This month, firstwriter.com
has refined its search systems on its literary
databases to make it easier to target those markets that are
most interested in receiving submissions. While it has always
been possible to exclude from your results agents, publishers,
and magazines that are known to be closed to queries, the Advanced
Search option on each of these databases now allows you to
restrict the search even further, so that you can ask to include
only markets that are known to accept unsolicited MSS, those
that welcome unsolicited MSS, or only those that are actively
Not only that, but there are now
also new features that allow you to perform searches according
to the market's policy on email approaches. So instead of just
being able to restrict your search to markets that have email
addresses included on the listing, as you could before, you can
now ask to see only listings that accept queries by email, or
accept submissions by email.
If you haven't yet taken out a
subscription to firstwriter.com that allows you to access
the full details of the databases you can still try out these
new features for free by clicking here for the agents
database, here for the publishers database, or
here for the
magazines database. If you are already a subscriber you can
search the full details by clicking here for the agents
database, here for the publishers database, or
here for the
magazines database. If you are not yet a subscriber but would
like to become one, click
These new features make it easier
than ever to find those markets that are most interested in
receiving submissions, and those that make approaching them
easiest by accepting email queries or submissions, but as ever
this comes with the usual warning: the keener a market seems to
be to receive approaches, the more you need to be aware of what
their motives are for that. It may be entirely legitimate –
they may be a new start-up seeking to build a client list, etc.
– but this may also mean that they are small-scale and/or
inexperienced, and may not offer you your best chance of making
a success of your work. The unhappy truth remains that the
markets where you would most want to place your work are likely
to be those which are least receptive to it – for the very
reason that they are inundated with submissions because everyone
else would be keen to place their work there, too! Don't be
tempted to ignore markets that don't accept unsolicited MSS, or
require approaches by post only.
For a start, what they donít tell you is that writing is bloody hard work and you need a little bit more than just a good imagination and access to
writing materials. They are the tools, but you canít go from imagination to page without spending the time putting it all down and refining it. Added to that, getting
"discovered" is like trying to get Victoria Beckham to smile. So you need to be passionate about your reason for writing.
They say that everybody has a novel in them somewhere. It could be argued that everyone also has a gall bladder in them too, but there arenít many out
there who want them to share its contents with us. They also say that people should write about what they know, which is reasonable advice as far as it goes. But if you are a district
nurse attending to the incontinence needs of elderly widows in Orkney, having the hero of your first novel be a Cuban-trained mercenary infiltrating the bio weapons division of a
nuclear facility in Minsk might demand a little more research than youíre prepared for. Then again, the day-to-day workings of a district nurse emptying bedpans had better contain at least a little illicit
sex in the sluice room if itís going to even halfway work.
I used to dream of being the next Stephen King or Anne Rice. Both focused their major successes on long, involved, cleverly plotted stories with a
large number of characters. I wanted to write like them for quite a while, but then Iíd have to write about a suburban family moving to New Orleans, where theyíve inherited a
plantation and discover their young son has a gift for reading peopleís minds whilst hiding from rabid Chihuahuas; and their older daughter is the last living relative of a coven of
lesbian witches, destined to spend every birthday painted purple and hanging from a chandelier. Just write, write and then write some more. Sort out the crap from the crystal
and be your own original, not a bad copy of someone else.
There is no such thing as writerís block. You might just be stuck on an idea, but you can still write. If you've no idea what to write, just sit down
and write about getting up, what you did that day, anything, no matter how banal you think it is. It's not for publication, but the very act of writing gets the brain flowing, and
if you are writing about boring minutiae, then chances are your brain will strain to find something more interesting to focus on.
Print out whatever you do write and put it in a drawer. Don't take it out for a few days, and then look at it again. The print will fool your brain
into thinking you're reading something someone else has written (handwriting won't). You can then be more objective about what you're reading.
Don't rely on spellcheckers. They're great as far as they go, but they're not perfect. If you're proofreading your own stuff read it out loud to
yourself as you look at the pages. You'll find that your mouth will stop your brain, because whilst your eyes may skip over a mistake, your mouth knows it's not right, or it may
need some extra punctuation to make it clear.
You don't need to have every aspect of the story in detail before you start, but some idea of where you want to end up is a good idea. When I
started out, I found it really easy to get the villain disappearing from a locked room with no windows,
etc. but then had no clue how he did it!
Don't do a Dallas or a Colbys. If your main story is about spoiled rich people in the oil industry, having one of them suddenly abducted
by aliens strains belief at the best of times. If you're writing a sci-fi story that happens to be set then, fine. But if you've spent the first twenty chapters re-writing
Gone With The Wind and suddenly it's ET Phone Home, it's a bit like coming home and finding Graham Norton in bed with k.d.lang. And only primary school children are
still allowed to get away with
"it was all just a dream".
Show somebody you trust your work. If you can't let someone read it, then you're never going to get much further. Ask for constructive criticism,
and make sure that you'd prefer them to be honest. You donít need
"yes-men". It might boost the ego, but it won't help the writing if it really needs it. Edit carefully, proof read, or get someone to do it for you. But like children, a
t some point you have to let them out into the world to fend for themselves.
Keep writing. Try different forms; try different lengths, from short
"flash" fiction to longer novel length chapters.
Thereís a very well known expression:
"a writer writes". Itís very true. You can have the most incredible stories and ideas floating around in your head, but if you donít put pen to paper or fingers to
keyboard, nobodyís going to know about them. Take a chance, expect rejection, and remember that the most prolific (if not necessarily best) writers were usually panned first time round.
About the author Steve has been writing since he could use a pen. Heís the author of over 30 books for young adults on a variety of social issues, which incorporate fiction and fact in one place. Heís also a regular columnist for Brightonís
Kemptown Rag, where he writes articles, crosswords and fiction pieces. He works with a variety of schools doing the more boring side of writing: policies, plans, evaluations and all that good stuff. Heís now setting up, with friends, a writing competition site: BrightonCOW (company of writers), which will be up and running soon, with some pretty good prizes for all kinds of writing. Watch this space!
uses English spelling conventions.
Spellings such as "realise"
differ from other spelling conventions
but are nonetheless correct.
New publisher seeks submissions Blue Room Publishing describes itself as an ambitious house looking for fresh work from new and emerging authors. It specialises in fiction but also produces poetry and
Fabulate collaborative story Fabulate is creating a collaborative story written one page at a time, based on submissions by numerous authors, each a maximum of 500 words. Submissions are reviewed anonymously by an online community, with the most popular
submission being chosen as the next "page" of the story. On completion, the book will be published and royalties spread between successful participants.