Emma Denny: My Writing Journey So Far

Emma Denny: My Writing Journey So Far

We’re delighted to welcome Emma Denny onto our blog to celebrate the publication of One Night In Hartswood! Emma shares the story behind her writing journey and winning our Romance Includes Everyone competition.


Every so often, one of those “what job did you want as a child and how does it compare to your job as an adult?” questions pops up on my corner of the internet. A lot of the responses are the same; a nostalgic reflection on childhood naivety. An astronaut. The president. A frog. Typically, the job we decided we wanted when we were seven doesn’t tend to manifest itself when we’re thirty-one.

From the moment I understood what a “job” was, I wanted to be a writer. There may have been a few months where I wanted to be a hairdresser – a phase brought about by my own hairdresser, who was lovely (hi, Kev), and paid me 20p to sweep up hair in his shop – but other than that, it was always the same. I wanted to write. I remember realising that being a writer, being someone who writes books, was a real, actual job. And then that was it. That was all I wanted to do.

I wrote a lot, filling notebooks with my scribbles. I even sent what can charitably called a manuscript off to publishers – ten pages in size twenty font about magical dolphins. Shockingly, they did not publish it, but they did send me a very nice rejection letter (“we’re not currently taking submissions”) and some stationary. A few weeks later, at the book fair, one of my friends pointed to a book about dolphins and asked if it was mine. Back then, of course, that’s how we all thought books worked: you wrote one, sent it to the Mysterious Publishers, and then they printed it.

I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen. It was for National Novel Writing Month, a challenge where you attempt to write a 50 thousand word novel in the month of November. I hit 50 thousand words with minutes to spare, although part of me hesitates to call it my first novel because, in truth, I never actually finished the thing.

I kept writing. I studied English & Creative Writing at university, desperate to be accepted with my stack of stories and bright-eyed obsession with Shakespeare. University was a struggle. I slid from fiction into screenplays. At one point, I swore I’d never write fiction again.

Until I did.

It wasn’t university that recaptured my love for writing. It was fan fiction. I found a community who encouraged me, and the ability to just write without worrying about deadlines or publishing was so freeing that I couldn’t stop. To this date, I’ve written around half a million words of fanfic, and through it I’ve met some of my very best friends.

It was fanfiction, too, that made me realise that what I truly loved – and, in fact, excelled in – was writing love stories. When I’d made an attempt at something similar at uni, I’d been graded poorly and told that it wasn’t my voice. Looking back, I wonder if the poor response was less because of my skills and more because writing romantic fiction was not the done thing if you wanted to be – horror of horrors – a Proper Writer. Clearly, they were wrong.

Writing fanfiction taught me to fall in love with writing again. Without my experience writing fic, or the endless support of those who truly, genuinely loved my work, I would never have even dreamed of entering the Mills & Boon Romance Includes Everyone competition. I certainly wouldn’t have won it. Typically, I dislike the idea that writing fanfiction is “practice” – it has its own joys and rewards, and not everyone wants to be a published writer. But I cannot deny that those half a million words gave me the experience I needed to win.

I am extremely lucky. One Night in Hartswood is the first novel I’ve ever attempted to get published – not including the one about magic dolphins. I didn’t submit it anywhere, I didn’t seek out an agent, and I didn’t spend months waiting nervously in the querying trenches for someone to acquire it. I entered the competition, and I won. Many writers – most writers – follow a far more difficult route. I’m often asked for advice on publishing, and I’m afraid I come up short because the truth is, I just don’t know. I wish that everyone could have the same luck I did.

For me, writing has always been It. There’s never been anything else I wanted to do. It’s odd, fulfilling a life goal. It leaves you with a sense of “what next” (the answer is “keep writing”), and, of course, makes you realise that achieving that life goal really is just the start. No one dreams of PR and Goodreads when their goal is to publish a book.

I’m immensely thankful to the Mills & Boon team for taking a chance on me – unknown, unpublished, with (at the time of entering the competition) less than a hundred followers on Twitter. And for everyone considering publishing, my advice is this: keep writing, write for fun, and for the love of God: keep an eye out for Twitter competitions.


One Night In Hartswood by Emma Denny

Oxford 1360

When his sister’s betrothed vanishes the night before her politically arranged marriage, Raff Barden must track and return the elusive groom to restore his family’s honour.

William de Foucart ― known to his friends as Penn ― had no choice but to abandon his intended, and with it his own earldom, when he fled the night before his enforced marriage. But ill-equipped to survive on the run he must trust the kindness of a stranger, Raff, to help him escape.

Unaware their fates are already entwined, the men journey north. But amidst the snow-capped forests an unexpected bond deepens into a far more precious relationship, one that will test all that they hold dear. And when secrets are finally revealed, both men must decide what they will risk for the one they love…

Read here!