Monthly Archives: February 2019

#WriteMentor Spark mentoring: A Blog Post by Camilla Chester

I’m Camilla Chester, a near-miss, now self-published Children’s Author of three middle grade books; Jarred Dreams, EATS and Thirteenth Wish. I am also, one month in to being mentored through the #WriteMentorSpark scheme and I can definitely see the benefits of being involved. 

How Does It Work?
If you’re a writer that wants support with your craft from another writer then you can sign up to the scheme. There are several different levels, depending on what you want, but all involve being matched to another writer who will offer you support and advice on your writing. You’re also welcomed into a sort of on-line club, where you can watch vlogs, read articles and take advice from Industry professionals as well as other mentees.

How Long Does It Last?
I went for the special deal and signed up for a year, but it is a roll on, roll off programme so you can just join for a month if you like.

How Much Is It?
It’s super cheap. I went for the middle level and paid £200 for a full year. I have never seen anything offering so much for so little money. A day’s writing workshop could easily cost you that. It’s cheap, not because it’s rubbish or unprofessional, but because it has been set up to help people NOT to make money. There’s no dream peddling going on here.

What Happens?
It’s my first month and I have had a critique of the first 1,500 words of my new book, Darna’s Sky, plus, email advice and support from my mentor Emma Barton-Smith. She has been thorough, direct and very kind about my writing. Even though we don’t speak, I feel like we are getting to know one another through the email contact. We have made a plan of action for the coming months and I am looking forward to moving on through the scheme.

Would You Recommend It?
Yes, definitely. I’m part of two critique groups and a face to face writing group, but this is one person, in your corner, really focussing on you and your work. It feels great to have that kind of attention! Try it, what have you got to loose?

How Do I Find Out More?
Twitter: #writementor #WriteMentorSpark @stuartwhite

Camilla Chester is a Children’s Author who has just completed her first month with #WriteMentor Spark.

To find out more about her and her writing, visit:

Three Simple Steps to Writing your Perfect Hook by Julie Marney Leigh

Hooks. We’ve all heard about the importance of a good hook. But what exactly is it? And how do we write one?

Let’s begin by looking at the elevator pitch – the entire story condensed into one sentence. A daunting prospect! But it doesn’t have to be. Because the perfect elevator pitch is made up of three parts – your story concept, your main character, your main conflict. And it highlights one question for each of these elements.

  1. Concept – is it high enough?
  2. Character – what do they want?
  3. Conflict – why can’t they have it?

But, these three elements don’t just make up the elevator pitch – they’re also the fundamental building blocks to your book’s perfect hook. They hook your reader in, and make it impossible for them to stop reading until they get to the end.

Your Perfect Hook – Part One: Concept

Take a look at your idea. Can you express it in a couple of sentences? Can you hone your idea so that it can be easily communicated to another person, and make them immediately want to know more?

Check out this video link to Michael Hauge talking about The High Concept Movie. The same ideas apply to writing novels as well. It’s a long video, and I suggest watching it all at some point, but for now you can just watch the very start to get an idea of the importance of knowing your concept. 

In Conversation with Michael Hauge: The High Concept Movie

An easily communicated concept is fundamental to all forms of story-telling. Here are two examples of recent YA books:

The Fault in our Starsby John Green:

A dying teenage girl gets a reason to live when she meets her true love at a cancer support group. 

Dumplin’by Julie Murphy:

Deep in the heart of Texas, a rebellious fat girl enters a beauty pageant run by her conventional beauty queen mother  

From these examples, it’s easy to see that on one level, your perfect hook is a sales tool. As a writer, you want to hook an agent. An agent wants to hook a publisher. A publisher wants to hook a reader – and the ability to hook many readers translates into sales. And sadly, there are lots of interesting stories out there not being published because they don’t have a big enough hook. In these cases, feedback from publishers is often along the lines of – ‘I love it, but I don’t know how to sell it.’ I’m not going to debate whether this is right or wrong, because that’s not even the point – if the current market demands a perfect hook, and if we want to get an agent and get published, then a perfect hook is what we must provide. 

As writers, then, it’s tempting to ignore the importance of the hook, and to think of it as a sales tool for marketing – and therefore nothing to do with the serious creative process of writing an actual book (ahem) – but this would be a huge mistake. Because your perfect hook is much more important and fundamental to the creative process than that. It’s actually the most useful bit of thinking and planning that a writer can do at story conception. 

Working on writing your book’s conceptin an easy to communicate form, highlights holes and issues with the story. 

We have to fully understand our main character– we have to know what they want, why they want it, what they’ll do to get it, what they won’t do – anything? We have to feel their desperate need to have this thing that they want. We have to want it for them. 

Then we have to destroy them! What is the main conflictstopping them from attaining their desire? What or who is the fundamental obstacle standing in their way?

Once we fully realise the main character’s desire line and the main conflict, the elevator pitch should be simple. And when it’s finally simple, we can breathe a sigh of relief. Writing the book is easier from this point on, because the concept of the book is clear.

So, we need to know the concept to hook the reader – but why does it hook the reader? One reason is because it contains so much promise – character, conflict, story world, journey, probable scenarios they hope to read about. One of the big pleasures of reading is seeing the premise unfold – seeing if the writing matches up to the concept. Did the writer successfully fulfil ‘the promise of the premise’? This phrase is from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. I recommend reading this entire book – but especially the section about the premise. It really helps with the whole process of thinking about your concept.

Another great resource for developing your concept is Anatomy of Storyby John Truby – especially Chapter Two, ‘Premise.’ In it Truby talks about concepts and ideas not as tools to sell your story – but as ways to design your story, as ways to develop it and to fully understand it. Watch the following video where Truby explains the importance of knowing the story concept before starting to write. I recommend watching the whole video, but the bit about the story concept is at 4.00 mins.

John Truby – The Premise Line

Honing your concept gets you ready to write your book. And when it’s written, you’re ready to pitch it. There are loads of events where you can sign up to pitch face-to-face and get immediate feedback. You don’t have to have a big personality or be chatty with strangers. You can be a quiet, bookish person (ahem – like me) and still do a good job at a pitch meeting when you know your book’s concept. 

So let’s define our hooks. It isn’t easy to pin down an entire book into an elevator pitch, but let’s do it! And if we’re really struggling, then there’s a hole somewhere. In that case, we need to take another look at defining our main character’s desire line and the main conflict standing in their way. Once we’ve done that, not only will we have the perfect elevator pitch, but we’ll also have a solid, fully-formed concept to pin above our desks in massive letters as we start writing! 

 Part Twoof Writing your Perfect Hook – Conflictwill be along in May, as one of the themed monthly blogs. And Part Three, will be here in August when we explore Character

I pitched my book (and got my agent as a direct result) at the Comma Press event, which takes place annually at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. (Thanks, Melissa Welliver for organising our fab trip!) I know lots of people here have also pitched both in the UK and the USA, to editors, agents and other writers. It’s great for meeting like-minded people – book people are the best! Let’s get a list going of writing events where you can hook potential readers and pitch your book! 

Julie Marney Leigh

Julie Marney Leigh writes contemporary novels for teens about fun, friendship and feminism. She grew up in Lancashire, and now lives in Scotland where she gained a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh, and fell in love with the city. 

She lectured in English at the university for many years, as well as being a Director of the Scottish Universities’ International Summer School. More recently, she is an alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative Writing for Children Course with Catherine Johnson. 

She is represented by Chloe Seager at Northbank Talent Management. 

Follow @jules_leigh for updates.

#WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award – THE LONGLIST

Below you will find the Longlist, then a list of Notable Mentions, who just missed out, and finally a list of Readers’ Favourites (those who did not make the LL).

Right, time to get serious – this was so hard to do – the list is longer than I planned because there were so many novels we couldn’t say NO to!

Missing out on this long list is not a reflection of quality, simply the old combination in any creative pursuit – LUCK, TASTE and TIMING.

There were at least 40 more novels that could have gone onto this list and not reduced the quality in any way.

That said, the novels that did make it were INCREDIBLE.

How did we decide?

Entries were read 7 times (5 adult readers, 2 kid readers) and to make the list, you needed to get 6 or 7 YES votes!!! I KNOW!!!

When you receive your personalised feedback, you’ll get the number of YES votes with it – if you had 4/5, know that you just missed out and that this is still a great achievement – most of your readers wanted to continue. That’s a win in my view.

We also averaged the scores given by the 7 readers – the top 20 average scoring entries also all made the LL, regardless of YES votes, but mostly these overlapped.

Then we had our Readers Favourites – each reader told us their favourite and we took this into account in composing the list. Ultimately a few didn’t make it – we have listed them at the bottom. 4 novels got 2 readers favourite votes. Those were also added to the list if they hadn’t made it on other criteria.

So, I think you’ll agree, we’ve been thorough, we’ve done all we can to reduce the subjectivity of a single reader or 2, so we hope this has created the strongest possible list.

Of course, we are bound to have missed a few off here which will go on and be successful. See above comment on LUCK, TASTE and TIMING. If you weren’t successful this time, it’s due to that, not a lack of ability or promise in your novel.

Thank you to everyone who entered, and we hope if you’re not on this list, you’ll find the feedback we send useful, or at least enlightening. All I ever want to know when I miss a list, is how close I was and what did the readers think, and you all now have that chance, if you chose it at entry.

If you are on here (or even if you’re not) feel free to tweet about it using #WMCNA but if you’re on the longlist, do not tweet your title. You may tweet your title if you are on the bottom two lists.

Without furthering the agony, here is the list of novels (anonymous to allow impartial judging) that made it onto our long list.


A Broken Sound
Against All Odds
An Unquantifiable Spark
Cheese Boy
Daughter of No Temple
Follow The Silence
For Never Was A Story
Generation 13
Ghost Town
How NOT to Grow Parents
I Land
Miss Alexandra Twopenny Plays Doctors and Corpses
My Life Without You
Patsy Scribble
Rumi and the Cats of Istanbul 
Searching for Stones in the Sand
Summoner’s Revolution
The Colour of Words
The Curse of the Weird Wolf
The Darkest Corner
The Definition of Thomas Stonefeather
THE Dragon’s Suicide
The E.G.A. (Exceptional Gamers Academy)
The Fabulous Freddie
The Failed Genius Club
The Fiend of Aviary Mountain
The Glass Hotel
The Impure
The Keeper of the Books
The Lion’s Mouth
The Shape of the World
The Sluagh at Strange Garden
The Song of Anubis
The Time Thief
The Wonderful, Whimsical Wall
Title Pending
Tulip Finola Barnacle
Two Like Me and You
Viva La Valiants
Whisper Pier


Alex AtkinsonThe Girl Between
Amanda ThomasThe Stealth Pigeon
Carolyn de la HarpeOne Egg Short in Ballymory
Devyani KothariThe Girl who saved Daro
Hannah DunnThe Boy From The Mist
Helen GordonThe Ragged Gull
Julie Farrell FRACTAL
Katie MasonThe Girl Next Door
Laynie Bynum Child of Night
Lorraine J DaggettA Boy Made of Sand
Michael MannThe Ghostclouds of London
Nadine RajehDinosaurs And Demons
Nicola KellerThe Old Oak Hotel
Rachel HanvilleHere Comes the Sun
Rebecca EnglishForest School
Ross HarringtonThe Child of Fire & Fear 


Alex MarchantThe Order of the White Boar
Andrew FrenchThe Queens of Heaven
Annie WalmsleyJedediah Dreaming Ransome
Debbie RoxburghHUNKY PUNK MOON
Joan HaigTiger Skin Rug
Katherine LathamAtlas of the Darkside
Melissa CharlesR.I.P. (REAPER IN PROGRESS)
Nicola KellerTraitor’s Eye
Phillipa BaylissThe Time That Wasn’t
Sharyn KonyakThese Pieces of Me
Tess BurtonThe Young Volcanoes of Tenemere


For this blog we’re going to be looking at how to read as a writer. What else can we squeeze out of our reading that can help us become better writers?

1. Tame your TBR and RE-READ!

The TBR acronym means ‘to be read.’

It’s that pile of books by your bed, or teetering in the lounge waiting for your attention. Maybe you dust around it occasionally, or balance your coffee mug precariously on top.

So what if you can’t afford now books and you can’t get down to your local library? Many experts agree that analysing books is easier when you know the book really well. So why not start with one of your absolute favourites? Read it again, soak it in, and distance yourself from the story to instead focus on the very bones of the structure. Try and figure out that elusive word chemistry that makes you love it so much.

2. So you got the books, what now?

I’m going to enable you stationery worshippers. Buy yourself a new notebook. Make it glitzy and sequinned: maybe like this…

And use it as a book analysis pad.

For every book, start a fresh page. Write the title, author, genre, age range; you can even sketch the cover if you’re an artiste. You can add interesting structural details – are there illustrations? Who by? How many chapters are there? You can even google the word count.

Find out what, EXACTLY, is getting published these days.

Next comes the important part. As you read, make notes. Maybe a chapter breakdown.


Chapter 1 – The protagonist, Lulu Bellfield, meets the antagonist, the witch. Four mice set up home in a caravan. There is a riot in the castle.

Bella Rose Pope explains it well over on You Tube: (be aware one use of bad language…)

You can section the chapters further; maybe into – beginning, middle and end. Can you find the inciting incident? The event that kicks the action off? The plot device that forces the protagonist (the main character) into action?

Can you spot the point of no return where the protagonist loses hope towards the end? Where it looks as though the problems are insurmountable… but then victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat?

How did the ending work for you? Would you have ended it a different way? Did you feel satisfied enough for a post-book cigar?

Is the book part of a series? Where does it fit? Have you already read the others… or will you?

If you had – is the overall story arc coherent? Is this book a good fit? Is it better or worse than those earlier in the series? Can you predict what will come next?

Also… don’t be afraid to consider the dark side – it can be just as helpful to analyse those books you DON’T like! What is it that bugged you? What spoiled the story? Take a careful look at what exactly turned you off, and make sure you don’t do it in your own writing.

3. The Voice

What do you make of it? Do you like it? Why?

Is the story being told by a character or a narrator? Is it in first (I said… I did…) or third person (she said, she went…) or something even more unusual? Maybe it’s a diary format, or even a blog like Chloe Seager’s EDITING EMMA.

Is there head-hopping? That’s when the story jumps around from different perspectives. Is it working for you as a reader, or is it annoying?

4. Character Analysis

Write a list of the characters. Are they memorable to you? Why? Can you picture them in your mind?

Are they three dimensional? Do they burst off the page? Or are they shallow and supportive, skulking miserably in the background?

Are they trustworthy? Or unreliable?

If you could cast the movie, which actors would you pick?

Do you wish something different happened to them? Would you like to know more? Has the story worked for you or should it have started in a different place, with a different protagonist character? Who is your favourite, and who is your least favourite? Why?

5. What about MY writing?

All of this reading is absolutely necessary to hone your craft. You have to work at staying up to date with the latest releases. Where does your work fit? Is your quality similar to that of published writers? Is your beginning as hooky, your middle as gripping, and your end as powerful?

On a practical, editing level you can use books as formatting models too – for example, check if you’re indenting correctly and polish your work up to what a published book looks like.

If you compare well, then you know your writing is getting there. If there is much difference in quality then work on your editing techniques, take your structure back to basics, and think hard about the books you’ve analysed to help you move forward. Bounce ideas off your Spark mentor, and participate in the discussion forums. We’re all here to help!

The formula is simple. The more you read, the better you’ll write.

For further inspiration consider a free short course on

You work to your own pace, around your other commitments. At the moment they have several options, but most apt is this one, from the University of Edinburgh:

Carolyn Ward writes MG and is represented by Chloe Seager of Northbank Talent. Living near Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, Carolyn has an English degree and works in retail.

She became a mentor in Write Mentor’s first year, working closely with three talented writers and enjoying every second. She went on to develop her editing skills and now freelances for Bamboo Editing.

Three years ago she co-founded a local writing group based in a community pub and is also on YouTube as half of the Word Witches writer support duo. Between the MG edits she writes flash fiction and can be found all over the internet and on LingoBites foreign language app.

In her spare time she runs a telephone reading group for lonely older people with the charity Independent Age.

For more look on Twitter for: @Viking_Ma, @bambooediting, @WitchesWord and @CarolynWardWriter on FB.
Search ‘Introducing Word Witches’ on YouTube.

To find out more about being a telephone volunteer check out the website

Interview with #WriteMentor Candace Robinson, Author of Clouded by Envy

Congratulations on having your novel, Clouded by Envy, published. Tell us a little about the novel.

Clouded by Envy is told in dual POV from twin bats, which are fairy-like creatures from another world called Laith. The twins escape their world through a portal of sorts and wind up on Earth in the year 1995. Brenik is one of the main characters, and with growing up on Earth and being the only one of his kind, except for his sister, has driven his envy a bit too far. Bray is the other POV and she’s just the sweetest little peach in the world, opposite of Brenik. Think Crysta from the movie Ferngully. However, Brenik just wants to be human and he finds a way, but there is always a price, isn’t there? I seriously love these two characters so much!

Where did the idea/inspiration come from for Clouded by Envy?

So I drew inspiration from The Pictures of Dorian Gray and Dracula for Brenik’s character. I wanted a story a bit dark but also with my usual quirkiness and romance. So you’ll see all of that!

27654619_10155885468080751_8308789254962904984_nTell us about you…

I’m a stay at home mom who really got into writing a little over two years ago after my dad passed away. I’ve known since I graduated high school that I wanted to be a writer just didn’t know how to go about it. Beside that, I love watching horror movies, looking at Bonsai trees, and eating cheese (lots of cheese!). Oh and of course 70s, 80s, and 90s music!

Where and when do you write?

Morning sessions are my jam. During the week its easy since my daughter is at school, and if its on the weekends, I try to write while she’s asleep. I need the radio silence! However, I do have my handy dandy Slinky in hand for when the times get tough!

What are you working on now?

I actually just finished the companion for Clouded by Envy. Don’t worry, both are stand alone books and can be read in reverse order if chosen! I also have a couple unpublished manuscripts I’m figuring out which route to take them in!

Desert Island books?

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Warner is my boy!), Trick by Natalia Jaster (Poet is my personal jester!), and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Rhysand, enough said!)

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

First draft is exhausting for me. I feel like it’s a chore because I’m one who wants to finish stuff in a day. And with a book I can’t do that, so I feel as if I have to rotate batteries in and out to keep myself going. Now second draft is something I love because I can put the pieces together or shuffle them around!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Reread your manuscript! You can’t just write it and think it’s good to go! Also, the writing world is very, very hard, so remember to keep writing for yourself because there will be so many rejections along the way.

What is the first book that made you cry?

I feel as if movies make me cry more than books. The only book I can recall off the top of my head is The Midnight Star by Marie Lu. That was a perfect conclusion to her trilogy. Now, if we are talking movies then the scene between Artax and Atreyu in the NeverEnding Story! If you’ve seen it then you know what I’m talking about! I think I’m crying right now!

Finally, where can we get your book?

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks. But if you can, please add to Goodreads!

Author Bio:

Candace Robinson spends her days consumed by words. When she’s not writing stories, she maintains a book review blog. Her life consists of avoiding migraines, admiring Bonsai trees, and living with her husband and daughter in Texas—where it can be forty degrees one day and eighty the next.

Clouded by Envy Links: 

Add to Goodreads:





Social Media Links:






#WriteMentor Success Stories – Jenny Pearson

Interviewed by K.C. Karr

Jenny, what about Carolyn’s bio convinced you to sub to her?

Carolyn was a ninja, so I couldn’t sub to her. She had to pick me, and I am very pleased she did.

Carolyn, what made you fall in love with Daniel Strange and the Prime Minister’s PLOP?

Jenny’s book made me laugh. It was ridiculous and different and very hooky. I loved so much about it, that I couldn’t not choose it. Her energy, her observations, her sense of fun; all made it magical for me.

Jenny, looking back, what was your favorite part of the #WriteMentor experience?

My absolute favourite part has been getting to know Carolyn and her other mentee, the very talented Tess James-Mackey. I love our chats which usually start about the craft and descend into some properly strange places.

An also, all the super-valuable feedback Carolyn gave me alongside her unwavering support.

Carolyn, tell us what it was like working with Jenny.

Jenny was a dream to mentor. She got her edits done at high speed and was incredibly open to new ideas/ moving her work forwards. She is a primary school teacher, and her understanding of children and how they think really comes through in her work. I was so lucky to have Jenny and Tess, and to co-mentor Michal Lunsford. All such lovely, open people.

Jenny’s right- our conversations with Tess are hilarious and dark and often very sweary.

I think overall the best thing about Jenny is her honesty. She has had an incredible journey and she deserves every success that comes her way. It’s been a delight to try and support her through all that’s happened – and now I need her to mentor me!

Jenny, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?

How many talented writers and excellent stories are out there. I mean, I knew this was a crazily competitive industry, but when I read all the starting pages I was blown away by the talent.

Jenny, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from Carolyn. What advice do you have for future mentees?

I think I work quite quickly so I didn’t find the deadline an issue. With regards to criticism, I’d say that you just have to go with it. For me, the course wasn’t about bagging an agent so much, as getting my book in the best possible shape. And to do that you have to take on board what you’re being told.

Jenny, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Sam Copeland of Rogers Coleridge & White. Give us all the details of “The Call.”

I’d sent Sam my #writementor manuscript and he’d sent me back some revision suggestions. In the meantime, I’d written another book, THE SUPER MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF FREDDIE YATES. I emailed that over to him too and that was the book he ended up signing me for and I couldn’t be more thrilled. He is not only a magnificent agent but an author too. His book CHARLIE CHANGES INTO A CHICKEN is out now and hilarious. You should all go and buy it.

You’re on deadline! What are your go-to writing snacks?

Jenny – If I’m in a savoury kind of mood:

Ham spread with marmite and rolled up with cream cheese and capers.

Crab sticks with piccalilli and/or lime pickle.

Walkers ready salted crisps dipped into this whizzed up dip which consists of olives, mayo and grated cheese.

Broad beans in sweet chilli dipping sauce, vinegar and mayo.

Celery, Branston pickle and tabasco sauce.

And if I fancy something sweet:

Chocolate orange slices with squirty cream.

Melted Curly Whirly with squirty cream. Be careful not to put the Curly Whirly in the microwave for too long as it gets lava hot and it WILL stick to your tongue and take of a good few layers of tongue skin when you wrench it off.

Peanut butter straight out the jar. Sometimes I use a spoon.

Carolyn – I find writing makes me crave sweet things… a chocolate orange or a Toblerone would be the dream but it’s often Lidl’s own chocolate bars. Jenny and Tess sent me some designer brownies as a thank you – damn. They tasted like dreams and holidays and chocolate heaven.

Jenny’s snacking (above) is super serious. If I’m feeling savoury I’d go prawn cocktail crisps or those tubs of green olives with feta.

All of this food-talk is making me hungry.

What author has most inspired you, and why?

Jenny – Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Because the man is a genius. You can see how much he likes kids from his writing. His books are so full of heart and humour. And he seems like a genuinely decent human being.

Carolyn – Enid Blyton’s Famous Five because yes, they are worthy and old-fashioned… but they are also gripping thrillers! I also love Michael Crichton for his science-fact/fiction blurring. I’m inspired every day by the fabulous authors on Twitter- so kind and fun to interact with. I read quite a bit of adult too – so anything involving Lee Child gets my vote. I’m already so addicted I could go on Mastermind with Jack Reacher as my favourite subject.

Tell us about your favorite writing spot.

Jenny – Any place where I don’t have one of my kids swinging off me.

Carolyn – In the corner of the lounge with the canary for company.

What fictional world would you most like to live in?

Jenny – I kind of like this world.

Carolyn – I wouldn’t mind a day trip to Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. I’d swim in that river until my bits were wrinkly.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Jenny – I’m lucky in that I have been a teacher for thirteen years. That has meant I have met thousands of inspirational kids.

Carolyn – I’m inspired by all sort of things. I wrote a short story that got in my local newspaper after I watched a walking group wander past me, looking at birds. I started to think about what they’d do to a member of the group if they were annoyingly loud, scaring all of the birds away. They’d kill him, obviously.

My imagination is a very scary place.

Jenny Pearson has been awarded with six mugs, one fridge magnet, one wall plaque and numerous cards for her role as ‘Best Teacher in the World’. While she has not met the rest of the teachers in the world in contention for this title, she believes the evidence is stacking up in her favour.

When she is not busy being inspirational in the classroom, she would like nothing more than to relax with her two young boys, but she can’t as they view her as some sort of human climbing frame.

In her free time, if she isn’t writing, she can be found doing something sporty.

She has recently moved to the North East of England and while she has yet to meet Ant or Dec, she has learned how to use canny in a sentence. Which is dead canny, like.


Carolyn Ward writes MG and is represented by Chloe Seager of Northbank Talent. Living near Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, Carolyn has an English degree and works in retail.

She became a mentor in Write Mentor’s first year, working closely with three talented writers and enjoying every second. She went on to develop her editing skills and now freelances for Bamboo Editing.

Three years ago she co-founded a local writing group based in a community pub and is also on YouTube as half of the Word Witches writer support duo. Between the MG edits she writes flash fiction and can be found all over the internet and on LingoBites foreign language app.

In her spare time she runs a telephone reading group for lonely older people with the charity Independent Age.

For more look on Twitter for: @Viking_Ma, @bambooediting, @WitchesWord and @CarolynWardWriter on FB.

Search ‘Introducing Word Witches’ on YouTube.

To find out more about being a telephone volunteer with Independent Age check out their website.



A great book starts with a great idea. A spark, if you will. That idea needs to be enough to sustain a whole novel, to tell a full and compelling and complete story. It also needs to be interesting enough to keep you committed throughout the process. And, if you’re aiming for publication, it also needs to be strong enough to find an agent, publisher, and readers. A great idea really is the start of it all. But how can you find yours?

Why Ideas Matter

I recently heard an agent give a talk to aspiring authors. She told them that above her desk where she reads submissions, she has a post-it that says: Have I seen this before?And if she has, it’s usually an automatic rejection, even if she loves the writing. Ideas are everything. 

As writers, we need to tell stories from fresh perspectives and to create unique and interesting voices. Agents, publishers and readers all want something that feels ‘new’. Even the best writers can face rejection if their ideas aren’t strong enough (of course there are always exceptions to this rule but they are rare). 

What I wish I knew when I was starting out

So many writers try to write for the market, or look to their favourite authors to inspire their ideas, and that’s fine when you’re starting out. It’s okay to emulate writers you love when learning the craft: give yourself permission to do this and enjoy the process. But at some point, you need to find YOUR great idea. You need to look inwards rather than out, at your own passions and obsessions, at your life and experience, and at what you can offer that’s unique. What makes you and your writing different? That’s what will make you stand out. 

Rather than trying to predict the market (chances are that by the time you write a book for the market, trends would’ve moved on anyway), take everything you’ve learned and make it yours. That’s when your unique ideas will start coming. Be influenced by the books you love, and by everything else you love. Be open. But also be you. That way, when you stumble upon a brilliant idea for your book, it will be a story that only you can tell. It will be authentic. 

So, what makes an idea ‘great’?

Authenticity is such an important word. Never let go of that, keep it at the heart of everything you do. But other than a unique story that only you can tell, what else makes a truly great book?

In his TED talk, super agent Jonny Geller talks about what makes a bestseller (please watch it, it’s very good and touches on some of the ideas explored here). He says that the best stories are a bridge between somewhere familiar and somewhere new – something to think about when generating ideas.  

I think we can take this a step further – that bridge can relate to the emotional journey you take the reader on too. Your idea should be unique but it should also be relatable for the reader in some way. Give the reader a way in – help them connect. Look back at your ideas – could you hone or adapt it in some way, to make it more relatable to a wider audience? Watch the full TED talk here: 

How can YOU find great ideas? 

We are all inspired in different ways but it’s important to note that while we are used to the concept of an idea ‘just coming to us’, you can go looking for ideas. Stimulate your creativity: search for your next big idea. Use dreams, stories, people, places, experiences. Everything can be used as fuel for story ideas. 

Some exercises to get you started: 

– Really think about the ideas you want to explore in your novel. List the things that interest you. Your obsessions. What matters most to you. 

– Get out and watch people. Play the ‘What If’ game. What if that lady innocently drinking coffee with her baby has a child who will grow up with superpowers? Do not censor your imagination. There are no good or bad ideas – let them all come – do not judge them. 

– As ideas come to you, write them all down. Mull them over for days, maybe even weeks, months. Do not be afraid to add to them, change them, adapt them. And then choose the one that won’t let you go. The one that speaks to you most fully at this point in your life, at this moment in time. 

– Now go back to your current WIP. Is your idea as strong as it can be? Is there something missing, something that could make it truly unique/more relatable/stand out? It’s worth taking the time to really nail your idea – whether you do this at the start or the end of your first draft is up to you. We all have our own ways of working (I personally revisit after a first draft)!

Further reading to help find and develop your ideas:

  • One of the best books I’ve read about the craft of writing is Monkeys with Typewritters, by Scarlett Thomas. In it, she talks about how to find ideas. Whether you read the book or not, her ‘idea generator’ can be found here and is definitely worth using to explore ideas that are unique to you:

Her TED talk is also worth watching: 

  • Finally, one of my favourite resources for writing children’s literature is ‘Writing Irresistible Kidlit’ by Mary Kole. There’s a whole chapter on Ideas as well as useful tips on learning about the market and chapters to help develop craft. 

Final word

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve read is to write the story that unsettles and excites you. The one that you can’t ignore. 

So go, writer. Seek out your own, unique ideas. Sparks that will fuel your writing and lead to that brilliant book. Tell the story you need to tell, because that’s the one that the world also needs.

Emma is the author of YA novel The Million Pieces of Neena Gill (July 2019, Penguin Random House). She is represented by Jo Unwin.

She has a BA in English and Creative Writing from Warwick University and a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University. 

Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Mslexia and The Bristol Short Story Prize 2016.

You can pre-order Emma’s debut below.