The Worried Writer Episode#40: Cressida McLaughlin ‘You Have To Love The Story’

 

Cressida McLaughlin writes feel-good romances for Harper Collins, including the bestselling The Canal Boat Cafe and The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse. Cressida’s latest series is called The House of Birds and Butterflies and is being released in four parts in ebook format before the paperback arrives this summer.

You can find out more about Cressida and her books at CressidaMcLaughlin.com

Or find her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

 

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I give an update on my own writing… It’s been a very tough month for personal reasons, but I am getting back to work and planning to finish my WIP in June.

Also, I’m still on submission for my supernatural thriller, so fingers crossed I will have some news to share on that front soon.

In more positive news, Writers’ Forum magazine featured me (and The Worried Writer) in the latest edition, and I got sent lovely flowers and tea-related goodies by Lake Union to celebrate selling 50,000 copies of In The Light of What We See. I wish I could tell ‘2011 Sarah’ who was seriously considering giving up the pursuit of publishing… Huzzah!

 

 

LISTENER QUESTION

Marie Madigan, a longtime listener and patron of the show (thanks, Marie!) asked:

When you’ve finished a first draft, how do you tackle self-editing to get it into shape for submission, whether to an editor or your agent? In particular, how do you do this without letting the critical editor side go too far, and maybe strip out what makes your voice and novel unique?

I also give a shout-out to my lovely new patrons and a quick reminder that you can join my Patreon community and get access to the mid-month audio extras:  The Worried Writer on Patreon. Thanks!

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

Cressida on the pros and cons of the serial model of writing and publishing:

‘Lots of people like to wait for the full thing to come out. I kind of think of it like television boxsets. You get to the end of the episode and there is a cliffhanger and you’re really excited to see what happens next but also, there’s something enjoyable about that sense of anticipation…’

‘Lots of people seem to like it and from a publishing point of view I’m very lucky because I get five beautiful covers and five publication days quite close together… It feels like it’s got a more solid lead-up and reviews can start coming in.’

‘From a writing point of view, it’s kind of strange because all of my books with HarperCollins have been published in this way so I’ve never had the experience of publishing a book in one go… When it came to plotting it and planning it, I found that really helpful because as well as the story arc for the whole book, I had it split into four separate parts and I knew I needed to make each part really good and have an arc of its own which meant that there was always lots going on in the book and I wasn’t getting to a point where there was a lull.’

‘It was nerve-wracking but I had planned it really tightly so when it came to writing it I was never sitting there thinking ‘what comes next’… I could be really free and enjoy the actual writing.’

On learning to plan:

‘Mainly a case of gritting it out and just seeing what worked.’

‘I started with a synopsis that was a page long but then I just slowly added bits and built it up over a few weeks.’

‘For me, it was about taking the pressure off myself and thinking you don’t have to have the synopsis done in one day… Just do it, mull it over in your head and build it up as you go along.’

 

Cressida’s schedule:

‘I start about seven in the morning, I work much better early in the morning and I’ll write through till probably about 2pm (with a lunch break as well). I aim for about four to five thousand words a day… And I usually do that four or five days a week if I’m in the first draft or editing thing. I do like to be quite strict with myself in that respect and leave all the peripheral stuff until the afternoon.’

‘When I get into the story I get so enthusiastic about it that I don’t really want to stop. Sometimes I have to drag myself away from the computer.’

On process and procrastination:

‘There are days sometimes when I just sit down and my brain won’t be in it

‘I find if I just open the document and it’s sitting there then I’ll get on with it, but the problem I have is that I won’t always open it…’

‘I just remind myself that actually I’ve written some books and that is quite a big achievement and at some point, I had this problem with the first book and the second book and the third book… And I managed it.’

‘I use Scrivener for my first draft which I find really helpful and that keeps track of word counts and you can see how chapter lengths compare with each other and I find that really useful for getting the balance of the book right.’

‘Quite a lot of the processing happens when you’ve stepped away from the computer or the notebook.’

 

On inspiration:

‘I love women’s fiction, warm romantic reads. One of the books that made me realise I wanted to be a writer was called A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans…It’s a real life fairy tale…I want to create something like this and I want to make readers feel about my characters the way Harriet Evans makes readers feel.’

On being a productive writer:

‘You have to love the story and love the characters – you have to be really invested and engaged.’

 

Recommended:

On Writing by Stephen King

Release The Bats by DBC Pierre

Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *