inspirationThe greatest compliment I get is when people tell me that I’m an inspiration to them.

A true inspiration

Strangers send me emails and leave comments on my social media feeds saying that my words make their pain a little less painful, and that sharing my life makes them feel less alone (see the comments on this post).

Close friends whom I have nothing but respect for, tell me that I’m the most inspirational person they know. A few have told me that my story was the catalyst for them writing a book, or setting up a business.

Some have confided that even though they’ve read my book, and know the facts, they still can’t quite believe how I managed to get from there to here. 

On a daily basis people say that they are astounded by how much I achieve on such little sleep, with so much additional crap on my plate that most have to deal with.

When you don’t feel very inspirational

I’ve had dark periods in life where I haven’t been able to accept these kind words. I didn’t feel that I deserved them, and I questioned how on earth wonderful, intelligent people could possibly find me inspirational when I’m so flawed.

Face the FearSome days, even now, I can’t see past these flaws, and it takes every ounce of strength I have to tune out to the self-doubt demons.

There are nights when my past haunts me in my sleep, and my days are so hard they make me weep. When the challenges have been non-stop, and I have barely scraped the bottom of the parenting barrel, I think ‘wow, if only you could see me now.’

Then there are the really dark days. The ones where loathe myself, and can hardly face looking in the mirror. When the flaws are the only things I can see, and I truly question how I will make it through another year.

But you are inspirational

Then on other days I realise how well I’m doing. That the hard work I put into turning my life around ten years ago has been paying me back ever since. I can see the progress that the kids are making, and even though we still have plenty of challenges to overcome, who doesn’t? 

write from the heartI can also see that I’m achieving far more than I ever dreamed I would with my writing. I am able to quash the monsters who tell me I’m rubbish, and get through the next round of edits for my book. I know, deep down, that I will get it published, however which way, and it will sell.

I’m proud of this blog, and the doors that it has opened for me and my family. I’ve written almost eight hundred posts now, and don’t look back at any of them and cringe. I’ve remained true to myself, I never collaborate with brands I don’t believe in, or write sponsored posts just for the money. I write from the heart, and only from the heart.

Be the change you want to see

In a confusing media-driven world we are up against it not to doubt ourselves. We are told what we should be doing, who we should be aspiring toward, and what constitutes inspiration. We are bombarded with Insta-perfection and Pinable lives, which quite frankly are so out of reach for most of us, that they make us feel awful not inspired. 

So I say screw the cliches. Instead we should be our own inspiration! Especially when we have children.

MotherhoodIf they can see us achieving and being proud of those achievements, they will want to mimic us. If they watch us being able to accept a compliment gracefully, they will learn to smile and say thank you when someone tells them how wonderful they are. 

If we aren’t setting our kids the biggest positive examples in their lives, then we are in trouble my friends.

So next time you feel bogged down, dig deep. Face those demons and challenges head on, and give yourself a high five.

If you care enough to read this blog, I can guarantee that you are doing much better than you give yourself credit for.

Be strong. Be proud. Be inspirational!

HOw to write a bookI’m very pleased to report that I have reached my target and finished draft one of my second book, a fiction novel clocking in at almost 80,000 words.

Getting to this stage is a wonderful feeling, and I’m trying to enjoy it rather than thinking too much about the next bit. Everyone knows that the hard part (and some might say real work) is in the editing, editing, and more editing that needs to be done to get a book reader-worthy.

No doubt I’ll also agonise over the cover and the blurb that goes on the back for weeks, and then of course there is the promotional side of things. Unless you’re lucky enough to find yourself snapped up by a top literary agent who will do the majority of the leg work for you. One can dream, but the odds are stacked against new authors with most agents only taking on a handful each year.

You might be wondering how a busy mum of three found the time to write a book?

I get asked a lot how I find the time to write, and the shortest answer is that I take my writing very seriously. Carving out time amid family life can be tough, but if you are going to make writing a book more than just an unattainable pipe dream then you will also find the time. It’s as simple as that. Click here to see how other successful authors do it.

As for me, I though it might be useful to share the background to the book, and some of the insights I’ve learnt on my writing journey so far.

Some pointers on how to write a book

You will need a good idea for a storyline. The first chapter of my book was originally written as a short story, but was so well received that I decided to see if I could possibly do what I’ve always wanted to do and write a book from it. Kate’s Story tells the tale of a wife and mum of two who has an affair with her ex, and ends up losing everything as a result. The first chapter tells you the basics, the story is then told in reverse, to see how she gets from the person she was, to the person she becomes.  

Remove distractions. And by distractions I’m looking at you Facebook, Twitter, IG , Snapchat, etc, etc. Social media is a huge noisy distraction, and writing amid the chaos can be nigh on impossible. Start by removing the phone apps, and never open social media websites when you get the laptop out for a writing session. If you’re a blogger ask yourself honestly about the content and frequency that you’re posting. Can you cut down, and can you smartly promote your posts, rather than being glued to your notifications? I made a huge decision at the end of last year, and took a big step back from my blog. Not only have I written a book in the spare time I used to dedicate to blogging, but my blog has gone from strength to strength. Good content is all about quality not quantity.  

Just write. Even if you know it’s not going to be your best work, writing something is always better than writing nothing. I’ve had evenings where my brain has been so frazzled from my day with the children that I could barely string a sentence together. BUT, even adding a sentence to the word count is preferable to leaving it the same as it was the day before.  

Glorious writing setting, the Take every opportunity to write that you possibly can. My kids hate me ‘doing work’ around them, and are very intolerant of me being on the phone or laptop in their presence. Also, with my sleep situation being as horrendous as it is, staying up late or getting up before the rest of my family (kids are up at 5:30-6am) is not an option. I also like to have a relatively tidy house. All this means I’ve had to be super creative about making time to write. My exercise bike workouts have doubled up as writing sessions; I took my laptop on our recent holiday and wrote while the girls were at kids club; and I’m that naughty mummy who doesn’t switch her phone off in the cinema. I’d rather give the film just 50% of my attention, if it means I get to finish off a chapter. 

Squash the monsters. Do not let the self-doubt demons get the better of you. They are vile little creatures who get inside your head and destroy your confidence, the trick is not opening the door and allowing them in in the first place. From what I gather it is perfectly healthy to doubt yourself at points of the book writing process, but being plagued with self-doubt is going to seriously hinder your growth. If you’re finding that the monsters are winning too often, and you need a bit of help figuring out where they’re coming from, you might find my first book Become the Best You useful.     

Us writers need cheerleaders. One of the best things I did was join a writing group, and the encouragement we give each other is invaluable. From thrashing around ideas safe in the knowledge that they won’t get ripped off, to helping me push through the self-doubt, my What I’m Writing crew have been amazing. Huge thanks to you all, you know who you are! 

It should be fun. If it’s not then there could be something fundamentally wrong with your story, so you might want to rethink continuing as is, and change some stuff. 

Have you written a book? What are your top tips for aspiring authors? I’d love to hear from you!

An Update on my Novel (8th March 2016)“How’s the book going?”

Pretty good actually! I love being able to say that.

I’ve now written about 25,000 words, which is just under a third of the 80,000 I’m aiming for. I know that realistically not all of these words will make the final cut, but I consider it a damn good start seeing how challenging I’ve found getting the writing off the ground.

My self-help book/memoir Become the Best You is only 20,000 words in its entirety, but a novel is different. In the self-help world the fewer words the better, people want you to get STRAIGHT TO THE POINT. For a novel, you need to set the scene and paint the picture, and make the reader feel as though they are right there in that moment. Writing the fluff that fills up pages, yet isn’t going to have the reader rolling their eyes and skimming onto the next paragraph is a real art form. It’s one I’m learning to embrace, but it doesn’t come naturally!

When I was piecing together the snippets I’d already written a few weeks ago, I was surprised to learn that I wrote the first chapter way back in April last year. Friday the 13th was originally a short story, which meant it had to have a distinct start, middle and end. I can’t remember why I decided to develop it, and attempt to turn it into an actual book, but I’m glad I did. I’m really enjoying writing fiction, delving into my protagonist’s mind and making up a world that bears similarities to my own, but is completely different in many respects.

Story mapping on index cards

Mapping out the story on index cards was a great move, and means that my half an hour here, hour there writing sessions are much more focussed because I roughly know what I’d like to say beforehand. I’ve also given every single character (even the ones who are only in the book for a few pages) an identity, which has made them feel much more real than they did previously.

I’ve been concentrating on a chapter at a time, not necessarily in order of where it comes in the book, and I don’t move on until I’ve written at least 2000 words. Some chapters have taken a couple of days to write, others a week or more. Each time I go back to it, I look for errors and give it a quick edit. By doing this I hope to have less editing to do when I go through the novel as a whole, but that of course remains to be seen. I’m not sure this is the most efficient way of writing a book, but it’s definitely working for me, and that’s what counts. 

I’m aiming to have a first draft completed by my birthday at the end of July, but knowing how much life can get in the way, I won’t be piling unnecessary pressure onto myself. 

**This blog has been written for what I’m writing, feels good to be back 🙂

WhatImWriting

How to Carve out Writing Time amid Family LifeI often get asked how I find the time to write, what with everything else I have going on. The honest answer is mostly ‘with great difficulty’, but as I get so much from my writing it is vital to my well being that I create the time any way I can.

This means staying up in the middle of the night when I’ve got one of the kids back to sleep, which happens at least once a week. I wrote the first draft of Become the Best You between the hours of 4-6am when my little man was a teeny bub. If the kids are busy playing and/or hubby is around I take extra long trips to the loo (sorry, tmi). Most recently I’ve been writing while I work out on my exercise bike.

Essentially I grab any and all opportunities I can and make the very most of them, but as my advice doesn’t make much of an article, I’ve enlisted the help of some other wonderful writers who also happen to be mums (including no less than THREE BEST SELLING AUTHORS!) Here are their pearls of wisdom, I hope you find them useful!

Emily blogs at Emily Organ. She has published two books The Last Day and best selling The Outsider; her third novel Runaway Girl is out in the Spring 

“Now all of my children are at school I’m able to get my writing time done in the day, when they were little it was during their nap time or in the evenings when they were in bed. These days I don’t get as much time in the evening as my children are up later and school holidays can be a big problem!
 
For the first time ever I’ve planned my writing this year so my big deadlines aren’t falling in, or just after, school holidays. At the beginning of the year I sat down with my calendar and mapped it all out. It might not run to plan as I’m not usually this organised, but it’s a start and it stops me fretting when I’m not getting my writing done.”

 Aimee blogs at Pass the Gin, and is the best selling author of the Dotty Harris series

“Appreciate the little wins. As much as I’d like to be Sophie Kinsella RIGHT THIS MINUTE it takes time. Every day I appreciate the chance to write, the lovely people on social media who have told me they’ve read and enjoyed my book, reviews and peaks in sales ranks. They’re massive wins for me!

Write what you love, not what you think the industry wants. If you write something that isn’t what you really want to, it will never be really engaging.

Be brave. Showing your work to people is hard, it’s scary, and often confidence sapping. But you never know what might happen…”


Sarah blogs at The Unmumsy Mum and released her first book last week (also called The Unmumsy Mum), which is already topping the charts. Huge congrats! 

“The most helpful thing I’ve tried to keep in mind is that not every day can be a great writing day, but putting something on the page, however rubbish you think it is in that moment, at least gives you something you can go back and edit, which is greater progress than a blank page…”

What I'm Writing Meet Up and Lunch in London Oct 2015

Myself, Maddy, Becky, Emily and Sophie pictured here on our fabulous lunch a few months ago… another one is surely overdue ladies?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Becky blogs at Rebecca Ann Smith – her first novel Baby X is very soon to be published through Mothers Milk Books

“When my eldest was a baby I used to write all the time – I remember walking round the park to get him to drop off in his buggy, and the second I knew he was asleep I’d sit on a bench and scribble in my notebook. I wrote most of the first draft of Baby X this way.

I wrote my second novel He, She, It and Sealskin (and later drafts of Baby X) after my kids started school: most of it got written between making sure everyone was ready to leave the house (8.10 am) and actually leaving the house (8.30am) – the kids are allowed to watch telly during this time, so there’s an incentive for them to get ready quickly.

As my kids have got older, it’s become harder to carve out time. I’d expected to have more time, but in fact paid work encroaches on my week, and my commitments to the children’s activities and social lives are in many ways more demanding than ever. I get round this by holding on to a few short sessions during my week – during the hours when the kids are at school – when I won’t let work intrude on my time. There’s constant pressure to give this time over to work – I’m always being asked to squeeze in a meeting on a Tuesday morning, or finish something up for a client, but I’m learning to be assertive.

I’ve tried to find other hours in the day: I already get up at 6.15 to meditate and I know this helps me function so want to stick with this. I’m not sure I could get up any earlier. Respect to anyone who manages to write in the evening, but my brain doesn’t seem to work this way!”


Sophie blogs at Sophie Is, has written two novels and is currently working on book number three   

“Snatch time to plan whenever you can: it doesn’t matter if your planning time’s a bit disjointed, but it does mean that when you actually sit down with focused time to write you have something in your arsenal to combat that blank page.

Wear your baby! I wrote two novels with Arthur in the sling before he was 18 months old, and the combined breastfeeding/nap time gave me some extended periods to sit and write whilst I knew he was safe and happy.”


 Maddy blogs at Writing Bubble and writes awesome children’s books

“So, how do I find time to write in a house full of kids? I’d say I have to be disciplined – I do a lot of writing in the evenings when the boys are in bed, even if I’m too tired and really just want to slob in front of the telly. I do give myself telly-slob time too (these things are important!) but usually only after I’ve written something.

I also find that being opportunistic is essential too – I seize the moment when the kids are occupied, escape to the loo with a notepad/smart phone, jot down notes while cooking tea, and I write a lot in my head while out on family walks (yes, this does sometimes mean the kids have to ask me the same question three times before I can get myself out of the fictional world and back into the real one!). 

Drawing is my new creative outlet and I find time for that by drawing at the same time as the kids – we all sit down together, cover the kitchen table with pens, paper and coloured pencils and then see what we come up with. I’ve yet to try this with writing but maybe I should!”


Rachel L. MacAulay blogs at Challa and Haggis, she’s a freelancer copywriter, editor of Autism Awareness, assistant editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press, and a social media manager. If that’s not enough she also writes novels in her spare time!

“Walk the dog. If you don’t have one, go for a walk anyway. I find that the monotonous movement of my feet helps bring clarity to my mind. I’ve worked through character issues, finessed stilted dialogue, and developed story lines in my head, all while working off calories without noticing. Win-win!

Vacuum. See above. The monotony of necessary household chores frees up my mind in the same way walking does.

Buy Aqua Notes. I discovered these a few months ago on Amazon. The shower is my creative incubator and I often lamented the fact that I’d have Eureka! moments that never got captured because I’d often forget the solution by the time I had dried off. Aqua notes let you write them down while the shampoo is still in your hair.

Close the door. This may not work if your children are too young, or need a lot of oversight. In the same way I used to tell the kids not to interrupt me in the bathroom unless 1) they were bleeding, 2) they had a broken bone, or 3) the house was on fire, I now close my office door when I really need to concentrate. I can’t swear that they don’t interrupt me at all, but the closed door at least makes them think first.

Carry a pad of paper and pencil at all times. While I firmly believe in living in the moment, and not being one of those moms hooked to their smartphone all the time, I often use a yellow legal pad to jot down ideas while I’m at soccer practice, piano lessons, etc.

Sit down and write. In the end, the chaos of life is really just an excuse. Learn to write in the time you have, whether it’s 5 minutes here or 20 minutes there. Even one sentence is better than nothing at all.”


 Zoe blogs at Little House Lea, is a part time journalist and novelist

“I wish I had some magic solution to give you or some great pearls of wisdom on how to scrape some writing time. The fact is, I don’t. When you have a family, like it or not, they’re going to interfere with your writing.

The best way I have found to deal with it is just to accept it, accept that you might have to write with your child asleep on your knee, or might just get ten minutes to write before being shouted for. Accept that writing can happen any where and at any time. Accept that writing can be a fluid, flexible thing that doesn’t need special requirements.

If you get over the idea that writing needs to be a sacred quiet moment, when you are alone with your creativity and instead, accept that writing can be something that can be done at any time, then you’ll find you have time to write. It might not be much time, but it will be some, whereas, if I waited for a time to write with no interruptions, I’d be waiting till the kids were grown up and left home!”


 Chrissie blogs at Muddled Manuscript and is the multiple time winner of NaNoWrMo  

“Don’t do housework.  Ever. Pay someone. Or get your partner to do it. OK, OK, do it a BIT so, you know, things don’t start GROWING, but a few toys on the floor? Never mind.  If you MUST do housework – make a deal with your other half that you do the laundry (so you can write legitimately while waiting for the washing machine to finish) and they do the hoovering. 

Write in short bursts.  Finding fifteen minutes is much less daunting than trying to find a couple of hours.  If you begin writing in short bursts, you’ll find that you’ll get into to your story more easily when you do sit down to do it. 

Write during night feeds if you have a teeny one.” 


 Dana blogs at Writing on the Table, and had has her work published all over the internet 

“Motherhood changes everything about your life – including how you write. Throw out the old rules. Don’t think you must write every day, or for hours at a time. Especially when children are young, time is limited. Write in small increments and then stitch it together like a quilt. If you have a half hour, journal, take notes, brainstorm – ignore the dishes and laundry. Think about your story while driving (if the kids are asleep!) or taking a shower, waiting in line at car pick-up, or pushing a dozing child in a stroller. Keep the line of creativity open. You don’t have to keep your identities strictly separate.”

 

Exclusive Interview with Author and Illustrator Chrissy ByersI am absolutely thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview today with Australian children’s author and illustrator Chrissy Byers. This is a must read for anyone hoping to follow in Chrissy’s footsteps and publish a book for kids, so grab yourself a cuppa (or hide in the loo!) and enjoy…     

“Written, illustrated and self-published by Chrissy Byers, ‘The Magic in Boxes’ is a 52 page children’s book, manufactured using recycled materials, and inspires children to engage in creative play using the humble cardboard box. Written in rhyming couplets, with some repetitive text, this book is bound to become a favourite with your child. Suitable for children 0-7 years. Sample pages of the book can be viewed on the official website. Free international postage available through The book depository.”

Tell us a little about yourself, and what inspired you to the write / illustrate the book

I was born in the small country town of St George in South-West Queensland, Australia where I was fortunate to spend my childhood living on my parents’ cotton farm. As a child I loved stories and would often write and illustrate little books. It has been my life-long dream to be an author and illustrator. As a teenager I was discouraged to pursue this as a career due to the competitive nature of the book industry.

Thoroughly enjoying the idea of working with young children and delighting at the chance to discover first hand from classroom experience, what works well in children’s literature, I embarked on a teaching career spanning a decade and a half. The majority of which was teaching in a North London School in the UK. As a dedicated teacher I did not have time to focus on any writing or illustrating, anything spare went on travelling Europe!

I took a break from teaching after having my boys, and once they started school I was finally presented with the opportunity to write and illustrate my first book ‘The Magic In Boxes’.

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How long did it take you from conception of idea to holding the book in your hands for the first time?

The concept of the book and the photos taken for the illustrations occurred three years before publication, but most of the work was done in the last eighteen months. It was all too much of a juggle while the boys were so young.

Why did you decide to go down the self-publishing road?

After submitting mock-up booklets to several Australian publishing houses, and getting rejections, I felt I couldn’t let all my hard work sit on the shelf. I was fortunate to have some talented friends who could help me with the language edits and graphic designer details required to get the book to a professional standard.

It was important to me to keep my 52 pages and use recycled materials in the books entirety – which would never have come to fruition if a publishing house had taken me on. Being self-published provides the opportunity to make decisions based on integrity rather than the dollar sign.

The up-side of self publishing is that you get things done your way; the down-side is that you got things done your way! 

Tell us one thing that you would do the same again next time, and one thing that you would change

I’m really proud of the paper choices. I hope to have achieved a book which the reader is pleasantly surprised to discover is self-published.

I am sticking to the standard 32 page plan for the follow-up book, ‘The Magic in Dress-Ups’. Printing costs for this book were crippling, and the extra weight bumps up postage when sending it out.

What would your top tip for aspiring writers / illustrators be?

Surround yourself with positive and supportive friends! There will be enough knock backs and disappointments along the way, but if this is something that you really, really want then the only thing holding you back is you! If this is your dream, then you will make it happen if you want it desperately enough.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us Chrissy, I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said here. From the juggle of small children, to making decisions based on integrity and surrounding yourself with wonderful friends… 

We love your awesome book in my house and cannot recommend it highly enough. To learn more about this wonderful lady, visit her website Books by Chrissy Byers. You can buy the book directly, or through The Book Depository with free international postage.