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.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Francesca concludes the series on our publishing world observations.

The expression ‘All human life is here’ was once the motto of the now defunct News of the World. This seems to be true of the publishing world itself. Not that I mean it’s full of scandal and outrage (though I imagine they have their fair share) but that the people who inhabit that world are many and varied.

FB publications sampleI’ve dealt for many years with magazine publications and on the whole my experiences have been positive. You send a short story; you wait a while; it’s accepted or rejected. There were always two or three magazines that only contacted you if it was an acceptance, which is irritating when you don’t know whether you can submit it elsewhere. Recently there’s been a worrying trend towards this method, with other magazines jumping on the bandwagon, making the whole process much more fraught. Part of it seems to be due to lack of editing man (person?) hours, so not always the editor’s fault. But as usual, it leaves writers up poo creak without a paddle. The best thing is to impose your own waiting period, say three months, as a reasonable time before sending a story elsewhere.

Incidentally, the longest I’ve waited for an acceptance is two years and eight months. A nice surprise but still rather shocking!

As for book publishers, often they just don’t understand our brilliant work. Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek as this analysis tends to come from a particular type of writer. These are the ones, and many of us have met them, who think their novel (dashed off and unedited) is the best thing since pot noodle and should have been snapped up within the week. It’s often members of one particular gender who have this outlook (sorry!). Though not exclusively.

LBF sign smallIt’s true, some book publishers can be disagreeable. I’ve had a few industry appointments with publishers and editors and talked to others on spec at events such as The London Book Fair and the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. A couple have been moody, maybe because they were fed up sitting in one place all day talking to a numpty would-be novelist like me. Happily many more publishers are perfectly helpful, appreciating the part writers play in the publishing process. You never know which sort they’re going to be before you meet them so it’s always a little fraught. If they turn out to be less than pleasant then I can’t help feeling that’s their problem. It’s pointless taking it personally.

To end on a positive note, I do currently have two publishers interested in one of my novels, which shows it can happen even to a pessimist like me. Both have suggested changes (entirely different from each other!), after which they’d like to see the novel again. I’m well aware that this doesn’t guarantee a sale, but it’s a start.

Encountering publishers personally is a scary notion, but if I hadn’t overcome the fear (or rather, felt it and done it anyway) I wouldn’t now have this chance of publication for my novel. So, if you’re thinking of approaching a publisher and feel a bit nervous, remember the old saying:

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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The London Book Fair: A Useful Resource for Writers

Francesca Burgess considers the merits of attending this annual event

The first London Book Fair I attended, back in 2010, was very quiet due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (I’m glad I’m writing that and not pronouncing it!) which grounded air traffic. Lucky for me and Elaine Everest; not so lucky for the delegates from abroad who couldn’t make it. Since then it’s been much busier, but I have found this event useful to me as a writer.

Katie Fford (in pink) talking to attendees.

Katie Fford (in pink) talking to attendees.

For starters, there are the author talks. This year, Elaine, Natalie Kleinman and I sat in on one about Genre Fiction. This gave us valuable tips from Katie Fford (romance novelist), Manda Scott (historical novelist) and Jo Fletcher (publisher specialising in sci fi, fantasy and horror).

Other talks this year (and there were many) included an introduction to publishing, hints on acquiring more readers, the emerging short fiction market and the children’s market.

The author workshops and agent one-to-ones were snapped up very quickly. I wasn’t worried about this as I’ve done similar events elsewhere, but certainly it would have been a fantastic opportunity for writers. There was also a Dragon’s Den style panel where ten authors got to pitch their books to several literary agents. One agent is bad enough but the thought of a panel has me quaking at my computer!

What takes up most time at the book fair is perusing the many stands, for both fiction and nonfiction. They do give a good insight into what publishers are looking for. Although the ‘Big Five’ publishers do attend, and it’s useful to see what genres and subject matter are currently popular with them, it’s often more useful to look at the stands of the smaller publishers. The people here, and they’re often the owners, are usually very friendly. This gives an opportunity to ask about their current requirements and submission process.

Publishers on the smaller stands are usually willing to talk about submissions

Publishers on the smaller stands are usually willing to talk about submissions

If you’re really bold, you can hand them a synopsis and first chapters of your novel, or a proposal for a nonfiction book. They’re often willing to take them, though increasingly now they’ll ask you to submit online instead. Either way you have absolutely nothing to lose.

Often on these forays we’ve found genres or nonfiction subject matter we hadn’t considered writing before. It all helps to open up new possibilities.

With around 1,500 companies represented, 150 subjects covered and over 250 free seminars, what I’ve described here really is the tip of the iceberg and aimed at all publishing professionals, not just writers. At £25 for admission (if you get your ticket early enough), it’s not cheap, but you can go along all three days.

Personally, I didn’t find the LBF so useful for me this year, maybe because five years is enough. In the future I’m going to have a go at some of the other literary events, like the Hove Book Festival and the Whitstable Literary Festival. However, if you’ve never been, it’s well worth giving it a go.

Tips for attending The London Book Fair:

  • Wear flat shoes.
  • Wear layers – it gets very hot indoors.
  • Take a bag for the directory, leaflets, layers etc.
  • Take several copies of your synopsis+chapters!
  • Sit down with a coffee when you arrive to decide your plan of action. It saves wasting time wandering around aimlessly.

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For more information: http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/