Tips for new writers

This weekend I attended the Writers’ Workshop Getting Published Day, an annual event that invites two hundred or so social-phobic, awkward writer-types* to emerge from their word caves, mingle with a bunch of wise and sympathetic industry folk, fill their brains with invaluable information and return to the safety of their mini scribedoms, enlightened and with renewed energy and focus.

This was my third GPD.  Once I’ve acclimatised to the notion of spending a whole day in the company of loads of people I don’t know, I find the experience most enjoyable and helpful. If you’re serious about writing I’d highly recommend it.

For me, the best thing about it is the opportunity to meet agents and publishers and hear first hand what they’re looking for, how to make a good submission and, even more important, how to get that submission noticed. Of course none of that is relevant if you haven’t written a brilliant book to begin with and the organisers assume you’ve already done this. However, the day does include seminars on more advanced writing techniques to help make your (already excellent) manuscript shine. You also get the chance to have your work critiqued, both one-to-one (thank you Kerry Fisher) and, if you choose, publicly.

(I know.)

Here are some nuggets of advice/resources I thought I’d share with you:

  • One of the speakers, author, editor, mentor and general all round creative writing guru Emma Darwin writes a superb blog, This Itch of Writing, which covers pretty much everything you need to know about the writing process.   Check out her Tool-kit, a resource for everything writerly that is available in the known universe. I’m almost sure that’s true.
  • The consensus is, if you’ve written a book and haven’t already done this, you must prepare an elevator pitch.  Imagine you find yourself in a lift with the CEO of Curtis Brown or Random House. How much will you want to punch yourself if you can’t grab them by the whatsits with a staggering one-liner summing up your superb novel by the time you reach luggage on the fifth floor? Exactly. I break a sweat just thinking about it. So crack on. Do it. Do it now.
  • For a pretty comprehensive look at storytelling watch film maker Andrew Stanton’s TED talk on the subject, which is available on You Tube.  He wrote Toy Story and Wall:e.  In other words, he knows his stuff.
  • If you think you’re at that crucial submission stage and are hovering your cursor precariously over the send button on that one-chance-only email, stop!  Instead, click over to lit agents Darley Anderson’s blog and read 11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel followed by 10 Top Tips For Writing Tip Top Covering Letters. Done that? Happy? Then click away and may the Gods of the Slushpile shine down on that MS until it floats to the top like bubbles in a fine Krug.


helpful tips

* am speaking for myself here. No offence to you, outgoing, confident, sociable writers.

Thanks for reading. If you have any other resources or tips you’d like to share, please add your comments below. A x


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