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.

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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 #20: Caroline Green ‘Storytelling Is What Inspires Me’

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Caroline Green is an award-winning author of books for young people. Her debut, Dark Ride, won the RONA Young Adult Book of the Year and the Waverton Good Read Award, Hold Your Breath won the Oldham Book Award, and both Hold Your Breath and Cracks have been short-listed for eleven awards between them. Caroline is Writer In Residence at East Barnet School and teaches Writing for Children at City University. She has recently moved genre with a pen name, Cass Green, and a brand new psychological thriller, The Woman Next Door, which is currently storming the Kindle charts.

You can find out more about Caroline and her books at www.carolinegreen.net

Also on Facebook and Twitter: @carolinesgreen or @CassGreenWrites

 

 In the intro I give a quick update on my writing (I finished my latest book – yay!) and recommend Mark McGuinness’s new book, Productivity For Creative People which is currently free on Amazon (or from Mark’s website, Lateral Action).

Mark is poet and a creative coach and he really knows his stuff. You might also like my interview with him in episode 12 of this podcast!

Also, I have completed my first ‘independent’ venture and the audio book of The Language of Spells is out now!

You can listen to a short sample on Audible and, if you sign-up for a 30-day trial, you can get the whole book for free. Here is the book on Audible (UK)Audible (US) and iTunes.

I answer a listener question on the writing advice ‘show don’t tell’ and mention an article I wrote on this subject for Novelicious. Here’s the link.

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.

Thank you for listening!

In the interview:

Caroline on the realities of publishing:

 ‘The year when most of these things were happening and I had national paper reviews and won awards and everything was wonderful, that was the year I actually did my self-employed accounts and cried because I had made no money.’

 

On using a pen name:

‘I think it just helps you to separate the two writing personas…’

On writing:

‘My perfect writing day involves going to The British Library… It feels like more of a commitment and I feel that when I’m there I really have to make the time count.’

‘Storytelling is what inspires me.’

Recommended:
Caroline recommends Into The Woods by John Yorke

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way

Write Your Novel From The Middle by James Scott Bell

Zoe Marriott’s blog The Zoe-Trope.

The Pomodoro Technique for timed writing sessions.

 

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The Worried Writer Episode 12: Mark McGuinness ‘Start with your curiosity’

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Mark McGuinness is a poet, creative coach, and author of non-fiction. As well as coaching individuals and businesses, Mark runs two highly successful websites for creatives, Lateral Action and Wishful Thinking. Mark’s first non-fiction title, Resilience, offers practical ways to deal with two mainstays of the author life: rejection and criticism, while his latest book, Motivation For Creative People, shows the reader exactly how to break down their own barriers to productivity.

Mark has been coaching creative people for twenty years and saw the same issues repeated; resilience, procrastination, lack of motivation, and creative block.

In Motivation For Creative People: How to stay creative while gaining money, fame and reputation (see my review here), Mark describes the different types of motivation and how they can be harnessed to increase productivity and satisfaction.

Find out more about Mark and his books at lateralaction.com. To sign up for Mark’s free creative course on becoming a creative professional head to lateralaction.com/pathfinder

One-on-one coaching is at lateralaction.com/coaching and his poetry is at www.markmcguinness.com

In the interview:

Hypnosis and meditation for unlocking creative block.

How Mark built his confidence through blogging and how the blog led to the book.

On choosing what path to follow:

‘Start with your curiosity.’

‘Your body is your best coach… If you pay attention to your body and your heart, the physical sensations will let you know how strongly attracted you are to it or not.’

On the tension between art and business:

‘I’ve spoken to hundreds of creatives and they all say the same thing. You have ambitions for your career and, yet, as soon as you achieve them or are close to achieving there is this pressure and there is a conflict… But that is normal… It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you personally, it’s an occupational hazard.’

Mark talks about the power of focusing entirely on one thing at a time and being

‘Cocooned in the world of an individual chapter’.

He also mentions the benefits of meditation and practical tips such as finding physical/habitual ways of marking out the different states (creative writing state distinct from ‘answering emails’ state for example).

And I ask Mark what he would advise a creative person who feels blocked or has fallen out of love with their work.

Links mentioned:

headspaceappI’ve been using Stay Focused, a free Chrome extension to moderate my internet use. Highly recommended!

Headspace: I’m going to give meditation a try and I have heard good things about this meditation/mindfulness app. I will report back next month on how I get on…

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.

Thank you for listening!

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Episode #07 The Worried Writer: Clodagh Murphy ‘There’s a reason I write fiction…’


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In this episode I talk to author of romantic comedy, Clodagh Murphy, about her writing process, journey to publication and struggles with self-doubt.

Clodagh Murphy has published several romantic comedies including Girl In A Spin, Frisky Business, and Some Girls Do. The Irish Independent called Clodagh ‘An exceptionally talented (and hilarious) Irish writer’.


Find out more about Clodagh’s work at www.clodaghmurphy.com or follow her on Twitter @ClodaghMMurphy

 

Recommended by Clodagh:


The 7 Habits of the Prolific by Hillary Rettig. (Clodagh and I both love this book!).

Freedom software for internet-free work time

Alphasmart – another great way to avoid the internet while writing. Plus, it only lets you see a couple of lines of text at a time which helps you to just plough ahead and not get derailed by reading back over your work.

 

 

Also recommended:

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast

The Joined Up Writing podcast. Wayne and Leah were kind enough to recommend The Worried Writer and to invite me onto their show as a guest. Check out my interview here: Banish Self Doubt – interview with Sarah Painter – Joined Up Writing #30.

 

I reveal the title of my next book – podcast exclusive! – and give a writing update.

Also, I answer a listener question from @Maxi_Scribbler on Twitter:

Any chance of a chat on the podcast about finding an agent whether before publication or after and how you found yours?

Thanks so much for the question, Maxi!

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.

Thank you for listening!

 

 

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Episode #02 The Worried Writer: A Conversation with Stephanie Burgis

ep2My guest today is Stephanie Burgis, award-winning author of short stories and novels that mix the genres of fantasy and historical.

I’ve know Stephanie online for a couple of years and I’m continually impressed by her productivity. No matter what is going on in her life, she seems to pull amazing word counts out of the bag with an astonishing regularity.

Stephanie is also a generous and supportive member of the writing community, and it was wonderful to get the opportunity to speak to her.

For more information on Stephanie and her books, head to www.stephanieburgis.com or find her on Twitter @stephanieburgis

We talk about the importance of both discipline and kindness in staying productive, and Stephanie gives her top tips for making it through the long slog of a novel.

Recommendations from the podcast:

Stephanie mentions that the Clarion West Workshop was life-changing for her as a writer.

The wonderful short story that made me sob (available free to read on the Daily Science Fiction site): Dancing In The Dark 

I share my recent difficulties with getting back to writing after a short break, and a technique for introducing a little kindness into the way you speak to yourself when struggling with writing (or anything, really!).

I also answer my first listener question (sent in by @evergrowinbrain – thank you!).

He wrote:

‘I do wonder if forcing words out ever becomes good stuff and if you keep tabs on which bits your write ‘under duress’ and which bits were easy. 

Are 500 rubbish words still better than no words at all?

Or do they not count if they aren’t good?’

My experience, for what it’s worth, is that by the time I’ve finished the draft and let it rest, I can’t tell which words came easily and which did not.

I slogged my way through 50,000 words of a book once before deciding that life was too short to spend this amount of effort on something I hated. I put the book in the metaphorical bottom drawer. A year later I read it with surprise and pleasure. There was lots of good stuff in there.

So, to answer your question, I don’t think the quality of the words matter for two reasons. Firstly, you are too close to assess quality at the time; you need to finish the project and let it rest before you know.

Secondly, it’s all practice and you should count all of the words you write. You might end up deleting them, but that’s okay; sometimes it’s necessary to write the wrong words before you get to the right ones. And you should definitely get the credit for the work!

The only thing I would add is that if you are finding every single writing session a horrible slog, then it might be worth considering whether there is something wrong with the big picture. It might be that you’re trying to write a book for the wrong reasons, or that there’s something wrong with your plot or character motivation.

I do hope that answers your question, and thank you again for writing in.

If you have anything to add to my answer – or an alternative opinion – do let me know.

And if you’ve got a writing-related question that you’d like featured on the show, don’t hesitate to ask.

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a review on iTunes.

And thank you for listening!

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