I have to say it was a hard, lonely slog. I didn't just send submissions out for three years and sit back and wait to get lucky. Initially, being a new writer with a lot to learn, I posted some submissions, crossed my fingers and waited. Of course I was rejected. Knowing what I do now, I was nowhere near ready to submit. But writing is a learning curve. I re-read my novel and was surprised by several silly mistakes I'd made. Missing speech marks, spelling mistakes etc. I'd also read that I should be indenting new paragraphs and dialogue, which I hadn't known beforehand. Can you believe that in the early days I didn't know how to number a page on my computer so on my first submission, I wrote down the page number with a pen! (I know, I know - shameful.)
And so I started learning the craft of writing. I visited The London Book Fair and attended a masterclass on How To Get Published. I also attended a workshop at Harper Collins and had a one to one chat with Jonathon Lloyd, CEO of Curtis Brown. Armed with more literary knowledge, I revised my novel over the next couple of months. I sent out a flurry of submissions once more. (Literary agent Simon Trewin from United Agency, advised me that it wasn't practical to send out only one submission at a time.) I received more rejections, but with one important difference. They were personal, hand written rejections. Agents said they'd enjoyed reading my work and it was well written, but the hook didn't grab them early enough, or my antagonist was too antagonistic! To me however, it was a giant step forwards and it didn't get me down. After all, as author Richard Ford said as I sipped my latte listening to his interview at the Literary Cafe at The London Book Fair,
"Every writer experiences rejection. We all have to take a turn in the cold shower. Ultimately, be yourself. You've got to write what you've got to write."
I gave my antagonist a conscience and made him friendlier. (Oh, to wave that particular magic wand on some drivers!) I re-wrote the first three chapters, moving the hook to the first few pages. I joined two writing groups and entered competitions.
I wrote, I read, I learned.
Monthly writing magazines dropped through my letter box and I invested in literary text books. I transferred this knowledge into improving my other chapters. I printed a hard copy and read it out loud. This really heped to ensure that the sentences ran smoothly and the dialogue flowed. I created a blog and started tweeting to other authors, agents, publishers, would-be writers. I read my work at writing group meetings, and later at a public literary event in Nottingham. I proudly won some competitions, most notably First Chapter Of An Unpublished Novel Competition, by firstwriter.com. I had my chapter published online on their website for a couple of months which was thrilling for a new writer.
In early summer 2010, I decided to spend some time researching three agents who were interested in contemporary women's fiction. One of which was Juliet Burton. I sent off my submissions and Juliet was the first to get in touch. She requested my full manuscript and having read it, Juliet out-lined areas which she was unsure about but praised my novel, which was wonderful to hear. I asked if I could send her my manuscript back once I'd made the suggested changes, and she agreed.
Having listened to and respected Juliet's professional advice, I deleted a whole chapter, merged two chapters into one and changed the work place of my heroine. Lies and Linguine was getting there! I emailed it back and Juliet agreed to represent me and my book. I had signed and returned the contract within a week and now, as they say, the hard work begins! And I'm looking forward to it.
Last Wednesday was Nottingham Writers' Club's Awards Night. Having spent a laughter-filled evening with fellow writers, I was awarded a silver rose bowl and two trophies for Lies and Linguine, a children's story and poetry. Wow! I walked back to my car with a dazed smile on my face. I'm sure the people I passed must have thought I was quite simple! (In the photo above, I'm proudly displaying my treasured awards in my writing room.)
I know nothing in life is guaranteed. Lies and Linguine still needs to find a publisher, but knowing that a professional literary agent has faith in my work is the most positive way I could have imagined starting 2011.