Welcome Vicky! Help me give her a round of applause folks...Yay!
A fabulous critique partner who braved a very raw version of one of my nutcase ideas, Vicky is both generous and courageous as she went for it...I mean, plunged head first into her writing dream and got an agent. You can find all the deets here on her blog.
So, here....'s Vicky! I always wanted to say that.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved reading and English was my favourite subject at school. I actually wanted to be a journalist when I was younger, then I decided after uni I wanted to work in publishing. But I think all these plans skirted around the real truth – I wanted to write books.
I’ve written on and off for years (I remember one story when I was about fifteen handwritten on paper – it was very Sweet Valley High) but I didn’t start taking it seriously until about four years ago after I read Twilight. I got hooked on those books and I suddenly found this whole new genre – Young Adult. I started to obsessively read YA books and felt compelled to write them. Most of my stories got stuck at 30,000 words though until two years ago when I wrote my first novel-length manuscript and I decided then to try to get published. It took my fourth MS to find an agent.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure if you’d say it’s a quirk but I’ve had feedback that I have a readable writing style. I tend to write in first person, present tense. I like short, snappy sentences and chapter hooks.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
When I first started taking writing seriously, I wrote fantasy but it felt derivative. I realised that I am interested in social issues – I have a degree in Sociology – and I should use that in my writing. So I moved into writing contemporary stories with edge, which really excites me. I like writing about issues that are relevant to teens. I suppose I’ve ended up writing stories I want to read myself.
Then I saw a TV awareness campaign by the NSPCC and this sparked the idea for the MS that landed me an agent.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
It may be cliché but I read A LOT. I think it makes you a better writer but mostly I just love books. I always have, always will. I watch far too much TV and films and I love music - I always have it on when I write. I like the theatre and going to concerts and have visited most of the stately homes in England. If you think shopping is a hobby (and really, why wouldn’t you?) then I am pretty skilled at that!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books?
That I enjoy writing from someone else’s point-of-view. I like to get into my character’s heads. I forget about how I would deal with things and focus on how they would deal with them. Sometimes I get annoyed at my characters and want to give them a good shake because of this. So maybe the most surprising thing is that I can believe my characters are real. And I’m not called crazy for that.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so what are they?
I’d never claim to be the best writer in the world or to have all the answers when it comes to writing. I think you have to find your own way of doing things, to find your voice and write from your heart.
So maybe that is my advice – write the way you want to write. I read books all the time that make me jealous and a little voice says you’ll never write like they do but actually that’s the way it should be. Don’t copy anyone else, be yourself. That’s true in writing and in life, I think.
I’ve found blogging really useful. I developed my writing skills but also made some great writing friends who have supported me along the way. It’s a great way to build confidence and contacts.
Can you tell us a bit about the querying process? Stats? And any advice you may have for those aspiring...
First of all, it’s worth mentioning that UK agents are quite different from US ones – most of them like to see a cover letter, three sample chapters and a synopsis. This is good for me as I don’t think I’m good at writing a one page query, I’d rather they read my actual writing. There are fewer agents in the UK and they tend to be less accessible online (except my agent Juliet Mushens, which is why I was keen to submit to her).
My stats were: 23 submissions, 14 rejections, 3 non-responses and 6 full MS requests.
My advice would be to develop a thick skin – you will get rejected. It’s a very subjective industry. But if you really want it then don’t give up. It took me two years to find my agent so it’s not for the faint-hearted. Make use of the online resources out there to help you write a great query and get your work critiqued. Liz gave me some great feedback on my MS! (That's me!) Do as much research as you can before you start and you’ll get better results. I found Juliet through Twitter and a lot of US agents talk about what they're looking for on there so it’s worth signing up.
Can you tell us a little bit about your book that landed you your agent?
It’s a YA contemporary thriller set in a small English town. It’s about a teenage girl who has been shunned by her school friends for cheating on her boyfriend. But she is hiding a painful secret that someone will do anything to stop her revealing. Can she find the courage to face her past before it’s too late?
Love it! I can't wait to see it on the bookshelves! Thanks, Vicky.
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