Holy s**t! The terror and joy of launching a new novel

I love writing novels…and it scares the s**t out of me. Can these two conflicting emotions (happily) co-exist – without driving me insane? No guarantees on the latter, but having published five since two thousand and five – four novels, a book on public speaking – I have a few strategies (sic) that (sort of) keep me safe (sane?).

Writing a finished novel means one thing: you start. Dozens have told me their “book idea,” wanting to know “how I did it.” Simple: I start…and keep going.  The writing process is long and it’s difficult. A strict writing regime (early mornings for me) is just one step in the right direction. Writing also needs (lots) of something I call, “communication observation.”  Great communicators – written, spoken, listening – are always great observers. They love the daily encounters – no matter how small or (seemingly) insignificant. They put thought – real thought – into things they see and hear. Every moment an experience. My best observations typically come from walking outside: surprising, different, strange, humorous…inspiring!  Ideas to be shaped into story scenes. Head up from your phones to watch a world full of scenes evolving around you. It’s important – and not just for novel writing!

Once you type those magical words, “The End” on your first draft, you have accomplished something very few others have. Congratulations! Celebrate that milestone…not for too long, though,  the clean-up must begin – intense and liberating. This is when the true rhythm of the story starts to flow. We all know how we feel when things are “going well” …when we’ve created that rhythm that works. Don’t stress about the right words for your story, think more about the rhythm of your sentences. Music helps me write with rhythm – before I start to write. I listen to my preferred, go to songs (wide range of genres)… and then I am ready. To write well means to interact with your emotions in expressive ways. We are all emotional, feeling humans. Tap into what you already have, and the rhythm will come naturally.

Start that novel…and keep going…you’ll get there. It’s an amazing journey. Don’t worry if it scares the (blank) out of you – because it should! If you weren’t terrified it wouldn’t be exciting – and hugely rewarding.


My fourth novel, In This Invisible, is contemporary literary fiction set in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.   Currently being adapted for cinema. For details, contact me via this site.

Available at fine bookstores and on Amazon.com.  Or request a signed copy…I will reply…seriously!

Leave a Reply