Since my deals for GILDED CAGE and the Dark Gifts sequence were announced, I’ve had lots of people asking how it all happened. Now, every journey to publication is different. But there are two things every writer needs to hear: there is no such thing as ‘overnight success’, and you can land an agent and a deal without contacts.
So I’ll tell you what happened to me, in four ‘chapters’:
- How I wrote my manuscript
- How I prepared to query
- How I got an agent and a deal
- How publication happens
Here we go – starting with the embarrassing stuff, of course
i. Years ago, I wrote a novel. A terrible novel. It was Victorian steampunk SFF and Shall Not Be Spoken Of Again. I put it in a drawer. This was Novel #1
ii. Totally convinced that I couldn’t write, I put aside my dreams of being an author. Sad times. I got on with finding what my Mum called a ‘proper job’. I ended up in television, making investigative reports for a UK national news programme.
iii. But dreams die hard. Years later I started another book – a contemporary AU British fantasy with magic. I wrote a few chapters. It wasn’t working. I scrapped it.
iv. I decided that non-fiction might the way to go. Having lived abroad for six years, during which I did some travel journalism, I hit on the idea of a travel book. Yay! Travel and writing! I love Vikings, and hadn’t travelled much in Scandinavia, so settled on a travelogue tracing the Viking world from its Scandi origins, to settlements in the Faroes and Iceland, and sea voyages to Greenland and Newfoundland. In each place, I made heaps of notes.
v. Then in my final destination, Greenland, I was told an incredible story about an archaeological dig site. It sparked off ideas to which only fiction could do justice. So I wrote 100,000 words, with four narrative strands that converged in an epic sea-battle. This was the book that taught me how to write – and more importantly, it showed me that my desire to write fiction still burned brightly. This was Novel #2.
vi. Just as I was finishing the Viking novel, I started working on a BBC TV programme titled The Superrich and Us. For this, I filmed with billionaires and got access to some of England’s most exclusive events. There was a lot of talk about ‘the 1%’ and ‘the 99%’, and the idea just clicked in my head: What if the 1% didn’t only have unimaginable wealth – what if they also had magic? How would magical power resemble economic power, and how would it differ? And most importantly: what would our lives as the 99% be like in such a world? The characters were there in my head as if they’d always been with me. I was so excited that I dropped the Viking book with the final chapter unwritten, and set to work straight away.
vii. The only problem – and it was a big problem – was how to get this story down while it still felt white-hot and thrilling. TV is an industry that consumes your attention round the clock. So how could I ensure I kept writing? I considered a critique group, or a part-time Creative Writing degree or novel writing course. But I was burning to start this book right now – I didn’t want to wait. And then I found Wattpad.
viii. Wattpad is a site where you can post writing online for anyone to read. It contains everything from bad-boy romance, to autobiography and Historical fiction. A few weeks lurking showed me that Fantasy was a popular category, and there were plenty of talented people on the site both reading and writing. So I resolved to write and post a chapter a week. And I kept to that, although it often meant writing for 15 minutes during my lunchbreak or commute, or getting up at 4am to write before work. And eventually, 20 weeks and 20 chapters later, I had a complete manuscript – with 250,000 online views and hundreds of comments from readers who’d loved it. I’d finished Novel #3 – and it felt like this might be The One…
Check back soon for the next part: How I got ready to query!