Search This Blog

Friday, 25 January 2013

The London Publishing Scene - from Scott Newland

Scott Newland visited our group prior to leaving for a couple of years in London where he plans to explore the options and possibilities in the book trade over there. Here is his latest bulletin…

Just thought I would pass on some news and views from a couple of recent meetings.

I am now a member of London Writers Group and the London Authors Club. They sound similar but aren't, the writers club introduces writers to agents, the authors club is more hands on about writing, structure etc.

The structure of writing, novels etc, is, as with everything, subjective. Who reads what and what they expect to see is a personal thing to the reader. Agents and editors (from publishing houses) are no different. Rejection from an agent or editor may simply be their personal preference or whim on the day, we knew that already, nothing has changed.

But many agents from big companies, or editors from big publishing houses, have an expectation, almost a format they like to see. The question for us as writers is do send our work of wonder as it is and hope to satisfy their need? Or do we reshape things to fit the mould that is often used by a particular company?

Example. (Forgive me, but I am new and you all may know this already)
Prologue Vs Front story Vs Back story.

Prologues. I love them. Readers often skip them. An agent I met with last night said "Are your first chapters weak? Is that why you have a prologue?" Bugger, I thought the prologue was very cool. An editor I work with said the same thing almost. "Why have it? she said, "I want the front story in the front, and back story (the grounding, history and flashbacks) to be short and not get in the way of my reading."

Front Story. Open with your front story, 1st line, sentence and paragraph must be your front story. (What the book is really about)

Back story. Often the who, why and where etc. Mostly the setting, reason and backfill for something. Best to be introduced by dialogue not so much to be narrative.

So have a look at your book if you want it published and to sell lots, and see if the first three chapters have back story overshadowing front story. That is a major block to agents, editors and others in the profession of books. (My mum still said she liked my book)

Pitch and promotion.
At a recent meeting we sat and did the round the table thing of telling what our books are about. Most people, me included, could not actually say. I was stunned. Mine is a crime thriller, but to try and verbalise it into a short few sentences, harder than you think. Have a go.
Better yet write your book blurb in four or less sentences! It’s called the elevator pitch. Imagine you are on an elevator with a publisher and you have just the journey to the floor below to get your idea across.
At a group meeting last Saturday, we practised just that. Elevator pitches, paired off, to try. Then to write it and read it back. Yes I did have a go, but to be fair, reluctantly.
At the end of the meeting, 40 plus writers, she asked for verbal submissions, short versions (elevator pitches) and she would say, ‘yes send me a submission’ or ‘not for me’. Only six people could answer her. And of them only two got a positive response, not so much because she liked the book, but because she could understand quickly what it was.

Useful tips from the publishing pros from our Man on the Ground in London. Thanks, Scott!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Jean Allen on Summers

How many have we lived, how many were perfect and how many can we recall? Mostly, I suspect, we remember the summers of our youth. Those long hot days of sun and beach, of swimming through days of blissful freedom.
It’s January, here in New Zealand. The last of school holidays are being lived to the full by our children soon to be back in their February classrooms.
Today, at a midday high tide, our local beach spilled over with a large bunch of teenagers laughing and shouting. Seventeen young Janes and Tarzans grabbed the rope that has ever hung from the old pohutukawa tree branch that stretches out from the cliff rocks and hurled themselves out and over the high tide waters; their lithe young bodies wet, slick and shiny as they leap out swing to the peak then - let go – and drop, splash into the clear water - while the rope returns to the tree to be caught by the next swinger. It’s so important for young ones to be part of a group of friends.
I am working on the sequel to my novel, River River Raupo Rye, published last year. A central character in this second book is Miriam, Iona’s daughter, who is now thirteen. It is summer1934, and her family, friends and relations are camping on a Northern Wairoa beach. Miriam is compelled to stay ashore while her peers go out rowing. Her mother thinks the girl is unwell. She is to rest.      
Miriam stomps along the river beach on wild legs. Her toes grab at the sand – but she will not run. Oh no, she will not give her mother the satisfaction of seeing her run away in a paddy like a big kid; because that’s what her mother thinks she is – a big kid. And she isn’t a kid. She isn’t.  She’s thirteen for goodness sake. Fancy being told she had to have a rest in the afternoon when she’s thirteen years old – lumped in with Jimmy and all the other little kids. How embarrassing!
‘Auntie Maryanne wouldn’t make Maggie have a rest.’ Miriam snapped at no-one – seeing nothing in her rage. ‘No! Hot! Hot, hot, too hot!’
She has wandered up the beach onto hot sand and runs, inelegantly on the balls of her feet, on burning toes, straight into the baby ripples of the slow incoming tide – and there she whimpers – feet and feelings smarting on the last hot summer’s day of 1934.’ 

This is Jean ‘Angel’ Allen hoping you are enjoying your summer of 2013.


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Vicky Adin writes - all about NZ books


Happy New Year everyone. I hope your personal Santa was good to you and gave you either lots of books or an e-reader for Christmas. I both gave and received books this year. Mine was an e-reader and I’ve downloaded heaps of books already.

Summer is a time for relaxing and taking stock.  Books can take readers to places we’ve never been, in our imaginations they let us behave as we might never dare to in our 'real' lives. Books offer possibilities. Whether the book is non-fiction or fiction – simply a story – their impact can be significant. Even the most fictitious of stories have a tinge of reality to them. Characters have thoughts or feelings that could be similar to ours if we were in that position or place.  Books offer the possible option that we too, could be like that person; that we too, could do what they did or go where they went and become who they wanted to become. Books can change our lives, if we let ourselves be captured by possibilities.

Books are celebrated in many places: through television programmes and films, bringing the written word to the active screen – removing our imagination, maybe – but speeding up our engagement.  Books are written about in articles, on blog pages and in magazines and newspapers with reviews and news. Opinion pieces give us a different perspective about a character we have always loved or a story we didn’t completely understand and appreciate until someone else pointed out a motif we’d missed. 

I am happy when I find a New Zealand perspective rather than an American viewpoint. So much advice for writers coming through online blogs and websites is American based. Authors can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of how to, and best ways and top tips, few of which relate to the New Zealand market. I’ve found a few worth investigating.

One of the latest news, views and reviews pages can be found the Stuff website - Reading is Bliss by Karen Tay is worth a look.

I find I can relate to the articles.  Reading is Bliss is relatively new (only online in the last few months of 2012) and has a Facebook page looking for Likes.

Nicky Pellegrino also writes reviews and news for the NZ Herald. Nicky’s down-to-earth kiwi attitude (and her love of her horse, her dogs and cats) is refreshing.

But if you really want to know what is happening in the New Zealand book market then your best website is Beattie’s Blog. Seek and you will find: you will even find me, and my book Daniel, on there somewhere.

Vicky Adin

Friday, 4 January 2013

A New Year post from Barbara Algie

Last week we were Ho Ho Ho-ing, sitting amidst a pile of Christmas paper and presents and catching up with good friends we hadn’t seen for yonks. Now, in the short space of a few days, it’s become Well Well Well – fancy that – how TIME flies – where on earth did last year go?

It’s not just a fallacy that, when age creeps over even the smallest hill, life appears to whizz by in overdrive and, as one who’s staggering towards the crest of Everest, I can personally vouch for that.

I hope you have all made  New Year Resolutions (which haven’t yet had TIME to be broken) about how much TIME you are going to spend writing, or reading in the coming months, and vowing to do one good deed per day (TIME permitting). January should not be the only TIME one stops and thinks of life’s crossroads. Give the ones with ‘No Exit’ on them a miss and take those with the most exciting names. Roads you have always meant to travel down and explore but have never had TIME to get off the beaten track and see where they lead.

TIME – ah yes – what a word. It crops up so often but has a thousand excuses. Years ago I recall John Rowles said it all with his most famous song ‘If I only had time....’ Unfortunately this little word rules our lives. How often have we said ‘sorry I didn’t have TIME to call’ on a friend who was ill, only to find we had left it too late? To say ‘sorry I ran out of TIME’ when we let somebody down who was expecting us? Perhaps one of the best New Year Resolutions would be to ensure we make TIME for the little things which mean so much.

Remember, if John Rowles can make TIME to have a ‘Final Farewell Concert’ every six months, it’s TIME we did better!’

 A New Year post from Barbara Algie


Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Over the last week or so I’ve been enjoying my grandson’s view of how things function in the world. How marvellous that such small errors result in such a delightfully entertaining perspective of the world.

He recently spent a week or so in Queenstown with his grandfather, which in itself created a bit of consternation after he told his father (estranged from his mother) he was going to Queensland in South America. Over reactive father went up as if he was full of hydrogen and exploded on re-entry into the atmosphere, without ever realising the whole thing was nothing more than Leo’s inept grasp of geography. 

Anyway, while in Queenstown – in the South Island, Leo was wonderfully impressed with the engines in the Earnslaw, and more particularly, as his ambition is to be a train driver, the Kingston Flyer.  According to Leo, there is a difference between steam and petrol engines most simply explained in the following way:

Petrol engines have about six things in them called ‘pistols’ which go back and forward incredibly fast, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang – and that incredibly fast banging makes the engine move. When the pistols run out of petrol bullets, the engine stops.

Steam engines, which are the best; have a lot of water which gets boiled up inside the fireplace and then is so hot it is forced out the chimney. It’s very magical in there and no one knows how they work because it’s too hot to look, but you can tell when it’s ready because the whistle blows.  The Kingston Flyer is the fastest train in South America because it has a steam engine.

Closer to the silly season, he took a lot of convincing before he gave up his wording on one of the traditional carols “Hark the hairy Angels sing...”

Hacker Ma
(Erin McKechnie.)