The Writing Game: Advice From the Best | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | Video & Podcast Resources | Writers’ Tips
The Writing Game

Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin

We are slowly coming out of Lockdown, which, while it has thrown up many challenges, has produced some unexpected benefits in the form of access to some of the world’s most brilliant authors. With events cancelled and everyone at home, many festivals moved online giving unprecedented access to events that would have been impossible to get to for many viewers – the Cuirt International Festival was the first to go digital in Ireland and had many more thousands of viewers than it could have packed into festival venues. Suddenly we all became familiar with zoom and Facebook Live events but while we juggled with work and home schooling, we might not have been able to watch everything – the good news is that much of that content was recorded and can be watched back.

Despite writing for many years, and penning four bestsellers as Sam Blake, I learn something new every time I listen to an author speak. I particuarly love listening to authors who write outside my genre – what drives them, where do they find inspiration, do they plot and plan? At the start of Lockdown, my literary agent and I hatched a plan to bring much of the advice we give at events online – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Publishing But Never Dared Ask started on Friday’s at 12 noon and ran for eight weeks with thousands of viewers from all over the world, across the series. Delving into everything from what agents are looking for, to how to write a pitch, and how to write that crucial submission letter, I quizzed Simon on every aspect of the business. With resources to support every episode (you can find the videos on the Facebook page here or with the resources on here) each one hour video is packed full of tips.

Invaluable advice from Literary Agent Smon Trewin

But as well as finding out how and what to submit to agents, we wanted to talk to authors about their process and how they produced the magic, to unlock their secrets…

In The Writing Game we’ve been chatting to authors like bestseller Carmel Harrington, who askes her characters 12 crucial questions as she gets to know them (and is often surprised by the results); Costa Award winner Andrew Miller revealed how he writes and reminded writers to ensure their books are ‘original and fresh’ (I cannot emphasise enough how important this is for debut authors to consider – he literally encapsulated what is often the difference between success and rejection, in three words). Joanne Harris (from the famous shed, even with a few technical issues) told us how she aims to write 300 words a day and how her many different books form a ‘jigsaw’, Kit de Waal discussed her intricate spread sheet plotting process and how she can write scenes in any order once she has her prep done. Author of 20 bestsellers Adele Parks gets right into the heads of her characters, writing notes long hand – she recommends writing for 20 minutes a day – it doesn’t matter what – but the words will grow. Adele is the type of person people tell their secrets to, and she reads her drafts outloud at 50k words and 80k words to see if she’s heading in the right direction – and if she isn’t she stops writing! Catherine Banner (from Turin) gave us huge insight into creating worlds, discussing how much research she does and how she had to shelve an entire draft of her forthcoming book. We’ve also chatted to Publishing Director Kathryn Taussig about how Bookouture have excelled at digital sales with many of their authors selling over a million books.

Click to watch Adele here and follow the links for the other videos….


The Writing Game isn’t the only new online resource that’s emerged from Lockdown, The Society of Authors has been hosting an Afternoon Tea series with a wide range of incredible authors – from Philip Pullman and Cressida Cowell to Joanna Trollope and Lemn Sissay to Vaseem Khan and Joanne Harris – and many more. I chatted to Isobel Dixon (Director of Blake Friedman Literary Agency), Catherine Clarke (Director of Felicity Byran Literary Agency) and Lola Williams (Founder Director of New Wonder Management who represent actors) about how lockdown had affected them and their areas of the industry. With fascinating insights into what they are looking for as agents, the whole series is worth dipping into (there’s even Afternoon Tea with me!) Sometimes text is hard to concentrate on, but you can run the videos in the background and listen in while you’re washing up, so tune in and soak up tips from some of the best writers in the business.

(c) Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin

Vanessa writes crime as Sam Blake, her books include the bestselling Cat Connolly police procedural series (Little Bones, In Deep Water and No Turning Back), and her most recent stand alone, Keep Your Eyes on Me, a number one bestseller.

Check out Sam Blake’s new online writing courses here. She has created a modular course that will guide you through the process of writing your book – just choose the units you need. Find out more about her latest book at

With the bookshops open now, treat yourself to a gripping escapist read! If you prefer audio, Keep Your Eyes on Me is read by Harry Potter star Evanna Lynch, click the images for links.

You won’t be able to look away

When Vittoria Devine and Lily Power find themselves sitting next to each other on a flight to New York, they discover they both have men in their lives whose impact has been devastating. Lily’s family life is in turmoil, her brother left on the brink of ruin by a con man. Vittoria’s philandering husband’s latest mistress is pregnant. By the time they land, Vittoria and Lily have realised that they can help each other right the balance. But only one of them knows the real story…


Praise for Keep Your Eyes on Me:

I absolutely love a tale of women scorned getting revenge and this one did not let me down. I loved the escapism of it – I was living vicariously through those characters, I tell you. It was pacey and exciting and totally joyous. Jo Spain, author of The Confession

delightfully dark and satisfying thriller that had me anxiously cheering on the wronged women in their quest for revenge., Roz Watkins, author of the DI Meg Dalton series

Original, twisty and very gripping – this is a roller-coaster ride to be savoured., William Ryan, author of A House of Ghosts

You don’t know who’s manipulating whom until it’s far too late – terrific. Alex Marwood, author of The Poison Garden

Revenge is sweet in this deliciously entertaining thriller, as two women scorned aim to settle a few scores – with an ingenious plan that will have you cheering them every step of the way. TM Logan, author of The Holiday

Order your copy online here.

Sam Blake’s new book The Dark Room is out in January and available to preorder now at Eason.  

About the author

Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin is the founder of the multi-award-winning writing resources website, The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the Murder One International Crime Writing Festival. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout. Vanessa writes crime as the number one bestseller Sam Blake. Keep Your Eyes on Me is her first standalone and is out now with Corvus Books.

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