Pop over to Vanessa Gebbie’s blog where she’s interviewed me about my creative writing critiquing service. It was really good to get into some depth about the process, aims and background of Inkspill Critiques.
What are Inkspill’s strengths when it comes to evaluating and giving feedback on a piece of work?
GRANTA publishes short fiction, memoir, non-fiction and photography (visual essays) – it rarely publishes poetry. It originated in 1889 from a group of students at Cambridge University and was re-born in 1979, disassociated from the university. It has bases in London and New York and blends writing from the US and UK.
- It has sometimes been criticised for publishing a disproportionate amount of male writers, despite (at one point) nearly all the editors being female.
- It is addressing this concern by printing an issue entitled ‘The F Word’ (referring to female) – upcoming in May 2011.
- Granta pays up to several thousand pounds to contributors.
- Most of their submissions come from the US – they want to see more from the UK.
- The issues are themed.
- The themes are decided in three ways: sometimes an issue is built around a key piece; sometimes a lot of similar pieces come in around the same time; and sometimes the editors create folders that are slowly build.
- Don’t try to fit your writing to a theme.
- When you write what you want to write, you come up with your best work.
- Nearly all of the published material is solicited (comes through agents).
- They have thousands of submissions a month that land in the slush pile (submissions directly from un-agented writers).
- However, they print an average of one piece from the slush pile per issue.
- It used to average at around a couple of pieces per year!
- The online feature New Voices publishes six times a year.
- Everyone who has been featured there has gone on to secure an agent or publishing deal.
- Cover letters are important.
- They should be plain and to the point.
- Fancy boarders and brightly coloured ink is a no-no.
- Show any credentials you have – courses you’ve completed and previous publications.
- Only include biographical details if they are relevant to the piece you are submitting.
- The first paragraph has to be awesome.
- Some submissions are competent, but are missing that ‘x’ factor.
- It doesn’t matter what you write about.
- As long as it is in a literary style that suits the magazine.
- Read the magazine before submitting to get a feel for its style.
- Editing is often a battle of wills between the writer and the editor.
- A bad writer refuses to change a thing about their work.
- A good editor justifies a change rather than blindly demands it.
- A good writer can understand these justifications and accept or reject the suggestions based on their creative vision.
- An editor’s role is to help the writer say what they want to say in a clear and effective manner.
On Working in Publishing:
- Helen became an editorial assistant by first taking a job as a receptionist at Granta.
- Her role included reading the slush pile, organising contracts, copy editing, proofreading, picture research and general administration work.
- When reading the slush pile, she began by reading each piece fully.
- After a year, she was making decisions much more swiftly – based on covering letters, first paragraphs, and even first lines.
- Editors are getting rarer.
- The role of the editor is becoming filled by literary agents and freelancers.
- Her first novel is pieced together from other ideas and stories written over the years.
- She always wrote, but rarely had time.
- Going part-time at Granta gave her more time to write.
- She admits that she would have liked to have had more of an overview in mind when she had first started writing, to give her novel a clearer direction.
- As a former editor, she knew what to expect from the editing process.
- However, it made her too accepting of her editor’s suggestions at first.
- She feels very conscious of her editor-self while writing, and says it is best to just focus on being a writer and the creative process.
- Her agent points out aspects that aren’t working in the novel, rather than tells her what to write.
- This allows her to see things she previously couldn’t (as is always the case when you are so ‘close’ to your own writing) and she makes major draft revisions based on these insights.
You can read more about Helen’s novel here.