How I wrote my first book – Paige Nick

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By Paige Nick

I had such a great idea for my first novel. In fact, it was so fantastic and brilliant, that after six years of trying to write it, I had a whole ten pages down. Like I said, it was brilliant. ♥

Around then I started to have this big argument with myself about whether I should do a writing course or not. One side of me argued that I didn’t need it. I’d been a writer in advertising for fifteen years. I’m a writer, it’s what I do for a living, I told myself. Instead of writing a sixty-second television commercial, I’d simply be writing an eighty-thousand-word one, how hard could that be?  The other half of me just laughed and ordered another whisky.

Eventually my drunk half won the argument. I was just so tired of not writing my novel, I had no other choice. So I took a week off work and enrolled.

After we’d done a day’s worth of exercises, the writing coach asked who had an idea for their book, and I shot my hand up. When I detailed the book I was writing she seemed unimpressed. Maybe she didn’t get it, it was a brilliant idea. So I explained it again. And when she still didn’t do cartwheels, I explained it one more time, just for good measure.


She stopped me just before I went in for a fourth explain. She said the book I was describing (over and over again) sounded okay, but it didn’t seem to match the voice I’d used in any of our exercises so far.  Everything she’d seen of mine seemed fun and light, and this book, that I had only written ten pages of in six years, seemed much darker and more serious. She suggested I put my book idea aside just for the next exercise and that we could come back to it straight away.  I think I might have glared at her.

In the next exercise we had to create a character and a situation, I can’t remember the details. But something extraordinary happened in that moment. The second I let go of my idea, Rachel Marcus flew into my mind fully formed. Like she’d been waiting in the wings until I’d let her on stage. That exercise became my first book, A Million Miles from Normal (Like a Virgin is book number eight). And it took me exactly one month of constant, feverish writing to get the whole first draft down. Had I never been forced to stop being so stubborn and abandon my ‘Big Idea’ to explore other possibilities, I think I’d still be writing that very dark, serious book now, twelve years later. And I’d probably only be on page 19.

South African Paige Nick is a Sunday Times columnist, award-winning advertising copywriter, and author of A Million Miles from Normal, This Way Up and Death by Carbs. She is also one third of Helena S. Paige, together with Sarah Lotz and Helen Moffett. A threesome of authors with a series of choose-your-own-adventure erotic novels, now out in 21 countries. Pens Behaving Badly is a collection of her Sunday Times sex columns and the wild letters they’ve inspired. Like a Virgin is her first novel to be launched in the UK (HarperCollins, April 2016).



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