Category Archives: Submission

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!



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Pitch Perfect

I seem, lately, to have been reading and working on a number of synopses and cover letters with my clients and often we overlook the importance of pitching our work to agents and publishers.

When I first submitted about ten years ago I really was a novice. I was submitting too early a draft of the first novel for a start, and I had an empty CV. Just saying I write because it’s my passion, my dream, isn’t enough. We all do. And in many ways I was considering myself qualified enough to be a writer, a published one at that — based on having completed that draft and because I read lots of books.

And as I have said here before, I also spend lots of money but would I apply to be banker based on this criteria alone?

So as I learned and attended conferences, not only did my eyes open to what’s needed to create anything worthy of publication, but I also came to see that while we see writing itself as a creative art, pitching and selling books is a business. Agents and publishers are inundated with submissions and it really does take something to have the WOW factor for it to stand out — and that just means a request for a full MS, it’s only a start.

What agents and publishers want is a WOW book, we all know this. I mean if you can’t write a good copy letter and your synopsis is poor it will count against you but if the agent is able to see through that with all the other things waiting to be read, and gets to the MS and can see it is WOW then the poor pitch might be overlooked. But is this likely to happen I wonder. Agents I’ve talked to — with so much to look at — are more likely to reject based on being unimpressed by the poor pitch. So give yourself the best chance, is all I’m saying. Of course you might be the best pitcher in the world (Like Walter Johnson — baseball?) and your MS has no WOW, and I think that happens a lot too. So it’s not all about the pitch, but you do need to approach this part of the process as a business to stand the best chance of being taken seriously.

So what works as a pitch?

Look I speak only as a debut novelist, but I have had many requests for complete manuscripts in the process of finding my publisher and I do listen to what’s said. When I spoke with agents they said how many manuscripts are rejected because they do not follow the submission guidelines to the letter. Some people wrote emotive pitches, trying to show off their writing ability, using coloured fonts, perfumed paper, even photos of their kids — what next?

Publish this or the puppy gets it? It’s a business proposal, it’s a job application — if you would not do it for that, do not do it for your submission.

So get the basics right —

  • Follow submission guidelines TO THE LETTER — if they ask for a one-page synopsis send a one-page synopsis (I advise to prepare a 3,2 and 1 page as they ask for any of these, if they don’t specify or say short — send the one-pager.) I have also been asked to send a blurb-like pitch which means no denouement. But otherwise they want the denouement. See later for synopsis guidelines
  • Make the cover letter succinct and to the point like a job application
  • Only include a full CV if you have competition wins and a publishing history or writing work experience on there, i.e. work as a freelance editor — in other words you have enough to put on there. They don’t want a CV with all your lists of unrelated jobs! Otherwise put in the  cover letter I won the ABC Short Story Competition 2013 and have had one short story published and performed on the radio … etc. If you belong to a writing group tell them. Tell them what makes it clear you mean business. This is my fourth novel, I am currently working on .. but be succinct a young adult novel set in the 1960s — no more than that.
  • Include the requested synopsis.

Synopsis — write a third person present tense that covers only the relevant and key plot moments, not a complete breakdown and make sure it shows the full story arc and the motivation of the protagonist so we see how the story unfolds including the denouement. I found this a great book for this:


In the cover letter:



Dear  Full name,  (get it right, and one agent at any one agency)

I am seeking a publisher/representation for my debut/second novel title , an adult novel, 100,000 words — state genre if applicable — or it would appeal to readers of Stephen King.

Please find attached/enclosed, as requested, the first three chapters of title and a one-page synopsis.

Pitch the theme and premise in one to three sentences in a blurb-like manner that captures what the book explores. Eleanor Boone disappeared from the grassy knoll at the exact moment Kennedy was assassinated and is still missing fifty years on. Narrated by a local hack, part-time dad, Gary Blanchet and retired police psychic, Lydia Collins, they use real evidence from that day and the psychic’s insights but this time not looking for a man in a crowd with a gun — but a little girl.

State how this is relevant or in my case how it linked with the Kennedy anniversary — so any USP but SUCCINCT. NO WAFFLES WITH THAT!

Something about you — very short bio, what you’ve had published, work that’s relevant, competition wins.

SHOW YOU MEAN BUSINESS — especially with an agent they want a career — not one book.

And sign off professionally, I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely, (NOT with everything crossed – do not say I am desperate!)

Hopeful Writer  (Never use something like this!)

Include links to blogs, twitter, FB in the sign-off only and in small professional print not flashing neon. If they’re interested in you they might look but if your page is full of I just pitched to another freakin’ agent, what does it take for someone to like my work — er don’t include the links! This is where you also have to think about how social networking portrays you — maybe something to talk about another time?


Include you life story, X Factor sob story, photos of children and pets starving if you don’t get accepted! Don’t beg, don’t say ‘Writing is my dream, my passion’ (it’s a given!), ‘ this is all I ever wanted to do’ — show that in your successes, courses attended etc that show you mean business.


Have a great weekend everyone and I hope this was helpful!



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Here we go … setting your writing goals

Yay it’s a shiny new year! Don’t spoil it!

I don’t know about you but I love the feel of a new year. I used to see it as a way to start over with new paper, clean diary, new goals but now I see it more as a restoration of the default setting and to make sure I am still on track.

Resolutions are usually broken within a couple of weeks so I prefer to think it terms of setting realistic goals and this can be at any time, but then pushing yourself to achieve. If you see it as a chore you will never succeed. If you  just keep making lists and moving the writing one down further, or pushing deadlines too much, the initial relief you feel will fade and you will still feel like a failure.

I am very driven anyway and I remember spending new year’s with  friend a few years ago and one of the first things I did in the new year was buy a copy of Writers & Artists Yearbook for that year and say — I have to stop getting rejected and I will do what it takes to find me an agent or publisher. At the time I think this was with the infamous Colourblind and I adopted a new approach by being more choosy in the agents I contacted. While I soon learned at the time my writing was not quite there, the agents who did look at it mostly asked to see the rest of it and it was certainly better than my send to all approach as a novice!

When I knew it wasn’t good enough I then set out new goals and took more courses and in my case studied for my MA too. I went back to short stories to learn the craft. I was determined and still am. But an important lesson I learned was that like evolution and indeed ecology, we must adapt to a changing landscape in order to move forward.

At this melancholy time of year we often look back. So look back at some of your earlier writing as this is a wonderful way to see how far you’ve come. We never stop learning.

So here’s some advice for those with manuscripts and the dream  that this will be the year, how much have you worked and reworked that MS? What has the feedback been like? Are you still trying to flog a — no I won’t say it, are you still trying with the same novel you wrote ages ago? There comes a time when you have to move forward with the next one, as I had to do with Colourblind. That isn’t the same as giving up, it’s learning, adapting, taking what you learned from each step and progressing and one day you will come back to that MS with fresh eyes and be able to do it justice. You will see why it was rejected.

I am a lover of lists and I live for the dream, but not just the realisation of it, the ride to get there which is why I say you should celebrate every success along the way, it’s all part of the journey. And we never stop learning.

For me as well as my having to keep telling people about my book (still 99p on Kindle it seems!) and planning the LA trip etc, I am now having to focus on getting the next one submitted and being prepared for rejection because it will come — but let’s hope this is the year I find me an agent.

We need goals, but just don’t set yourself ones that mean flying before you have learned to walk, the oh sod it, let’s just self-publish this anyway approach. You know what I mean, sending it out there when it’s not quite ready. It is a long ride, but if you want it you will get it.

And anyone who missed my Essex twang I was invited onto a Radio Show on New Year’s Eve. Funny as I follow a couple of Essex radio stations on Facebook and that morning it had asked for people to sum up their year in 5 words. I chose: My dream finally came true. And in a short follow-up said why. Apparently it was read out on BBC Radio Essex and I was picked up for the Mike Forrest Show that goes out to 39 local radio stations in the BBC! So that was a great way to end the year. Oh and when you listen, sorry George Clooney! I only meant he is too old to play Gary in the film (since Gary is in this 30s) I’m sure I could find a role for him and no way is he too old, oh George … fine!

Mike Forrest Show 31/12/2013

(about 23 mins in)

Welcome to 2014! 

Come fly with me!


PS if anyone wants to contribute a piece to CafeLit here is the link: CL

Bridge House are now open for short story submissions: BH

And if you want me to start up Fiction Clinic on the last Friday of the month, I am seeking 500 words that need a little online TLC. |Email them to me

Oh and I have revised my prices on novels and novella work finally on my website but there is still an introductory discount for new clients

Tomorrow I will share a link for a little guest blog post I did!

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Ramblings on being ready to submit …

After all the excitement of the cover reveal yesterday, and then as it turns out, the publisher had given me the not quite final cover which only added to the excitement and led to another reveal later, (yesterday’s post now has the correct image) and (pause for breath) we go live with the single today that will be free to download (optional donation to charity) — emergency post with link later, (yes this is all one sentence!) — I will calm it all down a notch now before I get tucked into the novel-writing.

Phew. Breathe.

I was pondering the dos and don’ts of the submission process and there are many such posts out there. I won’t give a step by step common sense list — only to say one thing — ALWAYS FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES TO THE LETTER. And that includes how you format your work. Get it right. Hard copy proof it for typos etc. You know all this and if you don’t — you should. Points finger, tries to look like a school teacher. Fails.

No what I was pondering was this need to have it now mentality and one of the many reasons some writers choose to self-publish — because rejection hurts? What can I say — it really does. Now I know this isn’t the only or even the main reason we self-publish but it is why a lot of us do — so don’t think this is a statement against self-publishing because it’s really not. Really really. Honest.  Shakes head, nods head, shakes it again. Oh dear now I look like a stuck chicken. I think it’s great this option is available. Truly. But (always a but) — what popped into my frazzled, on the computer far too long without breaks yesterday brain was that I think of a lot of the reason why some material published isn’t as good as it can be is we submit too early. Yep really.

I say this from my experience as a very small publisher, but also, mostly in fact, from my editing and critiquing work. Writers tell me they have their novel finished and want my help and in some cases are primed and ready to start seeking a publisher or the all elusive agent (they do take people on, don’t they? Now and then? Might be an urban myth  — she jests with tongue in cheek.) If the MS is an early draft and by that I mean, first to fourth even, and a first novel — there’s a reasonable chance it’s a few edits away from finished. Finished is a bit of a myth too. Also said with tongue firmly stuck to inside of cheek. The big question is knowing when it’s ready.

We all think it is and then it’s not and end up with so many versions of it. But this is process. This is needed. Really. If you can’t cope with writing the same novel about 8 times (average I’d day) then you might have a problem. It’s in the getting it right I derive great pleasure and so can you and I know many of you do!

All I’m saying, if I have a point in my apparent, going too fast with excitement, supposed to be calming it down brain this morning, is there are  key thoughts I want to share (it took this long to get to it! Now there’s a lesson in editing!) — here they are:

1. If your MS is an early draft it’s probably not ready.

2. If your MS is a much later draft, it’s probably not ready — but if it is almost ready then a publisher/agent might take a chance on it.

3. If your MS is rejected with standard rejections and not whispers (as someone put it so well on FB yesterday) of almost there it’s probably not ready.

4. If your MS has never been critiqued or copy-edited by someone who knows, and is a first novel in particular,  it’s almost certainly not ready.

And — 5. If you decide to self-publish and any of these apply, do yourself a favour and at least have the work critiqued/copy-edited to address why it was rejected before you put it out there — especially, let me repeat, if any of the above apply.

And last, but not least, 6. Don’t publish it too early. Make sure you have gone through several edits and it is as good as it can be (and that means the critique/copy-edit) to be as sharp as possible — if you want to sell books beyond the first one (which will always sell to family and friends) aim for longevity and think future sales.

On that note if your chief aim is to seek an agent, then remember they want you for your career, not just one book and that’s really important.

Of course if your motivation isn’t to secure an agent/publisher after self-publishing, or to self-publish your way into a bestseller and you’re doing it purely for fun and that’s enough — ignore all of the above! But it’s not why most of us write. Is it? Except for the fun part, which it should always be — right?

God, where did all that come from today? Too much caffeine. Or not enough?

Going off to write and await a phone call from my publicist. (Showing off now, always wanted to say that, and it is actually true! Claire from Parthian is calling be about launchy and press things this morning) Woo hoo! Never get used to it! Keep it fun. Always do it because you love it. Really, truly, honestly.

Act your shoe size. It helps!

And today!

And today!

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