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

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.


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:

Thanks so much!


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).


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!’


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!]

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