It’s supposed to get harder

Mark Billingham continues his occasional series of columns for the Bookseller talking about the writing life. This time, he tackles the age-old question: does it get easier with each book? Guess what the answer is:

It was a horrible revelation that this actually got harder with each successive book. I thought, certainly after I’d managed a couple, that it would be like shelling peas. I mean, James Patterson manages to start 10 to 11 books a year! Each time, it takes perhaps 100 pages before I remember that I can do it; before I feel as though I may actually manage to write another book.

I’ve come to realise though, that this is as it should be if you’re doing it right. Of course there are pressures, which, if the books are doing well, grow a little each time: obviously you want the new book to sell more than the last one; to get better reviews; and to perhaps be in with some distant shot of this or that award. But the bottom line is that you’re always trying to write a better book. I write in constant terror of disappointing myself, or my publishers, but readers, above all, are the people I do not want to let down. It’s taken a while, but now, swearing and grumbling my way through those first few weeks of a book, I console myself with the thought that if it were easy, I’d probably be writing a bad book.

I’m touching wood even now, but if you shop at the Barnet branch of Waitrose, you’ll know soon enough if things have gone pear-shaped.

Which leads nicely into the news that he’s working on his next book, though whether it’s another Tom Thorne novel or something else entirely is something not yet known to the masses…