The Worried Writer Episode #25 Marie-Louise Jensen ‘A lot of my writing was done in the car’

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!

For more on Marie-Louise and her books head to her website, Twitter, or Amazon Author Page.

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:

The Self Publishing Formula (with Mark Dawson and James Blatch)

The Bestseller Experiment

And I answer a writing craft question and mention my own mentoring service. More details here.

If you have a writing (or publishing) question that you’d like me to tackle in a future episode, 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).

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

In the interview:

Marie Louise explains her writing process:

‘I do tend to do my research first… I read and read and read and get myself steeped in that era.’

‘I never start a book until I can see the first scene in my head.’

Marie-Louise describes how she uses an A4 ring-binder for both collating her research notes and planning her book.

Her journey to publication and how her Masters at Bath Spa University led to signing with her agent:

‘It was kind of a dream walk-in to the world.’

School visits:

‘I think meeting kids and interacting with them is incredibly useful for the author and it’s just fun.’

Marie-Louise reveals the challenges of fitting writing into a family life:

‘A lot of my writing was done in the car while they [the children] were in gym or drama or whatever… I would write whenever I had time.’

‘I can write pretty much any time I’ve got the time.’

And the difficulties of self-promotion/marketing:

‘I’m absolutely rubbish… I can’t sell anything, let alone myself.’

Read More

The Worried Writer Episode #24: Gillian McAllister ‘I write everything down’

Gillian McAllister 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.

For more on Gillian and her writing, head to her website, or find her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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.

Also, I mention that I have (finally!) set up a page on Facebook for the podcast. Please head over and give it a quick ‘like’ if you are so inclined… I would really appreciate it!

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.

Thank you! 

 

Read More

Five Tools To Help You Smash Your Writing Goals This Year

It’s the time of year for goal setting and making resolutions. See mine here!

But when it comes to the next twelve months, how do we stay on track? How do we make sure we achieve our writing goals and are punching the air in triumph on December 31st?

Paperchase organiserHere are my top five tools for exactly that:

1. Schedule your time!

It’s not enough to say ‘I will write for an hour every day’ you need to put that hour in your diary. I use a paper diary (an organiser from Paperchase) but you can use Google Calendar or your favourite app. Whatever you are comfortable with and, ideally, already use for your other important appointments.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Tool-up With Scrivener

If you don’t already use it (or have tried it in the past and found it overwhelming), I recommend you give Scrivener another try. It really is brilliant for organising novels and long non-fiction projects and, even if you use it the most basic manner (as I do!) it is worth it for the project-targets and ‘writing-only’ screen modes.

Speaking as someone who tried – and failed – in her first few attempts at using Scrivener, I recommend getting a book as a guide. I used Writing A Novel With Scrivener by David Hewson but Scrivener Essentials: A Quick-Start Visual Guide (recommended by my lovely dad) is even better – especially for visual learners. It comes in both a Mac and PC version, too, so it matches the version of the software exactly.

3. Eliminate distractions

Switch off the internet (or certain sites such as Twitter and Facebook) for set periods of time using this brilliant, free Chrome add-on – StayFocusd. Freedom is also good (although it isn’t free, there is a 60-day money-back guarantee).

I’ve recommended these apps on the podcast before but they really do help. Another tip is to try wearing noise-cancelling headphones (with or without music/nature sounds).

4. Reward Yourself Regularly

Stickers are brilliant as small rewards (especially for the stationery-obsessed) but small breaks to check email/Twitter or read a book, put on a song and dance around the room, have a cup of tea or some food (maybe go for something healthy, at least some of the time!), are all good, too.

5. Find Your Tribe

Find a community of like-minded writers by checking Facebook groups, writing forums, or local groups. Reading writing websites and books and listening to podcasts can help, too; anything which makes you feel less alone/bonkers for pursuing the often-frustrating, devilishly-difficult skill of writing!

Hope those tips are helpful! 

Do let me know in the comments and feel free to share tips of your own.

Struggle with procrastination? Like productivity tips? Perhaps you might be interested in more… I’m writing a whole book on the subject: CLICK HERE to be notified when it’s out!

 

 

Read More

My 2017 Writing Goals

 

2017-goals

It might not make interesting reading (sorry!) but I found it so useful to set out my goals last year and the added terror of putting them in public was truly motivational, so I’m doing it again! Also, I love reading about other people’s plans and goals and find it inspiring and useful; it feels only fair that I join in…

LAST YEAR

Under ‘writing’ last year, I set the following goals:

This year I want to finish the supernatural book and get it ready for submission.

Finish my WIP (working title: Beneath The Water).

Write the first draft of a completely new novel.

In other words, by December 2016, I want two completed novels and one brand new first draft.

The supernatural book is finished and being read by my agent and BTW is finished/rewritten and under consideration by my editor at Lake Union. I didn’t, however, manage another new draft.

THIS YEAR

writing goalsWriting

Even though I didn’t manage three new books last year, I’m going to set it as my goal for 2017.

I am going to learn from my mistakes and work on managing my time. Mainly, I need to remember that I can’t work on more than one (fiction) project at any time, so I need to speed up on my rewrites/editing. First-draft writing always stops when I’m rewriting something else and I need to accept that this will happen and schedule my work more effectively. I spent a lot of time doing rewrites/final edits in 2016!

So, my goal is to write two new novels and to finish/edit/publish my non-fiction project – the Worried Writer book.

Publishing

I will edit (as required) BTW and my supernatural book and get them out into the world, one way or another… I’m hoping for favourable publishing contracts (and would love to work with Lake Union again as the experience has been AMAZING) but that it not in my direct control, sadly!

Get The Secrets of Ghosts made into an audiobook.

As above, publish the Worried Writer book and, possibly, record the audio version, too.

Learning

I really enjoyed the productivity course I did last year and the (many!) webinars, podcasts, blog posts and books I consumed (on both writing business and craft). I will continue that this year, although I am also going to be more careful about getting overwhelmed.

I attended a webinar last week with my heroine/mentor, Joanna Penn, and she offered a great tip for avoiding information overwhelm; take note of the things you come across in a digital file somewhere (with the links and so on) and then, once a quarter, go through the file and consider what you want to act upon. This way, you can measure the tools and tips against your goals/overall strategy and decide whether they are a priority, and you stop yourself from jumping from one ‘shiny new thing’ to another and never really following through on anything. Genius!

Creativity

This is another ‘roll-over’ goal from last year. I am going to continue to make time for reading and research and walking (which is good for both creativity and health) but also book in some ‘artist days’ into my diary. While staying focused and working hard, I need to make sure I’m also taking time to fill up the well, get away from the screen and live!

 

Community

I have been truly blessed in 2016 with the support and friendship of so many lovely people in the writing community. As I said in my recent podcast, the conversations and messages that I’ve had through The Worried Writer have been wonderful and I am truly grateful.

I had so many plans for The Worried Writer site last year which fell off the bottom of my to-do list, so I am putting them back on for 2017.

I would like to make this site more useful to you guys, and to build my audience/get more interaction with the podcast. I’m still cogitating exactly how this will look, but I will let you know as soon as I know!

I will also attend at least one ‘real life’ bookish event this year, as I loved the blogger/writer meet-up I attended in 2016.

One of my goals last year was to send regular newsletters and run giveaways, both of which I did (yay!).

I have been bowled over by the support from my lovely mailing list subscribers (thank you!) and I want to both improve my newsletters/perks for them and increase the size of my list.

I’m also intending to get to grips with Facebook. Twitter has always been my social media hang-out of choice, but I know that Facebook is beloved by many and, from a marketing perspective, I need to make more of an effort.

Okay – that’s it!

Your turn! What would you like to achieve in 2017? 

Read More

The Worried Writer Episode #23: Super-Charge Your Writing Goals for 2017!

ww_sarahpainter_headerimageHappy new year! This is a short episode to kick off 2017 and I reveal my tip for super-charging your goals.

In the January 2016 episode, I defined what makes a good goal and how to set one, and this year I talk about the importance in working out the ‘why’ behind your goals.

As you probably know (since I bang on about it enough!), I love setting goals and believe they are one of the most powerful things we can do when trying to achieve things in writing (and life).

Last year, I wrote about my writing goals for 2016 and in this episode I recap on how I got on and chat a little about my aims for 2017.

I found setting my goals (and putting them in public – eek!) incredibly motivating, so I’m doing it again this year… Look out for my 2017 goals post on Monday!

Next month’s episode features an interview with a listener of the podcast, Gillian McAllister. Gillian’s first novel, Everything But The Truth, is out 9th March and it was really interesting to speak to someone who is at an early stage of their career.

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).

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening!

 

Read More

Christmas Gift Ideas for Worried Writers

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!

The Essentials:

 

 

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).

Extra-large blue Moleskine: £10.50

 

 

 

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.

Stabilo 88 fine-liners are my go-to felt tip and this pack of mini-size sweet colours is £8.99.

 

Pretty Literary:

alwaysimpossible

 

 

I love this quote and find it genuinely useful. Plus, this typographic print is so pretty!

Print by LilyWillowDesigns on Etsy. £3.01.

 

 

 

 

SONY DSC

 

 

Literary cushion with added library-love.

Virginia Woolf cushion from The Literary Gift Company: £18.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books:

 

I have re-read (and recommended) this book many times. If you struggle with fear and self-doubt, this book will make you feel less alone.

The Courage To Write by Ralph Keyes

 

 

 

 

 

I really enjoyed this from Elizabeth Gilbert (the podcast is good, too!).

She is warm, wise and encouraging, and I know I will turn to this book regularly.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Healthy Writer: 

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.

FitBit Alta WristBand (also available in black, purple or dark blue).

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Just For Fun:

chocolate_miniature_books

 

Adorable chocolate books from Choc On Choc: £9.99.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

zombieA Literary Feast: Recipes Inspired by Novels, Poems and Plays by Jennifer Barclay

Food and literature combined!

And, finally… For the writer who has everything (and who isn’t freaked-out by the undead):

Zombie bookends: £15.00

 

 

 

Hope that helps! If you’ve got any gift recommendations, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. 

 

Read More