• hilary

My journey to getting published

Updated: May 28

There is always a lot of attention paid to authors who write a book in a short space of time and get a publishing deal quickly. For many writers, the reality is different. It took me more than a decade, but the work I put in gave me the experience and confidence I needed to fulfil the two book deal I signed with Lake Union.

In 2006, I attended a paediatric first aid course when I was pregnant, and a scenario entered my head that I couldn't shake off. I thought about it for months and eventually began to write about it. It turned into a novel and when I thought it was ready, I submitted it out to several agents.


“Thanks but no thanks.”

I got a lot of rejections.



The Faber Academy with Louise Doughty

I decided I needed some help, so I signed up to a Faber Academy short writing course with Louise Doughty. She was a fantastic teacher who took me seriously, despite the fact I was so inexperienced.



“I learned a lot about writing, but the most important thing I learned was that I really wanted to continue my journey and keep learning.”


The Curtis Brown Six Month Novel Writing Course

After several rejections from agents, I decided to write another novel using the knowledge I had gained from the Faber course. I applied for the Curtis Brown Creative six month novel writing course in London and gained a place in 2018. There were fifteen of us and we were all at different stages in writing our novels. Some had finished and were 'polishing' a draft. Others, like me, had only written a few chapters. On this course I learned more about the commercial side of novel writing: how to pitch my idea properly to agents, and what the publishing industry wanted from a story. Christopher Wakling, Erin Kelly and Simon Wroe all stepped in to teach us more about putting a story together and polishing a draft.


“Most importantly, I learned how to read other people's work critically. What worked? What didn't, and why?”


I finished my novel at the end of 2018 and started submitting it out. I got rejections, but this time they were not formulaic and short, they were encouraging and gave me some idea as to how I could improve.


So I rewrote Book 2 and submitted again. I got some full manuscript requests.


And then more rejections.


So I decided, in the light of what I had learned, to rewrite Book 1. I was sick of working on Book 2.


I submitted out Book 1 and got full manuscript requests. But still no offers.


I reworked Book 2. I submitted it out.


Oli Munson

In the spring of 2020, I submitted Book 2 to Oli Munson at AM Heath. He requested a full manuscript. But then we had lockdown. I waited for weeks. I gave Oli a nudge. He wrote back, saying he had enjoyed my writing and had I done anything else? I said yes and gave him Book 1. After a few weeks, he said he had been thinking that my writing wasn't right for him, but he had a colleague, Rebecca Ritchie, who he felt was a better fit for Book 1.


Rebecca Ritchie

By this time, I had a huge spreadsheet with all the agents I had already applied to. Sure enough, right at the top of the spreadsheet was Rebecca's name. My heart sank. Because she represented exactly my genre, I had already applied to her, with the first version of Book 1 a few years previously. She had sent a very short 'no'. I crossed my fingers she had forgotten all about me.


Rebecca said she loved the book, but it needed work. Was I prepared to rework it? I said yes. For the next few months, I took it apart once more and put it back together again. I had no idea if Rebecca was just being helpful or if she was planning on offering me a contract. But I figured she wouldn't ask me to do all this work if she wasn't serious. So I submitted it once more to her at the beginning of 2021 and she asked if we could speak on the phone. She offered me a contract and two weeks later the book sold to Lake Union in a two book deal. Book 1 became The Vanishing Tide.


Lake Union

It was at this point that I felt really pleased I had worked so hard on both books. I was used to editing them and sure enough, I had to rework The Vanishing Tide over the next six months for my editors at Lake Union. When the editing process was over, I had to start thinking about how to tweak Book 2 for my deadline, which was only six months away.


Book 2 has now been given a title, Swimming Home. It will be out in 2023.





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