Grudges cast long shadows. Things from the past affecting today form the basis of many a great story. Anything you can use here? And bear in mind that a character’s development takes time. Eileen has become awkward because she has become fed up with being “used”. The Witch wants to take the Kingdom to avenge slights, real and imagined, on her family by the fairy royals. The Witch “forgets” her own family attacked the royals, naturally the royals were going to fight back.
Have your characters got enough to play for? Their ambition has got to be strong enough. It’s no good just wishing for something to happen. Have they the means, or the ability to find the means, to achieve t hem? What will they do to achieve them? Have they got limits? Can they see to the end of the road? Do they know where they want to end up?
Your World History
Does your setting have a history, which may well affect your characters? The Fairy Kingdom has a history of wars between witches, wizards and fairies, leading to barren areas, which in turn is leading to overpopulation in certain parts of the realm. This led to Eileen suggesting the more responsible magical beings living, in disguise, on other worlds. She got shouted down yet she knows this issue won’t just go away no matter how much the Queen and Council try to ignore it. Has your world got issues it needs to face? What is its system of government? If your world seems real to you, it should seem real to your readers. And every world has to be run by someone - someone with a past, character traits that can benefit the realm/cause it great problems. There’s got to be some great stories in that!
Write What You Want to Write
Write what you want to write. Don’t try to aim for something that’s currently popular as by the time your MSS is ready, the publishing world will be well on to the next big thing and probably the one after that too. Have in mind an ideal reader for your work. If you can picture one, you can picture a market for your work, something to bear in mind when drafting a submission letter to an agent or publisher.
Use speech appropriate for your characters. I make L’Evallier speak in a very formal way. He will never use abbreviations such as I’ll, it is always I will. The Queen, by contrast, generally speaks formally but when stressed lets some abbreviations leave her lips. This also confirms it is the Chief Elf who’s the real snob in the realm. Do your characters speak the same way to everyone they meet? They shouldn’t. We don’t. I love writing about Eileen mainly because she doesn’t have a problem with hypocrisy. This shows up in her dialogue. While Eileen is not formal at all, she speaks as formally as she is going to get with the Queen, attempts but fails to browbeat her daughter, and bosses everyone else, usually successfully but even there she is more wary with L’Evallier, partly as he is an ally, partly because she knows if anyone will tell her where to go it will be him.
Do your characters have habits? Traits they’re not conscious of but which others observe? Details like that add to your novel. Eileen has a reputation for eccentricity due to her name change, defection, and she wears seperates, not traditional fairy costume, all of which I’ve drip fed into the books.
Expect a long hard slog to publication. Don’t give up. If it comes to it, consider self publishing but don’t go down the vanity route - it will backfire. People in the industry know who these companies are and will avoid your work like the plague. Better to take a long time and get it right.
Go to the writing conferences. They’re good fun, you learn a lot and you may make useful contacts. And yes it can help make you feel like you are a “proper” writer, something the unpublished relish from time to time - or at least this one does.
Keep receipts for stationery etc. If you need to prove to the Inland Revenue, you are a writer, albeit part time, you need the evidence for it! Going to conferences backs this up too, as does subscribing to professional writing magazines.
Joining Professional Bodies
If there’s a professional body relating to your genre, consider joining it. I must admit to not having joined the British Fantasy Society as yet, partly due to my writing grown-up fairy tales (would it be considered viable?), but am not ruling it out.
Getting Feedback (and not from family and friends)
Get an unbiased opinion on your work. Friends/family can’t help there but there are numerous editorial services available. I used the Hilary Johnson service and their report was fine but there’s a good list in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Most have websites giving further details of what they do.