Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Posts Tagged ‘about writing

How to pitch a novel? #amwriting

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How do you? Please can someone send me the foolproof answer, like yesterday?
I’ve looked online, read a number of articles, and tried to sit through some Youtube videos. So far I know I need:

(1) a hook/ the elevator pitch – the attention grabber in around 20-words;
(2) 2-3 paragraphs/ 2-3 minutes about the book including title, genre, setting, protagonist, the conflict and how she overcomes it. These words need to be simple, clear, irresistible, and an interesting description of the novel that captures its best qualities and sells it in a most intriguing way;
(3) to be confident in my presentation;
(4) to say why I was best placed to write this book and where the idea came from;
(5) to say what is unique about my book;
(6) to identify where the book will sit on the bookshelf and comparative works/ authors;
(7) to know about my prospective agent and the authors she represents and where I might fit on her list.

I have less than a week until my pitch. I will never be (3). I think I have the answers to (4 -7). I am still at a complete loss with (1) and (2), which are sort of the important bits. I keep writing and re-writing the opening to the pitch hoping the killer lines will appear eventually.


Written by Sarah Ann

November 21, 2017 at 2:45 pm

That sinking feeling #amwriting

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I started to draft this post last night. Having taken August off to decorate, and finding that putting everything back together took much longer than expected, I had planed to report I was back to writing. Yippee. I now need to get back into the practise of goal setting and reporting of achievements/ not to keep me on my toes.

This week I managed to tick other things off my to-do list that have been hanging around forever. I finally bought my brother’s birthday present, four months late, and responded to some emails sent by friends in June.

On the writing front, yesterday I re-jigged my covering letter and synopsis and submitted the first three chapters of my manuscript to two more agents. I was on a roll and felt I was back on track, predicting that something would come along to upset my progress. And hey presto, the three hours I had home alone today disappeared as hubby came home after being out only half an hour. Today’s place of work had a burst water main and everyone was sent home. So, instead of typing in the hand-written edits to chapters 7 and 8 of my NaNoWriMo2014 novel, and instead of reading blog posts I need to catch up on, I had a nice lunch and chat with my other half – pleasant but not terribly productive. I had hoped to clear the decks of writing tasks today, as I’m working tomorrow and then away for a few days. I feel now my list of writing jobs will bleed into tomorrow. At least this update is written and posted.


Ongoing goals met since my last progress post in June (ouch): I have finished reading through my novel and made all (?) typo corrections; its cover letter and synopsis have adapted; novel submitted to 8 agents – 1 rejection, no other responses as yet; 8-short story competitions entered – no placings; editing of NaNoWriMo2014 novel has commenced; my friend loved her crocheted scarf (birthday present July); tap dancing has recommenced and I need to get back to practising between classes if I’m to keep up.

Priorities for the next fortnight: write and submit stories to three short story competitions; submit finished novel to two/ three agents; edit more of NaNoWriMo2014 novel.

Fails throughout the summer: I’ve spoken no Italian and played no piano, although it now has a new, more accessible, home so there’s hope I’ll put fingerprints in amongst its gathering dust.

Written by Sarah Ann

October 17, 2017 at 1:50 pm

#amwriting – honest, I am

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It’s difficult to blog about writing when one isn’t doing much. I have (mostly) written a weekly flash and am tweeting haiku most weekdays. I’ve also been doing a bit of reading about writing, but still have a big pile to work through, and there hasn’t been much progress on short stories or other move substantive works.

On the advice of a new, and proving to be dear, writer friend, I am heading back to my currently-with-agents novel to look again at chapters 1 to 3. These are the ones that need to hook and grab and sink in claws that cannot be removed until the remainder of the manuscript has been read. I have never been happy with the opening lines of my book – they stink. So with Lou kicking my backside, I will be tightening, shaping, and giving these opening 7000-words a perfection makeover.

As clients fall but the wayside I have lost 11-hours a week of paid work and will have more time to write. I have divided this week in to days on which to complete different tasks, and subdivided in to mornings/ afternoons/ hour-long windows. For example, today (Tuesday) I wrote up my work reports in the morning and scheduled writing this blog post for the afternoon, as well as catching up on emails hanging over from the weekend. Wednesday morning I will re-read chapters 1-3 of the aforementioned novel before getting out my red pen. At some point during Thursday or Friday I will revisit the short stories I plan to have finished by the end of July. However, I feel that with the lack of progress made during the past month, that deadline might slip by. I have even timetabled an hour of Italian practice for later in the week. I need to master, or at least revisit Italian personal pronouns if I am ever to move on.


Priorities for the next fortnight: read and sharpen chapters 1-3 of novel; edit and write short stories based on friend’s picture prompts; prepare more agent submissions.

Ongoing projects successfully met: Friday Fictioneer stories have been posted; I’ve crocheted some flowers.

Ongoing projects partially met: blog posts about writing and blog reading are both too sporadic.

Ongoing project fails: learning Italian and piano practise have been non-existent.

Written by Sarah Ann

May 9, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Work Life Writing Balance

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My current job, while part-time, takes place over four days. The one contact-free day, Tuesday, I am usually writing up reports from the previous day. For this post I drew up a schedule of my week to see how my work hours fit in with everything else. This has helped me realise why my writing has been suffering – I don’t have free time of any length to write.

Hubby and I are trying to work the same hours so that time home together is just that, spent together and not with either one of us with our eyes glued to a screen. Weekends also need to be down time, as his job is emotionally demanding. Having spent many years self-employed in the same business, we are used to spending all our time together. Our more recent foray into working for others, and the need to sometimes work from home, has caused sniping and arguments, so we’ve set boundaries – no work at the weekend. If we both agree to do some work at the weekend then fine, but otherwise it’s verboten. Just as much as his client logging and statistical reports, my writing, work-related or creative, distances us from each other, and what’s the point of being in the same room if either of you is not present?

My work rota is drawn up a month in advance and so far I am scheduled to do the same hours in May as in April and March. At the moment, I am resolved to try to use the evenings of Monday and Wednesday, when hubby is out with clients, to complete my reports from the same day. However, to have a whole day free, as I did yesterday thanks to cancelled appointments on Monday, was bliss, and I made the most of it by working on my novel synopsis and covering letter, doing some blog-reading, and emailing writer colleagues. I have therefore decided to monitor my writing progress during April to decide whether I need to ask for a change in hours/days worked to get a completely work-free day so I can write creatively.


Priorities for the next fortnight: finalise covering letter and synopsis and submit to agent; work on short stories; review priorities for the year in light of current progress.

Ongoing projects successfully met: I’m managing to blog regularly, but it’s still early days; I have contributed to Friday Fictioneers; I’ve crocheted three eggs for Easter presents.

Ongoing projects partially met: I fell across a short story competition on Monday needing an entry by this Friday and I’m 1800-words in. It won’t be ready in time, but it had a theme and I forced myself to write to it. That’s what can happen when I have a completely free day.

Ongoing project fails; I’ve done no piano or Italian practise; having looked briefly at the boating diaries I planned to self-publish, I think this might be a project too far as they need more work than I’m prepared to commit at the moment.

Written by Sarah Ann

March 29, 2017 at 8:55 pm

Book review: “How Not to Write Fiction,” by David Armstrong

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Warning, this book is dangerous.

I don’t usually write book reviews, and I’m not sure this counts as one, but I do think more writers should read David Armstrong’s (2003) How Not to Write Fiction. I might be out of touch (it won’t be the first or last time) and perhaps the book is well known and much read. It should be. I found my copy in a charity shop over the summer when I was taking an unintentional rest from writing. The opening pages state, “If you’re thinking of becoming a writer, read it. If you’re still writing at the end of it, you’d better accept it: you’re probably a writer too!” (p. 3). I can’t say whether it was Armstrong’s witty prose, or the summer break that helped, but I am writing again after six-months of doing nothing.

Armstrong’s book doesn’t quite address its title. Instead it takes an A-Z approach, including advances, agents, editors, research, PLR, and explains these in terms of his own experiences. Armstrong wrote this book after publishing five novels. He describes the up and down, the emotional ride of broken promises, the crushing moment when the agent and publisher that had published his first four books decided to not take his fifth. The book doesn’t take a crowing, ‘here, look at me, do it my way,’ approach. Instead, it is measured, describing the real life experiences of a mid-list writer – Armstrong’s self-description.

It is a warm, informative, funny read. I want to encourage others to read it, and I’m going to look out for Armstrong’s fiction now I have been exposed to enticing snippets. But most of all, the book has made me feel I shouldn’t give up. I hadn’t written for so long and hadn’t missed it. I was beginning to wonder whether or not I was committed or needy enough. And that’s why I feel this book is dangerous, because at the end of reading it, I wasn’t ready to pack in writing for good. On the contrary, I picked up my pen.


David Armstrong. (2003) How Not to Write Fiction. Allison and Busby. ISBN 0 7490 0680 3

Written by Sarah Ann

October 5, 2015 at 2:42 pm


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I can’t quite believe I haven’t blogged anything since February. I can’t remember what caused me to miss writing one Friday Fictioneer story, and what happened the following week, which meant I missed two.

Before Easter I was writing, reading through my WIP, making changes suggested by fellow writers who’d read chapter one, trying to develop it into more of a story than a series of scenes. I had finished by the end of March and planned to leave it a month before I went back to it to get the first 3000-words agent-ready. Six months later I still have to return to those 85000-words to perfect the first 3000.

I’m not the only one who seems to have stopped writing. The two writers I met this time last year at a ‘how to hook an agent’ event have similarly been beset by life events that have redirected the focus of their activities. We have met a few times since last September and shared our re-writing and search for agent experiences. This summer, though, seems to have over-taken all of us in different ways.

Mid-summer saw me organising a big family party, and then, when life was just about to return to normal, hubby was knocked of his motorbike. It was a slow speed impact and he was very lucky to only break his ankle, but this meant he wasn’t able to drive for nearly three months. Yours truly, with nothing scheduled work-wise, became chauffeuse for the summer, sitting in the car while hour-long meetings over-ran to three. This lack of brain-activity prompted me to start looking for a job and I will be working full-time for the next six months, commuting to and fro by train. I have planned to use this time to read, maybe I’ll even get to write a little. Perhaps my Friday Fictioneer stories will compose themselves as I walk to the station or stare out of a rain-streaked window. Whatever happens, I’m hoping a strict routine might bring me back to writing.


Written by Sarah Ann

September 25, 2015 at 11:59 am

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