On Taking Opportunities

It is my firm belief that success rarely happens on its own. There’s a huge amount of random chance involved in winning the lottery, but there’s always another key ingredient, too: buying a ticket.

Award-winning author Kit de Waal wrote a piece for the Bridport Prize website urging people to enter competitions. Lots of them, in various different shapes and sizes; paid and unpaid.

I found this advice as I was reading through this year’s website, preparing to put my work forward for a few of this year’s prizes (the Bridport actually being made up of a few different competitions: one for poetry, one for short stories etc).

Kit de Waal offered up five bursaries to people wanting to enter the flash fiction competition. I was eligible, I entered, and I won one of those five chances to enter the flashfic competition for free.

On top of this, I paid to enter the poetry competition and the short story comp.

Fingers crossed something comes of it. I’d love to be able to end this post with a big success story to perfectly illustrate my point, but I don’t think the pay off is the point at this stage. Success will come in time, I’m sure. If not with this competition then somewhere else.

I also think successes tend to build on themselves.

Once you’ve won an award for a short story (for example), you won’t necessarily find it easier to hook a literary agent for your novel, but it might help and, in the meantime, other doors may open.

All that’s in the future, though. The main takeaway message for right here, right now, is to try. And to keep trying. Continue reading

fb-share-icon0
Tweet 581
fb-share-icon20

A Tale of Two Publishing Conferences: Part Two – Belfast

The second self-styled publishing conference I attended in recent weeks was in Belfast, organised by Writers & Artists/Bloomsbury Publishers and the Open University.

This one was different in a number of ways to the Dublin event. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. There were fewer people involved, for one thing; fewer attendees and fewer speakers (the event made up more of talks rather than panels), but still just as rich in terms of content.

The focus, I found, was actually less about publishing and more about writing. Paul McVeigh (author and playwright) gave a fantastic talk on ‘how to build a narrative’ by crafting the very best sentences, using foreshadowing and backstory; Garrett Carr (lecturer of Creative Writing at Queens) spoke on how to research a book (something I’m going to come back to and talk about in a separate post), and Geraldine Quigley (author of ‘Music Drugs Love War‘) gave us insight into how she creates her main character(s).

Lots of practical advice from all of them but, as I said, mostly focusing on writing rather than publishing. That came a little later, in the form of a joint talk by literary agent Laura Williams and editor Patsy Horton.

A while ago on this blog, I said that writing and publishing were practically two different animals, and I stand by that, but at the very heart of publishing is good writing. Therefore, I do not mean it as a criticism when I say the focus of the conference was here rather than on submission tips. You could follow all guidelines to a tee, but if your story isn’t up to scratch, you’re not going to get very far.

And speaking of submissions: one note I made to myself during the event is that, although they’re often called ‘guidelines’ they should be read and followed as rules. Agents and publishers get so many manuscripts they can barely read them all. Don’t screw yourself over by making yours an easy pass.

fb-share-icon0
Tweet 581
fb-share-icon20

A Tale of Two Publishing Conferences: Part One – Dublin

In recent weeks, I have attended two publishing conferences: one in Dublin, and one in Belfast. Below, I’d like to compare and contrast what happened at each.

I’ve already touched on one particular take away I had from the Dublin conference in my previous post, so you might want to read that here first, but – putting that aside – the first event was part of International Literature Festival Dublin in association with Writing.ie. There was a ‘Date With An Agent’ element to the day for selected people, but I’m not going to cover that because I wasn’t one of the chosen few.

The day itself was split up into four main slots (not accounting the aforementioned DWAA) topped and tailed by comfort breaks and question & answer sessions. There was a panel with agents, one with editors, one with traditionally published authors, and a slightly more general talk by literary scout Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin (who runs Writing.ie and Inkwell Group).

Vanessa was the event coordinator throughout the whole day. Her talk covered lots of practical tips about the submission process, particularly writing pitches, covering letters, and synopsises.

It was really interesting to hear the perspectives of agents, editors, and authors to see where they agreed and where they didn’t, but I think what was most interesting was not that the different groups had differing opinions with the others (agents with editors, or editors with authors), but that there were differing opinions within the groups, particularly the agents. This really underlined how things can be entirely different for everyone. There’s no one-size-fits-all path to publication. Continue reading

fb-share-icon0
Tweet 581
fb-share-icon20

On Patience and Publishing

For some people, writing is an endurance sport. They wait around for inspiration to strike, then labour over the words, writing and rewriting and editing.

I’m not someone who’s ever really experienced writer’s block. I practically have ideas queuing up, yelling at me to hurry up and put them in order. Drafts also don’t tend to take a long time for me, once I get past the nonsense of procrastination.

Regardless of how long the writing takes, though, I think it’s getting published where the real work is. Being the best writer in the world won’t prepare you for it. It’s a whole different ball game and takes a whole different set of skills.

I’ve recently gotten some new perspective on this, having attended International Literature Festival Dublin‘s Getting Published conference last weekend.

One of the notes I took during the agent panel simply said, “Don’t rush.”

One of the agents elaborated on this saying, (and I’m paraphrasing here) it can take years to write a book, don’t get to the end of that and then screw up its chances by only putting five minutes effort into submitting it.

I needed to hear that. I get way too caught up thinking (and worrying) about time and how there’s not enough and everything takes too long. Part of the conference touched on the process of publishing. I’m going to write another post about the day more generally but, for now, it’s important to note the use of the word process. It’s not a one-time event. Continue reading

fb-share-icon0
Tweet 581
fb-share-icon20