To start with, an admission. When we run writing events, we always make sure that writers get the chance to have one-to-one feedback on their work from a professional book doctor. And after these events, we’re exhausted. I won’t name names, but at least two of my team got up well after 1.00 pm on the Sunday following our most recent event. And one member of our team – no names – spent her day eating M&S ready meals and watching Mutant Ninja Turtles on the telly, because it seemed like too much work to flip the channel.
Most events for writers (including the ones we run) have at their heart a set of Book Doctor sessions. Those sessions, if you don’t already know, work something like this. You send in 5,000 words of your book, including covering letter and synopsis. The book doctor reads your work in advance and then, in the course of a fifteen minute face-to-face meeting, goes through their thoughts and comments on your book, including a set of written feedback.
You know how it is. You’ve spent ages thinking about what you’re going to write, anticipating it, feeling frustrated because other things are getting in the way of it. Finally, you clear a couple of hours from your busy schedule, switch on your computer or get out your pen and paper and… nothing. The words won’t come, or they seem laughably trite or cliched or flaccid. You’re gripped by the urgent need to wash the kitchen floor, track down a sock that’s been missing for the past five years or surf a favourite website. Hey, maybe you could call that research.
If you’ve ever dreamed about writing a novel that will read and loved by millions of people, then you’re in luck. There’s a hidden structure in every famous book, movie and stage performance that goes back beyond recorded history. And when you tap that mythical structure, you’ll write a story that will resonate with people around the world.
Many people try writing a novel to get on the best seller list, but often times they fail. Of course, there are plenty of steps to creating a wonderful novel that will get you on TV and the radio talking about how you write your amazing stories.
Do you wish you could write a novel? Many people do. Most people even have an idea in their heads about what kinds of characters, and what kind of story will play out in their book. But for some reason, they never sit down and start writing. But if they do, they write at an incredibly slow pace, at about one page every couple of weeks.
You’ve been there. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there: the one-third slump, when a manuscript runs out of steam maybe thirty-thousand words in. Something about the story simply isn’t working.
So what’s gone wrong?
Loads of new writers will be frustrated by the impersonal quality of the typical agent submission procedure. You send off your stuff – spend up to eight weeks waiting to hear something – then get back a preprinted, slightly cold rejection letter. It feels so dispiriting, so unconstructive.
Nothing, but nothing, is more delightful than writing for children. And if you’ve started, as most such writers do, by writing for your own children, then you have delight piled on delight in store. Lucky you.