Friday, 14 October 2011

New Voices: What now?

There were over a thousand entries for the New Voices competition this year – an incredible number of people with the nerve and the determination to write a first chapter and put it up there for everyone to see.  I salute you all – I’m not sure I would ever have had the courage to do that.

For the 21 who are through to the next round, it’s an incredibly exciting opportunity and they are all due huge congratulations.  But if you’re one of the thousand who didn’t get through, what are you going to do now?

If you haven’t already done so, I recommend a good old sulk for a day or two.  Get it out of your system and look on that as a learning experience too, because as Heidi Rice said, you’re going to have to get used to rejection if you want to be published.  Any published writer will tell you that it doesn’t end with that magical acceptance.  Even established authors sometimes crash and burn and have manuscripts rejected after revisions.  It happened to me with my 11th book, and it could happen again with my 59th (if I ever get round to writing it).  Sometimes a story just doesn’t work.  You have to learn to deal with major revisions which can feel like rejections in themselves at times, and crushing reviews … few of us have as tough a skin as we like to pretend, and it can be bitterly disappointing.   

Are you still up for it?

Do I hear a ‘yes’?  In that case, I suggest you forget about competitions, forget about workshops you’ve been to, or every bit of advice you’ve ever read for now.  Sit down and finish your story. I know you  only need to submit a partial, but until you’ve got the whole story in your head, I don’t think  you’ll be going anywhere. Don’t stop if you get lost in it, or change your mind about something half way through.  Just carry on as if you’d already written it the way it needs to be and keep on writing until you’ve got 50,000 words and can type those magical words: THE END. 

Don’t worry if it’s rubbish.  Chances are it will be, but somewhere along the line, you should be getting to know your characters, and the bones of your story will emerge.  Sadly, there are no shortcuts to this.  You only get to be a writer by, er, writing.

When you’ve got a draft, that’s the time to dig out any notes you’ve made.  Re-read books like Kate Walker’s 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance. Look again at the comments you had on your first chapter.  Do they make more sense now? Go to workshops if you can.  Because now you’ve got something to work with. 

More importantly, you’ve got the time to do it properly.  Yes, it’s fabulous for the 21 who go through to the next round, but they’re going to be under a huge amount of pressure unless they’ve already got a manuscript completed. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get published.  Once you are, you will be up against a remorseless set of deadlines, so make the most of the opportunity now to polish your craft and get it right. 

So no magic quick fixes, I’m afraid.  Sulk, then write, write, write.  Then rewrite.  It’s the best advice I can offer. 

To help you through, I’ve got five copies of LOVING OUR HEROES to send out as consolation prizes.  This anthology includes stories from award-winning authors Amy Andrews and India Grey, as well as my RITA-shortlisted story, Last-Minute Proposal, and is a great chance to read stories across the different lines (Romance, Medical and Modern).  A £1 donation will go to Help for Heroes for every book sold, so I’ll make that up and you can have a copy for free.  Just tell me the title of the story you’re working on in the comments section below, then email me your postal address at and I’ll do a lucky dip.

Good luck – and happy writing!


  1. My story is called "Coming Home" and features an Army hero :-} My father was a soldier, now retired, so Help for Heroes is a favourite charity of ours.

  2. Hi Jessica,many thanks for this lovely post,i totaly agree,as a male romance writer,its harder,and i have learnt so so much by entering and am now well into ch.3 its been great fun,i have made lots of new friends and i will continue once again thanks

  3. Great post, thanks Jessica. NV has been a great motivator and opportunity which I have learnt lots from. Having a weekend off then back to it!

  4. Good sage advice as always! Thank you...
    Jessica (Rosy Gilmore - Her Italian Fiance's Cousin)

  5. Hey Jessica, Great advice! My story is The Good Girl's Guide by Melissa Taukiri. In case anyone wants to read it?! But I won't enter your comp, because I won one of the goodie bags, so I don't want to be greedy! X M

  6. Hello Jessica Hart, My story is called The Trustworthy Playboy.

    Great blog, really loved your advice, already done sulking now its time to start writing again! xx

  7. Hi Jessica,

    Well said! I write because it's impossible for me not to, but I love what you've said about the luxury of time when you don't have deadlines looming. I look forward to a day when I'm published, but for now... I work at it :-)

    My story is "All Fired Up! by Jo March" and my characters are eager for me to finish it so I can share their story with people :-)

  8. Thank you Jessica, great advice and encouragement and just what we all need. The Help for Heroes charity is also close to my heart, with my partner being an ex soldier, and the hero in my book, entitled, Torn Between Love & Duty, being loosely based on his exploits in the forces xx

  9. Hi Jessica

    Yep, sometimes we do need a wake-up call and a kick under the butt to get those fingers on the keyboard again. Thanks for an awesome post. My current work is His Vet's Choice

  10. Great advice, thanks. My book is Dangerous Masquerade. And back to writing I go!

  11. Great advice Jessica. Last night I ate chocolate for the 1st time in months -lol. I'm working on my ms called "Mistress To The Roman." But saying that....I'm toying with a Viking. Caroline x

  12. Thank you - your advice has given me fresh inspiration. My book is 'In the Shadow of the Sword'. I've actually finished the first draft and was encouraged when you said to keep on going even if you change your mind halfway through, because that's exactly how I wrote it. I would still be fiddling around with chapter one if I hadn't! I'm giving myself the weekend to relax, then it's back to the revisions on Monday :)

  13. My book is called the mill owners revenge. I've been away for two weeks to the usa and so had a chance to take a break from the new voices comp. Recharge my batteries and I am now ready to continue with it. After positive reviews and ways in which to change it.
    All I have to debate is to i write in my hogwarts note book (i'm sad I know) :)Thanks for the advice Jessica xx

  14. Thanks so much for such an encouraging post!

    My book is Picture Perfect and I will definitely be finishing it!

  15. Great advice and a welcome kick up the bum (nicely done though!), thank you. My story is called Against the Odds (Kelly Vaughan - not any of the other ones!).

  16. Hi Jessica
    My story is called A Matter of Trust (Anne Maree Smith)
    Thanks for the great advice. It has been a pleasure reading the thoughts so the published authors this morning!

  17. awesome advice! Saying No to the Status Quo by Kerrin Hearfield

  18. Hi Jessica- fantastic advice, and Help For Heroes is such a deserving cause. Thanks for dipping into your own pocket to cheer us all.
    I'm definitely going to continue working on, 'Girl In A Chocolate Tower'. I'll make some changes to the plot as I'm thinking it may be a bit too ho-hum! Thanks again. ms in NZ

  19. Jessica,
    My story- Nothing But Trouble- and thanks for the encouragement. I finished one ms and am editing that. Much harder for me than the 1st draft.

  20. Some great titles here! I'll do the draw on Monday, but which time, I hope, I'll have finished my own second draft ...

  21. Hi Jessica, a bit late to the party, but always good to make an entrance?!!!

    My work in progress (it might be finished in my head, but not on "paper" yet) is called Have His Cake And Eat It Too.

    As Mel said above, I too won a goodie bag, but I do want to be greedy for two reasons: 1) You can never have too much of a good thing and 2) The more I read, the more I am inspired!

    Good luck with your second draft! Deb xxx