Writers who inspire me – Joanna Penn

Joanna appears in many guises. Some may know her as thriller writer JF Penn, others as entrepreneur and blogger The Creative Penn, and friends and family probably know her as Jo. Each of her identities has a different role in her business (yes, writing is a business) but they all have a generosity of spirit and of knowledge.

Joanna inspires me not only through her fiction writing – which is great – but also through her knowledge of writing, blogging and self-publishing which she is more than happy to share.

I’ve never walked away from an encounter with Joanna without feeling that I could move mountains. She has that effect on you. Her enthusiasm is boundless and infectious. I attended her masterclass on self-publishing, organised by the Guardian, and she freely shared the knowledge she’s learned while supporting our aspirations.

She was one of the first people I followed when I joined Twitter and was looking for writing people to follow. Her website / blog has been a fount of information for me and most of it is available for free. Yes, some of her courses and suchlike have a cost but again this is a business.

What inspires me most is how quickly she built this all up. Her story is detailed on her blog so I won’t repeat it here but suffice to say she went from IT consultant to self-published writer in the space of 5 years. When you put it in context, that’s not a very long time. It gives me hope, hope that I could do something like that.

In addition to her writing and publishing knowledge, I admire her business sense. She sees a gap in the market, another area she can exploit and she goes for it. She learns about the industry, how things work and then makes her move. And her talent for this shows. One of her most recent announcements was having her novels translated into German and Spanish. She’s seen that Spanish is one of the biggest languages in the world and targeted that. That shows brilliant business sense.

I aspire to be like Joanna; to be confident in my writing and in myself. Like me, Joanna is an introvert and seeing what she has achieved, the people she’s met and influenced despite that, gives me hope that I could do the same.

So, thanks Joanna, and keep the inspiration coming.

There’s still so much to learn

Weekend Novelist writes a mysteryAfter suffering a number of rejections in a very short space of time, a holiday in Seville was just what the doctor ordered. In my case, literally as I’ve been suffering from a vitamin D deficiency (stupid British weather!).

The holiday came in useful in other ways too. It gave me a break from the mundane, a chance to actually just sit and think. I’d taken with me “The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery”, which some very kind soul bought me for Christmas.

I thought I’d read everything there was to read about planning and plotting and preparing to write. I’m also one of those writers who likes to kick an idea around in my head for a while and then just start throwing words at the page. But so far that hasn’t really worked for me. I tend to find myself stuck in the middle somewhere with my timeline going all awry and even my characters looking confused as to what’s going on.

What this book does is slow you down a bit in the preparation stages, taking time to work on your characters to understand them better before you start on the plot. At first I was sceptical, but as I sat by the pool in the sun reading the book I started to think about how I’d fit the characters in the book I’m currently editing into the patterns suggested, such as writing a monologue from the point of view of each main character and creating a back story for the plot, even if it never makes it into the book. Strangely, I’d never thought of either idea, and when I started to do this (still by the pool, thanks to the Evernote app) I was amazed by how much more I started to realise about my people.

I’d also never thought of beginning a book by looking at the killer first, but bizarrely it works. You find out more links between the killer and each of their victims and why each person ‘has to be killed’.

I’m not convinced I’d be able to keep to only writing at the weekends, but the book really shows what can be done. It seems to take a long time to get to actually writing – you’re not supposed to start the first draft until weekend 14 (of 52) – but when I thought about it, the planning stage encourages you to start writing bits of dialogue, creating scene cards and suchlike which means when you get to the first draft stage you’ve already made a great start.

I’ve been writing for a number of years now but it fascinates me how much there still is to learn. There’s nothing that says you have to take on every bit of advice you read – and I certainly never do – but you can pick and choose which bits work for you.

So, whatever happens, don’t ever give up learning new things and testing new ways of working. You never know what will happen.

How To Get Your Writing Groove Back

LM Milford:

If you need some pointers to get you writing muscles stretched, try a few of these.

Originally posted on C H Griffin:

Photo by Fred Scharmen

Photo by Fred Scharmen

“A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” – Junot Diaz

Hello, there. It’s me again. Remember me? Yes, it’s been a while, but I’m still here. I’m still writing.

Amongst many changes and all the ups and downs that have taken control of my life in the last six months, I am still writing. My twitter feed may have dwindled, my blog outright suffered, but I held fast to the golden rule – NEVER STOP WRITING.

I admire those people who write at the same time every day like clockwork, come rain or shine. But sometimes life happens. It really just does. When…

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IWSG: Playing my part

Come and join the club!

Come and join the club!

Today’s blog is brought to you in association with the Insecure Writers Support Group, a place for like-minded writing souls to gather and support each other.

My problem at the moment isn’t creativity when it comes to fiction. It’s all systems go in that area, but this means my blogging creativity is suffering.

So far this year, my consistency hasn’t been good. I worry at times that I’m starting to write about the same thing over and over again (yes, editing!) and this leads me to question keeping the blog up and running.

I’ve always said I’m a writer-who-blogs and therefore my blog comes second to my latest novel / piece of fiction. However, I still consider my blog to be very important. It’s a great way to talk to the writing community in a meaningful way and to get support, as well as – hopefully – supporting and advising others. Every time I post as part of the IWSG I get a lovely warm fuzzy feeling when nice comments and support pour in.

So instead of backing off from the blog, I’m making some pledges. I recently read an article which said you should make 10mins a day to read other people’s blogs and comment on them. So that’s what I’m going to do. It’s easy to get tied up in your own stats and work and forget to play your part in the community.

As part of this pledge, I’ll be trying to post more regularly and play my part in supporting others. So keep those blog posts coming and I’ll be coming along to read!

Please do let me know which blog you’re from and I’ll do my best to get round and have a look!

Coping with Rejection

LM Milford:

More excellent advice on coping when things aren’t going your way, and the only word you seem to hear is no!

Originally posted on Isabel Costello:

Keep Trying I recently wrote this article about rejection for a competition and rather fittingly, it didn’t get anywhere. When I was telling some writer friends about this over lunch a few days ago (I had to see the funny side), they said I should post it on the blog so I’m doing it before I can change my mind (plus it’s the Friday afternoon graveyard slot). I don’t consider myself an expert on anything, but like most writers I know more about this subject than I ever wanted to. Writing this piece really helped me. Since then I’ve plunged headlong into writing a new novel, so at least I’m taking my own advice. If one more person finds something helpful here, it will have been worth doing.

All new writers know you have to persevere to get anywhere. The odds of success are terrible, especially if your aim is to have a novel…

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Why I’m not giving up

Come and join the club!

Come and join the club!

I post on the first Wednesday of every month as a member of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. The group was set up by Alex J. Cavanaugh to bring together writers to offer each other support. Pop along to the website to find out more.

This week has been a tough one. I’ve had two rejections in two days, which is not a pleasant experience. As writers we get used to knock backs, but that doesn’t mean we ever get used to that sinking feeling in your stomach when something hasn’t worked, yet again.

For me, this feels like yet another thing that points to my writing being not good enough.

So, I could give up and do one of the other activities I wish I did more of – running, learning Spanish, or dressmaking. But none of these makes me one bit as happy as writing does.

That’s why I won’t be giving up. I love writing too much to just fall at the next hurdle. In the coming weeks I’ll be thinking about what my next steps are. Do I just keep blindly writing, never sure if I’m doing it right? Or do I pull myself together and get some professional critique so I can find out what’s wrong with my writing and how to make it better?

I’m not too sure of the answer yet – there are a lot of considerations for both suggestions – but I certainly won’t be resting on my laurels. I’m just not that kind of person.

Reading is so subjective that some people may like your work, others may not. My plan, therefore is to, as Mel Sherratt would say, ‘Keep on keeping on’ – you never know when it’s going to be your turn!

When You Start Comparing Yourself To Other Writers

LM Milford:

Some great advice for tackling that old foe Comparison-it is!

Originally posted on Carly Watters, Literary Agent:

dontcompare The reality of pursuing anything you’re super passionate about is the jealousy that can pervade you. Writing is no exception.

When you start comparing yourself to other writers, their books or book deals you’re going down a dark path. Here are my tips to avoid jealousy when it creeps in.

WHEN YOU START COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER WRITERS…

1. Remember they started somewhere too. You might be seeing them at a different point in their career. I love this quote from Jon Acuff because it’s SO TRUE. If you’re at the beginning and you are comparing yourself to someone in the middle of their career–there is no comparison! Apples and oranges.

2. It should spur you on to think ‘If they can do it, so can I!’ Don’t let jealousy stop you from trying. When you see other writers getting deals it shouldn’t make you think ‘Why them and not me!’ It…

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