On Friday I was lucky enough to attend the Woman's Weekly workshop on fiction writing: Have you got what it takes to be a writer? The first session was so oversubscribed they have now planned in two further sessions - all fully booked I'm afraid. You could check out the next event to be held in at Woman's Weekly Live 12-14 September in Manchester. I travelled up with Wendy Clarke, who's also blogged about the day - read her hilarious accounts here part 1 and part II - and met Patsy Collins and many more terrific writers too numerous to name.
Gaynor Davies, Fiction Editor, set the scene with an excellent introduction into writing for the Women's Weekly reader. She shared her likes (wants VARIETY) and dislikes (predictable romance). Gaynor was a lively and funny speaker and it was rather lovely that she stayed with us for the rest of the day too. At the close there was the chance for a couple more questions and we learned that the WW's reading tea get through 400 stories a month. These are then filtered by Clare through to Gaynor and then to the final Editor for a decision, which is why it can take some time to hear back. Gaynor did advise to send a query if you don't hear back after 4 months.
Our first exercise was to write an opening to hook in a reader. We had a single theme and five minutes. Gaynor went round the table to hear all 27 writers. This was a great opportunity for everyone to participate. And we heard 27 unique openings and interpretations of the theme, quite amazing.
Suzanne Ahern, co-host for the day, took us through 'The art of serial writing'. She generously shared her top tips (plus a handout) and with 17 published serials Suzanne knows what she's talking about. I particularly liked her mini story books that she creates for each new serial. She scours the internet for pictures and photos that inspire characters, prints these out with all her notes on location/setting and any historical research.
Lunch was a chance to catch up with other writers. It was surprising to find I knew quite a few people, though all from FB or blogging and this was the first time to meet them in the flesh.
We all worked on several more exercises after lunch involving character outlining and plotting. The final guest of the day was Laura Longrigg, a literary agent from MBA. She happily shared her experiences as an agent, the submission process and answered questions. Of course we all wanted to know what agents are looking for now (how long is a piece of string?) and Laura believes psychological women centred thrillers (a la Gillian Flynn 'Gone Girl'), historical fiction (think on 1914 anniversary next year) and Reading Groups' Fiction are all still fashionable. The role of the literary agent is changing and MBA are now becoming publishers too (starting with e-publishing their backlists). They receive 50 submissions a week. So if you want to stand out show in the cover letter you're serious about writing: mention successes, writing courses etc Utilise any writing connections or recommendations ie. if you've had good feedback or comments from reviewers (eg. RNA new writers scheme). Laura also promoted the Harry Bowling prize, which I blogged about here.
Looking back on the day the opportunity to network and chat with other writers was definitely a big part of the event's success. And how many of us get to meet a fiction editor for a day ... grab these opportunities when you can! I'm off to write a new story right now.
And here is my rucksack that Wendy sooo exaggerated. Not so big after all. Packed with essential items