Friday, 9 December 2016

All I Want For Christmas is ...

Last Christmas I asked the Novelistas which book they would give as a present. This year I'm asking which reading or writing-related gift they would like to receive - if they've been good, of course!

Trisha Ashley

I absolutely adore the Kate Spade range of desk and writing accessories in gold and this pencil pouch has been in my amazon basket for about a year. When you see the price, you can understand why! I treated myself to the gold and acrylic stapler to celebrate signing with Transworld, but I would like the rest of the desk set too - and all the gold spotty and stripey folders, journals and year planners, etc. But meanwhile, call me shallow, but using my beautiful stapler gives me great pleasure.

Valerie-Anne Baglietto

As I've already splurged on a Kindle Paperwhite in the Black Friday sale, I'm not actually asking for any physical books this Christmas. Instead, I've added a literary themed gift to the wishlist conveniently pinned to the fridge, where my family can't miss it. As I'm a bit of a cushionaholic (yes that's a thing) I've set my heart on a quirky, vintage-style bookish one, although any cushion along these lines would be well received. Thanking my brilliant, amazing family in advance (am I being nice enough?) Love Val x

Anne Bennett

23 years ago we moved into a four bedroom house in North Wales with two daughters so we had a spare bedroom. Although we called this the study from the onset, it wasn’t used as initially as I wrote on the dressing table in our bedroom and the ‘study’ was used as a storeroom. When the time came for me to need a special place to write, there was barely room for the hastily constructed desk and chair. Although I have made valiant stabs at tidying up and clearing out, much of the original junk is still there and my ‘study’ is a hotch-potch of mismatched office furniture with no sense of order to it. So what I really want, and would nearly sell my soul to get, is Mary Poppins. With one click of those magic fingers, my study would pack itself all up neatly and I could decamp elsewhere for a time while my study was redecorated and planned properly.

Alas I think I will be disappointed but really Christmas isn’t just about presents and it is a joyful time. So happy Christmas to all of you and I hope 2017 is a good year for all of us.

Annie Burrows

You’re going to think this is daft, but what I’d really like is a new pencil sharpener. The one I have at the moment came out of a Christmas cracker several years ago (not mine, either, I saw it drop onto the tablecloth and pounced on it!)

I edit my printed-off manuscripts by pencil, you see, and they wear down to this…

And my Christmas-cracker sharpener is not going to last much longer.

Sophie Claire

My wish is for a week in Provence. Expensive, I know, but I’m hoping that maybe just maybe if I wish hard enough…(and Santa has deep pockets, doesn’t he?)

Why? The book I’m currently writing is set in the heart of Provence and although I have many fond memories of the childhood summers I spent at my grandparents’ house by the sea, I’m finding there are gaps in my knowledge, partly because I’ve rarely visited out of season.

I have a growing list of unanswered questions – which trees flower in spring? What is the quality of the light like in autumn? Can you swim in the Mediterranean in May? The internet is wonderful for research, but it’s no substitute for visiting a place yourself. If I hadn’t seen the denim-blue skies and red earth, or heard the cicadas’ rusty song, or smelt the sweet perfume of pine trees in sunlight, it would be difficult to write about them. But there’s so much more about this vibrant place that I’ve yet to get to know, so fingers crossed I get the chance to visit again soon.

Beth Francis

As a Christmas gift I’d like an experience day. Not for a trip on the London Eye, a hot air balloon over the countryside, or a Spa weekend. I’d like mine to be a visit to a literary festival. Something prearranged, planned, and the date firmly blocked in on the wall calendar above my desk. Failing that I would love the wall calendar. A month at a glance, but with beautiful inspiring pictures. Snow capped mountains, palm fringed beaches, Christmas Fairs…

Turning the page each month and finding a picture I was happy to look at for weeks would mean the gift was appreciated throughout the year. I have a calendar on my computer, and a family calendar in the kitchen, but this one would be for me. Seeing looming deadlines focus’s my mind, even if they are only self-imposed. I often forget to buy a new calendar until January, when there can be a limited selection. Currently I’m looking at the November picture of a famous steam train, which seems very similar to the steam trains on the previous ten pages.

So, a calendar please, beautiful, arty or quirky, but one I can enjoy filling with lunches, mini-meets, book launches and even deadlines for the next twelve months.

June Francis

I would like Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody for Christmas. It is set in Whitby on the Yorkshire coast where Dracula was supposed to have landed. My son Iain is going to buy it for me.

Juliet Greenwood

My ideal Christmas present would be a beach in the Seychelles. Not to own it (too much responsibility, life is complicated enough), or permanently (boredom would set in), but a week (or so). Just me, sunshine, no responsibilities, no laptop, a warm sea and the TBR pile at my side. With a nice relaxed place to meet friends in the evening for a glass of wine, a meal, and good conversation under the stars. I’ve never been to the Seychelles, but they sound nice and at a safe distance. Mind you, I’d probably want one of those transporter things from Star Trek to get there and back, and my dog is giving me some very funny looks …. Happy Christmas!

Cheryl Lang

Christmas is the perfect time to be able to try something new. In my stocking I’d like to find a variety of items to generate ideas for novels. Not just a book, but something electronic or even dice, perhaps even creative games. I will spend time looking at random plot ideas, romantic situations, characters and backstory. I could experiment with the paranormal or comedy. A veritable writers’ toolbox!

Haydn Lee

Every time I step into my local Waterstones’ for a book on my English Lit course, I am always drawn to a high shelf nestled deep within the ‘fiction’ section. Ignoring the pressing need for a copy of Joyce for next week’s class, I reach up and select the book I always take down from the top shelf. I am careful not to drop it, or let my clammy fingers mark the gorgeous Art Deco cover. I flick through its pages, smiling at the well-known titles whizzing past, and pausing at the lesser known ones I’ve only seen as fragile paperbacks at second hand book fairs, not reprinted since the War.

I sigh, and return the book back amongst its identical friends. ‘Soon,’ I think to myself, ‘soon I will be able to read you. But not now,’ and I wince thinking of all the essays due before Christmas and all the plays of the Italian Futurists I have to struggle through until then. This Christmas, though, I will put all work aside, and settle down with a mug of cinnamon and chai tea to read The Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford, after months of pining over it at Waterstones’. If nobody gifts it to me, I will damn well buy it for myself, because Nancy’s novels, with their wit and their wonderful eccentric characters, give me an enjoyable escape from the sort of thing I’d usually have to read.

Louise Marley

This year I discovered Shirley Jackson and have been reading her deliciously creepy psychological suspense stories back-to-back. I'd really like to know more about her life, and what inspired her stories, so I'm sending a note up the chimney for a copy of her biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. Definitely worth being good for!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

How to Choose the Perfect Title ...

How can you ensure your book will catch the eye of a reader? With a terrific cover and a clever title! The publisher takes care of the cover design but I asked the Novelistas how they came up with that elusive perfect title ...

Trisha Ashley

When I spotted that a mega-bestselling author was using for her new novel the title of my own bestselling novel of a couple of years back, Twelve Days of Christmas, I felt strangely miffed....I mean, I know there is no copyright in titles, but it felt like mine! I carefully check my titles to see if there has been a bestseller of the same name - but then, rarely does my own title end up as the one the publishers choose.

Anyway, once I'd remembered that I'd totally ripped off one of Shakespeare's titles, A Winter's Tale, I realised I didn't have a leg to stand on...

Valerie-Anne Baglietto

My second book, published by Hodder & Stoughton, was originally titled Tom, Dick or Harry, and yes, the heroine was caught between three very different men, the eponymous Tom, Dick and... you get the idea. My publishers approved, but as it was hitting the final stages a book came out called Tom Dick and Debbie Harry, and as the titles were too similar, they advised me to change mine. I was blank. Stumped. Frustrated. My story had been Tom, Dick or Harry from the very start. It was written in my contract. I couldn't imagine it as anything else. But that's the publishing world for you; I had to swallow my disappointment and get on with it. My debut novel had been The Wrong Sort of Girl, so playing around for a fresh title for the new book I came up with The Wrong Mr Right. It actually fitted with the plot really well, my editor was enthusiastic, and before long I grew to love it. But a theme was developing. Everyone joked my next book would have to be The Wrong something or other, too, but I ran out of ideas. Probably just as well. Anyway, one day I received a lovely email from a reader who told me it was only as she neared the end of The Wrong Mr Right that she twigged the three 'heroes' were called Tom, Dick and Harry. She loved the fact she hadn't realised immediately. So in the end, in spite of all the faff and frustration, I think it worked out for the best.

Anne Bennett

I meet many people who think of the title for a book before they have written a word of it. It was the opposite for me, certainly in the early days, as I seemed to be able to write a 120,000 word novel with ‘relative’ ease, but I would generally have no idea for few words needed for a title.

My new book, which was due to be out now, was called The Winter Waif. However, I had begun to have trouble with my eyes and my vision deteriorated as I struggled to write the book. This meant I could not deliver the book in time and we were looking at the end of January instead. Suddenly The Winter Waif wasn’t suitable and so I decided on Forget-Me-Not Child instead.

So some titles do fly unbidden into my head. If this doesn’t happen I will still discuss this with my agent or editor, but the final decision of the title to take to the marketing team is always mine.

Annie Burrows

I very rarely have any input into my titles. They get chosen by my publisher’s marketing team. Only once, recently, did they ask me if I had any ideas for a title and I was so surprised my mind went totally blank. I then emailed my fellow Harlequin Historical writers, some of whom are absolutely brilliant at titles, and gave them a brief outline of the story. A couple of them suggested In Bed With the Duke. By that time, what with all the panic and then the to-ing and fro-ing of emails, the marketing team had got back to me suggesting the very same title. So that is what it became.

Sophie Claire

Strangely, I’d never had trouble thinking of a title until I wrote Her Forget-Me-Not Ex. Usually a phrase or a key element would come up during the months it takes to write a book and I’d know it was right for that story. Not so for this novel, which had the very dull working title Florist throughout. It was only after I’d finished it that I sat down to have a brainstorming session and came up with a ‘flowery’ title to suit the heroine Natasha and her flower shop.

But the best advice I’ve heard for choosing a title was in a writing workshop given by author Julie Cohen and she told us a good title will encapsulate the novel’s theme. Wise words.

Beth Francis

I was standing on the shore of the Menai Strait and saw a rainbow arching across Anglesey, the distant field where it came to earth clearly visible. I thought of my hero, about to join the gold rush to Australia. Would he find a pot of gold at journey’s end, or come home penniless?

That novel was called Rainbow’s End, from early plotting to eventual publication. The only time I’ve found a title so easily.

When I write I usually have a working title. My characters frequently wait to be properly named, too. I often use Fred as a generic name for my hero until I find a name, which conveys his personality, but does not already belong to a friend or relative. Naming fictional villages would hold my writing up for weeks if I didn’t temporarily call them all Llan.

As I reach the final chapter all the characters will have been properly named and the place names settled on, but the title might still elude me. This is when I go for a brainstorming walk with a friend, dismissing our increasingly bizarre suggestions, until I finally settle on the perfect title. Only to discover it’s been used already. Time to think again!

June Francis

For my latest series of sagas I chose song titles of the fifties and very early sixties when the books where set.

Juliet Greenwood

I always know the title of my books will be changed, so I tend to use the location while I’m writing them. Eden’s Garden started its life as Blodeuwedd’s Garden. While the ancient Welsh myth of the woman made out of flowers to be a perfect wife, and was punished when she developed a mind of her own is central to the mystery, it’s quite a mouthful if you aren’t familiar with Welsh. So as it is Plas Eden’s garden, Eden’s Garden it became.

We That are Left was really tricky, trying to convey the woman finding herself through her work to protect her community and her family during the Great War. It was Hiram Hall for most of its life, which I quite agreed with my publishers was just plain boring and didn’t give a flavour of the book at all!

The only one of my books that has always had the same title is The White Camellia. It was really difficult to come up with a title that didn’t give the intricate details of the central mystery of the crumbling old house on a Cornish cliff away – so the ladies’ tearooms which links all the characters in unexpected ways was the only choice! The next book has a cracking title, if I say so myself, and it does have a location in it. But that would be telling…

Cheryl Lang

Titles are just one more difficult thing in the progress of a novel. My titles can change a couple of times. And if it is published, doesn't the publishing house change it anyway?

Depending on the location and what the core story is about, I try and incorporate a little of both. I trawl through lists trying to pick out words I like and combine two or three words mostly until it drives me mad and I just put something down and change it when inspiration strikes. My current WIP is called Lemongrass; originally Lemongrass Foods but I decided it sounded too much like a book of recipes. When I read book titles, I admire the author's ability to choose catchy titles that I'd wished I'd thought of.

Haydn Lee

I am terrible at choosing my titles, or naming my works. My Word documents are generally named after the content of the story, e.g. Vampires; the main character, Mr E; or their first line, He is where I left him. When I do come around to naming my stories, I will generally pick a mysterious and vague, yet somehow relevant working title, for example, Tuesday. This title will usually stick until completion. Perhaps what my arbitrary titles tells you about my writing is that I’m too caught up in the fictional world and my characters’ lives to step outside of their world and just give it a name.

Louise Marley

I've always had trouble thinking up titles, which is why most of mine are songs. This isn't such a great idea, because if you think a particular song makes a great book title, you can bet a dozen other writers have had exactly the same idea! For a change, I chose Nemesis for one of my crime novels, but since it came out there are now over twenty books on Amazon also called Nemesis, or with Nemesis as part of the title. So I would suggest checking there are no other books with your title before it's published! The funniest confusion between my book and another author's was with my romantic mystery, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. I only noticed because I was starting to get some very odd reviews on Goodreads. It turned out the other Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was a memoir - about working in a crematorium!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

NCW Graduate Fair 2016 - Part 2: Pitching to Agents by Sophie Claire

On Friday, Sophie Claire and Louise Marley attended the National Creative Writing Graduate Fair at Manchester Metropolitan University. Organised by Comma Press and The Manchester Writing School, there were panels and workshops on a variety of subjects, AND the chance to pitch to a literary agent!

In this post, Sophie shares her experience of pitching to two literary agents.

Pitching One to One:

I must admit, I couldn’t concentrate on the talks and workshops (which Louise blogged about here) because I was so nervous about pitching to agents! I've never pitched 'live' before, so I spent the morning rehearsing in my mind what I wanted to say and trying to anticipate questions the agents might ask. Which was a shame because there were several workshops which looked good – for example,  perfecting your elevator pitch and using social media to support your writing career.

Those of us who chose to pitch to agents were each given two slots – 15 minutes each – with an agent relevant to our genre. It all looked a little intimidating: rows of tables laid out as for school exams, and an organiser blowing her whistle to signal when the 15 minute slots were over. But it turned out that my agent meetings weren’t half as terrifying as I’d expected. Agents are human, after all, and I got the impression I wasn’t the first nervous writer they’d had to deal with! 

So what did we talk about? We discussed my French ancestry and how I draw on this in my writing. We also talked about why I use a pseudonym, what agents are looking for at the moment (they don’t always know until they find it, a compelling hook, voice, heart), and our shared admiration for Jojo Moyes’ books.

I took written copies of my pitch because I tend to muddle my words when I’m nervous, and one agent reassured me that an author isn’t often – if ever – required to pitch their work verbally, and these things are usually done in writing. The only question which I found tricky was ‘sum up the plot for me’. Yikes! I wish I’d answered this more concisely and not missed out some key elements.

When it comes to preparing a pitch for your book, the main thing I took away with me was to look at the blurbs and covers of books in your genre and learn how to tempt your potential reader into wanting to read your book. There are key words and questions in each genre, and common hooks which readers seek out. For example, in psychological thrillers, questions often revolve around ‘Can the protagonist stay alive/solve the puzzle before time runs out?’ (I noticed a lot of fellow writers were working on psychological thrillers). Also, a pitch isn’t about condensing your plot into two lines; it’s about setting up the story, then throwing in a point of intrigue to make the reader want to know more. Here’s a condensed version of the blurb for Paula Hawkins’ Girl On The Train to illustrate:

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses …

And then she sees something shocking.

Approaching an Agent:

We were told several times throughout the day how important the cover letter is when an agent receives your submission, and the key points for a successful one are:

a) Tailor your submission to that agent. Tell them why you’ve chosen to approach them specifically (eg you think your book would fit with their client list, or you've heard they’re looking out for the type of book you’ve written)

b) A concise and compelling hook, which makes them want to read your book

c) Put yourself in their shoes – if they like your book, what will they need to sell it to a publisher? The hook we’ve already mentioned, but also a unique feature which makes your book different from the rest, a description of where it fits in the market (eg: name other books in the same category) or who your potential readers are 

d) Keep it short and relevant.

In Summary:

Chatting to other writers on the day made me realise that we were all nervous about pitching, but I'm so glad I took this opportunity. It was a rare chance to get feedback on my pitch, to make a personal connection with the agents, and to learn more about the business side of publishing.

Have you ever 'live pitched' to an agent? What was your experience like? 


Monday, 7 November 2016

NCW Graduate Fair 2016 - Part 1: Panels and Talks

On Friday, Sophie Claire and Louise Marley attended the National Creative Writing Graduate Fair at Manchester Metropolitan University. Organised by Comma Press and The Manchester Writing School, there were panels and workshops on a variety of subjects, AND the chance to pitch to a literary agent!

In this post, Louise summarises the main points from the panels she attended on digital publishing and social media. In Part 2, coming tomorrow, Sophie will share her experience of pitching her novel to two literary agents!

Reaching Your Audience:
Creating a Presence in Public and Online

Tom Ashton: Literary Assistant, Kate Nash Literary Agency, founder of The Writers Quibble
Kate Field: Director of Openstories
Sarah James: Poet, Blogger
Chaired by:
Joe Stretch: Manchester Writing School

Tom: Encourages his authors to try and spend around about an hour a day using social media. Sometimes this can be a struggle but he suggests reviewing a book you’ve enjoyed on Goodreads, or blogging, or creating and sharing content on Twitter. He recommends using Facebook and LinkedIn, but particularly Twitter. Publishers will look up an author on Twitter, and if an author already has an online presence it saves them work. However, as it can take time to build up a presence, he recommends starting now. Follow people in the publishing industry and engage with others – don’t just retweet. Make full use of hashtags to share content and find the kind of things you’re interested in. Ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I love that can be shared on the internet?’

Kate: Blogging is great but ask yourself if it is a good investment of your time. In the past, when there were fewer bloggers, it did break down barriers into publishing; now, not so much. Quality is very important. Start small and then, when you are established, expand. But don’t tie yourself in knots trying to do everything. When will you have time to write the book? Publishers and agents will love it if you blog, but accept that you won’t have so much time to use Twitter, for example. Use your judgement about what is best for you. Follow writers you love on social media and see how they do it.

A question was asked about the importance of having a website.

Kate: It is very important to have your own website. A publisher will create one for you but it is better to have one of your own that you can control. You can set them up for free. It is the perfect place for people to find you, find out about you and your work, and for them to get in touch with you. But you must regularly update it.

A question was asked about what to do if you feel you have failed to connect with others on social media.

Tom: These things take time. Try different things to see what works.

Kate: We’re writers, we’re used to rejection! Failure happens! Yes, you might screw it up but that’s the only way you learn.

Sarah: Sometimes it might be just because it’s a quiet time on Twitter. Find stuff you like that works for you. You will always find more energy for sharing the things you love on social media.

Kate: Be kind and generous. Think carefully about the public persona you are creating. People like to see the personal stuff, to see that you have a personality and a sense of humour.

Joe: Shut up the voice inside you that says you’re too old, too young, whatever. But if you’re not enjoying using social media, and know that you are not coming across as ‘you’, then stop doing it. But yes, you might be ignored, but if you are honest, humane, and animate your writing, the audience will come.

Disruptive & Digital Publishing
The Short Way Round (Panel)

Tracy Bloom: Self-published Author
Valerie O’Riordan: Senior Editor, The Forge
Dr Lyle Skains: Co-investigator of the Reading Digital Fiction Project
Chaired by
James Draper: Manchester Writing School

Tracy Bloom

In 2012 Tracy self-published her first novel, No one Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday. It got to #1 and sold over 250,000 copies. In 2012 sales relied on heavy discounting, and traditional publishers didn’t want to know about ebooks; now they are very keen. The cost of producing an ebook is low and there is the opportunity to make a lot of sales. Now there are a lot of ebooks discounted to 99p, including new novels by established authors, and all publishers have digital imprints.

Asked if she preferred traditional or self-publishing, Tracy explained that there were pros and cons to both. With self-publishing the author has control over everything, including the title and the book cover. This doesn’t happen in traditional publishing and it can be hard to hand over the control. But with traditional publishing the author has the opportunity to work with great editors and see their books on shelves and in shops. Self-publishing takes a lot of time and energy, and success can depend on genre (literary fiction does not sell so well).

Valerie O’Riordan

The Forge is an online magazine set up by a group of writing friends who had submitted stories to magazines for years and decided they could do better. They chose to set it up as an online magazine, partly due to the cost of producing a physical copy. This meaning they can afford to pay their authors.

They have a lot of submissions and a reach they wouldn’t have achieved with print. They give feedback where appropriate (usually a couple of lines of constructive criticism) unless the submission is completely wrong for them (something they wouldn’t publish). 

Lyle Skains

Inter-active digital fiction is a good experimental technique for a writer but perhaps not so much for a reader. Different links going different ways can mean the reader is pulled out of the story by having to make a choice what to read next. Would the reader like an informed decision about where the story is going, or prefer it to be random? Then there is narrative arc satisfaction. When you read a book, you are on a journey with the characters and worry what will happen to them. Non-linear stories sometimes repeat and take that experience away. But from a writer’s point of view, it is interesting to see what can be done with it.

Writing Life & The Next Step
(A series of 15 minute talks)

Unfortunately Louise missed Andrew’s talk, arriving only in time for the conclusion:

Just write a good story. Don’t worry about selling thousands of copies. Write because you are passionate about writing. But if you think you’re going to make millions you’ll be sadly disappointed.

When Monique asked her students what aspect of writing they were struggling with, it wasn’t plot or characterisation but ‘Am I good enough?’ and ‘Can I do it?’

Cultivate patience when it comes to learning your craft. Don’t send out your first draft. If approaching agents, try six at a time but then wait for feedback before sending it out again. Work on the premise that one day you will get published.

Accept that you are going to have do some research, even if your story is about something you think you know.

Keep your old work. If you have a story which is not working, sometime in the future you might learn how to fix the problem and get it published.

Writers are still working in solitary confinement. Make friends with other writers – not just ‘Facebook friends’ but writers in real life. No one understands a writer like another writer!


The National Creative Writing Graduate Fair

Related Posts:
Manchester LitFest 2015 by Sophie Claire
Writing: Getting Serious by Louise Marley

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Structural Edits for the Faint-Hearted by Juliet Greenwood

When I first started writing, it was simple. Write book. Go back over it, fiddling and twiddling, and perfecting those beautifully-crafted sentences. Check spelling. Send the finished masterpiece out into a breathlessly waiting world.

It wasn’t until I began to work with an editor that I realised why the world hadn’t been breathlessly waiting. Basically (and to be brutally honest) I hadn’t even started to write the book. I’d got a first draft, and it didn’t matter how much I fiddled at the edges, it was never going to make it past the first draft, before sailing into oblivion and my bottom drawer for all eternity.

I should have known. After all, I’d been successfully writing short stories for years, bashing them around and tearing them apart until they worked. The trouble with a book is that it’s so big, so unwieldy, and takes so long, and so much emotional energy, to write, that the thought of tearing it up and starting again is beyond depressing – especially if, like most of us, you are also trying to do the day job, run a home and family. Oh, and a life.

But, in the end, a long, cold hard look that finished masterpiece (ahem) is the only way to go. That was what I learnt with my first book for Honno Press, Eden’s Garden, and it’s a process that I’ve been learning ever since. The hardest thing is to step back from this world you have been passionately living in for months, even years, and put on the cold, hard, practical, head. But your reader will read the same thing in days, or even non-stop over hours, and they don’t have that world living in their own heads and their hearts, so you have to capture them and persuade them, and transfer that magic inside them. Ballet looks effortless, too.

That is what structural edits are about. It’s taking your book out of your head to hold it in your hands and look at it dispassionately to see what is working and what is not. It’s when you use all the skills you’ve learnt from reading books and knowing what makes you keep on reading or throwing it against the wall. Are there too many characters? Is the heroine a wimp, who throws a strop at the slightest excuse, or a doormat to all and sundry? Are there enough holes in the plot to swallow the Titanic? Everything is thrown into the air, and anything can be thrown out (however beautifully crafted, however long it has taken to write) to make the book as gripping and emotionally engaging as you want it to be – in other words, the story that lives in your head. None of this is destructive. It can feel brutal, but it’s the paring down of a book into the best it can be. It’s the painter going through version after version of the same subject, the dancer practising until their feet bleed.

Above all, you need to listen to your gut. When I sent in the first version of Eden’s Garden, I knew something wasn’t working. Deep inside I knew the Victorian element of the story needed to be far more vivid by being told in the voice of the Victorian heroine. I felt defeated by starting again, rewriting a whole new element of the book, and unceremoniously chucking out hours of work. And, to be honest, I thought I didn’t have the skill and was afraid of making a fool of myself. It was an editor who taught me that yes, it was a vital part of making the book work – and yes, I was capable of writing it. The story didn’t change, but that simple structural change made the book come alive. It was definitely worth it, and I learnt so much about writing, and the kind of writer I want to be, in the process.

I still made mistakes in my latest book, but not nearly as many, and most I spotted along the way. Writing is, after all, a process of constantly learning, developing and improving. And, at the end of writing The White Camellia, understanding how much I had learnt and developed as a writer was the greatest buzz of all.

Structural edits? Feel the fear and do it anyway. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. Bring ’em on!

Juliet Greenwood is published by Honno Press. Her books are set in Cornwall, London and Wales in Victorian and Edwardian times, and follow the lives of strong, independently-minded women struggling to find freedom and self-fulfillment. Her novels have reached #4 and #5 in the UK Amazon Kindle store, while Eden’s Garden was a finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’. We That are Left was completed with a Literature Wales Writers’ Bursary.

Juliet’s great grandmother worked as a nail maker in Lye Waste, near Birmingham in the Black Country, hammering nails while rocking the cradle with her foot. Juliet’s grandmother worked her way up to become a cook in a big country house. Their stories have left Juliet with a passion for history, and in particular for the experiences of women, so often overlooked or forgotten. Juliet lives in a traditional cottage in Snowdonia, in the UK, and loves gardening and walking.