Six things I’ve learned from publishing a book

It’s six weeks since I woke up a published author. SIX weeks! I can barely believe it, still – and yet I don’t rightly remember what it was like before I painted my nails to match my book cover (oft-commented on during signings, although looking a little off-season as winter looms) or wondered if anyone would even buy the book never mind like it (they have – mostly!). I can honestly say it’s been a blast, and also incredibly hard work. I’m not sure any of it has really sunk in properly but I’m hoping by sitting down with a cuppa and writing it all down, it might.

Truth is, I’ve been thinking about this post for a while and wondering what to write that hasn’t already been said a million times before by every slightly deer-caught-in-headlights debut author. I’m not sure I’ve come up with much that’s new, but as it’s my six-week anniversary, here’s six things I’ve learned – or am still learning – about being a published author:

  1. Getting your book noticed is hard. Unless you happen to strike it really lucky or know someone who can get you on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine, after any initial buzz around launch, you’ll realise that your circle of influence really is very small. Being surrounded by supportive, like minded people on social media is great, and makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something, but it doesn’t necessarily convert to sales. Writers support other writers, and they share and like your stuff on social media – but they don’t necessarily buy your book. Some do – but a lot don’t. And they follow/are followed by a lot of other writers. The snake eating its own tail, so to speak. The group of people you really want to get noticed by – readers – are a lot harder to engage, and I think it’s important to recognise that you will probably need to be a little more inventive than relying on your Twitter following to get the word out. Interestingly, though, Insta has been the relative social media front runner for me in terms of new follows and likes/shares. I was quite surprised by this and am trying to keep up momentum, although I do find it more time consuming to generate content than, say, tweeting.
  2. Reviews are important. One obvious way of getting noticed is to get good reviews. At first I thought reviews were about my ego but actually it’s nothing to do with that and everything to do with ALGORITHMS. I was on a blog tour which was great (thank you to ALL the bloggers – amazing people!) – I almost certainly sold books because of this, and combined with being part of the September Kindle Book Deal, it was a very positive first month. On Amazon I was in the top 20 for my genre (Women’s Action and Adventure) for the entire four weeks and I even got to number 1 in Audiobooks for a day! But now the blog tour is over and it’s not September anymore, I’m reliant on algorithms. The more reviews I get, the more the algorithms will love me and plonk me in someone’s ‘If you like this, you’ll love this’ suggestions box. I’ve spent a lot of time asking the people who bought my book to review my book – because it’s actually their recommendation which will make the difference, not the fact they bought the book in the first place. So if you’re reading this and haven’t left a review yet, please do!
  3. Bookshops are brilliant places. Well obviously they are. But I hadn’t truly appreciated the support they could offer, when they are really behind a product and its author. A book signing might seem like a bit of an ego trip, but actually, you have to remember that for everyone involved, it’s also good business. If you can create buzz for the bookshop, they will create it for you. I’ve met some amazing people the past month who have really made the experience magical – both independent bookshops and Waterstones. These people love books and they know their audiences and if you can just get up the courage to walk in and talk to them and sell yourself and your book, for the most part, you’ll find they are willing to listen. Ditto bookshop customers. Talk to them! They are wary at first – the look in their eye says ‘you’re trying to sell me something, so I’ll actively avoid you’ but then they remember you are trying to sell them a book and they are in a bookshop, so it’s actually okay to stop and chat. Sometimes they buy, sometimes they don’t. There’s no point in taking it personally – if it’s not their thing, it’s not their thing – but whatever the result, it is helpful to talk about your work in any capacity – and it’s also lots of fun getting to know readers at a grass roots level.
  4. Publicising your book can be a full time job. If you aren’t careful, all this ‘getting noticed’ can consume you. Between visiting bookshops, being active on social media and writing guest blogs, articles and so on, I’ve barely had time for anything else in my life this past month. I don’t know how you would do it if you had another full time job. I suppose you wouldn’t – or you’d be much better organised than me. The hard work did pay off – I have at least one event booked for every week from now until December, and so I feel like I can relax a bit now, and start again after Christmas to build momentum back up for spring/summer. How this reflects in my book sales I have no idea… and won’t for another few months yet. If indeed, I can ever measure the effectiveness of the things I’ve been doing vs. organic sales. I’m not sure how I ever would, to be honest. Blind faith it is, then…
  5. Find time to write again. Gosh, the second book is hard. Your brain is so busy congratulating itself on the first one (as it rightly should – it’s an amazing achievement!) that it tends to forget what got you there in the first place. Actual writing. I’ve realised/been told repeatedly that the best way to sell Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy would be to get a second book published. But in order to do that I have to sit down and write again, with the same commitment and energy as I did for the first one. It’s taken me a long time to get to that point; I’ll admit at one point last year during the lockdown/homeschooling horror I wondered if I’d ever be able to do it again. But getting back in the habit of writing is half the battle, and now the first book is out there, I feel I have the time to devote to creating something again, the courage to put words down and the confidence that they are going to work out just as well as the last lot did.
  6. Finally… Have a launch party. Big and brash or small and intimate, do celebrate and make some memories with the people who love you. You just published a book!!!

Mad (wo)men

With just under two months left to go until publication day, I thought I’d reflect on the journey so far. It hardly seems real, still, that my book will be in the actual shops in eight weeks’ time. The creative process has been relatively smooth sailing, if I’m honest. The hard stuff is all the rest of it!

Being published for the first time is a strange situation: you go from lolling about in your writing bubble bath to being thrown into the publishing equivalent of a lazy river, constantly wondering whether you should kick your legs a bit to influence the outcome or just go with the flow. Throughout the past six months I have been constantly second guessing whether I should be more or less assertive with my publisher, or more or less proactive; not wanting to appear a control freak or tread on any toes, and at the same time trying to prove myself a competent, commercially savvy and enthusiastic individual who wants to work hard to sell my books. As an author, you have to be calm, patient and understanding that while your book matters to your publisher, they have a million things to juggle; and accept the fact that you’re a long way from the top of the pile, and that to get that vital airspace with bookshops and bloggers and influencers to propel you a little further up the food chain means pitching yourself against authors who are better, faster, more experienced, more known, with bigger budgets and better relationships with which to gain traction. It’s not easy. And I’ve found negotiating the choppy waters is all the more difficult because, like a lot of writers out there with their first book deal, I have absolutely no idea who does what.

Google ‘how to get an agent’ or ‘how to get a book deal’ and you’ll get a million articles. Try searching ‘who does what when you publish a book’ and the answers are less consistent. It’s quite a minefield, and from conversations with other authors, appears to vary from publisher to publisher, agent to agent, and author to author. Thankfully, I have an amazing, hands on agent who’s willing to steer a rather green debut author through the confusion of their first publication. But I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone.

One thing that’s very consistent though, is that authors need to market their own books. Although I was expecting to take on a lot of the responsibility to sell mine – I’ve read a million articles telling me as much – nothing really prepared me for how much there would be to learn and to do in order to make even the tiniest dent on the consciousness of the nation. Plus, I massively underestimated the sheer quantity of time it would take. Before this month, I thought doing social media was just a case of chucking a few tweets out a couple of times a week. Now I seem to be in a constant battle between being a writer who writes actual books and a marketeer promoting the one I’ve already written.

In truth, keeping up with the demands of social media admin in order to grow my online presence, generating book signings and organising launch events has become an almost full time job. To help me get some new ideas to help with promoting the book, I went on a marketing course for authors, which was great in terms of really focusing on my brand, but also made me aware of just how much there was to do. Today, I have a spangly website and several promises of book signings, and I’m feeling rather chuffed to have increased from 300 to a massive 434 Twitter followers (please do follow me, by the way, @Writerfaye – I’d quite like to make it 500 by the end of the week). But the amount of work that’s gone into it in the past four weeks or so feels faintly ridiculous and I have begun to wonder how anyone has the time to do this and write.

There’s a rumour that publishing a book in the good old days was vastly different. Allegedly, there was a time when the publisher did all of your marketing while you quaffed champagne and signed the occasional book. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. But I do know, that as a 21st Century debut author it’s very definitely not like that – and while confusing and fairly exhausting on occasions, that doesn’t always make it a bad thing. If I wasn’t before, I am super, super invested in my book now. I am not afraid to walk into a bookshop anymore and talk to them about stocking my book, or asking about an event. It’s yielded far better results than emailing, although taken about ten times the amount of time and effort. The @womenwritersnet and @debutsuk2021 groups on Twitter have really changed how I interact and I’ve learned a lot from other writers promoting their work too.

Whether it really makes a difference or not is quite impossibly to say, at this stage. But I keep telling myself it will! And honestly, after the last year and a half, I’m so excited to talk to strangers again I don’t really care. In talking to people and putting myself out there, on social media and in real life, I feel like I’ve tapped into a new community who really cares about books and writers.

Publishing a book is long, and crazy. I’m sure I’ll look back on this post in a few months and there will have been a whole other set of learning too. But to anyone reading this and wondering, is it really worth it, I would say yes. With bells on. Writers learn for a living: every edit is a lesson in how to be better. As I see it, the end part of the process is just an extension of this. So I embrace the next few months, and cross my fingers that it all pays off. If nothing else… WHAT a ride!

The Darkest Day

I’ve been re-reading my old blog the past day or so. Some lovely, timely reminders about the lonely, sad and exhausting nature of living away from friends and family – as well as some observations about expat life and motherhood that made me giggle and miss the chaos just a little bit too. But the main thing that struck me was how alone I was during those years. I forgot just how much I flew solo, trying to cope with a small child without a support network and missing my old life so much I would ache with the misery of it. It’s not dissimilar to how many of us are feeling right now, and reading it back, I realise just how much resilience I managed to build up over that time, that’s being redeployed over and over again this year and especially during this bleak, dark winter.

Writing that blog didn’t just kickstart my career; far more importantly, it helped me to work through any number of painful or difficult moments in time when I would have otherwise felt like I couldn’t cope. I supposed it’s what inspired me to write again, today; the move into yet another lockdown, or Tier 4, or whatever you want to call it – the cruel cancellation of Christmas, the shortest and darkest day of the year, the rain, the incessant underlying stress of holding it all together for my family when really I just want a break from the utter relentlessness of it all.

I read, I write and I remember; I know the demons that will come if I let them. So I push against them; I let myself have a cry, but I don’t let myself dwell on the situation. Instead, I get on with life. I write, finally: I’ve spent long months not writing, or pretending to write, or writing but finding it so hard to be motivated. I’ve missed the flow, the smile it brings to my face when a thought or feeling invokes words on the page; but suddenly I am filled with the want, to make the words come again. I have been inspired by that person I used to be, who wrote herself through everything once before and can do it again.

This period of our lives will pass. And the realisation, from reading words I wrote nearly a decade ago, that I’ve got this, has given me the boost I needed. My first novel was born out of my time in Dubai and a difficult re-entry back to London life; my second will come from the wastelands of 2020. One day soon this terrible year will be a memory, something we refer to in passing. In place of the misery and sadness we’re surrounded by right now will be a summary phrase adopted to encapsulate the time: ‘during lockdown’ or ‘during Covid’ – and just like saying ‘when I lived in Dubai’ to people who weren’t there, it won’t seem real or relevant. But the strength that we gain, the knowledge and power we hold tightly in our fists right now as we battle against the endless ocean of personal challenge – that’s real and relevant. It’s time to wield that power and begin again, even while the days are at their darkest.

Would you Adam and Eve it? I’m the CWIP Prize 2020 Unpublished winner!

It’s been a funny old year.

Funny haha? Absolutely not. And I reckon everyone could do with a bit of a giggle right about now, because really, otherwise we’ll all go completely cuckoo. Cue Helen Lederer and team CWIP, who have been on hand almost the whole of lockdown, championing female comedy writing and getting the word out there that women are funny, and write books, and that you should absolutely read them!

Not only that, they’re supporting new writers too. And I am delighted to say that I’m the astonished, proud, excited, emotional winner of the Unpublished Comedy Women in Print Award 2020, which is not only an amazing accolade in its own right, it also means a book deal with Harper Collins! I’m going to be a PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

I don’t know any more than that at the moment, except that I’m pretty sure it’s going to be lots of work and a steep learning curve, but I’m thrilled to be getting into print and looking forward to the next part of the journey. It’s a truly incredible feeling, to think that this time next year I will have a book of my own on the shelf behind me.

And now some thank yous… Thank you to Kate at Harper Collins and all the judges for the CWIP Prize for picking me and believing in me and thank you to Davinia for being a super agent and eagle-eye editor because I would not have got this far without you. The best of luck and love to all my fellow writers who were longlisted and shortlisted. And finally, thank you especially to Helen Lederer, for creating this platform for new comedy female writers in the first place. I hope we get to party like it’s absolutely NOT 2020 eventually!

Shortlisted! #CWIP

It’s been a whirlwind of a day. I’ve lurched from the challenging and not entirely voluntary world of homeschooling a Year 5 to luxuriating in the PR frenzy that accompanied today’s amazing news that I’d reached the shortlist for the Comedy Women in Print Prize! I’m so amazed to be here and can’t quite believe I didn’t change my name to something a bit zingier before I entered my manuscript! But here I am – here it is – and now the long wait until September begins to find out if I made it to the winner’s podium. But even without scooping a prize, I’m determined to enjoy every second of the next few months – and even more determined to get the book over the line and into a publisher’s hands at last. I’m so excited and happy! And to have that feeling during day 3,457 of lockdown  is pretty magical, let me tell you.

CWIP Unpublished Shortlist Instagram

Comedy Women in Print

More on this when my feet touch the ground again… but my novel is longlisted for the 2020 Comedy Women in Print Prize and I’m so excited! All (and I mean ALL) those hours, edits, angsty hair-tearing moments are adding up to finally getting some traction and with some super company too.

I have to wait until June to find out if I’ve made it to the shortlist, but even if I haven’t this is such an amazing thing to happen!

https://www.comedywomeninprint.co.uk/2020-unpublished-authors-longlist

Unpublished Longlist (Twitter)

Lockdown

My ‘day job’ is copyediting. In some ways, right now is the perfect time to be an editor. Work might be coming in a little more slowly, but I don’t get stressed at the idea of being home alone for days and weeks on end because I do it all the time. I don’t rely on having to go to work because everything I do is virtual. Clients can still send me editing and I can still do it. They have more thinking time than they’re used to, so even if it’s not large amounts, I’m getting regular work – even from clients I haven’t heard from in ages. I recognise and am grateful to be one of a handful of people for who this isn’t the end of days, business-wise.

But with lockdown has also come the idea that as well as #wfh, you should be taking the time to explore something new, or do the things you wouldn’t normally have the time or inclination for. All over the internet, Netflix bingeing is being cast aside as people form choirs, perform comedy sketches, knit, bake, redecorate, get their sewing machines out, paint, draw, and read that book they haven’t had time to read all year. And I hopped on that bandwagon at the first sign of lockdown, too. ‘Oooo what a great opportunity to get my book written,’ I said, shortly before I realised it might just be the worst time ever.

The schools shut. The shops shut. The cafes shut. Procuring toilet roll and queuing for bread turned me into a cold war Russian housewife. As each facet of normal life was removed and replaced by the vacuousness of staying home and doing nothing, I found it more and more difficult to get started. And, as Twitter and Insta flooded with creative productivity, the guilt of being a writer of novels and not actually writing a novel grew daily.  In fact, last week, my performance anxiety was only outshone by my record levels of procrastination.

Because boy, did I procrastinate. Each day, I asked myself, really, who the hell can write a book now? It’s hard enough on the average day. And then I went off and searched the internet for wallpaper or cleaned the bathroom or answered 14,000 WhatsApp messages. One day, the only thing I did all day was clean my laptop screen so I could see Netflix better. I tried to be better. I know there will be writers out there who churn out 1000 words a day NO MATTER WHAT and say it’s the only way, but forcing myself to sit and write didn’t work for me. It never really has.

For starters, I need stimulation to get myself into the zone – and lots of it. Months of it. I’m not a writer who meticulously plots out a novel before they begin. I collect my ideas from the outside world as they happen: from travelling, conversations, observations and interactions; and somehow, that gets translated in characters or a scenes I can begin to tease a story from. I do not get ideas by staring at the same four walls of my house, homeschooling, cleaning, cooking, worrying about running out of toilet roll and missing my mum.  I did not seem to have ‘loads of time with nowhere to be and no one to see’; in fact between fielding WhatsApp messages, Zoom, FaceTime and HouseParty calls, reading and watching endless news cycles about Coronavirus and feeding/entertaining/acting as life coach/personal trainer/teacher/housemaid/cook/IT helpdesk to various other members of my household, I had arguably less time than ever.

And I was never on my own. Gone were the days where the big man went off to work and the little man went off to school and I had hours of glorious alone time to stare into space and bounce my ideas off the walls without any interruption. Before three weeks ago, if I wanted to write in a cafe, I could. If I wanted to write in my bed, I could do that to. For as little or as much time as suited me. If I wanted to eat at 3pm, or 11am, or skip food altogether because I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop, there was no one asking me what time lunch was, or if they could watch TV, or call their friends, or did I feed the cats yet, or have I seen the stapler. And I don’t begrudge my family for the interruptions. They don’t understand that to create a world I have to be inside it, really in it, and not get turfed out until I am good and ready. And on a normal day, I wouldn’t ever ask them to.

So, I gave up trying. I resigned myself to the fact that life was going to be relentlessly boring. And along with half the population, I started going running as a substitute for pretty much everything else. Just half an hour, three times a week. At first I hated it; I’ve never been a runner, I’ve never seen the point and just think it’s fast tracking my knees to hell.

But something changed while I was out the third or fourth time. I realised that, in lieu of my normal life, those 30 minutes of physical agony were the glorious, inspirational answer. I discovered that pounding the pathway by the river first thing while everyone else was still finishing up breakfast or checking their emails, I was on my own and able to inhabit a world of my own creation: my novel. I couldn’t write it while I ran – I’m not that bloody talented – but I did fix a micro-problem I’d been stuck on that meant I dashed off 2000 words in a few hours as soon as I got back; and the next run, I had my first solid vision for how the book might end – or at least where it might end up. Since then, each run has produced a new little seedling of an idea which I’ve come home and written down. And now – ten days into this new regime and six thousand words later, I’m feeling like I might actually be able to do this.

I’m not setting any goals. I’m not going to sit here and say I’ll be finished the first draft by the time lockdown is over. Mainly because I have no idea how long that is in days or weeks and I don’t want to get depressed about being socially isolated for the amount of time it takes me to write a whole book. Because writing a book takes a LONG TIME and I really don’t want us all to be locked up that long.

As a creative person, though, I reckon any output is better than none. And I also believe that creativity feeds creativity. Doing something, even if it’s small, nourishes you and encourages you to keep at it, do more, be better. And if you can’t get ideas from the outside for whatever reason, then inside is where the inspiration has to come from. It’s hard, for sure. But it is possible. And when I look back on this time and think about how I wrote a book – or part of a book – while we waited for the world to reboot, I’ll remember how creativity kept me sane and active and gave me a place of my own to escape to, and I will be proud of whatever little (or lot) I managed to accomplish.

A New Chapter

I don’t normally make resolutions but I’ll admit, 2019 has not been a prolific year and it might be time to start thinking about putting one or two out there. I look back with a certain amount of shame at the lack of new writing I’ve produced this year. I’ve been preoccupied, that’s true: In January I’d attracted an agent but wasn’t sure they were right for me; by March I’d decided to self publish; by May, I had found ‘the one’ and signed with her, but the ink wasn’t dry until July. Then followed another edit over the summer before my manuscript finally went out on submission at the end of September. A couple of (hugely positive) rejections later and suddenly it is Christmas again. In between times, I’ve had a couple of creative spurts and managed to pump out the first quarter fifth of a new novel, but mainly I’ve been focused on my copyediting business and since my brief period of productivity at the start of November, have managed to studiously ignore the first draft sat waiting patiently for me to finish it.

The start of another new year feels like the time to change all that. And I need to change if I want to be successful. I’ve got an editor who wants to see my next book even though this one wasn’t right for them. I’ve got an agent who believes in me and wants to get more of my work out there as quickly as possible. I’ve got the little voice in my head wondering if I really got a Masters degree in writing so I could spot typos in business reports, or whether I got it so I could write books and get published. The answer is obvious, and you’d think I’d be champing at the bit, but procrastination (and not a small amount of fear) surrounds me like a thick, cloying fog. It’s a little bit annoying, if I’m honest. I’ve never been a great completer-finisher but I thought I’d broken the cycle when I finished my first novel. I realise now that finishing the first book wasn’t the end, it was only the end of the beginning. And, if I’m serious about being an author, I have to treat the job seriously, believe that I can do it and, above all other things, make time for it.

I’ve been time-poor this year – or rather, I’ve been extremely poor at managing my time. It’s meant a lot of things have suffered, not just my writing. I’ve found myself increasingly running from pillar to post, always a few beats behind where I should be. It’s taken its toll on my sleeping, my mood, my creativity, my family and my home, and I know (because my self-conscious is screaming at me) that it’s time to put the brakes on and figure out a new strategy.

I cannot do it all. I cannot have it all. That was 2019: working from dawn til dusk and not really accomplishing anything very much. And I’ll admit, it’s not been a memorable or particularly enjoyable year from that perspective. Next year, I need to figure out how to utilise my time best so that I’m not sacrificing things I love for things I have to do, and so that I still have white space too. And in terms of writing, I’m going to have to be stricter and smarter about it than before, and bed down and put the work in without taking the joy away from this wonderful and precious thing I do.

My son is a extraordinarily talented musician but, as I’m fond of reminding him, he got extraordinary through talent, self belief and hard work. You can’t succeed at anything without working harder and smarter. But it needs to feel fun too. 2020 needs to bring about a bit of self discipline and a lot of positivity and change, in order to have a more creative, productive writing year and get out of the bad writing habits I’ve formed in 2019 (the principal one being not writing). But it also needs to be fun.

So that’s my resolution for 2020. Write harder, write smarter and have fun doing it. (And with a bit of luck, land a publishing deal). Happy New Year! Fx

pexels-photo-3401900.jpeg
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

That difficult second album

It’s been a funny six months since I got my literary agent. Time seems to have slowed down, or is passing in larger chunks, I’m not sure which. I no longer speak about the process of writing in weeks, but in months, or years even. At a micro-level, things are happening. My first novel has been edited once more (with feeling!) and safely delivered to my agent. She loves it. I love it. It’s gone, out of the door, on submission to publishers; all I can do now is wait, anywhere between four weeks and four years, to find someone else who enjoys it enough to put it into print.

In the meantime, my agent asked me what I was going to do next.
‘The sequel’, I said. Easy. I have an outline of the next book in the series, and in my head, it seemed like the natural next step to start writing it. Just incase I get a two-book deal, my inner voice mutters hopefully. I am more subtle with my out loud voice. ‘That makes, sense, right?’
‘Do you have any other ideas to pitch?’ she replied, indicating it didn’t. I ran through my library of half-started/half-finished novels: a middle grade ghost story, a YA fantasy, a fully blown sci-fi novel that’s been in my head for about five years now. But I knew none of that would be useful to an agent that’s just signed me to write commercial women’s fiction.

‘I have one idea,’ I ventured. ‘But it’s literally a single sentence.’ And I pitched her a thought I’d had in a particularly dark, hormonally driven moment a few months ago that hasn’t gone away. A back of a fag packet idea that I had no notion of how to execute on.

Of course, she loved it. I mean, REALLY loved it. ‘I LOVE that idea,’ she said. ‘You have to write it. Now.’
‘But I don’t have a clue what it’s about. I literally have just that one idea.’
‘You’ll get there. Go away and think about it over summer. I can’t wait to read it.’

16uwxlSummer lasted quite a while as far as I was concerned. July and August were spent reading lots of commercial fiction, because the voice I wanted for this book, I knew, would be in stark contrast to my first novel. Not all women’s commercial fiction is created equal and there’s a startling range of writing styles, some of which I’d really rather never read again. But a few stood out as the sort of book I wanted to give a go; Elinor Oliphant, Three Things About Elsie plus half a back catalogue of Liane Moriaty later, I knew what I wanted my book to feel like, even if I didn’t have a story yet.

I waited, patiently, for inspiration to hit. The one idea played in my head like a broken record and I was sure that I had the rest of it tucked away somewhere, but August became September and still, I had nothing. The terror of putting pen to paper and coming up with anything close to meaningful began to overshadow my ability to write and by October, procrastination and self doubt had crept so far into my head that I’d given them house keys and a drawer. Since July, I’d written approximately 5000 words, with no direction or real sense of what the story was at all.

I don’t know why today was different. I’d been on Twitter, the writer’s equivalent of prozac, and got lost in a series of posts and articles that I could vaguely pass off as research. But then suddenly, an idea popped into my head. And it was so obvious, and so easy, that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. What sweet relief! Suddenly all the other ideas began to arrive and I began the glorious business of putting together a plot. By midday, I had a couple of A4 pages that were starting to look suspiciously like a story.

Writers talk a lot about their process. Articles – indeed, entire books – have been devoted to the subject of how to write. My MA peers, when we meet, represent the entire gamut of book writing methodology, from blow by blow post it note plotting, to 1000 words a day for the whole of November NO MATTER WHAT, to my rather less precise notion that I’ll write when I have time and the mood takes me and the ideas will happen when they happen.

I had begun to doubt my own process, believing, quite wrongly, that I should be ‘better’ second time around, about the structure and methodology of writing a novel. Turns out that I should trust my instincts. It took me 40 years to come up with the idea for the first book, and only six months to come up with second. I’m on a roll.