but the journey has many rewards along the way (some even material). God bless you in your writing adventures.



Jeanette O'Hagan has spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs.


She has published over forty stories and poems, including the Under the Mountain Series (5 books), Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories, Akrad's Children and Rasel's Song, the first two books in the Akrad's Legacy series - and new short story in the Starlit Realms: Fantasy anthology.

She has been to numerous conference, retreats and events. She doesn't like receiving criticism but knows as a writer that feedback is gold and she is grateful for all the people who have helped her hone her writing along the way.

To get a free copy of Ruhanna's Flight - sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan's newsletter here.



Monday, 27 February 2023

Short Fiction


by Jeanette O'Hagan


Christian Writers Downunder anthology
 2015


Less is more - or so they say. Often when we think about writing, we think about novels or memoirs, full length books that may take months, or more likely, years to write.

However, short fiction can often be a good way of honing writing skills and may be easier to have something accepted for publication.

Why bother with Short Fiction?


For Readers

At conventions, people often say they love to read but don’t have the time to do so. In a time-pressed word, short fiction can be enjoyed in one sitting. Readers an also sample a range of both known and unknown authors in an anthology.

Short fiction may leave a reader wanting more character development and/or world building or plot complexity. At its best, short fiction can be thought-provoking, evocative, original, experimental.


For writers:


Writings shorts can be a great way to break into the market, as there are many opportunities for competitions or anthologies or to self-publish.

While not necessarily easy to write , short fiction requires less investment of time and money (for editing etc) than a full length novel. It can give the freedom to experiment with subject, genre, approach without a huge investment in time (so it's not so critical if it doesn't work out).

Short fiction can help a writer to hone their skills - to write powerfully with less words, to set the scene or show character without the fluff, to better understand plot and story structure. 

And when short fiction is tied into the author’s other longer works or story world, it can be used to introduce the novel, continue momentum between books, fill out the story world or give greater depth for characters, and/or it can be offered as a freebie in promotions.

Short fiction can come in any genre - and a range of sizes, from six words up to 50,000 words. And while it may seem easier to write less, short fiction requires its own set of skills to do it well.

Types of short fiction:


Mirco-Fiction


Mirco-Fiction - up to 100 words.


Hard to write well, they fit well with the world of mobile phones and texting and twitter (240 characters). Clearly, every word must count.


 

Ernest Hemingway's famous example of a six-word story is as follows

'For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.'

Flash Fiction


Flash Fiction - between 100-1000 words.

Flash fiction can be used as 'palate cleansers' between longer stories or collected in anthologies (as with the Mixed Blessing books).


 

The Australia Writers Centre has a monthly Furious Fiction challenge – 500 words written between Friday and Sunday, and incorporating required elements (theme, words or some other element)

Writing flash fiction helps tighten one's prose. The focus is usually on one or two scenes or on the climax of the story. My Ruhanna’s Flight was originally a flash fiction (less than 1000) words which I later expanded to a 7000 word story.

Short Story


Short Story - between 1,000 - 7,500 words

This is often what we think of as a short story. Many competitions, periodical, 'zines and anthologies require this length - often around 2000 to 3000 words. Speculative fiction (sci-fi and fantasy) have bigger words counts of between 7000-10,000 words.



The Starlit Realms fantasy anthology edited by Elizabeth Klein

There is more room (or words) to manoeuvre, but focus and tight writing are still essential. It's important to streamline — limit the story to a short period time, small cast of characters, with few if any subplots, and start the story close to the finish.

Novelette

Novelette - 7,500 - 20,000 words

A novelette falls in between a short story and a novella. My Heart of the Mountain started life as a short story (my original attempt at the 7000 word limit for submissions for Glimpses of Light anthology) but blew out to over 11,000 words. Later, I expanded HOM to 15,500 words as the first book in a novella series.

 



The term 'novellette', is not well known and tends to cause confusion. For some, it means a novella. Many others have never heard of the term. So, I've called Heart of the Mountain 'short novella'.

Novella


Novella - 20,000 - 50,000 words

A novella (and to some extent a novelette) allows more complexity, with perhaps more characters and twists and it develops over a longer period of time.


 
Some famous classical works are novellas - for instance Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), H. G. Well's The Time Machine (1895), Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol (1843), Geroge Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) and many others. 

The other four books in my Under the Mountain series (sequels to Heart of the Mountain) are novellas.

Opportunities


Who Publishes Short Fiction


Periodicals, zines, collections and anthologies are usually the home of short fiction. However, short fiction can be published on its own either as e-books or even in print. Short fiction can also be collected in boxed sets.

Another innovative approach is publishing short fiction as a series (similar to TV series) in which 'episodes' within a 'season' are published with individual story arcs plus an over-arching series arc. Adam David Collings is taking this approach with his Jewel of the Star series, having recently published the third in the series, Legacy of War. Amazon's Kindle Vella also takes this approach - with authors publishing episodic short stories. In some ways, it's a return to the past - Charles Dickens books were published this way, serialised in a magazine rather than online.



Current Calls for Submission


Interested in having a go at some short fiction. Keep an eye out for various competitions. Here are some ideas to start with:

Furious Fiction - check it out here.
Elizabeth Klein is look for retellings of lesser known fairy tales for an anthology (due 1st April 2023)
Wombat in Rhiza Edge Short Story Competition want dystopian or steam punk stories for their anthology (open until May 2023) - More info here
Inklings Press are looking for Mystery stories for their next anthology - until 30 April 2033. See more here.

Please share in the comments below (or on the CWD FB page) if you know of other opportunities.

Have you written (or read) short fiction? What do you like (or dislike) about this form? Who do you think does it well?



Jeanette O'Hagan with Lynne Stringer
Jeanette O'Hagan has spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs.

She has published over forty stories and poems, including the Under the Mountain Series (5 books), Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories, Akrad's Children and Rasel's Song, the first two books in the Akrad's Legacy series - and new short story in the Starlit Realms: Fantasy anthology.



To get a free copy of Ruhanna's Flight - sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan's newsletter here.

Thursday, 23 February 2023

Highlighting Blogs and Blogging

 by Jeanette O'Hagan



Each week CWD's faithful team of bloggers share wisdom and inspiration, challenge, inform and entertain on the Christian Writers' Downunder blog (aka here!)

What is a blog and why do we do it?

A blog (shortened from Web Log) is a site that shares regular entries or posts on a website. Generally, the latest blog is posted first, with blogs available in a chronological order - though Labels, the Search box or the Menu Bar (to your right) can help you access particular topics or posts. 

Blogs can be personal like a web diary sharing certain aspects of a person's experience - say about a trip around the world, or daily (mis)adventures as a parent, or an interest in a hobby.

Blogs can also be used by businesses, organisations,  or creatives as part of a platform - i.e. to build a presence or visibility, to engage with clients or fans, and to share relevant information - like new releases or achievements.  

They can also be group blogs (like Christian Writers Downunder and the Australasian Christian Writers blogs), where bloggers take turns to blog sharing their experiences and knowledge on a common subject or interest. 

What about Christians Writers Downunder Blog?


The CWD blog's primary aim is to serve our members through posts from our member bloggers (and the occasional special guest) with inspiring and practical blogposts about writing and the writer's life as informed by our experiences and faith. 

It also provides a platform for our members - to share our triumphs and wins (as in the quarterly Highlights posts), help introduce our members (in the Meet Our Members Posts) or share information from our sister groups (Cross posts with Omega Writers and Australasian Christian Writers).

And for our bloggers - it gives an opportunity to find and develop a voice through blogging and to help visibility in the vast trackless ocean of the interwebs. 

Comments can also encourage the blogger and provide interaction between members. Though in recent years, comments on the the Blogger platform has become more difficult to some. We also share the link to the blog in the Facebook group, and responses can be made in the comments of the post, sparking interaction in the group.

Personal Blogs

Many of our members have their own personal blogs that are worth checking out. 

*Paula Vince blogs about books and always has an interesting take on the Vince Review
*Nola Lorraine (aka Nola Passmore) gives tips on craft, interviews other authors and put interesting quizzes at Nola Lorraine
*Jo-Anne Berthelsen's inspirational blogs Jo-Anne's Berthelsen's Blog gets one thinking.
*Adam Collings not only has a blog but also regular You-tube blogs and podcasts.
*Mazzy Adams also adds her Musings to her website - Mazzy's Musings
*Lynne Stringer includes a blog about sci-fi and writing - Lynne Stringer Author and Editor
*I also have a blog (a little neglected of late) with updates, interviews, reviews etc. Jeanette O'Hagan Writes (by the Light of Two Moons)

Some Changes A Foot


Christian Writers Downunder started as a Yahoo group in 2009, with the very first blog post in 2010. CWD is on Facebook, and over the last 13 years,  CWD has expanded from a few enthusiastic members to over 1300 members.  The blog has over one thousand posts. It has had a few minor changes in format over that time in terms of frequency of blogs, different feature bloggers, and new members of the blog team, but it has basically continued in the same format. 

This year we will be making a few minor changes. 

While Monday mornings have been the primary time for our Blog team share posts, we will be switching this to Thursdays, with every second Monday reserved for the Highlight, Behind the Scenes , Meet Our Members, Fifteen Great Picks, and Admin announcement Posts and the Omega Writers Cross-posts. 

So, remember to keep an eye out on Mondays and Thursdays for the CWD blog - be inspired, encouraged, informed and challenged in your journey as a writer.  

Are you a blogger - what joys and challenges have you experienced? Do you have some favourite blogs you would like to share with others?


Btw - Did you have a new release or event or brag point that didn't make it to the Highlights Post? Keep an eye out for the next call for information from members - the next Highlights post will be in about 4 weeks, on 3rd April 2023 (for January-March 2023).


Jeanette O'Hagan has spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs.

She has published over forty stories and poems, including the Under the Mountain Series (5 books), Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories, Akrad's Children and Rasel's Song, the first two books in the Akrad's Legacy series - and new short story in the Starlit Realms: Fantasy anthology.

She is also an avid reader and enjoys tracking down family tree conundrums. 

Monday, 20 February 2023

Omega Writers | Calling Unpublished Authors!

Calling Unpublished Authors!

The 2023 CALEB Award will open for entries in April 2023. This year's award will welcome entries in the following categories:

  • Unpublished Adult Fiction
  • Unpublished Young Adult Fiction
  • Unpublished Adult/Young Adult Nonfiction

Omega Writers created the CALEB Unpublished contest to support and encourage unpublished writers towards the pursuit and achievement of excellence.

The CALEB Unpublished Award therefore considers unpublished authors, not unpublished manuscripts.

There have been a couple of minor rule changes this year. The main change is that only completed manuscripts will be accepted. This year, entrants will upload two files:

  • Their first 10,000 words, plus a synopsis of up to 1,000 words.
  • Their full and complete manuscript.

The opening and synopsis will be judged in the first round, while finalists will be judged on their full manuscript. Only the contest coordinator and final-round judges will see the full manuscript.

So it's time to get writing, to ensure you have a full manuscript and are therefore eligible to enter the 2023 CALEB Award.

Why should you enter a writing contest?

I can think of several good reasons:

Honest Feedback

Writing contests are a great way to get honest feedback on your writing, and we all need honest feedback. Feedback is a gift which can show us what we’re doing well, and where we need to improve on.

Feedback from Writers

But it’s important to get feedback from the right people. We can ask family and friends for feedback. While they might give encouraging feedback (You’ve done a great job! Keep it up!), it might not be accurate. Family and friends will be proud of you for having written a book, and may be able to tell you what they enjoyed and why, but they probably can’t tell you what needs to be improved (unless they happen to be successful writers who know your genre).

In contrast, contest judges are fellow writers, usually people who write in the same genre. Some will be fellow unpublished authors, some will be published authors, some will have won awards. All are willing to give up their time to help other writers improve their craft.

Targeted Feedback

Because they are writers (or editors, or agents), they know what good writing looks like, and they will judge accordingly. Most contests use a score sheet which looks at different aspects of the writing, such as the opening, the characters, the plot, and use of point of view or showing vs telling. Entering a writing contest will show you if you have issues in some of these areas.

Finding out you’re not using point of view well may be painful, but it’s better to find out from an anonymous contest judge early in your writing career than to polish the manuscript for months (or years), submit to a publisher and be rejected because of your point of view. (And point of view isn’t your opinion on a subject. If you’re a fiction writer and don’t understand what I mean by point of view, you need to learn).

Anonymous Feedback

Judging in unpublished contests is blind, which means the judges don’t know whose entry they are reading and judging. Most contests for unpublished writing ask writers to say who has read the entry so the contest organiser can avoid assigning the entry to a judge who may be biased. In addition, judges are encouraged to notify the organiser if they have seen any entries before so they can be reassigned.

Blind judging means judges can give feedback without worrying about that feedback potentially affecting a relationship (as can happen if you ask family or friends to critique your writing).

Bragging Rights

Finalling in or winning a contest gives you bragging rights aka a line in your query or proposal to an agent or editor. Many well-known Christian writers credit contests with helping them land an agent and/or publishing deal.

Genesis Contest

If your fiction manuscript is already complete, you might want to consider entering the Genesis contest.

The Genesis Contest is run by American Christian Fiction Writers, and judges the first fifteen double-spaced pages plus one-page single-spaced synopsis. Entries “must be consistent with a traditionally accepted understanding of Scripture and Christian world view.”

The award has the following categories:

  • Contemporary
  • Historical
  • Historical Romance
  • Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
  • Novella
  • Romance
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Short Novel
  • Speculative
  • Young Adult

Yes, these are all fiction categories ... American Christian Fiction Writers contests are for fiction manuscripts only. However, ACFW isn't just for American Christian writers--international authors are welcomed, and become part of the Beyond the Borders zone.

Entries are currently open, and close on 15 March 2023. The entry fee is USD 35 for ACFW members and USD 95 for non-members.

If you are looking to publish in the US market, then I recommend entering the Genesis Contest. Many Christian authors are previous Genesis winners or finalists, including David Rawlings (who went on to win a Christy Award for his debut novel, The Baggage Handler.)

Click here to find out more about how to enter.

Click here to check out lists of previous winners (I'm sure you'll recognise some names.)

Will you enter the 2023 CALEB Awards?

Monday, 13 February 2023

Will AI (ChatGPT) Kill the Writing Star?—by Susan J Bruce

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Back in the late 70s there was a hit single called Video Killed the Radio Star, a one-hit-wonder by The Buggles. It was the first song played when MTV debuted in 1981 and it’s about the concerns and mixed attitudes toward the use of 20th-century inventions and machines for the arts. 

 

Fast forward to 2023 and technology continues to grow exponentially—especially artificial intelligence (AI). 

 

From Siri to self-driving cars, AI technology is quickly becoming ubiquitous and changing the way we live and work. It’s not just making our lives easier but it’s also unlocking new frontiers in fields such as medicine, finance and space exploration.

 

It’s also impacting the arts.

 

One of those AI programs, ChatGPT, is currently generating a lot of discussion—inspiring conversations all over the internet. 

What is Chat GPT?

ChatGPT is a new language model program that has been trained on a large amount of text from the internet and beyond. It can generate words and ideas in a conversational tone about almost anything. 

 

I’m a copywriter as well as an author. We talked about it as a team at work and I’d seen some chatter about the program in various writing groups, so I thought I’d better check out what it could do. 

  • Was ChatGPT going to put me out of a job? 
  • Was it going to kill off my author career?

I decided to sign up to the free version of ChatGPT and have a play with the program! 

 

First impression? Wow! The conversational nature of the chatbot was scary-good. At times I felt as if I was talking to a real person.

 

Second impression? My job and writing career were safe—for now!

What ChatGPT can and can’t do 

When you sign up for ChatGPT, the site gives you some warnings about the program’s capabilities and limitations:

  • It remembers what you said earlier in the conversation
  • It allows you to give follow-up corrections       
  • It’s trained to decline inappropriate requests (Not sure what that means, so I didn’t test it!)       
  • It may occasionally give you incorrect information       
  • It can sometimes produce harmful instructions or biased content       
  • It has limited knowledge of the world and events after 2021 (which is obviously when it was programmed)

It also isn’t private—anything you enter could be read by one of their technicians—so don’t give it any information that’s deeply personal or anything related to your security, online or otherwise.

 

I decided to check out the program’s abilities for myself.


ChatGPT writing experiments

Writing copy

To begin with, I decided to check out its copywriting capabilities. I asked ChatGPT to write an advertising blurb for my young adult novel, Running Scared. I gave it the book description and asked it to generate several responses. The first few were simply awful, but I gave it more information and it finally gave me this copy. It's still pretty iffy—I wouldn’t use it as is—but with time I could tweak this draft to come up with something I liked:

 

Experience the heart-wrenching and thrilling journey of Melinda in "Running Scared", the latest novel by Susan J. Bruce. When the boy she loves is hiding a dark secret, Melinda must confront her worst fears and uncover the truth. With themes of first-love, friendship, and bravery, this captivating story explores the power of standing up to bullies and the consequences of keeping secrets. Perfect for young adult readers who love stories filled with emotion and mystery, "Running Scared" will keep you hooked from beginning to end."

 

Verdict: Don’t rely on ChatGPT to write great copy, but it can be used to give you something you can work with and refine.

 

Writing poetry 

I then switched to poetry and asked it to write a ‘happy sonnet’. I reasoned that asking for both poetry and emotion would test its writing abilities. The result was four simple quatrains like this one:

A world of joy, a heart of gold, 

A smile that shines, a story told, 

Of happiness that overflows, 

And laughter that forever grows.

 

I then asked ChatGPT if it understood the structure of a sonnet. It said yes and explained the sonnet structure accurately and defined an English (Shakespearian) sonnet as having three quatrains and a rhyming couplet—all in iambic pentameter. I then asked the program to rewrite the poem according to its definition of an English sonnet.

 

Once again, it gave me four quatrains.

 

I explained that it wasn’t writing according to the rules it gave me and it apologised profusely (yes, really) and had another go. After several attempts, the best it came up with were three quatrains and two rhyming couplets. I gave up and moved on.

 

Here’s another example of inaccuracy that made me laugh: 

 


An amusing ChatGPT chat I found on
reddit—used with permission


 

Verdict: Don’t ask ChatGPT to help you with your poetry (or other) homework! 😎

 

Things became more interesting when I asked it to help me with my novel.


Novel writing

I’m writing a mystery novel and I’m at a point where I need to thread subtle clues to the identity of murderer throughout the story. I gave ChatGPT a couple of paragraphs summarising my story and the character of the antagonist. I then asked for hints regarding how I could thread these clues throughout the narrative.

 

I won’t list them here because I don’t want you to know whodunit 😊, but it gave me some good suggestions. Then I asked the program how I could make my antagonist a more rounded character. Nothing it said was new, and I had to ask the right questions, but it was surprisingly helpful. I felt as if I was brainstorming with another author in my genre. 

 

I could have got this information from a Google search, but it would have taken a lot longer. I could also have chatted with an actual author friend, but we are all busy, right? 

 

Verdict: If you ask ChatGPT the right questions, it can be a useful tool in plotting your novel.


The emphasis here is on the word “tool”

I’m sure this program can do a lot more. When I asked Chat GPT to tell me how it could be useful for authors. This is what it said: 

 

ChatGPT is … an excellent tool for authors who are looking for feedback and suggestions on their writing. Simply provide your draft to ChatGPT and ask for suggestions, and it will respond with insightful suggestions and recommendations, tailored to your writing style and tone. This real-time interaction with an AI model offers an exciting new opportunity for writers to improve their craft and reach their audiences in new and engaging ways.

 

We already have AI tools that are used extensively in the writing world. Editing programs such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid are a form of AI, as are search engines like Google and DuckDuckGo.

 

If we see AI technology as a tool that can help writers create better work, faster, it can be an excellent resource. As long as we treat ChatGPT as a resource and not as a ghostwriter. 

 

The reality is that technology is developing exponentially. In a couple of years GPT3 (on which ChatGPT is based) will become GPT4, so AI isn’t going to go away anytime soon. It will only become more powerful. 


How do we respond?

I think in the future we’ll have three choices as authors: 

  • Let programs like this do our writing for us (meh…)
  • Ignore it completely
  • Harness the technology like we do every other tool (computers and internet, anyone?) and use it to our advantage.  

Photo by Martin Shreder on Unsplash 

My vote is for the third option. I don’t think using an AI tool to write your whole work, or even significant sections of your book is a good idea, from either a craft or ethical perspective. But, like all technology, it can be a handy tool.  

If, like me, you’re the kind of person who likes to bounce ideas off someone to clarify your thoughts, but you don’t always have access to another writer right then, tech like this can be really helpful. It’s fun to play with and it can help you look at your story in a different way.

 

The good news is that even with further technological advances, I don’t believe ChatGPT will take over our roles as writers and authors anytime soon. 

 

Even if AI can one day generate commercially viable stories and books, these books will lack the human creative spark. And I sometimes wonder that if technology uses the internet as its source and AI works take over the internet, will all the information one day devolve into the literary version of grey goo? 

 

There has to be some safeguards. Somehow we need to make sure the dystopian future Roald Dall hypothesised in his book, The Great Automatic Grammatizator, doesn’t happen. In this story a man creates a machine that can write a prize-winning novel in about 15 minutes. More and more of the world’s writers must license their names to the machine—so killing human creativity.

 

As Christian writers (this is a CWD blog after all), whether we write for the Christian community or for mainstream audiences, we have a secret weapon: the Holy Spirit. It’s amazing to think that the God who brought this brilliant and beautiful world into being, also made us to be creators in his image. Our heavenly dad loves to help us make things.

 

I wouldn’t swap that for any AI 😊.

 

But back to that song I mentioned… 


Video didn’t kill the radio star—video and radio are two different media sources. Video music clips entertain by blasting both the visual and audio senses, while radio is a more intimate, invite-the-announcer-into-your-living-room kind of experience. 

 

I don’t think ChatGPT will kill the writing star, either. If AI can help us organise our thoughts and brainstorm ideas, that’s pretty cool. And if we harness the power of AI programs in the right way, it can help our star rise.

 

What about you? Do you think there’s a place for ChatGPT and other AI in an author’s toolbox? What do you think are the ethical issues of using AI?

 

Let’s talk in the comments!

 

Susan J Bruce is an author, artist and animal addict who writes mystery and suspense books—with heart. Susan is a former veterinarian and animals often run, jump, fly or crawl through her tales. Susan's writing group once challenged her to write a story without mentioning any animals—she failed! Susan currently lives in sunny South Australia with her husband and her always-present menagerie. Susan’s first novel, Running Scared, was awarded the 2018 Caleb Prize for an unpublished manuscript.
Visit Susan at www.susanjbruce.com.