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Become a Fiction Writer: What you Need to Know!

Victoria Fox is a young a Jackie Collins for the 21st Century.  Her first novel, Hollywood Sinners was published to great acclaim in 2011 and her second novel, Temptation Island is out on the 1st June. We grilled her on what it takes to become a published author:

My journey from editor to author . . .

"Pursuing a career as an author seemed far-fetched after uni, so applied for an internship with several publishers in London. Over four years in a commercial fiction editorial role I learned a massive amount about the business of how novels are produced.  One thing I kept wanting to read was a glitzy bonkbuster like the ones I’d adored growing up but I couldn’t find one that ticked my boxes. So, I decided to have a go myself, throwing myself into writing evenings and weekends. In a big leap of faith I submitted a partial manuscript (about 30,000 words) anonymously to a literary agent and amazingly she agreed to represent me.

Looking back it was risky to quit a job I enjoyed in the middle of a recession, but passion makes you do funny things: I left my role in publishing with an unfinished novel, no book deal but the support of a fantastic agent and a shedload of ambition.  I always think that when you make a decision you should always stand by it and have the courage of your convictions."

Top Tips for getting published . . .

"Write. Sounds obvious, but there are two camps of people who dream of getting a book published: the ones who sit down and slog out 100,000 words, and the ones who don’t. Make time, keep at it and don’t stop till you reach ‘The End’.

Relax. Even if you think what you’ve written is crap, it doesn’t matter. The manuscript will undergo so many drafts and changes that the finished version will hardly resemble this one – the point is to have something complete that you can show people and work on. You can’t improve a book if it isn’t there in the first place.

Read. Have a grasp of what books are out there in the genre you’ve chosen. How do the authors shape their plots? How do they build tension and sustain pace? What do you enjoy and how could you do it better? See what trends your market is following, and what competition you might come up against. Have a clear sense of where your book would sit and what its identity would be.

Research. Targeting the right literary agent is all-important. Note that agent’s tastes and what authors and books they’re looking to sign. Show in your covering note why your work fits the bill, and be concise and clean in your pitch: a one-page synopsis and the first three chapters is typical, but check what that agent prefers to see. Aim to capture what your book is about in one line.

Persevere. Every author faces rejection at one point or another. You will get rejected and it will sting, but if you believe it then don’t give up. Embrace criticism, even if it’s hard, because some of it will be useful and could make your manuscript better. It can take years to secure a deal but the only person that can make it happen is you."

Top Writing Tips . . .

"Be patient. Break the task down into word counts per day that you feel you can realistically achieve. Take it one day at a time and remember that with each step you’re climbing.

Always know where you’re heading. When I’m planning I keep things quite loose because I haven’t properly met my characters yet – as they grow and develop they’ll make their own minds up about what happens – but control it by setting out some broad goals along the way.  Commit to your ending early on. The path will work itself out so long as your destination is clear.

Avoid reading back. Poring over what you’ve written the previous day isn’t conducive to the word count. Press on and don’t get bogged down in polishing something that will probably be rewritten and scrapped on a later draft anyway. 

Establish a routine. Find what hours work best for you and try to stick with it. Never beat yourself up after a dry day but have the discipline to sit back down the next and try again.

Get settled. Find a writing space where you feel comfortable and inspired. A view is important to me, as is a place I can close the door on at the end of the day. Working from home, it’s good to distinguish between office hours and down time. I work nine to five, Monday to Friday, and keep my ‘real life’ separate."

Top tips for writing a bonkbuster . . .

"Have sex, and lots of it. Lose your inhibitions. Every bonkbuster needs sex, and not an unsatisfying fumble every fifty pages. Never be cautious or embarrassed because self-conscious sex scenes are excruciating to read. Avoid euphemisms: talk about sex like you’d talk about it with your friends. And never ever ever consider your parents reading it.

Draw your plot on a big canvas. The best thing about bonkbusters is that you can get away with anything – let your imagination run wild, whether that’s across continents, decades or outrageous adventures.

Be bold with your characters. Make them outrageous. Bonkbusters are all about amplifying the facts – if you’ve got a brooding hero, make him the sexiest man we’ve ever seen; if you’re introducing a villain, make her/him the vilest person we’ve met. Have fun with your players: if you find them entertaining, we will, too.

Take us on a trip round the world. Part of the escapism of bonkbusters is the promise of multiple exotic locations. Scorching beaches, exclusive restaurants, studio warehouses, Hollywood mansions . . . Carry us there and make us believe.

Keep the pace up. Bonkbusters should be fast and exciting. End chapters on a cliffhanger, large or small, to make sure we keep turning the pages. If you can’t put a bonkbuster down then you know it’s doing its job."


Temptation Island by Victoria Fox is published on 1st June by MIRA, priced £7.99

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