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I absolutely love writing, and would be lost without it. It’s a part of me, as much as the colour of my eyes or the freckles on my nose, and I count myself lucky every day to be a published author. But I won’t lie – it’s not easy. Writing is hard, getting published is hard, and staying published is even harder. There’s no use denying it, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt since starting my writing journey way back in 2001, it’s that you need to have persistence as well as passion. You also need to be able to cope with and overcome writer’s block! (Yes, it exists!)
I started writing seriously for publication in 2001 as a single mum in my early twenties, when my daughter was a baby. At the time I was writing shorter category romances aimed at Mills & Boon. While I was never published by them, I was lucky enough to get some great feedback from them and another publisher, as well as getting as far as an acquisition meeting, which gave me confidence that I could write, even it wasn’t my time yet.
Fast forward seven years. During that time I’d put my writing aside to concentrate on my HR career, undertake a qualification, and have my son (having met my now ex-husband in the intervening period) but had kept my hand in with writing/reading by being a judge for the RNA awards (Romantic Novelists Association). Then I became seriously ill in 2008 with a rare stomach disorder, and while what followed was a year of physical and emotional challenges, culminating with surgery that was thankfully successful, that experience gave me something I had been lacking; perspective, and the motivation to write again. Sitting on a hospital bed one day, six weeks before the operation that would change my life, I asked myself what I would regret not doing if I didn’t make it, or if the surgery wasn’t a success and my quality of life wouldn’t allow for the busy lifestyle I’d led before falling ill. I’ve never fulfilled my dream of writing and publishing a book, I thought. In that moment, I promised myself that if I recovered, I would do everything I could to achieve that dream.
What followed was years of me keeping that promise to myself. I started with short stories and articles to get back in the habit of writing, and entered competitions with them. I wrote the outline for a novel, which had its emotional roots in my experience of being seriously ill. I joined the Romantic Novelists Association as part of their New Writers Scheme, so that I could have a manuscript critiqued by an agent/author/publisher. I attended the Festival of Romance, at which I was part of a writing workshop and chaired an industry panel, and went to RNA conferences. I read a lot of books – both novels and non-fiction creative writing/publishing ones – and I wrote and wrote and wrote. Along the way I achieved:-
– Finalist in The Writer’s Handbook 2010 ‘How to Write a Bestseller’ (non-fiction article)
– Honourable Mention for Romantic Novelists Association Elizabeth Goudge Trophy 2010 (short story), which was judged by Katie Fforde, who promptly called me, told me I was talented and that I must keep writing (I cried!)
– Attracted four and five-star reviews on Youwriteon.com (writing review website; short story)
– Top 20 Finalist in Novelicious Undiscovered 2012 (contemporary romance/Chick Lit novel)
– Was offered my first publication contract in June 2013 for my short story A Night to Remember in the Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply, released on 21 February 2014.
– Met my current Editor, Charlotte Ledger during a 1:1 slot at the RNA Conference 2013 and was offered a 4 work contract with the HarperCollins digital first romance imprint HarperImpulse very soon afterwards.
– My debut novel with HarperImpulse was later a Finalist for the RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award 2015.
To date I have published two novels, three short stories, five novellas (some in Italy as well as UK, US and Aus platforms), and have ideas for many more stories. I am fulfilling my dream and having a blast keeping that promise to myself (alongside my HR day job, raising a family and reading a lot of books!)
So, how did I do it?
A very succinct set of writer’s tips
1) If you want to be a writer, at some point you have to stop reading writing blogs, books and websites and actually WRITE (bum on seat, fingers on keyboard)
2) You can’t ever give up – persist, persist, persist! Take every knock-back on the chin and see it as a valuable step on your journey to publication. Rejection means you are out there, and trying.
3) Treat everyone as you would like to be treated – with kindness, respect and support
4) Join a writing class, circle and/or a writing association (surround yourself with people who understand that you inhabit your own world with your own characters and draw on other people’s personal and professional experience; most people are willing to share both – though sometimes it’s for a fee!)
5) Read – a lot – widely and in different genres, get to know your market, use the right tools, learn your craft e.g. refer to the Writers and Artists Handbook, study books on grammar etc
6) Listen to your instincts when it comes to your writing
7) Re-write, Re-write, Re-write
8) If you’re writing romance or women’s fiction, join the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme and get the MS critiqued. My debut novel went through the scheme three times and was better for it every time.
And above all? Remember to keep enjoying the journey.
Happy reading and writing,