Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Plan, Pitch and Sell Your Book - it worked for me!


I'd like to tell you a fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a writer who saw a pot of gold (a publishing deal) at the end of a rainbow. It was a journey she felt compelled to make, as her goal was in touching distance, but however fast she walked, the goal moved ever further away. 

Along the way, this brave author was tossed golden nuggets of hope - an unsolicited request for her novel from a publisher, agents asking to read the full manuscript and an 'almost happily ever after' following an offer of representation.

Sadly, there were also obstacles placed in her path and the fairy tale came to an end. You can read my post about it here.

Another book and another year later, this author embarked on the journey again. This time she wore her thickest armor but, having come so far before, it was hard to start at the beginning again. Feeling despondent, and scared that her novel pitch might not be good enough, she came to a crossroads and stopped, wishing that a fairy godmother would appear to reassure her that she was travelling the right path.

To her surprise, her wish was granted. Her friend, author Kate Harrison, came to her rescue. "I think I have something that might help you," she said, waving her magic wand.

It was her on-line writing course called Pitch, Plan and Sell Your Book 

The writer used the information on the course to check her bio was compelling, her description arresting and her covering letter the best it could be. She carried on with her journey and, oh joy, she could see the palace of Bookouture ahead of her, shining brightly. "We would like to offer you a contract," they said, after reading the author's pitch. "Would you like to join us in our magic kingdom?"

Too right she would! 

That author, of course, is me and with the help of Kate, I had my 'happily ever after' moment after all and I couldn't be more excited. You can read the blog post announcing my two-book acquisition here.

If you too would like help making your dreams come true, Kate is offering an exclusive 60% discount for Wendy's Writing Now blog readers.

Gift vouchers also available!

If you're still not sure, let me tell you a bit more about the Plan, Pitch and Sell Your Book course.

The course is suitable for both new and experienced writers:

  • Someone who's written a book but is receiving constant rejections from agents and publishers. 
  • An indie writer whose books aren't being read or who are receiving unfair reviews.
  • A new writer with an exciting idea who is unsure where to go with it.

The information is covered in 7 steps in a series of videos, presentations, cheat sheets and exercises.

Kate is professional, engaging and knows what she's talking about. She helped me find my way to the perfect publisher... why not let her help you too? 

Kate has sold over a million novels and non-fiction books across indie and trade publishing, with her 19 titles translated into 20+ languages. Before becoming an author, she worked as a TV news correspondent and led a team developing and pitching new programmes and formats for the BBC.   

She's written across the genres from health and diet books, to YA suspense, series novellas, women’s fiction, and now thrillers under the name Kate Helm. Kate is also co-founder of Write by the Beach, the annual conference for new writers in Brighton, where she lives. Her online course, Pitch & sell your book helps authors sell books and develop original ideas using emotional insight, trends and reader need.

If you'd like to find out more about Kate, why not visit her  Website

You can buy her latest novel The Secrets You Hide from Amazon here 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Meeting my Editor, the RNA Party and the Tube!

It's hard to believe that the RNA Winter Party has come around again. It doesn't seem twelve months since I was at the last one. I've always enjoyed the event but, this year, there was something else to look forward to. I was being taken out to dinner beforehand by my Bookouture editor, Jennifer hunt.

Now, since Jennifer approached me with a publishing deal in May, we have been in contact by telephone and email but it's not the same as meeting someone in the flesh. At last, I was going to meet the person who had loved my novel enough to offer me a contract... and I was super excited.

Me and Jennifer
Jennifer had booked a table at Tozi in Pimlico so all I needed do do was get there in time and find the place. It didn't start well when my train was cancelled and I had to travel to Victoria via Brighton. Not good when you suffer from travel anxiety at the best of times. The train was then held up outside Clapham Junction due to a signalling failure and I could see the minutes ticking away. What sort of impression would it give if I was late? it wasn't even as if I could let Jennifer know as I didn't have her mobile number!

Finally the train arrived at Victoria and I ran all the way (with the help of trusty Google Maps) to the restaurant - which wasn't a bad thing as it meant I didn't have time to get nervous. After all, meeting your editor for the first time is like going on a blind date. What if you don't get on? What if you have nothing to talk about?

As soon as I was shown to my table, I knew I had nothing to worry about. Jennifer was just like she was on the phone, warm and welcoming, and the meal was very informal. We shared a selection of tapas dishes, helped along by a glass of Prosecco, and talked about all sorts of things. It wasn't long before we were looking at our watches and realising we'd better get our skates on if we were to make the RNA party.

This year, as last year, the party was held at 1 Birdcage Walk, in a beautiful room lined with books. It was Jennifer's first RNA party and I warned her it would be very hot and very loud - but also very friendly.

It was lovely to catch up with old friends and new (many of whom I only knew through social media). People such as Jenni Keer, who's been tavelling a similar writing journey to me these last couple of years. If I'm honest, the whole evening went by in a blur and it took me a good twenty minutes to get to the bar for my first drink as I kept getting stopped along the way.
Me and Liz

To top the evening off, I did a very brave thing. With the help of my lovely friend, Liz Eeles, I went back to Victoria on the underground! Most of you will know that I never EVER go on the tube (the last time I tried, I felt panicky and had to go back out again) but this time it wasn't too busy and the District Line isn't too deep, so I survived. Quite an achievement!

All in all, it was a very successful evening and if you've been thinking about going to one of the RNA events, but haven't felt brave enough, please consider going. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it. 

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Scared to Let Go

In September, I wrote a blog post called Moving on a Bit. Although, I hadn't announced it yet (I had to wait until I was given the go-ahead) I had already signed my two-book deal with the brilliant Bookouture and had started writing the second novel in my contract.

My post was about how difficult it was to write short stories alongside longer-length projects and how, even though I'd managed to do this when writing my first two novels, I had decided to take a step back from magazine writing for a while to give myself the very best chance of success.

I think it was the only decision I could have made as, very quickly after this, I began work on editing novel one. First there were the structural edits, then the line edits, then the book was sent to an independent editor for copy edits, which I shall get back in December. At the same time as this, I've been working on novel two. 

Last week I had an email from my lovely editor at The People's friend. They were buying two of my stories. This should, of course, have been cause for celebration, but instead I felt nothing but anxiety. The reason for this was that, when I came to enter the sales into my records, I realised that they only had one more of my stories left to read. In the six years I've been writing for the magazine, this has never happened, as I always like to have at least ten with them. I then looked back and saw I hadn't written them a new story in two months (I used to write one a week).

It was a truly unsettling moment and I vowed that I would leave my novel and write a story there and then. I looked at my list of ideas and chose one before doing what I always do and just to start writing. This technique has never failed me yet as, along the way, the small kernel of the idea usually starts to grow quite quickly into something story-like and, if I get stuck, a dog walk usually sorts it out.

Not this time.

To my horror, by seven hundred words, my idea was still just that... an idea. The characters hadn't come to life, the plot hadn't taken shape and the end wouldn't reveal itself. Eventually, I had to stop.

I've tried to analyse what happened. It might be a) I've got out of the habit of writing short fiction b) I was writing it because I felt guilty not because I wanted to c) My head was still in my novel 

Whatever the reason, it's worried me. I've always been successful writing for the magazines and I don't want to forget how to do it. It's where my income comes from and I've always enjoyed it. I'm also afraid that, with the magazine market shrinking, the competition for story sales is greater than it's ever been and taking a step back can be a dangerous thing to do. 

Getting my publishing deal has been one of my greatest achievements but there's no way of knowing what will happen once the books come out. All I know is that I have to give it my very best shot. In the meantime, I'm going to leave the story and come back to it with fresh eyes. I've done it three hundred times before, so I shall just have to have faith in myself that I can do it again.

Anyone else out there in the same boat?

Monday, 22 October 2018

Sighing and Other Irritations

I was reading back over the last couple of chapters of my work in progress last week (before I carry on with my writing, I always read and edit my words from the previous day) and something soon became clear to me.

A lot of my characters stand in doorways. 

In fact, it's amazing how many doorways there are in my novel... and how many times people stand in them. 

Sometimes they lean
Sometimes they loiter
Sometimes they eavesdrop
Sometimes they hover

... but mostly they just stand.

It reminded me of the time (a long time ago now) when my husband told me that a lot of the characters in my magazine stories 'furrowed their brows' and occasionally even 'knitted' them. Yes really! 

You'll be glad to know they never do that now.

It made me wonder about other writers. Do their characters also have a fear of crossing the threshold or are there other irritating things they do much too often? With this in mind, I took to Facebook and asked the question. Here is a list of the answers I got back - they may or may not surprise you.

  • sigh
  • blush
  • rise to their feet
  • take a deep breath
  • shrug
  • smile
  • giggle
  • roll eyes
  • lock gaze
  • nod
  • shake head
  • raise eyebrows
  • check watch
  • turn on their heel
  • frown
  • linger on thresholds
  • stir tea
  • pull up a chair
  • put kettle on

My favourite answer by far was the writer whose characters often winced and gripped each other's elbows (that sounds very painful!)

When the novel is finished, I shall definitely be on the look out for all these sneaky little actions - just in case they've crept in when I wasn't paying attention.

So pull up a chair, take a deep breath, stir your tea and smile while you think of some other actions we could add to the list. If you do, I'll be the one shrugging and rolling my eyes in the doorway!

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Impostor Syndrome - Yes, I have it!

A person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others

I belong to a choir and, last week, a new member asked me what I do for a living.

I hesitated before answering, knowing I had two options. The easy one was to say, 'I'm a teacher.' The hard one would be, 'I'm an author'.

If I answered the first way, I guessed the conversation would move on quickly. If I answered the second, all manner of things could happen.

What to do?

I had no choice really. I hadn't taught in a classroom for seven years... but I had been writing for six.

Biting the bullet, I answered, 'I'm an author.' This was  followed by a brief explanation of what that meant - I wrote fiction for magazines and that I had written two novels that would be coming out next year.

Then came the wait. I was in the grips of  'Impostor Syndrome'. How could I dare call myself an author. What cheek! What pretense! How conceited! 

These are the types of replies I imagined she might give:

  • Will I have read anything you've written?
  • You write for magazines? I didn't know they did fiction.
  • What a lovely hobby.
  • I've got a little book in my head too. I'll write it some day.
  • Will your book be in the local book shop?
  • Is it another Fifty Shades?
  • You must be rich then.
  • You're going to published by who? Not Penguin? I've only heard of Penguin

Ridiculous I know, but it's a feeling I'm sure most authors have had at some time or other.

But, to my surprise, it didn't happen that way at all. What she actually said was, 'That's wonderful and so exciting for you. I'm going to buy the magazine next week to read your story and you must let me know when your book comes out. I couldn't write a novel to save my life!'

I could have kissed her.

Why had I even considered denying what I did?  It was all in my head - just my own self-doubt talking. I've had hundreds of stories published in magazines and I have a publishing contract for two novels. I should be proud, not embarrassed by what I've achieved.

And I am proud. 

So I'm pushing that little voice that says 'impostor' away (hopefully for good) and, next time, I will answer with no hesitation. 

I am an author. Oh, yes I am!

Have any of you suffered from Impostor Syndrome? If so, how do you rid yourself of it?

P.S When I first wrote this post, I spelt the word  'impostor' as 'imposter'. It belongs to the group of words such as 'actor' and 'impersonator'. I've learnt something today!

Monday, 1 October 2018

I Joined The People's Friend Team for an Hour!

An exciting thing happened last week. I was asked by The lovely people at The People's Friend magazine if I'd like to co-host their first ever live 'Author Q&A' as part of their Writing Hour on Twitter. 

Even though I've written over two hundred stories for this magazine, I was surprised to have been asked and very flattered. Of course I said a very quick yes. 

So what is this Writing Hour? Well, it's on a Tuesday and a Thursday morning at 11am and it's a place where readers and writers can chat about a variety of things to do with writing. Using the hashtag #PFWritingHour, the Friend team pose a series of questions which will elicit conversation amongst the hashtag readers. 

This time though, the questions would come from the readers and they would all be directed at me! (gulp).

Now, I'm not new to answering questions (I've been interviewed on people's blogs many times) but I've never done it live! It made me feel a little bit panicky. What if I was asked a difficult question and didn't know the answer? What if I sat there for an hour with no questions? What if I let myself and the lovely magazine I write for down? I certainly hoped I wouldn't.

Tuesday morning came and the first thing I did was advertise the event. I certainly didn't want to be 'Billy No Mates'. At eleven O'clock, armed with a large cup of coffee, I logged into the People's Friend Twitter account and introduced myself to the readers. I needn't have worried about no one asking me anything as immediately the questions came pouring in. I was very proud when the People's Friend profile picture came up every time I commented - I felt just like one of the team!  

The questions were from both new and established writers and all of them were great. Here are a few of them to give you a flavour:

What's the best way to deal with rejection?
Have you ever written a story that has upset someone?
How long does it take you to write a short story?
Do you have a favourite PF character of all time?

I could barely keep up with the questions and I'm ashamed to say I had to type the answers so quickly, there were one or two little typos - oops!

The whole experience was really enjoyable and, if you are on Twitter and would like to read my answers to these questions and many more, you can still catch them by typing #PFWritingHour into the search bar and scrolling down to last week's chat.

Much to my surprise, I've been asked if I'll take part in a Q&A again another week... I'd be delighted. In the meantime, here is a picture of my latest story in this week's People's Friend. It's called, 'Let Love Grow'.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Greece is the Word. Have you Heard?

Sorry I haven't posted for a while but I've been on holiday and, on my return, had to get stuck into a pile of line edits that my editor sent me just before I went away (I deliberately didn't look at them until I came home in case I went into panic mode). Now the edits are done, I can concentrate on carrying on with novel two. It's taking a while to get into the swing of it but it's slowly taking shape and, today, I reached the halfway mark which I'm happy about.

As always, our Greek holiday was fantastic. This year we tried a new island, Meganissi (sometimes spelt Meganisi) and it was exactly as we'd imagined it - small but perfectly formed. In fact, with its little harbour, hilltop villages, green slopes and pebble beaches (not to mention the flotillas that moored up each evening) it reminded us of our two previous Greek holidays in Ithaca and Paxos. Above, is a picture of the little house we stayed in. We had our own pool with a gorgeous view which we sadly shared with several wasps (Ian got stung between his toes on the last day) and some rather scary looking hornets (which luckily weren't interested in us at all).

So what does this writer do when she's on holiday? Write?


I read lots, ate delicious food, drank Mythos beer and swam - not necessarily in that order! One day, we hired a little boat. Mooring up in deserted bays and swimming in the crystal clear water was heavenly - until we ran aground and damaged our propeller. As if that wasn't bad enough, we then found, once we'd left the shelter of the harbour and were setting off home, that the wind had picked up and there were waves. I absolutely do not 'do' waves.

The only way I could cope with the journey back was by taking the wheel. It was better than being a passenger and awaiting my fate in the choppy water. "We'll be alright, won't we?" I was heard to say more than once to my husband. Needless to say (as you're reading this) we got back unscathed.

The harbour town of Vathi was the perfect place to have lunch and watch the sailing boats come and go. Each day, we'd choose something different to accompany our Greek salad. These are the delicious courgettes in tempura batter we had for one of our lunches. This year, we also discovered Portokalopita for the first time. It's a type of Greek orange drizzle cake and was absolutely delicious.

To counteract all this lovely food we were eating, we made sure we went to a beach for a swim at some point every day. The beaches in Meganissi are all pebble (ranging from shingle to large white stones) but that is how we like it as it makes the sea even clearer and turns it the most beautiful shade of blue/green. Usually, we'd stroll down at around six in the evening, when the weather was cooler, and have the beach to ourselves but, on a couple of days, we treated ourselves to a whole day at one of the two 'organised' beaches. This meant a sunbed and shade and a beach taverna.

The photo above was Fanari beach with its great taverna playing reggae music (sounds strange but it works). As you can see from the photograph at the top of this post, it looks very Caribbean! The other organised beach we went to was at Spilia. A storm was brewing, which made for a great photo, and we huddled under the sunshades as lightning forked the sky and the heavens opened. It lasted about half an hour and was quite exciting!

So now I'm home again and have been chuffed to find that I've had five stories published over the last two weeks in three different magazines. It doesn't always happen like this I can tell you. I've made a little montage of them because it makes me happy... but maybe not as happy as going to Greece!