The Worried Writer Episode Ep#46: Sherrilyn Kenyon ‘Respect Your Muse’

My guest today is urban fantasy superstar Sherrilyn Kenyon. Sherrilyn is a number 1 New York Times and Internationally bestselling author. Her first novel came out in 1993, she has over 70 million books in print worldwide and she writes in several successful series such as the Dark Hunters and Black Hat Society. Her latest Dark Hunter book (number 28) is Stygian.

I spoke to Sherrilyn in the summer while she was busy packing for DragonCon and she was incredibly nice and upbeat, despite having just come back from a visit to the dentist. A real professional!

Sherrilyn shares the worst rejection of her career, secrets of longevity in publishing, and her writing process.

Find out more about Sherrilyn at www.sherrilynkenyon.com

Visit her on FaceBook or Instagram

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I go through my goals for 2018 and talk about how I’ve done, and some lessons learned.

I mention my on-going attempts to improve my concentration and focus after reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

Here is the link to my 2018 goals (set in January).

 

I give a shout-out to new patrons supporting me via Patreon. Thank you so much!

You can support the show for as little as $1 per month and, for supporters at the $2 and above level, there is an exclusive mini-episode released in the middle of every month.

There are nine ‘extras’ already available and another one will go up mid-December. So far, I’ve answered patron-questions and given writing craft tips, but I’m also open to suggestions…

To become a Worried Writer insider and to support the podcast head to The Worried Writer on Patreon.

THANK YOU!

LISTENER QUESTION

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.

 

IN THE INTERVIEW

On writing a long series:

‘I’ve been writing Dark Hunter since I was eighteen… I love the characters, I love the world.’

‘Don’t write anything you don’t love… Go into it thinking that these are lifelong friends… Don’t chase a trend, don’t write just to get published, write what is in your heart, what is in your soul, because you may have to live with these characters for the rest of your life.’

On the pressure of success:

‘You never want to disappoint a fan, you do have that pressure… And nothing hurts worse than hearing that a fan didn’t like a book, that’s a stab to my throat and my heart.’

‘I put my heart and soul and every ounce of time, I don’t rush a book, I respect my fans too much for that.’

Sherrilyn’s writing process:

‘I know when I’m really in the zone when it’s just me and the characters and I don’t hear anything else.. I used to keep my babies literally strapped to my chest because I was worried they would need something and I wouldn’t hear them.’

‘All I’ve ever really done is write.’

‘Writing advice is like a buffet, take what you like… Leave everything else behind.’

‘I attempt to do 25 to 30 pages a day, but I don’t always.’

 

‘To me writing is like channeling spirits, its almost like being a medium.’

 

On self-doubt:

‘I hate it when writers beat themselves up… Writers – don’t be cruel to yourselves! Respect your muse, because that’s a quick way to kill her.’

‘No, we all think we suck. The suck song goes on every time I write.’

‘All I ever wanted was to be a writer and I pursued it wholeheartedly.’

‘Be fearless when you write. Just turn those chickens loose in the yard and let them take you on a journey.’

On not giving up:

‘Let those characters fly… We’re all writers but those characters chose you. They live in you. They could have picked another writer but they picked you, don’t let them not have their story told.’

‘I’ve seen so many writers give up over the years and that really breaks my heart because I think of all the stories they had in them… And I hate that… Please don’t give up, get that story out there.’

 

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 #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.

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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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My 2018 Writing Goals

This is my third 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 putting them ‘out there’ definitely helps me to stay on track!

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

If you would prefer not to put your goals on the internet (eek!), finding an accountability partner can also work really well. You just need a friend or acquaintance who is also trying to achieve concrete goals, and then you set a regular meet-up (or schedule regular emails) in which you will set your tasks and report on your progress. It really helps!

Using a combination of public accountability, private accountability partners, and my own beloved system of tracking with both a paper planner and a bullet journal, 2017 was my most productive year, yet. I want to maintain this focus and, as always, improve!

So, 2018…

Writing

I know I always say this but here goes… I will prioritise creation this year. I say ‘creation’ rather than ‘writing’ because, while I want to keep novels as my main focus, I also want to encourage myself to try different forms and to create, finish and publish all kinds of things (including non-fiction for this site).

In concrete terms, my writing goals are:

  • Write two new novels.
  • Write (at least!) six articles for the Worried Writer site.
  • Try writing something in a different form (for fun!) eg. Radio play or a short story.

I also want to get more efficient with my other tasks (such as email, admin, marketing) to free-up more time for writing.

I think that batching similar tasks, keeping a firm grip on my to-do lists and using a timer will help.

Also, I want to be more aware of my attention (and when it is fragmented), as I want to develop my ability for sustained, deep focus. I’m halfway through Cal Newport’s Deep Work and it makes a compelling argument for the importance of this last goal.

 

 

Publishing

  • Beneath The Water is up for pre-order and is out on February 8th from Lake Union. Create a marketing plan (and follow through!) including guest blogs, interviews, and giveaways.
  • Get a new publishing deal with either my supernatural book or WIP.
  • Publish new urban fantasy (the first in a series!) through Siskin Press (aiming for October).
  • Get print rights back for The Secrets of Ghosts and publish paperback myself.
  • Get better at marketing and work on my mindset issues around this topic.

 

Learning

I had some great training on performance and presentation with The Scottish Book Trust in November 2017, and I’d like to do more ‘real life’ learning in 2018.

I also need to consolidate the information I learned through Mark Dawson’s Ads For Authors course and do more testing on various ads.

 

 

Creativity

I did a little bit better at scheduling time off for ‘refilling the well’ in 2017 but there is still room for improvement. Particularly in scheduling full days in which I leave the house and visit a gallery or similar…

 

 

Health

I really want to focus on my health this year. Since my children no longer require walking to and from school every day and my job involves lots of sitting, I am keenly aware that my general fitness is declining. So, this year:

  • Increase walking to an average of 10,000 steps per day. I’ve been tracking my daily walks (in mileage) for a while, but by switching to total daily steps I’m hoping to encourage myself to just move a bit more/take regular screen breaks.
  • Do some longer walks and hill walks.
  • Continue playing badminton and add in yoga class (or schedule time to do yoga/stretching at home).
  • Do breathing exercises every day.

Also, as I truly believe this vital for health and happiness, but I’m pretty terrible at taking my own advice…

Schedule time off that is just for relaxing (or socialising or reading quietly on the sofa) WITHOUT GUILT!

 

If you are interested in improving your health and wellbeing, I’d heartily recommend The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn and Dr Euan Lawson. It tackles the health issues specific to writers in a practical and friendly manner. I’m very excited to have Joanna Penn back on the podcast next month to discuss this important topic further.

 

Community

  • Get better at sending out my newsletter and increase the size of my reader group/mailing list.
  • Continue with monthly episodes of the podcast and add a Patreon account to help with the running costs (with perks such as extra content).
  • Get to more real-life author meet-ups for fun, friendship and support.
  • I intend to do at least one author event (in which I read my fiction – meep!) or workshop (in which I talk about strategies for overcoming fear, self-doubt and procrastination).

I am also planning on attending my first professional conference. I keep swithering between the traditional book events such as ScotsWrite or an RNA event, and one of the more business-focused ones like The London Book Fair.

 

Your turn! What are your goals for 2018?

Let’s make it a good year! 

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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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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!

 

 

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