Case study: Claire Wade
From TLC:ACE Free Reads to national competition winner

Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition 2018. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn’t do what she wanted; her only escape was through her imagination. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she’s deeply familiar with.

Her debut novel, The Choice, is published in July 2019 by Orion.

Tell us about your forthcoming novel, The Choice.

The Choice is about a woman living in a world where sugar is illegal and baking is a crime. A matriarchal society has instigated strict food rationing, supermarket weigh-ins and enforced exercise classes, all in the name of health and happiness. The Choice focuses on the themes of societal judgment and the daily pressure on women, as well as exploring government control and their role in our decisions.

I love to bake and use it as a way to relax, but I have been interested in the current discussions around diet, obesity and the sugar debate. I’ve been working on the story for a few years and it’s alarming how the current political and social climate is foreshadowing the world I’ve created.

How was your experience of entering, and winning, the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition?

I have entered a few writing competitions over the years, including the Escalator Talent Development Scheme. I like having my work out in the world and competitions are a great way to reach different people, opening up new opportunities.

Before the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition I had reached long and shortlists but never quite made it. I used the feedback I got from each competition to help me revise my story, so I was ready when I saw the article in Good Housekeeping. I entered the competition in March and promptly forgot all about it.  I received an unexpected call in May to tell me I had won and that I was going to be published by Orion, with representation by Amanda Preston from LBA Books.

I still can’t quite believe I won. I couldn’t tell anyone about the competition or book deal until the magazine came out in August, so there was a lot of waiting. It was a huge relief when everyone knew and I could talk about everything. The response to my win has been amazing, everyone is really supportive and excited.

How do you feel that taking part in the TLC:ACE Free Reads scheme helped you to develop both your manuscript and as a writer?

The TLC Free Read was a crucial step in the development of my writing and my manuscript; I felt I had taken both as far as I could on my own, but now I was ready for help to get to the next stage. I have ME which severely limits my energy and physical ability. It means that accessing a service like TLC is really difficult. The TLC Free Reads scheme that runs in partnership with the National Centre for Writing was essential for me to get the editorial feedback I needed.

Up until my TLC report, only friends had read my manuscript. Allowing a professional editor to see my work was both terrifying and exciting. The critique helped me to look at my work with fresh eyes, decide what I wanted to keep and what I felt I could improve on.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Writing is a process that can’t be rushed, however much you want to skip the hard parts. With every delay, every setback, you have the opportunity to learn something new, something that can enhance your writing and make you more prepared for being published. I’m still learning so much, there are new challenges now that I’ve got the book deal and I’m in the middle of my structural edit. If you love writing then stick with it, because the rewards are worth it. You can never guess when or how your breakthrough will come, you just have to keep putting yourself out there until you make it.

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