Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Novel Fair Interview

Today I'm posting an interview with Carrie King from The Irish Writers Centre about their inaugural Novel Fair that took place this March...hope you enjoy it :)

There were a lot of entries to the novel fair Carrie; did the judges notice any recurring themes or topics? Did any one genre predominate?

Amazingly, there were over 570 entries submitted to the Novel Fair which was far beyond anything we had dreamed of. Once again we were struck by the Irish appetite for literature, the innate gift of storytelling that people have, and the sheer talent that was obvious from just flicking through them as they came in.
Something that the judges noticed was that so many of the novels were stories of today - of recession, of financial difficulty, of heartbreak, of having to redefine self in the face of adversity. A new type of bildungsroman if you like - not a coming of age in the traditional child-to-adult sense, but still character-defining.
In terms of genre, it was very much a mixed bag, but there were a good few historical fiction pieces.

Was winnowing them down a difficult process? What had the winning novels in common (if anything) that made them stand out? Can you say who the judges were? :)

The judges undertook a Herculean task in reading all of the submissions, but the high quality of the entries was evident quite quickly. They each read all of the winning works to absolutely make sure that they were confident those that were picked were the best of the bunch! And no, I'm afraid I can't reveal their secret identities. They can remain the IWC superheroes.

What were the most common mistakes that people made with their entries? And is there any advice you can give writers who intend to enter next time?

A common mistake made, and an easy one to make, was in writing the dreaded synopsis. I know from answering phone calls and emails that a lot of people were fretting over this. Luckily, our judges didn't make decisions based on the synopsis, but they did remark that often the synopsis didn't do justice to the novel, or the quality of the writing. Many people went way over the 300-word maximum. I know it's difficult to reduce your novel to the basic plot points, but it has to be done, and done well. Be journalistic about it: Who, Where, What and When!

A little aside - many publishers have mentioned to me that they will often disregard a synopsis as it doesn't give a feel for the writing. This however, doesn't mean that you shouldn't make an effort to get it right. The more professional you seem, the higher your chances.

As for advice: Presentation is important. Make it as easy for the judges/publishers as possible. Be careful of spelling, grammar, indentations etc. A good editor can sort this, but you have to get that far first!

There were 20 winners, and also a long list - did any genre predominate in this section?
Not as far as I know (but I haven't read them all!). From what I gathered, the winners and long list were just really good quality, unique stand alone stories.

Did you get any feedback from the novelists after the fair? Were they happy with the day? What did they enjoy most?
Happily, I got loads of feedback from the novelists all throughout the day and afterwards. I'm delighted to say I think everyone was really pleased, even those who were concerned going in that morning. Everyone seemed happy with the day, but exhausted so most people went home to collapse on the couch almost straight away. I don't blame them. I was tired too and I didn't have to talk about how amazing I was all day! ;) I think they really enjoyed meeting the other writers, and meeting the agents/publishers. I think many were surprised by the hugely positive response.

Did you get any feedback from the agents/publishers after the fair?
The publishers & agents were all really happy with the day. Many of them mentioned to me how impressed they were with the quality of the work on show, down to the professionalism of everyone's presentation. The only detractor was that there was so much squeezed into such a few short hours, so I think the next Novel Fair will be less intensive, which will possibly make the competition even more competitive.

The day ran smoothly and there was a very positive atmosphere. What do you think was key to the fairs success in this respect?
Why, thank you! ;) I'm still amazed that there weren't any hitches. I think the key to the fair's success was the enthusiasm of all those who attended. What an amazing feeling for us to facilitate a bunch of shiny, happy people. I couldn't have been more thrilled with the day.

Do you think novel fairs and novel competitions will play a significant role in the future considering it’s more difficult than ever for a first time novelist to get published?
In a world where traditional publishing seems to be struggling, I think novel fairs and competitions of this sort will certainly help novelists to get their break. At least, that was our intention! We understand how hard it is to get noticed, especially in such a small market as Ireland. That's why the competition was blind, and the writing had to speak for itself. Competitions like this make it easier for the publisher too, as they know that what they'll be reading is to a really high standard.

Thanks Carrie, and good luck to every one who enters this year!


Old Kitty said...

Love the word "winnowing"!

Thanks for a fab interview - especially with the advice about synopsis writing - something I totally hate - I hate writing it as I'm ignorant at writing a good one! LOL!!

Glad this fair is such a success -thanks to the organizers, agents, publishers and novelists! Take care

Brigid said...

Interesting Niamh and you are one of the success stories.
One of these days I'll get my act together and write a novel:)

Words A Day said...

Old Kitty
I know synopsis writing is really tough, I think most of us dread it:)

Words A Day said...

What about that Irish poet of yours, he'd love his day in the sun:)

Mari G said...

Great interview, Niamh & so well done on your novel success - you are really on a roll!

Words A Day said...

Thanks Mari, hope your right:)


Very interesting, Niamh. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting interview, Niamh. Best of luck with your novel.