Jenny McVeigh bw  




Jennifer McVeigh's debut novel The Fever Tree, the
epic tale of a British woman embarking on a new life in
nineteenth-century southern Africa, has been critically acclaimed and selected for Richard and Judy's Book Club in March. Here, she reveals her 10 Tips on How to Stay Sane as a Debut Novelist

  1. Don’t quit your job before you have a book deal. Very sensible advice that I spectacularly failed to follow. I left my job as a literary agent and stepped into the terrifying world of no salary, no professional support and no real hope of achieving what I was setting out to achieve. It was a very rocky ride.
  2. Do join a writing group – they will keep you sane, help you to stay on track, and remind you that there are other people in the world crazy enough to be battling all day with words on paper.
  3. Don’t divulge your plot, or writing problems for that matter, to friends at dinner – they’ll say very unhelpful things like: Isn’t that a bit predictable? How can you not know what’s going to happen at the end? And – most gruelling of all – hasn’t Wilbur Smith written a novel just like that?
  4. When you’re writing sex scenes, don’t imagine your parents looking over your shoulder – a passionate kiss will quickly disintegrate into a prudish peck on the cheek.
  5. Don’t obsess over the perfection of other novels. Read them, learn from them, but don’t let them cast your own into shadow. I always wanted my protagonist to be as dynamic and real as Cathy or Emma, but it wasn’t until I had reached the end of her story that I felt I really knew her.
  6. Don’t let yourself imagine all the unpublished authors in the world being turned down by agents, like the millions of lost souls waiting at the gates of heaven. If you have written something good, then someone will spot it – you just need to have faith and determination.
  7. Don’t be your own judge. After I had written my novel I shelved it in despair, convinced that it was worthless. It was only by some stroke of luck – a chance meeting with a literary agent – that I was convinced to send it out into the world. Thank goodness I did.
  8. Don’t demonise the agents who reject you. More than likely your manuscript fell into the hands of some poor, unpaid 17 year old intern with a hangover, desperately trying to reduce the size of the slush pile. Wait a few months, and send it in again. I was offered representation by an agent who must have afterwards let my manuscript fall into the slush pile. A month later I received an earnest typed letter from the agency: “Dear Miss McVeigh, many thanks for sending in your manuscript. I’m very sorry to inform you that…”
  9. Once you are published – in the interests of sanity – try not to check your Amazon sales rank more than twice (OK – that’s not realistic – perhaps 5 times) a day. If sales are good your publisher will tell you, and a shift from 3050 to 2095 is almost certainly meaningless.
  10. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you’ve got one novel behind you, the second will be easier. It won’t. Sweating over a novel is part of what makes it brilliant. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I do have a very frustrating writer friend who keeps telling me that her second novel is a breeze…

The Fever Tree is available now in paperback (RRP £7.99). Follow author Jennifer McVeigh on Twitter and Facebook.

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Jennifer McVeigh discusses her inspiration for 'The Fever Tree'

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Fantastic advice Jennifer. Everyone always asks ‘What is it about?’, which is not what I want to talk about at all. A writing group is essential, not only for sanity but also to keep your writing in shape – other writers input is invaluable. I’m glad to see you haven’t lost your sense of humour. Good luck with your second novel.

  2. “Don’t obsess over the perfection of other novels”
    I have been guilty of doing this to myself for as long as I can remember. So many times, I have let go of my pen in the middle of fleshing out what at the time seemed like a fantastic idea, only to keep second guessing myself.
    And I do know what you mean about not knowing your character until the very end. I actually write them in the middle of the story, then think of how they got there, and then later realize that they weren’t the same person I thought they would turn out to be. 🙂

  3. All very good advice. And I’m sure I have broken or will break all of it. I hate how you only tend to understand advice in retrospect.

  4. Love this. On #10: Like many others before him, Peter Cameron, brilliant writer and teacher, says every single book he’s written has been just as difficult. Always a blank slate.

  5. Great post – wish I’d read it a year ago, but I probably still would have ignored point #1. On the plus side, in that year, I have finished writing my debut novel, eloves me, eloves me not (that was 5 years in the making), published it and am now promoting it while starting book two.
    As for #4, I suspect this may also extend to siblings, friends, coworkers etc. – but, I didn’t let it stop me!

  6. buona informazione, ho llike molto, grazie.

  7. With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My blog has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any techniques to help reduce content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  8. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was curious what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog lijke yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100% positive. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Kudos


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