Categories
Coaching Craft Productivity

How to Collaborate with a Fellow Author

This week has been a lovely one, as I’ve been writing with fellow author, editor, and writing coach, Isobelle Lans of Inspired Creative Co. Isobelle joined me for a week in Wales and we decided to begin a project we’ve spoken about for a while – writing a novel together.

If you too are looking to collaborate with a fellow author, here are our top tips on making it work:

1 – Communication is key.

An obvious one but worth mentioning is communication. We all communicate in a different way, but being receptive and open to each other’s ideas is a big part of creative collaboration. Before writing together, consider how the other person communicates, how they prefer to write, and what you can both bring to the project.

2 – Giving constructive criticism.

How do you receive feedback? It’s an important subject to raise. I like the compliment sandwich, and clear informative information about how something can be improved. Identify something you like, and then explain how something could be changed and why you think this. Be open to discussion on that change, and remember that creative writing is a subject often close to the heart. Find a middle ground for what works for both of you, and don’t be afraid to refer back to point one.

3 – Respecting energy levels.

Everyone has different ways of writing and working throughout the day, and routines that they are comfortable with. If you find you write best in the morning but your creative friend writes best in the evening, come up with a schedule that suits the both of you.

4 – Encouraging each other.

Discuss open ideas with each other and be mindful of all of the above. Spur each other on and take regular breaks where you don’t discuss writing – creating together requires a relationship too!

5 – Sharing a plot.

Everyone’s ideas are valid, so remember to share a plot. If you have an idea that you feel strongly about, politely explore it and allow your author friend to do the same. Remember that there is more than one solution to a problem, and that different personality types respond in different ways to situations – that’s a key point for your characters too!

6 – Working to your strengths.

At the start of your collaboration, communicate your creative strengths to the other person. Explore the topics and themes that you enjoy, shared favourite books, and decide on division of labour. For example, Isobelle and I discussed the kind of characters we like to write. Personally, I enjoy writing from a woman’s point of view, so I chose a character that matched my preferences. Isobelle is the opposite, so she chose a character that matched hers. In research, I enjoy writing about historical elements such as food. Isobelle prefers researching geographical features, such as floor plans and setting.

Treat this like any partnership with fair exchange and respect, and you too will be writing a novel with a close friend with ease and creativity.

 

 

Categories
Coaching Craft Productivity

It’s Time to Spring Clean Your Writing

Let’s spring clean your writing!

It’s spring cleaning season – so let’s take action and start with your writing (the housework can wait).

We’ll begin with the decluttering. 

Remove unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.

A good trick is to search for words ending in ‘-ly’, ‘-ive’, ‘-ous’, or ‘-al’. Obviously not all adjectives and adverbs end in these, but it’s a great way to find them!

Remove filler words and clichés.

Read your work aloud (or have your computer do it for you!). It will help you notice when your pace slows, when filler words appear, and when a predictable phrase or cliché rolls around. You can also ask for someone else to read your work.

Cut down on repetition.

We all have words that we overuse! To help with this, create a word bank. Your word bank will be words or phrases you lean on. In the meantime, check for these common ones: Nodding, smiling, breathing, quietly.

Reduce sentences that aren’t adding to the overall story.

First, check your dialogue for conversation that isn’t driving your narrative forward. Then, check for tangents. Have you gotten caught up in exploring a subplot or description?

Now, let’s freshen up your descriptions!

Use the senses.

Your character is walking through the town in which they live. What does the air smell like? How does it feel on their skin? What can they taste? Create an immersive experience for your reader by engaging their senses, and pull them right into the world you have created.

Get specific.

Avoid generalisations and use comparisons to help a reader understand what you are describing. Your character might be tall, for example, but it’s more powerful to say that they tower over the door of their enemy.

Use setting to reflect emotion.

Tolkien was a master at this – reflecting the emotion of a scene in the setting and atmosphere around the characters. Have a go – if your character is feeling despondent, how might this change how they view the world? Perhaps the once pink sky has now turned grey, the leaves on the trees turning to ash.

Feeling good? It’s time to trim your plot now. 

Revisit your timeline.

Are there any inconsistencies? Unnecessary time jumps? Check that you are telling your story in a way that will make sense for the reader. If you spot an inconsistency – don’t panic. You may need to adjust your timeline. For this – write out each chapter in one sentence, and then consider what can stay, what needs moving, whether you want to change what a chapter is about, or even if you want to condense any.

Remove filler scenes.

Are there any scenes that don’t advance your plot or character’s development? Sometimes in drafting, we can indulge in writing that isn’t actually moving the journey on. Review your plot and ask yourself with each chapter – what did this do to move my story forward?

Identify subplots.

Subplots are like chair legs – they need to hold up the main plot! If they don’t, they are their own story. So consider, what are your subplots, and are they all relevant and working for your main plot?

Great work so far. Let’s move on to polishing your dialogue. 

Make your character’s voice unique to them.

Consider that even people from the same place don’t speak in the same way. How is your character unique, and how will this change how they talk? As people develop, speech also changes. How will you show your character’s development through their dialogue?

Show, don’t tell.

Use dialogue to reveal emotions – show proof that they are feeling a certain way, instead of telling the reader. For example, show us that your character is angry instead of telling us that they are speaking ‘angrily’. (Need more info on this? See this post here!)

Use contractions.

People rarely say ‘I will not’ instead of ‘I won’t’. Use contractions to make your dialogue more natural and to mirror how people speak in real life.

Remove filler.

Though in reality, we say words such as ‘like’ or ‘um’ when we speak, too much of this in fiction can be jarring for the reader and slows down the pace of a story. Look out for these words in your narrative and remove any that repeat too often.

Phew. Apart from clearing your desk, there is only one task left! Let’s talk about refreshing your perspective as a writer. 

Take a step back. 

Taking a break can make all the difference. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, confused, or like you don’t know how to make your writing the best it can be, take a break. Take some time to review what’s worked for you too – we can’t move forward successfully unless we review what has and has not worked in the past.

Remember that there is always more to learn.

An education can help you reframe perspective. Engage in new writing groups, opportunities, or courses. Chat to other writers, or subscribe to a writing industry magazine. Engage with your writing community.

Revisit your old work.

How far have you come since you began your writing journey? Reflect on what you have done, where you have grown, and how your skills have improved. Make a note of them, and reward yourself. Being a writer isn’t easy, but you’re doing it!

Set new writing goals.

Try and remove the pressure of the overall ‘I want to write a novel’ goal. It’s too big to work towards, but if you break it down into manageable chunks, you’ll find yourself achieving it more easily. Need more help with this one? Grab The Ultimate Writer’s Planning Workbook! It’ll take you through the entire process.

There you have it writer, you have completed your spring cleaning task! Now it’s time to make a cup of tea and enjoy the warm weather.

Categories
Craft

Ten Fantastical Female Characters Over Forty

Do you feel that the older you get, the more likely you are to take up arms and wage war against the orcs? I hear you. Female characters over the age of forty are not always common in fiction, and yet, in my experience, they have a unique and resilient perspective. Let’s celebrate some of the best female characters over forty in fantasy, to whet your appetite for rebellion and celebrate International Women’s Day 2024!

1: Galadriel – The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

If we’re talking about female characters over forty, let’s start with one who is thousands of years old. A wise and powerful elf with a magical insight and a dark side that compels you to read on…I’d be on Galadriel’s team any day.

2: Catelyn Stark – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

All right, I hear you, in the books she is below forty years old, but they upped her age for the show, so she does belong on this list. She is represented as a fierce protector of her family, a gentle and strong matriarch, a woman who doesn’t deny her pain and speaks her mind.

3: Granny Weatherwax – Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

One of my favourite characters on the disc has to be Granny Weatherwax, a formidable witch with a strong belief in her powers. She has a no-nonsense attitude but demonstrates her love for others in her own way, shaking off her intended ‘wicked witch’ title.

4: Morwen – Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Another witch who won’t take any nonsense from anyone, this time flanked by a significant number of cats. YA is not just for kids (trust me, it’s okay. You don’t have to read it on your Kindle), and Morwen is an excellent example of a self-assured and powerful woman over the age of forty.

5: Moiraine Damodred – The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

An Aes Sedai (servant of all), talented in healing and channelling the ‘One Power’. If you haven’t read the books, that probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but know this: Moiraine is both thoughtful and manipulative, a complex woman with a calm demeanour. That’s who I would want on my team.

6: Aunt Pol – The Belgariad series by David Eddings

Aunt Pol (Polgara) is an immortal sorceress, which is a pretty good job to have bestowed on you from birth. She is also one of the most feared and powerful women in the world, so if I didn’t put her on this list, it would be an injustice.

7: Professor Wendowleen Cripcot – The Finery by Rachel Grosvenor

A retired professor nearing 101, Professor Cripcot is ready to take down a totalitarian government with her pet wolf by her side. There’s no messing about when it comes to Professor Cripcot—she says what’s on her mind and will stop at nothing to fight for her rights.

8: Queen Talyien – The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

It’s not easy being queen, and Talyien demonstrates her struggles and wins, navigating the difficult situations she faces in her complex political world. In short, she’s doing her best to protect her people, but sometimes that’s just not enough. As a side note, this series is called ‘The Chronicles of the Bitch Queen’. That’s enough to drive me to read it, anyway.

9: Kelsea Glynn – The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johanse

Though she ascends the throne at nineteen, inheriting a broken kingdom, the reader watches her grow in age and strength until she proves herself to be a far more capable monarch than expected. Kelsea is a legend in the making.

10: Irene Adler – The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogma

A name you might recognise if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, Irene is a spy and librarian for a magical and multi-dimensional library. In terms of cool jobs, a spy-come-librarian might even beat an immortal sorceress.

 

Do you want to write something magical featuring a strong female character? Stick around the blog, there’s lots to see!

Categories
Publishing

How Do You Book a 1:1 with a Literary Agent?

First, let’s talk about why you might be interested in doing this. If you have a novel and it’s completed (you’ve edited it, taken it through a few drafts, and you’re feeling good about its condition), you might be thinking about or currently querying. A 1:1 with a literary agent can be so helpful for a few reasons. 

  • They give you valuable feedback on your query package. As these are the people receiving queries, they are the experts! Their feedback will help you improve. 
  • They can give you insider advice. Agents are up to date on literary market trends, publisher preferences, and more. All of this information can increase your chances of getting published!
  • To build a relationship. You’re not going to become best friends over a 15-minute phone call, but talking to an agent who represents your genre and having the opportunity to discuss your work with them is more impactful than sending an email. First of all, you are guaranteed their attention – and that’s huge. Often, submissions will be reviewed by an assistant first and won’t even make it to the agent you are contacting, so having the opportunity to talk to the agent you are querying is so valuable. 

If you’re ready to book that 1:1 – here are some options on how to do it:

  • Literary festivals. At literary festivals, you have the opportunity to pre-book (rarely is it first come, first serve on the day, so always pre-book) a face-to-face 1:1 with an agent. Festivals such as:

The London Festival of Writing

How to Hook an Agent Event by Bloomsbury Publishing

The London Book Fair

  • Online. Various writing organisations offer 1:1 sessions over the phone or on software such as Zoom. You can peruse the agents available to make sure that you will be speaking with someone who represents your genre. Here are a few:

I am in Print

Jericho Writers

  • Query. Querying is the traditional way to get an agent 1:1. The above ways are guaranteed because you book them in advance, but querying can lead to a chat with your chosen literary agent. Want to know more about querying? Check out the following blog posts:

3 Things to Avoid When Querying Literary Agents

5 Ways to Find a Literary Agent or Publisher

When to Follow up With a Literary Agent or Publisher

Categories
Craft Publishing

Writing Competitions for 2024

Why enter competitions? 

It helps you get seen and gives you a headstart in building a writing portfolio.

What does it mean to build a writing portfolio? 

You might be familiar with this term if you have queried. Often, a publishing house will ask for an example of your portfolio or a ‘writing CV’. So, if you’re writing your debut novel…how do you build a writing portfolio?

Answer: By writing short stories, articles, and poetry and submitting them to anthologies, reviews, competitions, and opportunities. This shows that you are already putting yourself out there and connecting with a readership. This makes you more marketable!

February 

Writers’ & Artists’ Short Story Competition 2024

Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize

March

The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest – Quarterly deadlines throughout the year

Micropoetry competition 2024: 200 years of creativity 

April

First Pages Prize

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest.

May

The Bath Novel Award 

The Yeovil Literary Prize 

The Bridport Prize 

June

Welsh Poetry Competition 

Short Story Competition – Anthology

July

The Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction 

V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize

Manchester Fiction Prize

August

The Edinburgh Award for Flash Fiction
 
Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 

Aurora Prize for Writing 2024

September

The Lit Paul Cave Prize for Literature

Mslexia Novel Competition

October

Letter Review Prize for Unpublished Books

The Book Edit Writers’ Prize

November

Kurt Vonnegut Speculative Fiction Prize 

Leiby Chapbook Contest

December

Daisy Pettles Writing Contest for Women 

Reader Views Literary Awards 

 

Do you want to talk about what you can enter or what to write? Get in touch today! 

Categories
Productivity

5 Ways to Make Sure Your 2024 Writing Goals Happen

Happy 2024, writers!

What are your writing goals for this year?

Mine are to revise The Tithes of Spring, complete my latest (and hopefully last) edit of The Dedworth Shame, find a publisher for a project, and write the first draft of my next novel (title TBD!).

Sound like a lot? It does, I know. But I have some tricks up my sleeve. I have clear boundaries with my family and, most importantly, myself. I have, once again, invested in a writing coach to help me along the way and hold me accountable. I have broken down my tasks into achievable, daily, and weekly goals. Do you want to do the same?

Here are my tips:

1: Create boundaries. With your family, make it clear how important this is to you, create space to write in, and include them in your successes so they can be a part of the action! Create boundaries with yourself by understanding the difference between when to hold yourself accountable and when to be flexible with yourself.

2: Be accountable. Accountability can come from many places. You can find it on social media by agreeing to post your progress every week, for example. You can also join something fantastic like The Fiction Fellowship, a writing group run by Isobelle and me of @inspiredcreativeco_! Or, you can hire a writing coach for personal 1:1 time with a trained professional.

3: Take clear daily steps. While it’s fantastic to set ‘write a novel’ as a goal for the year, looking at that goal day-to-day won’t help you get there. You need to break it down and determine what you will do to reach that point. Ready to jump in? Grab your copy of The Ultimate Writer’s Planning Workbook. It will help you reverse-engineer your entire writing year and beyond!

4: Invest in your progress. Investing in your writing life could be anything from buying a workbook to hiring someone to help you go from A to B. I promise you; it’s a game-changer. It’s a signal to yourself that you take this seriously, and it can help you move forward much quicker.

5: Set achievable goals. Want to write an epic fantasy this year? You can do it – but check out point 3 again. You need to break down the task first so that you can write without feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and intimidated by the task ahead.

What would you add to the above?

If you want to talk about your writing goals and how to achieve them in 2024, my Discovery Calls will open up again next week! I can help you smash through your 2024 writing dreams so that this time next year, you’ll be well on your way to holding your book in your hands.

Want to read something similar?

Check out this post here: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Writing Routine

Categories
Coaching Craft Productivity

My Top Five Tips for New Writers

Hey writer, I see you. You have a dream, and it’s to write a novel. Well, everyone has a story inside them, people tell you. That’s true, of course. What they don’t tell you, though, is that novels come from more than ideas. They come from effort. There are some scary statistics out there when it comes to writing, such as out of those who actually start writing, only 3% finish their manuscript. If you dream of having a book on your bookshelf with your name on it, read on. The idea is just the start, but I genuinely believe that with some help, you can be the writer you want to be.

1: Build a community.

This is number one because it’s the most encouraging. Peer review is one of the most powerful tools a writer can have, and nothing will drive you to sit in front of that empty page day after day like a community of writers supporting you. You can find them in all sorts of places, but if you want to join a great one today, consider Instagram or Twitter. There are ready-made writing communities sharing their processes, tips, and time. One of my favourite things to come from a writing community is writing sprints – the act of sitting together online and writing for a designated amount of time. Remember – you are not expected to do this alone, and writing a novel doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. There are people out there in the same stage of writing as you, just waiting to say hello and hear more about your work. Another great way to build your community is to take a creative writing class. There may be some in your area, so take a look!

If you haven’t found your community yet, check out The Fiction Fellowship. Run by myself and Isobelle (Inspired Creative Co.), we’re a friendly bunch of writers from across the globe who meet on Zoom to write, chat, and teach. We have pre-recorded classes, workbooks, and more.

2: Hire a writing coach.

As both a writing coach and someone who hires a writing coach, I know how incredible this step can be. A writing coach (also known as a book coach) is like a personal trainer for your writing life. They can be whatever you need them to be! I act as a chapter editor, accountability partner, teacher, mindset coach, and more. I have helped writers start their novels, finish them, push through the murky middle, and find agents. In turn, my writing coach has helped me with my mindset, plotting, and figuring out what kind of writer I want to be. There is something incredible about someone holding the space for you to talk about your craft – it’s life-changing.

If you want to know more about how I can help you in 2024, click here. Specialised support for your writing life will take you from idea to print.

3: Embrace your time.

Your time is precious, and you are busy, and sometimes, that means that writing a novel gets pushed to the bottom of your list of priorities. It’s easy to do, but it also means that days, weeks, and sometimes months can pass without writing or progressing on your dream. I’ve worked with many writers on finding the time to write and even created a workbook on exactly that, and here’s my main tip: look at your week. Break down where you spend your time. Find an hour throughout the week to write, whether in one go or several sessions. You would be amazed at what can happen when you set your timer for ten minutes and focus on just that. And remember, ten minutes a day is sixty hours a year. That’s a significant amount of time to dedicate to your dream, and those minutes make a real difference.

If this is what you need to work on, click here. My Ultimate Writer’s Planning Workbook will help you find a way forward.

4: Read.

There’s a saying that I subscribe to: You can’t be a good writer if you’re not a good reader. Reading doesn’t just teach you about grammar, it gives you an understanding of genre, tropes, what you like, and how you want to write. Reading is one of the most valuable things you can do in your spare time as a writer, so head to the library and invest some real time in it. Your writing will improve because of that effort.

Looking for books on writing? I’ve got you – click here.

5: Find your process.

Stephen King says that you should write every day, and some people follow this advice to the letter. However, just because it works for some writers, it doesn’t mean it will and should work for you. Your process is allowed to be different from every writer you know, and you do not have to subscribe to something you have seen from another author. Discover your own process by writing at various points in the day, and paying attention to when you are at your most productive. Focus on what drives you to write, and what your motivators are. For example, rewards really work for me, so I’ll set myself a task of writing for ten minutes, with a cup of tea and a chapter of my favourite book at the end. Rewards don’t have to be fancy or expensive, they can be as simple as quiet time. Set boundaries with your family, and tell them how important your craft is to you and when you are working on it. Celebrate with them too, so they see what you’re doing and how they can be involved. If you care about writing, give it the time it deserves. You can absolutely become one of that 3% who finish their manuscripts.

Read about my personal process here, in this article I wrote for www.booksbywomen.org. 

Remember, writer; you’ve got this. Your story deserves to be told, and your readers are waiting.

Categories
Craft

Which Is the Best Plotting Method for You?

Are you taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? If so, now is the time to think about your story outline.

Whether you are a plotter, a pantser or a plantser, it can be confusing knowing which story outline might work best for you. After all, there seem to be plenty of books out there suggesting different ways of plotting your novel. So, let’s dig a little deeper into the options so that you can make a creative decision! I’m going to outline five methods because there are a lot, but these are the ones that I believe are most common (based on empirical observation).

Your Story Outline Options:

The Save the Cat Method (click here for a link)

Now then, this is a detailed plan and method, and if the following resonates with you and you feel excited about it, I would strongly recommend borrowing / buying the book, which will help you through the process.

Jessica Brody breaks this method into fifteen ‘beats’ or plot points, as follows:

1: Opening Image. (0-1)%

Who your character is, and what their life is currently like.

2: Theme Stated (5%)

A suggestion of what the main character’s journey will be.

3: Setup (1% – 10%)

Exploring the main character’s current life and issues.

4 – Catalyst (10%)

A life-changing event.

5: Debate (10% to 20%)

Reaction to the life-changing event.

6: Break Into 2 (20%)

A change, perhaps leaving for a journey, a decision to try something new, etc.

7: B Story (22%)

Intro to a secondary character.

8: Fun and Games (20% to 50%)

Seeing the hero in the new world – succeeding or failing.

9: Midpoint (50%)

A false victory and a plot twist.

10: Bad Guys Close In (50% to 75%)

Things look like they’re getting better for the main character, but the baddies are still coming.

11: All Is Lost (75%)

The lowest point of the novel, something terrible happens.

12: Dark Night of the Soul (75% to 80%)

The darkest hour for the main character.

13: The Break Into 3 (80%)

The character sees how they can move forward.

14: The Finale (80% to 99%)

The main character saves the world / comes out of the other side of their struggle.

15: Final Image (99% to 100%)

How the journey has changed the main character’s life.

As you can see, this is an in-depth plot outline that gives you the opportunity to create a novel with a tight narrative structure. 

The Three-Act Method

Oh, it’s a classic, and one that I enjoy. This story outline involves breaking your plot down into (you guessed it) three acts. Honestly, I like it for its joyful simplicity and flexibility. It’s also the method we are taught at a very young age – beginning, middle, and end. It is also sometimes called:

Set-Up:

Setting up the world of your characters, including exposition, world-building, and a problem for your main character.

Confrontation:

The rising action leads to the midpoint and ultimately something similar to ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’.

Resolution:

The climax and fallout of this, the resolution of the tale.

Within these confines, you will see that there is a similar language to the Save the Cat Method…and actually, that’s true of a lot of plotting and story outline methods. They do share a language and often similar methodology. However, the three-act structure can be more flexible than other structures because it can be as detailed as you like. So, if you’re not someone who loves to plot but you like a brief outline, you can break your story idea into Set-Up, Confrontation, and Resolution without going into specifics. 

The Snowflake Method

Randy Ingermanson created this method, and it is laid out as follows:

1: Write a one-sentence summary of your book.

2: Write a paragraph-long summary.

3: Write down each main character, including Name, storyline, goal, conflict and revelation.

4: Turn every sentence of your paragraph-long summary into its own paragraph.

5: Use your character information to create more detailed character sheets.

6: Expand each paragraph into an individual scene.

7: Write!

Randy does go into detail about a step that he no longer takes, and also recommends using an excel spreadsheet. You can find more information on this method here, so if this brief description has you shouting ‘Yes! That’s my method!’ Check it out

Freytag’s Pyramid 

Another classic and useful if you’re struggling to get a full picture of your storyline. In fact, I usually use this and the three-act method to create a plan that works for me. This one is one that you have probably seen before. It’s the shape of a pyramid, with the peak being the climax. This is broken down into the following steps:

Exposition

Rising Action

Climax

Falling Action

Resolution 

As far as outlining methods go, I find this useful as, similar to the three-act method, you can make it as detailed as you please. The flexibility in this works for me personally. 

The Synopsis Method 

For those who don’t enjoy plotting, this method is excellent. This is essentially writing down the story before you’ve written the story! Usually, we write the synopsis at the end of writing our novel, but this method turns that idea on its head and asks you to summarise the novel before writing it.

So there you have it, a brief dive into five story outlines. Which would work best for you? That’s for you to decide!

Was this post helpful? Share it with another writer!

Unsure which is best for you, but know you want to start plotting? That’s okay, get in touch today, and we can have a chat about it. Investigation into your writing process is always worthwhile. I also teach my favourite forms of plotting in my novel writing masterclass, and take you through the steps using a story you know well. So, if you’re looking for some extra plotting help, that’s a great place to start.

Are you looking for a similar read? 

Online Writing Tools That Can Help You Write Your Novel

5 Books on Writing That Will Improve Your Craft

 

Categories
Coaching Productivity

The Three Things I Focus on With All of my Coaching Clients

You’ve probably clicked on this post because you are curious to see what I’m working on with clients, and you may want to check if you struggle with the same thing. As an experienced writing coach, and author with a writing coach myself, these are the most common issues I see, have experienced, and continue to talk about. They require continuous work and effort, but they can all be improved hugely through coaching. Let’s dig in!

1) Imposter syndrome

The classic. The majority of creative people I have met, if not all, have suffered from imposter syndrome, myself included. Why? One big reason is that art is subjective. We aren’t mathematicians (you might be, but I’m not!), and the answer isn’t definite. Is my writing any good? Some people will love it, others will think it’s okay, and some will dislike it. Does that mean I’m a good writer or not? Hard to say, isn’t it? Especially when we constantly compare ourselves with the positive echo chamber of social media. Here’s the thing – there’s a book for everyone. I love The Lord of the Rings like I love my family (well, marginally less), but if you don’t read fantasy, I won’t expect you to enjoy it. It doesn’t mean I’m wrong in loving it or that you’re wrong in not liking it. It’s just subjective.

Here’s what we know for certain about your writing:

  • It is valid.
  • If you love it, there will be a reader who loves it too.
  • It is worth investing your time in.
  • You are the expert in your story.

If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, here are some things that can help:

  • Hire a writing coach. Find someone to discuss your thoughts and feelings with. Remember, feelings are not facts.
  • Write down five things you are proud of achieving in your writing life. Keep that list in your writing space to review when you feel wobbly.
  • Create a ‘Positivity Folder’. When you get good feedback on your creative work, put it in your folder. Then, the next time you feel unsure or like imposter syndrome is ready to strike, you can remind yourself of the reality with actual evidence.
  • Dig deep into education and focus on the craft of writing. Whatever stage of your writing career you are in, there is always more to learn, and dedicated time and effort to this can help imposter syndrome. Still trying to figure out where to start? Check out my novel writing masterclass. 

2) What they should be writing.

Should you be writing literary fiction or fantasy? Should you be jumping into crime thrillers or romance? How are you supposed to know?

I understand this dilemma well. I’ve been through it too! It’s so hard to know what’s expected of us, and sometimes, the weight of imagined expectations can hinder our creativity.

Here’s the secret: you should write whatever you are passionate about. Love vampire stories? Go for it. Ignore the marketing when you are writing, ignore the idea that something is ‘trending’ right now (by the time you get your book out there, that thing won’t be trending any more), and write something you want to write. Here’s another secret: if you write something you are delighted to be writing, it comes across in your work. It creates a joyful read. So, let yourself indulge in your hobbies. Trust me, there will be someone who wants to read about a mermaid who escapes jail to work at a zoo.

3) Finding the time.

Finding the time to write is such a common problem. Fret not; I have the perfect solution: The Ultimate Writer’s Planning Workbook. This 60+ page PDF fillable workbook will take you through the stages of planning YOUR writing year, focusing on:

  • Reflection on the previous year.
  • Building and understanding your writing vision.
  • Working out what your targets are and setting them.
  • Engineering your actions toward your goal.
  • Finding the time to write.
  • Taking action and setting yourself up to achieve your goals!

Sound good? Grab your copy today!

Categories
Publishing

Should a Writer Read Reviews of Their Novel?

Well, the debut is now out! The Finery is on shelves in Waterstones, in the hands of readers, and sitting on bedside tables waiting to be read. It’s been an emotional journey as the author, because, obviously, I want people to love this book. It’s a story I wrote and cared for, and it took years. But, now the book is out in the world, I have decided not to read reviews (apart from those meaning to promote the book – for example, I was featured in The Guardian!). I would also recommend to other authors to try and steer clear of the desire to keep checking Goodreads and Amazon. Here’s why:

  1. Emotional Impact: Reviews, both positive and negative, can have a strong emotional impact on authors. Negative reviews can be particularly discouraging and can affect an author’s self-esteem and confidence in their work.
  2. Subjectivity: Reviews are inherently subjective and reflect the personal opinions of readers. What one person loves about a book, another person might dislike. And this is key when you consider the next point…
  3. Loss of Control: Once a book is published, it’s out for readers to interpret and analyse. Authors have no control over how readers perceive their work or what aspects they focus on.
  4. Creativity and Self-Expression: Reading reviews can sometimes lead authors to second-guess their creative choices. This can hinder their ability to express themselves freely in future writing projects.
  5. Time and Focus: Engaging with reviews can take up valuable time and mental energy that could be better spent writing new material or working on other projects. Constantly checking reviews can be distracting and counterproductive.
  6. Confirmation Bias: If authors start seeking out only positive reviews or avoid negative ones, they might fall into a confirmation bias loop, seeking validation rather than honest feedback.
  7. Influence on Future Work: Authors may inadvertently start tailoring their writing to appease reviewers or replicate what they believe garnered positive feedback in the past. This can stifle creativity and authenticity.
  8. Variability in Reader Reactions: Just as different people have different tastes, readers react differently to different aspects of a book. Some might focus on character development, while others might critique the pacing. Authors can’t address every reader’s feedback without compromising the integrity of their work.
  9. Art vs. Product: For many authors, writing is a form of artistic expression rather than a product meant solely for commercial success. Reading reviews might shift the focus from the intrinsic value of the work to its marketability.

Of course, not all authors avoid reviews. Some find constructive feedback helpful for personal growth and improving their writing. It’s ultimately a personal decision that depends on an author’s mental resilience, goals, and the effect reviews have on their creative process. If an author can handle reviews in a healthy and balanced way, they might find valuable insights and encouragement from their readers’ perspectives. For myself, I have decided that reviews are for readers, not the author of the work. Therefore, I’ll be steering clear, and continuing to write my new works.