A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Hello, my lovelies! Today, I bring you a list of the bare essentials which I believe all writers should possess in order to make their lives easier and their path to publication less stressful. However, as always when dishing out advice, I urge you to take my suggestions with the proverbial pinch of salt – for instance, some writers have told me that they find my obsession with notebooks and pencils a bit…er…
unnatural creepy excessive. But I reckon if you start out with this list, you can’t go far wrong, and you can always pare back as you get more confident. So: onwards!
1) A notebook which you carry on you most of the time
Why this is important: Because your brain, like the brains of all humans, is a sponge. Just as the liquid of inspiration can flood it at any moment, it can equally easily drain out again, leaving your mind dry and slightly crunchy with the bitterness of soap – er, that is, lost opportunity. Trust me. Unless you intend to take up muttering your ideas to yourself over and over again until you reach home and your computer (which I have done on occasion, and it doesn’t win you any friends) you need a notebook.
2) Pens and pencils. Lots of ’em
Why this is important: Your notebook is just a hunk of dried out tree pulp without them, and they are surprisingly easy to forget. And even if you remember your one favourite pen that you carry everywhere – it’s bound to run out or get lost at the crucial moment. Fill your bag and pocket with the little suckers. I prefer propelling pencils because they’re not going to leak and ruin my trousers/bag, but whatever your preferred writing tool, stock up and keep them handy.
3) A computer
Why this is important: I know I was just banging on about notebooks and pens, but publishers will not accept handwritten manuscripts. Ever. And they’re pretty dubious about typed ones too – not to mention that revising a typed manuscript means re-typing the entire thing every single time you make a change that alters more than a few paragraphs. You need access to a computer. Enough access to be able to type up and format your book – eg. a LOT of access. Save up for your own, bargain for extra time on your family model, whatever. This is not optional.
4) A laser printer
Why this is important: Have you ever tried to print out a four hundred page manuscript on an old fashioned ink-jet printer? Have you ever tried to print out a four hundred page manuscript at the library with people standing in line, muttering and tapping their feet, behind you? If so, I need say no more. If not, count yourself lucky. Back when I first got my first laser printer (a battered secondhand model which my father had liberated from an office which was about to chuck it away, and which was given to me for my twentieth birthday) they and their toner cartridges were ridiculously expensive. Nowadays they’re cheap, reliable and readily available from eBay. Get one You can thank me later.
5) A copy of The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook (or your country’s equivalent)
Why this is important: Because if you read it carefully it will answer around 80% of your questions on how to get published, and if you follow its instructions your chances of getting published go up by about 75%. Yes, seriously. About half of the emails I get ask me to answer incredibly basic questions, the answers to which are found in this book, along with the addresses of all UK publishers and agents (or US, or whichever country you come from – and believe me, there is a version of this book in pretty much every country with a publishing industry). You won’t understand how vital this book is until you have your own copy.
6) A library card
Why this is important: I’m astonished by the number of people who don’t have them! Chances are if you want to write you’re going to have to do various kinds of research and because non-fiction and reference books are generally the most expensive, you can spend hundreds on books which will often only have one chapter or even one page which is helpful. But your library will supply you with these books FOR FREE. Plus, it is everyone’s duty to support their local library, especially writers.
7) Internet access
Why this is important: Most of my younger readers are now asking themselves – isn’t that too obvious to be mentioned? But bear in mind that up until a few years ago most people didn’t have internet access at home. Agents and publishers only accepted manuscripts via post. Editors and agents were mysterious and shadowy people that you only got to learn about once you’d actually broken through and found one. This is no longer true. Nowadays you can follow an agent or editor’s blog and Twitter and learn incredibly valuable information on their personality, tastes and preferences which hugely increases your chance of making successful submissions. You can save substantially on postage costs by sending queries and manuscripts via email. You can develop personal relationships with agents and editors and benefit from their insights online even if you don’t end up working with them. You can also – and this is really important – find groups of like-minded writers who are at the same stage of the writing/publishing process as you, and make friends who will not only keep you sane, but maybe even become beta-readers or critique partners. The internet has lifted much of the painful solitude of the writing profession. Take advantage of that.
And, as far as paraphernalia goes… that’s just about it 🙂 Fly free, my babies!
YA novelist Zoë Marriott lives on the bleak and windy East coast of Britain, in a house crowded with books, cats, and an eccentric sprocker named Finn (also known as the Devil Hound). Her folk and fairytale inspired fantasy novels are critically acclaimed and have been nominated for many awards, even winning a few, including a USBBY Outstanding International Book listing for The Swan Kingdom and a Junior Library Guild Selection and the prestigious Sasakawa Prize for Shadows on the Moon.
BOOKS: THE SWAN KINDGOM | DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES | SHADOWS ON THE MOON | FROSTFIRE | THE NIGHT ITSELF | DARKNESS HIDDEN