The novelist Claire Peate moved to Wales from London a few years ago determined to make her mark as a writer. Wales, land of song, a paradise of bards and great authors. A place full of literary welcome, the home of Dylan Thomas, Kate Roberts and Alexander Cordell. Finding out which doors to knock on shouldn’t be that difficult. But it was.
How do you prepare your manuscript? Where should you send it? What is the difference between a bookseller and a publisher? What do agents do? Have we got any in Wales? What does copyright mean? Do you have to do anything to register it? Where can you get fair and informed advice on the work you are producing? How do you win prizes? Who fixes readings? How do you get to work in school? How do you meet other writers? Are there any places offering financial support, information support, hand holding or any other kind of practical help?
Although plenty of advice was available out there nobody had ever bothered to join the dots. Now, after two years of development and the employment of poet and editor Kathryn Gray to do the research and the writing Academi are providing the solution.
A comprhensive guide to How-To-Be-A-Writer has just been launched. The guide is freely accessible from the Academi’s site at www.academi.org. Here you can read about what it’s actually like being a writer (difficult but rewarding), ways to get started, how much you might earn, how to get into broadcasting, the difficulties of copyright, who the publishers are, how to apply for financial help (a well read section, that one), how to prepare your book, how to get criticism, how to win prizes. There’s more too. In fact you could spend your whole life here rather than actually writing. My advice is to scribble first and second and only then start to worry about what to do next.
The Guide makes some pretty solid suggestions. The section on self-publishing and networking explains how pushy you’ll need to be. No more retiring to the garret. There’s information on getting connected digitally and the benefits that will bring. There’s also an excellent piece on how it is possible to make a living as a writer just. This goes into detail about how much non-writing you’ll actually have to do.
Claire Peate has had to manage without all this advice. And she’s done well - three novels to date, published by Honno. The Floristry Commission, Big Cats and Kitten Heels and the new one, Headhunters, which mixes archaeology, the church and man chasing in a heady brew. Is Wales a good place to make it as an author? Claire seems to think so.
An earlier version of this post appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail of 31 October, 2009