Turns out that writing the book was the easiest part!

A friend on Twitter suggested the above heading when I muttered about the time it takes to send letters out to agents, or ‘querying’ in the writer’s jargon. And how right she was, as most writers know. Mine and co-author Emma Beach’s novel about Elizabeth Scott, [spoiler alert] the first and youngest ever woman to be hanged in the Colony of Victoria (she was 23), has gone through many iterations in its long development. Emma has been researching Elizabeth’s short and sad life for about seven years – and still digging stuff up – and we’ve been writing the book for four.

We started querying far too early, as it turns out. We had no experience of how to go about it and despite reading lots of blogs etc on the topic, I look at those early agent letters and cringe.
Also the book was far too long (125k words…) and while there was plenty of conflict and tension in the original early part, it didn’t get to the really good stuff until too far into the book. So we dropped all that [killing off our darlings to use more writer jargon] and now it’s just over 80k words and pacy. [We would like to turn the omitted material into a novella once the main book is out.]

Now – and with many thanks to my online writing community – I believe we have a good, punchy letter. And I also believe we have a great opening chapter which creates empathy for the character, raises lots of questions and leaves the reader wondering … what happened?

Our beta readers have all loved our protagonist in all her forms. Lately we’ve had comments about being ‘enthralled’ with the story, and in every case our readers tell us they keep hoping the ending will change even though they know the facts. I tell them they’ll have to wait for the Hollywood version… (as per Titanic perhaps, we could handle that!).

So now it’s a case of putting her out there all over again, working hard to find agents who might love her too and not becoming too despairing over long waits and rejections. Wish us luck!

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