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Five golden rules for submitting your work to agents or publishers →

We are always asked about how writers submit their work to publishers and agents. We found this great post on the Scottish Book Trust website, and they have kindly allowed us to share their advice with you. You can also explore their other writing advice, competitions and opportunities for writers.


Five golden rules for submitting your work to agents or publishers

Have you finished writing your novel? Is it in the best shape possible? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then you’re ready to submit your manuscript. Don’t waste time by sending out vague ideas or a half-finished novel. Aside from anything else publishers and agents need to know that you have the commitment to complete the book before they take it on. Check your manuscript carefully for spelling and punctuation errors.

Make sure your submission meets the publisher’s requirements. Each publisher will have different preferences so don’t assume that one approach will fit all. Make them aware that you’ve paid attention to their requirements and backlist. Sending irrelevant work not only wastes your time but it may hamper your chances of success.

2. Do your research
Don’t rely on sending your manuscript out on a whim. Research prospective agents or publishers carefully and decide where your work will sit best. Research the backlist of titles or authors they’ve represented and demonstrate this in your cover letter. If you don’t know where to start, research the publication history of an author whose writing you would compare your own to. Find out who their agent is and continue your research from there.

3. Don’t turn up unannounced
Never be tempted to ‘drop in’ to see if a publisher or agent has read your manuscript yet. Not only is it invasive, but it’ll also make them far less likely to pick up your submission from the pile.

4. Don’t rely on one submission
If you pin all your hopes on a single submission, you will be disappointed. Instead, research the market carefully and submit your work to as many relevant places as possible. Keep track of your submissions to avoid confusion or repeat submissions.

5. Be patient
Publishers are very busy and receive so many manuscripts each week that it will take time to respond to your submission, if at all. Some publishers may give you an idea of how long it will take to respond, while others may specify that they only reply to the submissions they want to follow up on.

Source: Scottish Book Trust

— 2 days ago with 99 notes
#Five golden rules for submitting your work to agents or publishers  #Publishers  #Writing Advice 
Dire Consequences - How to get your characters into trouble →

‘In nature, there are neither rewards nor punishments–there are consequences.’ ~Robert G. Ingersoll

Does the punishment fit the crime? 

One of the reasons there’s such outrage and controversy over Oscar Pistorius’s verdict of culpable homicide is that people are dissatisfied with the less than spectacular outcome of one of the decade’s most sensational trails. There should be massive consequences for a bad deed, shouldn’t there?

Unlike real life, writers can make fictional characters face consequences. You can do this by exaggerating or amplifying the results of your character’s actions, or by exposing something that has been hidden.

Three ways to get your character into trouble

— 3 days ago with 51 notes
#Dire Consequences - How to get your characters into trouble  #Writing Advice  #Writers Write  #Anthony Ehlers 
How to make the most of the scenes you already have →

Jeffrey Archer spends three years plotting. Stephen King says he doesn’t plot. John Grisham uses a master plot formula. Whichever way works for you, you still have to get from scene one to scene 60. The question is how? The easy answer is by writing. No sh*t, right? Is that all?

I have mentioned before that I like to plan, but I don’t do much more than an outline. In this post, Why Writers Should Always Make a Scene, I explained why I list my scenes and how I keep track. My first outline has around 20 scenes. 

Sometimes I stare at the list all day and think I have exhausted all the avenues. I think this story is dead and I suck. I am convinced there is not one single scenario I can add, or worse, I start improvising 40 extra scenes because I have to and that becomes forced. When I start adding scenes simply to make up numbers I am going to write myself into trouble.

What can I do? Once the tears have dried and the Xanax has kicked in, I’ll go back and think about what I want to do. 

First, I will confirm my story goal. 
Second, I check that every scene I already have has a goal. The scene goal should be either to move my protagonist closer or further from the story goal. The scenes that are forced will fall away.
Third, I will have fewer scenes. Bad, right? Not really. Try this. I will make sure I am utilising my existing scenes. I have to make the most of them. 

The Cell Phone Reaction

Let’s say my protagonist is having a lovely afternoon. She has just solved a difficult work problem. She left early to celebrate and is on her way home when her phone dies. The battery is flat.

Think of three reactions she could have: 

  1. She can ignore it. Nothing is urgent. She is happy to have a tech-free afternoon. Who is desperate to get hold of her?
  2. She can stop and buy a charger for her car. 
  3. She can stop at her best friend’s house for a chat and use her charger. 

Now think of three scenarios that can happen if:

She ignores it: 
a) Her boss is calling to say her plan failed. He can’t get hold of her so her pushy colleague takes over. 
b) Her husband was in an accident, he called to say goodbye and she missed his final words.
c) Her mother freaks out when she can’t get hold of her and she arrives home to find her house inundated by cops and her hysterical mother directing the search for her mangled body. 

She buys a charger: 
a) She runs into an ex-boyfriend at the store. They go for a drink.
b) She sees her husband walking in with another woman. They are very cosy. 
c) The store she is in is robbed and she is taken hostage. 

She visits her BFF’s house:
a) She arrives at her friend’s house to find her husband’s car in her friend’s drive way. Why is he here?
b) Her friend is drunk at 3pm. 
c) Her friend isn’t there, but she finds her friend’s neighbour snooping around the back of the house.

Not all of scenarios are going to work for your story, but one or two should add to your plot. Now improvise three more scenarios for the ones you chose. Look at how far a dead cell phone can go.

As writers we introduce and add as we go along. Sometimes we should stop and look at what we have and consider what we can use again. A dead cell phone can go from an annoying inconvenience to a sub-plot.

by Mia Botha for Writers Write

— 4 days ago with 513 notes
#How to make the most of the scenes you already have  #Mia Botha  #Writers Write  #Writing Advice 
Three simple ways to get your hero to make a stand →

‘The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there…and still on your feet.’ Stephen King

Readers do not want to read books about eternal cowards, characters who avoid problems, and people who never learn to fight back. 

As a reader, I am not looking for superman in every character, but I do want characters to find that extraordinary something they never knew they had, or to admit that they will never have it. I want them to make a stand. If they don’t, I feel as if I am watching a tacky reality television show where nothing changes. But how do novelists get characters to make this stand? 

If you are struggling to get your character to show his true colours, here are three ways to force your hero to act:

— 6 days ago with 86 notes
#Three simple ways to get your hero to make a stand  #Writing Advice  #Amanda Patterson  #Writers Write 
Five Lifelines for Writers with Deadlines →

Just last week, I had a deadline for a script and felt the grip of familiar panic. Another writer friend of mine said she had to have a deadline or she would not finish anything—and I’m pretty much the same. ‘A deadline should be motivating but not overwhelming,’ I said. ‘Otherwise you tend to crack and not produce anything.’

This time round, with a sense of calm and a loose but firm strategy, I made it to the deadline (OK, four days after the deadline—but I made it to the finish line).

If you’re on deadline, here are five tips that may help you.

— 1 week ago with 46 notes
#Five Lifelines for Writers with Deadlines  #Writing Advice  #Anthony Ehlers  #Writers Write 
The Top 10 Writing Posts for August 2014 →

These were the Writers Write posts you enjoyed most in August 2014.

  1. Eight Commonly Misused Words - Common mistakes made by writers
  2. Punctuation Personality Types - Which one are you?
  3. Why you need strong verbs when you write - Three ways strong verbs improve your writing
  4. 20 Literary Quotes About Cats - Writers have always been fascinated by cats
  5. What does it take to write a book? The five qualities published authors share
  6. Start here: Three things you need to do at the beginning of your novel
  7. Six Fascinating Character Types - Characters should be fascinating
  8. The Plot Maker - Create a rom com storyline in five easy steps
  9. Tolkien’s 10 Tips For Writers
  10. Five Ways to Make Description Work in Your Novel - Description is a way to engage the reader’s imagination.
Previous Posts
— 2 weeks ago with 674 notes
#The Top 10 Writing Posts for August 2014  #Writers Write  #Writing Advice 
"Write every day. Even if only for ten or fifteen minutes. Give it half an hour; who knows what can happen. If we don’t write every day (or at least five days a week), we lose touch with our writing muscles, our imagination goes a little brittle, words hide out.
The worst part about not writing, especially when we intend to write but somehow just don’t get to it, we feel bad about ourselves; maybe a little guilty, maybe embarrassed or ashamed to admit to ourselves or others. When we feel bad about ourselves it’s more difficult to get the pen moving. So we may miss another day, and then the next. The more we don’t do it, the worse we feel and the harder it is to “just do it.”
But, by simply putting pen to page every day, or fingers to keyboard, even if what we write is what Natalie Goldberg calls “the worst junk in America,” we keep the creative muscles limber and the self-esteem healthy. The more we write, the better we feel about ourselves not just as writers, but in other areas of our lives, and so the more we write and so it goes. Daily practice. No judgement."
— 2 weeks ago with 325 notes
#Judy Reeves  #Writing Advice 
Throwback Thursdays Mean Business →

By Mia Botha:

'Thursdays are interesting. Not only because they give hope that the end of the week is in sight, but because I get to stare at people who willingly posts pics of themselves with big hairspray hair and leg warmers. Yes,Throwback Thursday is a highly anticipated event. 

But how can I embrace this trend for my business? 

Posting a pic of your CEO with the aforementioned leg warmers might not get the response that you are looking for, although it might help to remind us that the powerful boardroom samurai is a person too. (Which we can argue is the point of building relationships on social media.) But, I digress…

Think about what your business has to offer. It has been around for years. You have a ton of experience between yourself and your employees. You have hundreds of magazine articles and lots of data. Social Media is about sharing that knowledge.
— 2 weeks ago with 5 notes
#Throwback Thursdays Mean Business  #Mia Botha  #Social Media  #Business Writing  #Writing Advice 
Six Fascinating Character Types →

Characters are the stars of a story, the heartbeat in a novel or screenplay. We sometimes hear that characters should be interesting but interesting is not always an adequate description. Characters should be fascinating.

So what makes a character fascinating?

Follow the link to read about the six fascinating character types you can use to drive your novel.

— 3 weeks ago with 113 notes
#Six Fascinating Character Types  #Writing Advice  #Writers Write  #Anthony Ehlers 
Start here: Three things you need to do at the beginning of your novel →

Sometimes I wish a giant arrow would appear above my manuscript and pin-point the correct place to start. Alas, that does not happen.

An inciting moment is the moment of change for your character. It can be positive or negative, but it must be big enough that it forces him, or her, to act and to deal with the situation. This can be as big as a tank driving into the living room or as subtle as a discomforting sentence.

In your opening scene you should do three things:

  1. Orientate the reader: Get your reader orientated quickly. Tell us where we are and what is going on. You can be ambiguous, but do not confuse us. 
  2. Introduce the characters: Who is there? Introduce your protagonist as soon as possible. I want to know what is happening, but most of all I want to know to whom it is happening. 
  3. Show the relevance: Once I know where I am and what is going on you have to keep me interested. You have to make me ask questions. 

In The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh starts off by setting her protagonist’s bed on fire. What do I learn?

  • Where are we? She is in a group home. 
  • Who is she? She has dreamt of fire for the last eight years. She has been in the foster-care system almost all her life. She is angry and violent. She knows about flowers. 
  • Moment of change: It is her 18th birthday so she must leave the home. 

In Night Film, by Marisha Pessl, our protagonist is running in Central Park at 2am when he sees a beautiful ghost-like woman in a red coat who seems to be following him. He is deeply unhappy and he blames Cordova. What do I learn?

  • Where are we? In Central Park, New York in the early hours of the morning. 
  • Who is he? He is a journalist whose life has fallen apart because of a film director named Cordova. Immediately I want to know who Cordova is. 
  • Moment of change: He is shocked out of his apathy and inertia by this chilling Cordova-like incident. 

Five things you should not include at the beginning

by Mia Botha for Writers Write

— 3 weeks ago with 212 notes
#Writing Advice  #Writers Write  #mia botha 
Why you need strong verbs when you write →
Strong verbs improve your writing in three ways. They help you:
  1. Reduce adverbs: Choosing strong verbs helps you to be specific. You should replace an adverb and a verb with a strong verb if you can. It will improve your writing. Don’t say: “She held on tightly to the rope.” Do say: “She gripped the rope.” Don’t say: “He looked carefully at the documents.” Do say: “He examined the documents.”

  2. Avoid the passive voice: Choose specific, active verbs whenever you can. Don’t say: ‘He was said to be lying by the teacher.’ Do say: ‘The teacher accused him of lying.’

  3. Eliminate wordiness: Strong verbs help you eliminate wordiness by replacing different forms of the verb ‘to be’. They allow you to stop overusing words like ‘is’, ‘was’, ‘are’, and ‘were’. Don’t say: ‘She was the owner of a chain of restaurants.’ Do say: ‘She owned a chain of restaurants.’

If you reduce wordiness, choose specific verbs, and use the active voice, readers will be able to understand you more easily. This is what you want because the reason we write is to communicate. 
Examples of Strong Verbs
— 3 weeks ago with 2170 notes
#Why you need to use strong verbs when you write  #Writing Advice  #Writing Tips  #Writers Write  #Amanda Patterson  #Writing Courses in South Africa  #grammar