Writers Resources

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Undiscovered Voices – advice for children’s writers

Published June 26, 2013 by Jill London

Undiscovered Voices is a competition for unpublished and un-agented writers and illustrators living in the EU, in partnership with SCBWI British Isles. Find out more here: http://www.undiscoveredvoices.com/
(Entries open: 1st July to 15th August 2013)

I’ve got hold of 5 videos featuring some of the top names in children’s publishing giving advice to SCBWI members as part of the Undiscovered Voices competition launch of April 18th 2013. The videos are a little on the quiet side unfortunately but they make for a fascinating insight into the publishing world and the speakers have some really good advice to share.
The panel includes; Ben Horslen – Editorial Director of Puffin, Gemma Cooper – Agent at The Bent Agency, Sallyanne Sweeney – Agent at Watson Little Ltd, Samantha Smith – Publisher at Scholastic and Sarah Lambert – Editorial Director at Quercus Children’s Books.

Undiscovered Voices 2014 Writers part 1 Making Your Manuscript Stand Out:

Undiscovered Voices 2014 Writers part 2 Judging Panel’s Mistakes to Avoid and Advice on Genre:

Undiscovered Voices 2014 Writers part 3 – Tips for Undiscovered Voices Writers:

Undiscovered Voices 2014 – Writers Bonus – Ben and Sam discuss “Is there ever a time for exposition:

Undiscovered Voices 2014 – Writers Bonus – The Panel discuss their recent acquisitions and why they loved them:

10 links for writers

Published June 23, 2013 by Jill London

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Top links to help you discover more about the wonderful world of writing.

 

Writers’ corner: How long will it take?

Published May 21, 2013 by Jill London
Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule – but how useful is it for writers?

How do you make a genius? In his book Outliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell suggested that talent isn’t the decider but how many hours of practice you’re prepared to put into your chosen subject. In the above visualisation of Gladwell’s 10,000 hour principle the work of Bill Gates and The Beatles are used as an example of the successful ‘in action’.

Gladwell’s work was apparently based on the research of psychologist Anders Ericsson of Florida State University. However, as some have noted, Ericsson never mentioned 10,000 hours and it’s important to remember that there’s more to attaining success than simply ‘putting in the hours’. The key therefore is not merely to repeat an action but to learn from it and build on it.

Read this article from Suw Charman-Anderson which puts the 10,000 hour principle under the microscope.

It has also been suggested that, where writers are concerned, the number of words are vital. “A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.” ~David Eddings. Again, you should reasonably expect to have the majority of your early writing rejected (rejection slips can be seen as the ‘jogger’s nipple’ of the writing world after all), but this doesn’t explain how some writers achieve success relatively quickly, much sooner than any million words tide-mark, whilst others can labour for many years producing millions of words without gaining any satisfying results.

Conditions for Successful Practice

Instead of focusing on the amount of hours needed to cultivate success think about the following 4 conditions to improve performance (Mastery teaching, M. Hunter, 2004):

1. The learner must be sufficiently motivated. They must want to improve performance.

2. The learner must have all the knowledge necessary to understand the different ways the new knowledge or skill can be applied.

3. The learner must understand how to apply the knowledge to deal with a particular situation.

4. The learner must be able to analyse the results of their study and know what needs to be changed to improve performance in the future.

In summary: Stay motivated, read up on the subject, think actively about what you’ve read and analyse personal progress. So forget the number of hours involved, don’t give another thought to wasted word counts, just get on with engaging in the process of learning your craft. Remember that ‘every step taken is a step well-lived’.  All of which leads us to consider that, as writers, while we may spend many hours writing it is vital to stay open to advice, to read widely, and to edit thoroughly.

Writers’ corner: Ernest Hemingway

Published April 15, 2013 by Jill London

6 writing tips from the big man that can really help you get started and keep going.

1)    To get started, write one true sentence.

“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

2)     Always stop for the day while you still know what will happen next.

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

3)    Never think about the story when you’re not working.

When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything. But afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

4)    Always start by reading what you’ve written so far.

The best way is to read it all every day from the start, correcting as you go along, then go on from where you stopped the day before. When it gets so long that you can’t do this every day read back two or three chapters each day; then each week read it all from the start. That’s how you make it all of one piece.

5)    Don’t describe an emotion–make it.

I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced. In writing for a newspaper you told what happened and, with one trick and another, you communicated the emotion aided by the element of timeliness which gives a certain emotion to any account of something that has happened on that day; but the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always, was beyond me and I was working very hard to get it.

6)    Use a pencil.

When you start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none. So you might as well use a typewriter because it is that much easier and you enjoy it that much more. After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333 which is a damned good average for a hitter. It also keeps it fluid longer so you can better it easier.

And remember:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Source: http://wp.me/p3cF9o-bb

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Increasing the chances – Success with your short stories.

Published April 6, 2013 by Jill London
It's a big market.

It’s a big market.

I thought I’d add a few thoughts today about the nature of success within the writing arena, and how you can best increase your chances. If you are looking to become a novelist, short stories could be a good way to begin. I can’t find the statistics, but I read once that the number of authors who had a novel published (via a publishing house) without first writing for magazines was incredibly small. This could be based on any number of factors, but if we use this as a formula it shows that writing for magazines is a good way to increase your chances as a published novelist.

When you first start writing for magazines it feels as though your chances of finding success are just as difficult as with any big publishing house but in fact it is quite possible to get a hit with a magazine quite quickly if you approach it the right way. Most magazines are actually crying out for writers – usable authors that is. While they receive many submissions, the number of quality authors who stay writing for them tends to diminish as those authors go off to look for more substantial successes with novels. This means that there are many new openings being created within that market and it would be a good idea, wouldn’t it, to try to get in on that opportunity especially considering how it is increasing your chances of a major success in the future.

confusedSo how do you gain a hit with the magazines? Well I use the word hit for a reason, you need to think of it like this: You have a pack of playing cards, you place a glass a few feet away from yourself and you try to get as many cards into the glass as you can. Lots of cards are going to fall on the floor but a few will hit your target. I think you know where I’m going with this. Fact is, to gain hits with the magazines you must submit a lot of work. But whoa there, not just the contents of your bottom drawer, remember what I said about magazine publishers getting a lot of submissions? A lot of those submissions are from writers submitting any old short story they’ve been harbouring in their desk drawer for many years. Not that these can’t become hits but they will need work first (and probably a lot of it).

Check what the magazines are already publishing. I advise you not to be too judgemental here, if you look at what’s out there, and try to reproduce the same effect with your own stories, you will soon find that it’s not as easy as it looks and you will be humbled, which is good. Many people make value judgements about what is quality and what is not. There are some excellent short stories to be found in magazines just as there is some dross lording about in emperor’s clothing on the literary novels lists. Come on, you’ve seen them too. Read what the magazines are publishing and try to write something similar. Note things like viewpoint; first or third person? Is the tone playful, thoughtful, humorous? Look at subject matter, audience, word count – be exacting here, magazines issue guidelines (available on request) on what they will or won’t accept, and you need to pay attention to what they ask for.

For a really useful guide to writing short stories for magazines I would like to bring your attention to a lady who has had a great deal of hits, and most specifically to her guide;della  The Short Story Writer’s Toolshed – Your Quick Read, Straight-To-The-Point Guide To Writing and Selling Short Fiction, available on Amazon. Della Galton has been published in many magazines and is the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum. Della knows what she’s talking about and you would do well to listen. On the subject of success rates Della says on her website: “I sell 40% of my work first time out.  Overall, I sell approximately 94% of the stories that I write.  If I gave up after the first time out, I wouldn’t be able to make a living”. From this you can see that being ready to rewrite a story is vital but it shows you, most encouragingly, that the successes can be many IF you can stomach all those rejections. I think this is encouraging news, how about you?

As a final thought, remember this from Mark Twain; “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay”. There are numerous publishers out there who have little or no cash to invest in you, but who need your writing for their publications. You can happily help each other out till you make it big time. Last of all, if the thought of all those rejections is making you feel down or too scared to carry on trying, think on this formula: Rejections = success (eventually), it’s true if you think about it.

The best of luck to you.

That’s it for now, but if you’d like to see more on this subject do drop me a line. If you have any advice on writing for magazines or any thoughts to add please fill up that box below. I love getting comments from you.

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