The conflict on the page, however, is the least of what it means to be a writer. We have other inner battles to contend with. Whether, for example, to leave the computer and do some exercise or whether to stay put and eat another Jaffa Cake. But the internal conflict I didn't anticipate was the one over trying to talk about my book.
This happens after you have supposedly got over all the hurdles. An agent and publisher like your work. You have a fixed date for it coming out, there's a gorgeous cover design, and your mum's friends are all bizarrely impressed at the notion that they will know an actual celebrity who will have millions of pounds just like J. K. Rowling.
The conflict arises when you know that your credibility, writing career and finances depend on people buying – and preferably enjoying – your book. And yet you want to die with embarrassment at the thought of having to go out and tell the world how supposedly great it is.
A confident, well-groomed person, looking rather like Audrey Hepburn, leaves everyone open-mouthed with admiration at the vivacious and yet intellectual way in which she mentions her masterpiece.
“What's it about?” an admirer begs to know, and the author smiles intelligently.
“Well,” she replies. “I see my book as being essentially about determination and survival.” The listener cranes in, captivated by the author's unparalleled combination of brains and beauty. “It's about two isolated people recognising themselves in each other and discovering a shared enislement in a society that wants to keep them in their place.”
A red-faced person, dressed courtesy of the skip out the back of Oxfam, twiddles an empty wine glass and notices that the person she is talking to keeps looking past her in the hope that someone will rescue them.
“So,” the non-admirer says, stifling a yawn. “Are there any wizards in it?”
“Uh,” the author replies. “It's just stuff about people throwing stuff at each other and stuff, and there's kind of some gruesome stuff ... and ...” (non-admirer waves at someone across the room) “and ... and stuff like that.”
Plugging a book just feels so showy-offy and un-British. It's just not the done thing to look pleased with oneself, is it? If, like the wonderful Gail Trimble of University Challenge, you awkwardly admit that you might be quite clever and possibly might have achieved something, you can even induce violent hatred.
It's more acceptable to mumble about how the book's not really very good and it didn't take that long to write and no one's going to like it so it's probably a good thing that no one will ever read it anyway. And it's up to people whether or not they buy it and if they don't want to that's all right because that's up to them and they don't have to and I won't be offended ...
And yet that doesn't actually impress anyone. If we writers don't appear to have confidence in our work, why should others? So how do I talk about my book without making people mutter “Who does she think she is?”
All you proper authors out there – how do you do it?
Thank you to Steve Knight for his Union flags photo.