How to tame your writer: living with someone who is trying to get published

It’s not easy living with a writer, whether they are well-established, or still trying to find an agent or publisher. They frequently disappear or hide away for hours or days or weeks at a time, only emerging when a deadline is pressing (when they wander the house looking wildly for non-urgent chores to do as procrastination).

They doubt themselves and their talents, and have days when they feel like giving up. Many of them don’t work a steady 9-5 job and can be found wearing strange clothes with mad hair, and even the ones who DO work a steady 9-5 job and have nicely-ironed clothes and lovely neat hair still have moments when they may appear weeping and shouting I HATE WRITING, I CAN’T DOOOO THIS!

All this, we’re afraid to say, is completely normal writing behaviour. Here’s how to support your writer as they go through the process of getting published.

1. Always have snacks to hand

Much like toddlers and pets, a hysterical writer can often be distracted and calmed by a reassuring word and an edible treat.

2. Don’t give advice unless they ask for it

Chapter four might well be rubbish, and you might have good ideas for how to improve it. But, unless you’re specifically asked, keep the criticism to yourself. And if they do ask, be very diplomatic and gentle…

3. Be calm and patient

Understand that when your writer is frantically googling How To Find A Literary Agent, tearing up his/her fifteenth rejection or staring fixedly into the distance, it doesn’t mean they have gone mad. They’re just being writers. Make a cup of tea and let them be.

4. Don’t interrupt

When your writer finally switches off Twitter, stops staring into space and starts writing, let it happen. In the rare times when the work is going well, even the most beloved person in the world won’t be welcome for a chat. Just wait it out. They’ll come out for a tea break soon … trust us.

5. Don’t suggest giving up

It might seem, after piles of rejections, buckets of tears, and mutliple redrafts, that the whole process is just too soul-destroying and your writer should give up and focus on a simpler, more rewarding hobby, like alpaca farming, or neurosurgery. But try not to say that. If in doubt, we suggest a big hug and the mantra ‘Never, ever, ever give up’.

About Sarah Stewart

Sarah Stewart is a Director at Lighthouse Literary. She was previously Fiction Editor at Scholastic Children's Books and a Senior Editor at Floris Books, and she writes the Elspeth Hart series, published by Stripes.