This week Susie Medwell, aka Zara Stoneley, is visiting to tell her NV story. It's wonderful to know there's someone else out there flying by the seat of their pants - and it's worked! Good Luck Susie/Zara!
When I found out about the New Voices competition last year, it was the first I had heard of it. I’ve been writing on and off for years, and submitted a partial to HM&B (and got a standard form R), but once I saw the competition I was hooked, little knowing what it would lead to.
NV proved to be a massive stepping stone in my writing career for several reasons. I signed up for Facebook so that I could join the NV group, and then Twitter as well and as a result I found out that - 1. Romance writers and readers are a wonderful supportive group of people, 2. There are blogs with lots of helpful tips and guidance out there and 3. There are lots of other epublishers out there who publish romance.
After entering NV, and out of work, I decided I wanted to take my writing seriously and would give myself 12 months to either get it out of my system or succeed. I took a couple of online courses, and attended a one day workshop all of which were invaluable. I also joined in with SYTYCW (another new one on me). I hadn’t got a full ms, and didn’t intend entering one, but I was interested in the advice etc. As part of this I completed some of the tasks and I submitted a first page which was actually selected for a crit – the comments from the editors were a real encouragement.
In January I discovered the Festival of Romance blog, and found out that a competition had been launched at the festival, by Xcite, to win a publishing contract for an erotic novel. The only problem? Well there were two, the first being that it was just over one week before it closed, the second that I hadn’t really read much erotica!
I did some frantic reading, loved it and decided to give it a go – 3 chapters and a synopsis (eek). After checking with Kate Allan that the closing time for entries was at midnight I got my entry in with minutes to spare. The winner was due to be announced on Valentines Day, so there was only a two week wait. I did think about it briefly, but hardly expected to win – it was more an exercise in trying something different and challenging myself! Then on the 14th I got a surprise email to say I wasn’t the winner but they were interested and could they read the rest? More frantic writing ensued. My ebook was published on April 19th so all in all it was a whirlwind experience, with not enough time to chew nails, stalk inboxes or anything like that. It was great though, I found that I really enjoyed the writing and it just flowed.
I think though that a big contributing factor to having the story accepted, was that a short time before I had rewritten an old story (contemporary romance) and subbed it elsewhere. I have blogged about this here, but basically I tried a totally different approach and wrote how I wanted to rather than how I thought I should for M&B and in doing so ‘found my voice’. This was the style I used for Xcite – if I’d been writing as I had in the past I don’t think I would have succeeded.
So what next? I’ve had another erotic novel, plus a short story, accepted and have been commissioned to write a novella (details to follow soon hopefully). I’ve also got a couple of contemporary romances out with other publishers, so there is a lot of inbox stalking going on.
My advice to any aspiring writer would be to get involved with competitions like New Voices because you meet some great people, get great feedback and learn such a lot; keep writing, keep reading and explore all the opportunities out there – there are lots of publishers looking for a wide variety of stories. My writing has changed beyond recognition over the last 12 months; I can’t believe that this time last year the NV competition wasn’t even open for submissions!
My only note of caution? Unless you write a best seller then it takes a while to build up a proper income and you really do need quite a good back list – a massive incentive to stop procrastinating and carry on writing!
If you’d like to find out more about me or my books I’ve got two of everything! J
Susiemedwell.blogspot.co.uk – contemporary romance and general chit-chat
Zarastoneley.blogspot.co.uk – erotic romance and erotica
I’m on Facebook as Susie Medwell, and also have an author page http://www.facebook.com/ZaraStoneley and I’m on twitter! (I like to talk a lot)
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