Blog Hop, Business of Writing, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Twitter

How a Discovery Writer Learnt to Read Maps (part 1)

PlottingI started out as a discovery writer, setting off on the journey of my stories without any kind of plan, and with very little, or even no idea where I was headed. It was exciting, like exploring. It was also slow going, and the editing stage could turn out to be pretty epic. But it worked for me. At least, it did then.

I shunned plotting, scorned it even, insisting that it ‘didn’t work for me’. And I was right, it didn’t. At least, not then. In fact, there was one year that I decided to hit November’s NaNoWriMo event with a fully plotted novel. I worked on it throughout October, and faced November 1st with confidence. I had a map for my journey, I knew where I was going. But, once I had hit around 15,000 words, the characters took over, and pulled the story off in a direction completely unrecognisable from my plan. All I could think, was that I’d wasted an entire month plotting, only to end up with a completely different story.

In 2015, I started publishing. I started up my own imprint, purchased a pack of ISBNs, and suddenly, writing wasn’t just a hobby anymore. And I had to get serious about it.

I started out publishing two books a year. It took me, from conception, to hitting publish, 6 months to produce a book. But the more I learnt about the business of indie publishing, the more I realised the benefits of upping production. And I know indie authors who are releasing a book every month. Over the last two years, I’ve gone from publishing two books a year, to publishing four.

I’ve had a lot of writers asking me how I do it recently. I’ve had people call me ‘lucky’ to be capable of it, for being a fast writer. But, you know what? I’m not a particularly fast writer. I’m just a hard-working writer. And it has nothing to do with luck.

But people don’t see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. They don’t see the sacrifices, the lost sleep, the stress to hit pre-order deadlines. They don’t see the work I’ve done on honing my skills, on tweaking my approach, all the experimentation it took to find the perfect formula for me. They don’t see the daily 5am wake-ups, or the notebook balanced on my knee whenever I sit down, no matter where I am.

I have a very specific strategy in place that really has taken a long time to perfect. But it works for me, at least, it does at the moment. Because that’s the thing with writing; a strategy that works for me now, might not do so in five years. It’s all about being adaptable, about being willing to try new things, being open to changing things up.

This blog post is pretty long already, so I’ll write a second one explaining my strategy, showing how I mange to write and publish four books a year. Check out How a Discovery Writer Learnt to Read Maps (part 2)

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Mum Life

Toddler in a Hip Spica: Day 2 – Day 4

Home at last in a hip spica castThe morning after surgery, we were discharged from hospital, and allowed to go home. Other than nappy advice, and cast care, we were given very few tips about how to actually deal with this.

Day 2

Luckily, we have a nice big buggy and, with his broken leg stuck out to one side and the back reclined, he fits into it. At least we can take him out and about, even if we won’t be going to the playpark for a while. We wheeled him out of the hospital, bid everyone goodbye, and there we were, on our own with a toddler in plaster from chest to ankle.

He doesn’t really fit in his car seat, but we only live five minutes’ drive from the hospital, so we did what we could. Perched at an awkward angle, the straps straining to reach the clip at their full extension, and a rolled blanket pushed in behind his back, we managed to get him secure, at least. A careful drive home, and here we were; about to embark on a long summer of who-knows-what.

He can’t sit upright, so there’s no meals at the table, just a messy affair on the sofa, with a chest covered in crumbs. It also means finger food is best. We’ve laid a big cushion on the floor, and he loves lying on his tummy, with all his toys around him. He happily drags himself around by his arms (I guess I won’t be the only one getting muscles over the summer), and is enjoying demanding this, that, and the other, and having me jump to it every time.

He also likes to crawl around my bed upstairs (which is now bolstered all around the edge with pillows and blankets tucked under the fitted sheet) where he can watch back to back Peppa Pig and Mr Tumble on the bedroom TV. He’s taking it all as a fun game, it’s Mummy and Daddy who are stressed out (cue one meltdown from Daddy, and one exhausted Mummy from carrying a twice-as-heavy-as-he-used-to-be son up and down the stairs all day).

But every time I start to doubt myself, doubt that we can survive this, I just look at that tiny, skinny, two year old boy. If he can do this, and with a big smile on his face, then so can I.

Day 3

Through all of this, it’s important to remember that I have another son. He’s five, and currently staying with Granny and Grandad on the other side of town. Today, I left littl’un at home with Granny, and took the big one into town with me. Of course, I came home from hospital to a house devoid of fresh food, so I needed to go shopping. I also took my son to the library to sign him up to the summer reading challenge.

It’s his summer holidays too, and we cannot forget that. He needs to have a fun few weeks, especially as our plans to spend four weeks with my parents, back in Paignton, Devon, in walking distance of no less than four beaches, have been completely scuppered. My Mum also informs me that they’ve added a Komodo dragon to the collection at Paignton Zoo.

Day 4

So, he’s already stood up in his cast, supporting himself on the edge of my chair. Way too ambitious yet, little buddy. I found a video online of a young boy actually running around in his hip spica. I have no doubt that we’ll see that too. Just not yet, little one, please.

Mum Life

Toddler in a Hip Spica: Day 1

Leg in traction splintMy two year old son fell over in a tent and broke his femur. It sounds impossible, and he has a spiral fracture, caused by a twist and pull motion. He was stepping out of the bedroom compartment of the tent, and managed to get his foot wrapped around the loose fabric of the unzipped door before falling. Twist. Pull.

Since then, having done some research, I find that it is surprisingly easy for toddlers to break their femurs, the biggest bone in their body: jumping on the bed and landing awkwardly, slipping on a wet kitchen floor. I was told in hospital that the most common cause is slipping on a toy car.

I took him to A&E expecting, at worst, that he may have dislocated his knee. It hadn’t even entered my head that he might have broken a bone, let alone his femur. Even when I held him still for a x-ray, it didn’t click. But I’ll never forget what the radiographer said to me before I left. “He has broken it, and it’s bad, so be careful with him.” I cried all the way back to the cubicle where I had to be laid on the bed because I was about to pass out from the shock.

But, this isn’t a story about how he broke his leg. This is a story about how he recovered.

Like all little boys, my son is as active as you can be. Boundless energy, limitless enthusiasm, and unstoppable curiosity. He doesn’t walk, he runs. And he climbs everywhere. His ambition often outstripping his ability. Suddenly, he found himself in a full leg splint, tied to his hospital bed.

Keeping busy in hospitalThe wonderful play leaders at the hospital kept him busy, laying a large cardboard sheet across his mattress so that he could have a train set to play with. They brought a bottle of bubbles to his bed, offered to wheel his bed up to the playroom, or into the garden. They were not going to let him get bored.

After a good night’s sleep (we had both arrived at A&E on about two hours sleep), my little boy was finally back: chatty, smiling, and ambitious. He’s always been one to sleep on his stomach, and he wasn’t going to let the splint stop him from doing that. He crawled around the bed, propping himself up on his elbows to play. All of the nurses were amazed; they wouldn’t normally expect so much action until a week or even two after the injury. The play leader told me she’d worked in the hospital for 12 years, and seen a lot of broken femurs, but had never seen such a lively patient on day two. Yep, my boy is very special. This was going to be a long summer.

We were preparing for the possibility of him being in hospital, attached to his bed, for the entire time. We had been told, that it would be at least 10 days before they made a decision to either put him in a cast, so that we could take him home, or if he would spend the whole summer attached to a hospital bed. But after just two days in hospital, they decided to cast him.

And so, the hip spica cast. It’s pretty full on; running all the way from his chest to the ankle of his broken leg, and to just above the knee of his good leg. Legs slightly apart, with a gap in the middle to fit his nappy. It had to be done in surgery, under general anaesthetic (cue more tears from Mummy). When we turned up at recovery afterwards, we could hear him wailing before even getting in there. But, quite frankly, if I woke up in a pair of concrete trousers, I’d have been wailing too. I was allowed to pick him up and cuddle him, and he quickly calmed down. I swear the cast is as heavy as he is. By the end of the summer, I’m going to have some very muscular arms!

Of course, straight after sleeping off the anaesthetic, there he was, crawling round the bed, enjoying his extra mobility. He got the hang of flipping himself over, and made it clear that he wasn’t going to let this slow him down at all. Us adults can learn a lot from children; they’re adaptable and resilient in a way that we can only dream of being.

Business of Writing, Twitter

5 Ways to Boost Motivation when You’re in a Slump

Improvised Garden Office
Today, I’m improvising!

You know that feeling when things are going well: everything’s in harmony, your work is flowing, your sales are looking healthy, and it feels like everything has finally fallen into place. That this is it; the success you’ve been working so hard for. If only we could bottle that feeling. That energy. That motivation. Because it’s not always available in such abundance.

Running your own business is full of ups and downs. There will be times when jobs are scarce, money isn’t coming in, and you feel at odds with everything. And those are the times when your motivation can disappear altogether. When inaction can become a habit. When the idea of binge-watching old TV shows is far more appealing than another day staring at a computer.

Where’s that bottle of energy when you need it?

But there are ways to keep your motivation up. To keep pushing, and striving, and to keep hold of the joy of doing something that you love (even if it doesn’t feel like it loves you back right now!)

Remember Your Goals

There’s a reason you started your business. Probably lots of reasons, and now is the time to remind yourself of them. There was a reason you were excited about it, and now is the time to get that excitement back.

So, remind yourself of your goals. Your ‘whys’. Make a vision board, write a bucket list, create a meditation, whatever method works for you. Make note of your short-term goals, your mid-term goals, and your long-term goals. Even those that seem like pipe dreams. The holiday homes, the sports cars, the fame, the awards, remember those goals. Because, once upon a time, they seemed like pipe dreams to someone else. Someone who achieved them.

Think about what originally got you excited about your business. Ponder it, meditate on it, look back at old social media posts, put yourself back in that moment. Rediscover that same excitement.

Outsource and Collaborate

Have you ever noticed how you laugh more when you watch comedy with other people, rather than on your own? Life is much more fun when others come along for the ride. Excitement is contagious.

Why not outsource the aspects of your business that you don’t enjoy, or that aren’t your natural strength? Not only will it free you up to do more of what you do enjoy, and what you’re good at, but you’ll get new input into things. Other people bring new ideas, fresh perspectives, and a freelancer comes with a detachment from your business that you can’t achieve yourself. They can look at it differently, more critically, and really help with refreshing the way you see it.

Or find other people to collaborate with. Be it sharing a market stall, swapping blog posts, featuring in one another’s newsletters, or working on a new project together. Again, you’re bringing in those new ideas, those fresh perspectives, and another energy, one that may be exactly what you need to boost your own.

Get Creative

It can be very easy to get wrapped up inside your own head. With all those numbers, and to-do lists, deadlines, and strategies floating, jumbled, around in your brain. So, let’s leave all the business of business aside for a moment. Let’s do something creative, and open up the part of you that’s designed for dreaming, for empathy, for living in the moment.

You may already have a creative hobby; painting, knitting, dressmaking, or even just a colouring book. If your business is creative already, try a different medium or discipline. Try something new. Learn something new. Or you could spend some time designing flyers, or advertising banners, or making attractive graphics for social media. Dance. Sing. Go for a nature walk and make a collage from the leaves you pick up. Grab some marker pens, some post-it notes, some revision cards, and layout a new marketing plan across the floor. Just get moving, get creative, get out of your comfort zone.

Change Your View

Bored of staring at the same four walls? They say that a change is as good as a holiday, and they’re not wrong. Try working in a different part of your house, or work out in your garden. Even just rearranging and sprucing up your workspace can help you feel refreshed. Paint your desk, change the decor, buy a new houseplant. It’s amazing how much a spring clean can also be a spring clean for your mindset.

Or take your work out with you. Work at the park, at a coffee shop, at the library. Rent some office space, even if it’s just for a little while. Home office swap with a friend.

Say Hello (in real life)

Get out of the office, and go and speak to some real life people. Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly lonely, and, however much you love your own company, it’s nice to connect with others too.

Go to a local networking event or convention, join a book club, go for coffee with a friend. Just get out of the office, out of your head, and get socialising. You could make new friends, new business contacts, find your tribe, and even—gasp—have fun doing it!

With a mix of focussing on your whys, and refreshing your outlook, you could have your motivation back and be raring to go in no time.

Those are my top tips for boosting lagging motivation levels, what’s your top tip?

Blog Hop, Got Goals?

Got Goals? High and Lows

Big Goals BloghopReading my post from last month, I was full of excited energy, and feeling really positive about things. It’s bittersweet reading that now, because the mood has changed to a far more sunken one. That’s the thing about this writing game; it’s full of ups and downs. And June has definitely been that!

I had hoped to have finished writing While We Were Waiting by now, but it has been very slow-going, and I’m not there yet. So, I’ve signed up for another dose of Camp NaNoWriMo through July, so that I can use the NaNo effect to get this thing done. Because, there is nothing quite like the NaNo effect to get the words out!

On some better notes, I received a very exciting email (that, I’m afraid, I’m not allowed to talk about yet) that has allowed me to cross one of the things off my author bucket list. So, the beginning of the month had me happy dancing all over the place!

I’ve also finally launched my podcast. I’d been sitting on that plan for far too long, always finding excuses not to do it. But, last Tuesday, I finally sat down and recorded my first episode. It’s called The Great Western Woods (Narnia reference!) and it’s all about worldbuilding. Check it out here. Alongside that, I’ve started a related project which I’m moving forward with, albeit slowly.

To be honest, I think I’m pulling in too many different directions right now; doing a bit of this, a bit of that, some of the other. I need to focus on less, but all these new ideas keep popping up and demanding attention. I’ll get there.

Did you manage to hit your goals for June? Join the Got Goals? Bloghop here.

Blog Hop, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Twitter

The Importance of Habit

WritingLast month I didn’t write anything new. May came in off the back of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and it was a month of editing, plotting, book releases, and marketing. I wrote nothing new.

June came, and I duly sat down to write, to create, and I found myself empty.

Getting words out of me was like torture, it hurt, and I found myself stopping after just a couple of paragraphs, too frustrated and exhausted to continue. It felt like it might actually kill me. Slowly. One unwritten word by another.

I needed to rediscover the fire, the passion, the creativity that had, evidently, buried itself so deep inside me that I couldn’t find even a hint of it. After taking advice from my peers, I turned back to a tactic I’ve used before. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself, but, sometimes, you need someone else to tell you. It’s not always so simple to take your own advice.

I began reading what I’d already written during April, from the beginning, gently editing as I went. That’s where my mojo was. Not in the air, in the clouds, not in words I hadn’t even thought of yet, it was in the solidity of what was already penned. It took just two chapters. And then I was ready to go. The story came flowing.

So, that’s my lesson learnt. I can’t take a month off. I need to write, every day, even if it’s something that will never come to anything. Creativity can dry up, albeit temporarily, but it’s far better to keep it burning.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.