Self-care for writers – Author Toolbox Blog Hop

August tends to be a slow month; school is out, lots of people take time off work and go on holiday or visit family. The weather is usually good (depending on where in the world you are, here in the UK we get equal parts sunshine and rain!) and the days are long and can be as filled with activity and excitement, or as lazy and relaxing as you please. Personally, I like a good mix of the two.

This year, however, I haven’t spent August enjoying the peace and quiet, or going on fun days out with my family and friends. This year, I entered Pitch Wars and have spent the last few weeks polishing my manuscript, submitting it for scrutiny by several potential mentors and anxiously waiting for requests. I’ve been frantically trawling the Pitch Wars hashtags and refreshing my inbox more often than’s healthy, agonising over whether I’ll be picked from the thousands of entries and whisked out of obscurity.

But, with announcement day just a week away, I’m finally starting to calm down and accept my fate. I don’t jump at every email notification or scroll through my private list of mentors’ tweets constantly…anymore. I’ve actually started to take some time for myself, after months of stress with the competition, moving house, my job etc. And it got me thinking: what can writers do to look after themselves and replenish the creative well?

Self care for writers Lyndsey's Book Blog

Read

This one’s not for every creative, not all writers can read when they need a break from work, it’s a fundamental part of what we do and switching off the part of our brains that analyses the writing of others and tries to find ways of improving our own craft is nigh on impossible. My tip is to read outside your genre, pick up that new thriller everyone’s been talking about while you’ve been busy writing a historical fantasy, grab a light, summery contemporary to contrast your horror WIP. Try a graphic novel, or a classic you’ve always fancied but never gotten round to.

Read for fun and remember why you enjoy it, if you can’t switch off the analytical part of your brain don’t beat yourself up, use your new experience to feed your creativity for your next project.

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Travel

Get out of your comfort zone, you don’t have to go far to benefit from the change of scenery. If you can get away for a few days abroad, a city break is a fantastic way to research the setting for that story you’ve been daydreaming about between editing your manuscript. If a staycation is on the cards, why not rent a cottage in a beautiful location or even go camping and spend a few days getting close to nature, reconnecting with your nearest and dearest.

If you can’t stretch to more than an afternoon at a time, try being a tourist in your own town. I’m lucky to live within a short drive of lots of historic towns with castles and cathedrals galore. You might stumble upon inspiration in the quiet corners and cobbled streets, but if not you’ll still learn something new about local history and have fun exploring your own hometown.

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Get creative

A lot of creatives don’t just limit themselves to one outlet, they have a number of skills and talents they enjoy using to express themselves. If you love to draw or paint, knit or sculpt, take some time out of your busy schedule to return to your other artistic passion and get another part of your creative brain whirring for a change.

Try something new, check out local craft classes like photography or flower arrangement, join the Women’s Institute or a choir. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, as long as you express your creativity via an outlet other than writing. It can be just for yourself, gifts for your friends, or you might even end up opening an Etsy store and selling your makes. The sky’s the limit!

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Rest and relaxation

Do nothing. Enjoy lazy Sundays in bed with a pot of tea and a new Netflix series. Bake a cake or a loaf of bread and eat it warm from the oven. Sit in the garden and feel the sun on your face (which is probably deathly pale from spending so much time indoors at your laptop). Have a glass of wine. Heck, have a whole bottle! Share it with friends and laugh and dance. Fill your days with the small things that bring you joy, wear your favourite outfit and go window shopping or grab a frothy coffee in an independent cafe. Paint your nails, or let your kids paint them. Cuddle your dog (or cat, or guinea pig).

Whatever you do, be truly present. Don’t worry if your mind wanders, but bring it back round to the moment and enjoy where you are, who you’re with and let your senses be filled with the experience. You’ll feel a wave of contentment wash over you, and nothing will go to waste when you next sit down at your laptop, it’ll all be there in the back of your mind, informing your writing and enriching your stories.

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Indulge your muse

If you absolutely can’t go without writing for more than a few days, why not open your little book of plot bunnies and write a piece of flash fiction or a short story based on one of your ideas? You can always expand it into a longer piece later, but for now just write whatever comes to mind, get it all out onto the page until you’ve satisfied the craving.

It can be difficult when the thing you enjoy most is also the way you make a living, it becomes a challenge to find other activities to unwind and replenish the creative well, but as long as you don’t let yourself slip back into ‘work mode’ and start thinking about deadlines you can get away with doing your favourite thing just for you. We’re lucky really, not many people love their job so much they can’t stop themselves from doing it during their down time! Just remember to separate the two, writing for work and writing for fun.

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I hope you like my tips for self-care and avoiding burn out as a writer, let me know in the comments what you do to relax and recharge your creative batteries!

A huge thank you to Raimey Gallant for hosting the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, which is a monthly blog hop for writers to share tips and advice on everything to do with the craft. Check out some of the other awesome posts from my fellow blog hoppers here.

 

Lyndsey

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Self care for writers Lyndsey's Book Blog

Beautiful People – Author edition

Welcome to the latest edition of Beautiful People, hosted by the fabulous Sky at Further up and further in and Cait at Paper Fury! Beautiful People is a monthly link up for writers that helps us get into our character’s heads by answering ten different questions about them each month. This month’s questions are a little different, though. In July, we’re zooming in on the author with ten questions about our writing process.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Beautiful People linkup for writers

How do you decide which project to work on?

So far I’ve written one novel and started another, and I keep my plot bunnies saved in OneNote for when I’m finished with the project I’m currently working on. I actually combined a few ideas from my notes to create the second MS, so I guess it was a case of choosing which plot bunny felt the most intriguing and trying to flesh it out by interweaving other ideas. Luckily, several of my plot bunnies could be combined, which made my choice so much easier!

My first novel is fantasy, and the second is a sort of contemporary with elements of magical realism/fantasy. I want to try a few different genres until I really find my niche. I might try horror next!

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How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

As I’ve only written one novel so far, I’ll say about nine months, because that’s how long it’s taken me, but to be honest it isn’t finished yet. I’m submitting it to Pitch Wars in the hopes a mentor will work with me to edit and revise my MS until it’s near perfect, and that will take until November. Even then, an agent or publisher might require more edits. So a long time. But I’m hoping that with each project I’ll get faster and faster at drafting and revising.

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Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

I make a cup of tea, make sure I’m comfortable and have everything I need at arm’s length so I won’t have to get up for a while, and I’m one of the odd people who need background noise so I put something on Netflix. If I’m struggling with a scene or plot point I like to take the dog for a walk and think about it while I get some exercise and appreciate nature. Maybe that’s strange, I need silence to think about my story, and noise to create it.

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What time of day do you write best?

I am such a night owl, I don’t even function early in the morning, and if I’ve had a bad night’s sleep forget it. I love long and quiet weekends to just sit at the laptop for hours on end (with breaks to walk the dog and eat, of course), but generally I don’t get into a groove until late afternoon, early evening, and then I can keep going until the early hours.

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Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

I honestly couldn’t say! I’d love to be compared to a famous author, it would be the greatest compliment, but I’m not sure who I think my writing is similar to.

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Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I’ve always written, whether short stories or poems as a kid, blogs and essays as an adult. Novels have always been one of my favourite things in the world, but I never imagined I could write one until about a year ago. I started to get an idea for a story, and the more I thought about it (while walking the dog, doing the dishes, waiting to fall asleep) the more I knew I needed to write it. I realised I can Google absolutely anything when I need an answer to a question or a tutorial for fixing something, so surely there must be blogs and articles about how to write a novel. I was right, the internet is full of amazing bloggers and writers sharing the craft. So I started to read everything I could, using it to outline and plot my novel, and eventually I stumbled upon the writing community on Twitter, discovered NaNoWriMo, and all the other online competitions for writers.

In a nutshell, I started writing because I got an idea for a story that nagged me every waking minute and wouldn’t go away, and I keep writing because I’ve fallen in love with the craft and found my tribe.

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What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

It would have to be something about myself, my Uni application personal statement or a job application, because I’m absolutely horrible at selling myself, I’m so shy and anxious. Writing fictional stories is easy in comparison to writing something true and honest about myself.

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Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

I’d absolutely love to write a multi book series, but it’s so daunting. The way authors like J.K. Rowling and Sarah J. Maas weave hints and foreshadowing through early books about what will happen much later into the series, it’s an art form and I’m nowhere near skilled enough to plan that far ahead and execute it well at the moment. One day, hopefully! At the moment, I’m thinking one book at a time, as debut authors almost never get multi book series deals, so my MS The Fair Queen is ‘a standalone with series potential’ and I’ve got a few ideas for the sequel(s) up my sleeve.

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What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I only started writing this time last year, so my goals weren’t really conscious or set in stone, but I wanted to complete my first novel, revise it, and start querying by the end of 2017. I’m entering Pitch Wars next week (submission window opens in 3 days!!!) so I’m a good way to achieving my goals, as if I get in I’ll get to work with a mentor for two months and then pitch agents in November. If I don’t get in, I’ll work on my MS for a couple more months anyway and start querying before Christmas.

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Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

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If you’re just starting out as a writer or looking for blogs to help you improve your craft, check out some of my favourite writer/bloggers and their amazing words of wisdom:

If it weren’t for these three awesome ladies I wouldn’t be anywhere near ready to enter Pitch Wars and I’d probably have given up writing after 10k words.

I’m hoping to have more time to post once my Pitch Wars submission has gone, but if I get in I might be a bit AWOL for most of September and October too (plus I’m going to Asia for ten days in September! So excited :-D)

Lyndsey

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My top 5 auto-buy authors

Welcome back to my blog! Today I thought it’d be fun to discuss those authors whose books we buy without even reading the blurb or checking reviews. The ones we know we’ll enjoy, no matter what the book is about. The authors who can lend their hand to any subject matter, whether it’s an epic fantasy based on 15th century Spain, a supernatural ghost story about a haunted bakery, or a contemporary romance between two rival ballet dancers.

In no particular order…

 

Autobuy authors

1. Maggie Stiefvater

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll already know about my love for Maggie Stiefvater (check out my reviews of The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys). I stumbled across Shiver back when I was a young pup (21, then…) just looking for something to satisfy my post-Potter reading addiction. It did the trick, and luckily was a trilogy (I’m still yet to read Sinner, #4 in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series!), so there was plenty of content to sink my teeth into.

After I finished that series, I picked up Lament and Ballad, which I didn’t love as much, but I just needed another hit of Stiefvater’s distinctive writing style. Then I got distracted by the likes of The Mortal Instruments and The Hunger Games, and didn’t get around to reading The Scorpio Races or The Raven Cycle until this year, when I realised what I had been missing and renewed my adoration of la Stiefvater once more.

Seriously, if you’re looking for a great young adult fantasy read, you won’t go wrong with one of Maggie’s books. Her style is slightly eerie and very suspenseful, with lots of mythology and supernatural elements mixed with complex and flawed characters.

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2. Sarah J. Maas

When I discovered S.J. Maas, she had already published three books in the Throne of Glass series as well as a collection of prequel novellas, and A Court of Thorns and Roses had just been released. There was a lot of hype around her books, and most of the reviews I saw were good – her books sounded right up my street, and I loved that there were a good few to get stuck into without having to wait too long for the next to be released.

Maas writes absolutely epic young adult and new adult fantasy, with some of the most book-boyfriend worthy male characters you will ever come across. She quickly became one of my favourite authors, and Empire of Storms and A Court of Mist and Fury cemented her newfound status as an auto-buy author. I’m impatiently waiting for the next instalments in both series!

She’s also writing a Catwoman novel which will be released in 2018, so if superheroes are your cup of tea then pop that on your TBR. You won’t regret it.

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3. Leigh Bardugo

I read The Grisha Trilogy because everyone else was, and I enjoyed it, it was an entertaining read (or listen, I got the audiobooks), but where Leigh Bardugo really came into her own was the follow up series, Six of Crows. Set in the same fictional world, but a different part and a few years later, Six of Crows features cameos from a few of the main characters of the Grisha series, but with a whole cast of new characters and a gripping, exciting plot.

Leigh’s talent for world-building is what really puts her up there in my list of favourite authors, she even created a new language for these series. Set in a fictionalised version of medieval Russia, the language and culture are heavily influenced by Russian. The magic system she invented is deeply complex and fascinating, and the characters really come to life as you’re reading.

I’d recommend reading The Grisha Trilogy before starting on Six of Crows, it’s not essential but it adds to the experience and they are a fun read, lots of people loved them just as much, if not more than SoC.

Bardugo is also working on a Wonder Woman novel as part of a DC Icons project, so there’s another superhero book for your list!

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4. Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the first book I listened to on Audible, so it has a special place in my heart, but the whole series is just fantasy heaven. The whole concept of creating creatures using teeth and bone fragments, and reincarnating souls into the bodies is really interesting, and the action is fast-paced and full of tension.

The detail in the descriptions of the characters, creatures, magic and the worlds Laini has created is just phenomenal. I loved every single book and was heartbroken when the series concluded, but the ending was really satisfying.

Laini’s next book, Strange the Dreamer (out this month) is hotly anticipated amongst the bookish community online, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on it!

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5. Samantha Shannon

I was given The Bone Season by a friend who works at Waterstones, along with Half Bad and We Were Liars, so I trust his recommendations implicitly. It’s one of the best debuts I have ever read. Shannon wrote it whilst studying English at Oxford, and was a published author at 21. So, not intimidating at all, then.

The Bone Season series is set in London in an alternate future (2059, but with a different history since the 1800s). It has criminal gangs, psychic powers and alien-type creatures from another realm that control the UK government. It’s fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, and just incredibly well written. It’s one of these really detailed books with a map and a glossary and a completely new lexicon. And I live for that.

The third book in the series comes out this month, and I’m going to a signing at Waterstones so I’ll hopefully be acquiring a signed copy and meeting Samantha!! I’m so excited, and also really nervous, but I bet she’s lovely. She’s a huge inspiration, so it will be a dream come true to hear her speak about the book and hopefully get a signed copy.

Who are your top 5 auto-buy authors? Do you love YA fantasy authors as much as I clearly do? Let me know in the comments!

See you next time,

Lyndsey

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Current word count: 44,243

Looking forward to smashing out 35k words during Camp Nano!

Top five auto buy authors Lyndsey's Book Blog