The Worried Writer Episode #53: Aileen Erin ‘It’s A Craft’

My guest today is Aileen Erin, author of YA Paranormal and Science Fiction. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas.

After working in commercial editing in Los Angeles for a few years, Aileen moved to writing novels. Since then, she’s hit the USA Today Best-Selling list twice, has shifted nearly five hundred thousand books in her Alpha Girl series and sold 1.5 million books to date.

 

We talk about publishing options, the pressures of success, and Aileen gives her tips on writing. I love that she emphasises that writing is ‘a craft and that craft can be learned.’

You can find out more about Aileen and her books by going to aileenerin.com.

Or find her on Facebook or Instagram.

Check out her publishing company: Ink Monster.

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WRITING UPDATE

The launch of The Silver Mark: Crow Investigations Book Two went really well. At one point, The Night Raven and The Silver Mark were hanging out at the top of the paranormal suspense chart, which felt great!

Also, more importantly, I’ve heard from fans of The Night Raven that they like the book, which is a massive relief. I really didn’t want to let anybody down with a disappointing follow-up. Phew!

I’m now busy working on the third Crow book. I’ve shelved my other book, for now, as the deadline is pretty tight and I’m also thinking about what else I might need to cut out in order to focus on my fiction. I’ve got so many ideas and plans and not quite enough time and headspace. Which, to be clear, is a wonderful position to be in and I’m delighted!

 

IN THE INTERVIEW

As I did last month, I’ve put a full transcript of the interview (below). I want to make the podcast more accessible for those who prefer (or need) to read, rather than listen. It’s pretty time-consuming to do, so I would love to hear what you think!

 

RECOMMENDED

 

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

Freedom – internet cancelling app

Jim Butcher’s ‘path to publication’ story.

Lani Diane Rich’s Worried Writer episode featuring her ‘claim your awesome’ speech!

 

LISTENER QUESTION

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TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH AILEEN ERIN

Sarah [00:00:03] My guest today is YA paranormal and science fiction author Aileen Erin has a B.S. in TV film from the University of Texas. And after working in commercial editing in Los Angeles for a few years Eileen moved to writing novels. Since then she has hit the USA TODAY best selling list twice and has shifted nearly 500000 books in her Alpha series and sold one and a half million books to date. Welcome to the show Aileen. Thank you so much for joining us.

 

Aileen [00:00:34] Thank you. Nice to be here.

 

Sarah [00:00:36] I mean I could start waxing lyrical about that amazing success but perhaps we should start off with a wee bit about your Alpha Girls series.

 

Aileen [00:00:45] So I wrote my Alpha Girls series in my MFA. I wrote the first one, I mean. I went through so many revisions as you do when you’re in the writing process. But when I graduated I wasn’t sure what to do with the book or what I wanted to do with publishing and there were so many different avenues to go about it, right then. There was indie, there was small press, and I could do traditional, submitting to editors and and agents and everything. But the problem that I ran into was that no one really wanted to see a submission of a YA paranormal in 2013. So I just I decided to go Indie, it felt very low risk. I started a publishing company, formulated a business plan and I started working on making a series out of the one book, and did it every six months a new release. And by the third book I was on the USA Today list. So that was pretty great.

 

Sarah [00:01:45] That’s incredible. My next question was going to be to ask you about your path to publication, and I was going to say you’re published by Ink Monster and that I love the logo for the imprint, it’s gorgeous. It’s so cute! So you have a big hand in all of that then?

 

Aileen [00:02:04] Yes. Ink Monster is my company. I started it early 2013 and I just wanted to find a way to break in with my novel. I worked with another author who has since left but we built this company.

 

 [00:02:20] She had a marketing background I had more of a publishing books editing background and together it just really worked well for a while and I decided I knew exactly what I wanted if I was gonna be publishing and going indie, I wanted it to work with a distributor, I wanted to have the links to the next book in the series in the back of my current release, I wanted somebody that could really fight for me at retailers because as like just an individual it’s really hard to rise above from all the books and all the the people out there so, um, yeah.

 

 [00:03:02] Yeah. And then we started with branding, logos, website design. It took some time it took about a year to get everything really together looking like we wanted it to look, with a business plan and how we were going to reach our readers and and really break into the business. And it ended up working out really well for us.

 

Sarah [00:03:20] I should say so and it’s so so impressive. I mean I’ll be putting the links in the show notes and I urge everybody listening regardless of whether you’re thinking about hybrid or indie or traditional to go and look at the beautiful beautiful publishing website and the fantastic logo and the branding – everything about it is so impressive and you deserve every success. I’m certainly taking some tips for from my own publishing imprint from the level that you are working at. And so in terms of…I mean I think because this is the worried writer I’m always thinking in terms of mindset and I think we run a similar timeline. So my first book came out in 2013 and, like yourself, I’d gone to university for writing and I’d worked on it for many years before, but I didn’t have any confidence whatsoever in my own work. And I kind of needed that stamp of approval from an external source. So I so admire that ability to sort of choose yourself and to be business minded from the beginning. And what do you think what helped you to do that or is that just part of your personality?

 

Aileen [00:04:34] It’s probably not part of my personality. I still sometimes struggle with like I kind of went around the box, I didn’t really go the way that most people do this and I’m doing it all myself. So for a little while didn’t consider myself a real author. I was like ‘No I’m just kind of like putting out books I’m not really…’ But then I had the USA Today list and I actually didn’t know that I hit the USA Today list until the next book came out and I was like I wonder if this one will. And I was checking and I was like ‘oh wait a second’ I already did, because I was my own publisher nobody tells you – the publishers are looking at that and I was doing it myself so I didn’t even think about it. I was like ‘oh my numbers are pretty high I wonder’. I just had no context of what was doing well and what wasn’t, as in was this competitive with what was out there?

So I think it’s just something that you have to decide for yourself. You have to know that inner editor is in there for every single author out there, every single writer, and you do crave that validation from, you know, a big publisher or a big agent that would get you this great deal.

But I think having that idea that you don’t necessarily need that, that you can do it yourself is really like a freeing thing.

I get that validation from my readers who are buying the books and writing these really wonderful reviews from my superfans group who cheer me on while I’m writing and I just. Yeah. It’s just one of those things. You have to you have to tell it to be quiet, you know?

 

Sarah [00:06:22] Absolutely. And I think we’re so lucky to have these options now. It’s great. And like you say, getting that sort of validation direct from the reader and ultimately they’re the important people.

 

Aileen [00:06:36] Yeah. It made it very easy for me to go indie because I went to a lot of different conventions and sat in some agents and editor sessions and everybody was always asking like ‘what are you looking for? What are you not looking for?’ And you know different authors and writers trying to write toward whatever trend was hitting or what was coming up next and they were all across the board saying ‘please do not send us anything with werewolves or vampires’ and I was like ‘well, I’ve got this werewolf book…’ But they were just not going to take it. They were not going to look at it. They were not going to accept it. And so I was like ‘well, this is very low risk because nobody says they even want to look at it.’

 

Sarah [00:07:21] So it made it quite clear then?

 

Aileen [00:07:24] Yeah. I was like I could just throw it away or I can try this other thing. And if it fails and, you know, it turns out that I’m maybe not a good enough writer or can’t make it on my own then you know it’s not my only idea. I can go back write something else and then do that traditionally. It was just my time and energy if it was going to be a success or not.

 

Sarah [00:07:56] Fantastic. And then, you know, you obviously set everything up to give yourself the best possible chance of success, as I was saying you’re doing this incredible job with the with the publishing side. Was that hard to learn that side? I know you said you were working with somebody that had some marketing experience.

 

Aileen [00:08:14] It was all a learning process, you know. In my MFA I loved learning the writing from there but I wasn’t getting enough of the business side, so I got like a subscription to Publishers Weekly, to Writer’s Digest, and I started watching for trends and what agents were acquiring what to see what was happening and all of the indie stuff was really starting to take off. It turned from something that was like oh this vanity press thing, this horrible thing that writers that can’t cut it do, to something that like a lot of writers were making quite a bit of money and having success doing and I was like well you know what I’m going to try this. But I understood that publishing was a business and I had to have a business model and a business plan and a brand and a website and a whole the whole nine yards it had to be professional. So that was kind of kind of something that I think some indie authors miss. They’re just like oh well I’ve got the book and I’ve got the cover and it’s edited and I’m just gonna pop it up on KDP. But then how are you. How are you going to stand out?

 

Sarah [00:09:22] Yeah absolutely. And I mean all of this stuff takes so much work doesn’t it? It takes work and it takes time being the publisher as well as being the writer. So and I would love, I mean I’m looking for tips, so I would love to hear about how you manage to balance your business side with your writing side because you’ve also been impressively productive with your writing, so please give me your secrets.

 

Aileen [00:09:51] So, for a while it’s just you know writing as much as you can. I I tried different tricks and tips to try and kind of balance it. It ended up being a lot of work. I had other authors that I was publishing as well and I ended up giving those authors over to a friend who was starting her own publishing business because I was like ‘this is now getting into too much work’ as the publishing stuff is a lot of work. So I try to do whatever publishing stuff I need to do –  marketing, whatever is not writing – at the beginning of my day and then at lunchtime whatever it is that’s not urgent, it waits till tomorrow and then I the rest of it is like that’s my my writing time and I kind of hold that really sacred and true and I don’t try to bleed into the two. I find that can get like really tricky. And when I’m launching a book, it’s so much work I just say I’m I’m going to plan on not writing for these few weeks and then I will get back into writing that way. I’m not like beating myself up for not getting a word count in that day. But you kind of have to separate the two at least for me. I can’t switch back and forth all day from writing and publishing. It takes up, you know, two different parts of my brain so I’ve got to kind of segregate them. I also for a little while I was doing like one day a week of publishing stuff and then the rest of the week was writing. But I found stuff like bleeded over as I as I sent an email and stuff would trickle in and ‘oh can you do this?’ and ‘there’s an opportunity here’. So that’s why I decided to do all the mornings.

 

Now, I have someone that helps me so that’s amazing. So that’s kind of changed it a lot, so I’m writing even faster now,  but it’s a balancing act, so you kind of have to figure it out, what works for you how you’re going to manage like one day a week and do the rest writing in the mornings and the afternoons. Like when is your most productive writing time? When is your mind awake and and present enough to do the writing part? I’m not a morning person so that’s why I do the publishing stuff in the morning.

 

So whenever you you know your peak writing time is, hold that sacred that’s your writing time and the rest of it, you fit in the publishing stuff in the cracks.

 

Sarah [00:12:29] That makes a lot of sense. Do you aim for a typical word count when you’re having writing days or do you have any other kind of process things that you do?

 

Aileen [00:12:41] So I use Scrivener. I I know it takes me about six to eight weeks to get a first draft done. So I kind of put that into Scrivener. They have like a little word count per day to get to your deadlines. Now that I have a daughter, she’s three now, I don’t like to work on the weekends if I can avoid it so I mark off the weekends and tell it I’m only going to write Monday Wednesday. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday then that’s it. And it will count how many words I need per day to make that deadline. Some days you know I hit that word count easily and go way over it, some days I’m under it but it’s usually it’s steady. I can do comfortably twenty five hundred words a day, so that’s about what I try and aim for. Some days I get like 5000 words and some days I get a thousand.

 

Sarah [00:13:35] So it kind of works out. Writing sci fi I imagine involves a fair amount of world building and things, do you do all that stuff up front and kind of plan things out or do you dive in and work everything out sort of organically?

 

Aileen [00:13:52] So I do it kind of in kind of spurts because in the beginning I do a lot of the worldbuilding and then I think I’ve got everything how I want it to be and then I start writing the draft I’m like actually I need to know about this and that. So I usually write through to the first two acts. And when I’m about to do the third act I stop, I look at all the world building do I need more information, do I need something else? And I mark things in my in my document with a double X and then hit a find for x x . Like xx name here, x x fact here. And so that I don’t break my writing flow for something that I can google later or think about and world build later. So like ‘x x new religion here’, and then I’m like OK I need to think about how this is going to play into that and then when I do my first revision, I go through and I fill in those blanks and I fill in that worldbuilding and then I send it off to my editor and inevitably she’s going to be like ‘Yeah, but what about this and this and this?’ And that’s all the editing process I take about three rounds of revisions with my with my developmental auditor to really get it polished.

 

Sarah [00:15:12] Hmm. Excellent. And you mentioned that getting into the flow state and not breaking the flow of writing which I think is a great tip. Do you sort of shut off the Internet or do you have a particular place that you write? Are there any other things that you do to help you get into the flow and stay there?

 

Aileen [00:15:30] Yes I shut off the Internet. I use Freedom. It’s an app that you can either cancel your entire internet, it turns off your Wi-Fi and it makes it completely unusable for a period of time unless you shut off your computer entirely and turn it back on. There’s no off switch. You know I’m not going to turn off. It has to be pretty desperate and dire if I’m actually going to turn off my computer to look something up. So I use that and I also like to use Scrivener’s full screen function so it blacks out out the rest of my screen, and I have notifications off, I make it fill up the screen and I kind of just let it flow until I need a break to get up and grab a drink water or whatever and then I try and get really quickly back into the story.

 

Sarah [00:16:26] That’s great. And do you have silence or music or white noise?

 

Aileen [00:16:36] Music, but no words. So I have a few Spotify playlists with kind of relaxing ambient music so it’s almost like you’re at the spa.

 

Sarah [00:16:50] Because this is the worried writer I’m afraid I’m going to ask you to delve into any struggles. Do you have to suffer from a sort of creative block or is there a particular part of the process when you’re more likely to struggle? Like is it drafting or is in the editing, or do you never suffer from any?

 

Aileen [00:17:10] Oh man. Do you ever meet a writer that never suffers?

 

Sarah [00:17:14] No never. You could be the first though!

 

Aileen [00:17:21] The second act. For me the second half of the second act I’m always like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This book will never be finished and is carrying on forever. I don’t think I’m ever going to finish it. This is horrible it’s all horrible life is horrible. And inevitably, I come in from my office and whine to my husband and he is like and ‘where are you at in the process, where are you right now?’. I’m like ‘oh I just hit the midpoint.’ He’s like ‘Alright OK why don’t you just have a glass of wine?’.

 

Sarah [00:17:53] We’ve been here before! You know it’s so funny isn’t it? Why doesn’t it get easier, that’s what I keep thinking? Why do I still suffer at the same point every time?

 

Aileen [00:18:08] It’s so funny. And I think every writer does this and I think I mean if if there was one I’m like… Good for you. Slow clap. What do you do? I want to know. But yeah, there’s always that one point where you’re just like oh this is a disaster. And every single time I’m like No this time it’s different, this is gonna be terrible it’s horrible. It’s all awful. Read it you’re going to see how bad and he’s like ‘uh-huh, uh-huh’.

 

Sarah [00:18:42] So, we have to have a glass of wine and we have to moan about it and then we kind of have to grit it out, but are there any strategies that you use for when you’re really stuck when you’re trying to grit it out?

 

Aileen [00:18:57] When I’m really really stuck, I know that there’s there’s usually something that’s wrong. It’s like my subconscious telling me there’s something not adding up correctly here. So I try and go back in and reread. If I’m stuck for more than like a day or two I know it’s something that my subconscious is saying hey hey go back. You need to go back. So I I try and be aware of that but if it’s something that’s just happening during like, each day, one trick that I learned somebody told me a couple years ago and I was like ‘this is so smart, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this.’ He told me never ever to end the day at the end of a scene or at the end of a chapter, always stop in the middle of a paragraph, middle of a scene, middle of dialogue. Even if you’re like Oh no I have no more time, just keep going for like five more minutes and get into the next something, so you have a place to start when you’re sitting down again. And it kind of keeps the flow rolling from one day to the next, so you keep that kind of that constant consistent writing going.

 

Sarah [00:20:13] That’s a great tip. And in terms of I know you mentioned the sort of second act there so and I’m guessing that you kind of know a fair amount about story structure. I mean not just from writing but from your education. And is that something that you find very helpful or do you have any resources or books that you recommend for anybody who would like to learn more about that?

 

Aileen [00:20:39] I use a screenwriting book for my story structure it’s super basic, super easy to digest and understand. They recently did a novel version but I haven’t read it yet my husband actually just gave it to me on Friday. He was like hey they made one for novelists, don’t you want to see? It’s Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. He talks in the beginning a bit about genre and high concept and that’s more movie kind of and so that doesn’t apply for novel writing but his 13 beats that are the key points in a story and the 40 note cards, I think that really lends itself well to an outline. So that’s what I do before I start anything, I have a little beat sheet and I write out the 13 key points and then I draw the little lines. How do we get from this beat to the next beat in the next one to the next one you know? And those are my 40 note cards. So it’s 10 note cards for Act 1, 20 for Act 2 which is why it always seems like a beast to write because it’s twice as long and then ten again for Act 3. So it’s it’s really easy to do. You just write like one sentence on each no card it’s just kind of the gist of what that scene is going to be. And that’s pretty much what you need to get started or what I need to get started on a book. It usually changes and like as I write it fleshes out and becomes something else a little bit. And I go back at the end of act two and I’m like Does this still make sense? Am I still writing this ending? Okay great. I’m gonna fix it or keep going. But yeah I really really love Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.

 

Sarah [00:22:29] That’s great. And I’ve had that book recommended to me and I haven’t actually read it but I did get the and Save the Cat Writes A Novel and I just I just finished it is super good.

 

Aileen [00:22:42] I haven’t I haven’t read it yet. It’s sitting on my on my desk and I’m really anxious to get to get into it because I’m curious how they changed it for novel writing.

 

Sarah [00:22:53] On structure, some people hate reading about it and some people find it useful and like all of these things you know, if it helps great, if it doesn’t throw it out the window. But in terms of self-doubt and that kind of thing, are there any parts of the publishing side of it, there’s being read which is great but can be scary. Do you ever suffer with fear or self-doubt around any of those areas?

 

Aileen [00:23:29] Of course, of course! You know I just launched Lunar Court, it’s book eight in the series and you know I had anxiety the night before it was coming out I didn’t sleep at all. Total insommnia, I was nervous. So so nervous, even though I had reviews already that said that they all enjoyed it, five stars everything… I was like Oh but you know once the fans get it they might not like it and I hate to disappoint them you know? I think it’s just part of it. Writing is such a personal thing you know and sharing it you want it to be enjoyed and accepted and everything and that’s always, no matter what art form you’re doing, it’s always scary. You’re putting a little piece of your your heart out there and you want it to be accepted. And it’s hard to do it, but it’s kind of you can’t be a be an author without putting it out there. You can’t reach any kind of success if you’re not doing it. So yeah it’s kind of kind of one of those things that you’ve just gotta kind of get through.

 

But you know the self-doubt it’s there. It’s that little inner editor and I think even non-writers and  non-artists kind of get that, it’s that thing that tells them that they’re not good enough. You know everybody can relate to that. Everybody’s got that in them. And it’s like how much power are you going to give that little voice? How much of yourself are you going to let that take over, and just kind of deciding you know what, it’s gonna be fine. It’s great. I’m actually doing a great job. And getting those people in your life that will support you and say ‘this is good, I would tell you if it was bad. This is good. You’re doing a great job. Keep going.’ Having those key people in your life is really helpful.

 

Sarah [00:25:24] Yeah. That’s great advice. That’s so true. And I was also thinking about how success, not to complain about it because it’s amazing and brilliant, but you kind of do feel that new pressure. Like you were saying about not wanting to let readers down, you’ve got this beloved series and then you’ve got that added thing of hoping that these readers that are so supportive of you, hoping that they like it. That must be that must be tough.

 

Aileen [00:25:55] You  know it’s really a good problem. It’s a sweet problem to have. But you know I wrote this book about some of the side characters and it was one that readers had been asking me for for years and until I wrote the last book I kept telling them I don’t know that they could be together I don’t know that these two characters can be together. They’ve got too much to overcome. And then I was writing the last book and I had this idea I was like oh wait. So it was something that readers had been asking me for and I’m like if I then give it to them and they don’t like it, it is going to feel horrible. I was like, I don’t want to disappoint them because they have been asking me for years for this. So. So I finally wrote it. Then I get an e-mail last night from a reader, you know all in caps about how much she loved it and how I made her ugly cry and I was like ‘yay! I can sleep again!’. Everything’s fine. It’s gonna be fine. So yeah it’s good. I mean it is part of the process.

But I think also having that little inner editor, sometimes it’s good it keeps you wanting to do better, to keep striving to be the best writer that you can be. And like questioning ‘is this a good draft?’. I’m going to have somebody else read it let me make sure I’m doing a good job, you know? So I kind of try and push it in that direction rather than you know something that’s really hounding on my shoulder. You know something really bringing me down.

 

Sarah [00:27:30] That makes a lot of sense. And lots of folk listening might be trying to finish their first book or they might be going through submission hell when they’re trying to get published. What advice would you give to a beginning writer or is there something that you wish that you’d known when you started out?

 

Aileen [00:27:50] I think for beginning writers I would say just keep writing and I think finishing that first draft, you’ve just got to finish it. If you got something that you’re just starting working on or you’re stuck in the middle and you keep going back and revising, let it all go. Your first draft isn’t going to be good. Your first book isn’t gonna be good. You have to like learn the process. It’s a craft and the craft can be learned but you have to welcome the revision process.

Get that first draft out and start working on revising the whole piece. There’s a great saying that I love to tell people you can’t revise a blank page, so you’ve got to just keep going and get the story on the page and then you can fix whatever needs fixing later. And if you end up not happy with that book, know that that is a great achievement just finishing that book, start on something new. Keep going keep writing because every book that you write will get better and better every time you revise it. You will get better at this writing process. It’s a craft, you know. And it just is learned and the more you do it the better you get. And I would say my writing has changed drastically from my first book to the one I just put out. I keep learning new things taking going new seminars there’s always more to learn. I think my writing is much improved even after my MFA like way drastically even more so than when I was in my MFA so. So yeah, just keep keep going keep writing and don’t give up.

 

Sarah [00:29:26] Fantastic. And it’s so true. The more we practice the better we get. But somehow we don’t always think that when it comes to writing for some reason. I don’t know why.

 

Aileen [00:29:37] Well it’s it’s hard when you pick up a book and you’re like wow this is really amazing. I bet they just sat down there and wrote that in one draft first try – gold! I’m like ‘No no everybody’s like trying really hard and rewriting and then going through the same thing.’ You’ve just got to keep going. Jim Butcher he’s a great urban fantasy writer. He has this little tale about how he first got published on his website and when I was first starting writing I would go to Jim Butcher’s page every day and read his page about how he got published and how not to give up and how to keep going. And I found it extremely inspirational so I was like No I’m just going to keep going. And it’s just really powerful to go to his website read it.

It’s so great, he really inspired me and before I got my MFA, when I was in my MFA, when I started publishing and every once in a while when I’m like ‘you know what, I don’t know if I’m going to make it’ I go back through to his website and I click on About Jim Butcher and go and read his his little piece about publishing.

 

Sarah [00:31:01] Oh that’s brilliant. And hopefully, you saying this now, that will be encouraging. And yes, like you say, you’ve got to keep on going. And I will put a link to that in the show notes. that’s fab. And so finally I’d love to hear about what’s next for you. Like what are you working on now will your next release?

 

Aileen [00:31:21] So right now I’m working on Off Balance. It’s the sequel to Off Planet which came out in March. It’s coming out St. Patrick’s Day next year, so I’m about 40000 words into that and really loving it. And then after that I’m gonna be writing Alpha Erased which is book 9 in my Alpha Girls series. That’s gonna be really fun. I’m finally doing the main POV character’s mate in it, and having her memory wiped. So that’ll be really fun for readers. They’ll get to fall in love all over again. Yeah. So, it’ll be romantic and I’m really looking forward to writing that one, too.

 

Sarah [00:32:04] And you’ve just reminded me, I wanted to ask what led you to writing in a slightly different genre. You’ve got sci fi and you’ve got paranormal with werewolves. What made you change genre a wee bit?

 

Aileen [00:32:19] Well I guess most people say write what you know but I don’t know anything about paranormal or going into outer space. I mean hopefully we’ll never go to outer space, although I did read an article that they’re accepting or will be accepting people into the space station soon. Just privately you can fly up there I’m like I don’t know how much it’s going to be, maybe a billion dollars… One day maybe it’s possible… No probably not.

 

Sarah [00:32:47] You never know.

 

Aileen [00:32:49] Crazier things have happened. I could win the lotto… So yeah, but I love the write what you love. I love space opera, I love sci fi, I love paranormal, I love werewolves, I love fairy tales, so I just kind of write what I love.

It was interesting making such a big change from werewolves to interstellar travel. So that was a big leap but I kind of worked you know really hard on it hoped it was going to be accepted by new readers who had never read me before and also encouraged my fans to go with me. I’m like ‘just give it a try’. Read a sample. I sent out a lot of samples, I posted it on my social media, I just said give it a shot and they did. And they were like actually we will read this too.

 

Sarah [00:33:48] That’s really good. And I think from a creative point of view I can imagine it’s it’s I mean I like writing across genre because I read across genre and I love across genre. And so I can imagine that it’s kind of creatively refreshing.

 

Aileen [00:34:01] It is. After so many werewolf books it got to be you know a little bit like I didn’t feel like my ideas were fresh anymore. I was like I need sort of like a palate cleanser. And that’s what Off Planet it was for me.

 

Sarah [00:34:14] I love that you were following your passion with your writing and, as I say, doing it so well and being so successful at it. Very inspiring. Thank you so much for your time. Just before we finish, where can listeners find out more about you and your books online?

 

Aileen [00:34:32] You can find me at Aileen Erin dot com on Facebook and Instagram. I’m also on Twitter but I never checked that and my Alpha Girls Series and Off Planet are at all major retailers.

 

Sarah [00:34:46] Brilliant. Well as I say I will put all the links in the show notes but thank you so much for your time. It was lovely to speak to you.

 

Aileen [00:34:52] So nice to speak to you. Thank you for having me.

 

The Worried Writer Episode #50: ‘We Can Do This!’

Welcome to episode 50 of The Worried Writer!

I cannot believe it has been over four years since I started this podcast and, I must admit, I’m a little bit proud!

Thank you so much for listening and, if you’ve been listening for a while or have ever tweeted about the show or sent me a message or asked a question or recommended the podcast to a friend, please know that you are the reason I have made it this far.

A Life-changing Podcast

This podcast has been life-changing for me. I feel more confident than I did when I started, and the conversations I have had with other authors has helped me to refine my own working process and to feel less alone and weird in my self-doubt. That’s the key, really. I am still as filled with self-doubt and fear as I was before, but I am now solidly aware that it is completely normal and an occupational hazard of this profession. Whereas I used to feel that my various neuroses  and tendency to procrastinate meant I wasn’t cut out to be a writer, now I know for sure that it’s part and parcel of creating new things in the world. And while there is a variety of experiences and intensity, we all feel it to some degree.

I’ve also made lots of new writing friends, and feel more a part of the writing community than I did before. The main thing, however, has been the satisfaction I get from helping others. It means the world to me to hear that I’ve helped another writer feel less alone or to gain a little bit of motivation.

We Can Do This!

Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn podcast this week featured Damon Suede and his book Verbalize. They were talking about the importance of language and Damon said that he had come up with verbs to describe himself in his professional capacity. As soon as he said that, I started to think about what my words would be… Joanna must’ve have been doing the same as she ended her show by saying that her word would be ‘create’. That’s a great one, but thinking about this podcast, and the WW side of what I do, I came up with ‘comfort’. I hope that I inspire and enthuse and energise people, but I do think there are plenty of folk who do that better. Ultimately, I want you to feel comforted. To know that I empathise with your writing struggles, that I battle them myself, but that we can do this thing. It is hard and it is wonderful and, through learning more about ourselves and our own particular processes and strengths, and by being kind to ourselves, we can do it. And succeed.

Okay! Today’s show is a just me episode. I haven’t done one for a while and I thought it would be fitting for my fiftieth! Also, I have had a few questions from my lovely patrons, but which I think will be widely useful. My kind patrons have said they are happy for their questions to be answered on this show so that everyone can benefit.

THE WORRIED WRITER ON PATREON

A huge thank you to my supporters on Patreon. While I wouldn’t have got to year three without the amazing feedback and support of our little podcast community, I definitely would not have got to this point without my Patreon supporters. Knowing that you value the show so much that you are willing to support it financially is huge. I really can’t articulate how big a deal it is to me.

Head to patreon.com/worriedwriter to support the show from as little as $1 a month. For $2 a month, you get access to the exclusive audio extra every month (there are thirteen backlist extras to enjoy right now!). Thank you!

WRITING UPDATE

A quick writing update before I get to the questions. Having written ‘The End’ on the second Crow Investigations book, I then immediately went back to work on making it a proper, readable draft. As long-time listeners know, my first drafts are so awful I can them zero drafts instead.

This month, I got to The End on something I would consider a proper draft. It’s still going to need editing and, for me, that usually means adding more words and scenes as I tend to underwrite, but it’s a readable draft which I have given to my husband who, handily enough, is my first reader. I’m a bit behind where I wanted to be at this point, but I will make my planned publishing month of May. It’s just likely to be at the end of May, rather than the beginning.

In other news, I revealed the cover and title to my Sarah Painter mailing list (sign up here!) and had lovely feedback, which is very reassuring. It’s called THE SILVER MARK and here is the cover. Meep! I think the designer has done another brilliant job and I’m absolutely thrilled.

The Silver Mark book cover, book two of Crow Investigations by Sarah Painter

For those interested in how running a hybrid career works, I thought I would also share that The Night Raven was chosen for a Kindle Daily Deal this month. It went very well and I grabbed screenshots of TNR with the orange bestseller flag and topping a few category charts. I’m mentioning this not to boast, but to reassure you that these kinds of deals are still available, even when the book is independently published.

Also, a few days later, I was contacted by a prominent audiobook publisher to enquire about the audio rights for TNR and TLG. My agent was already in talks with another publisher for these rights, and it’s too soon for me share any definite news, but I just wanted to let you know as it demonstrates that going hybrid is possible. It isn’t a case of indie publishing or traditional. You can do both. And independently publishing a book doesn’t mean you won’t be able to license the subsidiary rights to traditional companies, too, if you so wish.

LISTENER QUESTIONS

In this episode I answer listener questions about my methods for tracking daily and weekly goals and word counts, tips for writing dialogue, and how to protect your ideas when sharing your work with fellow writers.

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.

Recommended:

The Passion Planner – my current planner of choice!W

Zebra Mildliners

Washi Tape

WordKeeper word tracking app

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.

The Worried Writer Episode #49: Kate Harrison ‘I Still Get Imposter Syndrome’

The Secrets You Hide book cover

My guest today is writing coach and bestselling author Kate Harrison. Kate has written contemporary women’s fiction, the YA Soul Beach trilogy, and has recently moved into adult thrillers with the dark and twisty The Secrets You Hide, under a new pen name Kate Helm 

She has also got a successful non-fiction brand with a range of diet and lifestyle books based on the 5:2 intermittent fasting method and regularly teaches other writers through courses, events and her consultancy service.

You can learn more at Kate-Harrison.com

Or find Kate on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

IN THE INTRODUCTION

Plan, Pitch & Sell Your Book Course

**SPECIAL OFFER**

Kate says that writing pitches (or ‘hook lines’) for books is her ‘superpower’, and she shares her knowledge – and enthusiasm – on the subject in her online course: Plan, Pitch & Sell Your Book.

The course covers much more than writing a compelling pitch, though. I’ll let Kate explain:

In seven steps, you’ll learn how to attract an audience and overcome rejection by identifying what is unique and irresistible about your work. It’ll help you to  hone your story or concept – without losing the excitement. 

The course is reasonably-priced at £99, but Kate has generously offered a SPECIAL 50% DISCOUNT for Worried Writer listeners. Thank you, Kate!

I give thanks for the wonderful Patreon support and a shout-out to new patrons.

I love the ‘community within a community’ that we’ve created over on Patreon and I really enjoy making the audio extras (which go up in the middle of every month).

Thank you so much to everyone supporting The Worried Writer in this way – it means so much to me.

To become a Worried Writer insider and to support the podcast – for as little as $1 a month – head to The Worried Writer on Patreon.

LISTENER QUESTION

If you’ve got 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:

I have a butterfly mind

It’s always all about the idea for me… An idea either grips me or it doesn’t and once it’s gripped me, I have to do it.

Process:

I do aim for a word count… I wrote part time for the first four years, and switched full time in 2007. I imagined I would get loads done, but it didn’t quite work out that way… So, I have a word count… I tend to sent a lowish goal and then exceed it because I’m a bit of a girly swot.’

I try to write really quite quickly because I like the bright shiny thing and if an idea is knocking around my brain for too long, it gets stale for me… I try to get it down fast and then go back and edit it later. But it can vary from book to book, too

‘I do find that 25 minutes on a novel, to start with, is quite hard work. We’re just so addicted, now, to getting distracted by things around us. And I will give myself a bit of talking to with that and say ‘look, if you can’t write for 15 minutes without checking your email you’re a bit of a lost cause…’

On self-doubt:

Although I have written a lot, now, I still get imposter syndrome, I still get the doubts in the saggy middle or near the end and I have no concept of whether a book is good or bad until I have a bit of distance

When I’m very stuck I consciously change my environment.

On writing pitches:

My one superpower seems to be to listen to someone’s book idea and go ‘okay, that’s what you need to put in your pitch, and this is your hook or your elevator pitch… It’s just something I’ve got a knack for.
All my writer friends ask me to do this… Partly, I think, it’s my background in journalism and television.

You can’t expect everybody to love your book but you must have a clear idea of what you’re offering them.

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

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.

My 2019 Writing Goals

This is my fourth 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 sharing them definitely helps me to stay on track.

In case you’re interested, the previous posts are here: January 2016, January 2017 and January 2018.

Throughout 2018, I also swapped goals and progress with two writer friends on a weekly and monthly basis, and that was hugely helpful from both a productivity and happiness standpoint. I highly recommend finding an accountability partner if you can!

So, I will continue with the same system in 2019 – sharing my goals and progress both publicly on The Worried Writer and privately with my friends.

In 2018 I flirted with software solutions for ‘do do’ lists and planning, but kept falling back on my trusty Moleskine business planner. This year, I’ve treated myself to a Passion Planner (look at the pretty!) with some new washi tape and highlighters. I am hoping that the combination will help me to remember to follow my passion and to keep hold of the joy of creation, even while I get, inevitably, overwhelmed and and stressed…

So, 2019…

Writing

As always, I want to maintain focus on writing as my primary goal each and every day. I will write first thing, block out time in my schedule for writing, and track my word count (and time spent writing).

I am also going to practice dictation. I began experimenting with it at the end of 2018, but need to give it more of a go… I will start with non-fiction and note-taking, as that feels more doable than fiction, and re-read Christopher Downing’s Fool Proof Dictation book.

I have two books in progress at the moment: the second Crow Investigations mystery and something I have described to my agent as ‘magical realism Downton Abbey’. I am thoroughly enjoying both and want to finish them in the first half of 2019.

To stretch myself (and try for my most productive writing year ever), I’m planning to write the third Crow book in the second half of the year.

For non-fiction, I am considering writing the second Worried Writer book during the second half of the year, but I am concerned that might be a little bit too ambitious. Especially as I am feeling very fiction-focused at the moment. However, I am planning to write six articles for the site during the year, and some of those might form the basis of chapters in a new non-fiction book at a later date.

  • Finish Crow Investigations Book Two
  • Write Crow Investigations Book Three
  • Finish ‘magical realism Downton Abbey’ book and send to my agent
  • Write six articles for the Worried Writer

 

Publishing

Siskin Press will be two years old on the 1st March and I want to do a review of the company’s progress, including a breakdown of sales and different streams of income.

I want to make sure that I am making the most out of the creative assets at my disposal. This includes making sure that existing titles are in as many formats as possible and are widely available, and continuing to learn and improve my marketing/advertising activity using Amazon, BookBub and Facebook.

My author website is due an overhaul and I’m thinking of purchasing a pro WordPress theme to make this easier.

I want to continue to build my newsletter list and to improve my newsletters!

  • Create print and large print editions of The Secrets of Ghosts
  • Publish The Lost Girls, my supernatural thriller, at the end of January.
  • Put existing audio books ‘wide’ with Findaway Voices.
  • Either secure audio book publishing deals for The Night Raven and The Lost Girls or get the audio books made myself.
  • Create a workbook edition of Stop Worrying; Start Writing and a large print edition
  • Request the print rights back for my novella The Garden of Magic
  • Publish Crow Investigations books two and three

 

Learning

I learned lots about advertising and marketing in 2018. However, in 2019 I want to put far more of my knowledge into action, particularly with Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

I am going to try some video this year. Even if I decide I hate it and don’t even release the video, I need to give it a go!

As I am now a small publisher as well as a writer, I want to learn more about being a good publisher and improve my skills… One specific area is writing good book blurbs. This a definite skill and not one which comes naturally (to me at any rate). I have Bryan Cohen’s book How To Write A Sizzling Synopsis and I intend to work through it this month.

 

Creativity

Once again, I am putting the goal of scheduling ‘artist’ days (getting out and about to refill the creative well) onto my list. Perhaps this will be the year I manage it!

I also want to get out of the habit of staying on the computer, even when I’m not being productive, because it fees more like ‘work’ when I should just close the laptop and pick up a book!

  • Schedule one day per month to leave the house and go to a gallery (or to explore somewhere new, sit in a cafe with a notebook, walk up a hill etc)
  • Enjoy reading without guilt and make books my ‘go to’ distraction/break-time treat
  • Continue to use good TV and film for inspiration and learning
  • Continue to use cross stitch (or knitting or other craft) for relaxation and thinking time

 

Health

Last year was my worst walking/exercising year for a very long time. I was devastated by grief and felt physically exhausted from May onwards.

I know that I need to be kind to myself and that my emotional state is still pretty fragile, but I want to build up my physical fitness to improve my energy levels and mental wellbeing.

I have a lovely new walking accountability partner for encouragement and I’m planning to slowly increase the frequency and length of my walks over the next couple of months.

 

 

  • Get back to daily walking habit
  • Do some longer walks and hill walks.
  • Continue playing badminton and add in yoga class (or schedule time to do yoga/stretching at home).
  • I had breathing exercises on my list last year, but I discovered I’m actually asthmatic. The inhalers have made a huge difference!

 

Community

  • Continue to improve my newsletter and increase the size of my reader group/mailing list.
  • Continue with monthly episodes of the podcast and the patron-exclusive audio extras.
  • Research the creation of an online course based on Stop Worrying; Start Writing.
  • Attend at least one professional conference. I’ve bought my ticket for 20BooksEdinburgh and am really looking forward to it.

I am also considering visiting The London Book Fair in March.

 

Your turn! What are your goals for 2019?

Feel free to share them below or on The Worried Writer Facebook page.

Let’s make it a great year! 

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


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

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

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

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

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

IN THE INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

RECOMMENDED

Adam Croft’s book The Indie Author Mindset.

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

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

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

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

IN THE INTERVIEW

On writing productivity and schedule:

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

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

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

On self-doubt:

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

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

The secret to success:

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

 

Thanks for listening!

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

The Worried Writer on iTunes

[Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to rate a podcast on your device]

Also, if you have a question or a suggestion for the show – or just want to get in touch – I would love to hear from you! Email me or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

 

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.