Archive for the ‘getting published’ Category
Sarah Taylor writes…
On Saturday, I attended the annual Get Writing conference on behalf of the Kate Nash Literary Agency. It was the first event I had attended as Agency Assistant, so I was particularly looking forward to the day.
For me, the main highlight of the day was attending the one to one sessions where aspiring writers pitch their work in five minute slots. In the space of an hour, I listened to ten different people talk about their work. From an agency point of view, it is a great way to meet aspiring writers and hear, albeit briefly, about their work. In each short session, writers’ give a brief summary of their novel. As my particular interest is in children’s and young adult fiction, I was delighted to hear from some writers’ in this genre.
I also had the opportunity to hear some of the panels on the day as well as listening to Ann Cleeves of ‘Vera’ and ‘Shetland’ fame, who was the keynote speaker. There were also various workshops throughout the day, which people could book to attend.
Get Writing is a brilliant event organised by the Verulam Writers’ Circle and held at the University of Hertfordshire. You can find out more information here: http://www.vwc.org.uk/
2011 brings the second Writers Workshop Festival of Writing in York, 25-27th March, and among the fabulous writers, publishers and agents who will be speaking and leading workshops and courses are Ashley Pharoah, David Nobbs, Nicola Morgan, Kate Williams, Tom Harper, Phillippa Pride (Stephen King’s UK editor), Carole Blake and Patrick Janson-Smith. I’ve been delighted to be involved again assisting with the programming and planning. At the Festival itself I will be running a mini-course, along with the fabulous and funny Jane Lovering, on Characterisation which, I think, makes the critical difference between ok stories and great stories. The mini-course takes place on Friday 25th March.
Looking at next year’s diary, this isn’t the only teaching I’ll be doing in early 2011. In January I’m running a workshop for A-Level students who now have creative writing included in their A-Level English syllabus. Curtis Brown aren’t the only lit agency running writing courses – in April I’m leading a course over an entire weekend covering all the basic elements of novel writing: plotting, characterisation, pacing, suspense, dialogue, conflict, description. The dates are 15-17th April and full details are here.
During the summer I should be at Winchester Writers Conference. In the autumn two more weekends: an autumn writing retreat and a NaNoWriMo weekend.
Add to this the London Book Fair (April), the Romantic Novelists Association conference (July), the Frankfurt Book Fair (October) and the Festival of Romance (October) and no doubt a number of day events and book trade conferences, and that’s the year events-wise.
Exhausted just thinking about it.
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.
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.”
Been having a submissions catch-up day today, and so if you queried me with your opening chapters prior to March 10th, you should have had a response from me.
Having looked a number of submissions in succession, I found myself musing on why more writers weren’t sending in material with openings that really grab.
I thought it was common knowledge in writing circles that one should open one’s novel with a bang (if you’ve been told something different, do say). And a bang might be anything with emotional content – it does not have to involve physical explosives.
Or do you disagree on the best way to open a novel? Do you have your own “rules” you work to? Do you write your opening at the start of writing your novel, at the end, or somewhere in the middle? What’s the best novel opening you’ve ever read?
It has been a busy week as I’ve been up to York sorting out preparations for the Festival of Writing. And the title of this post was a question asked to me at about 11.23pm last Friday by Shourjo Shakar on the Late Show, broadcast on BBC Leeds, BBC York and BBC Humberside. An intetesting question and I wasn’t immediately sure of my answer.
So I changed the question, which I think should be “have you got a story in you?” If you have, and you can get it written down that’s step one. Step two is learning your writing craft.
Anyone can be published in the sense that writers are ordinary people who come from all walks of life. What makes them writers, I think, is simply that they have stories to tell.
Someone texted into the show while I was on asking for advice about getting her book published. More about that in my next blog post.
Had a super day yesterday as guest of honour at Get Writing 2010, Verulam Writers’ Circle annual conference at the University of Hertfordshire, now in its fourth year and a brilliant achievement from Jenny Barden and team. My new office assistant came too – his first writers’ conference!
It was a packed day for delegates (one delegate’s experience) but I do think that events like these, done well, are invaluable especially for aspiring authors. I couldn’t stay all day but did enjoy the talks by agents John Jarrold and Anna Power, and publishers Simon Taylor (Transworld) and Marlene Johnson (Hachette Children’s) who outlined the publishing landscape as well as giving this piece of advice to aspiring authors:
Don’t compare yourself to authors who were successful 20 or 30 years ago, that’s history and publishers aren’t looking for that. Rather, have a view where you might fit into the market compared to authors who have done well in the last six or seven years.
Next stop: York.
As a writer you know the thrill when something that was once just a figment of imagination becomes real? April 9 – 11 in York, something terribly exciting is happening. It is the Festival of Writing, which will be the UK’s best creative writing event.
The chief idea behind the Festival is to give writers insight into how publishing works so they are better informed and better able to get published, and the opportunity to meet and mingle with literary editors and agents face to face.
I will be there giving a talk and one-to-ones but I’m also keen to meet writers in the bar. If you are coming, please do come and say hello.
The full programme, which is fantastic, is on the Festival website: www.festivalofwriting.com