This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Angela Woolfe is the author of The Surprising Life of Charlie Glass (size 18 and a bit) which is out now.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
It usually involves copious amounts of coffee (less at the moment, sadly, because I’m pregnant) and slightly more copious amounts of food, to keep me motivated. (I honestly have to ration the amount I eat at any one time as I know I’ll be desperate to eat again in an hour’s time and I think I’d literally be the size of a house if I didn’t exercise a tiny amount of restraint. Trouble is, cake and biscuits are my downfall.) I start early, because I’m freshest in the morning and because I feel guilty if I’m still in bed when my husband leaves the house at 7 in the morning. I try VERY HARD INDEED not to get distracted – the internet is the Worst Thing In The World for this. If I’m really struggling to focus, I try to go out somewhere with my laptop – Starbucks does VERY well out of me some days…
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I definitely don’t set out to use people I know for inspiration, but it may happen accidentally! I don’t use celebrities but sometimes, if I’m struggling to get a romantic hero ‘right’, it really helps to work out what devastatingly attractive male celeb he might most resemble, and then keep this in mind as I write. Daniel Craig and Alex O’Loughlin have been most obliging in this matter.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
As a worshipper at the shrine of Marian Keyes, I would have to say The Other Side of the Story. It was the first Marian Keyes book I read and it was a revelation! Her characters seemed to leap off the page and I think it was the first time I’d ever read a book written from more than one character’s perspective. I think the way she makes you sympathise with and understand each character in turn is – like all her books – absolutely brilliant.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I do plan first, but what I plan never seems to end up on the page! I have to make sure I’m not too wedded to any plan as I find it can really tie me up in knots. But on the other hand I wouldn’t dare start without a plan – the blank page is just way too scary. I do anywhere between three and a dozen drafts. As the book goes along, some chapters only need around three drafts, but the early chapters cause me night sweats and gnashing of teeth and I never get them right without at least ten attempts.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I was temping at Vogue magazine when I decided to take the plunge and send some things I’d written to a few agents. Which actually ended up being about twenty-five agents, because most of them wrote back with very polite but very definite rejections. But all you need is one agent, and one agent finally said yes! I had an idea for a children’s book that had come to me out of nowhere on the District line one day, so I wrote a few chapters of that and my brand new agent said I should carry on. I wrote the whole thing, we sent it out to publishers… and lots of lovely rejections came in again. But obviously you only need one publisher… so when one of them offered me a 3-book deal for the children’s book, I was somewhere north of the moon for quite some time. And then as soon as I’d finished the three children’s books, I took my husband’s advice to start writing a ‘grown-up’ book that I’d been thinking about for some time.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it’s always fun. There are days (unfortunately sometimes weeks… don’t get me started on the months…) when it’s nothing but sheer frustration and misery as you try to turn what’s clear in your head into something that works on the page. The annoyingly addictive thing, though, is that even when you have those long times of utter fed-up-ness, you only need thirty seconds of inspiration, when you can see the wood for the trees, to make you feel the burning need to carry on.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Don’t give up – not even in the face of many, many rejection letters! Write about something that really matters to you, as then the chances are it will matter to other people too. Most of all, don’t be your own worst enemy and nastiest critic. You’ll never assemble enough material for a whole novel if you’re always re-reading what you’ve just written and beating yourself up that it’s not better. Keep writing and eventually you’ll see the gleam of gold that will make you realise it really is worth carrying on. THEN you can start being your own harshest critic and really work at the raw material.
What are you working on at the moment?
A book about what happens when someone returns from your past and turns your new life upside down…