Recently a new Twitter hashtag has started called #askHAU. This is a great opportunity for children’s writers of all levels to ask editors/publishers at Hachette Australia questions about the writing trade, how to get published, what the editors are looking for, etc….
This is too good an opportunity to miss and yesterday I participated because it was Suzanne O’Sullivan’s turn to answer the questions from 3pm to 4pm. Suzanne is the Associate Publisher of children’s books at Hachette Australia and replied to a whole variety of useful questions with enthusiasm and great wisdom.
Here are my questions:
I hope this has been useful for you, it certainly was for me. 🙂
To read more questions and answers from other Twitterers go here: #askHAU
To find out who else from Hachette will be answering questions go here: Hachette.com.au
As some of you know, I like to enter writing competitions to develop my ability at the craft of writing. I have talked about what I feel you can get out of entering competitions before here.
Over the weekend many aspiring and published writers received the results and feedback from the CYA Conference – Children’s and Young Adult Writers And Illustrators Conference. This is the third year I have entered and over the 3 years I have submitted 8 manuscripts. 7 of which were picture books and 1 a junior chapter book. With your chapter book you only enter the first 1000 words so you have to grab the readers attention and get the point of the story in early. Something which I need to work on. You get feedback from two judges which is just invaluable, so a big ‘Thank You,’ whoever you are!
The image above shows the order in which the chapters books were ranked according to the marks they were given. I was quite pleased to come 8th, as writing chapter books is a relatively new experience to me.
I love the editing, revising, rewriting process, so now I can mull over the feedback and adapt it to my chapter book in the hope of making it an even stronger story and better read.
Here are some things I need to consider:
what age is my main character/protagonist?
end chapters on a point of high tension eg: discovery, mystery, etc
does each scene promote or advance the plot?
is the reader drawn in right away/ is my first chapter so interesting, intriguing that the reader can’t put the book down and wants to read on?
Bring the action in sooner
The encouraging feedback was that:
the chapter book was the appropriate size for the audience, with short chapters
the concept was different to most Christmas books which was a good point
it would be a lovely book for Christmas time
Feedback is constructive and can be hard to take or interpret sometimes. It is also very subjective, so both judges can give different feedback. This is so important to experience as a writer and can only make you stronger!
2 Other sources of information I use to help steer me in the right direction and that gives great tips on writing are the following podcasts:
KATIE DAVIS– I listen to Katie and her guests talk about writing for children every Friday morning when I go for a long walk. This is also one of the times I get my ‘eureka’ moment when I have been stuck on a particular part of a manuscript.
And more recently I have been listening to:
CHERYL KLEIN – Cheryl talks with her guests about all types of writing but some of the advice is still relevant to writers of children’s books. EG: Consider when does your next scene start? How long after the last? In your first chapters include protagonist, conflict and adventure.
Speak to you soon, I have to go off now and polish my work!
Today is ‘World Read Aloud Day’. To fing out more about this event click here.
So tonight I am reading a new book that arrived in the postbox today –Miss Brooks Loves Books by Barbara Bottner and brilliant illustrations by Michael Emberley. Thank you Mr. Postman, such great timing!
This isn’t a book I have just chosen out of the blue, oh no, there was a perfectly good reason. Sometimes (and apparently more frequently) when you are submitting a manuscript, you can be asked to compare your story/concept to other books already out there. Mary Lindsey from QueryTracker.net also mentions this in her post: Query Letters:Constants and Not so Constants.
I have written a manuscript about a Librarian and have not read many books with this theme before, not even in my teaching years. Therefore I had to go on a hunt for books with Librarians in them. This led me to Miss Brooks Loves Books, which I found online eventually. I loved the synopsis and therefore decided to order it.
It is not always easy to find books that you can compare your own to. What happens if you can’t say my book is ? meets ?. Mary Lindsey says:
“This doesn’t work if you use little known or obscure references.”
Searching for similar themes and concepts to your own is a good lesson. Maybe there are hundreds out there already like your story idea. What then? Can you find a new angle to make it better? Give it a twist? These are challenges worth thinking about and even taking on!
And the bonus is you get to discover new authors and illustrators like I have with Miss Brook Loves Books! (and I don’t)