Why Will No-One Publish My Novel?*

How To Be A Writer

  1. Read. Read everything. Good books for style, bad books so you know what mistakes to avoid. My major influences are: Martin Amis, Bret Easton Ellis, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Fay Weldon, Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Penelope Lively, Antonia Fraser, Selina Hastings, Jilly Cooper, Virginia Woolf, Stephen King, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Jonathan Franzen, Philip Roth and too many others to mention. The more you read, the better your vocabulary will be and consequently the better your writing will be.
  2. Write every day. I blog every day and this gives me the confidence to know that I can write whenever I sit down to do it. Have a pen and paper next to your bed and write down your dreams when you wake up. Write before you listen to the news or read anything by anyone else. If you’re stuck: do some automatic writing. Set a timer for ten minutes and just write whatever comes into your head. Don’t let your hand leave the paper. You’ll be surprised at what you produce.
  3. Walk. I thought of this morning’s poem on the walk back from the gym. Dickens and Virginia Woolf used to take long walks. Walking makes the brain produce Inspiration.
  4. Inspiration can strike at any time. Always keep a pen and notebook with you. I’ve written on trains, buses, waiting for a play or film to begin, waiting at stations or bus stops.
  5. If Inspiration fails, try a change of scene. Travel and experiencing new things can act as a catalyst for new ideas.
  6. Write in cafes, restaurants, on the beach or in the park.
  7. Impose a deadline by promising to send a friend two thousand words or so. This will make you produce something.
  8. Plan, but know that your story will shape itself, often spiralling into unexpected scenarios. Your characters will take on their own lives and surprise you.
  9. Have a calm, quiet, clear space in which to write.
  10. When Inspiration is absent, edit. Dostoyevsky wrote eight drafts of The Idiot. It never hurts to go through your writing with a red pen, taking out info dumps and extraneous adverbs.
  11. Experiment with different styles of writing. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to write a radio play or a film script. Give it a go. I wrote fiction for years, then a Memoir and now I mainly write poetry. It’s all worth writing.
  12. Get angry about something and then write about it. Good writing often comes from a sense of injustice, railing against the unfairness of the world.
  13. On public transport, write down conversations that you hear. This will improve your dialogue no end.
  14. Watch television. Some of the best writing these days is for television and it will help you with structure, plotting, suspense and endings.
  • Read books on how to write. Stephen King’s On Writing is wonderful. Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey is worth a look. Dorothea Brande’s classic Becoming A Writer is great, as is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones. I lent my Scarlett Thomas Monkeys With Typewriters to Hannah years ago and she still has it, so that’s a recommendation. Fay Weldon has just published Why Will No-One Publish My Novel? Which is bound to be wonderful.
  • Hope this helps.
  • Happy Monday everyone!
  • *2018. By Fay Weldon. Book of advice for the rejected writer.

    Murder On Sheinken Street*

    This long-cherished dream of this land,

    Held by the wandering Jews for five thousand years,

    They longed to return here,

    From exile in hostile places,

    Hated for their different faces,

    Forbidding dress, unusual customs:

    Killed in pogroms, wars, ghettos –

    Finally the Holocaust:

    Britain is forced

    To return the biblical land of Israel

    To the stateless Jews.

    This arid desert landscape blooms –

    Roman irrigation revived,

    Israel thrives: a desert oasis blooms:

    Self sufficient now in fruit, vegetables, meat –

    Antirrhinum blossoms on every street,

    And outside cafes people chat and eat,

    Protected by the Iron Dome

    From Muslim powers’ rockets.

    Iran’s nuclear weapons point here –

    The only democracy in the Middle East.

    Biblical Hebrew revived – people speak it now:

    Cultural life blossoms, and how!

    This melting pot of peoples, faiths –

    Arabs, Jews and Christians mingle,

    The spine tingles with excitement here:

    Fountains flow,

    Mountains rise up from the sea.

    Arguments explode, drivers toot their horns

    In this ancient land reborn.

    On Shabbat, everything shuts down,

    And all around the town

    People walk to friends to chat and drink and eat,

    And argue, eat,

    And finally waddle home replete

    In the afternoon

    To sleep off the excess.

    Teens dress in Western fashions,

    Madonna plays here and the Rolling Stones –

    Though Roger Waters moans

    That Israel must be boycotted.

    The right holds power,

    Bibi’s rule entrenched

    For a fifth term.

    Liberals shake their heads, and bench,

    And long for peace. Which seems so far away.

    Israel sends a rocket to the moon,

    She leads the world in tech and medicine:

    A cure for cancer isn’t far away,

    Or so the papers say.

    The military’s strong,

    Intelligence the best

    Mossad leads the rest.

    Flags wave in the breeze:

    Blue on white: David’s star over the great king’s domain,

    The hopes and dreams of this proud people remain:

    To lead the world in science, industry and thought –

    Peace with her neighbours can be bought:

    Trump and Putin love Bibi,

    Saudi Arabia will come onside soon.

    In the desert, osteospermum blooms.

    Egypt and Jordan are her friends

    Though the Intifada never ends,

    But Israel, not cowed is strong.

    Though to the rest of the world, she’s always wrong.

    The Zionists have learned the lessons of their Nazi masters, the British Labour Party say,

    Antisemitism thrives today.

    So join with me and pray for peace,

    In G-d’s own land, the Middle East.

    *1992. By Batya Gur. Crime fiction novel set in Tel Aviv starring detective Sephardi policeman Michael Ohayon.

    Blood Oranges*

    Wake up at 7.11am and have a coffee on my balcony. Yesterday afternoon unpack furiously looking for my Promethazine tablets which I need to help me sleep. Somehow I’ve forgotten to pack them.

    Go with brother to the pharmacy. They won’t give me Promethazine without a prescription. In England it’s available over the counter. Ask my Uncle who’s on his way here to pick them up at the airport chemist but they don’t stock them. Email my pharmacy at home requesting my prescription by email but they won’t reply until Monday.

    Brother posts on Haifa English Speakers to see if anyone happens to have any Promethazine: it’s just a drowsy antihistamine. He procures a different drowsy antihistamine which will take tonight.

    By some miracle: sleep last night: it’s hot – twenty eight degrees – and do A Lot of walking yesterday so am very tired.

    Meet brother’s trainer at the gym for Functional Training at 11.30am this morning. This consists of many sets of horrible exercises using mini skateboard; body weight and kettle bells. Do Sumo Squats with kettle bell; lunges and sideways lunges on the skateboard; triceps on the box and triceps push ups. Also do various abs exercises involving rolling the skateboard back and forth whilst dipping pelvis; one leg circles with other leg straight balancing on the skateboard and push ups going up and down with hands down to elbows and back.

    Here’s my sideways lunge with skateboard:

    Here’s the gym dog:

    Brother has paid for sessions at this gym that he’s never used, so will return there for weightlifting. Trainer is impressed with the improvement in my fitness since last year when, unbeknownst to me, lungs had filled with fluid and collapsed so couldn’t breathe. Have indeed improved fitness A Lot in the last few months since have been studying and training for Pilates Instructor Course and wearing leg weights all the time.

    Walk home, picking up more protein bars and mosquito 🦟 repellent on the way as have already been bitten. Brother says mosquitos prefer O negative blood which we both possess.

    After a windy, overcast walk, arrive home for lunch. Rest and meditate but can’t sleep.

    Hotmail has locked me out of my account due to me attempting to log in from an unusual place – Israel. Dad starts the process of unlocking account but still can’t receive new emails which is frustrating.

    Have a coffee and a protein bar on my balcony overlooking the sea. Do love it here. Just wish the various problems would disappear, but these things are sent to try us.

    Yesterday, my Goddess Collective chums meet our Guru Melissa Wells at the Hay House Ignite festival. Am So Envious. Apparently Mel is just lovely: I am Desperate to meet her soon!

    Right: must have bath as we have colleagues of brother’s coming for supper soon. Brother is marking exams and Mum is cooking. Am writing this lying on my bed.

    Happy Sunday everyone!

    *2014. By Liad Shoham. Crime fiction novel set in Tel Aviv.


    It’s a pleasant flight with El-Al, which is a surprise. Luton airport is empty and so is Ben Gurion at the other end.

    On the plane I read an entire book:

    It’s set in 1901 at the time of Edward VII’s Coronation. Fay Weldon is such a wonderful writer: she brings the past alive with intricate historical detail, creating characters you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s gripping up to the last page. Highly recommend Fay Weldon’s Long Live The King, Book Two in the Love And Inheritance trilogy. Can’t wait to immerse myself in Book Three now.

    After I finish my book, have a sleep for ninety minutes. We land, pick up our baggage and my brother is there at the airport to meet us and drive us back to Haifa.

    We arrive just in time for sunset. This view never gets old:

    We attend nearby Greg’s Kitchen for dinner which is a whole cauliflower roasted with tahini and yoghurt; fried artichoke hearts a la Romana and a feta, chicory and mixed leaf salad. Walk home and pass out to the sound of jackals howling in the wadi.

    The wind booms in the trees. Wake up at seven and have a coffee. Brother comes round for breakfast. Dad is not adaptable: he’s a fish out of water away from home: fussing and faffing; unable to find the yoghurt in the front of the fridge or even the tea bags above the kettle. Lord give me strength to be patient and kind with my elderly father and don’t let me take out my irritation on him. It’s not his fault.

    For I too struggle to adapt when away from my routine: gym; barre; Pilates; leg weights; dog walks; crime thrillers; protein drinks. Living with a chronic mental disorder is only possible if one adheres to a strict routine. So, I must make one here.

    Darling brother purchases porridge, honey and goji berries so I can consume my normal breakfast. Go for a walk with Mum where I say “we can’t keep stopping to smell the flowers Mum, this is an Exercise Walk, not a ramble so…”

    “I love having a break from my routine. Is that a large tortoiseshell?” Mum says:

    “That’s because you don’t have a mental disorder,” I say, holding my hat on my head as it’s windy on the slopes of Mount Carmel.

    “I daresay,” Mum says. “You mustn’t bully me in front of your brother, he doesn’t like it and…”

    “I’m stressed without my gyms and leg weights,” I say. “I’m sorry but…”

    “You’re going to the gym tomorrow,” Mum says. “Here we are, it’s about a twenty five minute walk. Do you want me to come with you tomorrow or…”

    “No, I like spending time on my own,” I say. “I need some space.”

    “OK darling,” Mum says as we turn back. Now she is sewing a ribbon onto the inside of my hat so I can tie it around my chin. My mother is a saint.

    We see the fountain:

    Some antirrhinum:


    We trek a little way into the wadi where there are these wild daisies:

    Here I am in the wadi:

    Am so pleased with self for losing the cancer weight and am anxious to keep it off. Must achieve plenty of exercise and must not eat too much. At least have some training sessions booked but also aiming for an hour of walking per day, including one more hour today when wake up from afternoon sleep as no cardio or weights today.

    As long as can maintain my exercise, it will all be fine.

    Need a quick wash – may even risk the dangers of a shower – argh The Shower Scene in Psycho – but have a shower here so should use it. We are invited to brother’s friends for lunch. Everyone here is so hospitable. Love Israel.

    Now am going to drink a coffee on my private balcony and gaze at the sea 🌊.

    Happy Saturday everyone!

    *1960. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The groundbreaking horror thriller. Stars Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles and John Gavin. Screenplay by Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch based on the life of the serial killer Ed Gein. See this film at once if you haven’t already. The infamous Shower Scene is why I’m scared of showers!

    The Flight Attendant*

    Realise on the way out of the house at 6.25am this morning that have forgotten my furry manta ray – Ray. Stuff him into my hand luggage, wrapping his wings around his body. We’re in the cab at 6.30am.

    It’s a quick journey to Luton and the El-Al gate isn’t busy. They ask us if we live together, who packed our luggage and if anyone has given us anything to take to Israel. We assure them that we live together, we pack our own luggage and don’t leave it out of our sight. Security wave us through.

    Somehow my case weighs twenty kilograms: it must be all the cosmetics; protein bars and fifty individual bottles of anti-cancer-ulcer mouthwash.

    We make it through Fast Track Security: I have to remove all my jewellery and shoes and take out my cosmetics in their transparent bag and my phone.

    Make it to Departures where Mum buys me a new Chanel Coco Mademoiselle perfume:

    With my dog walking money I buy this hat from Oliver Bonas:

    I love it. Can’t believe I left all my sun hats at the flat.

    Now we’re having breakfast at Pret:

    Its a sunny day. We’ll be in Israel by 2.40pm which will be 4.40pm Israeli time. Can’t wait to see brother, family members, his trainer, friends and colleagues. Here I am on beautiful Haifa beach last year:

    Right: must consume breakfast, return to the loo and watch some planes taking off.

    Hope you all have a lovely Passover or Easter. I’ll be on when I have Wi-Fi: certainly at the house and maybe in the beach restaurants. Can’t wait to do functional training with brother’s amazing trainer.

    Parentals wouldn’t let me bring my leg weights so must do plenty of exercise to make up for being deprived of this easy calorie burn.

    Parentals are stressed and faffing as usual at the airport – all the security, passport control and baggage checks fluster them. As Suzy instructed: I’m in my protective bubble, which cannot be penetrated by their anxieties. Am calm and happy. I breathe.

    Will see my brother this afternoon – can’t wait!

    Happy Friday everyone!

    *2018. By Chris Bohjalian. A flight attendant wakes up next to a dead man with no clue what, if anything, she had to do with his demise. Thriller.

    The Tulip Touch*

    It’s The Master’s class at Spin and I’m the first person to hit four hundred and fifty, then five hundred, then six hundred calories. The Master is Really Pleased With me. Here we are:

    Teach Mum’s best friend some Pilates. She’s already improved So Much in a mere four sessions: better mobility, flexibility and stamina. We do a whole forty five minutes this week: before we’d done thirty, thirty five then forty minutes. Am so pleased with her for taking it so seriously and doing her homework. Here’s her homework for this week:

    She asks me about emptying her mind of intrusive thoughts so I buy her Michael King’s Pure Pilates. It will arrive in a few days. Am so happy to see how enthusiastic she has become about her Pilates. She says that as a teacher herself it’s a learning curve for me to realise what a pupil needs and that am doing really well. Am so pleased with self and her.

    When we arrive home it’s sunny and I take a turn around the garden. The berberis darwinii is flowering now:

    So are the purple tulips:

    I chat on my phone in the garden to a friend and he promises to visit on my return.

    The house is sad and quiet without Fluffball who Mum takes to the cattery this morning. Miss him.

    Read and note thirty five pages of MadeByMaggie’s children’s story. It’s excellent.

    Now must:

    1. Pack up ten days of meds.
    2. Clean lenses and put them in suitcase.
    3. Have bath and wash hair.
    4. Set out clothes for tomorrow as we’re leaving at 6.30am.

    This time tomorrow we’ll be in beautiful Israel.

    Have a lovely Easter everyone.

    Happy Thursday!

    *1996. By Anne Fine. Children’s novel based on the Jamie Bulger Murder case. Winner of the Whitbread Award.

    Murder On Pointe*

    Have a good walk with Gandalf then cuddle him in his house. He’s my Best Boy:

    It’s a cold but sunny day. He’s my most precious angel boy and waits for me in the hall whilst I find the towel to rub his muddy feet, which he lifts one at a time to help. Stroke his long soft fur, kiss his face and he gives me a Flatcoat face wash.

    My new soft toothbrushes arrive to day and use one. It doesn’t irritate my cancer-treatment-induced mouth ulcer. The Iglu anaesthetic gel stops mouth hurting so that is good too.

    Barre is excellent. Here I am with my chum and my teacher. We do more arms, bums and tummies today:

    Have lunch and a sleep. Have just woken up at 3.30pm.

    MadeByMaggie has sent me some more of her children’s story to read so must crack on with it.

    I’m drinking coffee, looking out of the window at the garden. The birds cheep. Mum cuts up some pineapple earlier so will eat that.

    Unpack and repack case. Still need to remove a few more items of clothing as leg weights need to be packed and will add two kilograms.

    Countdown to holiday: this time on Friday we’ll be in our plane ✈️.

    Mum takes fluffball to the cattery for his holiday at 8.30am tomorrow, so must spend some time with him now. Also need bath.

    Happy Wednesday everyone!

    *2016. By C.S. McDonald. Fiona Quinn Mysteries Book 1. Set in Pittsburgh in the world of ballet. Also stars Homicide Detective Nathan Landry.

    Black Dogs*

    Yesterday, we arrive at the Zoo at 4.45pm and park in the Members’ car park. The Zoo closes at six o’clock.

    First we see Asim:

    Suzy hasn’t seen him before so she’s excited to meet him. He’s not excited: he’s sleeping. He’s such a handsome boy.

    The camels are next to Tiger Territory. Sadly, Bactrian camels are severely endangered now:

    Then we visit Land Of The Lions – it’s done up as an Indian hill railway station in the Gir forest and contains four very rare Asian lions. We have an excellent sighting of Bhanu:

    And two of the lionesses, Heidi and Ruby:

    There are no lion cubs yet but there’s no keeper to talk to about why not: this late in the day the Zoo is deserted.

    We take the tunnel under the road to the other side of the site and see the tamanduas sleeping on top of a light. They like it there because it’s warm. They’re tree anteaters so the climb up is easy for them:

    “Where are Marilyn and Lento?” I ask a keeper in Rainforest Life.

    “Lento is in isolation because now he’s two he’s moving to another zoo, in Norfolk,” she says.

    “Oh no, I’ll miss him,” I say.

    “Marilyn’s just over there, hanging from a tree,” she says, pointing to a brown, hanging, furry bundle.

    “I love sloths,” Suzy says, smiling as she looks at her.

    We go downstairs to Moonlight World and see the potto, bushbabies, bats and a Grey Slender Loris stepping slowly and carefully along a branch, moving one long leg at a time. Can’t take photos down there because it’s dark. The Slender Lorises are some of my favourite animals: their huge liquid eyes are lamps in the darkness.

    Over to Into Africa and we see the zebras and glimpses of giraffes in their house: huge patched flanks moving behind the windows.

    Oni the okapi is near her fence:

    She must be on heat as her boyfriend is desperate to be with her: climbing his side of the fence in an effort to scale it:

    “I didn’t know about okapis till recently,” Suzy says. “They’ve only just been discovered I think and…”

    “In 1901,” I say, laughing. “Quite a while ago now.”

    It’s 5.55pm and we make our way out through the gift shop. Driving through Camden, we find a parking place where we can pay up to six thirty, when parking becomes free here, and walk to Mildred’s.

    Dinner is lovely. Have a stir fry with tofu and tender stem broccoli and a kale salad with fried strips of lotus, which we haven’t encountered before.

    “I wish you could just work part time so we could go out at four o’clock more often,” I say. Suzy is a teacher and has to work all day and then do paperwork all evening.

    “That’s the dream,” she says, eating her dumplings with the chopsticks that I still haven’t mastered aged almost forty.

    We have a walk along the canal and it’s not yet dark at eight o’clock – which is great:

    Suzy stays the night.

    Wake up at 7.11 this morning and walk to the gym. Do four sets of all my weights:

    Walk home, say goodbye to Suzy and then Mum picks me up with my case. We drive to Dolly’s house. She’s in the garden when I arrive and bounds over to me: jumping up and placing her paws on my shoulders which she is not allowed to do.

    “Dolly, no,” I say, turning my back to her and crossing my arms.

    “She seems to have perked up,” I say to her owner’s son, as he answers the door.

    “She’s been up and down,” He says, putting her harness on.

    “She must think your mum has recovered and gone out somewhere,” I say. “You’ve had a haircut and…”

    “I wanted to do it before Mum died,” He says, smoothing a lock of hair behind his ear. “But I’ve done it in time for the funeral which is next Wednesday so…”

    “Oh that’s a shame: I’m going away for ten days on Friday,” I say.

    “I’ll get you a copy of the Order Of Service,” He says.

    “Thank you,” I say. “Come On Dolly.”

    Dolly rushes up to Mum in the street and rests her head against Mum’s thigh in greeting.

    “Is that a bear?” Mum says, stroking her soft head.

    It is drizzling on our walk but we still have a good time. Dolly seems much cheered and isn’t so clingy. She always looks around for me if I lag behind though.

    There is a beautiful ceanothus in her road:

    The magnolia there is still flowering:

    We drive back to the parentals. Fluffball is inside on his black chair as the rain is heavier now.

    Have a quick bath and lunch then pick the Fraud forms up at the bank. They have had their mail van taken away so have to post forms at the Post Office which costs me £6.60 for next day signed for. It’s a cheek but can’t risk them not arriving and Barclays taking more than four hundred pounds back out of my account (the flights and insurance that the fraudster paid for using my details).

    At the dentist, for the first time ever have a bit of tartar on lower teeth. This is because my mouth ulcer caused by the cancer treatment is so painful just in front of those teeth. Dentist advises me to purchase a Curaprox Ultra Soft toothbrush which is a manual one, and an anaesthetic mouthwash called Iglu. Get that in the pharmacy next door and it stops ulcer hurting. It contains Lidocaine. Order the special toothbrush from Amazon and it will arrive tomorrow.

    Just watch a Mel Wells video replay of her yesterday’s webinar on Reclaiming The Feminine, which is good.

    Now must take some clothes out of suitcase.

    We have spaghetti for supper tonight – yay!

    Happy Tuesday everyone!

    *1992. By Ian McEwan. Literary fiction novel.

    Tonight Will Be Fine*

    Am up last night till 11.18pm finishing Fay Weldon’s Habits Of The House: Book One in the Love And Inheritance trilogy. It’s gripping: wonderful writing – and I’m desperate to find out What Happens. Meditate then sleep.

    Wake up at eight o’clock this morning and watch last night’s Victoria. Last night’s episode of The Durrells is brilliant. Watching it is being enveloped in a warm hug for an hour: lost in Corfu in the early 1940s. Gerry is training a beautiful barn owl called Ulysses.

    Work hard at training and trainer is pleased with me. Here’s my Lat Pulldown:

    Book tickets to a Leonard Cohen tribute event on the South Bank on 24th June. Am going with a friend. It looks great. Yesterday was the Fiftieth Anniversary of the release of Songs From A Room so listen to that whilst packing this morning.

    Am watching last night’s Silent Witness. Nikki has been kidnapped in Mexico by a cartel and is buried underground in a wooden box. It’s thrilling.

    Suitcase is now stuffed: need to remove some clothes. Will do that once Silent Witness is finished. Also need to put a wash on and finish taking the dry clothes off the airer and put them away.

    Suzy is coming to pick me up at four o’clock and take me to the Zoo – where we have a new Giant Salamander to meet – and then out to dinner in Camden. She’s on holiday for Easter now but has gone in to school today to crack on with her work.

    Happy Monday everyone!

    *1969. By Leonard Cohen. Song that appears on the album Songs From A Room which was released on 7th April 1969.


    Tim Burton’s Dumbo is amazing. He is just adorable and the casting is great: stars Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton and the young actress Nico Parker who I reckon is going places. Don’t miss it.

    My chum has never seen the cartoon original Dumbo for some reason so urge him to watch it. Have a Diet Coke and he has a beer after and we stay at the Hampstead Everyman till eleven o’clock. Meditate and fall asleep around midnight.

    Am up at six thirty this morning as am Excited about meeting the Mel Wells Self Love Advent Challenge London Ladies for lunch.

    Watch an episode of Murder Made Me Famous about Aaron Hernandez – the New England Patriots American footballer who becomes a violent and savage multiple murderer.

    Walk to gym. Do four sets of all my weights:

    Meet the London Ladies at The Flask in Hampstead for lunch: including two new ones who haven’t been before. One of them is Jewish, lives near me and gives me a lift home which is helpful. Here we are:

    Love The Flask and we have excellent chats and food.

    Make it home in time to watch Cambridge beat us by about a length in the Boat Race. However it’s Not Fair as they have Olympic Gold Medallist James Cracknell who’s forty six and doing an MA there now. Cambridge are heavy favourites but Oxford put up a good fight and it’s pretty close in the end.

    Need to crack on with my new Fay Weldon book Habits Of The House and add photos to my Instagram. At eight o’clock the new series of The Durrells begins on ITV, followed by Victoria.

    Must put a wash on before supper. Miss my sleep this afternoon so am Exhausted.

    Happy Sunday everyone!

    *2019. Feature film written by Ehren Kruger, adapted from the novels by Harold Pearl and Helen Aberson. Directed by Tim Burton. Stars Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Eva Green and Michael Keaton.