How To Handle A Long To-Write-List

I’ve blogged before about how to juggle multiple writing projects at the same time. For me, it’s almost impossible to work on one thing at a time and I used to worry about this. I don’t anymore. There is always a priority project, one that is the closest to being ready for publication, and that’s the one I work on first every single night. However, new ideas spring up all the time, and if I don’t write them down I run the risk of forgetting an important detail. Also, when I’m stuck in a long editing/rewriting/revising process for a written book, my mind craves fresh, new exciting writing. I decided long ago to just go with it and accept that it’s always going to be this way. At the moment, for example, I’m editing/revising my 4-book YA post-apocalyptic series The Day The Earth Turned. This should be the final edit before it goes to the proofreader and as all four books are completed and almost ready, there is no fresh, new writing involved anymore. I’m also going through the same process with the YA trilogy I’ve co-written with Sim Sansford. Book one is with the proofreader and we’re getting the other two books ready to go after that. These two projects are the priority, but I want to write new stuff as well!

But having a lot of ideas, or a long -to-write-list can be distracting. New ideas can derail you from current projects, and at the same time, if you ignore new ideas until you’ve got time for them, you could easily forget important details or forget the whole idea entire entirely!

When a new idea comes along, it can feel so bright and exciting, that it becomes tempting to quit or ‘rest’ your current WIP and jump to the new one. Young writers do this a lot, and so they should – writing should be vibrant and exciting and I think young minds should respond to the influx of ideas they’re getting. However, if you’re a published author, you need to stick to your goals and work through them one at a time, or it can all become a bit of a mess.

My 8-book to-write-list

So, this is how I handle it. I prioritise one project until it is published, but also allow myself to work on something new a few times a week, and jot ideas down in notebooks for future books. Currently, I’m working on the first draft of what will stand as a spin-off book to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. (Working title, At Night They Played In The Road.) I’m at chapter twenty-three and only write it every now and then, but it’s constantly on my mind and will definitely be the next one to bump up to priority position. I am also scribbling a diary style story into a notebook every now and then. This is my Zombie apocalypse story which is honestly just a bit of fun at the moment, and a long way down the list to take seriously. I can’t resist adding to it every now and then though.

The other day I decided to organise all my future book ideas into a sensible to-write-list. You can see in the image that I have eight future novels outlined. I’m not exactly sure of the order these will be prioritised in. Sometimes books at the end of the list get louder and push their way forward, shoving others out of the way as they do. I just hope I don’t get any more ideas, as this list is plenty to keep me going for several years! I’ve listed them below in the order I THINK I will tackle them and added a brief description of the book idea and how far developed it is at the moment.

Working title: At Night They Played In The Road. A spin-off to my 5-book series The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Written 23 chapters so far and characters are developing well. Notebook contains plot ideas and structure, character bios, and chapter outlines so far.
The Mess Of Us: The long awaited sequel to my debut YA novel The Mess Of Me. Written about half of it in first draft. Know exactly what’s going to happen. Notebook contains ideas for the plot, chapter outlines so far and half of a hand-written first draft.
We Hate The Cool Kids: (working title) I wrote this a few years ago! The first draft is done, except the ending needs some sorting out. It came out of nowhere and just wrote itself into a notebook, longhand. I haven’t gone back to it yet because it jumped the queue and I wanted to concentrate on publishing The Holds End trilogy and The Day The Earth Turned series. It will be great to get back to this soonish as it is basically done and ready for it’s 2nd draft! It’s a YA psychological thriller. Notebook contains character bios, plot ideas and structure and chapter outlines, as well as almost the whole book written in longhand.
I’ve popped it here in the list but it might jump the queue a bit and it should get done fast as two of us will be writing it! A year ago Sim and I started writing a YA supernatural trilogy together and it’s now done and each book is heading one by one to the proofreader. Once we’ve done final, final edits on that, we will start this together! It sprung from a short story I wrote. The idea grew and grew and it’s definitely one Sim and I could make work. It’ll be another YA. Post-apocalyptic/dystopian, possibly?? Notebook contains the short story the idea came from, character bios, plot ideas and a possible introduction.
A few years ago me and my son were writing fanfiction together when I had the idea for an ‘IT’ style horror series about unlikely young heroes battling evil in their strange little town. We drew an intricate map of the fictional town and I started writing plot ideas and character bios. My son then lost interest and I tucked it all away for another day. This story has grown a lot since then and its one I am really excited to start! I’d say Black Hare Valley will be a YA supernatural/paranormal/horror series. Notebook contains a huge fold-out map of the fictional town, character bios, ideas for the plot and research on local folklore and legends.
Diary Of The Undead came about thanks to my obsession with The Walking Dead, which started a year ago when I first watched it! A few months ago I got the idea for a diary style book from the POV of an unlikely teen hero and couldn’t resist starting it. I’ve nearly filled an entire notebook but it will be some time before I treat this one as a priority. I will continue to add to it when I feel like it. It’ll be a YA horror series. Notebook contains character bios and plot ideas and almost a whole notebook of the first draft in longhand.
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This book has been growing in my mind for a few years, but all I ever really had was a large, dysfunctional family and the death of a child. I have a lot more than that now so it got it own notebook the other day and I’ve started adding character bios already. I came up with the title quickly the other day but it will probably change. It’ll be some years before this one gets written! It will be a psychological thriller/family mystery aimed at adults. Notebook contains basic plot idea, ideas to explore, structure ideas and a few character bios.

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This is last on the list as it’s calling to me the least but who knows? It might climb higher. This is an idea based on a book I almost finished writing when I was in my late teens. It didn’t have a title back then but was essentially about a terrible crime and the revenge that follows. I’ll use the same characters I had back then and the basic storyline, but it will flick between the past and the present now and will probably fit the adult thriller market. Notebook contains character bios and basic plot ideas I had from back then.

Sorting each book idea out like this has really helped me feel in control. Not all of them had notebooks and some of them were just ideas and characters floating around in my head. I feel like I’ve contained them somewhat now! And the good thing is, I can add to these notebooks any time I get ideas for plot, character or dialogue. This means that when each book finally gets its turn, it will feel like getting in touch with an old friend. Everything will be in place to get going.

Do you have a long to-write list? How do you take care of future ideas? Feel free to comment and share!

Confessions of an Indie Author

I’ve been doing this for a while now. Writing, my whole life and publishing since The Mess of Me came out in 2013. Since then I have published eleven more novels and a short story collection. In 2022 I will be releasing another collection, this time of short stories and poems and I also hope to publish the first book in my YA post-apocalyptic series, The Day The Earth Turned. On top of that, myself and Sim Sansford aim to publish the first book in the YA trilogy we have written together. I don’t think anyone can say I’m not committed to the process of writing, revising, editing, proofing and publishing. It’s the marketing and selling bit that still eludes me all these years later. It’s been playing on my mind lately so I feel like I need to get it off my chest. I’m hoping a good moan will get it out of my system so here goes.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
  1. I still only sell a few books a month – the flip side of this is that I always sell something! I’ve never had a month without sales since I started so I am grateful for that. But I can only imagine what it feels like to sell books in their hundreds! It must feel like a dream.
  2. I lose faith and sometimes don’t post about my books for weeks on end – sometimes I don’t market my books enough because I am simply too busy writing and working and bringing up my kids, but other times its because I have lost faith. I just can’t be bothered sometimes. I’ll think about posting a quote meme, or I’ll consider Tweeting my books or sharing a review to Facebook and then this apathy just takes over me and my negative side thinks why? What’s the point? And I give up. Sometimes for weeks.
  3. I am rubbish at Twitter – to be honest, I don’t want to be good at it. I decided long ago Twitter wasn’t really for me. I am on it and my Facebook author page is linked to it, and I occasionally bother to Tweet but mostly I totally neglect it.
  4. I frequently forget to post on my blog – I seem to go through phases of blogging once a week for quite a while and then forgetting about it entirely. Ideally authors should maintain their blog as its your landing page, a place potential readers can go to find out more about you. It should reflect your voice as a person and an author and it should help highlight your books. I love blogging but there are some weeks when I can’t think of a subject to blog about, and there are way too many weeks when I just don’t get the time.
  5. I’m getting worse at keeping the Facebook page going – My Facebook page has always been one aspect of social media I’m quite proud of. I don’t have a huge following but I do post regularly and I enjoy doing so. Just lately though I’ve neglected it as well as everything else. Partly due to not having the time, partly due to apathy and partly due to simply forgetting! I am hoping to really kickstart it in the New Year though with some regular features I hopefully won’t forget about!
  6. Sometimes I wish it would all go away – sometimes I wish I didn’t have to try and market my books and lure readers in. Sometimes I wish all these extra things about being an author would just go away and leave me alone. Sometimes I wish I was one of those ultra successful authors, someone who can pay others to market their books!
  7. I just want to write, and write and write– It is my addiction. I have so many projects on the go, so many waiting their turn and a head full of ideas for even more books. I know there will never be time in my life for them all. If I didn’t have to spend time putting effort into marketing my books I could just get on with writing!
  8. I also really, really, really want people to read my books! – Yes, I do, I really do! And I don’t want to beg, and I can’t afford to spend money on it, so somehow I must work hard at the free options, building my platform, trying to lure readers in because yes, I really, really do want people to read my books!
  9. I very rarely get a new review – This is one of the most frustrating aspects I think. I’m grateful for sales but reviews let an author know the book has been read! Even if it wasn’t enjoyed, at least it didn’t fade away on someone’s Kindle and never get read. Reviews are fuel for authors. They let us know what readers like and don’t like and they keep us going. It is unbelievably exciting to think someone read your book and cared enough about it to leave a review!
  10. I don’t know how to get my books noticed – I have tried everything, apart from paid ads. I can’t do that. And sometimes I come across other indie authors who write similar things to me and their sales and reviews are much better. I can’t help but worry about this. What am I doing wrong in terms of marketing? Is there something I don’t know, something I haven’t tried yet? How the hell are they doing it? Or is that my books are crap? Or my covers? Sometimes it drives me crazy.
  11. I should be better at this by now – I really should. I should have figured it out. I should have grown my following and my audience. Instead it all seems to stay the same, no matter how many more books I write. I am doing something wrong.
  12. I sabotage myself daily – I do. I scroll social media or read emails and see endless things that could help me. Competitions to enter, articles to read, funding to access, chances to post about me and my books for free and nine times out of ten I just sigh and scroll on by. I tell myself I just don’t have the time but maybe it is more than that. Some weird mix of self-sabotage and self-care. Me protecting myself from frustration and rejection and burnout, and me assuming it won’t be worth it and its all too late now anyway.
  13. I want a Netflix deal – who doesn’t? I think about it all the time. My books devised into a Netflix series. I would have made it. I could be so proud. I could have faith in myself and my writing, and how amazing would it be to see my characters on screen??
  14. I want to be rich and famous – well, sometimes. And maybe not really. But yes I would love to make more money out of this, who wouldn’t? And I would love to have a little bit of recognition. It would be nice to think people recognise your author name, wouldn’t it?
  15. I want my friends and family to read my books and support me – This one haunts me a lot. All these years later and all these books later and I still can’t lure barely any of my family and friends in to support me. I try not to dwell on it try not think about it, but it is there. Often when I post about a new release, its just strangers that congratulate me, strangers that repost and strangers that buy and review. I know its unrealistic to expect loved ones to read all my books, but over the years I have written across multiple genres so surely there is something there for everyone? I’ll be honest. It hurts a lot.

So there you have it. Fifteen confessions from a weary indie author. But it’s not all doom and gloom. I am so excited about all my upcoming releases. I can’t help think each time, maybe this will be it? Maybe this will be the one that makes a difference and sets it all on fire? Maybe! Who knows? You’ve got to have hope, I guess. And writing is so much more to me than sales and support – writing is my lifeline, my obsession, my favourite thing to do in the world. I will always write just for me and I will always love every moment of that process.

Stay Home – A Year of Writing Through Lockdown

It’s finally here!

Stay Home – A Year of Writing Through Lockdown is the first book published by the Community Interest Company myself and author Sim Alec Sansford run, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. The book has been published under Chasing Driftwood Books and we hope there will be many more to come. In fact, we will be annoucning a brand new community writing project very soon!

So, what is Stay Home about and why did we put it together?

At the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, I turned almost daily to my blog to write about my fears and experiences as a nationwide lockdown saw the closing of schools, colleges and workplaces. The majority of us stayed home. We watched the world from our windows, took our daily walks, and turned to music, books and streaming services to entertain us. We also turned to gardening, pets and chicken-keeping! For a short while, our lives stopped and a new reality took over. As my blog posts and ponderings piled up, I decided to open up my blog to guests who might want to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences of life under lockdown. I had in mind at this point that putting together an anthology to publish under Chasing Driftwood would be a good plan. So, we opened it up to even more people, including the adults and children who attend our writing clubs and workshops.

We were overwhelmed by the wonderful submissions of personal essays, stories and poetry and we soon had a decent sized anthology on our hands.

It’s been a great learning experience for myself and Sim. Of course, as self-published authors ourselves we understand the process of compiling a manuscript, formatting, editing, proofreading, choosing a front cover and uploading to Amazon, but there were still new things to learn along the way. We would like to publish more anthologies in the future written by the people we work with, so Stay Home was a fantastic opportunity to learn from.

It has been published under Chasing Driftwood Books and is available now in ebook and paperback from Amazon. All the money from book sales will go back into the CIC to help fund our next community writing project. If you re interested in reading the book and supporting emerging writers and our next project, then here is the link to check it out.

mybook.to/StayHome

A huge thank you to all the wonderful contributors and to artist Law Baker who kindly designed the front cover for us!

Why I Can’t Just Work On One Book At A Time…

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

In an ideal world, I would work on one book at a time. I would be sat there all fresh, waiting for an idea to come along. I would start jotting down notes, forming character bios and doing research. And all of this would happen with a clear mind, a mind undisturbed or distracted from anything else.

Sometimes I think how nice that would be. I once heard another author say that she never starts a new book until the last book has been released. So, for her, it is one book at a time and one book only. Sometimes I envy that approach and think how much tidier and saner her head must be compared to mine!

But as they say, it’s no good comparing yourselves to others, especially when it comes to creative pursuits. We all do things so differently, in our own way, and that’s what makes us unique, I guess. At times, I have worried about my approach and longed for it to be different. These days, despite the headaches and chaos my approach brings, I wouldn’t change it. It is always going to be this way and I have finally accepted that!

For example, at the moment I am preparing to release two books. One, is a re-release, an updated version of my short story collection Bird People and Other Stories. It has a brand new cover and I will release it without much fuss very soon. I just felt it needed a tidy up and I’m really happy with it’s new look.

The other book is a new short story and poetry collection. It needs a few more edits and proofreads and a front cover, so it won’t be released for a while, but it’s basically ready.

While preparing those, I am also working on my four-book post-apocalyptic series, The Day The Earth Turned. I have just finished a rewrite of book one and started a rewrite of book two. Book three is awaiting its second draft and book four has been planned but not started. This is what I call my priority project, although, releasing the two finished books is technically the priority. I work on this series every night. I edit at least four chapters before I let myself do anything else.

I am also working on a YA series with Sim Sansford. I wrote about our process last week. We are approaching the end of book three in the trilogy, but of course, there will be plenty of rounds of edits and revisions to come for all three books. With this project, I respond as soon as I get a chapter from Sim, so I’m writing a chapter maybe once or twice a week, which is not too time consuming at all.

Also on the go, is a spin-off book from my five-book series The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Two characters are introduced in book five and they really annoyed the hell out of me by growing and evolving so much that they started to demand their own spin-off book! I started making notes for this a few years back when I was still working on The Boy series! Then about a year ago I started writing a rough first draft in a notebook. At the moment I am typing up what I have so far and seeing where it might go. I only work on this if I have completed my chapters for the priority series already mentioned!

I also have another possible series in motion. My son and I drew a wonderful map a while back for a town called Black Hare Valley. Originally, we were going to attempt to write it together but he changed his mind. I couldn’t let the idea go though, and ended up writing a sort of prologue/short story for it. I also wrote a ton of character bios, added to the map and came up with a load of ideas for a YA supernatural/folklore type of story. I am desperate to start writing this but at the moment I have to be satisfied with adding to the planning every now and then!

Added to all of that, I have written half of the sequel to The Mess Of Me and would love to get back to this at some point and I have written a first draft of a YA psychological drama which is just sat there waiting for it’s turn to be worked on. Then, there is another series I’d like to write with Sim when Fortune’s Well is finished. I had an idea one day that grew into a short story…inevitably the story grew into a novel…and possibly a series. But all of these have to wait!!

And then the other day I got another idea! I don’t know why my brain does this to me! It just won’t stop! I don’t know how to make it stop?! I suppose I should be glad I don’t have the opposite problem. No ideas at all would be far, far worse, so maybe I should be grateful. But honestly…I really didn’t need another idea, did I? And this one really wouldn’t go away so I have started writing it….Eek, I know, totally insane.

The new idea won’t take up too much of my time (or so I have convinced myself!) The idea came from me and my sons current obsession with everything zombie and post-apocalyptic. My older son and I have watched The Walking Dead for the first time and have now started watching Fear The Walking Dead. We are pretty obsessed with both shows and the obsession has rubbed off on to real life, where we’ll constantly find ourselves commenting on whether something would make a good zombie killing weapon or not, or how well certain fences and gates would last against a horde of zombies! My younger son is too young to watch anything zombie related but he has enjoyed playing Plants Vs Zombies on my phone and every night when we watch our shows, we have to tell him afterwards what happened. He knows all the characters names and is as obsessed as us without ever having watched either show! We have to do zombie vs survivors set-ups with his Lego or his PlayMobil and any time we go for a walk we have to pretend we are survivors looking for supplies and so on. So, I got this unwanted idea to write a journal style book from the point of view of a teenage boy at the start of a zombie apocalypse. I know it’s an overdone genre but what the hell…I probably won’t even do anything with it. I’m writing it long-hand into a notebook and I write one entry a day just as if it really is my diary. Some are very short, some quite long. It’s so much fun. So addictive. And I’m finding it easy to fit in around my other projects.

So, I guess that’s why I won’t ever be able to work on just one book at at time. My brain won’t let me. Ideas are everywhere. And writing is just so much goddamn fun!! I am too addicted to escaping this world and devising worlds of my own. I have too much fun creating characters I fall in love with and wish were real. I just hope I live long enough to get all these books written and published, That’s my main drive and ambition and purpose in life. Get them all written.