March 2021 – Jericho Writers
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Our Articles

How Does Instafreebie Work?

How To Use Prolific Works To Promote Your Books Looking for an article on Instafreebie? It’s called Prolific Works now. Prolific Works (formerly Instafreebie) is a site that gives ebooks away free to anyone who wants them. That sounds nice for readers, but not great for authors, except that the giveaway comes with a sweet little wrinkle. Because, to collect their free ebook, readers must give you – the author – their email address. Here, for example, are what Prolific Works giveaway pages look like. You’ll see there’s a book cover. A “come and get it” headline. And an easy sign-up form. PW isn’t really a way of giving away books, then, rather a way to give away books in exchange for an email address. And since presumably no one downloads a British-set crime novel unless they are interested in reading British-set crime novels, the email addresses you collect are from the reader group you are seeking to target. Expert tip: when you set up your giveaway page, you’ll be asked whether you want to oblige readers to sign up to your email list, or whether you’re fine making it optional. In the old days, we used to urge people to make the sign-up mandatory, but with changes to the system post-GDPR rules, we now advise you to make the email list signup optional. Conversion rates will be lower, but those will be balanced out by much better visibility. So – sorry – but optional it is. How Does Anyone Find Your Giveaway Page? People will come to your giveaway page in one of two ways. You’ll have directed them there, via your blog, your social media activity, and all the rest. PW will highlight new, interesting giveaways using its own resources (it’s had millions of downloads from its site already and the firm only started in 2014). And who does Prolific Works choose to highlight? Just those authors who are most active in promoting their work. The more you do, the more they’ll do for you. It’s win-win. Expert tip: if you’re active on social media, use @prolific_works or in your Tweets. If you’re doing other good things, just drop them a short summary email so they can see what you’re up to, but don’t let your good work go unnoticed. You don’t need to badger them, though. Stay professional, not needy. Why The Book-For-Email Exchange Is Good (Even For ‘Lazy’ Authors) You and PW between you will promote your giveaway page. The reader gets a book. You get an email address. What next? You don’t want to spam or abuse the trust of that reader. You wouldn’t make money if you did, so how do you – honestly and honourably – use your ability to make direct contact with that reader? Even if you’re almost totally passive on Prolific Works, you might make some money. Let’s say you get readers’ email addresses on them downloading books from PW. You do nothing straight away, but when your next book comes out, you email everyone on your list – including those PW readers – to say, ‘Hey, my new book is here, do come and get it’ (or words to that effect). That strategy is low-effort, but it can be rewarding in three ways: Your PW readers may love that book and go out and seek your other work on Amazon. Your PW readers may buy your new book when you come to launch it. The added weight of those PW readers will help boost your sales rank on launch, and that higher sales rank will mean higher overall visibility on Amazon, which means more eyes looking at your book, which means higher sales. That’s how PW can work for you, even if you’re not fussed about using it actively. And perhaps you’re lazy like me, but you don’t have to be disorganised, right? Let’s look at a more engaged, active strategy. Expert tip: Read the next section. Do what it tells you! Why The Book-for-Email Exchange Is Brilliant (For ‘Lazy’ Authors) The trouble with Lazy Strategy is simple. People float around the internet all the time. They click buttons, collect free stuff, add themselves to random mailing lists. Where’s the bond, though? The relationship? The loyalty? Often, it’s not there. People will forget where they got the book from and quite likely forget your name as well. Easy come, easy go. That’s the problem you must overcome. Don’t just use Prolific Works to give away your books. Use your mailing list to cement the bond. You want to turn a user download experience into a proper relationship. So how do you do that? How do you do it easily? We all like an easy life, so we replace our Lazy Strategy above with Astute Strategy: Reader downloads book from PW. You get their email address. Immediately, send out an email to welcome that reader. Say something like, ‘Hey. You just downloaded a book from PW. I’m so happy you did. Here’s a little bit of blurb to tell you about the book. I really hope you enjoy it. Oh, also watch out for another email from me tomorrow, because I’ve got another gift for you, it’s free, and I think you’re going to love it.’ The next day, send out an email with another freebie. It doesn’t have to be more than a short story, and you say, ‘Here’s your next gift. And here’s a little bit of text about me, the author. Oh, and I’ve got one more gift for you, so keep watching your inbox.’ Then, a little bit later (I leave it two days), you send an email which says, ‘Now you’ve had two freebies from me. I hope you loved them. Now here is a free bit of a full-length novel, #1 in the series. If you read that and enjoy it, it’s available over here on Amazon.’ And the book should be hyperlinked, available at an attractive price, probably no more than $2.99 for that first one. The beauty of this approach is multi-dimensional: You automate. Set up and activate those emails via an ‘Autoresponder’ on your email service. If you use Mailchimp, then just click the “Automation” tab, and set up a new workflow. It’s quite straightforward. I’m hardly Mr Tech, and I find it easy. You build connections. Turn that here-today-gone-tomorrow download experience into the start of a more authentic bond between reader and author. You put the book into their hands. If they read a third of your full-length novel and love it, they’re not going to resent the small extra that enables them to complete the journey. And if they get that far, that reader’s interest means they’ll be interested, all being well, in hearing news on the rest of your series. You get committed readers standing by to support your next launch. The advantages of the mailing list driven launch are still available – as before – only with this strategy, you should expect better conversion rates, because you’ve done more to nurture your bond with the reader. This approach lies at the heart of pretty much every successful indie author strategy, and I can’t stress enough that you need to follow it – with care – if you want to succeed. Expert tip. Don’t try to go it alone! Did you know that Jericho  Writers is a club for writers like you? We’ve gone overboard in trying to make our membership as rich and useful to you as it can possibly be. So we’ve taken our super-premium video course on self-publishing . . . and made it free to members. Yep. A totally comprehensive course on self-publishing totally free. And our complete 17-video How To Write course – one with a gazillion awed reviews from super-enthusiastic users – that’s free too. And everything else as well. We built our club to offer incredible value to writers like you, and we’d genuinely love you to come on board. You can find out more about what we do here. And honestly? We think it could be the best move you ever make. How To Get Even More From Prolific Works: Astute-But-Social Strategy In Action So far, so good – but, so far, our strategy has been quite solitary. We haven’t teamed up with anyone. We haven’t developed any real synergies from joint action. In fact, we’re going to ditch the Astute-but-Solo strategy in favour of the Astute-but-Social one. The idea is that you team up with authors in your genre to co-promote books. Readers will eye ones that best fit their tastes (so readers will be well-targeted), and since they may download several books from the range offered, you’ll also increase your downloads beyond what you could achieve for yourself. The other reason social giveaways work is that PW itself loves them. It’ll heavily promote group giveaways, because they offer much to their own readers, meaning total traffic to those pages can be huge. Make sure, as before, that PW knows about the giveaway, but if they know about it, assuming participating authors are active, results should be great. An expert tip: Don’t know other authors in your genre? Search PW forums to find a group to join. If your book looks half sensible, they’ll be delighted to have you. What Does Prolific Works (Instafreebie) Cost And Is It Worth It? PW presently offers three pricing bands as follows: a basic free plan, a package of US$20 a month, or US$50 a month. You’ll need to research each of these, but you’ll likeliest want to pay the $20 a month, the plan that integrates all those downloads with your mailing list – since, if you don’t get those emails, this strategy is defunct and, unless you writer under a lot of pen names, you probably don’t want to pay the $50. That’s what it costs, but do the results give you back those twenty bucks of value? And, here let me report the experience of J.N. Chaney, who compares her experience with Facebook advertising with her experience on Prolific Works (then Instafreebie). Her Facebook budget for an ad being $23 a day, giving its average of 49 subscribers per day (at an average cost per lead of $0.51), didn’t compare to PW at $20 per month, with its average of 84 subscribers per day (at a cost per lead of $.0076). So is it worth it? It’s worth it if: Your book is good enough to grip and retain readers. You have some short freebies to give away. Your book cover is strong enough to attract interest. You are willing to pay $20 a month. You have a morning or so to spare, clipping all these parts together. Or, to put it another way, your email list is the foundation for everything else in your self-pub career: the very first blocks in the wall. And PW gives you that precious way to get things started. It’s kind of insane not to give it a go. How Prolific Works Works and What to Do Next What next? Well, two things. Number one, hop over to Prolific Works and sign up. Number two, create your giveaway page. (A process that’s so spectacularly simple you don’t need us to talk you through it.) 5 Golden Rules Of Prolific Works Here’s Ashley Durrer, Director of Business Development at Prolific, with her own golden rules for success. Over to you, Ashley. 1. Do you already have some fans? Make them your biggest. I love learning how different authors approach engaging fans. Once you have subscribers, it’s so important to show them how much you value them. Respond to each reader email personally. Think about how you would feel if your friends forgot about you. The same feeling can be applied here. So take advantage of “The Lazy but Astute Strategy”. Remember your fans, reward them, and make them feel special. In the future, you can surprise them again with short stories, or novellas about one of your characters. 2. Link Prolific to your website or blog. Link your PW Author page to your website or blog for a more engaging landing page, where readers can sign up to your mailing list. Now you can share all your active, public giveaways with a single link, including book descriptions, bio, social media, and more with readers. It’s important to us that you can communicate with readers. 3. The Big Secret: Make your giveaway campaign “Shareable”. The big secret at PW is that we fully believe in reciprocity. You share, and we share. If you check the “shareable” checkbox when making a giveaway campaign, we will connect your campaign with the right readers. The more you connect with, the more we accelerate your work. 4. Take care of the reader. Relationships matter. Sometimes readers receive too many emails or requests to buy work. Maybe they receive too many emails in general. A good rule of thumb for emailing readers: maximum of one email a week to readers. These activities will help reduce spam reports and high unsubscribes. 5. Make unsubscribing easy and focus on readers who stay. No one likes being tattled on, reported, or blamed for spam. We also know that we can’t please everyone in the world. Let’s all do our best, and give everyone the opportunity to easily unsubscribe. If you aren’t a right fit, that’s okay. It’s better to have the right readers instead of more of the wrong readers. You can make it easy for them to move on, and get back to the people who really care about you.

Character Arcs: What They Are And How To Create Them – With Template

Character arcs are some of the most important tools in terms of writing compelling fiction, even if they’re played out on a smaller scale in a short story, but certainly when writing a novel.  They play a central role in not only establishing your lead’s motivations and thus narrative aims in a book and thus form the spine of the plot arc, but they are what makes the reader believe in and root for the lead which contributes hugely to how much they’ll invest in your story. In this piece, we’ll discover the different ways to develop a strong character arc, together with some examples and a template to help you create your own powerful character arc based on a lead who feels ‘real’ to the reader and who keeps them turning pages. What Is A Character Arc? Basically, in the course of a novel, or even a short story, a character needs to be pursuing a certain goal. What they want and why needs to be obvious to your audience so they can root for the lead to get their aim in the novel.  This goal is usually something noble, like finding love in women’s commercial fiction, solving a murder in a crime novel or even saving the world in action or adventure writing, although in literary fiction, the ultimate direction of the character arc might be something more subtle like seeking redemption or freedom.   However, whatever genre you’re writing in, your character arc is based upon this purpose or quest the protagonist is set on and is doggedly pursuing through the piece and your story arc will not have the poignancy or sense of purpose it needs without this being crystal clear to your audience and thus forming the backbone of your plot.  How Do You Write A Character Arc? One thing readers are looking for in a satisfying character arc is that the lead will have changed by the end of the book due to all they’ve experienced whilst fighting to get their narrative goal. Therefore, it’s key that your protagonist has grown by the end of your story arc and is not the same person as they were at the start.  First Act -- How Your Character Starts In some ways, this is the prologue work. Who is your character, on a fundamental level? Name, age, race, class, occupation -- the basics, yes, but also things like what kind of food they like, what their aspirations in life might be, if they\'re left or right-handed. (You don\'t necessarily have to know everything about them like their mother\'s maiden name or their third-grade crush or the places they want to visit before they die... but maybe those things are useful, so if you think of them, why not jot them down?) The arc begins (as does the plot of your novel or story) when the character\'s normal life is turned upside down by a trigger event or inciting incident – say, a murder in a crime novel which sets the detective on the hunt for the killer. As they do this, like any lead in any genre, they need to be proactive in going after their narrative goal, entering each scene with the intention to get their story arc aim or move nearer to it, only usually to fail or to make some progress, only to face an even bigger obstacle.  Second Act -- How Your Character Develops You\'re not the same person you were yesterday, and you\'re certainly not the same person you were last week, or last month, or last year, and so on -- and neither are your characters. As things happen to them (or because of them), their world changes and how they respond to those changes is key to developing their arc. Maybe the milquetoast office drone thrust into a plot of murderous high-stakes intrigue has discovered that she\'s actually really good in a knife fight. Maybe the fast-and-easy pirate has developed feelings for his first mate, despite saying that he\'d never settle down. Whatever the case may be, these developments and discoveries aren\'t happening in a vacuum: the character is going to have some feelings about what they\'re going through! So it isn\'t just that office drone turns out to be good with knives, but also that she\'s morally conflicted about how exciting she finds it. Authors often forget that there needs to be this emotional reaction after action to make their characters feel human to the reader, but then the planning part too, so the story arc has a causal connection and we see why one thing happens after another, this set-up ensuring the protagonist seems energetic and plucky and which keeps the story arc full of drama and an obvious forward-moving purpose.   Third Act -- How Your Character Ends Up As your plot builds to a climax or conclusion, the changes your character has undergone will be brought to the fore. How do they react to this new situation, with everything that\'s happened to them? Do they accept it? Do they fight against it? How will they attain their goal -- and how might their goals have changed, as they have changed? Bilbo Baggins is not the same hobbit when he comes home to The Shire as he was when he left. Some of that is obvious, but some of it lives in the background: he\'s traveled, he\'s seen horrible things and wondrous ones too, and now as the book comes to a close, he returns to a life that doesn\'t look familiar any longer. Your character doesn\'t have to go through such immense changes, but chances are they will whether you planned for them to or not. As your story comes to a close, your characters will have been pushed to their limits in one way or another and become someone new. It doesn\'t have to be satisfying, necessarily, but it should be real. It\'s unlikely that the knife-wielding office drone is going to be quite such a shrinking violet after everything that\'s happened to her -- and even if the pirate doesn\'t stay with his first mate, his heart might not be so freewheeling now. Conflicts – Internal And External An antagonist for your protagonist -- an opposing figure or force against your main character -- is a great way to help build out a character arc because it gives your character something to fight or push against, adding tension and strengthening the lead as the story arc progresses.  However, there can be other causes of external conflict than the villain figure, such as a confidant(e), which may be a best friend or family member, who acts as a sounding board for the protagonist and offers support, but who can also accidentally cause trouble for the lead due to well-intentioned meddling. This is something we sometimes see in chick lit, where the boozy best mate might tell the lead’s love interest they’re seeing someone else to create jealousy and supposedly add to the dreamy guy’s interest, but it just leads to a misunderstanding between the would-be couple and scares him off.   Indeed, terrible weather, a rough environment or even disasters can also be ways of preventing the lead from going after their goal, but they can also show their mettle too as often they will carry on anyway.  In terms of external conflicts, things get much more interesting when we put our leads in situations which are utterly hellish based on their past traumas or personal phobias or fears and make them face them! Say, in the simplest terms, someone hates spiders (like me!) and then our protagonist has to crawl through a web of poisonous arachnids to save the kidnapped girl which has been the goal of his or her story arc – not only will the reader be sat on the edge of their seat, wondering if the lead will finally overcome their terror for the sake of their bigger plot aim, but we’ll also be privy to the inner world of the lead and the immense inner pressure NOT to do this scary thing and this is called internal conflict.   It can feel mean to us writers, as we’re often so attached to our characters, but the best thing you can do to create a compelling character and story arc is to put your protagonist in the midst of an external situation that makes them quiver (public speaking is more scary to more people than death, believe it or not!) and ensure that you’re also showing the internal monologue of your lead as they fight against their fears.   You can even make them self-sabotage en route to their goals as humans are often wont to do. For example, a detective character could be out to make a big break in a case and then he’ll go out on an alcoholic bender which makes him lose the trail of the villain.   What If You’re Writing A Series? Generally, I tell author clients that if they’re new writers and want to write a series that they should keep this quiet in their submission package and make their first book as self-contained in terms of its character and story arc as possible so agents and editors can sell it as a standalone novel. This is because taking on a rookie is always a risk and the burden of having to sell multiple books may put some publishing personnel off.   In this case then, the character arc needs to be pretty complete by the end, with the story goal attained or near enough so, although you may want to allow a little wiggle room for a future sequel by not providing complete closure.   However, this is good advice across the board as a too sugary ending can seem unrealistic, but this also depends on the genre you’re writing in as certainly chick lit allows for more happy ever afters.  Obviously though, if you are intending to self-publish, you have carte blanche and often writing a series is a good idea as a way to develop a following, so your character and story arcs can be left more loose at the end, but with important questions left to be answered, despite the lead’s obvious growth, in order to intrigue a reader enough to buy the next book.  What Is A Flat Character Arc? Flat character arcs are exactly as they sound – they stay on a flat line, with the character neither growing in strength and awareness or falling from grace, as in Shakespearean tragedies. They mostly appear in genre fiction, like action writing – James Bond doesn’t change much for all his enemies and situational struggles, for instance – but, more and more, even genre writing is moving towards the emotionally shifting character arc of the protagonist playing a key role in the plot and the book’s overall interest.   If you think of most crime leads now, there’s often a wounded detective figure at the centre (something noted by James Frey in his books on thriller and mystery writing) who finds personal healing by solving the crime and Scandi Noir has brought the victims of the killed characters’ families to the fore so that these figures finding peace and moving on is a key part of the murder plot.   Hence whilst you can pull off a flat character arc by writing in a genre where you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or add much nuance to your main figure, it often helps if there’s a sense of inner doubt about their ability to pull off the huge goal before them which adds something of Joseph Campbells’ ‘Hero’s Journey’ (which deeply influenced Star Wars) into play in which the hero hesitates in their confidence to pull off the story arc aim and this adds some important tension – even if, say, Frodo, is good at the start and good at the end of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and so, arguably, for all his struggles, a flat arc character.  How Do You Work Character Arcs Into Your Story Structure? One thing my first writing teacher, Leone Ross, taught me was to really get to learn about my main characters before I started planning my plot, let alone writing my book. She showed us how to create a template for discovering our protagonists in depth. Hence I create a list now that includes the character’s name, age, strengths and weaknesses, their goals etc. Editor’s note: why not download our free Character Arc Worksheet, designed to make your life easier! A Basic Example Of A Character Arc: Cinderella  Her nasty stepfamily (the opposition figures) are treating her like dirt when a handsome prince comes looking for his ideal dame (the trigger or inciting incident).  The mean girl stepsisters try to force Cinderella aside, but she’s determined to catch her man (the lead sets her story goal and her character arc flows from here).  She may be getting grubby scrubbing floors, but she schemes her way to the ball (character takes dogged action to get her goal and grows in defiance and strength).  She gets to the ball and catches the eye of the prince, only to have to return before her carriage turns into a pumpkin at 12 (darn external obstacle!).   However, she leaves her glass slipper behind and the prince is now so infatuated with Cinders that he scours town looking for its wearer – and, bam, as much as the mean stepsisters may try to force their feet in, only Cinderella’s dainty foot is a match (she gets her story goal and her character has grown from subservience to power and from loneliness and contempt to love).  Does Every Character Need An Arc? Minor players who don’t play a fundamental role like the lead, love interest, confidant(e) or opposition figure certainly don’t need a character arc as their role in your story arc is tangential.  These other key players though should have clear goals too which they pursue and which develop their character over the course of the story arc. The love interest’s aim should always be to win the lead’s love, the opposition figure fights to stop the lead getting their story goal and a confidant(e) is there to support the lead and let them talk about their main plot issues and inner turmoils, but they can also accidentally get in the way of the protagonist’s aims by causing mistaken mix ups and so on.  Hence we need to see the love interest growing as s/he strives to become the person the lead can adore and the opposition figure may grow in strength through conflict, but also face their own fears and weaknesses in this process so perhaps become changed by the end of the plot. A confidant(e) might well also develop in the process of supporting the lead through their journey, realising their own needs.   Crafting Character Arcs A character’s arc or development involves their proactive pursuit of their story goal which is established when their life is changed by the inciting incident at the start. This helps create a lead readers will identify with and cheer for, but also makes a compelling plot.   The way your lead deals with external challenges, such as conflict with your opposition figure, extreme weather or terrain or natural disasters, as well as facing their inner demons, will all change them as the course of the novel goes on, usually bringing to the fore strengths they never knew they had, as well as some flaws and even possible tendencies to self-sabotage which all add realism to protagonists and make them three-dimensional.  Although some genres have flat character arcs without much, if any, development in the lead, generally it’s a good idea to show the evolution of your protagonist over the course of the book towards a positive end, such as healing grief, as well as getting their external goal, such as catching a killer.   Indeed, in most plots, there’s the main one – say, solving a murder – and a subplot perhaps involving romance, so it could be that both story arcs bring out different parts of the protagonist they didn’t know existed at the start.  However, it’s also important to remember to give character arcs and a sense of personal change to your other main players too, such as the opposition figure, love interest and confidant(e). The latter two don’t always need to be included in a story arc, but I’d argue that a lead without a villain has less chance of becoming all they can be as the enemy figure forces the protagonist to grow in strength and resourcefulness and confront their inner fears and traumas. Plus, without a concrete opposition figure, there’s less conflict, which is the lifeblood of fiction, and you risk your story arc losing drama and impact.  Get to know your lead and other key players well then, preferably by filling in a character questionnaire like the one above before you start work on your book or even short story. Keep asking yourself why, say, a character buys underwear from a certain place and on and on as this will reveal more and more of their values and beliefs and, even if you never directly use this material in your novel, it will give you a confidence as you write these characters.   After this, imagine the world through their eyes – not yours – considering the language or diction they would use as fits their education, interests and background, as this is key to establishing a convincing narrative voice and viewpoint, as well as creating distinctive dialogue – all on top of making a great character arc.  It’s worth every moment that you put into knowing your main characters and especially your lead, so you can convincingly show how they act to get their plot goal and react to the obstacles the villain and other external and internal elements which stand in the way of them getting their story arc aim.   It may be painful to see your treasured protagonist suffer as you make them face their worst fears, but it’s what will guarantee your book is gripping and up its chances of publication or be successful when you self-publish.  And, mostly, by the end, you get to give the lead their dream or a form of closure which life often doesn’t offer, so it’s not all bad news, but just being cruel to be kind to make them figures your reader never forgets. 

Protagonists And Antagonists, And How They Differ

Having a strong protagonist and antagonist is key to making a novel compelling, no matter what genre you are writing in. But what is the difference between them and how you include them in your book? In this piece, we’ll look at what protagonists and antagonists are, and the different types of characters which can play these roles. We will also explore the key elements which bring them alive, giving your manuscript that extra spark which will grab agents’ and editors’ attention from the opening page. What Is The Difference Between Protagonists And Antagonists? We all know every work of fiction needs a hero and a baddie, but how you portray them makes all the difference. An enthralling protagonist, often referred to as the lead, main character (MC), or hero/heroine, can make or break your story. After all, not every book is plot-driven...many much-loved works of fiction have a simple plot but a unique and memorable main character. However, the antagonist – which is also talked about as an opposition character or villain – creates much-needed conflict by getting in the way of the protagonist as they pursue their goals (ie the basis of the plot). The bad guy usually wants the exact opposite of the lead and will do all they can to stop them attaining their desires. Hence, whilst other factors like the protagonist’s own inner fears and turmoils, plus external factors like the environment, institutional bureaucracy and even the weather can all get in a lead’s way, the best means of really generating conflict (which is, let\'s face it, the lifeblood of fiction) is to create a protagonist who matches the antagonist in strength. Making sure your protagonist and antagonist are evenly matched not only gives your lead a great foil to fight, as they travel through their story arc, but it also injects energy into your plot and keeps readers rooting for the main figure. Having equal protagonists and antagonists also allows the main character to grow in a way which is vital to their development as obstacles are thrown in their way. Now let\'s take a look at our good guys and baddies individually, and how they differ.  What Is A Protagonist? A protagonist is the central character of a novel – the one whose journey we follow as readers. If they are the sole lead of the story, it is often their thoughts and actions that influence the \'voice\' of the novel and the tone in which it is told. Usually, the protagonist has the lion’s share of the viewpoint in the book and their narrative aims – which might represent one goal for the main story arc and another for the subplot – dominate the novel, being the focus of the reader’s attention and what they keep turning pages to discover.   The standard plot begins with the protagonist’s world being turned upside down by an inciting incident or trigger event which sets them off on a quest to find a new ‘normal’ by the end of the novel, this journey representing the backbone of the story arc.  Hence what the protagonist wants and why – their character arc – is key to creating an intriguing plot which readers will invest in.   Types Of Protagonists Every book needs a protagonist or lead character, even if other figures are given viewpoints in the plot too, but the nature of this main player can differ according to the particular genre you are writing in. For example, in police procedural fiction, a cop usually takes centre stage, but crime novels also often feature ordinary citizens who have personal motivations to solve a murder. An example of this is Rosamund Lupton’s bestseller, Sister, in which the protagonist is out to find the family member given in the title.   In chick lit or women’s commercial fiction, the protagonist is usually a woman caught up in the drama of her life (work, romance or family). And in fantasy fiction, the lead is often sent on a quest and has to fight many monsters along the way - such as Frodo in Lord of the Rings who sets out to take the ring to Mordor and save his world from dark forces.  Indeed, action and adventure fiction often has a similarly heroic lead who combats an evil villain to stop him/her destroying civilisation (just think of James Bond).  In young adult writing, the lead is often a teen who is either simply navigating the struggles of coming of age (relationships, school, sex, friendship) or who can also adopt the roles of an action or fantasy protagonist (ie the chosen one). In terms of literary fiction though, the protagonist’s identity is more diverse and their goals often more subtle, but they will always be there, often involving themes such as the lead finding redemption or healing, with romance still frequently being the core of the subplot.   Whatever you write about, a strong protagonist with a clear narrative aim is crucial to creating a powerful character. Their story arc is something to really consider and plan before writing the first word as it will influence your entire story (unless you’re the kind of writer who needs to hit the keys to discover one’s plot and characters). Can The Protagonist Be A Villain? This question often pops up as we’re largely taught that our protagonist should be sympathetic and likeable so we can root for them to get their goals. There is some truth to the power of a lead having a noble aim in a novel, but not all lead characters have to be likeable (look at Eleanor in Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, or Martha in Sorrow And Bliss). The key thing to remember is that, although we may not like the protagonist, we must understand and empathise with their motives. Even if they’re badly behaved (or even overtly negative or evil) if we can comprehend why a figure is acting a certain way, we can usually find ourselves drawn into their story. Hence why Satan is, arguably, the most intriguing figure in Milton’s Paradise Lost, and why we’re often drawn to serial killer and Mafia stories in true crime and fiction. After all, every human has a shadow side and fiction is the perfect place in which to explore that. So, yes, you can create what is often called an anti-hero or heroine, so long as you’re able to convey the reasoning behind their immoral actions in a way your readers can easily follow. This can be a delicate and complex act of characterisation though, so only engage in this if you’ve got the will to really delve into the darkness of the psyche and the reasons why bad people do what they do. How To Write A Protagonist If your protagonist is so important then, no matter what kind of book you’re writing, it’s essential to ensure that you create a powerful lead with a compelling need to meet certain narrative aims by the end of the book. You need to know what they want and why and to show them doggedly going after this throughout the story arc, entering each scene attempting to achieve their goal, whether the main one or that of the subplot (these are interwoven throughout with the main plot getting the most narrative space). A protagonist\'s story arc may involve solving a crime, saving the world as the deadline looms, or finding the love of their life. Often the protagonist’s story arc in literary fiction will be somewhat less obvious, but it is commonly concerned with getting freedom from something (like oppression, war, a bad marriage and so on) or freedom to do a certain thing (travel, seek spiritual peace, justice and so forth).   If you’ve got an anti-hero or heroine in play, the story arc may involve them in murder, world domination or other evil schemes, but it will be something which to them – and thus to the reader – makes sense.   The same is true when writing magical realism or fantasy protagonists with magical powers. As long as you can make the reader believe in the lead’s clairvoyant skills or their blue head with a hundred eyes, then they will care. And if they care, they will keep turning the pages! Getting your readers to feel like they are inside your protagonist’s body and mind is key to them connecting with the main character. Making them as human as possible, through the use of backstory, past trauma, flaws and inner conflicts, is what makes even the most unlikeable lead a hero we all root for. Take Hamlet and his notorious indecision, for example. This is a man who allows power, greed and his ambitious wife to steer him into a horrific mess from which he can\'t escape. As a reader we urge him to do better, we stay by his side because we too understand how easy it is to be influenced by our darker side, and we suffer alongside him at every turn. It\'s a huge testament to Shakespeare that, even four-hundred years later, his protagonists remains both relevant and memorable today.  Whether the villain the main character is fighting is external (the environment, a war, monsters), internal (depression, fear, doubt), or a fellow human being (a dark lord, a work rival, the devil himself), the reader need to know whose side they are on. So, let\'s take a look at this all-important baddie figure... What Is An Antagonist? As I mentioned above, an antagonist is the main figure who stands in the way of your protagonist’s story arc goals – the villain or opposition character who adds the most conflict to a narrative by doing their utmost to stop the lead getting their narrative aims. Types Of Antagonists In a mystery, a cop lead will want to solve a murder, therefore the antagonist may be the killer. Or maybe it\'s not, maybe it\'s another cop who wants to beat him to the chase. In a women’s commercial or chick flick novel, the protagonist may be in love with and out to catch a certain guy, but she might find herself face-to-face with an antagonist in the form of a love rival. Or maybe her villain is herself, standing in the way of true love. In literary fiction, where the protagonist’s character and story arcs may be more understated, the antagonist will have to be shaped more specifically to the lead’s particular narrative aims. Hence if they want freedom from a painful marriage, the main figure’s spouse could stand in their way, suffocating their bid for personal liberty and a new life. Indeed, as much as larger obstacles, such as war, can cause huge issues for a protagonists (ie a refugee’s attempt to escape dangerous lands with their child) it’s often important to also embody these issues in a specific antagonist figure. Hence a refugee could be confronted by a cruel or unyieldingly bureaucratic guard at a detainment camp, thus symbolising the broader struggle the lead is facing. This allows the protagonist to face a tangible threat in the form of an antagonist figure, rather than the mere abstractions of a situation, offering way more opportunities for fairly-match conflict. A refugee trekking across a hostile landscape may be impactful, but adding a one-on-one fight between a lead and the opposition figure (who in this scenario could be separating the lead from their children and imprisoning them) will definitely be more memorable. With this in mind, it\'s important you don’t start a novel without knowing your antagonist as well as your protagonist, even though the lead will take up most of the reader’s attention. Your opposition figure is there as a key for adding essential dramatic tension to the story, because everyone loves to see the main character battle with highs and lows (just watch a soap opera to see how many obstacles one character can face!). The antagonist also brings both the main character’s grit and inner issues to the fore, thus making them more three-dimensional and providing the reader with the expected sense of the protagonist’s personal growth over the course of their character arc. Hence an antagonist injects conflict into a story arc, but facing off against the opposition figure often makes the protagonist grow positively during the course of the novel by forcing them to confront their worst fears or work on their less pleasant personality traits. In this way, the baddie has the ‘side-effect’ of bringing out the best in your lead and thus performs a vitally important function. How To Write An Antagonist If your hero is going to be likeable (or at least someone the reader can empathise with) then, with your baddie, you can have fun creating chaos and a figure everyone loves to hate. Although, I’d also be wary of going over-the-top when creating an antagonist as we have to be careful not to lean on stereotypes of the moustache-twirling villain and, instead, come up with more original figures. You don’t have to recreate the wheel with genre fiction, but it’s always good to bring some freshness to writing as agents, editors and the general reader love to see angles they’ve never seen before, such as unusual and unexpected murderers or love rivals. The Darkling in Shadow and Bone is the perfect example of a dark lord who readers fall completely in love with...before realising he\'s the bad guy! Look carefully at your protagonist’s story arc goals to determine how your antagonist\'s personality and how they should act. For example, maybe they’re a female detective looking to solve a murder in the main plot and to find love with a fellow cop in the romantic subplot – and then create a figure who’s going to make their life hell by blocking the lead’s plot aims as best they can. Basically, the development of the antagonist is the primary means by which the writer puts their protagonist up a tree and then cuts it down, as the saying goes! Looking at our hypothetical cop story above, the antagonist could be the murderer who’s going to fight being caught tooth and nail. Perhaps they threaten the life of the main character\'s love interest as well as continuing their killing spree. You can see then that the protagonist and antagonist are really mirror images of one another, wanting exactly opposite aims and being just as dogged about getting them. The antagonist’s motives for acting the way they do needs to be understandable, so backstory will be needed. The reader needs to understand why the bad guy is doing what he\'s doing, even if their logic is warped. Adding Dramatic Irony When an antagonist is operating secretly against the lead, with the plot building up to a betrayal at the end, and the reader is privy to this while the protagonist is not – that literary device is called dramatic irony. This works really well as the reader is on the edge of their seat waiting for their beloved hero to catch up and see what they can see. In Shakespeare\'s Othello, he shows Iago’s manipulation of Othello, leading to the latter killing his wife, Desdemona, in jealous rage - even though she\'s innocent of committing adultery. As the audience watches on helplessly, they remain transfixed with grim fascination, forever wondering when the penny is going to drop. Dramatic irony often involved conflict behind the scenes - a form of confrontations between the antagonist and protagonist that isn\'t revealed until the end. For those starting out in writing it can be hard to pull off, so I’d encourage you to consider bringing your lead and opposition characters into each other’s immediate orbits, with verbal conflict and machinations by the antagonist standing in the way of the protagonist. Bad Is As Important As Good Whilst your work of fiction will invariably revolve around your lead, remember that the antagonist is also central to making a compelling story. So get to know your baddie as well as you know the protagonist. Without a strong protagonist, a story arc can lose its sense of drama and your lead can be seen to seamlessly flow towards their goals with too much ease - something which may lose your audience’s interest. Readers want to see the lead facing major challenges, preferably having a particular villain to focus our wrath on as the person who’s doing all they can to mess with our treasured protagonist’s story aims. Although we absolutely need to create a protagonist who readers can get behind (and to make it crystal clear what they want and why), an antagonist is a key part of developing the relationship our audience has with the main character. Give them a figure they can see confronting and obstructing their beloved lead, someone they can dread and loathe, but are also intrigued by. Maybe they even have some small sympathy for the bad guy\'s damaged humanity. Know Your Protagonist And Antagonist Well It’s crucial to know your antagonist as well as the lead, giving them good sides as well as flaws to make them more rounded and comprehensible, even if this takes some deep thought about the past or present circumstances which make them act the way they do. Indeed, if you’re struggling to come up with an antagonist to stand in the way of your protagonist, think who is most likely to have the most power to obstruct your lead’s story goals and who represents their deepest fears. Then turn those attributes into a character no one will forget in a hurry. As a writer, you may feel mean doing this to your lead, but remember that this is how you bring plots to life and, ultimately, develop your protagonist and allow them to shine. And when they shine, so does your book!

NaNoWriMo: How To Write A Novel In 30 Days

Ah, autumn. Crisp mornings. Brisk winds. Back to school weather, new pencil cases, pumpkin-flavoured everything, and writers all over the world preparing to take part in NaNoWriMo. But what exactly is NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge in which writers all around the world attempt to write an entire novel (or more specifically, 50,000 words of a first draft) in the 30 days of November. Sounds a bit bonkers – right? I beg to disagree. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and if you’re reading this then I am hoping that it’s something that you’re considering, and if you are, then let me share five good reasons why you should go for it.  5 Good Reasons To Join NaNoWriMo 1. November Is A Great Month To Write The weather’s dire, so why not put every moment of spare time to use and write? And if not now – when? Even better, get a head start this year by starting in October instead. 2. You Have Nothing To Lose It’s only thirty days, and at the end of it you will potentially have 50,000 words that you didn’t have before. The key to it is letting go of the expectation of writing something GOOD. Nobody can write a perfect novel in a month. Whatever you end up with will need serious editing, if you feel like it. You’re not writing a masterpiece in a month, you’re just going to WRITE. And that is tremendously liberating. 3. It\'s Great Fun! Writing is by nature a solitary business, but this is an annual opportunity to be cheered along whilst you do it, to engage in competitive sprinting (writing for a given amount of time without stopping) if that’s your thing, or at least to be encouraged by a host of pep talks and discussions with fellow writers locally and around the world. And a side note: if you’re having fun while you’re writing, it will probably be better than anything you’ve written that’s felt like a chore. 4. It\'s A Magic Cure For Writer\'s Block No, really – it is. There is nothing like the pressure of a deadline to get you writing. If you get stuck, you can skip to the next scene, or change your story completely, or even throw in the Travelling Shovel of Death (a traditional NaNoWriMo technique). There are many suggestions on the NaNoWriMo forums to help you if you get stuck, and because there is no pressure for your writing to be good, then there is nothing stopping you bouncing off that metaphorical wall and back into the story. 5. You Never Know Where This Might Lead There are many published novels that started life in November - have a look here if you don’t believe me. Seven out of my eight published novels were NaNoWriMo novels. Admittedly each one took a year or more to edit, but we’re not talking about editing now, we’re talking about writing. What I’m saying is: I’m a normal person, whatever that is, and if I can do it, you can do it. How Do I Plan For NaNoWriMo? There’s plenty you can be doing now to prepare to write your novel. If you’ve already got a story idea, there are some brilliant, encouraging and comprehensive guides to planning your novel right here on the Jericho Writers website – see How To Plan A Novel and this guide on how to flesh out your ideas quickly with The Snowflake Method. Planning is just part of it, however. You’re writing a novel, you’ll need to take yourself seriously. If you tell all your friends and family that you’re going to do NaNoWrimo, then you are making yourself accountable, because you can bet they’ll all be asking you how the novel’s going during November and beyond – and as a bonus, it’s a great excuse to get you out of things you don’t want to do. Social events can wait till December – you’re writing a novel. The laundry can wait for a bit – you’ve got writing to do. Shopping? Let someone else take their turn. (On a practical level, if you celebrate Christmas, it’s a good idea to do some festive shopping and Christmas card writing now – December is going to come around mighty quickly if you’ve spent the whole of November writing.) It’s also worth pointing out (in case you’re reading this on Halloween) that you don’t need to plan at all. You can dive straight in on day one, or even several days in, if you missed the start. You can write an entire novel without planning – it’s called Pantsing, or writing by the seat of your pants. It will mean that you’ll probably have more editing to do later, but it’s no less valid a technique. In fact – hands up – I am a Pantser and proud. I never plan. I get bored if I know what’s going to happen. How Many Words Am I Going To Have To Write? To reach your goal by the end of the month, you’ll need to write 1,667 words a day. That sounds like a lot – and it IS a challenge, let’s be honest: if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, wouldn’t they? But if you manage to turn off your inner editor, put aside the urge to fix problems as you go along, and just WRITE – you’ll be surprised how quickly your total goes up. Remember, NaNoWriMo is all about quantity, not quality – and while that might sound counter-productive, actually in the process of writing freely you’ll find that some of what you’ve written is really pretty good. As a 15-year veteran of NaNoWriMo, here are my top tips for getting it done: 1. Try And Get Ahead Of The Game Inevitably, there will be some days in the month when real life will intervene, and you won’t be able to write. If you’re ahead in terms of word count, it won’t feel quite such a slog to get back to the story. Aim for 2,000 words or more a day in the first week, if you can. 2. Track Your Progress And Celebrate Milestones The NaNoWriMo website has a helpful graph to show your progress and it’s very motivating to stay on or ahead of that target line. Every 10,000 words is a victory! 3. Sprints Are Great You might not be accustomed to writing at speed, but in fact, the only writer you are competing against is yourself. If you can write 300 words in 20 minutes, set a timer and try to do 320 words next time. How Can I Stay Motivated? Writing a novel in a month is something of a rollercoaster. There will be days when your story just flies and it’s hard to write fast enough, and then there are days when every word is painful. There is an acknowledged ‘Wall’ that most participants hit, often around Week Three – so if you’re struggling, you’re definitely not alone. This is where your writing buddies can help. Others in the Jericho Writers community will also be taking part – find a friend for a bit of mutual accountability, and maybe do some sprints together. Join your local NaNoWriMo region, too. There are no in-person events taking place this year, but every region will have its own community and online writing events throughout the month to help you with your wordcount. If you’re not feeling sociable, there are plenty of other resources to keep you going – personally, I can recommend Focusmate and Brain FM to help maintain concentration. Tell yourself that this is only a month, and the achievement at the end will feel amazing. Give yourself rewards for sticking with it, and try to write every day – or don’t go more than a day without writing at least something, even if it’s a sentence. You’ll probably write more. If you’re stuck, the NaNoWriMo forums provide solutions to most problems. You can ask others to unravel your plot dilemmas (often the act of describing the issue to someone else will help your brain to find the solution). You’ll also find extensive lists of user-provided ‘adoptables’ – for example, ‘adopt a plot twist’, or ‘adopt a character’ – ideas for you to throw into your story when you get stuck. They might not work, but they will keep you writing while your brain works out how to pick up your story again. Beware of procrastination, and getting in your own way! At this point I think it’s important to say it again: YOU CAN DO IT. How Much Should I Edit My Writing? Not at all. Just – don’t. It’ll interrupt your flow, cause you to doubt yourself, and takes valuable time away from driving that word count forward. November is not the time for editing – your inner editor should be locked in a virtual cupboard for the duration. I’ve made that sound very absolute, but it’s not quite that brutal. If you make a spelling mistake as you go along, by all means fix it, especially if it makes you twitchy. But what you shouldn’t do is delete anything. If what you’ve just written doesn’t make sense, type ‘FIX THIS’ or some other searchable place marker, and write the paragraph or chapter again. If your plot takes an unexpected detour that you know is horrendously waffly, leave it be. If your characters end up having a long conversation about pandemics, let them carry on and maybe encourage them to discuss Brexit while they’re at it. You know you’re making a mess. You know you’ll read this all later and wail ‘what was I thinking?’ but that doesn’t matter during November. Quantity, not quality! What\'s Next? Whether you make 50,000 (or more!), or any amount at all, celebrate your achievement, collect your winner’s goodies from the NaNoWriMo website, and have a well-deserved rest. It’s a good idea to let that novel sit undisturbed for a while, certainly at least a month. In the dark days of the new year you can revisit it, read through (and marvel at the bits you can’t even remember writing) and decide whether your story has potential. Mostly, despite the mess, it will have some really rather brilliant bits, and then the work of untangling, restructuring, and developing can begin. Have I convinced you to have a go? I hope so. It’s a complete blast. In the words of Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, the world is waiting for your novel. This is your chance!

Getting Rejected By Literary Agents? Here’s What To Do Next

All writers face rejection. But what if you’ve sent your book to well over fifteen literary agents or small publishers and still aren’t getting anywhere? What do you do?   As a writer who has faced exactly this MANY times, I want to let you know that this doesn’t mean it is over. Not by any means. There are things you can do to continue working towards publication, even if that doesn’t feel possible right now.   So – let’s look at the options available to you.   Option 1: Edit The Crap Out Of This Book So maybe you have an idea here that agents seemed to be excited about, but you were getting feedback on something like ‘unlikable characters’, or ‘lack of voice’.  Fortunately, this is something that can be fixed with some hard work and perhaps even a bit of help from other people.   The first thing to do is to identify what parts of your book as it stands aren’t really working. This can be difficult in itself because a lot of agents don’t have the time to deliver feedback. You could be getting standard rejections, with no idea why.   This is where something like a Manuscript Assessment might come in handy. An experienced editor will read your entire book and give you a detailed report on what is working and what isn’t. You can then use this as a base to look at your book as objectively as you can, and ask yourself if that is something you are able, or willing to fix. This is a REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION that we’ll explore a little more in the next section.   But let’s say your feedback is mainly that your idea is brilliant, but your execution needs work. And you think you are able to do that work. What next?   Now, the real work begins. And it’s worth knowing from the off that re-writing a book is hard. First drafts are a doddle compared to it, because you have a blank page and a whole world of opportunity to write something awesome. So my personal tip for big re-writes is exactly that – start a new document. Learn from your old draft (and copy/paste some sections if they are working), but give yourself the space to write the book you are trying to write, rather than getting bogged down with what you already have.   There are people who can help at this stage, too. JW\'s brilliant Self-Edit Your Novel course was created specifically for this purpose. You can work with a tutor and a small group of writers in the same boat as you to identify and fix the issues with your book. With 1-in-5 alumni now published, it’s fair to say that it works!  Once you have something you are pleased with, send it out again to new agents, or any agents who have asked to see any changes again. You can also test it out with some competitions and see how far you get this time! Or if it\'s help with your submission pack that you\'re looking for, then try our agent submission pack review. Option 2: Write Another Book   This is my personal favourite option. I found myself in this very position three times before my debut novel was published, and I 100% stand by my decision to ditch every single one of those three books.   The thing was, that although each of those three lost books were good, they just weren’t good enough. The writing in my first book was dire – but then it would be – I was completely new to writing and I hadn’t learned the basics yet. My second book I think might have been a masterpiece, but wow – was it problematic. That book will never find a publisher because it couldn’t be marketed. And my third novel was fun, but I knew before I’d even finished that it just wasn’t special.   Your book needs to be absolutely mind-blowing to stand a chance in this market. It needs to have an original concept, brilliant characters, a striking voice and a plot that will keep readers turning pages. Nothing less is good enough.   I mentioned earlier that there was a REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTION you needed to ask yourself. And that is: ‘Is this book really good enough? Or can I write something better?’   I know it can be hard to say goodbye to a project without really seeing an end to it. But it isn’t wasted time. Every book you write will take you one step closer to one that will launch your author career. So write another book. And if that’s not right, write another. And know that once you get published, you will keep needing to write, write and write some more – it never stops.   But that’s okay. Because we’re in this because we enjoy it, right?!  For anyone wanting to write another book and ensure their idea is marketable right from day one this time, then I recommend joining the Ultimate Novel Writing Course. This is ultimate for a reason.   Option 3: Self-Publish  Now this one comes with a big BUT. Self-Publishing IS an option, BUT it is NOT a last resort because you couldn’t get a traditional publishing deal.   Self-publishing takes a great deal of time, passion and dedication if it is going to work. It only works if you are willing to write book after book (preferably in the same world/series) and you accept the fact that you probably won’t sell any of this first book until after your third or fourth have come out.   To self-publish properly, you need to be a writing machine. You also need to learn everything you can about what it takes to become an indie author. You need to invest time and money into it, and so you need to be 100% sure that you are willing to do that.   If you are, then great. This is a fantastic option that should have perhaps been your option 1. You’ll earn more money from your books, have more of a say in how they are presented and engage with your readers in a way traditional authors can’t. Whatever option you choose, know that rejection doesn’t mean the end. If publication really is something you want, then get ready to roll up your sleeves and work for it. Read everything, learn everything and write the best book you possibly can. If you want it, you’ll get there.  

Paul Braddon’s Journey To Publication & The Speculative Fiction Market

Paul Braddon discusses the publication process for his debut sci-fi/speculative fiction novel, ‘The Actuality’, published by Sandstone Press in 2021 and optioned by BBC Studios. Paul’s connection with Jericho Writers began with a series of manuscript assessments by Liz Garner. Paul also attended our Festival of Writing for several years and was shortlisted for Friday Night Live in 2013. He got his agent in 2018, and you can read about his journey to finding representation here. Set in a crumbling future England where human life has been bioengineered and subsequently outlawed, ‘The Actuality’ follows Evie, an example of near-perfect AI, as her hiding place is exposed and she is forced to take to the streets and make critical judgements about who she can and can’t trust. We loved that alongside explicit sci-fi themes, ‘The Actuality’ has notes of philosophy and human psychology which invite the reader to question what sets humans apart from machines. Its pace and journey-led structure would make it ideal for television. We sat down with Paul to discuss his debut, his experience working with his publisher Sandstone Press, and what it was like to have his work optioned by BBC Studios. JW: Hi Paul! When we last spoke, you had recently been signed by your agent. What role has she played since she took on ‘The Actuality’? The first thing Joanna (Joanna Swainson – Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency) helped with was making the manuscript as attention grabbing as possible. One of the challenges was ensuring that none of the tension dissipated during the opening chapters. To achieve this, I made sure that a reference to accumulating events appeared on every page. We also added a prologue to provide a foreshadowing of events and a chilling strapline (‘Fear makes her human / Humans make her fear’), which is now on the front cover of the hardback. Once the manuscript was ready, Joanna drew up a list of editors to approach and sent it out. We had favourable feedback from quite a few but Sandstone Press was first to the table with an offer. Joanna called to let me know in April 2019 – it was my birthday and the best birthday present I could have had. We were very happy to go with Sandstone. They’re a great indie publisher and having recently won the ‘Not the Booker’ with the dystopian ‘Sweet Fruit, Sour Land’ by Rebecca Ley, were keen to build a thread around speculative fiction. They had great ideas on how ‘The Actuality’ could be given a final polish and their enthusiasm was infectious. It took a few weeks to finalise the contract, with negotiations handled by Joanna, and then it came through to me to sign. JW: What has been the subsequent process of working with your publisher? Once the UK and Commonwealth rights had been acquired by Sandstone, the editorial work began. My editor, the talented Kay Farrell, gave me as the main challenge the reordering of section 4 (the novel is in five sections). She was absolutely right – the flow here was not working as well as it could. After spending a few weeks on a revised draft, I returned it and to my huge relief, had nailed it. The manuscript was then passed back and forth a half dozen times. It was all small things, like she’d challenge why a character was behaving in the way they were and I’d go back into a scene and try to understand her concerns. It was down to me to find solutions and make the changes. Kay’s role was to challenge but I’d usually find that she was right, and an improvement could be made. By October 2019 we had an agreed draft ready for proofreading. The proofreader – Georgie Coles – did an excellent job tidying the punctuation and ensuring consistency. Her changes were largely invisible – just as they should be – but afterwards the novel felt slicker and smoother. The cover then went out to the designer. I was asked to contribute ideas but had no expectation of what the creative mind of Heike Schüssler would come up with. The trade loves ‘different’ and her eye-popping, all-the-best-colours-from-the-children’s-paint-box design has garnered praise from all quarters and has been successful in heralding the novel’s literary ambitions. Christina Dalcher – author of the bestselling ‘VOX’ – submitted a lovely review and from it, the word ‘Exquisite’ was taken and added to the front cover. Next came typesetting and I was sent a pdf to check. Whenever I read the text through, I saw little things I wanted to change and although at this stage I wasn’t meant to be doing anything other than checking for typesetting errors, I persuaded Kay to allow me a few more tiny edits. Arrangements for the audiobook were also now completed. Sandstone don’t publish audiobooks themselves but sold the rights to W.F Howes – the audiobook specialist. The audiobook for ‘The Actuality’ is now complete and is read with great sensitivity by the actress Eva Feiler. Having been used to only hearing myself read my words, it’s such a pleasure to hear them spoken so movingly. In January 2020, I met with Ceris Jones, the Sandstone marketing exec, to discuss promotional plans, including the venue for the launch event – we were assuming a central London bookshop – and in the background I was compiling a list of attendees… …which is when the virus struck! Initially Sandstone tried to stick with July but when it became clear that bookshops would be closed, deferred publication to February 2021. The delay was a disappointment but also a silver lining, as it allowed time for an option for the TV/Film rights to be sold to BBC Studios, helping create a buzz ahead of publication. In the leadup to publication, social media activity has mounted. ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) have been sent out to reviewers to drum up excitement. One highlight is a piece on the BBC Culture website which positions ‘The Actuality’ in the footsteps of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’. I think this is lovely and works on so many levels, not least in that there is indeed something of the gothic heroine in my ‘electric’ character Evie. The revised date for publication – Thursday 18th of February 2021 – is now upon us. As before, bookshops remain closed, but Sandstone have gained experience with online events and we have a Q&A on Twitter planned for lunchtime – plus hopefully an evening event to follow soon. I will also definitely have a proper launch party when circumstances allow and the wine can be safely shared around! ‘The Actuality’, Paul Braddon. Sandstone Press, 2021. JW: How would you place ‘The Actuality’ within the sci-fi/speculative fiction market?  ‘The Actuality’ straddles sci-fi / dystopia and literary fiction. What is rare about it, is that the story is presented through the point of view of the AI and maybe because of this, reviewers have engaged. In the words of The Publishing Planet: ‘As an exceptionally designed and advanced AI, Evie is outside the category of human but feels like the most human character in the book. Braddon’s ability to write about this rough and brutal world through the eyes of such an elegant and honest character is beguiling.’ I love that they love her. JW: The world in the novel is quite bleak – does this reflect your perception of what the future could be like or are you more optimistic? The setting of ‘The Actuality’ is 2135 and the impact of climate change has taken its toll on the environment and society. The UK has fragmented, suffers bitter winters and baking summers and the population has drastically shrunk as a result of a decline in fertility caused by unchecked pollution. All of this is completely plausible. However, our potential saviour is science – technological advance has created this mess, but it is quite within our wits to use further advances to find our way out. The rapid growth of electric vehicles is testament to this and the implementation of artificial intelligence will enable machines to aid us in the quest. JW: In very exciting news, ‘The Actuality’ has been optioned by BBC Studios! Can you explain what the process has been like so far?  It was amazing getting the news that we had an offer for the TV and film rights from BBC Studios. Joanna spotted the screen potential of ‘The Actuality’ right from the start. Her agency works with a specialist dramatics rights agent called Marc Simonsson who has all the studio contacts here and abroad and had been championing it, albeit the crucial lead came from a pitch made by Sandstone, with Marc expertly negotiating with BBC Studios to close the deal. The great thing about being optioned at this stage is that it gives us valuable pre-publication publicity. JW: What’s next for you, and how are you approaching new projects? ‘The Actuality’ was written as a standalone novel but the potential to develop the story is part of the appeal to BBC Studios and if a TV series is commissioned I might well revisit Evie’s world. I love dystopian/speculative themes and hope to work more in this genre. The novel I am currently working on however is a bit different – I’d love to say more because I’m very excited by it, but it’s early days and I can’t risk jinxing it! From Paul’s Agent, Joanna Swainson (Hardman & swainson Literary Agency) JW: Hi Joanna! Thanks for chatting to us. What was it about Paul’s manuscript that originally drew you to it? JS: I was initially drawn to Paul’s manuscript by the prospect of reading a novel set a hundred years in the future, in a ‘broken down England where technology has lurched forward then all but seized up’. This was how Paul described it in his pitch and although it sounds depressing, I immediately saw a vivid backdrop to a story with wonderful potential for exploring human nature. And then as soon as I started to read, I was hooked in by the atmosphere he creates and the protagonist, Evie, a beautifully drawn character who kept surprising me. JW: As an agent, what kind of thing are you looking for right now? JS: As an agent, I’m genuinely open to representing a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. Particular areas of interest in fiction are novels which explore the darker side of human nature, so crime and thrillers and horror (and folk horror). But I do also like funny and uplifting, too! And in fact, I think a book should put a smile on your face, whether it’s through humour itself, or irony, or sheer ingenuity of character or writing or whatever it is. We’re here to marvel and be entertained. I’m also a big fan of history and folklore, whether in fiction or non-fiction. JW: Could you comment on what it’s like pitching work in the sci-fi/speculative fiction market right now? JS: There are possibly slightly fewer editors you can approach for sci-fi/speculative fiction but pitching into this market is much the same as pitching in any other – it’s tough out there, but if the work is amazing then it should get the deal. If it’s speculative with cross over (i.e. book group or literary or other categories) appeal, then all to the better. But then sometimes you don’t really know if it will cross over until it’s published and embraced by the masses and it very much depends on how a publisher positions a book too. About Paul Braddon Paul Braddon lives in London with his wife Mary and son Thomas. He got the writing bug after coming runner-up in an essay competition as a teenager and went onto study English Literature at Reading University. You can check out Paul’s website here and follow him on Twitter here. Links to buy ‘The Actuality’: From Sandstone Press From Amazon From Hardman & Swainson Literary submissions information here. Got a manuscript ready to submit? Our renowned AgentMatch database has up-to-date information on every agent in the UK and US – perfect for compiling your shortlist.

How Steffanie Edward Went From 28 Rejections To A Two-Book Deal

We first met Steffanie Edward in 2018 when she became the first recipient of our Self-Edit Your Novel Course bursary. Two years later, we caught up with Steffanie to find out what it’s been like to sign her debut contract with a digital-first publisher, without the help of an agent, discuss writing for oneself, getting past the first draft, and, of course, her fantastic achievement with Bookouture. JW: Lovely to chat with you. Where are you at with your writing process right now? S: At the moment I’m doing structural edits – it’s all new to me. I’ve had my work looked at through manuscript feedback, but it’s nothing like this. Structural edits are much more detailed, and all in your hands. Rather than being given specific suggestions on where and how to make changes, you’re tackling specifics where you have to read the whole novel again and again to tweak and implement changes. It forces you to go deeper into your characters, makes you interrogate who they really are and why. JW: Your debut, ‘This Other Island’, comes out in May 2021. What can readers expect from it? S: It’s fresh, it’s different. It has lots of twists, turns, and surprises. Working with my editor, Isobel Akenhead, is helping me produce a novel which will have the biggest impact on readers it can possibly have, and I’m loving it. JW: How did you land your book deal? S: I was submitting to so many agents and just getting nowhere. Three or four of them said nice things in their rejection, but it was still a rejection. Then I signed up for a book surgery offered by Peepal Press. It was suggested that mine was quite a common journey for black writers – they often end up at independent presses because they can’t get an agent, and so it was suggested that I tried submitting to independent presses, like Peepal Press. I felt quite demoralised, but I submitted to a few independents. And then the Jericho Writers Summer Festival of Writing came up. I watched the Bookouture interview with Jenny Geras, and thought, ‘I really like this woman.’ Sometimes you just get a really good vibe. Jenny was saying all these nice things about how they don’t believe in slushpiles and you don’t need an agent to submit to them. I still didn’t submit – I thought I’d just get another rejection. Then the Jericho Writers newsletter came out and Harry did a write-up on Bookouture. He was very encouraging. He mentioned that if you do the maths, you’re more likely to get through with Bookouture than you are with an agent, just based on the number of submissions they accept per year. And there was another Jericho Writers piece about Bookouture encouraging black writers to submit to them. So, in the end, I submitted twice! JW: How did you feel when you found out Bookouture wanted to publish your novel? I was so overwhelmed. I’d had so many rejections from agents, I think I’d had 28 rejections. But then Isobel’s email said she was so pleased my book was assigned to her because she ‘absolutely LOVED IT’. I couldn’t believe it – it was an amazing moment. Debi Alper [who runs our Self Edit Your Novel Course] was the first person I told because she was always there with me. Every little disappointment, every time I had doubts, she’d say ‘just keep going!’ Every time I contacted her, she came swiftly back and really helped to prop me up. JW: That’s a lovely relationship to have. Do you think you’ll contact Debi for the draft of your second book as well? S: Yes, I’ll always be running things by her! I feel really blessed that I’ve met her, that she believed in me and that she kept encouraging me to hang in there. ‘Keep submitting,’ she’d say. ‘You just need to find the right person at the right time.’ JW: How did you discover our Self-Editing Course in the first place? S: I joined Jericho Writers in August 2018 mainly because I’d get access to loads of webinars and other things that I could tap into to learn more about writing and getting published. Then I saw the Self-Editing Course advertised and I thought, ‘well, I’ve got this novel I’ve been working on for the last ten years. Let me see if I can get moving on it.’ I’m not working – well not paid work anyway. I look after my mum who has Alzheimer’s, so I applied for the bursary and thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained. When Jericho contacted me to say I’d been successful, I couldn’t believe it. That was my first opening door. “I feel really blessed that I’ve met [Debi Alper], that she believed in me and that she kept encouraging me to hang in there.” JW: What has it been like to work with Bookouture? S: So far, I’ve found everyone to be very on the ball, easy to talk to and efficient. When I was submitting to agents, I noticed how young many of them were and I remember saying to Debi, they’re not going to get me, they won’t get my story. Not only am I a mature writer, but I am also a black writer. She told me I should just go for it. My editor, at Bookouture, Isobel Akenhead is young enough to be my daughter, but she knows her work and has a good eye for what works and what doesn’t. Also, she loves my work and actually gets it. JW: That’s exactly what you need. Sometimes, especially for a debut author, the publishing process can be really daunting. What was it like to negotiate the deal without an agent there backing you up? S: I didn’t like it. It took me away from the creative process to something more business orientated. On Debi’s advice, I joined the Society of Authors, and I sent the contract to them for feedback and advice. They gave advice on things I should query, but very little changed at the end I thought I’d take a chance and be positive about Bookouture because this is the contract that would launch my career, and they seem like a great fit. Everything moved quite fast. I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me, or that I was the person this was happening for. JW: It must be very overwhelming. Bookouture do things like royalties slightly differently don’t they? S: They don’t do advances, but they give you 45% of your sales. It really suits me. JW: They’re doing a few things that are quite radically different, which I think is so intriguing. Are there any challenges that you’re facing right now as an author, and how are they different to challenges you might have faced in the past? S: I feel now that I’ve signed a contract, I’ve joined the big league. So, I can’t get demoralised, or say, ‘I can’t be bothered to write today.’ But the great motivating thing about it is that I’m not writing in the hope that a publisher or an agent will take me on. Things are clearer, I know the stories I’m writing will be published. I love writing, find it satisfying all my efforts are being rewarded and it’s exciting, so it’s all great. JW: How long have you been writing for? S: I started writing seriously in my thirties. I wrote a novel when I was living in Abu Dhabi, despite knowing nothing about writing. I sent it off to all these agents in England, and all of them said ‘get stuffed,’ basically. I abandoned it, and then when I came back to England I started going on courses and getting my short stories published. I was really into Octavia E. Butler, who wrote sci-fi. All her main characters were black, and I liked that about her – I liked that they were women as well. I thought perhaps I could write a story like that. My first novel, which was the one I submitted to the Self Edit Your Novel course, was literary fiction with Caribbean magical realism (there are lots of myths and legends in the Caribbean). I’d been writing that for so many years and couldn’t get past a certain point, and the course helped me to get past that point and actually finish it! JW: Let’s talk about first drafts. Do you have a method that you stick to? For example, do you give yourself a certain amount of words to write each day or set deadlines? S: That’s exactly what I do. For my second novel, which I’m writing now, as part of the Bookouture deal, the target is 1500 words each day. Sometimes I even manage 2000. For my previous novel, the target was 500 but then I realised I could do much more! You definitely have to have an element of planning. I didn’t do enough of that for my first novel. But as you’re writing it’s like some magic happens in your brain – ideas just come to you. Things just happen! You just have to keep going until you’ve got that first draft completed. Put it down for a bit, then come back to it for a second draft, which is likely to be more challenging than the first because that’s when you change things, find certain things don’t fit well into the plot; some characters disappear, another might enter etc. “That’s the writing process. It just has magic in it.” JW: How different is your final draft to your first? S: With ‘This Other Island’, I started the first draft thinking I’d only have one point of view and one protagonist. My final draft has three points of view and the plot itself has become much more intertwined – with more twists and surprises. Having to write a synopsis, query letter and pitch, helped me to identify the main theme in the novel. When I was submitting to agents, some asked which novel or author your novel would sit comfortably next to. Though irritating at the time, that helped to get me focused on the themes in my novel too. With the help of Isobel, I’ve identified more themes running through ‘This Other Island’. And I feel even more proud of the novel. I have always been fascinated by the consequences of not knowing who your parents are. JW: That’s interesting, where do you think that fascination comes from? S: I think it comes from my culture – perhaps a historical thing from slavery when many children were sold off and didn’t know their parents. Parents had children they had to say good-bye to and never see again. I think it’s important to know who you are, who your people are, and who you’re connected with biologically If you don’t, it could lead to dire consequences. JW: Of course. Do you feel like writing became a kind of catharsis in that sense? S: Maybe, but unplanned. The idea for this novel actually came from my mother, when I listened to her talking about her journey to England on a ship. Then whilst plotting and getting the story out, things came through and eventually the whole thing worked. That’s the writing process. It just has magic in it. JW: Do you have any tips for writers who might be working on their first draft? S: Have a plan – you don’t necessarily have to know the end, but make sure you know what the characters are going to go through and have a rough idea of what you want to happen. Many seasoned writers say write the first draft for yourself. Don’t worry about the reader yet. I agree. It’s the best method for me. From Isobel Akenhead, Steffanie’s Editor At Bookouture JW: You must see a lot of submissions at Bookouture. What was it about Steffanie’s novel that stood out for you? Isobel: From the moment I started reading Steffanie’s novel, I was captivated by the story she was telling, the characters she’d created, and her entirely distinctive voice. It was a book I couldn’t stop thinking about! In talking to Steffanie, it became clear that we felt the same way about this beautiful novel, and shared a vision on publishing and readership, that made the editorial partnership feel strong right from the outset. JW: What are you currently looking for at Bookouture and how can writers help their chances of success? Isobel: [At Bookouture] we have an open submissions portal, and are equally delighted by direct and agented submissions, which we endeavour to respond to within a matter of weeks. Writing a compelling synopsis, and enclosing the entire manuscript are practical things you can do to help its success, but in terms of content, we simply want powerful, gripping stories that readers won’t be able to put down. Whether that’s romance, crime, historical fiction, or more book club reads, broadly at Bookouture we’re just looking for commercially written stories that we think a large audience of readers will love. With two books already on the way, Steffanie Edward is a Self-Edit Course alumna to watch. We’re so glad Steffanie found our resources useful and can’t wait to see the debut of this exciting new author on our shelves. You can follow Steffanie on Twitter at @EdwardsaEdward. Don’t forget to view our bursary opportunities here. See more success stories from the Self-Edit Course for yourself at #SelfEditAlumni on Twitter. More about Steffanie’s deal with Bookouture here. Submit your work to Bookouture here. About Steffanie Edward Steffanie Edward was born in St Lucia but brought up in London. Her writing career started with short stories, five of which have been published. Two of them came runner-up in a Darker Times Fiction flash competition. Her novel ‘This Other Island’, was longlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize. Her first attempt at writing a novel was over twenty years ago, whilst living and working in Abu Dhabi. That novel, Yvette, didn’t make it into print, but the main protagonist, has muscled her way into Steffanie’s debut novel, This Other Island. Her second novel, My Mother\'s Gift, was released in 2022. The strong emotional themes in her novels make them very powerful book club reads. For more on Steffanie, see her Twitter or Amazon author page.

Neema Shah On Her Two-Book Deal With Picador

Neema Shah talks to us about her experience with Jericho Writers and her debut novel ‘Kololo Hill’. We were first introduced to Neema Shah on our Self-Edit Your Novel Course, and then at the Festival of Writing in 2017, where she was longlisted for two out of our three competitions that year. Her work was noticed by agents who were keen to read more, and now we can’t wait for the release of her debut novel ‘Kololo Hill’ (18 February 2021), the first in a two-book deal with Picador. We chatted to Neema about how she got her agent, balancing writing with other commitments and telling underrepresented stories.  JW: Hi Neema, lovely to talk to you! Could you start by telling us about your background as a writer? When did you know you wanted to be an author?  N: I actually started off doing a law degree and then went into marketing as a career. I only decided to take up a short creative writing course because my work offered us the chance to do an extra-curricular thing – and I was just hooked. I remembered how much I loved writing as a child, and now I just can’t imagine my life without it.   JW: It’s really strange how life can work out like that! Your debut novel, Kololo Hill, is coming out in February 2021 with Picador – where did it begin? Did you start with a particular character, or maybe a concept?   N: I grew up reading lots of fiction about other places and times, but I found that although there was fiction about the British-Asian experience and the Indian experience, there was nothing about people like my family. I also knew a bit about the expulsion of Asians from Uganda by Idi Amin in the 1970’s – I was always astounded that people could be sent out of their country in just three months. Those two things were really interesting to me, and that’s really what sparked my story. I wanted to explore different viewpoints, because people like my family aren’t necessarily that well represented in fiction.   JW: How did you discover Jericho Writers?   N: I found out about both the Festival of Writing and the Self-Edit Your Novel course back when Jericho Writers was called the Writers’ Workshop, and I used both in my early stages of writing. I had heard really good things about the Self-Edit course – all of which turned out to be absolutely right. Not only did I meet Debi Alper and Emma Darwin but I also met a really great writing friend, Daniel Aubrey, who continues to beta read for me. There are so many great things that come out of the Self-Edit course and I just love it. I’ve recommended it to so many people since.  Off the back of that, I decided to go to the Festival of Writing. That was such an incredible, intense day with lots of workshops – I also did the agent one-to-ones. There were three competitions that year – I came runner up in ‘Best Opening Chapter’ and was longlisted for ‘Pitch Perfect’. I’ve used those on my submission letters since and they’re really well-recognised!  I’ve had loads to do with Jericho Writers and you‘ve been a really key part of my journey.  JW: Do you have any tips for writers working on their first draft?  N: I really feel that a lot of writing is psychological. We spend so much of our time having doubts (which are natural), and you have to push those aside. In an early draft, it really is ‘just keep writing.‘. I’ve been thinking a lot about psychology through my day job in marketing, and the idea of the rational and emotional sides of the brain. When you’re writing, you want to ignore the rational side (which is telling you it’s awful) and access the emotional side. I know there are some writers who will write the first paragraph and edit it straight away, but I find it easiest to write a draft without looking back at all.  Keep on going past the next few drafts and accept that to get a novel finished it can sometimes be boring. It’s just keeping going that’s really important. You also have to have space away from your draft, because you’re far too close to it when you’ve just read over it.  JW: Can you tell us about your journey to finding an agent?   N: I did lots of research – I even made an Excel spreadsheet because I knew I was going to contact quite a few agents and would need to keep track of it all. I also went to events where agents were talking and read blogs so I could get a sense of what agents were like. I made a shortlist and starting by submitting to about 10-12 agents. I was lucky because some of the agents had been on competitions I’d been listed in, including the Festival of Writing, who had said they wanted to read more when it was ready.  I had a lot of rejections, but quite a few manuscript requests, which was brilliant. I ended up with two great agents offering to represent me and I was really spoilt for choice.  JW: I also wanted to ask about your gorgeous book cover – what do you think of it? I noticed that it’s modern Batik print – was that an idea that came from you?   N: I love it so much! It wasn’t the first version – the designer had come up with a few concepts based on fabrics and she wanted them to be related to the story. If you look closely on the cover you notice that as well as the Batik print, which is common to Uganda and India, there’s also an imprint of an Indian passport. There are so many little details working together which you might only see on a second look. I was blown away because I love looking at covers but I never considered how much thought and conscious choice goes into it.  ‘Kololo Hill’ by Neema Shah. Picador, February 2021 JW: How are the challenges you’re facing as a published author now different to challenges you might have faced in the past?   N: When I first started out, I didn’t know any writers at all. Doing the courses definitely helped, as I’ve kept in touch with quite a few people I met there. Twitter was also great for finding other writers, particularly ones to beta read for. There’s a massive writing community there, and the #bookstagram community is also huge.  I do think the publishing industry is getting much better for underrepresented writers (I’m an example of that), but I did have few experiences that I was quite taken aback by. There’s still a way to go, but it is better than it was even five years ago.  I also find there is a slight lack of transparency about what it’s like to be an author. Advances are all different and the way you’re treated in terms of marketing can be very different. Picador are brilliant and they’ve been really transparent with me, but from my understanding that’s not always the case. So, I think finding communities or people going through similar experiences is such a big help, and that’s a piece of advice I would give whatever stage you’re at with your writing.  At the one-to-ones with Jericho Writers, I got really detailed feedback on my opening chapters and my covering letter – that kind of thing can be quite hard to come by and looking for those resources can be really helpful.  JW: How do you organise your time between writing and generating free content for your online platforms (blog and YouTube channel) and having a day job in marketing?   N: The funny thing is that I wrote ‘Kololo Hill’ on my commute, on my smartphone! So, just making use of what would otherwise be dead time really helps. I’m lucky enough to have a good work/life balance as my job is quite flexible. That said, it’s only now that I’m promoting ‘Kololo Hill’ and starting book two and working a day job that it’s starting to feel like a bit much, so I am trying to get better at organising myself. It’s so important to save energy for your creativity – just being creative takes a lot out of you! I try to write early in the mornings before other things get in the way.   “There is a slight lack of transparency about what it’s like to be an author… Finding communities or people going through similar experiences is a big help, and that’s a piece of advice I would give whatever stage you’re at with your writing.”  JW: You mentioned that you’re a big fan of books on the writing process. Are there any other books, perhaps works of fiction, that particularly shaped your writing?   N: One of my favourite books is ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy (based on the Windrush generation, which definitely inspired me). My other favourite books aren’t necessarily the kind of thing that I write about but are things I’d love to write more of – ‘Fingersmith‘ by Sarah Waters is amazing – it has an amazing twist and I’d love to write a book with a proper twist because it’s so hard to do.  For ‘Kololo Hill’ I used a lot of blogs, online photography and a couple of TV shows. I also went on a research trip to Uganda. In terms of first-person experience there wasn’t that much available in writing though. That’s another reason why it was important to me to make sure that story was told, even if in fiction.  JW: Are you reading anything good right now?   N: I’ve been getting into audiobooks, and I’m listening to ‘Elevator Pitch’ by Linwood Barclay. I’m reading a proof I was given of ‘The Smallest Man’ by Frances Quinn, which comes out in January, and I also just finished ‘If I Can’t Have You’ by Charlotte Levin, which is a really good debut from 2020.  From Jenny Savill, Neema’s Agent (Andrew Nurnberg Associates) JW: Hi Jenny. What drew you to Neema’s work, and in what ways was it a strong submission?   JS: Where do I start?!  Her manuscript had a strong opening. The action was firmly rooted in a terrific sense of place and time – a place and a time that I knew a little about from TV as a child but had never really understood. Seeing the 1972 expulsion through the lives of one particular family and their friends was such a brilliant lens through which to show a massive political and social upheaval. That coupled with distinctive, flawed characters whose story I felt compelled to follow, and whose lives continued in my imagination long after the last full stop, made for an impressive submission. I do love a novel that illuminates a life or lives in a way that does away with preconceptions or conventions. I love to be surprised by characters and by the turn of events in a story. ‘Kololo Hill’ does this beautifully.  As an agent, Jenny is always keen to find new voices in 7+, Middle Grade and Young Adult writing. Jenny also represents authors writing for adults. She is on the look-out for writers of literary fiction, commercial and literary women’s fiction, well-written thrillers and psychological suspense, historical fiction (the whole gamut – including alternate histories), memoir and narrative non-fiction. She welcomes originality, depth, and the ability to move and surprise in submissions.    If you’re interested in submitting your own work to Jenny or other agents, AgentMatch is a great tool to refine your search and develop your perfect shortlist. Find out more here.    If you can’t wait until 18 February to read some of Neema’s work, take a look at her website here for more insightful writing tips.    More about Neema Shah here.   About Neema Shah Neema Shah is an author, blogger and marketer. Her debut novel Kololo Hill will be published by Picador on 18th February 2021. She came runner-up in the ‘Best Opening Chapter’ and was longlisted in the ‘Pitch Perfect’ competition at the Festival of Writing in 2017. She has also been shortlisted for the DGA First Novel Prize and Bath Novel Award, both in 2018.
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