This weekend I’m celebrating the release of my new junior fiction title, Homework on Pluto published by Maverick, and as part of that I’ll be giving away a free signed copy to the lovely readers of this blog. To take part, just comment on this post and I will choose a winner at random on 15 May by printing them out and putting them in a hat. (A sou’wester probably, judging by the weather at the moment…)
Junior fiction or chapter books are great fun to write. Here are my tips:
- Write to the right length. 6-10,000 words are what you are aiming for. So think in terms of 6 chapters of 1000 words each to give you a rough outline.
- Keep it punchy. You’ve got a lot to fit in to make a complete book work within this small space, so don’t waste words on lengthy descriptions or long dialogue exchanges.
- Write a series. Readers this age (around 6-10) love series. Conversely, your first book should be able to stand alone, just in case it doesn’t get followed up. And you only need present one book to the publisher, as long as it has series potential.
- Create memorable characters. Think Mr Gum, Horrid Henry, Flat Stanley… The character is the book.
- Utilise humour. Don’t be afraid to be silly. Silliness is underrated.
Homework on Pluto is available to order from all good bookshops, The Book Depository or Amazon.
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?
Today I reached a milestone for this blog – 1000 followers! I’m so pleased to have reached such a wide audience. I’ve also been loving hearing the recent success stories some of you have been having with your manuscripts – some mentioned on this blog already, others to come over the next few months. We all know what a difficult and frustrating journey it can be, and to hear that publishers are still keen to accept new authors is heartwarming indeed.
To celebrate I’d like to offer you a present. We all know how hard it is to get a second opinion on your work. Scrub that – an honest and useful second opinion. Family are lovely but will always say it’s ‘good’, even if you give them a pencil and ask them to scrub out whole chapters. Some writers swear by having a ‘beta reader’ – someone to go through an early draft and give them a useful critique before they start submitting. I have recently started doing this with two other playwrights for the short plays I’m working on and I feel it has improved my work hugely, as well as decreasing the sense of writing ‘in a vacuum’. You can find willing beta readers in writers’ groups, online forums, social media groups, or sites where you post work up for others to critique and repay them the favour, such as Authonomy.
Or – as a thank you for being such a lovely follower – you can simply post a comment below and I will pick one out of a hat for a free writer-to-writer critique. (A nice, encouraging one, not a tearing-you-to-shreds one, delivered in confidence by email, not published on the blog.)
It could be for a work in progress, something you are preparing for submission, or something you are already sending out but would like some feedback on from a fellow author. All I ask is that it’s under 50,000 words. For very short works like picture books I’d be happy to look at three.
Feel free to talk about your manuscript in your comment, or if you want to play your cards close to your chest then that’s fine as well, just make a remark so I know you’re in the draw. After a month I will print out this page, cut the comments into strips, put them in a hat and ask one of my children to pull one out, then the winner can email me their work.
Good luck and I look forward to reading your manuscript!