A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Ten things I’ve learnt about writing novels

Ten things I’ve learnt about writing novels:

1. It’s quite hard, and not that fun.

2. The amount of times you have to read your book, to make sure it’s consistent, and grammatically correct (ish in my case, as I allow my character’s voice to affect the book’s grammar), with believable characters and no plot/logic holes, and so there is variety in the first and last lines of chapters, and so the narrative doesn’t drag or move too fast, and – importantly – so the reader actually gives a toss what happens to your imaginary people, and believes in the place you have created with words, all the while not repeating the same words – as that is amateurish – and not using cliches of phrase or character – as that makes other writers hate you – and all the other things you have to consider, while tired and hungry and wanting to go outside to play with your friends, the amount of times you have to read your book is NUMEROUS. (Which is why it’s a good job that most writers love reading.)

3. Writing novels doesn’t kill, but it does dampen your love for reading. Reading is no longer relaxing. It is work, as you analyse the failings and successes of the book you hold so as to replicate or avoid them.

4. There is a wonderful moment, that you may have to wait a long time for, when the story you are telling becomes real in your head. You are no longer blindly making it up, instead you are trying to work out exactly how it came to be that way. It is like uncovering something. Like the story was there, living inside you, and you knew it all along. It is a slightly mystical process, that makes you sound silly to talk about.

5. It’s quite fun, and not that hard.

6. Naturally anxious people shouldn’t do it. They haven’t the correct temperament.

7. Some of the most naturally anxious people I know, write novels.

8. Everything finds its place. For a while, you may have character A saying a certain line, or getting their collar bone broken, before realising that – duh! – character A would NEVER say that, or put themselves at such risk to break a bone. That is more character B’s territory. This is when you’re in the fun bit of writing. Some less sophisticated brutes than me might call it THE ZONE. When the story has become real to you, and it is like doing a complicated word game that you really care about, and are sort of friends with.

9. Writers are neurotic.

10. Neurotic is another word for mad.

Chelsey-Flood-225x300C.J. Flood
C. J. Flood grew up in Derbyshire. She has since lived in Cornwall, Tignes Les Brevieres, Norwich and Berlin, but her family farm in Derby is the place that keeps her heart. So beloved is it, that she stole it as the setting for her debut novel, INFINITE SKY. Published by Simon and Schuster on Valentine’s Day this year, INFINITE SKY has received glowing reviews from the Guardian, The Telegraph and The Times, as well as book bloggers from all over the world. C. J. currently lives in Bristol, where she is working on her second novel, to be published in February 2014.

The Guardian
The Telegraph
The Times

2 comments on “Ten things I’ve learnt about writing novels

  1. dansmithsbooks
    April 24, 2013

    Point 4 was in the running for being my favourite . . . then I reached 6 and 7. So right. Going back to point 4, though, I know exactly what you mean about the moment when the story becomes real and you’re no longer making it up. Reaching that point where you feel as if you’re relating actual events is always a happy break through.

  2. chelseyflood
    April 25, 2013

    It’s a marvellous moment, isn’t it? It’s hard to keep writing before you get to that point, you don’t believe it’s ever going to become real to you, and then – without warning – it has.

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