The WoMentoring Project

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Today is the launch day of an incredibly exciting new initiative set up by Kerry Hudson, offering free mentoring from authors, editors and agents to up and coming female writers. The buzz about it on twitter has been building and today it’s officially launched and here at Romaniac HQ, we’re tucking into cake and already checking out the website. All the information about the initiative is below and the all-important website address is:

http://www.womentoringproject.co.uk

You can follow WoMentoring on twitter - @WoMentoringP

About the WoMentoring Project
The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.

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bespoke illustration by Sally Jane Thompson

The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors. 

Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project – from the project management to the website design to the PR support – is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Welcome to The WoMentoring Project. 



Why do we need it?
Like many great (and not so great) ideas The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring we asked our followers – largely writers, editors and agents – who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty volunteer mentors.

The WoMentoring Project is managed by novelist Kerry Hudson and all of our mentors are all professional writers, editors or literary agents. Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given. 

In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.

Applications
In an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn’t possible so instead we’ve tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.

Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about why they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be in application to a specific mentor and mentees can only apply for one mentor at a time. 

Why our mentors are getting involved

The reason I’m doing this is simple: mentoring can mean the difference between getting published and getting lost in the crowd. It can help a good writer become a brilliant one. But till now, opportunities for low-income writers to be mentored were few and far between. This initiative redresses the balance; I’m utterly delighted to be part of the project.
Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee

I have only achieved the success I have with the help of others, and now I am keen to pass on that help. I particularly want to reach out to those who don’t have the privileges of wealth, status or existing contacts, but who have so much to gain and to give.
Marie Phillips, author Gods Behaving Badly

I’m so pleased to be involved in the WoMentoring Project, and I can’t wait to meet my mentee. I know from my own authors how isolating an experience writing can often be, especially when you’re just starting out, and so I really wanted to be involved. I hope that knowing that there is someone on your side in those early days will give writers courage and confidence in their work.
Alison Hennessy, Senior Editor at Harvill Secker

The WoMentoring project is the kind of opportunity I would have relished when writing my first novel. It’s founded in the spirit of paying it forward, and I’ll take real pride in sharing whatever experience I’ve gained with a mentee. I’ve benefited from the advice and encouragement of some truly inspirational writers, the right voice cheering you on can make all the difference when you’re in your solitary writing bubble. The formality of the mentoring arrangement also gives a sense of responsibility and focus – something that’s invaluable when you’re lost in the sprawl of a work-in-progress – and it’s beneficial to mentors too.
Emylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers 

My career as an editor has been immeasurably enriched by working with inspiring women writers, yet the world of publishing would have been inaccessible to me without the time and support I was given when first starting out.  The WoMentoring Project is a wonderful, necessary thing and I’m very proud to be taking part in it.
Francesca Main, Editorial Director, Picador
 
I wanted to get involved with this project because I’d like to help authors feel that whoever they are, and wherever they come from, they have a right to be heard.
Jo Unwin of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency 

Why female writers feel they need this opportunity

I’m interested in being mentored because although I think you have to make mistakes to learn, having someone who’s been there help you work out the ones with no value can be really useful. Most of all I’d like to have someone to push and challenge me on what makes me and my writing tick.

The idea of women sharing their skills and experience in a dynamic, nurturing way is a really important one given the lower profile given to female writers. Even though the mentoring is one to one a collective voice and resilience is still being built up – I think it’s a great idea that, for writers like me, will help get rid of some of the layers of doubt and creative loneliness that come with being a beginner.
Clare Archibald 

 
I’m on my third novel; I’ve had good notices from Faber, HoZ etc. but still not quite there. What I need is that final push. I especially need guidance on pacing, keeping the action pulsing along. I feel a mentor could be hugely beneficial in this process.
Suzy Norman 

Wannabe a Writer? Jane Wenham-Jones tells us how we can get there.

Wannabe A Writer TV Show Title Card

So you’ve written that novel that has been consuming your brain for years. Finally written it down and typed those magical words, The End. What now?

Or maybe you have written novel number 15, but still don’t have the courage to send it out to anyone for feedback.

Or even, you’ve written numerous novels, had other people read them and give you feedback, but still don’t know what to do with it.

If any of these scenarios describe you, then Jane Wenham-Jones is the perfect person to help you.

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

Jane has piloted a TV series called, ‘Wannabe a Writer.’ As part of this series, Jane takes an unpublished writer and introduces them to a top literary agent who reads their first three chapters and gives feedback. What an amazing opportunity! In the first episode, Delphine (the unpublished writer) is introduced to Carole Blake, of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, and Carole offers some extremely important advice about Delphine’s manuscript. She highlights key points in Delphine’s story that are not working and tells her where it is going wrong. There is no sugar coating with Carole, but I loved that. As an unpublished writer myself, I don’t want to be blinded by happy smiles and ‘well done’s’ (although those are nice to have, too!) but I want to know how it really works. I want to be prepared for when I meet agents and be told just how blunt they may be. As Carole says in the film, she gets in excess of 20 manuscripts a day, so they don’t have time to think about how to say to someone that A,B and C needs changing in a nice way that wont hurt their feelings. That’s just the nature of the industry and that’s why every published author will say that you need to have the stomach for writing. So when I watched this first episode, I felt refreshed that it was putting forward an honest account of the writing/publishing industry.

Saying this, Jane does a very good job of making sure the writer feels supported afterwards. She is very encouraging and arranges a meeting with a bestselling author – I wont disclose who in case you haven’t seen the video.

Meeting the bestselling author was enjoyable to watch. She gave advice and tips to Delphine about her novel and answered all of her questions with expertise. I particularly liked the fact that Jane also got involved with giving advice and would throw in snippets as and when. So essentially you are getting two for the price of one! Fabulous!

Jane and Delphine

Jane and Delphine

The episode ends with Delphine returning to literary agent Carole Blake, with a revised opening chapter. Carole then gives her feedback on the new piece and is quite encouraging – showing that even though she was hard on Delphine at the start, it was all so Delphine could improve an already promising story.

Jane presents the programme extremely well. She is a very friendly person and this comes across on screen brilliantly. She is encouraging the whole way through the programme and makes the whole process relaxed and positive.

I do find sometimes, with things similar to this, that advice is sort of pushed upon you. You have asked for advice so here it is and you must listen. But with this programme, this is not the case. Advice and tips are offered constantly throughout but never at any time is it forced upon you. The bestselling author even says at one point about you having to use your judgement with the advice you’re getting and basically pick what is best for you and your work.

I absolutely love the whole idea of this TV series and I think it will do really well. There are so many people out there, like myself, who desperately want to break the barrier into being published and I think programmes like this are both informative and real and are exactly what we, as writers, need to help prepare ourselves better.

I asked Jane for a few words about her new venture and he is what she had to say…

It’s here! The fluffed lines, fits of the giggles and the marvellous moment where a certain best-selling author’s cat strolled into the scene, mewing, have been safely consigned to the cutting room floor and Wannabe a Writer – the TV Show is available on a youtube channel near you. This is a ground-breaking new concept I have been loosely billing as Come Dine With Me, meets Through the Keyhole with a dash of Britain’s Got Talent  – except designed to appeal to anyone who’s ever thought they might have a book in them, rather than those who want to sing or show off their carrot stroganoff  and  pecan pavlova.

We’re going to be pitching this to the TV channels this autumn, so we’d love you to watch, love you to comment, and love you to apply to come on a future programme (please also tell your friends).

This baby is the brainchild of me and my mate Steve – an ex- ITN TV producer– who I first met when he obligingly spilled the beans about how much tape Barbara Cartland used to hold her face up when she was being interviewed, for my book Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? (One way, for those interested, is to make news crews wait 24 hours while you bathe the room in pink light, get the florists on standby and use the aforementioned tape to hitch back your forehead.) Not that I am without sympathy, having seen myself in the opening shots, looking as if I have a particularly nasty hangover!

“I hope you’re bleaching out my wrinkles,” I’d squawk at Steve at regular intervals throughout filming. He appeared to ignore me  but was clearly listening. Hear that jaunty piece of music that plays as would-be author Delphine, and I board the train to London? It’s called “Botox Babe”…

To apply to be on the show, visit : www.wannabeawritertvshow.com

Thank you, Jane, we wish you lots of luck with it.

And here is the all important link to this fabulous show – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kJWTbsjbR4 - Part One

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ycfeR3Zze0 - Part Two

Lucie xx

Sophie Duffy and the Exeter Novel prize

Sophie Duffy

Sophie Duffy

My journey to becoming a published novelist was a long one. In fact I have yet to meet a novelist who became an overnight success. I have yet to meet a published novelist without at least two novels secreted away like old love letters. Those first two novels are the practice ground where we learn about the craft of writing, a craft we writers continue to learn for the rest of our lives.

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But there may well be some novels out there that deserve to see the light of day. Do you have one of those? Or do you have the beginnings of one? If the answer is yes, I do, then dust it down, rework the opening with the helpfulness of hindsight and fresh eyes and enter it into the Exeter Novel Prize.

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Sophie, Cathie and Margaret

What is the Exeter Novel Prize? It’s a new prize for novelists, set up and launched this week by the trio that make up CreativeWritingMatters: Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James and myself.

Sophie Duffy GenerationWhy did we decide to do this? Because we believe in the importance of writing competitions. Cathie has won short story competitions,  Margaret has administered and judged writing competitions and my novel The Generation Game won both the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Luke Bitmead Bursary. There are many short story and poetry competitions but only a few novel prizes. And the Exeter Novel Prize is, to our knowledge, the only novel competition open to both unpublished and published writers. As long as you are unagented and not currently under contract, you can enter the ENP with your first 10,000 words and a synopsis by October 31st.

Go to http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk for details.

We launched the prize on Thursday. It was a soggy evening so we were pleased to fill the room with writers who asked great questions. The atmosphere was positive and encouraging and we are looking forward to finding a shining star. The winner will be chosen from a shortlist by agent Broo Doherty. And who knows what will follow. You’ll never know unless you enter. Nothing ventured…

Sophie Duffy ENP Audience

Sophie  Duffy lives in Teignmouth with her family and other animals. She has two novels published by Legend Press. The Generation Game and This Holey Life.

Thank you, Sophie, for taking the time to write this post. This is a great competition and I wish you, Cathie, Margaret and all the entrants the very best of luck.
Laura x

Agent Hunter – The Romaniacs try out an exciting and useful new website.

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Recently, the Romaniacs were offered a challenge. It wasn’t cake based (although it has to be said that we are world famous for our capacity for eating scones and are expecting the Guinness Book of Records to be in touch very shortly). No; this gauntlet was thrown down by the dynamo that is Harry Bingham of The Writers’ Workshop. He wondered if we would like have a browse around his fabulous new website – Agent Hunter – and give the viewpoint of a bunch of aspiring writers.

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            Well, The Romaniacs are always up for a challenge, and we are no strangers to languishing on the slush pile from time to time, so we dived in. We are generally very impressed with this new facility, but I’m going to shamelessly steal some snippets from the site to give you an overview first:

Who is behind Agent Hunter?

Agent Hunter ( http://www.agenthunter.co.uk/ ) is   the creation of The Writers’ Workshop, the UK’s largest   editorial consultancy for new writers. The Writers’ Workshop has superb   contacts with literary agents and is constantly helping its writers secure   representation and book deals.

A comprehensive list of all   literary agents and publishers. Not just in London, but across the UK.

Create your own search filters   to find agents who want work in your genre and who want new clients. We supply rich data on every   agent: contact info, bios, photos, links, submission advice, and much   more.
We’ve asked agents to give us their   likes and dislikes. No other database has this info. You can save your searches   and use them for your submissions planning. Try us for free! An annual   subscription costs just £12, but you pay nothing if you cancel in the first 7   days.

AH-logo

Now for The Romanics’ opinions:

We really like the filter system for narrowing down the right agent for your genre. The site looks comprehensive, user friendly and informative.

Two small points to consider – we would like an option on the left hand side that says ‘Don’t mind’ or ‘Unimportant’, when asking the things like how many clients we’d like the agent to have, and all the other questions like that. Also, under ‘Agent Experience’, we think it would make more sense for the answers to be ‘less than 5 years’, ’5 – 10 years’, ’11-15′, ‘More than 15′ – for example. We all really like the agent/agency bios. It’s a very user-friendly site with good links to other information/pages i.e The Writers’ Workshop. The FAQ section seems to have most things covered.

Agent Hunter seems to have given the whole searching for an agent or publisher nightmare a more personal feel. It can be very daunting trawling through various books and websites for specific agents/guidelines. We think the subscription fee is very reasonable too. The mailing list option is also good, to stay in touch with latest news/offers.  

Overall, we think it’s a great idea, and it certainly speeds up the search for a relevant/suitable agent. It has given us all a good feel for which agent to pitch to, and has actually tempted us to submit.

Thanks, Harry, for the opportunity to explore this exciting new website – we’ll probably bump into you in there as we hunt for the ‘Look into the agents’ living room’ button and search for the coffee shop facility.

Tuesday Chit Chat with Nikki Goodman

Nikki Goodman

Welcome, welcome, welcome, and Happy New Year, Nikki. How has 2013 treated you so far?

As is customary at Romaniac HQ, we would like to offer you a glass of wine. We would like to, but we can’t. We ran our stocks down over the Christmas period and it appears no one has been to the supermarket since, so the cupboards are a little lacking. Talk about Old Mother Hubbard.

Thank you, lovely to be here and Happy New Year to all the Romaniacs *fluffs up the cushions and gets comfy on the sofa* but what’s this… No wine? Impossible, surely?! I’ve never hung out with any of you guys without there being free flowing wine (Catherine’s granddad’s home made wine was a memorable occasion)… it’s an oxymoron; like the sky without a sun or a Hollywood rom-com without a hot guy in it… not that I’m an alcoholic, no … erm, although my blog is called Writing, Work and Wine… so, ahem, shall we move on?

There is a secret supply of hot chocolate. Please avert your eyes whilst it is retrieved. There’s an unopened pack of biscuits here too! Hobnob?

Ooh, I quite like hot chocolate. I don’t suppose you have any… ooh, whipped cream, thank you, and um, is there any chance… min-marshmallows – bliss! Now where were we, oh a HobNob you say? Well, to be honest I’m trying to lose a little post Christmas podge so I really shouldn’t. I’ll be good and abstain.

We liked the synchronicity of beginning the New Year blog with a new writer. If you could sum up in one sentence what being on the New Writers’ Scheme means to you, and describe what it offers, how would you pitch it?

Ooh, that’s tough, but… It means I get fab like-minded friends, excellent writerly support, help and advice, constructive criticism on my writing to help me learn my craft and the opportunity to meet industry experts.

How important to you is being on the NWS?

Very! It keeps me motivated and helps me learn my craft and I get to spend (both virtual and face to face) time with people who don’t think I’m completely bonkers (well, they might do but they don’t say that to my face!)

I was on the New Writer’s Scheme initially circa 2001/02. I was a single mum and had just written my first book (a Mills and Boon type affair) which HM&B requested the full MS of (they turned it down but gave me lots of advice and invited me to send something else in, which I didn’t, more fool me).

Being in the scheme at that time was brilliant and everyone was lovely but in hindsight I wasn’t ready for it. I had started writing a second book, which got some interest from a now defunct genre publisher but after that I wouldn’t have had anything else to write about. I hadn’t lived enough. I met my husband towards the end of my first year in the scheme and we fell in love. By that time I was knee deep in building a career in human resources, undertaking first a foundation qualification and then, after our son was born (we also have a daughter each), a post graduate qualification. A few years ago, when my son started school and I’d reached a place I wanted to be in HR, I decided it was time to give writing a proper go. As a reader for the RNA Awards, I attended the awards ceremony and got talking to people I’d met when a member previously. I walked out of there thinking, god, I’ve missed this. I’m coming back!

I rejoined the NWS and early in 2010 wrote and entered a non-fiction article on ‘How to Write a Bestseller’ for a competition in The Writer’s Handbook 2010. I was gobsmacked when I got an email to say that although I hadn’t won I was a finalist and my entry had been well received by the judges! That first bit of luck, together with joining ROMNA (RNA’s online cyber chapter) and attending RNA events, really spurred me on, especially getting an Honourable Mention for a short story I’d written and entered in the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. It was anonymously judged by Katie Fforde and I was on my way home from being a day visitor at the RNA Conference in Greenwich when my Aunt (award winning author Sue Moorcroft) called me to tell me and said she had someone who wanted to talk to me and promptly put Katie Fforde on the phone. Katie was lovely and told me I was talented and had to keep writing. I cried most of the way home from London with my husband giving me increasingly concerned looks.

*Takes a deep breath and a gulp of hot chocolate* Phew… so, I set up my blog in October 2010 and kept on entering comps and sending work out and I haven’t really looked back since. If I’d stayed a member of the NWS all those years ago I may have been published by now, but I’m not sure if I would have had staying power. I was too busy raising young children and doing the day job and studying. I obviously still have children (last time I checked they hadn’t vanished from sight) and a hubby and the day job (which I’m very dedicated to) and housework and all the other stuff, but I have better balance now and I make time for writing. I am not giving up and am absolutely, passionately determined to be published one day. Hopefully in the not too distant future. In fact I am in the process of subbing a book to agents at the mo.

Good luck with your submission, Nikki. What is the funniest memory you’ve stored, from an RNA event?

This is going to sound incredibly boring but I can’t really think of any. No slap-stick moments or stupid faux-pas that I’ve made (though I have been tongue-tied around famous authors)…*Takes a contemplative sip of hot chocolate* oops, I think I’ve managed to get cream on my nose *tidies herself up.* I think the most fun I’ve had at an RNA event was at the conference last summer with you lovely Romaniacs (and others) when we had that kitchen party and ended up drinking and singing all night (is there still that video of us singing ‘Dream a Little Dream’ doing the rounds on YouTube…?)

It was a fab Conference. How would you categorise your romance writing?

Ooh, well I’ve kind of got two types of writing. The first is what I’d call romantic comedy or Chick-lit, for example, The Nanny’s Revenge, the first chapter of which was a Top 20 Finalist in last year’s Novelicious Undiscovered competition. They are such fun to write and there is always a love story and of course conflicts between the main characters but there is also some dry wit and funny moments in there too (I’ve been told).

The second is what I’d class as Romantic Fiction or Women’s Fiction dealing with serious issues, as per my current work in progress Random Acts. These tend to have bigger issues at the core of them, feature a wider cast of characters and the writing style or ‘voice’ is more formal. There is always a romance for the main character though. What’s life without a bit of love and sex?

Is there any other genre or sub-genre you would like to write in?

*Gulps down the last of the hot chocolate and curls legs up more comfortably on the sofa* I’d love to try and write a crime thriller / police procedural as I devour them e.g. the Roy Grace series by Peter James, Mo Hayder, Danielle Ramsay, Katia Lief etc But I don’t think I have the background or the desire to do all that research to actually write one!

Which three main qualities do you think a writer needs to succeed?

Oh, lord. Are you sure there isn’t a bottle of wine tucked away in a cupboard somewhere? Just a nice little Chardonnay? What’s that you say? It’s too early in the day and I must stop talking about wine? Oops, okay then. Qualities of a successful writer? *takes deep breath* Well…

1) Being completely mad? In terms of the ability to immerse yourself in the world you create and the characters that live in it with you and write about that and to not apologise for that. Writing is a lonely business and you have to be willing to spend long periods of time on your own muttering to yourself and getting RSI. Having no shame in pulling out notebooks at odd times to jot things down is good too.

2) Being unbelievably, pig-headedly stubborn and patient = having perseverance! Never giving up no matter what happens. I can’t remember who it was, but I read a long, incredibly inspiring speech a while ago that an American author gave at a conference about never giving up. All sorts of traumas and disappointments had happened to her, but all along her motto was ‘never give up.’ I read it and thought, well bloody hell; I haven’t had half of that stuff happen to me, now I’ve got no excuse. Now my motto is ‘no excuses,’ (when it comes to writing). I send stuff out and if it comes winging back I consider whether I need to change it, based on any feedback I receive. If it feels right to change it I get it done… and then I send it back out again. And then, rinse and repeat!

3) Having the ability and discipline to sit down and gasp, I know, actually write. I sometimes have the hope that my books will write themselves and edit themselves and mysteriously and conveniently appear in a neat pile of papers on my bedside table ready for me to send out to the NWS organiser or agents / publishers. But nope, it’s never happened yet. I have to sit at my laptop or get out my notepad and write the words, regularly and as well as I can.

Please give us a teaser about your work in progress.

Well, I don’t want to give too much away but…

Random Acts is a story about Lizzie, an incredibly sheltered and ‘good’ girl in her mid-twenties, to whom something incredibly traumatic happens. The book follows her journey as she comes to grips with that, goes travelling in search of herself, accompanied by gorgeous, outgoing Will – to do the ‘random acts’ of the title – loses herself (with some pretty outrageous behaviour) and then finds herself again. Ultimately the book is about knowing who you are, and redemption.

The tagline is ‘What would you do?’

If you could choose any setting/place (money no object and all stationery/equipment provided) in which to write your next novel, where would you jet/walk/ride/ off to?

Wow! Ooh, I like this question! I know this one *gazes off dreamily into the distance and sighs*

I’d love to go back to the Maldives (where I went on honeymoon in 2008) and I’d have one of those wooden cabins on the beach with the steps leading down to the sea. It really is paradise on earth; clear blue skies, sparkling waters, glorious warm sunshine. I’d have an ultra-fast laptop with Scrivener on it and I’d get up and have a breakfast of tropical fruit on the beach, and then write for three or four hours. I’d have lunch and go and do something – a trip to Male (the capital island) or snorkelling or a boat trip – something where I could soak up culture or be around live, breathing people rather than ones in my head. Then I’d come back and write for another few hours until dinner, and perhaps a little after dinner too.

I haven’t thought about what my family would be doing have I? LOL. Oh well…

They’ll learn to be self-sufficient, like all writers’ families :-) What are the three most inspiring pieces of advice you’ve received?

1). Keep going no matter what; the only difference between an unpublished writer and a published one is that the latter never stopped trying.

2) To have self-belief. With talent and perseverance amazing things can happen.

3) Read widely, study the market and learn your craft. Basically, know your business!

What makes you laugh?

So much! *throws back head and giggles* See? Random things that (my) kids do and say, friends recounting bizarre stories, my husband’s observations on life, ‘physical’ slapstick comedy, stand up comedians who use irony and visual prompts – I love Russell Howard. Lots of things that probably aren’t supposed to be funny. I have been known to laugh at inappropriate things *looks sheepish* though thankfully never in a meeting with an employee whilst I’m doing the day job. That would NOT be funny.

Quick-Fire Round.

Cake or chocolate? Chocolate, definitely.

Big Bang Theory or Friends? Big Bang Theory, by an edge.

Merlot or Chardonnay? That’s cruel! Chardonnay

Walk or cycle? Walk (preferably along the beach)

Dance or gym? Dance

Younger or older? What? Wine? Men? Both! (Though of course I’m a married woman)

Christmas or New Year? New Year. I love the sense of new possibilities

Nikki – thank you so much for dropping by for a chat, and we look forward to seeing you again soon. Might be best to bring a bottle next time. Just saying.

I’ll make a note of that now!

We wish you lots of luck and good will with your writing, and hope you will join us at our next kitchen party, when we will guarantee the cupboard will be fully stocked.

Thanks so much for letting me visit, it’s been lovely to chat. I look forward to our next get-together and good luck to all of you with your writing too *gets up to leave but tidies the sofa up first, puts away the Hobnobs and rinses her mug out* Take Care!

You can follow Nikki on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/nikki.goodman.35

Twitter @nikkigoodman1

And on her blog – Writing, Work and Wine at http://nikkigoodman.wordpress.com/

Bio Bejazzled

Isn’t this just the best example, like EVER, of how to approach an agent?

Dear Agent       [I haven’t got time to find out your name but if you could just pass it on that would be great]

I have written a fabulous novel called ‘It’s All About Me’ which is about 90,000 words long (I haven’t bothered to check but that’s about the usual length, right?) anyway, I thought I would give you first refusal as you are first in the book and I’m going through it alphabetically.

My book is my own life story which is absolutely fascinating; my mum says so. My main reason for writing the book is because I want to make lots of money and as such I am sure you want to as well, which would be a really good reason not to miss out on the chance of signing me.  I would be looking for a three book deal with a large advance.  I’m not really into giving interviews and I don’t use social networks but to be honest, I can’t see that to be a problem, after all, my book is so great everyone will just want to read it. I don’t need the extra publicity personally, but I can see how it would benefit you and your agency.

I have a very impressive writing history. I had a poem published in the school newspaper when I was 12 and I wrote lots of stories, none were taken on by the magazines but my mum said they were really good and she couldn’t understand what the problem was.

I’ve enclosed the whole manuscript as I am sure you will want to read it all. If you could get back to me within the next three weeks that would be great – after that I cannot guarantee I would be able to accept your offer. I am approaching as many agents as possible and if necessary you can enter a bidding war for the publishing rights.

As my mum says, my book is fabulous so please don’t waste any time, I am a really busy person.

Yours sincerely

Jay Kay Roley

 

What do you mean, no?

Having recently been on a writing workshop run by the lovely Julie Cohen, we touched on the subject of approaching agents and what we should put in a letter.  I think it’s fair to say that the above example, is not the way to do it.

Everyone needs to be able to bejazzle their bio/letter but there are no doubt more subtle ways.
Has anyone got any tips for approaching an agent they could share?

Thanks, Sue x

Goodbye is the hardest word…

Haven’t I been here before? At the finishing line? In fact – I recall blogging some months ago and beginning with the words I’VE FINISHED! But of course, that was just the first draft, the first lap around the track. But this time, I really, really, really have finished.

Well, sort of. For now, at least…

Just need to press send…

In a minute. Maybe I’ll just read it through one more time…

From about the third draft onwards, as I read through the final chapter, I’m always convinced that this is it – my book is finished, as perfect as it can be, ready to send out to the world. And then I leave it a while, and come back to it, and realize it’s not finished at all, there are still things I can do to improve and polish, words to be tweaked, sentences made shinier.

But at least three times now, I’ve celebrated reaching The End on twitter, and each time I can’t imagine making any more changes, so I send it out there – first to my fabulous agent and to the lovely readers at the RNA, and it comes back with detailed notes about areas that need developing, expanding, cutting, and so I go back and polish and tweak and make it shinier.

But this time, I’m 99% sure I really have finished.

But I really wish I hadn’t. Not because I love editing that much (although I DO love editing) – but because I hate saying goodbye. We’ve all read books we don’t want to end – because we love the characters, because we’ve spent so much time in that fictional world it’s become almost real. We’ve raced through, transfixed by every word and then slow down towards the end, stretching it out, unable to face the last page. And this is even more true in the books we write – we have lived with these characters for a year or more, spending as much time with them as our real-life families and friends; we have guided them through highs and lows and we have loved them. It’s very hard to close the door on them and send them on their way – however hard editing can get, no one really wants the end to be the end.

We want reaching the end to be the beginning.

But anyway – enough prevaricating.

It really is time to press send.

It really is time to say goodbye…

Interview with literary agent Juliet Mushens of PFD

I’m pleased to welcome onto the blog today my agent, the lovely Juliet Mushens of PFD. It was around this time last year that I travelled to London to meet Juliet for the first time, walking into PFD’s Covent Garden offices, hands shaking and knees definitely knocking. But I needn’t have been nervous – Juliet greeted me with cupcakes and enthusiasm and amazing editorial advice.

Before becoming a literary agent at Peters Fraser & Dunlop, Juliet worked in fiction marketing and editorial at HarperCollins. I managed to catch her with a (very rare) spare moment and she very kindly agreed to answer some questions from the Romaniacs.

What are you looking for at the moment?
I am looking for lots of things: fiction with a historical setting, a YA love story, a women’s fiction book that properly makes me laugh and a blood-spattered serial killer thriller.

How important is the covering letter and what should it include?
SO important! Treat it like the cover letter for a job – make it 1 page, give me a brief pitch of your book, why you’ve sent it to me, and a couple of lines about yourself. Proof-read it then proof-read it again. Make it punchy, intriguing and exciting. Think of what you see on book blurbs and apply that to your book.

Do you find most of your clients from the ‘slush pile’ or through other means?
My authors are a real mix but the vast majority of my fiction clients came from the slush. It can be a real goldmine.

It’s very tempting as a writer to send agents sparkly cupcakes. What’s the strangest ‘extra’ you’ve had with a manuscript?
Someone sent me a picture they’d drawn of me before. It was creepy. And wildly inaccurate.

If a writer had been rejected, is it acceptable to send their next MS to you for consideration?
Absolutely! Especially if I wrote you a personal note with the previous one. But even if not, it shows you’re tenacious – and maybe this book will be the one.

How do you recognise a well written piece from a short extract? How much of a writer’s three chapters do you read before deciding if you want to see more?
I reckon I can tell within 10 pages if I want to read the rest.

Do you read the synopsis before or after the three chapters?
Confession time here: I never read it. I will just read the cover letter and sample chapters.

From start to finish, of what does your working day consist?
Emailing; phone-calls; meetings; ideas; editing; more meetings; more ideas; contracts; negotiations; collaboration agreements; publicity plans; marketing strategies; submitting; chasing up submissions; more editing; dealing with cover woes, editorial problems, structural edits, legal reads, serialization, film rights, foreign rights queries…
Which is why submissions can sometimes take a while to be answered.

What’s the worst thing a new writer can do that will instantly upset a prospective agent?
Please don’t call me. I’m very busy and it will be an uncomfortable experience for both of us. I will read your manuscript and get back to you, but if you’re already being high-maintenance and I don’t even represent you, warning bells will ring.

What’s the best thing a new writer can do to get the agent onside?
1) be a great writer and 2) be a nice person.

How important is it that the writer and the agent get on?
Everyone has different opinions on this but for me it’s crucial that we have a good personal relationship. We need to like each other and feel that we’re working as a team.

What are the highs and lows of being an agent?
Sometimes being the middle-man is difficult, and it’s heartbreaking when you can’t sell a book. But nothing beats the moment when you call an author and say ‘I’ve had an offer for your novel…’. Absolutely nothing.