the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

How to win a publishing contract

For anyone on Twitter, you may have come across online pitching events that encourage writers to compose a tweet using 280 characters to get their story under the eyes of literary agents and publishers. If the tweet is ‘liked’ there’s an opportunity to submit a query letter, synopsis of the work and the first three chapters for consideration. It’s a good way to bypass the slush pile and I’ve attracted some interest by honing my elevator pitch to the size of a tweet. In previous twitter pitches I’ve used the following to describe my latest novel (the words in capitals suggest comparable titles):

THE WIDOW x HIGH FIDELITY

Menopausal journalist rediscovers her mojo by developing a true crime podcast about a missing West Country teenager in 1979. The dual timeline reveals the girl’s story of infatuation and exploitation with an unforgettable twist. 

Earlier this year, I saw another twitter pitch advertised by Bloodhound Books, a leading independent publisher based in Cambridge.

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Graphic to illustrate a manuscript

From a post by The Supercargo about header images, my friend and fellow writer John Nixon at Pens Around the World has inspired me to play around with pictures to illustrate my manuscript The Girl and the Tutor. It’s the story of a girl who never grows up due to an early obsession with her maths tutor and here’s what I produced:

I’ll refrain from going into the whole plot but suffice to say I chose a copyright free image of a prefect from Unsplash and another of a tutor from Pixabay. In Canva, I was able to select the heart-splattered background and the leaf image to finish the job. What do you think?

Interestingly, there’s a pitch party launching in April called moodpitch. This is where authors get a chance to write a tweet-length pitch (280-characters) for their novel in the hope of attracting interest from agents and publishers. At this pitch party, there’s also an expectation that the tweet will include a moodboard. Looks like I’m all set to go!

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Submission journey for The Girl and the Tutor

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently working through a list of literary agents who appear to be a good match for my latest novel, a work of psychological fiction titled The Girl and the Tutor. Every submission requires a different configuration of pitch and synopsis. Here’s the latest information I’ve been sending out:

The Girl and the Tutor is a topical novel with its focus on historic offences and would make a good book club read with discussion around the individual journeys of the two main characters. Although middle aged, Stephanie continues on a path of personal development where the teenage Carolyn grows into an emotionally-stunted adult due to her obsession with the maths tutor who let her down. To include diversity in the novel, Stephanie’s housemate is a successful business woman with Gujarati/Ugandan heritage. Prior to Covid-19, I volunteered in Uganda and with the fiftieth anniversary of the expulsion of Asians by Idi Amin approaching, I feel this is timely.

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Facing the Chudleigh Dragons

Joining this event was a bit like going to the dentist: not something to look forward to but it was worthwhile. I prepared for the five-minute pitch of my novel The String Games by thinking about presentations by successful participants on the show. Of course the Chudleigh Dragons were not a fearsome bunch like their TV counterparts but comprised novelist Sophie Duffy, publisher Dr Tarja Moles and Ian Hobbs, founder of the Devon Book Club.

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I organised my presentation by starting with my elevator pitch:

The String Games is a story about the abduction and murder of a four-year-old boy told from the viewpoint of his older sister. Rather than a crime novel, the story draws upon psychological drama to focus on the legacy of loss for the protagonist. String is the controlling metaphor for the novel which includes characters who are puppets on strings, others who are strung along and some who need to cut the apron strings.

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The following three minutes focused on:

The structure of the novel

Organised into three parts, The String Games uses a different string figure to name each of the sections.  With the visual aid of a rainbow string, I was able to talk and manipulate the string to make a cat’s-cradle and a worm but showing how to make Jacob’s Ladder was beyond me. Instead,  I illustrated how my protagonist is able to draw her life into an ordered pattern of threads by showing a picture of the string figure.

USP

There are many novels that alternate the experiences of the protagonist as a child and an adult or as a teenager and an adult but there are few which include the three stages of development. This is the USP for my novel. The structure works like a triptych with panels showing the experiences of the child, the teenager and the adult in the three parts of the novel. In this way, it’s possible for the adult to look back on the child she used to be and hardly recognise herself. But, it is by reconnecting with the experiences of the child that my protagonist is able to integrate feelings of unresolved grief for her brother and move forward as an adult.

Theme

The thread that runs through The String Games relates to the resilience of my protagonist. Readers vicariously enjoy her ability to overcome the obstacles I set. She became my protagonist-daughter and as an author-mother I was able to champion her so that by the end of the novel, my protagonist is equipped with the skills and confidence to live her life beyond the pages of my book. I let her go to continue her own story so that I am free to produce new fiction.

At the end of my pitch, the Chudleigh Dragons posed a couple of questions relating to the readership of my novel. Although I’d like The String Games to reach a wide audience, its appeal lies with those who enjoy literary fiction. As a reminder of my pitch, I gave each of the Dragons a mini book of The String Games. 

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Thank you to Elizabeth Ducie and the Chudleigh Writers’ Circle for organising this event. Well done to the winner Jean Burnett.

If you can’t wait until my novel finds a publisher, try reading my short fiction collection Paisley Shirt instead. It is available with free delivery from The Book Depository or online from Amazon UK  and Amazon USA.  It is stocked in Gullivers Wimborne, The Bookshop Bridport, Serendip Lyme Regis, The Swanage Bookshop and branches of Watersones.

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