Friday, 31 December 2010
Thursday, 30 December 2010
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
Monday, 27 December 2010
1. Why you're writing to them. You've heard them speak or read an article they've written. Maybe they represent an author who you admire and hope to emulate. It should be specific which shows that you've bothered to do some research which in turn shows a professional outlook.
2. Brief summary of your book. Length, genre etc. Then a few sentences about the theme of the book. This equates to the scriptwriter's elevator pitch, where you imagine you're in a lift with someone who could buy your script, but you've only got a minute to sell it to them. Be clear about what it is you're selling.
3. Market position of the book. Essentially, who's going to buy it. This could be phrased as 'It will appeal to readers of...' and then name a couple of authors, rather then a demographic. Depending on the book, you might want to combine paras 2 and 3.
4. About yourself. Include anything that endorses you as a writer, such as articles published or short story competitions won. Also include any personal information that is directly relevant to the book, such as the book is about shenanigans in a school, and you're a teacher. Don't include anything else such as your friends think it's a wonderful book, or how very difficult it was to write.
5. Thank you for your time etc. I call this the 'I am not a loony' paragraph, so no demands that they get back to you within 48 hours, or copyright threats. Instead, pitch yourself as the ideal author, hardworking, full of ideas and enthusiasm, but also very open to feedback and direction. And don't forget the SAE.
The whole should be written in simple, straightforward language - you are after all hoping to have a long term business relationship with this person. Ask some friends to read it because, in your anxiety to get it right, it's very easy to come across negatively, and while they're reading get them to check the spelling and the grammar. And by the time you've done all that, you're probably feeling like giving up on the whole business and taking up watercolours instead. But persevere. Get it right just once, and you'll never have to go through this again.
Sunday, 26 December 2010
Saturday, 25 December 2010
Friday, 24 December 2010
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Monday, 20 December 2010
Sunday, 19 December 2010
Saturday, 18 December 2010
Friday, 17 December 2010
Thursday, 16 December 2010
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Monday, 13 December 2010
Sunday, 12 December 2010
Saturday, 11 December 2010
Friday, 10 December 2010
Thursday, 9 December 2010
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Monday, 6 December 2010
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Friday, 3 December 2010
We have to write something, anything, to fill the blank page, and yet our fingers either lie idle or our thoughts stray into solipsism as we busily examine our empty navels.
On a weekly basis I subject my students to the same terrible situation. Write about this, I command, write about that. Their faces stare at me blankly.
'How long have we got?' one might ask, playing for time.
'8 minutes and 35 seconds,' I say brightly. 'Off you go.'
And off they go. Everybody writes something. It might not be long, or original or particularly inspired, but written it is. I want to say that again: EVERYBODY writes something. My students are a talented and lovely lot, but they are ordinary people. When put under pressure, they can always write.
We need to do that to ourselves sometimes. Turn up at the blank page and demand that you write something. It doesn't matter what, just get it down. Inspiration is as much about turning up as it is about good ideas.
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Monday, 29 November 2010
Sunday, 28 November 2010
But then if you investigate a little further, it turns out that A Scattering is a collection of poems, and poetry collections do not sell well, even if they are the Costa Book of the Year.
Saturday, 27 November 2010
Friday, 26 November 2010
Thursday, 25 November 2010
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Monday, 22 November 2010
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Saturday, 20 November 2010
Friday, 19 November 2010
Thursday, 18 November 2010
I was giving feedback to a student whose work I've in the past enjoyed, but the latest submission was, frankly, not that good. Certainly not up to the standard I expected to see. What had happened?
He looked sheepish and explained. He'd had this bit of feedback and that. Someone else had said something. He'd taken it on board, then realised he was near the deadline for submission. Quickly he edited the text moving bits around, changing the order. Drat, over the word count. But he wanted to submit those scenes. Equally quickly he went through again cutting phrases he thought he could get rid of, then printed it out without reading through, and bunged it in the post. He was, he said, hanging his head, embarrassed to have submitted it.
It wasn't that bad. But it did show all the signs of a piece that had been hacked around. Non-sequiturs abounded, locations were never fixed, new characters suddenly popped up from nowhere. Confusion reigned in this poor reader's head.
Most of us are short of time. Most of us are rushing to meet deadlines. Shoving something in the post and hoping it will do is never a good option. It wastes your time and postage. It's frustrating for the reader. If you're in a workshop situation and getting feedback, you get stuck in the situation of nodding your head and repetitively saying, I know, I know, while the reader thinks, well if you know, why did you do it?
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Okay, there are several points here.
He's made a big deal of the authentic background to the novel so he's right to say he's studying Ancient History, but there's too much detail.
He says he's had help from two sources - a literary consultancy and a novelist. Now, I think this is dodgy. The implication is, he can't write without extensive help and if an agent takes him on, will he be able to write another book without this level of support? And how much is genuinely his own work, and how much that of his helpers?
And the article he's written about his novel? For his student magazine? It manages to sound both a bit pretentious and inconsequential.
Finally, there's a typo - history should have been capitalised. A covering letter should be perfect.
And this is it rewritten:
I currently study Ancient History at the University of Blogville and this, along with my passion for fantasy, has given me a generous background knowledge upon which I have drawn to write my novel. An article of mine has also been accepted for publication.
He's addressed the main points. He's given just enough personal background to substantiate his claims about his knowledge of the setting. He's ditched the information about the help he's had with writing the novel, and he's gone for the simpler statement that he's had an article accepted. The first sentence is a bit long and clunky, but it's so much better than the first version.
When writing your biography remember to keep it relevant and straightforward. I hope this writer does well: he was a pleasure to work with.
Monday, 15 November 2010
The novel is set in a second world based on our ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome. This, along with a unique system of magic and the integration of republican democracy with autocracy, will appeal to any reader of fantasy fiction as well as adding a new flavour to the generic genre. The novel also has parallels with the romantic fantasy genre as it is written from the perspective of both lovers and follows their individual experiences and emotions.
I don't think this is bad - I like the use of strong verbs such as trapped and grapple - but it feels a bit generic. There are lots of big words such as destiny and epic, but I don't know what's going to happen or what the whole book is about. It feels a bit waffly.
This is the final version:
The book centres on two lovers. Thryn’s abandonment as a child in a society closed to outsiders fuels his strive for acceptance in a treacherous world. Nalani, as a strong and independent woman, yearns for absolution from her father when she is deprived of her home. Together, they are trapped within a war between ancient deities fighting for dominion of all humanity. Driven down a path of deception and epic battles, they grapple with an adversary of their own creation as the destiny of their Realm is revealed.
The setting of the novel originates from a unique blend of our ancient civilisations of Greece, Egypt and Rome. This is coupled with an exclusive religion, system of magic and the integration of republican democracy with autocracy. It will appeal to the readers of authors such as Trudi Canavan, Robert Jordan and Garth Nix.
This is much punchier. I like the naming of the lovers, and their individual quests are stated. And rather than making claims about how it's going to appeal to everyone who reads fantasy fiction AND adding a completely new genre, instead he shows his understanding of the market by naming best selling authors. I'd read this.
I'll look at his biography tomorrow...