Saturday, 7 April 2012

G is for Good

If there was one lesson I heard from listening to agents, editors and authors about getting published it's that your book has to be good. It can survive being badly represented by your query letter or undersold by your synopsis, but the book itself has to be outstanding. That is where 99% of my effort has to go.

Now, I'm making no claims that I am anywhere near that, but I do know my writing is getting better. I have some concrete evidence:
  • My writing tutors from the Open University, Open College of the Arts and the MA all say so.
  • I'm getting longlisted and shortlisted in competitions.
  • Now, an agent thinks so. That's not necessarily going to lead to publication, but she thinks it's worth a punt.
  • And I think so. I can see the weaknesses and the strengths.
But contrary to all of my tutors' advice, good writing isn't the whole picture. I've worked on characterisation and voice, I've developed dialogue and description, but the final component I had to work on by myself.
Only the agent seems to be interested in how good the story is. I've never had much difficulty coming up with stories, but I was thrilled when someone from the competition recently described my book as 'weird. Really weird.' Because that's what I was going for, and it was lovely to play around with creepy atmospheres, strange history, Elizabethan sorcery and the semi-dead.

So my advice to new writers is get yourself on a course to develop your skills (the OCA is by far the cheapest and I found, incredibly helpful) but keep pushing the boundaries of those stories. Because, if a book is going to be good, it needs a fantastic one, competently written, not, in my opinion, a competent story fantastically written.

The advice I was given from the agent (for more experienced writers) was take the story up a gear, more atmosphere, more warmth, more emotional engagement. And I'm happy with where it's taken me so far.


  1. Nice to meet you Reb, just became a new follower from A-Z Challenge.


  2. Hi Carolyn, it's always inspiring to meet writers further down the publishing road. Thanks for visiting.

  3. Reb, I'm going to do just that, the OCA!