Louise Tucker has won the inaugural Lost the Plot Work in Progress Prize for her "tender, moving, beautifully drawn" novel.
The award for unfinished manuscripts was launched earlier this year by Peters Fraser + Dunlop e-book imprint Agora Books.
Tucker wins a consultation with an Agora editor and a PFD agent. She was selected from 377 entries by a judging panel of Agora publisher Kate Evans, Bookseller Rising Star and PFD literary agent Marilia Savvides, author Laura Pearson, and book blogger Amanda Chatteron.
Her novel is described as a “touching tale of aging, grief, and self-discovery” about main character George, whose day of celebration turns into one of misery.
Tucker said: “I am so delighted to win the Lost the Plot Work in Progress Prize. The main character, George, has been in my head for a long time, and, when I finally wrote his story, I was hoping that people would love him too. It is wonderful to discover that they do.”
Evans added: “We’ve been blown away by the quality of the writing submitted to the inaugural Lost The Plot Work in Progress Prize. We set out to uncover fresh talent, interesting concepts, and stories that stay with us, and they delivered in droves. The shortlist was full of wonderful stories, and Louise Tucker’s novel is a tender, moving, beautifully drawn depiction of love and aging. I look forward to seeing more from this very talented author.”
It began with The Bookseller. In April 2017, the magazine ran a story on a crazy old author planning to write a novel in ninety days and inviting other writers to join her with live daily confessionals ('lessons') sharing the real-life working process. On 5th April, the website crashed and Louise Tucker called me to find out how to join. The conversation is one we laugh about every time we meet, as I was slightly harried by the technical chaos. You could say we were immediately on very familiar terms.
Just over two years later, our story continues to unfold in The Bookseller with Louise Tucker rather than Louise Dean hitting the news pages, celebrating the success of the novel she started to write back in April 2017.
With Louise's very kind permission, I've put together a timeline of her writing story in her own words.
The Bookseller’s morning briefing mentioned a scheme with Louise Dean which promised me I could write a novel in 90 days. Since I had just read Stephen King’s On Writing, which pretty much said the same thing, that a book’s first draft should only take a ‘season’, I was intrigued. I also thought I had very little to lose.
I've wanted to write a book, specifically a novel, since I was 11 partly to see if I could, and partly because writing has often seemed the only thing I am any good at. I have tried pretty much every way of doing it: leaving a career and taking a year off to live in Paris and 'write' (I worked in a bar instead...) being supported by a boyfriend whilst I stayed at home and wrote; writing first thing in the morning whilst working in an office five days per week; joining evening classes. I never wrote a novel. I wrote hack books for other people, I wrote a memoir that didn't get published and I had pretty much given up.
Why now? For two reasons: one, I've just turned 50 and, since my father died tragically and unexpectedly at 59, I have always been very aware of the shortness of life and the fact that, at any minute, it may end. If I don't try soon, it's going to be too late. Second, I have very little work and I might as well make the most of it and try one more time. Third, and this is possibly the most ridiculous one since I work in publishing and know this is a very long shot, having turned fifty, having no pension provision, having no savings, I really really need to earn some more money, to try everything that might make me some money, because freelance editing is impoverishing me. See, told you it was ridiculous.
27th April 2017
It’s 6.30 am, it’s dark and windy outside, and I am sitting at my computer, writing. This is all The Novelry, and Louise Dean’s, fault. If you’d asked me a year ago if I was a morning person, able to get up and write before the day started, I’d have probably laughed. I was not a morning person, I had pretty much given up writing anything but a blog and, though I have wanted to write a novel since I was 11, I had never managed to get beyond several glorious concepts in my head, a few dull self-focused chapters thinly based on my own life, and the prospect of the launch party. As someone once said to me: ‘everyone wants to write a novel, but only if they can wake up one morning and find the finished manuscript by the bed’.
24 May 2017
Am finding the writing process completely fascinating but I am very behind on the posts and the reading...I could blame that on my flat being redecorated and my beloved moving in in 10 days but, having seen how much you do every day for this, I'm not sure those excuses are valid but right now am off to Chelsea for the day so better get dressed...
28 May 2017
I have been thinking about, or trying to write, a novel, possibly more in the Peter Cook way than any other, for most of my adult life. I have never got beyond the all or nothing approach: leave a job, write all day, earn nothing, fail, give it up for a year or six, dream, start again. I have never managed to make it a regular part of my life until now.
Why is this different? Because it focuses on the actions, the routine, the small achievableness of a daily process. Many courses do this but the key differences here are the fact that someone is nudging you to write every day and you are paying for that nudge.
Seven weeks in, this confirmed night owl gets up at 6.30 seven days per week, including holidays, to write six pages and has things in her writing that she's never had before: plot, more than one character and not all thinly-veiled versions of herself, a story and an ending in sight. And though I began by thinking I would just do this for three months, as per the course, now I can't imagine stopping.
I may not get a book out of it yet, but I have something more durable: a writing practice. I've tried many courses and this is the only one that has given me that. I don't know how it works; I just know that it does.
10 June 2017
Draft done. Sixty days. I have you and your brilliance to thank for that. Now the real work begins...😉xxx
1st July 2017
I have NEVER looked forward to rewriting and I really am this time. And, though I used to always wish for more hours to do it, I now know I can find them, will find them as soon as I get to the grappling it into shape stage. I'm loving the feeling of continuity. Truly, you're a genius; the course is endlessly giving and inspiring. I'm very happy with it. The only issue I can see right now is how on earth is the publishing world going to find room for all these new, enabled writers.
I've no idea if this book will work; what I do know though is how a book works so I have no fear about doing it again. That's your gift. Thank you xxx
Louise Tucker described her process to our members:
I never went back and reread it, I never planned out where I was going, but slowly a story unfolded, characters, a dilemma. I took the course’s advice: just keep writing, just keep heading forwards, don’t worry about the quality yet. At various points during the process other, potentially distracting, things happened – I had to move out whilst my flat was painted, I started a full-time contract, my partner moved in – but I kept going. And, after 60, not 90, days I finished a first draft. Finished is an odd word in that sentence, because it was handwritten and far from finished, but in the terms of the contract The Novelry had asked of me, and I had committed to, I had a story, a complete story and one I was keen to rewrite, edit and perfect.
Why did it work? I think, for me, it was a convergence of having the time, and the inclination, and being presented with a routine and a structure that fit with those. And being constantly reminded and encouraged to think about character, tense, pace and how other writers had dealt with those, meant I came back every day with a sense that, even if I had nothing to say, I could at least work on a technical detail. And, at the end of every session, I tried to think of what came next so that I wasn’t stuck the following morning. Many years ago, when writing a PhD, I had been advised always to stop mid-sentence, mid-thought, so when I came back to the writing I would be right back in it, not having to start again. That works for this too.
Finally, writing longhand added a new dimension: it brought me back to the meditative, pleasurable process of sitting filling an exercise book with a story when I was in junior school. It didn’t feel like work, it didn’t feel like a chore and it also kept me away from the computer-induced illusion that this had to be perfect, tidy, grammatically correct. It was a scribble, a draft; I could do what I liked and enjoy it.
I couldn’t quite believe it when I finished; I still can’t quite believe it, but the 75000 words in a document are there, as proof. I haven’t started the editing process yet. There was the small matter of typing up the contents of seven or eight notebooks first, which took me longer than writing the draft in the first place. (The next time I do this – and how that delights me, the knowledge that there will be a next time – I will still write longhand but I will type up the pages more regularly.) And then I needed a break, a few weeks to read, drift, to let the story settle before ripping it to shreds. I’m now just about to start doing that and excited to get going. By Christmas 2017 I will have a second draft, I will have turned a vague dream into a reality but, even more importantly, I now write, and will keep writing. Whatever happens to this book, if anything, that is the real reward.
The Novelry has taught me all of this: how to write every day, why reading every day matters, and that it is possible to do both whilst still earning a living. It is probably the greatest investment of time and money I have ever made, and I would encourage anyone who wants to write a book to try the course.
26 October 2017
Having written it, of course, if only a draft, the riches are nothing to do with money. The riches are that I can do this thing, that I can enjoy it, that the ideas I have in my head are worth spending time on. Many of us carry the hope of something, of doing or creating or changing something, in our heads and hearts, often for years, often thinking we need more time or money to do them. What this has taught me is that starting and doing are much more important than time or money; once you get going, the momentum and the joy of finally getting on with it takes you forward. Even if I never write another word, keeping this in mind, that I can do the stuff I want, that I am capable of doing it, is a wonderful and unexpected benefit of having finished a book. If I could shout one thing from every rooftop, if there is one thing I hope my students learn from me next year, it is that their ideas are precious and that realising them gives you enormous confidence in your ability to do other things. You will stop being one of the 'one day' people; you will become one of the 'day one' people.
How do I see the next five years? I'd like writing to be an integral part of my life and I'd like my books to get published so that the ideas in my head are read and loved by others.
23 June 2018
Louise finished her second draft.
(Writing long-hand is a joy; typing up not so much...). The novel is about life after death for the grieving: on the first day of his retirement, 60-year-old George's wife, Emmeline, has a fatal stroke. Since he has devoted thirty years to making her happy, he has no idea how to live without her. But an unexpected decision by his late wife takes him in a direction he could never have imagined and the life that seemed over begins anew.
Having talked about writing a novel for decades, this is the first time I have completed a whole draft. I now plan to finish a third draft as soon as possible and submit it to agents.
Louise Tucker submits work from her third draft to our member's workshop to get feedback for her editing.
These were some of the comments she got from our writer members:
And Louise's response to her comrades:
Thank you all for such lovely feedback; the 6.30am starts for this nightowl seem much more worthwhile when I know readers are 'getting' George, and getting the story. It's so kind of you to read it. Thanks again, Louise x
In 2019, Louise decided to submit her work to some competitions and see what people thought of it. One of those competitions was the Lost the Plot Work in Progress Inaugural Prize.
In Summer 2019, The Novelry pitched her work to our agency partners. We will soon have some good news.
We are planning to celebrate with our friend this autumn. There will be champagne at the early evening time seven pm for the reformed 'night owl'.
I would like to offer my own thanks to my first ever novel finisher, Louise, for her energy, wit, warmth and generosity and to all of our members for the same spirit. We have learnt together how much each other's success is a cause for mutual celebration. It's far more fun to write together, just as I hoped it would be back in April 2017. Thank you all so much.
This teacher is more than delighted to bask in the success of her students. Happy days.
Think of the new moon as not only your fresh start, but your time of retreat — a time when you can regain your strength to begin again. The themes surrounding the new moon are new beginnings, fresh starts, and clean slates.
You should be using this time for an intense reboot. Try to envision yourself filling up — recharging under the energy of this new moon. Mentally throw all unwanted thoughts and excess junk into the trash.
To do this, it’s best to unplug and give yourself much needed alone time. You may find yourself feeling anti-social and introverted for no reason. Pay attention to these feelings and embrace them. As the moon turns its dark side toward us, turn yourself inward and away from the draining energy of others.
Don’t feel bad for cancelling plans or not wanting to call, text, or be around anyone. Turning off is the best way to make the most of a new moon.
Why not enjoy some cosy reading with our free mini-course to help you warm up to write your novel?
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