7

The literary agent question

In my Journey To Publication post I asked if anyone had any questions about the publishing process and I would try to answer them in a future post. I was asked what was the first step I took to find a literary agent so I will answer that here for you.

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The first step to finding a literary agent is be as ready as you can be. What I mean by that is you should have finished your novel and edited it as much as you can to make it as good as possible. An agent wants to see a finished and polished manuscript so don’t rush into submitting if your book isn’t ready.

If you have a finished and polished manuscript, then the next thing to do is research. Google is your friend. As is Twitter. I also bought a copy of Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook which lists literary agents and publishers and gives advice on submitting. Research what agents represent the genre of your book – you don’t want to send a sci-fi only agent your romance novel. A great resource are published books – check the acknowledgements of writers in your genre and see who their agent is. Agents are generally pretty active on Twitter  too so you can find them on there and see what their tastes are (do not pitch them on there unless they say you can though!)

Once you have a list of agents looking for similar books to what you’ve written then you can submit to them. In the UK, most agents want a covering letter, your first three chapters and a synopsis but always go to their website and check what they want. If you do not submit according to their guidelines they are likely to auto-reject your book. There are a lot of online resources at your disposable to help you write a covering letter and synopsis – make sure these as great as your book itself!

Unfortunately, there is no secret to finding an agent. I did the above and found an agent. There are sometimes other routes, such as meeting an agent at a conference, but this is the typical process. I didn’t know anyone in publishing. I submitted my book for both my first and current agent to a stranger who judged it solely on its own merits. So, the best advice I can give to finding an agent is to focus on your book. Work on it until it’s as good as you think it can be – use beta readers to give you feedback, check it for errors, read it aloud, read other books in the same genre – and then start thinking about finding an agent.

And remember you will get rejections! I submitted two books to agents and both were rejected. It was my third book that found me representation, but it was my fourth that got a book deal. It can be a long process but if your dream is to have a book published then don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged if your first try doesn’t nab you an agent.

But, it just might.

Do you guys have any advice you want to share on how to find an agent?

And if you have any more questions about publishing, pop them in the comments for me to answer!

Victoria

xoxo

2

Sunday Songs

Songs I’ve been playing this week:

Denmark + Winter – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Birdy – Light Me Up

Delta Goodrem – Wings

Hailee Seinfeld – Love Myself

Natalie Imruglia – Instant Crush

Sheppard – Geronimo

Sarah Blaine – Never Get to Heaven

The Neighbourhood – RIP To My Youth

Post your music recs in the comments!

Victoria

xoxo

6

A novel setting

One of the most important parts to any novel is its setting – when and where does your story take place? Location can become a character in your novel, it can add drama or romance or stillness to a scene, it gives your characters a place to be and can create plot points as well – for example, a cabin in the woods in a storm is instantly an unnerving prospect, or a beach on the rain can be a perfect moment for that first kiss.

New Forest ponies roam freely around the parkland and villages

New Forest ponies roam freely around the parkland and villages – spotted this one with her foal by the side of the road

Choosing a setting for a story is something that I think about very early on because of how much location can impact your story. Obviously if you’re creating a new world for a fantasy novel you have to do a lot of world building but even for a contemporary novel, your setting can be key to the story and it’s worth thinking in detail about where your novel will take place, and how it could help you tell your story.

This one looked very wise to me ... Gandalf the Grey?

This one looked very wise to me … Gandalf the Grey?

My novel The Second Love Of My Life takes place in a fictional small town in Cornwall so obviously the coast places a role in the story. For my new book I wanted to set it somewhere completely different and find a location that would suit the story and help me tell it. The setting of the New Forest came to me really quickly and even though some major plot points have changed as I’m writing the book, the setting hasn’t.

Made a new friend whilst I was there!

Made a new friend whilst I was there!

I love the New Forest and recently went for a day trip there, which was a great opportunity to make sure I had been describing it just right in the book and take some pictures for inspiration. I don’t think though that you have to actually visit a place you’re writing about, there are so many photos online you can use for inspiration and Pinterest boards are great for this but sometimes it’s worth making a research trip to get a feel for a place. I know the New Forest pretty well so it’s been easy to tell a story there and the scenery and the ponies there have naturally weaved their way into the main plot strands of the book.

These two were gossipying in Burley High Street

These two were gossipying in Burley High Street

I think it’s really fun coming up with new settings for books and it’s one way of making sure each story you tell is unique from your others and making sure you never become bored by a place. I hope my love of the locations I’ve chosen in my books comes across as they are read because they really are one of the characters in the story.

How do you choose settings for your stories? How important is location to you as a reader?

Victoria

xoxo

5

Journey to Publication (part 1)

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My debut novel The Second Love Of My Life will be published in April 2016. I think people who have no experience of publishing can’t believe it takes so long from signing a book deal to the book arriving on shelves so I thought I would do a series of posts to explain the journey, and hopefully it will still be interesting to writers who are yet to take their journey too.

The time since signing my book deal with Headline has been spent editing the manuscript with my editor there. There have been several rounds of edits making structural changes and a closer line edit looking at the book in more detail to try to make it the best it can be.

This has meant many a day sat at the table tweaking my book with Harry trying to distract me:

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My book has now been passed to a copy editor and I’m waiting for those edits to arrive – these will be looking at spelling, grammar and making sure there are no errors, mistakes, typos etc, anything we’ve missed in previous edits basically. A fresh pair of eyes always helps!

While this is happening, the novel is now available for pre-order on all the usual book buying sites. I was particularly excited to see it appear on Waterstones.com as a Waterstones bookseller myself. Seeing it there ready for people to buy has made it seem all the more real *nervous face*

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Then I received an email I have been eagerly awaiting – the design of my cover! I am absolutely thrilled with how it looks. Headline have made a really beautiful cover for me, one that fits the book perfectly I think. I am hoping I can share it with you all very soon. Watch this space ….

If you have any questions about my publishing journey pop them in the comments and I’ll answer them in future posts!

Victoria

xoxo

2

As we walk in fields of purple

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This week I visited Mayfield Lavender Farm which is open a few months a year when lavender is in bloom. It’s basically a place to snap photos surrounded by lavender, breathing in the lovely fragrance and trying to avoid the bees and wasps crowded in the flowers. It was a cloudier day than had bene forecasted so the purple doesn’t look as vivvd in the photographs as it did in real life.

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Victoria

xoxo

4

If only there was an Instagram filter for life

I avoided Instagram for a long time expecting it to just be a copy of Facebook and wondering if I could really handle yet another social media account but I must admit I’m loving being on there at the moment. I love seeing pictures from all round the world, and there is an endless supply of cute cat pictures to dive into!

I am also contributing to them myself:

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Harry as the latest must-have accessory: cat-in-a-bag!

I also love the filters you can use on there, and how much better they can make your photos look. There’s an automatic zoom when you upload a photo on Instagram and a vast array of options to tweak them so they can look the best they possibly can.

Harry and I filtered to look our best

Harry and I filtered to look our best

Harry likes me to use it to share his many pearls of wisdom such as this one:

AIM HIGH

AIM HIGH

I am currently experimenting with which filters on there work the best, and I’m loving the tilt shift function so you can focus on one part of a picture leaving the rest of it in soft focus like these:

Focusing on the ducks in the foreground

Focusing on the ducks in the foreground

Harry stopping to smell the roses

Harry stopping to smell the roses

It’s also the perfect place to share my sunset capturing obsession. The sunset hashtag is very popular on there! I have found my people at last :)

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It’s also a great place for book lovers too with lots of bloggers and authors on there and a lot of people sharing photos of books. A perfect opportunity to share this:

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The best tote bag in the world ever

It’s proving to be a place where you can spend a lot of time being lost amongst pretty pictures so you have fair warning if you join up too.

And if you’re on there already, wave hi to me please! My username is: vickyjwalters.

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Fairylights sparkling in my garden

Are you an Instagram fan?

Victoria

xoxo

7

Where do we get our ideas from?

I suspect one of the most asked questions of author is “how did you come up with the idea for your novel?”

It’s a perfect question if you have a cool anecdote to share like Stephanie Meyer who says the idea for Twilight came to her in a dream or Jk Rowling who saw Harry Potter on a train journey, but often there isn’t a big inspiring moment, just brainstorming of ideas, a flicker of a character who becomes the person you centre your story around, or a conversation with someone might spark a thought that leads you to a plot, sometimes it’s a combination of all these things that creates a story idea. Or you might start one story and use some of its elements to create a different one instead.

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I find it really hard to tell people how I come up with my story ideas. I almost want to reply with “I wish I knew!” because if we could pinpoint the way our brain forms a good story idea, if we could turn our imagination on and off, then we’d never be stuck for ideas, we would know exactly where to find them.

I was watching the news last night and one of the items sparked an idea, which I’ve written down for future use. I thought ‘finally, a good story if I’m asked how I came up with the idea!’ I find myself shrugging when people ask me about my story ideas, saying I’m not sure how I did come up with it, I just did. Perhaps if you are a writer your mind does work a bit different to non-writers in that so many things can spark up an idea, we perhaps are more tuned into our imagination and as such find it easier to make up people and worlds. Although “easier” is a loose term because, let’s face it, writing is hard!

I did a Google search for how writers come up with their ideas and I found Neil Gaiman’s website and under the heading “where do you get ideas?” is his response:

‘I make them up,’ I tell them. ‘Out of my head.’

I love this. It’s the cold, hard truth. It may sound boring, it may be hard to understand if you’re not a writer yourself, but it is completely the case – we are in the business of make-believe. We make up ideas. We use our imagination. We tell ourselves stories so that we can tell them to others.

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And I think part of the reason we can come up with ideas for stories is because we are actively looking for them. We want to write stories so we are always thinking of ideas, we are always on the look-out for something to inspire us. We never switch off our writer brain. It’s a scary brain to have but, hey, we wouldn’t be without it.

Where do you think your ideas come from?

Victoria

xoxo