I know on a Sunday we normally do Sunday Coffee Reads, but I have something unusual for you this Sunday morning: something to watch.
You may know Jane Wenham-Jones as the author of one of my favorite ‘how to write’ books ever, Wannabe a Writer? (You should, because I’ve mentioned it a gizallion times.) Her approach is incredibly down-to-earth, practical, hilarious and soaked in wine and smelling of crisps. (Not Jane, to be clear. The book.) If you’re ever feeling like pursuing your writing dreams is getting all too much for you, that it’s so far away you think you’ll never get there, and if you’re sick to the teeth of dry, humorless guides that tell you to write pages of illegible crap first thing in the morning and invite your characters to dance, then you NEED to read this book.
But anyway: today we’re talking about Jane’s new venture, Wannabe a Writer TV. This is going to be a new series where wannabe writers get to meet with and take advice from publishing professionals, in the hope of improving their chances of success. The first episode is below, and the second one (which you’ll really want to see after you watch the first—thanks for the cliffhanger, Jane!) is out September 15th.
This first installment stars Delphine as the wannabe writer and super-agent Carole Blake (author of another one of my favorite ‘how to’ books, From Pitch to Publication) as the publishing professional.
I’m very interested to hear what you think of what happens in the show, so do let me know in the comments below!
(Oh, look at that. I’m a poet and I… wasn’t aware.)
This is my comment, and I’d like to preface it by saying that I’m not trying to be mean, just realistic…
Before Carole Blake meets Delphine, she says what she’s looking for is a writer who knows what they’re doing with their material, has a distinctive voice and has created memorable characters (bit of a paraphrase there but that’s basically it). Then she says she gets 5 or 6 submissions a day on paper and 20 by e-mail, and that each agent in the agency gets that amount again, BUT she’s only taken on 2 new clients in 6 years. Cue us all crying into our pillowcases. But when she meets with Delphine—who, in fairness, may not have been prepared for such a meeting at this stage of her writing—Delphine struggles to explain the story and says she hasn’t been writing long, and it turns out that not only does she jump perspective within scenes, but that she has 16 pages of exposition right at the start of her novel to explain the main character’s back story. Now I applaud Delphine for having the bravery to take part in this (I wouldn’t have the courage to!), but if that is typical of a submission, then can’t you understand why the new client-to-submission rate is low? Would you represent Delphine’s book based on that meeting? And if poor Delphine thought Carole’s criticism was “rude”, I’m not sure she’s cut out for reading Amazon Customer Reviews, or being critiqued by fellow writing friends, or working with an editor. Our books are our babies, yes, but they’ll never be the books they can be if we aren’t open to criticism.
An agent told me years ago to think about the fact that when you submit, you’re not competing with the 5 or 6 paper submissions and 20 e-mail submissions that came in with yours. You’re only competing with the ones that are as good as yours—and many of them, maybe even the majority of them, are immediately dismissed for spelling mistakes, not following submission guidelines, not being a book the agent represents, etc.
That’s what I try to think about.
It stops me crying into my pillowcase, if nothing else.