Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Plus yet another article about how broken publishing is, a tip from Cavan Scott, a selection of the finest links, and an update about Grabbity’s eyes.

Hi there,

Happy New Year! We might well be halfway through January already, but 2024 still has that new year smell. I hope that yours is just bursting with creativity and joy!

Suw’s News: Two submissions and it’s not even February yet!

I usually give myself two weeks off over the festive season, but this year I had two submissions due on 8 January which meant I spent most of my second week writing. I can only describe it as a delightful taste of what it might be like to write full time! Honestly, it was lovely.

I got the first 10k words of Tag (the novel) written and revised and submitted to the Discoveries 2024 prize, and the pilot episode of Tag (the script) revised in the light of the changes to the novel and submitted to Thousand Films. The novelisation process has been fascinating. Novels allow you to get into the head of your characters much more deeply than you can in a script, so I’ve been able to look at their motivation and the way they think, and that has helped me to solve a few niggles in the script that previously seemed intractable.

I also had the joy of working with John Rickards again on the novelisation. John edited Queen of the May, and has always just instinctively understood what it is that I’m trying to do. He’s lovely to work with, and if you are looking for an editor, then he’s absolutely the person I’d recommend.

I can’t wait to crack on with the rest of the Tag novelisation process, except I’m going to have to wait because…

Suw’s news, two: Fieldwork update

All other creative writing is officially suspended until Fieldwork is done and submitted to my colleagues as my final deliverable for the I-COMET project. (Well, apart from that research paper draft that we’ve collectively been utterly failing to write, but we’ll just not mention that.) To that end, I’ve made a plan and will let you know how it goes!

Opportunities: BBC Comedy Collective and Cheshire Novel Prize

If you are a scripted comedy writer, producer or director who already has at least one previous credit in any genre, on any platform, then you can apply for the BBC’s Comedy Collective scheme. Ten winners “will receive up to £10k worth of paid shadowing on a BBC Comedy production, along with an allocated production mentor, plus a £5k development grant to put towards new material or to further support the individuals development.”

The deadline is Wednesday 31 January, and there’s more info on how to apply on the BBC website.

If you’re a novelist, then the Cheshire Novel Prize, a “worldwide writing competition for un-agented authors of adult fiction, memoir and fictional memoir”, is now open for submissions. The deadline for entries is 1 May 2024, so you have more than enough time to whip the beginning of your novel into shape.

Each entry costs £29 and you will receive “a page of feedback as to why [your entry was] not long-listed or shortlisted”, which is actually quite a bargain given the cost of a professional development editor. Sponsored places are available, so do not let the cost put you off. Entrants will need to submit the first 5,000 words of their novel, plus a one-page synopsis.

I’ve already got that ready for Tag, now I’m wondering if I could whip something up for Fieldwork too!

Read this: Publishing’s broken, part eleventy billion

Airmail has a fascinating, if depressing, piece about how some young debut authors are getting six-figure book advances, but “nearly all of them are losing money”. Although these huge advances, paired with a New York literary scene that is “buzzier than ever”, seem positive on the surface – they do, after all, seem to indicate huge confidence in new authors and a revived excitement about books – outside of that world the news is less positive. Instead, a tiny minority of books are getting all the sales, opening up a gulf between hype and sales. And that gulf is bad news:

one editor at a legacy publishing house says it feels “like an unsustainable bubble that is going to pop when I see these deals for mid-to-high six figures, or even low seven figures. I know that book is not going to earn out or make money. Any company—it doesn’t matter how big they are—can only take so many of those hits before something goes wrong.”

Are huge advances, then, more a sign of desperation than confidence?

Quick links

The most-rejected books of all time. Topping the list is Dick Wimmer’s Irish Wine which totted up a huge 162 rejections. Honestly, if you haven’t toped 150 rejections, you’re really not trying.

Meta AI chief puts foot in mouth. Meta AI chief scientist, Yann LeCun, suggested that because most authors don’t earn much money, they should just give their books away for free. So Meta AI can steal them, I suppose.

Four things you should know if you’re writing for teens. Samantha Cameron provides some insights into teen psychology for YA authors. Top of the list is that “teens are easily bored”, which reminded me of what author Shelley Parker-Chan said on Bluesky recently:

as a writer I sometimes break out in a cold sweat thinking about my kid and her fellow fifth graders critiquing The Hunger Games as having “kinda a slow start”


Tip-top tip: Start with one page

Cavan Scott extolls the virtues of starting small when something feels too big. Even if you only write a page, or a paragraph or a line, Scott says:

even the slightest motion can generate momentum. Yes, you may have to go back and edit what you’ve written, but it’s on paper or the screen. It’s started, and once you’ve started, it’s so much easier to keep going.

That look is Grabbity’s “Why is the tinsel out of reach? I want to eat it” look.

Obligatory cat picture


I took Grabbity back to the vet last week to have her eyes checked over again. The good news is that the corneal ulcers have gone and her eyes are starting to heal, so we’re going for a month without any steroidal eyedrops to see what happens. If the ulcers stay away, then we are firmly on the road to recovery. The giant craters and the white deposits, which might be calcium, may never go away completely, but we’re both relieved that nightly eyedrops are no longer a thing.


Finally, I’ll crack on with organising the next author webinar and the next Grist sessions, but do bear with me as I finish my year end accounts. I would much rather be writing, but the tax man getteth grumpy if you submit a 500 word synopsis instead of your accounts.

See you in a couple of weeks!

All the best,



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