What I’ve learnt from writing three novels in three years
'If you want to know yourself, write a book...' or so the saying goes. After having written three novels in under three years, I can honestly say that’s true. When you lock yourself away for hours at a time each day for months on end, you become very comfortable with your own company. But you also discover strengths and weaknesses that you didn’t realise you had. It was only after I’d emerged from my three-year, novel-writing hiatus, that I had a chance to take stock and look back. Here are a few of my learnings...
1. Writing Is Not Just About Talent
There’s a common misconception that writing is all about talent and while that certainly helps, it’s more about commitment. During the writing of The Good Mother, The Home, and The Perfect Lie, there were days when I simply did not want to sit down and write 1500 words, but I knew if I didn’t, I wouldn’t meet my publisher’s contracted deadline. So while passion, motivation, and talent can take you far, I’ve learnt that developing the discipline required on a daily basis is what really gets you across the finish line.
2. Planning Prevents Writer’s Block
Having written three books, I’ve learnt a thing or two about my own writing approach and if there’s one takeaway to share it’s this: the more I plan and research at the beginning, the easier it is when it comes to writing the book. Now, this isn’t the case for every author and I know there will be some people reading this, thinking, ‘absolutely not - it happens organically!’ While that may be true for some people, it wasn’t the case for me and moving forward I’ll be spending at least 20 - 30 per cent of my time in the planning phase.
3. Social Media Was A Lifeline
Once I’d stopped using social media as a way to procrastinate (the only way was to put a block on it during my writing time), I became very aware of just how useful social media is in connecting people when you’re locked away writing. Sometimes I went for long periods without having a conversation so the various Facebook groups and pages made up of readers and authors was a fantastic support in terms of advice, information, and book recommendations. A particular shout out goes to the UK Crime Book Club whose administrators and members always ensured a friendly welcome and lots of info.
4. Hard Work Pays Off
Finishing one book, never mind three, is an absolutely exhilarating feeling and while it’s quite strange not to have your novel as part of your daily life anymore, the relief and sense of achievement at sending the book off to your publisher is indescribable. You’re high on adrenalin. You’re excited. For the first time in months, you feel a sense of freedom! You then calm down slightly, sleep a lot, before entering a period of anxiety as you wait for your publisher’s feedback...but that’s a whole different blog post. Either way, you’ve completed a book and no one can take that away from you. So I’ve learnt hard work does pay off, so go ahead and celebrate every milestone.