Five things we wish we’d known five years ago (Part 2)

Our final post in celebration of our five-year anniversary is the second half of five things we wish we’d know five years ago. This time it’s our five southern-based WRs to share their experiences.

Over to them …

Jessica xx

 

LYNNE PARDOE:
DSCN17015 things I wish I’d known:

  1. How to set up websites, Twitter & Facebook accounts
  2. How much I’d enjoy using those accounts once I’d done them!
  3. How to go about self publishing – its quite a learning curve and I still haven’t even tackled paperback books!!
  4. How easy it is to get distracted by the internet, friends seeking coffee, outings to exciting places etc.
  5. How much I’d enjoy the whole thing – I’ve made some lovely new friends, learnt things like how to speak at literary events, learnt a lot about a new industry and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process!!!

You can find Lynne’s Author Page on Amazon here.

 

HELEN J ROLFE:
HelenJRolfeI’m afraid I can’t give 5 things I wish I’d known. Perhaps the only way I’d answer this is to say that I’ve realised it’s a continuous journey. There’s so much to learn along the way, publishing changes all the time, but the one constant is how much writers support one another. Which stops me from going insane at everything I still don’t know!

You can find Helen’s Author Page on Amazon here.

 

JACKIE LADBURY:

Things wot I have learned:

  1. Friends and family don’t really understand how important being published is
  2. conf 2014 12Being published is important, but friends and family are more so
  3. Life is for living and sometimes it’s easy to let ‘the writing thing’ get in the way of spending time with – yes, friends and family
  4. If writing starts to become a chore or deadlines make the whole thing unenjoyable, take time out to remove the pressure– self-publishing is great for that, you can work at your own pace and miss as many deadlines as you please ‪:-)
  5. Keep a sense of humour – even when your Amazon rankings are dreadful, you’ve had a two star Amazon review and even your husband can’t be arsed to read your books – none of it is really that important in the grand scheme of things.

You can find Jackie’s Author Page on Amazon here.

 

DEIRDRE PALMER:

new author picI’ve learned so much, about writing, publishing, promotion, etc, as I’ve gone along, and as I reach this point I believe I’m a better writer, and, hopefully, wiser. However, I can’t think of anything I wish I had known at the beginning. What I’ve learned is based on experience and couldn’t have been picked up any other way. The highs and the lows have taken different forms from what I’d imagined, and it’s much harder work than I’d anticipated, but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. 

You can find Deirdre’s Author Page on Amazon here.

She also writes as Zara Thorne, whose Author Page is here.

 

JO BARTLETT:
SEB 1Things I wish I’d known five years ago:
1. That in five years time, loads of my writing dreams would have come true
2. That disappointments and bumps along the road really can lead you to a different, but better, path
3. That no matter what ambitions I fulfil, I’ll still want more
4. That it’s impossible to write a novel that everyone will like
5. That writer’s bottom isn’t a myth… although perhaps I’m glad I didn’t know that!

You can find Jo’s Author Page on Amazon here.

 

Thank you so much for joining us for our series of posts following our five-year anniversary. We don’t blog as much as we used to which in some ways saddens me but then I remind myself that the reason we don’t blog so much is that we’ve all become published writers and simply don’t have the time to devote to the blog that we had when we first formed and were on the first rung of the ladder.

We will continue to post about new releases and share the occasional post or interview, but most of us have our own blogs/websites to populate too.

Some of us are retired and write whilst enjoying that, some have left work to be a full-time writer, some work part-time, and some balance this alongside a full-time role. And, for all of us, there are never enough hours in the day to achieve everything we want to.

Thank you for any part you have played in our journey and we wish you all the best, wherever your reading and/or writing takes you in the future.

There are ten of us.

Five years ago, we had one indie-published novel between us.

Now we have 69.

Dreams really do come true 🙂

Jessica xx

5. Finale

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The tricky business of writing a sequel

two books new

After Dirty Weekend was published (August 2015, Crooked Cat), ideas for a sequel began to arrive.  I loved those characters, and knew I wanted to spend more time with them.  Dirty Weekend was set in the autumn of 1966, and Moonshine (April 2017, Crooked Cat) moves the story on to the summer of 1969.

It was my first attempt at a sequel, and I knew I had to get the balance right.  I had to write the new book so that it could be enjoyed by readers who hadn’t read Dirty Weekend, while at the same time giving a sense of continuity from one story to the other.  Naturally, the second book gives away a little of the story of the first.  For example, Terry and Carol-Anne now have a two year-old, Donna.  I had to get to know her, and she turns out to be a carbon copy of Carol-Anne, with charm in shedloads and a wilful personality.

Three of the main characters in Dirty Weekend return in Moonshine – Carol-Anne, Terry, and Mark.  I sent Jeanette, the focus of the drama in Dirty Weekend, to Canada, and in her place we have Mark’s new girlfriend, Vicki.  This time, the group head off on holiday not to Brighton, but to Torbay.  Carol-Anne’s teenage sister, Beverly, plays a big part in Moonshine.  She causes havoc on the night of the Apollo 11 space mission, while the others are watching the moon-walk on television in the holiday camp clubhouse.

Knowing most of characters so well definitely helped me write them into the sequel.  They’re now 21, and have learned a lot about life since the first book, but not so much that they can avoid trouble altogether!  The year 1969 also signified much change in Britain, and I hope I’ve given a flavour of that whilst showing how my characters have changed and developed.

Dirty Weekend and Moonshine are different in style from my other two books, Remarkable Things and Never Coming Back.  The sixties backdrop and the scrapes my young characters get into lend themselves to comedy and fast-paced writing.  This lot don’t spend a lot of time on introspection – they’re out in the world, getting on with life.  I hope you love them as much as I do.

Deirdre

Amazon links to both books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Moonshine-Sequel-Weekend-Deirdre-Palmer-ebook/dp/B06XXQNV39/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491727927&sr=1-1&keywords=deirdre+palmer

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dirty-Weekend-Deirdre-Palmer-ebook/dp/B012TODCZO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1479315120&sr=1-3

 

 

 

Happy 3rd Birthday to us!

1st April is a special day for the Write Romantics. It’s our 3rd birthday!

When Jo Bartlett and I ‘met’ virtually through the Romantic Novelists’ Association and came up with the idea of blogging together, we were two unpublished writers who weren’t even ready to submit our manuscripts. We realised quite quickly that we were going to struggle to post regularly about our ‘not quite ready to explore being published’ status, so we invited a few more RNA members to join in. The Write Romantics grew from two to ten, dipped down to nine for a while, then went back up to ten again.

One of the fascinating aspects of this group of female writers (other than the fact that we have never all been in the same place at the same time (except virtually) and therefore haven’t all physically met yet), is that we were nearly all aspiring writers when we joined forces. Only one of the group had a publishing deal. Move forward three years and it’s a very different picture.

We thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the Write Romantics to tell you about their last three years.

Jessica xx

book14Jo Bartlett

Three years ago, I was unpublished and dreaming of one day walking into a bookshop and seeing my name on the cover of a novel on sale there. I’d just finished my debut novel and was sending it out to publishers… Fast forward three years and my novel, Among a Thousand Stars, has now been out for nine months with So Vain Books and I have my coveted paperback! I’ve also had two pocket novels published by DC Thomson, so I got to see my name on a book in WHSmiths on several occasions. Both novels were picked up by Ulverscroft, a third pocket novel has just gone in to DC Thomson and I have also had a short story published with them in The People’s Friend. In the second half of last year, I signed a women’s fiction four book deal with Accent Press, the first two books will be coming out in 2016 and the second two next year. AATS CoverIn October, I finished second in the WHSmiths/Kobo/Harlequin romance writing competition and I am currently working with an editor at the world’s most famous romance publishing house on something that will be a significant departure for me and hence is being written under another name. Most of this has happened in the past twelve months and I definitely don’t appreciate how far I’ve come in three years for the vast majority of the time. Seeing it all written down like this makes a big difference though and, for once, I feel like there’s something to celebrate. The WRs birthday is the perfect excuse!

1503592_740127342771174_6884382549832304505_n

100% genuine *cough*

Sharon Booth

Gosh! Three years ago I wasn’t part of the Write Romantics. In fact, I hadn’t heard of them (sorry!) I started writing my first full-length novel in November of that year, for NaNoWriMo. I met Jessica and Alys in June of 2014, having connected with Alys on Romna, as we were members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. I had a half-baked, patchwork story called Angel in the Marble, and was convinced it was rubbish. Jessica and Alys persuaded me to work on it and submit it to the RNA. I did, and got very positive and encouraging feedback. That September, I was invited to join the Write Romantics This Other Eden ebook cover V4 (1)(yay!) and in November, we released a charity anthology, Winter Tales, which included my short story, The Other Side of Christmas. I got Angel in the Marble edited and proofread, changed its name to There Must Be An Angel, and it was published in March 2015. Now I’m on the brink of publishing my third full-length novel, This Other Eden, having also had a pocket novel published by DC Thomson, and another short story in print, this time for The People’s Friend. Things really started to happen for me when I met the Write Romantics, so I’m very grateful to be part of this lovely group.

Jackie Ladbury

conf 2014 12In April 2013 I was faffing around with at least three half written books on the go. I now have three fully written books and am still faffing around! Have decided to pitch three novels as airline series and am finally getting my act together with A Plan! (I think!) Was shortlisted for a Mills and Boon first chapter competition and that complete novel is now part of The Plan. Am considering self-publishing another novel, but thinking about it makes me want to have a lie down, or take to the bottle. Could do that in reverse order I suppose!

my pic for blog postDeirdre Palmer

When we began, I was in the midst of submitting my novel, Remarkable Things, which has themes of motherhood, family relationships and later-life love. More revisions and another year on, I finally secured that elusive FINAL FINAL COVER with taglinecontract, and the book was published by Crooked Cat. Meanwhile, I’d written a 1960s’ comedy drama called Dirty Weekend, which Crooked Cat also published, a few months after the first. An excellent year! Now I’ve just finished another novel and started on another, the sequel to Dirty Weekend. Looking back, I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved in the last three years 🙂

 

DSCN1701Lynne Pardoe

I had barely started my first novel three years ago when my mum became ill. Stuck for things to speak about mum and I talked about my plot, the more it took shape, the quicker I wrote it! That was eventually sold to D.C.Thompson and it came out in January 2015 as ‘Made for Each Other.’ Since then I self published ‘Please Adopt Me‘ on Amazon at first. Now I’m just waiting for my second to be edited and am well into my third! I’m loving having a cottage industry all to myself and so are my readers, judging by the quantity of good reviews I have!! 🙂

helen phiferHelen Phifer

Three years ago I’d been offered my first two book contract with Carina and I was busy working on the rewrites for my debut novel The Ghost House. Which was to be published in October. Now I’m in the middle of writing my sixth Annie Graham novel. Book five The Girls in the Woods was published in January and I have a paperback of The Ghost House on my shelf, plus I have a standalone horror story that will be published by Carina in September and Annie book six will be published around December 2016. I’m in the process of something very exciting for next year which will take me in a whole different direction as I’m working on a brand new crime series. Which I’ll share with you once it’s all finalised. All in all, I’m one very busy, extremely happy writer.

 

_MG_4982Jessica Redland

‪In April 2013, I was working on my debut novel, Searching for Steven. It had gone through the RNA’s NWS once and I was preparing to put it through the NWS for a second time later that year because I’d made significant changes to it. The idea of becoming published was a distant dream. Eighteen months later, I received two publishing deals and decided to go with a new UK-based publisher Screenshot 2015-12-16 18.08.14called So Vain Books. In June 2015, Searching for Steven was released. It’s the first book in a trilogy of romantic comedies with deeper issues set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town called Whitsborough Bay. The follow up, Getting Over Gary, was released last month
and the final part of the trilogy will be out in August this year. I’ve also released a novella, Raving About Rhys, which is set in the same town but with a different cast of characters. I have a deadline for submission of book 3 in about six weeks’ time then I get to write something new which is incredibly exciting. It’s been an amazing few years. Eek! Dreams really can come true 🙂

 

Author photo - Helen J RolfeHelen J Rolfe

Three years ago, I was getting ready to send my second attempt at a novel to the RNA NWS. As I was living in Australia this was always interesting at a cost of more than a hundred dollars plus an anxious wait to find out whether it had arrived in the UK safely. But it was so worth it! ‪Three years on and that novel, The Friendship Tree, was the first of three I have had published. I went on to indie publish Handle Me with Care and What Rosie Found Next  and I have another two novels already in the pipeline. ‪It’s been an interesting and busy time but a lot of fun. I’ve learnt so much about writing and the publishing industry and I’m hoping the next three years bring just as much success for all The Write Romantics!

CoverTheFriendshipTree

Handle Me with Care final front cover - for KDPWhat Rosie Found Next - bookcover - KDP version

 

 

 

 

 

photo (10)Rachael Thomas

In April 2013 I had just had my latest rejection and as usual was gutted. After the customary sulk, I began work on my next book, which I submitted to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition in September 2013. That book made it to the Top 10 at the end of the year and Christmas 2013 saw me working on revisions which I submitted early in 2014 and within two weeks, I The Sheikh's Last Mistress-UK covergot ‘the call’. My debut, A Deal Before the Altar was published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in October 2014. Now three years on from the launch of The Write Romantics blog my sixth book, The Sheikh’s Last Mistress is about to be released. What is even more special, is that this book is a rewrite of the one rejected in April 2013, which just goes to show, nothing you write is ever wasted. Happy Birthday everyone!

Alys West Christmas 2015Alys West

Three years ago, I was working on the first book of an urban fantasy trilogy, Beltane. My dream was to secure an agent and I was thrilled in summer 2014 to be invited to London to meet an agent who wanted to represent me! Since then, Beltane has been published and I’ve been working on the rest of the series. I’ve also discovered a new passion for steampunk and wrote a story called The Dirigible King’s Daughter which I released on Wattpad. It’s been fascinating reading feedback from those who’ve followed the release of each chapter. The Dirigible King’s Daughter will be available on Amazon in the early summer. My novel writing is taking a bit of a back seat at the Beltane finalmoment because I’m studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing, but I’ll be back to it very soon.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of the last three years. If you’re just starting your writing journey, or you’re submitting and dealing with rejections at the moment, please keep on believing in your work because, as you can see from our summaries, dreams really do come true xxx

 

 

 

 

 

Aspiring writers step away from the scorpions! The WRs are here to tell you why…

Hello and happy bank holiday weekend!

If you’re a regular follower of our blog, you’ll know that a Saturday normally means The Saturday Spotlight in which we interview writers at all stages in their career – aspiring to chart-topping, indie or traditional – as well as the occasional interview with an editor, publisher or agent. Today, though, we’re doing something a little bit different. We want a little exploration of the past, present, and future of the Write Romantics…

conf 2014 10In the beginning, there were just a pair of Write Romantics. Jo and I ‘met’ when I was in my first year of the RNA’s NWS and Jo was in her second year. I’d finally got around to joining Romna, the RNA’s online community, where newbies are invited to introduce themselves so I tapped in a “hi, this is me” kind of email. Jo immediately contacted me as we shared a writing genre and other interests. A friendship was instantly formed and we exchanged incredibly long and detailed emails over the next few months. In early 2013, the idea developed to set up a blog. We found our name, we found a format, and away we went. But it soon became apparent that finding enough writing-related things to say to regularly contribute to a blog when there were just two of us, neither of whom were ready to seek a publishing deal, was going to be a massive problem. But a problem shared is a problem halved. Or tenth-ed in our case because we put an offer out on Romna to extend the group and were quite overwhelmed to find eight other writers who wanted to join us. Phew. Because it could have been a bit embarrassing if we’d had no response!

Conf 2014 3We don’t mind admitting that we hadn’t a clue what we were doing! None of us were expert bloggers. In fact, we weren’t bloggers at all! I’d set up a blog a couple of months previously following my journey to get fit and lose half my body weight through a beach-based bootcamp (which I still run although I’m slightly ashamed to say that I’m still, 2.5 years on, trying to lose half my body weight – oops!) so I had a little bit of experience of regularly posting, and Rachael had some experience of being part of a writing group who blogged, but that was it. So we had to pretty much start from scratch.

It’s been great working together as a team to develop the format for the blog into the regular bi-weekly slots we have now. We all contribute posts and we all bring interview guests to the party. Two years ago, after about 4-5 months of blogging together, we asked the WRs if they’d like to re-affirm their commitment. Were they happy with what we were doing? Was it what they expected? Did they have the enthusiasm and willingness to really move the blog forward and start posting more regularly? At that point, one of the WRs decided to dip out because her commitments outside writing meant she was going to struggle to contribute and, for a year, we were nine. Then last September, we asked Sharon to join us. I’d met Sharon the year before, as had WR Alys, and she’d become a great supporter of the group. She already felt like one of us so it was a natural step to officially invite her into the fold, restoring the power of 10.

Although we live all over the country – Cumbria, North & East Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Wales, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Somerset, Kent (hope I haven’t missed anywhere!) – and have never all been in the same place at the same time, we’ve become really close through the power of social media. We’ve celebrated the highs, sympathised during the lows, built each other up during down moments, and learned from the various paths the group’s writing journeys have gone down. It’s often said that writing can be a lonely business but the WRs are never really alone and we’d massively recommend all writers find themselves a support network, whether that’s a writing partner or a large group like ours. We’re all convinced that some of the amazing things that have happened to the group over the last couple of years have been thanks in part to the support and encouragement of the group. So what are those amazing things? I’ll hand over to Jo to let you know more …

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\'id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\’id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

‘What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…’ or so Dinah Washington’s song goes. It might have taken more like twenty four months since deciding we wanted to stay Write Romantics, as Jessica says above, for our fortunes to really change, but the sentiment’s exactly the same. Even on our down days, when we do consider giving up to take up scorpion petting instead, as one of the Facebook jokes about writing goes, it’s been a pretty incredible two years.

If you’d told us back then what we might have achieved by now, we’d probably have given you a bitter little laugh – how little you knew. Most of us were wearing the battle scars of rejection already and some had been pursuing the publishing dream for ten years or more. Did we give up? No, but boy did we talk about giving up! That’s the beauty of the group though, just when you are about to put a down payment on a pair of breeding scorpions, someone is there to talk you off that particular ledge.

I’m about to give you a round-up of what those two years has seen for us. Not because the WRs like to big themselves up, as my kids would say; in fact, the other eight don’t even know Jessica and I are doing this and they’ll probably cringe when we sing their praises. The reason we are writing this blog is the opposite. It’s because we remember exactly what it’s like to be an aspiring writer – not one who used to write for Tatler or produce radio plays for the BBC and has the sort of connections you don’t get when the height of your networking involves spotting Bob Geldof buying carrots in your local branch of Tesco – but ordinary people who just love to write.

Is it really possible to get published if that’s your starting point or will it only ever be your mum who downloads a self-published tome from Amazon, as you languish at chart position number three million and thirty two? We want to tell you, if you are an NWS member reading this, or an aspiring writer of any sort, that it’s not only possible but there are lots of ways to get your work out there and, whether indie, traditionally published or some hybrid of the two, there are also lots of ways to measure success. Not everyone is lucky enough to be part of a group like this, who will tell you to step away from the scorpions, but we hope reading a round-up of our journeys so far will reassure you that if you keep going, it can happen for you too.

So what is it we’ve done? Well, being of a certain age – I think Helen R was just clinging to her thirties when we first joined together, but we are now all in our forties or beyond – I think IMG_0076most of us dreamed of having a paperback with our name on and maybe even seeing that on the shelves of WHSmiths or Waterstones. Okay, so we know that all the statistics reveal that books in the commercial genres we write in sell better as ebooks than in print, but we’ve had this dream since before Kindle was even a twinkle in Amazon’s eye. So are we living the dream? Well, of the ten of us, eight of us now have paperbacks out there or are in the process of going in to print and four of us have had books in WHsmiths and/or Waterstones and supermarkets, with Jessica’s about to appear in some of the Yorkshire Waterstones really soon and Sharon’s pocket novel hitting the shelves in October. Nothing beats seeing your book on the shelf, despite how times have moved on… although being caught taking a selfie with it is a bit embarrassing, hence me using my son as bait in Smiths! Our books are also starting to hit the shelves of libraries too, with Jessica leading that particular charge.

Helen P, Rachael, Jessica and Sharon all have multi-book deals with the same publisher and I’m awaiting finalisation of my contract before revealing some news of my own on that front.  We’ve also seen the launch of The Write Romantic Press for our anthology and a number of us have dipped our toes into the world of indie publishing, with Lynne riding consistently high in the charts with her first indie published title. Fabrian Books, which started off as a small indie publisher, is now handing over the ownership to its authors, giving them the benefits of having more of a say in their publishing journeys and hoping to follow in the footsteps of other publishing cooperatives like The Notting Hill press, with two of the Write Romantics breaking new ground in this exciting venture of what’s termed publishing’s ‘third way’.

We’ve had almost twenty five books published (or about to be) between the ten of us, through publishers including Carina, Crooked Cat, DC Thomson, Fabrian Books, Mills and Boon and So Vain Books, with more news pending and work under consideration by a number of places that are the stuff of dreams, including the BBC no less!

Chart position wise, Deirdre, Helen R, Jessica, Sharon, Lynne and myself have all appeared in the top hundred or higher of our genre charts at one stage or another, with a number in the top ten. Helen P and Rachael have hit even dizzier heights than that though, with Helen P regularly knocking her own hero, Stephen King, off the top spot and Rachael hitting number two across the hugely competitive Mills and Boons chart, although the rest of us know that the number one spot is hers for the taking.

author 2Alys secured something else we’ve all dreamt of at one stage on another, with agent representation, and her debut novel will be out in time for Christmas. Jackie made the top ten shortlist of a hotly fought Mills and Boons contest and is about to make a round of submissions which we are sure will see all ten WRs published by 2016.

So for all you NWS members who’ve recently submitted your manuscripts – or, if you are like I used to be, who’ve just run down to the post office to send it last minute, days before the deadline, with your hair stuck to your forehead and a hopeful surge in your heart as you send it off – or if you’re an aspiring writer of any sort, it can happen. There’s a hackneyed phrase that says the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer, is that the former never gave up. It’s the sort of advice that used to make me want to French-kiss a scorpion after yet another rejection, but believe me it’s true. So step away from the poisonous arthropod and keep going, it really is worth it in the end.

Jo and Jessica xx

Mega Monday Book Launch: Dirty Weekend (and my tribute to Cilla Black) by Deirdre

FINAL FINAL COVER with taglineIt seems like only yesterday I was knocking back the champers to celebrate the release of my first traditionally-published novel, Remarkable Things.  Now, just three months later, here I am with the second!

But hold back on the gasps of wonder – the small gap is not a sign of my hard work and dedication to the job.  It’s all in the timing, as I had already written most of Dirty Weekend whilst tally-ho-ing my way across the bumpy publishing terrain in pursuit of that elusive contract for Remarkable Things.

I’d always planned to write a book set in the 1960s, one day.  Well, it was ‘my time’ after all, and they do say write what you know.  When I merrily signed up to NaNoWriMo with about five minutes to spare, I did it with no prior thought as to the kind of book I was going to write.  All I knew was that it had to be easy and fast-paced, which suggested humour and young characters – in this case, eighteen year-olds – and then the era just came along with that.

Naturally, I didn’t succeed in hitting the NaNo target, but that wasn’t the intention.  I did get a whole lot of words down in the time, though, and that was a most satisfying experience.

As I say, there is humour in Dirty Weekend – at least I hope it raises a smile or two – but there’s a deeper, darker side, too.  I was surprised to find that one of the most enjoyable scenes to write was the one with the most violence.  I’m not quite sure what that says about me!

And I know it’s a writer’s cliché, but once I’d finished the book, I really missed my four main characters –  Carol-Anne, Terry, Mark, and Jeanette.  Obligingly, they lived for me through the pages, and I suspect I haven’t seen the last of them.

If you download the book, thank you, and I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did in the writing.

Dirty Weekend will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 4th August, at the special introductory price of 99p.

Deirdre

PS. It was while I was finishing this piece that I was saddened to learn of the death of Cilla Black. For us, Cilla was the sixties. We danced to her music, copied her fashions, and used up gallons of hairspray trying to get our kiss-curls to stay in place – like Cilla’s.  International singing star and friend of the Beatles she may have been, but she had no airs and graces.  She was one of us.  So, thank you, Cilla, and God bless. x

Dealing with Rejection by Alys

I got two rejections last week.  One of the upsides of having an agent is that those emails don’t come directly to me anymore.  But one of the downsides is that my agent seems to store them up and I tend to hear about two at a time which is a real double whammy.  I also get more feedback these days as the editors give at least a line or two about the book, giving a couple of positives before they get to the reason why they turned it down.

Doubt Kills More Dreams

I thought the feedback would be a good thing, give me an idea of what I need to work on in my writing.  But they’re so contradictory that I don’t know what to take from them.  One of this week’s rejections said they didn’t like Maeve, the antagonist, whereas an editor who turned me down before Christmas said Maeve was a great character.  It’s making me realise how hugely subjective the whole thing is.  What one editor loves, another says doesn’t work for them.  And what should I take from the comment that ‘they didn’t sufficiently connect with the heroine’?  Is that in my writing or is it just a personal reaction? I can think of dozens of books where I didn’t love the heroine but I still enjoyed the book.  Do editors need to feel a deep personal connection with all the characters to take a book on?

I’m getting better with rejections though.  These two made me mutter and moan for about half an hour whereas when I first started submitting rejections could knock me back for days.  Of course, it helps if there’s a few positives in there as well.  One of these said that Beltane was ‘crisply written’ which took some of the sting out of it.

I asked the other Write Romantics if they’d had any really positive rejections.  Jessica got a reply from an agent that said:

‘There’s an awful lot I like about it.  However I am afraid in the current tough market I do have to be completely bowled over by something to take it on….I’m sorry that it’s been a near miss for me.”

rejection

Jo received this lovely rejection from a publisher:

‘As we are finding the market so competitive at the moment, we will unfortunately have to pass on the book, but personally I think you have great potential and would encourage you to keep going as you have qualities we have previously seen in other newbie authors who have made it big.’ 

Both Jessica and Jo said that these emails kept them going through the dark days of other less tactful rejections.

And we’ve had some of those.  Helen R received:

‘Sorry but this market has collapsed and I don’t think we could find a publisher for this.’

Fortunately she can laugh about it now (particularly as Crooked Cat are publishing her novel next month) but it must have hurt at the time.  My worst one was from a very well-known agent who gave me the standard two line rejection and then tried to sell me her book on understanding the publishing industry.

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I know rejections are part of the process and if I talk to non-writers about it they always quote J K Rowling.  Everyone forgets how many times she was rejected (apparently it was twelve which doesn’t seem that many to me anymore!) but it’s become urban myth that she was knocked back a lot.  Margaret Mitchell got 38 rejections before she found a publisher for Gone with the Wind and Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit and look how well that worked out!  Louise M Alcott was told not to give up teaching and it took Agatha Christie 5 years to land a publishing deal.

So if you’re feeling down about a rejections try to remember that you’re in really great company.  Pretty much every writer I can think of, other than PD James and Georgette Heyer, have been turned down.  Which just goes to show that editors are as prone to mistakes as the rest of us.  Except perhaps the editor who told Dan Brown’s agent ‘it’s so badly written’; he might just have had a point!

If you’ve had any particularly unhelpful or really positive rejections then we’d love to hear about them.  You can leave us a comment by clicking where it says ‘Leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Saturday afternoons at the museum, by Deirdre

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As writers we find inspiration in all kinds of places, but there’s one source it’s easy to overlook – a museum.  I don’t spend hours traipsing around museums, in case you were wondering – I’m not that cultural – but on Saturday afternoons when I used to see my Aunt Peggy she would always want to go out, whatever the weather, and the museum was convenient and warm – and free. We always managed to find something new and fascinating to look at, and although Peggy has gone now, I still like to pop in when I’m nearby.

sofaBrighton Museum is in the grounds of the Royal Pavilion, and it’s not all about ancient relics.  One of the first things you see is a 1970s Italian-made sofa shaped like a huge baseball glove.  Imagine it in somebody’s home.  Is the owner a young man with a love of sport and a penchant for cutting-edge design?  Does he live in a glass-fronted apartment, a remote country mansion or a crumbling Edwardian villa?  Who sits beside him on the sofa?  His wife, his lover, his best mate?  Or is he a loner, surrounding himself with beautiful things while keeping the world away from his door?  The sofa might not be in anyone’s home.  It might be the prize lot in an auction room.  Who will bid for it, and why is it so important they win it?  Take any of these scenarios and a whole cast of characters emerges, along with the seeds of a plot if you’re lucky.

This beautiful little bag from the costume collection could have been handed down bagthrough the generations.  Who owns it now, and what does it mean to her?  And how about a 1901 postcard entitled ‘Off to Brighton’ with the handwritten message on the back: ‘Dearest May, Could Mother send a chicken on Tuesday, if so could you send a card, hope Mart got home safe, Much Love Es’ ?  There, in the briefest of messages on a humble postcard, is a ready-cat postcardmade family with all their stories and adventures waiting to be written.

 We have a smaller museum in Hove which houses a collection of toys from bygone days as well as all kinds of weird and wonderful objects.  Last year they held a special exhibition about all things blue in nature.  You might then think of blue eyes, a blue dress, aBooth Museum Blue ring with a precious blue stone, and there’s a brand new heroine emerging when you thought you were simply admiring a butterfly.   Or you might just come up with a book title containing the word ‘blue’ and let the story follow.

A couple of times a year I meet up with a friend in London and before we gravitate towards wine and lunch, we fit in something touristy and vaguely cultural.  Once we went to the Foundling Hospital Museum in Bloomsbury, and there I found the theme for my novel ‘Remarkable Things’, to be published by Crooked Cat Publishing.  In the mid-18th century, mothers giving up their babies to the institution would leave with them small objects, some ornate and made of valuable materials, others scrappy and grimy.  These tokens were a unique way for mothers to identify themselves should they ever return to reclaim their child.  Among the examples I saw were a thimble, a doll’s arm, a ribbon and a hazelnut shell.  token picture 2You can’t help but be moved by such things, and I was at the time, but it wasn’t until afterwards when I was reading the leaflet I’d picked up that I had the idea for a story based around the tokens.  But I didn’t want to write a historical so I took the idea of a collection of keepsakes being left with a baby being given up for adoption and brought it into in more modern times.  The story begins in 1955 with the birth of the baby, then moves to the present day, with the tokens being a recurring theme throughout.

If you’re like me you’ll want to commit your ideas to paper as soon as you can in case they slip away, which is when you head to the museum café and indulge yourself with coffee and cake while you scribble away in your notebook.

Deirdre

(Sofa, bag, butterfly and postcard images are reproduced here by courtesy of The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove)