Yes, it’s that time of year again when we all need to find thoughtful gifts to express our love to our nearest and dearest which, let’s face it, isn’t always easy!
If you have a writer in your life, these gift ideas might help.
Alternatively, if you are a writer, you could always forward this post to your family as a helpful hint… Or just treat yourself!
I have yet to meet a writer who wasn’t at least a little bit in love with stationery.
This Leuchtturm 1917 dotted journal is perfect for keeping a bullet journal (planning heaven!), writing, brain-storming or doodling. I have been using the A5 size (in Emerald) for my bullet journal this year and I am utterly in love.
Why not create a bullet journal starter-kit by adding a fine-point black pen and some pretty washi tape and stickers?
The Literary Gift Company has lots of book-themed loveliness, but I particularly like this ‘So It Goes’ necklace (quote is from Slaughterhouse Five) and their range of ‘poems instead of a card’ pamphlets.
A good reference section is useful to any writer. Once the basics (a good dictionary and thesaurus) are covered, you can branch out. I love Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase And Fable – it’s stuffed with eclectic facts and is perfect for browsing. Next, I’ve got my eye on this collection of quotes:
Writers are learning all the time, so a book on the craft or business of writing is sure to be welcome. Stephen King’s On Writingis the most-recommended book on the podcast so it’s a good place to start.
Alternatively, if you know a worried writer, then there is always my book on the subject!
A comment popped up recently and, after replying, I found it was still rattling around in my mind. I know it’s something that many of us struggle with, so I thought I would discuss it here:
Hi I am a new and yes very worried writer, so am thrilled to have found your podcasts. I have started several novels, but never finished them, I’m hoping that I will get inspiration and hints and tips to finish one. Looking forward to listening to the other podcasts. Debs
First off, a big thank you to Debs for listening and leaving such a great comment.
Reading this took me right back to where I was stuck for a very long time… Throughout my teens and twenties, I dreamed of writing fiction: I thought about writing, I talked about writing and I read endless advice books and blogs about writing. I was looking for the secret. The magic ingredient that would enable me to write a book.
I started stories. I would write an opening paragraph or scene and just run out of steam. Occasionally, I would manage a few chapters, but I never knew what came next so I stopped. Until the next character or opening line or bit of dialogue would pop into my head and I’d write it down, only to get stuck again.
Behind all of this stopping was fear. I was scared that I couldn’t do it and so I never forced myself past the initial spark of an idea.
Also, I was making a crucial mistake: I thought that feeling stuck meant that the initial idea was no good.
What I didn’t realise was that feeling stuck as a writer is completely and utterly normal: It’s part of the gig!
That having ‘no idea what happens next’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep on trying. That, essentially, writing a book is hard graft, not divine inspiration.
Also, I hadn’t realised that nested inside my surface fears (of writing rubbish and not having enough ideas to fill a book) were deeper worries about finishing. If I finished, I would have to take the next step and actually show it to somebody else – argh!
Ultimately, I was terrified that if I did finish a book and it sucked, then I would have confirmation that I was a terrible writer and would never be an author.
It felt safer to dream of ‘being a writer on day’ rather than risk exposing my lack of ideas and talent through actually trying.
So, just in case you are where I used to be (or you are Debs – hi Debs!) I’m going to reveal to you the big secret about writing novels.
The reason you are finding it hard to finish your novel is because it is SUPER HARD TO DO.
But, here is the big secret… All you have to do is slog through this first one.
It doesn’t have to be good.
There is one rule: If you get to the end, you have succeeded.
If it sucks (and, fair warning, it probably will) that doesn’t matter. Every single author you have ever loved sucked when they started writing. Just think of it as a necessary stage.
And here is the best part – the magic lies in the act of finishing. Once you have finished that first book, I promise it will transform your writing life.
You might choose not to finish projects in the future, but you will carry with you the knowledge that you ARE capable of finishing them and that makes all the difference in the world.
So, having explained why I think finishing your book is so gosh-darned important, here are a few tips to help you get from beginning to end (or middle to end):
Don’t focus on the writing. Focus on the act of doing the work, not the writing you are producing.
Make finishing your book (no matter what) your one and only goal.
Break the goal into manageable steps and add a deadline.
Happily enough, there is a group writing challenge starting next week which will help you with all of these tips. It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and it starts on 1st November. You can sign up (free) here.
Or, you can set your own version of the challenge… Remember – the only thing that matters is getting to the finish line, not how you run the race.
Also, if you prefer your cheer-leading in book-form and liked this post, why not try my guide? It’s packed with tips and advice to help you start (and finish!) your book:
Stop Worrying; Start Writing: How To Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt and Procrastination.
In this episode I speak to Marie-Louise Jensen who writes books for children and young adults. Marie-Louise’s books include Between Two Seas and The Lady In The Tower, both of which are published by the Oxford University Press and were shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Marie-Louise has also written for Fiction Express, which publishes books in an interactive, serialised format, and her latest book is a YA title, Sixth Formers: Year 12.
STOP PRESS: Finding Hope (Fiction Express) has just been shortlisted for the Portsmouth Book Award 2017!
In the introduction, I give a writing update and hint at some exciting publishing news!
I’ve been busy with a few different projects, including getting my novella, The Garden of Magic, made into an audio book. If you are interested in receiving a free review copy (as well as giveaways and exclusive content) do consider signing up for the mailing list for my fiction.
I also reveal the title of the forthcoming ‘worried writer’ book. It is… Drum roll…
Stop Worrying; Start Writing: How To Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt and Procrastination
I hope you like it! I will have a publication date set very soon, but it will be sometime next month (April 2017).
Also, I recommend a couple of other writing/publishing podcasts:
My guest in this episode is Gillian McAllister. Gillian’s debut thriller Everything But The Truth is out on 9 March 2017 from Penguin and she is represented by Clare Wallace at the Darley Anderson Agency. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Everything But The Truth and it is an absolutely cracking read. It’s a twisty, compelling, domestic thriller and I highly recommend it.
I spoke to Gillian last year and it was really interesting to talk about the post-deal, pre-publication phase.
In the introduction, I give a quick personal update: I finished the Worried Writer book! Last month I put out a call for beta readers and was bowled over by the response. Thank you so much to all of you who offered, the list is now full. I’m sending out the manuscript this week (eep!).
One of the really positive things about doing a project like this is that it’s given my brain a break from writing fiction. I felt empty after finishing the latest draft of Beneath The Water and it was nice to change gears for a while. Predictably, I’m missing fiction again, now, and am looking forward to diving into a new novel.
Let me know the kind of content you’d like to see there, too. I’m considering recording some Q&A videos or perhaps a wee tour of my latest planner system. Let me know on the FB page or in the comments section below. Or, of course, drop me an email.
As always, I welcome your feedback and questions!
In the interview:
On always writing:
‘I’ve had reams of diaries and lists and I write everything down it’s the way I organise my thoughts.’
On the road to publication:
‘I think when you get an agent you think ‘that’s it’ and I was quite emotionally unprepared for rejection… It was just awful.’
And on the adjustment post-deal:
‘I still sometimes wake up and I’m in the old mindset of ‘is my book ever going to sell?’ and then I remember and I’m like, my God, that happened … I’m actually just really relieved because it was such a cause of anxiety and strife for me as I had never wanted anything as badly as I wanted a publishing deal.’
Advice on submission hell:
‘I think somewhere deep in my brain I felt as though if I checked email enough I would get a publishing deal and that is an incorrect thought!’
Gillian is a full-time lawyer. On fitting writing into a busy life:
‘One of the biggest things was getting a MacBook and being able to write in moments where I’m not so busy. Like if I’m on the train and there is a delayed train for twenty minutes I don’t lose the time, I can open the MacBook and write and I’ve kind of taught myself to do that.’
On the difficulties of writing:
‘I do a first draft and I’m quite gung ho about it and then at the end of it I think… Oh, okay, this should have happened or it’s actually about this…’
On the psychology of getting published:
‘My mental health for the three months after I sold was very wobbly… It was actually about control and feeling like this was all I ever wanted but it’s hard sometimes… I had been worrying for two years about getting published and I had all these neural pathways… I remember actively worrying that I wasn’t as happy as I should be until my boyfriend said ‘that’s insane’.’
Thanks so much for listening! If you have a moment, please leave a rating on iTunes or share the podcast.
Also, I will be giving out a limited number of review copies of the Worried Writer book in March.
If you want to be first to hear about the book (and be in with a chance of scoring a free copy), please sign up here.
I know that it’s December and you may have already bought all of your holiday gifts but, just in case you are still looking, here are some ideas… If you have bought for all the worried writers in your life, perhaps one of these will just have to slip into your shopping basket as a gift to yourself!
It might not be wildly original, but a good-quality notebook is ALWAYS a safe present for a writer. I love Moleskine (again, not original, but there is a reason they are so popular) and have recently been favouring these large soft-cover ones. I have this blue one and it’s a lovely colour (always a bonus).
Lovely fine-tip pens in lots of colours for plotting/brain-storming/colouring-in or doodling. When it comes to writing, having fun is the key to productivity. An array of cheerful coloured pens remind me of childhood play, which can be a very good thing when wrestling with a tricky chapter or a ‘can’t be bothered’ day.
As you all know, Joanna Penn is my unofficial mentor, and I highly recommend all of her books (as well as her outstanding podcast, The Creative Penn). The Successful Author Mindset is particularly useful for worried writers, whether just starting out or with several books published.
Writing is a sedentary pursuit and a little motivation to leave the laptop can be a good thing. Mel Sherratt spoke about her Fitbit and how it had helped her to get more active in episode 13 of the The Worried Writer podcast.
Even if you don’t want to do a full yoga or pilates workout, I highly recommend interspersing your writing sessions with some gentle stretching. Like many writers, I suffer from a dodgy back, but if I do my physiotherapy exercises throughout the day, I can keep the pain under control. Even if you don’t have problems now, RSI and posture-related pain are very real hazards when it comes to typing for long periods – please don’t wait until you are suffering to look after your body!