Process? What process?

So there are no safe rules for writing a novel.


771px-Caspar_Netscher_-_Young_Girl_Holding_a_Letter_(detail)_-_WGA16521But surely there’s still a lot a writer could pass on. Someone who has written a few books should be able to tell you how they go about things. Hopefully they learned something about what worked and what didn’t.

And yes, as I keep saying,

there are a lot of wise words out there.

hatter commercial use ok

Everywhere you look there are authors, dishing out advice about how to write (and how not to write) novels.

A lot it will come from very clever people and it will be valuable. You should read as much of that as you can.

I mean that. You really should read a lot of advice. Go and read it now. As much as you can find. Read it all. Twice.

Where are the best writing tips? Could you share some websites with the rest of us?


But remember, you can get lost in the net. Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you will find yourself hopping around from link to link,

in a kind of maze

Maze copy

and half the time you’ll end up back where you started.

The net is like a big hall of mirrors, where one useful thing gets reflected endlessly backwards and forwards. This can waste a lot of time.

Also, halls of mirrors create illusions.

Hall of Mirrors

Not everything you read will be helpful or even true.

So here’s a big statement.

A lot of people will give you advice on how to write a novel and … none of them know.

Well at least, there isn’t one neat set of answers. Think carefully about what you read. Some ideas are useful. Some will help and some won’t suit you. As  W. Somerset said, there are no actual rules.

And the people who sound as if they know the most are probably going to be the least helpful.

(OK that’s quite a few big statements.)

But I mean it. No one can tell you exactly how to go about your writing. And that includes me.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had about writing? What is the worst? What did you do about it?

There are only two things I know about my writing process.

1: it is very messy.

2: I don’t know what it is.

Most of the time, I don’t feel like a writer at all. I just sit down and hope something happens. I get an idea, and then I muddle through.

But yes, all right, in a way I’m being dishonest — as I’m sure you’ve already spotted. Because I keep saying I can’t tell you how to write a novel and, lo and behold, here’s my blog about just exactly that.

So what have we got so far?

I don’t know anything about this process. I don’t have a writing process of my own. And now I’m going to show you what it is.


How’s that going to work?

Well, let’s start with what I do know.

I know I’ve thrown away much more than I’ve ever used. I know there have been wrong turns and horrible mistakes and hours spent on trickery that seemed cool at the time and now looks ridiculous.


There have been acres and acres of torn up paper, and thousands of deleted words,


and tons of stuff I kept that is just embarrassing, especially where I thought I was being funny.

And that’s only the titles (Heh heh)

I know I start with an empty page. (Not a screen. We can talk about that later.) And somewhere there’s an idea (again, more on this another time) and then that goes into a kind of mysterious machinery …

William_Heath_Robinson_Inventions_-_Page_107and eventually a manuscript pops out at the other end.

But over the years, the process — look, I’m not going to use the word …

Over the years my way of tackling a book (that’s it, it feels more like a fight)

Rama_and_Hanuman_fighting_Ravana,_an_album_painting_on_paper,_c1820 copy

… over the years my plan of attack has tidied up a bit …


(Oh I hope so. I really hope so)

For one thing, now when I write something I know there are:

 a few things I really should do,

and one thing I absolutely must do

and several things I should try to avoid.

And maybe, if you avoid them too, you could save yourself some time and heartache.

But there’s wa-a-a-y too much of that stuff to fit in this post.

Fortunately, there’ll be others.


Thanks to these people for the images.

“Young_Girl_Holding_a_Letter” (detail) by Caspar Netscher via Wikimedia Commons

“Mad Hatter” by John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Maze-03” Frederiksoord De Koloniehof 1992 (Copy of Arley Hall).PNG by RTH (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

“Hall of Mirrors, Camera Obscura, Edinburgh” Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

“Person” by Pezibear on Pixabay

“Father Williams Somersaulting in Through the Door” on Wikimedia Commons

“Stacked Paper Sheets” by Petr Kratochvil

William Heath Robinson Inventions “Automatic Egg Rationer” by Amada44 (From the Book: William Heath Robinson Inventions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

detail from “Rama and Hanuman fighting” Ravana, an album painting on paper, c1820 on Wikimedia Commons,_an_album_painting_on_paper,_c1820.jpg

By Albrecht Dürer – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s