One of the special things about the RNA is its New Writers’ Scheme, which is unique among professional writing organisations. Every year it gives aspiring writers a chance for a personal evaluation of their work by an experienced author and has helped many writers achieve publication.
Melanie Hilton is the current NWS organiser, whose job it is to deal with the 250 manuscripts which arrive through her letter box each year.
Melanie can you tell us when and how you took over organising the New Writers' Scheme?
I took over in 2008. The then Chairman, Catherine Jones, caught me after one too many G&Ts.
With 250 members, it must take a lot of organising. Take us through what happens when a NWS manuscript arrives in the post.
I open it, check everything is there, date the receipt postcard, log it in my Typescripts spreadsheet and make a new folder for the author if they haven’t got one already. Then I read the Green Form, the synopsis and any notes the author has sent, look at my Reader spreadsheet (yes, Spreadsheet R Me) and match the typescript with a Reader who is free. I may need to email the Reader first. When I’ve got them matched up I repack the typescript, repair the damage the PO has done to the parcel and address it. My husband does a post office run daily. We had 106 typescripts in August this year which meant volunteer packers had to be called in!
Right - Ready for the post.
Can you give us some stats from the 2011 NWS. What sort of novels were most popular?
This year 34.5% were straight contemporary/women’s fiction; 15.5% for various Harlequin Mills & Boon lines; 25% Historical (not including the HMB Historicals); 7% each: crime/adventure/suspense; Rom Com; Speculative (supernatural, fantasy, sci fi, vampires etc); sagas. 4% Young Adult. 3% each Chick Lit; Pocket Novels. <0.5% each literary; inspirational; erotic. As far as the period in which they were written goes: 66% were set in the 21st c; 25% 20thc or earlier and 9% were fantasy, timeshift, scifi etc.
How many NWS members have found a publisher for their books this year?
10 signed contracts. Because of publication dates 7 have opted to enter for the Joan Hessayon Award this year (ie winner to be announced at the 2012 Summer Party) and 3 are deferring until next year.
Have the genres of novels submitted changed over the years?
I only have statistics from when I began running the Scheme, but over those 4 years the relative popularity of genres has remained more or less the same with the exception of a decline in Chick Lit (I suspect that authors are simply calling many of them Contemporary) and a slight upward trend in fantasy. The biggest change has been the arrival of Young Adult last year for the first time.
What advice would you give to a writer wishing to take part in the 2012 NWS?
To get on to the Scheme, read the instructions on the website and apply as soon as you can after the start date! Once you are actually on the Scheme, then – read the Notes and fill out the Green form in full to help both me and the Reader. Sort out your punctuation (especially of speech!) so the Reader can focus on the writing. Try and get it in before August and miss the rush.
Thank you Melanie, for all the work you do for the NWS, it is greatly appreciated.
To find out more about the New Writers' Scheme visit the RNA website at http://www.rna-uk.org/
Information about 2012 membership will appear on the RNA website in mid December.
The New Writers’ Scheme 'Inside Out' Part 2 – Inside the NWS will be posted on 9th December.