I'm told that everyone has a book in them but personally I have never felt the urge to write the next bestseller as I struggle writing enough words in reviews let alone writing a 50,000+ word novel! However, I hope that the tips provided for aspiring authors in today's The Write Stuff with... feature from debut author Annabelle Thorpe will prove useful to anyone considering the next steps to getting published.
The Perfect Submission.
As any aspiring writer will know, the moment when you finally send your first three chapters out into the world is an incredibly exciting time. It's when it all begins; an unknown pair of eyes reading your words, following the plot you've slaved over, becoming drawn into a world that's entirely of your creation. But with dozens of manuscripts landing on agents' desks every week, how do you ensure yours gets read? Here are my five top tips for a manuscript that will get you noticed.
1. Kick off in Style
Now that first chapters of novels can be downloaded for free, or offered as 'tasters' it's never been more important to have an opener that grabs the reader from the first page. Don't feel under pressure to have something super-dramatic or explosive happen, unless the plot happens that way, but introduce characters swiftly and confidently and don't spent too much time on exposition or back story. This can all come later.
2. Three is the Magic Number
Don't be tempted to send four chapters, or five, regardless of whether you feel that they'll be missing out on a particularly brilliant plot twist if they don't read that far. Agents don't have time to read more than they ask for; some ask for a wordcount (say, 10,000 words) rather than a number of chapters. Again, stick to what they request. Agents are experienced at recognising potential from just a short section of a book; trust them to do their job.
3. Read and Re-Read
Imagine the manuscript as if it is presenting itself for an interview. It has to look the part - neat, double-spaced layout, with page numbers and title/author name on each page - but it also has to deliver on grammar, spelling, tense-sense and continuity. Read it and re-read it, and then get friends or family to proof read it for you. A manuscript full of typos, or where the main protagonist is called Charles on page 7 and Charlie on page 9, will not endear you to an agent.
4. Cover Story
Ironically, your chapters are not the first thing an agent will read. Before this comes the covering letter; an incredibly important piece of writing that introduces you, your book and why they should be interested to read it. Cover letters should never be more than one page, and should mention any relevant literary achievements - prizes or competitions you have won - and also why you have chosen to send your manuscript to them. Do they represent authors whose books are similar to yours? Do they specialise in your particular genre? Make the person you are writing to feel you have deliberately chosen them, rather than just plucked them out of the Writers & Artists' Yearbook.
5. Have the whole book written
It's tempting to just send out the first three chapters and have the rest of the plot in synopsis form, but it is absolutely worth waiting until the manuscript is complete before you send out your first submissions. Agents are flooded with new books; if they like your chapters but have to wait for months for the full book you will probably have missed your moment. It's incredibly, infinitesimally rare for an agent to take on a new writer without a full manuscript to consider. Keep going!
Annabelle's debut novel The People We Were Before is out now. You can find out more about Annabelle and her book news via her website http://www.annabellethorpe.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @annabellet
If war is madness, how can love survive?
Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.
The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.
War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.
There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.