Login   Sign Up 

Random Read

Collated Answers from WW interviews

and what makes your heart sink?
42nd Theatre CompanyAnd what makes your heart sink?

The opposites of above (i.e. an over – used or unimaginative premise, clunky dialogue and predictable characterisations). Those, plus bad spelling and a poor lay-out of the script!
Adventures in FictionNot a lot to be honest. Aspiring writers interest me. I tend to view manuscripts in terms of what the writer is aiming to communicate and that is usually something genuine and heartfelt. Our job as mentors is to work in the gap between the idea and its realisation. But I suppose if anything makes my heart sink, it would be the same qualities that irritate me in individuals. Pomposity, characters who are all talk and no action. Ego is important for a writer, but you need to know when to leave it at the door. We do see slightly too many manuscripts which are driven by the internal thought processes of the central character rather than by a clearly unfolding narrative.
Andrew Nurnberg AssociatesManuscripts that are clones of best selling books.

Anji PratapWhen it is obvious that a person has not even read through what they’ve written. Also things that seem to have been written purely for the pleasure of the writer who assumes that just the act of putting pen to paper is enough to entertain their reader. Writers of memoirs are particularly guilty here… It’s absolutely fair enough to write for enjoyment and pure self-expression alone. However if you want your work to receive serious consideration you must realise that there is someone else in the relationship – your audience.
Apostrophe BooksThe absence of the above - and especially poor layout. If work is sloppily presented, why read it? Why bother with the work of a lazy mind?
A Stage KindlyWhen a writer clearly hasn’t done their homework. If you listen to musical upon musical, you can establish perhaps not what ‘rules’ to follow but rather what formulas some successful musicals have in common in terms of their dramatic and musical structures. It is fine to break these rules but it is evident when someone hasn’t even tried to understand them, and writes essentially for their own enjoyment. It is heartbreaking to tell someone who has invested so much of their time and faith in a work that in order for their piece to be considered seriously it would have to be widely rethought. The best advice against this is to listen to as many musicals as possible. Identify what the successful ones have in common and likewise the unsuccessful. See if you can chart the changes in form from musicals from the 50s until the most contemporary, and use this to predict how to write the ‘next big thing’. A good musical is not only a collaborative effort, but something that owing to the many different aspects of putting one together takes a long time to write and prepare for the stage, and what may have been a cutting-edge concept may become old-hat by the time it is ready for a production and if you are writing a ‘contemporary’ piece it is important to stay one step ahead of the game in this regard to avoid that happening – so that by the time your work gets to the stage it is still ‘fresh’. Writing more traditional pieces makes this less risky, but you carries its own risks of being stale… It is a massively important part of the writing process that a writer may see their work on stage, else how will they gain the objectivity they need to iron out any such kinks? A writer needs to know how to write, but this is only something they can learn through trial and error. It is a heart-soaring moment to find a piece that works and share the writers joy when you find it but heartbreaking when you tell them you’re not interested in it, or that it needs further thought.
Backhand StoriesSelf-centred, self-serving writing. Trust me, your diary isn't that interesting. If you have issues to work out, go see a therapist. (Then write about him or her!)
Violence for no reason.
Writersroom BBCScripts that don’t do any of the above. Writers that aren’t aware just how fierce the competition is out there. Writers that send in ideas we’ve seen a million times before.
BlackberryBad presentation; bad spelling; ignoring guidelines. Writing that is too ‘detached’; or overwritten and flowery.
Bruce JamesAs with the above, long drawn out beginnings are not going to hold the imagination of us reading the piece or those watching the final staged piece.
Cheeky MaggotRip offs of well known plays. 4/2/3 people in a room discussing how much they love/hate each other. It's been done before- why not try something new- even if it doesn’t please all the people- it will please some of them. Any type of play that is gay/ethnic or any minority bashing. And believe me I have read some.
Chroma…and what makes your heart sink?
Clichés, unintentionally bad grammar, lazy writing, writing without urgency, the kind of writing that says “I’m writing the way I think I should be writing because I’m too scared to look inside and discover a way to write that reflects my deepest narratives.”
City-LitEr, probably when writers don’t have this ‘voice’ and outstay their welcome by droning on. I wish more writers would think of their readers and/ or listeners. For me even an extraordinary narrative with lots of twists and turns can only compensate for this in part. Otherwise it gets like films with super special effects – you just feel yourself becoming jaded. I usually hate poetry readings unless something really special is happening.
Darley AndersonWhen something starts so well and then sinks in the middle!
David SmithAnything that starts with the hero or heroine waking up and telling us about their hangover and what they did the night before. And novels about young people back-packing in their gap year. You know these are not novels, they are either thinly disguised diaries, or dull exercises in wish-fulfilment. And children’s novels that launch into extravagant descriptions of fantasy worlds without giving a thought to character. Also, anything that starts by discussing the weather. And of course, if you spot a cliché within the first few paragraphs you start to dread what lies ahead. Writing is very hard work – at least good writing is, and so it should be. Every word needs to be sweated over, so if a writer is prepared to leave a glaring cliché in his or her work, especially in the opening pages, it’s clear that there hasn’t been enough sweating.

E and T BooksBad grammar and clichéd characters.
Earlyworks PressFirstly reading something that doesn’t have a heart. Too many people write because they want to be a writer, rather than out of a love of story or poetry. You can tell a mile off when you’re reading something by someone who doesn’t read!

Secondly, finding I’ve started on something that is offering me sex, violence or fear for no good reason. There is far too much written on those lines and too often it’s totally directionless. There is no subject a writer can’t treat in an interesting way with a bit of thought so expecting the reader to enjoy a story just because there’s a fight or some sex in it is depressing.

Five Leaves I get bored with novelists who write about middle-class life, or where working class characters are cardboard cut-outs. Although I was brought up in Scotland I rarely read Scottish literature. Apart from Lewis Grassic Gibbon's A Scots Quair, and the writer of Scottish exile, Alistair MacLeod, I can't think of any Scottish book or writer I've re-read.
FleetingAnd what makes your heart sink?

The alternative--estrangement. Vanity, vagueness, slowness. Writing that could be someone else's.
Flicking LizardMy heart sinks when I read cliched, formulaic writing. A good part of the book market is devoted to this kind of writing and it is probably easier to make a profit by publishing this material, but I am just not interested in it. I want the unique voice of the author to come through, not a copied (usually second-rate) version of some famous writer.
Fuselit MagazineMan, we put a whole section on the website about ways to make us reject your work. I think I included my pet peeves of “void”, “soul” and anything that sounds like the start of a James Blunt song. If you send us stuff that takes itself too seriously, or list that you’ve been in 90 bajillion journals (a few is nice), or that you have this dream, or that you have always known you had poetic blood, you’re going to bias FuseLit against you. All editors have foibles and though we try to keep an open mind, there are some things we’re never going to like. A simple bio stating a bit about yourself is fine. It’s cool to mention a couple of places you’ve been published – always interesting to know about other magazines out there and we do the same when we submit work. Just don’t tell us you’ve been in 90 – it ain’t gonna sway anything.
Gold DustAgain, speaking for myself, it’s probably a journalistic, third-person/past tense perfectly competent voice – I just find it boring. Since that’s entirely a personal choice, again, I am not judging every entrant – only the ones where I’m a potential mentor for the candidate.
Greenhouse Literary AgencyOther than an opening line that starts ‘This is influenced by Harry Potter/The Hunger Games/insert latest trend here . . .’?! One that goes on to say, ‘It’s the first book in a trilogy.’ I’m a bit of a lone voice on this front, but trilogies really make my heart sink. With my publishing hat on, I’ve seen too many trilogies where Book 1 didn’t work. The author and publisher were then contractually plugged in to a further two books, when sales were falling off a cliff. No matter how successful a series or a trilogy is, Book 1 always sells the most copies. With an unsuccessful first book in a trilogy, an author may spend the next two years writing books that won’t sell, instead of writing something new that might. It’s dispiriting for the author and the publisher. Equally awful, I know of situations where the contract for a trilogy was cancelled after Book 1 because that book hadn’t sold, and the author felt as if s/he had been cut off in mid-flow. One author likened it to needing to give birth and not being allowed to. I think series of books in which each novel stands alone are fine but, personally, I would encourage people to give serious consideration to whether or not they really need more than one book to tell their story.
I’m also a little jaded by futuristic dystopian first-person narratives for Young Adult readers . . .

CornerstonesBad writing combined with an arrogant or lazy author approach. But luckily, this is far and few between.
Indigo DreamsBadly presented manuscripts, pale copies of best sellers, stilted and clichéd use of language. Blanket submissions where an author sends manuscripts to a large number of publishers and includes all their email addresses!
Into The VoidEssentially the opposite. When I can tell a story was written carelessly in a rush, or when a story is littered with things that anyone who Googled 'good writing' and read a couple of articles would know to never include. It shows a lack of passion; a half-assedness. And when you write half-assed, your story will read half-assed. That's one of life's few certainties.
Joanna Moorhead Not much: I love writing. But everyone has those panicky days when you’re not sure whether the words are going to come out right: the good thing about journalism, as opposed to fiction-writing, is that the deadlines are thick and fast so you’ve got to move onward the whole time, writer’s block isn’t an option.
Komedy KollectiveThe apparent lack of forward-thinking by "the theatre world" (if such a thing exists), and whether live drama will still continue to flourish as a form of popular entertainment, since the dawning of MySpace, YouTube, video on demand, and plenty of other stay-at-home, quick fixes.

Luvvies, egotists, and water-treaders have had it too good for far too long. Too many performances are obsessed with nostalgia, and continue to follow the same tired-old format, and even many new plays refuse to break with convention. No wander most average-to-low income people prefer to sit at home vegetating on Big Brother or East Enders, rather than venture out to their local playhouse. The acting might be dire, the storylines lacklustre, but at least you don’t know, or can’t guess the endings.

There are many skilled writers, directors, actors, and set designers who try their hardest to create lasting works of theatre, and yet, whose dreams of success are dampened by the lack of a framework to allow the total progression of talent from fringe to regional or national venues.

Two distinct levels of theatre prevail: -

(1) Meaningful, artistic, clever, fun, enjoyable, yet disposable avant-garde fringe-orientated, or touring, productions that once performed, (however excellent they are, and important their message is towards mankind) will only be preaching to the converted, and will never be seen from, or heard of, again.

(2) Popular, famous, often retro, self-indulgent, over-performed, over-rated works from famous writers, which often are middle-of-the road, offer little in terms of visual excitement, and appeal mostly to mainstream, middle-class theatre aficionados.

In footballing terms, it's like having a Premier League and a Football Conference, with nothing in-between.

Without the right development and investment, there won't be any significant progression of talent from the fringe to the mainstream for all but a select few. Theatrical success should be about quality of product, rather than about luck, being at the right place, at the right time. Unsurprisingly, budding playwrights all too often defect to the quick fix of the glitz and glamour of the celluloid dream, where their talents are (seemingly) more valued, and more readily accessible to a wider audience.

Those who stick with theatre, however talented they may be, face the risk of remaining penniless, unfulfilled, and inconsequential, which for all but the most hardened artists, is an untenable position to be in.

*We had an enlightening near-life experience with Richard Bean of the Monsterist movement at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, at the Everyword new writing festival (http://www.monsterists.com). We support their aims, and hope they can help improve the prospects for large-scale new writing theatre.
Lamplands literary journal for childrenMy heart sinks at the phrase “once upon a time” used guilelessly, and sinks even lower when it’s used ironically.

I’m made miserable by streams of clumsy sentences laying bare a failure to redraft or reconsider. Whatever you just wrote can be improved. No doubt. In general, not enough people sit on a story and come back to it later. Not enough people read their stories back to themselves out-loud. I don’t think enough people think to workshop their writing at a group, online or in real life (WriteWords being one of the excellent exceptions, natch). I feel slightly more of an obligation to make sure that writing for children is as good as it can be. Adults will put down a bad book but children just drink words. Make em good words, yeh?
Laura WilkinsonAnything sloppy… spelling mistakes, bad grammar, lousy punctuation. It demonstrates a complete lack of care. Clichéd characters and plot. Writing that tells rather than shows. Work that smacks of inauthenticity, someone trying to write like ‘a writer’, rather than finding their own voice.
LollypopWe will publish books that fit within the categories we cover – social, environmental, transport. We hate having to send letters of rejection and it is all the harder when someone has spent much time and effort writing and sending in work that does not fit under any of these topics.
The London MagazineBad grammer or presentation, lazy or unoriginal content. Derivative drivel really annoys me.
London Script ConsultancyA great idea and enthusiasm lost in poor structure and a naivety about the craft.
Long Barn BooksSUSAN: The word I in the first line, the first person narrative present – ‘I walk across the room and I feel like death. I am sick in the basin.’ That sort of thing. Me-books. The novel as therapy. Detailed and graphic descriptions of sex and drug taking and masturbation in paragraph one.

JESSICA: Too many exclamation marks. Therapy novels. People who haven’t spell-checked or tidied up properly – if you haven’t done basic editing it says to me that you haven’t worked hard enough on it in other ways. ‘Issue’ novels, or novels where there is no real story or interesting characters, just a relentless ‘message’.
Macmillan New WritingShoddy sentence-construction, cliché, stereotypes, pomposity, derivate or cynical plotting.
MBA Literary Agents-and what makes your heart sink?
Bad spelling and grammar, single-spaced type (very hard to read), something that pretends to be fiction but is actually clearly autobiography (much better to be clear about which it is).
Mighty EruditeWriting that fails to recognise the intelligence of the reader, writing that is safe and fails to take risks.
Mike Wilson Do you have a routine or a writing place? Usually in front of the PC screen. That's because when I have to write I put it straight down on the page. If I'm writing an article for Link magazine, I write to fill a page. Not a line too short, nor a line over. But I have an AlphaSmart keyboard and if I am away from the PC I take that with me and "scribble" bits and pieces all day. I like the pen and paper writing I do at Bridlington Writers' Group. Something usually emerges after twenty minutes and I try to make it worth reading.
Patricia CumperPlays where the writers ego is stronger than the voice of the characters they create, plays that preach, plays that are dashed off.
Poolbeg PressA badly presented manuscript! One that has an indecipherable handwritten scrawl threatening me that if I don’t respond in 24 hours we’ll loose a great opportunity.
Sean Costello Anything overly self-conscious or reliant on clichés.
ShearsmanPoems about the writer’s holidays; memories of the family, the pet dog, etc; religious fervour; poor use of, and understanding of, rhyme and metre; chopped-up prose (and bad prose, at that). Poor spelling and grammar seem endemic these days and I can put up with it in small doses, but a total lack of awareness of basic writing rules is very depressing.
Short Story RadioSubmissions from writers who obviously haven't spent any time listening to the stories we produce. Competition entries from writers who haven't read or followed the guidelines. We want writers to give themselves the best chance of having their work read and accepted, and it is disappointing to see how many writers fall at this first hurdle.
Slightly Foxed Pretentiousness. Sloppiness. Repetition. A writer who doesn’t know what to put in and what to leave out, and so gets bogged down in detail.
Smith BrowneGetting submissions of poems. This shows that the person submitting the work hasn't read our brief or submission guidelines. More strikingly, it proves the point that there are far more poets out there who want to see their work in print than are willing to take the time to carefully read and share their experiences with the poetry of others. That truly gets me down. It's out of this sense of frustration with the imbalance between the number of people who write contemporary poetry and the number who read it that the SV was born.
Snow Books 2Writing is a professional activity, a craft which has rules and standards, so for me it’s unforgivable if there are typos or spelling errors. If I have to read your work, it’s only fair that you should have read it through, with an equally critical eye, first.

If the submissions email says “Dear sir/madam”, I can’t help but get a bit downhearted. The author hasn’t bothered to find out my name or gender; they won’t have bothered to see whether they’d enjoy being published by Snowbooks (which is crucial) or what we’re interested in. ‘Dear Snowbooks’ would be fine! I don’t really care whether your novel is ‘264 pages of A4 double spaced’. Don’t ask about how much money you’ll get, in the first email. Don’t just attach a Word doc with no covering email. Don’t slap copyright notices everywhere: it’s automatically your copyright and just looks aggressive. We choose our authors as much as our books: this is our life and we have to work with people we get on with otherwise we won’t be very happy!

I’ve just looked through our current submissions pile and selected an example of ‘what not to do’. I apologise if this is a reader of WriteWords.


What seems like an age, I have finally finished writing my book, this is something that I have always wanted to do, and if
if you think its good enough to print, then great, if not, then, oh well better luck next time. This is a moden day good old fashioned western.”

We have typos, lack of adherence to grammatical rules, defeatism. Many warning bells are going off.
TenebrisI never fail to be disappointed by books in which the author has gone out of their way to do something new, different or clever, to the detriment of the book. When the ego of the author overshadows the story, I immediately lose interest.

The EphemeraFormulaic, lazy, derivative, or unconsciously fatuous work.
The LadyDepressing stories, clichéd stories.
Tumbleweed TVStories that are just middle but with no beginning or end. I know that sounds really obvious, but it’s amazing how many times you read something and you have no idea what’s going on, why characters are behaving the way they are, or what the story is meant to be.
Unthank BooksBad prose, bad sex scenes, derivative ideas, bandwagon jumpers and pale imitations.
United PressNothing makes our hearts sink, because we love our work and we’re eternal optimists.
We don’t wish we had anybody different on our list, because we find the output of other publishers doesn’t match ours
Vanessa CurtisMy hearts sinks a little when I have to deal with a novel which is 'over-written' - too many adverbs, too much descriptive prose, long paragraphs of back-story and dialogue which is stilted and unrealistic. All these things can be improved with guidance.
View and HissWriting that shows little understanding of form and tone - and no emotional connection with the characters.
Will Kerley Bad dialogue, bad musicals that run like clockwork but are living museum pieces exhibited twice a day; established writers getting poncey. The huge amount of money that gets thrown at making terrible films versus the tiny amounts of money put into making theatre. Working with impossibly miniscule budgets or negative people.
Writer's MuseOhhh! Editing an earlier magazine I once had a piece submitted which I often think about. It began, “It was a dark and foggy night.”. I thought of ‘The Hook’ and my mind began second-guessing: this writer knew of making an impact; they were giving me the oldest cliché and were going to take me in another direction completely. There was, perhaps, irony, satire, deprecation of the art.

It all went downhill from there.

It is true that editors will look at the first few lines and be able to make a shrewd decision. I do, too, but I diligently carry on just in case I’m wrong-footed at the outset. I think writers are owed that.

On a personal level my heart sinks when I see writing that tries too hard to hook you but actually says nothing. I’ll read the first few lines of rip-roaring, firefighting, blood ‘n’ guts. Then the next paragraph has scones and tea and you realise that, probably, there’ll be many pages before anything else happens, if at all. It’s as though the writer has learned to capture your attention, and then doesn’t know what to do once they have it.

More heart-sinking comes from writing that goes into laborious detail that doesn’t move the piece forward, or conversations that don’t add more to the characters. I know I sound pedantic or finicky but some new writers write the way they think writers write. It’s obvious that they’re emulating a style but aren’t able to see that when descriptions and conversations take place in a good writer’s work, they take place for a reason, not to pad out the work and be writing!

A pet hate is sloppy, easily corrected, grammar and spelling: “should of”, “could of” etc. It’s the kind of thing that one minute consulting a dictionary would clarify and prevents the writer seeming like someone who was barred from being a Chav because they underachieved.

Before my heart gets lower than detritus from The Titanic, I think it’s fair to say that cliché and lazy writing slap the nadir.
Writer's NewsMaterial which is badly researched, sloppy or inaccurate; copy which is incomplete, therefore wasting time checking facts. Too much ‘ I did this or that’, not because it looks self-centred but because it is clumsy. The ‘I’ word can be avoided most of the time.
The Writers' WorkshopProbably when people have ignored evoking an internal world in their work, or rely too heavily on adjectives, or do any other things that make you distant from the material.
ZocaloAdam: Consciously “creative” writing. Writing that depends too much on a thesaurus (although I am not against the use of a thesaurus – it can be a valuable tool). I think it’s important for a writer to own the words he or she uses.

Darran: I suppose that what I generally decidedly do not find exciting are typically, deliberately “exciting” events or situations involving guns and explosions, the fare of action films. (I recently read a Hermann Hesse essay in which he says he’s always had a distaste for such exciting events and tends to stay away from them in his novels). Any apparent striving for originality or creativity – whether it be by the inclusion of dramatic events or descriptive overload – could well have a depressing effect on my reading, “make my heart sink” as you say.

Rob: Clichéd writing more than anything else, especially when it comes to dialogue.