What should my novel be about?

My husband has been badgering me to write something more comprehensive, and fictional, than my blog. Of course, being an arts graduate, I would very much like to write a book. In 2010, I enrolled in a creative writing course, to see whether maybe there was some sort of golden rule of writing I could follow, like a project plan. It was largely a disappointment. In much the same way that most projects fail in spite of excellent plans, there is also no real answer to how to write. For some people, a structured 8-hour day, where everything happens at the same time each day, seems to be the way forward, but as that’s apparently Jeffrey Archer’s method, it seems objectionable from the outset. Proust famously wrote everything in bed, which seems initially appealing, but I’d have thought it favours very self-absorbed prose, which I dislike even if it’s actually what I write.

I have some silly idea that I should try writing the way my favourite authors write, but it’s rather disparate. Donna Tartt writes one book every ten years, so I can’t imagine she works assiduously every day. One of the best Desert Island Discs I’ve heard was with Vikram Seth, who said that his biggest problem with being a writer was that he was naturally lazy, and easily distracted. He said, “I like doing nothing, if I can avoid doing something”.  I’ve no idea how Maggie O’Farrell writes, but she does manage to produce a book nearly every year, and successfully integrates the progression of her life into her novels. I am not lazy, but I can barely get through a half-hour TV show without buying something on Amazon and messaging my sister at the same time.  In the course of writing this blog post, I’ve also looked at Marian Keyes’s website, fed the baby, got the ironing board out (I do this regularly without ever doing the ironing), looked through old photos on facebook, and started putting together the list for wedding thank you notes. So the method of writing that would suit me is the one that also works for everything else I get done: do it at night, when I’m able to focus, and write continuously for at least four hours. So I can theoretically write between baby bed-time at eight, and second feed at 3 am. I can sleep when I’m dead.

The bigger question is what to write about. People always say that a first novel is autobiographical, but when I was doing this creative writing course I mentioned earlier, I learnt two things: it is much quicker and more lucrative to adapt a stage play of something that’s already been written, and the topics I like to write about tend to involve either prostitution or murder. I have no idea why, as neither is remotely autobiographical, fortunately. I’ll post up a very old short story attempt that suggests maybe my genre isn’t chick lit after all.

2 thoughts on “What should my novel be about?

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  1. When I feel the need to write a story, I always find that the actual ‘I want to write a novel/story’ thought is more prohibitive than anything, and that when you’re not thinking about it, an idea will come to you.

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