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Things I learned from Get Writing 2017

Get Writing 2017I 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!

Writing conferences

Get Writing 2010

I recently attended the “Get Writing 2010” conference at the University of Hertfordshire, hosted by Veralum Writers Circle. It was a fantastic day and I will be blogging further about the event and writing conferences in general, but for now I thought I’d share the advice I picked up that meant the most to me.

  • You CAN submit to more than one agent at once – they understand why.  But be honest in your dealings.
  • A lot of agents/publishers don’t read the synopsis until they have sampled your writing.  Good news for all syposis-phobes.
  • The synopsis doesn’t have to be 1 page, but it shouldn’t be much longer.
  • A book proposal shouldn’t be too grandiose – don’t make huge claims. Be businesslike and brief.
  • Agents/publishers DO read everything they are sent, although they may not make it past the covering letter.
  • Agents/publishers ARE still looking for good writing.
  • The industry is on the verge of change with regard to electronic formats, and nobody is quite sure what the future holds.
  • “Published writers are only unpublished writers who didn’t give up.” (I have heard this before but I love it.)
  • Tailor your submission to the agent/publisher and if possible use a name, not “Dear Whoever”.
  • You CAN refer to positive feedback you have had in the past (for example, as part of a rejection letter) if you frame it in terms of showing how you have worked on improving as a result of that feedback.
  • Be more than a one book wonder.
  • Show you are willing to participate in readings, visits, website presence etc – it didn’t used to be important but it is vital now.  You don’t necessarily need a website before you are published, but you almost certainly will after and it will probably be your responsibility.
  • Don’t give up the day job.  Look on writing as a supplementary income.
  • Enjoy the writing process – otherwise why bother?