Five tips for writing around a day job…

Writing while holding down a full-time job can be a bit of a ‘mare at the best of times. Some authors write late into the evening, some get up at the crack of dawn. I’m lucky enough to be able to weave into my working week, and I thought you might want to see what my typical writing week looks like, followed by five tips that you might find useful. Firstly, here’s what this past week looked like…

MONDAY
AM
I live out in the sticks now, so on a weekday the whole family is up at 6, out the door by 7, and on our various busses and trains by 7:30. My commute into London takes about an hour and forty minutes. Plenty of time for writing! I’m fed and caffiened by this point, and raring to go. I generally get my best stuff done on the morning commute.

This particular morning, I was working on my first Woodville book. I’m currently about halfway through and it’s like wading through treacle, but progress is progress.

LUNCH
Mondays are podcast launch days, so I spend my lunch break on the social media for the new episode.
My wife Claire is a gardening blogger and author, and I worked on uploading her new gardening eBook to KDP.

PM
I’m working on a couple of projects with Jon Wright at the moment and he had been tweaking a pilot script we’re working on, which I reviewed on the train home and made a few light edits.

TUESDAY
AM
More Woodvile work. Averaging about 500-800 words each morning.

LUNCH
More Bestseller Experiment social media and I also send a newsletter out on my mailing list with details of the show.

PM
Worked on formatting Claire’s new eBook on Parsnips… very different to my usual stuff, but it’s nearly sowing season and she needs to get these online pronto!

WEDNESDAY
AM
Woodville – good progress. About 1000 words.

LUNCH
I added hyperlinks to Claire’s eBook. She links to seed companies and her videos on Youtube, so there are loads of them! Far more than any novel. I also worked on tweaking the keywords and metadata for Back to Reality and that afternoon I got a telling off from Amazon for adding a subtitle that has text that isn’t on the cover art. We were threatened with having the book removed if we didn’t amend it. Grr.

PM
Script rewrites on the train home for the thing Jon and I are working on. Really good fun as these are light changes, as opposed to the first draft slog of the Woodville stuff. It’s tempting to stick with this tomorrow morning, but I must be disciplined!

Mr. D and I had planned to record the podcast tonight (we usually record on a Monday), but due to all sorts of extenuating circumstances (and Canadian weather!) we’ve have to postpone it. Will we get an episode out in time for next week…?

THURSDAY
AM
Woodville. Hitting my stride with this noise. Daily word count is improving.

LUNCH
I listen to the interview I recorded with next week’s guest, making notes in anticipation of recording the pre- and post interview stuff with Mr. D. Also make further tweaks to Back to Reality’s metadata. Claire and I also got our PLR statements. In the UK, every time a book is taken out of the library the author (and illustrator if applicable) gets 8 pence! My statement could pay for a takeaway pizza. Claire’s could pay for a nice weekend away!

FRIDAY

A day off from the day job at Orion. I spent the morning at home and Jon popped round to make the final changes to our pilot script before sending it off to our agent. We read it aloud, acting out the parts and pising ourselves laughing. Very good times.

In the afternoon, the Canadian weather eases and Mr. D’s power is back on, so we record Monday’s episode, plus the Deep Dive episode for Patreon listeners. Poor Dave our editor only has a few days to cobble our witterings together!

SATURDAY

Dave sends us the rough edit of the podcast and I listen back, making notes and suggestions for edits, as well as writing the description you read on the website/iTunes etc and the keywords we use for the blog.

No other writing done today (apart from the first rough draft of this blog!)

In the afternoon, I read an excerpt from a friend’s book and send him some notes.

SUNDAY

Today is our wedding anniversary, so me and the family went to see a movie and had a cheeky Nando’s for lunch, and now I’m writing this blog, but I’m already thinking about what I’ll be writing tomorrow…

 

Five tips for writing around a day job:

  1. Spot and schedule: Spot those spare moments in your week and schedule those as writing times. They don’t have to be long. We’ve had guests on the podcast who can work in fifteen minute bursts. Little and often works best. Set reminders in your calendar and stick to them. There’s a temptation to be flexible with these times as it’s not a “proper job”. I’m very protective of these slots and treat them with the same weight as meetings scheduled for my day job.
  2. Shut out distractions: You might be working on the train, or the office, or a busy home. There will always be noise and distractions and, if you’ve only got half an hour in which to write today, then those distraction will eat that up in no time. Find a quiet spot and shut the door. Make it clear to your colleagues and loved ones that you’re not to be disturbed. If you do work in an office, get away from your desk if possible. Otherwise, you’ll have colleagues interrupting you with work queries in your break. At work I’ve been known to stick a Post It note on my headphones with “Sorry, can’t talk: Writing” written on them… It works! Your colleagues might think you’re mental, but it works. I love a pair of comfy noise-cancelling headphones for my train journey, and I currently use an app called Scape which plays woodland noises etc, which I find really conducive to productivity (I still have music playlists, but are finding them a little too distracting at my age!).
  3. Finish mid-sentence: If you’ve only got a short time in which to write, there’s nothing more likely to eat into that time than you sitting there, staring into space, wondering what to write next. I try to finish any session mid-sentence, so when I return to writing I simply finish that sentence/thought/scene/paragraph and I’m already up and running.
  4. A.B.T: Always Be Thinking. You might not be able to write all the time, but you should engage your brain for some good, solid thinking as often as possible. Five minutes on your hands? Skip back to what you were last writing: what were the problems? How can they be solved? What happens next? And whatever you think of, for the love of criminy take notes! If you’re anything like me, you’ll have forgotten everything by the time you get back to writing.
  5. Write early, edit late: This is a personal one, and perhaps more to do with being middle-aged and sluggish, but I work on new stuff in the morning when I’m bright and breezy, and edit that same work in the evening when I’m lacking buzz and energy. I also have a method that I call Be Kind Rewind: whenever I get stuck, I’ll go back and edit/rewrite the previous 500 or so words. By the time I’m done working on them, I usually have enough momentum going that I crash through any block that I might’ve had when I started.

If you found those helpful, please share with your fellow writers. How do you work around the day job? Please leave your comments below…

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Brandon Sanderson on the podcast this week!

A bit of a legend on this week’s podcast. Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to grab an interview with fantasy titan Brandon Sanderson while he was on his UK tour for the truly mammoth Oathbringer.

I’ve seen Brandon at a few convention panels in the past, and he always gives thoughtful answers, and he has his own podcast – the excellent Writing Excuses – so I knew he would be a terrific guest. And this was one of the reasons we opened the questions to our Patreon supporters, who gave us some cracking queries for Brandon, and some of whom are currently freaking out on social media having heard his replies.

You can listen to the interview here.

Thanks to the wonderful Stevie Finnegan for finding time in Brandon’s busy schedule for us!

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If you liked that episode and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something new to read in 2018, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

SHANNON MAYER

Lara Dearman on the Bestseller Experiment

We had the brilliant and all round lovely author Lara Dearman on the podcast this week. Lara is a debut novelist who has gone from community college courses to a major publishing deal with her book The Devil’s Claw. It’s an inspirational listen and I know Lara will go on to great things. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW

Also have a listen to this week’s Deep Dive, where Mr. D and I discuss the topics brought up by our chat with Lara, and I reveal my true feelings about Enid Blyton. CLICK HERE for a wee snippet.

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If you liked that episode and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something new to read in 2018, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

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My plans for 2018, and your favourite episode of the Bestseller Experiment revealed…

Okay, maybe the answer to the latter is obvious as it’s the one episode that we go on about more than any other, but I think you’ll enjoy the countdown of our top five as it contains some of my favourite moments. Have a listen here.

And there’s a little mini episode introduced by our editor Dave (who has a great trailer voice!), where you can hear clips from the Deep Dive extras for Patreon supporters. Me and Mr. D talk about New Year’s Resolutions, which I don’t really do, but last year I did make a list in my diary of the things I wanted to achieve with my writing in 2017. They were…

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BOOM! Managed to get a tick on all of those… There might be something in this list making stuff after all…? The smudge is a top secret film project that I’m working on with Jon Wright, and there’s definitely been some action on that front, though the problem with film and TV is that so much of it is out of your hands (especially if you’re the writer) that you can make all the lists you want, it ultimately comes down to all sorts of ducks and stars aligning, so I find it’s less stressful to just go with the flow.

So what do I want from 2018? Here’s the current wish list…

  • Get my fantasy novel The End Of Magic published (more on that soon!)
  • Self-publish at least one of my Woodville novellas
  • Get some TV assignment work
  • Get one my spec scripts optioned/off the ground

How hard can it be?

What are your writing plans for 2018? Whatever they are, I’d love to hear about them. Sharing the pain is half the fun of being a writer. Until next time, keep writing!

 

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If you liked that episode and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something new to read in 2018, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

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Your favourite episodes of The Bestseller Experiment (part one)

In an act of seasonal optimism/hubris (delete as applicable) we released a new episode of the podcast on Christmas Day this week. It’s the first of a two-parter in which we reveal the top ten favourite episodes as voted for by our listeners… and in typical Bestseller Experiment style, our top ten is actually a top twelve. Oh well… Have a listen here and let me know if the episode you voted for is here…

 

In this episode you will discover…

  • The most important lessons we’ve learned from our guests
  • Which author we were most nervous about interviewing
  •  How Donald Trump was key to our success
  •  The names of those on Santa’s “Nice” list

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW

If you liked that and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something to read over the Christmas holiday, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

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We got Mike and Linda Carey on the podcast!

I first met Mike Carey about ten years ago. We shared the same agent at the time, and have to admit I struggled to reconcile this friendly, soft-spoken man with comics like Lucifer and Hellblazer, but I soon learned that people who write horror stories tend to be the nicest and most well-adjusted creative types out there. Having written a few horror scripts myself, you soon find that you can put all your anxieties and dark thoughts on the page where they belong.

I was delighted to finally interview Mike and his wife Linda for The Bestseller Experiment podcast, and we cover some key topics, including…

  • How comics can help you structure a story, and the key differences between comics, novels and screenplays
  • How co-writers can find a single voice with harmony and negotiation
  • How your short story can evolve into a full-length novel
  • How sequels can evolve from the negative space of the first story

You can listen now here!

If you liked that and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something to read over the Christmas holiday, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

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25 things I’ve learned from 25 years in books…

December 1992: Charles and Di announced their separation, the NET book agreement was still in place, Amazon was still just a river to most people, and a fresh-faced bookseller started a temporary Christmas placement at Waterstones in Dorking.

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Me and Horrid Henry before the TV and movie money changed him…

I’ve been selling books for 25 years (I only meant to stay for Christmas!) and I thought I could share a few of the things I’ve learned on the way, though I suspect the final tip is the only one of true practical use…

25 things I’ve learned from 25 years in books:

1. Be professional and courteous to everyone you meet and work with. It’s a small industry.
2. Amazon is all about the customer. Keep that in mind with every dealing you have with them.
3. Formats may change, genres will wax and wane, but people will always want good stories.
4. Never confuse ubiquity with popularity. I can’t tell you how many celeb biogs I’ve seen crash and burn just because publishers thought that being on the telly meant that people liked them.
5. Meeting your heroes can be awkward, but you’ll be fine if you keep it short and sweet. Don’t expect them to be your best friend and invite you on holiday. And remember that they have good days and bad days like everyone else.
6. Authors who have a clear idea of what kind of career they want tend to last longer.
7. Series characters that move with the times stay the course: Rebus, Noddy, Batman.
8. The best editors combine passion and integrity, but aren’t afraid to make a few quid.
9. A big advance can be a curse and a blessing. If you don’t earn out, you’re screwed.
10. Authors can’t sit back and leave it all to the publisher and agent. The successful ones get out there and make it happen.
11. Never respond to bad reviews. Just enjoy the good ones and screw the haters.
12. Never badmouth another author. We’re all in this together and we don’t need to be flinging shit at each other.
13. And be pleased for their successes. Bitterness helps no one.
14. Never stop learning. There have been more changes in this industry in the last ten years since the invention of the printing press.
15. Survival is one part cynicism, two parts optimism.
16. Be loyal to people, not companies.
17. Always make time for a proper lunch break.
18. Write for yourself. Not the market. Trends come and go. You’ll always be you.
19. Changing an author’s name or adding an initial rarely makes any difference to sales. The reading public only care if it’s a good book.
20. Don’t believe your own publicity. Publishing, like any creative medium, is great at creating monsters, and it always happens when the writer starts to believe it when people tell them they’re a genius.
21. Success is not a bestseller, it’s writing what you love… though the money would be nice.
22. Of course people judge a book by its cover. And its title. And its review average on Amazon.
23. Tenacity is everything: keep writing and you can only improve.
24. Balance modesty and confidence and don’t get cocky.
25. And finally, and this is really important, when confronted with a multi-storey car park, always park on the roof. You’ll never forget where you parked (five years on the road as a rep!).

Happy writing and have a splendid Christmas! Oh, and if you’re looking for something to read in the bleak midwinter then Back to Reality will brighten your day!

And if you want to support our work on the podcast, we now have a Patreon. Do please support us and we can keep it going.

Till next time, happy writing,

Mark

 

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I was on the Cover to Cover podcast this week…

I had good fun being interviewed by Lee Middleton on the Cover to Cover podcast this week. We talk Star Wars, the Bestseller Experiment, Back to Reality and my thwarted dream to become a firefighter. It’s a fab show for readers and writers alike. Click to listen… https://m.mixcloud.com/Studio5OnAir/cover-to-cover-episode-12/

The Death of a Goldfish (or, how to let go of that novel you’ve just written)

There comes a time when a writer must release their book into the big, bad world for people to read, praise, critique and ponder (or tell you how they would have written a different ending*).

You’ve lived with this book for some time. At least a year, if not longer. You’ve come to love the characters, their surprising quirks, their voices, and how they overcame seemingly impossible odds to find themselves at the end of the story a better and more complete person. Much like yourself, because we all know the writers are the real heroes, right?

Of course, the book isn’t perfect. None of them are. And the temptation is to continue to tinker, but the seasoned writer knows that sooner or later, like Queen Elsa of the ice kingdom Arendelle, they just have to let it go.

I’ve heard some writers compare finishing a book to the passing of a loved one, but that’s probably a tad insensitive. I’ve certainly experienced mournful feelings as I realise that I won’t get to spend time with these characters, but it’s nothing like proper grief, it’s more like… the death of a minor pet. Maybe a goldfish. Yeah, you’re sad for a bit, but then you realise the garden centre has loads more finny friends in their tanks.

So the key is you have to be brave enough to bury your goldfish.

Put that on a meme and see how far it gets…

Anyhoo, this is a long-winded way of telling you that I have finally “let go” of the novel I wrote with the Majesty of Motivation, Mr. Mark Desvaux! This is culmination of a fairly intense year of The Bestseller Experiment, the weekly podcast where we discover what makes a bestselling novel while trying to write, publish and market one in just a year.

I won’t lie to you, there were times when I thought this would be a complete and utter car crash, but here we are, with what I reckon is a really fun, page-turning adventure with characters you’ll love! Here are some amazing quotes…

 

 

So CLICK HERE to grab your copy now.

And in the meantime… I’m feeding another couple of goldfish.

 

 

*Yes, this happened to me recently… Two years after said book was released. ‘You’re a bit late, mate,’ I told him.

 

Five days to go!

In the third of our daily mini-episodes in the run-up to publication of Back to Reality (out on October 16th!) we look at Beta readers and reviews and how to cope with feedback.

You can definitely hear the mania beginning to set in with this episode. We recorded all of these on one night last week, and it was around the third episode that our banter became babble… but there’s some great stuff here. Our beta group on Facebook has been incredible: they have forensic attention to detail and they’re wonderfully supportive, which we really need as we careen towards our publication date (DID I MENTION THAT IT’S OUT ON OCTOBER 16TH???).

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW…