The Worried Writer Episode #37: Caroline Mitchell ‘I dictate the first draft’

My guest today is Caroline Mitchell. She’s an ex-police detective turned USA Today bestselling thriller author. Her latest book, Silent Victim just became a global bestseller when it hit number 1 on Amazon in the UK, USA and Australia. Caroline brings her real-life experience as a police officer to her writing and she also has an incredible work ethic – something I really admire.

Caroline reveals the ‘what if’ questions that kicked off her latest thriller, her writing process and the secrets behind her amazing productivity!

Find out more about Caroline and her books at carolinemitchellauthor.com

Or follow her on Twitter or FaceBook.

In the introduction I give an update on Beneath The Water and mention the blog tour which is starting next week.

 

If you’ve bought the book – a massive thank you!

I really appreciate your support and, if you could spare a few moments to leave me a review, that would be amazing.

Reviews really help other readers to discover my work and they are also an important sign of success within the industry, looked at by publishers and promotional services such as BookBub. Basically, reviews will help me to sell more copies of Beneath The Water which will in turn make it more likely that I will get another publishing deal.

SHOW SPONSORSHIP

In the three years I’ve been doing a monthly show, my listening figures have grown – which is fabulous – but that has increased the cost of the hosting service. Plus, each show takes around five hours to research, record and edit. There are lots of things I would like to do with the website and show to provide more content and value to you and your support would help me to do so, as well as ensuring the show continues.

When I asked which you would prefer, the majority said ‘Patreon’ rather than corporate adverts within the show.

So, although I feel a bit embarrassed about it (it’s hard to ask for help!), I have set up a Patreon account for The Worried Writer. Click here to go to my PATREON PAGE.

I would like to cover my hosting costs every month so that the show can be a sustainable part of my business. You can support the show for as little as a dollar per month and if you become a silver subscriber ($2 per month) you will have access to an exclusive patron-only audio extra mid-month. This will be a (short) ‘just me’ mini-episode with a quick business, writing, or productivity tip.

Also, after a very nice listener (thank you, Andy!) asked to send me a one-off payment as a tip, I set up a PayPal button, too. So, if you would prefer to support me via a one-off payment of whatever amount, there is that option, too: paypal.me/worriedwriter

Thanks so much!

LISTENER QUESTION

This month’s listener question comes from Amy. She asked:

‘I know you shouldn’t use info dump or too much background detail on your characters but how do you know what is too much?’

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

Caroline’s inspiration:

‘Given my experience in the police I also enjoy writing a good crime thriller with various detectives involved and I take experience from the people I used to work with and the characters I met on a day-to-day basis.’

‘I do a lot of research as well.’

On self-publishing

‘I found it all fascinating.’

On getting an agent:

‘Don’t give up. Just keep trying and maybe prove yourself first is sometimes the best way if it’s possible…’

On writing everyday:

‘It is a very strong work ethic. I think it’s because when I was in the police any officer or anyone in the emergency services will tell you, you work very very long hours, you don’t really have breaks very often and I used to be on call as well… So I would go home after a twelve hour shift and then be on call, so the call could come in at two or three in the morning and I would get up out of my bed and deal with the victim and with that for maybe five, six, seven, eight hours. ‘

‘It was that strong work ethic which transferred to my writing. So when I was still in the police I wrote my Jennifer Knight series. I would get up at half five in the morning and I’d write on the train commute to work which was an hour and if I could get a lunch break, which was rare, I would just eat a sandwich while I was writing and then I’d write again on the way home… ‘

‘I was really really determined, I really wanted to leave my job and I was totally committed to it and I think you have to be.’

‘When I left, I seem to have kept that work ethic up but it’s much easier now because I love what I do.’

‘It’s really hard when your writing and working full-time, that’s really really tough…’

‘I pretty much carry my laptop around me most of the time, when I go anywhere I bring it with me and I don’t tend to take days off and I enjoy it so yeah, the books keep coming.’

On productivity:

‘Social media is the demon of procrastination.’

‘For me it comes into goal setting, word count and everything is set. I have a diary where I write everything I’ve done and if I don’t keep up one day I have to make it up the next day.’

‘Goals, deadlines and plotting is the answer… And having an app on my computer to stop me going on Facebook during the day.’

‘I’m producing a book every six months but the last couple of years I’ve been writing three books a year which is hard going.’

‘I dictate the first draft so I get it out really quickly. I can get a first draft out in five weeks. It is rubbish, though, then I have to go back and edit it all and fix it. But I find the dialogue is much better when I dictate because basically it’s all dialogue and then I go back and I put in the setting and the scenery and the descriptions and it’s like a painting, it’s just layer upon layer.’

‘If I’m dictating I can do 10 or 15,000 words in a weekend because I’m just telling the story.’

On process:

‘If I get stuck with anything I go for a good long walk… I can be heard mumbling to myself as I work out these plots that refuse to budge.’

The dreaded editorial letter:

‘I struggle to open it for about a day… I can hardly look at it.’

On the writing life:

‘I’m the luckiest person in the world.’

Advice to those who want to write:

‘Constantly work on your craft, never stop learning… And don’t give up!’

Recommended:

Caroline uses various tools to help her to block out distraction (social media!) and focus on her work.

Freedom – blocks websites and apps on your devices and computers (PC and Mac). I use and love this one, too!

RescueTime (Mac only). This tracks the time you spend on websites and applications, giving you accurate details on how you spend your day.

Dragon software for dictation.

Joanna Penn’s advice on dictation.

Caroline recommends listening to motivational tracks (some available on Spotify).

Caroline’s writing advice can be found on her blog.

 

Thanks for listening!

[I just realised that I forgot to update you on my progress with dictation. To be fair, that progress has been minimal this month (I have just bought the software). I am going to make a proper effort to try it in March and will report back next month!]

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 #24: Gillian McAllister ‘I write everything down’

Gillian McAllister My guest in this episode is Gillian McAllister. Gillian’s debut thriller Everything But The Truth is out on 9 March 2017 from Penguin and she is represented by Clare Wallace at the Darley Anderson Agency. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Everything But The Truth and it is an absolutely cracking read. It’s a twisty, compelling, domestic thriller and I highly recommend it.

I spoke to Gillian last year and it was really interesting to talk about the post-deal, pre-publication phase.

For more on Gillian and her writing, head to her website, or find her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

In the introduction, I give a quick personal update: I finished the Worried Writer book! Last month I put out a call for beta readers and was bowled over by the response. Thank you so much to all of you who offered, the list is now full. I’m sending out the manuscript this week (eep!).

One of the really positive things about doing a project like this is that it’s given my brain a break from writing fiction. I felt empty after finishing the latest draft of Beneath The Water and it was nice to change gears for a while. Predictably, I’m missing fiction again, now, and am looking forward to diving into a new novel.

Also, I mention that I have (finally!) set up a page on Facebook for the podcast. Please head over and give it a quick ‘like’ if you are so inclined… I would really appreciate it!

Let me know the kind of content you’d like to see there, too. I’m considering recording some Q&A videos or perhaps a wee tour of my latest planner system. Let me know on the FB page or in the comments section below. Or, of course, drop me an email.

As always, I welcome your feedback and questions!

In the interview:

On always writing:

‘I’ve had reams of diaries and lists and I write everything down it’s the way I organise my thoughts.’

On the road to publication:

‘I think when you get an agent you think ‘that’s it’ and I was quite emotionally unprepared for rejection… It was just awful.’

 

And on the adjustment post-deal:

‘I still sometimes wake up and I’m in the old mindset of ‘is my book ever going to sell?’ and then I remember and I’m like, my God, that happened … I’m actually just really relieved because it was such a cause of anxiety and strife for me as I had never wanted anything as badly as I wanted a publishing deal.’

Advice on submission hell:

‘I think somewhere deep in my brain I felt as though if I checked email enough I would get a publishing deal and that is an incorrect thought!’

Gillian is a full-time lawyer. On fitting writing into a busy life:

‘One of the biggest things was getting a MacBook and being able to write in moments where I’m not so busy. Like if I’m on the train and there is a delayed train for twenty minutes I don’t lose the time, I can open the MacBook and write and I’ve kind of taught myself to do that.’

 

On the difficulties of writing:

‘I do a first draft and I’m quite gung ho about it and then at the end of it I think… Oh, okay, this should have happened or it’s actually about this…’

On the psychology of getting published:

‘My mental health for the three months after I sold was very wobbly… It was actually about control and feeling like this was all I ever wanted but it’s hard sometimes… I had been worrying for two years about getting published and I had all these neural pathways… I remember actively worrying that I wasn’t as happy as I should be until my boyfriend said ‘that’s insane’.’

 

Thanks so much for listening! If you have a moment, please leave a rating on iTunes or share the podcast.

Also, I will be giving out a limited number of review copies of the Worried Writer book in March.

If you want to be first to hear about the book (and be in with a chance of scoring a free copy), please sign up here.

Thank you! 

 

Read More

Episode #09 The Worried Writer: Catherine Ryan Howard ‘The More You Do It, The More You Want To Do it’

wwimage_catherineryanhoward

distresssignalsCatherine Ryan Howard is a self-publishing superstar with the successful titles Mousetrapped, Backpacked and Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

Catherine recently landed a two-book deal with Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books. Her debut thriller, Distress Signals, is out on 5th May 2016.

You can find out more about Catherine and her books at catherineryanhoward.com or follow her on Twitter @cathryanhoward or Facebook.

 

 

Episode 9 includes:

Sneak peak of the title of Catherine’s self-help book (not really): ‘Don’t start until it’s already too late!’

‘I’m going to go all in’: The moment Catherine Ryan Howard committed 100% to her writing.

 

Catherine’s insight on success: ‘I have discovered that if you want something bad enough you will get it done… And it will involve actual sacrifice.’

 

And keeping going: ‘The more you do it, the more you want to do it.’

Catherine also reveals her unusual revision technique:

‘I retype the whole thing… I can’t be one of these people who go like surgically goes into the middle of a chapter and does things – I can’t deal with that at all.’

 

Recommended:


Catherine rates Save the Cat by Blake Synder and uses the concept of ‘beats’ to outline her novels.

Also in the show:

NaNoWriMo has started. Good luck if you’re taking part! I am not doing it officially, but I am trying to get as many first draft words done this month as possible.

I mention my recent writing troubles and the article I wrote as a result: The Only Way to Defeat a Bad Writing Day.

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!

 

Read More

Episode #04 The Worried Writer: A Conversation with thriller author C.L. Taylor

ww_ep4_imageIn this episode I chat with Cally Taylor about hopping genre, developing craft through short stories, getting the writing bug, and typing while walking on a treadmill.

Cally Taylor wrote two sparkling romantic comedies, Heaven Can Wait and Home For Christmas, before turning to dark psychological suspense under the name C.L. Taylor. The first of these, The Accident, was hugely successful, shooting up the Kindle charts and selling over 150,000 copies in the UK alone. Last year, Home For Christmas was made into a film by JumpStart Productions and, since this interview was recorded, Cally’s second thriller, The Lie, has shot up the bestseller charts.

For more on Cally and her books, visit her website CLTaylorauthor.com or follow her on Twitter @callytaylor

Books recommended by Cally:

Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke

The Story Book: A Writer’s Guide to Story Development, Principles, Problem-solving and Marketing by David Baboulene

Cally mentions the importance of taking ‘artist dates’ as recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Also, I mention that my debut novel, The Language of Spells is now available in paperback (meep!)


and I recommend a book I’ve been enjoying this week: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

 

Listener question:

This episode’s listener question comes from Maggie Jones – thanks, Maggie!

‘How ‘sucky’ can a book be when you send it in?!’

‘This question is definitely something I struggle with as I have very little confidence in my own work and never feel that something is good enough or even safely passed the ‘it sucks’ stage.

And therein lies the problem. We are probably not the best people to judge the suckiness or otherwise of our work.

Also, it’s worth remembering that ‘sucky’ is a subjective term. I think it might have been Jenny Crusie who said ‘your book is not a $100 bill, not everyone is going to like it’ and that is so true.

There may be published books that you don’t like, that other people love.

So, a book’s merit is a subjective thing. There is no opposite to ‘sucky’ which is ‘perfect’, only opinion on what is good or bad or fun to read or boring.

Once you’ve accepted that there isn’t an ideal you can achieve before sending your work out, you only have to ensure that it’s as good as you can make it.

Whether you’re sending your book to an agent, an editor or hitting ‘publish’ yourself to put it into the Amazon store, there are steps you can take to make sure that it’s ready.

Things like finishing it first, and rewriting it as much as you can stand to get it into the best possible shape. You can also get perspective through feedback from critique partners or by letting it rest before you edit for a final time. Four to six weeks is a good amount of time to leave it, so that when you come back to it you can see it anew. When I do this, I find I can detach my writer self from the reader, and I often find there are plenty of things I like – and have forgotten writing. It’s like magic. It also makes the dull or awkward or confusing parts glaringly obvious.

I hope that helps, Maggie. Thanks again for the great question.’

Got a question about writing or creativity?

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

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. It would really help me!

Thank you for listening!

 

Read More