We’re delighted to welcome Jules Wake to the Saturday Spotlight. As members and graduates of the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, we’re always fascinated to hear stories of how other NWS members secure an agent, a publishing deal or both.
Between us, we range from Year 2 to Year Too Many To Recall in the NWS! Today, Jules is going to talk to us about her six years on the scheme. If you’re on the scheme now, we’re sure this will be great encouragement for you and, if you’re thinking about joining, it should help you make that firm decision too.
Over to Jules and some lovely pictures from her book launch …
At the moment just having had my debut novel published, thanks to the NWS, I’m in the handy position of having four more complete books tucked away in my bottom drawer and I’m a quarter of the way through the sixth. This is my journey to publication via the wonderful NWS.
One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is that they keep re-visiting and polishing their first work. I guess I was lucky in that my first submission to the New Writers Scheme, in the days when you were offered two reads, did get a second read. Both reports were glowing and suggested I try to get an agent.
It meant that if I wanted to stay in the RNA I needed to sign up for the NWS the next year. I was determined to submit a full manuscript so I started a new novel for that year.
The feedback this time wasn’t so wonderful. When it first dropped through the letterbox a scant five days after I’d submitted it to Melanie Hilton, I felt that the report got it wrong. One of the reader’s views was that it was too much of a ‘cross-genre’ and there were various other criticisms. After such a glowing report the previous year, this was quite a set back and for a week I took it very personally.
And that is one of the hardest parts of being a writer, taking and acting on constructive criticism. But, and this is a very big but, why bother asking an expert if you’re not going to act upon it or at least listen with an open mind to what they have to say?
After a week of feeling aggrieved, I re-read the report and applied myself to re-writing the ms and addressing the points my reader had made. I learnt a huge amount from that report, although at the time I didn’t realise it. Today I re-read it and with what I know now, I can see that it was very honest, bang on the money and offered lots of constructive criticism that luckily I did take on board.
The disappointment of Year 2 made me start a third novel, which again didn’t get a second read from the NWS but again I received several pages of hugely useful advice. Reading that critique now, it’s so obvious that its painful – the book suffered from a lack of clear understanding of the characters motivations and goals. I could write, I could plot and I could complete a 100K word manuscript but I just didn’t have a good handle on the technical aspects of novel writing.
So onto year 4 of the New Writers Scheme and a new book. Again only one read but lots of suggestions and advice. This time I took notice.
With other commitments I knew I wouldn’t get another book written ready for the August deadline, so I decided to focus on a re-write of book 4 addressing all of the points raised in the report. To my delight I received two glowing reports, along with that all invaluable advice and tips.
I made amendments and sent this ms out to agents. Lo and behold not one but two agents asked for a full. I was thrilled to bits … until they both came back with a polite rejection. One of them, however had taken the trouble to give a considerable amount of feedback. I wrote back thanking her for her time and expressing gratitude for her comments and asked if she would mind if I submitted my next book the following year. In hindsight this was a smart move. One it told the agent, I was serious about writing, two that I was business-like, three that I could write a book a year and four gave me an opening the following year with her.
I submitted my application to re-join the NWS in 2013 and then three weeks into January got the email! An invite to meet a publisher I’d submitted my first NWS book to. It had undergone a considerable re-write, principally because Choc Lit ask for the male POV and I’d written it all in first person.
Choc Lit offered me a contract and my debut novel Talk To Me came out in paperback on June 6 of this year.
I still had my NWS membership so decided to submit book 5 for what would be my last time. The report was the best yet, with the line ‘Frankly if you don’t find a publisher with this I’ll eat my hat!’
Again there were a few constructive points which I took on board and then I started submitting to agents. Three carefully chosen ones, all of whom I had been submitting to each year. I didn’t hear a thing. Three months later I decided to have one last shot at getting an agent and picked out five suitable targets. (I could write a whole other blog on targeting an agent)
I sent out five submissions on the Thursday. On Monday I received a call from a top London literary agent asking if I’d had their email. What email? Would you believe possibly one of the most important emails of my life had gone into my spam box! She wanted to read the full ms.
Would you believe it, two days later one of the original agents came back and requested the full ms? Unfortunately I’d just sent it off on an exclusive basis. What to do? Admit that? Would she then still want it, if the other agent subsequently rejected it? In the meantime another agent expressed interest … honestly it was like buses!
To cut a long story short (yes another possible blog post), both agents were at the RNA party a week later and I was able to meet and chat with both. I knew as soon as I got chatting to one of them, that she was someone I could work with.
So I now have an agent and one published book. I’d have achieved neither without the RNA’s amazing New Writers Scheme. I don’t know any of my readers but I offer a heart-felt thanks to every single one of them, for the time they took to read my ms and the detailed, honest and constructive feedback that they provided with absolutely no obligation.
Those reports can be absolute gold dust, I urge you to read, re-read and take note of the positives as well as the negatives. Most of all, I really do suggest you don’t keep re-visiting and resubmitting the same novel.
Thanks to Jules for joining us and sharing. We were delighted to have the opportunity to meet her during the recent RNA Conference and hear more about her personal journey to publication so it’s great to be able to have her as a blog guest.