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Hope's Huskies - Bunty cover

World Book Day

For World Book Day yesterday, I went to a talk at Dulwich Books with the tempting title 'Breaking into Children's Fiction'. Tickets cost £15, which included a copy of the Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2012 (RRP £14.99). It will look lovely on my Writing Shelf next to the much-thumbed and -highlighted 2010 edition.

We were a cosy audience of fifteen (predominantly women, listening to a couple of more successful men, draw your own conclusions). Right at the start, we took turns telling the rest of the group who we were, our writing ambitions and how far along the process we were. As someone who has actually completed a manuscript and received form rejection letters, I found myself 'ahead' of those participants who were tentatively thinking about giving the writing thing a shot, but behind those who'd had 'near miss' type rejections or who were published in other genres (Mills & Boon, journalism).

The speakers were Sarwat Chadda and Steve Feasey. I'd read neither of them, and to be honest their work doesn't appeal all that much (Young Adult dark fantasy, which I don't really like despite, er, currently being engaged in writing one), but they made an excellent double act because they disagreed with each other on almost all aspects of writing method:

- You should set a word count and aim at 500 words a day, or a thousand, or whatever.
- No, because you might write a hundred really good words or you might write three thousand words that are shite.
- I send the first draft round my friends as soon as the ink's dry.
- NO NO NO I don't even let my wife read it until it's ready to go off to the publisher.
- I plot everything really tightly.
- I start typing and see what happens!

Where they agreed, however, was on the necessity of writing every day, treating your writing as a job, not a hobby, because there are professionals out there and if you're to stand a chance against them you need to be doing what they're doing.

Oh, and enjoy it.

I was pleased to note that I am succeeding, most of the time, on both counts. (I don't think you can enjoy anything that counts as work absolutely all the time.)

One truly excellent piece of advice was to follow literary agents on Twitter. Then, if one of them should tweet 'What I really, really need right now is a book about dogs flying planes', and if you should happen to have a completed manuscript on that very subject, you're in luck!

BRB. Off to stalk some agents.


Ah, that takes me back!

Twenty-five years ago, a hundred yards from there, I was buying my teacher a pint at the Alleyns Head, because the landlord refused to believe him that he was over eighteen. Ironically, I wasn't over eighteen, and my teacher knew this, but he realised he'd better keep quiet if he wanted his pint.

Happy days. (-8
It is an awfully Nice area. I can understand their looking askance at young hellraisers :)
I have a friend who is a writer/illustrator who works in the young adult market and runs a website about it (http://inkygirl.com/). You might find it useful, so I thought I'd pass it on. (Might be some good advice, or a way to network, or something.)
Oh, thank you - it looks packed with advice and adorable drawings!
There is some really good advice in there! What a lovely thing to have done.
I'm very lucky to have Dulwich within reach.

If I were really, really, really lucky I could afford to live there, but I'll have to sell a lot of books first!
I spent much of my childhood in Dulwich, because my grandparents lived there. And then I lived down the road in Streatham when I was a grown-up. I still love SE22 :-)
Bad Dog thinks there must be a niche-market for "early-reader dark-fiction".

"Peppa Pig goes to the Abbatoir", for example, or "The Big Hungry Caterpillar and the Derris-dust".
We already have Go the Fuck to Sleep...
By the way (and apologies if you think "why does that always crop up every time I mention writing?), I presume you've read this old favourite from the Guardian a couple of years ago?


[a two-parter]
I have read that before, but it is good advice!
Your writing exploits continue to impress me and make me realise I'm doing far too little to advance my cause. You are an inspiration :)
Well, I've been called a lot of things, but seldom that - thank you!

I'm lucky in that there are a lot of talks and courses in London, but there must be some near you too.