Monday, 30 January 2012

Write A Great Synopsis with Nicola Morgan

It's a bargain!

The 'Crabbit Bat', Nicola Morgan, is on a 'Write a Great Synopsis' blog tour and we welcome her to Notes From the Slushpile along with her Twitter Buddy and SCBWI member Rebecca Brown. Over to you Rebecca!
With apologies for their shameless advertising of twitter friends products! Maureen 
*tiptoes onto stage, peers nervously into darkness and taps on microphone* Is this thing on? Ooh, yes it is…Hello Slushpilers! I’d like to thank the Academy, my parents…hold on, wrong speech. Ah, here we go.
I’m very chuffed to be doing a post on Notes From the Slushpile, and I’m even more chuffed to be interviewing the fabulous Nicola Morgan about her new ebook, Write A Great Synopsis: An Expert GuideI intend to write a couple of synopses myself this year and the thought was enough to make me curl up into a corner. Until I read Nicola’s book. Anyway, enough preamble. It’s not really me you want to hear from, is it? 

 *deep breath, cheerful voice, TV smile* Hi Nicola! Thank you for being my guinea pig on Notes from the Slushpile.

Hello and thank you for inviting me! *cracks open Botham’s of Whitby Tops’ cake*

So, think back to those dim and dusty days when you were on the slushpile yourself. Many of us approach the task of writing a synopsis with horror, fear, and the kind of sickly dread that comes of trying to putting yourself and your work into a concise work of staggering genius (pause to pour drink with shaking hand at the very thought). How did you cope with it before becoming published?

I am afraid I have no memory of horror, fear, or dread! Not because I’ve blocked it out but because I honestly never knew there was a problem. I was on the slush-pile for 21 years and I must have spent most of that in a state of ignorance. (Possibly why I stayed there so long – who knows?) I just did the best I could, and I’ve no idea whether my synopses were crap or not, only that they never bothered me. (Probably best I didn’t know, tbh.) It was only in very recent years, since starting my blog and interacting with writers on Twitter that I realized that almost all writers hate or fear them.

And why have you decided to help out us poor Slushpilers now by publishing Write A Great Synopsis: An Expert Guide? Wouldn’t it be more fun to let us fumble our way through?

No, it’s no fun at all watching people fumble! I was born in a school to teaching parents, lived in a school 24/7 (including holidays) until I went to university, and teaching is in my every cell, I suppose. So, I am quite unable to stop myself trying to teach people who look as though they want to be taught, and quite often those who don’t J. So, I’m publishing Write a Great Synopsis because it’s not there.

If you were in a lift with a Delusional Wannabe who was too awestruck to deliver their elevator pitch, what would be your 30 second piece of advice to them (in synopsis writing, I mean. You’re not allowed to recommend alcohol or shoe-shopping)?

If I were in a lift with a Delusional Wannabe, I would pretend to have a highly infectious disease. They don’t listen, you see, so I’d only stress myself talking. But, if you mean that I am in a lift with an aspiring writer, I’d say, “Forget how much you love your book and step into the shoes of someone who has to sell it. Now, get a piece of paper and brainstorm words/elements/episodes; choose the fifteen most compelling-sounding, of which at least 5 must relate to the main character; create a 25 word pitch which only contains what sounds fabulous and which the agent will remember tomorrow because the book sounds special. No alcohol necessary.

Finally, imagine you have written your latest book and are about to start tackling your own synopsis with a light and carefree heart and an inner calm to rival the Dalai Lama. What three things would you have to hand to keep you going? Charms? Lucky boots? Expensive chocolate?

Bearing in mind that I need none of these things, of course, but am never averse to a spot of indulgence: chocolate from Coco of Bruntsfield (in Edinburgh); sparkling wine of reasonable quality and extreme dryness; and new boots, because I always get new boots when I sign a contract and the synopsis will help secure that. (Though, as I emphasise often, it is most unlikely to be the deal-breaker.)

I know you’re on a blog tour at the moment and there’s a competition to enter with a brilliant prize. What do we have to do to be in with a chance of winning and what will we win?

All commenters below (by Feb 15th) will be entered into the Big WAGS Competition, with chances to win a critique of your synopsis by the Crabbit Old Bat herself! One comment per person on each blog – though you can add to your chances by commenting on the other posts on the tour. Details of all stops on the tour will appear on my blog (Help! I Need a Publisher!) as they go out.

Thank you for asking fun questions. I hope all the writers reading this will soon stop fretting about the synopsis – it’s not nearly as stressful as you think J

*wipes brow* Hey, that wasn’t so bad after all! Thanks, you’ve been a marvellous audience! Rebecca. 

Nicola Morgan, a mega blogger and tweeter of advice on how to get published, is a prolific children's author and runs regular competitions for aspiring authors.
You can follow her here
and here
and here
and here!
and there's probably lots of other places too.

Rebecca Brown is an aspiring author and you can listen to her podcast interviews with debut novelists and industry professionals here

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Planning and Researching your novel, with Linda Newbery

Linda Newbery is an author of many talents. She started off writing books for young adults, winning the Costa Children's Book Prize in 2006 with Set in Stone. She has now published more than thirty books for children and young adults, including picture-books, and books for early readers and older children. She has twice been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, with The Shell House and Sisterland, and Catcall won a Nestle Silver Award.

Here are some of her thoughts on the all-important planning and researching process…

1. I would never choose to plan in a hurry. When I start to have an idea, it needs to settle, and other ideas gather around it. It takes time to see the possibilities of a story.

2. Depending on what you're planning to write, spend time reading, visiting galleries, watching films, going for walks, visiting special places - it all helps to make the world of the story begin to feel solid.

3. Enjoy this stage! I often don't make any notes at all while an idea is fixing itself in my mind - that comes later. But I do start filling a noticeboard with pictures and words, and keep adding to it.

Linda's research noticeboard

4. But don't wait till you've done all your research before you start writing - you might never start. Eventually you have to take the plunge and just begin. You can find out other things you need to know on the way - or afterwards.

5. Writers work in different ways. Some wouldn't start without a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, but that doesn't work for me. Often I start writing when I'm happy that I've got promising ingredients. Planning is very different from writing - more logical, more reasoned - but it can only get me so far. I know that my best ideas won't come until I immerse myself in the writing. I prefer to have an idea of "stepping stones" - important marker-points in the plot - and to see what happens in between.

Linda’s new book, The Treasure House, will be published in May by Orion Children's Books.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Undiscovered Voices 2012 by Maureen Lynas

Undiscovered Voices
I've just been to the 2012 Undiscovered Voices workshop at Working Partners to meet the team and the other authors who have won this years competition and I'm now all of a twitter so...

#amsogratefulto @saragrant @sarao'connor @karenball @elizabethgalloway who did such a fantastic job organising the 2012 Undiscovered Voices competition.

Sara Grant
A few years ago BI SCBWI volunteer, Sara Grant, came up with the idea for Undiscovered Voices and pitched it to Sara O'Connor who said, 'Yes! Let's do it!' (My words not Sara's but I bet I'm close) 'If just one author achieves publication from the competition then it will be worth the time and effort!' (Their words, or nearly) And so the competition was held and an anthology of story beginnings was created which they sent to all of the agents and editors in the UK. Two competitions later and THIRTEEN authors have been published. Which is just amazing *gasps and smacks forehead*

This year the anthology was also opened to illustrators and six talented illustrators were chosen @juliaGroves @amberHsu @heatherKilgour @shanaNieberg-Suschitzky @nicolaPatten @rachelQuarry.


We were given our copies of the anthology as we arrived for lunch at Working Partners *is cool and collected, not!* and we read the judges comments for the first time. *musing on meanings* We were a bit like teenagers comparing texts – What do you think they meant by that? It's good, isn't it? I think so. Yes. Definitely. Hm.

Malorie Blackman

We also saw Malorie Blackman's foreword which shows such understanding and sympathy for authors who are as yet unpublished.  I shall attempt not to stutter when I say thank you. Or blush. Or gush.

I don't think Nick Sharratt has forgotten his early days either judging from his message to the illustrators. Perhaps that feeling always stays with you? *nods*

#amsohonouredtobeinthebookwithauthors @rosieBest @veronicaCossanteli @sandraGreaves @janeHardstaff @deborahHewitt @davidHofmeyr&zoeCrookes @sharonJones @rachelLatham @richardMasson @rachelWolfreys @joWyton
The winners were given a pdf of the UV2012 book to read a few weeks ago *struts at first official proof read*and then *gulps* - the stories were so good! How was I in this book? Was Prince Bob up to it? So many themes covered, so many characters jumping off the page. No one was telling, everyone was showing, everyone was so talented! *faints in disbelief*
#amsonervousaboutmeeting @agents and @editors
The invitations for the book launch haven't been sent out yet but agents and editors are responding to the 'save the date' cards in such numbers that I'm hoping there won't be enough space in the venue for author collywobbles or knocking knees. We could be so squashed there'll be no danger of swooning either. *swoons today to get it over with* then *freezes with fear* at the thought of how many pitches must be made! Jo's going to blog about pitching soon.
#amhavinglotsofquestions for @saragrant and @sarao'connor
Sara and the team took us through each stage of the publishing process so that we knew what to expect if our books were picked up. From 'Hello, Lovely Agent/Editor' to 'Your Book Launch'. They very patiently answered all of our questions (I think I asked a lot!) and reassured us that the agents/editors would be very kind to us on the launch night. *shoulders down and deep breaths*
#amsopleasedtomeetyou @UV2008 and @UV2010 winners
While Sara O'Connor and the rest of the team stuffed envelopes with books Sara Grant took us to meet some of the previous winners who had generously turned out to meet this year's batch for dinner and drinks. They shared their experiences, their high, their low, their inbetweens. They showed their books, accepted our congratulations, wished us well. They hugged, we hugged. They laughed, we laughed. We hugged, they hugged. We laughed, they laughed. Until eventually, full up on bonhomie, we parted company with promises to keep in touch.
And so at the end of the day, we Undiscovered Voices winners of 2012 recognised that the UV team of volunteers had worked incredibly hard to create an amazing opportunity for us and, whatever happens at the launch on the 9th February and in the future, whether we achieve publication or not - a good time was had by all. *smiley grins* Thank you.

#amdoingaPS - @saragrant has a book out! Just in case you didn't know.

Sara Grant

Maureen Lynas also blogs on her own blog which she creatively named - Maureen Lynas

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