Friday, 31 August 2012

Guest Short Story Writer, Samantha Tonge - Reading between Rejection

Having sold almost 30 short stories to woman’s magazines (small potatoes compared to some of their writers, and I’m still learning), I might be in a position to offer some advice, on how to break into this market. However, I suspect anyone who regularly reads this blog realises, by now, that the key ingredients to success for getting published in any area of writing are mostly:
Hard work
Determination
Perseverance

And, of course, an unlimited supply of your particular poison -  caramel Tunnocks bars are my latest – to see you through the good and bad times.

More specifically for the womag market (that’s what it’s called) I would add:
Always carry a notebook – you never know when an idea might strike
Read the tabloids – I am often inspired by their tales and surveys
And, of course, get to know the market. A brief summary of the various magazines, according to my opinion is:

Take-a-Break Fiction Feast – interested in a diverse range of stories – crime, humour, twist-in-the-tail, romance, supernatural

Woman’s Weekly – slightly more literary, often deal with ‘issues’ – the 2 stories I’ve sold them touch upon bereavement and mental health.

The People’s Friend – cosy, moral, uplifting family stories, about the young and old, nostalgia, romance, inoffensive in every way.

The Weekly News - will take the quirkier stories, likes twists-in-the-tail, plus from the male POV as their readers are from both sexes.


Perhaps it might be more useful, though, if I take you through some of my rejections and what I actually think they mean, when an editor has said that my story is…

Too flat/level – whilst the scene and characters don’t need to be big, the story mustn’t be too slight. What are the stakes? Is there any conflict? What revelation is there by the end? Does the main character change?

Not engaging enough – do we care enough about the characters? Is the story visual? Does the plot suck us in so that we want to read on?

Too stilted – read your story out loud, especially sections of dialogue that run to more than a sentence – would a real person actually say that?

Too real – if the story is in anyway based on your own experience, don’t make it sound too autobiographical. Perhaps write it in the 3rd person instead of the 1st. Remember, it is fiction, not a memoir.

Finally, there will always be what I’d call random reasons, for rejection.
-       we’ve just bought a story like that
-       our readers don’t like pretend characters (huh? No one told me Father Christmas wasn’t real!)
-       our publisher owns Friends Reunited and wouldn’t like the number of times you’ve mentioned Facebook.

I guess sometimes, you just can’t win!

Womag writing is rewarding, fun and an excellent way of earning money from short stories. Whilst it’s a shrinking market, with many of the magazines now preferring celebrity gossip stories to fiction, the magazine fiction specials have their fanbase and fingers crossed, will ride out the recession.

For anyone interested, there is a Woman’s Weekly roadshow 13-15th September 2012, near the Trafford Centre in Manchester, where you can book yourself into seminars on how to write fiction for them:


Best of luck!
  
Samantha Tonge has sold short stories to Take-a-Break Fiction Feast, Woman’s Weekly, The People’s Friend and The Weekly News. Currently, she has stories appearing in the 1st Sept and 8th Sept 2012 issues of The People’s Friend.
Also, Samantha writes romantic comedy novels and her agent is currently seeking homes for Doubting Abbey and Must Love Ghosts. She has two children, two kittens, two rabbits, and, um, just one husband.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Is the internet making people too nice? Um...


The internet gets the blame for a lot of things, but one thing that you rarely hear is that it’s making people too nice. But such is the argument of Jacob Silverman, in his essay ‘Against Enthusiasm: an epidemic ofniceness in online book culture’, in which he argues that the culture of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and their ilk have created communities where to be liked, favourited, followed and retweeted is the aim and everyone is after online approbation. According to Silverman, this gives rise to a culture where genuine criticism is no longer valued and, indeed, is seen as ‘hating’ (in the online vernacular - he doesn’t use that phrase, I'm just more down with the kids than he is).

While Silverman may have a point, I’d argue that to some extent he misunderstands social media and how people use it. In one of his examples, he cites a writer who had 9000 Twitter followers before her book was even out, and asks how many of those would be willing to give that book a negative review, having previously connected with her on line. But honestly, how many of those people have actually connected with her online? How many would be able to tell you they follow her, or who she is? I follow 2000 people on Twitter, and have around 1000 followers – of those, I estimate I have some sort of regular interaction with a dozen, maybe a couple of dozen at a push. I barely remember who the others are, as I skim through my feeds at speed – and I spend a LOT of time on Twitter, way more than most users. Like most people, I often follow people for fairly insignificant reasons – they followed me and look interesting, one of their tweets showed up in my timeline, or I’ve interacted with them in some other medium. Does this make me rush out and buy their books, or albums, see their plays or buy their products? Sometimes, yes, (though really not that often) and it probably makes me more likely, if I’ve enjoyed those things, to say nice things about them. But would it stop me criticising them?

It’s an interesting question, and a tough one. If I know someone relatively well, I try to avoid having to review anything by them, and if I have read a book by someone I know and don’t like it, I would tend to just not say anything at all (I find the fall back position of ‘I plan to read it but I’ve just been SO busy’ is a face saver).  But if I don’t know them, I’d probably be willing to say I wasn’t enjoying their book, or whatever, in a public forum. I wouldn’t tweet them direct (ie, use their Twitter name in the tweet) as that’s just rude, and I try not to post massively negative things on Twitter anyway, but I might post that, say, a particular book has disappointed me. Following an author on Twitter certainly wouldn’t stop me posting a negative review on platforms where honest reviews are expected, such Goodreads or Amazon, or on even my personal blog, and I’m sure most readers feel the same. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had numerous, friendly email exchanges with bloggers, only for them to turn around and give my book a poor review. I must admit my first reaction is always ‘but I thought you liked me!’ but then I take a deep breath and remember that, if someone takes themselves seriously as a blogger or reviewer, they have to be honest, no matter how personable they may have thought I was, or how much we seemed to be getting along online. That’s the game we’re all in: if you don’t want to play it, don’t put your stuff out there.
The internet: promoting niceness
Social media democratises writing and with it, criticism: Silverman himself acknowledges that the established literary scene can be cliquey – and much of this isn’t based on talent or achievements, but on social connections and, let’s be honest, money: you’re much more likely to build useful contacts if you can intern at a publishing house or magazine, and who can afford to do that except those with money? Who can get those jobs these days – even the unpaid ones – without contacts? Social media allows people to circumvent that, so you can build a useful mass of connections from your table top in Wales or Wisconsin: you don’t need to know the right people, you don’t need to be cool. And it may well be that some of the books that are getting rapturous receptions online would make a New York Times reviewer tear his own hair out, but you know what, a lot of people like books that aren’t necessarily that well written – if that wasn’t the case, 50 Shades wouldn’t be racing out the doors at WH Smith. We need to start accepting that there isn’t some universal standard of good that is passed down from on high. I spend a lot of time on writing forums, and the passion and enthusiasm posters have for the books is clearly real – it makes you realise that a lot of readers value something other than simply literary merit. Why should that be a bad thing?

I’d argue that a far greater threat to honest reviewing is the very opposite of niceness: it’s the culture of online bullying created by authors who can’t cope with bad reviews and the fans who see any criticism of the titles they love as sacrilege and attack bloggers and reviewers for having an opinion that dares to disagree with theirs. The online book reviewing community has been rife with such tales lately, and I can think of at least one blog that has shut down because the people who run it simply don’t think it’s worth the online abuse that it can attract.

I think that anything that engages people in talking about books, thinking about books and above all, reading books, is a good thing. So in some ways, I agree with Silverman that some online communities have created an expectation of positive reinforcement where any deviation from that is punished, and it’s making people wary of sticking their head above the parapet.  I agree that for both writers and readers, an unwillingness to ever be critical is a bad thing. But honestly, that’s simply not my online experience – and I’d be surprised if it was that of many other people. Because, seriously, people becoming too nice on line? Not on any internet near me.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Auld Reekie and me




Would someone pinch me?

Because I'm still not sure I can believe what I was doing just over a week ago.



On Saturday 18th August I was, ahem, appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival, talking about my book Cracks and dystopian fiction in general along with SD Crockett, author of the excellent After the Snow.

The rather nifty theme of the discussion was, 'Is dystopia the new vampire?', in reference to the fact that this genre has taken off in a big way in the young adult book market. We talked about why this might be, the obvious trigger being the huge success of The Hunger Games.

I shared my own theories of what makes this genre appealing to young people. The teenage years are a time when authority in general can be hard to take. It often seems as though the sole purpose of adults is to stop you doing what you really want to do.


These books also often focus on issues that feel particularly potent to young people. For example, in the brilliant Ugllies Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, everyone gets the opportunity to be made 'pretty' by extensive cosmetic surgery. It comes at a price, of course, but the idea of all imperfections being erased in one day, with no scarring and no pain must be pretty alluring when you are enduring those self-conscious years.

And when I wrote Cracks I thought about how intensely private you want to be as a young person. My character has to cope with the indignity of people being able to see his innermost thoughts. All his secret hopes, desires and dreams have been laid out for the authorities to see. Bad enough at any age, but when you are fourteen, this might seem a fate almost worse than death.

There were some great questions from our chairperson, Eve, and the live audience. Despite my decidely wobbly legs before it started, the whole event ended up being enormous fun. I was sorry it was over when our hour was up.

I had only ever visited Edinburgh very briefly once before this but I can honestly say I fell in love with this amazing city, where history and culture, both high and low, can be found everywhere you look.

It was only when preparing for the event that I remembered I'd also loved this genre as a teenager. There was considerably less of a choice then, and YA Books didn't even exist in their own right. But I remember the huge impact Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 had upon me, also the movie Blade Runner.


So if the powers that be ever fancy inviting me to the Festival again, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be free...

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Big Mac Book


How often do you see a Burger King or a McDonald's under construction? When I read this, I smiled and nodded to myself. I suppose that's the whole philosophy of a global business of this nature - it suddenly appears in a domineering fashion and stamps its mark of authority on a town, walking all over the independent delicatessens and take-aways who are left to flounder in pools of financial distress. I suppose if the construction of these corporate fast food chain outlets were slow-burning projects, taking months to complete, we may not see it as so authoritative and may possibly view it as a weaker entity. Food for thought (excuse the pun!)

I'm sure there are many authors who wish their books would just magically write themselves and appear on a bookshelf just as a Maccy D and Burger King does. As much as I love writing, there comes a point when I read, re-read, re-re-read and possibly re-re-re-re-read the entire book, that it becomes a chore. And I wish that it would just have magically appeared not only complete, but also printed out.

At the moment I'm struggling with the Difficult Next Book, specifically the voice as well as the style. It's just not coming together as quickly as I had hoped, and that may be partly due to the vast amount of research I've had to do as well as the lack of time. When I'm immersed in researching, the writing becomes a stop-start process and it's hard to click back into the flow, especially now that my time mainly consists of twenty minutes here and a half hour there. I've set myself goals of 7,000 words a week, but having reached 14,978 over the course of three months, I'm lagging badly.

If only my Difficult Next Book would magically appear overnight like one of those Burger Kings which are mysteriously built overnight. I would have missed all the enjoyment of the story coming together, but it would have taken the hard graft out of it. I wonder if I click my fingers will Difficult Second Book appear before me, complete with cover. Abacadabra, pif paf poof.....

Friday, 24 August 2012

Here's Looking at You

Writers often talk about the many things that inspire a piece of writing. But what about our individual approaches to writing?

Take our cat here, shamelessly posing at the window (in the hope of more food). She, like pretty much every cat I've ever met, is a masterpiece of individuality and integrity. 

What can she teach me about being a writer? I put it to her and, once she'd finished a power nap, she offered me the following kitty wisdom.

1. Be true to yourself, like a cat. Cats don't play pretend. 

[Translation.]
Cats don't chase an 'idea of themselves'* or craft a profile based upon social media demographics. They don't commit to anything they don't want to do - because they know that doing so means they're less likely to get fulfilment from it. And cats love fulfilment.

2. You don't need to be a cat whisperer to figure out what's going on in that furry head - tail, demeanour, voice - it's all there. 

[Translation.]
Be honest with yourself and other people. Make space, make time, make demands if you need to.

You became a writer for you, first and foremost, to temper yourself in the fires of your enthusiasm. Don't blow it on writing anything you don't believe in or feel comfortable with - and that includes reviews for other people, blog posts, comments, the dreaded FB likes and all the other techno-wizardry that take time way from the page.

3. Don't apologise for being the cat that you are. That beautiful, luxuriant, bird-killing, slug carrying, yowling fur bag of delights. 

[Translation.]
Don't apologise for the writer you are. Romantic fiction? Faith writing? Poetry? Vampires? Dirty limericks**? If it matters enough to you to want to write about it, that's all that matters.

4. Stay light on your feet and alter your plans as your needs arise. No regrets, no justifications. The human thighs that start out as a pillow may yet need to become pin cushions - that's just the way it is.

[Translation.]
Change your genre. Change your mind. Change your allegiances. Change your perspective. Above all: write. Unless it's time to stop for a while!

5. Ask if you need to, but don't expect. Believe me, I've sat at that cat dish for a good five minutes before any cheese arrived. I should have done what I did one Christmas, and just helped myself from the plate.

[Translation.]
Be honest about your needs, and allow others to be honest about theirs. Most writers are a supportive bunch by nature, but they're not psychic (well, some of them maybe). There's no shame in asking for a favour, and no offence to be taken when the answer is 'no'.

How this blog post came about (apart from the cat and the typing part, obviously).
I listened to a serialised drama on Radio 4 recently - The Other One by Oliver Emanuel*** - and I was mesmerised by it. The kind of rapt attention that makes you stay listening in your car until it's over, even though the oven chips are melting. The story was compelling, and the direction and acting just perfect. And I started to think about how often I write a piece of fiction that's just 'okay'. Not terrible or anything, only not gleaming either. It all starts with the initial premise, but more than that, it seems to me, it starts even earlier with the initial premise of myself as a writer. And how I got from that to the cat is another story.


* Although they probably would if it was tied to a piece of string.
** As if you hadn't already figured that one out.
*** Oliver has very kindly agreed to an interview, when he has some free time. If you have any questions about radio drama, send them in a comment and we'll try to get them covered.

Friday, 17 August 2012

A Delivery of Ideas

Much is made of the eternal 'where do you get your ideas from' conundrum and until now I've always nodded sagely with whoever answers this question in whatever way, because we're all different aren't we?  What gives one person a searing flash of inspiration might leave another writer totally nonplussed about it all.
I've never really worried about where the ideas come from, only that they do.  And sometimes I'm surprised myself where the germ of an idea evolved, what journey it took and where it eventually deposited me.


Sometimes (if I'm lucky - and I've read some VERY lucky writers' Facebook statuses saying that they've woken up with a WHOLE book already written in their minds) I'll wake up with an idea.  And then something in the 'real world' will burst the bubble and it's gone again.  These flashes annoy me but then I convince myself that if they were that special, they'd have stuck.  And if they still think they're special enough then they'll come back. Much like the hungry pet.

Often my ideas happen when my brain is idling.  It's out of gear, it's handbrake isn't on tight enough for it not to rock in a slight breeze and I guess it's simply Open for Business. 

I get a lot of ideas in the shower.  After all what's there to really commit a mind to concentrate on in there apart from which bits to soap next and which order the shampoo and conditioner goes on (seriously, I HAVE done it the wrong way round).  There's a kind of cossetedness in the shower, isn't there? that lovely wrapped-up warmth of the steam and the lovely smells and the knowing that nobody can (or should at least) disturb you.  it's a kind of womblike place, the shower, and as much as I can't be bothered to get in and get clean, once I'm in, I don't want to get out. I rotate, I let the water spray over my face even though I hate water going on my face in swimming pools and for that reason never swim. But baths leave me cold.  No, seriously.  I just don't 'get' the whole 'have a nice relaxing bath' thing.  I'd have a much more relaxing time sitting on a spike in the middle of a field with mice running all over me.
Anyway,
I wanted to share with you the process of an idea I had the other morning.  And yes, dear Strictly Reader, it was YOU I first thought of when I found myself on this particular train of thought.

We've recently moved (hence the absense of posts, but then you probably didn't notice - I mean, who would, right?)  and because the row of houses that we've moved into has been empty for a while - a year maybe, while they've been renovated (they used to be a drug squat which I find oddly romantic but then that's the Writer in me.  Before that they were Halfway Houses and before that they belonged to Farmworkers who tended the fields around us) the postman isn't used to anybody being here.  He is now that I answered the door in a towel and not much else the other morning but that's - and could be - another story entirely.

I'd ordered a catalogue.  I can't advertise and say which. But as I was drying my hair, looking out over the fields from our new bedroom window, I saw a van draw up outside.  For reasons known only to myself and a recently traumatised postman, I decided to carry on drying my hair and leave him to it.  But I watched, dear Reader, I watched from behind the safety of the curtains, to see what he'd do.  He wasn't our usual postman and he wasn't in a Post Office van.  He had a weighty box in his arms and I knew what it was.  His van still running behind him, he peered over at the house numbers (there are 4 houses on our terrace) and left it on the doorstep of the (empty) house next to us and drove off.
Nothing sinister about that, you might think.
So I carried on drying.
Brain in Neutral don't forget.
And what followed took me by surprise.

 The guy in the van was a supplier with a grudge who'd come back to blow the ex-drug squat to smithereens by leaving what appeared, to the outside world, a *Next catalogue on the steps to a property which would, on opening, explode in the face of the person he assumed still resided there and sate his anger for all time.

And there you have it.
I don't write crime, I hardly even read it, but that's what having an active imagination does for you - it invents, it creates and it forms a wonderful world that up until a moment ago didn't exist. 

What simple everyday occurence has led YOU to something far greater?
*Other catalogues are available




Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Leaving a little something to the imagination

One of the arguments you always hear when a novel is televised or made into a film is: ‘it’s not how I imagined it to be when I was reading the book’. We all know the disappointment of seeing our favourite character badly translated onto screen: I know that, for me, much of the disappointment of The Hunger Games film was that I felt it was badly miscast (as fine an actress as Jennifer Lawrence is, to me she was too Amazonian to play scrappy, starving Katniss) and I am, frankly, dreading seeing well-known short-arse Tom Cruise playing the 6’5” hero of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels when the film hits our screens this year.

But how does that issue affect you when you’re actually the person who wrote the characters? I’ve been spending a lot of time promoting my book Dark Dates, lately, while also starting to work on the sequel. One of the questions that regularly comes up in interviews is ‘who would you want to play the main characters on TV/in a movie?’ – and I admit it’s one which has me stumped. I can think of a few ideas to play the central male figures, Cain and Laclos (and the secondary male characters, like the Counsel) – Charlie Hunnan, Tom Hiddleston, Ben Browder, Timothy Olyphant , Jason Isaacs – but if I’m honest, this is just me drawing up a list of men I fancy and would like to be in the same room as (I’d get to do that as a writer, yes? Yes?) When it comes to the central female character Cassandra, I’m utterly clueless: and in part, that’s because I was deliberately vague in describing her. There’s hardly any clues to her physical appearance in the book, because I wanted her to be an ‘everywoman’ of sorts: someone we can all imagine being. Tying that down with lots of concrete details would have spoiled it for me.
One area where this has practical implications, though, is when you start thinking about the book cover, and promoting the book. Often, particularly in the urban fantasy genre, covers have figures on them: in much the same tradition as romance books, they like to draw you in with gorgeous people. Of course, if you’re going down the self-publishing path, as I am with this book, that gives you the issue of paying for models (or roping in your most photogenic friends and using very good lighting) – but I think even if I had the money to do that, I think I’d be against it. It’s far too easy to slip into cheesy; to make your heroines look like glamour models and your heroes look like Fabio, or  to make your monsters silly rather than scary - and then you've scuppered your book before anyone has read the first page.
When I was working with my cover designer, Caroline Goldsmith, we deliberately chose to use things that were significant to the story, but steer away from actual people. In working on the promotional material for the new book – you can see the teaser below, and a trailer for it here – we worked with images of London, as the city is such an integral part of the action. If you’re going to use one of the world’s most striking cities as a backdrop for your book, surely it makes sense to utilise that – and leave the rest up to the readers’ imagination?
Using the London skyline - based on a photo by Caroline Goldmsith

As a closing note – if you’ll excuse the geek out – I’ll include this warning about book covers from one of my favourite TV shows, Supernatural: which has the wonderfully meta storyline of the main characters, Sam and Dean, having their lives turned into a series of novels within the show. Which turns this…



Into this...


See what I mean about putting people on the cover?
What do you think? Do you have favourite covers which feature characters from the book? Let me know!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Nicola Morgan's in the Chair

I'm no Jeremy Paxman, but I do love the opportunity to hobnob* with other writers and to see what makes them tick. Lately, as my terrible poetry will attest, I've been a regular visitor to Nicola Morgan's blog HELP! I NEED A PUBLISHER! and now I've gone a stage further. Despite having 102 things to do, Nicola has made some time to join me in the SW virtual chill-out room (think chintz). Asterisks in red refer to my dumb comments at the end.


Hi Nicola, you write on a number of topics / genres - how do you prioritise your different writing?  

I’m an opportunist with very little in the way of strategy. I have ideas and act on them, often without thinking ahead. Somehow it all pans out and every deadline ends up being met, however stressful and impossible that seems at the start. Essentially, I do it crazily, energetically and frantically.

I have one muse only: the reader. If I want to write something and I think some people want to read it, those (possibly imaginary!) readers inspire me to do it.

What do you wish you'd known at the beginning that you've since learned about the craft of writing?

Nothing. I’ve enjoyed learning it as I go. The main thing I didn’t know was that it doesn’t get easier, but if I’d known that it wouldn’t have helped, would it? However, there are some things I wish I’d known about how to submit my MS – I still blush at the thought of some of my terrible attempts at getting attention.** Like the one where I wrote the covering letter in verse. In different coloured pens… I also wish I’d understood the publishing business better. Well, at all, really!

You're stuck on a direct flight to Australia. Which books do you take along? (We'll assume the writing pad is a given!)

I’d take the next book on my To Be Read pile, which happens to be The Yips by Nicola Barker; the one I’m reading at the moment, Far To Go by Alison Pick; and whatever Chris Cleave is going to write next.

Was there a defining moment when you saw yourself as a 'professional'? 

Interesting question! No. I’ve never thought about that so there can’t have been. But if I look back now and try to work it out, I still can’t find an answer. It’s a difficult word, isn’t it? Does it mean “doing it for a living?” Well, I still don’t earn a living from my writing, though I just about do from the adjuncts to it (public speaking, mostly). Or does it mean “people will pay me to do what I do” – well, I earned something from Reader’s Digest for a paragraph years before I “became published” as an author. I suppose the defining moments were getting my first non-fiction published (the still best-selling I Can Learn series from Egmont) or my first novel (Mondays are Red, Hodder Children’s 2001 and now an ebook). But I’d been earning something as a magazine features writer before both those. So, I don’t know!

We're in an elevator***, going up to the fourteenth floor. What's your pitch for Dear Agent?

You mean I’m talking to an agent/publisher? This: “You know how you often get badly-worded, delusional, wacky, dull or disappointing submissions? You know how writers sometimes send you peculiar and unwanted “wee extras”, such as naked photos or toffees? Well, Dear Agent will put an end to all that.” I don’t need fourteen floors. Unless the lift is faster than Usain Bolt.

What do you do for relaxation? 

Cook elaborate meals for friends, garden, read, indulge in a candlelit heavily scented bath, chat to my friends on Twitter or at a dinner party with good people who have left their egos at home.

Three parts of the UK you'd like to visit, and why?

They are all places I’ve been to already many times but I would jump at the chance to visit again: 1. The Black Isle (an almost-island not far from Inverness) because it’s rustic and yet civilized and you can see whales and dolphins while standing on the beach at Rosemarkie and buy the best pottery in Scotland in Cromarty. 2. Watergate Bay**** in Cornwall, because it’s my favourite beach in the UK and we discovered it before anyone else, especially Jamie Oliver. 3. Cambridge, because it doesn’t need an explanation.

Where can we purchase Dear Agent and what's this special deal that's being whispered around the web?

I will be publishing it to Amazon (for Kindle and Kindle apps for computers, phones etc) and Lulu (for non-Kindle reading devices or reading on your computer with Adobe Digital Editions). All the links will be on the dedicated webpage. Amazon links will appear by Friday 10th Aug and Lulu as soon as possible afterwards.

Um, special deal? You mean the cheap-as-chips intro price? You’ll have to hurry – it’s going to end on Monday! But even after that it’s going to be under £3 and I think it’s good value. There’s masses of info in it (and WAGSynopsis). Also, if there’s anything you still want to ask after reading them, just email Dear Crabbit (see here for details) and I’ll answer it on my blog.

Thank you for interviewing me for Strictly Writing and huge good luck to all of you!

"Like satnav for writers."


Don’t forget: Dear Agent deals with everything to do with the covering letter (or query letter, as it’s called in the US) and Write a Great Synopsis deals with erm, writing a great synopsis. Suddenly, the whole submission is explained clearly, succinctly and reassuringly!

Merric Davidson, formerly a top agent and now the publisher of The New Writer, saidThis is a tightly written, easy to follow, essential volume which cuts through all the nonsense and mystique about what you should/should not do when approaching agencies. In fact, this book explains that, hey, agents are really just people, not godheads!”


* Other chocolate biscuits are available.
** I once sent an agent a bar of chocolate, albeit after I received feedback.
*** Yes. I know it's really a lift, but come on, whoever heard of a 'life pitch'?
**** Other parts of the Cornish coastline are available, such as Portherris or Nanjizal.