I’m assuming that those reading these blog posts will at least have a kernel of an idea, be writing and be on with building up a supportive writerly community (see last ‘Confessions’ post). There is no magic about writing a novel-length manuscript, what you have to do is write, write, write, get some feedback and creative nourishment and then write some more. Sounds simple? In some ways it is, yet behind that straightforward statement, there is what I call the need to create a writing space. I mean this in terms of a physical space and also in terms of carving out time for the creative process. In addition, in my opinion, there also has to be a psychological and emotional shift for this to happen. Taking a physical space, demarcating time, implies saying to yourself and others, ‘My writing is important’. It might mean putting your writing before the needs and demands of others. This is hard, especially at the beginning when you have little to show for it and others will often see what you’re doing as a nice little hobby. On the other hand, it’s possible that you will self-sabotage, allowing critical voices (real or imagined, from your past or present or future) to undermine your confidence and motivation. This is where you writerly friends are so important in supporting you to carry on even when giving up appears the safest option. (I have written about writing blocks and pathways through them: http://goo.gl/k360PX) In tandem with writing you need to be studying the genre you are working in by reading, reading and reading more. I would also recommend Margaret Geraghty’s ‘The Novelist’s Guide’ for craft and technique, though you may find your own personal favourite handbook. You cannot write a novel-length manuscript for publication without feedback. Going on courses and/or joining groups will assist you to build up a sense of what feedback is useful, when and how to ask for it, as well as school you in the art of giving it and receiving it. Personally, I choose who I ask for feedback very carefully, I need to trust them not to have their own agenda and also to understand where I am coming from. It’s not easy to listen to and act on feedback but it is crucial to producing something worthy of putting before an audience. In amongst this process, you will also find your own critical skills are being sharpened, so that you are able to assess your own work with a more dispassionate and analytical eye. Writers also research. A lot of what we write comes from deep within us, and the more we are prepared to be honestly excavating our different selves, the better our writing will be. In addition, writers notice, they listen, they question, they are curious, they ask people about their lives, they go to tiny little museums in out-of-the-way places and read all the little illegibly penned notices. Writers are interested in people, in settings, in happenings, in the silences, in the spaces in between. Writing a novel length manuscript can take many years. In some ways ‘The Art of the Imperfect’ took me thirty years to write. All the writing, researching and crafting I had done up to now was my apprenticeship. It is because of that apprenticeship that I have found ‘The Art of…’ series is slipping so satisfyingly off my pen and I have been able to shape three novels in about 24 months. Next time I will look at the fraught issues of editing and proof-reading. Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv.