A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
It’s time for another group post! This month, the Allsorts are sharing their favourite pieces of author advice.
Do your research. No matter how special your book is, or how talented you are, agents and editors will not want to work with you if you do not approach them with respect and show them that you have researched their requirements. Always, always do your research.
If you are new to writing or illustrating then the best thing you can do is meet lots of other writers and illustrators. Join SCBWI (which is friendly for both published and pre published folk) and go to seminars, talks, events, retreats, conferences, classes,socials and book launches. It will mean that you get to know editors and agents as real people so they don’t seem so unreachable when you encounter them when you’re submitting. Plus meeting other writers and illustrators at various stages of their journeys encourages you along yours.
Write at your own pace and do what’s best for you, always. Everyone works differently, so never think what you’re doing is wrong. Work hard, read hard, and enjoy yourself!
Enter competitions like SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices – because you just never know!
Never follow fashions or what you assume is expected of you. Always create what makes you happiest and don’t look over anyone’s shoulder at what they’re doing.
Editing is everything. Say only what has to be said, and make that as concise as possible.
The best thing you can ever do to harness your creativity is to create space to observe, to ponder, with the intention of creating story. Make something big out of something little and open your mind and eyes to everything.
“Write for you. Not for trends, not because someone says this is selling fast right now, not because your best friend like vampires. Write the book you want to read.”
Read everything, find out what you love, and then write the book you want to read.
Finish the book you are working on. Write new ideas down but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to drop the work in progress because the new idea is the best idea you’ve ever had. Finishing the book is a very important discipline to learn, the new idea will still be waiting for you when you’ve finished.
I highly recommend online writing classes. There are literally dozens of cheap, month-long courses running all the time that cover every aspect of writing. They’re informative, fun, and a great way to meet other writers and get feedback on your writing. Join the Yahoo group AnnounceOnlineWritingClasses for notifications of new courses.
Trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you that something isn’t quite working – be it a line of dialogue or a major plot turn – then listen – you’re probably right!
I’m coming at this from two sides here – as an agent and as a writer of picture books. My agent advice would be to research the market well, know your genre, find the right agent for you, hone your proposal (so it’s top notch) and think commercial and platform. Publishers all want to see a demonstrable platform and a willingness to promote. From a writing perspective, hone your craft, polish and perfect your material.
Write for yourself. I cannot stress this enough. Only by writing the books you love as a reader will you write books your readers will fall in love with.
Enjoy it! Which is not to say, don’t be professional about it, but it’s easy to get so wrapped up in worrying about the craft and the industry and the intricacies of subbing for publication, that you forget why you’re really doing it in the first place. Be serious about it, but make sure you take time to have fun and enjoy your own story. After all, if you don’t, how can you expect other people to?
Read a lot and write a lot. Reading helps you to understand the ups and downs of story telling more than anyone can ever teach it to you, and if you want to be a writer, you have to write. It’s no good being in love with the idea of being a writer because, trust me, there really isn’t anything romantic or bohemian about it. Oh, and keep plodding on. Just. Keep. Going. It never comes easily.
Different authors write in different ways and in different places. It’s interesting to know what works for other people, but what you really need to find out is what works for you.
The one piece of advice I’d give a budding author would be to prepare for rejection, as there is an awful lot of it in publishing. Many new writers are so defensive about their work, that they can’t hear the helpful feedback that is within their latest rejection. Hearing that stuff, and learning from it, is how we improve.
Write a book that you would want to read yourself, or that your childhood/teenage self would have enjoyed reading.
Always finish what you start, only then can you shape and improve it. You can’t improve half of something.
Start by writing the story you want to read. Listen to the people who love the best of your work. Politely disregard those who want to file off the interesting edges. Write more. Get better.
Ignore ‘Write what you know.’ Write about whatever you like, and use what you know to give it your thumbprint.
What’s your favourite piece of writing advice? Tell us in the comments!
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, will be published on 25th April 2013, followed by another stand-alone thriller for young adults in 2014. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and dog in the North East Midlands.