Last night I attended Marie Claire magazine's Inspire and Mentor event on how to be published. I knew it had an amazing panel: Lindsey Kelk; Sarah Ritherdon; Rowan Lawton and Kasey Davis. I knew it was in a nice hotel in Edinburgh, and I knew I wanted to take along copies of my pitches and opening three chapters.

What I didn't know was what to wear  . . .especially since we were in the middle of a heat wave. I decided to go shopping with my toddler son before I dropped him off at his aunty's house. Two hours later, we'd both had lunch; I had a new Damsel in a Dress dress and my little boy had a toy toolbox - result!

But once I reached home I decided my dress wasn't really right for the event. It was too dressy . . . and it had long sleeves. So instead I opted for a cap sleeve blue dress and my highest heels. Totally impractical for cobbles but they made me happy :)

Dropping into our office, to collect my pitches and pages, disaster struck! The documents wouldn't open. I had to set off empty-handed.

Perhaps it was just as well they didn'tprint as Rowan Lawton, the agent, proceeded to tell us about her most memorable submissions and they involved nice paper and specially shoe-shaped cakes, not a sunburnt Scottish women clutching a bundle of A4 sheets. . . I can just tell I'm going to be searching the internet for suitable agent-seducing gifts!

There were lots of great tips from the panel including (but definitely not limited to!):
* use your contacts. All of them. Not just your current contacts. Trawl your address book and your memory for anyone with any connection to publishers and/or agents. This came from Lindsey Kelk, author of the I heart series. (I heart her amazing red hair and her insightful but entertaining novels.)
* make your submission stand out from the other 79 that will arrive that week. (That's where the cake and nice paper came in.)
* Practise (your writing) Platform (try to get an audience or reputation for writing) Pray (ok I made that one up but there is a lot of competition so it might help!) Party (or as they more professionally called it - network). So there we go: Practise; Platform; Pray; Party
And one final tip - just from me - and just for me: stop the OCD editing. Nicola Morgan's 'How to be Published' book mentions this approach to editing and I'm definitely guilty. Enough of the red pen already. It's time for the cake eating and sending.
 
Now, where was I? Yes, Tess Gerritsen has published her back catalogue which are cross-genre romantic thrillers. They're entertaining but quite different from her current titles where romance is firmly consigned to sub-plots. You can see her developing her craft as her books have progressed. Now there are lots of red herrings and impossible to predict endings. Then, the thriller and romance elements jogged alongside each other and you could guess how both would end. The fun was in the travelling not the arriving. Tess Gerritsen is an amazing writer and it's great to see how she found her voice and her genre.

Karin Slaughter meanwhile has established two effectives series: the Grant County novels and the Will Trent titles. What's interesting is that Karin published the first Will Trent novel as a stand-alone. There was no clue to the reader that this book had any connection to her Grant County series (except having the same author!). Then, with the second book featuring Will Trent, Karin re-introduced Sara Linton, one of the main characters from the Grant County series. It was a brilliant technique. Readers invested emotionally (and financially) in Will's character and then re-discovered Sara Linton too.It's obvious that Karin plans not only each novel but also the series. Her commitment and dedication really pays off for the reader. And it means, SPOILER ALERT!!!! her series can survive the death of a main character.

Karin and Tess should be inspirations for us all and their novels have lessons even for those of us who don't write thrillers. How emotionally satisfying are our conclusions? What's our balance between build-up and pay-off? If we plan a bit more closely will it reap rewards for our readers?
 
I've been having a bit of a thriller-fest: Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter. They're both superb writers and provide interesting examples of how an author's canon develops.

More next time.
 
Welcome to my new website! I've just finished building two new websites for my husband and was so jealous of how gorgeous they looked that I had to build a new one for myself too. So, voila! Here it is!
I always start blogs with the best of intentions but then my entries sometimes slip away and the frequency drops from weekly to monthly. In advance, I'll offer my apologies and beg your forgiveness.
Although I do have one advantage with this blog. I can fill it with previous entries from my old blog when they seem relevant.
I'm currently working on a final edit of 'Fading Away'; writing chapters of 'Fans for Everything' and in a fit of familiar foolhardiness, I've started a young adult novel, 'Porsche Stirling and the Summer of the Witchery Tree'.
I love the title of the latter! Now, I just need to make sure the story matches the promise and wonder of the title. . . and, of course, I have to make sure I keep juggling all these pieces in the air, as well as looking after our wee boy and completing some paid work at the same time. Plus, did I mention I'm reading a draft of my friend's first novel too. Phew, no wonder I sometimes feel swamped!
Maggie