The Worried Writer Ep#45: Rachel Burton ‘Little And Often Is The Key’

My guest today is Rachel Burton, author of contemporary women’s fiction. Her two novels, The Many Colours of Us and The Things We Need To Say, have been called thought-provoking and emotional.

Rachel and I first connected as she was a listener of the show, and I was delighted to chat to her about her writing success. Rachel suffers from chronic illness, M.E and Fibromyalgia, and we talk about writing books under challenging circumstances.

For more information on Rachel and her books – and for tips on writing with a chronic illness – visit RachelBurtonWrites.

Or you can find Rachel on Twitter and Instagram.

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I give an update on the launch of The Night Raven. Short version – it went really well and I’m a very happy author!

If you are interested in London-set paranormal mystery which has been called:

‘My favourite new urban fantasy series, clever and twisty and deliciously magical, with a shivery sense of wonder that feels utterly grounded in its London setting. Perfect for fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Genevieve Cogman or Robert Galbraith!’

You can click here for shopping options – thank you!

And I give a shout-out to new patrons supporting me via Patreon. Thank you so much!

You can support the show for as little as $1 per month and, for supporters at the $2 and above level, there is an exclusive mini-episode released in the middle of every month.

There are eight ‘extras’ already available and another one will go up mid-November. So far, I’ve answered patron-questions and given writing craft tips, but I’m also open to suggestions…

To become a Worried Writer insider and to support the podcast head to The Worried Writer on Patreon.

THANK YOU!

LISTENER QUESTION

I answer a couple of listener questions this month.

One from Karen Heenan (via Twitter) about writing a synopsis. I run through the differences between a synopsis, blurb and pitch, and recommend a book I found very helpful back when I was submitting to agents:

How To Write A Great Synopsis by Nicola Morgan

And one from Catherine Barbey. Catherine has published her first novel – congratulations, Catherine! And is getting fabulous reviews, but is finding it really difficult to write the next book in the series.

Catherine wrote:

‘How did you know, after you got your first book published (which I know wasn’t the first you’d written) that you wanted to carry on and keep writing? How did you know that you weren’t just a ‘one-hit wonder’?  And how did you get over ‘second book syndrome?’

 

If you have a question you would like answered on the show

contact me via email or Twitter or leave a comment on this post.

 

IN THE INTERVIEW

On publishing:

‘It felt very like I had no idea what I was doing… It felt very overwhelming, like I was totally out of my depth.’

On writing her first book:

‘The last few chapters of that book seemed to take a hundred years.’

Rachel’s writing process:

‘I write the end first. So when I plan a book, I know how it opens and I know the ending… When the going gets tough which, for me, is usually around 40,000 words in, I go and write the end. I write the last 5000 words, and then I’ve got something to aim for.’

‘I’m not a huge believer in necessarily writing the book in order. Some scenes require more research, some are harder than others… So just leave it and move on… Don’t just sit there hoping they will miraculously write themselves, just move on and write the next bit; keep it flowing, keep going.’

‘Little and often is the key because it gets you in the habit of putting words on the page.’

‘It is hard to get to the end so make your end somewhere you want to get to.’

‘There are days when I will do anything rather than write.’

 

On writing with a chronic illness:

‘I do suffer from chronic pain issues… I do have to make sure I’m sitting in the right chair. I also have to take very regular breaks and I can only write for a little bit of time and then I have to get up and walk around the room or I will get stuck in a chair shape for the rest of the day.’

‘In terms of energy levels, that has been hard. It’s hard to work out when you can and can’t write. With M.E one of the biggest problems is brain fog and when your brain is foggy, concentrating is hard, focusing on something for a long time is difficult.’

‘There are times when I’m not well enough to work at all, but I do find that even if I’m just writing a few notes about a character… I find that really does help my illness and helps me find a bit of energy and joy.’

‘Creativity does energise me.’

‘With chronic illness than can be a lot of feeling bad about yourself, feeling that you’re not adequate enough. You compare yourself to other people who aren’t ill and the word counts that they do…’

‘You can’t compare yourself to someone who doesn’t have the same setbacks as you.’

‘Be honest with everyone. I think we want to hide our chronic illness sometimes, we think people will judge us… Think we’re not capable. But I found when I was honest with my editor and my agent, they were absolutely fine with it.’

 

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.

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The Worried Writer Ep#43: Paul Teague ‘Just Keep Going’


My guest today is thriller and science-fiction author, Paul Teague. Paul is a former broadcaster and journalist for the BBC and he has transferred those skills to his fabulous podcast, Self Publishing Journeys.

One of the reasons I wanted to have Paul on the show is his refreshing honesty and openness about his own publishing business.

In our chat, he talks about the money he has made and his future plans, as well as revealing the pain of comparing himself to others and his own struggles with self-doubt.

For more on Paul and his books go to PaulTeague.net

To learn more about Paul’s podcast: Self-Publishing-Journeys.com

IN THE INTRODUCTION

In writing news, I am just finishing the rewrites on my new book, The Night Raven.

It is going to the copy-editor next week and will be out this October – meep!

Here is the cover and a little info: It’s the first book in a new London-set paranormal mystery series, featuring private investigator Lydia Crow.

If you like the look of it, perhaps you would like to join my author newsletter? I will let you know when The Night Raven is available and enter your name into my launch giveaway. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!

Also, I reveal that I have failed to start my new book project (and have been working on the next book in the Crow Investigations series, instead), but that I’m being kind to myself. It’s been a tough few months, emotionally, and I’m just glad I’m able to write at all!

I talk about my plans to develop my career as a hybrid author – publishing both independently (as I did for Stop Worrying; Start Writing) and with publishers such as Lake Union.

RECOMMENDED

Adam Croft’s book The Indie Author Mindset.

This is a fabulous guide to developing a professional attitude to your writing – something I believe is important whether you are traditionally or independently published.

I also give a shout-out to my new supporters on Patreon. I appreciate my patrons (new and existing!) so very much – THANK YOU!

The next patron-only exclusive extra will go up mid-month and in it I will be answering a question about NaNoWriMo and giving some tips.

For more information on becoming a patron of the show, see The Worried Writer on Patreon.

IN THE INTERVIEW

On writing productivity and schedule:

‘Ever since I was sixteen I’ve been a formulas guy. The only way I can cope with life, really, is to parcel it up… I make meticulous plans.’

‘I don’t do panic. I don’t like surprises.’

‘Time management is a big thing for me… I’m planned out on my weekly planning sheet until December.’

On self-doubt:

‘I was on stage with L.J. Ross who’s just sold zillions of books… And I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a privilege, but I left feeling deflated.’

‘There’s always somebody who is envious of where you are… But I’m beating myself up because I think I’m rubbish and doing terribly.’

The secret to success:

‘Persistence seems to be the one thing that comes through time and time again – just keep going, just keep getting better, just keep putting the next step forward.’

 

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.

 

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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. She 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, Georgia!

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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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 #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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The Worried Writer Episode #30: A.L. Michael ‘Always Write More Than You Talk About Writing’

A.L.Michael

My guest today is A.L. Michael, author of nine romantic comedies including Goodbye Ruby Tuesday and The Last Word.

Her latest release is Cocktails and Dreams, part of the new Martini Club series.

Andi is also a Creative Therapeutic Facilitator, currently researching the power of creative writing to be helpful in recovering from eating disorders.

 

Find out more at almichael.com or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

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:

On process:

‘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!

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