Saturday at the Festival of Writing – top tips from literary agents

In the second of our ‘Live’ blogs from the Festival of Writing, Sarah Ann Juckes reveals what really goes on at the Saturday Night Gala Dinner.

Self-edit your novel

Alumni from the ‘Self-Edit Your Novel’ course

I’ve been speaking to a lot of writers today and nearly everyone is saying the same thing:

“I might have learnt more in the last twenty-four hours than I have in ten years of writing.”

Unfortunately, I am only one person, which means I can’t get to all twenty-six workshops that went on today. I will, however, share the top tips I’ve learnt on everything from writing and editing, to pitching and publishing your book. Thanks to the #FoW17 hashtag, we have helpers to fill in the rest.

 

Top tips from literary agents, editors and authors

1. Literary agent Julie Crisp says that a pitch letter should be ‘succinct, business-like and professional’. The more to the point it is, the quicker she can get to reading your manuscript.

2. In Pixar films, the character’s emotional development is always intrinsically related to the development of the plot. What a great tool! – Julie Cohen

3. Pixar’s ‘Cars’ can be mapped into a three-act plotting structure perfectly. Watch it again – you know everything you need to know about the film in the first four minutes – Julie Cohen.

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5. When writing blurbs for query letters, set out the character, setting, obstacle and resolution. Use this to structure your pitch. – Sarah Manning

6. Rachel Abbott’s top marketing tip: ‘make sure there is a link in the back of your eBook to sign up to your newsletter’.

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8. Send your manuscript to literary agents as a Word doc labelled with the title of your book. Penny Holroyde, like many agents, reads all submissions on her Kindle. Word documents are much easier to read on a Kindle than a PDF – and naming your submission with the book title over ‘Chapters 1-5’ will set it apart from everyone else.

9. According to literary agents Sallyanne Sweeney and Penny Holroyde, a good opening should:

  • Have a strong voice
  • Be intriguing
  • Start right in the action (rather than with too much exposition)
  • Use simple statements
  • Establish the mood of the novel

10. If you’re writing picture books, type up the words from your favourite book to separate it from the text. You’ll learn a lot about how they’re written that way. – Louise Lamont

11. Don’t write to trends – publishers are often working years in advance. Write the book that only you can write. – Sallyanne Sweeney

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Dining with literary agents at the Gala Dinner

Just a three-course meal with some of the most influential people in publishing. You know – no biggie.

Everyone was dressed to impress this evening and it was great to see writers chatting with agents, book doctors and each other about the stuff that matters most – writing. A fancy dinner was finished with an encore of readings from the finalists of the ‘Opening Chapter Competition’, judged by Sallyanne Sweeney. Just like at Friday Night Live, everyone read superbly. But there could only be one winner!

 

Carrie Plitt – judge of the Best Pitch competition – also announced Ruby as runner-up for that competition too, before announcing the winner as Aisha Braganza. Huge congratulations to both!

And of course, we all went to bed at a sensible hour, didn’t we?

 

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