The Worried Writer Episode #35: Lisa Hall ‘We’re Living The Dream’

My guest today is Lisa Hall, author of the bestselling psychological thrillers Between You and Me and Tell Me No Lies, which Heat magazine called ‘breathlessly fast-paced and cleverly unsettling’. Not content with a successful career as an author, Lisa has also crossed the divide to the other side of the business by founding a new publishing imprint, Manatee Books.

You can find out more about Lisa and her books at or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

In the introduction I give a recap on my progress during 2017.

It was a good year – my most productive so far, in fact – but I am keen to improve and to make 2018 even better.


In 2017, my main writing goal was to write two new novels and to finish, edit and publish the Worried Writer book.

I managed one new first draft, two lots of major structural rewrites on ‘old’ drafts (including Beneath The Water which is out next month!), and I wrote and published Stop Worrying; Start Writing.

I also narrated the audiobook version, which was very enjoyable but also quite tricky and time-consuming!  It will hopefully be up for sale by the end of the month.

My supernatural thriller is almost ready to go on submission to publishers. This is always a nerve-wracking time and I’m very grateful that I have other projects to distract me…

I got The Garden of Magic made into an audio book and created a short story giveaway for my reader group sign-up.



I’m trying to get better at celebrating small successes, so listed some of my highlights from 2017:

  • Talking about overcoming fear and self-doubt on The Creative Penn podcast. You can listen here or watch the video on YouTube.
  • The Worried Writer being featured in Mslexia magazine.
  • Getting a new publishing deal with Lake Union with Beneath The Water.



I give a brief overview of my goals for 2018, but will put up a more detailed ‘Writing Goals’ post on the 2nd January.

Are you setting goals for 2018? I would love to hear about your plans, too.

Comment below with your goals, or get in touch with any questions on goal-setting, defining success, or productivity.


In the interview:

Lisa’s schedule:

‘Because I’ve got three children I have to cram quite a lot in those hours in the middle of the day. When I’m writing I aim for 2000 words a day… I try not to do anything in that period when the children come home from school and go to bed.’


‘I do work Saturdays and Sundays. Especially when I’m on a deadline or I’m in the zone… Even I only get 500 words down then I don’t feel so guilty about taking the rest of the day off and spending it with the kids.’


‘The first couple of hours in the morning I do admin stuff. With Manatee Books there’s a lot of admin… I keep hours in the afternoon free for writing. I mean, it doesn’t always balance-out! It balances out eventually, but it’s quite hard.’


‘I’ve always got a to-do list… So I can work through and I know exactly what needs to be done every day and then I tag my wordcount onto the end.’


Writing process:


‘I quite often go for a run if I get stuck.’


‘I hate the thought of editing and when I get my edit notes, I don’t want to open the email… But once I make a start I’m okay.’


‘I’m a massive planner… I can’t write any other way.’


‘When I’m working on a book it’s like the idea for the next book can’t fully come through until that book is finished… It’s like my brain won’t let me think about the full story so I do worry that the idea won’t come, but it’s been like this every time.’


On starting a publishing company:

‘I’ve had a really good experience with my road to publication and the way HQ have handled things for me… And I know there are people out there who don’t have such a good experience so I wanted to set up something where hopefully we give every author a good experience… It’s really really exciting when you sign the contract but I feel like that excitement should keep going all the way through… I just want everyone to have a lovely experience. We’re living the dream after all!’


‘One day I might run out ideas but even if I can’t write I’ll still get to be involved in books, in publishing and be surrounded by brilliant stories and that’s all I really want.’


‘We are open for submissions. Liz is always on the lookout for good crime novels. I prefer the more commercial crime novel but she is all about the quirky… I work on the women’s fiction side of it which I really love… I’m looking for good chick lit, nice holiday reading and I’m really on the lookout for a good bookclub read. Um, bit of romance – not too saucy.’


Lisa’s advice to other authors:

‘Building an author brand is a slow burn and you need to be patient.’


Thanks for listening!

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The Worried Writer Ep#34: ‘Check In With Your Goals’

In this ‘just me’ episode I recap my progress over 2017, give tips learned from my recent ‘performance and presentation’ training, and answer a listener question about getting a trilogy published…

Writing progress:

As the end of the year approaches, I start thinking about next year – mainly because I tend to go into hibernation mode during this time but I absolutely love the fresh new start of January and get far more excited by the new goal setting and planning of a new year.

I’ve tried to recognise that I go into a bit of an energy slump in December and have scheduled a light month. However, I’m a bit behind on some of my November goals, so I want to really push myself this week to get as much done as possible before I wind down for the year.

I have revisited my goals from January this year and I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve achieved, but if I can tick a couple more things off the list then even better!

I encourage you to check in with your goals on a regular basis – but definitely at large junctures like quarterly or at the beginning, middle and end of the year. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or like I’m not getting much done it can be either encouraging to see what I have actually managed or the kick up the backside I need.

This year I planned to write, edit and publish Stop Worrying; Start Writing in all formats. The ebook and print versions are done and the audio should scrape in under the wire, I hope!

I also did extensive structural rewrites on Beneath The Water (now available to pre-order – meep!), finished and rewrote my supernatural thriller, and have almost finished the first draft of a new novel.

In writing terms, it’s probably my best, most productive year yet but I am still aware of how much more I am capable of or, more accurately, how much more I want to do. I think I have to be happy with my own process, but also to push myself a bit and keep trying to refine my work habits. It’s a tricky balance.

This year I also planned to do some real life events, meeting up with author friends who live around the UK and beyond, and I managed a couple of lovely lunches – hurrah! I also made strides with my business training by completing the SPF 101 course and ‘advertising for authors’, both from the excellent Mark Dawson. I’ve started to experiment with ads with some success, so that’s pleasing. I’ve also been building my mailing list, although I have a lot more to do in that area.

This month, I was lucky enough to get attend a Performance and Presentation training day put on by the Scottish Book Trust. There were workshops from Jenny Lindsay, a spoken word poet, and Alex Gillon, a voice coach.

It was an intense day and quite hard in places, but the workshops were incredibly powerful and useful.


Lessons learned:

Mindset is important!

  • Remember why you are doing this (to share your work).
  • The people in the audience are not out to hate you or have a bad time and they won’t be hyper-critical if you make little mistakes or seem nervous.
  • Think of it like talking a group of people you’ve just met in the pub. You don’t know them well, but they seem nice.
  • ACT FINE. You don’t have to be super-confident or to feel fine, you just have to act fine.

Practical tips:

  • Walk the space beforehand.
  • Insist on a sound check.
  • Warm up with stretching, shaking out the tension in your body and do some breathing exercises before you go on.


The other big takeaway for me was the idea of really performing the piece. Having only presented non-fiction, I hadn’t appreciated how much feeling and variety you need to put into a piece of fiction to make it come alive. It’s no good just reading the text nice and clearly; if you want your listeners to experience it properly, you have to act with emotion and use different voices for the different characters and so on.

I am so grateful to the Scottish Book Trust for the opportunity and feel more confident than I did at the thought of reading my fiction to an audience. I’m still terrified, of course, but it helps to know there are techniques and tips I can follow.

Listener Question:

This month’s listener question is from Georgia. She wrote:

I am currently learning how to edit my first draft of my very first novel! I am planning on making it the first of three in a series. I would like to try to get it traditionally published…

However, I have a full-time job and am worried that even if I did manage to get a deal for all three, trying to write to a deadline alongside a full-time job would be too much. Would it be better to write all of the series and then try and get it published? Or would publishers be reluctant to buy a series all in one go?

Thanks so much for the great question, Georgia!

My advice is to start querying as soon as book one is ready. Traditional publishing is very slow so you will have time to finish your second and maybe even third while you wait to hear from agents and publishers. A publisher might not want to buy a trilogy so it is a good idea to make sure book one can stand alone, too.


If you’ve got a question you’d like answered, please email me or find me on Twitter.

I’ll answer it on the show and credit you (unless, of course, you ask to remain anonymous).


I can’t believe that the next show will be out in 2018!

I have a fabulous interview with psychological thriller author and publisher (Manatee Books), Lisa Hall, to share with you, and will also discuss my goals for 2018.

Thank you so much for your support this year and I wish you a happy winter holiday!



Thank you for listening!

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