The Worried Writer Episode #32: Monica Leonelle ‘I’m a burst of energy writer’

My guest today is Monica Leonelle. Monica is a USA Today bestselling author writing YA urban fantasy and paranormal romance, as well as practical books for writers such as Write Better, Faster and The 8-Minute Writing Habit. Before becoming an author, Monica had a successful career in digital marketing.

For more on Monica’s latest website for authors, head to The World Needs Your Book

And there is still a wealth of information on

Prose On Fire

For all of Monica’s books head to Amazon UK or Amazon US

Or find her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

In the intro:

I give a small writing update (10,000 words on my shiny new first draft!) and share tips learned from the process of recording the audio book of Stop Worrying; Start Writing.

I answer a listener question:

Matthew asked:

The late great Terry Pratchett insisted in his will that the novels he was working on at the time of his death be crushed in their hard drive. By a steamroller.

This action was carried out today.

Morbid Q for the podcast – what would you want happening to your unfinished works in the event of your demise? Tolkienesque approach – the family get to cash in through publication of a bunch of things of varying quality that were never meant for public consumption, or Pratchett’s cleaner approach with death as a full stop rather than an ellipsis?

I talk about my own preference (for early drafts to be deleted!) and discuss how thinking about this kind of thing can help us to place proper value on our work and to consider the long-term strategy for our career/finances.

Mentioned:

Neil Gaiman’s post on will-making for creatives (with sample template).

Helen Sedwick (writes about legal/financial stuff for authors).

In the interview:

On publishing:

‘I’m all for traditional, I think there is a lot of opportunity there.’

On self-doubt:

‘Everytime I publish a book I still feel self-doubt… You don’t know how a large group of people is going to respond to your book.’

 

‘The way I think about fear is really that you’re going to feel fear and it’s going to be there with you, but can you take action anyway.’

 

‘I will say that years and years ago I was a procrastinator… I remember when I was trying to establish a daily writing habit, that first day I sat at my computer with my ms open and I stared at it for an hour without writing anything…. It was like my mind couldn’t process or something.’

 

‘A lot of this is a muscle that you have to work, but I also think ‘yes you are afraid’.’

 

On the ‘eight-minute writing habit’:

‘It feels like a long enough period to get something done, but short enough that really have no excuse not to do it.’

‘A twenty-five minute timed session where you’re focused and then a five minute break… So with the eight minute thing, I was like you can do eight minutes, two minute break.’

‘Eight minutes is very easy to add to your morning routine, so do eight minutes in the morning, eight minutes at lunch and eight minutes in the evening.’

 

On her own process:

‘Some people do really well with 1000 words a day, kind of paced approach… For me I might write 5000 words a day for two weeks and then not write for a month…. I have embraced that I’m a burst of energy writer.’

‘About thirty percent of my time goes to fiction but, that being said, I have kind of mastered my own writing productivity. So, this year, for example, I’ve published three YA novels, two novellas for that series and a short story and that’s as of June 2017.’

‘It’s not my dream to just do fiction… I do have varied interests and I do love both sides of it.’

 

Thanks for listening!

If you can spare a few minutes to leave the show a review on iTunes (or the podcast app of your choice) that would be really helpful. Ratings raise the visibility of the podcast and make it more likely to be discovered by new listeners.

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 #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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