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#45: Rachel Burton ‘Little And Often Is The Key’

My guest today is Rachel Burton, author of contemporary women’s fiction. Her two novels, The Many Colours of Us and The Things We Need To Say, have been called thought-provoking and emotional.

Rachel and I first connected as she was a listener of the show, and I was delighted to chat to her about her writing success. Rachel suffers from chronic illness, M.E and Fibromyalgia, and we talk about writing books under challenging circumstances.

For more information on Rachel and her books – and for tips on writing with a chronic illness – visit RachelBurtonWrites.

Or you can find Rachel on Twitter and Instagram.

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I give an update on the launch of The Night Raven. Short version – it went really well and I’m a very happy author!

If you are interested in London-set paranormal mystery which has been called:

‘My favourite new urban fantasy series, clever and twisty and deliciously magical, with a shivery sense of wonder that feels utterly grounded in its London setting. Perfect for fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Genevieve Cogman or Robert Galbraith!’

You can click here for shopping options – thank you!

And 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 eight ‘extras’ already available and another one will go up mid-November. 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

I answer a couple of listener questions this month.

One from Karen Heenan (via Twitter) about writing a synopsis. I run through the differences between a synopsis, blurb and pitch, and recommend a book I found very helpful back when I was submitting to agents:

How To Write A Great Synopsis by Nicola Morgan

And one from Catherine Barbey. Catherine has published her first novel – congratulations, Catherine! And is getting fabulous reviews, but is finding it really difficult to write the next book in the series.

Catherine wrote:

‘How did you know, after you got your first book published (which I know wasn’t the first you’d written) that you wanted to carry on and keep writing? How did you know that you weren’t just a ‘one-hit wonder’?  And how did you get over ‘second book syndrome?’

 

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 publishing:

‘It felt very like I had no idea what I was doing… It felt very overwhelming, like I was totally out of my depth.’

On writing her first book:

‘The last few chapters of that book seemed to take a hundred years.’

Rachel’s writing process:

‘I write the end first. So when I plan a book, I know how it opens and I know the ending… When the going gets tough which, for me, is usually around 40,000 words in, I go and write the end. I write the last 5000 words, and then I’ve got something to aim for.’

‘I’m not a huge believer in necessarily writing the book in order. Some scenes require more research, some are harder than others… So just leave it and move on… Don’t just sit there hoping they will miraculously write themselves, just move on and write the next bit; keep it flowing, keep going.’

‘Little and often is the key because it gets you in the habit of putting words on the page.’

‘It is hard to get to the end so make your end somewhere you want to get to.’

‘There are days when I will do anything rather than write.’

 

On writing with a chronic illness:

‘I do suffer from chronic pain issues… I do have to make sure I’m sitting in the right chair. I also have to take very regular breaks and I can only write for a little bit of time and then I have to get up and walk around the room or I will get stuck in a chair shape for the rest of the day.’

‘In terms of energy levels, that has been hard. It’s hard to work out when you can and can’t write. With M.E one of the biggest problems is brain fog and when your brain is foggy, concentrating is hard, focusing on something for a long time is difficult.’

‘There are times when I’m not well enough to work at all, but I do find that even if I’m just writing a few notes about a character… I find that really does help my illness and helps me find a bit of energy and joy.’

‘Creativity does energise me.’

‘With chronic illness than can be a lot of feeling bad about yourself, feeling that you’re not adequate enough. You compare yourself to other people who aren’t ill and the word counts that they do…’

‘You can’t compare yourself to someone who doesn’t have the same setbacks as you.’

‘Be honest with everyone. I think we want to hide our chronic illness sometimes, we think people will judge us… Think we’re not capable. But I found when I was honest with my editor and my agent, they were absolutely fine with 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.

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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 Ep#42: Victoria Walters ‘There Was A Lot of Rejection’

My guest today is author and blogger, Victoria Walters. Her debut novel, The Second Love of my Life, saw Victoria labeled an ‘Amazon Rising Star’ and was called ‘Brilliant and superior women’s fiction’ by Heat magazine. Victoria’s new book, Random Acts of Kindness, has being released in a four-part series by Simon & Schuster.

It has just been packaged as a single ebook and given a new title, Summer At The Kindness Cafe, and is out this month. Pre-order here. The paperback is out next year.

We talk about the challenges and benefits of writing in a serial format, Victoria’s road to publication and her writing process.

You can find out more about Victoria and her books at victoria-writes.com or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

IN THE INTRODUCTION

I give an update on my writing life in July, including my writing progress and plans for releasing my new novel in October.

Also, I talk about my decision to accept my own writing process (and my lack of planning/outlining!).

Do let me know if you would like me to talk about how I write novels without outlining.

I also give a shout-out to my new supporters on Patreon (thank you!). The latest audio extra gives tips on creating and naming characters. You can access it, and the previous four extras, for as little as $2 per month.

For more information, see The Worried Writer on Patreon.

LISTENER QUESTION

I answer two questions this month:

Ian Howlett asked:

When you’re in writing mode, how many words do you produce in the average day (if there is such a thing as an average day!)? I’m thinking specifically about non-fiction, since that’s what I write.

Julie Cordiner asked:

Please do you have any tips for how to step back and look holistically at the plot, character arcs and historical setting? I’m getting too close to it! Thank you.

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 writing a four-part series:

‘I had about a month to write each part… So that was tricky.’

‘There was always something happening, I either had editing to do or one of the parts was coming out and I had reviews to tweet or whatever. More activity than usual.’

On writing:

‘I’m an only child so a lot of my childhood was using my imagination and making up stories…’

‘I do try to write a bit each day, but I’m not really strict about it… I find that quite stressful, I’d rather write when I’m feeling okay to write. I think when I try to force myself then I just start hate the book I’m writing so I’d rather do it when I’m in the best mood.’

‘I tend to write better in the mornings. By the time it gets to about three o’clock I start to think it’s time for Netflix now, surely!’

‘I don’t have a set wordcount… Some days I might write 1000 words, but some days I’ve written 10,000 words in a day, it all depends on the mood I’m in.’

‘For me, I like to write a first draft and then I edit it afterwards… I’m more productive when I just get it down on paper… Especially when I had these really tight deadlines for the serial, I couldn’t be really perfectionist about it because my editor just needed it.’

On publishing:

‘There was a lot of rejection.’

‘The most challenging part of being a writer is that you really don’t have much control over anything but your writing.’

‘All we can do is write the best book we can write.’

‘More than the self doubt, it’s the uncertainty of the business that worries me.’

 

On self-doubt:

‘Once you start talking to other authors you find out that we all feel the same way.’

‘Sometimes a bit of self-doubt is good… It can motivate you, push you forward a bit… I think I would worry if I started to think I was the best writer in the world.’

Victoria’s writing tips:

‘You’ve got to find what works for you.’

‘Reading is the best kind of learning for a writer.’

‘When I’m stuck, everybody just has a meal.’

 

 

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 #41: Six Month Progress Report

This episode is a ‘just me’ show. Next month, I’m bringing you an interview with author and blogger, Victoria Walters, but this month I review my 2018 goals.

A massive thank you to everyone who has pledged support for the show on Patreon – I truly appreciate it. There are four exclusive audio extras (with a new one coming mid-July) and you get access to all of that content as soon as you become a $2 per month patron. Head here to find out more. Thank you!

Recommended:

This Author Can

A new resource set up by a friend of this show and past guest, Tracy Buchanan. This Author Can aims to help traditionally published authors to take control of their careers and to increase their book sales. While the focus is for those who are traditionally published (Tracy noticed that there wasn’t much business-focused advice aimed at trad authors), there is plenty useful information for independent authors, too.

Personal news:

I share that I have just got a Russian deal for In The Light Of What We See and talk about refreshing my attitude to fiction writing – reframing it as play. For more, see my blog post on the subject: Is It Time To Hit The Reset Button On Your Writing Life?.

Also, I am still dealing with my sad personal news and am working on getting back on track. I talk about the importance of being kind to myself!

 

 

Update on my goals for 2018:

We are halfway through the year so a good time to take stock and check progress.

Remember that it’s completely fine to update or change your goals – they are a tool to help you achieve what is most important to you, not a document which is set in stone just for the sake of it.

I go through the goals set in my January post: My 2018 Writing Goals.

I was actually really worried about looking over my goals as I’m always so aware of all things I could/should be doing, and how much slower I am at finishing books than many others.

However, I was pleasantly surprised – I have achieved more than I realised.

So. Halfway through the year might feel scary and ‘oh goodness where has the time gone’ but six months is a long time. We all have plenty of time left in 2018 to achieve success. And you get to decide what that looks like to you. Imagine we are in December, rolling down to the Christmas holiday and the end of the year. What do you want be saying? What do you want to have finished or started?

I mention a few tips that have been helping me to refocus:

New keyboard (mechanical) for writing sessions – used alongside the separate log-in on my iMac for ‘writer Sarah’ which helps signal this is a writing session not a general admin, marketing or podcast session.

Focusing on one thing at a time and trying to resist the urge to open lots of documents and browser tabs.

I’ve tried a few writing in café sessions which have been very successful and I’m planning a ‘proper’ retreat in the autumn.

Experimenting with listening to different soundtracks to help me to focus. I’ve used loud music for ages and always create a book soundtrack which I listen to on repeat while writing the book, but while I’ve been finding it hard to concentrate I’ve been trying video game music, film scores, brain.fm and even atmospheric soundtracks – things like crackling fireplaces and weather sounds.

So, goals for second half of 2018:

Continue focus on creative writing. I have finished the current book (hurrah!) and sent it to my first readers, and I want to write another new draft by the end of the year.

However, this doesn’t mean I’m dropping The Worried Writer. Far from it!

I want to carry on helping you, but it’s also super-valuable and helpful to me, too.

Stop Worrying; Start Writing as an online course? Thoughts?

So, I’m also going to write another non-fiction book and I’m also thinking about creating an online course based on Stop Worrying; Start Writing. It would be a series of videos and a private FB group for discussion and support, so that you could jump in and take the course anytime and at your own pace. Let me know what you think – good idea? Bad idea?

What Should I Write Next? Please help!

For my next non-fiction book I’ve got a couple of ideas and I would love your input as to which topic I tackle next. I’ve got two main ideas, but I’m happy to take other suggestions, too!

Hybrid Author

How to publish both traditionally and independently. The pros and cons of each route and why you might choose to have a foot in both camps. Plus, the practicalities of running your career this way.

Book Marketing

Some discussion of the tools available such as targeted advertising through FB and Amazon, but focusing on the strategies and the mindset issues around putting ourselves ‘out there’ and ‘selling’ as well as a bit about money mindset.

Let me know which you are most interested in! 

Also, as ever I would love to hear your questions or suggestion for the show. I’ve had a few requests for more content from pre-published writers and I’m thinking about how best to incorporate that – whether it’s reading out more questions or anecdotes from you guys or interviewing somebody who is trying to finish their first book or similar. Let me know your thoughts if you have any on that.

That feels like a scary amount of work for six months but in a good way. I’ve got a rush of excitement along with the fear so I know I’m on the right track.

How about you? What do you want to get done in the second half of the year? What do you want to have achieved by the end of 2018?

Leave a comment below if you would like some public accountability, but definitely write it down somewhere for yourself.

And let’s all kick writerly butt during the next six months. I want each and every one of us to be celebrating our successes come December 31st.

 

 

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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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? 

 

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