Man, what a night we had last Wednesday. It’d been a long while since we brought in a guest racer for the Wednesday Night Writing Races, but thriller writer Jennifer Bacia came aboard and spent the evening answering questions from our regular racers and offering her insight into the writing process. I probably spent as much time scribbling copies of her answers into my writing advice notebook as I did getting my won work done.

Here’s some of the gems Jennifer offered…

…on getting into writing to television

There are courses you can do, books to read but probably more difficult than establishing yourself as an author in the first instance. I was writing for 10 years before I was invited to write for a series.

Remember we all started off as unknowns. Persistence and some networking are the keys!

All writing is practice… and who knows where it leads. When I was writing my first novel I read that 98% of manuscripts were rejected – but it didn’t stop me. I had to give it a go. All I had to lose was time. In the end I had a book that was bid for by international publishers and a best seller.

…on making use of conflict and exposition

A little inspirational comment everyone – there is no story without conflict of some sort. I always need to think what does my main character want and who or what is getting in the way of her achieving her goals.

Exposition is the info the reader needs to know to understand and get a handle on the characters and story. It’s best built into the narrative – ie combined with dialogue and description. eg ‘As she leaned over her coffee cup, Laura’s dark hair hung like a glossy curtain across her cheeks. Instead of ‘Laura had dark, glossy hair.’

…on being inspired to start her writing career by Sidney Sheldon

Sidney Sheldon was a fantastic suspense writer and I loved reading his work as I enjoy that sort of story. I really believe you can’t write a story that isn’t your passion. Eg I could never write sci fi or vampire novels – I have no interest in those subjects. So, the lesson is, write what you love to read.

I love the way that each chapter ends with a hook that keeps you reading. That’s the way I write too – it comes naturally. You have to trust the process too, it can’t always be planned but grows organically when you really ‘inhabit’ your character and have set up the conflict well.

…on pushing through middle stages of a project, after the story has lost that initial rush of excitement?

I always leave off writing at the end of the day, knowing what I will be aiming to write the following day. That gives its own momentum. Also, it helps to project the next few scenes by scribbling a really rough outline. You can do this by asking yourself ‘what does the character need to achieve next’ and ‘where will her next hurdle come from’? This way your work always has momentum.

Remember this important point: You can’t edit what you haven’t written. So first put the words down (as you have – and they don’t have to be perfect) – and then do some polishing.

…on whether new writers need an agent.

There are two ways to look at that. I found an agent about half way through my first novel so she could see what she was getting. The other thing is that there are still manuscripts rescued from the ‘slush heap’ that get picked up. Think positive!

And what about ebook publishing? You don’t need an agent for that. Though I do realise there is a huge sense of accomplishment in touching your first published novel. I will never forget opening the box of hard covers of Shadows of Power (ebook title Indecent Ambition – better really, do you agree?!)

…on getting started.

I have so much I could still tell you but suffice to say: If you wait till you have the perfect start you may never get that novel done. Don’t forget the beginning can be written and rewritten – I have done some of my opening chapters 20 or 30 times! (Final exclamation) And hope you don’t mind my link here

As a special bonus following last week’s race, Jennifer’s offering a free ebook giveaway to the first Speakeasy reader to email us the title of her first published thriller. Send your answers to the AWM offices at [email protected]


Ellie MarneyThis week’s guest racer is the amazing Ellie Marney, the writer behind the Every series of young adults. Her latest book, Every Breath, asks the question “what if Sherlock Holmes was the boy next door?”

Come join Ellie and the AWM team at tonight’s writing race, kicking of at 8:00 PM. The Race will take the form of a comment stream within the Writing Race Event created on the AWM Facebook page. Just ‘join’ the event and then comment in the stream on the ‘AWM Writing Race’ Page. More information is available in our AWMonline Writing Race FAQs and here is the link to this week’s Writing Race Event.


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