The Worried Writer Episode #24: Gillian McAllister ‘I write everything down’

Gillian McAllister My guest in this episode is Gillian McAllister. Gillian’s debut thriller Everything But The Truth is out on 9 March 2017 from Penguin and she is represented by Clare Wallace at the Darley Anderson Agency. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Everything But The Truth and it is an absolutely cracking read. It’s a twisty, compelling, domestic thriller and I highly recommend it.

I spoke to Gillian last year and it was really interesting to talk about the post-deal, pre-publication phase.

For more on Gillian and her writing, head to her website, or find her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

In the introduction, I give a quick personal update: I finished the Worried Writer book! Last month I put out a call for beta readers and was bowled over by the response. Thank you so much to all of you who offered, the list is now full. I’m sending out the manuscript this week (eep!).

One of the really positive things about doing a project like this is that it’s given my brain a break from writing fiction. I felt empty after finishing the latest draft of Beneath The Water and it was nice to change gears for a while. Predictably, I’m missing fiction again, now, and am looking forward to diving into a new novel.

Also, I mention that I have (finally!) set up a page on Facebook for the podcast. Please head over and give it a quick ‘like’ if you are so inclined… I would really appreciate it!

Let me know the kind of content you’d like to see there, too. I’m considering recording some Q&A videos or perhaps a wee tour of my latest planner system. Let me know on the FB page or in the comments section below. Or, of course, drop me an email.

As always, I welcome your feedback and questions!

In the interview:

On always writing:

‘I’ve had reams of diaries and lists and I write everything down it’s the way I organise my thoughts.’

On the road to publication:

‘I think when you get an agent you think ‘that’s it’ and I was quite emotionally unprepared for rejection… It was just awful.’

 

And on the adjustment post-deal:

‘I still sometimes wake up and I’m in the old mindset of ‘is my book ever going to sell?’ and then I remember and I’m like, my God, that happened … I’m actually just really relieved because it was such a cause of anxiety and strife for me as I had never wanted anything as badly as I wanted a publishing deal.’

Advice on submission hell:

‘I think somewhere deep in my brain I felt as though if I checked email enough I would get a publishing deal and that is an incorrect thought!’

Gillian is a full-time lawyer. On fitting writing into a busy life:

‘One of the biggest things was getting a MacBook and being able to write in moments where I’m not so busy. Like if I’m on the train and there is a delayed train for twenty minutes I don’t lose the time, I can open the MacBook and write and I’ve kind of taught myself to do that.’

 

On the difficulties of writing:

‘I do a first draft and I’m quite gung ho about it and then at the end of it I think… Oh, okay, this should have happened or it’s actually about this…’

On the psychology of getting published:

‘My mental health for the three months after I sold was very wobbly… It was actually about control and feeling like this was all I ever wanted but it’s hard sometimes… I had been worrying for two years about getting published and I had all these neural pathways… I remember actively worrying that I wasn’t as happy as I should be until my boyfriend said ‘that’s insane’.’

 

Thanks so much for listening! If you have a moment, please leave a rating on iTunes or share the podcast.

Also, I will be giving out a limited number of review copies of the Worried Writer book in March.

If you want to be first to hear about the book (and be in with a chance of scoring a free copy), please sign up here.

Thank you! 

 

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Five Tools To Help You Smash Your Writing Goals This Year

It’s the time of year for goal setting and making resolutions. See mine here!

But when it comes to the next twelve months, how do we stay on track? How do we make sure we achieve our writing goals and are punching the air in triumph on December 31st?

Paperchase organiserHere are my top five tools for exactly that:

1. Schedule your time!

It’s not enough to say ‘I will write for an hour every day’ you need to put that hour in your diary. I use a paper diary (an organiser from Paperchase) but you can use Google Calendar or your favourite app. Whatever you are comfortable with and, ideally, already use for your other important appointments.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Tool-up With Scrivener

If you don’t already use it (or have tried it in the past and found it overwhelming), I recommend you give Scrivener another try. It really is brilliant for organising novels and long non-fiction projects and, even if you use it the most basic manner (as I do!) it is worth it for the project-targets and ‘writing-only’ screen modes.

Speaking as someone who tried – and failed – in her first few attempts at using Scrivener, I recommend getting a book as a guide. I used Writing A Novel With Scrivener by David Hewson but Scrivener Essentials: A Quick-Start Visual Guide (recommended by my lovely dad) is even better – especially for visual learners. It comes in both a Mac and PC version, too, so it matches the version of the software exactly.

3. Eliminate distractions

Switch off the internet (or certain sites such as Twitter and Facebook) for set periods of time using this brilliant, free Chrome add-on – StayFocusd. Freedom is also good (although it isn’t free, there is a 60-day money-back guarantee).

I’ve recommended these apps on the podcast before but they really do help. Another tip is to try wearing noise-cancelling headphones (with or without music/nature sounds).

4. Reward Yourself Regularly

Stickers are brilliant as small rewards (especially for the stationery-obsessed) but small breaks to check email/Twitter or read a book, put on a song and dance around the room, have a cup of tea or some food (maybe go for something healthy, at least some of the time!), are all good, too.

5. Find Your Tribe

Find a community of like-minded writers by checking Facebook groups, writing forums, or local groups. Reading writing websites and books and listening to podcasts can help, too; anything which makes you feel less alone/bonkers for pursuing the often-frustrating, devilishly-difficult skill of writing!

Hope those tips are helpful! 

Do let me know in the comments and feel free to share tips of your own.

Struggle with procrastination? Like productivity tips? Perhaps you might be interested in more… I’m writing a whole book on the subject: CLICK HERE to be notified when it’s out!

 

 

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Christmas Gift Ideas for Worried Writers

I know that it’s December and you may have already bought all of your holiday gifts but, just in case you are still looking, here are some ideas… If you have bought for all the worried writers in your life, perhaps one of these will just have to slip into your shopping basket as a gift to yourself!

The Essentials:

 

 

It might not be wildly original, but a good-quality notebook is ALWAYS a safe present for a writer. I love Moleskine (again, not original, but there is a reason they are so popular) and have recently been favouring these large soft-cover ones. I have this blue one and it’s a lovely colour (always a bonus).

Extra-large blue Moleskine: £10.50

 

 

 

Lovely fine-tip pens in lots of colours for plotting/brain-storming/colouring-in or doodling. When it comes to writing, having fun is the key to productivity. An array of cheerful coloured pens remind me of childhood play, which can be a very good thing when wrestling with a tricky chapter or a ‘can’t be bothered’ day.

Stabilo 88 fine-liners are my go-to felt tip and this pack of mini-size sweet colours is £8.99.

 

Pretty Literary:

alwaysimpossible

 

 

I love this quote and find it genuinely useful. Plus, this typographic print is so pretty!

Print by LilyWillowDesigns on Etsy. £3.01.

 

 

 

 

SONY DSC

 

 

Literary cushion with added library-love.

Virginia Woolf cushion from The Literary Gift Company: £18.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books:

 

I have re-read (and recommended) this book many times. If you struggle with fear and self-doubt, this book will make you feel less alone.

The Courage To Write by Ralph Keyes

 

 

 

 

 

I really enjoyed this from Elizabeth Gilbert (the podcast is good, too!).

She is warm, wise and encouraging, and I know I will turn to this book regularly.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

 

 

 

As you all know, Joanna Penn is my unofficial mentor, and I highly recommend all of her books (as well as her outstanding podcast, The Creative Penn). The Successful Author Mindset is particularly useful for worried writers, whether just starting out or with several books published.

 

 

 

Healthy Writer: 

Writing is a sedentary pursuit and a little motivation to leave the laptop can be a good thing. Mel Sherratt spoke about her Fitbit and how it had helped her to get more active in episode 13 of the The Worried Writer podcast.

FitBit Alta WristBand (also available in black, purple or dark blue).

 

 

 

 

 

Even if you don’t want to do a full yoga or pilates workout, I highly recommend interspersing your writing sessions with some gentle stretching. Like many writers, I suffer from a dodgy back, but if I do my physiotherapy exercises throughout the day, I can keep the pain under control. Even if you don’t have problems now, RSI and posture-related pain are very real hazards when it comes to typing for long periods – please don’t wait until you are suffering to look after your body!

 

 

Just For Fun:

chocolate_miniature_books

 

Adorable chocolate books from Choc On Choc: £9.99.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

zombieA Literary Feast: Recipes Inspired by Novels, Poems and Plays by Jennifer Barclay

Food and literature combined!

And, finally… For the writer who has everything (and who isn’t freaked-out by the undead):

Zombie bookends: £15.00

 

 

 

Hope that helps! If you’ve got any gift recommendations, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. 

 

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The Worried Writer Episode #22: Holly Martin ‘I Just Love Writing’


hollymartin_ww

Holly Martin is the author of funny, romantic fiction and paranormal YA, including her successful White Cliff Bay series, One Hundred Proposals and The Guestbook. Holly was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance, she won the Carina Valentine’s competition and was shortlisted for Best Romantic Read, Best eBook and Innovation in Romantic Fiction at the Festival of Romance 2014. Holly’s latest book Christmas Under A Starlit Sky is out now.

For more on Holly and her books, visit her blog or Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

In the introduction, I give a short writing update. I managed to finish the rewrites on my latest book. Although I spent the first couple of weeks in despair, feeling as if the story was broken and that I couldn’t fix it, I am so glad I made myself persevere. I am much happier with the latest version and I think the ending it much stronger. Now I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed that my agent agrees!

Another thing I’ve done this month is to revisit the goals I set back in January. I haven’t managed to hit all of them, but I have got more done this year on my writing business than in any previous year so I’m definitely celebrating. It’s also encouraged me to make a last push in December and see if I can tick off another of my goals before the year runs out.

With that in mind, I’ve started work on a Worried Writer book. A non-fiction title which will bring together my own story with the best tips and advice gathered from two years of author interviews. I’d love to know if that is something you would be interested in. Also, if there is something in particular you would like covered in the book do let me know!

I will keep you all posted on its progress on the podcast, but if you are particularly interested and would like to make sure you get updates, please consider signing up for my mailing list here.

Once it’s finished, I will be looking for beta readers for the book, and there will be giveaways, review copies and all that good stuff available to those who are signed up!

In the interview:

I quiz Holly on the secret to her amazing productivity:

‘Well, I just love writing. I just love creating a story… It’s just something I really, really enjoy. Whenever I’m writing a story, my mind is always jumping ahead to the next story I want to write so by the time I finish writing one story, the characters and story for the next one are already fully formed in my mind and I want to get it down.’

On process:

‘The most important thing is that you need to write every single day, even if it’s just a couple of hundred words, because then your mind stays in the story…’

On submitting/trying to get published:

‘Just don’t ever, ever give up.’

Holly on keeping the creative spark alive:

‘You just have to write what you love… If it’s becoming a chore then something is wrong… If you enjoy writing and enjoy those characters and getting back to it every day, then the readers will be able to tell and hopefully they will enjoy it, too. It’s really important to stay true to what you really want to write.’

 

Recommended:

Self-editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening!

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The Worried Writer Episode #20: Caroline Green ‘Storytelling Is What Inspires Me’

ww_carolinegreen

 

Caroline Green is an award-winning author of books for young people. Her debut, Dark Ride, won the RONA Young Adult Book of the Year and the Waverton Good Read Award, Hold Your Breath won the Oldham Book Award, and both Hold Your Breath and Cracks have been short-listed for eleven awards between them. Caroline is Writer In Residence at East Barnet School and teaches Writing for Children at City University. She has recently moved genre with a pen name, Cass Green, and a brand new psychological thriller, The Woman Next Door, which is currently storming the Kindle charts.

You can find out more about Caroline and her books at www.carolinegreen.net

Also on Facebook and Twitter: @carolinesgreen or @CassGreenWrites

 

 In the intro I give a quick update on my writing (I finished my latest book – yay!) and recommend Mark McGuinness’s new book, Productivity For Creative People which is currently free on Amazon (or from Mark’s website, Lateral Action).

Mark is poet and a creative coach and he really knows his stuff. You might also like my interview with him in episode 12 of this podcast!

Also, I have completed my first ‘independent’ venture and the audio book of The Language of Spells is out now!

You can listen to a short sample on Audible and, if you sign-up for a 30-day trial, you can get the whole book for free. Here is the book on Audible (UK)Audible (US) and iTunes.

I answer a listener question on the writing advice ‘show don’t tell’ and mention an article I wrote on this subject for Novelicious. Here’s the link.

If you have a writing (or publishing) question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter.

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

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening!

In the interview:

Caroline on the realities of publishing:

 ‘The year when most of these things were happening and I had national paper reviews and won awards and everything was wonderful, that was the year I actually did my self-employed accounts and cried because I had made no money.’

 

On using a pen name:

‘I think it just helps you to separate the two writing personas…’

On writing:

‘My perfect writing day involves going to The British Library… It feels like more of a commitment and I feel that when I’m there I really have to make the time count.’

‘Storytelling is what inspires me.’

Recommended:
Caroline recommends Into The Woods by John Yorke

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way

Write Your Novel From The Middle by James Scott Bell

Zoe Marriott’s blog The Zoe-Trope.

The Pomodoro Technique for timed writing sessions.

 

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The Worried Writer Episode #19: Mark Edwards ‘Just Do It!’

ww_markedwardsMark Edwards is the bestselling author of psychological thrillers such as Follow You Home, Because She Loves Me and The Magpies. Before going solo, Mark published a number of police procedurals written with Louise Voss including Killing Cupid and Forward Slash. He and Voss also have a series featuring DI Patrick Lennon, starting with From The Cradle and followed by The Blissfully Dead which came out last year.

 

 

Mark’s latest thriller, The Devil’s Work, is out on 13th September. You can pre-order it here.

You can find out more about Mark and his books at his website, MarkEdwardsAuthor. Or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

In the introduction I reference this wonderful podcast episode from Joanna Penn and talk about my own journey over the last eight years.

Joanna talks about the value of measuring your progress in ‘Olympics’ and seeing how much you have got done or how your life as changed in four-year cycles.

It’s important to look up from the day-to-day grind and take stock of what you have achieved and to set goals for the future, and I think this ‘big picture’ overview is a great addition to the monthly and yearly goal-setting I already do!

I also mention the audio book for The Language of Spells, which I have commissioned. It should be available to buy in a couple of weeks time and you can read more/see the cover reveal by heading to my author site.

In the interview:

Mark talks us through his long – and difficult – journey to overnight success!

On writing:

‘I think that being a writer is so hard, the process of writing itself and all the stuff that goes around it, that you have to have it in you, you have to have that drive.’

 For people who want to write:

‘Just get started, just do it. And if you aren’t a writer you won’t keep going and if you are a writer, you will.’

On the writing process: 

‘I don’t think you can rush yourself, you have to have time to reflect and let the story settle in your head.’

‘I don’t plot it out, I don’t use any kind of act structure…. Somehow from reading so much, the template is there in my head and I’m writing to that without being aware of it.’

On writing dark or shocking material and self-censorship:

‘To me, books really have to divide opinion. So if I think I’m writing something that some people are going to hate or are going to be offended by, then I think it’s probably good idea to keep it in there’

‘There’s nothing worse than being bland and safe… Take risks!’

 

If you have a writing (or publishing) question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter.

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

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening!

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