books · writers · writing

What does it take to actually sit down and write your first novel? #amwriting #writetip

A very, very belated Happy New Year! It’s been a while since I last posted here. I love keeping this blog. I love the responses I’ve had to my posts and the people I’ve met in the five years since I first started blogging. But I’ve reluctantly decided I will have to cut down on my blogging time. One of my resolutions this year has been to try and increase my income from writing so I can actually make a living from it. Like the vast majority of authors I don’t make a living wage from my books. I supplement my earnings by writing freelance articles for various websites, and I’ve also started taking on a lot more fiction editing work, as well as manuscript appraisals and critique. My plan over the next few months is to revamp this site so that writers looking for an editor will be able to find my services here. I enjoy editing as much as writing (almost!) and so I look forward to officially setting up my site as an editor/author. (Watch this space!)

And of course I also want to concentrate on my own fiction and getting my next novel written. That’s the most important thing of all. And this brings me on neatly to this month’s Round Robin topic.

round robin, helena fairfax


Everybody wants to write a book, but most do not. Writing is hard work. What got you started, and what helps you get through a complete story?

A lot of different little strands led me to want to write. First and foremost was my love of reading. I used to immerse

One of my childhood favourite reads
Joan Aiken – one of my childhood favourite authors

myself in books as a child, and eventually I started to wonder about the people who actually wrote these amazing stories, and wish I could be like them. How brilliant it would be to create a story that took people away into a different world! As a child I never considered that that person could be me. Writing seemed to be yet another one of those things that other people could do, and I couldn’t.

It wasn’t until years later that I actually considered writing a book myself. I remember getting home from yet another terrible day in my dead-end job and moaning about it to my long-suffering husband. He asked me “What do you really want to do with your life?” I gave the dream I’d cherished since I was a child. “I’d love to be a writer.” So his next question was, “What do you need to do to get there?” Well, the answer was obvious. I needed to sit down and write a book.

So that was the nutshell of how it started. Of course from saying I needed to sit down and write a book, to actually writing that book, was a million miles, but I felt with that conversation I had the first thing I needed, which was confidence. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, which meant I had to submit a manuscript for appraisal by a certain time. This gave me another thing I needed – a deadline. I just had to sit down and write. If I missed the deadline, I would have wasted hard-earned money as well as the chance to get my manuscript critiqued. I used to write in whatever spare time I had. At that time they didn’t accept emailed manuscripts and you had to physically post the manuscript in a postbox. I still remember the feeling of total euphoria that I’d actually written a whole book! writing-4And posted it! On time!

Well, my critique came back and this was another thing that gave me confidence. Although a lot of my manuscript needed reworking, my reader treated my whole story and my characters as though they were REAL PEOPLE! It made me feel as though I’d succeeded already – I’d written a story that, although flawed, had come alive in my reader’s mind. It was just what I’d dreamed of doing as a child.

And so that’s how I came to write. And having had a few books published now, writing this post has reminded me of that joy I felt at finishing my first book, and at having a stranger read it and believe in it.

If you have dreams of being a writer, don’t put them off for as long as I did. Life is short. Sit down and write!

Thanks so much to author Robin Courtright for organising this Round Robin, and for suggesting the topic. Writing this post has renewed my joy in creating stories.

Do you dream of being a writer? If so, have you made a start on writing anything? Are you already a published author? And if so, what made you sit down and write an entire novel? If you have any comments at all, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

Skye Taylor
Margaret Fieland
Heather Haven
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Beverley Bateman
Marci Baun
Judith Copek
Rachael Kosinski
Diane Bator
A.J. Maguire
Rhobin Courtright

31 thoughts on “What does it take to actually sit down and write your first novel? #amwriting #writetip

  1. It took me twelve years to write my first (and so far only) novel. The core of it is a very strange summer I experienced in France as a seventeen year old schoolgirl, but – like Topsy – it just ‘growed and growed’. The satisfaction of seeing it in print after all those years will remain with me until the day I die.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congratulations on getting you novel written. It’s a great achievement – and it sounds like an interesting story! I remember the satisfaction of seeing my own in print, too. Thanks for dropping in – and good luck with your next book!


  2. All the best for 2017, Helena, and with all your plans! Good for you taking stock of what you want to do/achieve. I started my journey with short stories and articles, getting them published in various magazines and I still write them now and then to supplement my longer fiction. I also adjudicate comps and give talks to writing groups up here which is another strand of income, though not regular.

    I’ve had two short stories accepted since the end of 2016 and it’s more immediate income, so maybe you could try submitting shorter work to the few magazines that still take stories. Wishing you much success with your editing business, and your own writing – I expect that will give you enough work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rosemary, it’s a great idea to write some short stories. Congratulations on having another couple of your own accepted. I’d love to go to one of your talks. If only we lived nearer! Best of luck to you, too, with your writing, and hope to see you in 2017!


  3. I wrote my first published story out of necessity, having just opened an online magazine. I hadn’t any intention to be a writer. Once I wrote that story, I was hooked. I’ve spent most of my time, though, editing and being a publisher. Now that the houses are closed, this is changing.


  4. Deadlines are so helpful. I know a lot of people cringe at them but I’ve come to adore having a set date and time to have my work done. With the exception of the year I stabbed myself in the hand. Ahem. That year very little got done and deadlines were depressing, but I had a valid reason since I couldn’t feel half of my left hand.
    I’m so glad someone else enjoys deadlines!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I find a deadline really helps me, A.J., as I’m a terrible procrastinator. So sorry to hear about your hand! I hope it’s all healed now and you are back to writing away. Thanks for dropping in!


  5. Helena, I know a lot of people who go, “Man, I’d love to write a book,” and then never make any effort or moves to learn how to write one. Life is short! Very good advice for people to actively try and make it happen rather than waiting and just mulling over the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I only wish I’d started writing sooner, Rachael, instead of just thinking about it. I’d urge anyone who wants to write a novel to sit down and start now.
      Thanks for your comment, and for dropping in!


  6. Writing can lead to so many other avenues of expression and opportunity, good luck with your expanding horizons. Hope you still want to participate in round-robins.


  7. Lovely blog! I agree with Rhobin, we often find writing leads us to other things, but then aren’t we the sum total of everything we do? And I love your encouraging words at the end.


  8. I had a supportive husband, too. In fact, if it hadn’t been for him I’m not sure that I would have found the courage to really start writing instead of just tinkering with it. He picked up a brochure for a local writers group, took me to it to make sure my lack of confidence didn’t make me chicken out, and the rest is history.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations on expanding your writing stories into also helping writers write! What a thoughtful, supportive hubby you have. I have played with writing all my life. Stories, poems, through all the decades of my life–kid, adolescence, high school, college, young married, new mom, teacher, business owner. THEN I became serious after we sold our floral and greenhouse business when I asked the local editor of the newspaper if I could write articles for him. He said YES. No idea to write a book of fiction until I tired of Writing the 5 W’s of non-fiction. Without my writers group, I would have never subbed to a publisher. Wishing you all the best in your new venture! PS–Please come over to my blog as my guest too when you’re ready.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi JQ, what a great idea to approach your local newspaper. I’ve started writing freelance now, too, but only for online websites. I’ll give my local paper a go. Thanks for the tip! And thanks so much for the offer to come to your blog. I hope to have my revamped website up and running by the summer latest, so I’ll be in touch.
      Best wishes for your writing in 2017!


  10. Twenty years fruitless practice on another novel, near-nervous breakdown, mythic connection to a character (like Robert E. Howard and Conan), vampire flatmate (said character…), impossible luck (email correspondence with character’s human alter ego), historic trek across America and mythic meeting on Sunset Boulevard.

    Apart from that, nothing much.

    Liked by 1 person

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