Not the Novel I’m Writing Now

But the one I was writing before.

When I was studying on the UEA Creative Writing MA I was working on a novel, provisionally entitled Heartsick. I’d been writing it on and off for a couple of years before I started the course, and thinking about it since I finished my undergrad. (It grew out of a short story I wrote for one of my third year assessments.) I took this novel into workshop after workshop.

In hindsight, that was a huge mistake. Because by the time it got to writing my dissertation I had no idea how I wanted to write Heartsick any more. I’d heard too much from other people, and my own feelings for how the novel should “go” were confused and muddled and anxious. (Top tip, Masters students, shake up your submissions.)

So, I started a new novel for my dissertation. Which was the right decision, because I enjoyed it so much more and I got a bloody good mark. (*smug*)

Still, I’ve got about thirty five thousand words of Heartsick and I have every intention of finishing it eventually. If you’d like, you can read a section of it over on The EDP named it as one of their highlights, and described it as “bleakly comic”, which was nice.

If you do read it, and you like it, please let me know. (I love praise.)

How I Write: An Ineffective Guide

Sit at desk, sweep paper into cluttered stack and place coffee cup in vacant space. Watch coffee slop over brink of mug onto keyboard. Consider licking keyboard. (Swipe with sleeve to dry instead.) Turn computer on.

Open Word Document. Decide more caffeine needs to be consumed before yesterday’s words can be read. Allow five minute online break in preparation.

Look up from Twitter half an hour later. Curse. Realise if all tweets were combined there would be enough words for a novel. Curse again. Refill coffee cup.

Tab back to Word. Discover previous writing is appalling mashed mass, not tightly honed prose. Sulk.

Remember that scribbled useful notes in middle of night. Scrabble beneath layered-desk-mess for notebook. Find black moleskine. Search for notes—notes appear to have vanished—wonder if dreamt useful comments.

Check in other room. Find stack of identical black moleskines. Resign self to searching through all of them. Find useful notes twenty minutes later. Comments consist of ‘Plot squiffy- improve. NB Disaster’. Curse self.

Go downstairs to fetch motivational hobnobs. Grab three biscuits. Congratulate self on not taking whole packet. Decide on one hobnob reward per 250 words.

Spin in chair, wait for inspiration. Watch couple having argument on street. Duck when angry man notices. Knock stack of library books onto floor. Pick up books. Turn back to computer. Reach for hobnob.

Hobnobs have vanished. Look round for hobnobs. Notice crumbs strewn down front. Realise have consumed all three motivational hobnobs. Swear.

Threaten self with exercise. Subconscious decides writing better option. Type.

I wrote this when the lovely Hayley Webster asked for submissions to her online writing festival All the Words. Do check out all the other pieces.

Not Stories, But Writing

I’ve been pretty busy over the last month or so. There was Worlds Literature Festival, sorting out my upcoming trip to South Africa and preparing to leave my job. Oh, and I’m leaving my job because I’m going back to UEA to study the Creative Writing Masters (Prose) in September. (Yay!)

But, I’ve written a few blogs too. If you follow me on Twitter you’re probably all too aware of them – do feel free to look away now:

Discovering Vladislavić – One of South Africa’s Finest Writers – Ampersand: And Other Stories
On meeting Ivan Vladislavic, author of The Restless Supermarket.

Norwich – A Fine City (of Literature) – Waterstones
On Norwich’s literary heritage and UNESCO City of Literature status. 

So, you want to be a writer? – Waterstones
My selection of the best creative writing guides.

Noirwich Crime Writing Festival – Waterstones
On upcoming crime writing festival Noirwich.

A Criminal Celebration – Writers’ Centre Norwich
Another Noirwich blog with a fiction introduction.

You might also like to read about how Rich designed the Noirwich logo.

If you do read of the blogs, I’d love to know what you think! And if you’d be interested in me writing something for you, drop me a comment or tweet me @DilysTolfree.*



*I’d hope to be paid, but we can’t have everything in life.

The Perfect Conditions for Writing

Would you like to write in an immaculate, sun drenched office? Prose pattering gently onto the blank page as you sip freshly brewed coffee, perhaps?

Nabokov’s wife apparently enabled his writing career to the extent that she was a wife, a cleaner, a cook, a babysitter, etc etc, [read all domestic and traditionally female roles], as well as a secretary, editor and substitute teacher. (More in this by Koa Beck.)

There are numerous articles on writing full-time – normally exploring the struggle of getting motivated, the worry about earning enough and the necessity for discipline. Then there are the subsequent plaintive responses from those who manage to squeeze writing around work, family and everything else.

If you’re writing full-time, you have the pressure to produce; without the excuse of being tired from work, or having had a rough day in the office. You also have endless opportunities to procrastinate. (You have them just as much if you’re fitting writing around work, but you also know that you’ve stolen that time and it must be staked out with sharp pointy things and noise-cancelling headphones.)

The real truth of it though, is that you’re never going to have your ideal writing conditions. There will always be something else you can do.

You’ve just got to sit down and write.


(Which is why I’m writing this, of course.)

Want to Buy a Book?

You could buy Words and Women One, an anthology of short prose by women from the East of England. The collection is composed of short stories, creative non-fiction and memoir. Plus, it’s really pretty.

And, my story ‘Persepone’ is in it. Along with 20 other pieces – so you’re sure to find something you like. (Read a nice review of the anthology.)

You can buy it from Unthanks Books, Amazon, or your local bookshop.

Look- A Real Book!

Look- A Real Book!

© 2021 Rowan Whiteside