Looking Back over my Writing Years – A Salutary Tale. Think it’s Safe to Laugh Now?#mondayblogs

I thought I would revisit a time of my life when I despaired of ever being in print. It cheers me up as I agonise over yesterday’s efforts, altering and editing before I can even start with today’s writing and the realisation that one of my lovely characters has a cob on and won’t do as I want her to do. I’ve spent hours trying to persuade her, putting her in different scenarios, story lines. But no, she’s adamant – she wouldn’t act in that way,

So I’ve gone back to the heady day when I found an agent. And I kept a diary .


Sometime, a long time ago

It’s been  a fortnight since I met with my agent (get me! – and it was in London and she treated me to a meal in a posh restaurant). Carried away with her enthusiasm for my writing, her promises to make me into a ‘brand name’ and her assurance that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel’, I signed on the dotted line.

Now she today telephones, summarily dismissing an offer. ‘We can do better than this.’

What? What’s better than getting this novel published? Than seeing, holding, a book in my hand that I’ve actually written? I get an offer, perfectly acceptable to me, but according to this agent, it’s not enough. ‘We’ll try other publishers, bigger publishers,’ she says

I’m worried. But she knows the business.

Doesn’t she?


Still sometime, a long time ago:  I’ve now been waiting three months.

So far, four rejections from publishers. Couched, mind you, in encouraging remarks:

“Believable characters … strong and powerful writing … gripping story … Judith has an exciting flair for plot … evocative descriptions.”

And then the death knell on my hopes:

‘Unfortunately … our lists are full … we’ve just accepted a similar book … we are only a small company … (what? The agent rejects one small publishing company but then sends the manuscript to another?) …’I’m sure you’ll find a platform for Judith’s work …’

Yes, yes, we did, we did find ‘a platform’, as they put it. Or rather I did. I found a company, one I was happy with.

The self-doubt, the frustration, floods back. I’m never going to get the (“bleep, bleep”) book published.(Yes I did use to write “bleep, bleep” . Not any more – give me a good old Saxon word now any time)

 Still sometime, a long time ago:   Another three months.

I’ve had  a call from the agent; ‘I think it’s time to re-evaluate the comments we’ve had so far,’ she says. ‘ Parts of the storyline need tweaking. I’ve negotiated a deal with a commercial editor. It’s a realistic charge by today’s standards,’ she says. ’Think about it,’ she says. ‘In the end we’ll have a book that will take you to the top of your field.’

I think about it. Reject the idea. Listen to advice from my various acquaintances. Think about it again.


And think about it some more.

And then I ring the agent. ‘Okay,’ I say, ‘I’ll do it.’

I have no choice; after all she’s the expert. What do I know?

 Still sometime, a long time ago (I have to keep saying this just in case you think I’m still that gullible):   Another three months.

It’s now three months on. The first commercial editor (the best, apparently) has succumbed to maternity leave. The one who was finally chosen by my agent (the second best?) has had my script all this time. I’ve already paid her.

You’re now wondering what kind of credulous idiot is this, yes? Well, let me say here that this saga (an apt word as my book is actually a saga!) has been going on for over eighteen months and I’m desperate.

All creativity has gone. I can’t write anything but emails – and believe me, there are plenty on this subject. The commercial editor’s reasons (excuses) for the delay are numerous: an urgent journey to Europe to do research for a project, a family crisis (alright, I’ll believe that one) she’s ghost writing a celebrity’s autobiography (how can it be an autobiography if someone else is writing it? That always puzzles me. Surely then, it’s a biography?) Okay, okay, bitterness is creeping in.

We were supposed to be having a meeting to discuss the way forward with my book. It didn’t happen.

Now a friend, a successful and published author herself, is concerned I’m being conned. So am I! I feel foolish but say surely it’s only a few things that need tweaking.

It’s back!


I read it in disbelief; if I follow all the ‘suggestions’ it will change from being a saga into romantic fiction. Okay, I like a bit  romance; don’t we all? But it’s not what I write.

I ring my agent,

‘Yes,’ she says, ‘it is a little more drastic than I expected but go with it.’

Another three months  (As you can see, I’ve stopped writing – still sometime, a long time ago – think you’ll have got the drift by now)

I tried- really I did. For four weeks I’ve worked. With less and less interest. In the end I stopped. I didn’t recognise my story; I had no empathy with the characters. It wasn’t my book any-more.


I’ve made a decision, one of the biggest I’ve ever made. It’s a week before the first anniversary of my contract with the agent.I’ve sent the letter terminating our contract. Despite persuasive tactics from her I don’t waiver.

In trepidation I start again; I contact a publisher my friend recommends, submit my manuscript. And wait

They will meet with me. No promises.


In 1915 the third book of the trilogy – Living under the Shadows – will be published by Honno Press.



The first of the trilogy.

Available to buy: Amazon.co.uk – http://amzn.to/1yieJsj

Amazon.com: -http://amzn.to/1yEGuM7

Honno: http://bit.ly/14Z7BFd


The sequel to: Pattern of Shadows

The sequel to:
Pattern of Shadows

The sequel.

Available to buy: Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/1q2kIzp.


Honno: http://bit.ly/14Z7BFd


My lovely publishers 


med full colour honno logo


25 thoughts on “Looking Back over my Writing Years – A Salutary Tale. Think it’s Safe to Laugh Now?#mondayblogs

  1. Phew – my heart was in my mouth reading your post, Judith. Thank goodness you stuck with your own instincts in the end and didn’t compromise your own ideas. It’s shocking how many unscrupulous people are out there. You have done so well and it’s a testament to your resilience that you didn’t let your early experiences knock your confidence completley. Thank you for sharing your experiences, I really enjoyed reading about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was an experience I wouldn’t want to repeat, that’s for sure. I can laugh about it now but it was a difficult time. And I thought it might help writers who are stating out on this journey to see what can happen to the uninitiated!! x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand a little guidance, a little editing and maybe a little careful redirection can often help a story. Maybe sometimes a fresh pair of yes catches something we missed. But what’s the point in feigning interest in a book and then suggesting a direction and changes that make it a different book altogether until we no longer recognise it as our book?
    I’d suggest we have to keep the rapport we have with our main characters or we literally start to lose the plot.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I so resonated with this, Judith! I’ve had exactly the same experience many years ago with a London agent. Put me off writing for years. Thank you for the entertaining blog – and I’m so glad you found someone to publish your work. Your books look amazing. Going on my reading list.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, I realise you posted this a while back, but I’ve only just found it. Thank you for sharing your experience. Those of us just starting out often imagine that writers who have achieved success and a good reputation have never put a foot wrong. Your words are ever so encouraging, and I’m thrilled that you and Honno found each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, thank you, Wendy. I’m pleased you found some encouragement in the post. It’s a roller coaster isn’t it? And I firmly believe it’s all a matter of luck. So many brilliant writers are not discovered. I tutor creative writing and it’s so upsetting when there is someone who writes so well yet isn’t given a chance. Guess all we can do is plug away. Thank you so much for dropping by – it’s really appreciated. Jx


    • Oh, thank you, Sally. I added it as part of an interview that Thorne Moore (great friend and fellow organiser of the Tenby Book Fair) kindly asked me to give. I appreciate the reblog and I do hope it helps anyone starting out. It was a steep learning curve for me, I must say.jx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So sorry for the stress and loss of time. Glad you found a ‘home’ for your books soon afterwards. In your shoes, I bet this would have killed any future writing. I don’t understand tweaking a story in a different direction, not your own, happens at all. Why bother changing so much of the original?. ❤ ❤ ❤ I've heard a couple similar situations. Ouch.

    Liked by 1 person

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