Each week I get an email or message or two from readers and other writers, asking me questions. I love hearing from others out there, so those moments where something unexpected pops into my inbox is especially exciting.
More often than not, I’ve found there are a few common questions in particular that I get asked, so I thought I’d pen a blog post answering them.
How do you find the time to write?
This is the most common question I get from other writers and aspiring authors. How do I find the time to write? Well, I make it a priority. Which is much easier said than done, I know. Things like paid work and jobs, and things like motherhood have to be top priority in my life right now. My husband and I run a business and my role is that of bookkeeper, office manager and social media/website manager. We also run an Air BnB. And as much as I’d love to sit down at my desk each morning and begin working on my current manuscript, I can’t. My paid work – our livelihood – must come first. So my mornings are spent exercising, eating breakfast, getting kids to school, and then concentrating on what needs to be done for the business. Sometimes it might only be a couple of hours work, other times it might take me until early afternoon. But, once I’m done, the next priority is writing.
Making writing a priority allows me to approach it as something that has to be done. It’s a methodical and business-like approach that doesn’t work for everyone. But every day, I will do something that furthers my writing career. Depending on where I’m at, i.e. first draft, revising, rewriting, preparing to publish, will depend on what I do. But every day I make it a priority. It’s the only way to get the work done.
One day, I hope to be in a position where I can justify outsourcing some of our business bookkeeping and then I’ll be able to move towards being a full-time writer. But that’s a long way off. And may never happen. So for now, this is how it is.
Why did you choose to self-publish?
I love this question because I know the decision I made was an informed and well-thought out process. I didn’t suddenly wake up one day and decide I wanted to self-publish. I wasn’t wracked with frustration and hopelessness from multiple rejections from traditional publishers and agents and then decide to take on self-publishing as my plan B.
My decision to self-publish was one that was made over the space of a couple of years.
I’d always listened to Johanna Penn’s podcast ‘The Creative Penn.’ For those who don’t know, Johanna has been at the forefront of independent publishing for over ten years. She is a supremely successful indie author and is also a mentor and front-runner helping other authors self-publish. Listening to her podcast, planted the self-publishing seed in my head before I even considered it an option.
Then about twelve months ago I came across Mark Dawson’s podcast – The Self-Publishing Show. This piqued my interest. As I listened and began to learn more about the independent publishing route, the more it began to make sense to me, not as a plan B, but as a first choice.
To cut a long story short I did a whole load of research into self-publishing which brought me to the decision that yes – it was right for me. I like being in control, I like the fact that it fast-tracks the publication process which means not only can I get my books out there faster than the traditional model, but I can write more. I also marketing and promotion and running my own business. All the things pointed me in the indie direction. And here I am, about to self-publish my debut novel.
What’s your favourite genre to read?
Another great question, but a difficult one too. I’m not sure if I have a favourite, but I certainly have a handful of genres that seem to be my preferred choices.
Psychological Thriller – think books like Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, The Secrets She Keeps, Crimson Lake. I love stories with unreliable narrators that play with your head. With twists and turns that keep you guessing and then hit you with a sucker punch right when you least expect it.
Chick-lit/Rom-Com/Light Reads – call it what you want, but books like Me Before You, The Devil Wears Prada, The Hating Game, Bridget Jones’ Diary, are some of my favourite types of books to read. And there are so many books out there by authors who aren’t household names too. These kind of books are pure escapism for me. They are relatable on some level, make you laugh and cry in one breath, and are a joy to pick up. They’re the ultimate feel-good experience – what’s not to love?
Women’s Fiction – again, call it what you want – and technically speaking women’s fiction is not a ‘genre’ but just a term for women who write great books with strong women characters and plots. Authors like Jane Green, Marian Keyes, Liane Moriarty, Sally Hepworth fit into this wide category. Some of my favourite books such as Elenaor Oliphant is Completely fine and Me Before You, fit into this category. I particularly enjoy the Domestic Noir genre that slots well under women’s fiction too.
Rural Romance – I’m a country girl. Always will be. And I love reading rural and small-town fiction. The story lines are often complex and deal with everyday issues from relationships, love, friendship, hardship, small-town life, life on the land, and everything that country life entails. I love that there is often a thread of romance through the stories which brings everything together. It’s such a huge category, but some of my favourites are Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns, Crimson Dawn by Fleur McDonald, Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell, The Crossroads by Pamela Cook and The Family Secret by Fiona Palmer.
And more! I also love a good crime novel, police procedural, historical fiction, non-fiction self-help, and mystery. Genre’s I’m not so keen on and not well-read in are sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal. But that’s not to say I won’t read them, I just haven’t got around to it yet!
Where do you get your ideas from?
This old nugget. If there was a definitive answer it would be easy to tell you. If there was a pot of ‘ideas’ gold at the end of the rainbow, I’d give you the directions. But there’s not.
Ideas are everywhere and anywhere.
They come from experiences, eavesdropping, news articles, songs, other books, and sometimes, the ideas just simply pop out of nowhere and materialize in my head for no known reason. I like Elizabeth Gilbert’s thinking on ideas. In her non-fiction book ‘Big Magic’ she talks about the creative process being both ‘magic and magical’. She believes that ideas are floating all around searching for the right human who will listen and bring the idea into the real world. They then tap you on the shoulder subtly at first and then wave you down until you take notice.
The main thing I’ve found about story ideas is that you can’t sit down and have a brainstorming session. They do just come to you. But when they do, you better have a note pad and pen handy because they often disappear as quickly as they appear, so write those suckers down now!
I also think the more ideas you have (and write down), the more ideas that will come to you.
Can you give me some advice?
This one takes shape in many forms. What advice do you have for an aspiring author? How do I finish my first draft? How do I get the words down? What advice do you have for approaching publishers?
Obviously, I can only answer those questions individually, but what I can share my advice to all aspiring authors out there, and it’s pretty simple:
The only way you get the first draft down is to keep writing.
The only way you finish redrafting is to keep writing.
The only way you get better at writing, is to keep writing.
The only way is you will write something that is publishable is to keep writing.
Writing is a craft that can be learned. Sure you have to have the ideas and the concept, and a unique voice – those things can’t be taught – but the craft of creating stories, good stories, can be learned. But you won’t necessarily learn it in a class, a writing course or out of a writing book. Sure those things are necessary and give you the tools to do so, but the only way you get better at writing is to keep writing.
So, keep writing. (and reading!).
If you have a question for me, I’d love to chat. Drop me an email or contact me via social media. I love hearing from both readers and writers. And you can always sign up to my VIP newsletter where I chat about all these things and more each month.