Thanks to Caro Ramsay, for a tight-nit masterclass on Tuesday night.
Caro’s writing career began accidentally – quite literally, when she fell up a flight of stairs and landed in hospital (so incapacitated, that only writing could provide solace). A local writers group was the next step, before literary agent Jane Gregory picked up Caro’s first novel. The statistics are, as ever, terrifying; Gregory receives 4000 manuscripts annually, from which she finds only one author every two years.
After the champagne lunch, however, nine re-writes were requested of Caro. Ouch! But all worth it, for a high figure advance. Still, an advance is just that; writers should beware that, if their sales do not ultimately exceed this initial figure, they can be labelled in the inscrutable world of glib computer programmes as “non-profitable authors” (despite having sold large numbers of books). One author, known to Caro, had to re-launch himself under a female pseudonym to skirt this problem (and even have his wife pick up his awards at ceremonies – there must be an idea for a novel, there, Tootsie-style!).
Caro’s advice is always to discover and write in your own voice – never to emulate another’s. She also shared incisive suggestions from noted authors: Somerset Maugham advised that “there are three golden rules for successful creative writing – and nobody knows what they are”; Bruce Robinson advised that the writer should “put his hero up a tree, and stop them every time they try to get down”. Caro still keeps her day job as an osteopath, and receives many useful research pointers from her patients (a lesson there for everyone – that all the inspiration we need surrounds us daily, hidden in the ordinary).
Title/Log-Line/Genre/Protagonist/Antagonist/Goal/Obstacles/Theme/Setting/Time/Place. Caro’s eleven essential elements for your novel pitch document. Now get writing!