On writing books


I have written nine books (almost – the ninth needs another 5,000 or so words to complete it). That’s a lot of words – roughly a million of them all up, counting the ones that didn’t make it past the first edit. Two of them have been published. Just two.

Why? I hear you ask.

Well, there’s a story there – isn’t there always?

I love writing fiction. I love the fact that I might be doing anything, and suddenly an idea comes to me. If I remember it when I get to a notebook, I jot it down, and if it still seems like a good idea a few days later, I start asking myself questions to expand the kernel of the idea and see if there is enough about it to make a book. If there is, I start researching, reading, thinking, jotting notes, dreaming up characters, imagining story arcs, plots, sub plots, twists and turns, themes…

Often I don’t start writing for several months, but when I do, the words come thick and fast because so much time and energy has already gone into the story. Often, a first draft is down in three or four months. I leave it for a month, mourning the fact that the initial writing is finished and I’ll never go on that particular journey of discovery again. I pine, mope, snap at the dogs, try to take an interest in the family, when what I really want to do is hang out with my characters a bit more.

And then I do a read through and a first edit. I look for places where the pace drops, or a character does something out of character. I search for the themes and strengthen them, I check that all the scenes are necessary and cut those that don’t move the plot forward (I cut 16,000 words from Never Laugh at Shadows), and generally tidy the book up.

And by then, usually I’ve had another idea, and I’m researching for a new story, giving birth to new characters who I want to hang out with, and the old book sits waiting for another edit, and another, and another. So I have seven manuscripts in varying stages of readiness sitting in the metaphorical bottom drawer.

One of my writerly friends has banned me from writing another book until the others are edited and ready to send out to publishers. I know she’s right, it’s the sensible thing to do, but I’m days away from finishing Annie’s War, and I’ve already got this really interesting idea for another book…

Happy Holidays, one and all xx


One response »

  1. Noooo…. before you consider starting another book, you have a VERY important edit to do. A VERY IMPORTANT EDIT.

    After this particular edit, if you identify that your purpose for writing is the process rather than publication, then starting another manuscript before the current is quite complete isn’t a problem. But if you identify that your purpose is to be published, then it might be a bit of an issue…

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