How To Write A Novel


I wrote my first novel when I was eleven years old. It was called ‘They Came From…?’ and it centred around the Obbobby family who’d just landed from Mars. This, unlike Alanis Morisette’s song of the same name, is ironic because flash-forward to my adult years and I hate science-fiction with a passion. Dr Who, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Star Trek – I ducked the lot. But one thing I have carried through to my adult years is a passion to write and this has come to fruition recently, as I’ve just completed my second novel…

Ever since I was a little kid I knew I wanted to write, but procrastination has always been my close friend and there’s always enough crap telly to distract me. But lately, I’ve turned the TV off, sat down at my dining room table and put finger to keyboard. And weirdly, I found that if you sit there long enough, letters form words, words form sentences and before you know it, you’re tapping out thousands of words a day. Nearly 6,000 is my personal best so far. I’m not saying that all of those words made sense when I read them back. The point is, I’m writing. Which is still kinda surprising.

It’s a thrill to know now that I have fulfilled all of my childhood dreams – I had four when I was ten. To roll a cigarette; blow a trumpet; ride a milkfloat and write a full-length novel. Granted, the first three weren’t that lofty and I’d knocked them all off by my 15th birthday, thanks to my brother becoming a milkman for a summer, my mate Neil’s trumpet (a real-life brass number) and my Essex mates obliging with some tobacco and papers. But writing my follow-up to ‘They Came From…?’ proved elusive.

I spent my 20s playing Tetris, drinking Soave and writing tortured short stories. During my university years, I thought that you could only be a good writer if you drank red wine and smoked cigarettes as you created. In reality, this meant I lived in a permanent fog with red-stained lips and clouded brain. I did develop a taste for Australian red though.

During my 30s I took up journalism for a living and so convinced myself that I couldn’t write all day for that and then write all night for myself. I’m pretty convincing when I need to be. Sure, I started my novel, even got it two-thirds of the way done, but my major hurdle was finishing it. I was scared of finishing it because what would I do then? However it’s now or never – no more excuses. I always had a room of my own, I always had a laptop. I just never had the courage of my convictions. Until now.

But as I’m finding out, writing your novel is only the first step along the way – step two is getting it published, which I’m working on. The other tip though, as many have pointed out, is to keep on writing. Which, to my own amazement, I have. As soon as novel one was done and dusted, I got my friends to start reading it and started on book two. My first novel was eeked out over five years. My second was crafted and edited over six months – boom! Now it’s the painful publishing process. But the crucial point is, I’m still going.

But what I have learnt is that you can read a gazillion tomes on how to write, do a hundred writing exercises, limber up, work out, think about it, plan. But the key to writing a novel is to actually sit at a table with a laptop, not to be tempted to check Facebook every 15 minutes, stop watching Homes Under The Hammer and write. Sit down and write – it really is that simple. I’m still writing. I am a writer. Totes amazeballs.