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.

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

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

It’s Sunday Again – ROW80

Sunday has rolled around again (are these Sunday’s getting closer together or is it just me?) which means it’s time for a ROW80 update.

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 had a great week this week, finally getting into the editing rhythm and completing a chapter almost every day. I’m now up to the start of Chapter 13 which means if I can manage to complete 5-6 chapters a week I will be done in less than 3 weeks.

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

This week I read Matthew Reilly’s new 3 part novella Troll Mountain. Now I’m a huge Matthew Reilly fan (I own every one of his books and even managed to meet him last year at a conference) but I have to say I was disappointed with this story. It was advertised as a family-friendly story, but perhaps should have been more explicitly sold as a Middle Grade novel. It was a quick read, full of action as always, but it just felt a little derivative. 

Have you had a good week? Hitting those goals? I hope so 🙂

 As always I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

ROWlling along

It’s Mother’s Day which means I have spent most of today hanging out with my little monkeys but I thought I would quickly squeeze in a post before bed.

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 certainly didn’t complete half a chapter EVERY day this week, but some days I did more, so I think it worked out fairly evenly. I am partway through Chapter 6 and still slogging away as often as I can. In addition this week I have been making character notes for my next edit through (I always save my character edits for an edit run of their own where I divide up the chapters by POV character and make sure each characters voice is clear and distinct) and I have also been working out how to make my Kindle read stories aloud so I can do a final run through using my Kindle to try and pick out the last of the typos (turns out the read aloud function on the Kindle is ridiculously easy and I think it will be really useful even if it does sound like Stephen Hawking is reading me my novel!)

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

I finally finished Beautiful Creatures. I think I suffered a little with this one as I had wanted to read it for so long (Kami Garcia was one of the first people I followed when I joined twitter years ago, and I’ve had it on my to-read list since then) I think I hyped it up too much in my head. It was good, just not as good as I thought it would be.

To all the mothers out there I hope you had a wonderful day and I hope you enjoyed it because, as my kids informed me, tomorrow it’s back to Children’s day again. As always I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

PS Love you Mum xoxo

Climbing back onto the ROW80 wagon

Half a chapter. That’s how long it took me to fall off the editing wagon. Half a chapter. A week and a half ago, I finished the first read-through of my novel and prepared myself for an intense edit that would probably take upwards of 30 days (and that was provided I could manage a chapter a day) and I lasted, yes that’s right, half a chapter before the wheels fell off and I was brutally reminded that I hate (and I mean Hate with a capital H), I hate, hate, hate editing.

Deep breath. Okay. Now that my little rant is over, I can happily tell you that despite the fact my little wagon has no wheels and can now only plod along at a rather slow pace, in the past few days I have climbed back on and started working my way through the novel. I am currently sitting partway through Chapter 3 and am aiming to finish a chapter every other day till I reach the end.

As for my ROW80 goals:

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

So the revised goal is to try and complete a chapter every 2 days (we’ll see how we go). Also I now no longer have to call it my ‘apocalyptic YA novel’ as I have come up with an (at least temporary) title ‘The Utopians’.

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

Big fat fail on this one. I am currently reading Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia, but it’s taking me forever and in the mean time I have fallen at least 2 books behind schedule.

Do any of you have any advice for a failing editor? Do any of you prefer the editing process to writing? As always I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller