What I've Learned About Writing

Amy Green 2: Summer Secrets and The Loving Kind (adult novel - about plastic surgery and ghost-writing pretty much) are both out next week and I'm bricking it. Most writers worry terribly that their books will:

a/ not be on the shelves at all - lost in transit or stuck in a box at the back of the shop (happens I'm afraid)

b/ be badly reviewed - we are sensitive souls - saying that I've only ever had one stinky review in 15 odd years so I'm doing well. And dozens of nice ones - isn't it terrible the way we remember the bad ones?

Amy Green 1: Boy Trouble got some smashing reviews, my best yet - so that was very heartening.

We also worry that our regular readers, our life blood, won't enjoy the new book as much as the last one. And yes, some of them are very honest and will tell you exactly what they think of it!

But most of all, we worry that our new book will be largely ignored - no reviews, no reader letters, no sales.

Yet still we write . . . we can't help but write!

I've just sent Amy 3 to my editors in London - fingers crossed they will like the changes I've made to the story. I pulled out the entire middle section and rewrote it with as much passion and energy as I could, concentrating on the central 'theme' and plot of the book - and trying not to go off message this time! I think it worked - let's see if my editors agree. I'll keep you posted.

Tomorrow I'll start working on Amy 4 - having a look at what I've already written, changing the start, moving scenes around, and again, trying to concentrate on the central 'theme'. (No, no 'break' - I have lots of events coming up in Feb so I have to use my time wisely - anyway, to me planning and playing with a new book is a break! It's fun - and if I can take my time over it - yeah!)

Over the last 2 years I've learned so much about writing - things I wish I'd known when I started out in this business. I've learned to write with energy and passion - not to 'hold back' - to throw everything I have onto the page, every single writing day of my life.

I've learned how important big, wonderful, interesting characters are - characters readers can identify with and fall in love with. Characters with big hearts and big flaws. Clover in Amy Green has been a big hit with readers - she's certainly larger than life, but realistic too I hope.

My grammar still needs some work - should I be saying 'learned' or 'learnt' for eg? My spelling - also not so hot. But I can live with that - and I can try and improve!

I've also learned the importance of concentrating on the central message or theme - what is it I'm trying to say exactly? What's at the heart of the book? For this, I often need help from my editors - and sometimes this 'theme' doesn't come until I've finished the book and am working on rewrites. In Amy 1 for eg the theme was learning to be yourself, and not being swayed by peer pressure. Book 2 - the danger of keeping secrets and not being honest.

I've learned that I tend to fly through scenes too quickly - sometimes I need to slow down, give my writing room to breathe (this was a recent discovery!).

Oh and for an agent, editor, and publishing team to really get behind your book - it has to be pretty special. Aim for pretty special - be original and be yourself.

Yours in writing,