Back in 2012, I was teaching at a primary school in South London and writing on the side. I knew I was getting quite serious about writing because one of my short stories suddenly became very long. I decided to enter it into the Women’s Prize First Chapter Competition, run by Grazia magazine. When I heard I was a runner up it really gave me a huge confidence boost as well as ‘permission’ to dedicate more time to writing.
I used the prize money (£500) to pay for another term of evening classes at Central St Martins. I had saved up for the first lot and couldn’t have justified another without the prize money.
When my first novel was ‘finished’ I bought the Writers & Artists Yearbook and started approaching agents. I didn’t have a single contact in publishing and followed all the submission rules on sending my work in. I rushed into this, high from the Grazia win. But the novel wasn’t ready and no one was interested.
I was sad for a bit, but also extremely distracted by building my teaching career and then by becoming a mum. I joined a writing group and started another novel, which became Nightingale Point.
Again, I started approaching agents. I made a list of agents who represented books and authors I liked. I was delighted when a few replied saying they wanted to read the whole manuscript. I thought this is it, but how to choose? It was easy. I went with the agent who called me and talked about the characters in the book like they were people she knew in real life.
The process of getting an agent isn’t easy and it’s definitely not that much fun. But it’s worth investing the time in making sure you have the right material and you’re submitting in the right way.