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 #29: M. J. Lee ‘Let Yourself Enjoy Life’


My guest today is Martin Lee who writes under the name M.J. Lee. He is a bestselling author of historical crime fiction and his books include the Jayne Sinclair genealogical mysteries, Samuel Pepys and The Stolen Diary, and the Inspector Danilov series which is set in 1920s Shanghai. Before turning to novel writing, Martin spent 25 years working for advertising companies in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai.

For more on M.J. Lee and his books, visit www.writermjlee.com or find him on Facebook or Twitter.

We talk about the skills he brings to novel-writing from his experience as a creative director, plotting versus ‘pantsing’ and Martin’s own process.

Apologies for the sound quality in the interview – we had some technical difficulties. I’ve done my best in post-production and I hope you can still enjoy it, as Martin and I had a really good chat!

In the intro I give a small update on my writing/life. I mention the ‘Goals Update’ post I did recently, and my guest spot on Paul Teague’s Self Publishing Journeys podcast: Episode 66: Sarah Painter

I also answer a listener question from Janine Swann.

Janine wrote:

I’m currently editing my first draft and am struggling to come to terms with the ‘taste gap’ (Ira Glass’s quote, in case you’re not familiar with it). I’ve been reading Jojo Moyes’s latest novel which is just fantastic, and returning to the editing afterwards is really rather difficult. I struggle to imagine my writing will ever be as good, and I so desperately want it to be. Do you have any advice?

You can read the Ira Glass on the ‘taste gap’ quote here.

I think the key to this lies in focusing on practice over product – something I talk about in detail in Stop Worrying; Start Writing!

If you have a question you would like answered on the show, do get in touch. You can email me, find me on Twitter or simply leave a comment on this post.

 

 

In the interview:

On getting stuck:

‘Read it through until you feel where you’ve gone wrong and then you rewrite it.’

 

On process:

‘Writing’s an exercise – the more you do it, the better you get.’

 

‘You need to be disciplined about your time, it’s a job, it’s work, and then let yourself enjoy life.’

 

The importance of getting into the zone:

‘I’m in that little world. Everything else vanishes around me…’

 

 

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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2017 Goals: Halfway There?

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’.

If you’re interested, the posts are here: January 2016 and January 2017.

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…

Writing

I set the goal of writing two new novels and finishing, editing and publishing the Worried Writer book.

Progress Report:

Stop Worrying; Start WritingStop Worrying; Start Writing is finished and out in the world! Yay!

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!

Publishing

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.

Progress Report:

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!

 

Learning

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.

Creativity

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).

Community

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.

Progress Report:

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!

I have also made more of an effort with Facebook and have started a dedicated page for The Worried Writer (to keep the ‘stuff for writers’ separate from my author page).

I’ve kept up with the monthly podcast, but could do better with adding more content to this site… However, I was delighted to be listed in the ‘Top 100 Websites for Writers’ by The Write Life – yay!

Also, I was interviewed on the Self Publishing Journeys podcast (link to my episode here), and am planning to do more guest spots on other podcasts.

My lovely brother has given me his old video camera and I am looking into adding some videos to my websites or, perhaps, starting a YouTube channel.

Finally, I’m considering attending the ScotsWrite conference in September.

Your turn! How are you doing with your 2017 goals? 

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The Worried Writer Episode #28: ‘Guarding Your Writing Time Is A Matter of Training’

In this ‘just me’ episode, I give a writing update and answer a couple of questions.

Writing update:

I’ve been on tight editing deadlines all month with my latest novel, Beneath The Water, but the end is truly in sight. Huzzah!

I mostly enjoy editing and rewriting as it’s a brilliant chance to make things better. I’m always grateful that I’m a novelist and not, say, a stand up comedian. With writing, you can work away at something for ages before going public and you get loads of chances to make it as good as possible.

Of course, the flip side is that no book ever really feels finished. If I didn’t have deadlines – either external ones or ones I set myself – I would truly never let go and just keeping on tinkering.

Having said that, I’m really looking forward to letting this one go, now. I’ve hit the ‘I’m sick of it’ stage and other shiny ideas are clamouring for my attention.

Next month, I’ll still be in rewrite mode as I’ve had the edit notes for a different book from my agent. It’s a bit of a departure, genre-wise (supernatural thriller-ish) and I am really excited about getting back to it.

I’m also planning to record the audio book of Stop Worrying Start Writing. Lots of you have asked me to narrate the book myself (thank you so much for the vote of confidence) so I’m going to give it a go. No promises, though… If I start and it’s a disaster, I will book a professional!

Listener Question:

This month’s question comes from Janine. She asks two questions and they are both excellent so I attempt to tackle them both.

Janine wrote:

I’m really struggling to find time to write. Specifically, I seem to cave whenever I have writing scheduled but people want me to spend time with them or do them a favour. I have a deadline in August and I’m terrified that I’m not going to meet it. I do feel guilty spending time on writing, which is probably why I cave so quickly. Any advice gratefully received!

Following on from the previous question, I’m considering booking myself into a hut for 3 nights in order to get some work done. Is this something you’ve had to do yourself? And is it something you’d recommend, or is it better to fit writing around life in 20-30 minute slots as I have been doing? Perhaps I’m worried that if I book it, I won’t have the stamina to write and edit all day!

An extract from my answer:

Guarding your writing time is a matter of training and every time you break your plan to write and cave in to other people’s needs, you are training everyone around you to believe that you are not serious about your writing and that it simply isn’t that important. Worse still, you are training yourself to believe the same.

 

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).

Recommended:

If you are interested in what makes stories work, then I highly recommend Lani Diane Rich’s  How Story Works podcast series.

Lani is an alumnus of the podcast (listen to her interview: ‘Claim Your Awesome’) and is a bestselling and award-winning author of twelve romantic comedies. She has also been teaching story craft for years and is absolutely brilliant at explaining the concepts. A big turning point for me came when I took her novel revision course back before I was published. I was working on the book which became The Language of Spells and Lani gave me an encouraging critique of my opening chapter which gave me a much-needed boost, but she also managed to explain the three act structure in a way in which I could, finally, grasp it. I still use her techniques in my revision process and if she ever teaches that class again I definitely recommend it.

I also give a quick shout out to Annie Lyons (another brilliant podcast guest) who reviewed Stop Worrying; Start Writing with these amazing words:

If Stephen King is your writing godfather then Sarah Painter is the writer’s best friend – kind, honest and full of wisdom.

Stop Worrying; Start Writing is available now from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and Nook and in paperback, too!

 

My guest next month is historical crime novelist M.J. Lee, also known as Martin Lee. We had a great chat about historical research, Martin’s writing process and views on writers block, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for listening!

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

 

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Publication Day Contest for Stop Worrying; Start Writing!

Hooray! My first non-fiction book, Stop Worrying; Start Writing is finally out in the world!

It has had some wonderful reviews already (pause for big sigh of relief!):

‘I’m a huge fan of The Worried Writer podcasts so I’ve been really looking forward to this book. I read it in one sitting, and it was even greater than I expected! I’ll definitely be dipping into it again very soon. It’s full of honest, practical advice for writers, delivered with warmth and gentle humour. I found it wonderfully reassuring and empowering, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has ever struggled while facing a blank page, or at any other stage of writing a book.’

Amazon Customer Review

‘To me, it felt like Sarah was taking solely to me, voicing my own personal thoughts. It was a strong voice and not at all patronising. I made pages of notes as I was reading, and that’s what I feel should go alongside reading a book about writing, something to go back to after you’ve finished and to help you to move forward yourself.’

Sarah Thorogood, Amazon review

‘Inspiring, comforting, warm and wise. Both new writers and established authors will find something helpful here.’

Keris Stainton, YA author.

‘The best book on writing and productivity I have read in a long time. It tackles the fear and self-doubt we all feel when it comes to our writing in such an engagingly honest way, that there are times when I was laughing aloud because here was someone who truly understood. Written with such heart, Sarah, in her characteristically kind, and gentle way that listeners of The Worried Writer podcast have come to love and appreciate, offers solid, actionable advice that will inspire you to approach your writing with enthusiasm and renewed determination!’

Lily Graham, author The Cornish Escape and The Summer Escape

The ebook is available in all of the major retailers, including

Amazon UK, Amazon USKobo, Nook and iBooks, and it’s available in paperback, too:

UK Paperback

US Paperback

If you have read the book (thank you!) and would consider leaving a review online, it would be massively helpful. Reviews make a massive difference in the visibility and success of a new book!

LAUNCH DAY CONTEST!

So, I’ve put together a lovely bundle of stationery. It’s not just pretty, though, it is the perfect starter-set for some of the techniques set out in the book. Whether you want to track your word count, give yourself reward stickers, brainstorm story ideas, or plan your time, this collection will help you to get started.

It includes a very fine Leuchtturm hardcover notebook (with grid paper), cute washi tape and stickers, sticky notes, and my favourite pens for brainstorming, planning, and doodling – Stabilo fineliners.

I will also include a signed paperback copy of Stop Worrying; Start Writing in the package!

To enter, simply email: sarah (at) worriedwriter.com (or use the contact form) with the subject line ‘contest’ and, in the body of the email, the last word of the third chapter (‘Make Friends With Your Worries’).

I will pick three winners at random. First name out of the hat wins the bundle and the next two will each receive a signed paperback of Stop Worrying; Start Writing.

Good luck!

The contest is open worldwide and ends on Friday 21st April, 2017 at midnight (GMT).

 

 

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Five Tools To Help You Smash Your Writing Goals This Year

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

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

Paperchase organiserHere are my top five tools for exactly that:

1. Schedule your time!

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

 

 

 

 

 

2. Tool-up With Scrivener

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

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

3. Eliminate distractions

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

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

4. Reward Yourself Regularly

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

5. Find Your Tribe

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

Hope those tips are helpful! 

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

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

 

 

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