Query – THE UTOPIANS

I’ve been lucky enough to snag an entry into The Writer’s Voice contest. Below is my entry for The Utopians. As always, let me know what you think.

Jody Moller

THE UTOPIANS

QUERY

When the world ends there are no zombies, buildings don’t crumble to the ground, there isn’t even an unseasonal snowstorm to speak of – turns out a real-life apocalypse is nothing like the movies.

Sixteen-year-old MILA SANDERS awakens in a body bag in a room filled with hundreds of decaying corpses to discover that anti-overpopulation cult, THE UTOPIANS, have released a virus on the city of Auckland. Almost everyone is dead, Mila’s parents among them. Struggling to make it on her own, Mila attaches herself to seventeen-year-old JETT WITANA and his band of survivors. Jett may very well be the sexiest creature she’s ever laid eyes on but Mila knows the middle of the apocalypse is the worst possible time for romance. Mila’s distress over the sight of Jett without his shirt and the survivors’ ever dwindling supply of baked beans are the least of her worries because the Utopians are stalking the streets and they don’t get paid their bonuses until each and every survivor is dead. Mila and Jett need to get out of Auckland and they need to do it now.

Complete at 84,000 words, THE UTOPIANS is John Marsden’s TOMORROW series meets THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, a contemporary thriller for young adults told from the perspectives of three characters: wayward teen, MILA SANDERS; Maori heart-throb, JETT WITANA; and son of the Utopian’s leader, AUSTIN BARRERA.

FIRST 250 WORDS

Chapter 1

Mila snapped awake, her entire body tense, gripped by the sort of panic usually reserved for meth addicts coming down after a high. She sucked in a breath; the air, stale and moist, left her body still screaming for oxygen. Her eyes flew open to complete darkness. Her terror kicked up a notch.

Mila threw out her hands; they came to a jarring halt mere inches from her body. Above her head, around her chest, down the sides of her body; everywhere she moved her hands they ran into the same smooth, rubbery material.

She was trapped.

Mila’s heart-rate bolted, her breath shallow. She needed to calm down, panicking would only burn through the limited oxygen supply even faster. In a different situation she might’ve laughed at the stupidity of that thought – there was no way she could possibly calm down, she was dying. Death drew closer with every strained breath.

With terror overriding her senses, Mila concentrated on her hands, pushing against the strange rubbery surface of the cocoon, looking for any opening, any weakness. There, directly above her nose, a change in texture, instead of smooth rubber this was rough, metallic, like hundreds of tiny fingers gripping onto one another. Oh my god – a zipper!

She fought down the flood of relief that started to spill through her veins – this wasn’t over yet – and ran her fingers along the thin row of teeth until they reached their end point, somewhere over her head.

ROW80 Progress and a Meme – Cause That’s Just The Way I Roll

I just finished the first full edit on Utopians and what better way to celebrate than with a writing meme. LS Engler posted this one over on her blog yesterday with an open invitation for others to also participate, so why the hell not🙂 The meme invites participants to share the first sentence (okay let’s be honest from the outset- I’m probably going to include several sentences because I’m just a rule-breaking kinda gal) from each of the first three chapters of their current work. This genuinely appeals for Utopians as the story is written from 3 different perspectives and giving samples from the first 3 chapters gives a tid bit from each of them.

Chapter 1
Panic jolted the last remnants of sleep from Mila’s body.
She was suffocating.
She opened her mouth and tried to suck in a huge gasping breath.
It didn’t work. The air was stale, and there wasn’t enough oxygen, not near enough.

Chapter 2
Jett woke to the familiar sway of his yacht as it bobbed over the waves. He’d anchored for the night just outside Auckland harbour. He probably could have completed the journey yesterday, heading back to dock and allowing his feet to touch dry land for the first time in three weeks, but he’d been unable to pass up the idea of just one extra night out on the water.

Chapter 3
Beep… It can’t possibly be morning already.
Beep… Ignore it, it’ll go away.
Beep… Damn it!
Austin rolled over, lashing his arm out violently at the alarm clock on the side table.

Yes I am aware that all 3 chapters begin with the characters waking up and yes it was deliberate🙂 And now on with my progress toward my ROW80 goals…

Goal 1: Complete my detailed edits on The Utopians
Allocated time: 2 weeks
Progress: Turns out there were 10 chapters left as of the beginning of this round and I am very pleased to say that despite an earth-shattering illness that has seen me virtually bed-ridden for the past few days I managed to get through all 10 of those chapters. The first full edit is complete (and on time too)🙂 Yay! Now I can start on the Character edits.

Goal 2: Character edits on The Utopians
Allocated time: 2 weeks
Progress: Will be starting on these ASAP!

Goal 3: Final read through and compilation of The Utopians for Alpha readers
Allocated time: 1 week
Progress: I need to finish the above goals before I can think about this one.

Goal 4: Read (at least) 12 books to keep up with my goal of 50 for the year
Allocated time: whole round
Progress: Oops, no. I’ve started reading Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The fact that I didn’t read the whole book is evidence of how sick I was – I had the curl up under the doona bit down but I wasn’t well enough to pick up the book to go with it. I’m still 1/12.

All in all progress so far this round has been great. I think that Utopians is really starting to take shape and I can’t wait to finish up the next few weeks of character and line-edits so I can get it off to some readers.

What about you? Have you hit the ground running this round? Or are you struggling to find your feet? What did you think of the (very small) sample from Utopians? As always, I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

ROW80 Goals for Round 3

I know, I know, I’m four days late writing this post and I have a plethora of excuses if you’d like to hear them (don’t I always): Excuse 1 – it’s school hols here, so the kids have been home and this is actually the first time I’ve managed to turn the computer on in over a week; Excuse 2 – new video game (actually bought by the kids, for the kids, to occupy them during a cold and miserable school holiday period but I find it difficult to resist); Excuse 3 – the entire collection of Breaking Bad episodes from my sister (I am not even through to the end of season 2 yet, so this one is going to plague me for a little while longer). Anyway… we need some goals!

Goal 1: Complete my detailed edits on The Utopians
Allocated time: 2 weeks
Progress: Umm… haven’t actually looked at it for over a week but I only have about 8 or so chapters left so I should be able to get through this in the allocated time period.

Goal 2: Character edits on The Utopians
Allocated time: 2 weeks
Progress: Have to complete Goal 1 before I can look at this one

Goal 3: Final read through and compilation of The Utopians for Alpha readers
Allocated time: 1 week
Progress: once again I need to finish the above goals before I can think about this one.

Goal 4: Read (at least) 12 books to keep up with my goal of 50 for the year
Allocated time: whole round
Progress: I read Deaver’s The Skin Collector this week. So I’m 1/12.

If all goes to plan the edits on Utopians will take me through to about half way through the round and then… well… I still haven’t decided what’s next. I’ll get back to you.

Are you participating in the round? Do you find that when the kids are home from school your writing schedule goes completely out the window? As always, I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

And thus ends another round…

Well, the current round of ROW80 rounded out yesterday, so now, in a roundabout kind of way, I’m going to summarise my successes and failures for the round.

Goal 1: write at least 500 words a day until the first draft of my novel, 2 Brothers, is complete.

I completed the first draft of 2 Brothers in the first few weeks of the round (yay, go me!) and since that time have been letting it marinate a little on my computer. Honestly it will probably be next year before I have a chance to go back to this novel and really start to tear it apart, mostly because I have made a promise to myself to FINALLY self-publish at least one (although probably 2) novels next year, so understandably the focus is on those (much more information about this when I set out my goals for the next round starting on July 7th)

Goal 2: once goal #1 is achieved switch to editing mode on The Utopians, aiming to edit half a chapter a day

I made some significant progress on Utopians during this round. I have thoroughly edited about half the novel, plus added in 3 new chapters which (at least in my opinion) fix all of the continuity and timeline issues present in the story. The good news is that despite spending the past few months with these characters I still completely love them🙂 Still a long way to go, but I am hoping to have this novel sent off to my beloved alpha-readers in the next few months.

Goal 3: keep up with my aim to read 50 books this year.

I’m up to 18/50 for the year, which puts me about 6 behind schedule. I have to pull my finger out on this one and try and get ahead before November because I know that I will not be reading at all while NaNoWriMo is on. This week I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and absolutely loved it! By far the best story I’ve read this year despite the tears (and oh weren’t there some tears). Highly recommended. 

Goal 4: complete beta-reading of LS Engler’s novel – Soulless.

This goal was added fairly late in the round, just to keep me honest and make sure I got it back to LS by the required date. Done, complete, finished and returned.

 

So, really, it was pretty much a round of successes, despite falling off the wagon a few times, I managed to get back on and really started to hit my targets. Can’t wait for next round with some big goals ahead. How about you? Do you feel like the round was an overall success despite some minor stumbling blocks? Are you looking forward to digging in for the next round? As always, I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

 

Almost at the finish line

Another two weeks has flown by without a ROW80 update. But don’t fret, I’ve been plenty busy🙂

 

Goal 2: once goal #1 is achieved switch to editing mode on The Utopians, aiming to edit half a chapter a day
Scrap that 🙂 Editing has been temporarily abandoned in favour of drafting my 3 extra chapters.

Done, d-done, done, done. I just finished the draft of those new chapters and I will now spend the last four days of this round of ROW80 switching back into editing mode.

 

Goal 3: keep up with my aim to read 50 books this year.
I read Beautiful Darkness, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl this week. I thought it was better than the first book, but still not really up at the level I was expecting. I’ve now read 17/50 for the year… lots of reading still to do🙂

 

Goal 4: complete beta-reading of LS Engler’s novel – Soulless.

Yay! Another one to tick of my list. I finished going through LS’s novel and emailed back my ideas.

 

All in all it’s been a productive 2 weeks and I am looking forward to seeing how much I can get done over the last few days of ROW80, and of course, starting to think about the goals for the next round.

How was your week? Are you getting close to reaching the goals you set yourself for the round? As always, I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

Timeline Troubles

So for the past two weeks I’ve kind of fallen of the ROW80 railway tracks and have been tramping through the forest instead. Almost two weeks ago now I decided to finally get off my backside and write up a thorough time-line for Utopians (which might have been a task I’d been putting off since I first wrote the outline for the novel about two years ago now…oops). Having an accurate timeline doesn’t always matter in the novel, but for Utopians, where I am rotating through 3 different POVs, I really needed to confirm that all the events lined up in the correct order.

I was less than 5 chapters in when the alarms started sounding in my brain. Something was wrong, possibly massively wrong, with the start of my novel. Having committed the classic beginners mistake of starting a story in the wrong place before, I now take great care to ensure the first chapter is provides the perfect opening to the story (and I still love the opening of Utopians that finds my MC Mila waking up in a body bag). The problem was that Chapters 2 & 3, rather than providing similar openings for my two other MCs Jett and Austin, not only failed to introduce them the way I would like but also didn’t fit in at all with the timeline I’d managed to construct.

I bit of serious brain storming (and maybe a few glasses of wine) later and I managed to come up with a fix – the novel needs 3 extra chapters! Which leads my to my new goals.

Goal 2: once goal #1 is achieved switch to editing mode on The Utopians, aiming to edit half a chapter a day
Scrap that🙂 Editing has been temporarily abandoned in favour of drafting those 3 extra chapters. I completed one chapter this week, plus some reworking of the surrounding existing chapters. 2 to go!

Goal 3: keep up with my aim to read 50 books this year.
Not a good week on the reading front once again. But the next (new goal) goes someway to explaining that.

Goal 4: complete beta-reading of LS Engler’s novel – Soulless.
I wanted to put this in as an official goal so I stay on track. I’m just over half-way through the story and (good news here LS) well on track to get it back to writer on time🙂

Do you write timelines for your novels? Do you sometimes have difficulty trying to decide on the perfect place to start your story?As always I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

The Editing Process

Slowly but surely I’m switching off the writing brain cells and switching on the editing ones, which means that slowly but surely the editing process is becoming easier. I’ve had a few people ask about my editing process, so, if you’re interested, I’m going to run through it step-by-step. 

1. The complete read through

At this stage I’ve had at least a few months breathing space after finishing the first draft and I do a complete read through. Usually I do this on my Kindle but now that I’m on a Windows 8 computer I can’t work out how to do my Kindle conversions anymore (if you know how to do this please let me know), so for my latest novel, The Utopians, this was on my computer. While I read I make notes on anything that stands out to me – consistency, plot, anything that doesn’t make sense, repetition etc..

2. The sentence-by-sentence edit

This is the tough one (and the one I’m in the middle of now with The Utopians), where I read through every sentence at least 2-3 times to make sure it sounds right. I remove redundant words (‘that’ seems to be the most common one getting culled), I improve the cadence of my sentences, I also correct anything I noticed in the first read-through.

3. The character edit

For this one in the past I have rearranged the chapters of my novel based upon POV character, and will probably repeat this again with The Utopians. The character edit is all about getting the voice of each of my characters to be distinct, they each have particular phrases and words that they use. Despite the fact that my novel is 3rd person I want each character to be identifiable by the language and tone they use.

4. The out-loud read

In the past I have relied on doing this myself, but it doesn’t work all that well as I tend to read over my mistakes. This time round I’m planning on using my Kindle (ahh!!! see above) to read-it aloud to me, which allows me to do basic line editing.

After that it will be off to my delightful alpha readers (read – loving family members) who will tell me which bits don’t work so I can fix them up and get it ready for the beta-reading process.

Now onto my ROW80 goals:

Goal 2: once goal #1 is achieved switch to editing mode on the apocalyptic YA novel, The Utopians, aiming to edit ~5 pages half a chapter a day.

I hit a bit of a lull this week only managing to get through 3 chapters. I had mountains of marking for the other (read – paid) job. But the Autumn session at the University is almost over so in another week and a bit I am unemployed again until Spring session begins and will be concentrating on getting this novel finished. But some good news, I did break through the half-way point of the novel this week, the 50% plot-point line has been crossed and I am climbing to the 75% mark.

Goal 3: keep up with my aim to read 50 books this year.

Nought, zero, zilch. Busy. Week.

Do you have a regimented editing process like I do (the scientist in me fights her way to the surface every once in a while) or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-editing-pants kind of editor? Do you know of any programs to convert to Kindle format that are compatible with Windows 8 (please, please, please)?

 As always I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller