Posts Tagged novel titles
Your first pages – 5 more book openings critiqued by literary agent @agentpete , writer @simnett and me!
I’ve just guested again at Litopia, the online writers’ colony and community. Each week they have a YouTube show, Pop-Up Submissions, where five manuscripts are read and critiqued live on air by literary agent Peter Cox @agentpete and a guest, or sometimes two. This time the other guest was one of Litopia’s longtime members, thriller author Ed Simnett (who has a frighteningly interesting CV that will probably keep him in thriller material for years).
The format is simple. Five manuscripts, each with a short blurb. We hear the opening pages, then discuss how they’re working – exactly as agents and commissioning editors would consider a submission. And there’s now an added goody – each month, the submission with the most votes is fast tracked to the independent publisher Head of Zeus, and several writers have already been picked up after appearing on the show. (So we take our critiquing very seriously… no pressure.)
As always, the submissions had many strengths, and much to teach us. There were blurbs that told us too much and blurbs that left us puzzled. There were blurbs that promised a different tone from the actual text. There were scenes that drifted into confusing reverie before we had grasped where we were and whose experience we were following. There were titles that were too generic for the striking ideas in the actual book. There were awkward expositional parts, where clearly the writer was anxious about how soon they should be ‘explaining’ everything. Find the full show here.
And if you’ve got a manuscript you’d like critiqued, apply here.
If you’d like help with your writing, my Nail Your Novel books are here. If you’re curious about my own work, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, here’s my latest newsletter. You can subscribe to future updates here.
What makes a good title and cover? What mistakes do authors generally make when devising a book title and how can they get a title that does the job well? What job is that, indeed?
How about covers? What conventions do you need to consider for both? Why have we made a special point about spines? And can you discuss book covers on the radio?
Yes you can!
That’s what I’m covering in today’s episode, with my co-host, independent bookseller Peter Snell. I usually describe him as asking the questions, with me providing answers, but today it’s more the other way around. Titles, covers (and spines – don’t forget the spines) are areas where authors can be too close to the work. The opinion of a sage and experienced bookseller, though, comes into its own.
The editing of this episode seems to have gone a bit haywire. The radio station included some of the previous show, so scroll to about 8mins and you’ll find our theme tune (Wonderous Stories by Yes). Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.
PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books, especially the workbook, which includes a special section to help you brainstorm the perfect title. If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.