I’m so grateful to my long-time friend Lesley Cookman for revealing some of the secrets of a bestselling novelist‘s life. Read today’s guest blog to see what you have in common with her, and get a sneak preview of the cover of her next book (which won’t be published for months yet).
Lesley is the author of the Libby Serjeant series of murder mysteries, with the eighteenth recently published – Murder by the barrel. Each new book whizzes to the top of its category on the Amazon bestseller charts, but despite Lesley’s success, the writing life is still not easy. But it is rewarding… Read Lesley’s guest blog here – and do ask questions in the ‘comments’ bit!
You have the blockbusting idea.
You know all the novel-writing techniques.
Your favourite cousin works for a publisher.
You have all the gizmos and apps that a writer could ever want.
Your characters zap, your dialogue zings.
But you can’t get down to writing the actual, chapter-by-chapter, 80,000 word manuscript.
You want to, you yearn to, you’re excited about it… but you can’t find the time. You can’t find the motivation. HOW DO AUTHORS DO IT?
All published writers – authors, journalists, scriptwriters, dramatists – will tell you this unhelpful secret:
“Just apply your bottom to the chair and your fingers to the keyboard.”
Gee, thanks. But they’re right. It’s the only thing to do. So here are 14 ways to trick yourself, persuade yourself, bully yourself, cajole yourself into doing it. Try them all. See which works best, and stick to it.
Commit money to your book: commission a cover illustration or hire an editor.
Go on a weekend writing retreat to get yourself started. After a weekend’s dedicated work in the company of other writers, you’ll be in the flow.
So, tell me – how do you motivate yourself? What gets you to the keyboard and the top of Page 1?
…illustrated children’s book. This is a great insight into some of the challenges and solutions for writers itching to get their story told: a piece by Michael Gallant for the BookBaby blog. Read, then get writing!
When a hint of a thought of an idea catches on fire in your head… and you find yourself chasing your characters through the skies over London until the story comes to satisfying close, it’s a great feeling.
When the story becomes a paper-and-ink reality, 192 pages with a fabulous cover, and you spend two days at a big book fair launching it, that’s something else. Exhausting, but exhilerating.
To be told (as I was today) that the initial print run of 3,000 copies have sold out, just 6 days after the launch – THAT’s a real buzz!
My dragons are being reprinted now, as their story seems to be rather popular. Nice…
So never give up on a story because you think it’ll never be published. Look at me and my dragons! Have faith in your story and make it happen.
Thanks to Booklet Fiction for their faith in the story, their publishing expertise and their enthusiasm…
Do you like seeing faces in clouds? It’s one of my favourite occupations, cloud-watching. And the other evening, two characters emerged from the blueness of the evening sky over my house in Transylvania.
Do you see them? The white cloud is a fat-faced chap with a bristly moustache, a blobby nose, untidy hair, a double chin and droopy cheeks. His right eye is closed.
Next to him is his blue-faced wife, who’s smiling broadly, her sharp teeth just showing, her sharp nose poking from her chubby cheek, her eyebrows raised and her eyes crinkled up.
Not the most handsome couple, but there they are.
That’s what I see, anyway. I could tell you more about them – where they come from, how old they are, their background, even what they like to have for breakfast. I have an idea what she’s grinning about, and what his expression’s for.
But I’d like you to find out for yourself. Why not write their story? If you feel so inclined, post it here as a comment – I’d love to know what you see…
It’s St Valentine’s Day tomorrow – 14th February – the day which has been colonised and commercialised by the hazy notion of romance. If you don’t spend, you don’t care, and if you’re not in a couple you’re nowhere and nothing. If you feel alone – even if you’re at the centre of a busy family – then the fuss around this one winter’s day can be overwhelming, making you feel worse than ever.
BUT…. turn it to your advantage! Make imagination your friend instead of your enemy, and write yourself out of those lonely feelings. Leap out of the round-and-round whirlpool of miserable feelings and leap into the limitless worlds of possibility in your imagination. Spend the day (which is, rather conveniently, a Sunday this year) writing furiously, inventing, exploring, what-iffing.
Use Valentine’s Day as a prompt, if you like. Write Mr Right… or Mr Wrong. Write your perfect romance, or the nightmare romance. Not everything that happens on 14th February is lovely – remember the St Valentine’s Day Massacre – Chicago 1929. How could murder happen on this most loving of days?
Use your feelings, feed them into your powerful imagination, and create something great with the force of love behind it. Wherever that takes you.
[Click on any date for booking details.]
Saturday 16th February in Brasov, Romania.
Friday 1st in Bath (alongside the Bath Literary Festival)
Tuesday 5th in Liverpool
Friday 8th in Manchester
Sunday 10th in Oxford (a week before the Oxford Literary Festival)
Tuesday 12th in Saffron Walden, Essex
Thursday 14th in Rye, East Sussex.
From Thursday 26 September to Thursday 3rd October, I’m running a week-long intensive writers’ workshop in Magura, Transylvania. Read more…
Do you worry?
Do you daydream?
Do you plan holidays?
Do you plan ahead for the weekend?
If you’ve said yes to any of those questions, you have a perfectly good imagination. In fact, if you’re human and reading this, you have a perfectly good imagination. Without it, you couldn’t worry, think about the future, daydream, write a shopping list, plan a holiday, or decide what to have for supper. Let alone run a household or fall in love or fantasise or buy Christmas presents…
You may not realise it, but you have to imagine everything you want to do before you do it. Think about it. First the idea, then the reality.
Are you aware that you’ve been trained to think? And that thinking is different to imagining?
The education process – a dozen years at school, at least – is all geared to teaching us to think. To analyse, to be logical, to manage, organise, filter, file, memorise… We are not taught to be inventors or innovators; original thinking is discouraged. Art lessons are about technique and art history; English lessons are about structure and syntax and organizing facts and subtext and other writers’ stuff.
School is designed to make us focus on the path to employment, vocation, career. We have to think about getting a proper job as soon as we get to high school. Before we even hit puberty, we have to stop daydreaming and playing, and be serious.
And what happens to our imagination? You tell me.
So… the good news is that your imagination is there, in full working order.
The bad news is that with nothing else to do, it’s bubbling away, concocting nightmares and waking you up at 3am in a muck sweat, keeping you awake, worrying.
The better news is that you can use all that imaginative power to create beauty and delight in whatever way you choose.
The best news is that you can learn how to grab hold of your imagination and go for a wild ride…and you can learn how in one single day. Actually you’ll learn the big secret in less than 10 minutes. The rest of the day will show you just how amazing your imagination is, and reinforcing the good news.
Where? How? At the Where do you get your ideas one-day workshop – see dates and venues here.
No hard work. No experience needed. And here’s the best bit: No thinking...
I guarantee you will have a great time. I guarantee you will succeed. I guarantee you will go home with new characters and new stories. I guarantee you will have more confidence in your storytelling. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised and delighted with what your imagination produces.
Now… I dare you to have a go. I dare you to make the breakthrough and find the story that needs writing. Email me today and ask any questions you have. Sign up today and commit to becoming a storyteller: on the page, on the stage, on the screen.
Go on… I dare you.