So I've woken blurry eyed but my mind is racing after attending the Faber Academy course After 'The End'. There were fourteen writers, all writing in different genres. The focus of the course was on approaching agents, writing a good covering letter and an even better first page. Sarah Savitt (@sarahsavitt) is an editor at Faber and was full of constructive and thoughtful advice. Nicola Barr (@Nicklerb) is an agent with Greene and Heaton and was honest and forthright. It may come as a surprise to some writers who've hit a brick wall when submitting, that they both were human and really genuinely looking for great authors and exciting new novels.
My favourite piece of advice was 'not to leave any characterat the service station'! Meaning, don't forget to round up all your characters by the end of the book.
The advice I was given was to sort out the points of view in my book. It's something I've really struggled with so I wasn't surprised. I did my best not to feel too disappointed that they weren't jumping up and down with excitement at the idea of my novel - but it has knocked my confidence. Still, I believe in my novel so I've just got to grit my teeth and carry on.
Oh, another rewrite? I guess so!
Am adding here what I wrote about the previous masterclass I went to at Tindal Street Press in Birmingham so I don't forget. The two days really helped me feel like maybe I could become a writer.
Written 5th August 2012 and poster on the Writers Workshop Word Cloud Forum:
"So I feel like a slug has worked it's way through my brain and deadened every spark of connection with its slime... Why? Because I've just done a two day masterclass in novel writing!
Despite the dull ache in my head from having to concentrate for two days (made especially difficult by the booming Jamaican music outside on the second day) I thought I'd share with you Cloudies what went on in case it's helpful to someone. I've never been to any writing class before so had no idea what to expect...
Firstly, if you've never heard of Tindal Street Press, it's a tiny publishing house in Birmingham who publish literary fiction based generally around the Midlands.
The first day (2 - 6pm) was spent with the publishing director, Alan Mahar, and focused on publishing. He impressed on us (9 in all) the importance of a good synopsis and where our novels might sit in terms of genre and comparable authors. This is surprisingly difficult to judge, I think. Knowing whose writing yours is similar to is a tough one as who you say could easily give the wrong impression. But publishers like to have an idea of your style from the get-go.
The synopsis (an outline of the entire novel) is important to get right too so well worth investing time on (Mslexia have an online masterclass on their website which guides you through it, as well as the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.) We did this verbally in pairs, the partner detailing your novel from what you said. Eek, describing it was really hard! Great way to focus on what you intend, though, and can also reveal potential confusion / gaps in your novel.
The second day (10am - 5pm) was split into two halves. Firstly, Catherine O'Flynn, winner of the Costa First Novel prize for 'What Was Lost' (great book, would recommend!) did a questions and answers session. This was very helpful and because of the small group, no one person monopolised the questions. She was very down-to-earth, detailing how she mistakenly sent out 10 manuscripts to agents who advertised acceptance of unsolicited manuscripts and heard nothing from any of them. She was lucky in that her friend had an agent who introduced her work...
Also, the agent suggested a restructuring of her novel which took her a year to do (she was initially reluctant) and then it was sent out to publishers. This is quite common practice (for both editors and agents) to make these sometimes huge structural edits. So worth remembering if you're asked to do this that it isn't the end of the world and to be open-minded.
Throughout the morning, Alan Mahar took us for an individual 'chat' about the work we'd submitted (about 10,000 words). This was truly invaluable because he could personally direct your novel, indicate problems, suggest improvement.
This led to the afternoon session where we spent a little time addressing an issue he'd raised. Horribly, we then took it in turns to read a page or two of our novel to the others. I say horribly because I personally haven't read out my work to my peers since I was 16... However, like on the Cloud, it was fascinating hearing other people's ideas and stories, Alan Mahar's gentle critique of them (based on whatever element he'd suggested needed improvement).
Terribly nerve-wracking (I didn't stop shaking for 15 minutes after reading mine and receiving face to face feedback!) but well worth it. Maybe I was lucky because I was with a group who were excellent writers themselves but all genuine, nice people (like the Cloud!)
So, there it is. If anyone wants to know anything particularly, ask and I will endeavour to shake my head, wake myself up and answer if I can!"
In reply to a question about the music:
"Yes, I like Tindal books too, Scheherazade.
The music, Alanboy, could only be heard as an annoying bass beat. Outside, it probably sounded great! I enjoyed going back to B'ham, especially with this Jamaican celebration going on and the Olympics on a massive screen in Victoria Square. I went to uni in Birmingham and lived there for seven years. It gets rough press but I like it and the people are so friendly!"