Before You Click Submit, Part 3 – Eight Ways to Make Sure Your Submission Hits the Mark

As we get closer to the opening of UV submissions, we’re posting tips to make sure your submission stands the best chance of making it into the anthology.

Eight Ways to Make Sure Your Submission Hits the Mark

Shine by Candy Gourlay

Award-winning author and one of the first UV finalists Candy Gourlay has kindly given us eight incredible and direct tips to make sure your submission is ready to wow our judges:

Tip 1: Intrigue starts with your first chapter. No explanations. Make your reader desperate to find out what happens next.

Tip 2: Voice. Everyone talks about looking for a voice. Voice only happens when your characters have come alive. How do you do that? Inhabit your character and build the plot from within.

Tip 3. Setting is context AND character, not information. Stop describing and start characterising. If your setting is alive, your reader will read on.

Tip 4. Cause and effect. If cause and effect is not happening then your chapter is static and your reader has probably died of boredom.

Tip 5. Don’t be anxious to make sure that your reader understands your story in the first three chapters. First chapters intrigue and lead your reader on. They are not there to explain. Trust the judges – they are reading a LOT of first chapters and I’ll bet a lot of them are explaining rather than exciting.

Tip 6. Select the eggs you’re going to offer in the basket. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PUT EVERYTHING INTO THE FIRST CHAPTER. You are more likely to engage a reader with a choice selection.

Tip 7. Make sure you identify WHO you’re writing for and that your sample is appropriate to your target readership. Oh, and here’s a guess … most people submitting will probably be writing YA. Ask yourself, is this the one that will help me stand out in the herd?

When you are editing down your chapter samples, don’t cut for word number, cut for MEANING and DRAMA.

Tip 8. When you are editing down your chapter samples, don’t cut for word number, cut for MEANING and DRAMA. I know so many people who edit down without realising that they are losing the deliciousness of their writing. This means you will have to be wise and practical about choosing what you winnow out of your text.

Check back soon for more top writing tips before you submit.


Candy Gourley was a finalist in UV2008. She has been a journalist, press photographer, web designer, short film maker, radio presenter (well, once) and fake American accent voice talent. She once helped overthrow a dictator (with several million other people). She has now forsworn revolutionary activity to become a children’s author. She is the award-winning author of Tall Story and Shine.  www.candygourlay.com

Getting Ready for UV2018 – Guest Blog with Katrina Charman

In our fourth guest blog by a past finalist, Katrina Charman, who was featured in the UV2014 anthology, talks about her UV experience.

Take a Chance

When I sat down to write this blog post I had part of an Abba song repeating in my head – Take a chance, take a chance, take a ch, ch, chance chance. I don’t even like Abba that much, but the point is that when I entered Undiscovered Voices 2014, I honestly didn’t think I had much of a chance. But if you don’t try you don’t get, right?

So I polished up my submission as best I could and sent it off and then went on to my next WIP to stop me from agonising about all of the mistakes I might have made or thoughts of should I have edited more, or changed the opening . . . and on and on.

Then I got THE CALL from the lovely Sara Grant, saying that I was one of the finalists and I honestly couldn’t believe it. Things moved very swiftly from the UV14 launch party to being offered representation from multiple agents and then signing with my fabulous agent Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency.

But it was not all smooth sailing from there. My entry into the competition, a YA, went out on submission and it didn’t sell. I could have let it get to me (and believe me it hurt) but after a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I worked on something else.

Inspired by a workshop run at my agent’s writing retreat, and by my fellow Team Cooper writers, I wrote something completely new and different to my usual YA.

A picture book.

It sold at auction to Bloomsbury and is going to be illustrated by the inimitable Nick Sherratt. This spurred me on to try genres that I had never written in before and to write for different age groups, so I wrote another book – an early reader, and it sold. So I wrote something different, and when it didn’t sell, I wrote something else. Since Undiscovered Voices 2014, I have contracts for 15 books and counting. I am now able to write full time because of the opportunities that the SCBWI and Undiscovered Voices created.

If there is one piece of advice that I can give any aspiring writer or illustrator thinking of entering Undiscovered Voices (and you absolutely should!), it is to keep going. Don’t give up.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that writing is less about talent and more about luck and perseverance. If there is one piece of advice that I can give any aspiring writer or illustrator thinking of entering Undiscovered Voices (and you absolutely should!), it is to keep going. You will get rejections, over and over again. But don’t give up. Try something new – a different genre, age group, a poem. You never know what is going to get you there. Take every opportunity that comes your way, even if you think you have no chance.

You never know where it might lead you.

Take a chance*.

(*Apologies for the earworm!)


Katrina Charman is the author of eleven published books including The Ninjabread Man (Franklin Watts). Poppy’s Place series (Stripes), The Firehawk series (Scholastic) and two picture books to be announced. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband and three daughters. In 2013 she was a recipient of the SCBWI BI Margaret Carey scholarship and is lucky enough to be represented by super agent Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency.

 

Submissions for UV2018 will open on 1st July 2017 and will close 15th August 2017. Why not sign up here for a reminder when submissions open?

 

UV Finalists Coming to the Big Screen

The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli

We’re delighted to hear that UV2012 finalist Veronica Cossanteli is having her book The Extincts adapted into an animated film to be directed by William Joyce. David Lipman (producer of Shrek 2) will adapt the project for the big screen, with Oscar-winning filmmaker and author/illustrator William “Bill” Joyce helming.

You can find out more in this article from the Hollywood Reporter.

Getting Ready for UV2018 – Guest Blog with Imogen White

In the first of a series of guest blog by past finalists, Imogen White, whose debut book The Amber Pendant launches in June, talks of her emotional Undiscovered Voices journey and her tips for writers preparing to enter UV2018.

 

When I entered the first 4,000 words of my book (then called Shadow Inclusions) to the Undiscovered Voices 2014 competition it was a big moment for me. It was the first thing I had EVER put out there publicly.

I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it. For me it was more about getting over my jitters and taking that first bold step of pressing the ‘SUBMIT’ button. After all, what did I have to lose?

The moment I learnt I had been selected for the longlist remains my most thrilling memory. Thoughts like there must have been some terrible administrative error were eventually replaced with sheer joy, and tears too, if I’m honest. It was the first time that I felt like an authentic writer. All those embarrassed conversations over many years with family and friends playing down why I dedicated so much time to writing when I had nothing tangible to show for it, were finally laid to rest. The more I thought about it the more my head spun. Would I now be put to the top of the slush pile when I eventually put my work forward to agents and publishers? That was the pinnacle of my aspirations.

Then, quite unexpectedly I got “THE CALL!” from the lovely Sara Grant letting me know that I had been chosen to appear in the Anthology. WOW! What a total privilege. Now the beast of my writing ambitions had become something else; it had grown arms and legs and had a momentum all of its own. Actually, I was also pretty terrified! I felt like a total fraud compared to the other worthy winners, especially as I am mildly dyslexic and had no previous writing experience. But as soon as I met the wonderful Sara Grant and team, I was put at ease. They led us all through the whole process – and best of all my work was printed in the Anthology.

It really is the most brilliant competition. I met so many industry people at the launch party, including the amazing Anna Power from Johnson & Alcock, who became my agent. I feel so fortunate to have met Anna, she believed in my work from the very beginning and her expert editorial advice helped me tidy and develop my story.

So, I am absolutely delighted to announce that the first book in my series of historical mysteries, is to be published by the fantastic team at Usborne in June 2017.

None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t entered Undiscovered Voices. And if it happened to me, it could happen to you too. Go for it!

Imogen White’s Undiscovered Voices Tips:

  • Start with a bang! – Open your submission with a moment of great mystery or high drama, and don’t get bogged down in boring details. Grab the judges’ attention from the off.
  • Get other writers to critique your entry before you send it. These 4,000 words must be the very best you can present. You want honest and considered feedback (not undiluted sunshine!) from people who write themselves and whose opinion you trust. I need help with my punctuation and spelling – so this was a must for me! Thankfully I had a fabulous writing group to share work with.
  • Do a final line edit to make sure every word has earnt its place.
  • Take a deep breath. Press “SUBMIT.”

GOOD LUCK!


Imogen’s debut The Amber Pendant will be published by Usborne, June 2017. the first of the The Rose Muddle Mysteries. It features the plucky workhouse girl, Rose Muddle, whose world is turned upside down when she is given a magic pendant. It is a tale full of necromancy, shadows and adventure. As Rose bravely tries to unpick the clues set in and around Edwardian Hove, she must find out who the baddies are and stop them before an unimaginable evil is let loose… Becky Walker, Usborne Fiction Editor, writes, “The Rose Muddle Mysteries have everything I look for in a series – full to the brim with magic, mystery, myth and history, and pacy stories that are impossible to put down.” You can follow Imogen on Twitter at @imo0030, or visit her website: https://mysteryverse.wordpress.com/author/mysteryverse/

The 2016 Success Story that Almost Never Happened: Patti Buff

Patti BuffSix out of twelve writers among the Undiscovered Voices finalist have now been signed by agents, but the latest signing is one that might have never have happened!

“Most people don’t know this, but I almost entered a previous version of my novel for the 2014 anthology, but decided at the last moment that my story wasn’t working,” confesses finalist Patti Buff. “So I tossed the entire book and started over from scratch. I am so glad I listened to my gut and reworked Requiem because being chosen for the anthology has paid off a thousand-fold.”

A Chance for Immortality

Requiem introduces Rix, a street-wise seventeen-year-old, who has a chance to earn immortality by working for the feared and powerful Cathari family. She just needs to do everything that they ask her to do, but when they kidnap her supposed-to-be-dead boyfriend, she finds herself in the middle of a century old feud. Will the lure of immortality be trumped by the love for a boyfriend who abandoned her?

This irresistible tale told with an amazing voice attracted agent Hannah Sheppard from DHH Literary Agency as soon as she read it in the Undiscovered Voices anthology. “I knew I wanted to talk to her [as soon as I had finished reading Requiem]. We bonded over Midwest America (where Patti is from and where I spent a year as a teenager), blizzards and speech team competitions. We met again at Bologna once I’d finished reading (and loved) the full manuscript to discuss Patti’s future ideas (which I’m incredibly excited about) and that confirmed for me that Patti was someone I’d very much enjoy working with. I was delighted when she agreed to sign with me at DHH Literary Agency.”

Dream Fulfillers

From Patti’s point of view, she felt something click as soon as author and agent spoke to each other. “Not only had she been to the frozen tundra I call home, but she even liked it and remembered it fondly,” Patti tell us. “Hannah told me her vision for both Requiem and my future projects and I knew that I’d found the perfect partner for me and my books. A huge thank you to everyone involved with Undiscovered Voices for making all of this possible. You’ll always be known as the ‘Dream Fulfillers’ to me.”

We’re as glad as Patti that she finally entered her book into Undiscovered Voices and is beginning to see her dedication to her craft pay off!

Getting Prepared for UV2018

For currently undiscovered writers out there, UV2018 will be launching in Spring 2017, so now is a perfect time to start something new in time for the competition or reassess your work-in-progress for the sort of changes that can transform it into a book worthy of the shortlist. Make sure you sign up for email alerts here.

Best of luck from the “Dream Fulfillers”!

2016 Success Story: Kerry’s Fairytale Agent in Judge Kate

Kerry CassidyOne of our lovely judges, Kate Shaw of The Viney Agency, has signed up author of The Thread Fairy, Kerry Cassidy. Both are mothers of boys and have loved escaping the football, rugby, cricket in this delightful fairy adventure.

Kate says, “Kerry’s fairy story is fresh, charming, sweet, funny… gorgeous! Gabriella is a lovely heroine and I have a good feeling about The Thread Fairy…”

The Thread Fairy is the story of Gabriella, the class prankster, who discovers she is in fact one of rarest of magical beings – a thread fairy. Whilst her heart is in the right place she manages to cause trouble wherever she goes. Throughout this story readers learn with Gabriella the importance in life of understanding what others are thinking and feeling but they’ll have lots of fun along the way.

When Kerry first got the phone call from Sara Grant to say she’d been short-listed for Undiscovered Voices she didn’t really believe it. She had only entered the competition after a friend convinced her it was worth a try. “When I got the news I just kept smiling to myself but couldn’t believe that this list of judges had picked out my story,” she says. “The team at Undiscovered Voices and the judges were giving up their time to help unpublished writers like me. When I met Kate I knew instantly that we’d work well together and thank goodness she felt the same. I am delighted to sign with The Viney Agency and thrilled to be represented by Kate who I feel has been in my corner from the outset.”

Kate wants to tell other writers not hold back. “Next time around enter Undiscovered Voices and you just never know what might happen…”

We couldn’t agree more!

2016 Success Stories: An Agent goes Nuts over Simon James Green

Simon James GreenIt’s the early bird that gets the worm, although in this case it’s the Skylark that gets the promising undiscovered voice. We’re thrilled to hear that Simon James Green, author of Nuts, has signed with Jo Moult at Skylark Literary.

“I clicked with Jo immediately,” says Simon. “I am so thrilled to be represented by such a fantastic agent at a dynamic and exciting agency. I’m now looking forward to working with Jo editorially on the manuscript before we submit to publishers and am very excited about the projects we will work together on in the future.”

The feeling is mutual as his new agent, Jo Moult, says, “I’m so delighted that Simon has signed with Skylark Literary. He has huge writing talent with a wonderful gift for humour. We definitely feel there are exciting times ahead for Simon!”

Nuts is the story of fifteen-year-old Noah caught inadvertently snogging his best mate Harry and that’s only one of the many strange situations he gets himself into in a book described by one the judges as an Inbetweeners-style teen boy comedy.

However, it’s not just about scoring a top agent. As Simon says, “Undiscovered Voices has been an amazing experience. Thanks to the dedication and support of the wonderful volunteers who run the competition, I’ve had my work read by top agents and publishers. Undiscovered Voices has also given me the opportunity to meet other fabulous folk from the world of publishing, including the wonderful team at Working Partners as well as all the other brilliantly talented writers and illustrators whose work was included in the anthology. So to Sara Grant, Sara O’Connor, the UV committee and Working Partners, I just want to say a massive thank you and I definitely owe you all a drink!”

Well, three cheers to that! Congratulations Simon!

2016 Success Stories: Thrilling Surprises for Anna Bowles

Anna BowlesПоздравления (pozdravleniya) to Anna Bowles, author of Steel Tanya, who has just signed with Jenny Savill at Andrew Nurnberg Associates. She’s the second of our Undiscovered Voices 2016 finalists to sign with an agent in the last few weeks.

Used to more unsavoury surprises when writing about her character’s life in Leningrad during Stalin’s Purges, Anna is “very excited to be working with Andrew Nurnberg Associates. I signed up just a few hours after visiting their offices – it was clear they were the right agency for me! Jenny’s enthusiasm for STEEL TANYA, and that of the whole team, was obvious. I know they’ll find Tanya a good home.”

Anna’s novel follows the life of seventeen-year-old committed communist Tanya whose dreams of becoming an engineer are shattered when her parents are arrested.

“I’m so thrilled to be representing Anna – she writes superbly!” says agent Jenny Savill. “We are a very good fit for her here at Andrew Nurnberg Associates, with our shared love of history, great writing for Young Adults – and all things Russian.”

We can’t wait to see what is next for Anna. All that’s left to say is: Удачи! (Udači!)

2016 Success Stories: The Evolution of Rose and her new Agent!

Rose Margaret DenizHotly following on from the launch of the Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology, we’re delighted to share the news that Rose Margaret Deniz, author of The Evolution of You Me, has signed up with agent Jo Williamson at Antony Harwood Ltd.

“I always look forward to receiving the Undiscovered Voices anthology as it is packed with such talent and this year’s more than lived up to my expectations,” Rose’s new agent said.

“I particularly loved Rose’s The Evolution Of You And Me which is a high-concept love story.  I was intrigued by the idea of love surviving in different guises across different dimensions. The characters of Pree and Kenner, though altered as their circumstances changed, remained steadfastly vivid and I was rooting for them both throughout. I am a sucker for a good love story and this novel took things to a whole new level with passages set in space as well as on Earth.  I felt Rose was always in control of her ambitious story and really pushed the boundaries, writing a novel that felt fresh and exciting.”

Delighted, Rose describes signing with Jo as just the beginning of an amazing journey. “Jo reached out to me within days of the anthology being released. From our very first contact, her interest and excitement about The Evolution of You and Me was palpable. We just seemed to click when we talked on the phone, and after meeting in person, I could imagine no better champion for this story than Jo.”

There’s also hope for writers who have been honorary mentioned as Rose was counted amongst them in the last anthology. “I would strongly encourage other writers and illustrators to believe in their work and never give up. After being long listed for another manuscript in 2014, I hit the page even harder, and took the chance to submit again this past year. I’m so glad I did. It is thanks to this incredible opportunity from SCBWI BI and Working Partners that I can share the news that I am now working with Jo!”

While we’re off celebrating Rose’s news, we’ll leave the last word to Jo Williamson, “I am so thrilled to be working with Rose and can’t wait to get The Evolution Of You And Me on to bookshop shelves and into the hands of readers who are in for a real treat.”