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Don’t Skimp On Research

October 25th, 2019

First, thanks to Sim for last week’s post. I see so many poems come in to our competitions each year (and I enjoy reading them all) so I know good advice when I see it and I feel he’s hit the nail on the head. It’s not always wise to enter competitions with the biggest prizes – the entry fees are often high and you’re up against really serious competition. Your wallet and your self-esteem can be dented if you get knocked-back too often. There are lots of competitions out there, so be selective about those you enter, think carefully about their requirements and consider the judges.  In other words, do your research properly and then make sure you stick to the rules and never, ever send a poem that you’re not 100% committed to.

And talking about research, this is something that comes up with students time and time again. Obviously, people enrol with us because they want to write. They want us to help them improve their writing and point them in the direction where they want to go. But, what many of them overlook is that writing isn’t a ‘stand-alone’ activity. Yes, if you just want to write and then put it away in a drawer so that it never sees the light of day then there’s no need to worry about anything else. But, if you want to see your work published and if you want to earn money from it (and let’s be honest, those are two things that most people want) then you need to be prepared to do your research thoroughly.

We explain in the course that whether you’re writing non-fiction or fiction you need to find a market for your work and that involves research – and research can be time-consuming and hard work. In non-fiction you can’t just write what you want and expect to sell it. You have to write what editors want to buy (in other words, what people want to read). By all means write about what interests you but you then have to tailor it to the magazines and websites out there, taking into account who reads them. And you can’t do this unless you analyse them carefully and really think about your findings. Fiction can be more flexible, as a really original voice can make itself heard. But if you hope to get a publisher or an agent, you still need to research what they are currently publishing and the style of the authors they already represent if you are to give yourself the best chance of success.

So, please bear this in mind before putting pen to paper. Research might not be the most sexy or enjoyable part of the process but it is essential if you are to make it as a writer!

Couldn’t help thinking back to my last blog post when the joint winners of the Booker Prize were announced last week. Margaret Atwood (79) and Bernardine Evaristo (60ish). And what about last year? Anna Burns (Milkman) who’s apparently in her fifties. Are older women really so poorly represented in current literature?

Finally, I’d just like to remind you of our Flash Fiction Competition which is open until 30th November. The entry fee is £5 per story or three stories for £10. (There’s a 20% concession if you are a member of The Association of Freelance Writers.) Stories must be no longer than 500 words. There are prizes of £300, £200 and £100 plus each winner also receives a Writers Bureau course of their choice. So, if you’re a fan of the short, but perfectly crafted story, why not send us your miniature masterpiece – you can’t win if you don’t enter!

My guest next week will be Willie Nelligan who will be discussing the challenges he faced when starting out on his series of books for children.

Author: Diana Nadin


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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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