I think we all know who Wiz Wharton is by now. We all know that Ghost Girl, Banana will be Hodder’s major launch debut in Summer of 2023. Being part of the awesome online writing community means we can all celebrate her success. Not least of all because it means dreams can come true. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person! Despite her busy schedule, Wiz took time out to answer my questions.
Read on for Part II of ‘A word from Wiz’:
IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE, LIST 5 THINGS YOU ATTRIBUTE TO YOUR SUCCESS IN FINDING AN AGENT AND SECURING A PUBLISHING DEAL:
1. Persistence, experience and constant learning: I've been writing for a long time. Not always successfully. I think you have to accept that the best authors make an extremely hard skill look easy and I'm always trying to improve. Part of that is giving yourself permission to write badly at first. No one has to read that crappy first draft (probably not even my agents!!) so really let it rip and then edit afterwards. You should also try to be consistent in adopting a writer's mindset. That's not to say you have to write every day because sometimes that just isn't an option, but I do think you should be constantly curious. Make notes. Look for the telling detail; the throwaway tic that reveals a person. See and question everything.
2. Resilience: I don't think it's a secret that this business is brutal. You have to take a lot of rejection, and that doesn't stop once you get an agent. You constantly have to impress: editors, acquisitions teams, readers, reviewers. It's important to remember that you'll never please everyone, nor should you, but you do have to learn not to take it personally which is a lot harder than it sounds sometimes! And you have to be in it for the long-haul. I've been writing long-form for ten years, and it's only recently that I've cracked that ceiling.
3. Read. A lot: And not only in "your" genre. I know we hear this all the time, but the best training for being a writer really is to immerse yourself in storytelling. If you find a book you love, read it a second time, analyse why you love it and try to adapt the techniques in your own writing. Francine Prose's "Reading Like a Writer" is excellent on this point.
4. Keep the Faith: Publishing isn't always a meritocracy, but if you honestly believe you have something important to say, and the skill to communicate that to the wider world, then you will be heard eventually. For a long time it was very much the case that marginalised voices weren't getting the attention they deserved. That shortfall is being addressed now, and though there's still a long way to go before there's true equality in the industry, I do think the demand for alternative stories is being led by readers in a very real way. I grew up never recognising myself in the books I read, and so as a writer, that's become a crucial part of my voice, whether it's the Chinese/Eurasian experience, or the older woman experience, or mental health or whatever.
5. Find a support network: I wrote for a long time in isolation and it wasn't until I found and connected with a group of like-minded individuals that I really understood how much I needed it. Groups like the #VWG on Twitter have given me an enormous boost, not just in terms of beta readers, but emotional support, laughter and genuine friendship. We celebrate each other's successes, commiserate over the bad times, and generally just share everything via terrible gifs!
A LOT OF WRITERS DREAM OF SECURING AN AGENT AND PUBLISHING DEAL - DOES THE REALITY MATCH EXPECTATION?
My novel isn't out in the world yet, but so far, absolutely. Much as the writing should be and was an end in itself for me, having that outside validation and finally becoming a published author is seriously brilliant. It is, however, a very personal journey and your mileage may vary. I was extremely lucky to get six offers of representation from six agents I absolutely wanted to work with, but I know not all writers are in this position. Things can and do go wrong in both the client/agent and the publishing relationship, but so far I've been fortunate to have had only the best experiences. Publishers liked my book, and backed it with incredibly generous offers which has given me more freedom, but this also doesn't always happen. And it might not happen with my second novel. You're always slightly working in the dark with these things, and ultimately all you can do is write the best book you can. Everything else is out of your control. But good communication is definitely part of the equation too and can head off a lot of potential problems, so be professional and keep talking to your representatives if there's ever anything you're not sure about. I will say, however, that it's a lot of hard work once you're on the treadmill, with a lot of expectation, so it's also important to take care of your physical and mental well-being. Being published isn't a cure for insecurity!
It's inspiring to read about Wiz's journey. Great advice, too. Success does NOT come easy. Time, resilience, and a constant desire to achieve. Always learning. Forever growing. Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment that I'll pass on to Wiz.
Thank you for reading!