Prue Leith on how she wrote her first novel

October 19, 2010 | TLC Talent

Prue Leith, renowned cookery expert, explains during an Open University lecture how she entered into writing novels and the people who advised her on the way who might be useful to fellow budding novelists.

You can see the whole film clip on our Watch and Learn page in the TLC Tips section.


“So I finished the novel and then I sent it off to my agent and she said it was hopeless. The beginning’s very good and I thought I could send it to a publisher but I absolutely can’t because it falls to bits at the end, it’s as if you’re trying to put everything you know about everything all into one novel.

So I said what can I do? That’s the best I can do.

And she said have you heard of The Literary Consultancy?

And it’s easy to remember because it’s TLC, The Literary Consultancy and they’ve got a website. And it’s Margaret Drabble’s daughter called Becky Swift and they’re absolutely brilliant.

Leaving Patrick by Prue LeithAnd what they do is they read your book, not like Arvon does like an encouraging teacher, but like a publisher. They just read it and they’d say this will never see the light of day, or they’d tell you what’s wrong with it.

And what they did with me is, the woman they gave me, Julia Bell, great writer, she said this novel stops on chapter 24. You’ve gone on to chapter 28. The last four chapters are the sequel. Then she said things like we can’t wait until chapter 9 for the lover to appear. This is a novel about two women, one of whom has a very boring, pompous husband and the other has just left her husband and they go off together to India on a holiday, we know there’s going to be a man in the picture, you don’t have to be brilliant to tell that. We can’t wait till chapter 9 for him to come, he’s got to come in by chapter 3.

Very basic things like that.

And she said chapter 19 has to go. I said but that’s my really best bit, that’s the best bit of writing. And she said, yes, it is the best bit or writing but it’s a short story. It’s about two background characters who you bring to the front, give them their moment of glory and then we’re really interested in them and then you put them back in the background again and meanwhile you’ve interrupted the main flow and we want to know what’s happening with the lovers.

And she said take it out and sell it as a short story.

And I did.

Anyhow, I sent the book back to my agent and she sent it to Penguin and Penguin bought it so that’s how I finally got it published.”

Follow this link to watch the rest of the film.

Click here to see all of Prue Leith’s novels on her website.