Where are you on the writer’s pyramid? Are you a ‘wannabe’? Full of ideas? Prepared to rewrite?
Keith Gray, author and passionate advocate of young people’s books, issued that challenge at 'Strong Beginnings & the War of Attention," a sell-out workshop organised by SCWBI SE Scotland’s network.
Thirty writers converged on Edinburgh on 29 March, across the road from Harry Potter's birthplace in the Elephant House cafe, to discover the ingredients that make magical openings.
Keith has a strong background in teenage fiction. His first novel, Creepers, was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize when he was just 24, and he has gone on to write a number of critically acclaimed books which have won, or been shortlisted for, all the major awards that any aspiring YA author would dream of.
|A sell out!|
Write what you must
In a world full of publishing advice, the sheer volume of ‘write right’ tips can prove overwhelming. Keith’s approach was refreshing – don’t write what you feel you should write, write what you must, and be sure to always keep the needs of the reader central.
It was a challenging start to what would be an inspiring and informative session. However long you’ve lived with your book, he advised, the reader only joins it at line one, so it’s crucial to grab their attention at the start and hold on to it. How do you set up a character for the conflict that follows? How can you line up the dominos that will fall through your plot? What keeps interest maintained once you’ve seized it?
|Keith Gray inspiring SE Scotland|
The crux of the session was perhaps this; while tastes change and differ, what works works, and it works for a reason. Strong beginnings, however they may vary, have some things in common, and it is these that combine to drive your story forward. It was an invaluable session: relaxed, informative and, above all, fun – complete with handouts, including Keith's all-important writers' pyramid, encouraging us all to write, revise, accept criticism, and revise again.
Now to put it into practise…
Keith Gray is represented by Lucy Juckes at Jenny Brown Associates. He has been multiply published, translated into Polish, German and Japanese, and his books include Ostrich Boys, The Fearful and Malarkey.