Your free 2015 writing planner

How can it possibly be January again?

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Your 2015 writing planner

I’ve had a fantastically exciting year that’s included a number of weeks running retreats in Devon as well as London retreats, an online bootcamp, running a ‘plot your novel in an hour’ session at a fancy members’ club and, of course, the Six Month Novel.

Alongside that I’ve taken trips to Portugal, Spain, New York, Iceland and Italy where I’ve been able to both work and write alongside travel. Alright for some, eh?

It’s been an up-and-down year in writing terms, but I’ve found the more I just focus on getting the words out and not judging, the more I’m able to cope with the inevitable fears and doubts. I’m going to use this knowledge as a springboard into next year and practice rounding off pieces of work, focusing on faster drafting to improve my flow and finishing to get a better feel for story structure.

What about you? What did you write last year and where do you want to be this time next year? For the last couple of years I’ve made a printable calendar and planner for writers as a gift, and here’s the new one for 2015. It’s a toolkit that aims to help you create a plan that will let you actually reach your goals, not just gaze longingly at them from a distance.

After all, nobody just wakes up one morning and finds themselves half way up Everest. There are some things in life you need to set your mind to…

I’d suggest printing it out and settling in with a cup of tea and a spare hour, but there’s a super-quick one-question fast version at the back for the less patient among us.

Please feel free to share this with any writer who’d like it, and when you’ve finished come back here and share your major goal for 2015 (or let me know on Twitter).

Your 2015 writing planner


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Books writers love

One of the nice things about writing retreats is being able to geek out about books during breaks. And since I don’t seem to have read anything but books for children and teens in the last year (it’s research, okay?) I started collecting names of books writers love at the Devon retreats.

It’s largely novels from the last 20 years, plus a handful of writing books (lists of classics, YA and sci-i/fantasy we loved to come) but if you’re looking for great book recommendations then there are worse places you could look than into the minds of writers.

Of course I’m in favour of supporting local bookshops, but because it’s convenient for many people (and you might be in time to get them for Christmas), here are the Amazon links. You can also see them collected here.


The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. My list has a scribbled note next to this just says ‘lovely’.



The Moment by Douglas Kennedy. This made me cry like a baby.


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005 gets a lot of love from our writers, as does his earlier The Remains of the Day (which won the prize in 1989).


I still haven’t read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, set in 1960s Mississippi, but I often hear people say they expected it to be disappointing, but it turned out to be of those rare books that really lives up to the hype.


The Briefcase by Hiroki Kawakami (it seems to also be known as Strange Weather in Tokyo) is a quiet love story set against the changing seasons.


What do you mean, you haven’t read Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife?



Shortlisted for the Booker in 2003, Monica Ali’s Brick Lane is a modern classic.



The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is a huge novel, a writer who recently set up a fund to give writers time to read, something hugely important that we sometimes neglect. Go Eleanor!


Haruki Murakami’s books come up again and again on people’s book lists, but Norwegian Wood, one of his less fantastical books, is the one our writers loved most.


A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore won the 1996 Orange Prize. It deals with the taboo love between abandoned siblings around the time of WWI and is a beautiful book with a difficult subject.


The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. We had long discussions about David Mitchell’s structures and imaginative scope, and our writers also particularly loved Ghostwritten (and, yes, Cloud Atlas).


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The novel everyone’s been reading on the Tube this year, this huge novel polarises opinion just as much as Donna Tartt’s earlier work.


The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. Our writers recommended a number of Sarah Waters’ book, but particularly enjoyed this novel about four Londoners that moves backwards through the 1940s.


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a gorgeous blend of fantasy and reality that was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012.



The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer has won a number of awards and is dark, sad and funny by turns.



Dear Life by Alice Munro. Actually, pretty much anything by Alice Munro, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year. Her Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage was recommended as a good Alice Munro starting point.


Trumpet by Jackie Kay. Poetic and compassionate, this story of a famous jazz trumpeter with a secret won the 1998 Guardian Fiction Prize.



The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal. Every time someone mentioned this book, the other writers in the room all sighed and said how much they loved it. Winner of the 2010 Costa Biography Award.


We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014, a number of writers recommended this book about families and the damage we do to those we love.


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Both crime drama and historical saga, writers was recommended this multiple prize-winning book partly because of its haunting Icelandic setting.


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Mitchell. This retelling of ancient Greek myths won the Orange Fiction prize in 2012.





Thrillers & Horror

The Burning Air by Erin Kelly is a clever, creepy psychological thriller set in Devon.



Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty is a suspenseful psychological/courtroom thriller about adulterous lovers.



The Rats by James Herbert is a short but gruesome horror classic.



Bird Box by Josh Malerman is a psychological thriller set in a dystopian world.





Books About Writing

I Am Your Brother: Short Story Studies by Charles E May. Charles has a blog called Reading the Short Story (The tagline is: Thoughts on reading and studying the short story by a guy who has read and written about a lot of short stories).



Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. Zen meditation meets practical, encouraging writing advice.



Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.



Self Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King.



The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell.



Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John York, creator of the BBC Writers’ Academy. The man knows his stuff.




These are all affiliate links. Kind of like a finder’s fee, this means that if you buy through these links I get a small percentage of you payment, usually a few pence. It makes no difference to what you pay, because that would be silly.

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Beat procrastination with one simple question

Sometimes I put off writing (I don’t have the answer to something, my room is too cold, I don’t like my main character, doing a synopsis is EVIL, any reason big or small), and then time passes and another week has gone by and I’ve still done nothing.

You know you’ve done it too.

Then a coach asked me a very simple question: what would it take to make this feel delicious?

Because, she said, if it feels awful you’ll keep putting it off, but if you look for ways of making it feel better it will, er, be nicer to do.

The woman is a genius.



The thing that would make your current writing problem feel better might be something practical like buy myself a better chair or more vague, perhaps know where my story is going.

What you’re aiming for is something that’s do-able and specific, so I’ve asked two bonus questions designed to get you from, ooh that sounds lovely to practical steps you can take right now that will help things feel easier and better. Sometimes it’s little things that will shake things out and let us move forward again, but if you’ll need much bigger changes then at least you know what it will take and how to get there.

Then you can get on with your writing and the world will be a happier place.

So. What would make your writing feel amazing? And what can you do today to get a little bit of that feeling?


For me? I needed to let go of the big picture and let myself doodle with words, ask questions and find out more about my story world without pressure. And remember to put on my snuggly socks.

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First drafts: welcome to the roller coaster (of love)

First Draft Graph

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Be careful what you wish for: what’s it really like to be able to write full-time?‏

Today’s guest post comes from Siân Rowland, who is Rocking in the Freelance World as a writer and education consultant (see how I’m putting the writer bit first, Siân?). Last year she…. no, wait, I’m just going to let her tell this story.

But I’d like to point out though that Siân is very modest about her achievements and though there were undoubtedly some lows in her year, I can count at least 3 things in here that would have me throwing cartwheels all the way round the garden and bathing in prosecco.


It was a snow day in 2010 and the local government office where I worked was shut. I was working from home at my computer dressed in warm, comfortable clothes, a cup of tea by my elbow and the radio on. Without the commute and the interruption of phonecalls, office gossip and school visits I managed to complete loads of admin and planning and had time to polish up a short story to submit to a competition. As I gazed at the snowy world outside (don’t worry, it’s all going to hit the fan any moment…) I mused on a perfect world where I would go to work on four days of the week and on the fifth day, like some literary deity, I’d be at home and Write Important Stuff. I wondered what my employer would say (in 3,2…)

I never found out because not long afterwards (…and 1) I was told that funding for my role had been cut. Compulsory redundancy…sorry…hand in your passcard and here’s your P45. Please don’t weep all over the furniture on your way out.

Be careful what you wish for as they say. I now had plenty of time to write but no job and no money coming in. At least not until the world discovered me and I was hailed as the new JK Rowling meets Hilary Mantell with a book advance to match. This has not happened. Yet.

I now have my own education consultancy business, run training for teachers and write and develop educational materials as a freelancer. It’s tough work and I’m always hustling for the next job and worrying about how to pay the bills but in between times (I think actors call it ‘resting’) I do now have time to write.

Like many putative writers, however, I’m a terrible procrastinator. I’m constantly pootling around Facebook and Twitter, checking out videos of cats doing oh-so-hilarious things, checking to see if the freezer has miraculously and magically filled itself with ice cream since I last looked five minutes ago or putting together a Spotify playlists. Hell, I’ll even clean the loo if it means I don’t have to knuckle down.

So when I came across Charlie’s 2013 Writing Year Planner (here’s the 2014 planner! It’s slightly shorter than the 2013 version) at the beginning of last year I stopped Gangnam Styling across the kitchen floor, sat at my laptop and printed it out. There’s something homework-y about a planner that really appeals to the teacher in me. The first task was reviewing the previous year: I had found a writing group I liked but hadn’t gone to many meetings. I had started a new blog but hadn’t written many posts. I had taken up an interim deputy headship in a large urban school which took up all my time and had recently been diagnosed with an auto-immune condition which left me tired and anxious. Could do better. See me after class.

I wrote down five big targets for 2013: finish writing and editing my young fiction book; send the book to five agents; go to my writers group regularly and at least two more writing events; broaden my circle of friends and colleagues to include more writers and creative people and spend 30% (I know. Get me!) of my work time on paid writing assignments. I broke these down into manageable chucks and in summarising wrote, ‘I will call myself a writer as writing will be part of how I make my living and how I see myself.’ This was a huge breakthrough. When I met new people and the, ‘so what do you do?’ question arose I answered with, I’m an education consultant and trainer. And writer.’

Luckily most people get fixated on the first bit and wonder what the hell an education consultant is (for the record I train, advise and support teachers) so it soon felt natural to say, ‘I’m a writer too.’

And so on to the monthly planner and its theme. Commitment. It was the one topic that connected all my plans. I wrote it large and proud at the top of the sheet. I have to confess that I did it in pencil, just in case. But I pressed really hard.

It was important for me to hang out with more creative types to help me feel less of an oddball. Most of my friends are teachers and while it’s a very creative profession- you are actor, artist, author, comedian, juggler, plate-spinner and expert flying missile wrangler- our discussions tend to drift towards what we’ll do if we ever bump into Mr Gove in a dark alleyway where the CCTV is marked ‘out of order.’ While these discussions are cathartic and necessary I needed to mix with a wider circle of folk too. I wrote down tasks like, ‘have coffee with someone connected with writing’ and ‘attend an author event.’ By making this a focus I ended up meeting some amazing people. I went to a book launch, I was on the writer’s guest list of a radio recording, I hung out backstage at a West End show and wrote and performed a rap with a live band. Oh yes. It wasn’t always easy, I wasn’t always comfortable but I learnt such a lot and had fun too. I promised to blog twice a month and although I didn’t quite make it, I did blog more and committed to posting more often. I did make 30% of my earnings through writing assignments by writing educational materials for The Co-operative and John Lewis Partnership and although it’s not quite the creative writing dream it’s still practising the craft. I even got asked to write materials to go with the John Lewis Bear and Hare Christmas advert and saw the ad in their head office weeks before it went public.

I sent my book out to six agents in the end. I had rejections from three of them and heard nothing from the other three. One rejection was particularly brutal and I’m still a feeling a bit bruised by it, but I’m developing resilience and didn’t cry or check the freezer for magic consolation ice-cream.

And I had a bit of success. The confidence I gained in making the commitment to writing and in using the writing planner led me to attempting to write a comedy show. I wrote a short comic piece for my writing group and they liked it so on a whim I entered the Funny Women comedy writing awards in the summer. To cut a very long story short, I wrote a thirty minute sitcom pilot and it was longlisted. While I hadn’t won I had lots of positive feedback from the judges, was put on their ‘ones to watch’ list and can now say I was in the top twenty in a national competition. I sent the piece to a local theatre group who decided to put it on as a stage play with a professional cast and crew at Wimbledon Theatre Studios where it sold out. Seeing the characters that were so recently in my head brought to life on stage was an amazing and surreal experience and I got to hang out with a bunch of fascinating acting types. A friend reminded me that up until recently I had refused to share my writing at all and now here it was on a public stage.

If you’re interested in reading more about how I wrote the play it’s in my blog, here and here

I changed December’s task from ‘plan a new book’ to ‘plan a new play’ and wrote a half hour radio comedy instead.

So I stuck to some targets and went a little off track with others but looking back, I’ve made loads of progress and 2013 was definitely a year of commitment. Now I have to fill in my 2014 planner. But just in case, I’ll do it in pencil. You never know how things will turn out.


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An advent calendar for you!

December 2013

Here’s a little silly little online advent calendar to make you smile while you’re procrastinating writing.

What will you find behind the doors? Think festive games, inspirational quotes, useful links and free resources for writers, videos you’ll love and cute animals (because sometimes you just need to see something cute).

Check back every day from 1st – 24th December for a little writerly treat.

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What kind of writer are you?

Do you frolic, freely but aimlessly, in the flowered meadows of your imagination? Or are you sobbing into your pillows after yet again failing to find the Muse in the dark caverns of your soul?


One meadow available, perfect for gambolling


Find out what type of writer you are with this highly scientific* quiz.

*totally and utterly made-up. No scientists were harmed in the making of this quiz.


How do you approach planning?

A) Planning? What’s that?

B) Well, I do a lot of thinking and dreaming, and I kind of know what’s going to happen. In fact I’m sure I wrote some notes somewhere *rummages under chair*

C) Colour-coded story arcs, chapters mapped out, character sheets completed before a word goes on the page, check!


When do you tend to write?

A) Whenever inspiration strikes, often late into the night

B) When I can face sitting down and doing it, much less often than I’d like to

C) At consistent times of the day with reasonable regularity


What’s your writing style?

A) Lots of dialogue and action

B) Plenty of description – this is literature, I want people to feel it, to see it!

C) A bit of a mix


What’s your biggest problem with writing?

A) I run out of steam part way through the story

B) I’m constantly struggling with feelings of inadequacy and continually edit or re-start what I’ve written

C) Actually starting to write


How do you feel about other people?:

A) I’m pretty sociable

B) *hides in corner*

C) I like them a lot but I couldn’t eat a whole one


Scroll down to see your results and take part in the poll


The inside of my mind

The dark cavern of my soul


So, which writer are you?


Mostly As: The Skinny Dipper

Otherwise known as the Pantser (as in, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants), you like to dive right in and see where you end up, drawing on inspiration whenever it strikes.

A charismatic, funny writer who engages readers’ emotions, you can be prolific and are full of ideas. You’re relatively okay with imperfection and know you can write if you try, so are less likely to get bogged down in the Pit of Procrastinatory Despair.

However, you’re disorganised and inconsistent. This means you’re prone to burnout during productive phases and don’t finish projects because your stories come to a halt when you run out of plot ideas or write yourself into corners. You may also avoid editing (booooooooring!) and need a constant stream of praise to keep going.


How to Skinny Dip with style:

Harness your strengths and borrow techniques from other styles that will help you be consistent and actually finish things.

Having a very rough plan will take the pressure off when you can’t work out what should happen next and prevent you from running out of plot. Keep it very simple (a post-it with 3 disasters and a happy ending, plus a list of all those random characters) so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming, and don’t worry if you rebel and deviate from the plan. After all, you can always make another.

Or, continue as normal, but have some games you can play to get things moving again when you stalled. Spend 5 minutes brainstorming ‘what if’ questions, work out what would be the best, worst and most unexpected thing to happen at this point, or read back and try to solve your plot problem using an existing object or character.

Or reverse it: write the last sentence first and work backwards. If you still struggle, have you considered short stories or non-linear narrative structures? You don’t have to play by other people’s rules to write.

Train yourself to write consistently, even if you don’t feel like it. Make it into a game that you’ll want to play and getting the positive encouragement you need by using 750words or setting a task to write for 5 minutes a day, every day. Get someone to reward you for every achievement (gold stars!) or join an online group where you can cheer each other on.


Mostly Bs: The Tortured Soul

Tortured souls are idealists and dreamers, pure souls who can dedicate themselves for years to the pursuit of their highest calling. Your writing is probably much better than you imagine it to be, and you may be of the literary persuasion or be a naturally good editor. You write with passion and your characters are likely to be rich, finely painted and intricate.

You’re not having much fun at the moment though. Crippled by perfectionism and self-doubt, you might not be able to see past the next comma let alone how to reach that idealised Book of Total Amazingness in your head, so you get frustrated and stuck.

You live in the Pit of Procrastinatory Despair because there’s no way you can live up to your own standards.


How to ease the torture

You’re stifled by thinking you have to write magical words that will make people ooh and ah all the time. That isn’t realistic. It takes a lot of bad words to reach the good ones, and you can choose to struggle horribly with writing your whole life, or you can choose to take one little step at a time towards dealing with that perfectionism and changing your mindset.

LET GO. Give yourself permission to be Gloriously Craptastic. Challenge yourself to write for 5 minutes as badly as possible. Have fun, and do this whenever perfectionism gives you that threatening stare.

The Book of Total Amazingness is an overwhelming prospect, so make a plan and break it up into very small steps (do this in batches as you go for flexibility). If you already know which step you have to write today, you can just get on with it getting hung up on the bigger picture. Just focus on doing your job for that day, and do the same again the next day.

Try to write every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. When you write, set a timer, drown out your inner voices with music, and write like the wind, setting a challenging word-count target so the inner editor can’t keep up. You don’t need it for a first draft.

Did you hear that? DO NOT EDIT before you need to. In fact, try not to read back at all during drafting. Onwards and upwards!

That voice in your head telling you how awful things are? It isn’t the objective truth, it’s just a mean voice. It doesn’t matter if an actor is feeling uninspired or unsure of their ability. Their job is to get up and perform. No excuses. Your job is to do the writing. No excuses. Act like a professional and do the job regardless of how you feel.

Bribe yourself, cheat yourself, join a writing group, take an NLP course, read other people’s rubbish first drafts, try meditation, find a writing partner… basically do anything you have to in order to keep writing.


Mostly Cs: Yes, Sarge!

You like deadlines, have a strong work ethic, are dependable with an eye for detail and have good organisational skills. Plans made and to-do lists written, Sir! You’re not easily ruffled by the chatter in your head and your determination means that you are more likely than other types to actually finish, edit and submit a book for publication.

However, you may have slight control-freak tendencies and be in danger of valuing productivity and deadlines more than minor details like, oh, creativity. Make sure that you aren’t so busy writing to schedules and plans that you fail to explore your world and create flat characters or writing that lacks emotional connection. You may also enjoy the planning stage so much that starting to write is a struggle, and you could be in danger of overwhelm because of the mountainous to-do list you’ve doubtlessly already made.


At ease, soldier

Make the most of your discipline by setting a regular timeslot for writing. You’re motivated by praise for a job well done, so bribe yourself with gold stars, happy faces or bars of chocolate when you reach milestones.

Then take a deep breath. Relaaaaaaaax, and learn to go with the creative flow from the Skinny Dipper. Instead of doing everything in a linear way, ask yourself which scene you want to write at this very moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s the next one in the sequence or one that isn’t even in the plan, let yourself write it just to see how it feels.

Free-write (anything that comes to mind without stopping) for 20 minutes from the perspective of your characters. Put them in situations, ask them about their childhoods, make them write letters. Repeat this until they really feel alive and distinct to you, and see if they behave in the way you’ve told them to. If writing is becoming a struggle, ask yourself whether your plan is still right, and write about it. Let yourself change the plan if it’s wrong.

Free-write on anything: ideas, objects, song lyrics, any random thing can loosen your creative muscles. It doesn’t matter what it’s about, what matters is that you don’t stop writing, even if all you do is complain about your day. If you find it hard to sit down and start writing every time, use free-writing as an easy way in. Once you’ve started, it will feel easier to settle into the real work.

You know that reading is writing-work too, yes? As is taking a shower, going for a long walk, or doodling. Stop feeling guilty, you don’t have to push all the time.

Writer Type Poll


Which one are you? Or are you a mixture? Remember, this is a wildly unscientific poll, and it’s normal to for your writing habits to oscillate anyway. Just take from it anything that’s helpful to you. Do your biggest writing problems fit your style, and if not what gets in your way? Let me know in the comments below.

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Joanna Penn on writing a book: what happens after the first draft?

Joanna Penn is the author of ‘Career Change’ and the #1 bestseller ‘How To Market A Book’. She also writes the bestselling ARKANE thrillers under J.F.Penn and currently has 7 books on the market in various formats.

Her site for writers has been voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for writers 3 years running and offers articles, audio and video on writing, publishing and book marketing. You can connect with Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn.

Here she shares some advice about the editing process. Take it away, Jo…



Many new writers are confused about what happens after you have managed to get the first draft out of your head and onto the page.

I joined NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year and ended up with 27,774 words on a crime novel, the first in a new series. It’s not an entire first draft but it’s a step in the right direction and the plotting time was sorely needed.

Maybe you ‘won’ NaNo or maybe you have the first draft of another book in your drawer, but we all need to take the next step in the process in order to end up with a finished product.

Here’s my process, and I believe it’s relevant whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction.

(1) Rewriting and redrafting. Repeat until satisfied.

For many writers, the first draft is just the bare bones of the finished work and often no one will ever see that version of the manuscript. Remember the wise words of Anne Lamott in ‘Bird by Bird’ “Write shitty first drafts.” You can’t edit a blank page but once those words are down, you can improve on them.

editing arkane

Joanna’s rewrites and edits for Pentacost

I love the rewriting and redrafting process. Once I have a first draft I print the whole thing out and do the first pass with handwritten notes. I write all kinds of notes in the margins and scribble and cross things out. I note down new scenes that need writing, continuity issues, problems with characters and much more. That first pass usually takes a while. Then I go back and start a major rewrite based on those notes.

After that’s done, I will print again and repeat the process, but that usually results in fewer changes. Then I edit on the Kindle for word choice. I add all the changes back into Scrivener which is my #1 writing and publishing tool.

(2) Structural edit/ Editorial review

I absolutely recommend a structural edit if this is your first book, or the first book in a series. A structural edit is usually given to you as a separate document, broken down into sections based on what is being evaluated.

I had a structural edit for Pentecost in 2010 and reported back on that experience here. As the other ARKANE novels follow a similar formula, I didn’t get structural edits for Prophecy and Exodus. However, I will be getting one for the new crime novel when it is ready because it is a different type of book for me.

Here’s how to vet an independent editor if you are considering one.

(3) Revisions

When you get a structural edit back, there are usually lots of revisions to do, possibly even a complete rewrite. This may take a while …

(4) Beta readers

Beta readers are a trusted group of people who evaluate your book from a reader’s perspective. You should only give them the book if you are happy with it yourself because otherwise it is disrespectful of their time.

This could be a critique group, although I prefer a hand-picked group of 5 or 6 who bring different perspectives. I definitely have a couple of people who love the genre I am writing in as they will spot issues within the boundaries of what is expected, and then some people who consider other things.

My main rule with beta readers is to make changes if more than one person says the same thing. Click here for more on beta readers.

(5) Line edits

Editors Notes Exodus

Joanna’s line editor’s notes for Exodus

The result of line editing is the classic manuscript covered in red ink as an editor slashes your work to pieces!

You can get one of these edits before or after the beta readers, or even at the same time. I prefer afterwards as I make broader changes of the book based on their opinions so I want the line editor to get the almost final version.

Line edits are more about word choice, grammar and sentence structure. There may also be comments about the narrative itself but this is a more a comment on the reading experience by someone who is skilled at being critical around words.

The first time you get such a line edit, it hurts. You think you’re a writer and then someone changes practically every sentence. Ouch.

But editing makes your book stronger, and the reader will thank you for it.

(6) Revisions

You’ll need to make more changes based on the feedback of the beta readers and line editor. This can sometimes feel like a complete rewrite and takes a lot of detailed time as you have to check every sentence.

I usually make around 75% of the changes suggested by the line editor, as they are usually sensible, even though I am resistant at first. It is important to remember that you don’t have to change what they ask for though, so evaluate each suggestion but with a critical eye.

(7) Proof-reading

By this point, you cannot even see any mistakes you might have made. Inevitably, your corrections for line editing have exposed more issues, albeit minor ones.

So before I publish now, I get a final read-through from a proof-reader. (Thanks Liz at LibroEditing!) After Prophecy was published, I even got an email from a reader saying congratulations because they had failed to find a single typo. Some readers really do care, for which I am grateful and that extra investment at the end can definitely pay off in terms of polishing the final product.

(8) Publication

Once I have corrected anything minor the proof-reading has brought to light, I will Compile the various file formats on Scrivener for the ebook publishing platforms. I will then back the files up a number of times, as I have done throughout the whole process.

(9) Post-publication

This may be anathema to some, but the beauty of ebook publishing is that you can update your files later. If someone finds a typo, no problem. If you want to update the back matter with your author website and mailing list details, no worries. If you want to rewrite the whole book, you can do that too (although some sites have stricter rules than Amazon around what is considered a new version.)

Budget: Time and money

Every writer is different, and there are no rules.

But in terms of time, your revision process will likely take at least as long as the first draft and probably longer (unless you’re Lee Child who just writes one draft!). For my latest book, Exodus, the first draft took about 3 months and the rewriting process took about 6 months.

In terms of money, I would budget between $500 – $2000 depending on what level of editing you’re looking for, and how many rounds. You can find some editors I have interviewed as well as their prices here.

I believe editing at all these different stages is important, because it is our responsibility to make sure our books are the best they can be. But if you can’t afford professional editing, then consider using a critique group locally or online. The more eyes on the book before it goes out into the world, the better.




This article was reprinted with permissions from The Creative Penn.


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10 ways to make sure you hit your writing goal

At the start of this month I suggested setting yourself a writing challenge to complete by the end of 2013.

My challenge is to complete a novel draft and the first major structural review, meaning that if I want to let it settle for a month I need to finish the first draft by the end of October. Eek!

How are you doing with yours? It’s not too late to join in if you didn’t before, and it’s just a casual, free thing.

I also suggested coming up with 3 things that would help you reach that target. Now, honestly, this is the kind of thing that I often go ‘Ugh’ at and skip over; we all skip over the bits where we actually have to do exercises and think about things properly, right?

But blithely saying you’re going to do something without thinking about how to do it is, well, a bit pointless. If you decided to climb the Three Peaks by the end of the year but failed to choose a date, book your train, buy gear and do any training then it’s

not. gonna. happen.

So. 10 things I’m trying or have set into place to increase my chances of success are:

1. Give yourself time. For some people this means time when the family knows not to interrupt; for me it means I’m not allowed to feel guilty for writing rather than doing other work at set times. It takes time to write a book, much more than you think.

2. Plan. Doesn’t apply if you’re a Pantser, but my mind goes blank under pressure so my plot plan details every major piece of action that needs to happen.

3. Write on paper first. It feels different and means you don’t have to wait until you’re near a computer to write.

4. Prepare for procrastination. Turn wifi off on laptop the night before, bribe yourself with chocolate, use the Pomodoro technique. Whatever you need, but set it up ahead of time.

5. Set daily targets. For some people aiming for an amount of time works better, but I need a word count/time combo to push past the inner critic. Quantity over quality at this stage for me, I’m afraid.

5. Writing retreats! Of course. I’d love for you to join me on a one-day or residential retreat. If you can’t get to one though, get writing friends together or set a day aside to spend alone writing and ask someone to check up on you at the end of it.

6. Hypnosis. Yes, really. I’ve identified my biggest block (self-belief) and will see if listening to a hypnosis recording for a week helps. Let’s see what happens…

7. Start on the right foot. You have to actually want to make your end-of-year target and want to do it because it’s hard work. So I’ve read back over what I’ve done so far and through old notebooks to remember why I write.

8. Be part of something. Join a writing group, go to an event, talk to friends doing creative things, join in the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter, it all feels much more possible if you’re not alone. And to everyone who’s come to the retreats or been part of my online family this month, thank you, you’re ace and you’ve all really inspired me.

9. Stop self-sabotaging. If you don’t write for a week, how do you feel? Do you let it derail your writing for a month? Make a deal that until the end of December you’ll take it one day at a time.

10. Look ahead. I’m planning the next step already so that it’s less overwhelming. Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn is teaching a one-day masterclass for us on 27th October on how to finish and edit your book and get it published.

It’s probably best to just focus on a couple of these so that you’re helping rather than drowning yourself. They’re just a few of a huge range of techniques, and I’m aware that I have a particular take on it – so I’d like to know, what techniques you use to help yourself write and to make sure you can keep going through the tough bits?

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A writing challenge: what will you do by the end of 2013?

Bank holiday is over, autumn isn’t be that far off, and with that back-to-school feeling it’s time to get back to work and re-commit yourself to your writing.

4 months to the end of the year… 4 months is a long time. You can definitely write a novel draft in that time – I know, I’ve done it. People start businesses, record albums, grow half a baby (give or take) in 4 months.

You probably have a job and a life that will do their best to get in the way of what you want to do, but those distractions will always be there. And if you can convince yourself to put in the hard work regardless, it’s amazing what you can do in 4 months.

So, what will you do? Will you create something to be proud of in 2013?

You don’t have to aim to have written and got an agent for the next bestseller either. It’s much better to think about where you want to be in a year or two and choose the goal that will put you in the best position to achieve that, whether that’s to work up to writing a little every day consistently or finally sending out that novel that’s clogging up your hard drive. Something that’s do-able and that you’ll enjoy and want to do, that will make you pleased you’ve finally pushed through and done it.

You probably know that I’m a bit goal-obsessed, so it’s time for you to join me in a writing challenge!

I’d like you to pull on your thinking pants and post in the comments below:

1. What is the ONE thing you want to achieve with your writing by  31st December 2013? Make sure it’s both specific and achievable.

2. What are two or three things you can do right now to make it easier to meet that goal and that will make it more likely to happen?


We’ll come back at the end of the year and revisit these, and I want to hear about completed novels, poetry pamphlets, plays being produced, agent letters submitted, competitions entered. You can do it!


(And if you need a little extra help doing it, I have spaces available on residential writing retreats in Devon from 17-20th September, and from 15th November. Come and join us!)

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