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!
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?
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.
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:
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 Writingis 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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
‘I’m all for traditional, I think there is a lot of opportunity there.’
‘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.
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.
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.’
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.
In the intro I give a personal update (spoiler-alert – I did more holidaying than writing in July!) and talk about my plans for August.
I also mention Joanna Penn’s recent podcast episode about her experience at Thrillerfest, in which she discusses comparisonitis and the difficulty of balancing ambition and contentment. Go here for the episode (it’s really worth a listen) and here for Joanna’s wonderful book on marketing How To Market A Book.
Finally, I talk about the future of the podcast and the possibility of adding advertising or sponsorship or joining Patreon. And, in lieu of corporate sponsorship, I plug my own book on writing! Click HERE for store links.
If you have any thoughts on advertising or patreon or suggestions for ways in which I can improve the show, please do get in touch. I would love to hear from you!
In the interview:
‘I have a number for that day that I’m happy with wordcount-wise.’
‘Sometimes, I’ve got no idea where they’re going now so I’ll play with the characters for a bit or research a location and something usually pops up.’
‘I work from a very brief skeleton, but I usually write little chunks in a notebook that’s specifically for that book.’
On writing as a career:
‘I had my careers advice at seventeen and I said ‘I’m going to university to study writing and I’m going to be a writer’ and he said ‘that’s not a job’.’
On doing a degree in creative writing:
‘I think I wrote a lot of crap then, but I learned how to form a story and how to get criticism and feedback… But you could only be a literary writer in their eyes.’
Andi’s tips for productivity:
‘I like being in control… I do a lot of list-making and goal-setting.’
‘I would love to do a retreat so that’s on my list… I usually go to a festival every year where I run creative writing workshops.’
‘I think play is really important and experimenting.’
‘Always write more than you talk about writing.’
On being a worried writer:
‘You’ll always have worries with writing because it makes you so vulnerable.’
‘Everyone has that particular number in their word-count when you hit it and think ‘God, I’m awful’… Usually to get over it I remind myself that I’ve done it once so I can do it again. I think finishing a book is the hardest thing you can do… But if you’ve finished a book, you can finish another book.’
‘I thought being published was the end of the journey, the end-goal, but it’s actually the start.’
On writing as a therapeutic tool:
‘It’s a very freeing experience.’
Thank you so much for listening – I truly appreciate it!
If you have a writing (or publishing) question that you’d like me to tackle, 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).
And if you have a moment to share the show on social media or leave a rating on iTunes (or your preferred podcast app), that would be brilliant! THANK YOU!
As regular visitors know, I’m a massive fan of setting goals. During the last couple of years, I have aired mine in public for some extra motivation (accountability!) and as an exercise in ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.
So far, this year feels like my most productive ever, but I know there is still so much I want to do! Also, I want to make sure I don’t let my motivation or progress slip over the second half of the year.
Time seems to be flying past faster than ever and I know how easy it is to lose weeks – or even months – if I don’t stay focused on my main goals. It’s too easy to get caught up in the latest ‘shiny thing’, in learning about all the possibilities in this exciting publishing landscape, or just in the day-to-day ‘busy work’ of running an author business.
So, I thought it would be a good idea to do a halfway check-point to see if I’m on track. I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit nervous…
I set the goal of writing two new novels and finishing, editing and publishing the Worried Writer book.
Writing two new novels… Um. Not started, yet. Need to prioritise this for the remaining five and a half months of the year.
My initial thought is ‘Argh! I can’t write two novels in under six months’, but some quick calculations shoot down that objection… Let’s say I have five months. That’s 20 weeks.
2 x 80,000 words = 160,000 words
160,000 divided by 20 = 8000
8000 words per week is 1143 words per day.
That sounds much more manageable, doesn’t it?
I will, however, have to get strict about prioritising writing new words, though. I find it frustratingly easy to let writing slip down my to-do list even though it’s the most enjoyable and fulfilling part of what I do, as well as the most important!
I planned to rewrite and publish Beneath The Water and my supernatural book, and to get The Secrets of Ghosts made into an audio book.
I landed a new publishing deal with Lake Union for Beneath The Water and have just finished the structural rewrites. It will be published early 2018.
I am currently working on the editorial notes from my agent for the supernatural book and am planning to have that finished by the end of next week.
I did get an audio book made, but I chose my novella, The Garden of Magic, instead… The narrator, Tracey Norman, did a fabulous job and was a joy to work with.
Also, I have decided to attempt the narration for the audio version of Stop Worrying; Start Writing. I’m going into the studio next week!
I have been consuming less and creating more, which is excellent as I think I’ve been skewed in the wrong direction for a long time! I’ve still read some brilliant books, though. One really useful ‘craft’ book I discovered is Alexanda Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks For Authors.
On the business/marketing side, I’m working my way through Mark Dawson’s Ads For Authors course. Even if you aren’t ready to spend money on his paid training, he offers loads of information (and a mini video course) for free, and his Self Publishing Formula podcast is excellent, too.
I still haven’t started scheduling ‘artist days’ to refill the creative well. Must do better!
Walking isn’t strictly ‘creativity’ but I do think it helps me to think (as well as having health benefits) and I’ve been sticking to my daily habit of a morning walk. I would like to increase my stamina and distance, though, and maybe add a second walk in the afternoon (or a yoga session).
I planned to keep up with my newsletter for my mailing list subscribers and I wanted to increase the size of my list.
I also planned to continue with the monthly episodes of the podcast and to add more content to this site.
I created a ‘perk’ (a free short story) and have been giving that away via Instafreebie to grow my list.
I’ve been keeping up with my newsletters, sending them every 4-6 weeks, and have had some brilliant conversations with readers which feels amazing!
If you are interested in hearing about my fiction releases, giveaways and exclusive content, sign up here!