My 2019 Writing Goals

This is my fourth 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 sharing them definitely helps me to stay on track.

In case you’re interested, the previous posts are here: January 2016, January 2017 and January 2018.

Throughout 2018, I also swapped goals and progress with two writer friends on a weekly and monthly basis, and that was hugely helpful from both a productivity and happiness standpoint. I highly recommend finding an accountability partner if you can!

So, I will continue with the same system in 2019 – sharing my goals and progress both publicly on The Worried Writer and privately with my friends.

In 2018 I flirted with software solutions for ‘do do’ lists and planning, but kept falling back on my trusty Moleskine business planner. This year, I’ve treated myself to a Passion Planner (look at the pretty!) with some new washi tape and highlighters. I am hoping that the combination will help me to remember to follow my passion and to keep hold of the joy of creation, even while I get, inevitably, overwhelmed and and stressed…

So, 2019…

Writing

As always, I want to maintain focus on writing as my primary goal each and every day. I will write first thing, block out time in my schedule for writing, and track my word count (and time spent writing).

I am also going to practice dictation. I began experimenting with it at the end of 2018, but need to give it more of a go… I will start with non-fiction and note-taking, as that feels more doable than fiction, and re-read Christopher Downing’s Fool Proof Dictation book.

I have two books in progress at the moment: the second Crow Investigations mystery and something I have described to my agent as ‘magical realism Downton Abbey’. I am thoroughly enjoying both and want to finish them in the first half of 2019.

To stretch myself (and try for my most productive writing year ever), I’m planning to write the third Crow book in the second half of the year.

For non-fiction, I am considering writing the second Worried Writer book during the second half of the year, but I am concerned that might be a little bit too ambitious. Especially as I am feeling very fiction-focused at the moment. However, I am planning to write six articles for the site during the year, and some of those might form the basis of chapters in a new non-fiction book at a later date.

  • Finish Crow Investigations Book Two
  • Write Crow Investigations Book Three
  • Finish ‘magical realism Downton Abbey’ book and send to my agent
  • Write six articles for the Worried Writer

 

Publishing

Siskin Press will be two years old on the 1st March and I want to do a review of the company’s progress, including a breakdown of sales and different streams of income.

I want to make sure that I am making the most out of the creative assets at my disposal. This includes making sure that existing titles are in as many formats as possible and are widely available, and continuing to learn and improve my marketing/advertising activity using Amazon, BookBub and Facebook.

My author website is due an overhaul and I’m thinking of purchasing a pro WordPress theme to make this easier.

I want to continue to build my newsletter list and to improve my newsletters!

  • Create print and large print editions of The Secrets of Ghosts
  • Publish The Lost Girls, my supernatural thriller, at the end of January.
  • Put existing audio books ‘wide’ with Findaway Voices.
  • Either secure audio book publishing deals for The Night Raven and The Lost Girls or get the audio books made myself.
  • Create a workbook edition of Stop Worrying; Start Writing and a large print edition
  • Request the print rights back for my novella The Garden of Magic
  • Publish Crow Investigations books two and three

 

Learning

I learned lots about advertising and marketing in 2018. However, in 2019 I want to put far more of my knowledge into action, particularly with Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

I am going to try some video this year. Even if I decide I hate it and don’t even release the video, I need to give it a go!

As I am now a small publisher as well as a writer, I want to learn more about being a good publisher and improve my skills… One specific area is writing good book blurbs. This a definite skill and not one which comes naturally (to me at any rate). I have Bryan Cohen’s book How To Write A Sizzling Synopsis and I intend to work through it this month.

 

Creativity

Once again, I am putting the goal of scheduling ‘artist’ days (getting out and about to refill the creative well) onto my list. Perhaps this will be the year I manage it!

I also want to get out of the habit of staying on the computer, even when I’m not being productive, because it fees more like ‘work’ when I should just close the laptop and pick up a book!

  • Schedule one day per month to leave the house and go to a gallery (or to explore somewhere new, sit in a cafe with a notebook, walk up a hill etc)
  • Enjoy reading without guilt and make books my ‘go to’ distraction/break-time treat
  • Continue to use good TV and film for inspiration and learning
  • Continue to use cross stitch (or knitting or other craft) for relaxation and thinking time

 

Health

Last year was my worst walking/exercising year for a very long time. I was devastated by grief and felt physically exhausted from May onwards.

I know that I need to be kind to myself and that my emotional state is still pretty fragile, but I want to build up my physical fitness to improve my energy levels and mental wellbeing.

I have a lovely new walking accountability partner for encouragement and I’m planning to slowly increase the frequency and length of my walks over the next couple of months.

 

 

  • Get back to daily walking habit
  • Do some longer walks and hill walks.
  • Continue playing badminton and add in yoga class (or schedule time to do yoga/stretching at home).
  • I had breathing exercises on my list last year, but I discovered I’m actually asthmatic. The inhalers have made a huge difference!

 

Community

  • Continue to improve my newsletter and increase the size of my reader group/mailing list.
  • Continue with monthly episodes of the podcast and the patron-exclusive audio extras.
  • Research the creation of an online course based on Stop Worrying; Start Writing.
  • Attend at least one professional conference. I’ve bought my ticket for 20BooksEdinburgh and am really looking forward to it.

I am also considering visiting The London Book Fair in March.

 

Your turn! What are your goals for 2019?

Feel free to share them below or on The Worried Writer Facebook page.

Let’s make it a great year! 

Read More

The Worried Writer Episode #47: Adam Croft ‘Just Crack On’

My guest today is Adam Croft. With more than a million books sold to date, he is is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world. His psychological thrillers include the hugely successful Her Last Tomorrow and Tell Me I’m Wrong, and his Knight & Culverhouse crime thriller series has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide. Adam’s Kempston Hardwick mystery books are being adapted as audio plays and he has just stepped into non-fiction with The Indie Author Mindset. Adam has been made an honorary Doctor of Arts by the University of Bedfordshire in recognition of his achievements and he runs a crime fiction podcast with fellow author Robert Daws.

For more head to AdamCroft.net or find Adam on Twitter or Facebook.

Adam’s podcast for crime fiction fans: Partner’s in Crime

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I recorded this introduction on 20th December 2018 when I wasn’t quite ready to set my 2019 goals. They will go up in a blog post next week and I will discuss them in February’s episode.

Also, I reveal another new novel! My supernatural thriller, THE LOST GIRLS, is out this month. Huzzah! If you are interested in my fiction, do visit sarah-painter.com and sign up for my reader newsletter.

I give thanks for the wonderful Patreon support. 

I love the ‘community within a community’ that we’ve created over on Patreon and I really enjoy making the audio extras (which go up in the middle of every month).

Thank you so much to everyone supporting The Worried Writer in this way – it means so much to me.

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 the pressures of success:

‘When I’m writing a book and when I finish it, the thing I always ask myself is is it better than the last one… So I think for me I’ve always had that pressure that I put on myself.’

‘I was an overnight success between my eight and ninth books, I guess, as it was my ninth book that really took off and did anymore than just paying the bills.’

On staying fresh:

‘It’s one of the reasons I dipped into non fiction and I write plays…

 

On self-doubt:

‘They all cause me trouble… I always thought that once I’d written more books I would get more confident at it… But I still get that sense of dread on release day. I still think this is the one where I will get found out… Those things don’t change, the only thing that’s changed is the amount of money that comes in from the books.’

 

On The Indie Author Mindset:

‘I get lots and lots of emails from authors asking for help and advice which is great and I’ll always help if I can, because when I started that help simply wasn’t there… I think we should all help each other. But one of the things that struck me was that a lot of the questions had their root in mindset…

 

On being professional:

‘It’s the attitude you have… You’re turning up, you’re getting the job done… You are focusing on the task.’

 

On writing life:

‘I wish I had a typical day, to be honest with you… I’m releasing normally four books a year so when I’m gearing up to a release, which is regularly, things change completely and I do a lot more of the marketing. I spend hours a day on Facebook ads and tweaking those.’

‘It moves in waves, but there’s not a typical day… I’m an author and I run the publishing company.’

 

Coping with overwhelm:

‘I’m currently working on a machine which turns 24-hour days into 43-hour ones, so that’s gonna help!’

If you can, outsourcing stuff is vital… It’s also focusing on what’s most important. Writing is what’s most important… There’s only one thing which is guaranteed to make you more money and secure your future as a writer is to get more books out.’

‘If you learn too much beforehand, things like Facebook advertising can seem like a really big and scary thing but it’s not… If you dive in and learn as you go along it seems much easier… Just crack on and do it.’

 

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.

Read More

The Worried Writer Ep#43: Paul Teague ‘Just Keep Going’


My guest today is thriller and science-fiction author, Paul Teague. Paul is a former broadcaster and journalist for the BBC and he has transferred those skills to his fabulous podcast, Self Publishing Journeys.

One of the reasons I wanted to have Paul on the show is his refreshing honesty and openness about his own publishing business.

In our chat, he talks about the money he has made and his future plans, as well as revealing the pain of comparing himself to others and his own struggles with self-doubt.

For more on Paul and his books go to PaulTeague.net

To learn more about Paul’s podcast: Self-Publishing-Journeys.com

IN THE INTRODUCTION

In writing news, I am just finishing the rewrites on my new book, The Night Raven.

It is going to the copy-editor next week and will be out this October – meep!

Here is the cover and a little info: It’s the first book in a new London-set paranormal mystery series, featuring private investigator Lydia Crow.

If you like the look of it, perhaps you would like to join my author newsletter? I will let you know when The Night Raven is available and enter your name into my launch giveaway. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!

Also, I reveal that I have failed to start my new book project (and have been working on the next book in the Crow Investigations series, instead), but that I’m being kind to myself. It’s been a tough few months, emotionally, and I’m just glad I’m able to write at all!

I talk about my plans to develop my career as a hybrid author – publishing both independently (as I did for Stop Worrying; Start Writing) and with publishers such as Lake Union.

RECOMMENDED

Adam Croft’s book The Indie Author Mindset.

This is a fabulous guide to developing a professional attitude to your writing – something I believe is important whether you are traditionally or independently published.

I also give a shout-out to my new supporters on Patreon. I appreciate my patrons (new and existing!) so very much – THANK YOU!

The next patron-only exclusive extra will go up mid-month and in it I will be answering a question about NaNoWriMo and giving some tips.

For more information on becoming a patron of the show, see The Worried Writer on Patreon.

IN THE INTERVIEW

On writing productivity and schedule:

‘Ever since I was sixteen I’ve been a formulas guy. The only way I can cope with life, really, is to parcel it up… I make meticulous plans.’

‘I don’t do panic. I don’t like surprises.’

‘Time management is a big thing for me… I’m planned out on my weekly planning sheet until December.’

On self-doubt:

‘I was on stage with L.J. Ross who’s just sold zillions of books… And I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a privilege, but I left feeling deflated.’

‘There’s always somebody who is envious of where you are… But I’m beating myself up because I think I’m rubbish and doing terribly.’

The secret to success:

‘Persistence seems to be the one thing that comes through time and time again – just keep going, just keep getting better, just keep putting the next step forward.’

 

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.

 

Read More

Is It Time To Hit The Reset Button On Your Writing Life?

[Image credit: Photo by Carmine Savarese on Unsplash]
I don’t know about you, but I need a writer reset.

In Stop Worrying; Start Writing, I spoke about having to re-learn the same techniques, of having to remind myself of truths I had forgotten, and – once again – this has proved to be the case!

I’m sharing my struggles in the hope that it might be helpful. The summer is a classic time to fall off the writerly wagon, and I want you to know that you are not alone; good habits are hard to establish and easy to lose. A regular refresh is not only normal, but necessary.

For myself, however, I’m talking about rather more than a ‘refresh’: I need a total reset.

I would like to blame this on a recent life event which knocked me out of routine, but that wouldn’t be true. I was already in trouble.

While taking control of my own career and seeing writing as a business saved my sanity and gave me back a sense of optimism and energy, it’s also true that it led me into some less-than-helpful thought patterns. Despite knowing better, I fell into the habit of calling my writing ‘work’. I lumped it in with my working-day – a task on my to-do list alongside ‘updating accounts’ and ‘sending out newsletter’.

Now, this approach actually worked very well for a while. There is something to be said for making writing another mundane ‘to do’, no more difficult (or avoidable!) than any other appointment on my schedule. It’s also good, I think, to apply that old-fashioned notion of a ‘work ethic’ to writing or any other creative endeavour.

Where it stopped working for me was when it stopped working for me… I know that seems obvious, but it wasn’t to me!

Things change. Mind-games that work for months or years can suddenly stop being effective.

Where I went wrong was in ignoring that this had happened and soldiering on with my old habits of thought and routine, even as I got ever-diminishing results.

And, over time, with countless thoughts like ‘I must get on with some work this morning’ and ‘I need 3000 words a day to hit my goal, I must work harder’ and ‘I worked really hard yesterday, I can take time off today’, I equated writing fiction – my love and escape – with work. Hard work. Something difficult and draining which required treats and time off to recover from.

Now, as I’ve already said, this approach can work really well. I’ve long been a fan of mini-rewards and treats to keep my writing life on track. The key different lies, however, in semantics. When I reward myself for 1000 words written with a cup of tea and an episode of Jessica Jones, it can either be framed as a mental ‘high five’, a way of introducing positivity and small ‘wins’ throughout the long slog of a novel.

Or it can be a signal to your brain that you deserve a treat because you just did something awful and boring.

I’ve discovered that the second interpretation can sneak up and sandbag your motivation.

So. What am I doing to hit the reset button?

Taking my own advice (I also mention this as a tip in SWSW – I’d just forgotten to use it!) and stopping referring to writing fiction as ‘work’.

Everything else – this post, replying to emails, sending out my newsletter, running ads, doing my accounts, making the podcast – all of that is ‘work’. Work I enjoy, luckily enough, but work nonetheless. Writing fiction, however, is to be rebranded ‘play’.

More accurately, writing is going back to its original branding… From back before I was published.

Writing was my passion and my joy, my escape and my dream.

Yes, it was something I worried about (and avoided from fear), but it burned brightly in my secret heart. I need to remind myself of that.

I am re-reading favourite books from childhood and my teenage years and spending time every day writing long-hand in my journal – connecting with my younger self.

I’m referring to fiction writing as ‘play’ and correcting myself when I slip up and call it ‘work’.

I’m (trying!) to remove all guilt associated with not getting ‘enough’ writing done and focusing instead on spending time on it. Instead of thinking ‘I must get 1000 words written’ I’m thinking ‘I get to play for two hours this morning’.

How about you? How are your writing habits? Are they serving you well or do you need a writer reset? 

 

Read More

The Worried Writer Episode#40: Cressida McLaughlin ‘You Have To Love The Story’

 

Cressida McLaughlin writes feel-good romances for Harper Collins, including the bestselling The Canal Boat Cafe and The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse. Cressida’s latest series is called The House of Birds and Butterflies and is being released in four parts in ebook format before the paperback arrives this summer.

You can find out more about Cressida and her books at CressidaMcLaughlin.com

Or find her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

 

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I give an update on my own writing… It’s been a very tough month for personal reasons, but I am getting back to work and planning to finish my WIP in June.

Also, I’m still on submission for my supernatural thriller, so fingers crossed I will have some news to share on that front soon.

In more positive news, Writers’ Forum magazine featured me (and The Worried Writer) in the latest edition, and I got sent lovely flowers and tea-related goodies by Lake Union to celebrate selling 50,000 copies of In The Light of What We See. I wish I could tell ‘2011 Sarah’ who was seriously considering giving up the pursuit of publishing… Huzzah!

 

 

LISTENER QUESTION

Marie Madigan, a longtime listener and patron of the show (thanks, Marie!) asked:

When you’ve finished a first draft, how do you tackle self-editing to get it into shape for submission, whether to an editor or your agent? In particular, how do you do this without letting the critical editor side go too far, and maybe strip out what makes your voice and novel unique?

I also give a shout-out to my lovely new patrons and a quick reminder that you can join my Patreon community and get access to the mid-month audio extras:  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

Cressida on the pros and cons of the serial model of writing and publishing:

‘Lots of people like to wait for the full thing to come out. I kind of think of it like television boxsets. You get to the end of the episode and there is a cliffhanger and you’re really excited to see what happens next but also, there’s something enjoyable about that sense of anticipation…’

‘Lots of people seem to like it and from a publishing point of view I’m very lucky because I get five beautiful covers and five publication days quite close together… It feels like it’s got a more solid lead-up and reviews can start coming in.’

‘From a writing point of view, it’s kind of strange because all of my books with HarperCollins have been published in this way so I’ve never had the experience of publishing a book in one go… When it came to plotting it and planning it, I found that really helpful because as well as the story arc for the whole book, I had it split into four separate parts and I knew I needed to make each part really good and have an arc of its own which meant that there was always lots going on in the book and I wasn’t getting to a point where there was a lull.’

‘It was nerve-wracking but I had planned it really tightly so when it came to writing it I was never sitting there thinking ‘what comes next’… I could be really free and enjoy the actual writing.’

On learning to plan:

‘Mainly a case of gritting it out and just seeing what worked.’

‘I started with a synopsis that was a page long but then I just slowly added bits and built it up over a few weeks.’

‘For me, it was about taking the pressure off myself and thinking you don’t have to have the synopsis done in one day… Just do it, mull it over in your head and build it up as you go along.’

 

Cressida’s schedule:

‘I start about seven in the morning, I work much better early in the morning and I’ll write through till probably about 2pm (with a lunch break as well). I aim for about four to five thousand words a day… And I usually do that four or five days a week if I’m in the first draft or editing thing. I do like to be quite strict with myself in that respect and leave all the peripheral stuff until the afternoon.’

‘When I get into the story I get so enthusiastic about it that I don’t really want to stop. Sometimes I have to drag myself away from the computer.’

On process and procrastination:

‘There are days sometimes when I just sit down and my brain won’t be in it

‘I find if I just open the document and it’s sitting there then I’ll get on with it, but the problem I have is that I won’t always open it…’

‘I just remind myself that actually I’ve written some books and that is quite a big achievement and at some point, I had this problem with the first book and the second book and the third book… And I managed it.’

‘I use Scrivener for my first draft which I find really helpful and that keeps track of word counts and you can see how chapter lengths compare with each other and I find that really useful for getting the balance of the book right.’

‘Quite a lot of the processing happens when you’ve stepped away from the computer or the notebook.’

 

On inspiration:

‘I love women’s fiction, warm romantic reads. One of the books that made me realise I wanted to be a writer was called A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans…It’s a real life fairy tale…I want to create something like this and I want to make readers feel about my characters the way Harriet Evans makes readers feel.’

On being a productive writer:

‘You have to love the story and love the characters – you have to be really invested and engaged.’

 

Recommended:

On Writing by Stephen King

Release The Bats by DBC Pierre

Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Read More

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.

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.

Read More