Sunday, April 08, 2012

A review - Discovering the Diamond - advice to new writers

‘Discovering the Diamond’ by Helen Hollick and Jo Field published by SilverWood Books, 2011 (read on Kindle).

‘Discovering the Diamond’ is an excellent, easy to read, well-structured guide, which allows for the novice writer to hone the base material of their manuscript into a polished gem which will knock the publishers’ eyes out (hopefully).

In this short book, multi-published author, Helen Hollick pulls no punches in stating that becoming a published author, either at the hands of a reputable publishing house, or through assisted publication outlets, or by pure self-publishing, is not an easy task. Even the perfect manuscript is not guaranteed a place on the bookshelf. But what this informative guide does is to lay down the ground rules which, if followed, will place the novice writers’ work in a competitive place, towards the head of the queue for assessment.

Like you and I, literary agents and publishing house editors are human beings, and the amount of time they can allocate to each manuscript submission is limited. Unlike the budding author (and published authors too), they cannot dwell for hours over a couple of pages, tweaking a word or phrase here or there, trying to polish the work to perfection. If you are lucky, they will read the first paragraph or perhaps a page of a submission, before either accepting it for further reading, casting it to the slush pile, or most likely, dropping it into the reject basket.

‘Discovering the Diamond’ lifts the lid on the transgressions of all authors – both published and novice. For example, too much tedium will bore a reader to death, and obvious errors in spelling, tense and syntax, along with obvious anachronisms, provide an instant no-go.

Hollick strongly advises writers to treat their work to the services of a professional editor and not to rely on a family member who will say he/she loves it despite all its errors.

Hollick also advises honesty in the way new writers look at both their own and other people’s work. And to illustrate each new section, she provides examples using scenes from her own books. My only comment here is that I found some of the passages a little over-long, and would have preferred more succinct examples.

Then there is discussion on layout and cover design, the use of contractions, and more, plus a timely warning about the pitfalls confronting new writers including the sharks, shysters and frauds who bubble with enthusiasm to publish your first book - at a cost!

Personally, as a published author both in mainstream and self-published outlets, I could relate to all that is contained in ‘Discovering the Diamond’. And though the information was not new to me, reading it was a timely reminder of the grammatical traps I can, and have fallen into, through complacency, when writing my novels.
I would recommend ‘Discovering the Diamond’ to any budding author seeking publication. Some real gems are contained within its pages.

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