The Worried Writer Episode Ep#46: Sherrilyn Kenyon ‘Respect Your Muse’

My guest today is urban fantasy superstar Sherrilyn Kenyon. Sherrilyn is a number 1 New York Times and Internationally bestselling author. Her first novel came out in 1993, she has over 70 million books in print worldwide and she writes in several successful series such as the Dark Hunters and Black Hat Society. Her latest Dark Hunter book (number 28) is Stygian.

I spoke to Sherrilyn in the summer while she was busy packing for DragonCon and she was incredibly nice and upbeat, despite having just come back from a visit to the dentist. A real professional!

Sherrilyn shares the worst rejection of her career, secrets of longevity in publishing, and her writing process.

Find out more about Sherrilyn at www.sherrilynkenyon.com

Visit her on FaceBook or Instagram

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I go through my goals for 2018 and talk about how I’ve done, and some lessons learned.

I mention my on-going attempts to improve my concentration and focus after reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

Here is the link to my 2018 goals (set in January).

 

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 nine ‘extras’ already available and another one will go up mid-December. 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

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 writing a long series:

‘I’ve been writing Dark Hunter since I was eighteen… I love the characters, I love the world.’

‘Don’t write anything you don’t love… Go into it thinking that these are lifelong friends… Don’t chase a trend, don’t write just to get published, write what is in your heart, what is in your soul, because you may have to live with these characters for the rest of your life.’

On the pressure of success:

‘You never want to disappoint a fan, you do have that pressure… And nothing hurts worse than hearing that a fan didn’t like a book, that’s a stab to my throat and my heart.’

‘I put my heart and soul and every ounce of time, I don’t rush a book, I respect my fans too much for that.’

Sherrilyn’s writing process:

‘I know when I’m really in the zone when it’s just me and the characters and I don’t hear anything else.. I used to keep my babies literally strapped to my chest because I was worried they would need something and I wouldn’t hear them.’

‘All I’ve ever really done is write.’

‘Writing advice is like a buffet, take what you like… Leave everything else behind.’

‘I attempt to do 25 to 30 pages a day, but I don’t always.’

 

‘To me writing is like channeling spirits, its almost like being a medium.’

 

On self-doubt:

‘I hate it when writers beat themselves up… Writers – don’t be cruel to yourselves! Respect your muse, because that’s a quick way to kill her.’

‘No, we all think we suck. The suck song goes on every time I write.’

‘All I ever wanted was to be a writer and I pursued it wholeheartedly.’

‘Be fearless when you write. Just turn those chickens loose in the yard and let them take you on a journey.’

On not giving up:

‘Let those characters fly… We’re all writers but those characters chose you. They live in you. They could have picked another writer but they picked you, don’t let them not have their story told.’

‘I’ve seen so many writers give up over the years and that really breaks my heart because I think of all the stories they had in them… And I hate that… Please don’t give up, get that story out there.’

 

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.

Read More

The Worried Writer Episode #41: Six Month Progress Report

This episode is a ‘just me’ show. Next month, I’m bringing you an interview with author and blogger, Victoria Walters, but this month I review my 2018 goals.

A massive thank you to everyone who has pledged support for the show on Patreon – I truly appreciate it. There are four exclusive audio extras (with a new one coming mid-July) and you get access to all of that content as soon as you become a $2 per month patron. Head here to find out more. Thank you!

Recommended:

This Author Can

A new resource set up by a friend of this show and past guest, Tracy Buchanan. This Author Can aims to help traditionally published authors to take control of their careers and to increase their book sales. While the focus is for those who are traditionally published (Tracy noticed that there wasn’t much business-focused advice aimed at trad authors), there is plenty useful information for independent authors, too.

Personal news:

I share that I have just got a Russian deal for In The Light Of What We See and talk about refreshing my attitude to fiction writing – reframing it as play. For more, see my blog post on the subject: Is It Time To Hit The Reset Button On Your Writing Life?.

Also, I am still dealing with my sad personal news and am working on getting back on track. I talk about the importance of being kind to myself!

 

 

Update on my goals for 2018:

We are halfway through the year so a good time to take stock and check progress.

Remember that it’s completely fine to update or change your goals – they are a tool to help you achieve what is most important to you, not a document which is set in stone just for the sake of it.

I go through the goals set in my January post: My 2018 Writing Goals.

I was actually really worried about looking over my goals as I’m always so aware of all things I could/should be doing, and how much slower I am at finishing books than many others.

However, I was pleasantly surprised – I have achieved more than I realised.

So. Halfway through the year might feel scary and ‘oh goodness where has the time gone’ but six months is a long time. We all have plenty of time left in 2018 to achieve success. And you get to decide what that looks like to you. Imagine we are in December, rolling down to the Christmas holiday and the end of the year. What do you want be saying? What do you want to have finished or started?

I mention a few tips that have been helping me to refocus:

New keyboard (mechanical) for writing sessions – used alongside the separate log-in on my iMac for ‘writer Sarah’ which helps signal this is a writing session not a general admin, marketing or podcast session.

Focusing on one thing at a time and trying to resist the urge to open lots of documents and browser tabs.

I’ve tried a few writing in café sessions which have been very successful and I’m planning a ‘proper’ retreat in the autumn.

Experimenting with listening to different soundtracks to help me to focus. I’ve used loud music for ages and always create a book soundtrack which I listen to on repeat while writing the book, but while I’ve been finding it hard to concentrate I’ve been trying video game music, film scores, brain.fm and even atmospheric soundtracks – things like crackling fireplaces and weather sounds.

So, goals for second half of 2018:

Continue focus on creative writing. I have finished the current book (hurrah!) and sent it to my first readers, and I want to write another new draft by the end of the year.

However, this doesn’t mean I’m dropping The Worried Writer. Far from it!

I want to carry on helping you, but it’s also super-valuable and helpful to me, too.

Stop Worrying; Start Writing as an online course? Thoughts?

So, I’m also going to write another non-fiction book and I’m also thinking about creating an online course based on Stop Worrying; Start Writing. It would be a series of videos and a private FB group for discussion and support, so that you could jump in and take the course anytime and at your own pace. Let me know what you think – good idea? Bad idea?

What Should I Write Next? Please help!

For my next non-fiction book I’ve got a couple of ideas and I would love your input as to which topic I tackle next. I’ve got two main ideas, but I’m happy to take other suggestions, too!

Hybrid Author

How to publish both traditionally and independently. The pros and cons of each route and why you might choose to have a foot in both camps. Plus, the practicalities of running your career this way.

Book Marketing

Some discussion of the tools available such as targeted advertising through FB and Amazon, but focusing on the strategies and the mindset issues around putting ourselves ‘out there’ and ‘selling’ as well as a bit about money mindset.

Let me know which you are most interested in! 

Also, as ever I would love to hear your questions or suggestion for the show. I’ve had a few requests for more content from pre-published writers and I’m thinking about how best to incorporate that – whether it’s reading out more questions or anecdotes from you guys or interviewing somebody who is trying to finish their first book or similar. Let me know your thoughts if you have any on that.

That feels like a scary amount of work for six months but in a good way. I’ve got a rush of excitement along with the fear so I know I’m on the right track.

How about you? What do you want to get done in the second half of the year? What do you want to have achieved by the end of 2018?

Leave a comment below if you would like some public accountability, but definitely write it down somewhere for yourself.

And let’s all kick writerly butt during the next six months. I want each and every one of us to be celebrating our successes come December 31st.

 

 

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.

Read More

Focus On Your ‘Why’ To Supercharge Your Productivity

Desk with open notebook - writing

So, it’s almost the end of January and the optimism of New Year’s Eve has probably fizzled. It’s completely normal to have ups and downs in your motivation and energy levels, so don’t beat yourself up!

However, a drop in drive is a good time to check over your plans and goals and make sure you know your ‘why’ for each one.

If you set goals which you truly want to achieve (not things you just think you ‘should’ want to do) then getting re-energised should be simple.

It’s time to take a hard look at your list and think about WHY you set those particular goals.

For example, if you wrote ‘finish my novel in 2018’, then think about why that is important to you. Your ‘why’ can be financial, personal, emotional, whatever… It doesn’t matter (and you never need to tell another living soul) but it has to be real and true.

Be as specific and as honest as you can about your motivation and, ideally, write it down.

This process can be liberating, too, as it can help you to weed out goals in which you aren’t properly invested, giving you more focus for the things which are truly important.

It’s important to remember that your list doesn’t have to remain static and it’s not ‘cheating’ to alter your priorities.

If you go back to your list and find that you no longer care about something on it or that you have changed your mind about the value of a particular task, then you can cross it off with a clear conscience. Equally, you might find that your ‘why’ has changed for a particular goal and by recognising this, you give yourself a lovely jolt of enthusiasm for the project.

Now, pick your main goal and imagine you have already achieved it. Spend time in this daydream, imagining it fully and allowing yourself to feel the sense of excitement and achievement. Now, bring yourself back to the present and recognise that the only way to get from here to there is a matter of taking action TODAY.

BONUS TIP!

If you are stuck on your current book and finding it hard to be productive, then you can use the ‘why’ question to reignite your passion for your story.

Get out your journal and freewrite your feelings on your WIP. Think about what excited you about the idea in the first place, list the fun things in the book or scenes you are looking forward to writing.

Write down WHY you want to write this particular story. Is it a topic which really interests you? Is the theme close to your heart?

Or, is your ‘why’ to do with your ideal reader and the experience you want to provide? Do you want to write something super-fun that will be a bright spot for your reader, cheering them up after a bad day? Or do you want to leave them curled in a foetal position, sobbing?

Again, allow yourself to picture having finished the story you want to write. Imagine the best possible result (why not, after all?) and write it down. If you are anything like me, you will resist this. It will feel like hubris. You will think ‘oh, but that will never happen’ and ‘I bet I will make a mess of this great book idea’. But, remember, this is completely private. And it is just day dreaming. Allow yourself a lovely, positive fantasy in which you have finished a book which you are really pleased with and which sells really well and brings you international acclaim etc etc…

And now get back to work!

For more productivity tips, inspiration and writerly support, why not check out my book?

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

Now available in audio! Free with a one-month Audible trial

 

 

 

 

[Image Credit (desk): Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash. Image Credit (love): Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash]

Read More

My 2018 Writing Goals

This is my third year of setting my goals in public. I have been making plans – both personally and professionally – for a long time, but the added accountability of putting them ‘out there’ definitely helps me to stay on track!

In case you’re interested, the previous posts are here: January 2016 and January 2017.

If you would prefer not to put your goals on the internet (eek!), finding an accountability partner can also work really well. You just need a friend or acquaintance who is also trying to achieve concrete goals, and then you set a regular meet-up (or schedule regular emails) in which you will set your tasks and report on your progress. It really helps!

Using a combination of public accountability, private accountability partners, and my own beloved system of tracking with both a paper planner and a bullet journal, 2017 was my most productive year, yet. I want to maintain this focus and, as always, improve!

So, 2018…

Writing

I know I always say this but here goes… I will prioritise creation this year. I say ‘creation’ rather than ‘writing’ because, while I want to keep novels as my main focus, I also want to encourage myself to try different forms and to create, finish and publish all kinds of things (including non-fiction for this site).

In concrete terms, my writing goals are:

  • Write two new novels.
  • Write (at least!) six articles for the Worried Writer site.
  • Try writing something in a different form (for fun!) eg. Radio play or a short story.

I also want to get more efficient with my other tasks (such as email, admin, marketing) to free-up more time for writing.

I think that batching similar tasks, keeping a firm grip on my to-do lists and using a timer will help.

Also, I want to be more aware of my attention (and when it is fragmented), as I want to develop my ability for sustained, deep focus. I’m halfway through Cal Newport’s Deep Work and it makes a compelling argument for the importance of this last goal.

 

 

Publishing

  • Beneath The Water is up for pre-order and is out on February 8th from Lake Union. Create a marketing plan (and follow through!) including guest blogs, interviews, and giveaways.
  • Get a new publishing deal with either my supernatural book or WIP.
  • Publish new urban fantasy (the first in a series!) through Siskin Press (aiming for October).
  • Get print rights back for The Secrets of Ghosts and publish paperback myself.
  • Get better at marketing and work on my mindset issues around this topic.

 

Learning

I had some great training on performance and presentation with The Scottish Book Trust in November 2017, and I’d like to do more ‘real life’ learning in 2018.

I also need to consolidate the information I learned through Mark Dawson’s Ads For Authors course and do more testing on various ads.

 

 

Creativity

I did a little bit better at scheduling time off for ‘refilling the well’ in 2017 but there is still room for improvement. Particularly in scheduling full days in which I leave the house and visit a gallery or similar…

 

 

Health

I really want to focus on my health this year. Since my children no longer require walking to and from school every day and my job involves lots of sitting, I am keenly aware that my general fitness is declining. So, this year:

  • Increase walking to an average of 10,000 steps per day. I’ve been tracking my daily walks (in mileage) for a while, but by switching to total daily steps I’m hoping to encourage myself to just move a bit more/take regular screen breaks.
  • Do some longer walks and hill walks.
  • Continue playing badminton and add in yoga class (or schedule time to do yoga/stretching at home).
  • Do breathing exercises every day.

Also, as I truly believe this vital for health and happiness, but I’m pretty terrible at taking my own advice…

Schedule time off that is just for relaxing (or socialising or reading quietly on the sofa) WITHOUT GUILT!

 

If you are interested in improving your health and wellbeing, I’d heartily recommend The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn and Dr Euan Lawson. It tackles the health issues specific to writers in a practical and friendly manner. I’m very excited to have Joanna Penn back on the podcast next month to discuss this important topic further.

 

Community

  • Get better at sending out my newsletter and increase the size of my reader group/mailing list.
  • Continue with monthly episodes of the podcast and add a Patreon account to help with the running costs (with perks such as extra content).
  • Get to more real-life author meet-ups for fun, friendship and support.
  • I intend to do at least one author event (in which I read my fiction – meep!) or workshop (in which I talk about strategies for overcoming fear, self-doubt and procrastination).

I am also planning on attending my first professional conference. I keep swithering between the traditional book events such as ScotsWrite or an RNA event, and one of the more business-focused ones like The London Book Fair.

 

Your turn! What are your goals for 2018?

Let’s make it a good year! 

Read More

The Worried Writer Episode #35: Lisa Hall ‘We’re Living The Dream’

My guest today is Lisa Hall, author of the bestselling psychological thrillers Between You and Me and Tell Me No Lies, which Heat magazine called ‘breathlessly fast-paced and cleverly unsettling’. Not content with a successful career as an author, Lisa has also crossed the divide to the other side of the business by founding a new publishing imprint, Manatee Books.

You can find out more about Lisa and her books at www.lisahallauthor.co.uk or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

In the introduction I give a recap on my progress during 2017.

It was a good year – my most productive so far, in fact – but I am keen to improve and to make 2018 even better.

2017

In 2017, my main writing goal was to write two new novels and to finish, edit and publish the Worried Writer book.

I managed one new first draft, two lots of major structural rewrites on ‘old’ drafts (including Beneath The Water which is out next month!), and I wrote and published Stop Worrying; Start Writing.

I also narrated the audiobook version, which was very enjoyable but also quite tricky and time-consuming!  It will hopefully be up for sale by the end of the month.

My supernatural thriller is almost ready to go on submission to publishers. This is always a nerve-wracking time and I’m very grateful that I have other projects to distract me…

I got The Garden of Magic made into an audio book and created a short story giveaway for my reader group sign-up.

Phew!

Highlights

I’m trying to get better at celebrating small successes, so listed some of my highlights from 2017:

  • Talking about overcoming fear and self-doubt on The Creative Penn podcast. You can listen here or watch the video on YouTube.
  • The Worried Writer being featured in Mslexia magazine.
  • Getting a new publishing deal with Lake Union with Beneath The Water.

 

2018

I give a brief overview of my goals for 2018, but will put up a more detailed ‘Writing Goals’ post on the 2nd January.

Are you setting goals for 2018? I would love to hear about your plans, too.

Comment below with your goals, or get in touch with any questions on goal-setting, defining success, or productivity.

 

In the interview:

Lisa’s schedule:

‘Because I’ve got three children I have to cram quite a lot in those hours in the middle of the day. When I’m writing I aim for 2000 words a day… I try not to do anything in that period when the children come home from school and go to bed.’

 

‘I do work Saturdays and Sundays. Especially when I’m on a deadline or I’m in the zone… Even I only get 500 words down then I don’t feel so guilty about taking the rest of the day off and spending it with the kids.’

 

‘The first couple of hours in the morning I do admin stuff. With Manatee Books there’s a lot of admin… I keep hours in the afternoon free for writing. I mean, it doesn’t always balance-out! It balances out eventually, but it’s quite hard.’

 

‘I’ve always got a to-do list… So I can work through and I know exactly what needs to be done every day and then I tag my wordcount onto the end.’

 

Writing process:

 

‘I quite often go for a run if I get stuck.’

 

‘I hate the thought of editing and when I get my edit notes, I don’t want to open the email… But once I make a start I’m okay.’

 

‘I’m a massive planner… I can’t write any other way.’

 

‘When I’m working on a book it’s like the idea for the next book can’t fully come through until that book is finished… It’s like my brain won’t let me think about the full story so I do worry that the idea won’t come, but it’s been like this every time.’

 

On starting a publishing company:

‘I’ve had a really good experience with my road to publication and the way HQ have handled things for me… And I know there are people out there who don’t have such a good experience so I wanted to set up something where hopefully we give every author a good experience… It’s really really exciting when you sign the contract but I feel like that excitement should keep going all the way through… I just want everyone to have a lovely experience. We’re living the dream after all!’

 

‘One day I might run out ideas but even if I can’t write I’ll still get to be involved in books, in publishing and be surrounded by brilliant stories and that’s all I really want.’

 

‘We are open for submissions. Liz is always on the lookout for good crime novels. I prefer the more commercial crime novel but she is all about the quirky… I work on the women’s fiction side of it which I really love… I’m looking for good chick lit, nice holiday reading and I’m really on the lookout for a good bookclub read. Um, bit of romance – not too saucy.’

 

Lisa’s advice to other authors:

‘Building an author brand is a slow burn and you need to be patient.’

 

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.

Read More

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.

 

Read More