When Writing A Novel Feels Too Big & Overwhelming

I knew I wanted to be an author long before I wrote my debut novel, The Florentine Bridge. Writing a book was something that I put off for a long time though (YEARS), for a number of different reasons. Firstly, I had no idea whether I actually could write a novel. The mere thought of sitting down to write thousands and thousands of words, while making sure I had a handle on pacing, characterisation, plot, dialogue, conflict, and more, was overwhelming. (It still is.) Sure, I'd written and sold nonfiction freelance pieces--seeing my words in print was a thrill, but tackling a full length novel seemed so out of reach.

Besides, I didn't know what to write.

I'm not sure why, but back then I was holding onto the belief that in order to write a book, I needed to have a fully formed idea. What I learnt since writing my first book, is that fully formed ideas don't usually fall from the sky in a miraculous surge of inspiration. (Unless you're really lucky.)

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Taking an idea and making something of it with words and language and the magic of using one's imagination was something I dearly loved, and one day I decided I just couldn't put off any longer. So I took a tiny idea and started writing my book.

It sold. It was published. It appeared on bookshelves. It was translated into a foreign language and it was made into an audiobook. And it came from nothing. Well, not from nothing. It came from a tiny idea, a single thread. It came from the place where creativity and inspired action meets. Action. You must take action and you must keep showing up, even when it’s hard and you feel like the finish line is so far away you’ll never make the distance. But you can and you will if you keep going. While not all manuscripts will go on to be published or sold, you can’t publish or sell a dream. You need to take steps to work towards it, casting judgement and fear aside as best you can while you spend time creating.

For my second book, The Memories That Make Us, I started with another tiny idea, that came to me in the form of a question. If I had my time over, would I live the same life twice? All it takes, is ONE TINY IDEA, and from there, you build. You build your story and premise, you build your characters, you build your conflict. Of course not all writers work the same way of course, but this might help some of you that are struggling to make a start.

My advice to those of you feeling overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of work involved in writing a book is this: Start with the first word, then the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter. And build from there. If you get stuck, ask yourself this question: What happens next? Pause, breathe, listen, and keep writing. You can always revise and shape and edit later. Focus on getting comfortable with your writing. Get those writing muscles working, find your voice, and before you know it, you'll be closer to the words The End than you were yesterday, or last week, or last month.

Good luck!

P.S. I've recently finished the second draft of what I hope will be my third published novel. I don't know what I'm going to write next. One tiny idea...

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P.P.S The Memories That Make Us is in-stores from the 19th February 2018! To order your copy go here!