Guest blog: The pressure of time (Kate Scott)

Welcome to one of our original Undiscovered Voices finalists, Kate Scott  (UV2008). Her guest blog talks about the forces that seek to whittle away the precious time that writers have to write. There are times to write slowly, she suggests, and some occasions that require writing quickly!

The pressure of time

Whether published or pre-published, it’s easy to feel under pressure as a writer. The pressure to produce a book, to submit it (or, if under contract, to market it), then to write another, and another, and another. But writing books with frazzled speed is not the way to produce your best work – and if you’re not producing your best work then maybe it needs a new approach…

Slow writing

We have slow cooking, why not slow writing? Wallow in your words. Ponder your paragraphs. Curl into your chapters. Submerge yourself in your story. (And avoid too much alliteration.) Creating good stories takes time – so take the time. What you produce will be the better for it. What sticks is a good story, so don’t rush or you’ll write something that slips from the reader’s mind, rather than lingering there.

R. J. Palacio, author of Wonder, is about to publish a new book, Pony. She says: “I love to tell stories, and writing is my preferred way of doing that. But I also love spending time with family and friends, and I can’t say I’m one of those writers that writes ever day even when I’m not working on a book. I write until a story is finished, then I do other things. Then when I have another story to tell, I write that one.”

She talks about how she put her new manuscript aside when she realised it wasn’t working. She only went back to it a few years later when she’d figured out the way to fix it. The result? A better book. The lesson? Take your time.

The pressure of the brand

As a writer or an illustrator, you’re also pushed to create a brand, to promote that brand, extend it, and work to make it ‘sticky’ (among other vaguely unpleasant-sounding marketing terms).

You’re told to network, promote, create acres of content. You’re told to choose your social media platform and to dance on that platform until your feet bleed and you have followers in their thousands…

To which I say (and editors and marketing managers may want to cover their ears at this point): No.

It’s not that having a social-media platform or a brand is a bad thing – of course it’s not – but it’s not what should come first.

If you are spending more time online networking and promoting than you are offline writing and editing your stories, then you have things the wrong way around. Funny memes may get the likes, but good stories pull in the readers. Social media fans are fickle, readers of good books are anything but. Take your time.

Don’t do what makes you feel uncomfortable

Some people are natural networkers, happy to share their lives online. If this is you, that’s wonderful – use your gift-of-the-online gab. If it’s not you, don’t worry that you are losing out. It’s unlikely that your online presence will have as much as an effect on sales or reach as you might have been led to believe. Other people’s recommendations will snag sales, your own promotions? Not so much. And other people’s recommendations will come if the work is good.

So again, take your time to make it so. Just like the Field of Dreams quote: ‘If you build it, they will come.’

The exception proves the rule

BUT. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking of entering the Undiscovered Voices competition? Ignore everything I’ve just said and HURRY UP.

This is the chance of a children’s writing career lifetime…

type at your fastest speed and grab it!

Kate Scott is the author of 35 children’s fiction and non-fiction titles, including Giant, Just Jack and Spies in Disguise: Boy in Tights, which won a Lancashire Fantastic Book Award. Kate has also written over 90 episodes of children’s television for CBeebies, C5, CITV, Disney and Netflix. She was the script-editor for the animation-film, A Christmas Letter, narrated by Kate Winslet (Sky) and was recently commissioned to write the treatment for a 45-minute TV film special based on the classic children’s series, Brambly Hedge, by Jill Barklem.

She is currently the Story Editor for a new pre-school show coming to Apple TV. Kate co-founded the Book Pen Pals initiative with Sara O’Connor in May 2018.