Hooking an agent part I – Sharing my submission letter for The Sister

Writing a book was initially a distraction from the chronic pain I was in, a hobby once I suddenly found myself with severely restricted mobility. Even now, I still remember the utter disbelief and excitement when I realised I had an actual finished novel and it was only then I started to think about putting together a submission package and sending my debut, Buried Memories (later retitled The Sister by my publishers) out into the world.

I devoured books, blogs, Googled endlessly for tips on how to write the perfect submission letter, and word by painful word, crafted my offering, almost editing it more than my manuscript. My palms were clammy as I sent off my first submissions, only to two agents at that time, and sat back to wait the alleged 6-8 weeks I’d read about. To my surprise both agents replied within a few hours, they’d loved my letter, been hooked by my elevator pitch, thought the premise was brilliant and and would start reading straight way. Do keep them informed of any offers. What happened to an 8-week wait? Cue total panic (never sub before your manuscript is ready – but that’s another story).

I’m no expert, and neither do I claim to be, but I’ve a few friends at the moment who have reached submission stage and so for them, and everyone else putting together a package, I wanted to share my letter. I do hope it’s helpful.

Next week, for Part II, I’ll be joined by fabulous literary agent, Rory Scarfe, of Furniss Lawton with his guidelines to giving your submission letter a head start.

Good luck to all those subbing!

 

Dear

I enclose the first three chapters and synopsis of my domestic noir novel, ‘BURIED MEMORIES’ a book about a grieving girl who thought there was nothing as frightening as being alone – she was wrong. The novel is complete at 80,000 words.

‘I’ve done something terrible, Grace. I hope you can forgive me.’ Grace Matthews, an anxious young woman is devastated when her best friend, Charlie, dies and feels that until she discovers the meaning behind Charlie’s last words, she cannot move forward. As Grace becomes sucked into the mystery surrounding Charlie’s family, her association with them, especially with Charlie’s sister Anna, threatens to destroy Grace’s career, relationship and ultimately, end her life. Grace’s hunt for the truth forces her to confront the childhood she desperately wanted to forget and she realises she can’t trust anyone, especially those she loves.

I am submitting to you because

This, my debut novel, began life as a flash fiction piece in a writing group challenge last year. I was given three words and ten minutes and the bare bones of Chapter One was born. I couldn’t sleep that night for thinking about Grace and Charlie and felt compelled to write their story. I’ve written non-fiction for various publications and websites for several years. I’ve had a column in Holistic Therapist Magazine (LJ’s Journal) since April 2012 and was a contributor to Tiny Buddha’s 365 Love Challenges (HarperOne/Harper Collins.) I attend writing workshops, evening classes and retreats whenever I can – I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning; show me a literary festival and I’m there! I’m currently working on my second novel, ‘Second-hand secrets.’

Kind regards,

 

Louise Jensen

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The day before publication – Why The Surrogate was never meant to see the light of day…

Tomorrow my third novel, The Surrogate, will be released and I can’t express just quite how excited I am about this story.

The Surrogate was never intended to be my third book. I’d written the opening chapters of a dark and twisted tale that was going to be book three and sent it over to my agent and editor to see what they thought. While I was waiting for feedback I had to go to the doctors. Flicking through their dog-eared magazine a photo caught my eye. A beaming couple holding a baby, with a lady lovingly looking on. In this case the surrogacy worked out really well but my writer mind started whirring. What if the surrogacy hadn’t gone according to plan, and even worse, what if the surrogate was an old friend with a hidden grudge?

By the time I’d driven home Kat and Lisa were fighting to be heard so I opened up a blank document to write some notes as a potential surrogacy storyline but never intending it so see the light of day for at least a couple of years as I’d already had an idea I was excited about for book 4. Later that week my feedback arrived, my publishers loved the original idea I’d sent them over for book 3 but by then I knew Kat and Lisa wouldn’t rest until I’d told their story and I couldn’t tear myself away until I knew the conclusion.

Kat and Lisa are the most complex characters I’ve ever written and this is the most layered plot that surprisingly (to me!) evolved very naturally. It’s full of twists, is emotional, with an ending that made me gasp and I can’t wait until release day tomorrow to get it into the hands of readers.

Early reviews have been phenomenal. Book reviewers are calling it my best story yet and one of the best thrillers of 2017 so far.

You can pre-order The Surrogate over on Amazon here so it will arrive in your chosen format (eBook, paperback or audio) for publication day tomorrow.

Please join me tomorrow evening at 7pm GMT over on Bookouture’s Facebook page here where I’ll be taking part in a live Q & A chat with Kim Nash, the Marketing Manager of Bookouture Publishers where we’ll be talking about books, the writing process and getting published.

Hope to see you there. Louise X

 

Blogger & author shenanigans- it’s more than just drinking


Yesterday, I bid my husband goodbye & jumped on a train to Birmingham for a day of drinking hanging out with bookish peeps. Writing is absolutely my dream job. I wouldn’t change it for the world but sometimes even dreams can have cracks in them and I admit that going from a hustle-bustle-busy working environment, to spending long days talking to creating characters, can feel a tad isolating at times. 


It was fabulous to catch up with old friends and have the chance to make some new ones. The book bloggers I haven’t met before, but feel I already know, were just as warm in person as they are online. I’m now even more excited about The Surrogate Blog Tour next week (and receiving my toad in the hole recipe from Joanne Robertson!


For me, the chance to grill other writers about their approach to novel writing is invaluable and after a long conversation with the lovely Barbara Copperthwaite, I came away feeling much better about something that had been troubling me about my own approach to writing a first draft, which had felt quite slap-dash. Slowly, and largely due to events like these, I’m realising we all have our own way of doing things. There is no right and wrong.

It was wonderful to hear the news that several I’d met last year had finished their novels, some  were submitting and there were 2 book deals to celebrate. Each and every writerly success I hear of gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that had nothing to do with the wine. There can never be too many books.

On the journey home, I was exhausted but happy. Feeling incredibly grateful to be a part of such a friendly and supportive community. 


Huge thanks to Kim Nash & Holly Martin for organising the event.

Publishing my 3rd book – here’s what I’ve learned so far…

 

My third novel, The Surrogate, has recently been published. A new author asked me if I still feel nervous bringing out a book, as I’ve done it twice before. Yes! I still remember vividly the way I felt before my previous books The Sister and The Gift were published, and although I knew what to expect this time, on the days leading to publication, those feelings hadn’t changed. Here is what I have learned: –

 

1)        It’s okay to feel vulnerable and scared. The story you’ve put your heart and soul into, your precious words, the book you’ve lovingly crafted, line by line, chapter by chapter, is about to be released into the big wide world and there is no predicting how it will be received.

2)        You should feel proud and excited. The blank document you started with is now a novel and sticking with it through the sticky middle, ironing out plot holes, developing characters, is an incredible achievement and possibly a lifetime dream.

3)        There will be readers who will love it and those glowing five-star reviews will boost your confidence and keep you writing on the days the words don’t flow. These reviews are lovely but they don’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Never grow complacent.

4)        There will be readers who hate everything about your work. Those scathing one star reviews are often written to hurt, and they do. Never let these reviewers make you feel you can’t. Go back to point 3, dust yourself off, and write some new words.

5)        There will be constructively written reviews and you can glean a lot from these. I love to learn what readers like and don’t like and it really helps with future books, but bear in mind you can’t please everyone and your next book must be written much as your first was, as one you would love to read, not one that you think will please every reader out there. It won’t.

6)        It’s normal to have a last-minute panic, to wonder whether your editor was right, to want to reinstate characters, cut entire chapters, and generally write the whole thing again from scratch. Relax. If it wasn’t good enough it wouldn’t be published.

7)        Most writers find themselves obsessively checking the Amazon rankings around release date. My husband is now the one who checks the charts, that way I don’t get distracted, disheartened or too excited to write.

8)        Publication day is often like a wedding. Full of the best intentions to relax and enjoy it, but in reality often much to do with interviews and social media. Find time in the day to celebrate. You deserve it.

9)        It’s normal to want to hold on to your characters, they have become as real to you as your friends. Don’t be reluctant to start something fresh, you have a whole host of new people to get to know.

10)      It’s okay to question whether you can ever write another book, but you can. You will. And then you’ll go through all this again.

 

The Surrogate is currently part of a flash sale and is only £0.99/$1.31 across all digital platforms, you can find it on Amazon here.

Slipping back – An excerpt from The Surrogate – #flashfiction

Image courtesy of Sarah Potter

The moon is hiding behind the rain clouds, and everywhere I look is black. Crushing. The horn blares again blasting cobwebs from my dusty memories and I think of the other time I was in a car with the dark and the rain. Suddenly I am terrified.

I’m arced over the wheel now, hyperventilating. Panic tearing my chest in two. I haven’t felt like this for years. It’s all starting again. Just like I always knew it would.

Lisa is back in my life and I am slipping into the past.

The good. The bad.

All of it.

 

I was delighted when I saw this week’s cobwebby prompt as if fits perfectly with an excerpt from my forthcoming book The Surrogate which will be published next week! I’m ridiculously excited. Early reviews have been fabulous. If you want to, you can find it over on Amazon here

Friday Fictioneer’s is a weekly photo prompt posted by Rochelle. Can you write a 100 words flash fiction story? Join in here – it’s great fun. 

 

Writing Diverse Characters – Book Review

 

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film is the third ‘How to…’ book by Lucy V Hay. Lucy is an editor and script reader with impressive credentials and I couldn’t wait to read this book.

Before I dived in, I looked up the definition of diversity in my Collin’s English dictionary “the quality of being different or varied.” As a disabled writer I was interested to find out what groups Lucy would cover in this book, after all my ‘normal’ is someone else’s ‘different.’ If I were a character in a book I guess I’d be classed as diverse and that initially made me a little uncomfortable but Lucy begins by saying we need diverse stories to actively change society and break down barriers and I couldn’t agree more.

I don’t believe a writer has to necessarily have experienced what they are writing about but creating a diverse character takes time and research. Lucy points out that the characters ‘difference’ does not have to drive the story and shouldn’t be used in a stereotypical way, i.e. a disabled person, depressed, alone and unable to cope. In other words although the character’s difference should have some relevance to the story and the way they live (everything featured in a book should earn its place and have a purpose) characters still need to be fresh and authentic.

Recently, social media has really shone a spotlight on diversity. Readers and movie watchers feeding back to the creators what they like and don’t like regarding plot and characters. With the current popularity of psychological thrillers, particularly female ‘unreliable narrators’ mental health issues are featuring more and more. This bucks the trend of historically main characters being male, white, straight and able bodied. But it’s important these diverse characters emerging don’t become ‘tick box’ created as it were. So does this book help?

Lucy mainly focuses on race, colour, disability and sexuality and it quickly becomes apparent she has done a LOT of research. There are references throughout to both novels and films which make her thoughts really relatable with specific examples frequently given. Lucy has also included quotes from a selection of those in the industry including agents and novelists. Helpfully Lucy also shares the common themes and characters she comes across day to day in scripts and how to think outside the box, suggesting ways to flip those ideas so they become a little less run of the mill.

There are sections in the book covering protagonist goals, character growth and supporting characters and how to research, and Lucy also shares what agents, publishers, producers and filmmakers are looking for – and why.

Lucy doesn’t give you a magic formula for creating diverse characters – there isn’t one – but what she offers is a well researched, thought provoking and concise book which will give you much to ponder on whether you’re a seasoned script writer or a new novelist. This is a valuable addition to my writing library and I’m sure it’s something I’ll be dipping in and out of for years to come.

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and script reader. She is one of the founding organizers of the London Screenwriters’ Festival, associate producer of the 2012 film Deviation, and the author of Writing and Selling Drama Screenplays and Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays. Lucy has read for a variety of production companies, funding initiatives and screen agencies as well as individual directors and producers with her Bang2write script consultancy.

You can buy Lucy’s books on Amazon UK here and Amazon US here.

The Sister Paperback Launch – Magic & Mayhem

Last week was the Sphere (Little, Brown Book Group) paperback publication day for my debut novel, The Sister. After a busy day including a radio interview (you can listen to that here) it was time to head over to Waterstone’s in Market Harborough for my launch party. We arrived half an hour early with a boot full of booze (there were a lot of writers coming) and as I burst through the doors, carrying far too many snacks (writer’s arse really is a ‘thing’) I skidded to a halt. There in front of me was a table full of books. My books. And inexplicably the excitement I had been feeling turned to blind panic as a hot flush crept through me. This was really happening. My story was in the shops and soon, my friends and family would arrive, including both my publishers and I’d have to stand up and do a speech. Only then did I remember I have a fear of public speaking. No pressure.

Instantly my legs felt like jelly and I had to sit down while my husband and sons set up the refreshments. So much for revelling in my big moment. The manager of the store, Tash, took one look at me and held my hand as she kindly (lied) told me that often writers get overwhelmed when they see their books for the first time and reassured me it would all be ok and my speech would be fabulous. Those few kind words (lies) made a huge difference and I was so grateful for her reassuring presence throughout the evening.

First to arrive was The Great Adamos. I ADORE magic and I wanted to indulge myself with my favourite things (cake, wine, books, magic and the people I love). Adam was a great icebreaker and enthralled my guests as they trickled in while I mingled/tried not to fall apart.

It was when Cath Burke from Sphere (my paperback publisher) and Kim Nash from Bookouture (my digital/audio publisher) arrived with hugs and congratulations I began to relax. They believed in me and my writing, it was time I started to believe in me too. Cath stood on the stairs and did a wonderful introduction on why Sphere picked up The Sister and then Kim Nash led a fabulous Q & A and despite my initial nerves I had a great time answering her questions (and yes I enjoyed it so much I’ve since agreed to take part in some author panel events.) It was really emotional chatting to Kim about how I felt when Lydia, my lovely Bookouture editor offered me my first book deal and how kind she was on the phone when I tried to explain I wasn’t a ‘real’ writer and didn’t know if I’d be able to write another book (can’t believe I’m now writing book 4!)

It was only when we’d finished our chat and I rejoined my guests with a rush of relief, I realised I hadn’t thanked my family for their support and this was my only regret of the night – I LOVE YOU GUYS.

The evening flew past quickly after that, chatting to old and new friends, signing books and eating cake.

So many friends and family turned up to support me, some coming from a great distance, and throughout the evening I felt proud, excited, grateful, but most of all I felt love.

And later, as we headed for the local pub after we left Waterstones, I felt slightly drunk, but that’s another story…

Thanks so much everyone. It really was an amazing evening X

 

The rest of the photos can be viewed over on Facebook

Photographer – Antony Woolmer

Magician – The Great Adamos