I have been working on a commercial fiction novel for almost two years. The process has been equal parts inspiring and deflating.
I was originally approached by Haylee Nash when she was a commissioning editor at Pan Macmillan. She liked my writing style and wondered if I had any "gems" lying in my bottom drawer. I set to work writing one of the gem ideas and submitted the first 20,000 words to her. She liked it but there were some definite plot issues and character development problems. Unfortunately, Pan Macmillan was unable to offer me anything at that time.
I was crushed. I thought that was going to be my big break into the novel world. I rocked in a corner for a while, wondering if I would ever be good enough to call myself a published author. I had no idea how to fix the issues in my novel.
Once I shut down the pity party, I decided I needed to finish that novel, for myself. I needed to prove I could write it to the end. I wanted to believe I could make it work, that I could find a way to get the story out. So, I applied for a mentorship with Kathryn Heyman. For six months Kathryn helped me find my voice. She guided me through the first draft of my novel, 85,000 words bleeding onto the pages. Some great words, some awful words, some just plain boring words. But that is what a first draft is: the bones; bare and exposed. Now I had something to work with.
Midway through my mentorship, my sister-in-law sent me an email promotion from Dymocks & McIntosh Books, putting the callout to aspiring writers to submit 10 pages of their novel to win a scholarship to Fiona McIntosh's Commercial Fiction Masterclass in SA. Seeing as I already had the first 10 pages written, I spent some time polishing them and even more time trying to squeeze an entire story into a 400 word synopsis. That was a challenge! I sent it off and crossed every part of my body, hoping I may be the chosen one.
When Sue from Dymocks called me, she asked, "Are you sitting down?" I cried, somewhat hysterically, when she said Fiona had chosen my novel as the winning entry for the scholarship. She must have thought I was a maniac. It was unbelievable news. I felt validated by an industry that is notorious for its steel doors that make us emerging writers feel locked out.
We all thought [your novel] was utterly compelling and we can’t wait to read more. It was a unanimous decision among our internal panel and overall judge Fiona McIntosh. Fiona said it was the most commercially ready manuscript of any submitted to the competition. Well done!
The Masterclass is finally within reach. I have been looking forward to it for nine months, like a baby due to be born. The scholarship win was the final piece in the puzzle that confirmed this book, my very own novel, is worth writing. It is a story worth telling and I believe I am the one to tell it. I cannot wait to inhale and absorb Fiona's enthusiasm for writing, and her business-focused direction to get us all writing, as a fulltime profession. To sit in a room with a group of other, equally nervous yet hopeful writers, will bring a buoy of support to all of our insecure writing heads.
I can finally see a pinhole of light at the end of an extremely long tunnel. I feel so close to living the dream...!