“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach)
I’ve been thinking about this. You see, I don’t have any tips! For me, if there’s something you want to do, you’ll make the time. It’s that simple.
I know that’s easy for me to say. I work for myself and I manage my own time. Right?!
Well, yes. Now.
When I wrote my first book, I had a full-time job that was destroying my soul, a really long commute from Birmingham to London for months on end and an equally long commute from Birmingham to Coventry. If anyone else has tried the M6 at peak time, you’ll feel my pain.
Weekends were mainly spent crying into my laptop while job hunting and binging on Jaffa Cakes.
Motivation was at an all-time low and I couldn’t even spell inspiration.
Still, life wasn’t all bad!
The desire to write hadn’t gone away and if I wanted to write a book, I had to do just that, write a book.
I get a lot of emails and calls from people who tell me they want to write a book but when it comes to it, they find every excuse under the sun not to write it. The reason I use the word ‘excuse’ is because the people I am working with at the moment are really busy people. They have full-time jobs, they have children, they are business owners… the list goes on. They haven’t found a magical portal where the words come easily and time slows down. They have prioritised, they have made the time and believe me, they are rocking it.
When I wrote my first book, it was messy. I had a schedule but I’d sit down at my computer and the words wouldn’t come. When faced with a blank screen, the bestselling ideas that I’d had in the shower, in the car or while in a soul-destroying meeting, had completely disappeared. I could sit and wait for inspiration, or I could go out and find it.
That’s the choice.
I made time. I created space, every day, for writing. Sometimes it was just fifteen minutes with my journal, but I created a habit. I had my book planned out and I had a schedule. Within three weeks, I deleted the schedule and created a new one, a realistic one. It’s not until you start writing that you realise what is realistic in an hour!
In an ideal world, my routine would involve getting outside and spending time with my dogs, having breakfast and then writing. That’s what I do now. Back then, I had to take the dogs and eat breakfast on the way to the place of doom. So, my alarm was set for 4:30 am instead of 5:30 am and that was my hour of writing. It wasn’t easy. I’m a morning person but 4:30 am is still bloody early. At least I could nap in the futile meetings! My burst of fresh air came through an open window and every morning I had a choice.
Get up… or don’t.
Start writing… or don’t.
That’s it. Do it, or don’t!
Everyone has commitments, leads busy lives and can have 101 things on their to-do list. If writing a book isn’t a priority, that’s fine. If it is, make the time. You won’t regret it, I promise.
“If I was to write a novel about the paranormal, I think I would want to use a ghostwriter for greater impact.” (Michael Kroft)
This is something I love talking about. Is ghostwriting ethical?
I don’t think there’s a clear-cut answer and I know that some people have strong feelings about this, on both sides, so I’m just going to share my thoughts and how I see my role as a ghostwriter.
My sister was one of the first people to share her views that ‘it’s not fair’. She had her own reasons though as she is my biggest supporter and personal PR. She likes to tell people about the books I’ve written, mainly the ones that include her favourite canine, Reggie. Actually, it’s more about him!
As a ghost, I write on behalf of other people. I don’t ghostwrite fiction, so I am merely putting the lived experience and expertise of the people who hire me into book form. They’re not my stories, I’m the conduit, nothing more. I am collecting the words of the people who hire me and putting them in order!
The authors I work with as a ghost could absolutely write their own books if they wanted to. Just like, if I wanted to, I could do my own accounts. I have done the work, I have earned the money, it’s my business name on the submission, it’s just that I am not skilled with numbers. My accountant is incredible. She understands numbers and all things accounting. I happily pay her to make sure my numbers are in order and she completes the task in a fraction of the time it would take me. I don’t want to do them (insert a minor tantrum here) but I do want them to be completed.
I don’t feel there’s any difference with being a ghost, except it sounds much cooler! I love words, I love to write and I love that I can get earn a living doing exactly that.
There’s something exciting about seeing a book you’ve written on the shelf of a bookshop and nobody knows it’s your word-ordering that is contained inside the cover. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to living life as an MI5 operative. I was given Stella Rimmington’s book last year and have wondered how long I’d last undercover since reading it. Approximately three minutes, I reckon.
With the writing, I genuinely don’t feel that they are ‘my’ books and I love that the authors I work with can proudly hold their book and enjoy the journey it takes them on.
So, for me, ghostwriting is absolutely ethical. It’s a service that allows more people to share their wisdom and there can never be too much wisdom out in the world!
“They say in every library there is a single book that can answer the question that burns like a fire in the mind.” (Lemony Snicket)
I have a list of some of the questions that Dr. Google has been asked recently. These have been taken from a much longer list and directly relate to conversations I have had with writers over the past month or so.
Each writer has not only experienced these circumstances themselves but now has the expertise and experience to help other people going through this.
In six months, their book could be appearing as the answer to the question. Their book will show that they can help, they have a personal story to share and they have tried and tested tools to help someone else get through this.
- How Do I Deal With Depression Without Medication?
- How Do I Cope Without My Mum?
- How Do I Deal With Toddler Tantrums?
- How Do I Cope With My Son Going To Prison?
- How Do I Cope With Terminal Cancer?
- Why Can’t I Improve My Life?
It makes me sad that people are turning to a computer at these times in their life, but if they could find a book, written by someone who speaks their language, who relates to what they’re going through and who can tell them that they’re not alone, they will have a message of hope as they turn the pages.
I was chatting with a friend this week who is recovering from cancer and she turned to Dr. Google when she received her initial diagnosis. She couldn’t find any information on the specific treatment she would be receiving apart from medical guidance. Under instruction (from me!) she took a notebook with her to all of the appointments, when she went into the hospital for her operations and when she was undergoing chemotherapy.
She has just finished the first draft of her book and has received the first round of feedback from people she met along the way, both patients and medical staff. The resounding feedback is ‘I wish I’d had this when I was first diagnosed.’ The medical staff has promised to recommend it to their patients. We can safely say that it’s a niche market that she is writing for but for every single reader, it will be ‘raw, real, authentic and surprisingly funny’ as one fellow survivor has written.
If you can change the world for just one person, your book is a success.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” (Anne Lamott)
How many times in your life have you felt alone? How many times have you thought, ‘I wish someone had told me that?’ How many times have you wondered if it’s just you; if you’re the only one who feels this way?
The majority of people I work with are writing their books because they don’t want other people, who find themselves in a similar situation, to feel alone.
Without exception, the writers I’m currently working with are sharing their stories because, in the midst of their experiences, they felt alone.
Because we’re talking about personal experiences, there are inevitably some ‘characters’ involved. The questions around how to include them, discuss them, leave them out or eradicate them from the literary face of the earth come up frequently.
My advice is to turn your story into fiction and kill off their character! One writer who has joined my six-month programme is doing this and her book is comedy gold.
Seriously though, isn’t this exactly why your story needs to be written? You know how it feels to be lost and alone.
If you have felt silenced. If you have felt that your story can’t be told. If you have felt lost in your story and not in control of it. You are able to speak with authority to the people who need you.
It’s time to own your story.
Shout it from the rooftops that you have been there, experienced that and got the t-shirt. You’ve come out the other side and you know that you have words of wisdom that will be valuable to someone else.
Let’s talk and get that book out into the world, you know that there are people waiting for it.
I’ve been hiding away, working with incredible writers who are having fun with post-it notes and putting their words in order while also ghost writing and taking on at least three different personas each week. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
This morning, I stepped into my usual persona to answer the front door as I had a surprise delivery. Signing for the box, I wasn’t sure what I had ordered. I haven’t done any Christmas shopping yet, the box didn’t come from Amazon and the only delivery I was expecting was the food shopping, which definitely wasn’t going to appear in a little box, delivered by UPS.
Thanks to this little box, I’m ending 2017 on a high. My fabulous publisher sent six pre-publication author copies of the final book in my teen fiction trilogy. It’s not going to be released until September 2018, so I wasn’t expecting these copies and as the book had been signed off about four months ago, I hadn’t given it a second thought.
The magic of holding your book in your hands doesn’t go away. The excitement of seeing your name on the cover is indescribable, time after time.
These books are inspired by my own story. I created a teenage character to share the story in a way that resonates with my young-adult audience. Dani Moore has become my friend. I know her and I’ve grown with her. She has taken the story in directions I had never considered in the initial planning stages. She has taught me an enormous amount about trusting your characters as they speak through the words that appear on the page. She has given me permission to let go and to be surprised by the direction the story takes. The message hasn’t been lost, it has been strengthened by Dani doing things her way. I admire her. I wish I had been more like her as a teenager!
The first book, Reggie & Me was published in 2014 and reached the final of The People’s Book Prize in 2015. It was the catalyst for my social enterprise and it has opened so many doors for me to share my message with the world. The excitement and pride that I feel today as the third and final book in the trilogy is in my hands is equal to, if not greater than, the feeling I had in 2014. Dani is changing lives and I’m honoured to have been the conduit through which she came life.
For this moment, I showed up day after day to plan the book, write the book, rewrite the book and learn something new with each and every chapter. I’d love to tell you it was a joyous and cathartic process, but it wasn’t. It took discipline and self-motivation. It took a desire to share a message and a single minded, some might say stubborn, belief that it was worth the investment in time, money and energy. It meant battling demons about visibility, about people judging me, about the fear that I’d get painful reviews and that little voice that won’t shut up, whispering, ‘who do you think you are?’
Who do I think I am? Well, I’m someone who showed up, did the work and wrote the words. I’m someone who decided that the risk was worth taking. I’m someone who’s still scared when I see a new review has been submitted. I’m someone who wanted to share a message of hope, based on my story.
Was it worth it?
If you’re ready to make 2018 your year. If you want to make 2018 the year that you hold your book in your hands, join me! The New Year will see the six-month programme re-opening and a new online programme to support you in writing your book. Exciting times!