Please take a moment to review Hachette Book Group's updated Privacy Policy: read the updated policy here.

Twenty Invaluable Things That Have Sustained Me Throughout My Twenty-Year Writing Career – Adele Parks

Routine

You might have heard the saying that writing a novel is approximately 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. I believe that to be true. For me, having a strict routine that allows me to see my word count grow satisfyingly, from Monday to Friday, has been incredibly important. I try to be at my desk by 8.30 a.m. Writing is my passion, my vocation but also my job. However, I do like to take my weekends off!

 

Pretty Stationery

With each novel I begin I like to have a brand-new notebook, in which I write down any thoughts I might have when I’m away from my desk, as well as plotlines and details about my characters. Over the years picking the exact right notebook for each novel has become a bit of a ritual.

 

Reading

I am always reading. I feel ever so slightly anxious, certainly frustrated, if I’m not reading something extremely engrossing. Other novels inspire, challenge, cheer and entertain me. All writers are confirmed readers.

 

My Husband

Jim is incredibly supportive of my career and has become entirely integral to the process. He’s the first person I discuss plot ideas with. When I am halfway through my novels, I read them aloud to him. He’s an extremely honest but supportive critic and verbal editor. My books always improve because I read them to him. He then sits through another reading once I’ve finished my novel but before I send it to my editor or agent! He keeps an eye on all my admin; if my schedule is looking crazy, he’ll drive me to events so that I can arrive fresh and unflustered. He cheers me up when I get crises of confidence, assuring me I’ll crack whatever it is that’s bothering me. Because yes, even twenty years in, I still get crises of confidence and I hope I always will because the moment I get complacent is the moment I’ll give up.

 

My Publishers

Before an author is published there is a tendency to believe in a ‘them and us’ situation between the publisher and author. The publisher seems inaccessible, scary, the body that’s stopping the author’s work from being published. This couldn’t be more incorrect. It’s worth remembering publishers and authors want exactly the same thing, to publish brilliant books. I have worked with absolutely incredible editors, sales people, marketers, publicists throughout my career. People who are all committed to getting my novels read by as many people as possible across the globe. Thinking about how many people have been involved is really humbling. Without entire teams around me I would not have had the success I have had.

 

My Agent

I have been with the same agent for the entirety of my career. We’ve fretted, strategized, argued and celebrated together. He’s a fixture and fitting in my life.

 

Diet Coke

I know, I know, so many people think it’s the devil’s drink and say it will rot my insides but it’s also the perfect 3 p.m. pick-up that guarantees another couple of hours of productivity.

 

A Thick Skin

Authors have never been more accessible. We are generally expected to make ourselves so, this means engaging in social media – which might not be a natural place for an author to hang out – where people can be so casually dismissive or downright cruel. Most people have annual reviews with their bosses that they might get anxious, defensive or angry about; authors have appraisals many, many times a day! I’ve learnt not to care about what detractors might say. You can’t please all the people all the time, so as long as I know I’ve researched and written a novel that I’m happy with, that’s all that counts. But a warning – this is not a career for the fainthearted!

 

My Own Space

Globally, so many people have now had to work from home and so understand how important the right environment is to productivity and creativity. For me, it is important to mentally leave my family and domestic arrangements behind when I write as I create completely different worlds and step into the minds of numerous other characters. There just isn’t space to be thinking about putting on a wash load or what we will all be having for supper. Yet I work from home, so those domestic concerns are ever present. This is not a new problem! As far back as 1929 Virginia Woolf argued that for women writers to thrive, they needed both a literal and figurative space. She insisted that they needed ‘a room of one’s own’. I’ve always had an office in my home. For some years that home office was the size of a cupboard, now we have a given over a fairly large bedroom for the purpose, as all my family accept it’s really important to me that I have some literal and figurative space.

 

Black Uni-ball Pens

I have done a lot of experimenting with signing pens. I’m not a fan of the Sharpie, even though they are supposed to be the iconic autographing pen; more often than not the ink absorbs through the page on paperbacks, plus the nib is too thick to write a message of any length. I am the proud owner of some really smart fountain pens that have been gifted to me over the years. I do like using those but I’m a bit hopeless at remembering to buy refills. My pen of choice is a black uni-ball that writes like an ink pen but is not as messy. They are waterproof and fadeproof. Plus, you can buy them in most WHSmith’s and Waterstones so if I forget my pen on a signing, I can always quickly source one.

 

Libraries

My passion for reading (and therefore writing) started as a child. My mother used to take my sister and I to the little local library almost daily as we walked home from school. I have always thought that libraries are like airports, they allow us to set off on journeys – limitless journeys. I still like visiting libraries now. Many are beautiful, all are a haven. I like to do research in libraries when I can.

 

Retailers

There are so many passionate booksellers up and down the UK; some work in small independent bookshops, others for high-street chains and some select the supermarket book range. I’m totally indebted to each and every one of them. They are all motivated by their passion for reading and a keenness to get others equally excited about the written word.

 

Professional Blow Dries

If you work at home all day there is a real temptation to slob about in pjs and let your hair sink into a basic bird’s nest. For me having a professional blow dry is not a necessity, but it is an indulgence, and it keeps me sane. I love popping to the hairdressers, being pampered, catching up on a bit of TV or celeb gossip.

 

Spell Check

My spelling is awful. I love the brilliant peeps who wrote the Microsoft Word spelling and grammar programme. Without them, I’d be ashamed to present my manuscripts to my editor.

 

The Ability Not To Think About My Mother Reading My Books!

I have written some great sex scenes in my novels. I don’t always have sex in my books – it depends if the plot and the characters demand it – but when I do include it, it is pretty steamy! I’ve found it is important not to think about my mother (or son!) reading these passages. Writers shouldn’t be restricted creatively and thinking about the reactions of family members can restrict.

 

PG Decaf Teabags

I am always thirsty and drink about 10 drinks a day whilst at my desk: tea, coffee, diet Coke (as mentioned) and water. I know I should just drink water but sometimes, especially in the winter, that just doesn’t cut it for me. However, I do become aware when I’ve had too much caffeine, so PG decafs are the perfect answer.

 

Knockbacks

Over the past twenty years, I’ve had some knockbacks and uncertain times, both professionally and privately. That is to be expected, that’s life. In fact, it is to be embraced because with each dark or difficult part of my life, I’ve grown as a human being, I’ve learnt things about myself and our world. Gaining experience and empathy creates authentic writing which is more likely to translate into genuine connections between author and reader. You can’t appreciate any light, unless you have shade.

 

Self-belief

I always write the best book I am able to write. I’m my own harshest critic. I have been known to throw out as many as 80,000 words and start again because I haven’t liked the direction my book is going in. I self-edit aggressively, I question myself, my plots and my characters. Therefore, once I launch my baby into the world, I believe in it. I’m proud of it.

 

Brunches With My Friends

Writing is a very insular job. For months at a time, before the manuscript is delivered, a writer works largely on their own. It can get lonely or just plain old boring. It’s been very important to me to make sure I still pop into London, meet friends for brunch or to visit theatres, shops, galleries. Outside stimulus is very important to the creative process. Like everyone, I’m having to do all that via Zoom and Facetime now because right now nothing is more important than staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.

 

My Readers

Seriously, without my readers, none of it would make any sense at all. I’m so utterly grateful that people continue to find my work entertaining and interesting enough to invest hours of their lives reading my novels. It’s the biggest compliment ever. Totally humbling. Thank you.