Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Fighting the Dragon

The fabulous Beverley Birth, successful author and long time editor for Hodder ran a workshop at theVerulam Writers Club Conference last month called "Fighting the dragon" which explored ways to ensure your book had enough tension and conflict to keep readers hooked. 

 Many children's stories don't have enough tension in them to grab readers by the throat and keep them turning the pages according to Beverey. She said the crux of your novel was in delivering the point of tension fast and then sustaining the action throughout.

 This needs to be done whatever type of book you're writing. If the conflict is internal it still needs to grab readers and take them on a journey. 

 She suggested asking yourself three questions about your m.s and answering them in one sentence.

1. What is the conflict?

2. What is the central theme?

3. What is the essential dilemma/choice?

 Beverley insisted that the core of your novel MUST be defined in order to shape the storytelling.

I found this exercise quite hard but it does force you to consider your book as a whole and think more deeply about what you're trying to achieve. It ties in with other advice that suggests we should  be able to describe our novel in one sentence, if we can't then perhaps there's a problem.

Beverley told us that choices were the heart of creating tension because the reader wants to know that the decision will be and what the character is going to do. We need to think about the possible consequences for our protagonists and make sure that they are strong enough to capture our audience. We must also ensure we look at everything through our characters eyes and note not just their reactions but the processing they go through.

Beverley ended her talk with three more questions-

1.Why do you think you are special?
Come up with three unique selling points.

2.Why would anyone pick my book? What's special about it?
Come up with three u.s.p's.

3.Are those u.s.p.s in my novel? Are they there on the first page and throughout the book?

I found Beverley's workshop very interesting and when chatting to her afterwards her enthusiasm for helping writers really shone through. 
 I hope you found these notes useful and you can make use of some of the points I've highlighted, I recommend you try and catch one of Beverley's talks if you can as they're very inspirational.

. 2013 will see Beverley stepping down from her fiction commissioning role
at Hodder Children’s Books to concentrate on her author life
and on mentoring new writers. She will be joining Imogen
Cooper’s Golden Egg Academy team, to help run workshops
and provide creative support for promising writers.
Golden Egg Academy or follow Golden Egg
Workshops for Children's Writers on Facebook.


  1. Thanks for this! I'd back Beverley against a dragon any day!

  2. Thanks for posting this Lorraine - lots of food for thought. I'm so sad Beverley has retired from Hodder but I think she'll be able to share her writerly talents as well as her editorial ones much further with the move! Lucky for us x

    1. Hi Kathryn, yes she sounded very enthusiastic about doing just that. X

  3. Beverley is great - I spent a very enjoyable train ride back from the Golden Egg launch listening to some fascinating stories from her life. I think it's brilliant that she's going to have more time to mentor writers directly and share her years of wisdom.

    Oh, and I totally agree about the tension issue, that was the key thing I had to learn about children's writing before I was able to write a book that someone actually wanted to read!

    1. Hi Nick, I agree it was a real pleasure talking to Beverley and she certainly knows her stuff! x