The unweekly herding: novel ideas

I’m trying to work on a book at the moment, so this latest herding is novel-related rather than short story. I’ve returned to a project I abandoned some time ago, but I’m really struggling to get back on track with it. And the fact that it’s our so-called summer isn’t helping, either. Looking out the window, going, “The sun’s out, better put the washing out. Oh, it’s started tipping down, better bring the washing back in. Oh look, the rain’s stopped, better put…” is a full-time job in itself.

Here are a few things that might help you with your book project while I’m busy with ongoing laundry issues.


Making connections

An interesting getting-in-the-zone suggestion I saw recently on Twitter – and apologies to whoever this came from as I can’t remember the source – was to choose a song that fits your book. Every time you sit down to write, you play the song and it works as a sort of theme tune that creates an association.

I’m certainly going to try it to help me get started, though I did lose quite a bit of writing time this afternoon daydreaming about songs I like. I’ve convinced myself that I was doing valuable research by browsing YouTube for songs like this one, which has a connection with my own story:

Irish Writers’ Podcast returns

I used to be a regular listener to the Irish Writers’ Podcast until it went into a rather long hiatus last year. But I was delighted to discover recently that it’s back – hurrah!

For anyone struggling with their first novel, I’d recommend listening to friends Máire Brophy, Cathy Clarke and Kate Mulholland as they discuss the issues they wrestle with concerning their individual ongoing books. The discussions are honest and entertaining, with a different topic every episode. It’s also comforting to be reminded you’re not alone in not knowing what you’re doing until you’ve (hopefully) done it.

The latest episode deals with creating author pages and compiling good bios.



StockSnap_2RN2VC8C0YThe 2017 Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition for unpublished writers is accepting entries until September 18. Women of any nationality from any country are invited to submit a 5,000-word extract of a completed, unpublished novel of at least 50,000 words in length. The winner will be chosen by a judging panel consisting of historical novelist Philippa Gregory, journalist and editor Alex Clark and agent Sarah Such. The entry fee is a rather steep £25, but the prize is £5,000, which is more than the average advance. In addition, the winner and four finalists will receive feedback on their submissions, as well as introductions to agents and editors at a special event to be held in London.

88erzvF-The annual Irish Novel Fair (formerly the Greenbean Novel Fair) has become a valuable opportunity for would-be novelists, and it is currently open for entries. Held by the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin, Novel Fair 2018 will offer a shortlist of 12 writers the chance to pitch their WIPs to agents and publishers in a Dragon’s Den/speed-dating event. Applicants can submit up to 10,000 words of their novel, along with a 300-word synopsis. There is no restriction on genre or target market. It costs €50 to enter, or €40 if you’re a member of the Irish Writers Centre. The closing date is October 20, with the event taking place some time in February.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get professional feedback on your novel submission before sending it out to agents and publishers? The Retreat West First Chapter Competition offers exactly that opportunity. Enter your first chapter (max 3,500 words) and you could win the chance to have your submission package – ie. first three chapters, synopsis and cover letter – critiqued by Diana Beaumont, an agent with London-based literary agency Marjacq. Entry costs £15 and the deadline is January 28, 2018.


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