of the New Writers Scheme.
year and these places are hotly contested. We asked writers, who were either
current members or graduates of the scheme, if they had a question about the
NWS for Melanie.
pleasure to talk about the New Writers Scheme.
will be my last year in the job.) Yes, it definitely has changed over that time
and I think that is largely due to the rapid development of ebook publishing
options and the impact of social media. Members are far more willing to ask
questions and seek advice and they have a far wider field of publishing choices
in front of them.
the Royal Mail requires a PhD in post-ology and punctuation has got much, much
worse, especially the punctuation of speech.
do you match up NWS submissions to the Readers and how many readers are there?
varies slightly from year to year. Without them this Scheme would be impossible
and they make a huge contribution in time and expertise. I match submissions to
Readers who write in the same genre, or have a specific interest or expertise
in that type of book. Obviously Readers will tell me how many submissions they
can take, and dates to avoid, and certainly, up to August, I will avoid sending
someone more than one at a time. I also try to avoid sending work to a Reader
who has read that particular author before so that members receive as wide a
range of viewpoints on their work as possible. However, sometimes either the
Reader, or the author, will request that partnership again and I will discuss
it with both of them first. But in August everything becomes much, much more
difficult with over a hundred typescripts arriving, most of them in the last
fortnight. The Readers who are still able to take them find themselves with
several typescripts on their desks, especially if they read for a genre with
few other Readers in the pool. This is why I nag on about submitting well
before the deadline (not that anyone takes any notice of me…) – I will have a
wider field of Readers to choose from and the Readers are unlikely to have a
queue. But don’t forget, all the Readers are busy professional writers and
deadlines, proofs and revisions can crop up unexpectedly at any time.
any plans for NWS members to submit via email rather than post?
it fairly soon, but it isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Many Readers,
who spend hours at a computer screen as it is, find they are much more
comfortable, and effective, reading ‘hard copy’ and some know they will have to
give up as Readers if we insist on electronic submission. There are other
issues, including security and making notes on typescripts. This will be one
for my successor in 2015 to take forward!
consider an unfinished but polished submission a better option than a complete
but unedited novel? Do the Readers approach completed and incomplete
manuscripts in the same way?
unhelpfully, ‘It depends.’ It is probably easier for a Reader to deal with an
unfinished novel that has been thoroughly revised, provided it has a really
good synopsis so they can see where it is going. A complete but unedited one
will result in them spending a lot of time telling you about points that you
know you’ll have picked up for yourself when you started revising. On the other
hand they’ll see the work in its entirety and be able to judge pace, structure,
the effectiveness of the ending and so forth. The shorter a partial, the harder
it is for the Reader to give you as much help as they would like to, and the greater
the importance of the synopsis. Having said that, we’ve taken partials as short
as one chapter and unfinished novels which consisted largely of chapters of
notes. Always better to submit something than nothing and Readers will approach
a partial just as seriously as they will a complete novel.
ex-members that! Many, when they tell us about their publishing deal, will say
that they don’t think they’d have made it without the NWS or that they are
certain their Reader’s advice was a great help. This is another of those ‘it
depends’ questions. Some NWS members join when they are on the brink of success
and just need that little extra polish, others have started from scratch and
need quite a bit of help and some, I suspect, may well never have made it on
their own. If nothing else, it helps writers understand the importance of
feedback and the role of the editor.
percentage terms, how many members of the NWS would you say go on to find
publishing deals and how many years on average does it take them to reach that
point? How many give up and drop out?
deals because I don’t have statistics for NWS members who become Full members
with a book which doesn’t qualify them for the Joan Hessayon Award. (ie it must
have gone through the NWS in some form and they must have remained in
membership from that time). However, in the time I’ve been Organiser the
numbers for the Joan Hessayon Award are as follows (the year is the year of the
award, so the contracts would have been in the previous year):
2014 – 17. We already have 5 contenders
incredibly variable. We have had ‘instant’ successes – but these are often
authors who were already almost there when they joined. We have had members who
have been in the NWS for 10+ years, often not because their writing was not good,
but because they just weren’t the right match for mainstream commercial market
requirements. This is where the greater variety of publishing outlets of recent
years has been so helpful.
say. I know how many don’t renew each year of course, but that can be for a
number of reasons – a change of genre, family pressures, illness and so forth.
The number who feel, ‘I just don’t want to do this anymore,’ is, I suspect,
wondered how much of your time is spent working with these new members and how
do you plan your own writing life around this work?
arrives I will always get emails saying, ‘I’ll bet you’re glad that’s over for
another year!’ at which point I hoot with laughter (or reach for the tissues!)
Most of the year it takes from one to three hours a day. January to July I’m
receiving typescripts and distributing them and dealing with queries, September
through to December is following up outstanding typescripts, answering queries,
organising the Joan Hessayon Award books coming in and working with the
Membership Secretary on the next year’s forms etc. August it is full time and I
will never go on holiday or schedule a deadline then. But it is incredibly
satisfying to be able to help aspiring authors and I know I am going to miss it
when I stop.
Waterloo anniversary in 2015. It will be part three of a trilogy – the other
authors are RNA members Linda Hooper (Sarah Mallory) and Chris Burrows (Annie
Burrows). I’m also getting my self-published book Walks Through Regency London ready to go up as an ebook and
researching the Georgian seaside for Shire Publications. In January Harlequin
are publishing my 44th historical romance, From Ruin To Riches
Aldous, Francesca Capaldi Burgess, Natalie Kleinman, Elaine Roberts and Vivien Hampshire for asking such interesting questions.
brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest, Natalie Kleinman and Liv