Life Cycle Of A Writer – The Secret To Being Organised

*Descends into manic giggles early on in the post*

Organised?

*Uncontrollable maniacal laughter*

I’d love to think my life is organised, but currently it’s as far from it as it possibly could be. I’ve just finished what I once would have considered mission impossible: writing a novel in three months while my twins are only at preschool part-time. It’s not a surprise to find I’ve come away from the event slightly bewildered and confused.

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Very messy desk syndrome

I’ve spent the week following being entirely unproductive. Not for lack of stuff to do. More an overwhelming amount of realising I don’t know where to start. It’s very hard to balance time when you don’t have much to spare and it won’t be long until I’ll be back to writing, leaving me with even less time. So, knowing I’m going to be a bit pressed, I decided I’d revert back to a system I used to use at university. It involved a notepad and highlighters and a weekly TTD list.

This time, I’ve evolved the system. I typed up a master TTD list with ten sub-categories (yes, my life is that busy) and has started off with seventy-ones things that I need to do. I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten, but I’ll add them when I remember. I’ve then prioritised those in pretty colours (red, orange, yellow and green) so I know what needs to be sorted out first.

New system - champagne hiding #secretproject info ;)

New system – champagne hiding #secretproject info 😉

I’m then transferring all of the items in red onto a TTD list for the week. This is so I’m concentrating on the important things and not getting distracted. This week, I have enough on that list to keep me going, but as the weeks go on I hope to cross off some of the orange things to do.

The idea is, that at the end of each week, I can update my lists. I’ll cross off the items completed, add any new tasks, and for every four weeks that a task is on there, it’ll go up a priority level so that there’s not things remaining on the list for ever more. Then from the main list, I’ll create another new list for the week ahead. It means I can tackle major tasks one step at a time. Rather than feeling like I’m not getting anywhere, even if I’ve completed one thing towards that overall task, it’s a step forward.

Notepad for the weekly managable TTD list

Notepad for the weekly manageable TTD list

This won’t stop me being the person that never sends birthday cards on time (or ever). Or stop me from leaving things to the very last minute. Or stop me from occasionally making cups of tea with two tea bags. But in the very least, it’ll help stop me feeling quite so overwhelmed when faced with so many things to do, that I get lost on knowing where to start.

So, the title of this list is a little misleading. A bit like every click-bait piece of media that exists on social media. There are no epiphanies here because I’m very much on a learning curve. I don’t know the secret, but if anyone does, please let me know…

Especially because there’s a strong chance this will only carry on for three weeks and I’ll be back to wearing tops back to front and neglecting to headcount the twins.

*returns to laughing excessively*

 

 

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Life Cycle of a Writer – Feedback

Hello, Sue here, it’s my turn on Life Cycle of a Writer. I’ve recently been going through the editing stages of my new novel, Sister, Sister which is due out 6 January and what I love about the writing process is that it’s constantly evolving and I’m learning new skills and ways to do things all the time.

sister-sister-newThis is my fifth full-length novel to be published and this time I enlisted the help of two writing buddies, or beta readers as they can sometimes be called, for their feedback. It’s the first time I’ve asked for feedback on a whole manuscript from someone other than the RNA NWS, my editor or agent and I have to say, I found their comments invaluable. Not only did they pick up on different points, but they both had issues with some of the same points. The latter being a big red flag to me that those particularly parts of the novel weren’t working as I had intended and definitely needed looking at again.

Every writer has different approaches to their novel writing process and I was interested to find out what works for others. Bestselling authors Sue Moorcroft and Louise Jensen were kind enough to talk about the way they gain feedback and use beta readers.

Sue Moorcroft

tcpI’ve used beta readers for ages. It began with being critique partners with Mark West, who writes chillers and gritty crime and was in the same writers’ group as I. We read all of each other’s stuff, in those days. (As I got a bit wussier and some of Mark’s stuff was scary, this arrangement became more one-sided but now his stuff is a bit less scary I’m sometimes reading for him again.)

I struck up a cyber-friendship with another writer, Roger, who wrote erotica and SF (sometimes in the same story) and we beta-read for each other until he sadly left the world.

I also ask for beta-reading help from anybody who has helped with a significant amount of the research for a particular book and I became friends in this way with Dominic via ‘Dream a Little Dream’. His feedback was so analytical and helpful that I asked if he’d fill Roger’s shoes for the next book, which he has done ever since.

It’s very useful for me to have male beta readers. I write partly from the male point of view and they can tell me when I’m not thinking like a man. I take a lot of notice, especially when they both have issues with the same aspect of a novel. Mark and Dominic send me such pithy, wise, and mickey-taking comments that I always look forward to receiving them.

Louise Jensen

the-giftWhen I decided to write The Sister I was lucky enough to apply for, and gain a place on, The WoMentoring Project, a scheme which provides free mentors for up and coming female authors. I was able to get the first few chapters of my novel looked at and some great feedback as to where I was going wrong. When I felt I had gone as far as I could go with my novel a friend read it for me and suggested some changes, but after I had done these I still didn’t have the confidence to submit my manuscript. I paid for a critique and that was a real turning point for me. Getting professional advice on the market I was entering was enormously helpful as well as an overall view of my plot.

Writing The Gift I have been up against a very tight deadline. The same friend has helped me out again but also a couple of readers who loved The Sister have been happy to give me their opinion on my new story.

Now I am in the infant stages of book 3 I regularly meet up with a couple of writer friends so we can all support each other. I have found that both being critiqued and providing critique have really helped me progress as a writer.

So, now the majority of my edits are complete for Sister, Sister, I’m waiting for the final proof-read and currently working on my next novel for which I shall definitely be calling on the help of my writing buddies and beta readers.

Sue

x

Life Cycle of a Writer – Hopes and Fears

I have a post-it note on my laptop with a list of all the things I want to achieve with my writing career. I started making the list when I first began writing seriously, which would probably be when I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme.

The list initially started off small and, I won’t say simple because at the time, whatever was on the list was something I wanted to achieve and couldn’t be done without a considerable amount of effort on my part. The first thing was ‘Finish writing a whole novel’. Then it was ‘Meet NWS deadline’ and ‘Work on feedback’.

As my writing career progressed the list became more focused and this time last year I had added to it:-

‘Find an agent’

‘This book better than the last book’

‘Top 500 Amazon’ etc.

tgwl-new-pbWith my fourth HarperImpulse novel. The Girl Who Lied, I was fortunate enough to exceed my post-it note expectations. It became an Amazon UK #1 bestseller, a USA Today bestseller, sold over 200k e-copies and is going to paperback in November.  Wow! Some of these things may have been on my list, but I hadn’t in my wildest dreams thought they would be ticked off quite so quickly, if at all. I am, of course, eternally thankful to everyone who has been behind the book and the fantastic readers. It really has been mind-blowing.

So, although The Girl Who Lied is still going strong, in the meantime, I’ve had to work on my next contracted book, The Cuckoo. With a September deadline, it meant taking the laptop on holiday with me and spending most mornings hammering away at the keyboard. My husband has been super supportive and really helped with all the things that need doing, including keeping our 8-year-old daughter busy. Having said that, she did tell me that I wasn’t allowed to take the laptop on holiday with me again. Point taken.

the-cuckooI already had an idea for The Cuckoo so I found it relatively easy to get the words down, however, with the second book of my latest contract due in spring, I found myself in a bit of a creative black hole and the doubts started to creep in.

I convinced myself it was okay and I’d be able to come up with a thoroughly decent idea any time soon.  As each day drew to a close, I realized that I hadn’t moved any of the ideas forward.  Gradually, the mild panic began to settle and grow. What if I didn’t have any more ideas, full stop? What if that was it – no more ideas and no more books, yet I still had a contract to fulfill? I think I spent two days properly panicking.

I then gave myself a good talking to and made myself sit down and thrash out some plot ideas. Forcing myself to do it,whiteboard rather than waiting for airy-fairy artistic inspiration to strike, I put together a brief synopsis and made some notes about the characters and how I saw things developing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something tangible that I liked.  Fortunately, I met up with fellow Romaniac, Jan Brigden, at an event we both attended, and we started chatting about my book where I explained to Jan that although I liked what I had, I felt something was still missing.

 

It’s funny how someone on the outside can so easily put their finger on what might be missing. Jan patiently listening and chatted the plot over with me. She was able to pinpoint what was missing – the thing that would make it my own story, the sort of one I wanted to write and not the sort I thought I wanted to write.

Although I’m eager to get started on the new project, I’ve been thwarted by the first round of edits for The Cuckoo arriving yesterday. There’s a lot to take in and mull over, to discuss with my editor and agent to see how I can make it a much better story, so for now, I’ll have to put the next book on hold until these edits are sorted.

doodle

Not sure what I doodled during my phone conversation with my agent, but I did make some useful notes too!

Sue

x

Roving Romaniacs – Life Cycle of a Writer goes to Chichester

The Life Cycle of A Writer has been a popular feature here on the blog for over a year now where we all take it in turns to update what’s been going on in our writerly worlds. Last week saw the first live date, when The Life Cycle of a Writer went to Chichester library. It went really well and we are hoping to book some further dates at other libraries along the south coast. Here are a few photos and words from Catherine, Laura and Sue to sum up the evening.

sue laura catherine chi library

Sue: It was a great evening and although I was nervous to start with, once we got chatting I felt much more relaxed. It was good to see some familiar faces in the audience and we received some really positive feedback. Thank you to Chichester Library who were fantastic hosts.

sue laura chi library

Laura: I agree with Sue. It was a great evening. The audience was attentive and engaged and asked interesting questions, the library was a superb venue with lovely staff, and going on tour with Sue and Catherine was fun. I was chairing the panel, although that involved little input from me as the discussion flowed naturally and all three Romaniacs kept the conversation moving forward. I was in my element. I was ‘on stage’, and chatting about writing and books. I’m very much looking forward to taking the talk to more venues, and would love to return to Chichester library. So pleased we were able to encourage and help new writers.

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Catherine: I’m the one that talks with my hands. As I waved through my parts of our talk, it was great to have an audience to engage with (us writers normally have to chat to ourselves) and the Q&A session provided some excellent questions. Thanks to everyone who joined us and hopefully they’ll be another one soon. 

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Life Cycle Of A Writer – Catherine Miller – Pinch me, I’m dreaming!

There is no other way to describe this year other than to say it has been EPIC! Unlike most years in a writer’s life, this one has been a rollercoaster of HIGHs. Since our last Sparkle Party, my reasons to celebrate have been immense:

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  • Miles Between Us won Just Write’s Monthly Masterpiece
  • Baby Number Two was highly commended in the Accent Press/Women’s Magazine Writing Competition
  • I won the 2015 Katie Fforde bursary
  • I was a finalist at the London Book Fair Write Stuff event.
  • I was offered a two-book contract with Carina UK
  • The Romaniacs won Media Star at the RNA Industry Awards
Award-winning Romaniacs! Sue, Catherine, jan, Laura, Debbie & Vanessa, with Celia & Lucie holding the fort back at Romaniac HQ, but with us in spirit.

Award-winning Romaniacs!
Sue, Catherine, jan, Laura, Debbie & Vanessa, with Celia & Lucie holding the fort back at Romaniac HQ, but with us in spirit.

So overall, my writing CV is somewhat shinier than it was this time last year, but none of this has come without sheer determination and grit. I’ve only listed the good stuff here because those are the parts I’m choosing to dwell on. There are of course the occasions I’ve submitted to agents and been rejected or not received a reply. There are the competitions I’ve entered and not even been placed in. To those occasions I say Pah! Because what do they matter? Those occasions won’t stop me from writing something new, from doing something different, from finding someone who loves my style of writing as much as I do.

As this is my last LCOAW this year, I’m going to encourage you to write some lists. One for the things you have achieved this year however big or small, writing related or not. Then write a second list for the things you want to achieve in 2016. I’ve been doing this every year for the past five years and without encouraging myself, half of the above wouldn’t have happened. I’ll be writing mine up soon and I break it down into categories: Family/Health/Writing/Competitions. (I have a feeling I might have to add spring cleaning the house once Book Two is written.) Once you have those lists, continue celebrating the good stuff, even if it’s the simple things like writing The End.

Then find a group to celebrate with like The Romaniacs. Because on the occasions I haven’t triumphed, they have. On the occasions I’ve wanted to grumble, they’ve listened. When I’m not sure where I’m going wrong, they’ve pointed me in the right direction. And vice versa. In just under two weeks when we meet up for our next Sparkle event, I know this whole life cycle of a writer gets to start all over again! And who knows what the next year will bring?

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Life Cycle Of A Writer – Third Round-Up of 2015!

2015 continues at a pace and we’re doing our best to cram as much in this year as possible. We’ve had lots of edits between us recently so it’s been a bit quieter than usual, but the good news is that means we’ll have lots of NEW BOOKS for you to read in the near future. Here’s what we’ve all been up to:

Catherine: Signing my first contract with Carina UK and discovering what it is to be a real author. I’ve had my first set of revisions and lots of plans are afoot for 2016 when my new title and front cover will be revealed. And getting the second book ready so it’ll be available for pre-order by the time book one is out! 

Laura: I’ve had a bit of everything going on – school holidays, a DD with her leg in plaster, and edits for book 3. I have a few events coming up, about which I am excited, but more on those nearer the times.

Lucie: It has been an incredibly busy time for me but unfortunately, not a lot of it is book related. What with the summer holidays (always a time that I struggle to get writing done) and work, I have found it difficult to get on with my edit. I start university today, too, so that will mean I need to start to manage my time a lot better! I have also just started a new vlog series on my blog, so that will hopefully help free up some time. Just need to work out how to fit in everything now…

Celia: Drank lots of wine, wrote like a mad woman all summer and notched up 60,000 brand new words for my WIP – a psychological coming-of-age story. Now back at work and have been The Boss for a while so no writing progress made; the next big push is to finish, edit and submit. Also limbering up for Tirgearr edits on the new one due out in January – Moondancing; a prequel to Little Boxes. Lastly, made the short list for the Exeter Story Prize. Final prize giving on October 17th so off on a jolly to Exeter with everything crossed.

Vanessa: School holidays have meant less writing time, but I’m deep into a new draft of my work-in-progress now, which will hopefully be ready to send to my agent in the next few weeks. I also had a lovely phone call to say I’ve made the Wells Literary Festival short story competition shortlist!

Sue: I’ve been a busy bee finishing my work-in-progress which took a bit longer than I had hoped but is now out and under consideration. I’ve also been working on a novella which I’ll be self-publishing with the Romaniac Press. I’m looking forward to sharing the cover and blurb here very soon.

Debbie:  It’s been four long years and four re-writes but having finally managed to write, ‘THE END,’ I’ve taken to eagerly stalking the postman each day as I wait for my work-in-progress to arrive back from the RNA NWS. In the meantime (and in an attempt to distract myself) I’m working on the first chapter of the next novel. 

Jan: EDITS! EDITS! EDITS! Working through her edits for As Weekends Go, the winner of Choc Lit’s Search For A Star competition, ready for publication. She’s now recovering.

All that in EIGHT WEEKS. I think it calls for another refill of the cake tin at Romaniac HQ.

girl at desk

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Becoming an overnight success!

Something struck me when listening to all of the recent Romaniac interviews. It was this: nearly every successful writer has done a lot of leg work to get where they are.

This was true in lots of the interviews, but I thought I’d highlight two in particular: Natalie Meg Evans and Brigid Coady.

Both of whom mention their long road to publication that almost had them give up, and yet with their persistence, they have both gone on to be award-winning authors.

It’s this persistence and determination to never give up that seems to be true of all authors.

You may have seen in this recent post, my own persistence and determination has paid off and I have signed a two book deal with Carina. I managed to write the majority of my book since having twins so while I don’t consider myself an overnight success, I do think it’s worth mentioning what I learned along the way.

1) Listen: There are so many writers willing to impart their knowledge.

2) Learn: Critique of your work might be hard to hear, but it will help you in the long run.

3) Support: Find writing friends who will support you in a healthy way.

4) Be persistent: I might be overusing this word in this blog, but it might be because I’m being persistent. 

5) Read: Read about writing. Read in your genre. Read because you love to.

6) Make writing a priority: I’ve been guilty of not always doing this. It’s only since having twins and my time has been very restricted that I’ve become more focused. Unless it is urgent, everything else can wait. Apart from the twins, I have been looking after them in between!

7) Reach out: Find writing groups to join. Find associations to join. Go to conferences. Go to parties. The people you meet might give you the single piece of advice you needed or end up being your editor one day.

8) Repeat: Do it again and again and again.

9) The End is never The End: Every writer I know continues to learn and I know really, my journey is just at the beginning. 

What else have you learned along the way that could be added to the list?

Catherine x