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My Say - Jae Watson


My Say gives writers a chance to air their views about writing and the writer's life.

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The Magic Formula

by Jae Watson

My first novel, Journey, was published by Legend Press in March 2007 and my second, Fragile, in June of this year.

Before publication I wondered what the key was, the magic formula. I attended conferences and literary festivals, nurturing a fading hope of finding the answer. Here are the things I gleaned, helping me cross that fine, elusive line dividing unpublished and published writers.

Find your own style – Publishers know if your style is forced; they won’t read on. Natalie Goldberg says write what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should think and feel. Capture the wild energy of first, unedited, thoughts.

Write – I believe I became a writer when I treated it as a job, not a hobby.

Write what you know – A much bandied phrase, but what does it mean? I think it is about authenticity. Journey tells the story of two friends who travel to India with dramatic consequences when one drowns in the Ganges. I have never drowned but I do swim in rivers. I have travelled in India; I know how the Ganges looks at different times of the day. I had to research Hindu cremation ceremonies, but I already possessed certain experiential knowledge and this, I am told, gave my story authenticity.

Fragile looks at three characters, one who is transgendered; one who uses a sperm donor and the third who searches for her father with… you guessed it… dramatic consequences. My work and life experience, rather than first hand knowledge, enabled me to write with authenticity.

Accept advice - Join a discerning writer’s group. We don’t need to be told our writing is nice; we need to know how to make it publishable. Consider paying for a critique, such as one offered by WritersServices.

Like good wine give your work time to breathe, you’d be surprised what you see with fresh eyes. Make your material as strong as possible before sending it into the lion’s den.

Research – After rejection by several agents I was accepted by a small, independent publisher. Find an appropriate agent/publisher for your material; study The Writer’s Handbook; take advice from websites such as this one.

Persevere – If you must write then don’t give up. I completed two novels before being accepted by a publisher. I have heard many authors tell the same story. Joanne Harris had limited success until she wrote what she really wanted to write, i.e. about a chocolate shop in a small French village. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jae Watson

Jae Watson is the author of two novels, Journey and Fragile, which has just been published by Legend Press. She works as a Children's Services Training Consultant in London and is currently taking a sabbatical in Provence to work on her writing.

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