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.

Perform!

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 Economides. Georgia 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!

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!

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes or whichever podcast app you use. Reviews and shares really help the visibility of the show.

 

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10 Great Gift Ideas for Writers

Yes, it’s that time of year again when we all need to find thoughtful gifts to express our love to our nearest and dearest which, let’s face it, isn’t always easy!

If you have a writer in your life, these gift ideas might help.

Alternatively, if you are a writer, you could always forward this post to your family as a helpful hint… Or just treat yourself!

Stationery

I have yet to meet a writer who wasn’t at least a little bit in love with stationery.

This Leuchtturm 1917 dotted journal is perfect for keeping a bullet journal (planning heaven!), writing, brain-storming or doodling. I have been using the A5 size (in Emerald) for my bullet journal this year and I am utterly in love.

Why not create a bullet journal starter-kit by adding a fine-point black pen and some pretty washi tape and stickers?

Happy Planner Sticker Set

 

 

 

Or, just for fun, how about this Storyteller pencil set from Sharp and Blunt?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing fuel

Nothing is more important to me when writing than a cup of tea.* Okay, nothing except a computer or notebook!

Classic Penguin Books mugs come in a range of titles, including Pride And Prejudice.

*Technically, you could put a different hot beverage into this mug, but I can’t be held responsible for the results…

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t hold with the ‘tortured artist’ stereotype but if you know a whiskey-loving writer, this bottle might just be the key to a happy festive season.

Writers Tears Whiskey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When in doubt, chocolate is (usually) the answer…

This book-shaped packaging is lovely (and the caramel truffles sound pretty good, too).

House of Dorchester SeaSalt Caramel Truffles Book Box (pack of 2).

 

 

Pretty Things

 

 

The Literary Gift Company has lots of book-themed loveliness, but I particularly like this ‘So It Goes’ necklace (quote is from Slaughterhouse Five) and their range of ‘poems instead of a card’ pamphlets.

 

 

 

 

 

Books

A good reference section is useful to any writer. Once the basics (a good dictionary and thesaurus) are covered, you can branch out. I love Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase And Fable – it’s stuffed with eclectic facts and is perfect for browsing. Next, I’ve got my eye on this collection of quotes:

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

 

 

 

 

 

Writers are learning all the time, so a book on the craft or business of writing is sure to be welcome. Stephen King’s On Writing is the most-recommended book on the podcast so it’s a good place to start.

Alternatively, if you know a worried writer, then there is always my book on the subject!

Stop Worrying; Start Writing: How to Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt and Procrastination

 

 

 

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The Worried Writer Episode #33: Katie Cross ‘I call myself a naptime entrepreneur’


My guest today is Katie Cross. Katie writes both YA fantasy and contemporary women’s fiction. Her books include The Network series, which kicks off with Miss Mabel’s School For Girls, and Bon Bons To Yoga Pants. Katie also provides mentoring services for indie authors, and she runs a lively Facebook support group called Indie Author Life. Head here to join.

In the interview we discuss productivity, publishing, and self-doubt, and Katie shares wonderful tips for combining writing with parenthood (or other responsibilities). Katie is a bundle of energy and I got so much inspiration from our chat – I hope you do, too!

For more on Katie head to kcrosswriting.com or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

In the intro I give a writing update:

I allowed myself to take my foot off the pedal a wee bit during October, and also had a week away with my family by Loch Ness, which was glorious!

Less fun, was hitting the middle of my WIP and, as usual, getting completely stuck. Every single book I have written has hit this point but it’s always a bit scary. I allowed myself to take thinking and freewriting time and, last week, I had a breakthrough on the plot – phew!

I’m planning to finish the book during November so, along with everyone who is taking part in NaNoWriMo, I will be writing as much as possible.

If you are trying to finish a project or are taking part in NaNoWriMo, let’s make this a super-productive November and cheer each other on! I will post updates on Twitter and the Worried Writer Facebook page. We can do this!

I also talk about the importance of finishing, and how getting to ‘The End’ on your first book is so difficult – but so vital.

In case you missed it, here is the link to the article I wrote on the subject: The Life-Changing Magic of Finishing Your Book.

In the interview:

Katie on indie publishing:

‘From the beginning it called to me. I was like that is the way I want to publish a book.’

‘You have control, you have to do something with it and you really have to it well. I think finding a team can be the hardest part: people you trust at a price you can afford.’

On self-doubt:

‘I had a lot of beta readers give me feedback and I had professional editors.’

‘I do remember that feeling of vulnerability once I’d hit that publish button… I’ve put a piece of my heart out there.’

On helping others and the FB group:

‘It was a difficult transition for me from full-time author to full-time mom… I couldn’t find other people in the same boat so I put this group together.’

‘Authors need a tribe. It’s a solitary profession but requires a village, really.’

‘I’m an extrovert, I thrive on connection.’

Writing process:

‘I do write everyday.’

I freelance and I do mentoring for some self-publishers when I have slots available and I write my own books. It sounds like a lot but I don’t take a lot of contracts for freelancing… It’s very manageable, it’s not too many, it’s just enough so that I feel like I’m working on a team.’

‘The night before I go to bed I have a to-do list and I write down three things that have to get done.’

‘If I can get up before my son I spend twenty minutes meditating. I just sit and deep breathe and am just present in the moment… And then I go about the day with my son and I do not check my email.’

‘An hour before naptime I start preparing for naptime so I get the house clean, I make lunch, I make sure we’ve had lunch, make sure the dog is settled. Everything is ready so the moment my son is down for his nap, my butt is in the chair and I’m writing.’

‘I call myself a naptime entrepreneur.’

I do try to keep creativity and business separate… I always work on creative things first… And I try to stay focused when I’m in each one.’

On writing while being a full-time parent:

‘It’s a careful balance when you’re a parent of being a parent, but still having time for yourself and taking time for your writing because your writing time can’t be your self-care time.’

‘There was more time for writing with a newborn than I thought… For me it got really busy once he got mobile!’

‘I was a hardcore pantser until I became a mom then I found it much more productive to plot.’

Creative block:

‘Typically when I’m blocked creatively it’s because I need to make a decision and I don’t want to… I need to decide where this plot is going and then I’m worried I’ll make the wrong choice and I’ll waste words or something like that.’

Failure if one of our greatest learning mechanisms.’

‘All of us struggle with imposter syndrome.’

Recommended:

K.M.Weiland books  and website: Helping Writers Become Authors

Dynamic Story Creation by Maxwell Alexander Drake

Joanna Penn for anything author business related: The Creative Penn

Robert McKee

Playing Big by Tara Mohr

For levelling-up in business: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

Thanks for listening!

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

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 Life-Changing Magic of Finishing Your Book

A comment popped up recently and, after replying, I found it was still rattling around in my mind. I know it’s something that many of us struggle with, so I thought I would discuss it here:

Hi I am a new and yes very worried writer, so am thrilled to have found your podcasts. I have started several novels, but never finished them, I’m hoping that I will get inspiration and hints and tips to finish one. Looking forward to listening to the other podcasts. Debs

First off, a big thank you to Debs for listening and leaving such a great comment.

Reading this took me right back to where I was stuck for a very long time… Throughout my teens and twenties, I dreamed of writing fiction: I thought about writing, I talked about writing and I read endless advice books and blogs about writing. I was looking for the secret. The magic ingredient that would enable me to write a book.

I started stories. I would write an opening paragraph or scene and just run out of steam. Occasionally, I would manage a few chapters, but I never knew what came next so I stopped. Until the next character or opening line or bit of dialogue would pop into my head and I’d write it down, only to get stuck again.

Behind all of this stopping was fear. I was scared that I couldn’t do it and so I never forced myself past the initial spark of an idea.

Also, I was making a crucial mistake: I thought that feeling stuck meant that the initial idea was no good.

What I didn’t realise was that feeling stuck as a writer is completely and utterly normal: It’s part of the gig! 

That having ‘no idea what happens next’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep on trying. That, essentially, writing a book is hard graft, not divine inspiration.

Also, I hadn’t realised that nested inside my surface fears (of writing rubbish and not having enough ideas to fill a book) were deeper worries about finishing. If I finished, I would have to take the next step and actually show it to somebody else – argh!

Ultimately, I was terrified that if I did finish a book and it sucked, then I would have confirmation that I was a terrible writer and would never be an author.

It felt safer to dream of ‘being a writer on day’ rather than risk exposing my lack of ideas and talent through actually trying.

So, just in case you are where I used to be (or you are Debs – hi Debs!) I’m going to reveal to you the big secret about writing novels.

The reason you are finding it hard to finish your novel is because it is SUPER HARD TO DO.

But, here is the big secret… All you have to do is slog through this first one.

It doesn’t have to be good.

There is one rule: If you get to the end, you have succeeded.

If it sucks (and, fair warning, it probably will) that doesn’t matter. Every single author you have ever loved sucked when they started writing. Just think of it as a necessary stage.

And here is the best part – the magic lies in the act of finishing. Once you have finished that first book, I promise it will transform your writing life.

You might choose not to finish projects in the future, but you will carry with you the knowledge that you ARE capable of finishing them and that makes all the difference in the world.

So, having explained why I think finishing your book is so gosh-darned important, here are a few tips to help you get from beginning to end (or middle to end):

  • Don’t focus on the writing. Focus on the act of doing the work, not the writing you are producing.
  • Make finishing your book (no matter what) your one and only goal.
  • Break the goal into manageable steps and add a deadline.

Happily enough, there is a group writing challenge starting next week which will help you with all of these tips. It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and it starts on 1st November. You can sign up (free) here.

Or, you can set your own version of the challenge… Remember – the only thing that matters is getting to the finish line, not how you run the race.

Also, if you prefer your cheer-leading in book-form and liked this post, why not try my guide? It’s packed with tips and advice to help you start (and finish!) your book:

Stop Worrying; Start Writing: How To Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt and Procrastination.

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

KOBO

iBOOKS

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading!

Are you struggling to finish your book or have you got a tip you want to pass on?

Got a subject you would like covered or a question for the podcast?

Join in the comments or email me anytime!

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The Worried Writer Episode #32: Monica Leonelle ‘I’m a burst of energy writer’

My guest today is Monica Leonelle. Monica is a USA Today bestselling author writing YA urban fantasy and paranormal romance, as well as practical books for writers such as Write Better, Faster and The 8-Minute Writing Habit. Before becoming an author, Monica had a successful career in digital marketing.

For more on Monica’s latest website for authors, head to The World Needs Your Book

And there is still a wealth of information on

Prose On Fire

For all of Monica’s books head to Amazon UK or Amazon US

Or find her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

In the intro:

I give a small writing update (10,000 words on my shiny new first draft!) and share tips learned from the process of recording the audio book of Stop Worrying; Start Writing.

I answer a listener question:

Matthew asked:

The late great Terry Pratchett insisted in his will that the novels he was working on at the time of his death be crushed in their hard drive. By a steamroller.

This action was carried out today.

Morbid Q for the podcast – what would you want happening to your unfinished works in the event of your demise? Tolkienesque approach – the family get to cash in through publication of a bunch of things of varying quality that were never meant for public consumption, or Pratchett’s cleaner approach with death as a full stop rather than an ellipsis?

I talk about my own preference (for early drafts to be deleted!) and discuss how thinking about this kind of thing can help us to place proper value on our work and to consider the long-term strategy for our career/finances.

Mentioned:

Neil Gaiman’s post on will-making for creatives (with sample template).

Helen Sedwick (writes about legal/financial stuff for authors).

In the interview:

On publishing:

‘I’m all for traditional, I think there is a lot of opportunity there.’

On self-doubt:

‘Everytime I publish a book I still feel self-doubt… You don’t know how a large group of people is going to respond to your book.’

 

‘The way I think about fear is really that you’re going to feel fear and it’s going to be there with you, but can you take action anyway.’

 

‘I will say that years and years ago I was a procrastinator… I remember when I was trying to establish a daily writing habit, that first day I sat at my computer with my ms open and I stared at it for an hour without writing anything…. It was like my mind couldn’t process or something.’

 

‘A lot of this is a muscle that you have to work, but I also think ‘yes you are afraid’.’

 

On the ‘eight-minute writing habit’:

‘It feels like a long enough period to get something done, but short enough that really have no excuse not to do it.’

‘A twenty-five minute timed session where you’re focused and then a five minute break… So with the eight minute thing, I was like you can do eight minutes, two minute break.’

‘Eight minutes is very easy to add to your morning routine, so do eight minutes in the morning, eight minutes at lunch and eight minutes in the evening.’

 

On her own process:

‘Some people do really well with 1000 words a day, kind of paced approach… For me I might write 5000 words a day for two weeks and then not write for a month…. I have embraced that I’m a burst of energy writer.’

‘About thirty percent of my time goes to fiction but, that being said, I have kind of mastered my own writing productivity. So, this year, for example, I’ve published three YA novels, two novellas for that series and a short story and that’s as of June 2017.’

‘It’s not my dream to just do fiction… I do have varied interests and I do love both sides of it.’

 

Thanks for listening!

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

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 #31: Phoebe Morgan ‘Getting A Deal Is Often About Timing’

My guest today is Phoebe Morgan. Phoebe Morgan is both an editor at HarperCollins and an author, so she understands both sides of the publishing equation. Her debut psychological thriller, The Doll House, is coming out on the 14th September, and it’s an excellent dark and creepy read. I love the way Phoebe has created a sense of foreboding in the book so I definitely recommend you check it out.

We talk about self-doubt and pre-publication nerves, but Phoebe also give insights as to what grabs her as commissioning editor when she is reading submissions and, conversely, the common mistakes she sees authors making.

Even if you aren’t looking to submit to an agent or publisher, I do think her advice is spot-on as you will always need to grab your reader.

For more on Phoebe head to phoebemorganauthor.com or find her on Twitter.

You can pre-order The Doll House for just 99p here.

In the introduction:

I give a small writing update and talk about my great excitement at being a guest on The Creative Penn podcast.

Here is the link to the episode on Joanna’s (wonderful!) website. It’s also available on YouTube and through your preferred podcast app.

Being invited on the show which started my podcast-obsession (and inspired me to start The Worried Writer) was a big moment for me and I talk about some lessons learned from the experience.

I also mention the time I interviewed Joanna on The Worried Writer. Head here for that episode.

  • Stop Worrying; Start Writing audiobook. I said last month that I would try to get it recorded during August, but I didn’t manage to fit it in – sorry! I am hoping to book the studio time during September and get it finished.
  • Thank you for all your replies re. possible funding for the show. Most folk have voted for Patreon and I’m considering ideas for ‘subscriber-only’ perks such as a private Facebook group for writerly support. Let me know what you think!

 

In the interview:

On working in publishing as an editor as well as being an author:

‘There isn’t a switch off button because everything I’m doing is in the same field. At the same time I do really love what I do.’

 

‘It can be quite tricky, sometimes. It’s a lot of characters in my head!’

 

‘It’s hard to have a full-time job and have the energy to do the thing on the side. I think it comes down to trying to enjoy it… You also need to be kind to yourself.

 

On writing process:

‘I do best during the day on a Saturday and Sunday.’

 

‘It’s about finding the time which works best for you.’

 

‘When I’m not actually physically writing, I’m always thinking about it… Stuff takes time to form.’

 

‘I’ve spent ages wishing I could be a planner and I’ve tried to be a planner… But it just doesn’t work. It kind of blocks something in my brain.’

 

On creative block:

‘I get quite paralysed by thinking about the industry… Because of my job I know how many submissions we get and how many get published and it’s not many.’

 

‘There will be times when I’m writing and I’ll think ‘this is never going to sell’ and that’s quite paralysing.’

 

On working as an editor for Harper Collins:

‘Everyone in publishing is so nice.’

 

‘Getting a deal is often about timing.’

 

‘We have a lot to get through so the opening of a book is really important…’

 

‘I find a lot of writers think they need to start a chapter quite softly and they’ll talk about the weather or do a recap on the previous chapter… Cut that out and go straight to the action.’

 

‘I always say to my authors that what I’m saying is a suggestion rather than an order. At the end of the day, an author is the one in charge of their book.’

 

On getting a book deal:

‘The key is to carry on.’

 

Recommended by Phoebe:

On Writing by Stephen King

Writing A Bestseller by Jacq Burns

How To Become A Writer (short story)by Lorrie Moore – New York Times 

Literary Rejections Blog 

 

 

 

Thanks for listening!

If you can spare a few minutes to leave the show a review on iTunes that would be really helpful. Ratings raise the visibility of the podcast in iTunes and makes 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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