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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.

Resilience and the Waiting Game

Nikki Garrard_author

It’s been a while since my last blog post here and a lot has happened. After meetings with a commissioning editor at a ‘Big Five’ publisher, my Lucy Cavendish/Mslexia-shortlisted YA novel, Twenty-Nine Locks, seemed to be blessed with a smooth journey to publication. 

I was soon to discover that there are multiple hurdles a novel must clear. As a novice writer, completing a novel in itself was an achievement worthy of celebration. The next learning curve, for me, was using feedback from agents and first readers to redraft a good idea, imperfectly delivered, and enter Twenty-Nine Locks into competitions. Once I’d chosen an agency, The Good Literary Agency (TGLA), my story was assessed by their in-house editor who suggested further improvements. When ready, my agent, Abi Fellows, pitched it to publishers, sent off the manuscript, and then… 

A nail-biting wait.

And then… 

Requests to meet the author.

And then…

Requests for further information.

And then…

More …

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Draft One Complete... Now What?

‘The End’ – when I wrote these words I:

A.      Cried

B.       Did a cartwheel in a field

C.       Drank prosecco on a school night

Draft one complete. Now what? No, seriously, now what?!

About 20,000 words too long, my characters changed names every couple of chapters and I’ve spent about three pages describing a bath.

I floated in the ‘I’ve finished’ bubble for a short while.  I had a break from it all, got married, went on holiday, came home and opened my Word document again…

Oh God.

What. A. Mess.

‘A dirty draft’, ‘a brain splurge,’ or (my favourite), ‘a vomit draft’… I learnt these delightful phrases when frantically googling for the ‘what next’ answer.

I have to say, ‘vomit draft’ is the one I identify with most.  I don’t know about you but it invokes the most relatable imagery.  My messy …

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4 Tips For Revisiting Your Last Draft

Editing Days

Are you at the stage of writing when you're ready to revisit your manuscript? If you've got a first draft - but have put it away for a few weeks, even a month - to give yourself the head space you need, well done! You might not even need to read on as it sounds like you know what you're doing.

But if you're a sucker for writing-related tips, you've come to the right place.  

We've compiled four tips to help with the editing stage of your story. 

1. Make and keep copies of your drafts

This one isn't for everyone - Jeanette Winterson professes to deleting files and burning papers of manuscript that she's worked on and felt just didn't work.

But if you're not one for creative, dramatic flair, then it might be a good idea to hold onto previous drafts. However you work - whether that's on Google Drive, Word Doc etc., create a folder for your WIP and keep all the different iterations of your story in one place. 

If not only to see how your story has developed, but also to read …

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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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