This Writer's Life · Writing

6 Signs You May be a Writer.

Lately, I’ve been working on my current work in progress and now I can finally say that I’ve finished!

It’s the longest piece I’ve ever done, so it has been quite a challenge. I have wrestled self-doubt and there were times when I didn’t think I would actually make it, but I finally got there. This got me thinking about the writer’s life in general and some of our special habits. 😉

You know you’re a writer when:-

1. You’d rather be with your imaginary friends than with real people.

2. You have a habit of staring out your window to solve some of your problems (or even just to daydream).

3. You keep adding books to your ‘to be read’ pile (besides, some of that is research).

4.You have a love-hate relationship with paper.

5. You collect various stationary, even if you don’t need it (but it sure looks pretty).

6. You’d rather write than be in a ‘real’ job (whether you have one or not).

What do you think are some of the special quirks of being a writer? Do you consider yourself to be a ‘slow’ writer in a fast-moving world? Have you managed to achieve your writing goals this year?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing · Writing Process

New Writers: Writing a Series vs The Stand-alone.


When it comes to indie publishing, there are a lot of ‘experts’ out there giving advice, which makes it rather difficult for new writers. It reminds me of that old Far Side cartoon, where the kid in class raises his hand and says ‘Excuse me sir, my brain is full’. Yep, that’s exactly how it feels.

One piece of advice usually touted is to write a series to help build your readership. This is good advice, more suitably aimed for established authors, but what if you are just starting out as a writer or don’t have a series created just yet? I have mentioned before that what works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for another; as writing is a creative endeavour, we learn through trial and error. Experimenting with different writing styles, including short stories can be a good place to begin for indie authors.

I had heard the advice of writing a series for so long I decided to give it a go and wondered if I could turn one of my WIPs into a series. The more I thought about it, I realised that the possibilities were there, however my subplot tended to work far better than any main plot. Stretching a story out to become a series when it was not really necessary was not going to cut it. When it comes to writing a series, it involves a lot of planning to carry it out.

I was fortunate enough to come across an article recently that suggests it’s okay for new writers to write stand-alone novels. As beginners, we are still learning how to craft and write a novel in its entirety, let alone undertake the daunting task of writing a series. As new writers, our goal should be to practice, learn from the experience and get better with everything we write.

These ‘experts’ tout the series over the stand-alone from a marketing perspective, which I understand because as writers we would like to make money from our words. However, what really gets me is when I hear them say that the stand-alone is not profitable.

These past few months I have been fortunate to have a story idea that could possibly become a trilogy, but we may not always have a series to write. For writers and readers alike, a series represents familiarity and we may like a particular character or characters, but I’d like to think that our readers would be happy to read anything we write. 😉

I currently have a couple of stand-alone novels that I’ve written, novels that I may come back to and try to salvage. Some may even remain my ‘practice’ novels and that’s okay. This is how we learn and not everything we write needs to get published. In the meantime, I’ve worked on other ideas, other possibilities; working on improving my craft. It is irrelevant to me right now if they are a stand-alone or not, my main objective is to get them written.

My husband likes to remind me that a story is as long as it needs to be. Whether that is a short story, novella, stand-alone or a series is beside the point. The more we write and the more we put out there, the better.

Do you think it’s a good idea for new writers to write a stand-alone before writing a series? Do you prefer a series or a stand-alone? With so much information out there for writers these days, are you prone to just go with whatever feels right for you? What are you writing at the moment?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

This Writer's Life · Writing

What Do You do When Self-Doubt Strikes?

I have been absent from writing for a few weeks now; I needed to take a break after writing my most recent WIP and more recently having undergone surgery. With the start of a new week, a new computer and feeling better after surgery, I was ready to start writing again. But then doubt crept in and I even began to question the genre of my choice.

Having suffered from self-doubt previously and as recently as April, I needed to work fast in finding ways to combat it. I started listening to writing podcasts, enrolled myself in a writing course and received a pep talk from my husband. Discussing these issues with other writers on social media also helped to quickly overcome those doubts before they became writer’s block.

On one of the podcasts I had been listening to, it stated that every writer faces doubts with each new novel, so it doesn’t go away. It’s just something we must learn to live with and work our way through.

I’m getting back to writing slowly, but slow progress is still progress, right? 😉

What do you do to keep yourself motivated when doubt hits you? Have you needed to take a break from writing recently? What have you been up to these past few weeks?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

5 Lessons Learned from Writing a Novel.

For some months now I have been busy re-writing an old novel I had written during NaNoWriMo back in 2015. The good news is I have finally finished writing it and at around 80k has become one of the longest pieces of writing I have ever done. It has certainly been a struggle for this short story writer!

During this entire process, there have been a few things that I have learned along the way.

1. Have a plan/outline

Previous experience has taught me that in order to finish a long writing project I need to have some kind of outline before I start. At the beginning of each chapter, I therefore wrote what I wanted to happen within that chapter in order to maintain my focus. It does not have to be a detailed outline for many pages that some writers are known to do; you may only need a couple of lines in order to get some sense of direction to move forward.

2. Listen to of your characters

Despite having some kind of plot outline, my characters would say and do things a little bit ‘off script’, sometimes making things better than I had originally imagined. This was great when it came to building my word count or to write again when I needed to take a break, however, this would also take me down the path of panster once again, meaning that I may never finish. When this happens, you may need to reassess what you want with what your character wants and take another look at your plot.

3. Use a timer and have a quota

Ever since I tried NaNoWriMo, I have been using a timer to help get the words written, otherwise my internal editor or perfectionist self can sneak in and it can take too long to get the words written down. Start with a quota that you find doable and gradually challenge yourself to go that little bit further. I began with a daily quota of 1,000 words and used a timer in order to get the words down faster. I would set a timer for 15 minutes and would average 500 words each session. As my 1000 word limit would be reached within half an hour, I then doubled my daily quota so that I wrote 2000 words in one hour. I then increased that to 4000 words a day, broken up into two separate hourly slots.

4. Aim to strike while the iron is hot

I returned to this old NaNoWriMo project because the idea still resonated with me. The more I thought about my characters and plot, the bigger the project had become. Sometimes new ideas may have to be placed on the back-burner if we are currently working on something, but the best time to begin writing a new project is while we are still brimming with enthusiasm, so make the most of such opportunities whenever possible.

5. Have a deadline and word limit.

Because my novel was becoming longer than I had anticipated, I needed to create some kind of deadline as well as consider my word limit, otherwise I would never finish. I had read that the average word limit for debut novels these days tend to be around 80k, so that’s what I aimed for (as well as taking my genre into account). Also I began to feel that the longer it took, my enthusiasm began to wane and I therefore needed a break. With a deadline and word limit in mind, it certainly helped to get the words written down faster.

One of my goals for this year was to step out of my comfort zone and by writing an 80k novel, I think I can safely say I’ve achieved that! It certainly has been a learning experience. 😉

Have you written your first novel and what advice would you give? How are you progressing with your writing goals? Have you stepped out of your comfort zone this year with your writing? Are you a plotter or a panster or somewhere in-between? Have you revisited an old NaNoWriMo project?

Main image courtesy of Unsplash

Writing · Writing Process

5 Things Writers can do During Winter (Besides Writing).

It’s hard to believe we have made it to June already. June! Here in Australia, we are now officially in winter, so it’s the season where people like myself usually act like a complete hermit and hibernate for the entire three months.

We are now halfway through the year and it’s time to take stock on what has (or hasn’t) been achieved so far this year. Going over the goals I set out at the beginning of the year, I can see I have a lot of work to get through. So, besides writing, what exactly can writers do during the cooler months to improve their craft and help achieve their writing goals?

1. Read

This one goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway (after all I haven’t done much reading myself this year). 😉 When not writing, we writers should spend a fair amount of time with our noses firmly placed in a book, whether that is fiction or non-fiction. In order to improve our craft we should always aim at reading books on how to make our writing better, or perhaps even read books on marketing and social media. Reading as much fiction as possible in our chosen genre/genres ensures we are aware of our genres tropes and what is currently available on the shelves.

2. Research

Doing research for our novels and stories can either be conducted in our own homes, or we can use the excuse to leave our writing caves and visit the local library. Depending on our stories, we may even venture out completely and visit places of note that may inhabit our novels and perhaps take photos and talk to experts.

3. Do a short writing course

It is always beneficial to keep improving our craft, no matter what level we are at. Short courses can sometimes be held through writing groups and libraries and even on-line. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and take up a course that may be of help, or you may want something a bit more general. For a while now I have considered doing the online Masterclass with James Patterson and will be doing that during these winter months.

4. Listen to podcasts

The advantage of podcasts is that you can listen to them anywhere. So getting away from your desk and having a walk while listening to a writing podcast can be extremely beneficial in more ways than one. There are quite a few good writing podcasts out there, it’s impossible to list them all. You will find a listing here at Writer’s Digest to help get you started.

5. Attend a Writing Conference/Writing Retreat

Attending a writing conference or retreat during the winter months is a great way of getting out of our writing cave and meeting like-minded people as well as recharging our batteries as enthusiasm can sometimes wane during the cooler weather. If there is nothing available nearby, perhaps you can create your own retreat by going away for a quiet weekend and use that change of scene to get some writing done. This is the time when the thought of being nestled away in a log cabin by an open fire can hold some appeal.

Of-course, doing these things can be done all year round, but in the cooler weather, we may need a little bit of motivation in order to keep us going. 😉

Besides writing, what do you like to do during the winter months towards your goals? How are your writing goals progressing so far this year? Do you have a tendency to hibernate during winter?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

This Writer's Life · Writing Process

Setting Boundaries for Your Writing.

Recently I’ve been re-working the novel I had written for NaNoWriMo back in 2015. There have been times when I had been so frustrated with it that I wanted to throw it in. It was also around this time that some personal issues had occurred, forcing me to really put my foot down on setting particular boundaries when it comes to writing.

For some years now I have been the stay at home mum, raising my children, doing the occasional bit of casual work in a ‘real’ job, spending several years studying for a University degree, as well as writing and blogging. Despite all this though, because I’m mainly at home, family members see me as a ‘woman of leisure’ and think that I can be called upon whenever it suits them. I had managed to stave off friends in order to get some writing done, but somehow family had become a lot more difficult (after all, they are family). This time around, however, I had reached my limit and asserted some authority. It didn’t go down well with others, but for me it felt something like this (minus the socks of-course 😉 ):-

This has always been the problem. If you work from home, some believe that this makes it a bit of a free for all. People believe that you can be contacted at any time or go out at any time. Of-course the other problem can be we allow all that to happen because we are people pleasers; we find it difficult to just say ‘no’ (hence the ‘woman of leisure’ tag). Other people’s problems can then become ours; their needs and wants overtake our own. We can eventually reach the point where nothing gets accomplished as we can become both physically and emotionally drained.

Of-course, these people do not see you being at home all day long as actually ‘working’ or doing anything significant. When I finally completed several years of University study I was told by a family member that ‘maybe now you can get yourself a little job’ (yeah, I’ll never forget that statement). Not having a ‘real’ job and earning a traditional salary can be unimaginable to some and yet more and more people are becoming self-employed, which includes writers. Putting up boundaries to people with such thoughts may seem at times a bit selfish, but it is completely necessary if we want to be successful. A line needs to be drawn.

The same can also be said for social media. We may just want to hop on for a couple of minutes, only to find half an hour or more has flown by. It’s a great distraction that can control our lives if we let it. After reading a helpful blog post about what to put on my ‘not to do’ list, I have changed some of my old habits and have managed to get more things done.

By putting up some much needed boundaries, for the first time in a long time, I am actually enjoying my current writing process. We may end up putting some noses out of joint in our efforts to focus on our goals, but those who truly support our efforts will understand in the long run.

Have you found it difficult to set boundaries in your life? Do you find it hard to say ‘no’, especially to family members? How do you avoid distractions, such as social media?

Side Note: Just a reminder that in 2018, I’ll be spending less time on social media and more time writing. I will continue to blog, although there may be times when my posts may become somewhat erratic, it’s all in a good cause. 😉

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

When Self-Doubt Kills Productivity.

Recently, I’d been struck with a wave of self-doubt. As I worked on my re-writes, it began as a trickle; my first six chapters were a complete mess and felt I couldn’t continue until they were fixed. That was my internal editor speaking to me and as they kicked in; the self-doubt began to swirl around me until it stopped me in my tracks. I was doing nothing more than going around in circles. It was then that I stepped away from the keyboard.

It was also around this time that I was reading up on self-publishing. This coincided with reading about the odds of author success. I always knew that going down the road to self-publishing was not going to be easy, but I guess the reality of it all really hit home.

I’d been dealt a blow from the stick of truth (thanks South Park 😉 )!

The reality was that when it came to these re-writes, once again, I was stalling. I was using perfectionism as a crutch; going back over something I had already covered was not moving me forward and getting the work done. Editing prematurely was hampering my efforts. My self-doubt had turned into perfectionism and they fed into each other.

After taking some time away to gather my thoughts, I was reminded that when it comes to writing professionally, it is a marathon, not a sprint. We just have to keep on going, one small step at a time. Those moments when we encounter self-doubt, get rejections, when we’re told we’re not good enough or to get a ‘real job’, if we really want to succeed as writers, we have to keep going. Self-doubt will always hamper our progress and it is at these times that determination and perseverance will be our greatest asset.

The trouble with going over the same ground, I was too busy thinking of the end result, rather than enjoying the journey. I was considering the big picture, and instead needed to concentrate on what I can control (James Scott Bell has a helpful post on what to expect from your first novel). Thinking of my writing as a ‘business’, what I really need to focus on right now is my product; my writing (of-course, the key word there being focus). The best way to do that is to just keep writing my stories and focus on my craft; everything else is secondary.

It’s easy to let disappointments and doubts get the better of us, but by focusing on our goals and being held accountable, either through a writing buddy or a group, we can continue the momentum to keep moving forward.

Do you ever feel the need to edit before you finish a writing project? What things do you do to help you move forward and finish? Do you tend to focus on the end result rather than just enjoying the journey?

Image courtesy of Pixabay