NYWF – Implementing Professional Advice and Feedback

Interpreting and implementing Professional Advice and Feedback­

*Fact sheet prepared for National Young Writers Festival, Sydney, September 2016

Downloadable PDF

Reading is highly subjective and so finding the right set of eyes to give feedback on a new piece of writing can be both instructive and detrimental, making the process of interpreting and implementing feedback daunting for any writer.

Listed below are sources of feedback a writer might expect to receive:

Writing mentor:

One of the most valuable and accurate sources of feedback can come from a writing mentor (see blog post ‘Professional Mentorships’ for more information on sourcing a mentorship). This process guarantees personalised and targeted feedback from a professional in the field who may be working in a similar style and genre for a target audience. Forms of feedback can include industry, structural, copy or proof as well as general personal support (as outlined in next section).

In-house editor / publisher / agent:

If you’re at the stage where you have gained the attention of an in-house editor or publisher, some agents and publishers will request a ‘revise and submit’ from an author before signing them. This is as much to identify how well an author receives feedback as it is to determine how successfully they can integrate that feedback into their manuscript.

Critique partner / critique group / beta-readers:

This is a great way to ‘cast the net wide’ and collect the opinions of a sample of readers. Sometimes the collective opinions of a group can help a writer better identify any weaknesses / trends in their work. Formal critique partners can be sourced through most writing institutions such as state writing centres, Australian Society of Authors and through writing memberships such as Romance Writers of Australia.

Freelance Editor:

Freelance feedback services are available from most writing institutions (State Writers Centres, Australian Society of Authors) and come at a cost. Rates vary depending on the editor and the type of service (structural or other). The South Australian ‘Society of Editors’ has a list of registered editors on their website and the kinds of services they offer. Registered means that each editor has undergone and passed state standards to receive qualification. http://www.editors-sa.org.au/

Manuscript assessment services:

Manuscript assessment is usually a combination of industry, structural, copy advice on a manuscript, with a focus on the big-picture—content, voice, tone, style, plot pace, characterisation, setting, dialogue, market, audience, theme. More on these categories outlined below.

Types of advice that may be contracted or received:

Industry advice:

  • Will the story idea appeal to the market in which it’s intended?
  • Does the story idea identify a target audience in tone, theme, voice, plot, character?
  • Does the story idea hold its own in the current marketplace? (Has it been overdone? Does it offer something new? Is it following a trend?)

Structural advice:

  • How does the work read as a whole?
  • Are events logical and consistent?
  • Are there any obvious plot holes?
  • Does the world/setting/characters work? Do the characters and relationships work?
  • Does the book begin/end in a satisfactory manner?
  • Does the author’s choice of tense and voice work?

Copy advice:

  • Is spelling, grammar consistent and accurate?

Personal advice:

  • Personal advice, usually given in an informal fashion (through mentorships, discussion panels). May include advice on how to handle rejection, stress, career pressures. This can be just as important as craft, industry and career advice to some writers.

Some thoughts on interpreting and implementing feedback

It is important to be open to feedback in order to learn and improve. However, being too influenced by feedback, or making uninformed changes based on mixed feedback can confuse and water down the intended effect of a particular work. It is important to develop a strong sense of intention before approaching feedback so that subjective opinion may be strategically and implemented or considered and, sometimes, disregarded.

Remember, as Neil Gaiman stated:

“…when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/477087-remember-when-people-tell-you-something-s-wrong-or-doesn-t-work

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NYWF – Professional Mentorships

Sourcing and Engaging in a Professional Mentorship

*Fact sheet prepared for National Young Writers Festival, Sydney, September 2016

Downloadable PDF

Why should I get a mentor?

Mentorships aren’t for everyone. Some writers may not feel the need to engage with a mentor in a formal sense—the advice, encouragement and support of trusted advisors, friends, colleagues might be enough. But in some cases, a mentorship may be a way to access specialised/in-depth/targeted advice on a specific area of interest or difficulty. In these cases, a professional mentorship might be worth considering.

What kind of advice can I expect to gain from a writing mentor?

There are many different kinds of mentorships available to writers, from project development mentorships to industry advice. Perhaps you are working on a science-fiction manuscript and want to improve the world-building elements, or you have a polished manuscript and want to know where to send it. Whatever the area of interest or difficulty, there are knowledgeable people out there who are willing to help.

Where can I source a mentorship?

Mentorships can be privately sourced (see info under ‘how do I approach a mentor?’), or sourced through professional institutions and awards. See list below:

  1. Australian Society of Authors Emerging Writers’ and Illustrators’ Mentorship Program supported by Copyright Agency Cultural Fund

https://www.asauthors.org/asa-mentorships

Professional advice for emerging writers and illustrators on strengthening a manuscript to publication standard for an elected number of hours over an agreed time period.

  1. Hachette Mentoring Program

An opportunity to work with an in-house editor at Hachette Australia on a manuscript

South Australia: https://sawriters.org.au/2015/05/19/south-australian-hachette-mentoring-program/

Western Australia: http://www.writingwa.org/programmes-services/hachette-mentoring-program-for-writers/

Northern Territory: http://www.ntwriters.com.au/news/hachette-mentorship-program/

Tasmania: http://www.taswriters.org/tasmanian-writers-centre-and-hachette-mentoring-program/

  1. Valerie Parv Award

1-year mentorship for a romance author to work with award-winning writer, Valerie Parv

http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/110/Valerie-Parv-Award

  1. Affirm Press Mentorship award

http://www.varuna.com.au/varuna/index.php/programs/residential-programs/pathways-publication/item/342-the-affirm-press-mentorship-award

  1. Writers’ Centre Programs

South Australia – https://sawriters.org.au/mentorship-program/

Victoria – https://writersvictoria.org.au/support/mentorships

New South Wales – http://www.nswwc.org.au/support-for-writers/mentorship-program/

How do I approach a mentor?

Before applying for a mentorship or choosing a mentor, the applicant should identify what they want to gain from the process. A mentor will want to know that they are the best person for the job and that they will be able to provide the kind of advice being sought. Mentorship programs won’t consider an application unless they believe a specific outcome can be successfully achieved.

For privately sourced mentorships, the success of an application can lie in the strength of the query letter. Some authors will make it very clear on their website that they are not available for mentorships. It’s always good to do your research and find out if they’ve taken mentees before—which can be a positive indication that they would be open to doing so again.

What should I include in a query letter?

  1. Identifiable and relevant details about yourself
  2. Clear explanation of why you’ve approached the mentor including examples that express an understanding of the mentor’s strengths and expertise
  3. A detailed mentorship plan including SMART goals (measurable outcomes, timelines, mode of correspondence). More on SMART goals here: https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php
  4. Details on how you’re going to recompense the author for their time and expertise. Rates can be found on the Australian Society of Authors (approximately 100 per hour).
  5. Should you be considering applying for a grant to cover the costs of the mentorship, details of grant should be supplied so that mentor can prepare relevant support letters and references. See more information about grants and funding opportunities below.

How do I fund a privately sourced mentorship?

Sourcing the right mentor is one thing, but finding a way to recompense them for their time and expertise can be the tricky part. Below is a list of grants that are specifically designed to support authors with mentorship opportunities (Apologies in advice for the South Australian focus of this blog post. Similar funding bodies can be found in each state):

Arts funding bodies in SA include:

  1. CARCLEW:

https://carclew.com.au/Funding-Program/ProjectandDevelopmentGrants

https://carclew.com.au/Funding-Program/fellowships

https://carclew.com.au/Funding-Program/quickstart-loans

  1. ARTS SA:

http://arts.sa.gov.au/grants/emerging-artists-mentorships-impp/

http://arts.sa.gov.au/grants/professional-development-imp/

  1. Copyright Agency Ignite Career Fund:

http://copyright.com.au/culturalfund/career-fund/career-fund-guidelines/

  1. Quick Response Grants:

http://www.adelaidecitycouncil.com/your-council/funding/community-development-funding/

https://www.countryartswa.asn.au/our-services/funding/quick-response-grant/

  1. Local council grants (eg: City of Salisbury):

http://www.salisbury.sa.gov.au/Council/Grants_and_Awards/Grants

  1. University Alumni grants (eg: Flinders University):

http://www.flinders.edu.au/research/researcher-support/grants-contracts/

So, you’ve successfully secured a mentorship, now what?

Now it’s time to move on to my blog post on interpreting and implementing professional advice and feedback, which will outline what to expect when working with a mentor, editor, publisher on a manuscript or project.

Mentorship with Sean Williams thanks to Carclew PD grant

It’s official – 2016 is going to be a good year!

I just found out I have been awarded a $3000 grant to develop a YA fantasy novel under the tutelage of New York Times best-selling author, Sean Williams, commencing January next year. Thank you to Carclew for their constant and enduring support of the creative arts and for backing my proposal.

Now to morph into the biggest knowledge sponge over the new year.

For all those looking for a dependable funding body for their creative pursuits, I definitely recommend Carclew.

See information on their project development grants here.

For a full list of the 2016 round 1 recipients click here.

 

Feature image: Assisted by the South Australian Government through Carclew.