The Quiller Memorandum*

So, I’ve just written 80,150 words of the Memoir in under three months. You may be wondering how I did it. So here goes:

  1. Find the time of day when you’re most productive and write then. For me that’s late morning, after exercising and late afternoon/ early evening, after my sleep. For you it could be at completely different times of the day. My friend Hannah writes on her phone when she’s out and about and then emails it to herself later.
  2. Set yourself a word target for each day. At the start I was clocking up two thousand words per day, but after this initial spurt I took it down to one thousand words a day, which is really just an hour of writing time. It all adds up.
  3. Some people like to do a detailed plan before they start. I don’t. I’d just decided where the starting point was – my cancer diagnosis four and a half years ago, and worked forwards from that, with the occasional flashback.
  4. It’s probably best to stick to one point of view and one tense. Mine is first person present tense because that’s the only thing I’ve really mastered so far.
  5. Write every day. This is pretty much non-negotiable. I only took about four or five days off in the three months.
  6. Aim for short chapters. My chapters are around two thousand words long, so I managed a chapter every day at the start and every two days later. You’ll get muddled writing great long chapters and they’re less fun for the reader too.
  7. Make sure to give yourself little rewards as you go along. My main reward was, if I’d completed a day’s word target, allowing myself a Midsomer Murder and some knitting.
  8. If you have to go to work: use your commute to write. That could be around two hours a day of writing time, enough to write two thousand words.
  9. If you’re not feeling inspired, put in some lists. The Memoir contains plenty of lists.
  10. There’s nothing wrong with recycling old pieces of writing if you can fit them in with your plot.
  11. If you get really stuck:
  12. Make a list of things that your character has in their pockets or handbag.
  13. Think about where your character is in space and time and simply have them cross the room and describe what they can see out of the window.
  14. Is there a dog? Get your character to take him for a walk.
  15. If you simply can’t write: go for a walk and think about your writing. Chances are you’ll be able to write on your return.
  16. Or even just make a cup of tea or coffee and then get back to the grindstone.
  17. Do plenty of reading in the genre in which you’re trying to write. Before writing the Memoir I read Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun, A.A. Gill’s Pour Me, Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist and Antonia Fraser’s My History. Whilst I was writing it I read Bryony Gordon’s Mad Girl. So my reading at the time was mainly memoirs, so I could see what did and didn’t work in the genre. All the above are brilliant examples. If you’re writing in a different genre, read as widely as possible in that genre.
  18. Although it’s best to do your own writing earlier in the day, before you start reading other people’s words and end up imitating their writing style.
  19. Don’t despair if the writing is going slowly. There is no need to write a whole book in three months.
  20. Try not to have too many characters as this both bogs down the writing and can confuse your reader. Where possible: mould a character out of two or three people. This is called ‘character folding’ and I read a piece about it recently – Google it.

Hope that is helpful.

Here is Dolly today:

Here is her Hot Spot:

You can see why she mustn’t be allowed to scratch it, poor Dolly.

The attached photo is my overbend row from Training this morning.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

*1965. By Elleston Trevor writing as Adam Hall. The second Agent Quiller spy thriller novel.


  1. Christopher · December 5, 2017

    There is so much here I agree with. I write historical stuff (non-fiction!) and sometimes it is like getting blood out of a stone but you really are right about writing every day: it makes you feel that your life has direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. L. Rorschach · December 5, 2017

    Brilliant writing tips! They’re extremely helpful. I have a question about your mention of “characters”. Are your characters friends & family members? And why would you merge 2 or 3 people from your life?

    Liked by 1 person

    • waternymph88 · December 5, 2017

      Well because sometimes you end up with just too many people so it makes sense to combine some of them otherwise you meet someone for a chapter and then there’s a different person next chapter and for continuity it would make more sense to see the first character again…

      Thank you darling xxx

      Liked by 1 person

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