The Worried Writer Episode #15: A.J. Waines ‘I love deadlines’



Alison Waines publishes fiction under the name A.J.Waines and has sold over 150,000 books worldwide. Last year, she topped the UK and Australian Kindle bestseller charts with her number one hit Girl On A Train, and was also awarded the Kindle KDP Top 20 ‘Most Read Author’ in the UK. Alison used to work as a psychotherapist before publishing her dark psychological crime fiction, and she is a hybrid author, straddling both traditional and self-publishing.

For more about Alison head to or find her on Twitter or Facebook.

The Self-Esteem Journal by Alison Waines
I’m giving away a copy of Alison’s non-fiction title, The Self-Esteem Journal, as I think it could be useful for those struggling with creative self-doubt, as well as more general lack of confidence.

To be in with a chance of winning, just leave a comment on this post, or send me an email (sarah (at) with the subject ‘win’.*

In this episode, I give a personal writing update, as well as share the news about In The Light of What We See (it’s been a wonderful first month of publication, with 99 five-star reviews on Amazon, already – whoop!).

I also mention which uses AI-generated music to promote focus, relaxation and sleep. Although initially sceptical, I have tried the ‘for focus’ music and it seem to improve my concentration.

I heard about via Mark Dawson’s new podcast (which is excellent) – Self Publishing Formula.

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).


Alison reveals what it was like when a high-profile thriller was released with a title which is almost-identical to her own (already published) book.

Alison describes her journey into both traditional and independent publishing and her experiences with both:

‘One of the nice things about being hybrid is that for some of the books I have complete control over everything and I really enjoy that.’



Alison’s writing process:

‘I love deadlines!’

‘Never leave at the end of a chapter or a scene… I always want to put something that just triggers where I am for the next time I am back at my desk.’

On marketing:

‘People should play to their strengths.’

On fear:

‘I always come back to that awful terror of I can’t do this.’

Alison’s Recommendations:

On Writing by Stephen King

Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg

The Artists Way Julia Cameron

Life Choices Life Changes Diana Glouberman


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! 

*Giveaway is open internationally. Ends at midnight (GMT), 25th May 2016.

Creative Thinking for Beginners


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.


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!

Episode #06 The Worried Writer: Lani Diane Rich ‘Claim Your Awesome!’

ww_ep6_lani_imageJoin me for an energising chat with New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, podcaster extraordinaire, and inspirational writing teacher, Lani Diane Rich.

Lani writes funny romantic books and, under the pen name Lucy March, magical contemporary fiction. She has eleven books published and runs a creative business helping other writers, Storywonk, with her husband Alastair Stephens.

forloveormoneyFind out more about Lani at or visit

Or, find Lani on Twitter: @LaniDianeRich or @storywonk

Lani’s next book (as Lucy March) is out in December 2015. It’s the third the Nodaway Falls series: For Love or Magic (Nodaway Falls)

Also, I highly recommend the Storywonk podcasts. Head here for the full list!

We discuss:

Lani’s process – she has periods of creation, editing and so on throughout the year, rather than focusing on a weekly or monthly schedule.

Lani writes in three basic phases: Discovery phase (soundtracks, staring out the window, collages etc), drafting phase – where she tries to write 2000 words a day, and revision.

Lani says the revision phase is where: ‘I take all my understanding of story and structure and apply it to the hot mess’.

We talk about how the process can vary from book to book. Lani says:

‘I do what the book asks of me, if I have to get up and write at midnight, I get up to write at midnight.’

Lani talks about the importance of giving yourself permission for a ‘full and rich discovery phase’.

To stay productive and creative over time, Lani suggests writing every day (something small and fun – something which reminds you what you love about writing), and engaging with narrative every day in a way which is enriching and inspiring to you (this can be good television or film, video games, graphic novels, as well as novels).

And don’t miss Lani’s brilliant ‘Claim Your Awesome’ speech!


In the first section of the show, I talk about how useful I’ve found keeping a simple and regular routine. I first heard about this concept (as it applies to creativity) in Murakami’s excellent book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.



TheGardenOfMagicIn other news, I was thrilled to be listed as one of Jodi Gibson’s ‘Five Essential Podcasts for Writers’. Thanks, Jodi!

And, on a personal note, I shouted about my new novella The Garden of Magic, which is out on 14th August 2015, and my super-exciting (to me!) book deal news.

For more details, head to my author site.



Got a question about writing or creativity?

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

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

Please spread the word and, if you can spare the time, leave a rating for the show on iTunes. I truly appreciate your support.

Thank you for listening!