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They say that we all have a book inside us. Two questions: who are ‘they’? Secondly: how will this book present itself? Will we vomit it up one day in the middle of the night? Should we inspect our stools for bits of book? Or do ‘they’ mean that each of us is capable of writing a novel? I’m going to assume they mean this. If it transpires they meant the stool thing I’ll just have to write this column again. Also, sorry to keep mentioning stools – I am aware it’s probably morning for you.

Writing a novel should be like giving up smoking: you just do it. No messing around, no excuses, no ‘if only I wasn’t President of Chad then I’d have more time’. Just get your head down somewhere quiet: find a quaint cafĂ©, clear out your spare bedroom, if necessary bash a granny and get yourself banged up for a year (that should do it unless you’re planning a trilogy). Next you need words. Long words, short words, words that people don’t understand, even rude words (eg stool). Once you’ve written a list of your favourite words you need a story. Ideally your story should have a beginning, two middles and an end. If the end is sad no one will buy it but you’ll be hailed by the critics. Happy, and it will be a bestseller but you’ll be slated on The Late Review. Finally I recommend you write from personal experience…which is why I am writing a novel about a man who writes a column about writing a novel but runs out of space just when he…

(after this column appeared in Metro I received an email from a man who disagreed with me and felt all novels should have one middle not two)