Written by Julia Vaughan
There’s no right or wrong way to write a novel. If you manage to get across the finish line with the words The End emblazoned on the page, then well done. But there is a truth and it is this.
You Actually Have To Write It
I’ve been writing novels in my head for over thirty years. Did you get that? In. My. Head.
Scribbled ideas on notepads and scraps of paper, a chapter started with good intentions. Been there. Done that. Got nowhere. Short stories? Lots of ‘em. Been published? Sure. Competitions? Had the odd success.
But an actual manuscript of 70,000 plus words? It remained a fantasy in my head. Until 2020. The year of Lockdown, stress, anxiety, fear. But, in amongst all that, I wrote a novel.
Starting To Write
It wasn’t something I had planned to do. I work as a medical secretary in the NHS and was redeployed to another service as lockdown hit. As my new colleagues got to know me, I mentioned my writing (I had recently come 3rd in a competition and had been published in a booklet).
‘Can we read it?’ they asked.
‘Of course,’ my ego replied.
When they had finished reading, they all said ‘What happens next?’
‘There is no next. It’s a short story.’
‘But we want to know what happens to the detective. You need to write more. Have you thought of turning it into a book?’
Of course I hadn’t. Why would I? But then my creative brain went into overdrive. I had started (naturally) a novel some twenty years earlier – a few main characters and a rough plot down on paper. I started to think that I could incorporate what had happened in the story into what I had already written. It gave an interesting twist and another layer to the story. And so the process began.
My new team were extremely supportive. Five months later I went back to the day job with a finished manuscript under my belt. The best news was, it wasn’t complete rubbish.
Getting The Fire In My Belly
Many people have asked me why I didn’t do it sooner. Basically, it’s all timing. All the planets aligned last year to create the environment for me to do it. If I hadn’t been sent to help out, I would not have met the people I did…blah, blah. You get the idea. But it’s true. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had support from family and friends with my writing. This time felt very different. There was urgency and desire and fire in my belly.
A huge stumbling block for me in the past had been self-doubt. The enormity of the task of actually plotting a story and characters and sustaining the readability factor was daunting. I would get so overwhelmed that I managed, fairly easily, to convince myself I couldn’t do it. Plus ,I confess, I’m a lazy writer. Discipline is something I’ve also struggled with over the years. And there was always that fact of ‘There’s so many books out there … it’s not original’ etc. But this time I started to enjoy and believe.
You can read all the How To Write A Novel books out there but at the end of the day, you have to find what works for you. Some start at Chapter One and just keep going. Some start at the end and work their way forwards. I completed an English and Literary Studies degree as a mature student and I reasoned that, with all the essays I’d written plus a 10,000 word dissertation, I had probably written half a novel in word count terms.
Suddenly, writing a novel seemed possible.
Writing A Novel
My own writing routine could be described as quirky. I write longhand, standing up in my utility room, notepad resting on the washing machine and with coffee and cigarettes to hand. I realised that, for me, starting at The Beginning was not for me, so I looked for a way that made it easier. I had the main characters, the plot, the crime and so I proceeded to write scenes. I didn’t know where they would appear in the finished book.
By writing as the inspiration came – a line of dialogue, a location – I was able to capture that excitement of getting the scene down on paper. Once I’d got about a third of the way through the book, I did start writing in a linear fashion. I type up as I go along and that allows me to edit.
Another trick for me is that I write as if I’m watching my story unfold as a TV drama. The story needs light and shade, humour and pathos, moments of stillness counterbalanced by action. The feedback from readers is that I’m getting it right.
Finishing My Book
The book was finished and edited but who to pitch it to? I’ve subscribed to Writing Magazine for years and it was within the pages that I found suitable publishers who were interested in crime fiction. Another obvious truth coming up – be prepared for rejection.
The first three publishers I tried were supportive but felt it wasn’t quite right for them. Okay. My fourth attempt went off to Cahill Davis Publishing.
Three weeks later, I got the email saying they loved it and wanted to publish. Then the hard work began. I had no idea that writing over 70,000 words would be the easy part. From the signing of my contract in February 2021 the release date was set for August 16th 2021. I had a hand in designing the cover (the team have done a fabulous job) and I had to come up with the ‘blurb’ on the back cover, teasing the reader to buy. Another big learning curve to encapsulate all those words into a few paragraphs.
It’s all been valuable experience for writing Book Two in the series, which is finished.
So…erm… I think I just might be a writer.
Find more from Julia Vaughan:
Twitter – www.twitter.com/JuliaVaughan_37
Publisher’s twitter www.twitter.com/publishingdavis
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