I was at my desk during the early hours of 2 January to ensure that my email application for a place on the New Writers’ Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association was accepted. The scheme is oversubscribed every year, so now that I have my confirmation pack, I finally feel like a member. My task until the end of August is to redraft the manuscript of my first novel ready for assessment.
Manipulation has been languishing in a drawer while I’ve been occupied with other writing and it’s been reassuring to return to the characters I first created in 2009. (Further details of the story can be found under the ‘manuscripts’ tab.) I have much work to do as feedback from critical friends has identified weaknesses:
- the language of the novel needs to be more adventurous
- the characters and the romance require sympathetic attention
- the location (Outback Australia) should be fully explored
When the RNA receive my manuscript, a reader will be appointed to review the entire work and it may be referred to a second reader, as a possible pathway to publication. However, it’s more likely that the work will be returned with suggestions for further improvements. Should this happen, Katie Fforde, President of the RNA, advises against feeling downcast for too long and to make the most of the guidance offered. She says, ‘a rule of thumb is, if your reader thinks something needs changing it probably does’.
Criticism is sometimes hard to accept and tenacity is required to remain focused and confident that you have the skills to improve the work to a publishable standard. Gruelling though it may be, critical reviews often provide the right advice to move your writing onto the next level. If you’re interested in receiving support for a novel that you’re working on, (it doesn’t have to be romance, as with the RNA scheme) it may be worth entering the Adventures in Fiction competition where the winner of the Spotlight First Page will be offered a mentoring package and other input and support. You’ll have to be quick as the deadline is 14 February 2012 and the cost is £16.