The Worried Writer Episode #39: James Blatch ‘I Live And Die By Whiteboards’

My guest today is James Blatch. James is a co-founder and director of the Self Publishing Formula with bestselling indie superstar, Mark Dawson. SPF offers fantastic training courses for authors on advertising, self-publishing, and book cover design, as well as a brilliant weekly podcast and free ebooks and resources. James is also an author and is working on his debut novel, The Last Flight. We have an interesting chat about the writing process for a first book, the pressures (and benefits) of writing a debut as a visible figure within the indie publishing community and the tips and resources James has found invaluable in getting to this stage.

For more about James and his forthcoming book, head to JamesBlatch.com or find him on Twitter @JamesBlatch.

The Self Publishing Formula podcast, free resources and courses can all be found at selfpublishingformula.com

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I give an update on my writing this month and admit to falling foul of the ‘fear demon’. On the plus side, once I realised I was scared of finishing the book (because that means showing it to people!), I started to make progress again. Sometimes just recognising the fear is enough to diffuse its power.

LISTENER QUESTION

Maria asked:

How do you get back into a novel project when you’ve been away from it for a while, and your life and your responsibilities have changed?

This is one of two excellent questions from Maria and I answered the other one in my second, Patron-only mini-episode, along with another question from another Patron. If you want access to the mid-month audio extras, consider signing up to support The Worried Writer on Patreon. Thanks!

If you have a writing, productivity or publishing question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter or leave a comment on this post.

I’ll answer it on the show and credit you (unless, of course, you ask to remain anonymous).

IN THE INTERVIEW

James’s writing routine:

‘I try to maintain a family balance… But somewhere in there I’m going to have to find more time to write my book.

On motivation:

‘London Book Fair is always a good boost for me… As soon as I get there I feel like I should hand a card out to explain where I am with my book as I get asked about it so much.’

‘I live and die by whiteboards.’

‘I use a word count target and it goes onto the whiteboard and it gets crossed off and if it doesn’t get crossed off then a little piece of me inside dies.’

On writing ‘in public’:

‘People reading it… That’s the bit that worries me! That people will read it and say ‘what’s all the fuss about, this guy can’t write.’

‘I’m big enough and ugly enough to cope with the bit of glare that there is on me… So I’m fine, really, and I’m using it positively.’

On Dan Brown’s plotting:

‘He very cleverly makes sure the reader is ahead of him. The reader has worked things out two or three pages ahead and there’s a trick to that.’

On shifting from journalism to fiction:

‘I want to tell people what’s happening but that’s not what you do in a novel… I keep giving it away, which is why the plotting is important.’

‘I’m learning the craft and it’s not obvious, is it? You might think it is, it might look easy from the outside but it isn’t…’

On doing the interviews for SPF:

‘Every week I learn something.’

 

Recommended:

James rates author and teacher Joan Dempsey for revision advice and recommends her online course.

Joan was also a guest on the SPF podcast in episode 88.

The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

The Bestseller Experiment podcast

Novel Factory software for writing (free trial available)

 

 

 

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.

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The Worried Writer Episode #38: M.J. Ford ‘I Just Write As Hard And As Fast As I Can’

 

My guest today is Michael Ford, who writes under the name M.J. Ford. Michael has written and edited children’s fiction for Working Partners for several years, as well as working as a ghost writer on other projects. His debut novel for adults, Hold My Hand, is out this month from Avon and we talk about what it’s like to be published under his own name, his writing routine, and why others should consider writing for a book packager like Working Partners.

You can find buy Hold My Hand here, or connect with Michael on Twitter.

 

In the introduction I give a writing update and talk about the strategies I’ve been using to make progress while wrestling a second draft into shape.

SHOW SPONSORSHIP

I conduct my very first Patreon-supporters shout-out (yay!).

If you want to support the show (and get a mini audio extra mid-month, your very own shout-out, and my eternal gratitude) head to The Worried Writer Patreon Page.

Beneath The Water had a successful launch (phew), but now I’m on submission for my supernatural thriller and am back to obsessively checking my emails for news.

I share some good news about my second novel, The Secrets of Ghosts. I’ve secured the print rights back from the publisher, so I will be able to release the paperback later this year. Yay!

I also recommend the informative and honest Self Publishing Journeys podcast by Paul Teague for those interested in independent publishing or a hybrid approach to their writing career.

Another show I’ve been enjoying recently is The Honest Authors Podcast by Holly Seddon and Gillian McAllister. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the writing life of two successful (traditionally published) authors.

LISTENER QUESTION

If you have a writing, productivity or publishing question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, please get in touch via email or Twitter or leave a comment on this post.

I’ll answer it on the show and credit you (unless, of course, you ask to remain anonymous).

IN THE INTERVIEW

On Working Partners

‘Working partners is a packager… Packers essentially do the same thing as a writer in that they sell manuscripts to publishers. The difference is that packagers tend to be collaborative creators… Lots of people work on a book, not just a single writer.’

‘At Working Partners we come up with storylines through brainstorming and those are enhanced and elaborated until they are quite detailed synopsises of several thousand words and after that we find a writer to write the book.’

‘We work a bit like a TV or film studio writer’s room.’

‘We look to exploit the content across all media so it’s not just books, it’s also TV and film, it’s video games, it’s live theatre shows… And we often produce series rather than standalone books.’

‘Working Partners are behind some of the bestselling children’s series in the UK and globally, things like Beast Quest, Animal Ark, Rainbow Magic…. These are all series which have been running for a decade or more… Although lots of writers may have worked on them, there has always been a core team at Working Partners team which keeps the editorial content consistent.’

‘It’s fair to say that everything I know about writing has come because of my experience there (writing for Working Partners) which is why I bang on about it so much. You know, being edited, editing, talking constantly about story and how story works, has really helped me on my own writing journey.’

‘If you’re fairly new to writing then working for Working Partners can be a good training ground.’

Michael’s writing process:

‘I’m quite regimented… In theory at least… I tend to have a few things on the go. I’m still editing for Working Partners and I’m also freelance writing for them… Because I only have really three days a week to write in and I don’t particularly like eating into my family time, I know that within those three days I have to meet a certain word count or something will have to give further down the line, you know sleep or seeing the kids.’

‘I start in the morning straight after the school run and I just write as hard and as fast as I can to meet that word count.’

‘Objectively I’m getting quite a lot of words written, they’re very rarely are in good shape… I’m not happy with them at all. I tend to burn out in the early afternoon and then I revisit that awful writing the next morning or that evening and try to lick it into some sort of shape.’

‘I tend to have lots of things on a go. Within a day I’ll concentrate on one book and the next day I might be doing something completely different.’

On working concurrently on several book projects:

‘It all comes down to knowing your character and slipping into their shoes as quickly as possible.’

Recommended:

On Writing by Stephen King

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Focus On Your ‘Why’ To Supercharge Your Productivity

Desk with open notebook - writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS TIP!

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

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

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

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

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

And now get back to work!

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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The Life-Changing Magic of Finishing Your Book

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.

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

KOBO

iBOOKS

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading!

Are you struggling to finish your book or have you got a tip you want to pass on?

Got a subject you would like covered or a question for the podcast?

Join in the comments or email me anytime!

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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 #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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