Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Hello Sailor

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009


My second book, the somewhat dubiously titled Hello Sailor is published today. This means a sudden and uncomfortable switch from it being a personal, private bit of work, to something that anyone can read.

This was something I didn’t really think about with my first book, The Hour, until a school friend I hadn’t been in touch with for many years, having read the book, got in touch via my publisher. I gave her a ring back, and started explaining just how life had been going since I pipped her to the sixth-form geography prize. “I’ve got a partner,” I started.

“Oh, yes, Louisa,” she said.

“How did you know that?”

“It’s in your book, you twit.”

And so on. People know things I don’t expect them to know.

Or, someone you’ve never met will start a conversation that is simply baffling. One stranger approached me at a bike race, and said, apropos of nothing at all, “Did you ever get the glue off that TV remote control?” I can only assume it’s a reference to something I wrote somewhere. (What will happen now, of course, is that everyone who’s ever read this blog will greet me with the words, “Did you ever get…” and so on. It’ll be like a secret password. A really stupid one.)

The other thing that happens today is that, somehow, the book becomes final. I’ve spent so long with the manuscript and Word files for Hello Sailor that I’ve become used to the idea that I can change anything I don’t like. Other people’s books are cast in stone – your own, you can alter at will. At least, until today. Now, if I don’t like it, I’m stuck with it.

The final thing that happens is that now I can start worrying in earnest about whether or not anyone is actually going to buy it, and if they do, whether they’re going to like it. I’d love to report that I don’t care about these things, like a proper artist, but I’m afraid I do.




Always remember, no one cares.

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

I have always been the kind of person who reads instructions. So naturally I thought I’d kick off my blogging career by finding some instructions. I gave up on the 2000 pages of advice on how to use WordPress. I gave up, too, on the blogs about blogging. But wherever I went, I found the repeated instruction that you must remember that other people are going to read your blog (as if), so you need to think carefully about what you say.


Now, here at last I was on familiar territory. This is wrong. It couldn’t be more wrong. Rule one of writing anything for publication is to put firmly out of your mind the notion that anyone else will ever see it. On days when I get that idea into my head, I can barely write my own name. Anything I do manage to put down is immediately re-written, and fenced about with so many conditions, explanations, and apologies-in-advance that it’s unreadable.


You know you’re having a day like that when you typed the sentence ‘It got dark early”, and an hour realise later you’ve ‘clarified’ it by explaining what latitude you were referring to, what time of year it was, whether it was Summer Time or GMT, and exactly what kind of visibility you had in mind as the threshold of darkness.


I’m going to stop now, because writing about this is making me worry that someone will read it. I have a terrible urge to go and explain what I mean by ‘read’.