Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page
I expect stories to grab me at the start (see earlier post “Do you start with a bang?“) but occasionally writers take this to mean that they can solve all their story’s problems / secure representation just by cracking the technique of writing a successful opening. The rest of your novel has to live up to the standard of your opening. Why it’s important to pay attention to opening is not so you can fake it, but so that your opening doesn’t stop the reader reading your great story.
Imagine your were selling your house. You declutter and redecorate inside. Put in new carpets and clean every inch so it’s sparkling. But you forget that the paint’s peeling off your front door, the doorstep’s covered in slippery lichen, and path is full of weeds and bits of broken plant pots. What if a prospective buyer won’t give you any longer than their first impression of what they see when they draw up outside? You’ve lost them before you’ve even had a chance to show them the house.
Equally, putting a lick of paint on the front door and mowing the front lawn won’t count for anything if it’s a mess from the minute your prospective buyer does step inside.
Next week I’m going to launch a blog competition to find the best unpublished novel opening. The prize is a full critique of your opening chapters and a meeting with me for your choice of drinks / lunch / afternoon tea to discuss your writing. So take a critical look at the opening of your work-in-progress: is it the best it really can be? And check back here shortly for details of how to enter.
Was even quieter than I expected, given that I was expecting it to be quiet what with the volcanic ash. Only about one in fifteen tables in the International Rights Centre actually had any people at them, while downstairs it was about as quiet as it was last year towards the end of the day on the last day before the last folks go home. Relaxed is a good word to describe the general atmosphere although I had a stressful start to this morning having been hit on the head by a suitcase falling off the top of my wardrobe, and at exactly the moment I was trying to decide what to wear. “Has it cured the baby brain?” one publisher asked me. In jest. (I hope).
This is all relevent because with the relaxed-ness there’s been time for small talk. International meetings have been a write off but the silver lining is that I’ve had some informal chats with people I probably wouldn’t have had time to otherwise.
Last weekend 450 writers, agents and publishers came together for the Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing in York, a brand new event especially designed to break down the barriers between writers and the publishing industry.
A week before the London Book Fair, any dreamy preconceptions held by aspiring authors that writing was an easy pathway to a champagne lifestyle were swiftly dashed by industry representatives who confirmed how difficult it was to get published and then stay published. The marketplace was tough; advances were under pressure and a first book deal was no guarantee of lifelong career as an author. Simon Trewin lamented how few of the authors he’d worked with during his 17 years as a literary agent were still actively publishing.
Nevertheless, attending writers were impressed how passionate the industry were about books and writing. “As passionate, if not more passionate, than me,” commented one writer. “You have to want it enough,” author Katie Fforde said, opening the Festival. “I want to be size 10, but I obviously don’t want that enough.” In his closing address author RJ Ellory confirmed that real writers were driven by passion first, and money last. “It is just too hard otherwise to get novels written, edited and do all the promotion if you’re not passionate about it.”
Simon Trewin confessed to sixty-hour weeks and hiding in the kitchen of a holiday home with his Blackberry while publisher Barry Cunningham confessed to starting his publishing career dressed up as the Puffin Club puffin.
Agents, publishers and authors fielded over 600 one-to-one appointments with aspiring writers during the weekend, leaving writers impressed with how approachable and helpful the industry professionals were. “Pure gold,” said one writer. “I came away able to look at my whole novel through a different window.”
Shelley Harris won the Authonomy Live competition judged by Clive Malcher from Harper Collins, Helen Corner from Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and author Toby Frost. Author Adèle Geras won Literary Death Match by popular vote with a powerful excerpt but promptly donated her prize to unpublished runner-up Mary Flood, “As that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? To encourage new talent.”