It took me THREE years to write my first novel Life after Ali, while running a business, looking after kids and solo parenting halfway through a pandemic!
My brain came up with the idea while I was driving and somehow I knew this was THE IDEA. I had been writing another novel on and off for the last 5 years before this but it wasn’t really getting anywhere.
But this idea was IT. I could feel it. The whole character had popped into my head with her name and story. I could see it unfolding in my head and knew I had to get it down on paper.
At the time I had the idea, I was driving my son to his soccer lessons while my 10 month old was sitting quietly in her seat (it was a rare moment of quiet. Usually she persisted in screaming or crying for the whole 45 minutes it took me to reach the soccer field).
That night I typed 2000 words using Google Docs on my phone while she sat next to me. I assumed the process was going to be easy because after all I’d been an avid reader all my life and was writing for a job too.
How hard could it be to write a book?
As it turned out, it ended up being the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I have cried, thumped my keyboard in frustration when scenes were not coming easily, torn out my hair during rewrites. I rewrote Life after Ali nine times after a manuscript assessment was done and pre final copy edit. I used the wonderful and clever Claire Bradshaw as my editor).
I had stopped aiming for perfection by structural edit #5!
I got there in the end though and Life after Ali has turned into an actual book!
6 writing tips that helped me write my novel
#1 Write when you can, where you can
I wrote the book during whatever time I could find – an hour before I started client work, in the afternoon after school pickup, mostly nights after everyone had gone to sleep and weekends. Mostly I wrote on my laptop while my son played soccer.
I grabbed whatever time I could find. I’m not one of those writers who can sit from 9am to 3pm and write as I don’t have so much time available between paid work, kids, house and other commitments.
I wrote this book an hour at a time, sometimes half an hour or fifteen minutes is all I found. I also went many days without writing.
#2 Set a goal and stick to it
I committed to a dream and turned it into a goal. I had yearned to write a book since I was 15 years old. I was fully committed and determined to turn it into reality. Every bit of time I found was given to writing this book.
I also kept myself accountable by telling friends and family I was writing a book. I placed it on my vision board and thought about it daily.
#3 Be accountable
I made myself publicly accountable by announcing a launch date on Instagram despite the fact that I was still weeks away from a final copy edit and proofread.
I worked towards this date and made it.
#4 Never give up
Writing is damn hard but extremely rewarding. I didn’t give up on my dream when it got too hard. I learnt to rest and put the book aside when it was frustrating me. I didn’t quit even after rewriting it 9 times. I got myself to The End!
#5 Stay inspired
I kept myself inspired by trawling through other writers’ work and visualised seeing my name on a book. It kept me connected to my dream. I also created an author bucket list and that kept me going during the low days.
#6 Plan and execute
I planned out the whole writing process step by step and followed it.
I knew I had to get the first draft done, then a manuscript assessment, then rewrite until it got to a point where I couldn’t improve it any more.
I created a marketing plan and a self publishing step by step guide too so I could see the whole picture and tick off tasks.
These tasks were often squeezed in between client work and kid wrangling.
If writing a book is your dream, it can be done. But you have to do the work!
These are my tips on how I started from an idea and ended with an actual book. I’d love to know your tips!