Sunday, 24 January 2016
The RNA New Writers' Scheme - My First Year
In last week's post (which you can read here) I talked about the reasons why I decided to join the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) New Writers' Scheme (NWS). Today I'll be looking back on my first year and thinking about what this has meant for my writing career.
A week ago, I left you with an image. I was opening the email telling me that I'd successfully been enrolled onto the scheme... yippee! After congratulating myself, I decided I needed to sit down and think carefully about the coming year. As I said in my post last week, my novel just wasn't happening: I hadn't been giving it enough time and, with no deadline, there was every likelihood that it would never get finished..
This was certainly no way to carry on. Did I think my novel idea was good? Yes. Did I want to complete it? Yes. Did I want others to enjoy it? Definitely. I needed to give myself a kick up the backside and what better way to do this than by giving myself a deadline. I knew the end of August was the last opportunity to submit to the NWS reader for a critique - this could be it.
Now I'm not suggesting that waiting until the last minute to submit a novel is a good idea (the poor readers are inundated with late submissions) but I had to give myself enough time to have a reasonable amount to send. I needed to give myself a target - a concrete number of words to complete - and I needed someone who would keep me on the straight and narrow and have the stick waiting when I was slacking. Who better than lovely writing buddy, Tracy. After much discussion (and teacakes) we came up with the magic number - a minimum of 40,000 words. Of course I could have said that I should have the whole novel finished by August (which would have been much better) but I wanted my expectations to be realistic and I also wanted what I sent to be the best it could be.
With a word count to aim for, I found I had more focus and drive and, as the months went by, the novel started to take on a greater importance in my writing life. I wanted to talk about it... share the experience with others. What better way to do this than to join in some of the RNA events (you can find a list of them here). I'd already been to the Winter Party the previous year as a guest but it was time to get my teeth into something a little meatier - the RNA Conference. Last year it was held in London so, in July, I trotted along to St Mary's College in Mile End. I spent a wonderful weekend attending talks, meeting other writers and, best of all, having one to one sessions with publishing editors. To be told that the first chapter of my novel suggested it was a marketable story idea was music to my ears. (You can read my post called Ten things I've learnt from my first RNA Conference here.)
With renewed enthusiasm, I came home and wrote and wrote. By August I had written 54,00 words - more than my target. I sent it off and then I waited... and waited. I carried on writing and eventually, on September 20th, I finished it. My post The Day I Wrote The End is here.
When I eventually received my critique back from my reader, I was delighted. They'd obviously read what I'd sent them carefully and their observations were neatly labelled under 'plot', 'character' etc. The comments were thoughtful and very positive and luckily a lot of the suggestions they made were things that I'd already addressed in the final half of the novel (the problem with only sending a partial). It was the final comment that stayed with me though - 'This novel deserves to be read'. It was worth joining the NWS just for that!
So where am I now, a year on? I've researched agents and started to send the novel out. It's early days yet but one thing I do know... being in the New Writers' Scheme was what gave me the confidence to finish my novel and start the second. It you're new to the scheme this year or thinking about joining it in the future... good luck with your writing and I hope it gives you the boost you're looking for.
You can find out more about the RNA NWS here.