For the past three months, I haven’t given my little drawer in the internet much attention. It’s grown dusty and well that smell is not going to take care of itself, so I feel I should explain my obvious neglect. I have written a new book. For those of you who’ve read my previous writing posts, particularly the one about my trip to the London Book Fair ( So my Date With An Agent at the London Book Fair 2017 went like this…) you’ll know that I’ve been hitting a regular brick wall with my first novel (more to come on that), but suffice to say the most frequent advice agents have given me, is to write something else.
When I eventually stopped hyperventilating, I did just that, but not entirely of my own volition. The decision was made for me, by a detective I had encountered only in passing. Let me explain. I’d had the idea for a supernatural crime thriller two years ago. Then in February 2016, I wrote a chapter and left it to one side. I just wasn’t feeling it. It was like putting a dish into a cold oven – it was never going to cook and so I took it out and put it back in the freezer, in the hope it would last until its sell by date.
When I went to London, I shook the icicles off it, in case I was asked what ideas I might have for other stories. I had no plan to write it. I was busy writing the sequel to my first novel. I was sticking to my guns and my vampires – digging my heels in – that my book deserved to find its audience outside of market trends. I met a fellow writer friend for coffee, filled her in on my semi-disastrous London trip and told her my pitch. She liked it a lot and from the moment I left her, the notion started to thaw and with it came a charging horde of ideas.
I didn’t want them. I was driving home, blaring the car radio in an attempt to distract my brain. They couldn’t come now. The first book had taken me years to write and I was knee deep already in another. But they wouldn’t be ignored. By the time I got home, I knew all sorts of random things about my detective – my very own detective – and I knew I had to do something. I could hear him in my head – the way he spoke, his American accent. I could hear the pain and regret. He was prodding me from the inside, forcing me to listen, happy to drive me insane if I didn’t let him speak.
So I set myself a goal, beginning the next morning:
First draft – 1,000 words a day, seven days a week = complete in 3 months
I started it on April 1st and finished it July 1st. 80,542 words of a first draft. I had given the Scrivener app a whirl (thank you Bestseller Experiment!) and it proved to be a great tool. Goals work for me and Scrivener allowed me to track progress as I worked towards 80k words and also set a daily goal. To see the bar fill up each day gave me a daily sense of achievement and soon the progress bar on my novel was half way across. It’s amazing if you’re writing every day, how quickly that will happen.
I didn’t know if I could write a modern supernatural mystery – I have lots of procedural detail to add and sculpting to do from here – but I think the story is pretty solid and I’m completely taken with my new cast of characters. My detective is going to be with me a long time.
While ‘write something else’ was the last thing I wanted to hear in London, it may have been the best advice I’ve ever received. Will I find success with this one? It’s anyone’s guess, it’s early days, but I know that I can write faster now and better on the first draft than I had before. So what happens next? Well it goes to rest in a darkened room for at least a month, maybe two. I already know most of the things that need tweaking in terms of plot and I’m looking forward to diving back in but I need a little distance from it so I can do it properly.
What’s surprised me though, is how it has reinvigorated my intentions for my first book. I wondered whether it would be the one I consign to the bottom drawer – the doomed first novel – but that’s not the case. Only last night, my head was spinning with ideas for the rest of my partially written sequel, so I shall go back to that. And the first? Well lets just say I have a few campfires lit in various outposts. I will share news when I can.
Knowing that I have more than one book in me is amazing and empowering. Could I write a book every year? I certainly like to think I could. By this time next year I could have three books ready to be picked up or indeed published myself.
So fellow writers, hold onto your ideas. They will revisit you when you least expect them and when they demand your attention, listen to them for they could just be the one you’ve been waiting for.