Writing a Book? Top Tips from Publishers, Editors & Writers.
Children's and Young Adult Writer's Festival Review
Some time ago I attended the Children's and Young Adult Writer's Festival at the New South Wales Writers Center in Sydney. The day truly exceeded my expectations. Packed with vibrant, eclectic and informative panels made up from some of Australia's leading expert's in the industry including editor's from Random House, Harper Collins and Walker House, and some of Australia's finest Children & YA writer's including the lovely and effervescent best selling children's author Belinda Murrell who launched her latest book 'The Forgotten Pearl'.
The following are an overview of the main points from the day.
- Fresh Ideas - A new take on an old story; a different angle in a love story; unexpected twist in a mystery and the list goes on. Fresh ideas are what captures the eye of a publisher and makes them feel it's worth their while.
- Engaging - Probably a no brainer but if the pages don't engage the publisher from the get go it most likely will be rejected.
- Great writing - What is great writing? It's compelling reading. You really only have to think about your favorite award winning book and have read some best sellers and you can understand what great writing means. What is it that drew you in; what captivated your imagination and compelled you to read on; why was it impossible to put it down? Keep your eye on what it is that catches the eye of the critics and top reviewers in the industry.
- Memorable characters - Characters that the reader can identify with. Characters that the reader can fall in love with. Characters that won't be forgotten. write something distinctive about your characters so the reader knows who they are and remembers them.
- Pulls an emotional response - Publishers love stories that can reach into the heart of the reader and pull an emotional response. It can be sad, romantic, painful, loving, inspiring, erotic, disgusting, exciting etc etc but these are the stories that publishers are looking for.
- Good old fashioned story telling - There's a lot to be said about the magic of good storytelling.Think back to the best story you heard when you were a kid. What was it that held you captive? What was it that made Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, C S Lewis so endearing?
- Unique voice - Give your manuscript a unique voice. Brainstorm first, write down 10 ideas and see where they go. Run it by someone like an author friend, a writer's group, an editor, have your manuscript assessed by a manuscript assessor or an agent and see what they think. This helps decide your voice.
- Write about what's true for you - Writing a story about something that you love, have experienced, and or are passionate about is sure to stand out.
- Good format spelling grammar etc - Again probably a no brainer but each publisher requires different standards for submissions, find out exactly what is required such as if it's 1.5 spacing, don't make it 2.5 Good spelling and grammar is a must do before submitting. If you don't know what correct grammar is then pay someone to have it checked for you. If you are not sure what the requirements are then send an email query before submitting, and remember to keep it professional, short and succinct.
- Don't write to trends - One of the best pieces of advice on the day. By the time you finish writing the trend has moved on and changed. Do you ever wish that books would stop following a trend? How many Vampire stories can we possibly read?
- Know that a good book has seen many, many edits. Don't try to revise everything at once. Do a format edit, then a sentence structure edit, then another edit for spelling and grammar and so on.
- Sit on it for a while. One of the best pieces of advice is to put your manuscript away when you finish it and sit on it for a while. When you read through it again it's surprising how much you will want to change, slash or rewrite.
- And lastly remember don't be too precious about your work. Take advice from experienced professionals in the business, they are there to help you, their experience is invaluable.
And last but not least Keep Writing !