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With the completed re-draft of my historical novel ‘The Heart of Cruelty’ at around 75K words, a bookseller friend encouraged me to enter for the 2020 Wexford Literary Festival ‘Meet the Publisher’ event.

According to the website, the required submission was:
“You are to write a synopsis or summary of your story;
an extract that shows your writing style, perhaps in the context of your overview of the storyline;
why you believe your work should be selected;
around a page max.”

Around 18 months previously, I had enlisted the help, through Jericho Writers, of a professional editor, Louise Walters. She had reviewed in detail a much longer (110K) version of the novel and recommended a radical redraft. With this now done, I sought her further advice. Louise offered a Pitch Critique (Service 4 on her website) and was happy to work with the specified format.

I emailed the submission over asking to have it back within a month; she replied after only 2 days with extensive mark-up and a separate commentary focusing on a re-draft of the synopsis. She also very generously offered a second look for free.

As I worked through her reply, I was surprised to find that I also went back to my novel and started to tweak it to make the story run truer to my desired structure. I had always seen the synopsis/pitch as a chore, to be done after the novel had been written. Maybe I should have been more disciplined about writing them side by side, allowing them each to shape the other. In this way, the synopsis and its editorial critique could have informed the writing process much earlier on.

Louise’s advice was spot-on: even if my competition entry proves unsuccessful, working on the synopsis under her guidance has focused me on the story and built my confidence about pitching it in the future.