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Zahirra Dayal’s Success: Making Writing Competitions Work For You

From the moment we heard the opening of Zahirra Dayal\'s \'Invincible Jacarandas\' at the 2021 Friday Night Live, we knew it was something special. Now, Zahirra\'s making waves. She\'s signed with Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton and made the shortlist in multiple writing competitions. We caught up with her to find out what her writing life was like before Friday Night Live, and beyond it. JW: Hi Zahirra! Firstly, please tell us a bit about your background as a writer, and your journey to writing your first book.   ZD: My love affair with words began when I was very young. I spent hours reading Enid Blyton books which I borrowed from the city library in Harare – the capital city of Zimbabwe where I was born. I was never far away from pen and paper and filled pages of diaries with my thoughts and observations. It was only natural that I went on to study English Literature at university in South Africa. I nurtured the secret hope of writing a novel one day. After I graduated and moved to London in 2000, I enrolled in a part-time creative writing course with the Open University - but from that point onwards life seriously got in the way of my writing ambitions.  Fast forward 19 years and I was finally able to steal a few hours on the two afternoons that I finished work early to write in a café in Wimbledon. Those moments were the beginnings of the very messy zero draft of my novel. The entry point to my novel was a story I wrote for the Open University course, inspired by my intrepid grandmother, who moved to a new continent like many other Passenger Indians at the turn of the 19th Century. The story of the main protagonists, sisters Zaynah and Amira, came to me as I developed the story.     Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going. Most importantly, I loved the actual writing process.  Then the lockdowns happened and while teaching online from home, I carved out more time and space to write. I joined the writing community on Twitter and started writing short stories which I submitted to literary journals. Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going. Most importantly, I loved the actual writing process.  I knew that I still had lots to learn so I applied for every opportunity advertised on Twitter. I did a free short writing course with Spread The Word, but the real game-changer was when I won the bursary for the Jericho Writers Self-Edit Course. Every week we focussed on a different aspect of writing and had a chance to give and receive feedback on our weekly tasks. The tutors – Debi Alper and Emma Darwin -  were fantastic and the other writers were so supportive and insightful.  I joined the writing community on Twitter and started writing short stories which I submitted to literary journals. Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going At first, I was terrified of having my work critiqued as I didn’t believe that what I had could be shaped into a novel. Enter Debi Alper! Debi was the first to show me my novel\'s USP: the exploration of timeless themes in the specific setting of Zimbabwe just after independence. Her belief in my writing has been the gold dust on my journey. It just takes that one person to show you to yourself. I continued to transform my zero draft into a first draft with my shiny new editing tools. After the Self-Edit course, we formed a WhatsApp group to stay in touch with each other and the other writers persuaded me to enter the opening of my novel into the Jericho Writers Friday Night Live competition at the Summer Festival of Writing, which I knew nothing about at the time. I did - and I won! One of the agents from the competition requested the full manuscript afterwards. I was elated, floating on a blissful cloud of joy. But in the end, the agent turned it down - which brought me crashing down to reality again. Her belief in my writing has been the gold dust on my journey. It just takes that one person to show you to yourself. I continued to transform my zero draft into a first draft with my shiny new editing tools. Clearly, it had all happened too fast; I was still heady from my FNL win and there was still a lot of work that needed to be done on my manuscript. Part of the FNL prize was a manuscript assessment and I asked if Debi Alper could do mine. Debi was honest in her feedback and - unsurprisingly - told me that it wasn’t ready for submission yet. I worked on my manuscript for the next few months and then in March 2022 started querying the first 10 agents on my long list of hopefuls. Within days I received full manuscript requests. I held my breath because it felt surreal and I was all too familiar with the pangs of rejection from that first time. Two weeks and six full requests later, I had one zoom call and one face-to-face lunch at a swanky café in London with two agents who both wanted me to sign with them.  JW: Writing can be quite isolating - how did you find a sense of community?   ZD: I have met so many writers through my networks on Twitter and that has made me feel so much less alone. It can feel like you are flailing in the dark sometimes as you type away in your little corner. After the Self-Edit course, The Murder Alibi Club was born and we commiserate the woes and celebrate the highs together. It’s a safe place where I know I will be understood. We also post resources that we come across and it’s just a lovely bunch of writerly people. I would never have got this far were it not for the creative people I’ve met along the way. There are so many people I could name here but they know who they are!  Two weeks and six full requests later, I had had one zoom call and one face-to-face lunch at a swanky café in London with two agents who both wanted me to sign with them.  JW: What kinds of resources did you find useful along the way? ZD: Last year was the first time I attended the Summer Festival of Writing and though it was online, I listened to most of the webinars and found them brilliant. They kept me motivated and I learnt so much from the industry experts and the guest authors. I loved that I was hearing from the authors whose books I was reading at the time.   JW: Do you have any advice for writers trying to get exposure before getting an agent? ZD: Apply to every writing competition you hear of! Each time I applied, I thought that nothing would come of it, but I have now been shortlisted for the Owned Voices Novel Award, longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Writing Award, and The Mslexia Novel Award. Even though I didn’t win, it has been great exposure for my novel and each time I received useful feedback on my manuscript. Being longlisted for the Deborah Rogers also meant that Matthew Turner at RCW agency gave me invaluable tips on pitching my novel and writing my query letter. Submitting short stories to journals is another great way of getting exposure and I created a writer’s website to showcase all my published short fiction and non-fiction (at www.zahirradayal.com.) JW: How did you choose your agent, and what has it been like working with them?   ZD: It was really hard to choose between the two agents that made offers. In some ways, having a choice, whilst being empowering, can also make things more difficult. Both agents loved the novel and were wonderful people who I felt I could work with. It was an agonising decision, but in the end I asked each of the agents to give me more details about the editorial work that needed to be done on my novel. I used this to inform my decision. I chose Katie Fulford, who was the first to read the full novel and get back to me. Katie also has a wealth of experience in publishing and is very familiar with the period I am writing about in Zimbabwe. She has been to Zimbabwe several times and we have the same vision for my novel Invincible Jacarandas.    JW: Finally, have you encountered any surprises in the process so far?  The biggest surprise for me has been how slow things can be and then at other times how fast. The mantra of the industry should be ‘hurry up and wait’. I was also surprised by how supportive the writing community really is. It amazes me that I have had so many conversations online with writers who I have never met face to face but feel like I know as we all experience the same highs and lows and really get it!  About Zahirra Zahirra is a Zimbabwean-born writer who lives in London. She is currently working on her debut novel set in post-independence Zimbabwe and is represented by Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton. She is the winner of the FNL 2021, shortlisted for the Owned Voices Novel Award and longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Writers Award and Mslexia Novel 2021.  Follow Zahirra on Twitter. Explore Zahirra\'s website.

From the stage to the page: Liz Webb’s debut thriller

As a former stand-up comic, voiceover actor, producer - and now, debut author - Liz Webb is no stranger to agility in her career. Her debut novel, \'The Daughter\' (Allison & Busby, May 2022) has garnered reviews from names like Jo Brand and Sophie Hannah. Here\'s how Jericho Writers member Liz navigated her path to becoming a published author, and some things she found useful along the way. JW: How did you find moving between career paths, and eventually moving into writing? LW: I’m both a lily-livered navel-gazer, and a massive control freak greedy for applause.  My career has taken me from stand-up comic to radio producer to psychological crime novelist.  With each job, I’ve needed to fake it till I make it.  In stand-up, I had to fake confidence with audiences and promoters.  With producing, I had to fake confidence with commissioners, writers, technicians and managers.  But with writing, I’ve had to fake the hardest kind of confidence: with myself.  Each time I write, I have to tune out my internal whingeing and keep going, even when I’m sure I’m writing drivel.  Because I know that if I write ANYTHING AT ALL, it may actually be good, or it could be made good.  But if I wait for some mythical future where I’m a 3D confident person (what an outlandish concept), then I won’t go through the process that enables me to write something that I do eventually have confidence in. To tweak a quote from the brilliant Michael Rosen:  I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it, I have to go through it. With writing, I’ve had to fake the hardest kind of confidence: with myself. With all the jobs I’ve done, I’ve used different versions of the same skills.  Stand-up was me telling my stories and controlling the room.  Producing was me telling other people’s stories and controlling a team of talent.  And now writing is me telling a made-up story and controlling myself.  I try to be disciplined and focussed (but often fail) and try to get better at wearing the many different hats one needs to wear to produce a book: idea-generator, plotter, writer, editor, diplomat, therapist, cheerleader, publicist, video presenter and social media promoter.  As I approach the publication of my first novel, my hat collection is expanding exponentially. JW: What kinds of resources helped you along the way? LW: In the summer of 2020, I had a very rough draft of my first novel: a Frankenstein-esque, stitched-together, suppurating thing.  It lacked a USP, a thorough plot, consistent characters, and any depth of theme.  I needed to redraft it multiple times, considering it from every angle.  With all the jobs I’ve done, I’ve used different versions of the same skills.  Stand-up was me telling my stories and controlling the room.  Producing was me telling other people’s stories and controlling a team of talent.  And now writing is me telling a made-up story and controlling myself. That summer, it was at the height of covid, and Jericho Writers ran an amazing online-only writing festival.  It was choc-o-block with videos, live ones and replays, covering everything I needed: plotting, voice, character, editing, pitching, etc.  I looked away from the enormous hill I had to climb and set myself specific tasks.  Each day, I would fasten on my blinkers, watch a video on a particular subject and deal with just that issue in my book.   As I got closer to a decent draft, I did four Jericho Writers one-to-one sessions with agents or book doctors, which resulted in requests for full manuscript reads, giving me confidence. That experience with my first book taught me to always focus on only the next specific task at hand.  It’s like I’m following the practical steps of piloting a plane: taking-off, cruising, course-correcting and then landing.  I try not to think about how unbelievable it is that planes can fly, about all the components needing to work together, or about crashing.  If I did, I would never get that plane from A to B. I still use the excellent resources of Jericho Writers.  There are too many great tutors to recommend, but ones that leap to mind are: Cesca Major, Philippa East, Debi Alper and Rebecca Horsfall.  Whenever I’m in writing freefall, I’ll watch a video and use it to focus my writing.  Yesterday I watched the wonderful Emma Cooper talking about ‘How to hit story beats\', which helped me decide the vital mid-point of my second novel. JW: Do you feel like an author? LW: I feel like an author in the way the fake heiress Anna Delvey felt like an heiress.  I can convince others (and occasionally myself) that I’m an author.  But deep down, I feel like a fraud and I’m just waiting to be caught out.  I’m wracked with self-doubt and imposter syndrome.  But so what!  It’s like I’m following the practical steps of piloting a plane: taking-off, cruising, course-correcting and then landing.  I try not to think about how unbelievable it is that planes can fly, about all the components needing to work together, or about crashing.  If I did, I would never get that plane from A to B. The trick is to write anyway.  When I’m immersed in writing, I can tune out my endless boring negativity.  I’m only too aware that I’ve got massive black spots in my writing skills.  But whoop-di-doo, so does everyone.  I focus on what I am good at (eg. voice, quirkiness and plotting), keep learning the things I can improve on (eg. over-writing and grammar) and just ignore the stuff I’ll always be rubbish at (ooh that would be telling).  I try to remind myself that I’ve worked really hard and should occasionally pat myself on the back. I was at the post office yesterday, posting my novel to a friend. ‘What’s in the parcel and what’s it worth?’ the postmaster asked me. ‘It’s just a book, it’s only worth a few pounds,’ I mumbled. I so wish I’d said: ‘It’s MY book, I wrote it – and the enormous cost of doing so is unquantifiable!’ JW: What has it been like working with your publisher? LW: It’s been great to be published by Allison & Busby, a highly-respected independent publisher.  I will always remember my first meeting with them, being so warmly welcomed at their Soho offices which were filled from floor to ceiling with pristine novels – it was like stepping into a film, in which I played the role of ‘novelist’.  They’ve always been super-enthusiastic about my book and supported me with editing, copy-editing and proof reading. I was quite a novice at social media and got useful advice about using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and (much to my teenage son’s amusement) TikTok.  They hired a brilliant external publicist, who helped me get blog tours, interviews and articles.  They’ve managed all the book production and promotion side of things, but they’ve welcomed discussion about title, front-cover and publicity, thus employing their considerable knowledge and experience, while indulging my megalomania. The self-imposed pressure is good IF I use it constructively to learn more, work harder and open up new possibilities. JW: Has the experience of writing your second novel been different to that of the first? Have you felt any pressure? LW: I feel a gargantuan pressure to write an even better second book and to get an even bigger financial and PR deal.  The self-imposed pressure is good IF I use it constructively to learn more, work harder and open up new possibilities.  But the imagined pressure that I conjure up from friends, agents and publishers is ridiculous.  I have to constantly remind myself that nobody outside of me really cares two hoots about what I do. Writing a second book should theoretically be easier as I’ve gained skills from writing my first one.  But as the achievement escalator I’m on reaches the top of any writing aim, as soon as I’ve blinked, I find myself back at the bottom of a new escalator.  Writing feels like juggling water, never like a solid skill that I’ve mastered, but as long as I keep writing then I’m progressing. Sometimes I kid myself that writing my first novel was easier than writing my second, because I knew less about the enormity of the job and the possibilities of failure.  But that’s such tosh. It’s so easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles.  I once googled an ex-boyfriend I was remembering fondly and discovered that he was in prison!  That’s obviously the start of another novel – but the point is, wherever you are in the writing process, you are where you are and all you can do is keep on trying.   I will keep learning more, writing more and hopefully publishing more.   Because I want to cocoon myself in my private little world of writing.  And because I want massive world acclaim. About Liz Liz Webb originally trained as a classical ballet dancer but had to give up following a back injury. She then worked as a secretary at the British Library whilst going to night school at the City Lit to get into Oxford University at age 23. After graduating, she worked as a stationery shop manager, an art model, a cocktail waitress, stand-up comic, voice-over artist, script editor, and radio drama producer before becoming a novelist.   Liz was a stand-up comic for ten years performing at clubs across the UK and at festivals in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leicester and Cardiff. She also worked for fourteen years as a prolific radio drama producer for the BBC and independent radio production companies. Liz lives in North London with her husband, son and serial killer cat Freddie.  Follow Liz on Twitter @lizwebbauthor Visit Liz\'s website here.

Danielle Owen-Jones on Author Branding and Working with an Agent

Author Danielle Owen-Jones has written for Jericho Writers on a range of topics, from literary devices to anti-heroes. Now, we\'re proud to see her first novel \'Stone Broke Heiress\' published by Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette. We chatted to her about working with her literary agent and how to build your author brand. My debut novel, \'Stone Broke Heiress\', is a romantic comedy set in Liverpool. My agent, Clare Coombes of The Liverpool Literary Agency, came up with the brilliant idea to set the book in Toxteth. The location is an interesting hook for the story because Clare and I believe it’s the first rom com set in the Toxteth area of the city. Clare was one of the literary agents who requested my full manuscript when I was querying. After she read the book and offered representation, one of her suggestions was to change the setting from London to Liverpool. The minute Clare suggested it, I was sold on the idea. Looking back, I’m not sure why I set the book in London – a place I adore, but somewhere I don’t know well. Liverpool, however, I know very well. I grew up in a seaside town half an hour away, and my family are proud scousers. While discussing the location change, Clare and I agreed this would give the book an interesting angle for publishers and would be its USP in the busy and competitive rom com market. It turned out that the new Toxteth location transformed the book; the different setting affected every aspect of the story. Most importantly, the more I wrote about the city I loved and knew so well, the more the ideas flowed, and the story grew stronger. I hoped I was painting a picture of the location through the pages. It was important to me to capture the spirit of Liverpool and fly the flag for it – to represent the city in the right way. The more I wrote about the city I loved and knew so well, the more the ideas flowed, and the story grew stronger. After enthusiastically editing the new setting of the book and revising the draft to include Clare’s other brilliant ideas, we went out on submission to publishers. I sympathise with every writer going through the submission process. It’s nerve-wracking enough when you’re querying literary agents. Then, after you’ve signed with an agent, it feels like you do it all over again. (Though your book being pitched to publishers is probably even more stressful – if that’s possible!) It’s torture waiting to hear if you’re going to get a book deal. I was refreshing my emails every thirty seconds, but I knew I could trust Clare and her passion for the book. All I could do was hope that a commissioning editor would feel the same way! Luckily, one did – Emily Gowers at Bookouture. I was blown away by her enthusiasm for the book. She completely ‘got’ it – both the story and me as an author. What more could you want from an editor? Clare and I talked through the options, but we were both immediately impressed by Bookouture’s pitch, together with Emily’s passion and vision. So, I excitedly signed a two-book deal! It was one of the most surreal and incredible days of my life – and for a while, it felt like I was dreaming. Even now, I’m still not entirely sure it’s sunk in. I knew I could trust Clare and her passion for the book. All I could do was hope that a commissioning editor would feel the same way! Since signing my publishing contract, my writing life has been a whirlwind. Like many authors, I juggle my day job with writing my books. However, I’m fortunate that my work is flexible, as I work for myself. It’s meant plenty of early mornings, late nights, and weekends spent writing or editing. But it doesn’t really feel like work because, as cheesy as it sounds, this is all a dream come true for me. A plus point of my job as a freelance PR consultant and content writer is applying the skills I use with my clients to myself when building my author brand through marketing. The best tip I can give to authors when doing this is to show the person behind the books. Nobody likes a hard sell or a constant, repetitive message of ‘buy my books!’ So, let your audience in and show them who you are as a person and a writer. What inspires you? What’s your writing process? Which books do you adore? What do you love doing at the weekend? In terms of social media, it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to juggle everything. So rather than trying to be active on all the various platforms, instead focus on those you genuinely enjoy. A significant part of the entire writing and publishing process is the people you meet along the way. I feel so lucky to have met an amazing and talented group of writers throughout my experience as a debut author. I’ve made friends for life, and it makes the whole process so much easier when you have the genuine support of people who understand what you’re going through on the rollercoaster ride that is publishing. In terms of social media, it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to juggle everything. So rather than trying to be active on all the various platforms, instead focus on those you genuinely enjoy. Another aspect where that important support from the writing community (and of course, friends and family), plays a major role is when dealing with rejections. They are hard. Incredibly hard. However, something I’ve learnt along the way is that rejection is unavoidable as an author. You have to take the highs (signing with an agent, a publishing deal, glowing reviews) with the lows (rejections from agents, publishers and even readers). Rejection is part of being an author because writing and storytelling are naturally subjective. However, a rejection typically isn’t personal. For example, when querying literary agents, there are so many elements involved in a ‘thanks but no thanks’ (e.g. an agent’s existing list of clients, genre preferences, future publishing trends, their relationships with editors in your book’s genre etc.) It’s human nature that rejection can be hard to stomach, but I’ve found that the more you experience it and get used to it, the easier it is to handle. You learn how to pick yourself up and try again. I remember feeling devastated at my first few literary agent and publisher rejections. But if it’s your dream to be an author, you can’t give up; you have to keep going. From Clare Coombes, Danielle\'s literary agent (The Liverpool Literary Agency): “From the first read, I knew this book was special. There was a lot of interest but I\'m so happy we\'ve found the perfect home for it at Bookouture. Danielle has such an amazing writing style and comic timing. Readers are going to love Arabella\'s journey of self-discovery (and the world of soup, which is such a hilarious and unique framing for this whole story).   For our first women\'s fiction signing and book deal in this genre to be set in Liverpool (and the first romcom we know of based in the Toxteth part of the city), is just incredible and we\'re so proud of Danielle.\"  About Danielle Owen-Jones Danielle Owen-Jones is the debut author of the romantic comedy \'Stone Broke Heiress\'. Danielle started her career as a senior journalist and features writer before launching a PR business, and later signing a two-book deal with Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK. \'Stone Broke Heiress\' is now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. Find out more about Danielle on her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook.

C.A. Lupton: The Ultimate Novel Writing Course and Beyond

Author C.A. Lupton joined us as a student on the Ultimate Novel Writing Course in 2019. Fast-forward to 2022, and her debut novel has just been published by The Book Guild, through a hybrid publishing model. Here\'s how she went from first draft to published book. Having spent many years in academia, I was no stranger to writing for a living: publish, or be damned, was the nature of the game. When I subsequently joined the civil service, I had to learn a very different kind of writing (even down to the font of choice: goodbye the ‘gravitas’ of Times Roman; hello unfussy Arial). Writing was now driven by the need to communicate clearly, concisely (and back-coveringly) with even the dimmest Secretary of State. Finally freed from the linguistic constraints of either setting, I was confident that writing a work of pure fiction would be relatively easy.  Starting out, I was very clear what kind of book I wanted to write, being a long-standing admirer of speculative fiction; and I knew what I wanted to write about: the clear and present dangers of human genetic modification. As a social scientist, I found the task of building a near-future world enjoyably easy, but it soon became obvious how little I knew about other key aspects of the writing craft such as characterisation, dialogue, plotting and, perhaps especially, ‘voice’. I realised I had to forget much of what I thought I knew and get back to the drawing board.   Finding what works To this end, I signed up for the Jericho Writers’ Ultimate Novel Writing Course (UNWC) in 2019 and this proved to be one of the best decisions of my writing career. I received an in-depth, professional assessment of the first draft of the novel, identifying the main areas of weakness and setting out specific ways in which these could be addressed. Encouragingly for a novice author, areas of relative strength were also noted and, for the first time I got a sense that the book might just work. Drawing heavily on the accompanying course materials, and with the sustained encouragement of my tutor, I completed a further, much improved, version of the text.  I signed up for the Jericho Writers’ Ultimate Novel Writing Course (UNWC) in 2019 and this proved to be one of the best decisions of my writing career. Over the following year, I submitted the revised manuscript to innumerable agents, experiencing one or two ‘near misses’, but mostly getting the standard ‘much to admire, but not right for me’ kind of reply. Feedback from the one-to-one agent sessions at the Jericho Writers’ Festival of Writing proved rather more helpful, and I had one promising ‘close encounter’ that in the end came to nothing when it became clear the agent wanted a very different book from the one I wanted to write.  By the start of 2021 I was becoming increasingly despondent; emotionally buffeted by the endless rejections and frustrated by the time the whole process was taking. Determined on a trilogy, I simply couldn’t afford to waste another year on unrequited advances to agents. Self-publishing was the obvious solution, but the more I listened to the excellent Jericho Writers sessions on the topic, the more I realised I did not have the skills, or inclination, to pursue that route effectively. A third way was needed!  The third route So, I began to search for publishers willing to accept direct submissions - a process not assisted by the fact that several of the most promising-looking indies had ceased, or greatly reduced, their operation due to the pandemic. It quickly became clear that there were (are) many sharks operating in the profitable ‘author services’ arena, who will tell you they love your baby and, for a considerable sum, will help you take it to market. I felt I was at risk of sailing too close to vanity publishing waters; a place where a defenceless baby would almost certainly sink without trace (or regard). What I needed was a publisher who accepted agent-less authors but was selective about what it took on.   With the help of the ‘Self-Publishing Services Directory’, produced by the Alliance of Independent Authors (AIA), I identified a small number of publishers who were judged to offer services that were fair, ethical and of good value, and eventually decided on the UK-based Troubadour. This long-established company had an ‘excellent partner’ rating from the AIA and offered three publishing routes: ‘traditional’ and ‘hybrid’ (both, to differing degrees, selective) as well as a ‘self-publish’ option (under Matador). My submission was reviewed by two people and I was offered a ‘partnership’ arrangement on what I considered relatively good terms for an un-agented, novice author.   What I needed was a publisher who accepted agent-less authors but was selective about what it took on. In short, the deal was that I would pay a proportion of the production cost (comparable to what a self-pubber could end up spending on cover design, line/copy edits, marketing, etc) but receive a much higher royalty rate than would obtain on a fully traditional publishing pathway. Should the initial print run sell out, the publisher would bear the full cost of a reprint but would not demand the first refusal on the next book. Most importantly for someone without a social media presence - and absolutely no desire to establish one - I would benefit from the sales, marketing and PR expertise of a large and experienced industry player. Floating or sinking The book went to market on time, actively and, as far as I can tell, effectively, supported by a marketing manager, a production manager, an eBook sales manager and a customer support manager! Would I have written a better book if I had secured an agent? Very probably - although much would depend on the skills of the agent and my relative (un)importance in their scheme of things - and the book would definitely have a greater market impact if it was published (and selected for promotion) by one of the ‘big five’ or genre-specialist indies. But my hybrid route has given me a chance to get my foot in a door that was otherwise proving stubbornly shut.  My hybrid route has given me a chance to get my foot in a door that was otherwise proving stubbornly shut. It may be that my literary baby still sinks without trace, and it may be that the hybrid option will not work for many. But for me the alternatives were unthinkable: to spend precious time in a (likely) fruitless fish for agents or to delay the start of the second book in order to develop the skills and strategies of a successful self-publisher. So big thanks to Troubadour, and big thanks also to the fabulous folks at Jericho Writers without whose support and encouragement - and smorgasbord of excellent learning materials - Red Dirt Girl would almost certainly never have seen the light of day.  About C.A. Lupton C.A. Lupton spent all her working life in the health sciences, initially in a university research unit and later as a research commissioner for the UK Department of Health. She has now retired from paid work and lives by the sea with her family. Buy \'Red Dirt Girl\' here. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

From First Publication to Second – What I’ve Learned, by Sarah Linley

We last heard from Sarah Linley when she told us all about her journey to publication for her debut, The Trip. Now, her second novel is about to be published by One More Chapter (the digital imprint of Harper Collins). We caught up with Sarah two years later to find out how things have been since the publication of her debut, and what she\'s learned. JW: We last spoke to you ahead of the publication of your first novel, ‘The Beach’ (subsequently retitled ‘The Trip’). Now, two years on, your second novel publishes next month. In what ways did the process for the second book feel different?   SL: I think I had more confidence going into the process of writing and publishing my second book. I knew more about the craft – structure, plot, characters, theme – and I had more experience of the editorial process, so I knew what my flaws were (weak characterisation and overuse of the word ‘just’ being two of them!).   The Wedding Murders is classic crime meets psychological thriller. Libby is a plus-one at a celebrity wedding in a grand manor house in the Yorkshire Dales. She’s the guest of her boyfriend Matthew, who used to be in a pop band in the 90s. It’s the first time the old friends have got together since they split up and Libby soon realises that they have secrets to hide…  Having someone on my side, championing my work, made me feel much less alone in the process. I really enjoyed writing The Wedding Murders and the research was a lot of fun. This time around, I found it less daunting to approach experts and ask them questions, and I had a much better understanding of story structure which helped because this novel is set over a tight timeline.   That said, the second book produced some curveballs. Not least having to rewrite the first chapter about twenty times because I couldn’t find a good way to start the story, which hadn’t been an issue with The Trip. Writing my debut, I didn’t understand the importance of book bloggers and I had never heard of NetGalley. Engaging with readers has been one of the best things about being published, and that was a surprise, as I was quite scared of that aspect before I was published.   I also thought I would be less nervous as publication day for book two approaches. I’m not!  JW: You navigated your first book deal alone but had an agent for the second. How did the two experiences compare, and would you recommend finding an agent before approaching publishers?  SL: Having someone on my side, championing my work, made me feel much less alone in the process. I am represented by Camilla Shestopal and she is absolutely lovely. One of the reasons I enjoy working with her is that she really cares about my writing. She speaks about my characters as if they’re real people, and I thought only I would feel that way about them!   Camilla did a lot of editorial work with me before we submitted the book which meant it was in much better shape and that made the structural edits easier.   Negotiating a book deal on my own wasn’t my first choice. I couldn’t get an agent interested in my debut, despite around 30 submissions, so I decided to go it alone because I really believed in the book.  Digital-first publishers are happy to work with unrepresented authors and I found the process quite straightforward. I read two great books by Harry Bingham and Rhoda Baxter and my friend is also a lawyer which helped. Once you have a book deal, you can join the Society of Authors and they will look over contracts for you.   Having an agent is great but not essential. They are inundated with submissions so it can be quite difficult to stand out among their huge slushpiles.   If you feel that having an agent would be helpful, I recommend trying this route first, and giving it a real chance (i.e. 20-30 submissions, not a handful), but don’t be afraid to represent yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge about the industry, ask a lot of questions, and have confidence in your writing.   JW: What kinds of resources have you found useful throughout your writing journey? SL: Jericho Writers is a great resource for writers. You can learn everything about the writing and editing process, approaching agents, self-publishing and marketing your work - but one of the best things is meeting other writers that are on this journey with you.   Don’t be afraid to represent yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge about the industry, ask a lot of questions, and have confidence in your writing. I have been involved with Jericho Writers since I was shortlisted for the Friday Night Live competition in 2014. The Festival of Writing in York was always such a great social event as well as a chance to learn, so I was apprehensive when it moved online due to lockdown. However, I have found the digital festival even better in some ways. Being able to watch the videos on replay meant I could pace myself a bit more and attend more sessions. I do miss the social aspect though.   I completed Debi Alper & Emma Darwin’s Self-Editing Your Novel course last year. After the course, the students set up a writing group over WhatsApp, and we are now in almost daily contact posting articles and questions, helping each other through problems, and cheering each other on. We meet weekly on Zoom to do virtual write-ins which are brilliant for staying motivated!  JW: What have you learned since publishing your first book, and what do you feel you still have left to learn?  SL: I’ve learned so much about the industry and the editorial process through publishing my debut. Writing a novel can be lonely but once you are working with a publisher, you become part of a team. You have to let go of your darlings and appreciate that putting your book into the world is a collaborative process.  There is so much still to discover about writing and publishing, and I think I will be learning for the rest of my life!   A useful piece of advice I got in the early days was to reinvest everything you earn from your first book into developing your craft. There are some great courses out there and you might want to pay for editorial help or mentoring as you write your second book. Everything helps!   Writing a novel can be lonely but once you are working with a publisher, you become part of a team. You have to let go of your darlings and appreciate that putting your book into the world is a collaborative process. I read a lot of books about the craft of writing and I am always learning from other writers. I love attending writing festivals and have found the move to digital has meant this has become much more accessible. This year, for the first time, I attended Bloody Scotland (virtually!). One of the highlights was an interview with Stephen King – it was amazing to be able to hear such a legend talking about his writing (and get a glimpse of his study!). I’ve also been lucky enough to attend online events with Margaret Atwood, Philip Pullman, Tracy Chevalier, Marian Keyes, Dorothy Koomson, and other writing heroes, which wouldn’t have been possible before lockdown.   JW: What’s your best piece of advice for writers who are querying right now?   SL: Never give up on your dreams! Rejection is part of the territory of being a writer but it’s not personal. If someone doesn’t love your work, then they’re not the right person to represent you. Try to be patient and wait for ‘the one’. It may take a while to get published, and you may need to write a few books before you do, but it’s worth it in the end!   About Sarah Sarah Linley lives in Yorkshire and works as a Communications Manager for a housing charity.  Her debut novel, The Trip, was published by One More Chapter (the digital imprint of HarperCollins) in February 2020.   Her second novel, The Wedding Murders, will be published by the same publisher in February 2022.  When she is not writing, she enjoys reading and walking in the Dales.   Visit Sarah\'s website. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @linleysarah1 View The Trip on Amazon. View The Wedding Murders on Amazon.

Karen Menuhin On Self-Publishing Her Way To A Top Amazon Spot

When Karen Menuhin ventured into self-publishing with her debut, Murder at Melrose Court, she didn\'t know what to expect. She\'s since published seven books in The Heathcliff Lennox series as eBooks, paperback and audio, and made it to #1 on Amazon in the USA. In this interview, we\'ll hear about where she began and the realities of having a career as a self-published author. I started writing in 2018. My husband had just completed his autobiography, but his publisher had gone bust part-way through the process and we didn’t know where to turn. I\'d read about self-publishing in the newspapers, so volunteered to find out how to do it. Once I figured out the basics, I realised the opportunities it offered. The daunting barriers of the traditional publishing world had been removed, and I\'d always loved books and stories - so I thought \'why not give writing a try?\' I was 60 years old with nothing to lose... so I set about writing a book. I had tremendous fun developing the story and characters; Murder at Melrose Court wasn\'t meant to be particularly funny, but I think there\'s quite a lot of humour in it simply because I enjoyed writing it so much. The daunting barriers of the traditional publishing world had been removed. I joined Jericho Writers early in the process, so it hadn\'t taken me long to realise I knew next to nothing about the nitty-gritty of self-publishing or writing a novel. I read everything I could find on the site, watched the \'how to\' videos, and listened to lectures. Once I\'d completed the book and uploaded it to Amazon, with the correct files and cover and all the details you have to add (categories, keywords, ISBNs and the rest), I had to think about how to bring the book to the attention of readers. Taking the plunge into self-pub Someone in the Jericho Writers community had posted that they\'d given away their debut novel free for two days. This seemed like a good idea to me, and it didn\'t cost a bean, so that\'s what I did. On December 3rd, 2018 I pressed \'go\' or whatever it was, and the book went live. 1,100 ebooks were given away in 2 days. I was dismayed that so many books had been snapped up - I thought there would be nobody left prepared to pay for it. I was wrong. \'Murder at Melrose Court\' has since sold hundreds of thousands of copies, for which I\'m eternally grateful. 1,100 ebooks were given away in 2 days... I thought there would be nobody left prepared to pay for it. I was wrong. It was by no means an effortless ride, though. A few months after \'Melrose\' was published I noticed sales falling away quite dramatically. I realised that I\'d have to learn about marketing. I turned again to Jericho Writers and attended a one-day seminar in London run by Harry Bingham and David Gaughran, along with the wonderful Rachel Abbott (a true heroine of the self-publishing world). I took copious notes about Facebook adverts and Amazon ads and heard about Bookbub, then went home to digest the information. Marketing is a costly and time-consuming process, it\'s probably the biggest burden of the self-publisher, and it\'s essential to get it right. I can\'t say I\'ve ever really got to grips with it. My eldest son, Jonathan, took an interest in it and now runs it for me. Without that support, my writing time would be slowed to about half of what it is now. That doesn\'t mean I\'m absolved from the day-to-day business of self-publishing - there are still 101 other jobs to do. Admin, correspondence, liaising and directing proofreading, editing, graphics, formatting, social media and promotions and a great deal more than I want to think about. It\'s added a new dimension to our lives and a few extra pressures. My dear husband, Krov, was a documentary filmmaker. He understands the sacrifices and helps in every way he can. He carries out a lot of research for me, reads every chapter, discusses plots, and is encyclopaedic on weapons due to his military background. It\'s added a new dimension to our lives and a few extra pressures. I\'ve just published my 7th book in the Heathcliff Lennox series and have started on number 8. I thought I\'d be retiring in my 60s, but I\'m working harder than ever. It has its rewards though. I bought Krov a beautiful used Maserati Quattroporte for his 80th birthday, we drive around Europe discussing means of murder with our dog and cat in the back. Life is to be lived. Audio - a crucial format The audible version of Murder at Melrose Court was number 1 in the USA in July 2021. The narrator, Sam Dewhurst-Phillips, is superb. He acts all the different parts and brings the books to life, so the quality of his work is essential to the success of the audiobooks. I hadn\'t initially been convinced by audiobooks, but the market has grown exponentially and is now over a third of my sales. Having your book narrated is not a difficult process. It\'s all explained on ACX (the audible arm of Amazon) and is easy to follow. The reality of self-publishing If asked what the crucial factor to successful self-publishing is, I\'d say it was writing good books. There\'s no other criteria than that, although dogged determination probably helps too. There are definitely pros and cons to self-publishing. The downside is the responsibility – everything rests on you. The upside is the control; I\'m not answerable to anyone, and I get to keep all my own income (after extensive costs, of course). I think the best aspect of writing is sharing the stories with readers. My books are murder mysteries so they\'re effectively puzzles and I challenge the reader to solve them – it\'s a sort of game between us. They write to me, telling me if they worked it out, or not and if they enjoyed the stories - usually, they do. It\'s very satisfying and inclusive, and I really enjoy being a part of it. If you’d like some help with your writing, try our copy-editing service. About Karen Karen Menuhin is the number 1 bestselling author of The Heathcliff Lennox series. Having grown up in the military, she has lived an itinerant life and is often on the move. She has two sons and lives with her dog, her cat, and her husband, Krov, who is ex-US Special Forces and a documentary filmmaker. Visit Karen\'s website Find her on Facebook Buy her books on Amazon UK Or on Amazon US.

Jack Lutz On Finding Your Perfect Agent

When Jack Lutz first came to us as a mentee, then as a student on the Ultimate Novel Writing Course, it was clear that his writing was something special. Now represented by Jordan Lees at The Blair Partnership, Jack\'s first novel, \'London in Black\', is set to be published in June 2022 by Pushkin Vertigo. We sat down to chat about his writing journey, and the practical ways you can narrow down your shortlist and find your perfect agent. JW: Could you tell us a little bit about your journey as a writer? When did you start writing, and where are you with publication now? JL: I was rummaging around in some old boxes recently and unearthed a short story I wrote when I was eight - a murder mystery set in London. So I suppose writing’s something I’ve always done, or at least always wanted to do...but it was mostly just bits of novels I’d start then immediately scrap. Never enough time, or I’d second-guess the idea and stop. And then in 2019, I buckled down and actually finished a novel for the first time (with mentoring help from Jericho Writers\' Daren King). But I worried it wasn’t strong enough so rather than submitting it to agents, I set it aside and signed up for the Ultimate Novel Writing Course, in order to write another. That second novel, \'London in Black\', will be published next June by Pushkin Vertigo. It’s a near-future police procedural set in 2029, two years after terrorists release a novel nerve agent at Waterloo Station with catastrophic consequences. Our hero is DI Lucy Stone, a cop with crippling survivor guilt who must hunt a killer and recover a stolen nerve agent antidote (that may or may not be a figment of her imagination). So - a murder mystery set in London, just like when I was eight! We’ve just finished copyediting, and at the moment I’m waiting to see first pass page proofs. JW: In what ways did being a student on the UNWC help to shape your writing?   JL: Lots of different ways - the course material was instructive, the Q&As useful - but the thing that I’m most grateful for is the mentoring. I was assigned a brilliant writer named Craig Taylor as my mentor, and we had periodic phone calls throughout the course. The mix of tailored feedback plus support and encouragement was unbeatable. I felt challenged, which I loved because it meant my writing was being taken seriously. JW: How did you find your agent?  JL: I was very fortunate! At the end of the UNWC, Craig (in an act I’ll be forever grateful for) sent a note to Harry Bingham with some kind words about my manuscript. Shortly after that, I received an email from Jericho’s wonderful Rachael Cooper, telling me that she was willing to send a manuscript recommendation out to an agent on my behalf - and did I have any thoughts on who?  Determined not to waste the opportunity, I turned to Jericho Writers\' AgentMatch. First, I ran a search for agents actively looking for crime/thrillers, which spat out about ninety names. I looked them all up and narrowed the list down to about twenty who seemed really focussed on the genre. I read any interviews I could find online, then went on my Kindle and downloaded free chapters from books by each agent’s clients, hoping to get a feel for whether my writing style might appeal.  At the end of all of that, the agent I hoped would be the best fit for me and my book was Jordan Lees at The Blair Partnership. Rachael sent off the recommendation, and later that day Jordan wrote back asking for the full manuscript. Two weeks later, Rachael forwarded on a note from Jordan asking if I could have a chat with him - and that chat was the Call: an offer of representation.  The mix of tailored feedback plus support and encouragement was unbeatable. I felt challenged, which I loved because it meant my writing was being taken seriously. JW: Were there any surprises along the way, or anything you wish you had been prepared for?   JL: My given name’s ‘John’, and I’ve never really used a nickname. But it turns out that there’s already a (quite prolific!) thriller writer named John Lutz, which meant I suddenly needed to pick a new name for myself. I wasn’t expecting that!  I looked them all up and narrowed the list down to about twenty who seemed really focussed on the genre. I read any interviews I could find online, then went on my Kindle and downloaded free chapters from books by each agent’s clients, hoping to get a feel for whether my writing style might appeal. JW: What advice would you give to a new writer working on their first draft?   JL: My favourite ideas tend to pop into my head when I’m somewhere other than sitting in front of my laptop. If that’s true for you, too, my advice is simple: whenever you have an idea -- for a scene, a snippet of dialogue, a word, whatever - write it down as soon as you possibly can.   At first, I only used notebooks, but that got to be a problem when I came up with ideas in the middle of the night…half the time, I couldn’t decipher my scribblings the next day. And then carrying a notebook everywhere wasn’t very practical, either, so I wound up switching to the notes app on my phone (simple, but works great!). But no matter how you do it, don’t put it off. I’m sure I would’ve forgotten the best of my midnight ideas if I’d waited until morning to write them down.   From Rachael Cooper, Head of Publishing and AgentMatch at Jericho Writers Working with John was such a pleasure. Not only was this the first recommendation to come from the Ultimate Novel Writing Course but it came with a glowing recommendation from John’s mentor. So naturally, I made myself a tea and started reading. To say I was blown away by the opening chapters would be an understatement. I immediately sent John a very frantic/excited email saying that 1) I’d love to work with him to find an agent, and 2) very cheekily asking him to send me the full manuscript so I could read on! John and I spent a couple of weeks fine-tuning his submission pack. We even had a transatlantic call mid-pandemic to perfect his elevator pitch for the query letter. When that was ready and John had been able to explore AgentMatch and research his agent shortlist, we decided Jordan Lees could be the perfect match. Before I even had time to cross my fingers, we got a reply from Jordan requesting the full manuscript. This was the quickest response I’ve had from an agent to date. There’s something about helping talented and dedicated authors achieve their dreams, however small a part we play, that makes this job so special. When we heard the news that \'London in Black\' had been picked up by Pushkin Vertigo for publication in 2022, the whole Jericho team were over the moon. There’s something about helping talented and dedicated authors achieve their dreams, however small a part we play, that makes this job so special. About Jack Jack Lutz is a writer and a lawyer. He lives in London with his wife and young daughter. His debut novel, London in Black, will be published by Pushkin Vertigo in June 2022. Jack Lutz, The Blair Partnership The Bookseller, \"Pushkin swoops for Lutz police procedural debut.\" AgentMatch

‘Ghost Girl, Banana’: Wiz Wharton on choosing a publisher and staying true to your heart as a writer

We first met Wiz when the opening of her debut novel was longlisted for Friday Night Live at the 2020 Summer Festival of Writing. She went on to win our bursary for the Self-Editing Your Novel course, and after receiving six (!) offers, is now represented by the RCW Literary Agency. \'Ghost Girl, Banana\' was pre-empted by Hodder Studio and will be published as its major summer launch in 2023. Here, we got to chat to Wiz about staying true to your heart as a writer, the importance of a writing community, and more. JW: Tell us a little about your background as a writer. When did you start writing? WW: I was an absolutely voracious reader as a kid, and I think that naturally led me to think it would be something fun and easy to do as a job - haha! I remember when I was about six, I sent a hand-drawn children’s manuscript to Hamish Hamilton, called Tilly and the Flower People. It was about a gang of rebellious tulips plotting a coup against their greedy human nursery boss (don’t ask). One of the editors sent me the loveliest reply - a rejection, obviously, with two bits of advice: 1) Never send your original MS through the postal system and 2) Keep trying. I actually started my career in a different field, studying screenwriting at the National Film and Television School where I had the privilege of being taught by some of the greats like Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh and Ken Trodd. My graduation film won a couple of prizes on the international film circuit and from there I was picked up by the BBC. I subsequently worked on a few projects, but ultimately none of them were green-lit - another hard lesson in rejection! JW: What was the first piece of work you put through the submissions process? What was that like? WW: My first adult submission was for a novel that I believed sat firmly in the genre of literary/upmarket commercial. What I was subsequently told by two agents - who offered me representation - was that I’d written an “unintentional thriller” and could I please make it more of one! I absolutely love thrillers as a reader, but in my heart knew that this was not my natural home as a writer. I also knew that I was in this as a career rather than a one-book thing, and worried how I would follow this, having set up readers’ expectations of my work. As a result, and after much soul-searching, I turned down both offers and started again... Finding a community JW: How has having a community of writers around you helped with your writing journey? Do you have any advice for writers trying to find their community? WW: I think the best thing a writer can do - apart from reading everything you can get your hands on - is to find a group of people who understand you. For writers, that’s other writers because no one else can quite comprehend either why we do what we do, or the struggles of the journey. I was incredibly lucky to discover the Twitter writing community early on, especially the #VWG (Virtual Writing Group) who have been absolutely instrumental in keeping me going, but there are other outlets available too: in-person groups, creative writing initiatives/courses (like Jericho Writers!) Instagram and Facebook. The best way to find your tribe is to engage with others. You have to put in the effort because writing is a reciprocal act. What I mean is that it’s not just about creating; you’re always looking to find and understand your audience. It’s intimidating at first, but just say hi, offer suggestions to questions, enter competitions or things like #pitmad, #askagent and #WritersLift, or congratulate someone else’s achievements. By and large, the writing community is incredibly generous and inclusive, despite occasional pockets of unpleasantness, and you will be welcomed. You have to put in the effort because writing is a reciprocal act. What I mean is that it’s not just about creating; you’re always looking to find and understand your audience. JW: Tell us about Friday Night Live. What was that experience like? WW: I was a festival novice when I entered and didn’t think I had any chance of being longlisted, so it was wonderful to have that validation. And just entering a competition is an act of faith and bravery, so I have a lot of admiration for anyone that does it. I didn’t reach the shortlist of FNL but my experience with Jericho did lead to me winning the Self-Edit bursary that year, and being noticed in other competitions, so it’s definitely worth putting yourself out there. I will add that the quality and standard of teaching at Jericho Writers is wonderful, but if you can’t stretch to the cost of a professional assessment or a course, the Summer Festival of Writing is a brilliant, affordable alternative that gives you access to some of the greatest speakers and workshops on writing. The fairytale choice JW: You submitted to six agents and received four manuscript requests within an hour. You also received six offers! How did that feel? Was the process what you expected? WW: I’m still reeling, actually! It’s an enormous privilege and a thrill to have that response to your work, but I do think a lot of it came down to timing and a public appetite for more diverse stories. This wasn’t my first rodeo, and I’d been told previously that my writing was sound but my voice was too marginal for the market. Because of this, I was girding my loins for rejection again (and the famously long wait for a response), so to have that turnaround was a bit bewildering. I remember speaking to my friends in the #VWG and saying “X has asked for a meeting. What does this mean?” You always wonder “is this the call?” because sometimes it isn’t; sometimes it’s a request for a revise and resubmit (an “R&R”), but it just happened that all six offered representation. And as much as it was an absolute fairytale situation, I can’t even begin to describe the agony of making a final choice and having to turn people down. It felt really alien to me, and I do think it’s important to remember that agents are people, too, and they are also said no to daily - be that through editors, publishers or sometimes even writers! I do think it’s important to remember that agents are people, too, and they are also said no to daily - be that through editors, publishers or sometimes even writers! JW: Rather unusually, you’re represented by two agents. What is your working relationship with them like? WW: I am incredibly blessed in that department. I have to say that the wonderful Claire Wilson is my primary agent at RCW and helps me day to day with absolutely everything, but Peter Straus has also taken me under his wing and emails me with incredible advice, offers editorial notes, or sometimes just emails to ask if I’m okay. It’s incredibly collaborative and nurturing, as is the whole agency. Claire’s assistant Safae and all at the foreign rights team are also majorly amazing. I’m working on that “difficult” book two now and Peter and Claire have both been brilliant in terms of their insights. JW: How did the offer from Hodder come about? WW: Claire drew up a submissions list for both the UK and US. We’d spent the previous five weeks rewriting the manuscript (twice) to try and make it as strong as possible before sending it out as we wanted to catch people before the summer break. The “nos” came quickly, and quite fast, but the fact they were all for different reasons helped me view them as subjective rather than a fault with the book itself. And that’s the thing. A book lives for a long time in these early phases and for that reason you absolutely NEED an editor to be in love with it 100%. Some of the editors were incredibly passionate about the book, but it fell at the acquisitions meeting stage for one reason or another. I do think there’s this misconception that only one person has to love your book for it to be published, but it actually takes a village to get to that finish line. Luckily, we did have a fair bit of interest from both here and in the US, but when I had my first meeting with Sara Adams at Hodder I knew instinctively that she was who I wanted to work with. First of all, she’d brought her lucky cat to the meeting (haha) but secondly, her whole team was on board already and loved the book. Most importantly, however, Sara understood the story to its bones which is crucial to me as a writer. We were immediately on the same page about what might need changing/tweaking whilst maintaining the heart and integrity of the novel. That combination was irresistible to both me and Claire. And can I just add that I am so glad to have had an agent at that point; not just for the professional connections but for the negotiations that took place after the offers came through. It was stressful enough handling the phone calls, let alone doing all the figures behind the scenes! A book lives for a long time in these early phases and for that reason you absolutely NEED an editor to be in love with it 100%. JW: Finally, do you have any tips for writers working on their debut right now? WW: In much the same way as any creative field, writing is a skill acquired over many years of dedication and training, and the journey is fraught with disappointment and “almost there”s. Keep the faith, but also keep reading and learning. No one can write your story your way, so as tempting as it is to compare yourself to others it’s also counterproductive to finding and loving your own voice. Your voice is what makes you special and uniquely qualified to tell your story. Write with your heart rather than with one eye on the market (you’ll always be behind the curve) and do it as if no one is looking. Find a support network of other writers and be generous and sincere in your praise. Connect with agents professionally and courteously and don’t trash talk on social media, even when you’re at your lowest. And if you achieve your dream, whether that’s finishing a book or being published, or being successfully published, don’t pull the ladder up after you. I wish you all the very best on the journey. About Wiz Wiz Wharton is a prize-winning graduate from the National Film and Television School. Previously published in non-fiction, she has appeared on various broadcast platforms, including radio, television, and print media. Her debut novel, Ghost Girl, Banana - based on her mother’s posthumously discovered diaries - is a dual narrative examining the search for belonging and identity, set between the last years of the Chinese Windrush in 1966 and Hong Kong’s Handover to China in 1997. Wiz currently divides her time between London and the Scottish Highlands. Read more about Wiz on the RCW website; or on The Bookseller. Connect with Wiz on Twitter: @Chomsky1

Natalie Chandler’s debut two-book deal with Headline Accent

Natalie Chandler began researching and writing her debut novel, \'Believe Me Not\', in 2020, and attended the Summer Festival of Writing to build up her confidence before seeking agent representation. She\'s now represented by Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment, and recently signed a deal with Headline Accent. Natalie kindly shares her story and some words of wisdom here.  JW: Tell us about finishing your book – where did the idea come from, and how did you go about turning that idea into words on a page?   NC: ‘Believe Me Not’ was born from a dream, believe it or not (delighted to have got a pun in so early on). I woke up thinking about a disorientated woman trying to find her baby son despite everyone she trusted insisting she didn’t have a child - and the idea just wouldn’t be quiet until I sat down and started writing.  I’m very much a pantser so I had no idea where the plot was going or what was going to happen. But my protagonist, Megan, was already fully formed and she drove the early chapters. I did a lot of research – I hate getting details incorrect – and was fortunate that one of my best friends works in the NHS and she not only patiently answered my countless questions but also put me in touch with other mental health professionals.  For the first time, I had no other distractions, due to the small matter of the world coming to a halt with a global pandemic. No lunch invites, no exhortations for ‘just one drink’ or weekend getaways. I was writing practically full-time and it was flowing like never before. I had nearly finished the first draft when I saw an advert for the Summer Festival of Writing and decided, since I was Doing This Properly, it would be a sound investment. It turned out I was right. I came away feeling empowered, knowledgeable, no longer a complete amateur – and ready to edit until I could edit no more.    JW: How did you land your agent? During the 2020 Summer Festival of Writing, I attended every webinar led by an agent. I wanted to learn as much as I could about submissions before jumping into the fray again, having previously tried to find representation for two earlier novels and been unsuccessful. Jericho Writers provided such wonderful opportunities to, for the first time, really discover the secrets of the industry and I felt much more confident in my submissions package after applying everything I’d learnt. I also booked several agent one-to-ones, which were nowhere near as terrifying as expected! One of the early ones was particularly brilliant. She ripped my opening pages to shreds and it really stung at the time, but when I sat down to work through her deeply perceptive notes, I realised she’d helped me improve tenfold and I was so grateful to her. From then, I had a stronger package to present at one-to-ones and I gained three more full requests from subsequent sessions.   By this point, I already had six full manuscripts on submission and was prepared to wait to see what the feedback would be when, out of the blue, I saw on Twitter that Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment had opened her submissions that morning. I’d followed Liza for a while and really liked her style so I decided there was nothing to be lost in contacting her. She replied within hours asking for the full manuscript and just over a week later, I was signing on the dotted line in a state of wonder, disbelief and sheer joy.  It had been nearly a decade since I sent out those first tentative letters (no email back then!) seeking representation and I was so thrilled by the opportunity to become part of the Mushens Entertainment family – a dream agency I had followed since its creation – that I didn’t quite dare to believe it was finally happening.   JW: What was the process of choosing an agent after a number of full manuscript requests?   Liza was the first agent to call – she read the full manuscript in 48 hours and left me the most wonderful voicemail telling me how she loved it so much she’d stayed up half the night to finish it, which I intend to keep forever! As soon as we got talking, I was amazed by her excitement and her sheer passion for ‘Believe Me Not’. She already understood the characters and themes and we were completely on the same page regarding edits and improvements. I knew we’d clicked but Liza encouraged me to continue talking to the other agents who had the full manuscript and see what their thoughts were. They were all lovely and so encouraging but my gut was telling me I was going to accept Liza’s offer. My partner told me to listen to the voicemail again and said ‘anyone that enthusiastic is going to be your most valuable ally. She’s 100% committed to you and the book and you can’t ask for anything more’. That sealed it for me.  JW: What is your relationship like with your agent now?   Wonderful! Editing together was the best experience – the book grew stronger and I learned so much working alongside a talented professional for the first time. Liza’s cup is always half-full and she approaches everything with positivity. She checks in regularly whilst still giving me total autonomy in the writing process, and she always has time for me despite being super busy. I can discuss any problems or concerns with her and know I can trust her advice and guidance.   My partner told me to listen to the voicemail again and said ‘anyone that enthusiastic is going to be your most valuable ally. She’s 100% committed to you and the book and you can’t ask for anything more’. That sealed it for me.  JW: So you got your agent, but then what? What was the submissions process like?   ‘Nerve-wracking’ is probably the best description. There had already been interest from a number of editors when I gained representation so we started with a list of twenty initial submissions to mostly Big 5 houses after we’d done two rounds of edits. I knew there are always rejections so I’d steeled myself but we were getting fantastic feedback and after three weeks, the magic word ‘acquisitions’ was whispered. Days later, Liza called with the news that Headline Accent wanted to meet me and was offering a two-book deal – I was really going to be a published author!  JW: Has everything met your expectations so far, or have there been a few surprises?   As a debut, I didn’t expect to be given the level of autonomy and control I have.  Even though I’m learning fast, I’m still inexperienced, therefore I’d anticipated more instructions and fewer discussions. I was impressed that my thoughts and opinions are valued and how it has been constantly emphasised that it is my book and I am free to decide what works best.  Editing together was the best experience – the book grew stronger and I learned so much working alongside a talented professional for the first time. Liza’s cup is always half-full and she approaches everything with positivity. JW: Has this experience taught you anything about the publishing industry and pursuing your goals? Primarily, I’ve learned how lovely people in the publishing industry are! Everyone I’ve met has been so generous with their time, advice and encouragement. I’m very grateful. Don’t be scared to ask questions and take every opportunity to learn and network. If being an author is what you really want, understand it won’t happen overnight – sometimes it takes a decade. Stay committed through all the rejections and keep going – write anything, write everything, but keep honing your craft and growing as an author. You’ll feel like giving up many times but never forget you write, above all else, because you love it.  It’s all worth it the moment you get the voicemail that will change your life!  About Natalie Natalie Chandler was educated at the University of Durham and currently works in behavioural education, specialising in social, emotional and mental health issues.  Her debut psychological thriller \'Believe Me Not\' was written during lockdown and delves into the fractured mind of a woman abruptly diagnosed with psychosis, as she fights to prove the existence of her baby.  \'Believe Me Not\' will be published by Headline Accent in March 2022. Natalie is represented by Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment and divides her time between London and the rural North of England. 

Jan Cavelle’s Achievements in Business and Books

Entrepreneur and Jericho Writers alumna Jan Cavelle is phenomenally successful, having grown her own 20-year-strong business from scratch and published a book of expert insights into growing a business, ‘Scale for Success’, with Bloomsbury in 2021. Whether it’s a business or a book, the journey is never easy - and Jan kindly shares her experience of non-fiction publishing with us here.   January 2020 seems a different world away for all of us.  I was paying little attention to tales of an old lady dying of some unknown disease in remote China.  In fact, I had gone off-grid, telling no one what I was doing.  It was too big, too heart-stoppingly important to me.    One chilly day that January,  I hauled myself upright at around three in the morning and drove to London, terrified of missing my appointment.  I spent most of the four-hour wait in a tourist hotel pushing congealed eggs around my plate and wondering just how many cups of tea it was possible to drink.  Finally, I walked around the corner to the hallowed offices in Bloomsbury Square to stare in awe at the Harry Potters on display in reception.   I had gone off-grid, telling no one what I was doing. It was too big, too heart-stoppingly important to me. But let me take you back a little.  My childhood dream was to write a book, but life and, as a single parent, an abrupt need to make a living took over.  I started a business on a shelf under the stairs in our tiny Victorian cottage and, from non-auspicious beginnings, grew it to something mid-size.  Single parenthood and solo-entrepreneurship are both a recipe for isolation, so it would be years before I met other entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs are an interesting bunch.  They come from all sorts of backgrounds and work in virtually every sector.  They are hugely driven, often obsessive, yet the majority are far less judgemental, far less worried about who they are talking to, and more interested in the quality of what is being said.  Most – definitely not all, but most - are highly intelligent and have great stories to tell.  By chance, I saw a business publication advertising for a blog writer. Remembering my writing dreams,  I answered, and thus started a decade of writing for a digital publication called Real Business.  I also joined Jericho Writers.  When I finally parted company with the business, my first thought was retirement.  It took about two weeks for me to miss writing.   I went back to writing articles, but the dream of a book still niggled.  I started working my way through the Jericho Writers resources, focussing on the merits of attempting either self- or traditional publishing.    It took about two weeks for me to miss writing. I had decided to write about sales, my strength - and with the confidence I gained from the articles, I was somewhat cavalier about the writing.  However, to play safe, I submitted my first draft to be assessed by one of the Jericho Writers team.   My editors had always been rather nice to me, so I was unworried when it came to the feedback phone call.    By five minutes in, I was having to ask for a couple of minute\'s break because I was crying so hard that I couldn\'t actually hear. The expert tore it to shreds.  The concept was wrong, the writing careless on fact and atrocious on style.  It was the very definition of tough love.  It says much for my love of writing that I kept going, and much for his judgment that when I re-visited the manuscript a few months later, I was beyond appalled that I had even considered anyone reading it.    Chastened, I wrote another manuscript.  I followed all the instructions on the Jericho Writers website and researched likely agents and publishers.  I treasured the reply that told me it was well written (but not for them).  Elsewhere it was silent.    Relaxing in the glorious summer of 2019,  I had another idea.  People often advise you to write about what you know, and what I know best is how hard it is to scale a business.  I also knew that it is a business stage that many people struggle with.   Suddenly, I realized I had a subject that could potentially be of genuine use to a reader, unlike my somewhat self-interested previous attempts.  My problem was that I was no expert.  But I did know other people who had achieved the leap successfully.  I started off by attempting to interview friends and get their expertise.  Not an easy experience, with both parties in unfamiliar roles and keen to get back to the usual bottle of wine.  I dug out old contacts, people who I barely knew.  I trawled the net endlessly for businesses that looked on an upward curve.  A massive hulk of a book, going from start-up through scale-up, started to take shape.  People often advise you to write about what you know... Suddenly, I realized I had a subject that could potentially be of genuine use to a reader. At around three-quarters of the way in, I realized that I had forgotten the trad vs self-publishing quandary, and worse, I now had an obligation to do something with this thing to the people who had kindly given their time.  Back to my Jericho Writers knowledge bank, I went.  I knew that many of the people interviewed would be less than impressed unless it was traditionally published.  Old school, perhaps.  I spent a month putting together three submissions.  The one to Bloomsbury bounced back on my email.   That bouncing email was the wild piece of luck that we all need from time to time.  Tired and frustrated, I sent a quick tweet off to Bloomsbury to tell them the email was down. It was just before Christmas, so perhaps it was the festive spirit,  but I received a charming reply suggesting I send a brief outline of what I had been trying to send through to the respondee\'s personal email.  I thought no more about it.  Other publishers, too, were notably silent.   I was dumbfounded over Christmas to receive an invitation to come into Bloomsbury\'s offices. Hence finding myself pushing around the congealed egg in January.  The initial meeting was held in a room full of would-be writers, all of them having the weaknesses of their proposals pointed out to them by the editors.  The size of my project was demolished as being far too broad and my use of UK entrepreneurs was no use to a global publishing house.  I argued - I can split it.  I can get other entrepreneurs.  I was packed off to the country to form a submission.  Luckily I could still draw upon Jericho for it.  I muttered \"possibly for Bloomsbury\" into the ears of overseas entrepreneurs and found it a magic key to get them talking.  Hearing back is not a quick process.  The book had to be approved by several layers of international hierarchy.  At each stage, I was genuinely stunned and delighted to have got that far.  Finally, however, a contract was offered, and I was on my way to being (magic words) a published author.  I muttered \"possibly for Bloomsbury\" into the ears of overseas entrepreneurs and found it a magic key to get them talking. \'Scale for Success\' came out in February 2021 in the UK and July in Australia and America.  It contains the stories and wisdom of 30 genuinely amazing people from across the globe.  I didn\'t want to go for the Bransons or the Musks (not that they would have talked to me either), but I wanted relatable people, and I am still stunned by their stories.  Working with a range of people meant a vast amount of extra work.  They all had to be found, convinced that the idea was good, interviewed, and their approval of what I had written obtained.  If I hadn\'t so loved hearing their stories, it would have been a nightmare.  Non-fiction is unbelievably overcrowded.  The self-publishing market has gone wild under the \"a book is your business card\" mantra.  Looking for a backup plan, I spoke to a few of the publishing coaches who take a fat fee for helping you self-publish.  All were confused by my expressed desire to write \"a good book.\"  Entrepreneurs of decidedly mixed-level writing skills are employing hugely expensive PR companies to tout them as the next Tolstoy.  There is little chance to compete in the sunshine with that if you are writing for the love.   Reviews on Amazon are so precious – I can read the stars but haven\'t got the nerve to read the words.  As for the future, I am having a bit of a ‘what-now’ moment.  I produce a stream of business interviews and articles for my website and other publications, but I would love to do another book. Whether Bloomsbury or any other publishing house would love me to do another book is something for the future.  About Jan Jan Cavelle is a writer and entrepreneur who successfully grew and ran her own business for over 20 years. She was chosen as one of the first 50 Female Entrepreneurial Ambassadors to represent the UK in Europe and has been invited to speak on Newsnight. Jan contributed to Real Business for many years and her first book, ‘Scale for Success’, was published by Bloomsbury and cited by publications such as Elite Business, Irish Tech News, Medium, and the Undercover Recruiter.   Find out more about Jan here. Buy ‘Scale for Success’ from Bookshop.org here. Interested in Creative Non-Fiction? We offer a six-week crash course that could be the perfect way in to your new project, taught by Galley Beggar Press\' Sam Jordison. Find out more here. Read about finding an agent for your non-fiction here. Learn how to write a non-fiction book proposal here. Getting rejected by literary agents? Here\'s what to do next.

Felicia Yap on weaving your life experiences into your writing

Friday Night Live shortlisted author, Felicia Yap, was snapped up by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown soon after our 2015 Festival of Writing. Her brilliant high-concept thriller \'Yesterday\' was bought by Headline’s Alex Clarke for a six-figure sum. Her latest title, \'Future Perfect\', was also published by Headline in March 2021. Felicia has had an expansive and divergent career; we spoke to her about how you can use multiple interests to inform and add texture to your writing. JW: Hi Felicia! It\'s great to talk to you. Could you start by telling us about yourself as a writer? When did you start writing? FY: I started out as a journalist. I wrote newspaper articles from the age of nineteen (for The Economist and The Business Times, amongst other publications). Later on, I became a historian at the University of Cambridge and spent years writing academic papers about the Second World War. I only began writing fiction properly after the idea for my debut novel \'Yesterday\' came to me; the concept struck me on my way to a dance studio in Cambridge. I started writing the next day and I’m glad I did. JW: Tell us about your journey to publication. Were there any events or resources that helped you along the way? FY: I was fortunate to be shortlisted for the Friday Night Live competition at the Festival of Writing in 2015. It was a joy to read the opening paragraphs of \'Yesterday\' to a large audience in York; I was thrilled by how the audience responded. It made me confident that my story began decently – which in turn made me twice as determined to finish my manuscript. \"Nothing in life is ever wasted when it comes to writing.\" JW: So, you got your agent – what happened next? FY: I did an extensive round of edits with my agent. He then sent out my manuscript and it went to auction in multiple territories. JW: What happened at the auction?   FY: I had the wonderful privilege of speaking to several editors in both the United Kingdom and America, to find out if we shared similar visions for the manuscript. It was an exciting time. JW: You’ve had a multi-hyphenate career, including working as a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, and a technology journalist. How have your different career paths informed your writing? FY: I have drawn on technical elements and knowledge from the professional orbits I\'ve moved through. I have also incorporated sensory details from these worlds. My second novel \'Future Perfect\' combines high fashion with technology; the book is set in the near future where computers will be able to predict how we will live and when we will die. The first chapter is told by a model who carries a bomb down a catwalk in Manhattan. I used to be a runway model and wrote quite a few articles on detection/prediction technologies for The Economist in the past. \'Yesterday\' contains spoof academic papers and science articles in the house styles of the publications I have contributed to. Nothing in life is ever wasted when it comes to writing. JW: Do you have any tips for balancing writing alongside other, seemingly divergent pursuits? FY: My unorthodox pursuits have stemmed from curiosity; I’m fascinated by the delicious possibilities out there, the things worth trying and doing. I’m convinced that divergent activities can enrich a person’s life (and one’s writing), especially the quirky ones. Life is too short not to be embraced fully. If one truly enjoys one’s pursuits, balance will come naturally. JW: Your writing balances being very high concept whilst at the same time achieving the complexity of a murder mystery. How do you approach this? FY: I normally begin with the concept and iron out the details later. Both my novels were inspired by conundrums, questions I knew I would be happy spending two years of my life figuring out the answers to. \'Yesterday\' grew out of the question: ‘How do you solve a murder if you only remember yesterday?’ While \'Future Perfect\' was inspired by the concept: ‘What if today were your last day?’ Yet, high concepts are merely empty canvases on which to hang narratives. What makes a story sparkle are the tiny yet lively details that populate it. JW: Is your writing more research-driven or informed by the experiences you’ve already had? FY: All my writing is informed by personal experience, the things I have done or encountered  (or eavesdropped on). I try to set my stories in places that I have visited before or know well. This is because the five senses are crucial in the art of storytelling, especially their rich alchemy. Stories come alive when readers can feel, touch, hear, taste and see what the characters are experiencing. I believe that one can only write about the five senses convincingly if one has experienced them in the magical amalgamation unique to a particular location. I also do a lot of research but only after I have completed the first drafts of my manuscripts. It helps to know what you don’t know, so that you can ask the right people the right sort of questions. \"High concepts are merely empty canvases on which to hang narratives. What makes a story sparkle are the tiny yet lively details that populate it.\" JW: Do you think that your experience as a journalist had an impact on your writing? FY: Most certainly. The first paragraph of The Economist Style Guide continues to resonate with me. It says: “Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.” JW: Were there any other resources you found helpful along the way? I did a couple of writing courses; they helped me understand the basic ‘rules’ of storytelling and gave me some appreciation of form, structure, and technique. It helps to know the rules if you hope to break them. More importantly, the courses put me in touch with other writers. Many of my classmates have since become good friends and we still send our works-in-progress to each other for critical feedback. \"It helps to know the rules if you hope to break them.\" JW: What are you working on next? FY: I wish I could tell you but I’m afraid it might jinx what I’m currently working on. Even my long-suffering partner Alex hasn’t got a clue! About Felicia Felicia Yap is the author of the speculative literary thrillers \'Future Perfect\' and \'Yesterday\', published in multiple languages around the world. She has worked as a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, a university lecturer, a technology journalist, a theatre critic, a flea-market trader, and a catwalk model. Read more about Felicia Yap on her website. FUTURE PERFECT YESTERDAY Follow Felicia Yap on Twitter at @FeliciaMYap

Festival Success: Joanna Cannon

Guest author extraordinaire and blogger Joanna Cannon attended our Festival of Writing in 2014. Jo walked away with seven offers from literary agents and eventually signed with Susan Armstrong from Conville and Walsh. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is her first novel, published by The Borough Press (HarperCollins), called ‘A delight’ by Paula Hawkins and ‘A wonderful debut’ by Jill Mansell. There is a certain, creeping horror, when I look back and think I nearly didn’t enter the Friday Night Live competition at the Festival of Writing. I was a real eager-beaver when it came to the Festival booking. I was logged in and ready to pick my one-to-ones the minute the website went live. But the competitions were a different matter altogether. They were A Scary Thing. I’d been to the Festival before, and watched other writers on stage, reading their work out to an audience of very important people. I didn’t want to do anything quite that scary. I’d much rather stick to the brilliant workshops and talks, and the Gala Dinner and scary (but slightly more manageably scary) one-to-ones. But right at the last minute (sorry, lovely organisers!), I changed my mind. It’s a strange business, this writing malarkey. We write because we have something to say, but when it comes to saying it, we run for cover at the thought of anyone actually hearing us. I avoided telling anyone I write. On the rare occasion I admitted it to someone, it was always accompanied by a slight apology for being so ridiculously self-indulgent. I don’t write anything very interesting, it’s just a little hobby, nothing will ever come of it, etc. ,etc. Yet in September last year, I found myself on a stage in York, with 500 words of my manuscript trembling away in my hands. I’m not going to lie, it was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced, and as I walked up to the microphone, I honestly felt my legs were going to give way. But it needed to be done. We spend so long agonising and doubting, and battling with our words, we really owe them a chance to be heard. Even if it is a Scary Thing. The best experiences of my life have usually started with more than a pinch of anxiety and, as it happened, this was going to be one of them. No matter what else life has in store for me, winning Friday Night Live is something I will always remember. Overcoming my fears, and looking out at the audience and seeing people raise their hands to vote for me, was the most incredible feeling (and if you were one of those lovely people, thank you!). It really was one of the best nights of my life. What I didn’t realise, was within hours of leaving York and heading back down the M1, I would have seven offers of agent representation. Seven amazing, incredibly skilled people who wanted to help me with my book. I felt like I’d either stumbled onto the set of a Richard Curtis film, or I was having a transient psychotic episode. After a very tense, tearful and pacey few days (I know it’s a great problem to have, but it was still very stressful!), I decided to sign with Sue Armstrong at Conville and Walsh. I met Sue during one of my one-to-ones, and I just knew we’d get along brilliantly. C&W represent some of my favourite authors, and it’s a huge privilege to be joining such a prestigious agency. Within a week, HarperCollins had offered a life-changing amount of money for my manuscript (the manuscript I was worried about showing anyone, because doing that would be a Scary Thing), and I began to spend large amounts of time staring into space and trying to believe it was all true. That’s when the creeping horror began. When I began to imagine what would have happened if I’d listened to the internal narrator we all have, the one who tells us to walk away from the Scary Thing. The Festival is the most wonderful, supportive, fun environment, filled with amazingly talented people, and I’ve learned so much in the time I’ve been going. I do hope I will see you there and I really hope you’ll ignore that ridiculous internal narrator, and enter all competitions. You have nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Writers in conversation: Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste

Steve Cavanagh is a human rights lawyer working in Northern Ireland. The Defence is his debut novel, which was longlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards. Luca Veste, a former civil servant, guitarist and actor, is author of the Murphy & Rossi crime series and editor of the Spinetingler-nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’. Luca – I’m endlessly fascinated by the story of a writer’s journey. I started out quite late – I thought – with my own writing career. I didn’t write stories or anything of that sort until I was 28, so I’ve only been at this thing of ours for a few years. Speaking to other writers however, I know there’s a fair few out there who started writing when they were young, in school, getting attention for having a big imagination. How did it start out for you? Steve – For me the desire to tell stories started early, but it took me a fair few years to get my ass in gear to do it. My Granda and my Dad would sit around with their friends, most nights, telling stories. I would just sit and listen, fascinated. Neither my Dad or my Granda read much, but my Mum did. She read four or five books a week, and I caught the crime bug from her. When I was young, far too young in retrospect, she gave me a copy of The Silence of the Lambs and that changed everything for me. I read all the books, especially American crime thrillers, that I could get my hands on. But when it came to writing, I didn’t write crime at first. In my late teens I started writing screenplays, mostly comedies. I even got an agent, but he couldn’t get anything sold so I gave up age 21. After that I always harboured the fantasy of writing a book, but never did it. Then in 2011, when I was aged 35, my Mum passed away quite suddenly. She was the only person who ever encouraged me to write so I thought I’d give it one more shot, for her. I started writing The Defence in September 2011, in secret, after a 14-year break. What about you? Starting at 28 doesn’t seem late at all. And you’ve still got your hair! Luca – Yes, although being half Italian, I would be very annoyed if I lost my hair this soon. We’re a hirsute bunch. Like you, I was surrounded by stories in my family. And jokes. Everyone always has a funny story to top the last one. My dad was a screenwriter as it happens and actually made a film back in the 90s. I was a voracious reader as a child as well. Started with Enid Blyton and then went into horror when I was a teenager. I didn’t really read crime until I was around 23 – which was about 7 years after I’d pretty much stopped reading and started doing “teenage” things – and someone gave me Mark Billingham’s first book. I quickly caught up with his series and have read predominantly crime books since. Dead Gone – my first book – started out life as a very different book and came from writing short stories and progressing to something longer. I abandoned the first version of that story – which was a woeful scouse gangster-style cliche of a novel – and wrote a first draft in a few months. Then, redrafted three times to finally land an agent for it around a year later. How long did it take you to get an agent? Steve – Well, first, Dead Gone is a blinder of a debut. The work paid off. Getting an agent? Well, that took a while. It took me about six or seven months to do the first draft of The Defence, then I spent maybe another six months redrafting it, polishing it. So I think it started looking for an agent mid-2012. And I finally got one in April 2013 so probably around nine months to get representation. And I tell you, those were a hard nine months. I started off trying to get a US agent, but I didn’t think I was good enough to go for any of the big agencies, so I mainly tried the small and medium sized agencies. And I got a lot of rejections. Then, I got a little hint of light at the end of the tunnel. I started to get requests for the first three chapters, from agents that just wanted a pitch letter, and then requests for the full manuscript. I got a real buzz from this and a bigger downer when the rejections came back. One agency really loved the first three chapters, and requested the full book. I was enthusiastic about this small UK based agency, but I’d been in that situation before, so I thought I may as well try a couple of the bigger agents. I was getting rejections, anyway, so I thought I may as well get rejected by the best. I remember it was a Monday night, I got the email from the small agency who’d read the full manuscript and who I’d been really keen on. They hated it. It was a rejection which contained the lines, “You can write, but this book will never be published. Write something else and we’ll read it.” Man, I was devastated. I thought, that’s it – this book is over I need to write something else. Then on the Wednesday I had two of the biggest agencies in the UK come back and offer representation for the same book that I’d been told would never be published. It was an amazing feeling. So now I’m very proud to be a Heathen (I’m represented by AM Heath). How did you hook up with your agent? Luca – I was quite bullish when it came to finding an agent. I knew a few other writers at the time and there were a couple who always raved about their agent. Now, I edited a couple of charity anthologies around that time, and I think that agent was tipped off that I was writing a novel. He sent me a message on Twitter saying good work on the anthologies, when you’ve got a novel to show people, I’d love to read it. That was back in February 2012. I finished the first draft in about March, read it once, thought it was as good as it was ever going to be, and sent it to the agent. He rejected it, somewhat nicely, a few weeks later. I took his notes on board, redrafted, and sent it back in the June. He rejected that one as well, with the option to resend another draft. I was, similar to you, devastated. I’d worked tirelessly on all the notes and only succeeded in creating new problems. By this point, I was convinced I couldn’t write a better book, so decided to send it to four other agents. One rejected within a day, as they had decided to concentrate on children’s fiction. The other three agents asked for the full manuscript. As a matter of courtesy, I emailed the original agent, who by now was quite friendly with me, and let him know I was showing other agents the book and was getting some interest. I received an email back straight away, asking if I could speak on the phone. What followed was ninety minutes of the agent telling me exactly what was wrong with the book, what need fixing, and a general tearing apart of my work. The last five minutes of the call was him offering me representation. I pretty much immediately accepted the offer. Best decision I’ve ever made. I rewrote the book in a month, working almost every hour I was awake (which as an insomniac, is quite a few), and he was happy with the result. What is bizarre, is that it took only six weeks after that to find a publisher. A year to get an agent, six weeks to get a publisher … shows how valuable a good agent can be, and I have a great one in Phil Patterson. The Defence is ridiculously good. To the point where I was hoping it wasn’t really a debut, but a new novel from an established writer under a pseudonym. I can only imagine it was picked up the next day by a publisher in a sixteen-way auction? Steve – That’s class. I love that story. What I hear sometimes from writers who are looking for an agent, or a publishing deal, is that they are quite precious about their book. Which is totally the wrong attitude. When you write your first book you basically know nothing. You learn by writing and then it’s your agent’s and publisher’s job to point out all the shit that you can’t see and make the book better. Thanks for the kind words about The Defence. It was picked up quick, but only after a lot of work. I got representation from Euan Thorneycroft in April 2013, and he sent me pages of notes on the book; what worked, what didn’t work. I knew we were a good match because everything he thought needed changing really did need changing, but I just couldn’t see that. So I worked on the book flat out, and we got it ready for submission in September. I remember Euan telling me he was sending it out and that it could take months to hear back, so he would email me in three or four weeks and let me know how we got on. That was on a Monday. On the Friday I was stood in my hall, when I got an email. It was from Euan – there was an offer for the book in the UK. Four offers. He would be conducting an auction. I was completely blown away. I remember running into the living room and telling my wife that the book would be published. At that stage I didn’t care who published it, but I knew somebody would and that was enough. In the end I went with Orion, who publish some of my heroes and things have worked out well. So in your first book we meet DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi. How did you go about shaping those characters and did you conceive the first book as the beginning of a series? If you didn’t, is there anything you would change now? Luca – That’s my favourite kind of publishing story. Unsurprising, given how good it is, but there’s still an element of doubt with anything regarding publishing! Well, Murphy happened quite by accident. I’ve already mentioned the discarded scouse-gangster novel, which contained an element of what makes up Dead Gone – the psychology angle, someone killing people based on real psychological experiments etc. When I started over, I kept the psychology bit, and disregarded everything else. I remember I was re-reading one of my favourite books – The 50/50 Killer by Steve Mosby – and thinking I wanted to write something more like that. So, I started with the woman on the night out, getting in the taxi, and disappearing. Then, I was going to concentrate on her partner, but realised writing those ‘ordinary people in extraordinary situations’ novels were extremely difficult to write! I decided I needed a police point of view, as they could do things ordinary people couldn’t really. My uncle is an ex-copper, so I used him as a basis. He shares his physical size, nickname, some of his qualities, but has none of the baggage Murphy does. Once I started writing about Murphy, I just found he was more interesting to me. Murphy quickly usurped the boyfriend character and became the star. However, back then, his sidekick was a bloke called Nick Ayris. Going back to that phone conversation with Agent Phil, he casually mentioned that usually it’s a male/female partnership, and that there was nothing Italian in the book. Which was surprising to him, given I was half-Italian. Nick Ayris became Laura Rossi and that’s why agents are important! Rossi is by far my favourite character to write now. I can get all these little things about my Italian family in there – my nan asking me if I’m hungry as soon as I’d walked through the door, before saying hello, my dad swearing in Italian, the quick-temper, etc. I did envisage a series if it got picked up, but I’d still change things. I probably wouldn’t have Murphy having quite such a lot of baggage to carry, although that worked (hopefully) eventually. That’s about it though. There’s no plan as such, but I have ideas for about seven or eight books total. I’m writing number four now, so I’m halfway through! And those ideas will probably change. You and Eddie Flynn … always a series as well? Steve – Have to say I love Rossi; the Italian swearing! She is such a great character. Ahm, yeah, I had an idea for the character first. A con artist who became a lawyer, because I wanted to explore the overlap in those professions and how a trial works – the art of cross examination and how that really is the art of persuasion, misdirection and manipulation. Before the book got picked up I had an idea for four or five, and I really wanted to start writing them but I knew The Defence had to be the first one. If that book hadn’t been published I wouldn’t be writing about that character because the events in The Defence cause Eddie to fall back into his old hustler ways. No other storyline could’ve achieved that in the same way. Right now I’m writing the third book. I love series characters, so it felt natural to try and start my own. Although, I’ve been hit with several decent ideas for standalone books lately. I don’t know if I’ll write them. Maybe down the line. Do you ever think of trying a standalone? And how do you go about writing? Plotter, pantser, when and how do you write? Luca – Can’t wait to read more Eddie. I’ve got the beginning of a standalone in a word doc on my computer. It’s pretty much plotted out as well, but I’m happy writing the series for now. I’m a big fan of series characters as well, so I’m happy at the moment. I’m a little of both. I plot a little, then just write for a while, before plotting a little more. Usually, this leads to me rewriting half a book, four weeks before a deadline though! I start with a small idea. Then, I need some sort of theme – with the new one, Bloodstream, it’s about love and media – and I can just go from there. With my books, there’s always an investigation that starts you off, which usually involves a body or the lack of one, so it’s just a battle against making that too samey/cliche and just writing. Then rewriting. Then throwing things at the wall and hoping inspiration hits at some point! Do you plan much? And the same question about standalones to you… would you consider writing something set in your own country? Steve – That’s interesting that you start off with a theme. I know Ian Rankin does something similar so you’re in good company. I think doing it that way, with a theme in mind, really helps you focus on what you want to achieve with the book. I’m reading Bloodstream at the moment, and loving it. The whole celebrity thing is well done, and my wife zipped through the book in a day or so. I tend not to have a theme, and one or two kind of emerge. I don’t plot or plan anything. I write line by line, and then I go back and rewrite the beginning until I have it nailed. Once I’ve got a decent 50 pages or so, I’m off and I don’t tend to look back until I’m almost at the end. Then I stop. Go back and redraft from the beginning before I write the end. It’s a weird process. I tend to have a vague idea, and go from there. The second book, The Plea, touches on white collar crime like money laundering and how it’s done in the digital age, and there’s a locked room mystery done with CCTV. (A word of advice to new writers. NEVER do a locked room mystery, not until you are well down the line with at least a couple of books under your belt. And then plan it all out from the beginning.) Standalones are very appealing when you’re writing a series, but also scary. I think you have to time it right. That last thing you want to do is release a standalone when everyone is waiting for the next book in the series. It never quite has the same impact. I don’t know if I’d write something set in Northern Ireland. I won’t rule it out, but the ideas for standalones that are kicking around in my head are set in the US. Although, I did have one idea for a Northern Ireland story, but I sort of think that would work much better on TV than in a book. Luca – I’ll take the company of Ian Rankin. I saved a penalty of his, in a crime writers’ football match. I don’t mention it very often. Locked room mystery, ouch. That’s not something I have planned to do any time soon! Interesting that Northern Ireland hasn’t really featured much in your planning. When I started out, I couldn’t imagine setting my books anywhere other than Liverpool. I can’t really imagine writing about anywhere else, even with the help of Google Maps. You didn’t just choose a different city, but an entirely different country. How does that work and is it solely so you can pass of US holidays as expenses? Steve – A US holiday would be very nice. It’s not so much of a leap really. I grew up watching US TV shows and reading books set in the US, so the language, the rhythms, the pace and the locations, all seem very real to me. Plus, New York fits with the pace and the style of story I wanted to write. And by setting it in New York I can cheat. If I’d set it somewhere in North Carolina, I’d have to take a fair bit of time to describe the place. Whereas, as soon I say New York, every single person reading the book immediately creates their own mental image without me having to help them too much. If I’d set the book in Belfast it just wouldn’t have worked. Plus, look at all the writers coming out of Northern Ireland, like Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway, Eoin McNamee, Adrian McKinty, Gerard Brennan, Claire MacGowan. I just couldn’t compete with that lot. How important is setting to you? A few of the places and buildings in The Defence are fictional, any fictional settings or are they all meticulously researched? And what does Liverpool add to the series, for you? Luca – Stuart Neville, now there’s a writer. When I grow up, I want to be as good as him. Nothing really fictional in my book. Everything exists, with a couple of minor changes here and there, so no one sues me. There’s a house in the first book which plays a major role in the ending and that’s slightly invented. The road it’s on exists, but the house itself is a creation. My police characters work from the real offices in the city centre, they live in real locations (again with some alterations), and I hope daily that it doesn’t get me into trouble! Liverpool to me just feels natural. It’s a setting not really utilised in crime fiction, so I have that going for me, as it’s somewhere new for readers to discover. It’s big enough, that I have many locations within it to utilise. Plus, there are so many different characters in Liverpool, that I can bring in realism to what is an unrealistic topic. We last had a serial killer in Liverpool back in the 1800s (we’ve exported a couple since then, but never had any on the streets from what I know), which means my serial killer books don’t really conform to the reality of the city. Hopefully, with the characters, topics, and locations, I can make it a little more realistic. What’s the one thing you want to achieve in your writing career … awards, events, etc.? Steve – You should set your books in Northern Ireland, we’ve had more than our fair share of serial killers. And I totally agree about Stuart – phenomenal talent. The one thing I want to achieve? I don’t know if I could narrow it down to just one thing. It’s weird, when you’re struggling to be published you just want to have that moment of seeing your book on a shelf. When you’ve achieved that, then you want somebody to actually buy the bloody book, take it home, read it and enjoy it. Then you want lots of people to do that. Ideally, enough to get you onto the bestseller list – so I think your goals change throughout your career. I’m sure there are well known bestselling writers, who want higher sales, and better chart positions every year. For me, I have two goals. One is to be able to sell enough books, and make enough money that I could be financially stable and support my family through my writing. That is the big one for me. Second goal, to write a better book than the last one, year on year. Awards are totally in the lap of the Gods. You do your best and if someone wants to give you an award, well that’s lovely. But there are plenty of amazing crime novels that don’t win awards but stay in print and become classics. The other part of this writing game is getting to meet so many other great writers. There are still a few legends on my list of people that I want to meet – Stephen King for one. What about you – career goals? Luca – Similar to you, I just want to write a better book than the last one. Security would be up there as well. I’d love to have a novel in hardback, as that’s something I always equate with quality (for some unknown reason). Awards – I’d like them and I hate people who have them (jokes!), but not a top priority. I’ll be standing next to you when you meet Stephen King. My literary hero. Which neatly leads me into a conclusion to this conversation. What’s your favourite book? Mine is by the aforementioned – and soon to be Steve and Luca’s best mate – Stephen King, and is The Stand. Steve – If we meet Stephen King I’m going ask him to take a photograph of you and me. Just for the Craic. (“Excuse me, Mr King. Could we get a photo?” “Why sure,” says Stephen King.) I’m joking of course. I’d be a complete gibbering mess meeting somebody like him. That would be a cool day, and another reason to envy Stuart who has indeed met the man. Favourite book? I haven’t read it in years, but The Lord of The Rings used to be my favourite book. I used to read it every Christmas, for about ten years. Now I think I’d have to go with Red Dragon, or The Firm. If you’d asked me last week I would’ve said Every Dead Thing by John Connolly or The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly. My favourites change all the time. And as a final bit, best bit of writing advice you can give to a new writer? Luca – Ha! We must do that. Hopefully in the future we’ll get the chance. I’m awful with advice, but here’s the best I can do … finish. Whatever you’re writing, just finish it. That’s the hardest part of writing, I think. Finishing the bloody thing. Having a complete story in front of you makes things much easier. Then, you can get to the fun part. Rewriting. Your advice? Steve – Read and write. Read the best books you can find and aspire to get close to that level. And write as much as you can every single day. It’s the only way to improve. More about Steve Cavanagh:Steve was born and raised in Belfast and is a practicing lawyer. He is married with two young children. The Defence, has been chosen as one of Amazon’s 2015 Rising Stars programme. The Defence was longlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards for Best Ending and Most Recommended Book. Steve writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring lawyer and former con artist, Eddie Flynn. The Defence is his first novel. Find out more at www.stevecavanagh.com or follow Steve on Twitter @SSCav More about Luca Veste:Luca is a writer of Scouse and Italian heritage, author of the Murphy & Rossi series. His latest book is called Bloodstream. He is also the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’. He is a former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again). He can be found at www.lucaveste.com and on twitter @LucaVeste.

The Rewriter’s Journey by John David Mann

In this rewriting and editing guide John David Mann shares his experiences editing and rewriting his first novel, Steel Fear (2020). When I handed my wife my five-hundred-page, hundred-fifty-thousand-word completed draft of my first novel, she did three things. She read it. She told me she loved it. And then she gave me the best advice I’ve had in a decade: “Send it to Jericho.” Context This wasn’t my maiden voyage. I first learned about the value of rewriting your story—the agony and ecstasy of rewriting, its trials and rewards—more than a decade earlier. Back in 2005 I coauthored a little “business parable” with a friend and managed to secure us a terrific literary agent, who in 2006 sent it round to a handful of publishers in New York and got the following responses: Editor 1 at Publisher A said no. Editor 2 at Publisher B said no. Editor 3 at Publisher C said no. Editor 4 at Publisher D said no. Editor 5 at Publisher E said no. Editor 6 at Publisher F said no. Editor 7 at Publisher G said no. Editor 8 at Publisher H said, “This one was pretty interesting. The writing is good, but the payoff was a bit lacking.” In other words…no. So we took the manuscript back, spent months reworking it, and then in 2007 sent it round to publishers yet again. This time, some of those same editors from 2006 responded, as did a few different editors at some of those publishers, as well as some altogether new editors from entirely different publishers. Here’s what they all said: Editor 9 at Publisher A (Editor 1’s publisher) said no. Editor 10 at Publisher B (Editor 2’s publisher) said no. Editor 11 at Publisher I said no. Editor 12 at Publisher J said no. Editor 13 at Publisher K said no. Editor 14 at Publisher L said no. Editor 15 at Publisher M said, “Starts out with a bang but loses steam in the middle.” That’s a no. Editor 16 at Publisher N said, “Liked it, but not quite right for our imprint and the direction we are going in this year.” Nyet. Editor 17 at Publisher O passed to Editor 18. Who said, “Like it, but couldn’t get other team members enthusiastic about it.” Nein danke. Editor 4 (back at Publisher D) who’d said no on the first try, said, “It’s very well done, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book that will work well on our business list.” En-Oh. Editor 5 (back at Publisher E) read the new version and said, “Needs a unique hook or punchline to get people to respond. Writing is great but payoff not strong enough.” Fuggedaboudit. Editor 6 (still at Publisher F) said, “Saw this twice now. Liked it, but didn’t love it. While I like the message a lot, the story itself seemed a little more didactic and forced than we would like.” Amscray. Editor 7 (back at Publisher G) said, “Liked it. Wanted to love it, but I’m afraid I just didn’t connect with it. I’ve been incredibly wrong before and probably am on this one, but I’m going to have to pass, with regret.” Don’t let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha. Editor 19 at Publisher H, the same house where Editor 8 had said “This one was pretty interesting but the payoff was lacking” the previous year, said— Wait, what? He said “yes.” The Moral Of The Story We published THE GO-GIVER in early 2008. It hit some lists, won some awards, and to date has sold nearly a million copies in more than two dozen languages. But the moral of the story isn’t what you might think. You’ve heard the stories about persistence— J K Rowling turned down by a dozen publishers. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen and their goofy idea for a book called Chicken Soup for the Soul turned down by 144 publishers. Harlan Sanders and his recipe for fried chicken rejected more than a thousand times. And so on. The moral is, persist! Believe in yourself! Don’t listen to the naysayers—keep knocking on those doors! Right? Yeah…but. Those first eight editors were right to reject our book. To this day I thank my lucky stars they all said “no.” Because if even one of them had said “yes” and we’d published the book back in 2006, it would not have sold a million copies. Maybe a thousand. Or not. Because it wasn’t ready. Those eight editors knew something we didn’t know. And that, that, is to me the moral of the story. Yes, believe in yourself, believe in your idea, trust that your story is the most fantastic and amazing and compelling story that has come around in years, that the world needs and wants your story. Have unshakable faith in yourself. But keep one ear open. Maybe both ears. Because there are people who know things you don’t know. And if you want your idea to become all it can be, all it should be, all it was born to be, then you need to hear those things you don’t yet know. Hear them, and act on them. During those months of reworking that original manuscript, our agent first covered every page with red ink, and I then spent dozens of hours rephrasing, simplifying, compressing, and deleting. Changed one character’s gender. Cut a few other characters altogether. Remember that comment about how “the payoff was a bit lacking”? Right: we tossed out the entire last chapter and wrote a brand new one. And it became the book it was meant to be. Which was why Number Nineteen (aka Adrian Zackheim at Portfolio, an imprint at Penguin, now Penguin Random House) said “yes” and launched my career. Fast forward a decade. By 2018 I’d written a bunch more books, some fairly successful, some not so much, but all of them sharing this in common: they were all shelved on the nonfiction side of the bookstore. In June of ’18 I set out to do something that terrified me: write a novel. Harry Bingham is one of my crime-fiction heroes. I’ve loved every word of the Fiona books. I wanted to do something like that. I’ve also come to love Harry’s teaching and coaching. Before starting work on my novel I read his How to Write cover to cover, joined Jericho Writers and watched his video course. Then I started. Steel Fear The story is a thriller called STEEL FEAR, and I cocreated it with a friend, a former Navy SEAL sniper with whom I’ve written before (all nonfiction, till now). He had the basic story idea, supplied technical and background detail, and was a rich source of color and flavor for the world I was building. The actual writing—creating characters, designing the plot, working out the twists and turns, putting flesh and blood and bones on the whole thing, and tapping out one damn word after another—was my job. Here’s the elevator pitch: A disgraced Navy SEAL stalks a serial killer aboard an aircraft carrier in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. It took me about fifteen months, from first research notes and scribbles to first draft. At which point my wife said: “Send it to Jericho.” Understand, this is something I’ve never ever done before: hired a third-party consultant to critique my first draft. I’ve gotten critique-and-review assistance from my agent, from my publishers’ editors, and from the handful of friends who form my early readers’ circle. This was different: a novel. My first. And a thriller, yet. I knew my wife was right. I needed professional help. So in mid-September 2019, I submitted the manuscript to Jericho for a full manuscript assessment. I don’t think it’s too early to say, that one action has changed the trajectory of my career. Jericho paired me up with veteran thriller author Eve Seymour, who turned around a lengthy, comprehensive critique within a shockingly short time. (Weeks, not months.) Eve was most generous in her initial comments, the “What I think is great” part. And then got down to business. Chapter by chapter, page by page, structure, plot, characterization, pacing and tension…she mapped out the entire thing, end to end, from broad-strokes observations to detailed notes. Her critique was fantastic, phenomenal, incisive, spot on. Kind but ruthless. Terrifying. Galvanizing. Motivating. I saw what was lacking, and what was possible. Eve helped me see that the story had major flaws. I’d conceived of it as having more or less three protagonists—and you can see the problem right there in the phrase “more or less.” It was vague. Not a clear three-strand braid, but not a clear one-hero thread either. She prodded me to make a clear choice as to who was the protagonist, and then rework everything to serve that choice. I had way too much backstory. Heaping helpings of unnecessary exposition. The pacing was fantastic toward the end but laborious in the first half. And inconsistent: some scenes zipped along, some dragged or halted the momentum altogether. Plot took way too long to get going. Some subplot threads didn’t really work. And so on. I had a lot of work ahead of me. I spent October through the end of the year completely reworking it, in the process shrinking from 152k words to 129k. On New Year’s Day I sent Draft 2 to my agent. Who read it. Told us she loved it. And asked for further cuts and revisions. Her observations ran along exactly the same lines as Eve’s. All I had to do was keep going. Between January and April I went through two more drafts, in the process taking that new 129k word count to 120k, and finally to 103k. (From the original, that’s about one in every three words chopped. Warning: Many, many darlings were murdered in the course of this production.) Deleted a handful of characters, some of whom I’d thought were “indispensable.” Tightened timelines. Shifted critical revelations to earlier. Rewrote all the murder scenes that were originally told from the killer’s POV to now be from the victims’ POV. Eliminated a prologue I’d thought of as brilliant and riveting but which turned out to be neither. And so on. Until, finally, it had become the book it was meant to be. In June we got a handful of offers, took the one from Ballantine Books for a two-book deal. Signed a contract in early August. The first book of the series, STEEL FEAR, will hit the shelves on August 24, 2021. The sequel comes a year later. With, perhaps, more to follow. And here’s the cherry on the sundae: we are presently in discussion with three A-list Hollywood producers, all of whom want to bring our story to the screen. The book has, as they say in Tinsel Town, “buzz.” Once a deal solidifies and we know for sure which horse we’re riding I’ll see if we can append that information to this post. Will the book be a hit? No one knows. Will the screen adaptation really happen? No one knows. But this I know, and know for sure: If we hadn’t gone through all that rewriting, none of those editors in New York would have jumped on it. Not one. And the novel would have ended its days sitting on my shelf. Writing made the story. Rewriting turned it into the story it was meant to be. Essentially, writing is rewriting. No story is perfect the first time it hits the page. So if you want to know how to rewrite your book it\'s just this: listen to feedback, keep your end goal in sight, and get rewriting. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.  If you think you need copyediting for your manuscript, take a look at our copyediting services. Jericho Writers’ experienced editors specialise in editing both novels and non-fiction and would love to help you with your work. Click here for more.
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