I was delighted to attend the Get Writing Conference at the weekend as a delegate/author. Organised by Veralum Writers, the conference has grown each year and now attracts some amazing speakers and workshop leaders. I attended two workshops: comedy sketch writing with Mark Keegan and writing historical fiction with Emma Darwin. Both were hugely helpful and I now feel fired up to have a go at both disciplines while their excellent advice is still ringing in my ears. The great thing about writing children’s fiction is that you can encompass so many genres and styles. So watch out for a historical crime comedy thriller picture book in the distant future!
Here’s some pointers I picked up during the day (which also included talks and panels) that I hope will be useful to you too.
- Some people read a book a day, and two at the weekend (lizlovesbooks.com).
- Psychic distance is a thing and it’s rather useful (thisitchofwriting.com).
- Writers love cake. Not a tip, but it helps to know you are not alone.
- Successful comedy sketches are often about subverting the balance of power between the characters.
- You don’t have to be a ‘plotster’ (planning) or a ‘pantser’ (not planning) – there is a middle way. You need to choose the route that works for you.
- The British love a bit of wordplay, ambiguity and, of course, innuendo.
- Research before or after writing, not during (unless it’s crucial).
- BBC Writers Room is an oft-recommended resource and for good reason.
- Don’t blog unless you enjoy it. But if you do, it can help open doors.
- Use Google Scholar to search for academic articles about your chosen subject.
- Notice what your character notices – look through their eyes, not your own.
- Comedy can have dark undertones.
- Don’t sweat about the synopsis. Shock horror – half the time agents don’t even read them! Even if they do, it can be just a quick glance to make sure you’ve got the story in hand. Your letter and sample chapters are much more important.
- Use escalation to take your comedy sketch from mundane to ridiculous (in a good way).
- Watch Andrew Stanton’s Ted talk – The Clues to a Great Story.
- Go to writing conferences. Attend workshops. Keep on learning. Keep on writing.
PS – I will be randomly selecting the winner of the signed copy of The Snugglewump on Friday. If you haven’t entered, just comment on my previous post to be in with a chance!
Posted in Uncategorized, workshops, Writing conferences
Tagged Andrew Stanton, BBC Writers Room, Emma Darwin, Get Writing 2017, Google Scholar, Liz Loves Books, Mark Keegan, this itch of writing, Veralum Writers Circle
My new picture book The Snugglewump illustrated by Kate Chappell is out! The Snugglewump is a featureless comforter with an inferiority complex. When it hears the other toys arguing about which of them Molly loves best, it crawls out of the cat flap and ends up in a puddle in the local park. Will the Snugglewump be reunited with Molly? Could it be that she loves it best after all? To find out, why not enter my free signed copy giveaway? Just comment below and tell me what age group you like to write for and why. I will print off the comments and draw one out of a hat!
Also I’m running a two hour picture book writing workshop at the Get Writing 2017 conference at Oaklands College, St Albans, on Saturday 3 June. It’s an all day event where you pick which workshops you would like to attend as well as talks and opportunities to pitch to agents and publishers. Plus lunch! A lovely day – I have attended several times in the past. More details and tickets available here.
If you have a picture book text that’s too long for publishers’ requirements, have you considered the short story market? There are a small number of magazines out there, both in print and online, that accept children’s stories and will happily consider a longer length. Here’s my current (short) list which also includes markets for older children’s fiction and young adult; if you know of any others please do comment and I will add them.
Cricket Media submissions
The US-based Cricket family of children’s print and digital magazines includes Babybug for up to three years, Ladybug for 3-6 years, Spider for 6-9, Cricket for 9-14 and Cicada for over 14s. They all have different submission requirements so be sure to check out the word counts required by each one.
The Caterpillar Magazine
This beautifully produced Irish-based print magazine accepts stories up to 1,000 words as well as poetry and art.
Knowonder is an online site that promotes literacy. They are occasionally open for submissions of short stories between 500-2000 words but do not pay.
Alfie Dog Fiction
This small but ambitious publisher aims to be the foremost choice for downloading short stories on the web, and payment comes as a percentage of the small download fee charged to customers. Length is 500-10,000 words.
Cast of Wonders
This site is a little different and features young adult fantasy stories up to 6,000 words recorded as podcasts. See this blog post for more details and an interview with a Cast of Wonders author.
Happy New Year readers – I hope you enjoyed your festivities and are raring to go with your new year’s writing resolutions. And I am here to help!
I will shortly be working through and updating both my list of publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts and my list of UK children’s agents, making sure that you get the correct information you need to submit. I’ll be deleting any markets that no longer look at unagented work or, in the case of new markets, haven’t developed as promised – but don’t worry, there’ll be a few new opportunities going in too.
I will also be continuing to offer my new critique service, giving you the chance to get an extra pair of eyes on your manuscript before sending it off into the big wide world. Alternatively if you have something that keeps being rejected and are wondering why, perhaps I can help? I have adjusted the prices slightly as the feedback I am giving is a lot longer than originally planned, but I hope you’ll agree it’s still excellent value for money and I have had some lovely comments from my first customers.
Finally as usual I will be looking out for new writing opportunities and reporting back from any useful writing events I attend. So let’s make 2017 the year you get published!
A couple of days ago I listened to a live talk on Facebook by publisher Scott Pack on the five most common mistakes people make when submitting their manuscripts. The most interesting point to me was when Scott said that in his experience about half the people who submit are sending a manuscript too early. He said some of these manuscripts might even have been very good after a third or fourth draft, but they were rejected. The reason this struck a chord with me is that I have done this myself many times. Caught up in the exhilaration of finishing a book, I’ve rushed it off into the outside world without another thought. If you think about it, it’s like pushing your baby out of the door and into the cold alone without even a coat and hat. In fact you haven’t put any clothes on them at all! They are not going to survive!
How do you resist the temptation to submit too early? It’s difficult, but you have to start thinking in terms of first draft, second draft, third draft and so on and move your expectations so that submitting becomes connected with the fifth draft, or the sixth one, or whenever you decide you can’t possibly do any more to improve your work. The first draft is just a sketch. Or the naked baby again. Don’t let anyone see your work naked!
It was a big leap for me when I understood that in the first draft anything goes because no one will see it and it’s not going anywhere. You’re free to make mistakes, experiment, write huge chunks that will never be used, or introduce characters that make absolutely no sense later. It doesn’t matter, because the editing stage will take care of all that. Every time you edit or redraft your work you will see a huge improvement.
Everyone’s different of course, but to give you an example this is how my own drafting process goes:
- First draft – write longhand in a notebook, preferably using the same pen. Lose the pen. Panic. The muse has gone! Try writing with another pen. Realise it’s going to be okay. Maybe even better. Phew. Find the original pen. Panic.
- Second draft – type up first draft on to the computer, editing as I go. Correct the problems at the beginning caused by having a different middle and end to the ones I intended.
- Third draft – correct printed out second draft using a pen (any pen – the superstition has mysteriously gone). Perform a massive facelift plus possibly invasive surgery (of the manuscript, not me). Result can be a fifty percent improvement (of the manuscript, definitely not me).
- Fourth draft – print out third draft and put away in cupboard. Agonising wait, preferably for a month. Desired outcome: the ‘I don’t remember writing this!’ effect. Edit again feeling like an older, wiser person.
- Final fifth draft – the paranoia edit. Recheck on screen or paper, tidying, honing and searching for typos and cliches. Realise I’ve used the word ‘look’ a million times on one page. Wear out shift + f7 looking for alternatives. Gah!
Bing! It’s ready. Submit and prepare to repeat stages 3-5 if rejected. Meanwhile buy new notebook and pen and start next project at stage 1.
You can still read Scott’s broadcast on Reedsy’s Facebook page to find out about the other common mistakes. The question and answer session at the end was very useful too.
After having had several enquiries about manuscript assessments, I have decided to launch my own critique service. Simply choose your rate depending on the length of your manuscript and email to me. Once I have received your payment (Paypal or bank transfer) I will respond to you within 2 weeks. You can also include your synopsis and covering letter for each manuscript for free! Payment is per thousand words but can include more than one manuscript, so for example if you have four picture books that are 500 words or less you can send them all for a total of £35 (see below for 2017 rates). Or for a longer book, why not send the first three chapters plus synopsis and covering letter for an appraisal of your complete submission package?
My critique includes:
- Assessment of pace, plot, characters, dialogue and your author voice.
- Advice on grammar and punctuation.
- Help with presentation and layout.
- Suggestions on how to edit your work.
- Areas to work on, and most importantly, your strengths!
- Appraisal of your submission package, if applicable.
I specialise in picture books and young fiction as that’s the age group I’m published in, but I’m happy to look at any writing for children up to young adult.
Rates for 2017
£25 for up to 1000 words
£35 for up to 2000 words
£5 per 1000 words after that
Plus free synopsis and cover letter critique with each manuscript!
Payment should be via paypal to lou dot treleaven at sky dot com or bank transfer (please email me for details). I look forward to hearing from you!
Posted in covering letter, critique service, Submissions, synopsis, Uncategorized, writing resources
Tagged advice, appraisal, assessment, chapter book, children, Covering letter, critique, editing, Fiction, manuscript, middle grade, picture book, submission, synopsis, writing, writing for children, young adult, young fiction
To celebrate the launch of my two new books, The Snowflake Mistake and Letter to Pluto, I am giving away a signed copy of the two of them. To be in the draw, just comment below with your most helpful writing tip. Hopefully we will get a good pool of knowledge we can share!
Here’s mine: Don’t be afraid to write a terrible first draft. No one will see it! Silencing your inner critic is really hard, but just tell them (or it) that you’ll be letting them out when it’s editing time, and they can feast on your words then but not now.
The moment I mastered this tip, my productivity increased by about 500%! What’s your most helpful piece of advice?