I was rubbish at Maths at school, so it would have been wonderful to have to something like Lou Abercrombie‘s book AMAZING MATHS when I was a wee lad. Lou tells me about this new book and her fab children’s novels, FIG SWIMS THE WORLD and COMING UP FOR AIR and how she’s inspired by water.
And if that wasn’t enough, listeners/viewers also get a sneak peek at a special Deep Dive I recorded a very long time ago when director Jon Wright and I answered listener questions on the making of our film UNWELCOME. That Deep Dive goes live on Friday, which is the same day as the film’s release in the UK! Which are you more excited about…???
It’s common for authors to experience failure and rejection, but if you really want to know what it’s like to be constantly knocked back, then be a screenwriter! So many of the scripts I’ve written will never see the light of day, but that’s all part of the fun of screenwriting. I was delighted to discover that even a writer as successful as Cole Haddon has had the same bumps in the road, but he’s embraced failure as the best way to learn and move forward. Enjoy…
A rare thing these days: an in-person interview for the podcast! I got to meet the delightful Christian Cameron in the bowels of Hachette’s big publishing castle near Blackfriars Bridge. We discuss worldbuilding, research, and learning to write without doubting yourself (something I’m not sure I’ll ever get the hang of). Also, before the interview, Me and Mr D discuss AI and how it might impact authors over the coming years…
We don our terrible Christmas sweaters and hats to celebrate the festive season and look forward to 2023. I test Mr D with a super-duper mega quiz, we discover that Americans don’t have Christmas crackers, we reveal where Santa comes from, tell terrible jokes, and we discuss taking stock and setting goals for 2023… and much more! Available on all the usual podcast providers or you can watch it on Youtube on the link below for the full Technicolor Christmas experience…
Every now and then on the podcast we ask our listeners who they would love have on as a guest, and Margaret Weis was one of those names, so I was delighted when she took the time to speak to me about her extraordinary career. We dispelled a few myths about the origins of Dragonlance, we talked about her collaboration with Tract Hickman, and how she continues to be inspired by the likes of Dickens and Austen. She also answers our listener question
Please note: My interview with Margaret took place on the phone, so our conversation on the Youtube version of this episode is audio only.
Oh and stay right to the end for a few outtakes from me and Mr D (it had been a long week)…
I should also add that the Bestseller Academy is about to open its doors again. Pop along to https://academy.bestsellerexperiment.com to discover more, or take a moment to listen to some of the writers who have achieved their writing goals with the academy here…
I had a great time chatting to Elizabeth Noble on this week’s podcast and she talks about writing novels with huge casts and big families and lots of moving parts etc. And before that, me and Mr D talk about the recent ALCS report that showed that UK’s authors earn only an average of £7,000 a year from their writing, and a bit in Private Eye that noted that so many of our big brand male authors (and their characters) are all getting quite long in the tooth… so where are the new big brands coming from?
How much writing can you get done in a day before your brain starts to melt? I’ve picked up a few tips over the years that might help…
Hello folks. We writers talk a lot about writing habits, writing every day or writing regularly. But let’s have a think about when to stop writing. Now, to be clear.
I don’t mean stopping altogether and jacking it in. I’m talking about how do you know when you’re done for the day? First drafts I could write all day and collapse in a heap. But I’ve discovered that my daily limit is about 2 hours. After that my poor little brain turns to soft fudge and it starts to leak out of my ears.
Either that or I’ve got an ear infection. Anyway, because my brain goes soft, the writing suffers. It’s just not as good as those first 2 hours. For edits, I find that it’s even more important to set myself limitations. Now I was really in the zone this morning, knocked out a little over a thousand words, which might not sound like much, but I’m editing and this was a whole new chunk that I was grafting on to the beginning of a chapter and it was my allotted task for that morning’s writing session.
I’ve left myself a note, you know, fix this by doing X, Y and Z… And I did it.
I was happy with it and I was so buoyed up that I just wanted to keep writing. But I stopped. Well, the truth is, I didn’t have much of a plan beyond my alotted task. I could have carried on, but I would have been blundering about with no idea what to do. And as I said, if this was a first draft I might have sat down and made some notes or maybe carried on writing blind. And that’s okay with the first draft, but when editing I like to stick to that plan. I’ve been through the book, I’ve made tons of notes, done my edit triage, figured out what needs fixing and I’m tackling those tasks one at a time. Have a look at some of my earlier videos on how I prepare for an edit in more detail. So for the next few days I’m focused on one particular character.
After that I’ll switch to the next problem on the list because when editing, the temptation is to try and fix everything at once and then you end up making a right old mess, and there’s a chance you can do more harm than good. So when editing, make a plan and stick to it. One fix at a time. The other thing I do at the end of a edit session is make a few notes for tomorrow’s session. So here… Just 50 words.
I’ve told myself I need to change the POV in the next chapter, and I’ve reminded myself of the changes I’ve made and what consequences they will have. Better to do that when it’s fresh rather than tomorrow morning where I might sit at my desk — and it’s 7:30 in the morning, don’t forget — and wonder just what the blimmin’ heck I’m supposed to do. On weeks like this, it’s also important to set limitations because I’m working on two projects simultaneously. Not ideal. But it happens.
One is the next Woodville books edit. The other is the second draft of a screenplay. They are sufficiently different for me to separate them in my mind, but also having alotted time and tasks really helps, as does having a bit of time between them. I’m lucky enough to work from home. So it’s those between times that I get bits of housework done, which also gets me off my bottom.
Very important for a writer. So that’s just what works for me. Have you discovered your writing session limits yet? Pop something in the comments below. Of course, you might be like Chet Cunningham.
I was reading about this legend the other day, from the publication of his first book in 1968 to his passing in 2017 at the age of 88, Chester Cunningham had something like 350 books published. Westerns, adventure novels, military thrillers. He also cowrote the “Penetrator” books under the pseudonym Lionel Derrick. This is what sent me down this rabbit hole. I saw the covers on the Pulp Librarian Twitter feed, and they are extraordinary. Chet comes from that pulp tradition where a writer was expected to knock out a thrilling adventure weeks, if not days.
I think at one point he was doing one Western per month. Why the hell not? And here’s the thing. Chet never stopped. Here’s a quote from the FAQs on his website when asked about Writer’s Block, he says, “I came from a newspaper background. When the editor assigns you a story, you write it now. No ifs, buts, or I-don’t-feel-like-writing-today. I usually write from eight to 10 hours a day when I’m a roll on a book. Researching is another thing.”
And then he was asked about Writer’s Block. Do you ever get Writer’s block? He said, “I never use the term. I don’t believe it exists. Ever heard of a Carpenter not going to work because he has Carpenters Block?
If a writer can’t write it’s because he doesn’t really want to, he isn’t ready to get it on paper. Or he’s just plain lazy. There’s no such thing as writer’s block only writer-dumb-dumb-dumb.” Well, Chet, we may disagree on that, but I salute you. Me.
I’m going to have a cup of tea. Until the next time, folks. Happy writing.