Friday, 22 January 2016

Fiction versus non-fiction - a guest post by author Fiona Cummins

I would like to welcome Fiona Cummins to my blog today. Fiona's book Rattle is being published by Pan Macmillan in January 2017. 


On the day my children went back to school after the Christmas holidays, I was out of the door at 8am, heading into London to work on a magazine for a supermarket client.

   Exactly twelve hours later, I fell back through the door, read my sleepy-eyed lovelies a bedtime story and collapsed on the sofa.

   Of course, the last thing I felt like doing was writing, every ounce of creativity squeezed from me by a day of train journeys and the confines of an office, dreaming up different ways to describe Easter eggs.

   But fuelled by a bottle of beer and a bowl of stew, I opened up my laptop and the word document currently called Book Two, and met up with some new friends (and no, I don't mean on Twitter).

   Last week, I found myself at a children's birthday party, one of a handful of parents whose little ones wanted them to stay. As soon as my five-year-old was pass-the-parcelling with gusto, I opened up a memo on my mobile and started working on this blog.

   Fiction versus non-fiction. Novels versus journalism. How does one juggle two very different disciplines amid the chaos of family life?

   The answer, for me at least, lies in the scenarios I have outlined above.

    I don't.    

   Instead, I juggle my time in a flippin'-heck-this-piece-is-due-in-two-days-better-get-my-head-down kind of way.

   In newspapers (I worked at the Daily Mirror for 12 years), deadlines have a way of focussing one's mind which is all well and good if an article is, say, 1000 words long, but what happens when the word count is 100,000, the deadline several months away?

   In truth, I'm still finding out.

   Yes, I've scaled back my journalism since signing a two-book deal for my début crime thriller RATTLE and its sequel, thanks to generous advances from Pan Macmillan and my foreign publishers.
   But so many writers never get beyond their first deal, and it's the terrifying prospect of a book that doesn't sell that keeps me working for a handful of clients.

  In my fantasy life, I wave my kids off at the school gates, work on my novel for three hours or so, and head to the gym at lunchtime. Afternoons are spent dealing with admin, social media and my non-fiction commissions until it's pick-up time, when I'll play educational games and cook a nutritious meal.

  In reality, I gaze into space for quite a long time. I go on Twitter. I eat biscuits. I tap out a few lines. Then I realise I have to collect my children in ten minutes and I've forgotten to buy any dinner. Fast-forward a few hours, and I'm working until midnight.

  Oh, and I've put on two stone.

  But every day I'm discovering more about the way I write: that my fiction is freshest in the morning, when tiredness, the drought that sucks me dry, has lifted, and the words fall like rain; that interviews and news stories, with their ready-made content and dialogue, their rhythm and structure, are easier to write at the end of a long day than complex plots and made-up characters; that I tend to write my books in the gaps between my life, on a winter Sunday afternoon, a snatched hour after tea, in the hushed darkness of a cinema, a car, a train carriage, a café.

    I guess what I'm saying is, like most writers, I'm just trying to find my way, and fiction or non-fiction, novel or newspaper, as long as the words deserve their place on the page, the route doesn't matter.
About Fiona Cummins

Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist who writes for national publications and corporate clients. Her début novel RATTLE is published in January 2017.

Find Fiona on Twitter - @FionaAnnCummins



  1. Great post, Fiona. Thanks for the giggles and the confirmation that it's not just me! Love the line 'I gaze into space for quite a long time. I go on Twitter. I eat biscuits...' :-)

  2. Yes, I can relate to all of it too! Far too much time on social media.