Author Archives: MJM-ink

Do You Have Weird Writing Habits?


How do you write? Any weird habits?  A favourite position? Do you need complete silence, or do you rock out to Black Sabbath? Or can’t you even think about it until you have 3 coffees, melba toast and a wee dod of caviar?

Truman Capote, who arguably wrote the best true crime “novel” ever, couldn’t write unless he was lying down, in bed or on a couch with a cigarette and a coffee. As the day progressed he moved from coffee to mint tea to martinis. As he described it, he had to be puffing and sipping.

Hemingway used to write 500 words every morning, to avoid the heat. Living in Scotland, I SO don’t have that problem.  He is quoted as saying he wrote one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit and that he aimed to put the shit in the wastebasket. (I’m thinking the toilet would have been preferable.)

Nabokov wrote his novels on index cards – they would then be paper-clipped together and stored in wee boxes. In the Paris Review he said he liked lined Bristol cards and well-sharpened, not too hard, pencils capped with erasers. We call erasers rubbers in these here parts. Which could cause all kinds of confusion and does cause all kinds of sniggering in classrooms around the country.

Thomas Clayton Wolfe, the early 20th century novelist (no, I’ve never heard of him either) was so tall he used to write leaning over a refrigerator.

Ben Franklin liked to write in the bath.

Voltaire used to place his parchment on the back of his naked lover.

John Cheever only had one suit, so he would go to his writing space, hang his suit up and write in his boxers.

So go on, fess up – when your creative juices start flowing what weird habits do you have?

Special Guest: Matt Hilton on his Path to Publication

Back in 2008 I became the envy of many an aspiring author when I managed to secure a 5 book, seven figure deal, with Hodder and Stoughton for my Joe Hunter thriller series. At the time, as a debut thriller author, it was an unheard of deal, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it still stands as a record. I don’t mention all this to brag, just to inspire. The old adage “if I can do it then so can anyone” stands true in this case. The reason being I wasn’t in any privileged position, didn’t know anyone in publishing, wasn’t a celebrity, and didn’t know any secret handshakes or any such ploys to get my book noticed. All I had behind me was many years of trying (and failing) and a desire never to give up.

My writing career took off at crazy speed once the deal was struck – since then there have been 10 books in the Hunter series published world wide (the latest is “The Devil’s Anvil”, published 4th June 2015, but as I write that’s only a few days away now). I’ve another new thriller series beginning with “Blood Tracks” – to be published November 2015 by Severn House Publishers – being the first to feature Tess Grey and Nicolas “Po” Villere.  I’ve also published various other novels, primarily in the horror genres, as well as had a number of short stories published in various anthologies and collections. The last seven years has been a wild ride, where I’ve been places and met people I’d never have dreamed of beforehand, including many of my literary heroes, but it has also been hard work. Not that I’m complaining about the workload: I actually thrive on it; otherwise I’d give in to my natural state of procrastination.

I’m one of those writers who can’t recall a time I didn’t have a pen or pencil in hand, and was writing little stories even as a small child. I think the first time I began writing in earnest was after I read Bambi and Watership Down, and decided to write a book about baby deer threatened by hunters and tree fellers who were destroying their home. I was animal daft back then, and started reading the Willard Price animal adventure books.

I used to go to a library van that came to our local community centre, and would grab the next Price book, and read it voraciously cover to cover in record time. During one visit to the library van though I was struck with the bad news that Price had died and there’d be no more of his thrilling adventures. In my childlike wisdom, I came up with the best idea I could think of. I went home, and started writing the next book in the series.

Looking back now it was probably a horrendous effort, but it gave me that lifelong ambition to write and keep on writing. I was about eleven at the time. Soon after, when I was about thirteen, I got into the books of S E Hinton, and from there had a go at my own coming of age tale, called AGGRO. Around about then my reading tastes were changing, and I found the old pulp masters like Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft and Karl Edward Wagner, and tried my hand at writing heroic fantasy and weird horror (something I still love to this day). I also discovered men’s action books, exemplified by the likes of Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan, Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s Remo Williams, and the homegrown George g Gillman’s Edge. For a number of years I attempted to write my own homages to the authors and characters I loved to read.

At about 20 years old I completed my first ‘adult’ novel, and from there on in began the process of sending it out to agents and publishers in the hope of snagging that publishing deal I dreamed of. Another six novels, countless short stories and articles later, not to mention another 22 years passing me by, and I still hadn’t achieved my dream. Not that I didn’t almost smell success on a few occasions along the way. I was shortlisted in a couple of national novel writing competitions, and got not one but two publishers interested in two separate books – both publishers ultimately passed on them in the end, but I still had that sense that I must be doing okay, just not quite good enough.

It took me all those years to come to the understanding that it wasn’t that my books were no good, they simply weren’t commercial, and I was attempting to enter a commercial market. I was writing standalone books, whereas at the time publishers were looking for series characters, and authors who could deliver more than one book. How it took me as long to realise now beggars belief, because when I thought about my own reading habits, it should have been apparent that I kept going back to the same authors time and again to read what their familiar characters were up to next. When that light bulb finally went off, I went back to the old drawing board, and started to write with a continuing series in mind.

I should backtrack here and tell you a little about my circumstances. I got married at 20, and worked full time to raise my kids. I worked for a long time in the private security industry and then became a police officer. Now throughout that time, I was writing in what little spare time I had, at a typewriter, and only latterly on a computer. There was no such thing as the internet for me back then, and not even a peer group I could communicate with. I didn’t know another writer, let alone have someone I could go to for advice or guidance. I was out on a limb in rural Cumbria, about as far away from the publishing centre of London you could imagine.

So much of what I tried to do was by trial and error, mostly error.  But I never lost that desire to see my by-line on the cover of a book. I kept plugging away, sending out, accepting the inevitable rejection, and then plugging on again. In 2006 the unimaginable happened, and I lost my 17-year-old daughter under tragic circumstances, and have to admit that her death almost finished me. Not to be too maudlin though, one of the best things that ever happened to me came out of probably the worst. I began to reevaluate what was important to me, and it made me more determined to achieve my dream of publication.

You’ll probably roll your eyes, but I often wonder if there was some unseen hand guiding me, because certain thing began to fall into place for me. Before she died my daughter was the only person to have read a book I’d written called “Jubal’s Hollow”. About the same time as I had the epiphany that I should be aiming my writing towards the commercial market, I recalled my daughter’s enthusiasm for the book and how she’d encouraged me to write a follow up.

Spurred by that memory I went back to the book, and thought about how I could adapt it, and the characters, to make them both viable and commercial. I rewrote the book, changed the characters’ names, the location from the UK to America, and the title to “Dead Men’s Dust” and immediately went off on the look out for an agent to represent me.

Simon Kernick’s “Relentless”, and his follow up “Severed” had been subsequent summer blockbuster hits, and I thought why not try his agent. I looked up Luigi Bonomi – of Luigi Bonomi Associates – and saw that he’d just been crowned Agent of the Year by some prestigious body or other, and thought; right it’s over to you, Luigi. Really I had no expectation of a reply, so when in November 2007 Luigi contacted me asking to see the entire novel, and requesting a meeting in London, I was pretty much blown away.

I had to beg for some time off, and borrow my train fare and hotel fee, but I made it there. It came to pass that Luigi liked the novel, but it needed a lot of work. He gave me guidance, suggestions, and set me to work. He has since admitted that he was testing my resolve, my ability and my enthusiasm and work ethic before agreeing to represent me. I did the work, and got the book back to him in February 2008, at which point he immediately signed me up and put the book out to auction. The deal I mentioned at the beginning of my ramblings came like an explosion to me, and pretty much overnight I went from being a beat cop, to a professional author.

Thankfully, I’ve been doing a job I love now for the past seven years, and hope to continue for many more to come.

My career was a long time coming. But now that I look back on all of those years, I see them as my apprenticeship, the time it took me to learn and practice the skills I need to do my job right. If I had my time over again, would I do anything different? I’m not sure. Probably not. I think it was just my time and I managed to grab the opportunity with both hands. There are infinitely better writers out there, people who have a better grasp of language and how to put it down on paper, but I’m happy that most people who pick up a Matt Hilton book get some enjoyment from it. I can’t ask, and don’t expect, any more than that.

For aspiring authors my best advice is simple: read a lot, write a lot. Be professional. Be humble, and take advice from those who know better. Take rejection as an opportunity to put things right next time. Don’t be envious of other writers’ success; celebrate it because it opens opportunities for others writing in the same genre (it could be you). Be prepared to work hard, and also prepared for criticism. Lastly, and most importantly, never give up on your dream.


Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers. He is the author of the high-octane Joe Hunter thriller series, including his most recent novel ‘The Devil’s Anvil’ – Joe Hunter 10 – published 4th June 2015. His first book, ‘Dead Men’s Dust’, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers’ Debut Book of 2009 Award, and was a Sunday Times bestseller, also being named as a ‘Thriller of the Year 2009’ by The Daily Telegraph. Dead Men’s Dust was also a top ten Kindle bestseller in 2013. The Joe Hunter series is widely published by Hodder and Stoughton in UK territories, and by William Morrow and Company and Down and Out Books in the USA, and have been translated into German, Italian, Romanian and Bulgarian. As well as the Joe Hunter series, Matt has been published in a number of anthologies and collections, and has published novels in the supernatural/horror genre, namely ‘Preternatural’, ‘Dominion’, ‘Darkest Hour’ and ‘The Shadows Call’.  He has a new thriller series featuring investigators Tess Grey and Nicolas ‘Po” Villere beginning in November 2015 with Blood Tracks, from Severn House Publishers. He is currently working on the next Joe Hunter novel, as well as a stand-alone thriller novel.

The Devils Anvil Cover



Special Guest: Marnie Riches talks about creating memorable characters …

I’ve just observed an interesting feed on Facebook which debated whether a person who is not minority ethnic could write ethnically diverse characters with any kind of integrity. George McKenzie, the star of my debut crime thriller, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die is mixed-race, so the discussion seemed pertinent to me at first. Should you only write what you know, as the handbooks say? White people, writing white people? Black people, only telling stories with a Black cast? Men-only books for men?

Hell no! If you wrote only the familiar, the bookshop shelves would be fairly empty. Harry Potter? Forget him! Lisbeth Salander? You’re joking! And as for the ethnically diverse and often criminal-as-hell cast of The Wire…not on your nelly.

Fact is, a writer should never limit the scope of the stories available to them. Write whatever takes your fancy! Create the characters that speak to you. But the veracity of your characters does matter. So, make sure your research is spot on, because if you don’t do your characters justice, your story will be weak. Then, your writing will lack integrity!

Switch on your senses. Go out into the world. Notice the component parts that make people who they are…


Building great characters on the page relies heavily on great dialogue. You should strive to reproduce the rhythms of natural speech as faithfully as possible, injecting just a little stylistic flair. Elmore Leonard was renowned for his blistering dialogue, as is Quentin Tarantino – a heavy influence on my writing. Watching great TV and films is perfect for learning about great dialogue.


How do your characters behave? What do they like and dislike? Do they have quirks and foibles? George McKenzie is borderline OCD. Her Dutch side-kick, Senior Inspector van den Bergen is a hypochondriac. Flawed characters are more believable because none of us are perfect.


A character without a back-story is 2D. Even if you don’t incorporate it into your novel, it’s worth writing a separate piece, revealing your characters’ back-stories. If you know them, you can convince your readers that they are real.

Physical limitations

How does your character look, dress, walk, eat? What are their physical capabilities or disabilities? Does it ring true, that they can abseil off a building? It is far better to describe your characters’ visual appearance by dripping details gradually into the narrative, than to dump it all on the reader in a paragraph. Avoid exposition! It’s lazy.

Interaction and character arcs

Create a grid of your characters and make notes for your own reference on how each interacts with the others. This will help you to maintain consistency throughout the story. Then, do a little diagram, showing what your main characters’ arcs will be. How will the journey change them, as they face hurdle after hurdle? How will it change the way in which they interact with the others? Get these basic elements right and you’ve got strong foundations for your novel.

Now, go!  Make shit up but strive to make it the best shit you’ve ever read!

Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in Manchester. She learned her way out of the ghetto, all the way to Cambridge University, where she gained a Masters degree in German & Dutch. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist, a property developer and professional fundraiser. Previously a children’s author, now, she writes crime and contemporary women’s fiction.

Her debut novel The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die went straight to the top of the charts and has already garnered stellar reviews. Links to the books and how to connect to Marnie below …

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die

girlwhobadge (1)
Amazon UK:

Amazon Australia:

Twitter: @Marnie_Riches

Special Guest: Graham Smith

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. For the last fourteen years he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

 An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website for over six years.

What the Hell do I Know?

Every guide I’ve ever seen on writing has a variation on the phrase “write what you know”. As I only read crime fiction and crime thrillers it is only logical that I write about crime. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Here’s the rub. I’ve been lucky enough to never be the victim of crime, have never been involved in any kind of law enforcement beyond milk monitor and have generally lived a law-abiding life. (Other than perhaps an overly heavy right foot)

So with that experience or lack of it, I found myself wondering how to get inside the heads of my characters and how to create genuine realism when I had no practical experience to draw on.

That’s when I had a career saving epiphany. I might not have the first-hand experience of crime but I’ve read enough good and bad books to teach me what works in terms of pacing, tension, creating drama and engaging characters. My day job brings me into contact with a varied cross-section of the general public which allows me to observe interactions and find the basis for characters. Ergo, I know the framework which makes for a great story and I get to meet lots of interesting characters.

My wife and son were watching one of those reality shows / contests recently and there was a person who came onto the stage. They were cowed, timid and looked to my writer’s mind as if they’d been bullied and made to feel worthless. I found myself cheering this person on and hoping they’d qualify for the next round. I knew when I felt such empathy for this stranger competing in a show I don’t care about, there’s no way I’m not going to use those traits to create a character I want my readers to care about.

From there it was a simple matter of creating situations and putting the characters into them and seeing how they reacted. After that, I kept throwing obstacles at them and generally being horrible so the situations I created were filled with drama, conflict and either suspense or tension.

One situation in particular is the driver of my novel Snatched from Home. Without giving spoilers, I had a middle-class man amass such large gambling debts his children were kidnapped to force him to pay up. My son was the same age as one of his children which made research easy. The interplay between the man and his furious wife was garnered by me putting myself and my wife into their situation and imagining what she’d say to me and do to protect our son.

Other elements I included were all little bits of things I’ve heard or seen people discussing. Like the general feeling cops are bound by too many rules and it was better in the old days when they’d dish out a quick spot of justice down a dark alley.

So to sum up, I guess I know what keeps me turning pages, people and what my wife is like when she’s angry.

Links to Graham and his work …

The Major Crimes Team Vol 1: Lines of Enquiry



Snatched from Home 






Special Guest: Pete Sortwell

Pete is 35 and lives with his wife, Lucie, and their pet sofa, Jeff. He’s been writing for just under six years and they’ve been pretty eventful; well, more eventful than he thought sitting on Jeff, typing would be anyway.

Author of comedy e-books ‘The Village Idiot Reviews’, ‘The Office Idiot Reviews’ and ‘The Idiot Government Reviews’, ‘More Village idiot Reviews.’ These books sell more than he ever thought they would, and he’s hooked. ‘Dating in the Dark’ was Pete’s first self-published novel.

How I Sold Ten Thousand Books and why I’m quitting now I’ve done it. 
I’m not really quitting, but I couldn’t think of a bigger headline. I did, however, sell ten thousand e-books in one year. Here’s how it happened …

On October the 1st 2012, I hit publish on Amazon’s KDP self-publishing program. I’d spent the month before getting The Village Idiot Reviews together. It’s written in the front of the book, but for those of you that haven’t read it, I’ll tell you how and why I came about the idea in the first place.

Sadly, in August of that year I lost a very close friend, Dennis Roper. His death was something, that although not wholly unexpected, shook me and, at that time it felt like everything had changed. I wasn’t sure how I was going to move forward without my mate there by my side. I wanted to feel better and I knew that Dennis wouldn’t have wanted me sitting about miserably. Throughout the month of August there was what can only be described as uproar in the online writing community with the outing of several authors that had been caught either writing their own reviews or promoting their own work under different names, or to term it correctly ‘sock puppets’. The writing of fake reviews reminded me of the funny ones that had gone viral. (Check out Veet for men.) One evening I decided that rather than jump into any arguments (which would have been my reaction in the past, but I figured that whenever I’ve done that in RL, I usually end up in the shit myself somehow) I’d do something I’d never done before and keep my big mouth shut. I did more than that, in fact: I wrote some fake reviews of my own, The Village Idiot Reviews being the first book to link all those reviews together into a story.

I’d been watching other people on the writing scene for a while and I’d got an idea of what I didn’t want my book to look like. I knew I wanted it to look really professional both inside and out, so the only option was to use pros. Which is what I did. I’d already hooked up with an editor and proofreader, Julie Lewthwaite, while working on other, unreleased projects. I’m lucky that she’s more than just an editor, she’s also very experienced in most things I want to know and was able to point me in the right direction to find an artist. I knew I wanted something fun, so when I managed to get the services of Graham D. Lock I was over the moon. One thing though, I couldn’t afford him. So I asked to make a deal, Which was basically me saying ‘Please help me, I promise if this works I’ll use you for everything that comes after and pay your going rate.’

In fact this was the same deal I cut with everyone I worked with on TVIR. Luckily, all saw more promise in it than I did and agreed. I still thought it would be a disaster and that I’d never have to come good on my promise – not that I didn’t want to, I just wasn’t that confident in my work. I need to shout out to my mum here, also, as she actually covered half of the costs. Another thing I paid for was a decent product description; this helped, and it’s something I’ve used as a template for my other books. For no other reason than the career of the chap who did it, Mark Edwards, had taken off and his publishers think his time is better spent working on his own books. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to bring him in to my little project, though.

I pressed publish and just hoped that before I died it would recover the small cost it had taken to put out. It took less than a week to cover costs and by week two I’d had an 80 sale day and been the highest in the Kindle ranking that I’ve ever been: #314. I was just short of the top ten in humour and I was made up. If that wasn’t good enough, I started to get reviews, and some from people I didn’t know either. There was nothing for it, it was time to write another one. So I did. The Office Idiot Reviewscame out in November, followed by The Idiot Government Reviews in December. By the end of 2012 I’d sold my first thousand.

The bug had got me by then and in January I started a romcom; large market, I thought, lovely. However, large market means large competition. Dating In The Dark: sometimes love just pretends to be blind has done OK, though. In fact, my other works this year, More Village Idiot ReviewsThe Diary Of An Expectant Father, and The Diary Of a Hapless Father have all done OK. All were put out with the hope that they just wouldn’t lose me money, which they haven’t, and the ones I’ve just mentioned all paid for themselves within the first month, (except for Dating In The Dark: sometimes love just pretends to be blind, which took two, but it’s a longer book).

I’ve since experimented with box sets, or boxed sets; I don’t know which one is correct, but I have put them out and they’ve worked. I did decide something about pricing early on, and that was that I wasn’t going to be flogging 100k words for $1.99 when I could write something tight, for 30k and get the same money; as a result, most of my books are shorter than people’s who’ve got a deal. I don’t think this takes away from them, though. DITD is 51k, so is a novel, and it works. It’s my longest self-published work. I suppose in a way there is a reason why I am not big on fluff and filler; I don’t need to be, I’ve no one telling me that I need to submit between 70 and 90k, so I don’t, it’s as simple as that. I can also get more product out there if I stick to the lower word count. That isn’t to say if a story needed it, I wouldn’t go further; I’m working on DITD2 at the moment and it’s going to go over … how far? I don’t know yet, as I’m still working on it and I let the story dictate to me when it’s done. I don’t plan that much.

I’ve put all my books into paperback and although I haven’t sold that many, I think it adds something to the Amazon page when there is a choice. DITD will soon be an audiobook too and again, the deals been done, with the view of more to come if it works. That is something I’m really excited about as I listen to more books than I read.

People ask me lots of times, what’s your secret. There isn’t one. I’ve done the same have others have done and people have liked my work. I would say to anyone thinking of self-publishing though, put some time, money and hard work into your project, if you don’t you can’t expect anyone else to.  (Well, hopefully, it won’t be hard work for the reader, but you know what I mean.) One thing I’ve learnt is that I don’t always need to make my own mistakes. If I see someone run across the road while a lorry’s coming, I won’t do that. Likewise if I see someone link-dropping their book every time they comment, I won’t do that either. In fact, in recent months, I’ll only post my paid for books links once, then I’ll only share the free ones on Facebook. Maybe I’m going about that wrong, but I would much rather give people I know the books for nothing than charge them, then expect them to share the link when it goes free. I’d be pissed off if someone did that to me. Maybe not once, but I’ve now got ten products.

I’m lucky enough to have people contact me on Facebook to tell me how much they enjoyed reading something of mine. This is something I never thought would happen. It’s nice, though, and I always try and give people who take the time to contact me something for free. There really has been little more to my success than writing a book people wanted to read, investing my time (even when I’d much rather have been talking about writing than doing it), my money, and being nice to people, both fans and the people who work for me.

So KDP Select? Yep, I use it. Have done for almost a year and it seems to work, although – and this is the hard thing to understand – a successful free promotion (where you give your books away for free on Amazon) actually costs money. With all the free books that are out there the grabber won’t find my little effort if they’re just browsing, so I rely on their favourite website to email them and tell them about it, and that costs. However, I’ve seen the results, so it’s something I’ll continue to do until I don’t.

I’ve learnt so much over the last year, It’s like being a project manager when you’ve got three guys doing four or five jobs for you, giving feedback on work is something I struggle with if I’ve not made myself clear in the first place, however it all just comes down to being nice about it and working with people rather than moaning or placing blame. One thing overall that I’ve learnt is that dialogue helps most things. Not speaking doesn’t. The other thing I’d like to say is that most of my problems on this front have been my own, where I’ve been trying to do too many things at once and don’t explain myself well enough rather than anyone that I’ve worked with. I’m surprised they all put up with me, to be honest.

There really isn’t much more to it than that. I’ll stop short of saying I’ve been lucky and go with fortunate. The reason I say this is because sitting tapping away on a keyboard at 2a.m. when everyone else is in bed doesn’t feel much like luck, it feels more like hard graft.

I don’t like to forget the people that have helped me get where I am now, which is slightly better off and slightly more tired than I’ve ever been, with a pile of books I’ve written myself. This time last year I had a pile of books that I had short stories in. so it’s nice to see all my effort sitting on my shelf.

I wanted to write this because during the first couple of months I was desperately looking for blogs that spoke about the experience of others. If I hadn’t been so busy writing the books in the last year I might have kept one myself, but unfortunately I would never have kept it up and I knew it, so I did what I always do when I know I can’t give it my all, I didn’t bother. That’s the difference between writing a blog and writing a book, deep down inside, with the little bit of my ego that I didn’t want to tell people about, I knew I could write a book that people would like. My low self-confidence stopped me trying for a long time, but in the end, and after Dennis going, I knew it was time to start and time to prove to myself I could. What’s next to prove? I have no idea. Maybe a sitcom. There, I’ve said it now, it’s out of the little part of my brain that cares what people think.

How to get in touch with Pete …
And his latest bestseller The Diary of an Expectant Father is here

Special Guest: Sarah Hilary

Getting an Agent by Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, is nominated for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year. It was the Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”), a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, and has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series, was published in April 2015. The Marnie Rome series is being developed for television.

Here’s what I learnt five years ago, at the beginning of my journey to publication. I hope it helps if you’re at this stage. If you’re beyond it, maybe you’ll share a wry smile at the memories. NB: the bits in brackets and italics are the bits that tell you How NOT to Get an Agent. But you know that, right?

How to Get an Agent (or not)

  1. Write a damn good book. (Convince yourself it’s word-perfect; show it to no one who might cast doubt on this conviction)
  1. Pitch the book to the right agent in the prescribed manner. (Or not. Don’t let submission guidelines get in your way; this book can’t be pinned down in a paragraph)
  1. Practice patience. (Chase after two weeks. That’s plenty of time for the book’s brilliance to have penetrated)
  1. Submit a full ms on request in the prescribed manner. (Convince yourself this is it: your genius is about to be universally acknowledged and rewarded)
  1. When a rejection comes, accept it with good grace. Put it to one side if necessary until you’re in the right frame of mind to read it as the valuable information you need to get better at what you do. (Curse and pity the poor fools who didn’t have the wit to recognise genius when they read it; do not entertain the idea that they know more than you do about books and publishing. If you really want to go to town, tweet about their ridiculous rejection in the hope that other agents will take note)
  1. Start a new book, keeping close at hand the rejection letter that contained vital information about what you needed to do to get further ahead this time. (Start a new book ignoring that ridiculous rejection, which you’ve torn up in any case)
  1. Pitch and submit as earlier. (Dont forget to mention the idiots that turned down your previous work of genius)
  1. Accept the rejection with good grace, learning from it all that you can. (Wonder what is wrong with a world that can reject you twice. Storm. Rant. Flounce. Better: do it on your blog, naming and shaming those who thwarted you. Alternatively, curl up in a ball and never come out)
  1. Repeat steps six to eight, as required. (Give up. Tell yourself it’s because you’re too good to get published)

When I was lucky enough to be signed by Gregory & Company, a fantastic agency that specialises in crime and thrillers, it was with the full knowledge that my book needed work, of course it did. Thanks to a brilliant team at the agency, and an editor who knows exactly how to lead a writer through what’s needed, I felt enthused rather than daunted. In fact, I was dying to get stuck into the changes.

‘You’ve been trying us for some time,’ Jane said when we met.

‘I’m famed for my stamina,’ I confessed.

Not to mention bloody-mindedness, but also as it turns out, the ability to listen to what I’m told and to know that a good writer can always — ALWAYS — be a better writer.

Keep the faith, take advice from the experts, never give up. (Or, you know, not)

You can reach Sarah on Facebook

Twitter – @sarah_hilary

Or over at her website –