Thursday, 21 June 2012

What happens when you send us your manuscript?

"A rare, lucky chance to get my work read by professional, experienced editors who would give the manuscript a proper appraisal."

We're really grateful that Saudha Kasim, who won our Bursary Competition earlier this year, has written a little bit about the Writing Room editorial process, and the feedback we gave her.

Saudha's prize was a full Writing Room editorial report on her novel In the Medinah, worth around £1000.

Read her full piece on the editorial process below, thanks Saudha! 

Midway through the movie Clueless, the heroine Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) engages in the following dialogue with her friend (and makeover project) Tai:

    Tai Fraiser: Do you think she's pretty?
    Cher Horowitz: No, she's a full-on Monet.
    Tai Fraiser: What's a Monet?
    Cher Horowitz: It's like a painting, see? From far away, it's OK, but up close, it's a big old mess.

Creative writing courses should instill the above as a kind of mantra for aspiring writers: yes, it reads well on the surface, but you really have to dig deeper and find the stuff that isn’t working well. The things that compromise the quality of your work.

I’m not part of a writing group nor do I have access to any kind of professional writer-mentor. So my struggle with my first novel, In The Medinah, has made that hoary cliché about writing – it’s the loneliest profession, ever – a real experience.  The Writing Room bursary was me getting a rare, lucky chance to get my work read by professional, experienced editors who would give the manuscript a proper appraisal.

The feedback I received from The Writing Room was clear eyed, going deep into the structural faults, picking out the plot holes, the weaknesses in character development and the need to cut down on so many competing storylines. The report suggested I had enough stories for more than one novel and it would need some paring down.

The strengths of the novel were picked out too – and suggestions on ideas to keep and those to discard. Plus, the report also seeded new ideas which could improve the novel, giving it a greater chance of being published.

I am glad that Maggie and Rosie read my work and gave their professional opinion of it. I’d always been afraid of submitting shoddy work to agents and publishers, but since the appraisal’s been done, I have a clear idea of what needs to be improved and the revision is going to be easier to handle.

The Writing Room appraisal has acted as a sort of validation for this project of mine – I now know that two years of effort have not been a complete waste. But there’s still work to be done before it goes from being a Monet to a Titian. 

~ Saudha Kasim,  May 2012