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'An agent wanting to see the complete book'

19 December 2016

I wrote just three chapters to start with and sent them to ten agents. I received nine rejection letter in quick succession, but then the tenth letter arrived and it was an agent wanting to see the complete book.

That changed everything. I moved in with my boyfriend to save on rent, took a part-time job and began writing two-and-a-half days a week. A friend in Australia read my daily output and cheered me on and, by the end of 1996, I'd written the first draft. I'd been too embarrassed to tell the interested agent that I'd only actually written three chapters, so she was taken somewhat by surprise by a young woman in a furry coat clutching a jiffy bag on her doorstep nearly 12 months after writing to me.

She snatched the packet from me and said: ‘I hope there's return postage in there?' before closing the door firmly in my face.

Three days later she phoned me at work. She'd read it, her assistant had read it and it was ‘really rather good'...

Ralph's Party, my first novel, sold 250,000 copies in its first year of publication and was the highest selling debut novel of 1998.

There are fewer fairy tales in publishing these days, but there's still some magic left and dreams can come true.

Don't write for the publishers and don't try to second guess the market; it's elusive and impossible to pin down.

Just write what's in your head and what's in your heart and give the reader a reason to keep turning the pages, whether it's love for your characters or a need to find out what happened ten years ago or what happens next.

Lisa Jewell, author of Ralph's Party, I Found You and ten other novels