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  • Writer's pictureA J McDine

A sneak peek at my writing process for The Invite


The Invite has now been out for four days and I am very happy to report that it’s been my most successful launch to date.

I’m always fascinated to hear how other authors go about writing their books, and so I thought you might be interested in a behind-the-scenes glimpse into my own writing process.

[That’s if you can call the haphazard way I approach writing a book a process!]

My writing year began on January 10 when I started work on the eleventh novel in my pony book series for children, the Riverdale Pony Stories, which I publish under my married name, Amanda Wills.

Two months later I’d finished the first draft, and the book, Cloud and the Wildfire Riders, was published in April.

I made a start on my fifth thriller in May. Regular readers will know that, being a discovery writer at heart, I find plotting the hardest part of the process, so I was determined to outline the book before I jumped in and started writing.

The book had a working title – The Last Bus Home – and a premise that occurred to me as I rode on the park and ride bus out of Canterbury after a trip to the hairdressers.

My protagonist, Tara, was to witness a fatal car crash on her way home from her shift as a healthcare assistant.

One by one, every other passenger on the bus was going to be bumped off.

It felt like a strong premise, and I had a great cast of characters, including a spiky barrister called Megan and Tara’s husband Liam, a personal trainer.

But as I started outlining the book, the story began to unravel, until I realised it wasn’t going anywhere.

It’s always hard to admit you’re wrong, but I knew in my gut the story wasn’t working, so I went back to the drawing board.

I was lucky to have the germ of an idea around four friends who receive an anonymous invite to a reunion twenty years after they left school.

I don’t know where the idea came from, if I’m honest. It just popped into my head, as these ideas sometimes do. But this idea wouldn’t go away, so I decided to see where it took me.

I had done a lot of work on Tara’s backstory, and I knew she would fit perfectly in the new plot, so I took her with me. And I liked the characters of Megan and Liam, so they came too!

Initially, the book had the working title of The Reunion, and I began writing in earnest on Monday 13 June.

On my most productive day’s writing (Tuesday 14 June, in case you were wondering) when I was still pumped up with enthusiasm, I notched up 2,969 words. On my least productive day (Saturday 27 August) I managed a paltry 49 words. I can’t remember now, but I’m sure they must have been excellent ones...

[We won’t mention all the days when Not A Single Word Was Written. There were, inevitably, lots of them.]

At the beginning of August I changed the book’s name to The Invite and commissioned cover designer Nick Castle to design the cover.

I finished the 74,000-word first draft on the last day of August and spent the next couple of months on several rounds of edits. By the time the book was ready for proofreading mid-November, it had grown to 80,000 words.

Once the proofread was done, it was time to format the book and see if any book bloggers were up for reading a review copy.

I was amazed and humbled by their response, and have since been overwhelmed by the fantastic reviews that have been coming in thick and fast.

Here are just a few of the lovely comments I’ve received since publication day:

'McDine has crafted a superb read which begins with subtle twists that lead to bigger and more shocking revelations as the plot progresses. The twists made this read incredibly gripping and unputdownable.'

'This book was a thrill ride from the title to the very last page. I knew something was going to happen but had no clue what that might be. I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough to find out.'

'And the ending... what an ending! It’s so hard to not give any spoilers so I won’t say any more but you definitely need to give this a read.'

It’s reviews like these that make all the discarded drafts and the hours spent staring blankly at the computer screen worthwhile.

So there it is: my story behind the story, if you know what I mean!

Meanwhile, there’s still time to enter my giveaway to win a signed paperback copy of The Invite.

Simply head over to my to my Facebook page, like the page and comment on and share the competition post, which is pinned to the top of the page.

LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE. That’s it!

I’ll pick three winners at random next month. Good luck!

And for anyone who wants to check out the book in the meantime, here's the link.

That’s all from me for now. I have some last-minute presents to wrap. If you have any questions about my writing process, do drop me a line. It’s always lovely to hear from you.

And if you’ve read the book, it would be amazing if you could spare the time to pop a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Readers’ reviews are the best way to spread the word about a new release. But please, no spoilers!

Finally, I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

I’ll see you in 2023!

Happy reading,


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