Aspiring writers step away from the scorpions! The WRs are here to tell you why…

Hello and happy bank holiday weekend!

If you’re a regular follower of our blog, you’ll know that a Saturday normally means The Saturday Spotlight in which we interview writers at all stages in their career – aspiring to chart-topping, indie or traditional – as well as the occasional interview with an editor, publisher or agent. Today, though, we’re doing something a little bit different. We want a little exploration of the past, present, and future of the Write Romantics…

conf 2014 10In the beginning, there were just a pair of Write Romantics. Jo and I ‘met’ when I was in my first year of the RNA’s NWS and Jo was in her second year. I’d finally got around to joining Romna, the RNA’s online community, where newbies are invited to introduce themselves so I tapped in a “hi, this is me” kind of email. Jo immediately contacted me as we shared a writing genre and other interests. A friendship was instantly formed and we exchanged incredibly long and detailed emails over the next few months. In early 2013, the idea developed to set up a blog. We found our name, we found a format, and away we went. But it soon became apparent that finding enough writing-related things to say to regularly contribute to a blog when there were just two of us, neither of whom were ready to seek a publishing deal, was going to be a massive problem. But a problem shared is a problem halved. Or tenth-ed in our case because we put an offer out on Romna to extend the group and were quite overwhelmed to find eight other writers who wanted to join us. Phew. Because it could have been a bit embarrassing if we’d had no response!

Conf 2014 3We don’t mind admitting that we hadn’t a clue what we were doing! None of us were expert bloggers. In fact, we weren’t bloggers at all! I’d set up a blog a couple of months previously following my journey to get fit and lose half my body weight through a beach-based bootcamp (which I still run although I’m slightly ashamed to say that I’m still, 2.5 years on, trying to lose half my body weight – oops!) so I had a little bit of experience of regularly posting, and Rachael had some experience of being part of a writing group who blogged, but that was it. So we had to pretty much start from scratch.

It’s been great working together as a team to develop the format for the blog into the regular bi-weekly slots we have now. We all contribute posts and we all bring interview guests to the party. Two years ago, after about 4-5 months of blogging together, we asked the WRs if they’d like to re-affirm their commitment. Were they happy with what we were doing? Was it what they expected? Did they have the enthusiasm and willingness to really move the blog forward and start posting more regularly? At that point, one of the WRs decided to dip out because her commitments outside writing meant she was going to struggle to contribute and, for a year, we were nine. Then last September, we asked Sharon to join us. I’d met Sharon the year before, as had WR Alys, and she’d become a great supporter of the group. She already felt like one of us so it was a natural step to officially invite her into the fold, restoring the power of 10.

Although we live all over the country – Cumbria, North & East Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Wales, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Somerset, Kent (hope I haven’t missed anywhere!) – and have never all been in the same place at the same time, we’ve become really close through the power of social media. We’ve celebrated the highs, sympathised during the lows, built each other up during down moments, and learned from the various paths the group’s writing journeys have gone down. It’s often said that writing can be a lonely business but the WRs are never really alone and we’d massively recommend all writers find themselves a support network, whether that’s a writing partner or a large group like ours. We’re all convinced that some of the amazing things that have happened to the group over the last couple of years have been thanks in part to the support and encouragement of the group. So what are those amazing things? I’ll hand over to Jo to let you know more …

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\'id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\’id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

‘What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…’ or so Dinah Washington’s song goes. It might have taken more like twenty four months since deciding we wanted to stay Write Romantics, as Jessica says above, for our fortunes to really change, but the sentiment’s exactly the same. Even on our down days, when we do consider giving up to take up scorpion petting instead, as one of the Facebook jokes about writing goes, it’s been a pretty incredible two years.

If you’d told us back then what we might have achieved by now, we’d probably have given you a bitter little laugh – how little you knew. Most of us were wearing the battle scars of rejection already and some had been pursuing the publishing dream for ten years or more. Did we give up? No, but boy did we talk about giving up! That’s the beauty of the group though, just when you are about to put a down payment on a pair of breeding scorpions, someone is there to talk you off that particular ledge.

I’m about to give you a round-up of what those two years has seen for us. Not because the WRs like to big themselves up, as my kids would say; in fact, the other eight don’t even know Jessica and I are doing this and they’ll probably cringe when we sing their praises. The reason we are writing this blog is the opposite. It’s because we remember exactly what it’s like to be an aspiring writer – not one who used to write for Tatler or produce radio plays for the BBC and has the sort of connections you don’t get when the height of your networking involves spotting Bob Geldof buying carrots in your local branch of Tesco – but ordinary people who just love to write.

Is it really possible to get published if that’s your starting point or will it only ever be your mum who downloads a self-published tome from Amazon, as you languish at chart position number three million and thirty two? We want to tell you, if you are an NWS member reading this, or an aspiring writer of any sort, that it’s not only possible but there are lots of ways to get your work out there and, whether indie, traditionally published or some hybrid of the two, there are also lots of ways to measure success. Not everyone is lucky enough to be part of a group like this, who will tell you to step away from the scorpions, but we hope reading a round-up of our journeys so far will reassure you that if you keep going, it can happen for you too.

So what is it we’ve done? Well, being of a certain age – I think Helen R was just clinging to her thirties when we first joined together, but we are now all in our forties or beyond – I think IMG_0076most of us dreamed of having a paperback with our name on and maybe even seeing that on the shelves of WHSmiths or Waterstones. Okay, so we know that all the statistics reveal that books in the commercial genres we write in sell better as ebooks than in print, but we’ve had this dream since before Kindle was even a twinkle in Amazon’s eye. So are we living the dream? Well, of the ten of us, eight of us now have paperbacks out there or are in the process of going in to print and four of us have had books in WHsmiths and/or Waterstones and supermarkets, with Jessica’s about to appear in some of the Yorkshire Waterstones really soon and Sharon’s pocket novel hitting the shelves in October. Nothing beats seeing your book on the shelf, despite how times have moved on… although being caught taking a selfie with it is a bit embarrassing, hence me using my son as bait in Smiths! Our books are also starting to hit the shelves of libraries too, with Jessica leading that particular charge.

Helen P, Rachael, Jessica and Sharon all have multi-book deals with the same publisher and I’m awaiting finalisation of my contract before revealing some news of my own on that front.  We’ve also seen the launch of The Write Romantic Press for our anthology and a number of us have dipped our toes into the world of indie publishing, with Lynne riding consistently high in the charts with her first indie published title. Fabrian Books, which started off as a small indie publisher, is now handing over the ownership to its authors, giving them the benefits of having more of a say in their publishing journeys and hoping to follow in the footsteps of other publishing cooperatives like The Notting Hill press, with two of the Write Romantics breaking new ground in this exciting venture of what’s termed publishing’s ‘third way’.

We’ve had almost twenty five books published (or about to be) between the ten of us, through publishers including Carina, Crooked Cat, DC Thomson, Fabrian Books, Mills and Boon and So Vain Books, with more news pending and work under consideration by a number of places that are the stuff of dreams, including the BBC no less!

Chart position wise, Deirdre, Helen R, Jessica, Sharon, Lynne and myself have all appeared in the top hundred or higher of our genre charts at one stage or another, with a number in the top ten. Helen P and Rachael have hit even dizzier heights than that though, with Helen P regularly knocking her own hero, Stephen King, off the top spot and Rachael hitting number two across the hugely competitive Mills and Boons chart, although the rest of us know that the number one spot is hers for the taking.

author 2Alys secured something else we’ve all dreamt of at one stage on another, with agent representation, and her debut novel will be out in time for Christmas. Jackie made the top ten shortlist of a hotly fought Mills and Boons contest and is about to make a round of submissions which we are sure will see all ten WRs published by 2016.

So for all you NWS members who’ve recently submitted your manuscripts – or, if you are like I used to be, who’ve just run down to the post office to send it last minute, days before the deadline, with your hair stuck to your forehead and a hopeful surge in your heart as you send it off – or if you’re an aspiring writer of any sort, it can happen. There’s a hackneyed phrase that says the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer, is that the former never gave up. It’s the sort of advice that used to make me want to French-kiss a scorpion after yet another rejection, but believe me it’s true. So step away from the poisonous arthropod and keep going, it really is worth it in the end.

Jo and Jessica xx

16 thoughts on “Aspiring writers step away from the scorpions! The WRs are here to tell you why…

  1. Jo and Jess, thank-you! As you said, none of the other WRs knew this was coming, and what a tremendous job you have made of summing up our success – because it is a success story for all of us, all the way, and how amazing is that?! To all the hopeful writers out there, I will reiterate what’s been said here: don’t give up, because it can happen, and we are proof of that. Much of our success comes from the support and friendship we enjoy in this group, so if you don’t know of a group to join, start one of your own. And as for the WRs’ year to come, as the saying goes, watch this space!

    • Absolute pleasure, Deirdre 🙂 It’s been such a fabulous couple of years for everyone and, as Jo says, I’m sure 2016 will see the final publishing deals come in. Without the support of the group, there may well have been casualties along the way so it’s wonderful that we’re all in this together x

    • I agree, Deirdre, the friendship and support are definitely an invaluable aspect of the WRs and I’m sure this has made a difference to the success the group have had over the past two years 🙂

  2. Wow! What a post and a lovely surprise. Have we really all achieved that and in such a short time? All I can say is that it’s down to all of us, our support, encouragement and friendship. What an amazing group we are. Thanks everyone. Xx

    • Very sneaky, aren’t we? We were hoping that nobody would spot the reference that just said “booked” on the list of posts for the month and question what that meant! You’re our living proof that competitions lead to great things which is so inspiring for those who might think “what’s the point, it’ll never happen to me”

  3. I’ve got goose pimples reading this post! I feel quite emotional when I think back to when we first started out on the blog after you both kindly invited others to join. I don’t know how many times we all picked each other up when our writing or our personal lives weren’t going so well. I love being one tenth of The Write Romantics and hope we all meet up soon and toast each other as writers and friends.
    Helen J Rolfe xxx

  4. What a fab post!!! I didn’t know it was coming for sure!!! It has been a lovely journey, so much nicer than being alone. Even though I’ve barely met the folk up north, as anywhere north of the west country is known in these parts, I feel very close to them and we do from time to time have little private chats on different things, where we’ve lived for example. Sometimes a conversation will sort of turn private, not to exclude others, just cos its of more interest to some than others. That does build up friendships & I can’t wait to foray north and meet those of you I’ve met in person least!!! Another thing I really must end up doing is working out how Amazon publishing works, its not the first time Jo’s mentioned I’m in the charts and I didn’t know!
    Its a fab post and meeting others via making a group similar to ours is highly recommended whatever the distance between you!!! 🙂 xx

      • I’m going to write that on my website and use it in future blog posts!!! And yes, I must work out how to find them!! xx

  5. Having been away for the weekend, like I do once every decade or so, I didn’t see this on Saturday. Trust me to miss it! What a fabulous post, and what a lovely surprise. Thank you Jo and Jessica.
    I still can’t believe my luck that I’m part of the Write Romantics. It was a lucky day for me when I joined Romna and plucked up the courage to reply to Alys’s email. Look where it led me. Sometimes, we are so caught up in the next thing and so worried about what we have to do, or what we’ve failed to do, that we totally forget to think about all the things we HAVE done already. Reading this post, I realise how much we’ve achieved, and in such a short space of time.
    Last October I was completely unpublished. By the end of this October, I’ll have had a short story, a pocket novel and two novels published. That’s unbelievable really. And the things the other Write Romantics have achieved are phenomenal. Book deals, amazing sales, high chart rankings, library talks, literary festival talks, agent representation, competition short-listing, interest from the BBC…when you list it like that it’s awesome.
    Yet, I think just about every one of us has had our low moments, when we’ve seriously wondered if it was worth it, and considered giving up writing all together. Not that I think any of us really could, but it’s wonderful to have nine other people cheering you on and reassuring and encouraging you when you feel you’re total rubbish and will never achieve anything.
    A massive thank you to Jo and Jessica, not just for this post, but for setting up the group and for organising us and taking care of us so beautifully. And a massive thank you to all of you for being there. Wonder what 2016 holds for us? I look forward to finding out. 🙂 xxx

    • Ah, we didn’t mention the literary festival, did we? Another amazing experience for Helen R and Lynne. We were all delighted when you joined us Sharon, making us the perfect ten 😉 and, like you, I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings for us all xx

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