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Inspired Creative Writing 6


Sixth excerpt | Inspired Creative Writing

This is the sixth excerpt from Inspired Creative Writing by Alexander Gordon Smith from the brisk and entertaining 52 Brilliant Ideas series. This month, how to learn to let go.

Sixth excerpt

Learn to let go

The big day has finally arrived. You can’t do anything else to your novel – it’s perfect. So stop staring at it and get it out there. The world wants to know your name.

As writers, we often like to write for ourselves, but show me a writer who says they don’t ever want to be published and I’ll show you a fibber.

It’s one of the most thrilling experiences imaginable – seeing your own work in print – but the road to success is long and curves in some strange directions, so just remember to brace yourself.

52 Brilliant Ideas – Inspired creative writing



The commonest way of approaching a publisher is by going solo. If you’re planning to send your novel off there are a few rules you should follow. Don’t just send it to the first publisher you come across or the only publisher you know. Do some research, find out which house or imprint is most likely to publish your style or genre – a romance publisher won’t accept your horror novel even if it’s the best thing they’ve ever read. Get hold of a publisher’s catalogue to see what kind of books they publish.

Alternatively, buy a yearbook that provides information on what a publisher accepts and the guidelines for approaching them.

52 Brilliant Ideas – Inspired creative writing

Here’s an idea for you...

Check out a publisher’s website, make a note of how many titles they publish and what genres they favour. Are their authors first-timers or seasoned professionals? A little research will ensure you’re sending your masterpiece to a publisher who’ll treasure it as a product and respect you as an author.



Once you’ve decided which publishers you’re aiming for, make sure you follow the correct procedure. When Aztecs approached Montezuma they had to take off their clothes and put on cheap blankets, enter his chamber barefoot and with their eyes cast down, and bow three times saying ‘My Lord, my great lord!’ If they didn’t, they’d get their heads lopped off. Publishers are perhaps a tad less demanding but there are ways of submitting your work without becoming an irritation.

First, don’t send in your entire manuscript. Nothing’s more likely to get your work sent back unread than an unsolicited novel plopping onto the welcome mat. Instead, write a brief letter to a publisher detailing who you are, and including any information about your past successes and your future plans (publishers like to invest in novelists, so it’s always wise to claim you want to make a career of writing, even if you’re not sure you do). With this letter, include a 300-word synopsis of your work, and two sample chapters (usually the first two). And never send a proposal to more than one publisher at one time: it’s considered very bad form.


If going it alone seems too daunting, you might want to think about getting an agent. An agent is somebody who does their utmost to find a publisher for your book, who gets to grips with a contract to make sure you’re not getting ripped off, and who incessantly pesters companies to keep publishing your work long into the future. And you get all this for a 10% cut of the earnings from any book they represent. Not bad.

Of course finding a good agent can be just as hard as finding a publisher. If you know somebody with an agent, ask them to recommend you: it’s the quickest way to becoming represented. Otherwise, look through a listing of agents (they can be found in writers’ yearbooks) and send them a short letter, synopsis and sample chapters. It may seem easier to devote your time to the search for a publisher, but if an agent takes you under their wing your work will be prioritised when it arrives at a publishing house, and you’ve got a guardian angel who can harass an editor to give you a chance without the risk of making them angry.


What do Catch-22, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Time Machine, Sons and Lovers, Moby Dick, The Lord of the Flies, Northanger Abbey, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Animal Farm have in common? They were all rejected by publishers, often many times. Some famous writers have literally been able to paper their walls with rejection slips. The moral of the story? Never give up, always try, try, try again: every good book will find its home eventually.

Idea 48 – Learn to let go

Try another idea...

Look at ways to transform your scruffy manuscript into the Cinderella of scripts in IDEA 47, Spring cleaning.

Defining idea...

‘Curse the blasted, jellyboned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rutters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse-less lot that make up England today. They've got the white of egg in their veins and their spunk is that watery it's a marvel they can breed.’

D. H. LAWRENCE, on hearing that Sons and Lovers had been rejected


How did it go?

Q OK, I can’t be doing with the rigmarole of approaching publishers. I’d much rather be the master of my own work. So what do you say to vanity publishing?

A Adverts for vanity presses sound too good to be true, and if you send in your manuscript, there are no worries about rejection – it will be accepted straight away. What’s the catch? You have to pay for publication yourself. Vanity publishers don’t worry about the quality of material they’re printing, the only writing they concern themselves with is your signature on a cheque. It’s vital to remember that vanity publishers will give you no help with marketing or distribution – possibly the most difficult aspects of publishing to arrange – and repping companies won’t always help you out if you’re self-published. If your work is good, you shouldn’t have to pay to see it in print.

Q Do I have to finish my novel before I approach a publisher? Can’t I just send them an idea and write it if they accept? This will save me a whole load of worrying!

A It’s extremely unlikely that any publisher will accept a novel before it has been written. Unless you’ve got a proven track record you need to have written a book before you approach a publisher, even if it’s a great, original idea they’ll only ask you to come back when it’s finished.


The first excerpt

The second excerpt

The third excerpt

The fourth excerpt

The fifth excerpt

Inspired Creative Writing by Alexander Gordon Smith is published at £12.99 as part of the 52 Brilliant Ideas series by Infinite Ideas. To buy this book please visit their website at

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