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Monday, 24 October 2016


I am often asked by people who want to write a book, how to go about it.  I mean how DO you write a book if you've never written one before? 

You go into Waterstones and pick up those thick paperbacks with the glossy covers and you turn them over and read the author's name and you wonder how the hell they ever did it.  You see them interviewed in newspapers and on TV and they seem like ordinary people, if slightly better dressed and cleaner and with their hair brushed.  So what makes them special, what makes their words worthy of publication and how do you get to be one of Them?  What arcane skill do they have that gets them on TV and in Waterstones and Smiths and on the bestseller lists, and how do you acquire that skill, and can it be done on Saturday afternoons between one and four because that's the only time you have free?

The answers, in order are: nothing, luck and persistence, reading a lot and no, not really.

Writers aren't Special People. I've met lots of them - and, indeed, am rumoured to be one myself - so I know they are just ordinary human beings who worry about getting the hoover fixed and when the car is due its MOT and where that mysterious hole came from.  'If you prick us, do we not bleed?'  Well, yes, we do, but then we make a note in our book about how it felt to be pricked, how much blood there was, and the reaction of the person who did the pricking when we punched them soundly on the nose.

Because the only difference between writers and non-writers?   Writers write things. And if the thing they wrote doesn't get accepted anywhere, they write something else.  And then send that out.  And if that one doesn't get anywhere, they write something else. Or self publish.  What they don't do is sit about telling everyone how they will be published 'one day', when they have time to write something.  Writers don't talk about writing, they do it.  Over and over.  And when they get accepted for publication, they know they are lucky.  Not better, just lucky.  They wrote the thing that person wanted and got it on the right desk at the right time.

And then they go away and do it again.  And again.  They forgo watching TV (well, most of it) and having hobbies because most of them have to go to a day job and write in their spare time, which there isn't much of if you want to watch Emmerdale, Corrie, EastEnders and the Great British Bake Off.  They sometimes have to be reminded to eat, and other times eat nothing but biscuits because they fit in that slot beside the laptop.  They drink tea and coffee to excess, because walking to the toilet is the only exercise they get.  They blink in bright sunlight because they usually don't see much of it.  But they write. 

That's how it's done, I'm afraid.  There's no magic, just bum on seat, fingers on laptop, and keep doing it until it's right. Or as nearly right as we can get it.


Terri Nixon said...

Perfect! Absolutely PERFECT! Except I do watch Corrie. Oh, and Bake-Off, and I don't have to be reminded to eat, sadly!

Sue Barnard said...

Great post, Jane. I'd love to know how they manage to get the TV interviews, though. I can only think you have to have the right sort of contacts... :-(

Chris Stovell said...

'Bum on seat" - that's it really. And of course, making sure you actually write when your bum is on the seat rather than noodling around on social media.... oops!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this!