The last few weeks have been about short story celebrations and learning to be patient when it comes to the novel… I’m in the middle of a major re-write of my work-in-progress, taking out one character’s POV, adding in a whole new character and sub-plot. I had a really good, constructive conversation with my fabulous agent, Juliet Mushens, and embarked on the re-write full of enthusiasm. I sent her the first few re-written chapters and obsessively checked my emails for the next couple of weeks, waiting for her feedback. The feedback, when I rather nervously opened the email, was good – she loved the new chapters. Hurray!
I promptly emailed back saying brilliant-I’ll-give-up-sleep-and-finish-writing-the-book-in-the-next-two-weeks-and-send-it-back-to-you, to which she responded – stop! Slow down! Write it, rest it, then edit it, then send it. Make sure it’s the best you can possibly make it. I’d given myself a deadline – totally self-imposed – of having this book finished and out on submission by the end of the year, so I was racing through the edits to meet a deadline that no one else even knew about. I’m now attempting to be patient – far better for it to go out next spring as a finished, polished book than rush through it now and have to re-edit yet again.
I had a couple of nice surprises on the short story and flash fiction front – my story A Life Lived in Colour made the top twenty shortlist out of a thousand entries in the inaugural Bath Flash Fiction Award and I got to attend a prize-giving event at Wells Festival of Literature when a story made their shortlist.
I was also thrilled to make the shortlist for a flash fiction piece in the Hysteria competition, and my story will be in the anthology released at the end of November.
This all helped to remind me, when I get impatient and want to have a book published now now now, that although I don’t yet have a novel published, I’m building up a nice collection of magazines and anthologies with my stories in them.
I think sometimes, as writers, we’re so keen to progress, to move on – win the competition, win a prize, get an agent, get a book deal, get another, bigger, better book deal… – that we forget to congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved. It doesn’t matter whether that’s a shortlisting, a book deal or just finishing a story and being able to say I did it. We’re doing it, we’re writing, and that’s worth celebrating.
Pass the cake, someone, crack open the wine – let’s celebrate!
It’s taken four long and tumultuous years and four re-writes but I’ve done it! Yesterday I printed and packaged up my first novel and sent it off to the Romantic Novelist Association New Writer’s Scheme. COMPLETE. A whole 86200 words! And I can’t tell you how good I feel today.
It’s been a tough slog. Along the four years my Nan, who brought me up, passed away, I’ve had major surgery, my husband of twenty-three years left my sons and I. Then there was the subsequent divorce, house move and upheaval, yet more surgery and treatments while at the same time having builders in for months to renovate our new home throughout.
Looking back I can see how my writing slipped well down the list of priorities. There were times when I despaired at my lack of inspiration and motivation to progress my WIP, ‘Living in the Past,’ or ‘Mothers Love’ as it started out when I came second in the Festival of Romantic Fiction’s new Talent Award in 2011. My head was too full of everything. I’d lost my mojo and all confidence. I couldn’t do it. Who would want to read my books? The number of times I’d mutter to myself, ‘Stop kidding yourself! It’s just a dream.’
But a dream is just a wish without a plan isn’t it? Somehow I mustered some inner strength and with the cajoling of my closest friends, I was persuaded not to give in. Knowing I had to do something or I’d forever kick myself for failing, I booked to go on an Arvon Course with Kate Long and Simon Thirsk. There for a week, I motored on with the WIP and when I read out one of the chapters to the group my writing was described as, ‘Catherine Cookson meets Stan Barstow.’ It was a huge turning point. That course made me believe.
However once I returned home from course, inspired as I was, domestic chaos kicked in again. I drifted for another year or so. I say drifted. What I actually mean is I spent about nine months of it stepping over bags of concrete, RSJ’s, lengths of wood, stacked in piles and tins of this and that, listening to builders and their incessant banter, drilling, hammering, sawing, being without electricity or water for days on end. It was hardly conducive to quiet writing time!
I wrote when I could (which wasn’t very often) and sent in a partial of the novel last year to the NWS. It was a very favourable report which once again, restored my belief. Realising if I kept on as I was doing, I’d keep on getting the same results, I went on Tamsyn Murray’s, ‘Live, Breathe, LOVE WRITING!’ earlier this year. I talked about it in my last Life Cycle post. It gave me that final push and with the help of two of the other delegates, Helen Walters and Bernadette O’Dwyer, we challenged ourselves to finish.
It was a first to actually be able to type the words, ‘THE END’ at the end of July. Then final edits and one last read-through with the help of a good friend and it was done.
I don’t mind admitting there were several dark occasions when domestic chaos, my health and the demands of life overwhelmed me and I almost bailed from writing and the RNA altogether and gave up forever my dream to be published. Had it not been for my Romaniac girls and the wonderful supportive RNA, writer friends and closest friends who kept my spirits up and kept me believing I may not be able to say, ‘I DID IT!’
I DID IT. Now the hard work begins to find an agent or publisher who is interested but for now, I’ll settle for having finished it. My Nan’s words ring in my head, ‘You see; didn’t I always tell you, there’s no such word as ,’CAN’T.’
The time has come for me to give you lovely people a round up of what I have been up to since I last posted.
Whilst I haven’t got exciting news like a book deal or a competition win, I feel over the last few weeks my writing has taken a huge change in direction – for the better!
For a while now, I have been playing about with my writing to find where I belong. It takes a little time, as a writer, to find your place, your ‘voice’ as some call it, and realise where you fit in. Whilst I thought I already had, I think the way in which I have moved forward so quickly since January has proved that finally, I know who I am. Whilst romance always plays a huge part in my stories, I have come to realise that the stories I want to tell are more relationship based books, family dramas, domestic stories. My stories always have an issue based plot whether it be a young woman dealing with grief and depression, or someone in a violent relationship desperate to escape. Or even a couple entering into IVF not realising the devastating effects this could have on their already rocky relationship. These are everyday issues that everyday people fight. I write about ordinary people finding their modern day fairytale ending.
So, realising that my writing had taken an alternative route, meant a total overhaul of my image. I had been promoting myself as a romance author, and whilst that is still true, I didn’t feel it gave my followers a true definition of who I was and what I write. So, after discussions with my agent and a few of my writing friends, I decided to re-launch myself:
I feel this describes me much better. With this reinvention, came a shiny new website and an author page on Facebook. Please do pop over and have a look at both – and feel free to ‘like’ and subscribe if you want to!
Now I had a lovely website, a stronger presence on Facebook and Twitter and a plan. It was then time to sort out my submissions.
In my last post I told you about ‘Love Hurts’. This book has now been retitled as ‘Fractured Love’. I have completed another edit of FL after some tweaking by my agent (Sarah) and it has now been sent off to be proofed by her. Head over Heart, which was my first completed novel, is now undertaking a huge re-write to reflect my new ‘real life, real love’ route. When I first wrote HoH, I was still very much concentrating highly on romance being the main factor and it was lighter than it needed to be. When I finished FL, my agent and I agreed that HoH needed a complete overhaul to match the pace and quality of my latest novel. My writing has developed ALOT since I wrote my first book and this rewrite needs to reflect that. I am excited about the new direction I have taken and I cannot wait to work this into Sophie’s story.
I have also written a brief outline of the next book that I am to work on. This is currently untitled but it will focus on IVF and the effects – both good and bad – that it can have on some relationships.
Whilst my books are not directly linked, I do have a theme running through them all which ties them together. Because of this, I will be submitting them as a series this time round. And hopefully that submission will be soon. Just a few last minute tweaks and reads before Sarah hits SEND. Fingers crossed for me…
Another exciting turn that my writing has taken recently, is the development of a CHILDRENS SERIES! Writing for children is something that has also been an ambition of mine. I work in a nursery with 0-5 year olds in my day job and I love working with the little ones. So I think it was a natural development that my writing was bound to take. I will reveal more of this as it unfolds but at the moment it is very much in the early developmental stage. Because I plan to aim this series at both the fiction market as well as the educational market, I am doing lots of planning and research first.
Another hurdle I have come across with this is the decision of whether to have a separate pseudonym for my children’s books. Whilst I don’t write erotic fiction or anything like that, I do approach hard hitting issues and swear etc in my adult novels. So would it be best to create a whole new persona to promote my children’s books with? What do you all think?
I have also been more active in the competition stakes recently, entering my most recent novel into both the Lucy Cavendish Annual Fiction Prize and The Bath Novel Award. Entering competitions is something that I haven’t really done much, but it was something I vowed to do more of this year. So that was where I started. I am also going to try to write more flash fiction/short stories to send into magazines and competitions, too. It is all part of my being more proactive!
PS. My ironing pile has also resumed residence on my spare bed… I wouldn’t be able to call myself a writer if I didn’t have a horrendously large ironing pile and/or an overdue list of housework chores. Come on, you know I’m not the only one…
It’s not often I get out and have to form comprehensive sentences. To be honest, I think I may well have lost the ability, having been allowed out and managing to boom ‘hello’ a few times without anything else following.
Yes, I’m a mum. I have twin toddlers who’ve created a made up language. I talk to myself. I answer back. I go occasional days without any other adult interaction. So an entire day with other human beings in the same situation was comforting. Also mind-blowing. The setting was enough to make me happy.
Having been supplied with tea, coffee, biscuits, fresh fruit (all of which we could eat and drink unhindered), we were treated to a day covering the work of the Janklow & Nesbit Agency, how to make the right impression in covering letters, a panel of editors, an editorial masterclass, an author panel and a one-to-one.
Much was covered during the day, but I came away with these impressions:
The Janklow & Nesbit Agency works hard on behalf of their authors
Having a foreign rights agent can be the making of an author’s career
There are a lot of mums/nans out there with considerable talent and drive
That my laugh is ridiculously staccato and loud, given high enough ceilings
On the way home, I saw this slogan on a poster and thought, yes, that’s exactly what today was about…
And because I am a mum of twins, and rarely get to eat all of my own food this also happened…
I’ve no doubt, in the two Get Published days that have taken place, someone who has attended will be shortlisted in the Mumsnet competition. Whilst everyone waits to hear, I’ll be looking up words like Linear and Exposition. They obviously hadn’t factored in that I’ve been teaching the girls that cows ‘moo’ for the past month.
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:
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.
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
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.
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!
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”…
Celia: Last week on Facebook, our lovely Sue Fortin sparked off a train of thought that really fired up the imaginations of some of you writers out there who occasionally need to switch on the steam to order. I’m talking on the page – that goes without saying – what you do behind closed doors is your own affair (although obviously if you need to share, we are very discreet here at Romaniac HQ. Not.)
Anyway, Sue was trying to find a bit of suitably hot and heavy background music to put her in the mood to write something scorching, and she asked for a few helpful pointers.
If you can organise a sultry sunset to look at, I find that helps but if not and you’re relying on the music, there are plenty of great ones to chose from. My favourites are Al Green’s Here I Am and The Pointer Sisters’ Slowhand, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Once I started to list them, the tunes that inspire seductive steaminess, deep smut or even just a gentle buzz were endless. How about Blur’s Tender Is The Night with all that thumping bass? Or…no, it’s your turn now. What music gets you in the mood to write something eyebrow raising?
Jan: I must admit, I’m quite partial to a bit of Marvin Gaye, so if choosing one sizzleworthy song of his to help the old ink flow, it would unquestionably be ‘Let’s Get It On’. Another top tune that always steams my literary windows is ‘Need You Tonight’ by INXS.
Lucie: Well, there are many different ways to answer this kind of question. I think it depends on the kind of sex scene you are writing. Songs like ‘Freak Me’ by Another Level are great for those dirty sex scenes,. ‘I’ll make love to you’ by Boys II Men is great for a loving sex scene and ‘Sexual Healing’ by Marvin Gaye is very sensual. So, maybe it might be a case of listening to a couple of different songs and writing the scene over to see how your sex scene works best. What you thought was a sensual scene may actually read better as a more heated sexual encounter… who knows…
Debbie: Anything by the pint-sized but very sexy Prince (as in the singer rather than Charles or William) and also I’m quite partial to a bit of Joni Mitchell to get me in the…er…mood.
Laura: At the time of Sue’s original thread, as The Romaniacs know, I was writing a very difficult, but crucial love scene. I opted for Pas de deux, from the Nutcracker. It has everything that needed to be expressed within the scene. For me, this exudes Passion. With a capital P. Other songs that can set the writing mood: All About Eve’s Freeze– it has a driving beat but an ethereal vocal, and the lyrics are pretty cool. Or hot, depending on your take. Madonna’s Justify Your Love has got a certain something. It’s overt. Go on – have a listen and you’ll hear what I mean.
So what’s your choice? What gets the sparks flying from your pen or keyboard and peps up your prose? Over to you…