Writer’s block. Here’s how it goes:

1) I’ve got five hours free and I’m sat in front of the computer with the compulsion to write a short story. There are colourful characters brewing, but no plot, no twist, no spark.

Make cup of tea number two.

2) Google writer’s block and find these quotes:

‘Writer’s block, I just drove around it four times. All my favorite writers live there.’ Jarod Kintz

‘I don’t get writer’s block. I get writer has too many ideas and doesn’t know which one to start next, block.’ Tyler Hojberg.

Yep, Tyler, now you come to mention it, I have got ideas for short stories – one fully formed with a twist and everything – and other vague ideas.

Make cup of tea number three. Clean bathroom sink.

3) Read two stories on the Costa Short Story Award website, both of them stunning, but The Glassblower’s Daughter felt so deft and complete that I’m now feeling the pressure just a little bit more.

Watch five minutes of a documentary I’ve already seen in the hope it might send ideas fireworking my way. It doesn’t. Drum fingers.

4) Oh what the hell, I try and cover two jobs at once by writing a short story using the unformed character of my unwritten third novel. I write 1,800 words and some of them are really quite good. But it’s not the blooming Glassblower’s Daughter, is it?

Make cup of tea number four. Take all the utensils out of a kitchen drawer and vacuum the accumulated crumbs. Wipe down. And breath……

5) Google writer’s block AGAIN and find this:

‘I don’t think that writer’s block exists really. I think that when you’re trying to do something prematurely, it just won’t come. Certain subjects just need time. You’ve got to wait before you write about them.’ Joyce Carol Oates.

Right, that’s it then, Joyce, I’m off for another cup of tea and some more cleaning.


Asking your husband to read your work – the literary equivalent of ‘Does my bum look big in this?’

Ding! Ding! It’s round two of the second novel. With the whole thing written, it’s time for an initial read by someone other than me. As ever, my first reader is my husband. He reads everything I’ve written – from short story to novel – all 92,000 words of the first book, not once, not twice, but three times.

I have just passed him the first seven chapters of the second novel. I know, I know, every book about How to Write a Novel tells you not to go there. ‘Don’t, under any circumstances, get your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend to read your work.’ Because, duty bound, they’ll tell you what you want to hear. Right? Well, that’s all very well. But if you’re not part of a writing group, who can you ask?

I’ve exhausted all of my go-to people with the first book. And I mean exhausted. Each of them gave it their all: Coffee cups shook in hands, red wine moustaches were painted on upper lips as verdicts were delivered and notes were made. I felt for them, I really did. It was a big ask.

So while it might not be the done thing – my husband is now sitting on the floor surrounded by a fan of paper that has a shot of being my first published book. My voice has become unusually high-pitched and my eyebrow is arched in a question mark. I’m saying a silent prayer: Please husband, reader and chief book critic – like the damn book – will you? 

Because here’s the thing – he will tell me if he’s dubious about what I’ve written. Short stories have been frowned at, floors have been paced and things have been said such as, ‘It’s just a bit crap, isn’t it?’

What’s the point of delusion, after all?

Yes, he’s feeling the pressure. Yes, there is no right answer. And yes, I’m going to be a bit peeved if he doesn’t like it. But you’ve got to start somewhere. And this is only the start. Next comes a massive edit by a professional editor. And then, ping, off the book will go to an agent or two or twenty two or….. Nope, don’t even think it! This is just the beginning.

Can someone please turn my MS into a real book?

Can someone please turn my MS into a real book?