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.

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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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How To Write Your Novel Ten Minutes At A Time

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In the last podcast, I answered this great question from Helen Redfern. I’ve have had enough messages since to know that it’s an issue for lots of folk, so I thought I’d jot down my answer and add a little more on the subject.

Helen asked:

How do I learn to write for just ten minutes? I feel that if I don’t have a few hours uninterrupted there’s no point in starting and just doing ten minutes. How do I change that?

I definitely used to struggle with this, but I have managed to shift my thinking on it.

I say ‘shift my thinking’ because that’s really what is required. You have to alter your perspective on ten minutes so that you stop viewing it as a tiny, unusable slice of time.

First off, I suggest you prove yourself wrong. Set a timer for ten minutes and write. Not to add wonderful words to your manuscript, but purely as an exercise. See how many words you have written when the timer goes off. It doesn’t matter if you have 30, 50, or a 100 words, it is concrete, recordable evidence that something can be achieved in that time.

If you’re feeling too much resistance to this idea and you really feel you cannot write for just ten minutes, do consider that this is fear talking. It’s offering a reasonable-sounding excuse to prevent you from having to put words down.

The way to blast that excuse is to set the timer for ten minutes and NOT WRITE. You have to sit and stare at the blank screen or page of your notebook and not write a single word. You can’t do anything else, either; no music to listen to, no browsing the internet, no reading. Just sit for ten minutes. I bet you’ll be surprised at how long that actually is.

Okay, so once you’ve proved it’s possible, you might still feel that it isn’t worth it. That adding 75 words to your book or working for ten minutes is a drop in the ocean.

Now, you need to make it fun, make it a challenge. See how many micro writing sessions you can fit in this week. Reward yourself for every ten minute session. As long-time listeners know, I like stickers. A sticker for every ten minute session over a week. At the end of the week, count them up and marvel at the hours you have worked.

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Congratulate yourself on your wizardry – you have created writing time where none existed before.

Or, you could draw a grid of boxes on a sheet of paper or use some squared paper. Every time you work on your book for ten minutes, colour in a box. When you look at that ever-expanding block of colour you’ll have a visual reminder of how that time adds up.

Another tip is to prepare for your ten minute sessions so that they are as valuable as possible. If you know you could grab some time when you get home from work, then use the commute to think about your story and about what you’d like to write next.

Finally, it’s good to remember and to truly understand – deep in your bones – that this is how books are written.

They are written in small chunks. Word by word. Sentence by sentence. Paragraph by paragraph.

As hard as writing is, I think we sometimes think it ought to be even harder. So difficult that we couldn’t possibly dash off a few sentences while waiting for the kettle to boil. The secret, if there is such a thing, is that the time taken to write the words does not reflect the quality of the writing. Some will come out well and some will not. Some will be cut and some will not. And, sometimes, words dashed off between appointments will be the very best, because you didn’t have time to second-guess yourself and were able to access your muse or sub-conscious or wherever you believe your writing comes from directly.

A final tip is to consciously alter your thoughts. I know that mantras and affirmations sound a bit ‘out there’, but they do work. I like to use positive phrases which have success built-in. They describe the belief or behaviour as if I already possess it, making me feel instantly more positive and capable.

So, for this issue, I would use something like: ‘I am the kind of person who grabs every spare moment and uses it to write.’

If this doesn’t speak to you, try different wording until you find something which chimes. Then repeat it. Whenever you remember to do so and whenever you think about your writing or schedule. It will feel false and ridiculous, but if you stick with it you will find the statement becomes more plausible. Repeat it often enough and you will believe it. Magic!

Was this helpful? Head to the comment section if you have a follow-up question (or a tip of your own to pass on). And thanks for reading!

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

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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!

 

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The Only Way To Defeat A Bad Writing Day

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Bad Writing Days. We all have them.

We don’t like to talk about them. We’re frightened that by talking about them we will make them stronger. Or, worse still, we will jinx our productivity and conjure them into existence. No writer wants to say the word ‘block’.

I’ve always struggled to write. There are two people inhabiting this body; one wants to be left alone to write, wants nothing more than acres of time in which to type and think and come up with sentences and words and passages of description and dialogue. The other one, unfortunately, wants to do anything else. Anything!

Both of these people, however, like having written.

I read this quote from Brene Brown (from her book Rising Strong) recently: ‘We can choose courage or we can choose comfort but we cannot choose both.’

The toddler part of me bawled ‘why not?’, while the adult part of me nodded sagely, letting the words sink in and the truth trickle through…

I can’t have both.

It’s supposed to be scary.

I need to choose courage because that’s where creation lies.

But on a bad writing day, I choose comfort over and over again. I choose to write this blog rather than open my work-in-progress because however frightening a personal post like this feels, it is nothing to the anxiety I feel about working on my book.

On a bad writing day, I choose to say ‘yes’ to a friend’s invitation, even though I know it’s during my writing time. I may pretend this is something else (the selfless act of a good friend, for example) but I am lying.

On a bad writing day, I slip into the comfortable routine of editing a piece of old work when I should be making something new. Or I take all day to write a paragraph, telling myself it’s ‘difficult’ when the truth is, I am stalling.

On a bad writing day, I let the voices that tell me I’m worthless and my story is stupid and that I have no talent or creativity win.

I’ve had a lot of bad writing days recently. I’ve chosen comfort so often it’s beginning to feel like my new routine.

Luckily, that frightens me. I see my life stretching ahead, filled with comfortable no-writing-days, and I imagine all the books I will never write, the stories I will never tell.

That frightens me enough to make me open my document and get back to work. I want to have written and I know fine well there’s only one way for that to happen: courage.

 

Did this post resonate with you? Do you have Bad Writing Days? How do you overcome them? Please share your tips, advice, or experiences in the comments below! 

 

 

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How To Build A Writing Habit The Easy Way

typing

So you want to start writing regularly? Or you want to increase your current productivity and write more every week/month/year… I’m going to reveal the secret in this post. Or, more accurately, I’ve already revealed the secret by using the word ‘habit’.

Yep, that’s right – you’ve got to make writing a habit so that it happens almost automatically.

Then you can sit back and watch your word counts rise. Okay, maybe not just ‘sit back’, but you will be amazed at how much you get done with what feels like very little effort.

Think about the stuff that you do every single day; watching television while you eat your breakfast, brushing your teeth, clearing the dishes after dinner, putting on your shoes before leaving the house… You don’t have to think about these tasks and you never (or hardly ever) miss them out. However ingrained and natural these behaviours feel, you weren’t born doing them. Somewhere along the way, you developed the habit and now they are a part of your life.

You might be thinking that brushing your teeth doesn’t take very long and writing a novel does, but you are going to build your writing habit by starting small.

Even tiny actions, repeated regularly over time, can make a big impact.

Plus, once you establish a habit it’s easier to tweak it (to, say, increase the amount of time you spend writing).

ID-100323590It’s this last principle we’re going to use to get started. Think of an existing habit you have and adjust it. For example, when you brush your teeth, use that time to think about your writing. If you don’t have a story in mind, use the time to brainstorm ideas. If you’re completely stuck, just use the time to reflect on your new creative habit. The focus should be on positivity; you are giving yourself permission to day dream, not trying to accomplish anything concrete or scary.

After a week or so, you are going to add a new habit and this one will actually involve writing. Pick a clearly-defined task that is easy to complete, and pick a time that is both easy to remember and suits your current schedule. The aim is to minimise every possible block to achieving the task and, once you’ve done it, to reward yourself. I like to use stickers for this, but it’s your choice!

For example, you might decide to write for ten minutes every day (or every week day). That’s a small, clearly-defined task.

You might choose to add it to your evening routine, say after dinner (before you get up to wash the dishes) or first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.

Next, you prepare for success. If your writing session is scheduled for first thing in the morning, put your notebook and pen (or laptop) next to your bed the night before.

Repeat the habit for a few weeks until it feels very natural and easy. If you miss a session, don’t beat yourself up about it, just do the next one.

One final note: Even if you’re finding your goal very easy to manage, don’t be tempted to increase or change it too quickly. If you raise the bar too fast, you’re more likely to miss sessions and get discouraged. Allow yourself to ‘win’ at the task easily and regularly and you’ll soon have an instinctual writing habit in place.

What do you think? Do you already have a regular writing habit and, if not, will you try this approach? I really hope it helps!

 

[Toothpaste image credit: by aitbodyphoto courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net]

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Creative Thinking for Beginners

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This post is aimed at the absolute beginner, but it might help if you’ve temporarily lost your creative-mojo, too!

Maybe you want to write but you’re too scared to try because you don’t think of yourself as creative.

Maybe you had some knock-backs or harsh criticism in the past, or perhaps the idea of creativity just feels out of your reach… Something that you’d love to do but just isn’t on the cards.

You need a crash course in creative thinking and the best news is that it won’t cost you a penny (and very little time).

The first thing to say is that you are already a creative person. I can say this with authority because it’s part of what makes us human. (If any toasters are reading this, sorry, but kudos on the literacy skills).

You are a creative person. You have your unique perspective on the world and a well of individual thoughts, responses, interests and emotions. All you have to do is to start noticing and valuing these things and you’ll find that ideas begin to flow.

Creative thinking is about two things – noticing stuff (external observations and your own thoughts) and then putting them together in new and interesting ways. Don’t worry about the ‘new and interesting’ part just yet, just concentrate on noticing.

So, when you see a person walking their dog while furiously typing into their phone and it strikes you as funny, notice yourself noticing it. Expand on the impression a little by thinking about that person and why that text is so important and serious. Imagine describing the person to someone else and pick out a few details which encapsulate the scene.

camera

Imagine your mind is like a camera, taking snapshots. Fix these images in your mind by being very specific on the details. This will help you to recall the impression later on, but will also hone your powers of description.

Play the ‘what if’ game. What if the sky was a different colour? What if cats could talk? What if a modern-day bubonic plague decimated the population? It’s okay if you can’t think of an answer, just practice asking the questions.

This works just as well for more ‘everyday’ scenarios, too. When I’m on a train or restaurant or waiting room, I like to people-watch (sorry people!), but I also like to think through ‘what if’ for scenarios like a fight breaking out or the train derailing. I think about what I’d do (and feel!) in the situation and what the other people around me would do, too.

Which leads me to my final bit of advice for creative thinking:

Embrace boredom. Boredom is your new best friend.

Intentionally leave your paperback at home and put down your smart phone. Go for a walk without audio accompaniment. Engineer small spaces of time in which you don’t have an escape mechanism for your mind and, instead, entertain yourself with the thoughts in your head. This might feel uncomfortable – even scary – to start with, but it will get easier.

I hope this is useful. Do let me know if you’d like more of this kind of post, and please leave your own tips for creative thinking in the comments. Thank you!

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