London Writer’s Club member, Sadie Nott, was shortlisted in the York Festival of Writing’s Friday Night Live Competition. This meant she was one of seven writers selected to read 500 words of their work to an audience of around 200 writers, agents and editors and an expert panel.
Public readings are a core part of a writing life, however Sadie had previously only read her work aloud to members of her writing group. Fortunately Arachne Press held a workshop on ‘Performance for Writers’, led by Liars’ League’s Katy Darby , just two days before Sadie spoke at the conference. ‘Whist I already had experience of presenting at academic conferences, the workshop taught me several strategies specific to reading fiction out loud,’ says Sadie, ‘For example how to mark up your text to indicate emphasis and emotion and moving your head slightly as if you’re watching Wimbledon during dialogue to help the audience follow who is speaking.’
Sadie read the opening of her recently completed novel, A Ton of Feathers, the coming-of-age story of Zoe who lives in her head where she feels safe, and her bereft, hippy mum who tries to pull her out.
The winner is decided by the loudness of the audience’s claps and the two joint-winners had both written darkly comic novels about murdered spouses. In 2014 the winner of this event wasJoanna Cannon , a writer who went on to publish the bestselling novel The Problem with Goats and Sheep
Sadie says ‘The panel gave constructive comments, the conference itself was a very friendly affair, and, like London Writer’s Club, it provides a great opportunity to meet agents, to find out what they are like in person, and which types of book they are looking for.’
Following are some brief – and to the point – notes from Tuesday’s LWC Live with agent Catherine Cho of Curtis Brown.
3 top tips for getting your work read by Curtis Brown
1/Referral – via a festival/event such as London Writers’ Club
2/Do research on the agent – identify the elements in your book which will appeal to the agent.
3/Submit directly to the agent – not via the portal.
What percentage of submissions gets a ‘call back’?
80% is an immediate no
10% is an ‘almost there’ – great writing but the concept is not quite right.
Of the 10% remaining, 1% of that will have the magical formula of great writing and great concept.
What are the HOT TRENDS?
· Psychological thrillers – lots of sex and violence with a female lead character
· Unique concepts – with an unreliable narrator
· Female driven fiction
· Cosy novels – crime or comforting to read
· Ghost stories and love stories are also seen a resurgence
· BUT no twins or sisters
What’s Reverse Engineering?
In computer speak it is taking apart an object to see how it works in order to duplicate or enhance the object. With books, it’s all about deconstructing a concept to see why it is so successful.
How to get your concept across quickly and successfully?
1/Describe it in a sentence.
2/Identify the story immediately
4/Log line? Ensure it works.
What is Pitch CB on Twitter? Check out the hashtag on Twitter – this is your chance to pitch your concept in 140 characters to agents at Curtis Brown.
What is Jonny Geller looking for? A love story!
What does Catherine Cho bring to agenting?
· She has worked in law and lobbying so knows there are other ways to do things – this means she can be innovative and constantly improve and look for the new.
· Legal eye – she has an eye for detail in all agreements.
· Business mind.
· Works closely with authors on their novels.
If you’d like to see the full film of the event, do let us know and join the Club here.
The only matter then is to keep writing.’
London in August can be quiet but not at London Writers’ Club!
Join us on August 23 for our London Writers’ Club Live event all about Concept and how to inject it into your novel or non fiction work.
More info here.
Members come for free but
let us know if you’d like to book a place at firstname.lastname@example.org
From August 1 we will be emailing a month of daily writing tips – with homework included.
Writing a bestseller – how to make it happen – what is the recipe for a bestseller? Read the full post here.
If you need to book in some Skype sessions during the summer months contact Laura at email@example.com. Address your writerly concerns before the ‘new term’.
If you are away during August and would to like to kickstart you writing in September book on to our Fiction Workshop here. One writer on our May workshop received multiple offers from agents within weeks of the workshop as a result of the advice she received during the day.
Life. It’s a funny thing isn’t it? You never stop learning. With more than 20 years in publishing and with 7 books written, I thought I knew about writing books, so when approached by Hodder to write a book, enticingly titled Write a Bestseller, I was delighted.
What could be easier, I thought, than writing about novel writing, after all, I mentor writers’ every day, connect with agents and publishers most days of the week and run Britain’s biggest writers’ club. I also used to commission non-fiction so every box was ticked, or so I thought.
What I’d forgotten about is the pure and simple fact that knowing what I wanted to write and knowing how to write are not the same as actually getting the WRITING DONE. The deadline was tight from the outset but then I got to the point where I had just six months to write 90,000 words. I was in a panic, often to be found in Bushy park at 5am muttering about it to the trees and the deer. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t get the book written either.
All the years of writing, publishing and agenting expertise didn’t help because I was waiting for inspiration and the right mood to strike instead of just sitting down to it and treating it like a job. I also realised that as most writing is done alone, you can waste a lot of time just mulling over what you’re writing, not sure whether it is any good. So I applied the mentoring advice I always give to clients to draw up a plan to get it done AND got some editorial feedback from trusted colleagues so that I knew I was on the right track. Within 4 months I had the book written!
What did this insight mean for how I could help writers?
Well firstly I wrote a recipe for a bestseller which in the writing phase looks like this:
Good hook or concept + great story + zeitgeisty or timeless in appeal
+ good-enough writing + fits genre conventions or creates a new one that works
+ plausible and interesting characters + good setting + universal themes = Bestseller.
Not every bestseller has all of these but they do contain at least a handful of these. Tick all of these and you’ll be well on your way. There’s loads more in the publishing and promoting phase which I will share in a another blog but this is enough to be going on with.
Then, in addition to the creative and industry stuff I help with, I realised that what writers are also desperate for industry advice, accountability and a place to write and receive feedback as they worked.
With my new-found awarness of writers’ pain I set up all sorts of ways to help writers get their books started, completed and published, including workshops and write with an agent sessions in London, skype sessions globally and writers’ retreats in Bali.
So how about you? Are you going to make the commitment to find out if the book you’re toying with can get written?
I’ve felt your pain and I am here to help so if you feel you can’t crack on alone, do arrange a chat with me to find out how I can help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org now.
Here’s to productive writing.