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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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).


On Working Partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael’s writing process:

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

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

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

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

On working concurrently on several book projects:

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


On Writing by Stephen King

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder






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The Worried Writer Ep#34: ‘Check In With Your Goals’

In this ‘just me’ episode I recap my progress over 2017, give tips learned from my recent ‘performance and presentation’ training, and answer a listener question about getting a trilogy published…

Writing progress:

As the end of the year approaches, I start thinking about next year – mainly because I tend to go into hibernation mode during this time but I absolutely love the fresh new start of January and get far more excited by the new goal setting and planning of a new year.

I’ve tried to recognise that I go into a bit of an energy slump in December and have scheduled a light month. However, I’m a bit behind on some of my November goals, so I want to really push myself this week to get as much done as possible before I wind down for the year.

I have revisited my goals from January this year and I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve achieved, but if I can tick a couple more things off the list then even better!

I encourage you to check in with your goals on a regular basis – but definitely at large junctures like quarterly or at the beginning, middle and end of the year. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or like I’m not getting much done it can be either encouraging to see what I have actually managed or the kick up the backside I need.

This year I planned to write, edit and publish Stop Worrying; Start Writing in all formats. The ebook and print versions are done and the audio should scrape in under the wire, I hope!

I also did extensive structural rewrites on Beneath The Water (now available to pre-order – meep!), finished and rewrote my supernatural thriller, and have almost finished the first draft of a new novel.

In writing terms, it’s probably my best, most productive year yet but I am still aware of how much more I am capable of or, more accurately, how much more I want to do. I think I have to be happy with my own process, but also to push myself a bit and keep trying to refine my work habits. It’s a tricky balance.

This year I also planned to do some real life events, meeting up with author friends who live around the UK and beyond, and I managed a couple of lovely lunches – hurrah! I also made strides with my business training by completing the SPF 101 course and ‘advertising for authors’, both from the excellent Mark Dawson. I’ve started to experiment with ads with some success, so that’s pleasing. I’ve also been building my mailing list, although I have a lot more to do in that area.

This month, I was lucky enough to get attend a Performance and Presentation training day put on by the Scottish Book Trust. There were workshops from Jenny Lindsay, a spoken word poet, and Alex Gillon, a voice coach.

It was an intense day and quite hard in places, but the workshops were incredibly powerful and useful.


Lessons learned:

Mindset is important!

  • Remember why you are doing this (to share your work).
  • The people in the audience are not out to hate you or have a bad time and they won’t be hyper-critical if you make little mistakes or seem nervous.
  • Think of it like talking a group of people you’ve just met in the pub. You don’t know them well, but they seem nice.
  • ACT FINE. You don’t have to be super-confident or to feel fine, you just have to act fine.

Practical tips:

  • Walk the space beforehand.
  • Insist on a sound check.
  • Warm up with stretching, shaking out the tension in your body and do some breathing exercises before you go on.


The other big takeaway for me was the idea of really performing the piece. Having only presented non-fiction, I hadn’t appreciated how much feeling and variety you need to put into a piece of fiction to make it come alive. It’s no good just reading the text nice and clearly; if you want your listeners to experience it properly, you have to act with emotion and use different voices for the different characters and so on.

I am so grateful to the Scottish Book Trust for the opportunity and feel more confident than I did at the thought of reading my fiction to an audience. I’m still terrified, of course, but it helps to know there are techniques and tips I can follow.

Listener Question:

This month’s listener question is from Georgia. She wrote:

I am currently learning how to edit my first draft of my very first novel! I am planning on making it the first of three in a series. I would like to try to get it traditionally published…

However, I have a full-time job and am worried that even if I did manage to get a deal for all three, trying to write to a deadline alongside a full-time job would be too much. Would it be better to write all of the series and then try and get it published? Or would publishers be reluctant to buy a series all in one go?

Thanks so much for the great question, Georgia!

My advice is to start querying as soon as book one is ready. Traditional publishing is very slow so you will have time to finish your second and maybe even third while you wait to hear from agents and publishers. A publisher might not want to buy a trilogy so it is a good idea to make sure book one can stand alone, too.


If you’ve got a question you’d like answered, please email me or find me on Twitter.

I’ll answer it on the show and credit you (unless, of course, you ask to remain anonymous).


I can’t believe that the next show will be out in 2018!

I have a fabulous interview with psychological thriller author and publisher (Manatee Books), Lisa Hall, to share with you, and will also discuss my goals for 2018.

Thank you so much for your support this year and I wish you a happy winter holiday!



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