Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Silly Tale From the Slushpile by Em Lynas

Em Lynas as The Author
Many publishers as The Acquisitions Monster
Candy Gourlay as The Internet Fairy
Amber Caraveo as The Agent Angel
The Nosy Crow Team as The Awesome Publishing Guru

Once upon a time there was an author tip tapping away in a lonely garret writing rubbish. Total rubbish - but funny rubbish. Over many years, as her slushpile grew, so did the rejections and eventually she developed SYMPTOMS. Nervous tics, blank stares, twitching fingers and, worst of all, doubt.

The author was diagnosed with REJECTIONITISS and was told by doctors, consultants, charlatans and quacks that nothing could be done. She was doomed to continue writing piles and piles of funny rubbish: an authorial version of Sisyphus pushing words down the page instead of boulders up the hill. But in her case the punishment was really unfair as, unlike Sisyphus, she hadn't been at all crafty or deceitful and was not remotely royal.

After a particularly disappointing and traumatic attack brought on by a rather upsetting rejection from the Acquisitions Monster the author cried, 'Alas and alack,' into the void that is the internet, 'Who has the cure for my affliction? Who can help me spin my enormous pile of slush into golden words of story?'

Suddenly, the Internet Fairy answered and flickering words appeared on the darkness of the screen. 'I have the answer,' typed the fairy, 'but what will you give me in return?'

The author recoiled in surprise and wondered what the googlegiant was up to now. Fearing for her first born daughter and not quite sure how far she would go to pursue her writing dreams, she tentatively typed, 'What do you want?'

The fairy replied. 'I shall give you what you need. In return you must agree to three things.'

'Three?' said the author, who now worried for her second born son, and her very supportive husband.

The fairy typed.
One:  Most important of all - You must enter THE LEARNING CURVE OF STEEPNESS.
Two: You must agree to embrace technology.
Three: You must agree to spend hours and hours on social media.

Relieved that the Internet Fairy did not wish to suck the souls of her loved ones the author said, 'It's a deal. Now, give me the answer!'

Words appeared. 'You must join The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Follow the Blue Link.'

The author's fingers twitched over the keys. This could be the cure! This could be life changing. But, she might have to talk to other authors. She might have to reveal her rubbish. She might have to leave the garret!

She pressed the button.

The End

The Beginning - In Which The Author Has Her Eyes Opened.

The author obeyed the Internet Fairy, joined SCBWI and received a reality check. Achieving publication was going to be hard. The LEARNING CURVE OF STEEPNESS was slippery. It loomed over her.

'I fear this may take some time,' said the author, leaning back in her writing chair. She stopped rushing, she settled down, she embraced the CURVE and began to crawl up it with the assistance of her new found friends in SCBWI. She attended SCBWI events. She volunteered for SCBWI networks. She entered SCBWI competitions. She won! She met with authors, agents, editors and experts.

Occasionally, the REJECTIONITISS symptoms returned, especially doubt. This usually presented as the author's head banging down onto the desk and a cry of, 'Why am I still doing this! Is there no escape!' After a while the answer always came back. 'Because it's fun. Because it's what you do. Because it would be weird not to.'

So the author continued and the pile of slush continued to grow but sometimes there was the glint of gold in the slush and the author pulled out the threads and began to weave them into story using her own voice. Her voice became louder and more comfortable, easier to find, easier to listen to. It spoke to her. In her head. She feared for her sanity but if she was insane then so were her SCBWI friends because they heard voices too. Or so they said.

Then one day she won another SCBWI competition. A Slushpile Challenge.

The judge, The Agent Angel, rang. 'I love the Voice! I love the story! What else have you got?'

The author glanced at her pile of glinting slush and hesitated. Which to Pitch? 'I have a Witch School Story,' she said and launched into an elevator pitch. 'Twinkle's dumped at Witch School but she's an actress, not a witch, and she must escape in order to perform her Bottom. It's a big part.'

'Send it,' said The Angel Agent.
'Love it!' said The Angel Agent.
'Let's team up!' said The Angel Agent. So they did.
'Let's edit!' So they did.
'Let's submit!' So they did.

They submitted to multiple publishers and soon The Agent Angel got in touch. 'Leave the garret. Come to London. We're meeting the publishers.'

Publishers! thought the author. That's a plural. That's exciting! She booked her tickets and fussed over what to wear because a good book deal always depends on the right scarf and a good haircut.

The author and The Agent Angel went from publisher to publisher. 'We love the VOICE!' said the publishers. The author was shy. 'Thank you,' she said as she nibbled on many cakes and biscuits, although secretly she was very impressed with the plate of handmade witchy cupcakes. Soon she settled down. It was fun. People liked her work. They wanted her book. Everyone was so lovely. It was weird.

'Now, we go home and wait for the deals to come in,' said The Agent Angel, as they parted.

It seemed like a long time to the author, who kept as busy as she could, but it really wasn't. By the time the cupboards were tidy, the house was spotless, the ironing done, the garden sorted, the tip visited and the shopping put away, the deals arrived.

'Pick one,' said The Agent Angel.

So the author did. It was an easy choice. She thought of the handmade witchy cupcakes, that editor really wanted her book, she'd baked!. That was beyond brilliant. Plus there was lots of other amazing stuff in the contract about royalties and marketing plans. It was an excellent deal. So the author happily signed with the Awesome Publishing Gurus.

The End

But of course it isn't the end...'s Another Beginning

The Awesome Publishing Gurus will now play their part. The book will be edited. The book will be published. The book will be shouted about, sold, and read. 

The author will write. 


Who now has a 3 BOOK DEAL! with the awesome Nosy Crow. Announced here in The Bookseller. 

This is really my way of saying a huge thanks to everyone in and out of SCBWI who has ever helped me and especially to my lovely agent Amber Caraveo for falling in love with Daisy/Ohphelia/Twinkle's Voice x 

The Awesome Publishing Guru team was comprised of Kate Wilson, Kirsty Stansfield (cake maker) and Catherine Stokes. Thank you! 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

A twin blog! Crystal Kite & all things Scooby, AND the Awesomeness of a double Carnegie-winning line up

by Teri Terry

Me, almost
over the jet lag
I haven't blogged in absolutely ages: sorry! There's been writing, editing and SO SO much travelling. In fact, I tried to do a google map of the last few months to show you, but google maps refused to cover it all on one map. But I'm staying put for a while, and promised Candy & the Slushies that I would do it this time, oh yes! But the problem is this: there are TWO things I want to blog about. I thought about clever ways to make them look like they belong together, but then just resigned myself to having twins.

Part 1: I get by with a little help from my friends

SCBWI - Scoobies - has been my writing home since 2008. Writing is a solitary business,
Some Scooby Conference Party Catching up!
From left - Helen Moss, Katie Dale, Nick Cross, & me
and it is easy to get too isolated. I haven't missed a conference since I joined, and have so many friends there now that every year it gets harder to manage to talk to everyone. Through the inevitable ups and downs - both creatively and in the publishing business - having friends who know what you're about and what it is about are invaluable. And this year I was thrilled and honoured that Mind Games won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the British Isles. It was awarded by Lin Oliver at the conference party before the Mass Book Launch.

2016 has, in so many ways, been a trial. Focusing on what is good and the things I can do helps me find hope for the future, and I tried to get that across in my acceptance speech for the Crystal Kite.

Part of the joy of Scoobies is how supportive we are, and excited and happy we get for each other's successes:

A few days after the conference, we were SO EXCITED to find out that Scooby Patrice Lawrence's debut novel Orange Boy has been shortlisted for a Costa Book Award! 
Patrice & I at the conference.

Part 2: A double dose of Carnegie Awesomeness: Sarah Crossan and Tanya Landman

Sarah Crossan (left) & Tanya Landman
I came across this event with the Bloomsbury Institute, and talked Candy Gourlay into coming along and taking photos. 

I enjoyed the evening very much, but didn't take comprehensive notes (sorry) - I had a bad case of Writer's Brain (YES, that really is a thing). But here's a few snapshots from the evening:

1. Sarah: One is a love story about sisters - a love that maybe surpasses romantic love.

2. Tanya: Buffalo Soldier is also a love story ... about a girl and her horse.

3. Sarah: she wrote for ten years on her own - a long apprenticeship - and it takes her years to write a book (Candy was particularly happy to hear this).

4. Tanya: started writing because she was bored staring at puddles for hours with her small children - though it gave time and space to daydream.

5. Sarah: verse suited the story, it wasn't working in prose. And verse allowed her to write in snapshots, she felt less constrained to have a straight time line through the story; she could jump around. Much like I have in writing this blog...

6. Tanya: Winning a Carnegie suddenly gives you gravitas: people are more inclined to listen to what you have to say.

As for me? I came away completely convinced that waving your hands about must be the secret ingredient to winning a Carnegie. 
*runs to practise extravagant hand gestures in the mirror*

Monday, 21 November 2016

How to Eliminate Your Writer's Tics by Kathryn Evans

Kathryn Evans, tics? You betcha.

So...You have a writer's tic?
So...have I.

And they are HORRIBLY, HIDEOUSLY noticeable when I am editing...and editing...and editing.

Of course some tics are not tics, they are your writing style, or "voice" if you like. A "tic" becomes a "tic" when it happens waaaaaay too often - so much so that it looks like you are  having a laugh at your own expense.  I'm pretty sure you've spotted at least two of mine in this short introduction.

Starting sentences with So..And... But...
And these........
I also do love to use "-" instead of ",".

Why? No idea but having just finished my new book I had to go through and weed as many out as I could. I needed a wheelbarrow to dispose of them, there were so many. To cheer myself up, I asked some writer pals if they'd share their writing tics. Now I've finished laughing my head off, I'm going to share them with you!

First to the confessional,  author of Songs About A Girl, writer/musician Chris Russell
Chris Russell, Rock star and Novellist

So fess up, what are your writer tics?

My characters like to shrug and frown a lot. It’s as if they’re constantly confused but, you know, relatively non-committal about it.  They’re also very keen on playing with their hair, but as a notorious hair-fiddler, that’s entirely my fault. “‘Are you flirting with me?’, asked the gorgeous-haired heroine, flicking her hair. ‘Only if you’re flirting with me,’ mused the brooding popstar, running his hands through his devastatingly arousing hair, as she tucked her hair seductively behind her ear as if to say ‘my hair finds you attractive’” (etc). I mean, I paraphrase, but that’s the basic gist of it. 

How do you identify them and deal with them?

In the early stages, I deal with tics by just letting them go. Letting them do their thing. It’s the equivalent of watching a young child on a skateboard and accepting that, yes, they’re going to fall over at some point, but it’ll be a learning experience. You can spend your entire life obsessing over tics in a first draft, when the best approach is actually just to let them be, whilst you churn out the words - and then return to fix them afterwards. The “Find & Replace” function is a god-send in this respect, as it allows you to check how many times you’ve used your favourite words, phrases and actions, then work through them one at a time to even out the balance.

Oh laughing, laughing and now, over to Abie Longstaff:

What are your writer tics?

Abie Longstaff
When I write a first draft, my main goal isn’t to make everything perfect; it’s to get TO THE END.  I feel the need to see the shape of the book: the tension and slack, the weft and warp of each character thread. So I write frantically, sometimes leaving whole chunks out and putting [stuff happens] or [insert funny joke here] just to reach the end point.
 At this speed, my tics come out. All my characters seem to have stomach issues. Their tummies ‘clench’ ‘tighten’ ‘drop’ ‘churn’ ‘sink’. They ‘feel sick’. Their insides ‘turn to water’. I’ve obviously cruelly given each and every one of them IBS. 
How do you identify them and deal with them?

I don’t stress about the tics. It’s just a first draft – I can edit them out later. If I worried too much about them at that stage, it would interrupt the flow.At second draft stage  I use the find feature in Word, searching for any mention of ‘tummy’ ‘stomach’ ‘inside’ and then I limit myself to only a few mentions. My editors are brilliant too – they pull me up on overuse or cliché. 

And , of course, I wasn't letting our own Slushies off the hook.

Jo Wyton?

Oh my goodness. So many tics. I'm basically a tic novelist. My worst one is eyes - I'm all about the eyes in a first draft. Flicking them, to be precise, which isn't even a thing. 
I remember when I first had it pointed out to me, and I thought 'well, yeah, it's a bit of a weird thing to write but surely I can't have done it THAT many times?' So I counted. 94 times in one manuscript. I don't worry about it now - I tic away in the first draft and remove them later.

Surely Candy Gourlay, doesn't have tics?

 I have English as a Second Language issues ... I always have to review my prepositions -- I get of, at, in mixed up all the time.   
Oh I just realised this in my current wip. Characters not realising that they are the ones weeping, crying, shouting.  
Also, characters in close contact with other characters (hugs, clinches, struggles) and not knowing if the trembling, bleeding, heartbeat is his/hers or the other character's. 
 The other thing is BUT. This and this BUT then. Every other sentence has a but. On the one hand this is a good way of writing because the but is a sign that the story is twisting and turning. But I end up with too many buts. I have to revise them out of the manuscript and ration myself. 
I also tend to say "But no".  
Oooh I also say "Clearly"...

Okay, you can stop now Candy! 

Teri Terry - what about you?

People shrug, raise their eyebrows and jump! Sometimes they do all three, which is quite an art form. 
And I'm forever forgetting whether the thing you walk on by the side of the road is a footpath/sidewalk/pavement etc. 
And I have too much 'but' - sometimes I have 'but' twice in the same sentence!

Comforting isn't it? What about Nick Cross? Nick? Where are you??! Ah, Nick is busy doing his day job so, Addy Farmer? Addy? I don't know - where are your fellow slushies when you want to have a laugh at their expense? Paula Harrison? Surely you'll own up to a few tics? Fine!  Maureen Lynas, when you're not not keeping secrets, have you got any tics?

Lots of them. I think I have a list somewhere in a notebook from a Sara Grant course. I'll try to find it. I also start a lot of sentences with and or but. But I quite like doing that. And it suits the voice of the book. 

Which book is that Maureen? One you are not not keeping secrets about?


Oh, and there's another one of mine - made up sounding words. And starting sentences with "oh".

Oh well, like Chris and Abie both say, you just take them all out at the end.

  • When you spot a tic, use the search function in your software to identify ALL of them. Choose where they work best and weed out the rest. You don't need them. You don't.
  • If you can't spot them, get someone else to have a look for you - and if they aren't that noticeable, you don't have a problem.

 Kathryn Evans is the award winning author of More of MeA gripping thriller with a sinister sci-fi edge, exploring family, identity and sacrifice. She loves faffing about on social media: find her  on Facebook and Instagram @kathrynevansauthor and tweeting @mrsbung.  She also blogs on My Life Under Paper.

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