Learning Experience (Or Maybe Not?)

June was an odd month. Full of learning experiences and surprising amounts of good news.

For the first time I got a manuscript back for a second edit. It was odd to see the changes and suggestions I’d made actually taken into consideration, that’s one thing I usually don’t get to see. It was also interesting to see what changes weren’t accepted, which is fine, after all, it’s only one opinion and the story is the writer’s baby, not mine. It may just be personal opinion, but I think the script was really lifted with the changes the author had made.

I also had a sample chapter through that elicited a new experience too. The writing was actually of a good standard, but the subject matter got my back up in seconds. It was a real learning experience for me. I had to totally put all my personal opinions to one side and concentration on did what was being said demonstrate the character in a realistic and readable manner, did the plot progression make sense. Since it did, that meant the author had done the job well.

I learned an awful lot more at the end of the month when I spent the weekend at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. I picked up some great tips on how to deal with creating synopsis, editing and writing crime. I found a new understanding and clarity about how to deal with my own and other peoples work.

I have to say a particular thank you to Simon Hall, author of the TV Detective series of books. I sat next to him for one talk where I wasn’t expecting audience participation, but then there was some. That particular talk was about ‘Editing Your Novel and Pitching It’, given my Imogen Cooper of the Golden Egg Academy (great talk, by the way). The question was – what is the book about? So Simon asked about one of mine and I told him and he got it instantly, but I resisted the truth.

You’re probably wondering what the truth is, well we’ll get to that.

I should go back a bit, about 20 plus years. I could tell you exactly, I still have all the rejection letters, but frankly I’d just find that too depressing to look at. When I started writing, after I got too embarrassed to send off the porn short stories, I started writing romance. If you want to write romance, where do you go – that’s right – Mills and Boon. Basically I have a number of rejection letters that say ‘not enough romance, too much plot’.

So I got depressed. And I got real. I got a ‘proper’ job.

Then I really got real. I figured if I write ‘too much plot’, then I should concentrate on the plot and ditch the romance. So that’s what I’ve been doing, writing to the plot and forgetting the romance.

Unfortunately, as Simon pointed out, is that I’ve been lying to myself (and yes Simon I did know at the time I was being resistant to the idea). The idea I’m resistant to, is the fact that I’m still writing romance with too much point. My crime stories always have a strong relationship/romance element.

That’s the depressing thought, that I haven’t learnt anything at all.

Still, the depression didn’t last long, not when I had one agent asking for the full manuscript of one of my crime series, and another asking for the supernatural romance I only finished a week before the Festival. Actually I really need to get back to that and at least do the read through before I send it on.

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