Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Category: writing tips Page 1 of 3

50 Things: Part 9

It seems fitting that my final two 50 Things lists return us to the world of writing.

So – list number 9 is…

5 THINGS I WISH I’D KNOW BEFORE I BECAME A WRITER

It’s a job!

Some people , no matter how many hours they see you put in, or how many books you sell (or not), will have serious trouble accepting that being a writer is a job. They equate you working from home or in a cafe (or wherever), as you enjoying a time consuming hobby. This – in their eyes- means you are free to be interrupted all the time, to have time off at will, and always there to do them the odd favour.

I have distant relatives that still tell me I need to get a ‘proper job’ and ask if I’m ever going to ‘make it’ (Making it meaning being famous or having a book adapted into a TV show or film.) I wish I’d known just how frustrating that was before I started!

Long hours

It is often said that writers are never off work. And it’s true – if we aren’t writing, we are thinking about writing. Everything in the world is potential inspiration.

Having said that – how long we work is down to our deadlines, publishers deadlines, editors deadlines and the fact that, the more books we have the more income we make. Once a writer’s faithful readers have all read their latest book, to keep the income flowing, you need to write another one – the cycle of supply and demand is there as it would be for any kind of product production job.

Personally- and I am aware I’m a workaholic – I work about 65 hours a week – often more. Weekends are rare. This isn’t a complaint – I love my job. It is however, a warning – to be successful, the hours need to be put it.  Imagine you are setting up a business – you are self-employed, and to make the business float, you need to work hard and long. It’s exactly the same for a writer.

It’s addictive

There is no drug on earth like making people happy with words. Sharing a story with someone is very special. And, when a good review comes in, or an editor/publisher/agent like your work- the rush is amazing. I have been a slave to the addiction for nearly 18 years.

Once you’re on the rollercoaster, it’s very hard to get off- or even slow down.

People can be cruel

I mentioned the joy of good reviews – but the pain of the bad ones can take a hell of a lot of getting over. While one nice review will make you happy for an hour or so – a bad one will niggle for days- weeks even.

Obviously, we can’t expect everyone to like out work – this means poor reviews. That’s part of the job. What isn’t great, is when reviewers award a one or two star review because the book arrived in poor packaging (Do I package the books? Nope) – or because they accidentally ordered the wrong book. (Go to a book shop instead if you can’t manage making online sales).

Worse still, are the reviews that attack the writer, rather than critically assessing the book. I’ve been called some horrendous things over the years by people who have no idea who I am, or what I’m like. Assumptions are made and opinions are freely shared – in a very unhelpful/hurtful way. Authors are humans- that can be forgotten all too often.

In short – if you have nothing good or helpful (sometimes poor reviews can help- as long as they are constructive) to say – say nothing.

Ups and Downs

I’ll be honest – there are as many low periods as high periods. But the ups are so good, that if you are destined to write, you’ll press on regardless. Only a thick skin and a burning desire to write will get you through the rejections, the broken promises and the number of times things that ‘almost’- but then ‘don’t’ happen.

Having said that, when you get a ‘yes’ – when a publisher calls you back, when an agent accepts you, when a box of your own books arrives through the post – whether they can via self-publishing or a traditional publisher – the feeling is like no other.

When someone tells you, you made them laugh, smile, cry (in a good way), or generally made them happy – that’s so special.

Back when I was Kay, I would receive messages of thanks – I’d saved a marriage or improved a relationship, via my erotica – now that’s amazing.

These are the ups I hang on for – the moments that keep my fingers tapping at the keyboard.

 

And so- one more list to go before I hit 50… 

Jenny x

 

50 Things: Part 4

Part 1 of my ’50 Things’ series saw me contemplating the things I (personally) needed in my life to be able to write.

Today, the focus is more general

5 THINGS A WRITER SHOULD NEVER DO

(assuming they are writing to build a readership, rather than just for fun)

Never underestimate the importance of reputation

While you need to be able to write well to get on as an author – that isn’t enough.  Building up a readership and good networks with publishers and reviewers is vital to your survival. To do that you need a good reputation.

Always keep deadlines; be known for being reliable.

Don’t be an author who hangs on the coat tails of other people’s successes. Don’t copy in famous people (you don’t know) on FB and Twitter etc, just because you think you write like them, or have characters like theirs in your work.  (unless you have their permission)  Behaviour like this gets noticed – and not in a good way.

Don’t add your successes onto other people social media streams without permission. It’s rude.

Don’t boast.

Don’t lie.

This all sounds so obvious – and a bit killjoy like perhaps – but the fact is, you don’t know who is reading your social media posts or you blog. If you are hoping for an agent, new publisher, or a book club to contact you – your chances are much lower if you have a reputation for poor social media etiquette, or for being unreliable.

Never cut corners

Just don’t. All that work you’ve put into writing a story will be wasted if you are in a hurry.

If you need to edit – then edit.

If your cover needs improving- improve it.

If you need to do one more redraft – do it.

Cutting corners might get your work out faster – but readers aren’t stupid- they can tell if an author has rushed their work. And if you don’t care enough about your work to address every issue and make it as good as you can, then why would a reader care enough to come back to you a second time?

(Of course, no one’s work is ever 100% perfect – but we should try to get as near to perfect as possible)

Never think you’re alone

Writing can be lonely – and writers are often their own worst enemies. We constantly question our ability -living hand in hand with imposter syndrome.

Social media is awash with writer’s groups. You can meet other writers, and have a good old moan about what ever part of the writing process is getting you down. Within minutes you’ll find you are not the only one going through it.

There are also in person local author groups all over the place. Be brave and join one. Chances are, it’ll be full of people obsessing over the same things you are.

Never take any success you have for granted

If you get a good book deal – embrace it. Love it. Enjoy every second of it. But do not take it for granted. One deal, does not mean they’ll be another one.  Never assume you won’t have to work just as hard for the second one. (Sounds cynical – but it’s true)

Never think you have to write if it isn’t fun anymore

Writing is hard work – but it is also great fun. What better way to earn a living than to make up lies all day?

But if it isn’t fun anymore – stop. Life’s too short!

So- that’s 2 lists down – 8 to go!

Jenny xx

50 Things: Part 1

As I approach my 50th birthday, I’ve decided to share 50 different thoughts, tips, snippets from my life – plus some general dos and don’ts, moans and groans – in list form.

I’m diving straight in today with –

5 THINGS THIS WRITER COULDN’T DO WITHOUT

Luck

This should never be underestimated. And while you can make your own luck to some extent, (by working hard and paying attention to the world around you so you are aware of the opportunities out there), pure chance can make a huge difference to life.

Of course – luck isn’t always good, and I’ve had my fair share of bad luck – but often it’s a positive thing.

My first piece of luck came when I was 3 days old – I was dying – there was nothing that could be done. My father – a truly wonderful man for so many reasons – wouldn’t give up, and went from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, until he found someone willing to do something – anything – to try and save me. As luck would have it, a locum – fresh out of training – had heard of an experimental drug that might help me. To cut a long story short, he got hold of some and risked his whole career to administer it. If he hadn’t I’d not be here. I have no idea who he was- but THANK YOU!

Anyway- to back to the writing…

My first piece of good luck in the writing world came at the very beginning of my career. Without it, I would not have become a writer.

As many regular readers of this blog will recall – I wrote my first short story, almost 18 years ago, on a serviette in a cafe. The need to write that day was a whim that came from nowhere- and to this day, I don’t know where the idea for that (erotic) story came from.  At the tender age of 33, it was the first story I’d written since school. I only sent it off to a short story publisher to stop a friend from nagging me to do something with it. It didn’t cross my mind that the story would be taken. But it was.

If another editor, rather than the fabulous Violet Blue, had read it, they might not have liked it – if I’d picked a different anthology to sub to, then it may not have got anywhere. I knew nothing of the business at all –  I’d employed the eenie-meenie-miney-mo technique when it came to picking who to send the story to.

Yet – luck was on my side – and suddenly, thanks to my story ‘Jen and Tim’ and Cleis Press, who published the very adult collection, Lips Like Sugar – I suddenly had a brand new – and very unexpected – hobby. Six months later, it had become a career.

Another example of luck came not long after the publication of my part crime/part romcom novel, Romancing Robin Hood. If it hadn’t been picked up by a random Amazon advertising hit due to a mistake by my publishers, it wouldn’t have been noticed by the team relaunching the 1980’s TV series,  Robin of Sherwood  – they wouldn’t have looked at the novel and discovered my fascination with the series  – and so wouldn’t have invited me to their convention- and so I wouldn’t have been asked to try to write for them.

One or two more miracles later, and now I’m their chief writer. (Thank you Barnaby Eaton-Jones, The Carpenter Estate and Spiteful Puppet)

My family and friends

It’s quite simple – I couldn’t do this without my family and friends help, support and love.

The people I love are amazing. Enough said.

An insane, nonstop imagination

I’ve always had a nonstop imagination. Long before I had ideas about writing for a living, I was a day- dreamer.  This was a survival instinct thing throughout my childhood. I was forever working out escape scenarios from the bullies at school – and that developed into me working out every conceivable way anything could go wrong for the rest of my life! I generally know how to cope with problems when they arrive, because I’ve worried about them in advance.

This forever asking questions of every situation now serves me very well when I’m constructing plotlines. I use it to ask myself how every character would behave and every point of conflict would pan out.

I have so many ideas for novels, scripts and short stories, that there is a queue of stories awaiting my attention at all times – each clamouring for their turn to see the light. I dread the day my ideas dry up!

Coffee – black (Strong – none of this Mellow Birds cobblers)

My fuel. Without it I simply don’t operate.

Readers

My lovely readers – THANK YOU ALL.

Without the people who take the time to read my stories, I’m simply a person who plays with words.

Over the last 17 (almost 18) years, I’ve developed a solid fan base/ readership for all three of my pen names – and I appreciate each and every one of them.

 

SO – that’s the first list done! That means there are nine more to come!

You have been warned!

Jen xx

 

 

Tackling the Marketing Resentment Loop

I was recently chatting about ‘what happens after a novel is published’, to one of my #novelinayear groups – and it was generally agreed that a major hurdle in making it as an author- whether you are self published or not- is marketing.

Often it isn’t the marketing itself that’s the problem, but finding the time or inclination to do it in the first place.

Most writers, whether they craft short stories, novels, scripts or poems, are not natural marketers. Let’s face it, marketing means sticking your head above the parapet and shouting ‘Hey, look at me! Look what I’ve done!’ And while not all authors are shy and retiring, many have confidence issues and live far more comfortably in the world of make believe than in the ‘real’ world of commerce.

Okay, so I’m generalizing, but the point is, most writers want to write. They (we!) resent the time required to market their existing books when they’d far rather be creating a new one.

12_hrs

In a world where the majority of authors squeeze writing time in between working, looking after families, and doing all the other things that everyone has to do, it is hard not to resent the time spent writing blogs, or on social media, thinking up new ways to advertise our wares.

We all know that books are invisible if you don’t market them- but how much PR is the right amount? If you go an hour without tweeting about your latest epic will all your hard work become suddenly pointless?

arrowed circle

This is how the marketing resentment loop begins-

You write a book-

You discover it doesn’t sell by magic-

You want to write another book but the first needs marketing….but you only have 2 hours a day to wrote- so you market and don’t write-

You start to resent the marketing-

You start to lose the joy of writing-

You throw your hands in the air and give up.

Six weeks later you are desperate to write-

You write a book-

You discover it doesn’t sell by magic…AND ROUND YOU GO AGAIN.

break-the-cycle

So how do you break the loop?

  1. Set aside a small fraction of your writing time each day to market. Don’t go over that time period.
  2. Take you mobile phone to the bathroom! Yes- I know- but you’re just sat there- tweet/post on Facebook while you’re unable to do anything else anyway! Basically use any dead time in your day to your advantage, from being sat on the loo, to waiting for the kettle to boil.
  3. Immediately after you have finished your novel/script bite the bullet and use your precious writing time to create a series of guest blogs. Once you have them done you can simply adapt and rewrite them as required, saving you time in the long run. Blog tours are an excellent marketing tool, and if you don’t know enough bloggers to ask to host you, then a large number of services exist to provide this service, such as http://www.writermarketing.co.uk/
  4. If you find marketing is killing the joy of creation for you, then don’t do it. Remember, writing is supposed to be fun. If you’re only in it for the money, then I strongly advise you to try your hand at something new instead!

marketing

 

At the end of the day, like in so many professions, marketing is a necessary evil. By simply accepting it as part of the job, then it will soon become routine, and – of course- there is the added bonus that you’ll sell more books.

Happy marketing,

Jenny x

Listening to Mr Higson

This week, while I’m away co-running the latest Imagine writing retreat at Northmoor, I thought I’d leave you with a little advice I was given.

First however, I’ll set the scene…

Approximately four years ago, give or take a week or two, I was at the Society of Author’s conference in Glasgow. (Scotswrite17)  I have been to a lot of conferences over the years, but this was – hands down – the best. It was also exactly what I needed at that precise moment of my writing career.

I’d been a published author for 13 years at the time, and it felt very much like I wasn’t going to be writing for 14.

Life was changing around me – my children were leaving home for university (a stage of life that- even though you know they’ll leave, hits hard). I’d discovered I’d been well and truly screwed over by a former publisher (naming no names), and the world of erotica (which was still my mainstay as an author at the time), was clearly not going to recover from the hot romance novels hit anytime soon.

In truth – I was a bit lost.

Looking back, it seems bizarre that I felt so unsettled. I was already in line to write for my beloved Robin of Sherwood (although it wasn’t public knowledge at the time), and I had Indie publishers wanting my books across three genres. I had no reason to feel disconnected from the writing world – and yet I did.

I was selling thousands of books – but making no money. (A combination of naively signed contracts in my early days, and the fact writers are poorly paid anyway.) It suddenly all felt rather pointless – plus, I had this sense that the time had come to choose.

After all, despite having 3 pen names – there is only 1 of me.

So –

Should I still write erotica?

Should I stick to romcoms?

Should I go back to my roots and write historical fiction?

Should I give up the novels entirely and write scripts?

Should I give it all up and simply teach creative writing? (Imagine was in its early days, and my student take-up was growing fast.)

Should I call it quits and go back to being an archaeologist?

Add to this indecision, my natural lack of confidence and massive imposter syndrome issues.

Those of you who have met me might well be surprised to read that. But the fact is, when I do events or teach I am acting. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s me doing the thinking – but the rest is performed by a character that has become part of me. The real me is way too shy to stand up and speak or teach. I am also very nervous when it comes to talking to strangers – and when it comes to strangers I admire I’m hopeless…

I digress…

So – four years ago with my colleague and friend, Alison Knight – I went to Scotswrite17.  It was make or break. I had appointments to meet agents and new publishers, and was determined to go to as many talks as possible. I told myself that if I didn’t leave Glasgow with my mojo rejuvenated then I was going to stop writing.  And I meant it.

The first evening, there was an opening night dinner. Due to a delayed flight, Alison and I were a little late arriving, which meant that we were the last to join the dinner. We were ushered to the only remaining seats – and so we found ourselves sat between Joanne Harris and Charlie Higson!!

Instantly, I felt myself disappearing in on myself. What was I doing sat with these people?

They were both (and still are) at the top of their game. I was tongue tied and awkward and couldn’t write and didn’t know who I even was half the time. The panic was building. I could feel sweat on my palms and my throat was closing in on itself.

All the way through the conference’s opening address, I kept my eyes fixed on the speaker – not brave enough to look at anyone around my table. Eventually, of course, it was time to eat. Sat next to Charlie Higson, I soon came to realise he felt every bit as out of place as I did. It struck me, in that moment, that he was also shy and was having similar issues in working out what to say to me.

He broke the awkward silence first. He apologised for not knowing who I was. Why the hell would he? – But it was a sweet opener that came with a gentle smile. I explained that I was several people, and confessed that was the problem – I was 3 people and needed to just be 1 person. I’d got to a crossroads in my career and needed to pick a direction – or give up.

Over the course of the meal he asked me about being Kay and what it was like writing in the world of erotica in the modern world. He asked about the competitive field of romance writing. He smiled as I told him about my children’s picture books and asked a great many questions about my historical side and The Folvilles.

At the time, no one was supposed to know about my Robin of Sherwood work- but when I said to him I had been approached to do some script work, he asked if it was confidential- I said it was – he said, ‘tell me anyway’ – then he gestured around him and said ,’Who will I tell? I know no one here.’

I relaxed then. I was sat next to a writer. A good one. But one who was as out of his comfort zone as I was.

I told him about the scripts (yes, I know I shouldn’t have).

Then, he turned to me and said – ‘So, what is the problem exactly? Why do you feel you have to chose?’

I was flummoxed and hid in the consumption of a mouthful of pudding. Why did I have to choose? I couldn’t think why I’d started to box myself in. While I chewed, Mr Higson went on. This is the advice he gave me.

‘Do it all. Just do it. Some of it will work, some won’t. Do it anyway. Trust your ability. Do it all. Try it all. Repeat the stuff you enjoy, ditch the stuff you don’t. You’re a writer – so write.’

That was it. So simple. But spoken with a strength of purpose which made those few sentences stick with me all this time.

I doubt Mr Higson remembers me or that dinner, let alone what he said. But I took his advice – and I did do it all. I’m still trying anything thrown at me on the writing front. I have dropped a few projects I didn’t enjoy, and I have pushed on into new areas of writing that I’d never have dreamt of even trying for before that conference. (News on those soon!)

In short – always try – do it all if you want to – don’t be afraid of failing – and if you have writing in you, then write. Worry about if it has worked or not later. (And keep the day job!)

Lecture over!!

Keep well, keep safe,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

The importance of book reviews

Over recent years I’ve been blessed with some lovely reviews for my novels. I’ve also had some stinkers – but you can’t please everyone. (Although, I try very hard to do just that.)

Reviews are vital to an author – the more you have (especially 4 and 5 star reviews) the better your chances are of being asked to write another book. So, if you have enjoyed a book by an author, write a review- that way, there is a higher chance of that person being asked to write another one.

If a book has over 100 reviews on Amazon, it is automatically given some promotion on their targeted email advertising.  As most authors can’t afford to pay for advertising – this is a big deal.

Not only that, reviews are the only way an author can tell if he or she is ‘hitting the spot’ or not. Obviously high book sales can tell you if your book is successful – but sale figures can do no more than reflect how good your marketing is. It is feedback from your readership that tells you if your stories are actually working.

If you wrote a thriller- did it thrill?

If you wrote a romance- did it melt the heart?

If you wrote a horror- did it give your reader nightmares?

Obviously this is a simplistic set of questions, but the point is- authors need to know – and the way to tell them is via reviews.

Good reviews improve our standing and our professional reputations. They improve our ratings on Amazon and equivalent book selling platforms. The more good reviews an author has, the better their overall sales will become.

I’m not saying that you should only give good reviews. If a book has disappointed, let you down and so on, then some constructive criticism can help an author- even though it might be difficult to swallow sometimes!

But you should not give a poor review because…

… of damaged delivery packaging. (That is nothing to do with the author)

…the book isn’t the one you meant to purchase.

…the book was a gift, and wasn’t something you wanted to read, etc etc….

My favourite 1 star review was for Another Cup of Coffee – it was complaining about all the sex in it.  This really confused me as, although there is a suggestion that sex might happen on two occasions within that 97,000 word book, there is no actual sex.  I dread to think what might have happened if that reviewer had accidentally purchased one of my Kay Jaybee books!!!

So – in short – if you enjoy a book – PLEASE review it.

It takes up to a year of hard work to write a book that you’ll read in a matter of days. Any positive feedback you can give helps us author types a great deal.

Whether you leave a review on the Amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones, Goodreads – or any other retailer/book promotion platform – every single one helps.

Every single one.

 

And with that…I have reviews to write for some books I’ve recently enjoyed!

THANK YOU

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

So, you want to be a writer

So, you want to be a writer.

This is a list of the 8 questions I would encourage you to ask yourself before you start to write.

Who are you writing for?

Yourself? Friends? Family?

If the answer isn’t for yourself – then take a deep breath and think very carefully.  However much fun it is, writing is hard work. If you aren’t doing it because you want to, it’ll be even harder.

What are you writing for?

Money? Fun? To make a point? To leave something of yourself behind after your death? Because you simply have to write?

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, you need to ask yourself…

What genre are you going to write?

Are you going to write in a given genre. If so – which one?

Crime, romance, paranormal, steampunk, fantasy, erotica, contemporary fiction, goths, thrillers….The list is huge, and expanding all the time.

Which age group/gender are you targeting?

Adults? Teenagers? Children? Everyone?

It is vital to know your audience. Make sure you read as much as you can in the genre/audience group you hope to write for.

Let’s get practical!

Where will you write?

At home, in the local café, the library, or a hired office?

If you are not comfortable in your writing place, the words will not come easily.

What medium will you chose?

Paper, computer, tablet, phone, dictation?

There is no right or wrong way to produce a story. Go with what works for you – not what you think ought to work for you.

Will you approach an agent, a publisher, or self publish?

Each avenue has advantages and disadvantages. Whatever you decide to do – get as much advice as you can about your preferred option first.

And- most boringly and practical of all- can you manage your own marketing?

Don’t forget, if you don’t market your writing, then all your hard work will have been wasted. No one will know your book exists if you don’t wave your flag! So, love it or hate, you will need to get to grips with social media, whether you are traditionally published or self published.

 

***

Happy questioning!

Jenny xx

 

 

5 Tips: Progressing from short story writing to novels

So, you’ve had an idea?

You’ve woke up in the middle of the night with a title that just screams to be the name of the next bestselling novel, or a plot line that is leaping around your head with such ferocity that it has to hit the bookshelves.

You’ve already written short stories, but a novel – that’s a hell of a lot of words…

1. Think of short story writing as your novel writing apprenticeship – Short stories are a brilliant way for any writer to learn their craft. By learning to write to a word limit you can build your literary skill and finesse your writing. Too many people are in a rush to write a novel without taking the time to learn the skills needed. Creating short stories can teach you how to write in such a way that not a single word is wasted. Every word- every single one- has to count in a short story. The same applies to a novel- pages of waffle and repetition are boring to read and boring to write.

2. You need instant impact – In a short story all you have to grab your reader’s attention is the first one or two sentences. When writing their first novel, new writers often relax, thinking the lengthier word count means they have the luxury of spending pages to grab their reader’s interest- wrong!

When you write a novel the same instant impact rule applies as for short pieces. You have one to three paragraphs at the most to hook them. If a reader’s interest isn’t piqued by the end of the first page you’ve lost them- and then they are less likely to look at any further work you might produce. Once you have hooked them of course, then you can coax them into the story and work to keep them with you until they reach the last page – desperate to read more.

3. Don’t push that plot – Once you’ve started writing your novel, if you find your dream plot isn’t going to stretch to a whole novel (usually btw 70-100,000), then pause. Take a step back. There is nothing worse than reading a story that’s had its plot watered down just so it’s the required length. Take a walk. Think it through. Can the storyline take an extra twist to the plot? Can the interest in your characters be sustained? If not- make it a novella. Novellas (generally accepted to be anything from 20-60K), are very popular, great fun to write and wonderful writing practice.

4. Climb that word count– Addressing a word count of c.90,000 after having previously only completed pieces that are 5-10,000 words long can seem like a mammoth task. So why not build up slowly? Think of it like mountaineering. No one would tackle Everest without climbing a few lesser mountains first. So grab the crampons and the ropes and tackle a 15,000 word story – then add a crash helmet and a few rations and go for a novella. Then, as your confidence builds and you’ll soon be ready to strap on the oxygen tank, grab a pick and go for that novel!

5. Still feel like heavy going?- A lot of issues connected with getting through a novel for the first time are psychological. Don’t be afraid to address each chapter like an individual short story, but with a more open ending. After all, you already know you can write short tales of fiction. Allow yourself rewards for every 1000 words- an extra cup of coffee, a chocolate bar, a ten minute walk. Take one word at a time.

Remember- it’s supposed to be fun!

Happy writing!!

Jenny

(Check out my short story and general fiction writing workshops at www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk  )

8 Tips for Getting Down to Writing

One of the questions I’m asked the most, as both an author and a creative writing tutor, is

How do I actually get down to writing?

Let’s face it, there are a million and one plausible excuses not to sit and write. Most of them will be genuine- some will be sheer prevarication!

Not being able to write because you work long shifts, have children at home, pets that need walking, are ill…GOOD REASONS

Not writing because there’s a television show you’re keen to see or because you need to wash curtains- EXCUSES!

If you are having trouble knuckling down – especially if you’re new to writing, ASK YOURSELF IF THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO – if it is- read on!

Writing is a lot of fun, but you can’t escape the fact it takes discipline.

Here are my top 8 tips to getting down to writing!

Find your place.

Try working in different locations- at home, a cafe, a library etc- experiment with locations until you find the correct comfort zone for you and your writing.

Find you writing time and claim it as your own- even if it is only one hour a week.

Some people are at their most creative in the mornings, some in the evenings. If you are not tied by work hours, try out different times of day to write to discover when the words flow the best. If time is limited, label one hour (or even just 30 mins) a day as YOURS. Be brave enough to be selfish about it- this is YOUR WRITING TIME.

Get up earlier- stay up later- barricade yourself into your bedroom for an hour straight after work…whatever works best for you.

If you can’t write during your ‘writing time’- still keep that time as your own.

Sometimes the muse won’t come, however much you want it to. Keep that time as yours. Plot/plan/scribble/walk/polish your pens! Once you give it up once, it’ll be easier to give it up again- and you’ll lose it.

Turn distractions into stories

It you’re distracted by something- turn it into a short story or writing exercise. Make it work for you as a warming up exercise.

If you make a deadline- STICK TO IT

It’s so easy- especially before you’re contracted for work- to write with no deadlines. As soon as that happens you can be tempted to give up on your writing time. Make a deadline- stick to it.

Focus on the end result- think about what you want to achieve.

Always think of the big picture. This is your dream!

Keep your favourite food and drink handy.

Writing is hard work. Make sure you stay hydrated and don’t get peckish or your concentration will waver.

Allow yourself rewards. Bribe yourself if necessary!

Whatever it takes to keep that bum on that seat! Promise yourself a walk, a chocolate bar, a glass of wine for every section/chapter written

When the book is finished, treat yourself to that jumper you want, that trip to the takeaway, a meal out, a concert ticket… You will have earned it!

***

Having writing everyone,

Jenny

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk 

The Guilt Monster

This week I had the privilege of returning to the Imagine writing retreat at Northmoor House on Exmoor.

As retreat co-runner and writing trouble shooter, with my Imagine business partner, Alison Knight, I enjoyed the stunning countryside that surrounds Northmoor – an unspoilt Victorian manor house. It was wonderful to be in such a peaceful place with the excellent company of a number of fellow writers- many of whom are Imagine students.

On Tuesday evening we were joined by our guest speaker – novelist and all round lovely person, Kate Lord Brown. Kate gave a fabulous talk and workshop on the theme of inspirations. She also got us to think about our inner critics- including asking us to write down what they looked like.

I’ve never known a writer who was without an inner critic sitting on their shoulder. Most authors I’ve met have at least some level of imposter syndrome. But I had never considered turning these ‘critics’ into beings that we could- once personified- vanquish to the far corners of our minds.

As my fellow writers began to jot down descriptions of their critics, I was hit by two sensations. The first was that I don’t have an inner critic- I have an outer one- Me- and I never stop giving myself a hard time. The second realisation was that it isn’t so much criticism, as guilt.

I have an inner Guilt Monster. (Deserving of the capital letters.)

It’s voice never stops arguing with me…

You should work harder (I work 14 hr days – I overwork- but then I love my job)

You ought to be doing the job I trained for and earn a proper wage (I was never confident as a lecturer- I always assumed I knew nothing- yes, even historian me had an inner critic…)

You’re too nice to make it in the cut and thrust world of book sales (I have been conned by past publishers a lot because I’m so trusting- so can’t argue with my Guilt Monster on that one)

Even working as a trolley collector in the local supermarket would more than treble your hourly rate (I love my job, and I’m not into “owning stuff.”)

You aren’t good enough to make it (I’ve had 16 Amazon bestsellers)

I could go on….

I’m not sharing this with you to play for sympathy (I hate the poor-bugger-me syndrome that can go with this stuff), but to say how thankful I am to Kate Lord Brown for making me stop and think about this, frankly, ridiculous self-imposed, situation.

I think it would be unrealistic to ask myself to lose the insecurity factor. I honestly think I need it – I need to get nervous before a gig or anxious before a workshop – it drives me on- stops me being complacent, and so keeps me primed to always work my hardest to deliver the best I can for the people who rely on me- and to write the best books I can.

The Guilt Monster however, has to go.

I can see him now – and it is a him (I have no idea why, it really ought to be female – I can’t even get that right!!!)

He’s sort of green and has shaggy hair all over. He’s wearing a silly red and blue hat…I don’t know why. And he looks cross…and disappointed.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go out for a walk- with luck he’ll fall off my shoulder as I go. If he doesn’t look like he wants to let go, then I think I might give him a push

The Imagine retreat was brilliant…and as you can tell- thought provoking…

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

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