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!

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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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The Worried Writer #21: Deadlines and Mild Concussion

ww_sarahpainter_headerimagetlos_audiobookcover_smallJust a short episode this month and there is no author interview – apologies!

I am buried under a deadline and some life stuff and, as alluded to in the title, I also managed to faint and bang my head a couple of weeks ago which knocked out a week of productivity/messed up my schedule.

In this episode I give an update on my writing and talk a little bit about how to cope when life (or, in this case, slight concussion) gets in the way.

I also chat about the process of making my debut novel The Language of Spells into an audiobook with ACX.

If you’re curious to see (and hear!) the result, the book is available from Audible, Amazon UK, Amazon US, or iTunes.

Plus, if you don’t already have an Audible subscription, you can sign up for a FREE one month trial and get The Language of Spells completely free!

I thank the wonderful Joanna Penn for alerting me to ACX in the first place – listen to my interview with Joanna here.

I also recommend a podcast which I am currently enjoying: The Self-Publishing Formula by bestselling thriller author (and FB advertising guru) Mark Dawson and novice author James Blatch.

I will be back next month with a full-length episode… Happy writing, everyone!

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!

 

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