The Saturday Spotlight – Reflections & Dreams

It’s a New Year. A time to reflect back. A time to look ahead. A time to plan, to change things, to re-focus. Have you done that? Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions? Have you broken them already?! In a YouGov survey for The Times, it was found that a third of people surveyed would be setting resolutions and that more than half of those wanted to do more exercise/improve fitness and the second and third most being to lose weight/improve diet respectively. Some of The Write Romantics want to do that, myself included, but today’s Saturday Spotlight is about writing instead.

Here’s our review of 2013 (the year of the birth of The Write Romantics) and our plans for 2014 with a quick reminder of what stage we’re at with the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme (NWS)…

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Back Row L-R, Julie, Jo, Helen P

Front Row L-R, Rachael, Alex, plus our Writing Friend Lorraine

 

ALEX:

Joined NWS in 2013

In 2013 I FINALLY finished writing Beltane and got it edited.  In July it went off for it’s NWS review in July.  It took nearly 3 months to get the report back and by that point my nerves were well and truly shredded.  But it was good news and I’ve not had many changes to make.  I’m just doing a final tidying up of the manuscript and then I’m going to start submitting it.  

I’ve already made a start on my writing plans for 2014 by joining York Writers. Once I’ve got Beltane off on it’s first round of submissions I’m going to write a (short) ghost story for a bit of light relief and then it’ll be on with the new book.  As I write very slowly there’s absolutely no hope that it’ll be finished by the NWS deadline of the end of August but if I’ve got 30,000 to 40,000 words by then I’ll be pretty happy with that.

 

DEIRDRE:

Joined NWS several years ago and has self-published a novel

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2013 brought me some nice little boosts to my writing: two agents and two publishers requested the full of my previous year’s NWS novel (the jury is still out on one of them), the critique of the partial for my next was really positive, another I began for NaNoWriMo took off surprisingly well and looks like leading me in a new, exciting direction, then I got my lovely prize in the Mail on Sunday competition.  And of course I joined the Write Romantics, learned a bit about blogging and bagged myself some lovely new writing friends, so all in all, it’s been a good year.

I’ve set myself quite a task for 2014 as I now have two novels to finish, edit and polish, one of which will go off to the NWS.  I’ll carry on submitting the earlier one but if no-one takes it up I’ll self-publish before the end of the year.  My main ambition is to be published but I also plan to work hard on my writing and become the best I can.  To help this along I’ll be reading writers I admire and who inspire me, and of course by writing, writing, writing, and experimenting with different styles and types of story.  2014 could be a year of discovery and I’m looking forward to that.

 

HELEN P:

Joined NWS in 2012 and had her 1st book published in 2013!

2013 was an amazing year for me, it was the year I saw my writing hopes and dreams finally come true eight years after starting my novel. In the space of twelve months I managed to rewrite my debut novel The Ghost House four times. I got to work with some amazing editors from Carina UK who have been very, very supportive. I was lucky enough to meet my fellow Write Romantics and become a part of this wonderful blog, it was even better catching up with them in person at the RNA conference in the summer and they were just as wonderful in person as they are on the blog. I became a member of the Crime Writers Association which is something I have also dreamed about for years, I was lucky enough to be asked by Lucy Santos the Director of the CWA to write some blog posts for the website which was another amazing writing moment for me. 

The biggie was the launch of The Ghost House, seeing my book on Amazon was indescribable, nerve wracking yet amazing all at the same time. Then it actually made it’s way into the Contemporary Horror Chart and I found myself battling it out between Stephen King, James Herbert, Susan Hill and Adam Neville that was such a surreal moment for me – I had to keep pinching myself. It’s been three months now since it’s release and I’m relieved to say that it’s still selling well. I’m still in the top 20. Something else I had never considered was my readers reactions, I have had so many emails, Facebook messages, Tweets and people stopping me in the street to tell me how much they enjoyed my book and wanting to know when the next one will be out I just can’t believe that I can finally call myself an author and that is a feeling that money just can’t buy.

2014 will see the release of my follow up novel to The Ghost House, I am also working on book three which is a stand alone novel. I will attend my first ever RNA party in May where I am a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award, there are so many other brilliant writers who are also nominated that I don’t think for one minute I will stand a chance but I’m grateful to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to catching up with some of my fellow friends and Write Romantics there.

 

HELEN R:

Joined NWS in 2012

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Of course each year my aim is to write and be published. 2013 saw another critique from the NWS and I worked in that novel as well as writing the next one.

Going into 2014 I now have two novels which need work and I will be sending one of those to the NWS. The feedback each year is incredibly valuable and although I am still unpublished, I know that I am a better writer than I was 1, 2 or 3 years ago when I first started to take it seriously.

So I guess I will continue on my journey in the same way and although I know there will be ups and downs I will surround myself with people who reiterate the words “don’t give up”!

 

JAXX:

Joined NWS a long time ago!

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Last year I finished writing a WIP about a gorgeous, but troubled man fighting his attraction to a female auctioneer trying to sell his grandfather’s heirlooms.  It had taken me too long to write and I had abandoned it many times because I hadn’t plotted it out correctly and was getting lost in the twists and turns.  But for once, I was determined to finish it and was pleased I did, as I received lots of positive advice from my reader at the RNA and I think it has freed up my writing enthusiasm as this one was really holding me back.

So, for now I am feeling really positive about my latest WIP about an air- stewardess and a wannabe rock star who end up in trouble with the Russian Mafia. I intend to finish a good first draft by Easter when I will return to my ‘gorgeous, but troubled man’ to tweak his story before sending it out to publishers who accept submissions without an agent.

Plans for 2014: get to grips with Twitter (yes, that was last year’s resolution, i know) I also intend to actually send off some of my WIP’s with dedication instead of a half hearted attempt at a synopsis, covering letter and all that jazz. Lastly, and scarily I have decided that this year will be the last year I intend to be in the New Writer’s scheme. There, I’ve said it now, so it is Fact! This is because I intend to be published. I can’t bear the thought of not being in the RNA and the only way I can do that if I’m not in the NWS is to be a full member. Ooh, now I’m scared- do I get a chance to erase this at any stage of the year?

 

JO:

Joined NWS in 2011

Oh my goodness, I can’t believe another year has flown past.  I used to listen to older relatives talk about how every year that passed resulted in the following year going a little bit faster.  I would give a wry smile and think “not for me”, but now I know only too well what they meant!  Life with three jobs, four children and trying to study towards my Masters degree for the best part of 2013 has meant that it has flashed before my eyes.  I was going to achieve so much writing-wise this year and, although it didn’t quite go according to plan, here are my highlights:

1.       Submitting my first novel and getting some interest from a publisher – the final verdict should be in soon.

2.       Completing a second novel (a YA this time) and getting some good but developmental feedback from the NWS

3.       Writing half of the third novel during NaNo

4.       Starting the blog with the lovely Julie and being joined by a lovely group of new writing friends

5.       Meeting over half of the other Write Romantics in person

I wanted to enter more competitions, write short stories and sub them to magazines, research ideas for non-fiction articles, finish book three and be ready to sub book two.  However, realistically, with the other commitments in my life, that was never going to happen.  So, with that in mind, here is my goal for 2014: 

1.       To write something creative (that is, not work related) at least four times a week

That, I think, is realistic and something that will lead me to where I want to be, because (apparently) every single thing you write makes you a better writer – here’s hoping!  My less realistic goals, but those that I am still going to set out nonetheless, go as follows:

2.       To get a publishing deal for book 1 – either with the publisher who showed an interest (yes, please Santa as you forgot to deliver this for Christmas!) or with one of the others I have shortlisted (which means some more sub’ing in Jan)

3.       To complete book 3 by February and send to the NWS by Easter

4.       To edit book 2, plot the rest of the trilogy and begin sub’ing

5.       To plot (and hopefully write) the middle grade book I have an idea for

6.       To finish the picture book I started several years ago

7.       To enter at least six comps and/or submit at least 3 short stories or non-fiction articles to magazines

8.       To work with my fellow Write Romantics to drive the blog onwards and upwards

9.       To meet up face to face with as many of the Write Romantics as I can

10.   To start teaching creative writing

Ten goals sound like a good round number, doesn’t it?  Still, even I can recognise that this is pretty ambitious!  However, I have deferred the start of my next Masters module until October 2014 and so I have promised myself that I will concentrate on my writing during any spare time I have in that period instead.  I hope I can sign off at least half of these by the end of the year and wish everyone else luck in achieving their goals, writing and otherwise, in 2014.

 

JULIE:

Joined NWS in 2012

My debut novel is called ‘Searching for Steven’ and I submitted it for the NWS critique in both 2012 and 2013. This is because it significantly changed. Although my 2012 feedback was good, there hadn’t been enough character arc and I was told it was a little too “episodic” so I worked hard on my arc and making the story flow better. However, I still ended up with about 30k words too many so I wanted some guidance on how to condense it. I got this with my 2013 feedback which was extremely positive and included phrases like, “what a great hero”, “you have a good ear for dialogue” and “you’ve a nice style. I’m sure you’ll be published soon!” Buzzing with this, I set to work on another edit and bravely booked myself onto the RNA Conference (I say “bravely” as I’m sure most people find walking into a room of strangers quite daunting, even if they’re usually a pretty confident person like I am). I even booked myself a couple of pitches with editors. These went brilliantly. Both wanted to see the full MS and were very positive about the story and my voice.

The hardest part of 2013 has been starting to submit. Even though I have my preferences as to where I would like my writing “home” to be, I would be foolish to put all my eggs in one or two baskets so I’ve submitted to a handful of agents and generally had a trickle of “thanks but no thanks” responses. One of these was extremely encouraging, though, and described my work as a “near miss” with her because “there was an awful lot [she] liked”. You don’t get much better than that. Well, you do and it would be an offer of representation but this told me a professional believes I can write and do it very well.

November saw a highlight for me in participating in NaNoWriMo. Despite huge challenges of working 7 days a week in a temporary role and job hunting for a permanent role, I “won” NaNo and that 50k words meant I finished draft 1 of book 2 and about a third of book 3. Without NaNo, I think I’d have struggled to write 5k words, never mind 50k.

I took December off. I started a new job, it was my daughter’s birthday, Christmas and all the usual distractions but I started on 1st January as I meant to go on this year with some dedicated writing time and I’ve done something each day since. At the moment I’m plotting rather than writing because I hadn’t fully plotted out book 3 before NaNo started. Luckily, I hit the 50k word target at the point I’d run out of plot so that was another reason for taking December off; I needed some thinking time. I should finish the plotting this weekend and get cracking on the writing this evening or Sunday.

Setting up the blog with Jo, recruiting the other Write Romantics and meeting some of them at the Conference have also been huge highlights for me in 2013. The group have been an amazing support and it’s been a privilege watching one of our members, Helen P, get published. It was even more of a privilege to read her book, ‘The Ghost House’ and be able to say, hand on heart, that it was a gripping 5-star read. Competition successes from Deirdre and Rachael have been vicariously enjoyed too.

My goals for 2014 are quite simple; get a publishing deal! It’s a waiting game now as my full MS is being read and considered right now and I can’t do anything more. I could draw up a list of more agents to contact but, if I’m honest, my first list was the ones with whom I felt the best fit. I think most writers will find their homes now with a digital-first publisher rather than an agent so this is where I’m focusing my hopes.

While I wait, I’ll finish my first draft of book 3 in the trilogy (hopefully finished by end March) then go back to book 2 and start the editing process. I plan to submit book 2 to the NWS (unless I hear good news on the publishing deal first, of course!) The aim is to have final drafts of the whole trilogy by the end of the year and have started plotting out my next novel. At the moment, I know the rough story and have two characters clearly in mind. I know what role a third character plays but don’t know her personality or motivations yet and I haven’t formulated my fourth character. I see it being set in the fictional North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitsborough Bay where my trilogy is set and I may even include cameos from characters in the trilogy. I already know what cameo my lead in book 1 will play. I actually can’t wait to get cracking on something completely new but the trilogy must be completed first.

Exciting times ahead! I feel it’s going to be a very positive year for The Write Romantics and hope we’ll be reporting news of more than one publishing deal this year.

 

LYNNE:

Joined NWS about 10 years ago

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I intend to finish the book I’m working on now, which is a memoir really of my work with 14 year old Chelsea who was bought up in care. She knew very little about her life in care, so we worked on finding out her life story between us. There are also a few chapters scattered throughout the book on my own family history and my totally cranky parents. They were the reason I went into social work, because I had lots of questions I wanted answers too, and I didn’t want anyone else having the same upbringing I’d had.

I’m working right now on getting that book ready to send out and am almost there. I also want to work on some articles and short stories and yes, you’ve guessed it, the next book!

 

RACHAEL:

Joined NWS in 2007

This time last year I was awaiting news on my fourth submission to Mills and Boon and when it did come in the spring, it was a rejection. Yet another badge of honour, but not what I’d hoped for. I was just starting a new story, but after four rejections I decided I was just going to write the story I wanted to.

When the end of 2013 came around that story had taken me on an amazing rollercoaster ride. Without expectations, I entered it into Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write completion and was amazed when it made not only the Top 50, but the Top 10!

So my hopes for 2014 are that despite not winning the competition, this story will get published and also the one I am working on now will prove to be an even greater success. After seven years in NWS I’d really love to be able to say I’ve done it.

 

There you have it; our hopes and aspirations. Becoming published is the biggie and we all enjoyed a virtual party to celebrate Helen P’s book launch which was fantastic except that I managed to spill a large glass of white zinfandel all over my desk! Even now, I keep finding sticky patches where it seeped! 

We’ll keep you posted on how we get on with our publication dreams and writing progress. To all our followers out there, a Happy New Year to you. We wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014 and would love to hear how you hope 2014 will pan out for you. Just click on the heart at the top right of this blog post and that will open out the comments section at the bottom of the post.

Julie xxx

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6 thoughts on “The Saturday Spotlight – Reflections & Dreams

  1. Happy New Year, Write Romantics!
    I have enjoyed reading your blog posts this year, following the ups and downs of your writing careers and joining in with your Wednesday Wonderings. Thank you for such an entertaining blog!
    Well, I can certainly relate to your hopes for 2014. I am, at present, working on “tidying up” book one, which was sent to the NWS in August. It received some very positive feedback and reassured me that I wasn’t living in Cloud Cuckoo Land, kidding myself that I could write. With the reader’s assurances and suggestions to buoy me up, I have finally picked up the manuscript and started work on it again. I am hoping to finish it and start submitting it in the next few months – although, frankly, the idea is terrifying!
    It’s the first book in a series set in the fictional North Yorkshire village of Kearton Bay. The setting was inspired by visits to the lovely Robin Hood’s Bay. I have 60,000 words of book two written and 30,000 of book three, thanks to NaNo, although I think there are going to be many changes made to both of these. I would like to think that I can have book two ready to send to the NWS this year, although I’m not certain that it will be ready. If not, I may submit a partial.
    I also have ideas for two stand-alone novels, one of which especially is nudging me in the back, but, like Julie, I am trying to concentrate on my series first.
    It promises to be an exciting year for all of us. Good luck to you all. I wonder what news we’ll have to impart at the beginning of 2015?
    Sharon x

    • Hi Sharon, thanks for dropping by and for the compliments about our blog. It’s great to have you following us and, as you know, i love to follow The Moongazing Hare too! I’m so glad that you submitted that MS last year as, reading the above, it has given you such a great boost in confidence and a focus. Kearton Bay must be just up the road from Whitsborough Bay (inspired by a mix of Scarborough and Whitby!) so maybe our characters will cross fictional paths at some point! We feel like several of us are getting close so I can’t wait to be pulling together the start of 2015’s posting, as you say. Will be very exciting! Happy writing and I hope we can meet up in the next few months. Best wishes
      Julie xx

  2. Wow, what a busy lot we’ve been and my goodness we are all going for it in 2104! Good luck to us all and keep up the good work. Hi also to Sharon, thanks for the lovely comment and good luck with your writing!

  3. Just echoing what Rachael and Julie have said! Sometimes it’s hard to see the progress being made in the midst of it all and those badges of honour, but we certainly have achieved a lot in 2013 with some really exciting prospects in 2014. Thanks for your comments, Sharon, it sounds like you might have some fab news of your own by this time next year 🙂 xx

  4. Lovely to hear from Sharon…and best of luck with your writing 🙂

    Just arrived home to Sydney so my New Years resolutions start today…healthy eating of course, and tonight, lots of writing.

    Helen R x

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