How to write a book on maternity leave

When I signed my three-book deal with Aria Fiction I was over the moon. My first ever manuscript had not only bagged me an agent, but now also a book deal! Who could ask for more? Even better, they had agreed to buy my second novel too, which I had already written, though it was still very rough around the edges. Soon the contract negotiations began. The first book, Just the Two of Us, was going to be published on 1st February 2017 -five months after I was first approached by Aria. The second, One Summer in Positano (originally titled It Was Always You) was going to be published just six months later. And the third, as yet unwritten, had a publication date of summer 2018. It was due to be submitted by January. During the negotiations, I was pregnant with my first child, which meant I would be editing book two with a newborn and then cracking on with book three whilst on maternity leave.
On the one hand, I began to panic, how would I ever manage to do it? But on the other, I was about to have a whole year off work… So many people I’ve met have said that they dream of writing a book on maternity leave. I knew it had been done before and theoretically of course anything is possible! So, I took a deep breath and signed on the dotted line, agreeing to all the proposed deadlines. A couple of weeks later I read one of my favourite writers, Caitlin Moran’s column in The Times. It basically said you would have to be utterly mad to contemplate writing a book on maternity leave. Oh. Too late for me… so I plodded on. Or waddled, more accurately, at that moment in time!
In February 2017 along came my daughter, two weeks overdue, which had bought me invaluable extra time to edit. Now, one year later, with my third book (The Distance Between Us) due for publication any minute, people often ask me for my top tips on how to manage writing a book on maternity leave. So here goes:
Tip 1) Don’t attempt anything until your baby is at least six weeks old. I left it three months. You need time to get used to the enormous changes that are happening in your life, to recover from the birth, and to enjoy all those precious newborn cuddles.
Tip 2) Think about your story line before you have the baby. I had written the synopsis and a vague chapter by chapter overview before she arrived. I think this helped because it’s quite hard to find the headspace to generate ideas when you are so sleep deprived.
Tip 3) Set yourself very manageable bite-size chunks to write. Think of it as chipping away at a huge block of marble to reveal the hidden figure within. Each writing session, no matter how small, will help you get to that target of 100,000 words (give or take 10% – so, obviously, I was aiming for 90,000!) I tried to do 1,000 words each time I sat down at my laptop but sometimes it was only a couple of hundred and that was fine too.
Tip 4) Babies sleep a lot, especially in their first year. I used to write when my daughter was asleep, and still do on the days when I am not teaching.
Tip 5) Don’t obsessively reread your work. You need to get that first draft down on paper. I recently read a quote by the author Shannon Hale which I adored: “Writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” I would set myself targets for when I could send the document to my kindle and read and edit the whole manuscript thus far, for example after 10,000 words. In the meantime, I had to content myself with rereading what I had written the previous session, editing that, and then stubbornly carrying on. As Hale said, you are shovelling sand into a box, the really fun part comes later, when you get to turn that sand into sandcastles.
Tip 5) Take breaks. If you want to take a whole month off writing, do it. I took the whole of August off so I could give my mind a rest and enjoy the holidays we had planned without feeling guilty I wasn’t writing. If you think about it, you only need 90 days where you sit down and write 1000 words and that’s it, your first draft is complete!

What I have learnt since becoming a published author

My third novel, The Distance Between Us, is the first I have written since becoming a fully-fledged published author. (I still have to pinch myself!)
When I started writing my first novel, Just the Two of Us, back in 2014 it is safe to say that I did not have a clue what I was doing! I had a vague idea of the story in my head, and I thought it would be fun to try and write a book. I literally sat down one day with my laptop, an idea popped into my head for the opening chapter and off I went. 100,000 words later, I had the first draft of a manuscript in front of me.
Since then I have done a LOT of editing. I edited the book myself with help from my family, then I managed to get signed by an agent and we edited once again. From there, it was sent off to publishers, we responded to feedback and made yet more revisions, before finally signing a three-book deal with my publishers, Aria Fiction, an imprint of Head of Zeus. Since then I have been through the editing process with my fantastic editor, Sarah Ritherdon, three times. And I have learned a LOT.
Whilst my agent was busy submitting Just the Two of Us, I was writing my second novel, One Summer in Positano (previously published as It Was Always You.) When Aria offered me the three-book deal, they agreed to take on my second novel too, which was also greatly improved by the wonderful, challenging editing process. So, it wasn’t until I sat down to begin The Distance Between Us that I could really put all I had learnt from my fabulous editor into practice. And then I edited book three and learnt even more!
Here are the main things I have learnt so far about writing a book. Every author is different and works in a way that suits them, but this is what works for me:
1) Write down your synopsis. This may seem rather obvious, but I didn’t do it for my first book. It doesn’t need to be long – just a paragraph will do, though mine seem to be getting longer as time goes on! But it helps you get the overall story arc and will come in useful for step 2.
2) Write a chapter by chapter overview. My agent is a big fan of these and I have learnt that it helps focus my attention and breaks the synopsis down into manageable chunks. I am very flexible with this document, it changes all the time as my plot develops in my head. It is useful for keeping track of what is happening when. I write down what month/week I am in in each chapter. It is often colour coded, and I like to highlight the chapters I have written as I tick them off. When I finish a chapter, I look at the overview and mull over what might happen next in more detail until I sit down at my laptop to write again. I like to think of this part of the process as similar to when an artist sketches an outline of a painting; all of the colour and detail will be added at a later stage but it helps you get your bearings.
3) Write down your character list. I start with the main characters, their full names, age and relatives. I then add more characters as they come up, this helps me to find them quickly if I need to cross-check something.
4) When possible, write dialogue. I had to change chunks of my first book from telling the reader about a scene to letting the reader live the scene. This makes the pace much faster and keeps the reader engaged. I know this is something I will always need to work on, but as I wrote book three I was conscious of the feedback I could predict I would get during the editing process, which saved me a lot of time! My editor’s voice rings in my ears and I try to avoid the feedback I have had before. After all, that is the main goal: to continue doing what I love, and to improve with every book I write.
5) Don’t be too critical of yourself, accept that everyone starts somewhere and, above all, enjoy the process!

My inspiration for THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

My third book, The Distance Between Us, is an honest exploration of marriage and motherhood. It delves into the intricacies of being in a long-term relationship, both the highs and the lows, the joy and privilege of knowing someone inside and out, balanced with the humdrum of everyday life that is the reality of marriage and co-parenting. The school run, the laundry, the housework, the endless juggling, the temper tantrums, the sick bugs, the bickering, the family celebrations, the outings, the cuddles, the bedtime stories: the true fabric of family life.
Three months before I started writing this book, I became a mother myself. The wondrous, insane, exhilarating, exhausting whirlwind of motherhood hit me with its full force. Never before had I felt such overwhelming indescribable joy or such physical and emotional tiredness, the crazy hormones, the dramatic change in the pace of life, the time taken to achieve even a relatively small task. In the first weeks of my daughter’s life, before I even began writing this book, I was editing my second novel, One Summer in Positano, with a laptop balanced on my knees, my daughter over one shoulder and a breast pump in between, and so the juggling began!
As a mother, whether working or not, there are always a million and one things to do at any given moment and never enough minutes in the day to do them. You are either feeding, washing, winding, sterilising, bathing, cleaning, cooking, shopping, tidying, laundry… the list goes on, not forgetting the need to sleep! The broken nights start with pregnancy, then night feeds and it never really stops – it is likely that you will not have a single night of uninterrupted sleep for years and years to come. Don’t get me wrong, it is worth it, but it is undeniably exhausting.
To top it all off, your partner will have more than likely returned to work a couple of weeks later, by which time you probably won’t even have begun to recover from the birth, and from then on in, you are on your own. That is why friendships and family become so important, to keep you sane, offer you company and, most importantly of all, keep you laughing. There is no better tonic! When you add working into the mix, especially if you work from home (like I do as an author) or run your own business, then there is no such thing as maternity leave! It is a truly mind-expanding time, and it gives your relationship with your other half an entirely new dimension, drawing many couples closer together but also, sadly, driving some further apart.
In writing this novel I wanted to explore what happens when the novelty of new love and the first flames of romance have simmered down, and the monotony of family life and the accompanying weight of responsibility takes over and whether this can at times cause a certain distance between a couple who were once inseparable.
I wrote the first draft of this book in six months, (thanks to an extremely motivating deadline!) inspired by the conversations around me as well as the issues facing my friends and peers as both parents and partners. I am a huge believer in the importance of looking after our own mental health and happiness in order to nurture the other relationships in our lives. I was inspired in particular by a wonderful cartoon that went viral by French comic artist Emma entitled ‘You Should Have Asked’
you-shouldve-asked_013 image
(To view the illustration in full click on the link: As a result of social conditioning, women have to bear a continual invisible weight as they shoulder the responsibility of running the household (and if they are a mother, looking after the children). It is a truly insightful look into the “mental load” of being a woman. The cartoon really piqued my interest and the idea of the “mental load” was something I wanted to investigate further. Since returning to work (I am also a teacher) I have noticed that even on the days that I am away from home, the “mental load” is ever present.
I hope that this story will make you laugh, cry and rejoice in the crazy, beautiful, all-consuming wonder that comes with sharing your life, either with one person, or, if you have children, with more than one. It really is an incredible journey, and one that I am grateful for every day.

(Emma’s book will be published in English with the title “The Mental Load, a Feminist Comic”, for her website visit:

Author Q and A with ChickLit Club Connect and Georgie Capron

  1. Can you tell us more about your latest book, One Summer in Positano? (Previously published as It Was Always You)

One Summer in Positano is a story about love, friendship and betrayal that takes the reader on a journey with the main character, Libby, as she navigates unexpected circumstances and pursues her dream of living in Italy.  The book begins in the picturesque fishing village of Positano on southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the perfect setting for romance.


  1. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?

I have longed to write a novel set in Italy since my obsession with the country began at the tender age of thirteen when I started Italian lessons at school.  When I was eighteen I discovered Positano while backpacking all over Italy and I fell head over heels in love with the place as so many have done before me.  It truly is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. I have returned there many times since and I hope my readers enjoy visiting it through the pages of the novel.


  1. Do you see yourself in any of the characters in your novel?

Like Libby I did Italian for my degree, though my degree was also combined with History of Art.  I also lived in Bologna for a year.  I am similar to Libby in her love of Italy, cooking, travelling and her family however she is also very different to me in many ways.


  1. Who would you want to play Libby and Luca in a film adaptation of It Was Always You?

For Libby I could imagine Emily Blunt or Rebecca Hall as a good fit and for Luca a younger Antonio Banderas would be perfect.


  1. Was there a particular part of the novel that was really difficult to write for you?

The first draft flowed easily but the editing process was somewhat harder- I was pregnant with my daughter, past my due date and desperately trying to edit the book before she came along… I am sure that is part of the reason why she arrived nearly two weeks late! Copy editing with a newborn was also an interesting challenge!


  1. Do you have a set daily writing routine?

I was teaching full time when I wrote this book so I wrote mostly in the school holidays when I had large chunks of free time.  I usually just find a quiet spot and sit with my laptop typing away. Coffee is essential!


  1. What is your favourite women’s fiction book of all time and why?

Fiona Walker’s Kiss Chase was my favourite book when I was younger. Phoebe and Felix’s love story swept me away and I loved escaping into their lives time and time again to read and reread their story.


  1. Has any other writer in particular influenced the way you write?

I admire one of my favourite authors, Victoria Clayton, for her endearing characters, perceptive descriptions and engaging plotline – some of which I hope to emulate in my writing.


  1. Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the future?

I am currently writing my third novel whilst on maternity leave (nothing like a bit of multitasking!) It is due to be published in 2018 by Aria Fiction.

My Top Tips for Writing a Novel

  • Writing is conscious dreaming. We all have the power to manipulate our dreams in certain states of sleep.  I find the writing process to be very similar.  The initial thread of a story can be extended almost endlessly by the imagination as it follows a character on his or her journey through life.
  • Ask the question ‘What if?’ These two words are my most helpful tools when writing a novel. They help me to come up with new scenarios: ‘What if x were to happen? How would x react? What would the consequences be? Where would this lead the plot?’
  • Learn to touch type. This is one of the most useful skills I learnt all those years ago at school using a program called Mavis Beacon.  The IT teacher used to cover our hands with a piece of card and we’d spend hours practising to type without looking at the keys.  It allows me to keep pace with my train of thought as I type.
  • Think of your main character’s full name. For some reason until I have found the perfect name for my heroine I cannot begin the novel.  She will start as a vague picture in my mind that slowly becomes more clearly defined.  I start running through lists of names until I find the perfect name to match the image in my head.  Once I have this I look for a surname and as soon as the character is named she tends to take on a life of her own and from there I spin the web of family and friends that will accompany her along the way.
  • Start writing. Don’t be afraid! There is nothing more off putting than an empty page – as soon as you have typed your first few words there is something to work with.
  • The vomit draft. I once read an author describe the first draft as the “vomit draft” and I completely agree. Just keep ploughing on until the first draft is complete then the real fun can begin as you refine, edit and tweak until you are happy with your manuscript.
  • Show don’t tell. Where possible avoid telling the reader information, show them instead. This is still something I am working on and probably the part of writing I need to concentrate on the most.
  • Enjoy the escapism. It doesn’t matter what is going on in your life, as soon as you sit down to write you escape into a dream world of your own creation, your characters soon feel like the oldest of friends and you can get lost in your imagination – time will fly!


The Pursuit of Love

Just the Two of Us is a story about love, in particular, the pursuit of love.  Romantic love, yes, the kind of all-consuming, passionate love so adored by Hollywood, but also a deeper kind of love: the unconditional love that a mother has for her child.

While some women never experience the latter, I have always been intrigued by it and hoped that one day I might be lucky enough to experience a mother’s love myself.  This kind of love is a unique and intriguing emotion, a primal instinct to nurture and protect that is not easily come by in any other aspect of life.  At certain stages in my life, I have also experienced the worry and uncertainty that many women feel that, for whatever reason, this may not be a possibility for me.  That I may never be able to conceive a child of my own and experience this incredible gift for myself.  After all, there are no guarantees: it all relies on such a fine balance of biology, luck and chance that it is not unreasonable to fear that it may never happen.

Romantic love comes and goes.  We are part of a society that is deeply ingrained with an ideal of a mysterious ‘the one’ who will come into our lives and sweep us off our feet.  We will storm off into the sunset with our knight in shining armour ready to start our happily ever after.  We wait for this person to come along with eager anticipation, some of us waiting far longer than others, even doubting their appearance at times but, usually, expecting and hoping for their arrival.

This is the kind of love that Lucy (the protagonist in Just the Two of Us) is searching for, but at the same time she is also desperate to experience the love of a mother for her child.  Motherhood is never far from her mind, and she longs desperately for a baby. The problem is time.  Time is running away from her. She is thirty-five. Each year that passes by she gets closer to her forties, her biological clock is pounding in her ears.  The pressure to conceive a child by this so-called “deadline” is both real and intense, much discussed in the media and an inescapable fact to face.

As a writer, I was intrigued to explore how a woman in Lucy’s circumstances might react to this pressure, imposed as much by herself as by society and her body’s own set time-frame.

As a woman in my early thirties I have spent many an evening with friends discussing the options we have before us when it comes to starting a family.  Whether single or happily in relationships my financially stable, independent female friends are aware that they no longer need to resign themselves to the hands of fate.  They can afford to freeze their eggs, to pursue fertility treatments…options which simply did not exist a generation ago.  Those in relationships talk about waiting for the “right” time to have children, wishing to focus on their careers instead of embarking on family life.  Those who are single want to keep their options open until they meet the right man.  Others are open to the idea of using donor sperm to get pregnant and have a baby by themselves, unwilling to play roulette with their fertility, to gamble on meeting a man perfect enough to be the father of their child within nature’s allotted timeframe.

With Lucy’s story, Just the Two of Us, we follow her through her journey as she searches for both these kinds of love: romantic and maternal.  I wrote her story to allow myself to experience life through Lucy’s eyes.  I put myself in her shoes and explored the ‘what if’ scenarios that may have occurred to me had I not been lucky enough to meet my husband, Tom, four years ago, diverting me from the path that Lucy has found herself on: single and in her mid-thirties…her future unknown but her intentions crystal clear.  To have a family and to find love – though her journey may take her down many an unexpected path along the way…

Lucy Johnston’s Favourite Spots

Just the Two of Us is a story that follows the main character, Lucy Johnston, as she navigates single life in London, seeking a loving relationship and the chance to start a family – though not necessarily in the traditional sense!  I adore London.  This is the city where I was born and in which I live, and I love it more and more with each year that passes.  The culture, the history, the hidden treasures, the hustle and bustle and the ever-changing nature of our capital city never cease to amaze me. One of the most enjoyable parts of writing this story was the opportunity to weave some of my favourite places from this exciting, magical city into the plot.

Here are some snaps of a few of the places featured in Just the Two of Us that I have collected over the years:


Me with armfuls of sunflowers at Columbia Road Flower Market


Colourful produce at Borough Market


Poppies at the Tower of London


Tulip Gardens in Holland Park



Aria Welcomes Georgie Capron

aria-author-picI was unsure how to start this blog post (it being my first) when it occurred to me that the title of my debut novel Just the Two of Us is precisely how it all began… just a writer (well, more accurately, just a teacher) and an idea. This idea slowly grew before emerging into a manuscript, almost of its own accord. And suddenly I find myself the extremely proud (if somewhat surprised) author of a real book! And in the incredibly lucky position of having a three-book deal with a top British publisher.

To introduce myself a little, I am a primary school teacher based in South West London where I live with my husband Tom. My favourite subject to teach is English. I just love how imaginative small children are. They allow themselves to create without censorship – so unselfconscious and uninhibited. I wish I had kept that mentality during secondary school but English was always my worst subject, so no one could be more amazed than I am at this unexpected new chapter.

I have always loved women’s fiction, or “chick lit”, and have read it for pleasure for as long as I can remember. There is nothing better than lying on a beach or curling up on the sofa with that feeling of anticipation that comes as you open a new book and wait to get lost in an imaginary world of characters, plot and emotion. I love books that make me think; that explore new themes of love, loss and life and make me ask the question ‘what if?’ Just the Two of Us is my third attempt at writing a novel, and it started with the question that a lot of my friends were asking as hard working, independent thirty-something year olds: “What if we never meet The One? What if time runs out when it comes to starting a family… what would we do? Would we be brave enough to go it alone or would we leave our desire to have children unfulfilled?”

From this initial thought, the character of Lucy Johnston gradually formed in my mind, slowly gathering a family, a group of friends and a story line to explore. I vividly remember typing the first few words on my laptop. My sister, who happens to be an editor, told me I should write a couple of chapters and send them to her. She would give me the brutally honest truth as to whether I should carry on writing, or whether I should give up on any ambition to become a writer once and for all. I nervously waited for her response. Thankfully, she gave me her seal of approval to continue and from then on I tapped away at my keyboard as the story flew out.

With the first version complete, I went on the hunt for an agent. It took about six months before I signed with the wonderful Bea Corlett, who helped me to improve and develop the story before submitting it to publishers. In the summer, I was offered a three-book deal with Aria and I couldn’t have been happier. I never could have imagined just how much I would enjoy each step of the journey that writing this book has taken me on. I hope you enjoy reading Just the Two of Us as much as I have loved writing it.

Georgie Capron

JUST THE TWO OF US published on 1st February 2017

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