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I have discovered that the best way to write a novel is to pretend that you are not writing one.

The moment I sit at my blank computer screen and attempt to write the first sentence it all turns ugly. My characters are two dimensional with the personalities of dead trout and the plot is a money-back guarantee cure for insomnia.

But…. the minute I stop tying to write, the minute I start to do something else ….oh then it is a very different story. Then the characters mill around me, all talking at once, vying for attention like a crowd of hopeful auditionees.

The more I pretend not to listen the more desperate they are to be heard.

I hear all about their hopes and aspirations when I am walking the dog. They confide their sinful, sordid secrets to me as I swim. They distract me when I am driving, they giggle in the garden, glad to have someone to gossip with and if ever I did any housework I am sure they would rabbit on to me then too.

And all the time I feign complete disinterest.

Occasionally, anxious to grab my attention they introduce me to their friends and family who often have a more interesting story to tell and then they are forced to skulk back to the sidelines, cursing their stupidity at relinquishing a main role.

But night time is the worst.

At night they never let me sleep. They prise open my eyelids, they plead with me , they flirt, they try to force me to listen, even the timorous ones gently whisper in my ear.

I ignore their demands and rolling over pull the pillow on top of my head.

And then in the early hours, when I am sure they have given up, when their voices are finally silent I slip downstairs.

Very quietly so as not to disturb them I make myself a large mug of tea with a hefty slug of whisky for good measure.

(OK – so the whisky is a lie but it’s a thought eh?)

I sit down at the table and gingerly open my computer.

I hold my breath for a second and then laugh out loud with joy because the screen is no longer blank.

Just as I had hoped and prayed my characters and their stories are all there waiting for me.They are beckoning to me, urging me to start, even the ones I had relegated are waving from the wings eager to be given another chance to prove their worth.

The screen is alive with possibilities.

My head hums, my fingers itch, my heart beats very fast – I touch the keyboard and the magic begins.

I am of course in no way implying that I am magic – I am talking about the magic of make-believe!


Follow Janie on twitter: @chezcastillon