Writing Your Novel – 5 Things I’ve Learnt


Having a book published is a surreal experience.   I was stunned to get an agent, stunned when I got a publisher and stunned when I eventually got to hold my printed book in my hand.  However, none of this can compare to my initial shock: – how on earth did I manage to write a book?  I’ve spent hours reading about how other authors write, so here are five things I’ve learnt along the way:-

  • You don’t need to know the ending before you start.   Who knew?!  I assumed I’d need to have the whole thing mapped out in my head before I started but you don’t! It’s good to have a plan but the most important thing is to make a start.  Then just see where you end up.
  • Decide if you are a morning writer or an evening writer. I love reading about other writer’s routines and I’m still looking for that ‘perfect’ schedule, though I suspect it doesn’t exist. Most of us are trying to fit writing around work/school runs/life etc. It’s no good planning to write until 1am three nights a week if you’re always snoring on the sofa at 9pm. I’m a morning writer so I did have days where I set my alarm for 5am and sat writing for 2 hours before anyone else got up (armed with lots of tea and biscuits).  I look back now and think – how did I do that? My self-discipline is appalling so if I can do it then you can do it.
  • Don’t worry too much if you can’t read when you’re writing. This was another revelation. Many writers say you need to read as much as possible to learn your craft.  This is true, but I’ve found it doesn’t always work when you’re in the depths of novel writing.  I’ve been gripped reading a book then found my own novel has the odd character that is beginning to sound remarkably familiar to one in the book I’m reading.  A solution to this is to read a completely different genre.  I very, very rarely read children’s books when I’m writing.
  • Don’t worry too much about your wordcount. I believe there are two types of writers at the editing stage. Those that are sobbing as they cut out reams and reams of writing and those that frantically trying to add more in.  I’m an adder-inner and I used to constantly stare at the word count to the point where I put a post-it note over it to stop me looking.    I’m sure it’s the same with over-writers, they’re watching that wordcount stressing about cutting lots out.  Just accept whichever you are and you can deal with it at the editing stage.
  • USE YOUR EARS So I’m saving the best until last… This is the most fundamental piece of advice I can possibly give you.  USE YOUR EARS.  I am a huge radio fan and have been fortunate enough to work for BBC Radio 2 and 4 and as a freelancer.  I may be biased but for me it is the most helpful tool I know.   Also if I’m stuck with a plot I talk and question it out loud to myself, I always read my work back and when I’m not writing I listen to the radio and podcasts as much as I can.  If you absorb those voices and stories from the radio or from others around you, it can only make your work richer and more colourful in the process.


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