Does every writer have a dream book?

An early version was called 'The pink jacket'
An early version of my dream book was called 'The Pink Jacket'

When I came to writing after my last child started school, I experienced a sense of homecoming, as if this was the thing I had been born to do.

My first goal was to be a jobbing writer, someone who could turn their hand to anything, and I found the ideal place to learn that in educational writing, because there the brand was the publisher rather than the author, which meant I was free to try my hand at lots of different kinds of writing, both fiction and non fiction.

The two or three years I spent writing full-time for various educational publishers felt like a brilliant apprenticeship, and I carried the things I had learnt there into the next stage of my writing career, moving back into the high street as a children’s self-help author.

My 8 children’s self-help books were a mix of stories, jokes, quizzes, activities and ideas. They have all received 5-star reviews and enthusiastic reader-feedback. However, I soon learnt that earning your living from non fiction was even harder than from fiction.

So I wrote two children’s fiction series, the 6-book ‘Car-mad Jack’ and my new series, ‘By Peony Pinker.’ I feel very lucky to have had such a long, happy and varied writing career.

But underneath it all, from way back before I was ever published, I’ve always known I wanted to write an adult book about dreams, and for a couple of months in every year, before the latest advance runs out, I have returned to this labour-of-love book, experimenting with it at different times as a novel, workbook, memoir and non-fiction.

This year, I decided to finally put everything else on hold, and actually commit to finishing my dream book. I am experiencing even more of a sense of homecoming than when I first began to write. Not only, ‘Writing is what I was born to do,’ but also, ‘This is the book I was born to write.’

I wonder, does every author have a dream book – the special one they feel they were born to write?

12 thoughts on “Does every writer have a dream book?”

  1. Really interesting post, Jenny. It’s tough to admit, but although I think I’m doing what I was born to do, I haven’t yet got to the book I was born to write.

    1. Thank you, Malaika. For me, the downside of having this dream book there from the beginning has been that I’ve never really identified with the idea of being a children’s writer. Oddly, now that I’m actually committed to finishing the dream book, I’m missing the children’s writing. My agent was so helpful when we met up last week – she said, you can do both!

  2. I love this post. I’m hoping my current SF novel for adults is the one I was born to write. Finding it tough going – but feels somehow ‘right’. Time will tell…

    1. I’m finding my dream book tough too, Ros. I think, for me, it might be because it matters so much. Half of me dreads that I may not finish it or find a publisher, and the other half dreads that I will.

  3. After so many re-writes of my book I’ve finally found my real and solid writer’s voice, thanks to all the Uni challenges that have stretched my skills. I’m now looking forward to completing my dissertation and finding an agent to get published. I can’t imagine myself doing anything as rewarding as writing, maybe because it can be so hard and so filled with my inner world. Hopefully future books won’t take quite so long to write, but this first one will always be the special one that I was meant to write. The characters are as real to me as my own family and friends.

  4. That whole thing of developing skills, finding your voice, and engaging with the labour-of-love of writing really resonates for me. I think there are two sides to creative writing – one is connecting with the inner world, which is joyful and easy for every one of us, given appropriate prompts and permissions – the other is becoming a published writer, which requires us to develop additional qualities including a high degree of commitment, hard work, willingness to take rejection and an absolute belief in the stories you want to tell. I’m so happy you’ve stuck with it and are ready to start looking for an agent 🙂

  5. So far, the book I’m born to write has always been the next one. If I ever look back and think, that was the one, Jen, I’ll let you know! Good luck with the dream book, and can’t wait to read it. Are you nearly there?

  6. Hi Jennie – that’s how I think it’s supposed to be! I’ve always felt a bit odd having this double writing life, doing funny children’s books for the bread-and-butter and esoteric experimentation for myself whenever I’ve been sufficiently in funds. I’m three quarters of the way with the dream book, but have broken off these last few weeks to put together a proposal for a new children’s series to (hopefully) write when I’ve finished it. My lovely agent reassured me I could continue my double life and not have to plump for one direction or the other, and writing for children is fun. How are your Swallowcliffe Hall books doing? I love the covers. Here’s the link for Downton Abbey fans

  7. It’s just been pointed out to me that an early version of my dream book was called ‘The Pink Jacket’ and my two latest children’s series are Peony Pink(er) and Car-mad Jack(et) – spooky!!

  8. Tee-hee! I have an image of you donning a pink jacket whilst writing your dream book. Or perhaps you own a pink bed jacket (do bed jackets still exist!) that you that you wear at night to hatch your dreams!

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