Tag Archives: writer’s block

Where do ideas come from?

The idea of this blog was to bring you on the journey with me as I wrote a book. And after about 20 posts about writer’s block and procrastination, I finally got writing but stopped blogging. So I feel I owe you a couple of retrospective posts.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start . When you read you begin with ABC, when you sing you begin with … Excuse me, no idea why I was suddenly chanelling Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. Actually, I do know. It started with the words: ‘Let’s start at the very beginning’ and the tune came into my head. It started with the WORDS…

So many ideas come as you write. It’s the magic, the very essence of creativity. So don’t sit there waiting for a great idea. Write and the ideas will follow and then you can shape them.

One idea I had stemmed from an image in Vogue magazine of a model on the Mongolian steppes with an eagle. Woman and bird were in profile, gazing into the distance. It was beautiful, striking. I decided to do an exercise with her as a character. I’d been playing around with a parallel world idea but as I started to write, the photo gave me a new beginning, actually a a whole new incarnation of the book, starting in the parallel world and having the character from our world fall into it.

The book I’m currently working on started because of news articles and TV programmes about the pressures on girls to be skinny, pretty and sexy. I was horrified that girls as  young as seven were worrying about their body image! In one programme girls were shown photos of themselves along with images photoshopped so they looked skinnier and fatter. In almost every case, the girls picked the skinniest version of themselves as being the best. I’d also read about teenagers aspiring to be models or wives of footballers, or just to be on the latest reality TV programme.

Then I heard the crime author PD James talking on Radio 4. She’s in her nineties and that got me thinking about what she must have seen and experienced in her lifetime and how it couldn’t have been easy for a female crime writer early in her career, then, BAM, suffragettes popped into my head. What would the suffragettes make of the world today? What if a modern day teenager met one? That was the genesis of my book.

So the media seems to be a big source of inspiration for me. Looking at the obituaries might seem morbid but they feature interesting lives and that gets you thinking. Or a crime report might give you a plot idea. Overheard snippets of conversation on a bus can spark an idea or a character’s voice, people-watching in cafes is endlessly fascinating, making up lives for them. Putting down your phone so that you’re not picking up emails and posting on twitter but actually observing the world helps a lot. Just asking the question: What if…? Your dreams could give you an idea. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight came from a dream. According to wikipedia, it led to Meyer writing a draft of what became chapter 13 of the book.

Travelling is good. Anything that makes you an outsider, that gets you looking at the world differently can trigger creativity. I recently went to an amazing hot spring in Malaysia with a big pool of geothermic water  surrounded by towering verdant limestone karsts with caves beneath. I felt humbled and inspired by those great architects, nature and time. It could have been another world. It could have been Eden.

The magnificent cavern with stalagtites and stalagmites that had been turned into a wine bar, was quite spectacular. A brilliant setting for a book. Something gothic, perhaps. If Stephanie Meyer had been to this place, Edward Cullen would have taken Bella on a date there.

Your own lives and experiences will give you ideas  – you may not write about them directly but they will certainly inform your writing. And once you’re writing, you start to think like a writer and notice things that you didn’t before. I will hear someone’s name and I’ll think, that’s a great name for a character and off I go. In short, ideas are all around you and you shouldn’t worry about the idea, just the sitting on your bum to write.

Whether it’s a commercial idea is another matter. What publishers are looking for is a good concept that will sell. This often comes from two ideas coming together. Vampirates, for example. Suzanne Collins is reported to have got the idea for the Hunger Games  while channel surfing. On one station was a reality TV show and on another was the invasion of Iraq and the two began to blur in her mind and she ended up with the idea of a dysptopian world where there’s an annual, televised, gladiatorial fight to the death.

I find thinking too much about commerciality blocks my writing, so I’m not going to put too much emphasis on this. The most important thing is to have something that you are compelled to write. If you have something special you can bring to it, you are an immigrant writing about the immigrant experience for example, all the better. You become commercial. The publisher can market you and you will sell your book. My friend Liz Trenow wrote The Last Telegram, which is set in the second world war – always popular– but she had a unique selling point. She comes from a family of silk weavers and she set her novel in a silk factory making parachutes for the RAF with her heroine running the factory.  As well as going to book fairs she goes to textile fairs to give readings. She knows her stuff and the sensuality the silk weaves through her story made it something that no one else could have written.

Write for yourself first but have your reader in mind. Be aware of trends but don’t try to follow them or predict them. You can help a publisher if you can give them a way to market it, something to peg it on. But underneath all that, they need a strong voice, a brilliantly evoked world, great characters and a cracking story.


How to chip away at the block

I know, it’s been ages. My apologies. You see, I’ve actually started writing. Yay! hang out the bunting, do a happy dance and eat cake (not necessarily in that order). The thing is, my writer’s block had taken such a hold that even when I started writing, I thought it may be another false start. I didn’t want to blog about it for fear of jinxing it.

The problem was I had two ideas and kept swinging from one to the other. I’d have a crisis of confidence about whether one was a good, marketable idea and then,  like a sailing boat adrift, bang! An ill wind would catch the mainsail and go swinging across my boat, often knocking me overboard in the process, before I got going on the other idea.

Somewhere in all this, I figured out that both were good ideas, it was more a matter of which to write first? I plumped for the one with the more developed plot. It was also more time sensitive because I could peg it on the anniversary of the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison who threw herself under the king’s horse at the 1913 Derby.

However, with all my prevaricating, I have missed that deadline by a mile. I should have been submitting it to agents last year. But on a positive note, the suffragette movement carried on well after that so I reckon it’s still marketable. Plus, I think the book will appeal to teenage girls because it’s about all kinds of issues affecting them. The pressures that they come under to be academic, pretty, sexy, skinny and, above all, to fit in, when hormones are raging and your mind is on boys and the whole world should be opening up for you but actually, the expectations are overwhelming and in some cases crippling.

My  ‘lift pitch’ – in case I meet an agent in a lift and I have 10 seconds to pitch it – is: Modern-day girl meets a suffragette. A contemporary story with an historical twist.

Wordism: It’s important you can summarise your book in a couple of sentences. It means it has a strong concept and publishers are looking for ‘high concept’ books.

Anyway, while I’m hoping that I can sell my book, the most important thing is I’m back writing and seven chapters in.

So, advice on how to break writer’s block? Actually, there wasn’t a big breakthrough moment, the muse didn’t show up one day and suddenly I could write. No, I just kept chipping away at it. I got to the point of nearly giving up, which I found frightening. Writing is such a big part of my identity that it felt like giving up on myself. And then what became important was just writing. Not selling it, not the vagaries of the market, just the act of writing. A little bit here, a little bit there until you’re writing everyday, which develops into a compulsion to write rather than procrastinate, at which point, you start living your characters, inhabiting their world, thinking about it all the time.

Wordism: Don’t give up, keep going. Just a few words is better than nothing. Write a journal if the book isn’t coming. Don’t judge what you write. Just write. Observations, what you’re feeling… Write in a stream of consciousness. Read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – it’s a bit spiritual, which isn’t for everyone, but it’s also practical.

I explored my main character by letting her vent what was on her mind without worrying about story or plot. Her character developed around her voice, a plot emerged from her character. And also from thinking about the suffragette and what part she would play. I have to be careful that Emily plays at least an equal part to the romance in the novel. Feminists may not approve of what I do with the romance but then they’re not my audience. Teenage girls are my readers. And if I can get one teenage girl to google ‘suffragette’ or ‘Emily Wilding Davison’, I’ll be happy with that.

Something to try: If you have a character in mind, allow them to vent on the page. Write whatever’s on their mind in the first person. If you’re not working on a project right now but want to get the creative juices flowing, find a picture of a person in a magazine, a newspaper or in a work of art (as Tracy Chevalier did in Girl with a Pearl Earring) and imagine what they are thinking. What is their world like? Then give them a voice. Who knows where it will lead.

Kipling’s If… For Writers

So the green nail varnish has chipped and the birthday optimism is dissipating. Of course I want to be a great writer but first I have to summon the energy to write a sentence. And another and keep going. I’ve written three books. None are published. But I get better each time. My failures are improving, I am getting closer to publication with every book I write. So rationally I know that I have to keep going and I will get there. But emotionally, it ain’t so easy. I have to suppress doubts and fend off the feeling of futility. I get moments of flow and flashes of joy and I hope that can keep me going. And so, with the help of Mr Kipling, (the poet rather than cakes, although cake is darn good idea) I’m giving myself and any other struggling writer a little pep talk.

If you can keep your head when Fifty Shades of Grey

Gets published and your story does not,

If you believe in your writing, come what may,

When no one else cares a jot;

If you can be rejected by publishers and not tire of rejection,

But instead scour the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book

And laugh despite dejection,

And in good spirits begin another book;

If you can ignore market trends and write from the heart,

And bare your soul to the page every day

Not knowing if you’ll win through, yet commit to your art

Your characters and your plot for no pay;

If you can dream of being published – and not make publication your master,

If you can kick those imposters fame and fortune up the arse

And write for the joy of it, despite the disaster

Of the doormat thump of a manuscript come home, and laugh at the farce;

If you can beat the neuroticism, procrastination and despair

And know, beyond all doubt, the word is mightier;

Then what the world thinks, you’ll not care

And what’s more, my friend, you’ll be a writer.

Apologies to Rudyard Kipling for riding roughshod over his great and inspirational poem. Apologies also to E.L. James for the cheap shot at Fifty Shades. No one can deny the supreme success of her books.

Singapore Slung

I know, I know… I haven’t blogged in nine months and a whole baby could have been born in that time. You see, initially, this blog was supposed to chart the course of my next novel and I was going to bring you along with me for the journey. Or, to continue the metaphor, the gestation. Except the book never got past the embryonic and so it seemed pointless writing the blog about the book that never was.

This is my excuse: I moved house in March and that was followed by decorating and floors being sanded and bookcases being built and generally refurbing top to bottom and, half way through all that, I found out we were moving to Singapore for a couple of years, which kind of filled my head so I didn’t have the time, space or even inclination to write. I was Singapore slung.

Rob has made the move already. I am visiting to help find us an apartment and I move here properly in January. I see it as a creative opportunity and am generally looking forward to it. However, I am dreading leaving Harry, my dog and constant companion who patiently listens to excerpts of my writing without judgment. He’s not coming with us because the journey would stress him out, he’d hate the heat, and he’s nine years old and set in his ways. I couldn’t do it to him. Thankfully, Mike, a writing friend from the USA , is coming to London for two years in January and will house and dog-sit for us. Mike is also looking for a chance to get creative again so it works for both of us. And Harry will get to hear his drafts instead.

I am blogging in the hotel. A tropical storm is raging outside and shaking the windows. It sounds like the heavens are being ripped open, such is the crashing and roaring. This is good. Being abroad provides not only a change of scenery, but a change of perspective. You don’t tend to think of the weather as violent in the UK. It’s a mild, wishy-washy thing. Here it is extreme and, at the moment, violent, primal, and potentially inspirational. I can understand why people might take it personally and think the gods are angry. I know they can’t be angry because I’m actually writing for once so, obviously, the gods are celebrating raucously.

I’m hoping the move will bring inspiration. Also it means I’ll have two years of clear writing time. There’s nothing else to do. Not even dog-walking. Well, apart from lounging by the pool, travelling around Asia, loafing and procrastinating. Apart from that, I have the time and, I hope, the head-space so lacking this past year in order to write. So I must seize the opportunity, focus and use the experience to get creative.

Procrastination and the muse

There must be something in the stars at the moment that involves huge life changes. I seem to be compelled to throw everything up in the air to see where it lands. Sometimes it’s good to do that. Ending old ways opens up new paths.

I’m moving house and when I’m at the new place, I’m hoping I’ll be able to settle to writing. Strangely, I seem to move house whenever I start a new book. Maybe moving is part of the process. Or perhaps it’s just coincidence as it wasn’t even my idea.

However, there are other life changing opportunities in the offing, which may mean that I can’t settle to writing just yet. Living abroad is one possibility. It’s exciting, it’s daunting, I worry whether my dog will be happy in a hot climate, and, as I write this, I wonder, is it all just an excuse for procrastination on a massive scale?

Life is carrying on, presenting opportunities, throwing the odd curve ball and somehow I need to learn to fit the writing in. But maybe the time’s not right.  I always have a period of feeling unsettled between books. I call it ‘floundering’. But this has gone on for longer than usual, so I’m worrying whether I’m really a writer at all. And anyway, is there ever a right time?

The other problem is that there are two ideas I’m exploring. I start on one, then stall and start on the other. I’m excited about both of them at different times but can’t seem to get going on either. They’re both mulling away in my head. Perhaps I don’t have writer’s block but am writing two books at once. Really slowly. Or is that double writer’s block?

All I know is that my mind is like a monkey swinging from tree to tree. I need a quiet space to still my mind. To eat a banana and contemplate the jungle rather than the trees.

Is there ever a right time? I know what Stephen King would say. Turn up to the desk each day. Don’t wait for the muse to turn up first. He’ll come in his own good time, chomping on his cigar, feet on the desk, proffering insight and inspiration. That’s his muse, not mine.

Panic! Do I need to visualise a muse? I have no idea what he or she looks like. I’m not sure I care what they look like, but I’d rather they didn’t smoke. Terrible habit.

I think my muse would be more Holly Golightly. No, she’d lead me astray and I’d end up at all kinds of wild parties. Fun as that would be, I don’t deal with hangovers the way I used to. They can write off a whole day. A whole writing day. Except I’m not writing so I may as well be hungover. They didn’t do Hemingway any harm.

Perhaps a Noel Coward figure swanning round in a smoking jacket and offering me a glass of sherry with a dash of inspiration. Or Bogart as Rick in Casablanca.

Renault: ‘What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: ‘My health. I came for the waters?’
Renault: ‘Waters? What waters? We’re in the desert?’
Rick: ‘I was misinformed.’

I’ve just realised that all my potential muses smoke.

Oh my God. Am I looking for perfection in a muse? (Head in hands.) Who wants a puritan for a muse? What a yawn of a story that would be. I have to let go of the perfectionist, searching for the perfect first chapter and the perfect bloody muse, I have to stop over-thinking everything and just write. Anything.

Here’s the deal. I’ll do my bit and turn up at my desk. Muse, you can turn up in whatever form you like. I’ll even provide the brandy and the smokes. Just turn up. Go on. Please. After all, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Books, creeks and paddles

I haven’t posted recently about the process of writing my book, (which was supposed to be the point of this blog) or even about the process of not writing. This is because I’ve been in a strop.

I had started on the Suffragette idea and had some joyful moments of ‘flow’ before losing my paddle. Not only that but I started to question whether I was writing the right book. Up the creek. Again.

I got to the same place with the last idea – my Inca adventure / romance – and bailed out because it just wasn’t coming to me. I lost faith in it. And here I was in the same situation.

But then Lee Weatherly, a writer friend and mentor, got me thinking about what I wanted to write rather than what I thought would sell. I loved writing my last book, The Smuggler’s Daughter, but I’d not got a book deal. So this time I’d been focusing on getting the right idea. A marketable idea. But perhaps I was focusing too much on the goal of getting published.

Wordism: Focus on the process of writing and the joy of that rather than on the end product.

So, I thought, what do I want to write? What do I enjoy? I like writing YA fiction. I enjoy adventure stories. And love stories. I like strong female characters. This led me back to my Inca idea. Is that my paddle over there?

I made a foray into a possible first chapter and had some fun, before getting stuck. But this time, rather than feeling blocked, I recognised that the idea needed work.

I hold on to the paddle, I don’t jump ship (or canoe), I think about how to find my way out. I stop thinking and notice the creek is pretty, even if it doesn’t go anywhere. Ideas begin to rain. I could develop the fantasy element. Maybe it’s set in the future. Or an alternative present. I can feel the boat shifting. Pretty soon I’ll be off the mud flats and into the stream of a first chapter and, I hope, swept into the exhilarating white waters of a novel.

I don’t have writer’s block, I’m incubating.

To write, I need to have all chores done so there’s nothing nagging at me. My optimum time is late afternoon and into the evening. And I write in silence. Just my thoughts, my characters, and the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.

At least, it’s always worked before. I would start writing and carry on (over a couple of years) till the book was finished. But, this time, I’m struggling to get started. To help me focus I’ve been trying to develop a way to signal to my brain that I’m leaving my everyday world and entering the realm of my imagination. Writer at Work. Do Not Disturb.

So yesterday, back from holiday, raring to go with New Year zeal, I sat at my desk and thought about a little writerly ritual to get me in the zone. Perhaps I should try music, I thought, and put on Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Sisters are Doing it for Themselves’ (my book involves a suffragette). But it just made me dance round the room, which was fun but it wasn’t helping me to write. Scrap music. Silence is golden.

I lit a candle. Took some calming deep breaths. Waited. Nothing. A book of children’s poems was next to me. I bought it after I found myself playing with words in my head one night, which I took as a sign that my creative mind was limbering up. Typical! Just as I’m falling asleep. I woke the next day singing Spike Milligan’s poem.

On the Ning Nang Nong where the cows go bong and the monkey’s all say boo, there’s a Nong Nang Ning where the trees go ping and the teapots jibber jabber joo.

I had actions and everything. My husband, Rob, is used to this sort of thing by now. I was enjoying the musicality, the fun and the nonsense of the language and thought this should be fostered. I also needed to know the rest of the poem. So I bought a book called ‘Read Me and Laugh. A Funny Poem for Every Day of the Year’.

I read my poem for the day. Still nothing. I read over some preliminary scenes I’d written to explore my character. That would surely trigger me into writing. Nothing. Nada. It wasn’t happening.  In desperation, I picked up my Mslexia diary, which has top writing tips for the year.  I can’t tell you the relief of reading that psychologists have identified a stage in creativity known as ‘incubation’, the period between the moment of inspiration and starting to realise the idea in a piece of work.

‘Many writers experience incubation as writer’s block. Instead of welcoming it as part of the creative process, they (we) often panic and may end up abandoning the idea they’re working on.’

That’s me. I did exactly that in the summer. Ditched an idea I was working on because it wasn’t coming and I concluded I was writing the wrong thing. When it started happening with my new idea, I thought something was wrong with me. I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I do not have writer’s block, my idea is incubating. That sounds much more active, something is happening, even if it’s just in my head. The idea is baking like the proverbial bun. I am incubating my creative baby and it will come when it’s good and ready.

Feeling better, I decided to dip into ‘Writing Fiction. A guide to Narrative Craft’ by Janet Burroway and opened it at the section headed Keep Going. Surely a sign. In it, she tells us that W.H. Auden observed that the hardest part of writing is not knowing whether you are procrastinating or you must wait for the words to come.

That’s where I’m at. But if Mr Auden has been there too, then I’m in good company.

Writing on skis

Happy new year from Switzerland! All the ones – 1.1.11 – that’s a date that truly sounds like a new beginning. I am breathing Alpine air, surrounded by sparkling white mountains and snow laden fir trees and feeling optimistic about the year ahead. Objective: to complete the first draft of a novel and then to get a book deal. But one thing at a time. First, write the thing.

Hmmm. With Christmas and my skiing holiday, I’ve not been getting much writing done. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it because producing a novel involves as much thinking time as physically getting words onto paper. And you also have to live life and ‘fill the creative well’ in order to have stuff to write about. Not that I plan to have a skiing scene in my book but just being open to life can also open the way to new ideas.

There are writers that say their best ideas come while doing something like driving or cooking, where part of the brain is on automatic and the rest of it is free to roam. The roaming part is relaxed and the subconscious is at work. It’s a bit like that craze some years ago – was it geometric patterns or pictures made of dots? I can’t remember exactly but you had to relax your eyes and suddenly you’d see an image in 3D. Well some activities, like driving, get your brain in that kind of state and ideas pop into focus.

It doesn’t work with skiing, however. Not for me. I’m too busy thinking, weight forward, flex knees and ankles, hips into the mountain, one knee forward, then the other knee forward, weight then unweight etc. I actually go down the mountain, repeating such things to myself. My whole mind is focused on staying on my skis. There are so many things to think about at the same time and if I’m not doing one element, it throws everything off balance.

Oh yes. Things have come on since ‘Bend zee knees!’ I have my husband, who is a former skiing instructor, yelling back up the mountain. ‘Puke position!’ By which he means I need to get my weight forward over my skis as I traverse so that if I were sick, the vomit would miss my boot bindings. Nice! Or, a personal favourite, ‘Tits to the valley!’, which means: keep your shoulders square down the hill. But it could be mistaken for some kind of mating cry.

All the various elements occasionally come together and I get into the rhythm and I’m in the flow and it’s a wonderful feeling. But such moments are transitory. Suffice to say my characters don’t get a look-in till the lift queue. At the moment my writing, like my skiing, is still in discreet bits – I’m going down the hill saying, develop character, develop story, develop plot, third person or first person? And then I fall over.

Hmmm. Less skiing and more time in the spa methinks.

Pop, pop, crackle, ping, pop

Well this isn’t working out quite as I expected, I have yet to move seamlessly from blog to creative wizardry. But then, that was probably inevitable. A blog is a short burst of whatever’s on my mind creatively. I can do that. But I have too much going on to settle to my novel. I can’t get the necessary stillness of mind. Thoughts jump around like popcorn in a pan. Pop, pop, crackle, ping, pop.

There’s Christmas and the question of how I’m going to get presents to everyone with the snow causing travel mayhem. I need to get to two lots of nephews over the next couple of days, one trip already having been cancelled at the weekend because the M40 was snowbound. Then we need to get to my mother-in-law in Devon who is doing the honours this year but she’s snowed in. She can’t get out to the shops and the Sainsbury’s van can’t get to her. So we’re doing the Christmas grocery shop in London and bringing it with us. We just have to hope the Devon lanes will be cleared by Thursday. Otherwise Christmas could turn out to be a snow picnic somewhere just off  the M5. Pop, pop, crackle, ping, pop.

Perhaps after Christmas I can settle down to my book. New year, new book.

I read once that an author – Jeanette Winterson, I think – had to move house every time she started a new book. At the time, this struck me as odd but I was impressed at what I assumed was a dedication to her art.  This occurred to me again in the autumn when I was madly clearing my desk, cleaning cupboards and getting the house decorated (in the wrong order). I was like a dog, circling on the spot but not being able to nest down and so pulling at my bed. Which led me to wonder: do I need to move house every time I start a new book?

I have pretty much written each of my three books in a different house. The last two were written in my present home but between books, we gutted and refurbed the place so, in effect, I wrote in two different spaces. And lo and behold, we’re moving again.  (Pop, pop, crackle, ping, pop.) None of this was by my design. It was just the way it happened. My husband had a brainstorm one evening about moving back to south east London and I thought, yeah, that feels like the right thing to do.

Maybe there is something in the old saying ‘out with the old, in with the new’. Something about clearing out the clutter, changing circumstances to alter your frame of mind, moving on physically to move on creatively.

I’m sure redecorating would have been enough. At least I’m hoping so, otherwise a writing career could prove to be expensive.

At least I’m not as bad as my friend who has a habit of getting pregnant every time she starts a new book. It’s like creativity is bursting out of her on all fronts. It’s lovely but she could end up with a very large family.

Does anyone else have similar experiences?

Waltzing with words

It occurred to me, while watching Pamela dance her Viennese Waltz on Strictly last night, that writing is a lot like dancing. I used to do ballroom and Latin as a kid and met my husband salsa dancing and more recently got into lindyhop. When you’re dancing, especially with a partner, and you’re really in the moment and in harmony with the music and reading each other’s moves, there’s a wonderful sense of flow and of being at one with the world. I get that same feeling when I’m writing, when I’m inside my story and my characters. There comes a point when the story writes itself. It’s that same exhilaration. It’s spiritual in a way.

But it can be painful starting a new book. I’m having a real problem this time as I’ve been ‘blocked’ for the past year. So on top of the usual force of will needed to get my shoulder to the wheel of a new project and heave it into motion, there’s doubt and fear to contend with. Will I ever get going again? Maybe I’m not really a writer, after all? (Yes, we all think that.) What if I write another book I can’t sell because ‘the market’s difficult’? And as soon as I start thinking about what the market wants, it blocks me. Yet it has to be considered if I want to get published.

Wordism: You have to find a happy halfway house between writing for yourself and for the market. For me, writing for myself comes first, but if you want to be published, you have to have the market in the back of your mind.

I’m trying not to think of myself as ‘blocked’ but ‘recovering’ after my last book The Smuggler’s Daughter didn’t get off the ground. I’ve spent eight years honing my craft. I’ve done an MA in Creative writing which helped me understand plot and structure and write a cracking good read in Smugglers. I had nine agents wanting to read more and three or four wanting to represent me. It was exciting, it was overwhelming, it was all about to happen…

And then it didn’t. ‘Kids aren’t interested in historical fiction at the moment’, was the feedback from the ten publishers it went out to. ‘The market’s difficult’. ‘Not right for our list’. A couple of editors loved it but couldn’t get their sales teams on board. Crash. I fell back to earth. But my book hadn’t left it.

So I have been recovering, nursing my bruised ego, building up my reserves for the next book.

Wordism: The difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is perseverance.

I have been reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (well worth a read), which suggests doing ‘morning pages’ – falling out of bed and, before doing anything else, writing three pages of whatever is on your mind. This is meant to help in bypassing the inner critic and also help you explore who you are and what’s important to you because that will feed into your ‘voice’ as a writer. She also recommends taking yourself off on an ‘artist’s date’ to fill the creative well. So I’ve been doing that too. I am not blocked, I am filling the well. It is important to trick the mind by turning what feels like a negative into a positive.

I am also focusing on that feeling when I’m in the flow, when everything else falls away and the writing seems to come from some force outside of yourself and flows through you on to the page. When writing is like dancing. Like Pamela’s waltz and Kara’s tango.

At the moment, I have a touch of the Widdecombes. It will pass. I will waltz with words again.