elizabeth buchan
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The bestselling acclaimed author, Elizabeth Buchan, offers advice on the writing process. Her eighth novel, The Good Wife, is published in May.

What inspires you to write?
I can't pinpoint this exactly, as an idea arrives in my head by some mysterious process. I can't order it, and I have learnt that I must wait for it. It can be triggered, I think, by listening to something, a sentence in a book or paper, a snatch of conversation. But I do know the leap of recognition and the impulse towards the subject which is unmistakeable.

How long does it take you to write a novel?
Ideally two years. The publishers prefer a year.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
To be writing first thing after breakfast. I function best after sleep. I can concentrate hard for about half an hour, then I find myself looking out the window, or I go and do something very mundane like ironing which allows the subconscious to do some work in peace.

Is it harder to start or finish a novel?
It is harder to start. I usually have the ending in my head.

How did you go about finding an agent and do you think it's necessary to have an agent?
An agent is very necessary. They will shoulder all the hard bits in negotiation and also maximise the earning capacity from your work. Ask around or consult the various writer's manuals ( available in libraries and good bookshops). Be careful when choosing an agent, for it is a little bit like getting married.

How do you cure writer's block?
Rest. Diversion. Go and do something physical and practical. Walk. Listen to music. Above all, don't panic but give your body and mind time to adjust and settle.

What is your all-time desert island book?
Impossible question... but I think I might take Peter Ackroyd's biography of Charles Dickens as it combines a brilliant deconstruction of his fiction and an enthralling story of his life, plus prose that is so textured and evocation it might as well be fiction.

What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
That writing is easy. It isn't.

What advice would you give budding authors?
Do it. No amount of thinking or talking produces a book. But one page turns into two, two into four. Set yourself a target for each day, but if you have little time make the target realisable and realistic, like one page, so there is satisfaction in achieving it.

What can readers expect from you in the future?
My wish is to write better novels each time. I shall be trying
, anyhow.