UV Masterclass report, part 2

This year’s Undiscovered Voices preparations are bigger than ever with our very first UV Masterclass series proving hugely popular. But if you missed out, don’t panic! Here’s a breakdown to clue you in. Each of the three sessions focused on different elements of your UV submission. Our second report focuses on WRITING A SYNOPSIS with author and editor Benjamin Scott, sharing his secrets for distilling your novel into a 75-word synopsis. This might feel impossible, but Benjamin makes it look easy.

Writing a Synopsis

Firstly, it’s important you don’t try to say too much – it’s only 75-words – try to capture the essence of your story and don’t try to squeeze in all the finer details. Remember, you don’t have to keep it forever – it’s a specific tool to woo our judges.

Hot tip! The writing does matter. Fluidity and intrigue that pulls you in is key, a bit like a movie trailer. You might like to keep that in mind when you’re writing yours. They should tell you just enough to give you a picture of the story and where it might go.

What were the big pointers to look out for?

Make sure you’re pitching your story to the right age group, that the tone and style are reflective of your chapters, be sure to tell the judges about the bigger picture and read the previous anthologies to see successful examples – they’re all available for free!

You’ll notice those who’ve previously bagged themselves a spot in the anthology ensured their audience knew who their stories were about, their conflicts or goals, the stakes and what they intended to do about them, and if they had time, they’ve thrown in a small peppering of setting too.

At the end of the day, Benjamin advises not to let this task consume you – it’s a functional tool just for our judges – if you’re submitting directly to agents, they’ll likely want a longer synopsis.

Get friends and family to check it or write several different versions to let them choose. Why not also get your friends and family to read a selection of your favourite synopses from the previous anthologies? Then ask them what appealed to them.

Make every word count and trust your gut!

Discover more – UV Masterclass report, part 3

Don’t miss the great tips in our UV masterclass report, part 1 on Titles That Sell.

Andrew James is originally from the Lake District and teaches English, Film and Media. He completed his MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths in 2018 and for the past five years, he has organised and hosted monthly agent pitch evenings for his local writing group. He has a passionate dislike for anything referred to as an ‘easy peeler.’ Satsumas are the only way to go.

Before You Click Submit, Part 4 – Hunting Mistakes

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.

In this post, we’re looking at a great way to scrutinise your text, some commons errors and few pet peeves that can let your extract down.

No Place to Hide – Paragraph Swap Around

UV Founder and Author Sara Grant suggests reading your extract out of order. First switch the pages around and read them out of order. Next read the paragraphs out of order.

“It’s surprising what you’ll find when you scrutinize pages and then paragraphs out of context and individually,” she says. “You start considering if every line, word and punctuation mark is correct. Also you may spot words, phrases or ideas you overuse reading in this mixed-up fashion.”

Just make sure your paragraphs are in the right order when you submit.

Find-and-Replace Mistakes

Rosie Best (UV 2012)

Author and Working Partner’s editor, Rosie Best, warns about the sort of errors that come with using ‘find-and-replace’ on the manuscript. “We all use it,” Rosie says, “But you need to check the results for consistency.”

Make sure find-and-replace has caught every version of the word – some find-and-replace software misses out possessive versions of words, or where a different grammatical agreement has been used.

“A common error is when find-and-replace makes a change inside another word entirely. If you’ve changed a character name from Rose to Emily, you may end up with a sentence like this ‘in the morning, Ben aEmily from his bed’.”

“Also double check that you’ve also deleted any obsolete references that may be left over from previous drafts,” Rosie adds. “It can be surprising how many can survive repeated edits.”

Pet Peeves and Common Errors

“We all have writing ticks,” says Benjamin Scott, committee member and creative writing tutor. “Whether it’s a sentence structure we tend to favourite, a set of words we always reach for first, or, some stock dialogue. It feels comfortable to use, but often leads to wordy, untidy writing.”

A good critique partner (or editor) will point these ticks out to you, but there are plenty web-based editing tools (like http://editminion.com/) that use algorithms to suggest potentially useful edits to your text.

Keep looking for ways to tighten your writing and search the web for common errors to avoid. Here are some of our favourite pitfalls to dodge (thanks to Sara Grant):

  • Unnecessary word repeated in short space, or over-usage in the whole piece.
  • Unnecessary phrases – i.e. his heart thumped in his chest, nodded his head, imagined in his mind, blinked his eyes, actual facts, at this moment in time
  • Main character or narrator thinking too many questions in quick succession – i.e. What was he thinking? What could he do? What did it all mean?
  • Not trusting yourself as a writer and not trusting your readers by showing and telling your reader something – i.e. My hands began to sweat. Fear fizzled in my stomach. My eyes widened in surprise. I was scared.
  • Too many competing metaphors or similes in close proximity to each other. Let your best metaphors and similes breathe.
  • Appropriate level of description – avoid either too much or not enough. Tell your readers what they need to know to picture a scene and understand the action.
  • Too specific action that proves unimportant – i.e. He picked up the knife with his left hand and turned counterclockwise.

And, finally, watch out for tenses – nothing is more disruptive that an unexpected and unintentional shift in tense!

Stay tuned for our final tips, coming tomorrow. Submissions for UV2018 will open this Saturday (1st July 2017) and will close 15th August 2017. Why not sign up here for submission reminders?

UV2018 – Words & Pictures Special Feature

UV committee members Benjamin Scott and Catherine Coe talk to SCBWI BI Words & Picture Events Editor A. M. Dassu about the reason for setting up UV and the upcoming special writing younger fiction Masterclass.

Benjamin and Catherine offer tips and insights in the sixth Undiscovered Voices competition. Read more here.