Saturday, December 4, 2021 from 10am – 12pm at the Writers Workshop, Orchard Square Sheffield – or on Zoom if you can’t make it in person!
Join the Sheffield Novelists at The Writers Workshop, Orchard Square, Sheffield for an in-person get together. Feel free to bring some festive snacks to share as we write – yes, I’m going to break the mince pies out.
It’s an opportunity to get some feedback and share your work, and to get some inspiration for your novel. In this workshop, you will get a chance to read a five-minute extract aloud supportive, constructive feedback. Then we’ll discuss building characters, and have a go at some character-writing exercises.
It’s big, it’s back and it’s live on stage. Novel Slam 2021 is here!
Bring a 1 minute pitch and a 3 minute extract from your work in progress and compete for the title of Novel Slam champion. With friendly, insightful feedback from Sheffield novelists Bryony Doran, Daniel Blythe, Stacey Sampsom, Berlie Doherty and Gavin Extence, you could win free coaching, feedback and a read from agent Caroline Montgomery from Rupert Crew.
It’s that time of year again! The novel slam is now part of the official Festival Fringe of Off the Shelf in Sheffield.
On Monday 9th October, at 7.30pm, the novel slam launches at a new venue, DINA https://www.facebook.com/dinavenue/ DINA is a new venue for the arts. Expect an intimate feel, a stage with a touch of glittery glamour, and importantly, a bar!
Once again, we have a panel of judges with a world of writing expertise, our very own X-Factor style judges of fiction talent. (Don’t worry, they will be friendly!)
The novel slam is still a unique concept – there are lots of poetry slams, where poets can find their voice, but we novelists had no outlet to reach an audience or get feedback from professionals. If you are writing a novel – or a novella, this is your chance to entrance the audience.
Please take the plunge – it takes a little courage to pitch your novel and read out extracts, but in return for preparing well and rehearsing, you’ll get feedback from award-winning authors, and the chance to win writing related prizes such as coaching, critiques, and feedback from a literary agent.
If you don’t want to compete, we would love to have you as part of the audience. Come and meet Sheffield’s new writing talent! You also get to vote for your favourite entries, so the night doesn’t happen without you.
Tickets cost £5 /£3 concessions on the door.
If you want to compete in the Novel Slam, call Anne on 07815966784, or email email@example.com to book your place. Entrants from previous years are very welcome to have another go, particularly with a new book. New writers are especially welcome too!
Tickets for audience members and entrants will be available on the door, but you can also reserve tickets here via Eventbrite: Reserve a ticket.
Watch this space for more news about the judges and our compere for the evening.
The novel slam is a fun, yet slightly competitive way to promote new writing talent. Everyone is welcome to enter, and the atmosphere is warm and supportive! Please don’t be daunted by the prospect of entering. There will be constructive criticism from the judges, but they know what they are talking about – they’ve won prizes for doing it!
The first round is a time one minute pitch of your novel. You have one minute to wow audience and judges alike. Don’t explain your whole plot, just write a blurb that would make readers pick up your book and buy it straight away. The title is very important too!
The audience then votes for the novels they most like the sound of, and there will be a short break. Ten people will make it through to the next round.
The novelists then have three minutes to read an extract from their novel. Here are some tips:
Most writers choose to read from their first chapter, but some winning competitors in previous years’ Novel Slams have used particularly funny or thrilling scenes from further into their novels.
If you feel that the opening of your novel isn’t particularly thrilling – why? Readers (including agents and publishers) are looking for something that grabs them immediately. Preparing for the novel slam may be a good chance to test and re-draft your novel.
Choose an extract with lots of drama and action, but avoid scenes with lots of dialogue by characters that the audience won’t know about.
Avoid spoilers – you don’t want to give away any big secrets that readers won’t know until later in the novel!
The judges will give constructive feedback to each writer, and the audience and judges will vote for their favourite novel extracts.
In the final round, the four finalists will read for a further 5 minutes each and will each receive more in-depth feedback from the panel of judges. The overall winner will get the first choice of prizes.
Practise makes perfect: craft your pitch carefully, test it out in front of your family and friends, use a timer when you’re rehearsing, and edit your extracts to read so they’re engaging, attention-grabbing and intriguing.
Meet the Panel
Stacey Sampson:Writer, actor and drama practitioner, well known for her work in This Is England. Her first novel won the Arvon Award at the 2013 Northern Writers’ Awards, and she is the winner of the 2017 Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition.
Daniel Blythe: The author of many novels for adults and children, including The Cut, Losing Faith and This is the Day. He wrote the bestselling Doctor Who adventure Autonomy for BBC books, and his books for younger readers include: Shadow Runners,Emerald Greene and the Witch Stones andEmerald Greene: Instruments of Darknessfor younger readers. He also works as a writer in schools, inspiring a new generation of writers.
Bryony Doran: Novelist, poet, short story and script writer. Bryony won the Hookline novel award in 2009 for her debut novel The China Bird. Her short story collection The Sand Eggs has also won critical acclaim. One of her latest works is Home Front, a a quadrilogy of book-length sequences by four female poets living in a state of separation from sons or husbands who are in a war zone. Bryony’s poems in the book telling the story of her son joining the army and his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Bryony also works as a creative writing coach, helping other writers’ creativity to flourish.
Our compere for the evening will be Iain Broome, author of novel A is for Angelica . He is also a freelance writer, editor and content producer. Once again, he will be poised with his horn if any novel slam entrants go over their time limit!
At the Louder than Words music writing festival in Manchester, Sheffield Novel Slam organiser Anne Grange caught up with the Novel Slam’s 2015 winner Olivia Piekarski about her experience.
I heard about the novel slam though my writing group, Manchester Women Writers, which is an amazing mixed-ability group of writers who meet weekly at Manchester Central library. Susan Solazzi, who runs the group, found out about the slam. I thought it sounded amazing. I need to find an agent at this stage of my career, and the chance of a guaranteed read-through of my manuscript by Joanna Swainson seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I rang up and booked a place in the Novel Slam.
My novel The Guest List is my first piece of fiction that I’m pleased with. I’m nearing the end of my first complete draft. I’ve gained confidence as a fiction writer since The Big Midweek, the music memoir I co-wrote with Steve Hanley, ex-bassist of the legendary and notorious band the Fall was released. After all, it had a guaranteed audience of at least 5,000 fanatical Fall fans. Our independant publishers Route don’t insist on working with agents, unlike the larger publishing houses, so I had by-passed that stage during The Big Midweek process.
I almost didn’t make it. The train was delayed, and I was sending frantic text messages to the organiser, Anne. Steve and I piled into a taxi at Sheffield railway station, and told the taxi driver to put his foot down. We reached Bank Street in about five minutes, but didn’t know where Bank Street Arts was and sped past it. Luckily, I caught sight of the A-board outside as we were speeding past and stopped our driver just in time. I arrived just as the first writer was doing his pitch, and we sat down at the back, massively relieved.
Reading the guidelines for the Novel Slam, I was impressed with the format. It was a clean slate that enabled all the writers to compete on an equal footing. The pitching round meant that you had to sell the book to the audience in one minute. I spent hours developing a decent synopsis that fitted into the time limit – something that would be perfect for the blurb at the back of a dust jacket. There were lots of good pitches though – I think that Iain Broome, the compere, was a bit disappointed that he didn’t have much opportunity to blow his horn at people who had run over the allotted time!
The three-minute reading from the start of the novel was the most important and most difficult part of the Novel Slam to get right. I knew I needed to hook people in from the first page – that was all I got to read, and if you were browsing books in a bookshop, that’s all you’d read too, when deciding whether to buy a book. Three minutes was just the right amount of time to keep the audience interested. I was elated when people were laughing and clapping in the right places, even though it made my hands shake with nerves! It was a good experience, but a little terrifying. Getting a positive audience reaction to your work stops you from feeling like a nutter, sitting at your laptop and laughing away to yourself.
I was blown away by the standard of everyone’s writing. All the competitors were serious writers – competing for serious prizes, such as a read-through by the Literary Consultancy, and creative coaching.The feedback from the judges’ panel was very well thought-out, and gave all the writers something to work on to improve their work.
In the break, people came up to me to say that they loved the opening of my novel, which was great. Being an author is very isolating. It’s not like being in a band, where you get immediate feedback from your colleagues and from the audience. The Novel Slam is a beautiful way of testing authors’ writing.
When I found out I’d got into the final, the feeling was amazing, and when I won, I was completely overwhelmed. Then I ran back off to catch the last train, feeling like I’d got away with a total hit and run, Manchester style.
Writing a book is a massive undertaking, and the chances of actually making money from it are very slim. Truly dedicated writers have no choice. They have to go on. It’s an all-consuming passion, even though it’s important to live a “real” life at the same time. Writing is a condition, and only becomes a viable job for very few. The entire profession should be stamped with a mental health warning but if you really can’t help yourself perseverance and patience are key.
I’m now working hard on finishing the first full draft of The Guest List, but I’m buoyed up by the experience of the Novel Slam.
Thank you, Sheffield!
Note from Anne: I was waiting for a tram home after the Novel Slam when I found lots of panicky text messages from Olivia on my phone about her train being delayed. While she was texting, I was busy taking the ticket money for the event, and was too busy to check my phone. I was so glad she’d made it! It was a great opportunity to congratulate Olivia. Her novel is set in the mid-nineties, against the backdrop of Oasis’ rise to fame. My writing is also closely intertwined with music, and we started chatting. This led to an invitation to me working on Across the Tracks, the book of the Louder than Words festival for Route Online publishing, and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I had a fantastic time, met lovely people, including some music legends, and now my work will be in print too. As a writer, chat, network, ask questions; be cheeky. It might just get you somewhere!
The annual Off the Shelf Novel Slam has become something of a Sheffield tradition over the last few years, with fiction writers getting brave and pitching and reading out their work in front of a live audience. The aim of the event is to give new fiction writers an audience, and a chance to showcase their work, just like poets would do in a poetry slam. Writing novels can be a lonely business!
The novel slam takes place on Tuesday 27th October at 7.30pm at Bank Street Arts, in Sheffield city centre. Tickets cost £5 /£3 concessions on the door, and refreshments are available. If you don’t want to compete, just turn up, enjoy it, and vote for the best books.
The first round is a 1 minute pitch of your novel. You will be timed! You have exactly one minute to convince the audience that your novel is a must-read. You don’t need to explain your entire plot, you just need to prepare the blurb that will make readers pick your book off the shelves and take it straight to the till in the bookshop.
The audience will vote for their favourites, and after a short break, the ten people through to the next round will have 3 minutes to read a compelling extract from their novel. Most people pick the start of the first chapter, but some writers have had success with extracts from the middle of their books.
The panel of published writers will give feedback to the contestants and there will be a break while the audience vote again, and the judges pick the four winning novelists.
The winners will each read a slightly longer extract from their novels, and the judges will give more detailed feedback.
Although the competitive format of the Novel Slam may seem a little daunting, it’s just for fun really, and a great chance to meet other writers.
Tip: practise makes perfect, so carefully craft your pitch, test it out in front of your family and friends, use a timer when you’re rehearsing, and edit your extracts to read so they’re engaging, attention-grabbing and intriguing.
This is the blog for the Sheffield Novelists Writing Group. We are a friendly group of people writing novels – at various stages and levels, and everyone who is writing a novel is very welcome to join us!
We meet monthly at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield City Centre, usually on the last Monday of the month at 7.30pm, but during the summer months and December, dates may change, so please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
This blog is a work in progress, so please bear with us, but it will evolve and develop over the next few months.