The Worried Writer Episode #38: M.J. Ford ‘I Just Write As Hard And As Fast As I Can’

 

My guest today is Michael Ford, who writes under the name M.J. Ford. Michael has written and edited children’s fiction for Working Partners for several years, as well as working as a ghost writer on other projects. His debut novel for adults, Hold My Hand, is out this month from Avon and we talk about what it’s like to be published under his own name, his writing routine, and why others should consider writing for a book packager like Working Partners.

You can find buy Hold My Hand here, or connect with Michael on Twitter.

 

In the introduction I give a writing update and talk about the strategies I’ve been using to make progress while wrestling a second draft into shape.

SHOW SPONSORSHIP

I conduct my very first Patreon-supporters shout-out (yay!).

If you want to support the show (and get a mini audio extra mid-month, your very own shout-out, and my eternal gratitude) head to The Worried Writer Patreon Page.

Beneath The Water had a successful launch (phew), but now I’m on submission for my supernatural thriller and am back to obsessively checking my emails for news.

I share some good news about my second novel, The Secrets of Ghosts. I’ve secured the print rights back from the publisher, so I will be able to release the paperback later this year. Yay!

I also recommend the informative and honest Self Publishing Journeys podcast by Paul Teague for those interested in independent publishing or a hybrid approach to their writing career.

Another show I’ve been enjoying recently is The Honest Authors Podcast by Holly Seddon and Gillian McAllister. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the writing life of two successful (traditionally published) authors.

LISTENER QUESTION

If you have a writing, productivity or publishing question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter or leave a comment on this post.

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

IN THE INTERVIEW

On Working Partners

‘Working partners is a packager… Packers essentially do the same thing as a writer in that they sell manuscripts to publishers. The difference is that packagers tend to be collaborative creators… Lots of people work on a book, not just a single writer.’

‘At Working Partners we come up with storylines through brainstorming and those are enhanced and elaborated until they are quite detailed synopsises of several thousand words and after that we find a writer to write the book.’

‘We work a bit like a TV or film studio writer’s room.’

‘We look to exploit the content across all media so it’s not just books, it’s also TV and film, it’s video games, it’s live theatre shows… And we often produce series rather than standalone books.’

‘Working Partners are behind some of the bestselling children’s series in the UK and globally, things like Beast Quest, Animal Ark, Rainbow Magic…. These are all series which have been running for a decade or more… Although lots of writers may have worked on them, there has always been a core team at Working Partners team which keeps the editorial content consistent.’

‘It’s fair to say that everything I know about writing has come because of my experience there (writing for Working Partners) which is why I bang on about it so much. You know, being edited, editing, talking constantly about story and how story works, has really helped me on my own writing journey.’

‘If you’re fairly new to writing then working for Working Partners can be a good training ground.’

Michael’s writing process:

‘I’m quite regimented… In theory at least… I tend to have a few things on the go. I’m still editing for Working Partners and I’m also freelance writing for them… Because I only have really three days a week to write in and I don’t particularly like eating into my family time, I know that within those three days I have to meet a certain word count or something will have to give further down the line, you know sleep or seeing the kids.’

‘I start in the morning straight after the school run and I just write as hard and as fast as I can to meet that word count.’

‘Objectively I’m getting quite a lot of words written, they’re very rarely are in good shape… I’m not happy with them at all. I tend to burn out in the early afternoon and then I revisit that awful writing the next morning or that evening and try to lick it into some sort of shape.’

‘I tend to have lots of things on a go. Within a day I’ll concentrate on one book and the next day I might be doing something completely different.’

On working concurrently on several book projects:

‘It all comes down to knowing your character and slipping into their shoes as quickly as possible.’

Recommended:

On Writing by Stephen King

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for listening!

If you can spare a few minutes to leave the show a review on iTunes (or whichever podcast app you use) that would be really helpful. Ratings raise the visibility of the podcast and make it more likely to be discovered by new listeners and included in the charts.

The Worried Writer on iTunes

[Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to rate a podcast on your device]

Also, if you have a question or a suggestion for the show – or just want to get in touch – I would love to hear from you! Email me or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

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The Worried Writer Episode #37: Caroline Mitchell ‘I dictate the first draft’

My guest today is Caroline Mitchell. She’s an ex-police detective turned USA Today bestselling thriller author. Her latest book, Silent Victim just became a global bestseller when it hit number 1 on Amazon in the UK, USA and Australia. Caroline brings her real-life experience as a police officer to her writing and she also has an incredible work ethic – something I really admire.

Caroline reveals the ‘what if’ questions that kicked off her latest thriller, her writing process and the secrets behind her amazing productivity!

Find out more about Caroline and her books at carolinemitchellauthor.com

Or follow her on Twitter or FaceBook.

In the introduction I give an update on Beneath The Water and mention the blog tour which is starting next week.

 

If you’ve bought the book – a massive thank you!

I really appreciate your support and, if you could spare a few moments to leave me a review, that would be amazing.

Reviews really help other readers to discover my work and they are also an important sign of success within the industry, looked at by publishers and promotional services such as BookBub. Basically, reviews will help me to sell more copies of Beneath The Water which will in turn make it more likely that I will get another publishing deal.

SHOW SPONSORSHIP

In the three years I’ve been doing a monthly show, my listening figures have grown – which is fabulous – but that has increased the cost of the hosting service. Plus, each show takes around five hours to research, record and edit. There are lots of things I would like to do with the website and show to provide more content and value to you and your support would help me to do so, as well as ensuring the show continues.

When I asked which you would prefer, the majority said ‘Patreon’ rather than corporate adverts within the show.

So, although I feel a bit embarrassed about it (it’s hard to ask for help!), I have set up a Patreon account for The Worried Writer. Click here to go to my PATREON PAGE.

I would like to cover my hosting costs every month so that the show can be a sustainable part of my business. You can support the show for as little as a dollar per month and if you become a silver subscriber ($2 per month) you will have access to an exclusive patron-only audio extra mid-month. This will be a (short) ‘just me’ mini-episode with a quick business, writing, or productivity tip.

Also, after a very nice listener (thank you, Andy!) asked to send me a one-off payment as a tip, I set up a PayPal button, too. So, if you would prefer to support me via a one-off payment of whatever amount, there is that option, too: paypal.me/worriedwriter

Thanks so much!

LISTENER QUESTION

This month’s listener question comes from Amy. She asked:

‘I know you shouldn’t use info dump or too much background detail on your characters but how do you know what is too much?’

If you have a writing, productivity or publishing question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter or leave a comment on this post.

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

IN THE INTERVIEW

Caroline’s inspiration:

‘Given my experience in the police I also enjoy writing a good crime thriller with various detectives involved and I take experience from the people I used to work with and the characters I met on a day-to-day basis.’

‘I do a lot of research as well.’

On self-publishing

‘I found it all fascinating.’

On getting an agent:

‘Don’t give up. Just keep trying and maybe prove yourself first is sometimes the best way if it’s possible…’

On writing everyday:

‘It is a very strong work ethic. I think it’s because when I was in the police any officer or anyone in the emergency services will tell you, you work very very long hours, you don’t really have breaks very often and I used to be on call as well… So I would go home after a twelve hour shift and then be on call, so the call could come in at two or three in the morning and I would get up out of my bed and deal with the victim and with that for maybe five, six, seven, eight hours. ‘

‘It was that strong work ethic which transferred to my writing. So when I was still in the police I wrote my Jennifer Knight series. I would get up at half five in the morning and I’d write on the train commute to work which was an hour and if I could get a lunch break, which was rare, I would just eat a sandwich while I was writing and then I’d write again on the way home… ‘

‘I was really really determined, I really wanted to leave my job and I was totally committed to it and I think you have to be.’

‘When I left, I seem to have kept that work ethic up but it’s much easier now because I love what I do.’

‘It’s really hard when your writing and working full-time, that’s really really tough…’

‘I pretty much carry my laptop around me most of the time, when I go anywhere I bring it with me and I don’t tend to take days off and I enjoy it so yeah, the books keep coming.’

On productivity:

‘Social media is the demon of procrastination.’

‘For me it comes into goal setting, word count and everything is set. I have a diary where I write everything I’ve done and if I don’t keep up one day I have to make it up the next day.’

‘Goals, deadlines and plotting is the answer… And having an app on my computer to stop me going on Facebook during the day.’

‘I’m producing a book every six months but the last couple of years I’ve been writing three books a year which is hard going.’

‘I dictate the first draft so I get it out really quickly. I can get a first draft out in five weeks. It is rubbish, though, then I have to go back and edit it all and fix it. But I find the dialogue is much better when I dictate because basically it’s all dialogue and then I go back and I put in the setting and the scenery and the descriptions and it’s like a painting, it’s just layer upon layer.’

‘If I’m dictating I can do 10 or 15,000 words in a weekend because I’m just telling the story.’

On process:

‘If I get stuck with anything I go for a good long walk… I can be heard mumbling to myself as I work out these plots that refuse to budge.’

The dreaded editorial letter:

‘I struggle to open it for about a day… I can hardly look at it.’

On the writing life:

‘I’m the luckiest person in the world.’

Advice to those who want to write:

‘Constantly work on your craft, never stop learning… And don’t give up!’

Recommended:

Caroline uses various tools to help her to block out distraction (social media!) and focus on her work.

Freedom – blocks websites and apps on your devices and computers (PC and Mac). I use and love this one, too!

RescueTime (Mac only). This tracks the time you spend on websites and applications, giving you accurate details on how you spend your day.

Dragon software for dictation.

Joanna Penn’s advice on dictation.

Caroline recommends listening to motivational tracks (some available on Spotify).

Caroline’s writing advice can be found on her blog.

 

Thanks for listening!

[I just realised that I forgot to update you on my progress with dictation. To be fair, that progress has been minimal this month (I have just bought the software). I am going to make a proper effort to try it in March and will report back next month!]

If you can spare a few minutes to leave the show a review on iTunes (or whichever podcast app you use) that would be really helpful. Ratings raise the visibility of the podcast and make it more likely to be discovered by new listeners and included in the charts.

The Worried Writer on iTunes

[Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to rate a podcast on your device]

Also, if you have a question or a suggestion for the show – or just want to get in touch – I would love to hear from you! Email me or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More