I don't know what the statistics are but I have a feeling that journalists don't automatically make very good fiction writers. It's a different part of the brain. And it's a different business model. When you're a journalist you write a thousand words or so are about someone, somewhere, something else. Very often, no personal opinion required. After a thousand words or so, you get paid. You park that feature and start on the next one. You also have an editor, mostly at the end of an email, saying (hopefully), 'thanks for that - good job'. And (hopefully) your byline will pop up somewhere. Both these are a journalistic equivalent of hearty pats on the back. Reasons to carry on.

Deborah Bee

Deborah Bee

Writing a first novel is unpaid for many thousands of words with a strong possibility that it will always remain unpaid. And there are no pats on the back for many thousands of words. For all you know, it's rubbish. But having spent the last year of your life tapping away, can you really throw down your keyboard and walk away from it?

In my humble experience of writing a first novel, I thought I'd offer up the things that very nearly put me off, and by doing so, (hopefully) you will realise there's every reason to carry on.

Other people's opinions

The trouble with asking other people's opinions is that they give them, and then they get stuck in your head going round and round and round and round, until you don't know who you are anymore, let alone how good your story is. Next time I think I will wait until I'm so far in I can't go back before I ask anyone anything. Most people I spoke to didn't think I'd get my hoped for compelling drama out of a protagonist in a coma, throughout. And if someone had asked me the same question, neither would I.

Kitchen sides need wiping down

My kitchen surfaces were never so clean as when I was trying to write at home. Any distraction got in the way. Most authors say they find it easier to write somewhere else, like an office/shed at the end of the garden. My favourite place is in bed. With headphones. So you can't hear anyone/anything more interesting down the hall.

The fridge

This may be peculiar to me, but I put on half a stone when I wrote from my kitchen-table. The contents of the fridge were whispering to me constantly. Until I ate them.

Reading other people's better novels

I have a bedside table full of my favourite novels. There will always be nicer turns of phrase that I will ever capture, and cleverer adjectives. It's so easy to get put off people's brilliance and think you are getting ideas above your station. I guess you just have to be convinced by your own story to keep going.

Being anal and getting lost

When I first started writing fiction, I would grind to a halt every now and again because I got fixated by one small point; like exactly how far Subject 1 lived from Point A, or an appropriate name for a middle-aged Irish woman. Looking back, it's definitely best to plan all that out beforehand. Not every last detail because you have to allow for creativity en-route. But mainly know who your characters are and the arc of the journey. That way, you don't interrupt your own flow and get lost.

Other people's opinions

This one's back. I know I already said this but… other people's opinions are so dangerous. You know how, before you have a baby people come up to you and say, "So got any names?" And you say, maybe, "Talulah." And they say "Really? Talulah? Not sure." Well they don't ever say that when Talulah is sitting in front of them, do they? So don't tell people stuff until you have given birth to your miracle.

Worrying about your mum/ partner/ children/ friends will think

I have lots of friends who can't put pen to paper because they are worried that their efforts will be sneakily read by their partner, or that their mum or dad will disapprove. When I told my mum I had written a novel she was most worried that there would be a lot of gratuitous sex in it. I should think my children worried too. Hopefully I haven't embarrassed anyone.

Lack of time

I suppose the time involved in writing a novel boils down to which side of the fence you are sitting on; the writers - "I have to do this, for my own sanity's sake" or the friends and family of writers - "Where's my dinner/ shoulder to cry on/ dinner date." My husband was very understanding when I wanted to disappear for a few hours in the evenings to try to keep my momentum going. He even helped me, when we were on holiday for a week, to unravel the story when I had got confused by who knew what and when.

Watching telly

I have missed out on several great boxed-sets because I want to be a writer. Breaking Bad is my biggest miss. And The Affair. I'll watch them one day.

Emails/ Facebook/ Youtube/ Snapchat/ Twitter/ Whatsapp/ Instagram

A friend lent me a cottage in Scotland where the internet is crap. For five days. Ten hours per day, that's fifty hours, without interruption. I even hid my phone under a pillow, from myself. I never got so much writing done.

I've worked in journalism for years. But even after all that time, I'm still as nervous as the next writer that what I've written is rubbish, whether it's a short feature for a magazine, or my first novel.

I wonder what it's like to know absolutely, one hundred per cent, that you've written something good. Did even F.Scott Fitzgerald know that he'd written a masterpiece when he'd finished The Great Gatsby.

I expect we all feel pretty much equally fearful of wasting our time, other people's time and making utter fools of ourselves. But it's better to have tried and failed than not tried at all, isn't it?