For any graduate of the New Writers' Scheme Sophie Claire’s blog piece will bring back memories of the days leading up to publication. For me that culminated in the recent Joan Hessayon Award evening at the RNA Summer Party so I am delighted to welcome her today to tell us of her own experiences
I’ve been a member of the RNA since 2007 and I submitted 7 novels to the New Writers’ Scheme before getting an offer of publication from Accent Press in 2014 for my novel, Her Forget-Me-Not Ex. I think it’s fair to say I served a long apprenticeship and, although this was frustrating at the time, I look back now and realise how much I learned during those years.
Discipline: to make the most of the NWS I had to write a minimum of 1 book per year. It’s the same for many published writers. So even before I was published, I tried to adopt a professional attitude and that meant no waiting around for inspiration to strike: I was at my desk every morning to produce my daily word count.
Anything can be changed: when I first began writing I was very precious about my work and it was borne of insecurity (‘I wrote it once, but I won’t be able to write it again’). However, the revisions often turned out to be far easier than I’d imagined because by then I knew the characters so much better than in the first draft.
The importance of conflict: this came up repeatedly in my NWS reports. I learned that in romance solid, sustainable reasons are needed to keep the hero and heroine apart until the end of the story, and those reasons (conflict) can’t be superficial misunderstandings that could be cleared up with an honest conversation. They need to come from within the characters, and should develop naturally as the novel progresses, as secrets are revealed and issues are addressed.
Show more of the hero’s point of view: this was advice given to me specifically for the type of short romance I was aiming for and it might not be relevant to every novel. However, following it improved my novel, Her Forget-Me-Not Ex. It opened up the story, and helped to show the reader how the conflict between Luc and Natasha was shaped by their attitudes and prejudices, and how these changed as the story progressed.
Acknowledge your strengths: when a report tells you you’re good at something, the writer means it! Re-reading my critiques I can see that each year another element fell into place: I learned to focus on the main characters, increased dialogue and pace, added more emotion. It’s important to acknowledge how your work has improved, as well as the areas which still need work, because staying positive is so important!
Being published doesn’t mean you suddenly know everything overnight, but I do believe that, having climbed that steep learning curve, the process becomes easier. For this reason I’ll always be grateful to the experienced writers who read my manuscripts. Their advice was invaluable and I doubt I would ever have achieved my dream of getting published without it. I recommend the New Writers’ Scheme to all aspiring romance writers.
Sophie Claire was born in Africa to a French mother and Scottish father who settled halfway in Manchester, and Sophie still lives there now with her husband and two boys.
Sophie was shortlisted for the Elizabeth Goudge Award 2011 and the Sophie King Prize 2014. Over the years she has worked in marketing and proofreading academic papers, but writing is what she considers her 'real job', even if she has yet to convince the bank manager.
What a positive and encouraging piece, Sophie. Thank you for joining us today and good luck with Her Forget-Me-Not Ex
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