If you’ve been writing for a while, and especially if you’ve been working on a book for a while (and definitely if you’ve been submitting for a while), you’ll be familiar with that I-give-up-nobody-likes-my-work-I-must-be-a-terrible-writer feeling.
That’s exactly where I was in 2015. I had completed my first novel, Clopwyck River, after coming up with the idea on a writing for YA course. I grew up near a wooded area where there were constant rumours of witchcraft. The deep, dark woods were a perfect curtain for secret activities and I was always obsessed with what spells or curses could be cast there. After a bit of local history research, I discovered that a mother and daughter were killed for suspected witchcraft, and with that I had the foundations of my story. I was so proud of myself when I finished writing it. This will get snapped up in no time, I thought, there must be huge demand for paranormal YA fiction!
How wrong I was.
Looking at my submissions spreadsheet (we all have one of those, don’t we?), I can tell you that there were thirty seven red REJECTEDs in my outcome column. I had one request for the full MS, but that was it. Nobody liked my writing, and nobody was interested in Clopwyck River.
Then I came across the Undiscovered Voices competition. I figured I had nothing to lose so I entered and didn’t give it any more thought until the 7th December 2015 when I had a missed call from Sara Grant. Obviously she was calling all the people who didn’t have any talent and hadn’t made it, wasn’t she? Turns out she wasn’t, and I’d made the shortlist!
So, looking again at that spreadsheet, after the anthology was launched I had eight requests for the full MS including one from the US, and met with an agent to discuss representation. I even received an email in error from one agent along the lines of let’s ask for the full MS as Georgia was included in the SCBWI UV anthology so I can say it was definitely as a direct result of UV.
I don’t have representation yet, but I do have a handful of agents’ contact details who said that although Clopwyck River wasn’t what they were looking for, they loved my writing and asked me to send anything else I write. Pre-UV me couldn’t have hoped for that kind of direct contact.
So my advice would be this; please enter UV. A lot of my UV chums now have agents, and a couple have real life book deals! I may not be quite there but I feel like the experience has given me a leg up, like I have a little something extra that might help me stand out. If you’re shortlisted you get to attend a workshop where you’re talked through the process of securing an agent and getting published. You’ll also attend the launch where you meet lots of people in the publishing industry, including some of the UV judges. The UV committee and previous winners will also be there to guide you if you’re a bit shell-shocked, but most of all they will absolutely be rooting for you.
Being selected alongside some other incredibly talented writers and hearing publishing folk say amazing things about my writing really gave me the confidence boost I needed to keep striving for publication. I’ve gone from this-is-never-going-to-happen-for-me to this-really-could-happen-for-me, and I’m determined to keep the momentum going so I can achieve my dreams, and type the word ACCEPTED in green on my spreadsheet.
Advice for submitting to Undiscovered Voices
- Polish your entry and then polish it again with some name brand polish and not Tesco Value polish. Your entry deserves the best
- If you don’t like that bit, do something about it and don’t leave it in with the hope that someone will see past it and realise your genius
- Get someone you trust to look it over before you submit, and not someone who will say “Oh, it’s wonderful, darling; you’re such a clever girl!”
- Make your opening grab the reader but don’t give too much away
- Read out the dialogue to see whether it sounds genuine. Would a sixteen year old really use the word balderdash?
- Once you’ve submitted, try and put it out of your mind and get on with something else. Maybe start working on that idea you had about a teenage boy who gives off the perfect WIFI signal?
- If you’re selected for the anthology, shout it from the rooftops! Once it’s been launched, get in touch with those agents you submitted to months ago and let them know what’s happened!
Georgia is a librarian by day and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan by night. She has written a number of articles for Hodderscape including Stranger Things vs. The OA, What Would Buffy Do, and Films To Watch at Halloween if You’re a Big Scaredy-cat, and was a Wattpad featured writer. She’s currently working on a new YA project, a mix between The Breakfast Club and Lost, where a diverse group of teenagers on board a vintage bus get to face their individual issues head-on at each stop.
Her spirit book character is Mildred Hubble.