The Worried Writer Ep#34: ‘Check In With Your Goals’

In this ‘just me’ episode I recap my progress over 2017, give tips learned from my recent ‘performance and presentation’ training, and answer a listener question about getting a trilogy published…

Writing progress:

As the end of the year approaches, I start thinking about next year – mainly because I tend to go into hibernation mode during this time but I absolutely love the fresh new start of January and get far more excited by the new goal setting and planning of a new year.

I’ve tried to recognise that I go into a bit of an energy slump in December and have scheduled a light month. However, I’m a bit behind on some of my November goals, so I want to really push myself this week to get as much done as possible before I wind down for the year.

I have revisited my goals from January this year and I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve achieved, but if I can tick a couple more things off the list then even better!

I encourage you to check in with your goals on a regular basis – but definitely at large junctures like quarterly or at the beginning, middle and end of the year. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or like I’m not getting much done it can be either encouraging to see what I have actually managed or the kick up the backside I need.

This year I planned to write, edit and publish Stop Worrying; Start Writing in all formats. The ebook and print versions are done and the audio should scrape in under the wire, I hope!

I also did extensive structural rewrites on Beneath The Water (now available to pre-order – meep!), finished and rewrote my supernatural thriller, and have almost finished the first draft of a new novel.

In writing terms, it’s probably my best, most productive year yet but I am still aware of how much more I am capable of or, more accurately, how much more I want to do. I think I have to be happy with my own process, but also to push myself a bit and keep trying to refine my work habits. It’s a tricky balance.

This year I also planned to do some real life events, meeting up with author friends who live around the UK and beyond, and I managed a couple of lovely lunches – hurrah! I also made strides with my business training by completing the SPF 101 course and ‘advertising for authors’, both from the excellent Mark Dawson. I’ve started to experiment with ads with some success, so that’s pleasing. I’ve also been building my mailing list, although I have a lot more to do in that area.

This month, I was lucky enough to get attend a Performance and Presentation training day put on by the Scottish Book Trust. There were workshops from Jenny Lindsay, a spoken word poet, and Alex Gillon, a voice coach.

It was an intense day and quite hard in places, but the workshops were incredibly powerful and useful.

 

Lessons learned:

Mindset is important!

  • Remember why you are doing this (to share your work).
  • The people in the audience are not out to hate you or have a bad time and they won’t be hyper-critical if you make little mistakes or seem nervous.
  • Think of it like talking a group of people you’ve just met in the pub. You don’t know them well, but they seem nice.
  • ACT FINE. You don’t have to be super-confident or to feel fine, you just have to act fine.

Practical tips:

  • Walk the space beforehand.
  • Insist on a sound check.
  • Warm up with stretching, shaking out the tension in your body and do some breathing exercises before you go on.

Perform!

The other big takeaway for me was the idea of really performing the piece. Having only presented non-fiction, I hadn’t appreciated how much feeling and variety you need to put into a piece of fiction to make it come alive. It’s no good just reading the text nice and clearly; if you want your listeners to experience it properly, you have to act with emotion and use different voices for the different characters and so on.

I am so grateful to the Scottish Book Trust for the opportunity and feel more confident than I did at the thought of reading my fiction to an audience. I’m still terrified, of course, but it helps to know there are techniques and tips I can follow.

Listener Question:

This month’s listener question is from Georgia Economides. Georgia wrote:

I am currently learning how to edit my first draft of my very first novel! I am planning on making it the first of three in a series. I would like to try to get it traditionally published…

However, I have a full-time job and am worried that even if I did manage to get a deal for all three, trying to write to a deadline alongside a full-time job would be too much. Would it be better to write all of the series and then try and get it published? Or would publishers be reluctant to buy a series all in one go?

Thanks so much for the great question!

My advice is to start querying as soon as book one is ready. Traditional publishing is very slow so you will have time to finish your second and maybe even third while you wait to hear from agents and publishers. A publisher might not want to buy a trilogy so it is a good idea to make sure book one can stand alone, too.

 

If you’ve got a question you’d like answered, please email me or find me on Twitter.

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

 

I can’t believe that the next show will be out in 2018!

I have a fabulous interview with psychological thriller author and publisher (Manatee Books), Lisa Hall, to share with you, and will also discuss my goals for 2018.

Thank you so much for your support this year and I wish you a happy winter holiday!

 

 

Thank you for listening!

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes or whichever podcast app you use. Reviews and shares really help the visibility of the show.

 

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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 #31: Phoebe Morgan ‘Getting A Deal Is Often About Timing’

My guest today is Phoebe Morgan. Phoebe Morgan is both an editor at HarperCollins and an author, so she understands both sides of the publishing equation. Her debut psychological thriller, The Doll House, is coming out on the 14th September, and it’s an excellent dark and creepy read. I love the way Phoebe has created a sense of foreboding in the book so I definitely recommend you check it out.

We talk about self-doubt and pre-publication nerves, but Phoebe also give insights as to what grabs her as commissioning editor when she is reading submissions and, conversely, the common mistakes she sees authors making.

Even if you aren’t looking to submit to an agent or publisher, I do think her advice is spot-on as you will always need to grab your reader.

For more on Phoebe head to phoebemorganauthor.com or find her on Twitter.

You can pre-order The Doll House for just 99p here.

In the introduction:

I give a small writing update and talk about my great excitement at being a guest on The Creative Penn podcast.

Here is the link to the episode on Joanna’s (wonderful!) website. It’s also available on YouTube and through your preferred podcast app.

Being invited on the show which started my podcast-obsession (and inspired me to start The Worried Writer) was a big moment for me and I talk about some lessons learned from the experience.

I also mention the time I interviewed Joanna on The Worried Writer. Head here for that episode.

  • Stop Worrying; Start Writing audiobook. I said last month that I would try to get it recorded during August, but I didn’t manage to fit it in – sorry! I am hoping to book the studio time during September and get it finished.
  • Thank you for all your replies re. possible funding for the show. Most folk have voted for Patreon and I’m considering ideas for ‘subscriber-only’ perks such as a private Facebook group for writerly support. Let me know what you think!

 

In the interview:

On working in publishing as an editor as well as being an author:

‘There isn’t a switch off button because everything I’m doing is in the same field. At the same time I do really love what I do.’

 

‘It can be quite tricky, sometimes. It’s a lot of characters in my head!’

 

‘It’s hard to have a full-time job and have the energy to do the thing on the side. I think it comes down to trying to enjoy it… You also need to be kind to yourself.

 

On writing process:

‘I do best during the day on a Saturday and Sunday.’

 

‘It’s about finding the time which works best for you.’

 

‘When I’m not actually physically writing, I’m always thinking about it… Stuff takes time to form.’

 

‘I’ve spent ages wishing I could be a planner and I’ve tried to be a planner… But it just doesn’t work. It kind of blocks something in my brain.’

 

On creative block:

‘I get quite paralysed by thinking about the industry… Because of my job I know how many submissions we get and how many get published and it’s not many.’

 

‘There will be times when I’m writing and I’ll think ‘this is never going to sell’ and that’s quite paralysing.’

 

On working as an editor for Harper Collins:

‘Everyone in publishing is so nice.’

 

‘Getting a deal is often about timing.’

 

‘We have a lot to get through so the opening of a book is really important…’

 

‘I find a lot of writers think they need to start a chapter quite softly and they’ll talk about the weather or do a recap on the previous chapter… Cut that out and go straight to the action.’

 

‘I always say to my authors that what I’m saying is a suggestion rather than an order. At the end of the day, an author is the one in charge of their book.’

 

On getting a book deal:

‘The key is to carry on.’

 

Recommended by Phoebe:

On Writing by Stephen King

Writing A Bestseller by Jacq Burns

How To Become A Writer (short story)by Lorrie Moore – New York Times 

Literary Rejections Blog 

 

 

 

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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The Worried Writer Episode #30: A.L. Michael ‘Always Write More Than You Talk About Writing’

A.L.Michael

My guest today is A.L. Michael, author of nine romantic comedies including Goodbye Ruby Tuesday and The Last Word.

Her latest release is Cocktails and Dreams, part of the new Martini Club series.

Andi is also a Creative Therapeutic Facilitator, currently researching the power of creative writing to be helpful in recovering from eating disorders.

 

Find out more at almichael.com or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

In the intro I give a personal update (spoiler-alert – I did more holidaying than writing in July!) and talk about my plans for August.

I also mention Joanna Penn’s recent podcast episode about her experience at Thrillerfest, in which she discusses comparisonitis and the difficulty of balancing ambition and contentment. Go here for the episode (it’s really worth a listen) and here for Joanna’s wonderful book on marketing How To Market A Book.

Finally, I talk about the future of the podcast and the possibility of adding advertising or sponsorship or joining Patreon. And, in lieu of corporate sponsorship, I plug my own book on writing! Click HERE for store links.


 

If you have any thoughts on advertising or patreon or suggestions for ways in which I can improve the show, please do get in touch. I would love to hear from you!

In the interview:

On process:

‘I have a number for that day that I’m happy with wordcount-wise.’

 

‘Sometimes, I’ve got no idea where they’re going now so I’ll play with the characters for a bit or research a location and something usually pops up.’

 

‘I work from a very brief skeleton, but I usually write little chunks in a notebook that’s specifically for that book.’

 

On writing as a career:

‘I had my careers advice at seventeen and I said ‘I’m going to university to study writing and I’m going to be a writer’ and he said ‘that’s not a job’.’

 

On doing a degree in creative writing:

‘I think I wrote a lot of crap then, but I learned how to form a story and how to get criticism and feedback… But you could only be a literary writer in their eyes.’

 

Andi’s tips for productivity:

‘I like being in control… I do a lot of list-making and goal-setting.’

 

‘I would love to do a retreat so that’s on my list… I usually go to a festival every year where I run creative writing workshops.’

 

‘I think play is really important and experimenting.’

‘Always write more than you talk about writing.’

 

On being a worried writer:

‘You’ll always have worries with writing because it makes you so vulnerable.’

 

‘Everyone has that particular number in their word-count when you hit it and think ‘God, I’m awful’… Usually to get over it I remind myself that I’ve done it once so I can do it again. I think finishing a book is the hardest thing you can do… But if you’ve finished a book, you can finish another book.’

‘I thought being published was the end of the journey, the end-goal, but it’s actually the start.’

 

On writing as a therapeutic tool:

‘It’s a very freeing experience.’

 

 

Thank you so much for listening – I truly appreciate it!

If you have a writing (or publishing) question that you’d like me to tackle, please get in touch via email or Twitter.

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

And if you have a moment to share the show on social media or leave a rating on iTunes (or your preferred podcast app), that would be brilliant!  THANK YOU!

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The Worried Writer Episode #29: M. J. Lee ‘Let Yourself Enjoy Life’


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

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

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

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

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

I also answer a listener question from Janine Swann.

Janine wrote:

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

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

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

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

 

 

In the interview:

On getting stuck:

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

 

On process:

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

 

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

 

The importance of getting into the zone:

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

 

 

Thanks for listening!

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

The Worried Writer on iTunes

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

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

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2017 Goals: Halfway There?

As regular visitors know, I’m a massive fan of setting goals. During the last couple of years, I have aired mine in public for some extra motivation (accountability!) and as an exercise in ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.

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

So far, this year feels like my most productive ever, but I know there is still so much I want to do! Also, I want to make sure I don’t let my motivation or progress slip over the second half of the year.

Time seems to be flying past faster than ever and I know how easy it is to lose weeks – or even months – if I don’t stay focused on my main goals. It’s too easy to get caught up in the latest ‘shiny thing’, in learning about all the possibilities in this exciting publishing landscape, or just in the day-to-day ‘busy work’ of running an author business.

So, I thought it would be a good idea to do a halfway check-point to see if I’m on track. I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit nervous…

Writing

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

Progress Report:

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

Writing two new novels… Um. Not started, yet. Need to prioritise this for the remaining five and a half months of the year.

My initial thought is ‘Argh! I can’t write two novels in under six months’, but some quick calculations shoot down that objection… Let’s say I have five months. That’s 20 weeks.

2 x 80,000 words = 160,000 words

160,000 divided by 20 = 8000

8000 words per week is 1143 words per day.

That sounds much more manageable, doesn’t it?

I will, however, have to get strict about prioritising writing new words, though. I find it frustratingly easy to let writing slip down my to-do list even though it’s the most enjoyable and fulfilling part of what I do, as well as the most important!

Publishing

I planned to rewrite and publish Beneath The Water and my supernatural book, and to get The Secrets of Ghosts made into an audio book.

Progress Report:

I landed a new publishing deal with Lake Union for Beneath The Water and have just finished the structural rewrites. It will be published early 2018.

I am currently working on the editorial notes from my agent for the supernatural book and am planning to have that finished by the end of next week.

I did get an audio book made, but I chose my novella, The Garden of Magic, instead… The narrator, Tracey Norman, did a fabulous job and was a joy to work with.

Also, I have decided to attempt the narration for the audio version of Stop Worrying; Start Writing. I’m going into the studio next week!

 

Learning

I have been consuming less and creating more, which is excellent as I think I’ve been skewed in the wrong direction for a long time! I’ve still read some brilliant books, though. One really useful ‘craft’ book I discovered is Alexanda Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks For Authors.

On the business/marketing side, I’m working my way through Mark Dawson’s Ads For Authors course. Even if you aren’t ready to spend money on his paid training, he offers loads of information (and a mini video course) for free, and his Self Publishing Formula podcast is excellent, too.

Creativity

I still haven’t started scheduling ‘artist days’ to refill the creative well. Must do better!

Walking isn’t strictly ‘creativity’ but I do think it helps me to think (as well as having health benefits) and I’ve been sticking to my daily habit of a morning walk. I would like to increase my stamina and distance, though, and maybe add a second walk in the afternoon (or a yoga session).

Community

I planned to keep up with my newsletter for my mailing list subscribers and I wanted to increase the size of my list.

I also planned to continue with the monthly episodes of the podcast and to add more content to this site.

Progress Report:

I created a ‘perk’ (a free short story) and have been giving that away via Instafreebie to grow my list.

I’ve been keeping up with my newsletters, sending them every 4-6 weeks, and have had some brilliant conversations with readers which feels amazing!

If you are interested in hearing about my fiction releases, giveaways and exclusive content, sign up here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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