Skip to main content

Emma Hughes, author of No Such Thing As Perfect, tells us about her writing career and shares some pro tips.

How and when did you get into writing and have you taken any formal writing courses?

Like most authors, I was a child who always had her nose in a book, and I knew I wanted to write something from the word go. I studied English, and in my twenties, I did an MA in Creative Writing – to be honest, I’m not sure if it helped me much in terms of becoming a writer, though I know lots of people do find formal study and the opportunities for mentorship that it provides incredibly useful. For me, reading was always the most important thing in getting the gears turning: coming across authors who were doing things I loved and admired.

What inspires you to write and what do you love writing about?  

I read anything that wasn’t nailed down when I was growing up: lots of books by and about women, but also authors like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, and a fair bit of detective fiction too. I’ve always been incredibly interested in the comedy and tragedy of relationships – the muddles that people get themselves into trying to find love, and the gulf between their inner and outer selves.

How did you hear about the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and what made you enter?    

In 2019, after spending the best part of a decade trying and failing to get past the first chapter of a novel, my New Year’s resolution was to finish a first draft of one in a year. I’m a journalist in my day-to-day life, and I knew that having a ‘deadline’ would be massively helpful – something to force me to finish a certain amount of words by a particular date. So I started searching for competitions that might fit the bill, and The Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize did, perfectly!

How did you feel when you were selected for the longlist and then the shortlist?

I quite literally fell off my chair when I got the email about the longlist: I was in the office, and I screamed so loudly that my manager said she thought someone had died. It had never in a million years crossed my mind that I might get anywhere with it. The shortlist email came through when I was on a work trip to Seattle – it was about six in the morning there and nowhere was open, so I raided the hotel minibar for a celebratory breakfast of miniatures and biscuits, before promptly falling back asleep and missing my first meeting of the day. (NB to any editors reading this, I am much more professional now).

Has being involved with the Fiction Prize helped your writing career?    

It changed the course of my life. After being shortlisted, I had offers of representation from four agents, in spite of not having actually finished my manuscript – something I’d never imagined would happen in my wildest dreams. I also felt for the first time like I had ‘colleagues’: I became part of an incredibly warm and supportive community of past and present longlistees and shortlistees. It all gave me so much more confidence in what I was doing, which I sorely needed. 

What advice would you give other aspiring writers about their writing careers and then more specifically about entering the Fiction Prize?

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good: get a first draft down as quickly as you can, and ignore that voice in your head that says it’s embarrassing and terrible and you should just give up on the entire thing. Most of the good stuff comes in the second, third, fourth and even fifth drafts. And if you’re thinking about submitting your opening chapters, do it! Even if you haven’t finished your manuscript and aren’t completely sure where it’s going. You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. Finally: if you’re wrestling with a particularly troublesome chapter, buy a big block of Cathedral City and every time you finish another hundred words go to the fridge and shave a slice off for yourself. You deserve it. 

Emma HughesEmma is on Twitter @emmahdhughes and you can visit her website here.

Her novel No Such Thing As Perfect was published in August 2021 by Century.

No Such Thing As Perfect book cover

The 2022 Lucy Cavendish Cavendish Fiction Prize is now open for entries

Visit the Fiction Prize website