Had lunch today with my local Chapter (group) of the Romantic Novelists Association. For anyone who has never heard of them but is interested in romantic fiction in any one of its many subsections (historical, sagas, contemporary, chick-lit, comedy, Mills and Boon etc) they are, most definately a Very Good Thing.
Apart from the fact that they are all exceptionally nice people, it is really fantastic to be able to meet up with other writers - it makes me feel as if I'm not the only person scribbling away in a lonley garret (or, indeed spare bedroom). The RNA also runs the New Writers' Scheme, whereby unpublished authors can submit the manuscript of their novel and receive a Readers' Report of quite detailed feedback. If the first reader likes it and thinks it of a suitable standard for publication it will go on for a second read and if that reader concurs with the first it will go on to the third stage when it is submitted to an agent or publisher. It is a brilliant scheme - even if you do not get to go through to the second or third rounds, you will still have a good and detailed critique from a professional in the business that you can use to improve your book. this year, my second novel A Good Call went through the first two rounds with flying colours; however, I was taken on by my agent at the time the novel would have gone on to the third round and for it to go to another agent or a publisher without her say-so would, in my view, have been unethical, so I withdrew from the competition. The comments from both my readers were tremendously helpful and encouraging and I'll be incorporating them into my next round of revisions!
The New Writers' Scheme, in my opinion, is worth every penny of the membership fee. It gives a new author a helpful, honest appraisal of their work which is truly worth its weight in gold. Long may it continue and long live the RNA - hoorah!