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Victoria Slotover blog posts

Debut Dagger Longlisted

Last Friday, bestselling authors from around the globe gathered at CrimeFest in Bristol to hear the announcement of the Debut Dagger long list...

For fifteen years the CWA has been encouraging new writers with its Debut Daggers; a crime novel competition that attracts hundreds of entries from all over the world. Last year’s winner was from Australia and previous short lists have included authors from India, Canada and New Zealand- so it really is very much an international competition.

This year I plucked up the courage to put myself forward.

‘Believe in yourself,’ my husband said. ‘What have you got to lose?’

The entry fee of £36 is steep compared to other writing contests but I wanted to know if my book was good enough to stand out from the crowd. And given the reputed quality and quantity of the entries, not to mention the judges themselves (most of whom are linked to major publishing houses) I figured it would be a good test of my manuscript’s …

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Be a Better Writer

In her book, 10 Rules of Writing, Elmore Leonard advised would be authors to – ‘Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray’. Whilst Ernest Hemmingway famously wrote, ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is just sit at a typewriter and bleed.’

But surely there’s more to great writing than simply praying and hemorrhaging at your desk… I’ve analysed advice by famous authors in an attempt to discover how to become a better writer.  My favourite tips are listed below; let me know what you think of them.

1. “Find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!” – Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451

How to use it:

At first glance it seems Bradbury is advocating a sort of voodoo magic in the creative writing process whereby protagonists take care of the plot for you. However I think what he’s really saying here is that your characters should …

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7 Habits of Highly Effective…Writers

In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presents what he sees as the key principles to achieving success in the workplace. I’m more of a Bridget Jones than a Stephen Covey when it comes to self-help manuals but I thought it might be fun to share the seven things I’ve learned along my writing journey and see if they resonate with anyone else.

1. Write Even When You Don’t Want To

There are days when the muse just doesn't sing- when she won’t even mutter under her breath. But you can’t give in to her silence. You still have to sit at your desk and fill the page. It isn't only about ‘being professional’ and meeting deadlines. It’s also about pushing through the mental block and making something happen. It’s about telling yourself you can do it and not giving up.

2. Make Friends with Other Writers

Writing is a lonely business and there are some things only other writers can understand. Your writer friends …

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Just NaNoWriMo it!

‘You what?’ my husband says when I announce I’m planning to take part in NaNoWriMo (a global writers’ challenge to pen 50,000 words of a novel between 1st and 30th November).

‘Are you bonkers, Mum?’ echoes my nine year old looking up from his iPad with quirked eyebrows. ’50,000 words in a month? How on earth are you going to do that?’

‘Does it mean you won’t be able to build my Lego spaceship with me like you said you would?’ adds my youngest in a wobbly voice.

All good questions (albeit not the ‘go girl!’ cheerleader cry I’d have liked). Am I mad? Will I be able to do it? And what will it mean for my family life?

‘There’s a website about it,’ I say to the boys. ‘I could show it to you if you like. Here, Max pass me the iPad and we’ll have a look.’

There’s a short debate about whether he’ll be able to carry on with Minecraft afterwards and then he hands it over and we open the official NaNoWriMo site.

‘Look,’ …

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Bringing Up Baby

Likening the writing process to a journey is probably one of those yawn inducing clichés Stephen King would urge us not to use. Although there are certainly lots of steps along the path to publication that any author has to navigate, I wonder if there’s a better metaphor for the agonies we newbies go through on a near daily basis as we struggle to bring our creations into being.

When I think back to how my novel would keep me awake at night in the early days and tug at my sleeve as it grew, I wonder if rather than being travellers up a mountain we are in fact more like parents to demanding children.

Like new parents we read all the self-help books we can lay our hands on (I defy any newbie to say they haven’t read On Writing and scribbled notes in half the margins). Like new parents we are woken throughout the night by nagging thoughts about our novel’s development (is there a twist we could add here or a character tell we could add there?) And like new …

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