A number of people from off the Isle of Man have asked if it would be possible to reproduce Paul Speller’s article with best-selling author Alan Bradley in which the man behind the hit Flavia de Luce books gives his advice to aspiring writers. The article, which first appeared in the Manx Advertiser is included below.
Be careful who you put your trust in when you’re starting out as a writer – that’s the warning from Alan Bradley.
‘In the writing world there are a lot of so-called gatekeepers you have to get past,’ he said. ‘There are many sharks in the water.
‘They will tell you how to write and you will be a raging success; there are people who will tell you they are going to put your manuscript on the right tracks and you will be a raging success and there are people who will charge you to read your manuscript and you will be a raging a success.
‘Most haven’t the ability to do anything other than charge you for some very nebulous and dubious service.’
He added: ‘It is important to go to the right people. As a writer, you have to be able to put your material into the hands of the right agent.
‘You must not believe that you have to pay to do that. Any good agent will be absolutely delighted to see something coming in through their door.
‘I still have the same agent all these years down the line.’
Click here to read the first part of Paul’s interview with Alan
If Alan was to summarise his advice in two words, he would choose ‘write’ and ‘persistence’.
‘You can’t wish to write and you can’t pretend to write and there is no substitute for getting your bottom firmly attached to a chair and sitting there for 10,000 words.
‘There is a very long, arduous regime of hard work and most people give up.’
Alan’s advice comes with some authority. He has featured on the New York Times bestseller list and James Bond director Sam Mendes recently bought the television rights to the Flavia de Luce books.
Speak to any author who has managed to be published and the chances are they will tell you about several unsuccessful previous attempts spread over a number of years, or that the version you see in print was the result of anything up to a dozen re-writes and bears little relation to the first draft.
A common mistake among new writers, Alan said, was to send in manuscripts before they were ready.
Alan said: ‘It is a case of getting your manuscript polished to the point that as soon as the agent starts reading it they say “this is better than 99 per cent of what I have seen”.’
While many agents request only an opening segment and a plot summary from new authors, Alan said it was important not to send any sample of your novel until the entire work was complete – including the numerous rewrites that may take.
‘You should have the whole thing ready to go so the minute they ask for it you can email it.’
And don’t be afraid to letting the story flow for itself.
‘Sometimes I know what the last line of a book is going to be, but how you get there is another matter.’
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