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Writing Advice

In this section, you will find a collection of blogs dedicated to writing advice. So, if your manuscript is starting to drive you crazy, or you’re not sure how to get started, read on for the push you need to create your masterpiece.

5 Things Writers Can Do During The Submission Stage

Writers aren’t supposed to talk about the submission stage - the anxious time when agents send projects to hand-picked commissioning editors - but I think it would be useful to include here some of my experiences and some tips for what writers can do to prepare.

Writers’ journeys to publication rarely end in a 12-auction fairytale, no matter how often you scan The Bookseller headlines. I’ve learned that when a commissioning editor loves your writing, he or she usually must convince colleagues in Sales, Marketing, PR and Publicity and go through their in-house acquisition process. There are no guarantees except the prospect of a long wait, because like any other workplace, key people are away, offspring become sick and meetings are rescheduled. Just like the agents-querying stage, it demands resilience and the ability to focus on what really matters: your writing.

In the few weeks since my agent submitted my novel to a small number of publishers, we have received warm expressions …

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Taking Stock After Shortlisting Success

Since signing with a literary agency a few weeks ago, my novel seems to have developed a momentum of its own. It’s been shortlisted in the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Award and after giving me editorial notes and the opportunity to ‘cut and dig deeper,’ my agents now feel that it is ready to submit to publishers. I know that ready does not mean the same as finished; there will be many more revisions to come and an exciting part of that will be hearing how different readers respond. I feel lightheaded at the prospect, but it is also a moment to take stock.

Soon after the shortlisting announcement, I spoke to the mother of a boy I used to teach. I asked formally for her permission to dedicate my novel to her wonderful son, Mahad, who was brutally murdered in 2017. It was a painful conversation and very different to the ones we’d had years ago. She and I spoke almost daily in the playground when Mahad was ten years old, at the beginning and end of each school day during my teaching …

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5 Writing Tips for 2019

12 months in as an aspiring authoress I look back to the first tender weeks of my authorship journey – and give myself a little condescending tap on the head.

I think it’s sweet that I had intended on not only submitting a fully polished novel to competitions and awards, but that I would have found an agent and be well on the way to securing a publishing deal… in one year.

So how did the authoress get on? Where in the process is she now? Let’s skip forward to January 2019… 

I'm on chapter two.

Now let’s get a few things straight – this isn’t because I didn’t do the work, or I was lazy or gave up, far from it. I worked tirelessly, dedicating hours and hours to research, writing, reading, courses…

The past year has taught me a tremendous amount. Not least, the reason I got 15,000 words in to my children’s novel and SCRAPPED it all.

When I set myself a goal, I approach it with dogged focus and determination. I work strictly to a rule book that I create …

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Literary Lessons: Art Matters

Rachel Knightley

From Art Matters by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Chris Riddell.

The best writing advice will always be the writing advice that inspires you to get on with the writing. Inspires, not instructs: no there is no great secret, yes it’s hard work and practise makes improvement. My favourite writing guide and favourite memoir, Stephen King’s On Writing, reminds us Dumbo made it into the air because of the magic feather clutched in his trunk, even though the magic was in him all the time. Writing courses and writing retreats and writing buddies and writing manuals are all great feathers. They can get us up there faster. But the magic is always in the elephant, not the feather. 

I have a new feather. It’s Art Matters, a stocking-filler-sized illustrated philosophy of life, art and freelancing. It sits beside my laptop on my windowsill “desk” in the living room. It’s made of three texts by Neil Gaiman – Credo (2015), Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming

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Literary Lessons: Gratitude

Rachel Knightley

From The Flame by Leonard Cohen (Canongate)

Leonard Cohen’s poetry was sometimes set to music, sometimes sung, sometimes accompanied cartoons, sketches and symbols – the Order of the Unified Hearts intertwining two Stars of David with heart-shaped bends at their tops; the brimmed hat he would doff in concert to the music, to its source, to his audience, to life itself – but whether it appeared in books or in albums, it was always poetry first.

The Flame is edited posthumously, and published just under two years after Leonard Cohen’s death on 7 November 2016. There is a foreword by his son, Adam Cohen, and his editors by Robert Faggen and Alexandra Pleshoyano, in which each says of Leonard Cohen what Leonard Cohen so often and well said of life itself: how unworthy we feel our choices might have been, how unequal we feel to the task. Yet what his verses, his music and, yes, his singing, taught with heartbreaking clarity was that that very appreciation – that gratitude – was

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