It was well worth the effort. Not only did I get to rub shoulders with some impressive authors, agents and editors, but I also attended various workshops that helped get me back thinking about how to make my book 'the' one for publication.
Earlier this year, I submitted my novel (currently titled Sister Swap, previously More to Life, previously the Sisterly Conspiracy, previously the Golden Rule...can you tell I have trouble choosing titles?) to the RNA's New Writers Scheme. For the bargain price of £103, you get membership to the RNA and a full critique of your entire manuscript. Although the feedback is anonymous, you are guaranteed to be read by someone who knows what they're talking about. I received about four pages of written feedback plus comments all over my first three chapters. Excellent. I have been rewriting it in the odd minutes my baby sleeps but have since come to the conclusion that I need something more...
And that's a hook. A really good, grabbing hook that means any agent or editor who looks at my cover letter not only goes 'hmm...' but 'wow'. So far, I am sorry to say that this has not been the case.
I don't think there's anything terribly wrong with my book. I think it's quite funny, interesting and light. But it's not a first novel. Not yet, anyway. So, I have to decide whether to rehaul it (current options include shelving an entire character, and hence a third of the book) or starting over.
I have a lot to think about, but I'm determined to remain positive. After all, if I can come up with a good enough hook and a new book, perhaps Sister Swap can be my second novel...? :)