Sunday, 24 October 2010

Penguin publishing opportunity and NaNo time!

The Sutro Room, Trinity College
I can't believe that we struck lucky with the weather yet again at last Saturday's fictionfire course on editing and making your pitch! Trinity College was glowing again. Once again, I had a truly delightful group of people attending and we had a lot of fun with what could be a dry and challenging area (preparing your work for submission) and a scary area (how to approach and pitch to agents and editors). As a bonus, a film crew set up loads of paraphernalia in the front quad outside. In Oxford, you're always tripping over film crews - here, apparently, it was another episode of Lewis, Morse's successor. I should have been teaching a course in crime fiction! I failed to spot either Lewis or Hathaway - but one of my students was unfortunate enough to cross Kevin Whateley's eye-line when returning from lunch and she got glared at!

I won't be running any other fictionfire courses this year - but am continuing to be involved in editing and mentoring work. I've also got plans for next year - watch this space!

A quick mention, too, for Penguin's current offer to would-be writers, which is about to run out. Till the end of this month they are accepting submissions unagented. Woop! Woop! Go to their website to find out details: it's quite a stringent set of instructions. Essentially, you approach them by email, with a brief covering note and synopsis (not as attachments - in the body of your email) and if they're interested, they'll get back to you. God knows, the editors are probably chin-deep in submissions by now - but let's all be grateful for the chance to circumvent the laborious 'find an agent first' process. If you do go for this, I'd strongly recommend that you follow the submission guidelines to the letter (don't submit your whole book!) and that you research which of Penguin's imprints your work would best suit. A little market awareness goes a long way. Go to to find out more: there's a summary of the structure of the company, listing all the imprints and if you go to Question 11 'How Can I Get My Book Published?' in the About Penguin section, you'll find more details about the submission offer.

Now, as we take our half-term break, I find myself dithering - yet again- over whether to sign up for NaNoWriMo this year. On balance, I think it's unlikely that I will, but I do find myself tempted every year. For those of you unfamiliar with the rather clumsy term NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. And it is a Jolly Good Thing. You can find out all about it at - it's a wonderful site, chockfull of advice and encouragement. The deal is this: you sign up to write 50,000 words in a month. That's it. Simple as that. Those who do, whose wordcounts are uploaded and checked by Nano's robots, are awarded a certificate. Last year, 165,000 took part (it's growing every year) and 30,000 actually completed their 50,000 words.

Why do it? Simple again. Its purpose is to get you writing, to keep you writing. You stop talking about it (and we writers are so good at that!) and you do it. You tell everybody you're doing it. You stop doing the housework. You churn out your wordcount per day. You can plan what you're going to write but everything you submit to the site must be written during November.

'Oh, but ...', you say. 'It's impossible! How can I write properly when under such pressure?' That's the point: you don't worry about literary perfection, deathless prose, being of publishable standard. You just get the words on the page. There are those who, after NaNO month, rework and reshape what they've written - others don't, but have the pleasure of knowing they have strung that huge sequence of words together, put marks on the page any old how. The site tells us it's about 'Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft'.

So, consider giving it a go. You need to sign up by the end of October 31st. If you do, let me know how you get on - and I wish you fun and fulfilment with it!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Join us before time runs out!

Bookings will close at 1 pm tomorrow (Friday) for Saturday's fictionfire course on editing and submitting your work, Shape Up and Make your Pitch. Remember that these days writing your story is only part of the story - if you want to connect with your potential readers, you need first to convince the guardians and gatekeepers of the industry! Join with us as we explore ways to impress and appeal to agents and editors: see full details on the Course Dates and Details page of the website.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

You've written it, now sell it!

'Stop thinking abut your book as a creative masterpiece and start thinking about it as a product.' (Andrew Therkelson)

Check out my Quotes of Notes page on the fictionfire website to read my thoughts on this and many other inspiring quotations for writers.

The gorgeous Sutro Room at Trinity College
 Oh, and you only have three and a half days in which to book fictionfire's day course Shape Up and Make Your Pitch! Learn how to self-edit and pitch your work in the beautiful surroundings of Trinity College, Oxford. Full details are on my Course Dates and Details page on the website. Bookings must be received by 1 pm Friday 15th October!

Friday, 1 October 2010

You've got hours left to book for Making Memorable Scenes!

One a.m. Friday - in around 12 hours I need to confirm numbers for Making Memorable Scenes at Trinity College, so if you've been dithering for a while, you need to decide to plump for it and let me know! Contact me at or ring 07827 455723. There are some lovely people coming - it would be great if you could join us!

There's a whole load of fun and information on offer - take a look at the Testimonials page on my website.

There's even the chance that the rain might hold off on Saturday!