Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Contest Winners

The Sixth Paperback in Your Hand contest has been won by Ian Harrison for his black comedy/satire, DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?

The First Writing FOR Kids contest has been won by Catherine Pelosi for A Fizzle Plop Day.
Runner up was Helen Nolan, for Crumbs!

The new contests are now under way. Visit http://www.affordablemanuscriptassessments.com and click on CONTESTS AND OPPORTUNITIES for details.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why they Won: Legacy of the Skywasp

The sixth Paperback in Your Hand contest, run by Affordable Manuscript Assessments  has just closed and judging is underway. Now is a good time to look back over previous winners and explain, from the judge's point of view, why they won.

First, what does the judge (or judges... we're flexible) look for in this contest? Since the prize is a full edit and a paperback copy of the winner, we look for a manuscript with wide appeal. We look for an engaging story that has originality and charm. We especially look for that difficult-to-classify attribute; "sparkle". We also, obviously, prefer a manuscript that is well-presented and self-edited.

The winner of the second contest (pictured) was Legacy of the Skywasp, a glorious science fiction novel by Margaret Watts. You can read the blurb below.

Skywasp! Despite the heat, a shiver shoots
down my spine.

Nick lives in a futuristic Terra where everything is
regulated. He and his girlfriend Zandara know exactly
how their lives will progress. But then Nick meets
someone he thought dead and is sent much against
his inclination to the distant and dangerous world of
There, he will relive Jethroy Blake’s experiences with
the wasp cult and become embroiled in a power
struggle as he seeks to solve the mystery of his
father’s relationship with Doriana, the Maiden of the

The characters (a generation apart), the settings (an ultra-civilised dome and a dangerous planet) and the premise (a reluctant son carries out the last wishes of a father he barely knew and had cause to resent) were all immediately captivating. The manuscript needed a bit of tightening and some extra explanation and clarification of the more complex passages, but the finished product was judged easily as good as many well-loved science fiction novels. This is a very human story, with flawed characters and no easy answers. The author was pleased with her prize and ordered some extra copies for gifts and for sale. Perhaps if you live somewhere in the Hunter Valley region of NSW you might have seen this book.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Problem with Picture Books... Part 2

I think the problems with picture books generally stem from three misconceptions.
1. Picture books are short, and therefore, must be simple.
2. Picture books are for very young readers or listeners, and therefore, must be simple and may be slight.
3. Picture books are timeless.

These misconceptions are particularly dangerous because they are partly true. Here are the more accurate versions of the statements above.

Picture books are short. In fact, one problem we see a lot at Affordable Manuscript Assessments is texts that are too long and wordy. They may certainly be simple, but they don't need to be.  As mentioned in part 1 of this post, picture books should be layered stories.

Picture books are often for very young readers or listeners, and therefore, may be simple and occasionally slight. Most slight texts are rejected these days, simply because of the requirement for layered stories. Picture books can also be meant for (or at least accessible by) readers of ten or so. The fashion for "older" picture books comes and goes and the market for these is probably smaller than that for younger readers.

Some picture books are timeless. There are stories around now (in print) that were published when I was a little girl in the early 1960s. Some are older still. These are generally stand-out texts that have dated, if at all, charmingly. Most don't have have human protagonists. For every The Story About Ping and The Cow that Fell in the Canal there are hundreds of stories that are permanently out of print because they are felt to be dated, trite, sexist, ageist, or just plain out of step with modern literature.

Thanks for visiting our blog.  Everyone who comments on this post will be issued with a password which allows 20% off the purchase of any of the PDF workshops below.  To purchase, send an email to mail@affordablemanuscriptassessments.com


  20 Top Tips  (The Unwritten Rules of Writing)  $10.00 USD download                                                               

Writing a Manuscript Proposal                                                                                                                                                      
$2.50 USD download

Writing a Picture Book Text
Includes a prepaid manuscript assessment valued at $25.00.
$30.00 USD download

Creating  Fantasy Settings   
$3.75 USD download

  (Giving our kids) A Reason to Write
(A handbook for parents and teachers)
$7.00 USD download

What Publishers Want
(Or, Why your manuscript may have been rejected.)
$4.00 USD download


Writing with Style 
$10.00 USD download


Writing Dialogue
$10.00 USD download

    Writing Metrical Verse
    $7.00 USD download