Last week I had the pleasure of organising a Meet the Author event at Koorliny Arts Centre, with Perth author Bevan McGuiness as our guest speaker. Bevan turned out to be a fantastic speaker, sharing his journey to becoming published with a liberal dash of self-deprecating humour and frankness.

“I’m Bevan and I’m a nerd,” he said, describing his fascination with science as a child and his fondness for role-playing games at university.

“I still play Dungeons and Dragons with the same people…which is kind of sad, really.”

McGuiness has written two fantasy trilogies – The Eleven Kingdoms and Triumvirate – and is working on another, as well as two children’s fantasy series.

What I found interesting about his talk was that only about one in 2,500 manuscripts are accepted by publishers. Why do you think this is? Are the other 2,499 rubbish? Is it just bad timing? Or has the author not researched publishers well enough? What’s your experience?
I still have dreams of getting published one day. I have plenty of ideas… I’ve even written a few children’s picture books. Now I just need to work on my confidence! For now, I’m happy reading others’ books, blogging and freelancing.
But back to McGuiness. He had a lot to say about characterisation and his own writing process – some of his comments were real gems:
“The character becomes real to the writer. I create a world that creates its own characters. I put them together and see what they do…and that’s when it gets kind of weird. Your characters become so real that they start acting the way they want to act.  I feel like I’m recording something that happened.”
If you’re in to epic fantasy, you might want to give McGuiness’ books a try. My son, 16, was at the talk and he was convinced after reading the first page of one of the books on display.
And watch this space for a review in coming weeks.


Picture of Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

0 Responses

  1. Of course the other mss aren't rubbish… not necessarily, anyway. In my experience a lot of good books miss out because they don't hit the right desk at the right time. There are also the writers who have brilliant storytelling skills but who shoot themselves metaphorically in the boot by overlooking problems in their mss. I run a small manuscript assessment service and so many writers were making the same fistful of common errors that I started writing workshops to help them head off the problems at the pass.

  2. What a great idea, Sally. I agree that not all mss are rubbish. And I am sure plenty of now-published best-selling (or not) authors have their own stories of getting rejected. What would be the most common error writers make?

  3. The most common errors I see in my assessment business are (a) misunderstanding genre imperatives and (b) not knowing how to structure a sentence correctly. Yes, yes, some successful authors write cross genre and beyond genre and super-genre books, but they have either been incredibly lucky at the outset or else they have earned their latitude. And yes, some successful authors write peculiar sentences and punctuation (cough – Frank McCourt – cough cough) but the same applies. For every one who does this successfully, there are hundreds whose books will be rejected for trying the same trick. Yes, you can sometimes break grammar rules, but you MUST know why, when and how, and you must know the rules to start with.

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