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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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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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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The Worried Writer Episode #15: A.J. Waines ‘I love deadlines’

AlisonWaines_ww

 


Alison Waines publishes fiction under the name A.J.Waines and has sold over 150,000 books worldwide. Last year, she topped the UK and Australian Kindle bestseller charts with her number one hit Girl On A Train, and was also awarded the Kindle KDP Top 20 ‘Most Read Author’ in the UK. Alison used to work as a psychotherapist before publishing her dark psychological crime fiction, and she is a hybrid author, straddling both traditional and self-publishing.

For more about Alison head to www.ajwaines.co.uk or find her on Twitter or Facebook.


The Self-Esteem Journal by Alison Waines
I’m giving away a copy of Alison’s non-fiction title, The Self-Esteem Journal, as I think it could be useful for those struggling with creative self-doubt, as well as more general lack of confidence.

To be in with a chance of winning, just leave a comment on this post, or send me an email (sarah (at) worriedwriter.com) with the subject ‘win’.*

In this episode, I give a personal writing update, as well as share the news about In The Light of What We See (it’s been a wonderful first month of publication, with 99 five-star reviews on Amazon, already – whoop!).

I also mention brain.fm which uses AI-generated music to promote focus, relaxation and sleep. Although initially sceptical, I have tried the ‘for focus’ music and it seem to improve my concentration.

I heard about brain.fm via Mark Dawson’s new podcast (which is excellent) – Self Publishing Formula.

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).

 


Alison reveals what it was like when a high-profile thriller was released with a title which is almost-identical to her own (already published) book.

Alison describes her journey into both traditional and independent publishing and her experiences with both:

‘One of the nice things about being hybrid is that for some of the books I have complete control over everything and I really enjoy that.’

 

 

Alison’s writing process:

‘I love deadlines!’

‘Never leave at the end of a chapter or a scene… I always want to put something that just triggers where I am for the next time I am back at my desk.’

On marketing:

‘People should play to their strengths.’

On fear:

‘I always come back to that awful terror of I can’t do this.’

Alison’s Recommendations:


On Writing by Stephen King


Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg


The Artists Way Julia Cameron


Life Choices Life Changes Diana Glouberman

 

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! 

*Giveaway is open internationally. Ends at midnight (GMT), 25th May 2016.

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