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Developmental editing: What it is & where to get it

What is it? Do you need it? Where can you get it? Definition: What Is Developmental Editing? In the good old days, developmental editing used to have one precise meaning. It now has certainly two, maybe three, and possibly four meanings. In short: no wonder you’re confused. And no wonder it’s unclear whether developmental editing is something you need or not. But let’s start with those definitions. Here goes. Developmental Editing – Traditional Definition But we start with the first, core, and most precise definition. To quote the ever-reliable Wikipedia: “A developmental editor may guide an author (or group of authors) in conceiving the topic, planning the overall structure, and developing an outline—and may coach authors in their writing, chapter by chapter.” In other words, any true “editing” took place before the writing. It was a planning and design function, in essence. Because competent authors can probably take care of planning and design perfectly well by themselves, such editing was always relatively rare and, in fiction, extremely rare. I’ve authored getting on for twenty books now and have never once had a development edit. I’m damn sure I never will. Developmental Editing As Industry Euphemism But of course not all authors are perfect and, now and again, publishers have to deal with a manuscript they’ve commissioned, but which turns out to be absolutely dire. Think celebrity memoir of the worst sort. Or a multi-million-selling author who’s long since stopped caring about how he or she writes, because they know the money will roll in anyway. So what to do? Well, the standard solution in trade publishing is to do what is euphemistically called a ‘development edit’. What that actually means is that an editor takes on the role of something akin to a ghostwriter. They rip out everything that’s hopeless and rebuild. I’ve known a Big 5 editor who had done this a couple of times, and he said it was soul-destroying. He didn’t get any bonus for doing the work. He didn’t get a share of fame or royalties. He didn’t go on the chat shows or the book tours. And he was always dancing on eggshells with the Famous Author, because the author in question was very prickly about having his work slighted in any way. Even though the work in question sucked. Great. So that’s the second meaning of a development edit: basically a euphemism designed to disguise what is basically a ghostwriting job. Developmental Editing In Self-Publishing That second meaning – basically, “complete text overhaul” – has given rise to a third one. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a particularly weighty hardback for the last few years, you’ll have noticed that indie authors – that is, self-published ones – have done rather well. They’ve gobbled ever more market share. Their books look better than ever before. They read better than before. They are marketed superbly. (So much so, that every single notable marketing innovation of the last few years originated with the self-pub industry. That’s astonishing. You can find out more about self-publishing here.) Over time, whole sections of the market (romance, SF) have been pretty much eaten whole by these indie authors. But let’s say you’re one of the modern breed of self-pub demigods. You publish 4-6 books a year. You have a backlist of 20+ titles. You know how to exploit all the key marketing channels at your disposal, and you exploit em good. You earn, for sure, a good six-figures. Quite possibly, you’ve hit seven. A million bucks plus in annual income. Wow! Kudos to you, my friend. We mortals bow in awe. But those demigods still have to write the damn books! And do everything else! And sleep! How do they fit it all in? Well, the answer is often that those authors complete their full-length novel in 3 months – something I’ve done just once in 20 years. They’re skilled and experienced writers and they’re also just plain good. That’s why they earn what they earn. (You can’t market rubbish.) But still. A first draft is a first draft, and first drafts aren’t normally known for their wonderful excellence. So these pro authors often work with a developmental editor. That editor’s task is basically to clean up the text. Solve plot problems. Clean up sentences. Add a bit of setting and colour, if those things are sometimes wanting. Make sure that if the hero starts with blue eyes, his eyes haven’t changed colour halfway through. And so on. The author and editor will often form a team who know each other very well, understand each other’s roles, and produce genuinely excellent books together. That’s not how the traditional industry ever worked, except in crisis, but then again the traditional industry was never all that great at churning out authors earning six- and seven-figures a year. That’s the third definition, but it brings us to the last, most relevant one: Developmental Editing As Juiced Up Manuscript Assessment Now for me, the gold-standard method of improving a manuscript is quite simply the good old-fashioned manuscript assessment. You write your book. You send it to an editor. You get a report back saying, in essence, “this worked, this didn’t, here’s how to fix the bits that were off.” That sounds simple, but it isn’t. And often enough the effect of good manuscript feedback is a total revitalisation of the work. Many, many times, I’ve known a manuscript assessment to be the single most pivotal moment in a writer’s path to publication. But – A manuscript assessment is mostly just that. A long, written report. In the case of Jericho Writers, you get a fabulous editor, a report of no less than 3,000 words, and a long track record of success. But what you don’t get, or not mostly, is a page-by-page list of things to think about. And sometimes you need that too. Sometimes you need the rounded, structural commentary of the report but with detailed page-by-page advice alongside – actual annotations on the manuscript. Comments written in Word. Sample edits made to the document itself. That’s the glory of developmental editing. The big and the small. Both things delivered together. This kind of service is what we, Jericho Writers, offer by way of developmental editing. Others offer it too. It’s a very, very good service. It’s the ultimate gift you can give your work. (And yes. I know. That just sounds like a sales pitch – but read on. Developmental editing isn’t right for everyone. It’s probably not right for you.) When Is Developmental Editing Right For You? Honestly? You want my most honest opinion here? OK, here goes. Developmental Editing – Traditional Definition Do you need help conceiving, structuring, planning and shaping the manuscript before you have written it? Well, yes, maybe if you are hoping to write subject-led non-fiction. So if, let’s say, you’re an expert in optical physics. A well-known publisher wants a book on that subject for laypeople. They come to you. It probably makes sense for you to spend a day with your editor, planning the book that you will write. Your subject expertise + the editor’s market expertise = a proposition that might actually sell. I sincerely doubt that this situation applies to even 1% of those reading this article. Developmental Editing As Industry Euphemism Are you a global celebrity who has written a terrible book that needs reshaping by a pro? No? Then you do not need developmental editing of this, second, flavour. Developmental Editing In Self-publishing Are you a self-pub demi-god? Do you pump out 4-6 books a year and earn enough revenue to employ a pro editor? If you do, then sure, you need developmental editing, but I don’t understand why you’re wasting your time reading this post. Go write another book. Developmental Editing As Juiced Up Manuscript Assessment Are you an ordinary writer slowly working your way to a manuscript (probably a novel) of publishable quality? If you are – and I’ve been in your shoes myself – then I get why you are thinking about developmental editing. It’s a sensible thing to think about and, for maybe 10-15% of you, it’s a sensible thing to purchase. The advantage of developmental editing is that it forces you to look at the big and the small. You’re asked to think about characterisation, and place, and story arc, and theme. And at the same time, your attention is being drawn to sloppy sentence structures, loose images, clunky dialogue, and erroneous habits of punctuation. That is one hell of a mix and it is powerful. Yes. So developmental editing – such as we offer – is a great service. It’s awesome. It could do wonders for your manuscript. But – Here are some downsides: It’s expensiveMany of the page-by-page points will be picked up in some way in the editorial report. You won’t normally get a complete list of (say) poor sentences, but you’ll be given examples, so you know what to look for.Very often the structural advice will demand some significant level of rewriting, which means the page-by-page comments may be less relevant.If your prose quality and general writing technique are reasonably strong, then the most important feedback will live in the editorial report anyway.If you go on to get an agent and a book deal, your publisher will end up paying for a full professional copy-edit (and proof-read), so they’ll end up addressing all the things that a developmental edit might have addressed – and more. That says, if your work is strong enough to do without the development edit, you should do without it. Someone else can pay. Those things aren’t small. If you have all the money in the world, then yes, sure, hire a developmental editor. For the rest of us, the matter demands thought. If I were advising a serious amateur writer on the subject of manuscript assessments, I’d say, “Get one if you can. It’ll probably be the biggest single jump you can make.” If I were advising the same person in relation to a developmental edit, I’d say, “Think hard. It might or might not be right for you.” Yeah. Helpful, I know. Still not sure if a developmental edit is the right choice? Then you’ll probably find this article on the different types of editing really useful. Hiring A Developmental Editor: Conclusion In the end, whether you hire a developmental editor or not is your call. It is a great service. It is expensive. The manuscript assessment alone does normally provide most (not all) of what you need. If you’re reading this post and still don’t know what you want, or which way to turn, then do reach out. Our customer service team at Jericho Writers are not employed to sell; they are employed to help. We don’t offer sales bonuses. We don’t hire salesmen. A good proportion of our workforce are writers like you. We’re on your side. I’m telling you all that, because if you want to get in touch with us to ask our advice, we’ll give that advice honestly, to the best of our ability. I hope that helps. And whatever you decide, may you and your writing thrive. In the end, that’s all that matters.
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How to sell a film script

Is It Really Ready Is your screenplay ready to go out to market? How many drafts have you done? 10- 20 is the norm. It really has to be the best it can be. It also has to be meticulously presented. Standard industry format, with no typos whatsoever. No scene numbers. Before even considering sending out your script, practise writing loglines and synopses for it. A logline is a one-sentence description of your story. A synopsis is a description of the story and characters that’s about one page in length. This offers you a final sense (reassurance?) that the whole storyline flows effortlessly, but they are also a necessary marketing step. However many drafts you’ve done, I urge to take one more look and ask yourself some questions. Imagine you are an industry reader late on a Friday evening, desperate to get home, or a producer who’s spent all weekend avoiding her slush pile and now it’s Sunday night and she’s tired out. Page One: Will they bother to turn the page? It has it be absolutely compelling. Keep on reading and until you’re satisfied that it is bold, original, with the words leaping off the page, don’t send it out. Wherever you send it, you get just one shot. And if in doubt, get feedback. It’s a new career you want to establish. Why wouldn’t you invest a little in getting proper, tough advice before you get going for real? Researching The Market/h2> Read the trades – Screen and Variety – invaluable info on who’s looking for what. Go online to find film companies’ websites for contact details of Heads of  Acquisitions and Development. Check out the kind of films they produce. If you want to try getting an agent (very tough now) look up online, research the writers on their lists to make sure there’s a chance they’d be interested in your type of script. If you want to try sending a script to a particular actor, call Equity in UK or Screen Actors Guild in New York or Los Angeles to get their agent’s contact details. Go to film festivals and screenwriters’ festivals. Network like mad. Join screenwriters’ forums – lots of useful info about festivals and contests – and moral support! Query Letter Do not send a script. The letter is to persuade them to ask to read it. Your query letter should be 7-8 lines maximum. No meandering, dull prose story of your life! Grab the reader in first 3 lines. Who you are, what your job is. Next 3 lines, a sizzling description of your script in 25 words or less. Make sure it’s original and intriguing. You need to spend time on getting this right. End the letter with: ‘I would like to send you my project for consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.’ Selling There are two probable alternatives. First is an ‘option’, for a certain amount of money the producer or production company will have, for a specific time, the exclusive right to try to get funding and attach names to the screenplay. In effect,  it’s a temporary sale. At the end of the option period, the producer can buy the script if it looks like the project can be produced, renew the option, or simply forget the whole thing – where the writer keeps control and copyright of the script. The second alternative is an ‘outright purchase’. After you sign this contract, you will not own the rights to your script anymore. New writers are often brought in and the screenplay dramatically changed. Contests Winning a contest or becoming a finalist or shortlisted can give your script some kudos and encourage industry professionals who monitor these contests to contact you. There are many to choose from with different criteria and entry fees. Of the most respected: Nicholls, Blue Cat, Red Planet, Zoetrope, and Page. While you wait, get onto the next piece of work immediately!  If this script doesn’t sell, it could get you commissioned to write a different script. Good luck! Other Tips Do try writing some shorts. Production companies now go to short film festivals that have mushroomed in the last few years. Join film-making groups, get involved, write a great short, get a director on board. The film could win or get shortlisted at a festival and that will mean your full length script will get taken more seriously. Several writers of shorts have gone on to be commissioned to write feature-length screenplays. Why not you? About the author: Pauline Kiernan is a screenwriter, award-winning playwright, Shakespeare scholar, and former journalist. She’s also the author of one of the best guides there is to screenwriting: Screenwriting They Can’t Resist: How to Create Screenplays of Originality and Cinematic Power. Explode the Rules.Get feedback on your film script
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US Agents Seeking New Authors

We receive lots of questions, but two of the most common must be: how do you find a literary agent? Do you know literary agents who are taking on new, first-time writers?  There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.     We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some names to get you started:  Lauren Bieker  Amelia Appel Joquelle Caiby  Sonali Chanchani Jennifer Kim Kiana Nguyen  Quressa Robinson Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! How Do You Find An Agent? Nearly all agents take on new authors. If they didn’t, they’d go out of business. It might not happen straightaway, but eventually they will.  It’s important to remember that all agents need to submit to the same group of editors. They’re a small group at that: most books are pitched to 8-12 publishers in the first round of marketing. So, all agents are looking for quality manuscripts. If they find one, and love it, they’ll take it on. If they don’t, they won’t.  It’s somewhat easier to secure a new up-and-coming agent than a giant of the industry. That’s not because quality standards are different – because they’re not – but because newer agents are actively seeking submissions and are prepared to work hard to grow their client list. If you went to such an agent, with a manuscript that was dazzling but still imperfect, then they may be prepared to work with you to fix it. However, a more established agent with an already long client list may regretfully turn the book down.  If you’re looking for an agent who genuinely welcomes first-time authors, rather than just accepting them, it’s a good idea to approach those who don’t necessarily have an established client base. So, you’re looking for agents new to the role, or those who have come into the profession from somewhere else in the industry.  Don’t just query smaller agencies, there are plenty small agencies that already have an extensive client base. Also, larger agencies tend to have more new recruits hungry to build their list. Try not to rule anyone out until you’ve done your research.  As always, these guidelines should be balanced against everything else. Ultimately, you’re looking for an agent who genuinely loves your book and believes they can sell it. The fact that the agent may work for a small or large agency, or maybe new to the game or well-established, doesn’t matter.  You, the book, the agent. If these three things gel, then nothing else matters.  If you keep getting agent rejections or just want to perfect your manuscript first, then it’s time to ask for help. There’s lots of information out there. We’ve helped hundreds of authors in their writing journeys, and we can help you too. So, get in touch. 
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How long does it take to sell a book?

Before answering this question, let’s assume you’ve got an agent. Let’s assume that you’ve done all the editorial work you need to do at this stage. Let’s assume your book is something that has potential global reach, whether fiction or non-fiction. In that case, the process will probably work a little like this. Your agent rounds up a possible 8-12 editors. That’ll mostly be editors who work at large publishers (though often in semi-autonomous imprints or companies), but there’ll be 2-3 smaller independent publishers, as well, more than likely. Your agent will introduce editors to the book, check they’re available (not off on holiday, etc.), then more or less simultaneously get the book to them. (Books used to be sent on paper. These days, it’s often electronic.)You wait. Your agent will be looking for a first offer. As soon as they get an offer:They’ll start calling everyone on the list, setting deadlines, coaxing offers, etc. A book auction chemistry is critical and delicate. Get three rival offers from three rival publishers, and you should do well, except many notionally independent publishers are connected (e.g. Transworld, Orion, Hodder, Headline), and these guys don’t bid against each other. A smaller publisher (Quercus, Faber, Profile, Atlantic) may be a wonderful publisher, but they won’t be able to fight the bigger ones on advances, so a financial outcome does depend very much on where interest lies.Then your agent will call for ‘best and final’ bids, then close a deal.A contract may take a while to follow. I’ve known it take as long as 6 months, but a verbal agreement is nevertheless something you can depend on. These agreements should never sour. So much for your home nation deal (i.e. the UK if you’re British, US if you’re American). Your agent will then start to target major overseas markets. Most agencies will have someone in charge of foreign rights, who’ll be talking to publishers or sub-agents in Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Spain. Your agent will also have a sub-agent in the US (if she’s British) or the UK (if she’s not). That sub-agent will be also start sending your book around. Note it’s often easier for US authors to get a UK deal, and harder the other way around. What’s more, books that seem obviously US-friendly are oftener ones that make no impact. Ones that seem obscurely British or quirky often do well (Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch is a famous example). And once those major markets have been dealt with, your agency’s attention will start to turn to other areas where small but meaningful deals can be done. India and China, by the way, may well buy your book, but mightn’t do so for much money. I This entire process can easily take about a year, perhaps more. And by the time the last paperback publication advance drops into your account, you’re quite likely not just onto your next book, but the one after that. Good luck!
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How to learn the market for YA fiction

Something to be conscious of as a fiction writer is the market for which you write. Young Adult (or YA) fiction isn’t a genre, but it’s a defined label in publishing, typically considered for readers aged 12-18, though this too is fluid. Since the publication of titles like J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, YA is a term you need to know if you’d like to write for a teenage audience, as well as convince literary agents and publishers that you can. The most important thing is to always read debuts in your genre, and for the age you’d like to write for. These are the books publishers are looking for. Whilst it’s true publishing trends will always shift, books read by your ideal ‘audience’ are evidently the books they enjoy, so it pays (literally) to be conscious of them. Read on for our top tips on how to learn about the YA market and write for this age group. Step 1: Write Your Own Trendsetter It pays to be aware of trends and the market, if only so you can buck them a little. This is a balance, however. Readers of The Bookseller can see regular updates on new UK book deals, and every spring, may espy annual coverage of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, with ample talk and speculation of what’s hot and selling as foreign printing rights are bought and sold. There will always guaranteed be a sentence or two on trends, on what publishers of Middle Grade or Young Adult books are hunting for. It’s as well to be conscious of trends, but what’s trendy will soon be outdated. If you’re still writing, a hot topic now could be obsolete by the time you’ve finished your novel. Trends move fast, and a single book can also change things. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight happened to be a YA phenomenon, but the ensuing paranormal romances ‘competing’ for attention with Twilight blurred a little into one another, even as the tide continued and anticipated the rise of dystopian fiction, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, and so on. The lesson of all this is to try and present an idea (even an old idea) authentically. Vampires have been written about before and Bram Stoker’s titular Dracula preying upon Lucy Westenra laid the founding of an established trope. Twilight just happened to hit a certain chord for its readership and this at once predicated and, in so doing, slightly nullified its trend. So be careful and cautious of trends, since these can be a double-edged sword. Trends are transient, they escalate and subsist again. Whilst it pays to know your audience and what’s in the bookshops, to be conscious of the books teenagers are drawn to and reflect on why this is the case, bear in mind trendsetter-novels aren’t necessarily the books you want to compete with. Satiated trends mean a saturated book market (for the time being). Even if you’re ahead of the bookshops, trying to keep up with publishing news and new book deals, what you know now won’t be the thing your writing can keep up with. You’ll need to write your own trendsetter. Step 2: Read, Read, Read Ya Fiction That said, read around and shop as much as you can for YA fiction, obvious or intuitive as this may sound. Your novel can’t exist in a vacuum. It’s no good disregarding what your audience is reading now, so know YA books to know your audience. You’ll need to write in this subtle tension, conscious of taste in YA, of past commercial successes, making your novel similar enough and yet entirely original.  You must create a book that fits into the market. Read around the sort of thing already out there you’d like to write, too. It’s not that vampire-human romances hadn’t been written about before Stephenie Meyer’s Bella and Edward. It’s not that Greek gods hadn’t been written about before Percy Jackson and the Olympians from Rick Riordan. It’s been observed how similar J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of being a Wallflower are, etc. You’ll want your book to fit with a canon of similar stories, without just writing ‘copies’ of things done before. YA novels like Beauty by Robin McKinley, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas or Uprooted by Naomi Novik share links to Beauty and the Beast, but each of those books is still unique. The same is true of books like Ash by Malinda Lo or Cinder by Marissa Meyer, with ties to Cinderella. It’s just that an old idea was reworked by an author in new ways. So learn what teenagers like, then read what they like. (If you’re not sure, look up book blogs like The Mile-Long Bookshelf.) How does your novel compare to the YA books you’ve found? How do you feel your own work will be judged? It’s also worth noting that it pays to read contemporary YA fiction. Classical lyricism and verbosity needn’t concern you so much as writing a resonant, gripping story to hook modern readers. There have been various game-changers in fiction-publishing for young people. Melvin Burgess’ Junk (or Smack in the US) was one. The book won the Carnegie Prize and Guardian Children’s Fiction Award in the UK in 1996. Whilst its subject (heroin addiction) caused ripples of shock, Junk paved the way to an increasingly mandatory style of authentic, honest, raw writing that’s now commonplace in YA publishing. The success of Junk among its readers, with its prize-winning status, changed perceptions and sent publishers a message. What’s needed in successful YA fiction is resonant, emotional experience teenage readers can connect with. Step 3: Know Your Subject (And Write Sensitively About It) If you’re also thinking of writing on a possibly more controversial topic, explore sensitively and with all due research. Don’t just write to shock. Write to be poignant, and so to connect. The Fault in our Stars by John Green caused a stir when it was accused of being ‘sick lit’ (a pair of terminally ill teenagers fall in love). Whilst its subject seemed to ‘shock’ some adults, its poignancy that so stirred readers nullifies these sorts of ‘grown-up’ objections. Who cares? The Fault in our Stars isn’t a shocking novel. It’s a moving one. It’s been adapted for film, its catch-lines passing into contemporary language via its readership. (‘Okay?’ ‘Okay.’) Melvin Burgess has shared how his novel Junk, about teenage drug addiction, has been life-changing for some teenage readers, but it’s important to note Melvin Burgess knew his setting. He knew these emotional landscapes. More recently, Lisa Williamson wrote a resonant transgender protagonist in her YA novel The Art of Being Normal, though she herself is cisgender, but she’s spent time working for the UK’s Gender Identity Development Service. She brought her experiences to her writing. Bear in mind, though, LGBT+ is not its own separate genre or subgenre, nor should fiction be defined by country or ethnicity, as still per some bookstores. Patrick Ness’ novel More than This features protagonist Seth, who is gay, but this is incidental to its main plot and it’s okay for this to be the case. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a high-school love story between a Korean boy and an American girl, and sometimes it need only be this simple. You needn’t write clunkily to make a point. As Rainbow Rowell herself has said: “Why is Park Korean?” The first time I was asked that question, three or four months ago, I had a pretty short answer: “Because Park is Korean.” … Because Park was always Korean. Because I think there should be more Asian-American characters in YA, especially boys. (And also more chubby girls.) Because it’s up to people like me, who write, to write them. Only by writing sensitively and incidentally can writers help make sure all sorts of characters become unquestioned players of mainstream fiction, not sectioned by ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability or anything else. Everyone, everything, should be mainstream, especially in YA publishing. Teenagers, who will be faster than adults to question norms and pick up on injustices, should be catered to in the novels they read and not be defrauded in this respect. Appreciate and accommodate for diversity in your own YA writing. It’s good also to have first-hand experience of what you’re writing, but if not, the importance of empathy and careful research to create an authentic emotional experience can’t be stressed enough. Step 4: Know Your Audience (And Keep Prose Authentic) This is important. You must know your audience. You can’t write about living in a teenage character’s shoes unless you know teenagers well. If you can’t remember or don’t care, find someone else to write about and to. YA readers will be looking for experiences outside their own, looking for ways to challenge and break rules, and will be (strongly) averse to feeling patronised or educated in fiction. Write about being a teenager, and never write to educate. Again – to best do this, read and read up on YA novels that are doing well. Respecting ‘voice’, too, author Joan Aiken has also observed adolescents are ‘lightning-quick to spot hypocrisy or artificiality’. Never patronise and never attempt a ‘coolness’ that can’t sound organic, at home and natural in your first-person narratives. An inauthentic teenage voice will destroy your book before it ever reaches a literary agent. This offers a good reason YA fiction should be taken seriously. A manuscript assessment can also certainly give you invaluable editorial feedback with insights into the commercial perspective that drives YA publishing, and to harness your own voice in a way that sounds both raw and compelling in YA fiction. Happy writing!
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30 best books on writing and getting published

30 Best Books On Writing And Getting Published I was recently asked to recommend some books on how to write and on any related topics. I started to trot out the obvious suggestions, then realised there was a real trove of material out there. So, with some short comments, here are my top suggestions. 1. Getting Published by Harry Bingham 2. How To Write by Harry Bingham Let’s get the two most obvious ones out of the way to start! How To Write gets excellent reader-feedback. It doesn’t pick out one single aspect of technique or pretend that you can learn how to write in a couple of months. It’s a big, meaty, book on every part of a writer’s toolkit. Getting Published is a reliable guide to traditional publishing and finding an agent. 3. On writing: A memoir of the craft by Stephen King You needn’t be a fan of Stephen King’s to enjoy this honest, compelling tome – and I know it has legions of fans. For me, the most striking part was King’s list of the books he read in any given year. That list is intelligent and eclectic and goes to show that good writers simply can’t read too much or too well. 4. Story by Robert McKee A book for screenwriters, but still one of the best analyses around. This book belongs in the pantheon, no question. 5. Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran 6. Write. Publish. Repeat. by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt Both key texts for the new generation of self-published authors. David’s book should be read in conjunction with his Let’s Get Visible. The strategies in the Write. Publish. Repeat book won’t work for most writers. Those authors’ basic mantra is to write heaps and heaps of material and build a career as much from the volume of output as from its quality. I can’t, as something of a purist myself, really get excited about that approach, but you still need to read the book. It’s got a lot to say, and it’s usually right. 7. Aspects of the Novel by EM Forster 8. 10 Rules of writing by Elmore Leonard 9. The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler 10. The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera 11. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov These aren’t quite how-to guides. The Chandler essay (and it’s an essay, not a book) is a vastly important milestone in the development of crime fiction: a manifesto for a new age, and a manifesto that has echoed well beyond the walls of that genre. The Elmore Leonard piece is a brief (and somewhat tongue in cheek) list of suggestions. You could probably break all of Leonard’s rules and do just fine – and indeed, I do quite often break them. But it’s important to read what writers have to say about writing – and a variety of writers at that. (Hence the Kundera, Nabokov and the EM Forster.) You won’t always agree, and you don’t have to. The important thing is that you run the arguments in your head. 12. How Fiction Works by James Wood Wood is arguably today’s most influential critic – and he writes beautifully. My comment above that you need to run the arguments in your head applies here too. Wood’s book offers a personal and partial view. (He loves sentences and doesn’t, astonishingly, even mention story.) But he’s so good that his partial is worth most people’s everything. 13. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss Not really the how-to book that most people think it is. But it’s still fun and still worth a look. 14. Imagine by Jonah Lehrer 15. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron Both books are part of a new wave of popular neuroscience. I prefer the Lehrer book, which is not specifically about writing but which is, for my money, very illuminating indeed about the creative process. But if you like something with more how-to-ish ambition, you’ll certainly get more from Cron’s book. 16. The Elements of Style William Strunk Jr. 17. Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose 18. Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan 19. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron 20. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein Then, in a cluster, some other favourite books of mine. Sol Stein was a very respected editor (as well as being a novelist himself). Stein on Writing is his attempt to set down the rules by which he’s lived. It was the first how-to book of this sort that I read, and I still have a soft spot for it, although the tone can be a little self-important at times. Julia Cameron’s is an approach to creativity more than, directly, a how-to-write-a-bestseller type book. But it’s great, heartfelt. The same sort of comments go for Word Painting and Reading like a Writer. Both well-written, thoughtful, gently inspiring. Elmore Leonard would presumably want to kill Rebecca McClanahan, but I’d be on Rebecca’s side. As for Strunk – well, you need it on a list like this. And finally, some other books that have, at the very least, been thought-provoking and helpful ones for me: 21. Plot & Structur, by James Scott Bell 22. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon 23. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler 24. Outlining your Novel by KM Weiland 25. Where Do You Get Your Ideas? by Fred White 26. From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler 27. A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman 28. The 4 a.m. Breakthrough by Brian Kitely 29. Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris 30. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp Need more writing advice? Or if you need more recommendations, then try popping your favourite book into a book recommendation tool and see what other users are raving about. Good luck, and have fun.
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A rejection letter to avoid

In 2014, I came across a rejection letter from a, once half-decent, literary agency that ran in full like this: Dear John Many thanks for this. The writing is strong and the storyline intriguing. I have to tell you however, that agents are finding novels, even intelligently written commercial work like this, harder to place nowadays. Publishers are so subjective and only concerned with the bottom line. What I can do is to suggest an organisation who, for a reasonably low fee will make the full arrangements to ensure a full Kindle publication of your work. What is more, they will edit as well – obviously not a radically comprehensive edit – to a thoroughly presentable standard. Many Kindle books are going on at a later stage to traditional publication or Print on Demand. Their fee is just £950 and you get a free Kindle as well. Let me know if you would like me to put you in touch with them. OR There is a publisher we deal with now, (not vanity) who have taken some of my more worthwhile mss and I believe they will promote and publicise properly. They do charge a fee (£4,500 – refundable to you after sales of just 2,000) but I believe it is an acceptable deal as the writer enjoys a far better rate of royalties. One of my authors who has taken advantage of this, is Provost of one of the oldest Oxford colleges and is a knight of the realm. His work has just been nominated for an award for Political Fiction. My most recent was a High Court Judge. Let me know if you would like me to submit [novel title] to them. Very best wishes [Name] of Futerman Rose & Associates This letter was copied from Novel Rejects blog (my thanks to it for existing). I hope you don’t need me to tell to you that this is a poor letter for any agent to send. Also, do I think that Oxford Provosts and High Court Judges fall for this kind of nonsense? Lord help us all if they do, but perhaps they do. I alerted the Association of Authors Agents about this letter and letters such as this are, in my opinion, emphatically contrary to their Code of Conduct (certainly in spirit, probably in letter, too.). In the meantime, probably useful to rehearse the basics once more. If you want to find a literary agent, you do so like this, and if you want to know what a literary agent does, he or she will do this. And on the question of reading fees and all that, just remember the rules of the road. These can be found over here.
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Tips on travel writing from Robin Lloyd-Jones

Travel writing is a popular but challenging market segment. You’ve moved to France and want to tell people about it? Unless you’ve got magical writing gifts, you’re almost certain to find that ground has already been overcultivated, and a literary agent is likely to reject your manuscript on that basis alone. Any exotic location or (really) any genuinely original way of exploring those locations will stand out from the pack. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one great example, as is Along the Enchanted Way by William Blackler. Novelty and comedy can also work: pogoing round Ireland, or riding a goat to Kandahar are all hooks on which to tell a tale. Even a simple bus journey can make a riveting read. It’s how you write about it that matters. Seven Tips For A Successful Travel Book 1. Do your research – pre-travel research enriches the whole experience; post-travel research adds depth and accuracy to what you write. While travelling keep notes or you will forget. Take photographs to illustrate your words. 2. Be curious – about everything and everybody. What makes many travel books enjoyable is the people encountered along the way. Talk to everyone and never stop asking questions. Listen with a sympathetic ear. Look behind the glossy exterior, delve beneath the surface. 3. Have a sense of wonder – Colours seemed so much brighter when we were children. Try to see the world with that same freshness of vision. 4. Use all your senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Develop a feeling for the culture and history of a place. And a sense of humour allied to keen observation can make the most ordinary of experiences entertaining. 5. Don’t neglect your inner journey – Many of the most successful travel books are as much about the emotional journey the author makes as they are about the physical journey. The resolution of a personal issue or a change in attitude adds interest and brings the reader closer to the author. 6. Write with passion – To fully engage the reader (or indeed, a literary agent) your book must have something in it that you care about strongly. An issue, a cause, the pursuit of a lifelong ambition. Without this, your writing is in danger of seeming flat. 7. Be an open door, be receptive. Travel with open eyes, ears, mind and heart.
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Literary agents for paranormal romances

All stories share a simple common structure, right? So the simplest way to outline your novel (or any type of story) is to use that universal template by way of scaffolding. And you do need to use some kind of novel outline before you start writing. Plotting a novel from scratch? Imagining the whole thing in your head before you start? That’s hard. Or, scratch that, it’s pretty much impossible. So don’t do it. Cheat. Use a simple, dependable template to build an outline of your novel, then slowly fill out the detail. Yes, filling in the detail can be a slow and tricky process. But you don’t care. Because if your basic outline is strong (and the idea that lies behind it is strong), you can’t really go wrong. And figuring out that template and how best to use it is exactly what we’re going to do in this post. (Or – full disclosure – it’s what you’re going to do. We’ll just help a little on the way . . .) Novel Outline Template In A Nutshell You just need to figure out: Main character (who leads the story)Status Quo (situation at the start)Motivation (what your character wants)Initiating incident (what disturbs the status quo)Developments (what happens next)Crisis (how things come to a head)Resolution (how things resolve) What A Story Template Looks Like Use a simple plot outline to get your ideas straight Let’s start simple. And that means, yep, that YOU need to start simple. Get a sheet of paper or notebook and have it by you as you work your way through this post. Ready? Pencil sharp and ready to go? So do this: Write down the following headings: Main characters Status Quo Motivation Initiating Incident Developments Crisis Resolution Simple right? And now sketch in your answers in as few words as possible. That means a maximum of 1-2 sentence for each heading there. If that seems a little harsh, then I’ll allow you 3 sentences for the “Developments” section: that’s where the bulk of your book is going to lie. But that’s all. At this stage, we don’t want complex. Complex is our enemy. We’ll get there soon enough, but for now just think, Structure-structure-structure. Too much complexity – all that intricate plot detail – just gets in the way of finding the actual bones of your novel. (Oh, and I don’t want to digress too much, but that same basic template works if you want to build a scene, or write a synopsis, or structure a key piece of dialogue. In fact, it’s just like this universal unlocking device for pretty much any structural challenge in fiction. Good to know, huh?) The Novel Template: An Example You probably want an example of what your outline should look like, right? OK. So let’s say your name was Jane Austen and you had a great idea for a story about a prideful guy and a charming but somewhat prejudiced girl. Your story outline might look something like this: CharacterElizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet, one of five daughters in Regency England. Status QuoLizzy and her sisters will be plunged into poverty if her father dies, so they need to marry (and marry well) MotivationLizzy wants to marry for love. Initiating IncidentTwo wealthy gentlemen, Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy, arrive. DevelopmentsLizzy meets proud Mr Darcy and dashing stranger Mr Wickham. She despises Mr Darcy and likes Mr Wickham. She discovers Darcy loves her and that Wickham isn’t all he seems. CrisisLizzy’s sister elopes, threatening the social ruin of her family. It now looks like Lizzy can’t marry anyone. ResolutionMr Darcy helps Lizzy’s sister. Lizzy agrees to marry him, deciding now that she loves him, after all. Now that’s easy, right? That’s the whole of Pride and Prejudice in a nutshell, and it was easy. You just need to do the same with your book or your idea, and keep it really simple. In fact, if you struggle to know everything that goes in the ‘developments’ section, you can even drop in some placeholder type comments. If you were Jane Austen you might, for example, start out by saying something like “Lizzy breaks with Wickham, because it turns out he’s a bad guy. He killed someone? Stole money? Something else? Something to think about.” And that’s fine. Don’t worry about any blanks. It’s like you’re building a tower and you’re missing one of the girders. But by getting everything else in place and putting a “girder needs to go here” sign up, the structure is still brilliantly clear. That’s all you need (for now.) Oh, and don’t bother separating those down into chapters just yet, you can worry about that later – but when you do, read this, it’s really useful! Finally, don’t complicate things if you don’t want to, but if you find it helpful to add a “character development” heading, then you should do that as well. Effectively, you’re extending your novel outline template to cover not just plot movements, but character development too – a brilliant all-in-one tool. Developing Your Story Outline Taking your template on to the next level Now, OK, you might feel that our template so far is just a little too basic. Which it is. So let’s develop the structure another notch, and what we’re going to do now is to add in anything we know about subplots – or basically any story action that you DO know about, which doesn’t fit neatly into the above plot structure. So if you were Jane Austen, and had a good handle on your story, you might put together something like this. (Oh, and we’ve called them sub-plots, but you can call them story strands, or story elements, or anything that feels right to you.) Subplot 1Jane Bennet (Lizzy’s caring sister) and Mr Bingley fall in love, but Bingley moves away, then comes back. Jane and Bingley marry. Subplot 2Lydia Bennet (Lizzy’s reckless sister) elopes with Wickham. She is later found and helped by Darcy. Subplot 3Odious Mr Collins proposes marriage to Lizzy. She says no. Her more pragmatic friend, Charlotte Lucas, says yes. Notice that we’re not yet trying to mesh those things together. In fact, the way we’ve done it here Subplot 3 (which happens in the middle of the book) comes after Subplot 2 (which comes at the end). But again: don’t worry. Sketch your additional story material down as swiftly as neatly as Miss Austen has just done it. The meshing together – the whole business of getting things in the right order, getting the character motivations perfectly aligned and all that – that’ll do your brain in. Yes, you have to get to it at some stage. But not now. Keep it simple, and build up. And that actually brings us to another point. How To Use Subplots If you’re a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you’ll know perfectly well that our outline so far still misses out masses of stuff. There’s nothing on where the novel is set. Or why or how events unfurl. It doesn’t say a thing about character relations, why each feels as they do. There’s nothing to say on character development, subtleties, supporting cast, and so on. And that’s fine to start with. It’s actually good. What does matter, however is your character’s motivation. Taking one subplot above as example, Charlotte wants security through marriage to Mr Collins. Lizzy, however, rejects her friend’s rationale. Charlotte’s marriage reaffirms Lizzy’s romantic values and, crucially, also throws her in Mr Darcy’s way again later in the book. Now that’s interesting stuff, but if a subplot doesn’t bear on a protagonist’s ability to achieve their goal or goals, that subplot must be deleted or revised. Luckily, though, our story structure template helps you avoid that pitfall in the first place. In fact, here are two rules that you should obey religiously: If you’re outlining a plot for the first time. Pin down your basics, then build up subplots and so on.If you have already started your manuscript and you think you’re uncertain of your plot structure, stop – and follow the exercises in this post, exactly as you would if you hadn’t yet written a word. And do actually do this. As in pen-and-paper do it, not just “think about it for a minute or two then go on Twitter.” The act of writing things out will be helpful just in itself. The act of writing always is. Plotting Your Novel: The Template Remember as well that every subplot (or story strand, or whatever you want to call them) has its own little journey. Maybe a very simple one, but it’ll have its own beginning, middle and end. Its own structure of Initiating Incident / Developments / Crisis / Resolution. So you may as well drop everything you have into the grid below. (If you want to adapt that grid a little, then do, but don’t mess around with it toooo much. The basic idea there is golden.) Main PlotSubplot 1Subplot 2Subplot 3Initiating IncidentMAIN PLOTCRISISRESOLUTION If you’ve got more complexity to accommodate than this allows, take care. No matter how sprawling an epic you’re writing, you need to be able to identify the essence or heart of the story you’re writing, so try paring your novel down – you can always add more details and columns after. What would your story look like, if you did this? How To Further Develop Your Plot Outline Advanced techniques for writing ninjas What happens if your plot doesn’t fit into that grid? If you give that exercise your very best go and just draw a blank? Well, no worries. The basic problems here are twofold: You don’t yet understand your plot well enough, orYou just don’t have enough plot to sustain a full-length novel. Two different problems. Two different solutions. If you don’t yet understand your own plot in enough detail, you want to use … Plot-building Tool: The Snowflake Method Seeing your own plot in detail, before you write the book, is really hard, because it’s like you’re standing on the seashore trying to jump onto Mount Everest. In one bound. Not gonna work. So get there in stages, Base Camp. Camp 1, and so on up. What that means for you, is that you use our basic template in sketch form to start with – a sentence or two per section. Then you go at it again, and give each section its own paragraph. Then you go at it again, expanding to 2-3 paragraphs, or whole pages if you want to. The same basic exercise, but getting into deeper levels of detail each time. If you want more about the “snowflake” approach you can find it right here. OK. But what if your plot outline just feels a little bit thin once you sketch it out? Answer you fix it – and you fix it NOW before you start hurtling into the task of actually writing. Here are the techniques you’ll need to do just that: Method 1: Mirroring This doesn’t mean tack on needless bits and pieces – characters shouting at each other for effect, etc. – but add depth and subplots, developing the complexity of your protagonist’s story. (Remember: if it’s not contributing to your protagonist’s journey, it doesn’t matter and you need to delete it.) To take another novel – supposing your name is Harper Lee, and your story is the tale of a girl named Scout – let’s say Scout’s spooked by an odd but harmless man living on her street. It’s fine, though there’s not yet enough complexity yet to carry a novel, so complicate it. One thought is giving her a father figure, say a lawyer, named Atticus. (Harper Lee herself was daughter of a small-town lawyer.) He’s fighting to defend a man accused of something he obviously didn’t do. Targeted for who he is, rather than anything he’s done. A black guy accused for looking different? An odd-but-harmless guy who spooks Scout? It’s straightforward, tragic mirroring. Atticus’ fight is lost, the stories interweave, and Scout learns compassion in To Kill A Mockingbird. Introducing that second, reverberating plot strand meant that Harper Lee’s novel had the heft to become a classic of world literature. Method 2: Ram Your Genre Into Something Different Another way to complicate your plot is to throw action into a different genre – such as sci-fi, fantasy or crime. So take The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Looked at one way, that’s a pretty much standard issue romantic story, which, yes, could have sold, but could never have made the huge sales it actually racked up. But then ram that into a story of time-travel, and you have something shimmeringly new and exciting. What you had was still a romantic story at its heart – it certainly wouldn’t appeal to hardcore fans of SF/fantasy – but the novel element gave it a totally new birth. Or take Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters. A picaresque Victorian historical novel . . . that kind of thing always had its audience – but that audience had never encountered a frankly told lesbian coming-of-age story in that context, and the result of that shock collision was to produce a literary sensation. Method 3: Take Your Character And Max Her Out Why was it that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo went on to get such gigantic sales across the globe? It wasn’t the quality of Stieg Larsson’s writing, which was never more than competent and which was quite baggy, to say the least. And the actual plot? Well, on the face of it, he delivered a fairly standard issue crime story. Nothing so unusual there in terms of actual narrative. But Stieg Larsson rammed that basic story with an exotic character: Lisbeth Salander. That woman had Aspergers, she was a bisexual computer hacker and rape survivor . . .and boom – vast worldwide sales resulted. Method 4: Add Edge – A Glint Of Steel A few years back, I was struggling with one of my books, This Thing of Darkness. (here) The basic plot was strong. The mystery element was good. There was at least one quite unusual element. The climax was rip-roaring (set on a trawler at sea in a force 10 gale.) But . . . The book wasn’t quite working. It was long. And it was just a long, long way from the set-up phase of the book to the denouement. My solution? A glint of steel. I took an incident from the middle of the book – a break-in, and a theft, but no violence, no real time action – and I turned that into a long sequence involving the abduction of my protagonist. That addition made a long book even longer . . . but it made the book. It’s not just that the sequence itself was exciting, it’s that its shadow extended over everything else too. Whereas before the book had felt a bit like, “yep, gotta solve the mystery, because that’s what these books have to do.” Now it was: “We HAVE TO solve that mystery, because these bastards abducted our protagonist.” Steel. Edge. Sex or violence. Those things work in crime novels , but they work in totally literary works too. Can you imagine Ian McEwan’s Atonement without that glint of sex? Would The Great Gatsby have worked if no one had died? How To Write A Plot From Multiple Perspectives If you’re eager to write about multiple protagonists, you need a plot outline, along the lines of the template above, for each one. George R.R. Martin took this to new levels in A Song of Ice and Fire, each protagonist having his or her own richly developed plot and character arc. John Fowles’ The Collector, for example, is narrated by a kidnapper and the girl he’s kidnapped. Sullen, menacing Fred justifies all he does. Miranda chronicles her fear and pity. The result is taut, terrifying. We’re engrossed in their shared experience to the end. Multiple protagonists can work in romance novels, too, even ones told in third-person narration, such as The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, or Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This said, managing multiple points of view, even from minor characters, can work well for thrillers, often driven by the drip-drip-drip of information release (though these things depend on story, as much as genre). The key thing to bear in mind here is that you need a mini version of your novel outline template for each of your main characters. Each one of those guys needs a complete little story of their own – and those little stories need to interweave to create one great and compelling one. More About Plotting How to write seven basic plotsHow to chart your plot mountain or plot diagramHow to fix your plot problemsUsing internal and external conflict in genre writingHow to write beginnings, middles and endsThe Power of Story and Discourse by Allie Spencer
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6 professional tips for authors meeting publishers

It’s not all that often that would-be authors get to meet publishers to pitch their work, but it happens. Mostly, literary agents will take charge of sending your work out to publishers. Assuming there’s interest in your work, publishers will come back with offers and then, when you do meet publishers face-to-face, they are pitching to you much more than you to them. But that’s not the only way it can happen. A client of ours was, in 2011, in New York having had three meetings with major New York based publishers. He had a UK deal from a wonderful London-based publisher. Also, one in Germany. In the US, though, publishers wanted to meet him before committing to an offer. They wanted that meeting not because of any real reservations they had about the manuscript. If they hadn’t liked the material, they wouldn’t have asked for the meeting. They just wanted to see the author himself. See if he could present himself well to the media. See if his vision for the book was the same as theirs. See also if they liked him. After all, your working relationship with a publisher will certainly last a year and perhaps considerably more, so you might as well like the person you’re to be working with. So if something like this happens to you, it’s as well to be prepared. The rules to follow are: Be nice. That’s the first commandment of publishing. The book deal you’re involved in is unlikely to involve vast sums of money, either for you or your literary agent or your publisher. So be nice. It makes a difference.Be professional. Know the things you ought to know. What’s the word count of your manuscript? If it isn’t yet complete, when will you be able to deliver it? Who are the major authors in your genre? What competing titles are scheduled for release soon? Have these things at your fingertips.Scrub up. Contrary to widespread belief, publishers aren’t just chasing books by the young and beautiful. They want good books and they don’t much care who writes them. All the same, comb your hair, dress half-decently, just take a little smidge of care.Ask questions. It’s fine to ask questions of your potential publisher. When would they schedule release? What format would they release it in? And at what price? When does the e-book come out and at what price? How would they think about marketing it? What kind of cover design do they have in mind? (They won’t have a cover design planned, but they’ll be able to tell you – ideally show you – the approximate kind of cover they’ll be considering.) What success have they had with similar books in this area? It’s fine to ask about numbers. How many hardbacks, how many paperbacks, how many ebooks? You learn a lot from these questions, and you make it clear that you are a professional and will work professionally with your team.Take guidance from your literary agent. Your agent will already know these publishers and quite likely the exact people sitting round the table from you. If your agent steers you in or away from a particular direction, then take that guidance. That’s true anyway, but it’s extra true if you’re in a geographical market not your own: a US author pitching to a London publisher, a UK author pitching to a New York publisher. In the first instance, you will almost certainly have a UK literary agent sitting beside you, a US agent next to you in the second case. Those people are there to help you. Accept their help with gratitude.Don’t forget digital. Take a one page sheet setting out what you’ve done already (in terms of blog, website, etc.) and explaining what further things you intend to do. Those things won’t swing a deal all on their own, but they do make a difference, and ask what their own plans are. And remember, you can go into those meetings with good heart. You’ve been invited because someone loves your manuscript and just needs a little help to make it all the way to a formal offer. You haven’t quite closed the deal yet, but you’re inches away. Now go and close it. Good luck. More On Getting Published Link to: How to Get Your Book Published Getting Published All you need to know
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Tips on writing women’s fiction

Women’s fiction is a broad category – too broad, really, since women’s interests are as varied as women themselves. (We don’t have ‘men’s fiction’, after all.) Teasing out the heart of fiction women may enjoy lies, possibly, in relationship – and these can be romantic, but also historical or contemporary, comic or serious, commercial or literary. A rollercoaster plot alone may seem insubstantial without heart and drama, stemming from character and relational dynamism. Without reverting to sweeping generalisation (since we all need light and serious fiction), reading women need and often demand similarly thoughtful reading material. We’ve asked one expert – Julia Hamilton, author of Forbidden Fruits and other acclaimed novels – to have her say on what works, what doesn’t and what literary agents are after. Julia Hamilton Shares Her Thoughts What exactly is ‘women’s fiction’? And what differentiates it from ‘romance’? Statistics tell us that women read more than men and they buy more books than men, thus the concerns of women’s lives are very important to today’s market. Women’s fiction includes romance – a big, serious market producing big serious revenues – but women’s fiction, just like the women who read it, has evolved to include subjects and themes that range beyond the constraints of romance. Literary agents will respond especially to work taking old genres and reworking them in new ways. Women’s fiction is a growing market that includes many facets of other genres: it can be literary, it can be commercial, it can be contemporary or it can be a multi-generational saga, witness the success of Rosamund Pilcher. In all cases, however, the woman is the star of the story and her changes and emotional development are the subject.. The heart of the story may include romance but it is invariably a novel driven by a relationship at the very core of the plot. Women’s fiction tends to be longer, about 100,000 words or more, but it can be as short as 50,000 words plus. Longer women’s fiction allows the development of multi-layered, multi-charactered subplots. There’ll be more introspection and description and buckets of backstory. A man may be waiting for the heroine of these novels, but he’s not the centre of events. You have stories of sisters or women’s friendships. Every major publisher knows relationships are all and there is almost always a life-affirming resolution, even if the story is a sad one. If you’re interested in writing women’s fiction, then you must read it in all its glorious diversity. If you’re not reading it, you probably won’t be writing it. Don’t worry about where the story will take you – just do it.
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Screenwriting: Dialogue by Pauline Kiernan

Understanding Dialogue Dialogue functions to reveal character, impart information and move the story forward but it’s the way you make it function that’s important. How you create dialogue will determine how original it is at conveying meaning, developing the story, and drawing the audience into the emotions of your characters. Always be aware of how you can incorporate subtext into your dialogue. Subtext is the underlying meaning of a character’s words and actions. It’s when someone says one thing but means something else – usually the emotional significance behind the surface words. That’s why it connects to the audience at the deepest level. As you write see how much your dialogue can suggest the inner emotions of characters. (Oh, and if you’re after help with the same issues in the context of the novel, then you probably want to pop over to this blog post instead. Or, better still, as well.) Give Dialogue Energy Listen to your dialogue out loud as you write. If you leave them on the page you won’t know whether they’re going to come alive or not.  Use a tape recorder or the voice facility on your computer. Ask yourself how the dialogue’s going. Does it have energy, pace and rhythm?Is it original? Believable?Unique to each character?Emotional connection with the audience?Have I used subtext well?Creating tension?Breathing space?Creating conflict?How sharp is it?Each word necessary?Suggesting psychological state? Does it have energy, pace and rhythm?Is it original? Believable?Unique to each character?Emotional connection with the audience?Have I used subtext well?Creating tension?Breathing space?Creating conflict?How sharp is it?Each word necessary?Suggesting psychological state? Looking Over The First Draft Again, move around and say the words out loud or get friends to read through it and you listen and make notes. This time you’re assessing the dialogue’s role in the trajectory of the story. Ask yourself: Is this developing my characters’ inner life?What distinctive details are shaping my characters’ ways of speaking? Are they all sufficiently individualised by not only what they say but how they say it?Is it forwarding the action?What do I lose/gain if I get rid of this?Are there moments where I’m giving the audience some space to absorb what’s happening? Why is my character compelled to say this? And why at this moment?What does the audience need to know here? Better to keep them waiting?Would silence be more dramatic here?How are the words speaking to the theme of the story?How much is subtext expressing meaning? More Screenwriting Exercises Get into the habit of watching a few scenes of films and focus solely on how the dialogue and subtext are working. Choose a few movies you haven’t seen. Try watching dialogue scenes with the sound turned off. Then write the dialogue. Turn the sound up. Compare your words to those in the film. Try writing short exchanges for your characters using subtext alone Get two lovers talking. A scene of tenderness. A violent row. Making up. Get a supporting character and main character together. Make it a power struggle. How is the subtext conveying hostility? Notice how you’re creating emotion which lies behind the words (the subtext). Pauline is a screenwriter, award-winning playwright, Shakespeare scholar, and former journalist. She’s also the author of one of the best guides there is to screenwriting, Screenwriting They Can’t Resist: How to Create Screenplays of Originality and Cinematic Power. Explode the Rules.
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What is creative writing in non-fiction?

‘Creative non-fiction’ is one of the trickiest terms in writing. Non-fiction means being factual. Creative means using imagination. Isn’t that a conflict? At one end, you have textbooks, how-to books, academic and professional work of every sort. In areas like this, factual expertise and clarity matters hugely. Imaginative writing and creative insight may actually get in the way. At the other end of the non-fiction writing game, you have some genuinely creative areas. Travel writing is one. Memoir and biography can be another. Factual reconstruction of particular historical episodes another. If you want to read a non-fiction book that reads exactly like a novel, then try Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It’s completely true. But it reads like a novel. Capote, in fact, called it a non-fiction novel. It’s famous partly because of its genre-bending format. You can also find historians writing quite creatively (try Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings). And some of our own clients have used our help to achieve bestselling success in the memoir category, if you look for John Fenton’s Please Don’t Make Me Go, or Barbara Tate’s amazing West End Girls. Both these books had the freshness and creativity of novels. If you’re keen to write creative non-fiction, then you need to acquire a novelist’s skills but deploy them to your own factual ends. You can get a real quick survey of the core novelist’s tools on this blog. You can get a more in-depth guide to those skills by browsing our full set of writing resources. Either way, the core of creative writing in non-fiction is to create immediacy, to get close to character and to the drama of the unfolding moment. Using web-based resources is a good first step on the path to writing successful non-fiction, but it’s only a first step. Other bits of advice would be: Read a lot. You won’t succeed in non-fiction unless you know the market you’re trying to write for.Take a course. It’s one thing learning from books. It’s quite another getting personal feedback from a top tutor as you start to develop your skills. Courses these days can be quite cheap and can be done from home, so it’s not the hassle that it once used to be. We offer some brilliant courses, so check them out here. Depending on exactly what you’re writing, you may even find that a ‘how to write a novel’ course will be the right one for your particular project – but if in doubt, just ask.Start writing and get help. Finally – crucially – the only way you’ll learn how to write better is to start writing. Just get stuck in. You’ll learn masses simply by plunging in. Then, once you’ve got a good chunk of the manuscript written, you can get expert feedback on what you’ve done – what works, what doesn’t work, what you need to do to fix it. Using that support wisely can make all the difference between a book that publishers love, and one that just accumulates rejection letters. And whatever your project, good luck! More On How To Write A Book Link to: How to Write a Book (10 Doable Steps for New Writers) How To Write A step-by-step guide
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When The Agent-Author Relationship Goes Bad

by Lesley McDowell It’s probably the most-asked writers’ question: How do I get an agent? And it’s probably one of the best answered, too. There’s no lack of advice on this subject, from Jericho Writers’ own Agent Match to any number of websites and chat forums, with agents themselves, publishers, and well-known writers, all offering tips and stratagems to hook that must-have gatekeeper to publishing heaven. But what happens once you have secured an agent? How you conduct that relationship, one of the most important you’ll ever have in your writing and publishing career, is crucial. If it goes well, then that’s great. But if it goes wrong, what can you do? Where oh where is the advice you need then? Because these relationships do go wrong – a lot. It’s hard to realise that from the lack of information out there because the publishing industry doesn’t like talking about the downside. It’s an industry that thrives on the positive, not the negative – it needs writers as much as writers need it, and it doesn’t want to put them off. Which is understandable. And a bad agent-author relationship is not what the industry wants to have to deal with. But writers do have to deal with it, and deal with it more often than they might expect. Why It Goes Wrong Is your agent not returning your emails or calls? Is s/he your agent not sending your book out to all the publishers that they promised they would? Is it a personality clash? Are you just not the right ‘fit’ for one another? First of all, you want to establish if you’re making your agent any money or not. If not, then they may want rid of you, they just won’t say it. I’ve been with three agents so far. We tend to think a multiplicity of agents in our career is a bad thing, because we all know the stories of successful writers who have had the same agent since forever, who’s their best friend, their right-hand man/woman, godparent to their first born, etc. It’s the agent-author relationship we all aspire to: success on both sides, as the agent nabs the best deals with the biggest publishers, and the writer cements said agent’s income and status by selling big and winning awards. Fabulous. Unfortunately, a lot of the time it doesn’t work like that. And while we shouldn’t blame our agents if they can’t sell our work to a publisher, or if said publisher can’t sell enough of our work to the public or get it onto prestigious shortlists, we can and should hold our agents to account if they’re ignoring us as a result of our book or manuscript failing. My three agents were all very different. One was with a huge agency, two were with smaller ones, and in different locations. Two were strangers before I signed with them, one was a friend. I left all three of them, although in one case I definitely jumped before I was pushed. Why did I move on each time? Well, the first time was because I didn’t feel my agent was very engaged with my work or pushing it with publishers. Her response to my novel manuscript was generic and I worried I was going to miss out. My second book had just come out and was getting a lot of coverage. I thought I might be in a strong position to get someone else so I moved on. Some people have likened the author-agent relationship to dating, and when you want out, the excuses tend to be the same (‘It’s not you, it’s me’ – I did actually use that one; ‘I think the timing/chemistry/feeling’s just not right/there’; ‘You just don’t understand me’ etc). And because having to end it is always excruciating, we use these excuses, when the truth almost certainly lies elsewhere and goes unspoken. My second move wasn’t so much of an ending because we had a kind of understanding in the beginning that if he got me a deal, I’d stay with him, and if he didn’t, I wouldn’t (already it sounds so personal). In the end, I got my third deal myself, but I still paid him an agent fee because he’d done a good job sending round a non-fiction proposal for another book (which didn’t make it). My fourth book, a historical novel, wasn’t really his area, so I went shopping for another agent, and, after a lot of leg work, I ‘hooked’ one. What To Do When It Does Go Wrong My third agent experience was the one that really pushed the scariest questions. When you find yourself in a no-win situation and you know you want to leave, these are the ones you lie awake at night asking yourself: ‘Is it too late to back out of my contract?’ ‘Will it harm my chances of signing with anyone else if I do this again?’ ‘Is moving from agent to agent just making me look bad?’ I was never given a reason for my third agent ignoring me, but it soon seemed clear why. After signing me up, she had worked with me over a few months to get my manuscript right, then sent it out with much excitement. After three months, I’d heard nothing so I emailed her but got no reply. Then just three days before Christmas, she emailed me the news that the first round of publishers had all rejected it. I burst into tears, but she had promised to send it round a second lot of publishers in the New Year, so I clung to that small ray of hope. She didn’t email me again until the end of February, and that was only because I’d eventually rung her to ask what was happening (she was ‘in a meeting’ and couldn’t come to the phone). By May, I’d had two emails from her in 8 months, no list of the publishers she’d sent my manuscript to in the first instance, despite my repeated requests to see their responses, no idea who she’d sent it to in a second round (there was no ‘second round’, as it transpired), and my requests to meet face-to-face were ignored. I couldn’t ignore it any longer – I was being ‘ghosted’, and probably because of my book’s failure to get picked up in the first round. I was being dropped, without it being spoken out loud. What on earth should I do? Hang on in there? Hope that someone out of the blue took my book and my agent started talking to me again? I looked for advice online, but there was little to help me. I asked agented friends, but they weren’t sure either. I came to the only conclusion I could. My confidence was being eroded – I hadn’t written anything in the eight months since my agent had sent out my novel, and all my ideas for other books seemed pointless. I had to stop feeling worthless because I was being ignored, and that was when I knew I had to end it. So I did. I emailed to say I wasn’t happy with her lack of response and felt that the relationship wasn’t working for me. No reply. I emailed again, this time to say quite firmly, that it was over. No reply. I posted a written letter, as my contract stated that it could be terminated only in writing. No reply. I wrote another letter. Finally, a response, thanking me for my ‘brave, wonderful novel’. It was a relief. It took another six months after I ended the contract for me to start writing again, but at least the writing did return. I don’t yet have another agent, but my confidence is still growing and I am looking for one. I’m also trying smaller publishers who don’t require submissions from an agent. 10 Top Tips For Surviving The Wrong Agent I’ve learned several things from this experience, and here is my advice to anyone in a similar situation. Do not let anybody, be it agent or publisher, damage your confidence. That’s different from feeling sore after a rejection, or refusing to take advice on rewrites. It’s about protecting yourself from damaging treatment by someone who appears to be holding all the cards (because they don’t).If your agent is ignoring your emails about a new manuscript you’ve submitted, and this continues for over six months, cut them loose. They’re not working for you.If your agent promises to send your work out but they don’t, and all you get is prevarications and excuses, cut them loose, too.Agents need writers as much as writers need agents. There may be far more writers out there than there are agents, but the right one for you still exists, you just haven’t found them yet. Keep looking.Get used to the notion that in your career you may go through many agents. Just as we now move from publisher to publisher more than we did in the past, so too with agents are we more mobile. Scriptwriters in tv and film got used to this years ago; now print writers have to as well.Don’t believe an agent who promises you the moon, but do hold them to account if they’re falling below deliverable promises.Give an agent a chance to correct what they’ve done before you fire them.Don’t be afraid to talk about your bad experience. The less silence there is on this subject, the better for everyone.Trust your instincts: if your instincts say this isn’t working, then they’re probably right.Remember that, as a writer, you’re more than just a brand. Recently, my blog about this experience was viewed over 1000 times and I was inundated with writers, some very well-known, on their own bad experiences. So it does happen to most of us at some time, and it is survivable. The important thing I learned from it is to develop a sense of flexibility, appreciate your own mobility, and keep positive. This is the game, but some know how to play it better than others. You have to make sure you are one of the better informed. Lesley is one of our fantastic editors who is available to give you an in-depth, constructive critique on your novel of agent submission pack. You can find out more about our editorial services here. To read more of Lesley’s blog, you can have a read of her blog here. More On Finding An Agent Link to: How to Find a Literary Agent (the Simple 8 Step Guide) Find An Agent In eight simple steps
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How to finish a novel and schedule writing time

How to schedule your writiing time, and get your novel finished One of the hardest things about finishing a novel – before you think about ideas, characters, or plotting – is finding time and confidence with all those words to write. Maybe writing a novel seems like a mammoth task, a distant dream. Read on for tips in writing productivity, how to get organised with your writing, and how to finish a novel. A massive spoiler: you can do it. How To Schedule Your Writing Time (By The Hour) How can you be sure to finish a book you start? Lots of writers prefer spontaneity to planning out writing times. If vagueness hasn’t been helping, though, setting goals could help make a novel seem less imposing. Goals may adapt as you go on, too (perhaps by the day, if you’ve written something one day that negates what you were planning to do the next day, and so on). This shouldn’t be an inflexible process. Just decide on your writing days per week, how much time you know you’ll roughly have to dedicate to writing on each day. Some days, you may have an hour or two. On others, you know you may just have twenty minutes. Twenty minutes can still count. If you want your novel written, you’ll need determination – and Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope even paid someone to get him up and bring coffee, so he could write in the few hours before he went to work. Even if your designated writing times aren’t every day, they should still be fixed (as much as you can make them). Show up for your writing, keep it habitual. If you’ve been struggling to make time for writing on a more fluid basis, see if actively planning your writing like this makes a difference. How To Set Your Writing Goals (And Achieve Them) Let’s explore this idea of hours more, how you’ll make the time productive, once you’ve scheduled it into your day. Perhaps you’ll allot in your diary (or mobile calendar) an hour of each weekday to writing your novel. List its ideal outcome. Does Chapter 1 need starting? If you’re further on than that, does a scene need revising? Does a ‘filler’ or ‘bridge’ section need getting down on paper, before you go back and figure out how to make it better later? Maybe there’s a weeknight you know you’ll have limited time, so take out just twenty minutes for research, editing or mind-mapping ideas for a scene. Maybe there’s a weekend you know you’ll have lots more time, so set yourself a bigger task. Try giving one ideal outcome to each time you write, to help turn your novel into a manageable project (so if you do more than that, wonderful). Few people can find long stints of time to write as they’d like. The only agreed solution (between the ‘planners’ and the ‘pantsters’) is to carve writing hours into a schedule, then stick to them, making them useful. You can always break up your writing time with something called the Pomodoro technique, too – 25 minutes of work, then 5 minutes to break – rewarding yourself as you go. Bring your close family and friends along, too. Your desire to write is a part of you, so having support and understanding from others will help. How To Protect Your Writing Space (And Headspace) Whilst it’s possible to write anywhere, your headspace and surrounding environment can help you keep up a writing discipline. Surround yourself with writerly comforts. Some need black coffee, others need green tea. Some need quiet, others need jazzy playlists. Some need cushions, others need a wrist support. Some need scattered notes, others need filing systems. Make your writing spot a place you’ll literally love coming to. If it’s just not possible to create a makeshift writing space at home, settle yourself where you’ll feel comfortable, even if it’s just in bed with a laptop. (And why not?) Respecting your physical space, the bustle of a café could be less taxing than the bustle of home in terms of productivity. If you need to remove yourself from home distractions for a bit, why not take yourself to a coffee or lunch? Treat yourself to whatever feeds your writer’s brain. Perhaps during a lunch break at work, you’ll be able to take yourself and your laptop to a café somewhere. Also, any space (and anyone’s headspace) nowadays is easy to infiltrate with wi-fi. Protect focus by turning off the wi-fi. (You can always ‘reward’ yourself with the Internet later.) Keep things fun, just keep yourself to task, too. How To Keep Going And Finish Your Novel First, start now. There’s never going to be a time when you’re readier to write than the present. Start writing, then keep it habitual, even between projects. Carry a notebook and pen with you. Try jotting ideas on the go. If you’re a first time writer, try checking out this page for extra advice and inspiration! Second, release some pressure. Allow yourself to be carried along, to enjoy and let loose. Allow your first draft to be imperfect because otherwise it can’t get written. You’ll have time to edit once it’s out on a page, but you can’t edit from nothing (editing, by-the-by, we can help with once you’re ready). Third, you can do it. If you’ve set yourself a word count of 10,000 words every month (as an example, aiming for between 2,000-3,000 words per weekend), you could have a first working draft in less than a year before all your structural editing and revisions go in. Fourth, remind yourself how much you want this. If you want to be published, you’ll need to be resilient, as well as kind to yourself. Getting a first draft out is hard, and a first draft is allowed to be flawed before you go back and edit. Oh, and fifth? Get some damn help! Our editorial services are there for your assistance, as well as an incredible self-editing course that will help you on your way to finishing your novel. Most importantly, hang around in a supportive writing community, crammed with expert resources, that will help you achieve what you want to achieve. But where is such a wonderful community to be found, you cry? Well, let’s see. Jericho Writers is a club for writers. And it’s low cost, and cancel-any-time. And it has an eat-all-you-want approach to a gazillion writing resources. And it’s full of people like you. And those people seem to go on to get published. And you can find out more about that club right here, right now. We really hope you sign up with us. We’d love it if you did! More On How To Write A Book Link to: How to Write a Book (10 Doable Steps for New Writers) How To Write A step-by-step guide
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How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?

A short, honest answer So you’ve written your book. Congratulations! Now you want to self-publish your work and you’re excited about what might lie ahead. But, getting the damn thing published? How exactly does all that work? And (yikes!) just how much does it cost? In this blog post, we will honestly answer exactly how much does it cost to self-publish a book. OK. We’re not going to tell you HOW to self-publish your work in this post. If you want a complete guide to what to do and how to do it, then hop over here for everything you need. That guide deals step by step with what you need to do to self-publish successfully, but for now, lets talk about costs. Oh, and before we talk about costs: you probably want to know who I am and whether I know what the heck I’m talking about. Well, I’m Harry Bingham. I’ve written and self-published a fair few books. (You can see some of them here.) In the last 12 months, I’ve earned $100,000 from my self-published work, and I look to do even better in the future. If you can write well, and if you have the diligence and commitment to put together a series of books, not just the one, then there is no reason why you should not go all the way to a rich and satisfying career. Here’s what you need to know. How Much Does It Cost To Self-publish A Book? For a typical manuscript, allow: Editing – $800 (optional, but probably sensible)Copyediting – $1200 (optional, best avoided)Cover design – $70-400Formatting – $0 (do it yourself)Typesetting – $300 (optional)Uploading to Amazon – $0Email list builder – $0 (at first)Bookfunnel – $100Website – from $12/month, but spend more to get it right How Much Does Self-publishing Cost? OK, I’m going to start with the headlines, and a giant BUT. The ‘but’, quite simply, is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. Every single book and indie author will do things a bit differently here and that’s just fine. Different writers have different skills, different access to resources, and different audiences. What follows then is just a broad set of guidelines for you to adapt as you please. I’ll assume you have written a novel of about 80,000 words, and that you are serious about actually making money from this project. That is: you are happy to invest a little in the expectation of a proper future return. Do read the comments that follow these headlines, because the juice is in the comments, not the headlines. Okie-doke. Your costs very roughly are: Book Production Structural editing – $800 / £550You can skip this, but we’d advise against doing soCopyediting – $1200 / £850You need to do something here, but this is an area where you can and should, save moneyProofreading – $0 / £0Don’t do this as well as copyediting. The big publishers do both, but for you it’s a waste of moneyCover design – $70-$400 / (£50-£250)You have to get the cover right, but there are some great low cost options available.Formatting (for ebook) – $0 / £0You can do this yourself perfectly easily for freeTypesetting (for print) – $450 / £300 (if you want)This is more a vanity-type cost. You can just upload a Word file and it’ll look OK. But if you want a fancy-shmancy book to give to your mother, then you’ll want to pay a bit more. Skills Building OK, that’s not a normal entry on a list like this, but if you jump into a complex area like indie-publishing – an area where you’ll be competing head-on against some very skilful and well-resourced authors and publishers – you’ll just waste a ton of time and money if you don’t learn the ropes in a disciplined way. You have to make room in your budget for intelligently directed learning. Books – $20Just buy everything by David Gaughran, Joanna Penn and Nicholas Erik. This is small potatoes in terms of money, but the wisdom is yuuuuge.Podcasts, blogs, video – $0It’s all free. This blog post is free. Reading that stuff makes you a better, more effective entrepreneur.. You’re doing the right thing.Courses – $50I’ve done most of the big expensive courses out there, and I’ve learned a lot. But some of those things are $699 and upwards – and that’s crazy money. We have a big expensive self-publishing course of our own and it’s very damn good indeed. (Check it out here.) But why buy it? As a member of Jericho Writers you can get access to it for free. Signing up with us for a month costs just $39. You can just grab the entire super-premium course in that time, download all the notes, and walk away a massively better equipped writer. Basically a good course gives you a step-by-step template for success and you’re just crazy if you don’t do something along these lines. You can take out a simple, cancel-any-time Jericho Writers membership here. Uploading To Retailers Uploading to Amazon – $0 / £0I know everyone knows that, but it’s still amazing, isn’t it? You get unlimited access to all the readers in the world. And it costs nothing! How good is that?Uploading to everyone else – $0 / £0Same thing, except everyone else combined isn’t worth half of one Amazon. Creating Your Platform Building & hosting your website – $12/monthIf you use an all-in-one service like Squarespace or Weebly, you can get web-hosting plus drag-and-drop type editing tools that make it unbelievably simple to create your site. It’s crazy-cheap for what you get.Email list builder – $0Did I just say free? Yep I did – at least for anything up to 2,000 email addresses with Mailchimp. And within this starter package, you get automation tools which are essential for pinging readers thank you emails whenever and wherever they sign up to your list. Another amazing thing that the modern world just gives you.Book delivery (Bookfunnel) – $20/yearNot strictly essential, but any serious indie author will use Bookfunnel or something like it. And at this price? You gotta have it.Prolific Works – $20/monthYou don’t need to be permanently signed up to Prolific Works, but you can use it as a superb mailing-list accelerant. You probably want to budget at least a few months’ membership here as you start out.Other design costs – $100?You can use your cover design plus Squarespace’s design tools, plus freely available photos, to give you a pretty damn good website along with any other design bits and bobs you might want. But some amazing photos need paying for. Sometimes a designer offers you something too good to turn down. So chuck another $100 into your budget, and consider that as your way to treat yourself to stuff you like. Paid Advertising AMS – Budget $200/monthAMS is Amazon’s own in-store advertising system. (You’ve seen those “sponsored result” messages – that’s AMS doing its stuff. AMS is a pretty ropy system, in truth, but it’s pretty easy to get results. So assume you’ll spend some cash here. You should get it all back, and then some.Bookbub – $500 (if you can get it)If you enter your book for a featured offer type promotion, and Bookbub accepts you, then kiss BB’s sainted feet and hand over your wallet. You will certainly make money. That said, it’s hard to get accepted by BB these days, so that money is likely to stay in your wallet.Bookbub ads, Facebook ads – ????You could spend $10,000 here, or nothing. This post is hardly long enough to go into the ins and outs of the two biggest ad platforms for authors, so I’ll just observe that (A) some indie authors essentially make their livings by playing the ad-game with great care and extreme skill, and (b) other indie authors – including me! – make a fat living while making almost zero use of ads on either of these platforms. I am in a minority, but it is possible. So much for the headlines. But do read on, because there’s real debate about whether some of these costs are necessary – and real opportunities to shave money off these figures if you’re agile enough. What Costs Are Involved In Self-publishing A Book? Editing and copyediting OK. We’ve talked about headlines, and some of those headlines are uncontroversial. It just doesn’t cost any money to upload your book to Amazon. And yes, you can pay $2000 for a professionally created website . . . but you’ll end up with less control over it than you would if you build it yourself, and you won’t actually get any additional sales. But let’s home in on a few areas where it might or might not make sense to save money – and where there might or might not be opportunities to cut corners. We start with the heart of the entire publishing industry – the editorial process itself. Structural editing(Also known as developmental editing, or manuscript assessment, or just plain editorial advice.) What’s involved?An experienced, professional editor reads your text in detail and tells you what’s working, what’s not working and (crucially) how to fix the stuff that isn’t yet right. An editor isn’t there to inflict changes on your work directly – this is your book and you need to be the final judge of what changes are needed – but you should get a very good idea of how to develop and improve your text. Likely costDepends on the length of your book and the quality of the editorial service. An 80,000 word book will generally be charged at around $850 / £550, assuming that you are going to a really good editor with a load of experience and insight. You will find offers online for a good bit less, but I’d question whether they’re worth it. Good editorial advice can be THE thing that turns it from good-but-not-dazzling to the kind of thing that readers are recommending to their friends. Bad editorial advice on the other hand can actually kill a book. So if it were me, I’d rather pay a proper wage to a proper editor – or skip editing altogether. And me personally (but see the disclosure below), I’d never send a book out, unedited. DisclosureI’ve had a dozen novels traditionally published, and have worked with each of the world’s three largest publishers. I’ve had a ton of critical acclaim and have a big fat load of experience. But even so I use third party editorial advice. I have never published a book without it. I never will. Now, I truly believe that and have always lived by it. But just to be clear: Jericho Writers is (among other things) an editorial agency. We offer editorial help on books such as yours, so you could argue that I’m totally biased. And, OK, I do have a financial interest here, but the single reason why such huge numbers of Jericho clients have gone on to get published and (in some cases) sell millions of copies / win film deals / etc is because we take editorial advice incredibly seriously. You can read more about the editorial help we offer here. I really hope you take a look! Right. Enough of that. Just two more comments before we move on Remember that editorial advice may not be a one-shot thing. Especially if you are on your first book and don’t have a ton of previous experience, then your first draft may be horrible. Your second draft will be better. It may take multiple rounds of editorial advice to get your book to where it needs to be. Don’t worry about that. Just put in the time and the investment. The other thing is this. A bad product can’t sell – but you’re not just investing in the product. You’re investing in yourself. Every time you work with an editor, you will become a better writer. Your next book will come faster, slicker and more confident than it would otherwise. I promise. Copy-editing and proofreading What’s involved?A big traditional publisher will typically engage in one or two rounds of editorial work per book. Then the manuscript will be copyedited (or line-edited.) Then it’ll be typeset. Then there’ll be one last set of checks prior to printing, and those final checks are referred to as proofreading. The two activities – copyediting and proofreading – are much the same, except that copyediting is broader. So where proofreading will only be looking for clear errors (misprints, typos, spelling errors, and the like), a copy-editor should also be looking for: factual errorsclumsy phrasingawkward repetitionsinconsistencies (grey eyes that turn blue, for example)plotting inconsistencieserroneous or awkward punctuation Do I need copyediting and proofreading?No. Save yourself the money. Do it properly once, and a few remaining typos won’t kill anyone. How can I save money?To get a formally trained copyeditor doing a Big Publisher quality job on your book is eyewateringly expensive. In the figures above, I suggested $1200 might be a reasonable guide for an 80,000 word book. Well, maybe. But only if you got a hungry copyeditor and your manuscript needed only the lightest of edits. The truth is, because this work is painstaking and done page by page and line by line, it’s slow. Because standards in the Kindle store have risen over the years, readers have (rightly) become a bit tetchy about sloppy spellings / puncutation / presentation etc. That means you’re in a bind: On the one hand, you want to do a decent job On the other hand, you don”t want to pay $2000 and more to fix some commas. So what do you do? Well, as it happens Jericho Writers does offer pro-quality copy-editing services (more about that here), but 99% of people reading this will NOT want to use them – and probably shouldn’t: they’re just too expensive for what you get. So the best advice, really, is as follows: Train yourself to write a really clean manuscript. Grammarly is a great tool, but better still, you start to build a Grammarly-style app in your own head. Find your own errors. Be your own copy-editor. You still won’t eliminate all errors – you just need a second pair of eyes for that – but you’ll vastly reduce the work (and the cost) involved in copyediting.And then, once you have your – fairly clean – manuscript, just use whatever resources you can find to work with you cheaply or for free. Are you friends with your local librarian? Have a keen reader who used to be a school teacher? Have a college friend who’d do some work for cash? If you snuffle through your contacts (and reader emails) you’re quite likely to find someone who will work for nothing. I’ve had offers from readers along those lines and have ended up choosing to pay $300 – partly as a thank you, but also as a way to say, “Look, this is a professional relationship and I’d really appreciate it if you did the best job you possible could.” Will you get a perfect result from this approach? No. Will you get a perfectly OK one? Yes, if you do it right. And will you lose any sales as a result of low-balling it? Well, no, not really.
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How to typeset your own book

It’s the stuff of writers’ dreams. Your double-spaced, A4 sized, agent-ready manuscript turns into a beautiful paperback book; that first line that you agonised over for days, leaping out at the reader; your paragraphs neatly aligned and looking as they should – actual real-life pages in a beautiful looking book. Ahhh, we can almost smell the paper. One of the highlights of CompletelyNovel is getting to help writers turn this dream into reality. Every day, writers turn manuscripts into quality paperback books, either for self-publishing or to give to family and friends as a handy editing tool. Readily-accessible tools such as Microsoft Word mean that writers can now typeset their manuscripts themselves. Once you learn the tricks of DIY typesetting, it’s straightforward and immensely satisfying to see your book take shape. Here are some top tricks for DIY typesetting that every writer should know. 1.Paragraph Styles The key to any book interior is consistency. This includes making sure your chapter headings, typeface, quotations and asides are all in the same style. You won’t see many books that start in 11pt Times New Roman and then suddenly change to 12pt Helvetica (unless it’s intentional, of course!). You can find paragraph styles on most Word processors – in Word, they’re placed in a bar at the top with different fonts and headings. Once you’ve perfected the font and placement of your first chapter heading, highlight it and then right click on ‘Heading 1’ to save it as a style. Then, when it comes to writing Chapter Two, you can easily replicate the same style. You can also do the same for your main body text and any other headings and styles, perhaps a character’s handwriting, or a quote, if you’re writing non-fiction. 2. Page Breaks No more shall we press the return key multiple times to get to a new page. If you do this, you’ll find yourself having to go back and forth adding and deleting paragraphs every time you make a change to the text. Instead, just insert a page break. This will take you onto the next page, right where you want to be. You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll use this when you know it’s there! 3. Justification Authors who typeset their own work often don’t justify their text. This is where you make sure each line meets both margins, so that it looks like a perfect rectangle on the page. This just makes things a bit neater and is a key part in giving your manuscript that extra finesse that will make it look as beautiful as it reads. 4. Prelims And Title Pages Title pages are where you get to be creative. They are the first few pages that the reader sees when they open your book. This might include a page that states title and author name, a copyright page (if you’re self-publishing) and then maybe a half-title page which also lists the publisher. Many publishers use the title pages to bring some of the aspects of the cover into the book itself – perhaps by using the same font as the title on the cover or similar black and white illustrations or shapes. There are some really great examples of title pages around – just look at the books on your shelf for inspiration! 5. Indents As standard, a first paragraph after a new chapter or heading shouldn’t be indented, but every new paragraph afterwards should be. Although using the ‘tab’ key to indent your text on your A4 manuscript is fine, this space suddenly looks huge once you size the page down to your standard paperback size. I’d recommend an indent of 0.5-1cm to match the other books on your shelf. To alter the indent, just drag the small, top arrow on the ruler at the top of your screen. Remember to update your paragraph style with the change to save you the time of decreasing every indent! And Finally … Whether you end up typesetting your own book or not, you’ll be surprised how often some of these typesetting skills will crop up in your writing career. If you’d like to continue your learning in more detail, there’s a handy typesetting guide on CompletelyNovel, which can be downloaded as a PDF file for free. And, for those writers who’d like a helping hand from a professional, the team at CompletleyNovel offer a handy typesetting service, too.
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Literary agents for women’s fiction

Are you writing predominantly for women, about women, and in search of an agent? Women’s fiction is an incredibly broad and rich genre to be aware of as a publishing label. There is romance, there is domestic noir, there is literary fiction, and a novel being literary fiction need not cancel out it being a romance, etc., etc. Nor does any given sub-genre (e.g. domestic noir) mean that this is a genre read only by women, even if in the publishing world, it may tend to be marketed as such. So you need to be careful how you choose a book genre. Is it really a book group type of novel (i.e. accessible and literary)? Is it romance? Is it erotica? Just because your book might be about a woman sorting through a relationship (not necessarily a romantic one), doesn’t mean that you’ll to describe the novel as women’s fiction. Better to think more about what kind of book it is and what kind of agent you want. Luckily, we’ve made your agent search easy with AgentMatch. AgentMatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of agents who love women’s fiction (including, by the way, plenty of male agents since this is not a girls’ only preserve), and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. romance or literary fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member. AgentMatch provides: A list of every agent in the UK;Masses of data on each one (photos, biographies, client lists, genre preferences, likes and dislikes, and much more);Search tools to make it easy to sort through all our goodies;Submission info for every agent;Further links to any other key information we’ve been able to locate on the web.
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Creating Sympathetic Characters

Guest author and blogger William Kowalski shares his insights into creating sympathetic characters that resonate on the page. Language is a living, organic thing, and words have a habit of shifting meaning over time. This is precisely what has happened with the word sympathy. Like ouzo and democracy, sympathy comes to us from the Greeks. It’s derived from pathos, meaning “feeling”, and together with its prefix, which in English becomes “sym”, it once meant to feel along with someone, or to join a community of feeling. We have not completely lost this sense of it, but our understanding of sympathy has narrowed until it’s come to mean feeling sorry for someone, or commiserating with them. As we writers develop our characters, we would do well to spend some time pondering the original, deeper meaning of the word. Why are sympathetic characters so important? Because unless your readers have some kind of emotional investment in their outcome, they won’t care what happens to them. They will become antipathetic. As a writing mentor, I must often explain that a sympathetic character isn’t just one we feel sorry for. It’s someone in whose struggle readers have become wrapped up, the more completely the better. We feel the same range of emotion he feels. We have joined her community of feeling. We do this because we believe this character is a real, flesh-and-blood person, if the author has done his job properly. What happens to her happens to us. It’s a skilled illusion, so how do we pull it off? The answer lies in the all-important practice of strong character development. In Poetics, Aristotle tells us that characters must be “good” (she must possess some redeeming quality); “appropriate” (her qualities must make sense, based on her identity); “believable” (we have to believe that such a person could exist); and “consistent” (her character, while mutable, should also follow a pattern throughout the course of a story). I go into more detail on Aristotle’s contributions to our storytelling culture in an article available for free on my website, called “Writing Secrets of the Ancient Greeks.” But these are not the only considerations. If a character is to be sympathetic, he must be in pursuit of something. In his rules for writing, Kurt Vonnegut said, “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” In fact, the simpler your character’s goal, at least at the outset of the story, the better. As we watch him go off in pursuit of that thing, we will naturally sympathize with his struggle. All these rules can confound us if we try to follow them to the letter as we write. The best practice for me has been to revisit them periodically, in order to remember the basics. In this way, they become implanted, and eventually become second nature. Remember that we don’t have to like everything about a character. A flawed and imperfect nature makes him even more sympathetic, because we’re not perfect, either. We have a much easier time relating to a character who screws up from time to time than to someone who always gets it right on the first try. You can find out more on creating characters here and here. More On Character Development Link to: Character and characterisation in novels: techniques, examples and exercises Developing Character How to make them lifelike
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99 Quotes About Writing by the World’s Greatest Writers

By C M Taylor Have you ever wondered what advice your favourite author would give to a debut writer? Here are 99 quotes from some of the World’s most successful writers! Enjoy. The quotes and aphorisms gathered together below range across more than 2,000 years of the practice of the craft. Within these quotes you will find agreement on what constitutes good writerly practice, but you will also find a decent slice of disagreement. One writer plots it all out, right down to the finest details before embarking, while another writer could not begin to work if they knew beyond the next scene. One writer works out meticulous biographical histories of their characters, for another writer it is enough to close their eyes and picture their subject. Some of these quotes below contradict or dispute each other. That’s deliberate. That’s fine. Many ‘story gurus’ or ‘formula writers’ might wish you to believe that their approach to story is the one, that they have cracked the secret and if you follow their approach – and buy their book – your work will be bestselling. But writing is not like that. There are many ways to arrive at the same destination. If there were one single successful approach then literature would be all the poorer for it. The application of formula to practice tends to make results more formulaic. The resulting work would be samey and bland. What are offered below are tools not rules. If a quote strikes a chord with you then think about it, use it. If the quote intuitively offends how you wish to proceed with your work then you are entitled and right to discard it. It is not right for you – someone has offered you a hammer when you need a spade. Only you will know when you read something and think, ‘That’s it! That’s what I’ve been looking for.’ Each writer must collect the twigs to build their own nest and no nest is the same. Don’t feel anxiety because you disagree with Anton Chekov’s approach, or Colette’s approach. What made them Chekov and Colette will not make you into you. Rejoice in the venerable writers and quotes below, enjoy, relax and I hope you find some twigs for your nest. Good Writing Here’s a diverse collection of musings and advice on what makes good writing from many of the best practitioners who have trod the path before you. See if any ring your bell. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ― Stephen King (about) “Write quickly and you will never write well; write well, and you will soon write quickly.” ― Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (about) “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov (about) “Sooner or later every writer evolves his own definition of a story. Mine is: A reflection of life plus beginning and end (life seems not to have either) and a meaning.” ― Mary O’Hara (about) “Comparisons deplete the actuality of the things compared…” ― William S. Wilson (about) “A good story is a dream shared by the author and the reader. Anything that wakes the reader from the dream is a mortal sin.” ― Victor J. Banis (about) “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ― Mark Twain (about) “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”― William Faulkner (about) “In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.” ― C.S. Lewis (about) “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” ― E. L. Doctorow (about) “Story is metaphor for life and life is lived in time.” ― Robert McKee (about) “Good writing is like a windowpane.” ― George Orwell (about) “In good writing, words become one with things.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson (about) “All good writing leaves something unexpressed.” ― Christian Nestell Bovee (about) “I believe that writing is derivative. I think good writing comes from good reading.” ― Charles Kuralt (about) “It may be observed of good writing, as of good blood, that it is much easier to say what it is composed of than to compose it.” ― Charles Caleb Colton (about) “The problems of the human heart in conflict with itself… alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.” ― William Faulkner (about) “Good writing can be defined as having something to say and saying it well. When one has nothing to say, one should remain silent. Silence is always beautiful at such times.” ― Edward Abbey (about) “You do an awful lot of bad writing in order to do any good writing. Incredibly bad. I think it would be very interesting to make a collection of some of the worst writing by good writers.” ―William S. Burroughs (about) “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” ― Roald Dahl (about) “You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.”― Richard Price (about) “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”― G.K. Chesterton (about) “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”― Thomas Jefferson (about) “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” ― Ray Bradbury (about) “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne (about)  “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” ― Voltaire (about) “It’s not wise to violate the rules until you know how to observe them.” ― T.S. Eliot (about) “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King (about) “Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write.” ― Grace Paley (about) “What is the essence of the art of writing? Part One: Have something to say. Part Two: Say it well.” ― Edward Abbey (about) Character How can collections of words on a page approximate to the living, breathing complex ambiguities that people present in real life? Every writer knows it’s a tough job to even try, but that try we must… “Let’s face it, characters are the bedrock of your fiction. Plot is just a series of actions that happen in a sequence, and without someone to either perpetrate or suffer the consequences of those actions, you have no one for your reader to root for, or wish bad things on.” — Icy Sedgwick (about) “The one common thread in all of the books that are falling apart on my shelf? Characters—flawed ones with desires and needs who spend most of the story tripping over their weaknesses in an effort to get what they want.” — Becca Puglisi (about) “You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are.”― Joss Whedon (about) “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” ― Ray Bradbury (about) “The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.”― Milan Kundera (about) “In displaying the psychology of your characters, minute particulars are essential. God save us from vague generalizations!” ― Anton Chekhov (about) “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” ― Kurt Vonnegut (about) “Fictional characters are made of words, not flesh; they do not have free will, they do not exercise volition. They are easily born, and as easily killed off.” ― John Banville (about) “Everyone here seems to have some weird secret or other.” ― Iris Murdoch (about) “When I am writing, I’m very much on the ground, on the same ground my characters are treading.” ―Graham Swift (about) “When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away. ” ― Kurt Vonnegut (about) “Action, reaction, motivation, emotion, all have to come from the characters. Writing a love scene requires the same elements from the writer as any other. ” ― Nora Roberts (about) “The real story is not the plot, but how the characters unfold by it. ” ― Vanna Bonta (about) “My only conclusion about structure is that nothing works if you don’t have interesting characters and a good story to tell. ” ― Harold Ramis (about) “Almost all great writers have as their motif, more or less disguised, the passage from childhood to maturity, the clash between the thrill of expectation and the disillusioning knowledge of truth. ‘Lost Illusion’ is the undisclosed title of every novel.” ― Andre Maurois (about) Plotting A plot is just a string of events, sure, but if it reads like just a string of events then your book is dead in the water. Here, a range of writers offer advice about how make your events meaningful to keep readers turning the page. “A lack of narrative structure, as you know, will cause anxiety.” ― John Dufresne (about) “What I’ve learned about writing is that sometimes less is more, while often more is grander. And both are true.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich (about) “The novel cannot submit to authority.” ― Julian Gough (about) “Of course, the writer can impose control; It’s just a really shitty idea. Writing controlled fiction is called “plotting.” Buckling your seatbelt and letting the story take over, however… that is called “storytelling.” Storytelling is as natural as breathing; plotting is the literary version of artificial respiration.”― Stephen King (about) “I once tried to write a novel about revenge. It’s the only book I didn’t finish. I couldn’t get into the mind of the person who was plotting vengeance.” ― Maeve Binchy (about) “Character is plot, plot is character.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald (about) “… plot, the absolute line between two points which I’ve always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” ― Grace Paley (about) “Modernist manuals of writing often conflate story with conflict. This reductionism reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition while cultivating ignorance of other behavioral options. No narrative of any complexity can be built on or reduced to a single element. Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing. Change is the universal aspect of all these sources of story. Story is something moving, something happening, something or somebody changing.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin (about) “What monster sleeps in the deep of your story? You need a monster. Without a monster there is no story.” ― Billy Marshall (about) “Don’t resist the urge to burn down the stronghold, kill off the main love interest or otherwise foul up the lives of your characters.” ― Patricia Hamill (about) “An author must learn the principles of good storytelling only in order to write better from the heart. ” ― Uri Shulevitz (about) “The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.”― Blaise Pascal (about) “[T]he success of every novel — if it’s a novel of action — depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, “What are my big scenes?” and then get every drop of juice out of them. ”― P.G. Wodehouse (about) Editing You spend the whole first draft being delighted at getting more words down on paper, then as soon as you’ve finished you spend the next few months trying to take word out. As all writers know, editing is a tough game… “If it can be cut out, then CUT IT OUT. Everything non-essential that you can eliminate strengthens what’s left.” ― Alexander Mackendrick (about) “The part you must jettison is not only the best-written part; it also, oddly, that part which was to have been the very point. It is the original key passage, the passage on which the rest was to hang.” ― Annie Dillard (about) “Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counselling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, ‘How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?’ and avoid ‘How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?” ― James Thurber (about) “No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.” ― J. Russell Lynes (about) “The best advice on writing was given to me by my first editor, Michael Korda, of Simon and Schuster, while writing my first book. ‘Finish your first draft and then we’ll talk,’ he said. It took me a long time to realize how good the advice was. Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.” – ― Dominick Dunne (about) “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” ― H.G. Wells (about) “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” ― Shannon Hale (about) “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.” ― Don Roff (about) “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” ― Colette (about) “Whatever in a work of art is not used, is doing harm.” ― C.S. Lewis (about) “I write, “Jane came into the room and sat down on the blue couch,” read that, wince, cross out “came into the room” and “down” and “blue” (Why does she have to come into the room? Can someone sit UP on a couch? Why do we care if it’s blue?) and the sentence becomes “Jane sat on the couch – ” and suddenly, it’s better (Hemingwayesque, even!), although … why is it meaningful for Jane to sit on a couch? Do we really need that? And soon we have arrived, simply, at “Jane”, which at least doesn’t suck, and has the virtue of brevity.” ― George Saunders (about) “Let the reader find that he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every word that he can spare.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson (about) “It was like removing layers of crumpled brown paper from an awkwardly shaped parcel, and revealing the attractive present which it contained.” ― Diana Athill (about) “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” ― Blaise Pascal (about) “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” ― Colette (about) “No iron can pierce the human heart as chillingly as a full stop placed at the right time.” ― Isaac Babel (about) Inspiration Whoever you are, no matter how motivated or disciplined, sometimes the well is dry. Here’s a collection of quotes from other writers that might help to get the wheels turning again. “Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” ― Philip José Farmer (about) “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London (about) “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” ― John Steinbeck (about) “Write what should not be forgotten.” ― Isabel Allende (about) “Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” ― Alan Wilson Watts (about) “One should use common words to say uncommon things” ― Arthur Schopenhauer (about) “He asked, “What makes a man a writer?” “Well,” I said, “it’s simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.” ― Charles Bukowski (about) “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” ― Octavia Butler (about) “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”― Thomas Mann (about) “Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things–childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves–that go on slipping, like sand, through our fingers.” ― Salman Rushdie (about) “The difference between real life and a story is that life has significance, while a story must have meaning. The former is not always apparent, while the latter always has to be, before the end.”  ― Vera Nazarian (about) “A good writer refuses to be socialized. He insists on his own version of things, his own consciousness. And by doing so he draws the reader’s eye from its usual groove into a new way of seeing things.” ― Bill Barich (about) “Good novels are not written by orthodoxy-sniffers, nor by people who are conscience-stricken about their own orthodoxy. Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.”  ― George Orwell (about) “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ― Henry David Thoreau (about) Motivation Writing relies hugely on internal resources and personal fortitude and whoever you are you’ll have days when those things are in short supply. Here’s some wisdom to help keep the fires burning… “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” ― Robert Hughes (about) “Writing is about resilience and faith. Writing is hard for every last one of us – straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine coal? They do not. They simply dig.” ― Cheryl Strayed (about) “Art is only the means to life, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.” ― Henry Miller (about) “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”― Robert Frost (about) “There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer’s time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer’s time isn’t worth the paper he is not writing anything on.” ― E.B. White (about) “A writer who is a pro can take on almost any assignment, but if he or she doesn’t much care about the subject, I try to dissuade the writer, as in that case the book can be just plain hard labor.” ― Sterling Lord (about) “A novel takes the courage of a marathon runner, and as long as you have to run, you might as well be a winning marathon runner. Serendipity and blind faith faith in yourself won’t hurt a thing. All the bastards in the world will snicker and sneer because they haven’t the talent to zip up their flies by themselves. To hell with them, particularly the critics. Stand in there, son, no matter how badly you are battered and hurt.” ― Leon Uris (about) “Writing is a manual labor of the mind: a job, like laying pipe.” ― John Gregory Dunne (about) “Never ever forget that you enlisted in the ranks – you weren’t press ganged or drafted. Nobody owes you anything – least of all respect for your work – until you’ve earned it with what you put on the page.” ― T.F. Rigelhof (about) “Before I start a project, I always ask myself the following question. Why is this book worth a year of my life? There needs to be something about the theme, the technique, or the research that makes the time spent on it worthwhile.” ― David Morrell (about) “Work like hell! I had 122 rejection slips before I sold a story.”  ― F. Scott Fitzgerald (about) “Since I became a novelist I have discovered that I am biased. Either I think a new novel is worse than mine and I don’t like it, or I suspect it is better than my novels and I don’t like it.” ― Umberto Eco (about) “I can’t blame modern technology for my predilection for distraction, not after all the hours I’ve spent watching lost balloons disappear into the clouds. I did it before the Internet, and I’ll do it after the apocalypse, assuming we still have helium and weak-gripped children.” ― Colson Whitehead (about) There we have it, 99 quotes from some of the World’s most successful authors. What did you think? Have you got any memorable quotes of your own? Head over to the Jericho Townhouse and let us know! About the author C M Taylor has been nominated for the British Science Fiction book of the year and published a number of novels, including Staying On, (Duckworth 2018), Premiership Psycho (Corsair 2011) and the Amazon best-selling Group of Death (Corsair 2012). He’s also co-written a thriller movie script, Writers Retreat, which was filmed in 2014 and premiered at the Sitges International Film Festival, and he continues to be commissioned to write scripts for TV and film. C M Taylor also works with Jericho Writers as a book editor.
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How to write a wonderful picture book

From Allan Ahlberg to Dr Seuss, picture books matter because they create the foundations of a child’s reading life – and you never know what a difference your own book could make. Once upon a bicycle, so they say, a jolly postman came one day, from over the hills and far away.Or I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am!Or Silly old Fox, doesn’t he know, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo. These are just a few of the all-time classics, quotes that stick in your head long after you\'ve stopped reading the books yourself only to come back around when you hear them read to children later in life or even read them yourself to your kids. As such, there’s a timelessness to children’s picture books, which makes them great to write – and a picture book draft is a draft like no other. Read on for valuable tips on how to create a picture book that children will love for generations to come. Tip #1: Write Memorable Characters A sure-fire way to delight children of all ages is to populate your book with joyful characters like the Enormous Crocodile, Winnie the Witch, the Highway Rat, Sam-I-Am, Sir Charlie Stinky Socks, or Spot the Dog. Start by asking yourself if there\'s an animal or idea you feel an affinity for? Then, start to create connections from there! Let’s say you’ll write about a puppy. Maybe from there you’ll think up a chewed-up toy he’s attached to. Or a child (maybe his owner) he wants to follow to school. There’s all sorts of links to be mind-mapping from this. Sometimes, a simpler story is what works best, too. An enormous crocodile who wants a child for dinner (The Enormous Crocodile). A postman delivering letters to the Big Bad Wolf, to the Witch, to Baby Bear, Goldilocks and Cinderella (The Jolly Postman). Aliens who come to earth to wear underpants (Aliens Love Underpants). Also, who will meet who? The jolly Postman meets fairy tale characters. Max meets the Wild Things (Where the Wild Things are). Jemima Puddle-Duck meets a fox (The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck). Mouse meets Gruffalo (The Gruffalo). The very hungry Caterpillar meets chocolate cake, ice-cream cones, pickles and cheese (The Very Hungry Caterpillar). Most children remember iconic characters like the Cat in the Hat as they grow up, long after all the rhythmic intricacies have faded from mind (vital as these are, much as the rhymes of Dr Seuss or Julia Donaldson linger with us, too). Try to give your characters a quirk – a Cat with a hat, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit with his blue jacket, Aliens who love (and wear) Underpants, or the more unusual fairy tale characters from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Create vivid characters to linger in children’s minds, whom they’ll want to return to. Tip #2: Repetition Speaking of returning, repetition might be discouraged in fiction writing -- but not in picture books. Repetition is a source of huge fun and suspense for children, reeling in attention and building anticipation. In Funny Bones, for example, Allan Ahlberg opens the story with relish: In a dark, dark town there was a dark, dark street, and in the dark, dark street there was a dark, dark house, and in the dark, dark house there were some dark, dark stairs, and down the dark, dark stairs there was a dark, dark cellar, and in the dark, dark cellar … three skeletons lived! By the time we get to those skeletons, we’re very ready to meet them and spend time with them! In The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, a caterpillar gets hungrier and hungrier. Each day, ‘he was still hungry’. We’re told (and want to know) about his increasing amount of foods and what’s eaten each day, until the caterpillar gets stomach ache. There’s a rhythmic quality to repetition, too, e.g. descriptions in The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, where the Gruffalo, in Mouse’s descriptions, has ‘terrible tusks and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws’. Later he has ‘knobbly knees, and turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose’. After the build-up, it’s an exciting moment when we and Mouse get face-to-face with the Gruffalo in the woods. Tip #3: Rhyme and Rhythm Rhyming in picture books means additional care and work – and you can still create wonderful rhythm in prose without rhyme – yet rhyme is still worth exploring if you’re confident or just passionate about doing this. If poetry is something you\'re familiar with, crack on! If it\'s new to you, let\'s take a moment to explore: The most common rhyme style, the one Shakespeare often used, is called \'iambic pentameter\' -- a line of ten syllables, alternating stressed and unstressed. Think about the sound of a human heart and you\'ve got it: Da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM. That’s all it takes! Ten syllables or five iambic \'feet\' to create your framework. There are other forms of poetic styles you could also try writing, and Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled is a good book to invest in if you’re keen to be exploring this. You may also like to invest in a copy of The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary to help you. Children’s publisher Nosy Crow has written a great blog post on rhyming in children’s books, well worth a read, too. Tip #4: Writing a Good Baddie Not every story needs a villain, but if you\'re thinking about a story that includes one, the best way to write ‘baddies’ and darker elements in picture books is to make these elements comic. Take the scariness out so that children laugh instead. For example, Roald Dahl’s comic gift lies in the mischief of books like The Enormous Crocodile, about a thwarted crocodile looking for a yummy child to eat (before he’s smacked into the sun). Dahl’s crocodile is only funny because he\'s painted as an object of fun. The rest of the jungle hates him, and after the crocodile finds the children, jungle animals appear in turn to warn them to look out. Finally, the elephant hurls the crocodile by his tail up into the sky – where he’s ‘sizzled up like a sausage’. A similar thing happens when the Mouse makes the scary Gruffalo convinced he’s the monster, and ‘now my tummy’s beginning to rumble – my favourite food is – Gruffalo Crumble!\' -- and off the Gruffalo runs. Don’t Eat the Teacher by Nick Ward is also hilarious, even if it wouldn’t very funny in real life. Sammy the Shark happily eats everything on his first day of school because he’s so excited, which translates into hilarity. Skeletons (Funny Bones), witches (Winnie the Witch), monsters (Where the Wild Things are), or vampires and werewolves (Well, I Never!) are absolutely ‘writable’ in picture books. Just remember to translate that darkness into something funny and silly. You need to make your readers laugh. Tip #5: Thinking About Illustration Are you wondering if you need to illustrate your own picture book? A picture book is often a collaborative book between writer and illustrator. Sometimes writers are also illustrators, like Maurice Sendak -- but often, we think of the great duos like Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, or Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. If you can\'t draw a lick, don\'t worry! You don\'t always need an illustrator to write your picture book, and a good publisher can match you to the right artist for bringing your story to life. Keep in mind that you should keep the in-text descriptions sparse where you know pictures will be conveying details, too. A reasonable word limit for your picture book should be about 700 words – but that should be enough to give illustrators an idea of what they need to depict. Tip #6: Read It Aloud Whether you\'re writing in rhyme or not, you should read your work aloud as you\'re working on it! After all, most children\'s books are read aloud at one point or another -- by parents, by teachers, by librarians, even by precocious children themselves -- and you\'ll know when you read it what\'s working and what\'s not. If you have them available, it\'s worth it to read other picture books as well. Consider it market research: you\'ll get a sense of what works to you, what excites your ear -- and if your inner child is into your work just like it was into Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak (or whomever else!), then you\'re on the right path for sure. Happy writing!! If you\'re looking for a bit more support, consider our picture book course and peek at our interview with Pippa Goodhart. If you’re further along than that, and in need of editorial feedback for your picture book, you’ve come to the right place, too. We can\'t wait to read your tale (aloud)!
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Why screenwriters should write for television

Overall, writers are paid poorly and there is a vast over-production of supply. So professional novelists, for example, earn an average £11,000 for their year’s work, yet even so agents reject 999 in every 1,000 manuscripts that come their way. Screenwriting, no surprise, is much better paid. The average professional screenwriter in the UK earns perhaps 5 times that meagre sum. (Check data on minimum rates of pay, average payments are well ahead of those minimums.) And we here see plenty of would-be screenwriters bringing us screenplays that range from the visibly-new-at-this-game to the excellent. So, good, right? A bunch of writers choosing to write for a market that might pay enough to give those people a half-decent living? Only not. I’d say that well over 90% of the screenwriters we see come to us with feature scripts: 100 to 120 minutes long, and clearly designed for the big screen. And that market doesn’t exist. I mean, yes, of course new British films come to the screen all the time, and those things have paid something to their screenwriter. All the same: Those British films will often be adaptations, in which case the task will always be given to writers with a track record of some sort;When the films are original, there will nearly always be a writer, director, producer team who collectively act as ‘auteur’: the creative brains behind the film. Those things are nearly always born within a production company, and when they’re not the scriptwriter is almost certainly known – personally and professionally – to the project’s movers and shakers before any contract is ever written;There are bewilderingly few UK production companies that produce a regular slate of features and endure beyond a summer or two. Most production companies are born to service a project, then vanish once that project is either delivered or killed. The only major British exception to that rule is Working Title – but again, you’d struggle to find Working Title films where the scriptwriter was a genuine newbie. And so what, you may ask. Hollywood exists, doesn’t it? It needs scripts, doesn’t it? And yes, of course – but Hollywood teems with writers, good ones, all of whom are there, are networking, and on the spot. As a newbie writer, without a track record, and based in Hull or Roehampton or Donegal or whichever spot you call home, you have an approximately 0.0001% chance of getting your speculative script made into a Hollywood movie. Quite frankly, if you want your work screened, you should simply forget about writing for Hollywood at an early stage in your career. But this post isn’t suggesting that you should stop writing scripts – the opposite, if anything – it’s a plea for you to write for the massive, lucrative, and hungry market that exists right under your nose. Just count the number of hours of TV drama that unfolds on your screens each week. By all means, deduct American imports, but do remember to count every half hour of every soap, every hour of every cop series, every minute of every drama-special. Those things need writers and the British TV industry is actually short of good ones, in a way that Hollywood emphatically is not. I’m writing this post because I recently had a lovely dinner with a former head of ITV drama and she told me that there is a shortage of good writing talent in the UK. The big networks and big production companies are actually eager to find, recruit and pay new talent. The head of a big and successful UK TV and film agency told me the exact same thing: that almost every successful screenwriter in the UK has his or her roots firmly in TV. Another film agent told me that, so hard-pressed are they to find good scriptwriting talent, that they often raid the stage industry to find it. In other words, if you are a committed, talented and professional screenwriter, there is a real appetite for your work. That appetite will exist today, tomorrow and in ten years’ time. What’s more, if you build any kind of track record in TV – even if it’s churning out scripts for Holby City – you will start to build the kind of profile and contacts that means those feature projects, that you still really want, will come your way: because you will now be the sort of insider for whom good things happen. Even hearing these arguments, some screenwriters remain persistent. I think that resistance normally tracks back to one of two issues, namely: The film industry is more glamorous. And it is, yes. But it’s more glamorous because it’s less industrial. And you need a proper industry, with cash, expertise and commitment, to support your craft. You can get the glamour down the road, once you have a record that enables you to make the transition. (And, by then, you won’t think the film industry is all that much more glamorous anyway.)Feature films allow a writer more creative scope to be intelligent. And the opposite thing is true. Those dramas you adore – Westworld, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire and all the rest – are hyper-intelligent, challenging and wonderful dramas because they’re on TV and because they have the space and the time to expand into something wonderful. I know I’ve just named US dramas, but that’s sort of the point. British TV is short of top writing talent and when it finds it in programs like Sherlock, or Doctor Who, the results are fantastic. So. Screenwriters of Britain, write for TV. Think up a TV series or drama that will compel an audience. Your career will start with that script.
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Distinguishing porn from erotica as fiction genre

Guest author and blogger Anastasia Parkes has an MA in English Literature from Oxford and has lived in London and Cairo. She writes erotica under the pseudonym Primula Bond with books published by HarperCollins, and works as a book editor for erotic and romantic novelists. In this guest post, Anastasia defines the difference between erotica and porn, justifying what she writes and why. If you’re an aspiring writer of this genre, this is the post for you. There was a debate by an organisation called Intelligence Squared at the Royal Institution last Tuesday 23rd April where the motion was ‘pornography is good for us: without it we would be a far more repressed society.’ I didn’t attend the debate itself, but apparently at the outset 60% of the audience supported this motion, and by the end this had only reduced to 50%. Germaine Greer opposed it, arguing that pornography doesn’t rescue us from repression, it feeds off it, because without some form of repression there would be no pornography. Either way, it looks as if we – or at least the intelligentsia sitting in a debating chamber – are still equally divided in our opinions. I wonder how such a debate would go if it was enacted by parents, teachers, therapists, criminologists and so on. We live in a society where we are lucky to have access to whatever literature or images we choose, but as an adult I choose to avoid going anywhere near the troubling modern day, dead-eyed porn in all its blatant, fleshy, garishly-lit, visual crudity. It’s starting to make Emmanuelle look like Mary Poppins and it terrifies the life out of most parents. So had I been debating this issue I would have gone further and suggested that even the word ‘repression’ is surely outmoded in this day and age in which case so should porn be, that is, why do we apparently still ‘need’ it? Far from liberating us or taking us away into fantasies, it merely takes sex, something that is beautiful, if basic, and turns it something ugly, brutish or even violent at best, and at worst is starting to damage and frighten the young, evolving minds that watch it. Some might say this is rich coming from a writer of erotica, but the two prime words I have just used are ‘watch’ and ‘writer’. One of the many tags that irritated me about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon was its description as ‘mummy porn’, which, without getting too heavy, seemed to link two opposing words in an extremely unpleasant way. The writer of it happened to be a mother, and the readers were often mothers, but the only mother in the narrative is an abusive, drug-taking prostitute in the hero’s back story. Similarly, the ‘porn’ involved in the story relates to the use of domination, punishment and sex toys (albeit in a consensual relationship), but then the book is also described as erotica. So, which is it? Erotica, or porn? In my view, it can’t be both. I am not a natural debater – I tend to get heated, emotional and as you can see from this piece, opinionated – but if I am challenged on the basis that I’ve written some pretty experimental sexual practices in some of my earlier work, I prefer to simplify matters for myself and for my audience by making a stark distinction. To me, porn is immediate, unimaginative, visual, and predominantly male-orientated. Erotica seeks to arouse through the written word and imagination, and is primarily by women, for women. It’s the difference between brutality and sensuality. Insult and compliment. Relationship and encounter. Consent and imposition. Porn seeks to lower, erotica to elevate. Porn is imposed, violent, debasing. Erotica celebrates sex within an adult, and with the genre of ‘erotica romance’ catching on, increasingly intense, romantic relationships. An unlikely champion of this viewpoint was D.H. Lawrence. Recently, preparing for my erotica workshop, I re-read parts of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and realised that the ‘obscenity’ in it relates more to the context, the language used, and the times in which it was written, rather than the explicit yet tender descriptions of the sex itself. I suppose in conclusion that if I was going to put my money where my mouth was, I’d have to imagine my teenage son’s reaction if he read one of my books. Mostly he’d snap the book shut as soon as he realised what was going on, but if he did read it more closely he would see that everything happening was part of an intense, loving journey between consenting adults. The worst that could happen is that he’d be deeply embarrassed, not deeply damaged.
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Tips for writing crime fiction and thrillers

Short and sweet, here are my (Harry Bingham’s) top ten tips for writing crime fiction and thrillers that will please the reader and make publishers reach for their chequebooks. 1. Know the market. Read very widely. As many authors as possible, not as many books. If you’ve read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then move on. You know their prose, their style. Find what else is out there. That means also reading the classics, knowing genre history, and reading plenty of fiction in translation, too. It also means reading relevant non-fiction. If you’re writing political espionage thrillers, for example, you need to know the political, military and security background. If you don’t, your readers will, and you’ll be caught out. 2. Understand where the leading edge lies. The biggest names (think Coben, Rankin, Reichs) are not the most current. They built their reputations years back. Try to locate the sexiest (i.e. bestselling, most praised, most innovative, prize-winning) debut novels. That’s what editors are buying today. That’s the market you’re competing in. 3. Don’t just trot out old clichés. You’ve got a serial killer, have you? A terrorist bomb plot? Be tough with yourself. These tropes are tired. They can work if you handle them in a new or dazzling way, but the old ways are no longer enough. 4. Be complex. Your plot needs intricacy and a surprising number of well-planned, well-executed twists. Modern crime authors have become great at developing complex but plausible plots, and because modern thriller writers have become so adept at delivering endless chains of impossible-to-see-it-coming twists, you can’t afford to be less than devilishly clever yourself. With rare exceptions, simple no longer sells. 5. Stay with the darkness. Your book must be dark and tough. That’s your entry ticket to the genre. What you do there can be very varied, but cute, cosy crime is a very limited market now. 6. Don’t forget jeopardy. Crime novels now are also thrillers. It’s not fine for the detective to solve the mystery and explain it all to a hushed and respectful audience. On the contrary, he or she must live in fear of his or her life. It’s got to be thrilling, as well as intellectually satisfying. 7. Concentrate on character. Crime and thriller plots are easily forgettable, and often feel very samey anyway. Characters like Elvis Cole, Hannibal Lecter, on the other hand, never leave us. If you find a strong character, and do everything else reasonably competently, then you quite likely have fiction that’ll sell. 8. Write well. Bad writing will almost certainly kill your chances. You don’t have to be flowery. You do have to be competent. 9. Be economical. Thrillers need to be taut. Check your book for needless chapters, your chapters for needless paragraphs, your paragraphs for needless sentences, and your sentences for needless words. Then do it all over again. Twice. 10. Be perfectionist. Very good isn’t good enough. Dazzling is the target. Being tough with yourself is the essential first ingredient. Getting someone else to be tough with you is quite possibly the second. I said ten tips, didn’t I?Here’s an eleventh: 11. Don’t give up. Be persistent. You learn by doing, and the more you write, the better you’ll be. Think about building your skills, engaging with the industry, or getting editorial advice. All those things will enhance your writing, too.As ever, best of luck!
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Literary agents for erotica

There was a time when finding a literary agent for erotic fiction was pretty much impossible. Agents were too snobby, and the erotica genre simply didn’t pay enough money. Then along came E.L. James, and after her massive success, agents and publishers learned the value of books in the genre, and even quite highbrow agencies are now open to submissions of erotic fiction. Suffice to say that AgentMatch comprises a complete list of literary agents with a mass of data about what they want. Including erotic novels. AgentMatch And How To Use It There are a lot of erotica agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre, but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, an appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. How To Get The Most From AgentMatch The site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Would you like to invest in your writing journey? Become a member. More On Uk Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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How to get an agent for your thriller

It’s easy to think that because you’re writing a crime novel or thriller, you need an agent who represents crime thrillers. I write crime thrillers myself, yet my agent represents Hilary Mantel, and other esteemed literary authors, authors of different genres. You’d think he wouldn’t have been the right person to represent a gritty crime thriller, yet he and his team sold my work to markets in Europe and North America. As such, you needn’t get hung up on genre. A large majority of all agents have eclectic, varied tastes. They like balance and diversity in their lists. That can mean if you go to a ‘leading’ crime agent, you may get shorter shrift than if you go to an agent whose list happens to be a bit underweight in that area – your book could be just what they’re looking for to redress the balance. Nevertheless, it makes sense to target your submissions, to know you’re writing to an agent who likes crime fiction. It’s normally fine to call up an agency to say, ‘I’ve written a book about [your subject]. Which of your agents would be most appropriate for this?’ You should keep your enquiry very brief, business-like and polite, but you may get useful information, the politer you are. (I did. My first novel was rejected by Curtis Brown. Then a receptionist told me the MD there loved my kind of book, and I resubmitted it to him, so the book was accepted almost straightaway.) A little targeting, then, is fine, just don’t overdo it. Other good tips include: Check your favourite authors and see who represents them. (Use author websites or acknowledgments pages.) This is worth doing even if your favourite author writes in a different genre from you. If you and the relevant agent happen to share a taste for a certain kind of writing, it’s a fair bet you have some overlap. Try it.Check out who represents good but lesser known authors in your category. If you are writing a conspiracy thriller and you write to Dan Brown’s agent, you’re almost certainly wasting your time, since that agent’s desk will be awash with conspiracy thrillers. Also, anyone who represents Dan Brown is likely to have the bar set high. If you find talented authors who have not yet made the big breakthrough, those agents are probably far better targets for your submission letters. If you still think that you’re somehow going to be disadvantaged if you don’t have a Very Well-Known Thriller Agent on your side … think about this: Very Well-Known Thriller Agents have long client lists (of over a hundred names) and you will be the least important person on it. Is that what you want?The Very Well-Known Thriller Agent is probably not looking for new writers at all. Most of the additions to their list will be already established writers who are moving home for some reason. Lots of ‘big’ agents take on very few genuine debut authors.Selling a book isn’t rocket science. If an agent is competent enough to sell (say) a literary novel well, they’re competent enough to sell pretty much any other sort of novel, too. It’s just not that technical. If an agent’s contacts are weak in one area, a couple of phone calls is all it will take to make the required connections. It isn’t that hard for a well-connected agent to locate the people they need to approach. (Two exceptions: fantasy or sci-fi and children’s fiction. Those two markets are reasonably specialist.)Publishers know the next wonderful book could come from anyone. When Bill Massey, my editor from Orion, opened a manuscript from Bill Hamilton (my agent), it just didn’t make a difference to him whether Bill Hamilton had an amazing track record in crime fiction. Only two things matter at that point: (1) the editor loves the book, (2) enough other people in the company love it, too. That’s it. That’s all that ever matters. The name of the agent making the submission matters for maybe half a minute. Then the editor starts reading the manuscript and the agent becomes irrelevant. All that matters is your writing. You can read up on tips for writing crime and thrillers, or more on approaching agents, but either way – best of luck. More On Literary Agents Link to: UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles) Literary Agent List For every genre
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How To Learn The Market For Middle Grade (MG) Fiction

How aware are you of the market you’re writing for? Despite the MG label being reserved for readers aged 8-12, defining Middle Grade literature is tricky. Many young gifted readers will move out of picture books and onto Middle Grade fiction before aged 8. Other readers aged 12 or older still happily peruse Middle Grade books. This is no ‘one size fits all’ age group. (Just as for adults, there’s no ‘correct’ genre, only taste.) Books are all being tested, tried out, at Middle Grade. This outlines some things worth remembering if you’d like to write for the loose label of this age range. 1: Read All The Middle Grade Fiction You Can – And Make Sure It’s Relevant Read the popular fiction you know is being read now by this age group. Perhaps you’ve heard of L.M. Montgomery or Lewis Carroll, Anne of Green Gables or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but have you heard of Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers,  or R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder? If not, and you want to write for MG readers, start learning these popular authors writing in the market today. Begin reading their books, especially, the sorts of books you’d like to be writing yourself. Children aren’t hypocrites, and they won’t wait for pace to pick up or give a book a chance if they’re not gripped immediately. Agents, publishers, librarians – the curators and ‘gatekeepers’ of children’s’ fiction – will be thinking along these lines. You’ll need to know what books prospective readers are reading, so understand these titles to understand your audience. Popular books are reflective of tastes. What common themes are there? Which characters seem to appeal, and which common elements do you sense are enjoyed, and which could you emulate yourself? You’ll need your novel similar enough and yet entirely original. You must create a book that fits into the market, but is different enough to pique readers’ curiosities. There are many books published about animals, for instance, like The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, or The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse. There are many books about dragons, like Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, or The Dragons of Kilve Court by Beth Webb, to name a few more. If you are writing a book about dragons, animals, or anything else, how will you differentiate your story and make it authentic, whilst still similarly appealing to all these books readers enjoy? It’s a difficult balance to find, but reading currently popular Middle Grade titles will help. 2: Engage With Complexity Certain tropes – animal stories, fairy stories – will likely hold appeal always and be revisited by authors and publishers time and again. All the same, don’t take this to feel that anything will do, or that writing for children is easier than writing for adults. It isn’t. As Joan Aiken, author of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, has said, a good children’s book ‘should not be perfunctory, meaningless, flat.’ Again, reading and developing your awareness of the market is key. Look for richness. Whilst some children will always be more sensitive than others, most can handle the thrills and scares of MG fiction. Yours aren’t picture book readers, where any darker elements need to be sillier, funnier for very small children to read about. The success of books like Lauren Oliver’s Liesl and Po, or Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book shows that MG readers are often braver than adults may credit. In Liesl and Po, Liesl is held captive in her attic room, whilst The Graveyard Book’s macabre premise is set chiefly in a cemetery and about an orphan raised by ghosts, yet is still moving and punctured with hilarity. You’ll need to (gently) indicate to these children the world isn’t simplistic. Your readers are flexing and growing their imaginations. Jacqueline Wilson is just one writer exploring children’s issues sensitively through the eyes of her characters; like Andy facing parents’ divorce in The Suitcase Kid, Mandy facing bullies in Bad Girls, or Tracey facing foster care in The Story of Tracey Beaker. The voices of her protagonists are authentic, her stories never condescending. ‘If I write about a problem, I’d like to find some solutions,’ Wilson has said of her fiction. She shares hope. There’s no need to worry you’ll be dampening moods by engaging with complexity, either. You might be writing the book someone needs. Children look for literature tying in with their experiences, as well as exploring new experiences outside their own. A book could just help change a life. Alternatively, engage in pure, unbridled imagination to enhance and help build children’s imaginative faculties, like Haroun leaving this world on the back of a mechanical bird in Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, or Colin Meloy’s Prue and Curtis discovering Wildwood. Whatever you write, you should always find means to convey that the world is a sprawling, dark and complex place. Children are growing, but they’re tough, sharper than some adults allow, and this audience mustn’t be underestimated. 3: Leave Room For Diversity Whilst there are topics which might not be appropriate for younger children, there’s no need to render books didactic, and many things are writable for younger audiences if they’re written with grace and deftness. Again, to have an idea of what this deftness may look like, you’ll have to read around. Read David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress, Donna Gephart’s Lily and Dunkin, or The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman. Children needn’t grow up with adult prejudices, biases that perhaps otherwise wouldn’t occur to them. Another means of handling issues, of course, is to dress them up in fantasy. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets are the only clear Middle Grade titles of J.K. Rowling’s series. The series, from an early point, has helped increase tolerance in young readers, dealing frequently  with the stigmas attached unfairly to groups (i.e. to Muggles, and to house-elves in the case of Dobby and the Malfoys). These themes are implicit early on, unpacked later; but at the close of the second book, Harry has compassion on Dobby, rescuing him with ‘clothes’. Stories can therefore lay the foundations of empathy and acceptance in the real world – and this is a big thought. You have some responsibility as a writer. Beware overt morals, beware didacticism, and write a story with implicit themes that explores, questions, shines a light and encourages contemplation. (Yes, they’re young. They can handle it.) 4: Remember What Children Are Reading For Know your audience. You can’t write about living in a child’s shoes unless you know or can remember well. If you can’t remember or don’t care, find someone else to write for. Middle Grade readers are reading to explore, to flex imagination, and to discover the world. They’ll be open to new worlds and dynamic characters, to hilarity and thrills, adventure and enchantment. Write to appease these traits and to open minds (as opposed to informing them, unless you’re writing non-fiction, which is very different). If you need more advice on your novel, a manuscript assessment can give you invaluable feedback with insights into commercial perspective driving Middle Grade publishing. It’ll help you harness your own voice in a way that sounds both raw and compelling in Middle Grade fiction. Or for more encouragement and inspiration, take a look at more free advice. Happy writing! More On Writing For Children How To Write A Children’s Book: All You Need To Know Writing for Children - An authors guide
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How to increase Amazon book sales

Using Categories and Keywords The ever-rising power of the Amazon Kindle Store in the publishing market offers the possibility of extremely lucrative book sales for self-published writers. However, to get visibility in the Amazon charts, you need to be deadly smart about the categories and keywords (the ‘metadata’) you choose for your book in order to get maximum sales. Luckily for us, guest author and blogger, Dave Gaughran, is here with his many successful years’ experience as a self-published author to explain how you can get the most sales out of your book on Amazon. This is an adapted excerpt from the third edition of Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran, available from Amazon and other retailers. You can find our own complete self-publishing guide right here and advice on which ebook format to use here, should you need it. Categories And Keywords On Amazon Kindle Why it pays to be smart with your metadata Authors are an impatient bunch. In the eagerness to share our scoundrel rakes and dastardly villains with the reading public, we can often rush through critical steps, and miss powerful, free opportunities for visibility in the Kindle Store — a classic example being keywords and categories. Many writers give little thought about metadata until confronted with the box on KDP, which is hardly the optimal time to be researching keywords and categories. Best to be well-prepared so you are not caught short during a stressful launch. You can rather cleverly “bake in” little bits of marketing and discoverability into your book. This is all that is meant by the somewhat intimidating phrase of “optimizing your metadata” — you’re simply attaching the right pieces of information so retailers know what kind of book it is and fans of that genre can find it more easily. If you are smart about metadata, you can give yourself a huge advantage over much of the marketplace. How To Choose Categories Most publishers — even the largest — have only a rudimentary understanding of Amazon’s store, categories in particular. You often see books from huge authors in sub-optimal categories, decreasing their visibility in the biggest bookshop in the world, and hurting their chances of being discovered by readers, even ones searching for that exact kind of book. Publishers will fail to use all categories available to them or, without drilling down further, will choose something generic like Fiction, which is useless as a category unless you are at the very top of the Amazon rankings. Just choosing the right subcategory for your work can give your book a real head start. You only get two choices when uploading. As I will explain in the next section below, smart keyword picks can get you into additional sub-categories, but they must be related to the categories you pick now, so you must choose wisely. Appearing in the Top 100 of Fiction in the US Kindle Store requires a tremendous number of sales — around 650 in a single day — which will be beyond us most of the time. However, choosing Fiction as a category is a waste for a much simpler reason: electing a subcategory of Fiction will get you into the Fiction category as well. Even if you drill down several levels to choose something like Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Political, your book will still show in all the top-level categories above the one you have chosen (i.e. each of Fiction; Mystery, Thriller & Suspense; Thrillers). When you pick something more specific, you are multiplying your potential visibility opportunities rather than restricting them. Each one of those sub-categories has a Top 100 of its own, and qualifying on those charts requires a much more manageable number of sales. If your book is doing particularly well, you will appear on a number of Top 100 lists, all of which will bring you new readers. Wherever possible, it’s wise to choose categories in which you can compete. Let’s say you have written a Contemporary Inspirational Romance, more Nicholas Sparks than Fifty Shades. If you pick Romance > Contemporary as a category you will need a rank of #500 or better to hit the back of the Top 100, which is 200 sales a day, or more. It’s a competitive category. But you have alternatives. The competition is a little less tough in Romance > Inspirational, where a rank of around #3,000 will get you into the back of the chart, around 80 sales a day. A little more manageable, and even more so if you drill down to the sub-categories under Romance > Inspirational. A little nosing around the Kindle Store might turn up more suitable opportunities, such as Romance > Clean & Wholesome. Qualifying for that Best Seller list requires a rank of about #10,000 or in the region of 20 sales a day. This is starting to seem more achievable, particularly if you consider what you might be selling during or after a promotion. Also remember that new books qualify for Amazon’s Hot New Releases charts, which are even more attainable. At the time of writing, only one sale a day is needed to hit the back of the Clean & Wholesome Hot New Releases chart. Of course, there’s no point picking a less competitive sub-category if it’s not a relevant choice for your book. Going through potential sub-categories can indicate the relative size of each genre and subgenre, and can also help you identify a category that might provide an easier path to visibility. Be warned, however, that a very small category might not receive a lot of reader traffic. If the lists are small and stagnant, readers may not return to be faced with the same books each time. As a self-publisher, you have just two categories to play with. It can be a good approach to pick one competitive category you occasionally qualify for, and one that is a little less competitive and enables you to always hit the Best Seller list. This way, you have a chance of front-page action in a smaller category, plus you’re covered if you have a good run of sales and start moving up the Best Seller list of a more frequently browsed category. You may wish to freshen up your category choices at some point to hit new readers. Or your sales may increase to the point where you feel confident about charting in those bigger categories, which will naturally attract more browsers and lead to more sales. Alternatively, you may realize you were targeting the wrong readers and need to tweak your approach. It’s always good to have alternatives. Just be careful that your book is a good fit for the categories you are playing with. You don’t want to incur the wrath of romance readers because your book doesn’t have a happily ever after. And if you don’t know what that is… Like virtually all ebook retailers, Amazon gives you numerous category choices when uploading your book or making changes. These are based on BISAC subject headings, which are industry standard. However, it’s extremely important to note that these don’t always reflect the actual categories in the Kindle Store. I could go into this in granular detail but all you need to know right now is that it’s important to first identify your optimal categories by browsing Amazon as your target readers might. But if you want to learn more about categories you can get a free copy of Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide To The Kindle Store by signing up to my mailing list. It’s the only place you can get that book at the moment, and you can unsubscribe right away if you wish. How To Choose Keywords The final piece of metadata you need to consider are keywords. Great keywords give two killer benefits. First, you can expand your number of assigned categories. Second, you will appear higher in search results on Amazon. You need to consider both angles. (At this point, you might be considering looking for a publisher instead but, trust me: they don’t know this stuff.) For any given search term entered by a reader, Amazon’s system will return a list of books it considers relevant. Relevancy is determined by a number of factors, including keywords, your book’s title, and subtitle. You may not have too much wiggle room with your book’s title, although, for non-fiction, putting keywords in the title is very important; for example, Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should or Guitar Mastery Simplified: How Anyone Can Quickly Become a Strumming, Chords, and Lead Guitar Ninja. You only get to choose seven keywords, so make sure they are relevant to your book. Try to put yourself in the shoes of one of your target readers, and picture the kind of terms they might enter into the search box when looking for books. Each “keyword” can actually be made up of several separate words as long as you remain within the limit of 50 characters. Try to maximize the opportunities here. You want to increase your categories and cover what readers might search for, although the latter is much more important for non-fiction than fiction. Some examples: my book Liberty Boy is set in Dublin in 1803, in the aftermath of a failed rebellion against the British. It’s a plot-driven historical novel, with some slight literary inclinations. In this case, expanding categories is most important, as historical fiction readers use Amazon charts to browse for new recommendations, and don’t use Search as much to find books. By consulting this list on KDP Help of extra categories, I immediately get keyword ideas. My two primary categories for that book are Historical Fiction and Literary Fiction. I can then expand my footprint by choosing keywords like “18th century,” “19th century,” “politics,” “politician,” “military,” and “love.” I myself can think of things that might be appropriate for the book like “Ireland,” “Irish,” “British,” “history,” “historical novel,” “historical fiction,” “literary fiction,” and so on. We can combine some of those to optimize the space. With that in mind, I might have “historical novel literary fiction” as one keyword and “Ireland Irish British history book” as another. And then I’ll appear for variations of those searches, like “Irish history” or “historical fiction.” You can change these keywords at any time, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect the first time out. With a non-fiction, search becomes much more important — and there are few appropriate categories to add with keywords. Try to make a comprehensive list, then be artful with how you maximize your allotted keyword space. At all times though, only choose relevant keywords. You don’t want to appear to anyone outside your target audience; that only works against you, something I’ll explain in comprehensive detail later. Metadata might not be the sexiest topic in the world, but getting smart about it can give you a real advantage, one that costs you nothing but a little effort. With a pair of well-chosen categories and a set of smart keywords, you will make your book instantly more discoverable and expand your footprint in the world’s biggest bookstore. And it won’t cost you a penny, either. The updated and expanded third edition of David’s Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should is available from Amazon and all other retailers. David has helped thousands of authors self-publish via workshops, blog, and books, and you could be one. Visit DavidGaughran.com to sign up to his mailing list and get a free copy of Amazon Decoded. Need more help?It’s not suprising: most of us do. The fact is that self-publishing is (A) fantastic, and (B) very sensitive to the details of how you put together your marketing campaigns. That can be daunting when you’re just starting out, so . . .Don’t go it alone!You don’t have to. The path you are walking now, is the path that many others have trodden before you. And we at Jericho Writers have put everything we know about self-publishing into an awesome self-publishing course. But that course is expensive, and we don’t like expensive.So get it free. In fact, get a whole ton of stuff free, just by becoming a member of Jericho Writers.We built our club for people like you, and we’d just love it if you took a lot at what we offer. You can find out more here – and we hope you love it!
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Screenwriting: Writing your characters

Understand Your Characters Creating a screenplay of originality and cinematic power starts with your character. For me, everything in a screenplay is based on one overriding premise which I call emotional pull. How you spell-bind an audience into an irresistible involvement with your characters and keep it entranced by that magic till the end of the film – and beyond – is to arouse, provoke, intrigue, disturb, excite, and exhilarate them. Emotional pull is what powers the story. It’s what forces your characters to do what they do, when they do it and why. And when and why they try to resist it. It determines how you tell the story, the narrative impetus, the dramatic journey, how it moves and breathes, how it rises and falls in tension, how it climaxes, and how it ends. It pulls two ways. It exerts its power on the people of the story, and in turn, it pulls the audience into the story. The subject of Character in screenwriting is, then, huge. Only space here for a few pointers: Compare Scripts Choose a movie that’s moved you. Choose a movie that hasn’t. Get the two scripts here. Scroll to a few pages at random with each script.What’s happening?What are you feeling as you read?What response from the audience do you think the writer has intended here?Try to identify what differences there are between the two scripts.How would you rate each script for drawing you into an emotional connection with the character(s)?Can you identify why the second movie doesn’t move you? How were you responding to the character(s)? Talk To Characters Put your characters on the spot, challenge them with outrageous suggestions, shout at them, get them to speak back to you with urgency and rage. This creates a wonderfully fruitful tension between you. Think of your relationship as something alive and moving and growing. You don’t create unforgettable characters already formed. Allow them to grow organically and they’ll surprise you. As well as a list of age, birth order, appearance, childhood memories, friends, etc., ask your character: What’s your strongest memory?What makes you cry? Or don’t you?What makes you laugh? Who’s your favourite comedian?Do you giggle? What do you fear the most?Has anyone ever betrayed you? How? What do you feel about that experience now?Have you ever betrayed anyone? How? What do you feel about that now?If you could be granted one wish what would it be?If you could undo one thing you did in your life, what would it be?Do you hate anyone?Have you ever been in love? Are you in love now? Or have been once? Have loved and lost?Have/want to have children?Anything that keeps you awake at night?What do you want most in the world?What is preventing from that being fulfilled? Then start thinking about your character’s emotional needs and why they are not being met. Are they aware they have these needs at all? Even when a character does not know what they want, they can be subconsciously motivated to take certain actions to find out. Is there anyone your character knows who perceives the emotional needs although the character doesn’t? How will your audience recognise these needs when the character doesn’t? This last is to do with dramatic irony, one of the most powerful techniques of all dramatic writing. Basically it’s: What does the audience know that the character doesn’t? Dramatic irony makes for a terrific opportunities to weave tension and suspense into the character’s story. Backstory Powers Emotional Plot Backstory has to be mostly about the emotional past life of a character because the story being told in this story now is driven by impulses already set in motion. Don’t take the lazy way – don’t pluck a character ‘peg’ out of the air and hook it onto your character. You know the kind of thing – hard-boiled, cynical cop likes ballet. Write some scenes from your character’s past: in the school playground, as a teenager, etc. Watch how (s)he behaves. Then to make secondary characters help define your main character (they absolutely must), write scenes as though the other characters in the story inhabit the main character’s backstory. Who’s leader? Who’s the shy one, etc.? This will deepen your characterisation immeasurably. Pauline is a screenwriter, award-winning playwright, Shakespeare scholar, and former journalist. She is also the author of one of the best guides there is to screenwriting: Screenwriting They Can’t Resist: How to Create Screenplays of Originality and Cinematic Power. Explode the Rules.
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Libel Law for Writers and Authors (What You Need to Know)

A simple guide for writers and authors to what you need to know about libel law What Are Defamation And Libel? Defamation is any published material that damages the reputation of an individual or an organisation. As well as books, this covers material on the internet as well as radio and television broadcasts – so even drama and fiction can be defamatory if they damage someone’s reputation. You can only publish defamatory material if it comes within one of the recognised legal defences. If it doesn’t, the publication will amount to libel and you may have to pay substantial damages. Slander is ‘defamation by word of mouth’. The Purpose Of Libel Law Libel law protects individuals or organisations from unwarranted, mistaken or untruthful attacks on their reputation. A person is libelled if a publication: Exposes them to hatred, ridicule or contemptCauses them to be shunned or avoidedGenerally lowers them in the eyes of societyDiscredits them in their trade, business or profession Get Your Facts Right The most important point is to make absolutely sure that what you are printing or writing is true. Do not make claims or accusations that you cannot prove. Even if you think you can do this, be cautious. Proving things in court can be very difficult. And the test of what the words mean is what a reasonable reader is likely to take as their natural and ordinary meaning, in their full context – what you intended as the author or publisher is irrelevant. If you write something that cannot be substantiated, the credibility of your site, organisation or cause may be questioned. It can also land you with an expensive lawsuit and there is no legal aid for libel cases. The Burden Of Proof Lies With The Defendant Almost uniquely in English law, in libel cases the burden of proof lies with the author or publisher and not the complainant. In other words, you must prove that what you write is true. The person you’ve targeted does not have to prove that you’re wrong. Three Tips For Writing Safely Don’t rely on the literal meaning. You cannot solely rely on proving that your statements were literally true if, when they’re taken as a whole, they have an extended, more damaging meaning. Also, for example, if somebody was guilty of fraud once, calling him a fraudster in a way which might suggest he’s still doing the same may well give rise to a libel which can’t be defended. Be especially wary when referring to events in the past. Don’t exaggerate in your claims or language. For example, a company may run a factory which produces certain chemicals. For you to suggest that babies will be born deformed as a result may get you into libel trouble. Innuendo can catch you out. Your comments may not appear particularly defamatory taken at face value, but greater knowledge of a person or situation may make it problematic because of the innuendo. To say Mr Jones doesn’t recycle his waste paper may sound harmless enough. But to people who know that Mr Jones is a Green Party activist, the innuendo of the statement is that he is hypocritical in his politics. Common Mistakes And Assumptions Repeating rumours. It is inadvisable to repeat a defamatory rumour unless you are in a position to prove it’s true. Even if you are contradicting the rumour you should not repeat it. And adding ‘allegedly’ is not enough to get you out of libel difficulties. Quoting others. If you publish defamatory remarks about people or organisations made by other people you will be just as liable to be sued as they are. So if you can’t prove the truth of their statements, don’t repeat them. Drawing unprovable conclusions. It is a common mistake to draw unverifiable conclusions from the basic facts. For example, if Mr Brown is seen going into a hotel room with a call-girl, this does not necessarily mean he enjoyed a ‘night of passion’, and will certainly not prove that he did. Irresponsible adjectives. Be very careful about the adjectives you use. A misplaced word can result in costly action. If you are campaigning about a factory that releases chemicals into the atmosphere, referring to the factory as ‘poisoning the atmosphere’ is inadvisable. Defences Against Libel The law lays down a few ways in which defamatory publications may be defended. If the defences succeed, the publisher wins. But if they don’t succeed, the publisher loses: the complainant will have been libelled and will therefore be entitled to be paid damages and their legal costs. The defences are listed below. First, justification. The most usual defence against libel is to prove that the information published is true. But this can be a dangerous route because an unsuccessful plea could increase the damages against you because you will have increased the harm to the complainant. And remember, you must be able to deal with every libellous possibility, such as inference and innuendo. If your statement implies something greater, it is not enough to prove that the statement is just literally true. Merely asserting something will not be sufficient to prove that it’s true – you will need witnesses and documents to back up assertions (whether they’re yours or someone you’re quoting). Second, fair comment. This covers content, mainly opinion, that cannot by its very nature be true or false. To be properly defensible, these comments must be: based on fact, made in good faith, and published without malice. On a matter of public interest, in 2001, Daily Mail lost a libel action brought by the former Tottenham Hotspur chairman Alan Sugar over the remark that he was a “miser” when he ran the club because he didn’t give his manager enough money to buy top class players. The jury were not sufficiently persuaded that there was any factual basis for making this comment. They didn’t deem it fair comment. He was awarded £100,000. Last, privilege. Privilege is the defence where the law recognises that individuals should be free to speak their minds (and others to report what they say) without fear of being sued even if they get their facts wrong. It allows people to speak freely in court proceedings and debates in Parliament, and allows for such proceedings to be reported, so long as the reports are both fair and accurate. The Right To Privacy Writers tend to think a lot about libel issues, but they would be well to consider privacy as well. Human rights law give each of us a right of privacy, so even if you are not saying anything defamatory about me (so libel doesn’t come into it), you might nevertheless reveal enough about my personal life that I’d feel my privacy had been invaded. Under such circumstances, I would in theory have an actionable claim against you. And, as it happens, we at Jericho Writers have never seen a book that was basically publishable, but which fell down on libel issues. We have seen examples of a book that was publishable, except for privacy issues. The case I particularly remember was a really excellent and shocking memoir by a British-Asian woman who had been forced into an arranged marriage and had been very badly treated by both husband and mother-in-law. The husband had in fact been charged with assault by a court, and convicted, so libel issues weren’t in play. The substance of the book’s allegations had been tested in court and upheld. The text was certainly defamatory, but it was most demonstrably true. So the thing that broke the book – we got an agent for the author, but not a publisher – was the mother-in-law’s right to privacy. This awful woman, who had been highly complicit in her son’s abusive behaviour, nevertheless had a right to privacy that the courts might have been willing to uphold. So all the publishers contacted by the agent refused the book. In my view, that was cowardly, but it’s an issue to think about before you embark on your project. Libel & Privacy Law In The Real World Writers anxious about libel / privacy law can in most cases relax: It’s exceptionally rare for a novelist to be sued for libel. As long as you are not obviously writing a roman a clef, your single strongest defence to any claim will just be to point to the way the book is categorised: “This is fiction, dummy.”Let’s say you are writing and self-publishing a memoir, that isn’t vastly defamatory of anyone and isn’t very privacy invasive either. You do those real life people the courtesy of changing names and other details, so it’s not obvious who you are talking about. Let’s say you commission a print-run of 500 copies and sell a few e-books as well. Is it theoretically possible that you face a lawsuit for the issues talked about in this post? Yes. Is it practically likely? No. It will be, for most authors, a vanishingly small possibilityAnd if you are writing anything else non-fictiony, very much the same applies, at least 99 point something per cent of the time. Yes, the conventional advice is “take legal advice”, but that advice will cost a minimum of $5,000 / £3,000 if you’re going to a properly experienced lawyer. So for most writers, the actual practical advice will be: Proceed thoughtfully and with cautionChange names and other details. Make your characters actually different from the real world subjects.Think about privacy as well as libelBe realistic. If you are making serious comments about public people and your work is likely to have significant readership / impact, then you can’t wing it. In all other cases, then just take good care and you should be fine. For what it’s worth, Iv’e written fiction and non-fiction and only once have my paths crossed with a libel lawyer (paid for by the publisher, not me.) I was working with a prominent hedge fund manager and his text made some quite serious allegations about (for example) the non-tax-paying habits of GE, the huge American manufacturer. (The text made quite a few allegations about quite a few companies and people; that libel lawyer had plenty to get his teeth into.) The lawyer queried one particular point in relation to GE and said it was essential that we contact GE for comment. So we did. We sent the relevant bit of text to the head of Media Relations and asked for comment. He replied – quickly and with some heat – that the allegation was completely untrue and he rejected it completely. We responded by asking why, in that case, his company’s own annual report, in some deeply buried footnote, confirmed precisely the point we were making. He withdrew his rejection (rather gracelessly) and it was pretty clear that the big bad wolf of GE wasn’t going to sue us, or would lose if it did. The real point of all this is that you need to use your own real-world wisdom to make this calls, not just a reading of the law. If your book is going to sell enough copies to raise a real threat of libel / privacy claims, then you’ll almost certainly be working with a publisher resourced to deal with the issue. If your book is more of a private printing with a limited circulation, it’s conceivable but certainly not probable that any suit will come your way. Do the basics, and you should be fine. Disclaimer We’re not lawyers. We haven’t read your book. We don’t know your situation. And pretty obviously, if you face some real legal issues, you need to get help from specialists who do know your situation. A blog post is not the same as a legal advisor.
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How to write a script for a movie: screenwriting tips

There is no more satisfying (or possibly more lucrative) form of writing than screenwriting. It’s one of the most technical areas, one of the hardest to get right. You need a powerful story, but using the grammar of the screen. You have to write with pictures, not words. Nearly all screenwriters should look up, at least, a foundation course in screenwriting (like this one). Basics Of Screenwriting In the meantime, though, there are some important (often neglected) rules worth following. 1. Read Scripts It’s not enough to watch movies, you need to read them. Get scripts and read them page by page. Then watch the movie. Then read the script again. This is the way you will grasp the rhythm and feel of a script. You can download hundreds of scripts for free online. 2. Read Widely You needn’t restrict yourself to newer scripts or scripts you love (though do read what inspires). Just remember to read broadly. Read the scripts with accolades, letting your knowledge and versatility expand with each you read. 3. Learn How To Format Film scripts need to be written in the right format, so learn this. There are software packages helping with formatting, giving useful story tools, Celtx being one. Fewer people now need MovieMagic or FinalDraft. Learn more on the importance of formatting. The Next Stages Of Screenwriting You also need to: 1. Understand Structure This is the heart of scriptwriting. Read books from writers like Robert McKee or John Truby. Then absorb story structure into your film writing. 2. Understand The Scene Nearly all new screenwriters use too many words. Let your looks, scenes, silences do the talking, too. Read more tips on film scenes. 3. Understand Dialogue Dialogue is best when it’s fractured and oblique. If dialogue sounds too formal or fluent, your words are likely to sound stilted and awkward on screen. Read more tips on film dialogue. 4. Understand Character Novelists can spend 100,000 words exploring a character. You have about a quarter of that amount with which to write a movie, nut novelists don’t have actors. You do. You need to provide a framework that actors fill out, so stick to your job. Use action lines as cue in screenwriting. Read more tips on characters in films. 5. Thinking With Pictures Although camera angles are the director’s province, you need to see the movie you’re writing, and your script can do a huge amount to nudge a professional reader into sharing your vision. If you do this well, you may not just have a good script. You could have a great one. Selling Your Film Script Writing a good script is hard, but selling it is harder. Unknown novelists with no prior training are picked up every day by literary agents, and many go on to be successfully published. The film industry does tend to draw new screenwriters in from conventional routes: film schools, TV soaps, production company insiders, actors, and the professional theatre. It doesn’t mean securing an agent is impossible if this doesn’t apply to you – and if your script is strong enough, we’ll help it get read by a film agent anxious to find new talent. Meanwhile, peruse our guide to selling a film script and learn more about our script feedback. Good luck – and we’re rooting for you.
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Is there a market for poetry writing?

The first thing to ask about the poetry market: does it exist? Few make money from poetry. Seamus Heaney may have done, but he had a Nobel Prize. There is also, of course, the rise of the Instagram poets like Rupi Kaur, Lang Leav, Atticus, and so on. Here’s what you need to know. Selling Beauty Poetry remains a niche market. Even large bookshops will typically just sell acknowledged classics, academic anthologies, and a few books by today’s most famous poets. Few poets ever reach this level. More important for beginning writers are the specialist poetry magazines and poetry presses, the heart of the poetry scene. A collection of poetry might well only sell a few hundred copies. Few will make a profit. Poets themselves seldom make any money from their work. People who buy these books are poetry aficionados and will buy these books from ads in poetry magazines, from poetry festivals, etc. Getting Published It may be easier to walk across hot coals than to become a published poet. It’s fine to write poetry for yourself and friends, but suppose you really want to get published. What then? Agents rarely accept poetry submissions, and big publishing houses are interested in making money. Your ultimate aim should really be to interest the smaller poetry presses. Even if you aspired to be an ‘Instapoet’, it really is better to know if your poetry resonates with readers at the most critical levels, before you go and post online. In nearly all cases, these presses will only pick up a new poet if they have a track record of publication in the poetry magazines. As a rule, you should aim to have had 6-8 individual poems published in magazines before it makes sense to try and publish a collection. So start submitting good quality work as soon as you can. Poetry Magazines Some of our favourite magazines are The Rialto, The North, New Writer, Ambit, and Anon – but there are zillions of others. For a good place to browse go to Poetry Library, or The Poetry Kit. All magazines have their own submissions procedures, but as a rule, you should send out no more than half a dozen poems with a stamped addressed envelope for a response. It’s competitive getting accepted, so prepare for rejections before you get anywhere, and don’t expect speed either. Three months to get a response is normal. If and when you get 6-8 poems accepted by these, then is the time to start approaching publishers. Self-Publishing There is one other option, which is self-publication. This isn’t a fast-track way to get well-known, to make money, to get your work into bookshops, or anything else. It could lead to more, but it is a way to get bound copies of your work for you to distribute (or sell) to families and friends, at least. The easiest route for most poets is simply to go to your local printer. Get quotes for printing and binding copies of your work, and go with the best. This won’t be too expensive, and you won’t be ripped off. Beware of any ‘publisher’ advertising online for your work. Real publishers don’t solicit work. Anyone who wants you to pay to publish your work will print the work, but they will not publish it in any normal sense. Your work will not appear in bookshops. You will not make money from it. And there are lots of bandits out there. (You have been warned.) Who knows, though? Rupi Kaur self-published her poetry. Now Milk and Honey is published by Andrews McNeel. Good luck.
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What are the odds of getting a book deal?

And how to get a book deal yourself … You’re at that scary submissions stage. Your manuscript is edited right down to the very last comma. It’s time to go out into the big wide world and GET THAT BOOK DEAL. But – uh – what exactly do you have to do … and what are the odds of success? OK, well, first things first – so here’s a brief, brief reminder of how to go about getting a book deal. If you need more info on any of the steps, then just dive into the links included – we’ve got you covered. (And for a jumbo guide on getting published, go here. That’ll be most useful for newbies, but will have something useful to say to pretty much anyone.) How To Get A Book Deal You want a book deal? So here’s the formula. This formula works for anyone wanting to be traditionally published (with a publisher, that is, rather than self-publishing via Amazon.) It also assumes that you are writing fiction or mainstream non-fiction – the sort of stuff you might find on the front tables of a larger bookstore. If that applies to you, then the formula for getting a book deal is: Write a dazzling bookMake a shortlist of literary agents (using this tool and this free signup option)Write a great query letter (using this guide)Write an awesome synopsis (here’s how to do it)Send your material out to 10-12 agentsLight candles, say prayers, drop scented flowers down a wishing well (lucky charms)Get an offer of representation from an agentDo any editorial work the agent suggests and which sounds sensible to youLet the agent auction your workAccept the best offer, which isn’t necessarily the highest one That looks like a lot of steps, but the only actually difficult step in that sequence is the very first one. And creating a blindingly good agent submission pack is pretty simple if you use our free worksheets, available here. What Are The Odds Of Getting A Literary Agent? Those odds are somewhat scary. A typical agent in NY or London receives approximately 2,000 submissions a year. They are likely to accept 2-3 writers from that deluge. Some agents will accept fewer. So, as a rough rule of thumb, and allowing for plenty of variation, the chance of getting an agent are about 1 in 1000. That sounds frightening, but you can and should apply to more than one agent, so the 1 in 1000 is perhaps more like 1 in 100. And, in any case, it’s not about the odds. If your book is blindingly good – if you’ve written a Hunger Games, or a Gone Girl, or an All the Light We Cannot See – your odds of getting an agent are essentially 100%. So don’t focus on the odds. Focus on your book. That’s the only part that really matters. What Are The Odds Of Getting A Book Deal? Well, you can look at this in two ways. From the agent’s end, it’s probably true that a good agent at a top class agency will sell approximately 2 books for every 3 he or she auctions. That is, the odds of a sale are about 67% – which is why most writers, correctly, think that getting an agent is the most significant hurdle between them and publication. But that’s to look at it from one end only. I spoke recently with one editor, who has a key job at one of London’s best publishers (a major part of a Big 5 house). In effect, that editor is as selective as it gets. These days, he receives, via literary agents, about 12 submissions a week. Those 12 submissions equate to about 600 manuscripts crossing his desk each year. And of those 600 manuscripts, he takes on maybe 3-4 new writers a year. (As well as, of course, continuing to publish the work of his existing stable of authors.) In other words, he buys less than 1% of the work being offered to him. Yikes! These stats are frankly terrifying, but they need to be taken in context. In particular: A smaller or less prestigious publisher will be less selective. Robert Hale (for example) or Choc Lit are decent publishers, but are smaller and less selective than the big guys. They’ll offer much smaller advances to authors and they won’t have the marketing heft of their larger rivals – but if you get an offer from them, it’s still a massive compliment to your work. It’s a real publishing deal and you should be elated.It’s also wrong to conclude that if you have an agent, you have only a 1% chance of getting a top-ranked publisher. It isn’t so. If agents are looking to auction a manuscript, they’ll typically send it out to 8-12 publishers – that is, to all the bigger publishers in town. So while an individual publisher might take just 1% of work submitted, that means an overall success rate of more like 10%. Something similar, of course, applies with submissions to agents.The better the agent, the higher that success rate will be. A top agent will reject any work that doesn’t come up to the right standard, will seize hold of any work that does come to the right standard, and will do so with a strong expectation of selling it. Even then, no agent I know has a 100% record, but the best agents will have a strike rate of well over 10%. So why does my Big 5 editor reject so much of what comes his way? In his opinion – and also mine – agents (mostly less well established ones) are sending work out before it’s properly ready. You don’t want your work set out early, which means it’s time to consider … How To Think About Getting A Book Deal In the end, though, the conclusion has little to do with odds or stats. The 2012 British Olympic team contained 541 athletes. The US Olympic team is that little bit larger. Either way, those numbers are larger than the number of debut novels being listed by elite UK or US publishers today. So you need to be (at least!) an Olympian-of-writing to make the grade. That’s the bad news. The good news is simply this: If you are in the world’s top 20-30 sprinters, you will get selected for the Olympics. If you’ve written one of the best espionage novels of the year, you will get published. In brutal market conditions, the standard required by top publishers is rising all the time, but the best work still gets selected, still attracts advances and investment, still gets published. What you need to worry about more than anything else is the quality of your work. Promising will not do, but dazzling is essential. One further conclusion. We’ve always been against writers sending their work to dozens & dozens of agents. Our own rule of thumb is that if you can’t attract a Yes from an agent in 8-12 (intelligently chosen and properly presented) submissions, then your manuscript is not yet good enough. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but for the most part the rule is a very good one. If you find send submissions to 200 agents, your chances of hooking an agent improve, but I’d say that your chance of getting a publisher remains the same as before. About 0%, if the first 8-12 agents turned you down. A Little Bit Of Boasting Here at Jericho Writers, we know a bit about getting agents. Writers who have come to us for editorial help or for one of our courses have a success rate that is at least 10 times better than the above numbers would suggest, and probably more. That’s not because we’re miracle workers, but because we focus relentlessly on the quality of your work. Which is what you need to do. Do that, add talent and a good idea, and you’ll make the grade. Just keep at it. More On Getting Published Link to: How to Get Your Book Published GETTING PUBLISHED All you need to know
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