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!


Glynis said...

Oxford in autumn must look wonderful. I passed through many years ago on a grey day. It was lovely even then.

I have take advantage of Penguin's offer. In fact, I have done so twice. In my own name with my adult ms, and in my pen name with my children's. It was just a great feeling to be able to approach them, I am not expecting miracles. :)

NaNoWriMo-I am doing it for the first time this year. I joined up in June and was excited by the fact. Now, a few days away I am nervous. I do so want to complete the challenge.

Lane said...

Good luck with NaNo Lorna. I'm not doing it but I'll be cheering from the sidelines:-)

Lorna F said...

Glynis - I wish you the best of luck with both your Penguin submissions and with NaNo - I hope it's going well for you!

Lane - thanks. I'm doing NaNo in a quiet way, just to get myself back into harness, as it were, writing something I don't intend to seek publication for.