It’s the Hook not the Book

I promised an update on my recent submission to the literary agent I met at Winchester last summer. She emailed to say she would like a chat over the phone. We subsequently spoke for about 30 minutes. She did not want to take the novel I had submitted to her. She felt it did not hit all the beats of a crime novel and whilst she had enjoyed it and thought the pacing, structure, characterisation and plot were all great, it was not stand out enough to be a break out novel in commercial fiction.

She said if I wanted to write an out and out crime novel she was certain I could do it she just wasn’t sure I wanted to which was very perceptive of her. I love writing about relationships. I particularly like writing about relationships when people from very different walks of life meet and sparks fly. I do not want to shift my focus away from that to hit the beats of a narrower brief.

Narrow by Claus Zurbig courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Whilst I was initially disappointed I quickly bounced back (you have to in this game!). Her words, however, got me thinking. In the trad world it is all about the hook and not the book. If the hook is strong enough that the marketing people can run with it you’re in and anything that does not hit that sweet spot is out, labelled as too much work. It’s all about the hook. A great hook can carry weaker writing across the line. That’s a fact of life in this modern world.

Hook by Jasleen Kaur courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Which leaves writers with a dilemma. It’s a choice artists have always had to make – do you chase the money or do you follow your love of your craft. It’s why Hollywood actors do one big picture for the studios and two independent films for themselves.

The competitive part of me wants to write the hell out of a crime novel now just to prove I can do it but crucially my heart wouldn’t really be in it. I write what I like and I wouldn’t want that to change that.

If you are lucky enough to write what you like and it also hits the sweet spot with the marketing people congratulations. You’ve hit the motherlode.

For the rest of us, I am pleased to say there is a silver lining to this tale. Indie publishing. Indie loves books that have hooks as much as trad publishing does but indie isn’t so narrow minded – cross genre, mash up or niche, indie welcomes them all and if you can devise a half decent marketing plan you might even find an audience as has been the case for me.

Indie gave me a home when no one else would and still does. Indie continues to cherish and reward me. Best of all, indie allows me to be myself and write what I want to write. Who can really ask for more?

book heart
Heart by Kate Ter Haar courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0




Writing, as we all know, can be a lonely path. Often frustrating and filled with self-doubt, so it is particularly gratifying when something comes along which is completely unexpected and gives you a boost.

I was lucky enough to experience that feeling just before Christmas when I discovered first of all that my novel White Lies had been nominated for the best romance book of 2017 by the Rosie Amber Book Review Team and then to find out that I had won.

#RBRT Review Team

white lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes

Given the large number of romance books this dedicated team reads over the course of 12 months I was stunned and delighted to have even made it into the nominations so to win was totally extra icing on the cake and a wonderful lift to my confidence.

Whether it be a lovely review, a compliment from a reader or winning an award, to have your hard work recognised and appreciated is a tremendous feeling and one to hang on to and remember when the going gets tough.

Here’s to 2018 and all of the successes and the failures that are to come.

As Kipling said:-

‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,

And treat those two impostors just the same;’


Tis The Season to be Jolly

‘Tis the season to be jolly…………

It is impossible to ignore the fact that most of December is one giant countdown to the main event

But as you race to tick another present off your list or write another batch of cards

take a moment to count your blessings

and remember that all we really need is shelter, warmth, food and love – everything else is a bonus.

For those of you who don’t have all of those things I wish you better times ahead.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all

Holiday cheer | Creative Commons Holiday Cheer | by John Morgan licensed by CC BY 2.0

The blog will be back in 2018

Congratulations To The Winners Of The #RBRT 2017 Book Awards #TuesdayBookBlog

Thank you to everyone who voted for White Lies. I’m thrilled and delighted to say I won.

Rosie Amber

It is the end of another busy year of book reviewing for my team.

So I now have great pleasure in announcing the winners of our #RBRT 2017 Book Wards

Fantasy / Scifi

Winner: Do You Realize? by Kevin Kuhn 


George is a middle-management, middle-class, middle-aged guy who hates his job and struggles to stay connected to his wife and teenage children. Most guys might end up with a steamy affair and a flashy car for their midlife crisis, but George gets a quirky, philosophical physics professor named Shiloh. Trapped with this mysterious misfit on his morning commuter train, George is dragged into awkward conversations about love, fear, music, and the meaning of life. Shiloh asks George to beta-test an app he wrote for the new Apple Watch–and with a free watch included, how could he say no?
When tragedy strikes, throwing George out of his uncomfortable comfort zone, he…

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A Tale of Two Halves – Ugly First Drafts

As a writer I find my confidence in my writing flows in and out like a tide. After a good writing session, I am buoyed up and ready to take on the world. On the flip side, sometimes a bad review can leave you wondering whether you are deluding yourself but often writers do not even need any input from the outside world to doubt themselves. We are quite capable of questioning our own self worth all by ourselves.

The blessing of a creative mind can lead to occasions of overthinking and self angst that if nothing else remind us that writing is a vocation that chooses us rather than the other way round. For who would choose to live in such torment, swinging between two extremes and hoping to catch the odd break in the middle?

Self esteem
Self esteem by Kiran Foster courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

I was recently lucky enough to be commissioned to write a three part serial for a magazine. I came up with an idea and a setting and plunged into telling the story. I wrote it with the three parts very much in mind. The first part came together swiftly and I polished it up before I moved on to the middle section. Again, this came together fairly quickly and I gave it a polish.

When it came to writing the denouement, however, life got in the way. I managed to crank out the required word count and hit all the beats of the story but it had been written when I was tired and feeling frazzled and it showed.

I shared it with three friends, one a friend who doesn’t write and two who do. My non writer friend enjoyed the story. My two writing friends seized on the last part of the story, one remarking it was like it was written by a different writer.

And she was right. It was.

The last part was me getting the story down in draft with minimum polishing. The first two thirds had had care and attention lavished on them, the last part had been birthed and left.

Unfinished road
Unfinished Road Works by Captn_Jack courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

As all writers know, first drafts are ugly. All the hard work is done in the editing, re-writing and polishing that follows. But without that ugly first draft, the writer would have nothing to work on. The last part of my story has now been edited and polished and stands proudly alongside the other parts of the story as the fitting ending it was designed to be.

What is important to remember, however, is that as writers we should never to be so confident as to think that the ugly first draft is the finished product nor so lacking in confidence as to think that ugly first draft can never be transformed into something more beautiful.

Believe in yourself and your abilities and trust that everything will come good in the end. That’s the art of being a writer.

Finish by Eugene Kim courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0