It was the year that…

This week Francesca and Elaine review what they’ve done, writing wise, in 2016.

IMG_0840Elaine: I have to say I was quite shocked at how much time away from home has been committed to writing. 2016 has been the year of opportunity for me. I had the chance to walk away from my full time paid employment in March and I grabbed it with both hands. It is my dream, and has been for many years, to write novels for a living, but life got in the way of that dream.

The year began with me renewing my membership of the Romantic Novelist Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme. If you want to become a writer of romantic fiction, it is something I would highly recommend.

The London Book Fair

The London Book Fair

Since then, I have attended numerous RNA events. The London Chapter meetings, which I have to admit I haven’t attended as much as I would have liked, the RoNA Awards, the summer and winter parties, and the valuable RNA Conference in Lancaster. Smattered in between them have been The London Book Fair, several writing retreats and workshops. I also attended, for the first time, the Historical Novelists Society (HNS) Conference, which was quite enlightening.

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Elaine R, Francesca, Natalie, Elaine E in Ramsgate

Francesca: Looking through my diary, it certainly has been a busy year for writing activities. I continued with the RNA blog’s ‘Competition Monthly’ and will carry on into 2017. I attended all the things Elaine’s mentioned, apart from the HNS Conference. We also attended Foyles Discovery Day in February. 

Elaine and I did a week’s writing retreat in Ramsgate in May, along with Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. I will never forget singing My Sharona with Elaine R (you had to be there!). Later in May I went to the Romance in the Court event with Elaine E and Natalie. There I got an opportunity to talk to Freya North, an author I greatly admire.

Summer was busy with the RNA Conference and for me, The Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard. Don’t be fooled by the word ‘Holiday’ – we all work jolly hard!

My White Board Plan

My White Board Plan

Elaine: For the first time, I tried my hand at writing a Victorian saga; once I got my head round the difference between a historical romance and a saga, it made life a little easier. I would like to thank Louise Buckley for explaining the differences to me at my RNA one to one with her. I was quite proud of my work and it got good reviews at the RNA and HNS Conferences from the Literary Agents and Publishers alike. Unfortunately, as much as they liked it, I was informed, both directly and indirectly, that Victorian doesn’t sell, so it was back to the drawing board or perhaps I should say white board. Of course, what I haven’t mentioned is the many hours of research that is the commitment of writing anything historical.

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London Book Fair: Elaine with Rosemary Goodacre

Francesca: Moving into autumn, Elaine and I attended the Woman’s Weekly’s historical novel workshop and visited the ‘Undressed’ Exhibition at the V&A for clothing research. In October I went to the lovely Bishop’s Palace in Wells for the results of a novel competition I’d been shortlisted in. (You win some, you lose some!) 

I got my RNA New Writers’ Scheme report back in November for A Woman Walked into a Life, and was thrilled that the reader said it read like a published book. Still a little bit of work to do but it was very encouraging.

In November Elaine and I joined the Society for Women Writers and Journalists. The first six days of December  saw me at the RNA London Christmas lunch, the SWWJ Christmas afternoon tea  and The Write Place Christmas dinner (the last two on

the same day!). 

Elaine: I am now working on another historical piece, which will also be a saga, so watch this space. I have also made a commitment to interview organisers of Literary and Book Festivals for the RNA Blog.

If anyone should ask me, am I committed to my writing, I would answer just look at my calendar, because in-between all those things, I also try to write at least a thousand words a day.

Inside A Berlin Shop At Christmas

Francesca: I’m  currently dipping my toes into an historical novel set in World War One. At the same time I have ideas going through my head for two contemporary novels. Then there’s A Woman Walked to work on. And I’ve loads of ideas for short stories.

It’s going to be a busy year for both of us. What have you got planned?

@RobertsElaine11                     @FCapaldiBurgess

 

We wish our readers a very happy Christmas and a wonderful 2017.

It’s All In The Title…

Elaine Roberts talks about wrestling with the problem of titles.

I have always read a lot; my mother used to tell me off for not going out to play when I was a child, because my nose was always stuck in a book. There was nothing I enjoyed more than losing myself in a good adventure. Books like The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe were books I read over and over again. Nothing has changed in that I am still an ardent reader, except I now write as well.

Anybody who isn’t a writer would think coming up with an idea for a novel would be the hardest part, but not for me.

My White Board & Plan

My White Board & Plan

Some writers who are learning their trade, like me, may think coming up with the structure and avoiding the saggy middle is the most difficult part, but not for me.

Once the manuscript is written, some might think the editing is the worst part; now I don’t like it, but it’s not the hardest part for me.

Coming up with a title is my biggest problem. Am I the only one? It’s one I have mentioned on a few occasions to different people and have had a number of really good suggestions, yet I can’t seem to make them work.

Why is the title so important?

IMG_0143All the professionals say you should have an attention-grabbing title. The cover and the title of a novel usually draw a reader’s attention first. When you are submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher, there is no cover to grab their attention so the title needs to make the manuscript stand out from the other hundreds they receive. So a title needs to be memorable and easily understood.

Titles can be about the theme of the novel; an example of this is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Alternatively, they can contain the main character’s name, such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté. Some titles also contain the character’s occupation or title.

It doesn’t matter whether I am writing a short story, a blog piece or a novel, my biggest sticking point is always the title. The name is meant to give an idea of what the story/article is about. What I find puzzling is that I know what my story is about and yet a catchy title seems to evade me and I don’t understand why. Writers come up with excellent titles all the time and yet I can’t seem to.IMG_7427

Several people have suggested record titles, which is an excellent idea but not one that has helped me with my latest novel. Maybe a film title, but no, that doesn’t work for me either.

Perhaps it is my Achilles heel; maybe I have a mental block on the subject.

I wonder how others decide on their titles, where do they get their inspiration? Any advice would be gratefully received.

@RobertsElaine11

 

If at first you don’t succeed…

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Elaine Roberts shares her experience of the publishing world.

I have been submitting short stories for approximately eighteen months. After several rejections, I finally received an e-mail asking to buy one. I was at home on my own, I couldn’t believe a magazine would want to buy something I had written. I danced around my front room, phone in hand, stopping intermittently to re-read the e-mail, I was convinced I had read it wrong, or worse, they had sent it to the wrong person. That was about ten stories ago, but I still get a thrill when I receive an acceptance and I don’t dwell on the rejections.

The success with my short stories has added to my already existing appetite to succeed in my novel writing. It has taught me to write tighter and sharper, because it’s all about the word count.

Since joining the Write Place, I have been lucky to receive guidance and encouragement to attend the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) Conference, where there are opportunities to have one to ones with agents, publishers and editors. The first type of these events was the Curtis Brown Discovery Day, where I had a chance to do a thirty second pitch and hand over the first page of my novel for feedback. I have to say, up to that point, it was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done. It was with shaking hands and a pounding heart that I stepped forward to take my seat opposite the agent, yes, it was very nerve wracking. To say I was stunned when the agent asked me to send in my first three chapters is a massive understatement. However, it did get rejected, but when I read it again I could understand why.

It is important to say, in my limited experience, that everyone I have met or corresponded with, has come across as keen to advise and point me in the right direction. I do believe they want you to succeed and I’ve been fortunate to always receive good feedback about my work.

At my first RNA Conference last year, it soon became clear that the digital age has assisted new authors in becoming published. Yes, authors would like to see their book in a major bookstore, me included, when I get published. However, in the past, most major publishing companies only took on a couple of new traditionally published authors a year, against an average of half a dozen a month now being published digitally. Therefore, while we want to see our names gracing our bookshelves, there is more opportunity for new talent to be discovered. Yes, I’m aware I could digitally publish myself, but personally, going through a respected publishing company is confirming my writing is at an acceptable standard, and that is what I’m striving for. My confidence is rising everyday; it’s just a matter of time before I finally become published. It’s all about perseverance.

The modern world dictates that we use social media to market ourselves and our creations, which is something I fought against for a while, but my fellow blogger, Elaine Everest, kept telling me I had to embrace it and I hate to admit, especially on such a public forum, she was right, but please don’t tell her I said so.

Experience Counts!

Elaine Roberts tells us about her first twelve months as a novelist.

Two events in the last twelve months have given me writing experiences I never thought I’d have. the events, Attending The Write Place in Dartford, Kent and joining the Romantic Novelists Associations New Writers Scheme (RNA NWS).

The classes introduced me to, amongst other things, the RNA and to the Curtis Brown Literary Agency’s Discovery Day; both have enabled me to talk to publishers and agents as well as other writers.

My first experience was at the RNA Conference when I managed to secure one to ones with two publishers, Harper Collins and Mira. I have to admit to being very nervous and approached it wondering if I’d be able to form a sentence together, when my time came. However, I was pleasantly surprised that both of the publishers put me at ease and gave me feedback on my work, which included some valuable constructive criticism.

The second opportunity was at the Discovery Day, held at Foyles in London, which I attended with other members of my writing group, and was another nervous experience. I had to give myself a strict talking to before I left the house, but again I was pleasantly surprised at how “normal” and approachable the agents I met are. For the first time I had to give approximately a thirty-second pitch on my novel and hand over my first page for the agent to read, which we then spoke about.

I think it’s important to remember they all want you to succeed, so they offer valuable and worthwhile advice. To anyone who wants to approach writing seriously, I would say attend as many of these events as they can, because it’s about listening, learning and above all else preparing. Offer the professionals the best work you can, even if it doesn’t end up being the best you can actually do, have faith and take their views on board. Before you pitch your novel, practice, practice and more practice. It is expected that you can sum up the main plot of your novel in fifteen words, so know your novel and your characters well before attending, then you will be able to talk about them confidently.          

Through talking to professionals, publishers and agents alike, I believe I have gained confidence and belief in my ability to become a published author.
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