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 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.

 

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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.

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The Worried Writer Episode #38: M.J. Ford ‘I Just Write As Hard And As Fast As I Can’

 

My guest today is Michael Ford, who writes under the name M.J. Ford. Michael has written and edited children’s fiction for Working Partners for several years, as well as working as a ghost writer on other projects. His debut novel for adults, Hold My Hand, is out this month from Avon and we talk about what it’s like to be published under his own name, his writing routine, and why others should consider writing for a book packager like Working Partners.

You can find buy Hold My Hand here, or connect with Michael on Twitter.

 

In the introduction I give a writing update and talk about the strategies I’ve been using to make progress while wrestling a second draft into shape.

SHOW SPONSORSHIP

I conduct my very first Patreon-supporters shout-out (yay!).

If you want to support the show (and get a mini audio extra mid-month, your very own shout-out, and my eternal gratitude) head to The Worried Writer Patreon Page.

Beneath The Water had a successful launch (phew), but now I’m on submission for my supernatural thriller and am back to obsessively checking my emails for news.

I share some good news about my second novel, The Secrets of Ghosts. I’ve secured the print rights back from the publisher, so I will be able to release the paperback later this year. Yay!

I also recommend the informative and honest Self Publishing Journeys podcast by Paul Teague for those interested in independent publishing or a hybrid approach to their writing career.

Another show I’ve been enjoying recently is The Honest Authors Podcast by Holly Seddon and Gillian McAllister. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the writing life of two successful (traditionally published) authors.

LISTENER QUESTION

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

On Working Partners

‘Working partners is a packager… Packers essentially do the same thing as a writer in that they sell manuscripts to publishers. The difference is that packagers tend to be collaborative creators… Lots of people work on a book, not just a single writer.’

‘At Working Partners we come up with storylines through brainstorming and those are enhanced and elaborated until they are quite detailed synopsises of several thousand words and after that we find a writer to write the book.’

‘We work a bit like a TV or film studio writer’s room.’

‘We look to exploit the content across all media so it’s not just books, it’s also TV and film, it’s video games, it’s live theatre shows… And we often produce series rather than standalone books.’

‘Working Partners are behind some of the bestselling children’s series in the UK and globally, things like Beast Quest, Animal Ark, Rainbow Magic…. These are all series which have been running for a decade or more… Although lots of writers may have worked on them, there has always been a core team at Working Partners team which keeps the editorial content consistent.’

‘It’s fair to say that everything I know about writing has come because of my experience there (writing for Working Partners) which is why I bang on about it so much. You know, being edited, editing, talking constantly about story and how story works, has really helped me on my own writing journey.’

‘If you’re fairly new to writing then working for Working Partners can be a good training ground.’

Michael’s writing process:

‘I’m quite regimented… In theory at least… I tend to have a few things on the go. I’m still editing for Working Partners and I’m also freelance writing for them… Because I only have really three days a week to write in and I don’t particularly like eating into my family time, I know that within those three days I have to meet a certain word count or something will have to give further down the line, you know sleep or seeing the kids.’

‘I start in the morning straight after the school run and I just write as hard and as fast as I can to meet that word count.’

‘Objectively I’m getting quite a lot of words written, they’re very rarely are in good shape… I’m not happy with them at all. I tend to burn out in the early afternoon and then I revisit that awful writing the next morning or that evening and try to lick it into some sort of shape.’

‘I tend to have lots of things on a go. Within a day I’ll concentrate on one book and the next day I might be doing something completely different.’

On working concurrently on several book projects:

‘It all comes down to knowing your character and slipping into their shoes as quickly as possible.’

Recommended:

On Writing by Stephen King

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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The Worried Writer Episode #35: Lisa Hall ‘We’re Living The Dream’

My guest today is Lisa Hall, author of the bestselling psychological thrillers Between You and Me and Tell Me No Lies, which Heat magazine called ‘breathlessly fast-paced and cleverly unsettling’. Not content with a successful career as an author, Lisa has also crossed the divide to the other side of the business by founding a new publishing imprint, Manatee Books.

You can find out more about Lisa and her books at www.lisahallauthor.co.uk or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

In the introduction I give a recap on my progress during 2017.

It was a good year – my most productive so far, in fact – but I am keen to improve and to make 2018 even better.

2017

In 2017, my main writing goal was to write two new novels and to finish, edit and publish the Worried Writer book.

I managed one new first draft, two lots of major structural rewrites on ‘old’ drafts (including Beneath The Water which is out next month!), and I wrote and published Stop Worrying; Start Writing.

I also narrated the audiobook version, which was very enjoyable but also quite tricky and time-consuming!  It will hopefully be up for sale by the end of the month.

My supernatural thriller is almost ready to go on submission to publishers. This is always a nerve-wracking time and I’m very grateful that I have other projects to distract me…

I got The Garden of Magic made into an audio book and created a short story giveaway for my reader group sign-up.

Phew!

Highlights

I’m trying to get better at celebrating small successes, so listed some of my highlights from 2017:

  • Talking about overcoming fear and self-doubt on The Creative Penn podcast. You can listen here or watch the video on YouTube.
  • The Worried Writer being featured in Mslexia magazine.
  • Getting a new publishing deal with Lake Union with Beneath The Water.

 

2018

I give a brief overview of my goals for 2018, but will put up a more detailed ‘Writing Goals’ post on the 2nd January.

Are you setting goals for 2018? I would love to hear about your plans, too.

Comment below with your goals, or get in touch with any questions on goal-setting, defining success, or productivity.

 

In the interview:

Lisa’s schedule:

‘Because I’ve got three children I have to cram quite a lot in those hours in the middle of the day. When I’m writing I aim for 2000 words a day… I try not to do anything in that period when the children come home from school and go to bed.’

 

‘I do work Saturdays and Sundays. Especially when I’m on a deadline or I’m in the zone… Even I only get 500 words down then I don’t feel so guilty about taking the rest of the day off and spending it with the kids.’

 

‘The first couple of hours in the morning I do admin stuff. With Manatee Books there’s a lot of admin… I keep hours in the afternoon free for writing. I mean, it doesn’t always balance-out! It balances out eventually, but it’s quite hard.’

 

‘I’ve always got a to-do list… So I can work through and I know exactly what needs to be done every day and then I tag my wordcount onto the end.’

 

Writing process:

 

‘I quite often go for a run if I get stuck.’

 

‘I hate the thought of editing and when I get my edit notes, I don’t want to open the email… But once I make a start I’m okay.’

 

‘I’m a massive planner… I can’t write any other way.’

 

‘When I’m working on a book it’s like the idea for the next book can’t fully come through until that book is finished… It’s like my brain won’t let me think about the full story so I do worry that the idea won’t come, but it’s been like this every time.’

 

On starting a publishing company:

‘I’ve had a really good experience with my road to publication and the way HQ have handled things for me… And I know there are people out there who don’t have such a good experience so I wanted to set up something where hopefully we give every author a good experience… It’s really really exciting when you sign the contract but I feel like that excitement should keep going all the way through… I just want everyone to have a lovely experience. We’re living the dream after all!’

 

‘One day I might run out ideas but even if I can’t write I’ll still get to be involved in books, in publishing and be surrounded by brilliant stories and that’s all I really want.’

 

‘We are open for submissions. Liz is always on the lookout for good crime novels. I prefer the more commercial crime novel but she is all about the quirky… I work on the women’s fiction side of it which I really love… I’m looking for good chick lit, nice holiday reading and I’m really on the lookout for a good bookclub read. Um, bit of romance – not too saucy.’

 

Lisa’s advice to other authors:

‘Building an author brand is a slow burn and you need to be patient.’

 

Thanks for listening!

If you can spare a few minutes to leave the show a review on iTunes that would be really helpful. Ratings raise the visibility of the podcast in iTunes and makes 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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