Author releases novel at 20 after overcoming Covid – and shares tips for writers

A self-confessed bookworm released her debut novel at the age of 20 – and she's got tips for others looking to follow her lead.

Martha, AKA MJ Woodman, has been enchanted by books ever since she was a young child.

She felt drawn to dystopian tales like Suzanne Collins' popular Hunger Games series and decided to get to work on her own writing.

After starting out by penning haikus at school, she soon progressed to longer stories.

Remarkably, before turning 21 she's self published her first book called Divine.

Martha was able to get the alternative-history novel finished despite catching severe Covid in recent months.

And Martha hopes sharing her tips will help others to achieve their publishing dreams too.

She said: "I think most bookworms have considered writing their own book at least once in their lifetime.

"Since I started writing at such a young age, I didn’t possess many of the inhibitions or fears that most adults do before embarking on the long, weary process of writing a novel.

"I was oblivious to the challenges of writing a novel, including the time and the dedication it would require.

"Nor did I consider that anyone might read my novel other than myself and a close circle of friends and family.

"I threw myself blindly into the deep end and experienced a steep learning curve over my seven years of writing Divine."

She added: "I wrote the book that my thirteen-year-old self would have liked to read, and that was always something I kept in the back of my mind throughout the writing process.

"I wanted this to be a book that children like me would enjoy as I had enjoyed novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Red Queen, amongst others.

"I hoped to recreate the escapism that books provided me throughout my childhood."

Martha urges others to write about what they are passionate about and believe in themselves.

By doing this, you're much more likely to complete the project you're working on.

Martha said: "The best advice I can give is to keep writing and believe in your story.

"A first draft is never perfect, and one of the greatest challenges that I have personally faced as an author was accepting that a lot of time, you won’t like what you write and learning to persevere and complete your story nevertheless.

"The magic comes with the editing, and many authors fail to carry their stories to this point, which is a real shame.

"It is hard to learn anything from a half-written story that no one will ever read.

"I believe it’s important to receive feedback, positive and negative, for you to mature as a writer, no matter how daunting that might be.

"The best advice I have ever been given is to write what you want to read rather than hopping onto the current trends and tropes in literature.

"If you are passionate about your story and genre, that will inevitably reflect in your writing."

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Divine is out now on Amazon and Apple Books – click here to buy.

MJ Woodman's debut novel is a Young Adult fantasy set in a world where the Roman Empire never fell.

The story follows Protagonist Electa Steel, a Plebeian, who lives a simple life in a Haven, a society shelled by an invisible force, until her seventeenth birthday, where the annual Choosing threatens to tear her world apart. Strange circumstances lead her to be Chosen, to live in her society for the remainder of her life, however, this year, she is one of five girls that will compete to become the next Empress of Latia, her homeland.

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