This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Matt's latest novel is A Day At The Office.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
Get up, make the ten-yard commute to my desk, do the Guardian crossword over breakfast (yes, really – it's like my word warm-up), glance at my mortgage statement, panic, and start typing! I usually set myself a daily word target (1000 words if I don't have a hurriedly-approaching deadline, 2,000 if I do, or if I'm writing two different books at once – though I'm not doing THAT again). Quite often, once I've hit that target, I'll stop, no matter whether it takes me an hour (I wish) or ten hours.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
People I know, quite often, though even more often, it'll be me (my first six novels were told from the first person point of view, with a male thirty-something protagonist who my close friends might well recognise as bearing a little resemblance to, ahem, myself). When I wrote The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook and its two sequels, my agent remarked that Edward (the central character) was me with a conscience, and Dan (his 'foil') was the person I'd like to be. I'm still not quite sure how to take that!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
If you don't count High Fidelity (which is the book that made me want to write), then Bridget Jones, because it's just so funny. Mind you, so are all of Sophie Kinsella's books (and a certain Novelicious editor hasn't done such a bad job either recently). In fact, I'm always impressed by the level of humour in women's fiction – there are some very funny female writers out there.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I start with a premise, and then a title, then I write the first and last lines, then just fill in the (85,000-odd word) gap. I tend not to plot beforehand – I quite like seeing where the characters take me. Then I re-draft and re-draft until I'm happy (or run out of time – which is more often the case).
What was your journey to being a published author?
I'd always known I'd wanted to write, but hadn't known what until I read High Fidelity in the late nineties. A couple of years later I decided to take a sabbatical and write up the idea I'd been toying with, and actually finished the first draft pretty quickly. I took the traditional route of sending it off to agents and publishers, and had the usual load of rejections (31, I think), but every third or fourth one would give me a little tip, or suggest how I could make the manuscript better, which I tried to take on board. Eventually, after a lot of rewriting, I managed to get an agent, and then a two-book publishing deal, which took me a little by surprise as I wasn't expecting to have to write another one. I had to come up with an idea pretty quickly (in the half hour before I met my editor for the first time), and ironically, it (The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook) ended up being my most successful novel.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That we all earn a fortune. The average income for a novelist is actually… Oh, hold on, my butler's asking me something…
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Set some time aside and actually start typing! Even if it's only an hour a day, you can probably get 500 words done, which means you'll probably have a first draft within 6 months. And it's then the fun really starts – for me, a novel never comes together until the editing. But you've got to have something to edit, and that only comes if you're disciplined about putting your words down on paper in the first place.
What are you working on at the moment?
A love triangle romcom. Which is a little easier than the last novel I wrote (A Day At The Office), which had five main characters, and told the story from each of their points of view.