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My guest today is USA Today bestselling fantasy author Meg Cowley. Meg has two epic fantasy series The Books of Caledan and The Chronicles of Pelenor, as well as an urban fantasy series Relic Guardians.
We have a great conversation about independent publishing, reader support, writing in series, and consistency, as well as self-doubt, mental health, and the importance of self-care.
For more on Meg head to megcowley.com or find her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
This is episode 60 of the podcast, which means it has been running for five years – huzzah! I’m really proud of myself for keeping it going every month without a break – through good times and bad.
Thank you so much for listening, and for all your messages, questions, reviews and support over the last five years. I really appreciate it.
As ever, huge thanks to everyone supporting the show on Patreon. Thank you so much!
Join our growing Patreon community at The Worried Writer on Patreon.
I love creating the podcast but it takes a significant amount of time (and money) to produce. If you want to help to keep the show going, please consider becoming a patron. You can support the show for just $1 a month! If you pledge $2 or more, you also receive an exclusive mini-episode that I put out in the middle of every month, plus instant access to the back list of twenty-three audio extras.
This month I’ve been working on the fourth Crow Investigations book and rewriting the messy draft of my non-fiction branding, marketing and selling book for authors.
I’ve been suffering with imposter syndrome over the last week or so, wondering ‘who am I?’ to write a book on branding and marketing, but I also know that sharing my personal experience (and lessons learned) and viewpoint is perfectly valid. The self-doubt struggle continues and I know that it will never go away.
SAVVY WRITERS EVENT
Past guest of the show, Tracy Buchanan, is running a one-day event in London on 9th May 2020, aimed at published authors (both indie and traditional).
Participants will get the chance to attend an advanced writing workshop with one of two writers, crime writer Sophie Hannah or women’s fiction author Amanda Prowse. There will also be a panel offering advice on marketing and mindset with industry guru Sam Missingham, HarperCollins editor (and previous guest of The Worried Writer!) Phoebe Morgan, and the Bookseller editor Phillip Jones. Plus a networking lunch and agent one-to-ones.
Head to www.savvywriters.co.uk/savvywritersfest for more information.
If you have any questions about writing, process, procrastination or the business side of things such as marketing or publishing options, email me, leave a comment on this post, or find me on Twitter.
IN THE INTERVIEW
The full transcript is copied below.
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Sarah: My guest today is USA Today best selling fantasy author Meg Cowley. Meg has two Epic Fantasy series of The Books of Caledan and The Chronicles of Pelenor, as well as an urban fantasy series Relic Guardians. Welcome to the show Meg and thank you so much for joining me.
Meg: Hello, thank you for having me, at last – it’s taken us a long time to schedule this!
Sarah: It has, I’m so excited. Thank you so much. So just to get us started, I was hoping you could tell us all a wee bit about your latest series or release.
Meg: Sure. So I am penning the final book in the Chronicles of Pelenor series, which is an epic fantasy filled with magic, dragons, intrigue, betrayal and deliciously morally grey characters and a smattering of romance.
So yeah, I like writing complex multi viewpoint epic fantasies. And I write stories set in the same world at the moment. I’m just continuing that. I’m due to finish it next week and I can’t wait because it feels like I’ve been writing it forever!
Sarah: That must be exciting but is it a wee bit nervy finishing as well?
Meg: Yeah, it is. It’s scary because you have a lot of expectations from yourself and your readers. You don’t want to disappoint anyone. So I have absolutely had massive stresses thinking ‘oh my God, this is… Is it going to be good enough? Can I manage this?’ But in the end, I’ve just had to push through it and think well, even if the first draft is terrible getting it written is the hardest thing and then I can edit it to make it pretty! But it’s going alright so far.
Sarah: Fantastic. I’d like to rewind a wee bit. I know that you are a proud and successful independent author and I don’t know if you know that I went hybrid a couple of years ago and I just love it.
I love it so much and I want everyone to know what a fantastic option it is, but I also was wondering: was it an easy decision for you? Did you start out as independent?
Meg: Yes, it was a really easy choice. I wrote my first book – I won’t bore you with the details of how that came about just same as any writer.
Love to write, decided to write a book and actually did it! Looking into the publishing options because once I wrote it I wanted to get it published of course, and it was quite black and white really. I looked at the options trad versus indie and indie just… It was the thing that suited me the most so I’ve gone the indie route. I have no regrets about that and I’m a really really happy indie author.
I think it’s allowed me to have the control and the financial freedom to make a career out of this which I had always dismissed because I never thought it would be possible and it’s just blown me away that life has changed so much in the past few years and I would not have been able to do that had it not been for independent authoring.
Sarah: That’s fantastic and you mentioned the sort of control there and obviously the finances. I’ve also discovered it’s a way to actually have a viable business which is fantastic. Are there any other things that you particularly like about being independent or if you were chatting to a listener perhaps who was maybe thinking oh traditional is the only way?
Is there anything that you would say to them to encourage them or do you think it’s something that some people just aren’t suited to?
Meg: I would say to ask yourself ‘what do you want from this?’ I think traditional and independent and hybrid and anything in the spectrum really – it’s all valid. There is no right answer there is no wrong answer but you have to know what you want from it and understand how to get that.
So for me, I wanted creative control and I wanted financial success. Indie was the natural choice for me. However, if you want literary acclaim, you want your book on shelves in shops where your rabid fans can go, and have release parties and pick your book off the shelf, trads probably best for you.
And that’s fine. It’s just that wasn’t for me. So I would say just ask yourself what you really want and how you can achieve that and see where on the spectrum you might be.
Sarah: I absolutely don’t want to sound as if I’m trying to push everybody to go indie, but I always want to say…
Meg: Just do it! Do it!
Sarah: Yeah! Having started in trad…
Meg: I’d say don’t dismiss it. I think people have a notion of what indie is: its sub-quality, people just popping stuff up on Amazon and that’s not the case, you know, the true indie author is an incredibly discerning avid reader who wants to tell fantastic stories that are worthy of being published and being read and being loved by readers.
We’re all the same at the end of the day. We all start off as readers who love stories and some of us want to tell those stories too, and it doesn’t really matter how you get to that reader. The reader doesn’t really care as long as they get a story that is satisfying.
Sarah: Honesty listeners, I am just nodding and nodding at Meg because I just agree so much! it’s about getting… As you say the readers are what matter, but in terms of of trad… I think a lot of people expect certain things from traditional publishing that you just don’t get unless you are a lead title or a ‘lightning stikes’ success or a celebrity author already. So things like ‘on the bookshelf’ you might not get those things. You might not get distribution and bookshops. So I think it’s really important, whatever you decide, to educate yourself and go in with your eyes open, whatever you’re doing. But I mean, I’ve followed your career, since I heard you on Joanna Penns podcast back when you were doing coloring books!
Meg: Gosh, yeah, that was a long time ago!
Sarah: I know! And I loved listening to my interview, so thank you for doing it. And I was… I felt like I was listening to a kindred spirit in terms of – or certainly what I was aspiring to – in terms of your work ethic, your production, your business sense. It was very inspiring to me.
So thank you and I’ve been really impressed ever since really, with your rate of production, and you’ve become a mum in the meantime!
Meg: It’s been a rocky few years, so I’m suppose. I’m quite pleased with what I’ve managed to do despite everything that’s happened.
Sarah: Oh, honestly Meg from the outside it just looks like you’ve done this ridiculous amount of amazing work. So absolutely hats off to you!
Meg: It looks like I’ve got it together. Excellent, I’ll take that!
Sarah: So, now I want your secrets you see, so could you talk me through a sort of typical writing day if you have such a thing? And things like productivity – do you keep business hours? All of that good stuff!
Meg: I think life has changed a lot in the last few years, like I’ve said, so I’ve had to change everything and keep changing everything and the only constant has been change – finding out what’s working and constantly evolving. So it used to be that I would just work 60-hour weeks and I loved that because I’m a workaholic, you know, writing was a hobby before it was a job, so if I wanted to do anything it was write stories, great. Having a child? Can’t do that anymore. And well it’s been a rough few years. So for the past probably three years now, I’ve had various health problems and then had my son and then struggled with post natal depression quite a lot. So it’s been a struggle to have any kind of steady routine.
Right now, my son goes to daycare. It was three days a week, last week he started going four days a week. So this is kind of a magical, almost normal place that I feel like I’m getting back to now. I have four consecutive days a week where I can write which is incredible and already I’ve noticed that my productivity shot up just from having that constant block of time where every day is the same, you know, I put my bum in the chair and I work. So Monday to Thursday I’m working. I write in the mornings, I do other things in the afternoon – marketing… I’m an illustrator as well, I illustrate fantasy book covers. So I do that in the afternoons and evenings. So morning is really writing words, creative time, and the afternoon is everything else and then Friday through Sunday I’m in mum mode which… Nothing gets done. That’s fine because I devote that time to my son.
Sarah: He’s very young at the moment isn’t he so it’s that phase. You know, it won’t last!
Meg: Yeah, in years to come I will wish he was as needing and…
Sarah: Speaking as someone at the other end of it you absolutely will. I’m sorry it’s annoying but there you go.
Meg: You can’t live without them and you can’t live with them can you?
Sarah: I know. Everyone says enjoy every second and then you think yes, but that last minute went on for about a week!
Meg: Yeah that does not apply to the sleepless nights, but most of the rest of it is fine!
Sarah: No it’s hard. So I was going to ask you about being a full-time author and also juggling parenthood with writing. Obviously you’ve touched on that there in terms of the importance really of getting those days that are the same and getting that chunk of time that you can then dedicate…
Meg: But even that has to be sensitive – last night I got no sleep. We have a sick toddler, and I just couldn’t sleep. So this morning, to be honest today my brain is just running on about 10% capacity and I did my writing in bed. And do you know what? Got my 3000 words written which is a miracle. But today I had to take that step back and say it’s okay. Today’s not going to be one of those ‘you get everything done’ kind of day. So it’s like I have my routine but it’s also flexible and accommodates self-care as well, which I find is really important right now because it is so easy to use up energy you’ve got and burn out.
Sarah: I’m so glad you said that because again, you know, I’m big on the productivity and I always want to learn how to do more, but I’m so aware that… Again speaking to people, or people listening who maybe are in the same situation, the last thing I want anybody to think is that they are failing if they are not on it a hundred percent all the time. Like you say, that being kinder to yourself and saying, okay well today I’m going to write in bed and it’s fine if it’s complete and utter rubbish because I’m brain-dead.
Sarah: That sort of thing is so important to say so thank you for sharing that.
Meg: We have a culture of busyness don’t we so if you’re not busy, then you’re not doing it right! Why are you not busy? We should all be so busy all the time doing all the things. And it’s taken a lot of time to unpick that and go ‘hang on. No, that is complete BS’.
Meg: I am at my best when I am happy, I’m healthy, you know. My energy is full when my creative well is refilled, when I’m fulfilled. I’m going to get more done rather than completely whipping myself all the time going more, more, more and just being so brain dead and sick of it all that it’s not even worth doing it because it’s not fun. And what I’m producing is not good.
Sarah: No, and burnout is a real thing in our industry, isn’t it? So it’s very wise to to pay attention to that and as well as it’s just good for you.
Meg: Yeah and learning about what kind of person you are because some people, they can pump out all those words day in day out and do that and that’s absolutely fine. That’s their natural rhythm, and for a long time I’ve tried to be one of those people and… There must just be no upper ceiling to this, if I just work harder I’ll be able to just write all the words everyday.
It’s taken a while and it’s been a bit of a bitter pill to realise, in the first instance. Now I’m fine with that. That I am not one of those writers and my pace is my pace and that’s fine.
Sarah: Absolutely. I mean, I’m far slower than you and I’ve also been trying to come to terms with what is my pace while also making sure that I am pushing myself a wee bit and not just falling into a kind of ‘och, that’s all I can do’. Like a self-fulfilling limiting belief if you like. But it’s so hard to work out where that should be!
Meg: 100% Yeah! It is just trying to work with yourself rather than against yourself at times.
Sarah: Absolutely. And in terms of the… I love what you said about the cult of busyness as well because one area again that I still struggle with a wee bit is: I love running a business. I love I love I love it. I love all of it and but I do get really overwhelmed because I could fill every minute of a 16-hour day with doing all the things and so yeah, I love the fact that today you said you felt rubbish, but you wrote in bed. So, you know your most important thing – writing the words – you prioritised that and you got that done. And I think that’s a really good tip. That’s so important to sort of emphasise that you cleared out, you know, the less important things. So is that something that you’ve come to when trying to balance the marketing, the business, the writing?
Meg: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve realised that it comes down to several core things for me as a business. So I take off my creative hat that loves creating these worlds and crafting stories and I put on my business hat and I think ‘what’s achievable? What do I actually need to be doing?’ So basically unless I am writing great stories, marketing my books and reaching readers. I don’t need to do it.
Like I don’t *need* to do it, you know, the core tasks are writing great stories and marketing and reaching readers. Like that’s it. There is nothing more to my business that needs to be done. I might have a million things on my to-do list like, I need to update this reader magnet and then oh my website needs that tweak and don’t forget to do your author page. Actually, do you know what? It’s just it’s just clutter and it clutters your mind just like it clutters your to-do list and I found that minimizing is one of the most helpful things that I’ve done over the past few years and it’s taken me about 3 years to get there from having the full page to-do list that just never gets done and then carrying over and carrying over from one week to another and just drowning under the weight of my own inadequacy because you know, I’m a failure. I can’t even do my own to-do list! What? And then realize that most of it doesn’t need to be done. So okay cross it off. And I work on that basis.
If it’s not… Obviously, I’ve got my client work as well at the moment so that you know, that is not something that gets crossed off! But ultimately, you know writing is the first thing, it’s the most important thing for me. If I get up and do that with a clear head in the morning and it’s done, I don’t need to worry about it and then the rest of the day I am concentrating on my client work and the other things that need to be done. And I’m ruthless about crossing off anything that can wait, or anything that’s not essential.
I’ve started to work with a virtual assistant and I occasionally subcontract things to her that I *could* do, but she could also do just as well. And that helps offload some of the things from my plate, and my time, and my stress to someone who is equally as capable of doing them.
So I’m really just learning to manage a realistic workload and work with the energy that I have and the type of worker that I am just to try and maximise what I can do but also in a way that promotes self care and you know avoids overwhelm and burn out basically so minimising has been key.
Sarah: And in terms of celebrating successes or celebrating what you are getting done, is that something else that you’ve been incorporating?
Meg: Trying to? Yeah, I am a workaholic. I am very goal-oriented. I’m conscientious I push myself. I’m incredibly self-critical that is just who I am as a person.
It’s how I’ve always been. If I wasn’t getting an A* it was not good enough and I used to beat myself up for it which I realise now was incredibly damaging but it’s very hard to stop doing that. So it’s a gradual work of unpicking that and actually stopping, when I’ve done something cool, to think ‘well done! That’s really cool’.
Like a sales Milestone or finishing a project or looking at my figures, my financial figures for the month, and just actually taking them in and going ‘wow you did that. That’s really cool’. So I am trying to be better about congratulating myself and treating myself when I do achieve something good, as opposed to just breezing on through and setting the next goal and going to meet that!
Sarah: Well I wanted to touch on that since we were saying just before recording that I’m exactly the same. And again I know that we won’t be alone and I hope that it might be hopefully comforting. Or maybe a wake-up call if you are listening and you find that you end each day with a list of things you didn’t achieve or you breeze past things… Take it from us, it’s not good for you. And you need to start rewarding yourself and recognising things.
Now, onto the writing side of things. Now the title of this podcast is the worried writer! So I’d like to delve into your struggles with creative writing if I may. Do you ever suffer from creative block?
Meg: I wouldn’t say that I suffer from creative block, but I am definitely guilty of imposter syndrome insofar as there are definitely points on the process where I think ‘who are you kidding?’
Any moment someone is going to find out and they’re gonna haul you off to a day job and make you work for the man because this is obviously a sham. I’ve got very good with just telling that voice to shut up and I carry-on. I don’t really get writer’s block per se. I outline and plot a lot, so I find that really helps me overcome… Any time I don’t know what I’m writing next, I go back to the plot and it you know, it informs me and I can move forward. The thing that I’ve really struggled with is my mental health to be honest. I didn’t really write much in the Autumn, having trouble with post natal depression again, so that was a rough and frustrating period.
But I just had to step back and sort of work on my self-care and not beat myself up too much for having to delay my book launch – the book that I am due to finish next week, I should have had published in November. So it’s obviously frustrating that that didn’t happen but it is what it is, ok move forward, and what’s the next best thing that you can do? So that’s that’s been the biggest struggle that I’ve had over the past few years is just struggling with mental health through illness and antenatal depression, post-natal depression that sort of thing really. Yeah. It’s just a constant every day, just trying to see on the bright side and do the best that I can.
Sarah: I think that’s… Again, it’s so important to say that or to recognise that what we do… You know, we can’t always just push through with a work ethic because what we do goes on in our heads.
Meg: Yeah, we can’t work in isolation.
Sarah: Yeah, and if our head isn’t quite right for whatever reason then no amount of willpower is going to sort that out and that can be a hard…. That’s really really tough. So I’m so sorry…
Meg: Ah, thank you. I feel like a year ago. I wouldn’t have been able to talk about this. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact there’s nothing to be ashamed of in this and that actually, to open up a dialogue and to accept that we all face times where we struggle is a really really valid and necessary thing, because we all need to support each other through tough times when necessarily we don’t want to talk and open up about it because we feel like there’s a stigma. I feel like it’s really important especially in the industry that we’re in we often work alone, we often work long hours in isolation, socially cut off, and that is quite a challenge in itself. And then you have adult life, and all the things that that has, and I just find that I can’t work in isolation. I have to have emotional wellness to be able to write.
Meg: As much as writing is a solace, I can’t be a crying mess and get my words done because I can’t do it.
Sarah: No, I’m the same – if my anxiety is bad then I can’t write
Meg: Yeah. So again working with yourself. And being forgiving.
Sarah: Exactly. And then there’s also… Again, it’s you just don’t know, I don’t know about you, with mental health and how I react to it in terms of creativity. It can vary again, you know, there can be… I can’t write with anxiety, but with grief I found that writing was – I mean not initially but after a little while it was – an escape, is still an escape and really good for me.
Meg: That was the same for me.
Sarah: I felt guilty going into it as if I was… You know, I shouldn’t be able to write as if that meant that I wasn’t grieving properly or something. So if you can bear to talk about it and you can bear to examine it and kind of air out those worries, it can help.
Meg: No, absolutely. I’ve done some of my best writing when I’ve been upset or angry but at other times I could feel like I was just not…
Sarah: Total shutdown!
Meg: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got to work with yourself and not beat yourself up about it.
Sarah: Absolutely and I know also you mentioned there that you do lots of planning and plotting. Now, I don’t at all – I can’t. I’ve tried and I’ve never… This is my first series that I’m writing. Now I know you have been writing series and I’m used to the terror of when I’m writing a book, I’ve got no idea what happens…
Meg: I could not do that!
Sarah: And now I’m writing a series, and I’ve got no idea what happens. So my question for you is what tips do you have for me for writing a series? Or how would you reform me?
Meg: Plot it! Plot it all! Plot everything! I have only got worse and worse as the years have gone on. My three-point plot has evolved to a five-point, to a seven-point. Now, I use a 23-point plot for each viewpoint that I have. Its chronologically ordered and everything’s in beats, and I cannot survive without that structure. Depending on what I’m writing, it might be as little as a sentence for a chapter, or it might be as much as I have to write five thousand words of planning for that chapter before I can then write that chapter.
For me knowing what I’m going to write gives me the faith to trust myself, and delve into the creative process and lose myself in the flow because I know I’ve already figured it out. I can’t write myself into a corner because I know where I’m going. But it’s not flawless and it’s not perfect. Sometimes I have to tweak the plot, sometimes I have to go back waste a bit and go off in a slightly different tangent, but plotting for me works. So for me, I would say plot everything but if that doesn’t work for you, then that’s equally fine. I have huge respect – I don’t know how you do it, but wow! I wish I could just sit down and write, that would be amazing, but that’s just not for me.
Sarah: No, it’s very inefficient, I don’t recommend it! I’m always getting stuck and going down wrong ways.
Meg: I think the thing that I do if I get stuck is I go back to the last point that it worked at, and I go from there. That’s always been my go-to and whether it’s plotting or whether it’s writing if I get to a bit where I’m stuck, I’m like ‘right, where did it last work? Where do I need to get to? Am I going down the right path? Oh no, so this character wouldn’t do that because…’ Then it usually goes forward again. Sometimes have to go sideways or backwards!
Sarah: That was something I was going to ask about- when you’re plotting or outlining, brainstorming, do you get stuck then? Because that’s when you’re obviously working out all the stuff that’s going to happen. Do you get stuck then at all or is that just skipping through meadows?
Meg: Oh, I wish! I wish!
Meg: I had a sudden mental image of running through fields of wheat! Possibly only UK listeners might get the slight political reference there! No I do get stuck on the plotting phase. But again I start with a very vague idea and it might be as simple as ‘main character makes a deal with such and such to kill the king’ and that’s the entire thing for the whole book. And then it’s filling in the pieces. Ok, well what if this happened here and what if this comes out and it’s gradually just building that jigsaw and making sure everything fits. Is it all in order? Yes. Okay. I’ll put it on my beat structure. Are there any beats that are missing. Oh, yeah. Okay, what could happen here? This beats in the wrong place. Let’s switch that about.
It’s just like a giant puzzle. It’s my favourite part of the whole process and it’s actually very annoying to then sit down and write a hundred thousand word book when you’re like ‘I’ve already figured this out’. The plotting is genuinely my favourite point – it’s like chemistry. It’s a formula of putting it all together and making this beautiful construct.
But yeah I absolutely get stuck and I have to go away and think, I go back to the last point that works. I put myself into the character’s shoes. What would they actually do? Am I doing something that’s true to them, that’s true to the plot.
It’s about approaching it from different angles for me and just checking – it’s almost like testing I guess that it’s bulletproof. Does this definitely work? Is this logical or am I just writing what I want to write but actually it’s a bad story because it’s not what the characters will actually do.
So I guess kind of stress test it in various angles and eventually fill in all the gaps and it works 90% And then I tweak it as I draft as I need.
Sarah: That’s fantastic. And you mentioned beats there and – do you have any particular resources where you learned about beats and story structure and things or is it something you’ve just picked up? Anything you’d recommend I guess?
Meg: Kind of Frankensteined as I’ve gone. So my 23-point beat structure is probably the combination of four or five different structures with my own bits thrown in that I’ve picked up over the last four or five years and I don’t even really know where I’ve got them from. I chat with friends and we talk about things and they you know, we send each other spreadsheets, because we’re cool, with beat structures on them. I guess I’ve just found something that works for me and adapted it.
There’s plenty of material out there on beats and I would just say go and read through them and some will resonate better than others or some parts will resonate better than others and take what works for you because as much as there might be a formula for writing a story, the way that you do it is entirely up to you, and again working with yourself and to bring the best of your own writing out, I found that this is the one that works for me.
Sarah: I think that’s a great tip – that idea that if you read a structure book and some of it makes sense or some of it resonates, that it is completely okay for you to kind of cobble together, as you said, your sort of Frankenstein’s, your own version. So I think that’s really really worth saying.
Meg: I think when you get into it you feel like you… If you read a book, you must do all the things that the book says because the book is right. And then the further you get along the further you think well actually it just doesn’t work for me. So I’m just gonna make it up on the fly.
Sarah: Yeah, when I’ve attempted plotting when I was trying to learn how to do it. I definitely read a lot of things and I tried to apply them but because it didn’t really work with my own process, but as you say I would try and slavishly follow that particular formula or method because I was looking for that…
Meg: The Magic Bullet!
Sarah: Yes, I was!
Meg: The Magic Bullet, yes. And the secret is there is no magic bullet, unfortunately, but the closest you get is finding what works for you and being able to apply that as much as you can in the lifestyle that you have.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely and I think you’ve sort of answered this probably in terms of your elaborate and detailed plotting and outlining. But again, I want to pick your brains a wee bit more on writing series. Does that help you in terms of keeping all your details? Do you keep a story bible or anything like that or is the fact that you’ve got all these outlines does it for you?
Meg: I should keep a story bible – I’m on book four now, and I keep looking back through 300,000 words of the past three books going ‘oh, I did I do this? Have I forgotten anything?’ I need to get better at series for sure. I do make sure I wrap up all my plot holes, but I definitely need to improve how I plot series and how I record because it’s just – especially in the current sleep-deprived state of my life – there is too much information to hold in my head like I used to be able to do. So. Yeah, I definitely need to get more more down onto paper. But the series for me is I guess it’s like a nested three or four act structure – the series is the three or four act structure and then each book has a three or four act structure and then the structures inside that have… And so on and so forth.
So it’s about just making sure that the books within the series are complete story arcs. That’s really important – nothing annoys me more than reading a book that is not a complete story. Cliffhanger is fine, but it still has to be a complete story and then the series as a whole wraps everything up, and all the foreshadowing through the past few books sort of come together. That’s really satisfying to do and I like to make sure that I tick all those off.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely and I’m I’m sort of keeping a series bible, but I need to get better at it. So it’s kind of comforting to me to know that you haven’t got it completely sorted, yet!
Meg: Well, I’m writing in the same universe and, well the same world, and I’ve only done almost two Series in it so far, but I’ve got like 5,000 years of history there – Tolkien sort of scope.
I really need to start writing it down, but it’s such a big job. I just don’t have the time to do it. So I need to figure that out probably sooner rather than later because it’s only going to get more and more and more that I need to write down, the more and more that I write.
Sarah: Well, maybe you’ll just have to get your VA to do that. Get your VA to create a story bible.
Meg: That’s not a bad idea actually. I might beg some of my fans – does anyone want create a world bible? That would actually be pretty cool.
Sarah: It would! It would be amazing. So another thing with writing a series, I always panic, I always put a lot of pressure on myself and I fret a lot about letting readers down. And I’m finding that even harder with a series because… It’s a series! Is that something that you struggle with at all?
Meg: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve really struggled with that, this book 4 because this series has just been incredible to write and the reader feedback I’ve received has been amazing. People love these books and and it is humbling.
It is also terrifying to think that I have all these people invested in the mad delusions of my brain. Yeah, that’s scary. But I really really take heart from my readers, every word of encouragement from them really really heartens me. I actually printed out… I know your listeners won’t be able to hear, but you can probably see over my shoulders there’s a photo frame and a few weeks ago, I did a reader survey on branding. I really really value my readers feedback in everything from from stories to my branding, everything, and there was an empty comments box at the end and I just you know, the usual anything else to add, and they wrote the most lovely things. You know, you have the most amazing mind, thank you for sharing yourself with us, don’t ever stop writing, your series are you know one-click buys for me, I love everything you write… And I printed them out and put them next to my writing chair because it was just like, every time I feel like I’m not good enough or that I’m going to let someone down, I read those, and I think, I can do this. These people are counting on me. They believe in me and I can do this, and that’s just been really really heartening to think that I’ve got all these people cheering me along. I love my readers. Genuinely. They’re amazing.
Sarah: That’s wonderful. That’s such a good tip as well. I’m stealing that tip!
Meg: Every nice review you have, every really lovely one that fills you with warm fuzzies, if you’re feeling down, go look at them. Print them out, stick them in a book and go read them when you’re feeling like you’re struggling to do this and you’re not sure how you’re going to manage it because it’s just it’s just lovely.
Sarah: So obviously you’ve got your next, your last in series, is coming out, or you’re finishing up on that. What are your other plans for this year or or the next few months? Or would you rather not say?
Meg: In 2020… Can I swear on this podcast?
Sarah: Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, I’ll put a tag on it.
Meg: 2020 is the year of getting my – together. So this is the first year that I will have vaguely full-time, so four days a week. I know what I’m doing as far as people I guess can know what they’re doing in that I can write good books. I’m confident of that. I can sell good books and hopefully support my family doing that.
That’s that’s my ultimate goal. That’s why I do this. I love stories, but I also want to provide for my family doing this. I don’t want to have to go back to day job and this is the first year where I really have the chance to do that. I won’t be having any more babies. I am hoping I won’t have any more life-threatening illnesses or situations to deal with hopefully, hopefully I’m praying that 2020 will be a straightforward smooth year where I can actually show The Very Best of myself and what I’m capable of and I feel really motivated to just go out there and try and have no limits and say yes and just be the very best that I can be.
So I want to get this series finished. This closes a really important but sort of dark chapter of my life and go on to my next series which will be set in the same world. I’m already working with my readers to sort of brainstorm what they would like to see as well as my own ideas. So yeah, I’m excited to have fun writing great stories meeting more great readers and just hopefully having a fulfilling healthy year full of self-care.
Sarah: Well, I love your goals for this year. I particularly love again as we’ve said in this in this interview that how self-care is up there. So just to finish up – where can listeners find out more about you and your books online?
Meg: So I’m on Amazon Meg Cowley, my website megcowley.com. I’m on Instagram @meg_cowley and that’s pretty much it. Again I try to minimise, so I do the bare minimum of what what is fun and what is achievable.
Fantastic. I’m definitely
Sarah: making notes as we speak. So thank you so much for your time. I’ll put all the links in the show notes.
Meg: It’s been lovely to chat. Thank you so much.