By Amanda Keats
Last night, to kick off the week of exciting events surrounding the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Award 2014, Kate Mosse was on hand to chair an exciting panel of experts about writing your first novel – and getting it from your head into the public domain. Mosse was joined by bestselling author Sarah Waters, debut novelist Emma Healey, literary agent Felicity Blunt and author/editor Charlotte Mendelson to discuss anything and everything from that perfect synopsis to how hard it really is being a writer.
Emma spoke about her journey to getting published and noted that it was an odd sensation having publishers read her work as "they'd got inside my head". And just in case you were under the impression that only debut authors do that thing of putting their book on display in bookshops, Mosse assured us that "we all do it". Evidently, some things just don't change the more books you have under your belt.
One of the most interesting caveats of the night came from literary agent Felicity Blunt. Blunt explained that she treats new submissions like any reader would when choosing a new read in a bookshop. You see if the title grabs you, then the blurb. If that keeps you intrigued then you keep going. So make sure that your synopsis is absolutely perfect when you send it in! "I think writing a synopsis is one of the hardest skills … because the novel is so big in your head!" Felicity said, adding that "a good synopsis feels like you remembered what inspired you to write the book in the first place".
One of the big things that concerns us writers is whether people will like our work. It often feels like an inconvenience to be bothering that poor agent with our pesky offering (well it certainly did for me). Mosse asked us all to realise that "without us [writers] there is no publishing". The panel were also very frank about how difficult writing can be. "It is difficult – that doesn't mean the book's going to be rubbish," says Charlotte. Charlotte then laughed that writers are "both neurotic and a bit of an exhibitionist". Though she clarified she was only talking about herself, I can certainly see her point!
One thing the panel agreed on is that there is no one way to write – some plan, some jump all over the chronology. Some just write and see where the story will take them. The point is to find what works for you. As Blunt said: "it's your path; you're going to walk it".
So to conclude, the panel say to keep trying, believe in yourself, be brave enough to show your work to someone. Also remember to not be afraid. All you really need is passion and dedication. And of course a great story, brilliant characters and an unending supply of willpower!