Way, way, back I was a member of an online writing group. I’d had a few things published but, as someone who’d never had any formal writing training, had never been to university, had no writing friends, and generally didn’t know too much about the writing world, joining that group was invaluable. This was 2004 or 2005, I think and, over ten years on the lessons I learned there are still with me. As is the constructive (and, on occasion, not so constructive) feedback. And the friends I made there are still with me too (and it’s such a lovely thing seeing so many of them doing so well).
Which brings me onto the brilliant Jacquline Ward, a fellow alumni whose book, Perfect Ten, is launched very, very soon and it’s a real pleasure to have her here to talk about it and her route to its publication and to hear her singing the praises of a group that helped so many of us, some time ago.
Writing groups, difficult decisions and publication
I am not a group person. I write alone and I’m one of those people who like my own company. Which is why I was completely surprised when, in 2007, I joined a writing group. I had just written and submitted my first novel and an agent had asked to see the full manuscript. Seasoned writers will be rolling their eyes at this point, because this rarely happens, and even more rarely comes to fruition.
I am the eternal optimist and, completely naive to the publishing industry, I truly believed that this was the making of my writing career. I searched online for a writing group and found WriteWords. I joined and I was very excited to see that the group was a mixture of established authors such as Emma Darwin and Clodagh Murphy and novices just like me.
I joined the chick-lit group, because that’s what I thought I was writing. The novel, I see much more clearly now, was semi-autobiographic and truly awful, but the group were kindly and constructively critical. Over time I realised that I had inadvertently stumbled across the loveliest group of people, including Nik who has kindly let me borrow his blog today, who have a wide range of writing knowledge.
The agent I sent the full manuscript to never got back to me. This is where Write Words came into its own; everyone was supportive and encouraging and helped me to see that it might take a little longer to get my novel published.
Then I was invited to a book launch by one of the group members. Keris Stainton’s first novel was published and she was having a book launch – in London! I was thrilled and a little bit star struck. I met many members of WriteWords that evening, and forged lasting writing relationships and close friendships. We met up for meals in London and Manchester. Even when I became interested in screenwriting and attended BAFTA sessions, I was never alone. There are always WriteWords people there and always chat and drinks afterwards. I have attended book launches and other valuable networking meetings that would not have been possible without this community.
This all makes writing sound very easy to negotiate, but there have been some difficult decisions. After some success with a speculative fiction novel and many disappointments I decided to try hybrid publishing, and entered Kindle Scout, a US based ebook first programme. My writing colleagues were honest and some questioned this, but still supported me. It was a great success for me and led to a crime series that sold well. But I knew that I still wanted a traditional books deal and this was looking less and less likely.
Fast forward ten years since I joined WriteWords, and I sent out a psychological thriller I had been working on for some time to agents. During that time I had already secured and agent, but this did not work out and I was back a square one; my writing friends, many of them very successful published authors by now, were still cheering me on. It was a difficult decision as I was worried about getting back into the submission/disappointment cycle, but I did it. I checked my emails only hours after sending out to agents to find requests for full manuscripts. The next day, one agent, Judith Murray, tracked me down to my day job and requested and immediate meeting.
We met, she was wonderful and loved my novel, and she sold it in weeks to Atlantic Books. I finally had a book deal! When I announced it congratulations flooded in from those people who know how hard publishing is, how difficult the waiting is, how long hours in front of a screen hurt your eyes, but also the pure joy when something like this happens.
The trade paperback of my novel, Perfect Ten, is released on the 6thSeptember and I have been overwhelmed by the love and support I have received from writing friends over the years. We are all at different stages in the publishing process and many have moved on from WriteWords itself, but there is one quality we all have in common – perseverance. We all stuck at it and learned from each other. Now it’s my turn for a book launch, in Manchester, not London, to bring publishing North, and of course, everyone is welcome!
So thank you, WriteWords, for bringing together this unique group of creative people that I am very proud to belong to – maybe I am a group person after all!