Life Cycle Of A Writer – Third Round-Up of 2015!

2015 continues at a pace and we’re doing our best to cram as much in this year as possible. We’ve had lots of edits between us recently so it’s been a bit quieter than usual, but the good news is that means we’ll have lots of NEW BOOKS for you to read in the near future. Here’s what we’ve all been up to:

Catherine: Signing my first contract with Carina UK and discovering what it is to be a real author. I’ve had my first set of revisions and lots of plans are afoot for 2016 when my new title and front cover will be revealed. And getting the second book ready so it’ll be available for pre-order by the time book one is out! 

Laura: I’ve had a bit of everything going on – school holidays, a DD with her leg in plaster, and edits for book 3. I have a few events coming up, about which I am excited, but more on those nearer the times.

Lucie: It has been an incredibly busy time for me but unfortunately, not a lot of it is book related. What with the summer holidays (always a time that I struggle to get writing done) and work, I have found it difficult to get on with my edit. I start university today, too, so that will mean I need to start to manage my time a lot better! I have also just started a new vlog series on my blog, so that will hopefully help free up some time. Just need to work out how to fit in everything now…

Celia: Drank lots of wine, wrote like a mad woman all summer and notched up 60,000 brand new words for my WIP – a psychological coming-of-age story. Now back at work and have been The Boss for a while so no writing progress made; the next big push is to finish, edit and submit. Also limbering up for Tirgearr edits on the new one due out in January – Moondancing; a prequel to Little Boxes. Lastly, made the short list for the Exeter Story Prize. Final prize giving on October 17th so off on a jolly to Exeter with everything crossed.

Vanessa: School holidays have meant less writing time, but I’m deep into a new draft of my work-in-progress now, which will hopefully be ready to send to my agent in the next few weeks. I also had a lovely phone call to say I’ve made the Wells Literary Festival short story competition shortlist!

Sue: I’ve been a busy bee finishing my work-in-progress which took a bit longer than I had hoped but is now out and under consideration. I’ve also been working on a novella which I’ll be self-publishing with the Romaniac Press. I’m looking forward to sharing the cover and blurb here very soon.

Debbie:  It’s been four long years and four re-writes but having finally managed to write, ‘THE END,’ I’ve taken to eagerly stalking the postman each day as I wait for my work-in-progress to arrive back from the RNA NWS. In the meantime (and in an attempt to distract myself) I’m working on the first chapter of the next novel. 

Jan: EDITS! EDITS! EDITS! Working through her edits for As Weekends Go, the winner of Choc Lit’s Search For A Star competition, ready for publication. She’s now recovering.

All that in EIGHT WEEKS. I think it calls for another refill of the cake tin at Romaniac HQ.

girl at desk

Life Cycle of a Writer – Jan Brigden

There it sat in my inbox.


The butterflies descended before I even opened the attachment.

The lovely email from my editor, introducing herself and offering me all the support and encouragement I could have hoped for, put a huge smile on my face, but I don’t mind admitting to you that, upon initially reading the proposed structural revisions for my first novel, the photo below pretty much summed up my mood.




I could hear my fellow Romaniac Vanessa’s voice in my head: “Freeze it for a couple of days, Jan, then have another read and things will look much clearer.”

Mr B, of course, agreed, and being as fantastically calm and reassuring as ever, came in from work the following day, clutching these: 



Sure enough, upon reading through the report another two or three times, and accepting my lovely editor’s kind offer to walk me through it page by page, we arranged to meet in London.

I’d been a bit apprehensive on the train beforehand as, having absorbed the suggestions and feeling enthusiastic about ninety per cent of them, (even though I had no clue if I could actually implement them successfully!) I also knew there were one or two points we were likely to disagree on.

I needn’t have worried, because within ten minutes of meeting my editor and seeing her passion for my novel and my characters, and hearing her brilliant explanations of how the edits would help to enrich the overall story, I was eager to get cracking.




I’d wrongly been of the mind-set that we were on opposing teams. Why would I feel like that? Was it preciousness on my part kicking in? Over-sensitivity to criticism (albeit hugely constructive) perhaps? It was very much a two-way discussion, with my thoughts and ideas fully respected. To quote my editor: “It’s your book, Jan.”

And so I set to work. It took me longer than I’d hoped, with a fair few huffs and puffs of frustration at myself along the way (and much cake & choccie scoffing!) but when I read through the revised copy of my manuscript, and could see how my editor’s proposals had strengthened the novel, I felt elated.


VLUU L100, M100 / Samsung L100, M100


I only hope my editor feels the same ;)

To say I’ve learned a lot from the experience would be downplaying it.

It feels great and very exciting to be part of such a fab team.

Next up … Line Edits!

Chocolate Button, anyone?

Jan x



Life Cycle of a Writer: Receiving that Magical News.

Well, since my last update, things have gone ever so slightly crazy. Wonderfully crazy! All in all, it has been  a sparkling six weeks.

On February 14th, I found out that my first novel ‘As Weekends Go’ had been shortlisted in the Choc Lit  and Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star competition.

I’d made the final six!

Cue stupid grins and shrieks aplenty at both Chez Brigden and Romaniac HQ.  It was going to be an extra special Valentine’s Day.

I then discovered I’d made the final two!

Which, naturally, called for fizz and chocolates …   20150314_131337

And THEN … on Saturday March 14th (I’ve decided I rather like the number 14!)  came the official announcement that I’d won the Search for a Star Competition

I can’t describe how elated I felt. Choc Lit would be offering me a contract. As Weekends Go was really going to be published.

It was a mad, mad day – lots of celebratory hugs and loving, supportive messages, both off and online. Mum and Dad came over, bearing choccies and flowers.  I had some fab cards, tweets and emails from family and friends, and messages of welcome from head of Choc Lit, Lyn Vernham, the whole team and the lovely authors.





I’ll admit that, on the Monday morning,  when I logged on to see a special surprise post from my fantastic Romaniac buddies,  I was  bit of a blubbering Briggy!

More good cheer followed when my older sister treated me to a yummy congratulatory lunch.


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And then this week, I saw my first published Press Release. To say I am excited about the future is putting it mildly. I know I’ve said it before, but I truly am thankful for all the love and wise words of support and encouragement I’ve received from everyone, especially Mr B who has been  chief cuddler, co-editor, sounding board, morale booster, tantrum-dodger and counsellor extraordinaire all rolled into one. I will also be eternally grateful to my Romantic Novelists’ Association   New Writers’ Scheme reader, whose suggestions and advice when I originally submitted my novel for critique, were invaluable.

As Weekends Go is a contemporary multi POV tale – three interwoven stories – about two couples and the emotional havoc created during and beyond their eventful weekend clash of agendas, involving a ‘girls only’ trip to York, a Brighton sales conference and a Spanish stag do.

I can’t wait for you to meet the cast.

Thanks again,

Jan  x





Life Cycle Of A Writer: Sparkle Round-Up

Here at Romaniac HQ, we believe in positivity. The reason we started the Life Cycle Of A Writer posts was so that we can share the lows and highs of our journeys. It is a mighty tough business for which you need a thick skin, but we go by the philosophy if you work hard and believe in yourself great things will happen. Give yourself the chance to sparkle, and if you don’t mind indulging us for a few minutes, we wanted to share our moments of triumph with you and together raise a glass to all the highs.


It all started in the middle of December at the Romaniac Sparkle WeekendEn route to our get together we found we had good reason to celebrate when Vanessa Savage learned she’d won the Flash500 Novel Opening Competition for Missing Grace. The report from the judge, Steph Patterson, provides some very encouraging words for Vanessa:

“The introduction to Missing Grace just pulls you in. Straight away, it raises a number of questions and you quickly read on. A mere sprinkling of back story, told in a way that links the past to the present, introduces us to another important character, and then we’re heading straight into the plot. The tension grows as the mystery unravels. My congratulations to the two finalists! I’m sure both will go far.”

If that wasn’t enough reason to raise a glass, during our sparkle weekend Catherine Miller learned she’d won the Just Write Monthly Masterpiece competition for Miles Between Us. With the judges saying they were gripped from the very start. The first three chapters are now available to read on their website.


2015 got off to a great start when Vanessa received news she’d won a Writers Forum competition for her short story No Such Thing As Monsters. The magazine should be out in March!

To add to our early 2015 cheer, Catherine was highly commended runner-up in the Accent Press and Woman magazine writing competition for her work-in-progress Baby Number Two.


Laura E. James carried out her first Waterstones book signing at the Dorchester branch, selling and signing copies of Follow Me Follow You

Laura and Sharon Goodwin (Jera's Jamboree) at Dorchester's Waterstones.

Laura and Sharon Goodwin (Jera’s Jamboree) at Dorchester’s Waterstones.

Vanessa received double good news in February – Her current work-in-progress The Murder House made the final four in the Caledonia Novel Award and she came third in the Flash500 flash fiction competition with her story Pretty Maids All In A Row


March has been mega for good news, and we’re only part way through the month.

Catherine went up to London to receive the Katie Fforde bursary award. This is for someone on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme who has great potential. Katie presented Catherine with a trophy at the RNA March meeting.

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Laura carried out her first talk with a fellow Dorset writer, Kathy Sharp. The Preston Friendship Club were fantastic audience, and Laura hopes to do similar events in the future.

In a celebration of Mother’s Day, Celia J Anderson’s letter to her mother was included in The Guardian. It’s the first letter and has a lovely picture of Celia in a bonnet.

As if all these bits of excitement weren’t enough, Romaniac HQ celebrations went into overdrive when we learned our wonderful Jan Brigden won the Choc Lit and Whole Audiobooks Search for a Star competition. Her novel As Weekends Go will be published later this year.

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We’re absolutely delighted for Jan and so glad to have our first life cycle transition from aspiring to published writer.

We’ve also finished putting a considerable number of words together with The Murder House by Vanessa Savage, Baby Number Two by Catherine Miller, Fractured Love by Lucie Wheeler, What Doesn’t Kill You by Laura E.James and Living The Dream by Celia J. Anderson reaching completion in one stage or another and the very hard-working Sue Fortin has been getting The Half-Truth into its final version ready for publication in two days time!

The Half truth


Time to upgrade Romaniac HQ’s mini-bar. There’s no way we can stock enough champagne in there if the good news keeps coming in at this rate. Now if you’ve all got a filled glass, please raise it to the wonder of sparkle and positivity!




Life Cycle of a Writer – Jan Brigden

My little update …

I’m excited to say that I’ve started submitting my first novel ‘As Weekends Go …’ to literary agents.

At last!

“Sound the *cheer & fear in equal measures* klaxon!”

It’s a multi POV tale – three interwoven stories – about two couples and the emotional havoc created during and beyond their eventful weekend clash of agendas, involving a ‘girls only’ trip to York, a Brighton sales conference and a Spanish stag do.





It took me ages to write, mainly due to my endless tweaking and re-tweaking, so I’m relieved and very proud to have reached this point. I just hope that someone believes in it as much as I do. I’ve had seven rejections so far, but all really nice ones, with some very positive and encouraging feedback.

I’m under no illusions about how hard it is to acquire agent representation, and would never rule out self-publishing, I simply want to try the traditional route first.

So … in the meantime, I’ve been studying publishers and writing competitions, and penning Book 2 – a standalone sequel to ‘As Weekends Go …’ which has involved plenty of eye-opening research. I’ve also been indulging and expanding my other literary passion – freelance proofreading.

I’m sure I’m not the only Romaniac who will express how invaluable the love, support and cheerleading from family and friends is. During the past five years (and then some …) my lovely husband Dave can certainly add to his CV: chief cuddler, co-editor, sounding board, morale booster, tantrum-dodger, counsellor extraordinaire … I could go on.

Believe me, every nugget of advice, encouragement and reassurance from everyone –  writerly or otherwise – has been very much appreciated.

Thank you.

Wish me luck, dear friends …



 Jan  x



Jan Brigden – My First Novel, and My Love of Proofreading …


It’s no secret that my first novel took me a while to write. Okay, YONKS, mainly due to my endless tweaking and re-tweaking of it until it waved the white flag at me. I’m thrilled, therefore, to report that, having received a cracking report from my RNA New Writers’ Scheme reader, I’ve finally started submitting my book to agents.

To date, I’ve had four rejections.


They stung.

A lot.

I have, however, received some very encouraging feedback.

I’m under no illusions, and I’m certainly not averse to self-publishing, I simply want to try the traditional route first.

I must trust that someone will love my book and believe in it as much as I do …

My novel is a multi POV tale – three interwoven stories in one, if you like – entitled ‘As Weekends Go …’





Here’s a little taster:

When Rebecca Stafford is gifted the chance of a weekend stay in one of York’s finest hotels with her best friend, Abi, the timing couldn’t be better. With her husband in Brighton for his summer sales conference and Abi’s boyfriend in Spain for a stag do, she has no reason to decline.

After all – what harm could come of it – apart from the odd raised eyebrow at home?

Rebecca also knows it might help take her mind off the fears she’s been having about her marriage; fears which her husband appears neither to share nor recognize.

Events, though, take an unexpected turn when Rebecca encounters a familiar fellow guest at the hotel. And with Abi’s relationship coming under scrutiny when temptation beckons, things soon become complicated.

Add in a power struggle with a twist in Brighton and the stag do from hell, and this clash of agendas guarantees all parties concerned a weekend to remember.


Keep your fingers crossed for me, dear friends.



On an entirely different literary note, I wanted to highlight here my love of proofreading.

I’ve quietly been expanding my portfolio, working on several novels/novellas for friends and acquaintances over time, using my own devised system and, more recently, track changes, with positive results.

I don’t hold a professional qualification, just a beady eye for detail and years of experience at wielding my trusty red pen in various office jobs I’ve previously held. I remember pointing out a horrendous typo to one particularly Godzilla-like company CEO on a document he was about to sign off to a potential client. He looked so gobsmacked, I thought he was going to sack me! Luckily, he just huffed and puffed a bit and from that day on declared me ‘chief checker’.




A few clients have kindly provided testimonials for me, a couple of which are below:

‘It is a pleasure to provide a testimonial for Jan Brigden. I have used her services twice, to proofread my self-published novels which have been uploaded to amazon sites throughout the world. As an indie author, I am aware that some self-published novels have been neither proofread nor formatted professionally, often resulting in a less than perfect result. Thanks to Mrs Brigden’s skills, I have received no negative feedback from readers vis a vis typos, grammatical slips or other omissions in my novels. I would recommend Mrs Brigden unreservedly to other writers who need someone to check over their work. I will be sending my next novel for her to proofread in due course.’

Elizabeth Lamb


I hired Jan Brigden to proofread my first completed book. After countless rewrites, I required a reader with a good eye for grammar and detail to go through the manuscript and pick up on errors I had missed. Having gone through chapter-by-chapter, and at my pace, I was delighted with the work Jan carried out, and had the confidence to submit my novel to publishers. With a professional, friendly attitude, easy-to-understand system and great value for money, I highly recommend Jan Brigden’s Proofreading Service.’

Laura E James


If you would like to get in touch with me about potentially proofreading your novel/novella/short story, etc, please feel free to email me at to discuss.

You can also contact me via Facebook or Twitter (@Briggy44)


 Many Thanks,

Jan X


Welcome, David Nicholls …


Wow! What a way to start the week. We are thrilled and honoured that David has kindly taken time out to chat to us. 


 Image Credit © Kristofer Samuelsson

Image Credit © Kristofer Samuelsson

David, can you tell us about what you’re working on at the moment?

At the time of writing, I’m just finishing the second draft of my fourth novel, ‘Us’, to be published in September. I’ve been away from fiction for a while – it has been nearly five years since One Day came out, seven years since I started writing it – and I’ve loved getting back to books. For years after One Day, I found it impossible, but this one has been a pleasure, and has come relatively easily; a little over eighteen months from first sentence to publication.

What are you most proud of writing?

At the moment, the new novel. I suppose there are some similarities to One Day – a love story, the same mixture of happy and sad – but it feels a little more grown-up. It’s about family and married life – the working title was ‘Married Love’ – and it follows a couple from their beginnings, through eighteen years of parenthood, to the relationship’s (possible) end. I’m 47 now, and was starting to feel a little foolish writing about twenty-somethings on dates. ‘Us’ is still a romantic story, but maybe a little tougher, more varied and mature in subject and tone.

I also loved working on The 7.39, the two-part TV drama that was broadcast in January. Unlike the solitary world of fiction, film and TV are entirely collaborative and while that has its pleasures, it can also be madly frustrating, nerve-wracking, stressful. The final product rarely matches the story you told in your head, but The 7.39 was one of those rare times when everything came together. I loved the casting, the production team, there were hardly any rows or feuds or walk-outs and I think some of that harmony came across on screen. The only other time I’ve been as happy with a show was when I did Tess of the D’Urbervilles for the BBC, about six years ago now.

And One Day too. I’ve come to accept now that it’ll probably be the thing I’m known for, and I’ll always be proud of it.

In ‘One Day’, we know that Emma makes some mix tapes for Dex, but which three tunes would definitely feature on David Nicholls’ mix tape?

Probably some of the same tracks that Emma chose. There’s a playlist here – Emma Morley’s Mix Tape– that contains a lot of the music I looked to for inspiration while writing the book.

Of those songs, I think you’d choose ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ by Aretha Franklin, because of the incredible singing and the Bacharach melody, then ‘Protection’ by Massive Attack because of its sentiment, and finally ‘These Days’ by Nico, because it’s such a simple and beautifully bittersweet song.

Also in ‘One Day’, Dex is such a complex and interesting person, where did you get the inspiration for his character?

He was written as an antidote to the male characters I’d created in my first two books – rather modest, nice, arty, self-effacing men. I wanted to write someone who had an excess of self-confidence, a chauvinist, a philistine, but nevertheless someone who contained the seed of a decent human being. I used to be an actor, and a lot of the young men who started out at the same time as me had extraordinary success, and of course it affected them. They all became Dexter. I was a rotten actor, so never faced that dilemma.




What is your biggest challenge when adapting a novel for screen?

The first thing you lose when you adapt a book for the screen is the character’s inner voice. Books are about emotion and thought as much as action and dialogue. In a screenplay, it’s all about what people say and do, rather than what they think or feel. Conveying that is the great challenge. Of course, actors help, but voice-over  on screen is useless, and how else do you convey an inner monologue? This was the great dilemma with Starter for Ten – all the best jokes were in the character’s head, and it made no sense to say them aloud.

Also, budget is not a consideration when writing a book. On screen everything costs a fortune so everything has to serve a need. You’re constantly being asked – do we need this scene? Do we need the rain? Does it have to be London? As a screenwriter, you’re spending someone else’s money, so of course you’re asked to change things. Books are ink on paper, and unless you’re being dull, no-one minds a little more ink.

Finally, accepting the loss of control is always hard. In fiction, there’s the novelist and no-one else. With TV and films, the writer has very clearly defined responsibilities – you’re not the designer, the composer, the casting director, the editor, you’re just part of the team. Trying to make the screen version look exactly like the story you have in your head is almost impossible. Sometimes the finished version might be better than what you imagined, sometimes not. But if you can’t accept that loss of control, then it’s best to stick to  books.

Can you tell us a bit about the readings you’ve given and what inspired you to start?

As an actor I was largely mute, which was just as well given that I was such a shocking old ham. But I do enjoy readings, though I find them very nerve-wracking and worry a great deal about being dull, or pompous or indiscreet. I still over-act, but I do love meeting readers, and to be reminded of why I wanted to do this in the first place.

What is your ideal writing space, and do you prefer to work in silence or with background noise?

I’m lucky enough to have an office that I go to each morning. I try to be at my desk by 8. If I’m sensible, I turn the internet off immediately and hide my phone in a cupboard. (The internet is the enemy of concentration, especially for someone with no willpower, like me.) I try and write until lunchtime, though there are inevitably distractions. I write on Word, but try to edit on pen and paper then type that revised text back in; it’s too easy to let your eyes slip across the computer screen. I read for an hour at lunchtime, then work on scripts in the afternoon, though I rarely do anything good after 4pm. I use to listen to pop music, then only Bach – solo piano or cello – but now have to have silence. But distractions – the postman, the phone call – are always hugely welcome.  

What makes you laugh?

Old golden-age Hollywood movies – Billy Wilder or Preston Sturges or Lubitsch. Walter Matthau films, David Sedaris, Lorrie Moore, Wes Anderson, Dickens. My children.     

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given to date in your career?

I’m not sure who said it, but I once read that the secret to writing was to decide how you want your reader to feel, and then work out how to achieve it. Which is easier said than done I suppose, but I think that’s why One Day worked. I wanted to write something that would have the big emotional rush you get from a great pop song, something that would be both funny, then heart-breaking, sometimes on the same page.

Everyone tells you this, but I do think reading – and watching – as much as possible is invaluable. Everything I’ve written has been inspired by, or stolen from, something else. There’d be no Starter for Ten without Rushmore, Billy Liar and Great Expectations, no One Day without Much Ado About Nothing, Annie Hall and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (no, really). Inspiration can be found in all art, high or low, and you have to give time to sucking everything up. I set my alarm so that I can read an extra hour a day. Of course it means that I’m asleep on my desk by nine-fifteen, but at least I try.  


Any other creative passions?

I’m an enthusiastic but rudimentary cook, and I’ve been known to snatch Lego out of the hands of my children.

Quick Fire

West End Musical or Night at the Opera?


Yorkshire Dales or Welsh Valleys?  

Both lovely, but the Dales





Three Dream Dinner Party Guests, past or present?

Billy Wilder, Cary Grant, Kate Bush.

Favourite London Landmark?

St Paul’s from the southern end of the Millennium Bridge.

Checkov or Shakespeare?

That’s the hardest choice. Shakespeare at a push, though The Seagull is my favourite play.

Thank you so much for being our guest today, David. We wish you the very best of luck with your forthcoming novel ‘Us’ and needless to say, we can’t wait to read it.