Advice for my stage

I’m 16+ and want to learn more about creative writing. Where should I go?

Your first port of call should be the library service, whether that’s a local area library, the Central Library in town or one attached to an academic institution. Most libraries run author events and writing workshops, usually for free, so keep an eye out for opportunities on their notice boards, advertised online or by speaking to a member of staff. These events are a good opportunity to learn new writing skills and to ask writers about their own journeys. Other opportunities to do this occur during the University of Aberdeen’s May Festival and year-round Word events, so look out for festival brochures and programmes.

There’s lots of great information online too for young writers, particularly on the Scottish Book Trust’s website so be sure to search through their Young Writers opportunities.

I’m a writer and want to get my work out there. What should I do?

Competitions and publishing opportunities for young writers are very common at local, national and international levels. Many of these opportunities will be listed on the Scottish Book Trust website. The SBT also have a dedicated section on their website for Young Writers and even run their own annual Young Writers Awards which give winners the opportunity to be mentored by a professional writer and learn more about the publishing industry; they even have one for a Gaelic writer if you happen to be fluent!

On a local level, Pushing Out the Boat magazine encourages youth entries and is also a good platform to perform your work at one of their launch events if your piece is selected for publication.

What Higher Education opportunities are there in Aberdeen for writers?

The University of Aberdeen has been running its Creative Writing programme for a number of years now, which has expanded to include opportunities to practice creative writing at both undergraduate (in combination with a literature degree) and postgraduate level. If you already have an undergraduate degree, its M.Litt programme is a one year Masters course which includes optional modules in prose, poetry and life writing. A PhD in Creative Writing is also an option for those wishing to pursue an academic career or who have a writing project which requires the support of a doctoral research framework.

I don’t want to / can’t get into a Higher Education institute, what should I do now?

The best way to improve your writing skills and build a writing career outside of the academic bubble is to join a writing community such as a writers’ group, a book group, a literary salon or some other community through which you can reach out to others with a shared interest. In Aberdeen, several of these groups can come and go, but the following have been established for several years: Lemon Tree writers, Aberdeen Writers’ Circle and Books and Beans Poets. If you can’t find a group suitable to your writing style or interests, why not set up your own with other people you know and trust to share your work with?

You should also keep an eye out for writing workshops and opportunities at libraries, in community centres and local festivals, where you can learn new skills. If you are willing to pay to learn more, courses run year round at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s only creative writing centre situated near Inverness. They also offer bursaries to attend courses for those who couldn’t afford to otherwise, as well as annual bursary packages based on merit; check their website for further information.

I’ve been writing for some time and feel ready to share my work more widely. Where should I submit my work to?

If you’re working on poems or short stories, keep an eye out for submission opportunities online. To get a sense of the most reputable magazines to send your work to, check the Scottish Book Trust website, or get your hands on copies of the publications yourself and see if your work would be a good fit. Great magazines local to Aberdeen include Causeway/Cabhsair, Pushing Out the Boat and The Interpreter’s House.

If you’ve been working on a novel, you may want to submit a book proposal to a publisher. Find a list of Scottish publishers via the Publishing Scotland website, or check the Writers & Artists annual guide for an expansive list.

For both literary magazines and publishers, always ensure you know the style and forms of work they usually publish. Check their websites or get a hold of their publications to get a feel for whether or not your work would be a good match. Send your best work, well-edited and with a professional covering letter including contact information, a bio and any other necessary info, such as a book proposal. Also always remember to check their own submission and formatting guidelines.

I’ve had some success getting my work published, but I want to take it to the next level and reach a wider audience. How do I do this?

Getting taken more seriously in the literary world may require an agent. While some publishers accept unsolicited submissions, others will only accept work that has been previously vetted / headhunted by literary agents. Get your hands on a copy of the most up-to-date Writers & Artists Yearbook for a list of agents, or alternatively, check on Scottish Book Trust’s website. Make sure you’re sending your work to agents and publishers who are interested in your style / form; for instance, there’s no point sending your sci-fi masterpiece to an agent who only deals with literary fiction and vice versa.

One sure-fire way to reach a wider audience is to win one of the Scottish Book Trust’s annual New Writers Awards, which grants the winner a £2000 cash award, a professional development package and a writing retreat. Many winners have gone onto to secure publishing deals and international writing careers.

<h3<I’m struggling to get my work published. What should I do?

Ensure you’re sending your work down the right avenues in terms of the style, taste and forms normally associated with the publishers or magazines out there. Also consider if your work needs further editing, or if you need to develop your writing skills further by attending a writing course of some kind.

One option is to self-publish, and this may be the best option if what you are working on is quite niche in nature and so unlikely to be of interest to a mainstream publisher and/or if it’s quite specific to a local/regional audience. If this is the case, do some market research to work out if there is an audience for the sort of work you write and base how many copies of the work you should print on that. Alternatively, consider only making it available in e-formats which is a considerably cheaper option. If you really want success with the self-publishing route, you need to be good at marketing: speak to local press (i.e. P&J, EE, Trend Magazine) about running an article on your work; set up a reading or book launch in a local bookstore or some other venue that draws a literary crowd; utilise social media and online advertising to get the word out there. Speak to Business Gateway in Aberdeen or the Cultural Enterprise Office for further advice on how to market and sell your work. The Creative Penn is a good site to get advice from a successful self-publisher.

I’ve always wanted to write for the stage. What are my options?

Opportunities for playwrights are growing in Aberdeen, with Aberdeen Performing Arts running Scratch Nights and other events at the Lemon Tree which allow writers to submit short works which can then be performed by professional actors to an audience for free. From here, you can submit and discuss longer works with APA’s in-house Producer, or try national submission routes such as Playwright Studio Scotland’s Script Reading Service. PSS has several other writing opportunities and often tours free writing workshops across Scottish cities including Aberdeen.

I would like to get into publishing. Where do I start?

Unfortunately there isn’t much of an established publishing scene in Aberdeen, with most small publishers in the Northeast being based out in the shire. It might be worth offering to intern with these small publishing initiatives, or looking into doing a week or two in a publisher further afield.

However, the publishing industry is in a state of constant flux as more and more literature finds itself in digital forms rather than on paper. With a good business head, the right literary talent and some tech savviness, anyone can become a publisher in this day and age, and Aberdeen may just be the perfect untapped market for such a literary venture. Speak to the Cultural Enterprise Office or Business Gateway or check their website for advice on setting up your own cultural business. If you’re relatively new to publishing, you could join the Society for Young Publishers Scotland for further support, or otherwise, check out and make links with websites such as Publishing Scotland to feature your publishing enterprise.

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