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Writers' News

George Saunders on Overcoming Uncertainty in Writing

lithub.com – Sunday February 27, 2022

A few years ago, in my MFA writers’ workshop at Syracuse University, we were critiquing a story by a truly wonderful writer, and it was a damned good story too. In it, a brother and a sister were living together because the brother, a former star athlete, had suffered a brain injury and wasn’t able to live alone. The story was narrated by a man in love with the sister. In the scene in question, the man drives by on a steamy summer evening, sees the sister on the porch, joins her up there—and the sparks start to fly. It was one of the best depictions of strong mutual desire I’ve ever read. It was clear that the two were about to do it, right there on the porch. Although, the brother was asleep, just on the other side of a screen door.

So, the writer had made a lovely, consequence-rich moment. (“How can they have sex right there on the porch? How can they not? What if he wakes up? Oh God, that would be terrible. Yet it would also be cool. Talk about raising the stakes!”) Then, at the critical moment, as the man reached for the woman—a teapot inside the house came to a boil.

The woman went inside, the sexual energy went poof, the man went home.

At the time, as I recall it, we critiqued this as an oversight on the writer’s part—she hadn’t told us there was a teapot on the stove. After workshop, the writer admitted that she wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted to have happen in that scene—and a little light went on in my head.

That teapot wasn’t an oversight, or a mistake, I realized, it was a placeholder—a kind of “To Be Determined” sign, the subconscious’s way of saying, “I know this is important and I don’t want to screw it up. Can I get back to you?” (Like one of those Magic Eight Balls, the story was saying, “Ask again later.”)

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Outside, looking in: the reality of being a querying writer

thebookseller.com – Sunday February 27, 2022

This is how it feels like to be one of those thousands and thousands of writers still querying, week after week, and getting nowhere.

The book industry begins with writers. 

Sure, its fuel is commercial sales, trends, profit and loss, metadata… But it begins with one person (occasionally two) sitting in a room, staring at a blank screen. Then, eventually, beginning to fill that screen, before finally writing "The End".

I began writing seven years ago and have written three novels and am about to start my fourth. I fell into many of the newbie traps: thinking my books were finished way before they were (apologies to anyone I queried at that point), not being clear enough on essentials like the "singular narrative thrust which propels the story forward and keeps you hanging on to find out what will happen next".

What I didn’t realise, when I started out on this path, was that my screen would, in time, be swapped for a window. One for which–while I can stare in at the friendly world of publishing–I cannot find the accompanying door. 

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New Literary Agent Listing: Jessica Killingley

firstwriter.com – Friday February 25, 2022

Looking for self help, personal development and business books from tomorrow’s Thought Leaders. A strong personal brand, a great platform and a clear vision for the future a must!

[See the full listing]

So you want to write a book? Part 2: Agents, queries and timelines

niemanstoryboard.org – Thursday February 24, 2022

You’ve written that gripping long-form story, and you’re champing at the bit to get a book deal. What do you do?

My own journey started with a lot of wrong turns and even more learning, which I wrote about in Part I of this mini-series. But it finally got my first book, “The Spy’s Son,” onto bookshelves. It tells the true story of the highest-ranking CIA officer ever convicted of espionage, and how he recruited his son to follow in his spy steps.

Contracts for other books followed. And later this year, “The Spy’s Son” is coming out as a TV-and-streaming docuseries.

Here is my go-to advice about the four essential things you need to do, and how to build a timeline to support that work.

[Read the full article]

So you want to write a book? Part 1: Have a strong story and resilient ego

niemanstoryboard.org – Wednesday February 23, 2022

ll the great writers have proffered wisdom on the craft, the best-in-show quote being Norman Mailer’s: “Writing books is the closest men come to childbearing.” But the literary sages have offered scarce advice to serious long-form journalists on plotting, writing and, most importantly, selling a nonfiction book

So for now, you’re stuck with moi.

Look, m’friends, if a lunch-bucket journalist like me can do it, so can you. All you need is endurance (maximized by a 14-cup coffee maker), great story organization skills, a boatload of time (and the tolerant family that comes with it), the power to shrug off rejections and monophobia, the guidance of a good literary agent, and a smidgen or two of pure damned luck.

Here are six things to consider as you begin your quest to write a nonfiction book.

[Read the full article]

New Literary Agent Listing: Jason Bartholomew

firstwriter.com – Wednesday February 23, 2022

Originally from America. Spent ten years working in New York publishing, primarily for Hachette Book Group USA. He moved to Hachette UK in 2008 where he was the Rights Director across Hodder & Stoughton, Headline Publishing Group, Quercus Books, and John Murray Press.

[See the full listing]

Deadline looming for entries to Neil Gunn Writing Competition

northern-times.co.uk – Tuesday February 22, 2022

The deadline is looming for entries to the 2021-2022 Neil Gunn Writing Competition.

The competition, which is being run by High Life Highland in conjunction with the Neil Gunn Trust, opened in September and closes on Friday, March 4.

Entries are invited from adult writers worldwide in two sections - adult poetry and adult short story. There is an entry fee of £8.

[Read the full article]

Veritas Said to Bid to Take Publisher Houghton Mifflin Private

bloomberg.com – Monday February 21, 2022

Veritas Capital is bidding to take private Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co., the publisher of education materials and research, according to people familiar with the matter.

Veritas could merge Houghton Mifflin with its portfolio company Cambium Learning Group, said one of the people, both of whom asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. A final decision hasn’t been made and other bidders may emerge for the Boston-based company, they said.

Representatives for Houghton Mifflin and Veritas declined to comment. 

[Read the full article]

How a Book Is Made

nytimes.com – Sunday February 20, 2022

Have you ever wondered how a book becomes a book? Join us as we follow Marlon James’s “Moon Witch, Spider King” through the printing process.

It started as a Word document, pecked out letter by letter at a dining room table in Connecticut.

Now, it is 150,000 copies of a 626-page book called “Moon Witch, Spider King,” with a luminous cover that glows with neon pinks and greens.

While digital media completely upended industries like music, movies and newspapers, most publishers and authors still make the bulk of their money from selling bound stacks of paper.

[Read the full article]

The bks Agency stands by £649 one-day book deal course after price criticism

thebookseller.com – Sunday February 20, 2022

The bks Agency has stood by a £649 one-day course called "How To Get a Book Deal" after it was criticised over the price and accused of marginalising underprivileged writers.

Cheshire Novel Prize creator, writer and editor Sara Naidine Cox highlighted the event on Twitter, and said the price needed "calling out". Other users, including Bluemoose Books and Little Toller, said it was "outrageous" and "appalling". 

[Read the full article]

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