By August 21, 2014 Read More →

How I wrote my first novel

How I wrote my first novel - Frances EveshamI know that many of our readers would like to get their writing published.

So when I heard that Frances Evesham had had her first novel published, I asked her to share the long process to encourage aspiring writers.

It makes a good read in itself:

Thank you, Judy for inviting me to write on your blog today. It’s great to be here. I hope my own story of the long and winding road to publication of An Independent Woman, a Victorian mystery and my first novel, helps some of your readers who also long to write.

How did I go about the writing and publishing process? It took a long time, believe me. When I wrote my first story about horses at the age of ten, I was sure I was going to be a writer. Well, half a century later, I finally made it, although An Independent Woman is not about horses.

Do you want to write?
If you long to begin your story, or you’re half way through your first novel and tempted to throw the whole thing out of the window, or you’ve finished your story and wonder why you can’t find a publisher, don’t despair.

Almost every published writer on the planet has been there, suffered, torn their hair out, bitten their nails and come out the other side. Very few lucky souls write a best-seller with their first try.

There’s plenty of advice available for aspiring writers. The one book everyone, but everyone, reads is Stephen King’s On Writing. The internet is awash with ‘How to Write’ books.

Genre
Which shelf would my book sit on? How would Amazon group it with other books? I love to read mysteries, thrillers and historical novels. I love Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Victoria Holt and John Grisham, so I decided my first novel would be a historical mystery romance.

I’m also old enough to have met real live Victorian relatives. Annie, Winnie and Minnie were my great aunts and grandmother. Don’t you love those names? They were very proper Victorian ladies with perfect manners. The more I found out about Victorian life, the more fascinated I became.

I would set An Independent Woman in the changing world of Victorian England, where my heroine, Philomena, would fight the English class system.

Plotter or pantser
Writers often claim to be either a plotter, who plans a novel in great detail, or a pantser who starts with an idea and gets writing, letting the characters tell the story. I fall somewhere in the middle. I like a little advance planning, though nowhere near the colour-coded detail that J.K.Rowling uses. It helps me see where I’m going and get those first words of each scene on the page.

I knew my characters as well as I know my own family. Philomena was very clear in my mind from the beginning: feisty, accident prone and full of plans that often went wrong.

My first novel - Frances EveshamDrafts
The biggest problem for me came about half way through the story. I wanted to give up. Who would ever want to read this nonsense?

Stephen King rescued me. Write fast, he tells us, with the door shut. Finish the first draft, warts and all. Get to the end of the story. Then take a break, come back after a time, whether it’s a week or a month, and begin the second draft.

That advice saved the day. The first draft was unpolished but nobody needed to see it. In the second version, I could concentrate on loose ends, deepening characters and filling in plot holes. The next draft allowed me to improve the writing, cutting out clunky phrases and clichés.

Publishing
Two or three drafts on, I was ready to send my baby out into the world. I needed a publisher who loved it (almost) as much as I did, so I wrote a synopsis and query email.

My first rejections were ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ emails. I looked again at my query and rewrote it. Then I rewrote the synopsis.

I began to get emails saying, ‘There’s a lot about this I like but…’ These emails were about the fit of the book with the book market.

I rewrote my query and synopsis, using this information. Too Gothic? Play that aspect down in the query letter. Too Victorian? Emphasise character over setting.

Finally, I found a publisher, The Wild Rose Press, who liked the query and synopsis and asked to see the full manuscript. With a few nips and tucks, version 13 was ready for publication.

My publisher provided and paid for the editing of An Independent Woman and the gorgeous cover art. I was completely thrilled when I first saw my cover. It captured exactly the atmosphere I wanted.

Then, one day I held my own first novel in my hands. I was an author!

I’d like to say, the rest is history and I’m living in the South of France on my royalties. Not yet, but I’m having great fun writing the next book in the Thatcham Hall series.

work from home secrets

Frances Evesham writes 19th Century mystery romances set in Victorian England and books on communication. She collects grandsons, Victorian ancestors and historical trivia. She’s been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper and she’s worked in the criminal courts. Now, she walks in the country and breathes sea air in Somerset.

Wondering how on earth you’d fit writing into an already busy day? Frances describes her work routine in Use a To Do list and make every day count.

2 Comments on "How I wrote my first novel"

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  1. Frances Evesham says:

    Thank you, Judy, for letting me tell the story of my road to publishing. I hope it helps someone, or lots of someones, to keep going with their dreams.

  2. It’s a good read, Frances, and it’s very helpful for a writer to know that there are bumps along the way so that they keep going regardless.

    Version 13! Those words sum up why I don’t write fiction! Well, they would if I ever had any ideas, but sadly I don’t 🙁

    Good luck with book no 2 and do send us a photo when you get that study in the South of France…

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