Writer’s Block & Other Challenges

I’m a prolific writer! So, maybe I don’t suffer the dreaded ‘it shall not be named’. I do, though. It’s just I know how to get around it.

Writer’s block is a thing for every writer, even the biggest selling and most widely published, and I thought it might be helpful to other writers and my future self (when I hit a bad patch) to write about the dreaded BLOCK and other writerly challenges.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I’ve already published ten books this year, some of which are novella-length, but trust me each book needs to make sense within itself and you don’t get away with half-done books, no matter what length. Some of the best novels of all time have been short in length and often a novella or short novel requires that extra bit of restraint to prevent yourself going off on a word spree/tangent.

You can imagine that after writing a few books as I have, it gets harder and harder to sound original, to achieve the same shock and awe in a reader after they’ve read a handful of your books. I don’t very often re-read my back catalogue, but I’m sure if I did, I’d discover a writer that doesn’t feel like the writer I am now. Because accepting the ever-changing thing that is life is the first rule of writing. The finished product can end up so different to how you imagined it in the beginning.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sometimes when I finish writing a book or series, I’ll get to the end and start to wonder how the hell I started writing this blessed/damned story in the first place. Inspirations can come from anywhere/everywhere. One of my biggest-selling series is Nightlong and I do wonder how the heck I came up with that story. Sometimes the origin harks back to a goal you wanted to achieve. With Nightlong, it was to write a femdom trilogy. Although it didn’t quite work out that Ciara was always in charge, are any of us? No matter how dominant we are, are any of us ever truly in control? Accepting there’s a lot in life we cannot control is a skill invaluable when it comes to novel-writing. Especially in overcoming the Block.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Getting past writer’s block should be simple, right? It’s the ability to be able to recognise that we’re not always in charge. Right? Many writers will tell you the blank first page is their nightmare. That it taunts them. It represents to many that scary possibility that anything they put down might end up being absolute crap. The heightened sensitivity of a writer is what makes them so good at it but also undoes them. The blank page, empty and pale and fruitless, beckons us to fail? Or does it? What if the blank page scares us so much because it taunts the writer of the journey ahead . . . the hours you’ll spend hunched over a computer. It spells all the work you’ve yet to do . . . and humans are self-preserving creatures, after all. Every time I finish writing a novel I know I’ve done something many will never accomplish because the war against your own mind is EPIC.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I’ve never quite been a subscriber to self-help, self-improvement, regimented living . . . I am an extreme creative who doesn’t like any rules or regulations. Some days I just don’t feel the urge to write. Other days, I’ll be typing until my fingers go numb and my eyes are about to give up on me. I don’t ever force myself to write unless there’s a pressing deadline.

Therein, lies my cure to writer’s block: don’t write according to rules. Or just wait until the urge to write comes back again, and once it does, prioritise the shit out of that over everything else. I can only liken it to this: it’s like a car with the wheels spinning out of control but the back end is still on bricks and you’re not moving anywhere. I’ve found my most productive writing sessions are after I’ve got the car off the bricks, having got to the point where the tyres are going to set on fire otherwise!

I often think back to my journalistic days when, present day, I’m faced with difficult literary hurdles. I could bash out 4,000-5,000 easily in a day back then, but that was different. That was copy designed for a customer. It was technical and regurgitative. It wasn’t me as I am now, facing the blank page, knowing it all has to come from me and nobody else can complete this singularly unique and individual task. With creative writing, anything can happen, and only in the rule-breaking can a writer achieve that thing they haven’t quite achieved yet. I also remind myself that as a journalist, I never turned up to work drunk and drink has never made me a more productive writer or more uninhibited. Over the years I’ve begun to shake my head a little when I see writers posting a picture of a bottle of scotch and the words: ‘writer fuel’. My writing is much better off for no alcohol involved, nor loud music in the background (husband differs on this). There’s meant to be all this glamour surrounding what it’s like to be a writer, but it couldn’t be different in reality. If you ever find yourself rolling up to the school run in mismatched clothes like you’re colour-blind, you’re wearing sunglasses even though it’s snowing and you have no tolerance for any other human being whatsoever, then it’s fairly safe to say you’re a writer.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

While there will always be slightly familiar patterns to my work (to be expected), I still try to find new stories. They say every story ever told derives from a handful of core plots that, over time, have been embellished to look different but are essentially the same. The mechanics are often the least important thing in the first draft – they can be sorted later – it’s the heart of the story you have to master first and foremost.

The Bad Series was published this year and it is the first series I didn’t go to town on editing. I wrote it straight through and hardly did any major re-writes. If it reads quite punchy, and light, that’s because I wanted it to come across that way – to give readers a chance to make up their own minds without the stories being too heavy on detail and the characters too fixed in place. I didn’t want anything so final about it all. The characters are incredibly real, almost to the point of exacerbation – but that’s what I wanted! I grew up on those types of stories.

The danger (or positive) of being so well written as I am is that you do tend to become extremely opinionated on the writing process and on the industry, because you’ve seen and done A LOT. What works for someone else does not always work for you – but what works for me IS LAW.

I personally don’t want to live on social media (I already give SO MUCH to my books, everything I want to say is in those). I also don’t believe social media is necessary to sell books. SM helps if people want to connect with you, it gives your readers access to the person behind the words, but what if you’re not interested in building a brand or being consistent or predictable to serve a commercial purpose? When you’re a writer who just writes and wants to reach the shy people who love to read books and don’t make an awful lot of fuss about it all (as I do), then you’re probably more likely to reach those readers through email marketing and ads that are delivered store-front.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

There have been a few stories I’ve written where I’ve felt certain only one or two people would really get it, and then I’ve been surprised, and vice versa I’ve written stories that I thought were for mass market and people didn’t like those as much. They started reading me because I’m different and they want to keep reading my work because it’s different. It is an absolute minefield out there, so what are you best off doing? You can only write what you feel you must write. If what you feel you must write is a story your publisher can get onboard with and you need sales to put food on the table, do that.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

All stories matter. I’ve written stories about some truly inexplicable people but at the end of the day, their stories mattered because they felt real to me and my readers. I don’t want to sugar-coat a story to make it seem more palatable, that would never be genuine or very writerly of me. Similarly, if you make a character too unlikeable, you might make a reader want to straight away unplug. But everyone always gets their reckoning . . . one way or another.

It’s been a rollercoaster this year for everyone out there, writers and non-writers included. My writing has felt a lot like a rollercoaster on more than one occasion. Some days I’ve been straight out of the blocks, other days I’ve just not had the impetus. During lockdown I largely buried myself in the stories, lay awake at night plotting and forming scenes before typing them up the next day. I would indulge in long lie-ins and write till late at night because the house was quiet and my mind in a more relaxed state. I’m no longer able to indulge now my husband and daughter are back at school and work. Sometimes I pine for those late nights and late mornings, while some days I am thankful for the routine of normal working hours again. While a lot of my stories are predominantly planned, I’ve also written some stuff completely by the seat of my pants. Sometimes you’ll do that and come back to it and be like WTF, other times you’ll realise you did need to pants it. It’s all about going with the flow, that’s it. It’s just that it is the damnedest thing.

I’ve often found that notebooks full of ideas haven’t always come to fruition. When you’re actually in the story, it takes you in another direction more often than not. Something in the plotting stage may have seemed like a totally great idea, but once you’re arcing and forming something more tangible, it just gets thrown out of the window and you end up writing something much more in line with the narrative. I had this terrible problem early on in my career where I really struggled to write things unless they were entirely factual and accurate (journo brain) and that took so long to shake off – to remind myself fiction is fiction and anything is possible. I also feel like the writer I am today is much more mature than the one I started out as and that, as before mentioned, some of the books I wrote seven or eight years ago would seem foreign to me now. The things that happen in our lives shape us. They can make us more tolerant or the opposite; bitter or accepting; honest or even more dishonest. Life shapes us and the writer changes. But what has always been evergreen about my stories is that the characters never needed to be reshaped. I always give them to you how they present themselves to me. Within the 40+ books I’ve written is a plethora of different people. But I never ever tried to promote my books on the diversity within. The unique stories are always what I hope people will remember. Stories are universal. The people I write about are real people, sometimes subversions of people I’ve known or know, sometimes they’re ugly people I try to make seem better, until there’s no denying they aren’t better. Strong characters can be kind or cruel, witty or dour, evil or good or plain and dark, beneath. The way they talk or treat people, love people, is the most important aspect of any heroine or hero.

Any good writer can convince themselves and others of anything. You just have to have a narrative that is watertight. But imperfections are the parts of us that allow other people in, so should that go for literature, too?

I know lockdown and everything going on in the world has made sitting down to concentrate so hard for so many people. I recognise the energy it takes for someone to sit down and really give themselves up to a story and let it take over and it’s not easy. It’s so HARD. The brain is a muscle, it needs to be exercised, but if you allow it to burn-out, what do you think is going to happen? It’s going to rebel.

The point of this blog is that, even I, Sarah Michelle, with all my techniques and tried-and-tested mantras have still found it hard this year (at times) to write. I think after I finished writing the Bad Series, I thought I might never write again. I wasn’t exhausted physically, but emotionally and mentally. I had to take a few weeks before I could even think about promoting it. It is the single most challenging piece of work I ever undertook and somehow, lockdown helped me complete it. I had somewhere to venture, to escape. I allowed myself the luxury to write when I wanted. It just seemed to work. A few months have passed and I’ve had to readjust my settings all over again – and will probably have to once more if Lockdown 2.0 happens!

All I know is that everything – and I mean everything – that has ever happened in my life has led me right up to now. To enable me to pull off a piece of work like this nine-book series. In the past I did used to force myself to write and maybe that was the best thing for me, then. If I hadn’t have forced myself, might I not have got further down the line, to the more mature, wiser and experienced writer I am now?

When I get writer’s block, what do you think I always say to myself? “This is leading somewhere, this is my journey . . . it’s taking me somewhere.”

And boy, is it . . .

Stay tuned,

S x

P.s. I won’t re-read this blog – https://sarahmichellelynch.com/2013/02/04/the-loneliness-of-the-long-distance-writer/ – but you might be interested what I said on writing years ago… and how it compares to now! 😉

Catching Up . . .

Has 2020 been all about Covid? In a way, yes. In many ways, no.

For a lot of people it’s been about re-evaluating. It’s been a wake-up call.

Do I need to commute so far every day? Do I love this person I’m living with? What’s the point of continuing in this job I hate? Why am I putting up with so much outside of my control? I could go on… the list is endless. Everyone has been forced to stop and THINK.

2020 has been a shit year for many. There we are. In the words of Mad-Eye Moody, “End of story. Goodbye. The End…”

But it hasn’t all been about Covid.

For instance, among my family and extended family three people are living with cancer at the moment. The worst moments of some people’s lives have taken place, all while Covid exists as an annoying accomplice in the background. Cancer hasn’t gone away. Nor have any of the other ailments killing people every day.

My husband’s work has changed completely. He’s adapted and is a podcaster now and wants to do a Masters for himself, because as he put it, “You just sometimes realise if you want to do something for yourself, you’ve got to do it now. There’s no time.”

We had a major financial scare at the beginning of this year. Suffice to say, there are some dodgy, dodgy companies out there… and they will still be doing what they do post-Covid, because some things never change.

I’ve heard numerous times from my daughter, the words, “I hate coronavirus!” All she sees is that she cannot meet her friends in the same way. She can’t stay over at Grandma’s. She couldn’t go to school. She hates seeing her parents in the scary masks and doesn’t understand why so many people are angry and impatient everywhere. And all the adults ever seem to talk about is fucking coronavirus. LOL.

I started writing a series of books last winter, almost a year ago now. I put fingers to keys to create the Bad Series well before any of this kicked off.

I wrote this series during some of the worst times of my life, but I worked SO HARD throughout to stick to the brief I set out a year ago – to write it as it was meant to be written from concept to completion. I oftentimes write my books real-time and that’s why more often than not, I write in first-person present tense because I want it to have the feel of “happening right now” – that you’re living the story alongside the characters. The epilogue of the Bad Series brings the characters right up to about now (2020 – the year which in future shall not be named). However, I am no way going to ever mention the C-word in any of my books. WHY? Because it doesn’t have a place. Not right now. Maybe not ever. The issues I chose to write about and have been detailing for ten years are, to me, much more prevalent, evergreen and pressing. Issues such as family, relationships, friendships, mental health, overcoming trauma, acceptance of one another and love.

If you want to discover what my post-natal brain conjured eight or nine years ago about the future (2023) then read my predictions in the Unity Series. If you’d like a window into what my highly sensitive nerve endings picked up on as being our future, Unity comes very close in a lot of (interpretational) ways. If there was a message in the Unity Series, it was to think for yourself. To not allow ourselves to be pushed apart. Broken, we can be divided; together, we’re unbreakable.

Fiction, as it turns out, is more important than ever. To me. To you. To the world. A safe space in which to translate and work through everything going on around us.

I know how lucky I am every day to be able to venture into my own private domain. To have the skill to be able to knit my concerns about the world within good stories. To have my safe space.

I recognise, now more than ever, there is pain out there which goes far beyond the virus and it is being squashed away because of this C-word thing going on and interrupting our lives.

Domestic abuse is up. Cancer patients are waiting. Many elderly are suffering because they simply cannot get out. They are missing that VITAL chance to be around the younger generation and feel connected to the world. People are telling themselves their suffering is small and therefore they aren’t going to the doctor with that ache or pain or lump they’d normally get checked out. And MONEY still isn’t being placed where it is needed most. And the WRONG sectors are benefiting from this crisis while the pre-existing and various struggles of millions are ongoing and far outweigh some people’s reluctance to don a mask.

And the very fine balance of people’s mental health is being tested like never before. Those of us who have never had a mental health issue – are wondering if it’s coming for us next. Because sometimes, some days, you just wake up and think, “What the fuck next…?”

For someone who processes events slowly, and then all at once, the next writings from me might be very interesting indeed.

Is 2020 a write-off?

I don’t know.

Personally, this year has taught me that I am there for a heck of a lot of people. And I will always be. But stepping back sometimes is something I have to do. Trying to save people is something I can’t accomplish. Even when I can see what they’re doing is causing damage only to themselves, I can’t step in. But maybe somebody reading one of my books might read it… and be moved to see things clearer than if someone in their lives had sat them down and told them.

For some, lockdown was their saviour. It was finally their chance to take stock. To catch up on sleep. No more boarding a flight every week. No more sardine-in-a-can train journeys. Time spent catching up with their partner and/or kids. Time to spruce up the house or driveway or back garden, or front – maybe all the above. Time to grow out your hair and/or nails. Time to breathe. Time to actually speak to your neighbour. A chance to buy local. A chance to sell local. A chance to be local.

If I’m anything to go by, let me tell you, one thing is for certain.

Post-2020, creativity is going to be UP!

Things are going to change, and it is going to hurt, but through the enormous amount of creativity that is coming – because nothing can come from nothing and who we are, the experiences we’ve had and the hearts we own are everything – we can be together.

Watch this space…

Freebies and News!

The Bad Series is complete and is in the process of migrating from KU to all platforms. I am pleased to say you can now permanently download Bad Friends (book one) for free from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple.

BLURB:

The story opens with the friends in their mid-20s, careers still up in the air, relationships disastrous and secrets buried deep.

By the end of this saga, everything will have changed. Not all will survive and some bonds which previously appeared unbreakable will be smashed to smithereens.

A darkness exists just beneath the surface and will slowly unravel. Will justice prevail? Find out . . .

Grab vol.1 free

If you enjoy Bad Friends, why not download the Bad Series Box Set (Book One) which is on sale for the special price of 99 pennies. See below for all the ways in which you can read the Bad Series:

Bad Friends (book one) – free on all platforms

Bad Actor (book two) – available on all platforms

Bad Wife (book three) – available on all platforms

Bad Girl (book four) – available on all platforms

Bad Guys (book five) – currently only on Amazon

Bad Lover (book six) – currently only on Amazon

Bad Exes (book seven) – currently only on Amazon

Bad Night (book eight) – currently only on Amazon

Bad Endings (book nine) – currently only on Amazon

BAD BOX SET #1 (includes vols.1-3) – available on all platforms here

BAD BOX SET #2 (includes vols.4-6) – currently only on Amazon

BAD BOX SET #3 (includes vols.7-9 + bonus material) – currently only on Amazon

***

I also have a new cover for you and another FREEBIE! Angel Avenue can be downloaded from all platforms for FREE! Please check it out.

Along with Bad Friends and The Contract, it will now be permanently FREE!

Download Angel Avenue free here: learn more

Download The Contract free here: learn more

Available to Pre-Order Now!

Blurb

Through Lynch’s words, embark on a journey of lost innocence, reality bites and how old-fashioned sentiment doesn’t seem to translate – not anymore.

This poetry collection features the disappointments we can all share in, including opening your heart only to be shot down, trying and failing, encounters of bigotry and misogyny – not to mention navigating a world in which everyone is hurting in their own way.

Pervading this work is the sense that people will always be people, but perhaps punctures are actually what force us to decompress.

Excerpts

Pre-Order now: mybook.to/Punctures

Add to Goodreads and read the reviews as they come in: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44165336-punctures

SUBMISSIONS OPEN: NEW CHARITY POETRY ANTHOLOGY

This will be the fourth charity book I’ve organised and I’m excited to see what people have got for me this time! If you are interested in submitting poetry for this new project, here is what you need to know:

  • I’ll be providing authors with an image to work from; this image will also provide the basis for the book cover.
  • Your poem can be as long or as short as you like; on any theme you like, with any language or as far out as you can possibly imagine. I only ask that your poem reflects the mood/tone of the image in some way shape or form.
  • If you are interested in participating, please ask to join my new FB group dedicated to this project: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2201342126788394/ – if you later decide the project isn’t for you, I won’t be offended.
  • In the aforementioned group, I will be providing a copy of the cover image asap so you can get to work. If you’d like me to email it instead, please let me know: smlpublishinguk@gmail.com
  • Deadline to submit poems is January 31st – please, please let me know in good time if you want to submit but think you may miss this deadline.
  • Title of this project TBC.
  • Release date TBC.
  • This book will be released in ebook first, for Kindles. (paperbacks at a later date)
  • There are a few charities I support, so depending on the profits made, I may split them between a couple (or three, you never know!).
  • YOU MUST submit your poem in a Word document. I receive no end of submissions that have been pasted into an email and the formatting is a nightmare. WORD DOCUMENT PLEASE!
  • Your poetry must be proofread – I simply don’t have time to edit everyone’s poetry.
  • SUBMITTING your work does not guarantee being included in the anthology. I’m not a harsh critic, but I do expect people to put their hearts into what they send me.

If I seem rather demanding, it’s because I am an exceptionally busy lady! LOLs…. (please note: I not only do this to raise money for charity, but also to showcase authors, too).

If you have any questions at all, ping me an email or a message to my FB page.

Thanks, and happy writing…

Sarah x

SURPRISE NEW RELEASE

An unsettling morality tale . . .

Liza is married with two young children and seemingly has it all: a big house, a husband who provides, a great circle of friends, plus a job working for her best friend. The only problem is, it’s all built on lies.

A death in the family finally forces her to see the truth for herself, but the timing seems a little too convenient. It’s not escaped the notice of not only Liza, but also that of family friend Warrick, a former detective who has his own suspicions.

As the truth unravels, friendships are tested and Liza finds herself trapped beneath the weight of guilt. Life has thrown everything it’s got at her, and for such a young woman, it feels like a huge cross to bear.

Nothing will ever be the same again, but while the future promises the kind of happiness she only ever dreamt of before, it’s difficult to shake off the feeling that her escape from deceit came with a hidden cost . . .

* * *

AUTHOR NOTE: Liza was a minor character in the Angel Avenue series. No previous reading is required to be able to enjoy this standalone, although I highly recommend you read the other books too.

Genre: New Adult Romance

Length: Full Novel

Setting: East Riding area (my neck of the woods!!)

Other info: Perfect morality tale for Christmas!

Buy links:

Universal: http://mybook.to/Guilt

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Giving Thanks to My Readers

One-click Sub Rosa Book One – FREE – and pick up the other instalments at a fantastic price!

We should chase away from what we’re scared of, right? Run as fast as we can. Yet some of us seem to veer toward chaos and destruction…

Chloe sees anguish and despair lurking beneath the surface of Cai Matthews, the dark and dangerously handsome freelance photographer she meets on her first day in a new job. She can’t see straight in his presence—blinded by a blistering sexual attraction that has the potential to sweep her clean off her feet.

When Cai disappears from the workplace and doesn’t come back, Chloe tries to find out more about his life but all she knows is he’s set to inherit a ton of money and his aunt runs one of the most famous fashion magazines in the world.

Cai is running from a complicated past he doesn’t like talking about. Gossip columns rage with speculation concerning him and his aunt, who took guardianship of Cai after his parents died.

Conscientious journalist Chloe has a mind for details and once she gains access to his world, Cai realises she could undo every, single dirty little secret that he and his aunt have tried desperately to cover up.

Download Unbind, the first book in the series – FREE: Visit Amazon

UNBIND – FREE for a limited time!

The entire Sub Rosa Series is slashed in price – but for a very limited time! I have Kindle Countdown deals currently running on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com – so if you want to grab a bargain, now’s the time!!

Over 700,000 words of mystery, love, suspense, secrets, fashion, friendships and sparkling intrigue!

That’s seven books for the usual price of £20/$25 – marked down to just £4.95/$4.95 for the WHOLE SET!

To view the entire series, visit these links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

There’s so much to get stuck into, including two FREE downloads!! Be sure to check them out!

Keep scrolling to view all the beautiful covers….

And happy reading,

Sarah x

UNFURL – 99 pennies for a limited time
UNLEASH – 99 pennies for a limited time
DOM DIARIES – FREE for a limited time
WORTH IT – 99 pennies for a limited time
HIS DEADLY ROSE – 99 pennies for a limited time
EPILOGUE – 99 pennies for a limited time

Autumn and Other Things

483c0dc1ddc26f93d3952375b208c964How has this happened? How is it autumn already? I asked myself this when I looked at the calendar this morning. Life seems very busy and rushing by at the speed of light right now. It was yesterday when I was selling stuff at a car boot sale that my husband said, “You’re really good at selling.” I had to take a moment to think about that. Yes, I may have only been selling tat, but evidently I can sell tat! Anyway, what is one man’s junk may well be another’s treasure.

We say it every year, but this year it seems more true than any other: the past few months have zoomed by. I find myself sitting here wondering what I have achieved in the past nine months. So instead of thinking, “Oh god, no, it’s already October and I haven’t done half the things I wanted to do this year…” I have instead decided to think about the things I have achieved. Like for instance, selling loads of tat at yesterday’s car boot sale – result! I also sold our house this year – result! I’ve lost count of the amount of books I’ve published this year and the amount I’ve currently got in the queue to write. I think the point is, it is just so easy to let time pass you by without reflecting on your achievements and progress. Many of us have probably looked at the calendar this morning and thought, “Oh, god,” while many others – like me – are reminded October is our favourite month, even if it does bring us closer to the dreaded C word. LOL. (CHRISTMAS!)

It’s so important to reflect and to acknowledge all the little things we do on a daily basis as achievements in themselves. There are still three months of this year left and maybe the ground work we lay down earlier in the year will soon bear fruit. Even though I have got a lot going on right now, both personally and professionally, I will try to take time for myself and stop awhile to admire the beauty all around. After a summer I couldn’t wait to be shot of (too hot and sticky!), I felt a little sad with the onset of the cooler weather, but only because I’d wished the summer away, dreaming of that cooler weather. It’s a paradox, I know! It feels like I’ve experienced a little bit of lost time this year – and I am sure I am not the only one.

Anyway, my response to my husband when he said I’m good at marketing is that I must have picked it up since becoming an author. I have learnt a lot from publishing books, possibly more than I have from any other career… The broad range of skills you develop, the all-rounder you have to become … it is a never-ending learning curve, it really is. Being an author isn’t just sitting on your bum writing, it involves so much else, and for that I am thankful. So as we pass into this thankful phase of the year, I will keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be doing something with my life so challenging, yet so fulfilling.

With all this in mind, I thought I’d let you know what I have coming up in the next few months:

  • Leticia, a vampire novella, publishing around Halloween
  • Deadly Virtues, a collection of poetry – TBC
  • The Awoken, a YA science fiction novel – TBC
  • Illicit (working title) – TBC
  • Panacea – TBC
  • Assassin – TBC

There’s a lot to be thankful for!

Sarah x

Indie Authors, Book Marketing and Kindle Unlimited…

While I’ve not been directly impacted by this recent crackdown of Amazon’s on what they deem suspicious page reads (in the Kindle Unlimited programme), I have watched with interest how authors I know have been affected.

Kindle Unlimited has worked for me in the past. I regularly pay for Freebooksy features and through Freebooksy, my ROI has been 300%-400% on good days. For me, this was a revelation when I first discovered it and because my books were in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s algorithms were triggered and my KU page reads were always boosted as a result. I have found that running regular freebie promotions for first books in a series has been the most reliable method of book marketing I have ever used. This, coupled with good covers, good content inside my books, plus characters you want to continue reading about for 2 books or more, has worked for me.

Back when I first published novels in 2012, I would put books on sale or free – and using Facebook and Twitter alone – I would always manage 2,000-3,000 free downloads during the period of one promotion (the most consecutive free days you can do in a row with KDP select is five, and I would normally do a promo lasting 2-3 days). Nowadays, I would never get that many downloads for a free promotion without using email marketing (newsletters to my personal mailing list, or Mailchimp promos; Freebooksy emails; Bookbub; or other sites like these). Without boosting posts on your Facebook pages, audience reach is very, very small these days, unlike back in 2012 when I had maybe 1,000 page likes and I’d still generate 2,000 free downloads with little effort at all.

For some of us who’ve been doing this a long time, it feels like our ability to speak to our readers is being crushed and squeezed, bit by bit, unless we bury ourselves away in private FB groups or try to use other emerging social media platforms. It is a challenging time to achieve discoverability, to say the least.

Book marketing is evolving, ALL THE TIME. I’ve monitored it for six years and the pendulum swings from one end of the spectrum to the other, depending upon the day itself. For me personally, I’ve found that the sweet spot when paid promotion really works is either in the holidays when everyone is loading their kindles ready for a foreign trip or time off work, or around Christmas when everyone has a bunch of gift cards to spend. I have yet to try AMS ads, but given that my books are often heavily erotic, this explains why.

Kindle Unlimited is designed to give hungry readers access to as many books as they like. Readers who read 4-5 books a week or more are significantly better off if they subscribe to KU because they pay one fee and get all these books for that one set fee. You can take a max of 10 titles out at once and then return them once they’re read, then “borrow” more after that. Amazon has opened their own digital library and given readers the keys to the kingdom for a reasonable price. It seems like nobody has anything to lose, right?

WRONG!

Honest authors are losing out, and they are losing BIG TIME. Not because of readers, who legitimately pay their KU subscription and legitimately read books, but because of click farms and book stuffers and other nefarious people out there who have concocted ways of abusing the KU programme and consistently make money from fake pages read. FYI for people not in the know: KU allows customers to read as many KU books as they like, and authors submit their book into the KU programme (which requires exclusivity), then the author gets paid X-amount per page read. If the customer reads all of your book and not just part of it, then obviously you’ll get paid more. Legitimate authors are losing money day after day after day… and as I mentioned before, I have not been directly impacted by page scammers… but I have heard what is going on…

My longest novel, Unbind is over 150,000 words long and when it was in KU, it made good page reads because of its length (777 pages in terms of Kindle Pages)  but unless your books are really long, you’re not going to make that much money from page reads. It’s all relative. Which is why certain dodgy authors are book stuffing, the practice of advertising ONE book, but then hiding quite a bit more material at the back of the book from other titles, or as some are labelling it, “bonus material”. I’ve seen recently that people have started pointing out that bonus material shouldn’t exceed the 10% “extra content” guideline that Amazon recommends you include. Maybe this is starting to be rolled out, but I don’t know. Some of these book stuffers, I am led to believe, have been including links inside their e-books which encourage readers to skip all this extraneous matter, and thus the guilty authors receive royalties for those “page reads” which are not legitimate. Therefore, when Amazon is dividing the KU pot out at the end of every sales period, book stuffers are being awarded a certain % of “sales” while legit authors who’ve had real readers reading each page legitimately are robbed of their rightful % of the pot because these book stuffers are nicking fake pages read. (Does that make sense? It doesn’t to me…) All this, quite frankly, makes a mockery of Amazon’s technology – and the authors who opt in to KU in good faith, only to be shafted, whether they know it or not.

We haven’t even got started on click farms yet (dodgy websites or whatever they are), which dodgy authors employ to download their books through KU, skip to the end, and therefore earn them money for not even reading a book. They just skip to the end and Amazon still registers it as “pages read”.

I have been told of instances where authors have released a new book which has done well, only to be told their KU reads were suspicious and that Amazon won’t be paying them for any of those pages read, most of which were legitimate. The rest weren’t legitimate because click farms have started targeting honest, hard-working authors in a bid to confuse Amazon even more – making it more difficult to differentiate between ruthless money grabbers and genuine authors.

For a while now, I have been pulling my books out of Kindle Unlimited for marketing reasons. A lot of my books were in Kindle Unlimited for ages and I judged that it was time to take them wide and gain success elsewhere. And they have – they have gained success in different markets, elsewhere. In some cases (because I am a multi-genre author) some of my books have done better on iBooks, B&N and Kobo, than they ever did on Amazon. Maybe there’s no logic to that. As I said, everything is dependent on the mood of the day/week/month/year/season.

For all these reasons above, whenever I come to publish a brand-new title in future, I will not be clicking the “Enroll in KDP Select” box in the same automatic way that I used to. Nope.

Integrity and enjoyment of what I am doing is paramount for me. I do not enjoy seeing innocent people robbed of their hard-earned monies because of criminals abusing the Kindle Unlimited Programme. I do not enjoy Amazon accusing innocent authors of malpractice and not giving them a chance to fight their corner. It is my understanding that Amazon have been rather hard-line on this and once they’ve decided your “page reads” were gained illegally, they won’t be paying you for those page reads that were REAL, i.e. from regular, hardcore fans you’ve had for years in some cases. This is because they don’t have the means to find out which page reads were authentic, and which were from click farms. The only way they have been handling this is to discredit all the page reads of authors/books which have suddenly dropped onto their radar as suspicious – even if the author has appealed and tried to fight back.

While these injustices continue – book stuffing, click farms, authors being stripped of royalties, not to mention books being taken down from Amazon randomly, sometimes without warning – my choice will be to take my books wide and take my chances in the broader marketplace.

True fans and readers will read your book if they really want to, no matter how you are selling it. Many readers don’t like KU because once you return a book, that’s it. You can’t keep it forever like you can if you buy a book outright. KU doesn’t work for my reading preferences. That’s just me. I prefer paperbacks, but I also don’t read enough books that are in KU to warrant me paying the monthly subscription. Those are just my personal habits.

Amazon’s algorithms favour books in Kindle Unlimited. They promote those more than they promote non-KU books (check the top #100 charts). As an author, pulling your books out of KU is a difficult call to make if you’re not yet where you want to be in terms of sales and discoverability, because Amazon is where many have started off, been discovered and gone on to do a lot bigger, better things with different publishers. Also, for many authors (particularly the KU All Stars), let’s face it – their page reads are their bread and butter, and Amazon has been good for them. But even they are now finding themselves coming up against more and more restrictions, for instance in the way that Amazon allows blogger/critical reviews to be added on release day. Instead of allowing them to pour in like they used to, reviews are now heavily monitored and restricted. What other new rules is Amazon going to impose in the future? Will these restrictions protect Amazon, the reader or the marketplace as a whole? I think, to be honest, Amazon is like the proverbial headless chicken right now, desperately scrambling about – seeking a way of controlling this huge monster they have created with Kindle Direct Publishing, whereby books written by “ghost writers” available for hire on Fiverr are written and uploaded within a day – and still, no matter the tripe within, these titles make 1000s of dollars, no matter how badly written they are, because there are disingenuous “authors” out there who’ve figured out ways of manipulating the system.

It’s the enablers… always the enablers.

So while the possibility exists that even if I release a book in the correct way and gain loads of legitimate page reads in the first week(s) of release, only to be told that I may lose all that money generated from page reads because illicit activity has been detected – I will therefore choose not to opt my books in Kindle Unlimited. I would rather earn NO MONEY from pages read, than earn money which also comes with the risk of maybe being told I will have all my hard work stolen from me – and there’s absolutely nothing I can do.

Until Amazon finds a way to protect the 100% innocent authors in all this, I encourage fellow KU authors to seriously consider whether voting with their feet is the only way to make Amazon realise that there are innocent authors who are the victims of other people’s abuses – and despite how much they’ve made for Amazon in the past – these authors are faced with a non-negotiable stance on an issue which, so far, Amazon seems to have handled poorly.

My bottom line is this: I want to sell my books on a platform where I, and my books, have value, and I won’t give away exclusivity for anything less. While I personally have had no bad dealings with Amazon, I fear that if ever I were to have massive sales with them, I would suddenly come under scrutiny and they would probably have something to say about that. That’s how it feels right now. A culture of mistrust, doubt and suspicion is spreading, all because there are problems in the way Kindle Unlimited page reads are monitored…. #NotTheAuthorsFault

How I Wrote a Book in 20 Days: A Diary – Part Four (Final Part)

Please make sure you read parts one to three before reading this concluding part! You can find them by visiting sarahmichellelynch.com/blog and scrolling through.

Note: I only wrote diary entries on days where I actually completed some writing. There are only 20 entries in this diary but the twenty writing days were spread over the space of a month and a bit. This diary does not include my notes on editing (I don’t want to give away all my secrets!)

***

Day #14

Another chapter down. Would have liked to have written more today but I’ve had admin to do. Social media to catch up on. An event to prepare for. Fridays are always difficult days because you’re preparing for the weekend. Still, I’m gonna try get some bits and pieces of writing done tomorrow and Sunday. We’ll see anyway!!

Two major emotional breakthroughs were made in this chapter. Now I’m halfway, I can take this story down a deeper, much more direct route. I’m excited to get to the WOW moment in this book, where everything I set out to achieve becomes much more achievable.

Exciting times ahead…

Word count so far: 49,686 (I’m classing this as half done).

Day #15

I snatched moments of time today to write. I had this one idea I just had to get out in case I forgot it later. So I ignored the Saturday TV for an hour or so, and just did it. Half a chapter down. Not bad, considering it’s been a manic day.

Word count so far: 52,043

Day #16

It’s been Monday. Monday, bloody, Monday. Gah. The clocks have changed and it’s a bloody nightmare!

However, I am starting to taste the end of this book. I want to know what happens next as much as you, the reader will want to. I fear a race is on now. A race to the finish line, to explore all this book has to offer again, with the next stage of development – editing.

Some days you truly have used up your word count, that you have very little else to say at the end of it.

Word count so far: 56,856

Day #17

A really good writing day. I’ve turned some corners and extracted some secrets.

When I look back to the beginning of the story, it feels like a hundred years ago now. I’ve just got to make sure it continues to appear that way, reflecting the manner in which the heroine changes dramatically within this story.

I feel like I’m ever-drawing closer to the denouement.

Word count so far: 64,512

Day #18

It’s 11am and I’m not done for the day by a long shot, but I need to write this entry right now. This morning, this book made me cry for the first time, and that’s huge. Because I don’t always cry when I’m writing a book. But the pain and the poignancy of a particular scene had me flowing today. And I’m not the sort of person to cry easily. Only like really, really bad shit makes me cry, or people with sob stories singing on Britain’s Got Talent, but I think that’s because I love music as much as I love any art form that provokes an emotional response.

Up to now I’ve been writing with a sense of tension and it feels as though that’s broken finally, now I’ve written this difficult scene today. It’s finally broken and the heroine is free to move onto the next chapter. (I’m hoping so anyway, I’ve still got a few thousand words left to write.)

***

I wrote 5,000 words today and it wasn’t an effort; it was one of those rare instances of forgetting time exists and just going with the flow. Words just came and I’m stepping ever-closer to the end. This might even turn into one of those rare novels where less is so much more because I’ve said most of what I wanted to already, so whatever else comes next will be a big adieu.

Word count so far: 69,500

Day #19

I haven’t written yet today. It’s the morning. I’m just trying to muster up some energy right now to write some more. I’m feeling a bit puffed out.

I finished yesterday’s writing session with absolutely no idea or inclination as to how I would continue this story. Overnight some ideas have come to me and I’m fairly certain how I’m going to end the tale now. Sometimes you can feel as though nothing’s coming and when you go about your other business and take a few moments out, suddenly an idea will strike and you realise there is still more, even if the day before, ideas felt all used up. In the past I may have mistakenly forced ideas but this isn’t how I like to write anymore. Each day, I strive for new ideas and those make a story. The devil is in the detail. Having written so many books now, I’ve played with various forms of writing but sometimes simple is best. It just depends upon the character you’re conveying. I find it so difficult sometimes to not repeat myself, using a saying I’ve maybe used in a previous novel. The two main characters in this book, actually – resemble very closely two minor characters of a previous series I wrote a long time ago. But they were minor then, they’re major now, and function in a much different way in this book. I know some authors have strange family trees where all the characters they’ve ever written are somehow connected, even if that’s not evident to the reader. To the writer, they see those characters as part of a wider family, maybe because they are. They’re the author’s family in some respects. So even though it’s very difficult for me to keep my material fresh and new, it all is, and the more difficult it is for me to explore new avenues, I think the better my work is overall. I write for my own pleasure first and foremost which is how it should be. Don’t get me wrong it’s lovely when someone else likes what you’ve done, too. But the only person I’m ever competing against is myself and the past me has an awfully big back catalogue now. And that spurs me on greatly. I feel like these days, the engines are fully operational and ready to burn. It’s all those previous books that got me where I am now. It’s the books I’m writing now that will get me where I want to be. And I’ll have enjoyed every moment of getting to wherever it is I end up. Because I love writing and that’s what I was born to do. Write. It’s easy for me now, where it used to be hard. Because each book has broken me in and taught me something. And writing’s as easy as breathing now. It’s just the thought of it which is sometimes hard.

So now I’ve given myself this little pep talk (I am slightly deranged, comes with the territory), I will bloody well put the kettle on and settle down to some fictional writing once more. Until later…

(peaks and troughs, peaks and troughs…)

***

Wow, just look at that word count below. I can taste the end now.

Word count so far: 76120

Day #20

Wow, I wrote THE END today. I didn’t think I’d be writing that so soon. But I’m reminded that I decided to make this a new adult romance (or it shaped itself into a NA romance), which means readers in this genre generally prefer shorter reads anyway.

But, wait…

Editing has yet to take place. And editing will involve me going over the book six, seven, maybe even eight times. The way I edit is where the magic really happens.

Writing a book (as I’ve proven), is relatively easy when you know how. It’s what comes next that’s hard.

I know that throughout the editing process, I may add another 5 to 10,000 words or so. With one book (A Fine Pursuit), editing added 10 to 20,000 words in fact, because the story shot out of me so fast, I had to go over it plenty after the first draft, so it wasn’t a bony carcass anymore!

Still, I might comb it back again after the second draft.

Or add more?

But, dear reader, I won’t be telling you the secrets of my editing process. I don’t want to put myself out of business.

It’s been real.

Word count of my first (skeleton draft): 77,659

Afterword

The novel this WRITING DIARY relates to is called Hetty: An Angel Avenue Spin-Off. I am writing this afterword on the day of its release.

Hetty is a character I knew inside and out before I even put fingers to keys which is why this book was so easy in terms of development.

Sometimes, as a reader, I read books and I can tell when an author has taken a large timeout in the middle of writing their book because the style or the feel of the prose changes dramatically between one chapter and the next. Maybe that’s sometimes intentional. Maybe it’s because during time off from writing, the author has developed a different viewpoint of the story and it shows.

Writing a book in the space of a month is not something I recommend for everyone. It’s exhausting, it takes incredible discipline and an iron will. I do not manage to complete every story I write within 20 days, trust me! I know my limits. I stop when I need to. I take self care very seriously. I’m lucky that I can pick and choose my projects and my family are very supportive of what I do, both in giving me time and knowing what I need when I come away from writing a book.

What I hoped to show with this writing diary was the highs and lows a writer goes through, and the behind-the-scenes effort that no reader ever usually hears about. (The gory details so to speak.)

Hetty is my 17th novel and when someone recently asked me, “Doesn’t your heart just squeeze when you look at all you’ve achieved?” – I had to tell them, no! I am the long-distance writer with a 1,000 stories to tell and I cannot allow myself to wallow too long in saying goodbye to characters I have so lovingly created. I cannot allow myself to wrap myself up in the myriad emotions I go through while writing a story. To a certain extent, I do look back at my library of work and feel proud – feel blessed I’m doing this – but the books I put out into the world are but a physical representation of the stories I tell. I cannot always explain how a story I’ve written has made me feel (personally) because the feeling is like no other on earth and it’s obviously why I find storytelling so addictive. I know that each reader will bring their own set of life experiences with them when they’re reading a book, and I accept that’s why books engage (often) such different reactions from different readers. For instance, whenever I think back to writing my first novel, I think of changing nappies and my daughter’s big firsts. My first novel is wrapped up in everything that was going on in my own life at the time I was writing it – and the book on the shelf will never explain to readers about the night I was up late typing and the unfortunate effect of my footsteps squeaking on the stairs as I crept up, thus waking my daughter and setting up a chain of events that gave me a terrible, sleepless night. Real life goes on all around us and books are just… books. And yet… they have such potential to change people’s lives. I love, love, love what I do with every fibre of my being and anyone else who loves my books is an absolute and complete bonus.

I write, because, simply – I am a writer. I’m pretty happy with that label, even if I never achieve any other label.

The editing process brought Hetty up to a more rounded 90,000 words, one of the shortest novels I have ever written. After a bit of time away from the book (a bit of distance), I saw what needed embellishing. I didn’t want to over-write this tale, I only wanted to make sure that readers walked away from this book in no doubt of the person Hetty is and what she is capable of achieving. Getting her character right in this work was all that mattered to me. I didn’t water her down, edit out her quirks or her flaws, I kept them all in there. I wanted this woman to be real and from the sounds of it, that’s how my readers see her.

She’s real.

And that’s the most you can hope to achieve from writing – making tiny black letters on a page seem real. And the more real the story, the more satisfied you feel – and another job well done can be ticked off.

***PLEASE READ ON FOR AN EXCERPT OF HETTY AND HOW YOU CAN DOWNLOAD HER STORY***

I LEAVE THE car and him to get a good look at the place from a distance. He’s slept more or less the whole way here. I haven’t minded. Driving helps me switch off and vacate. This is just a stop in the road before reaching Robin Hood’s Bay but I always stop first, breathe in the air, taking in the place from a distance. One of the first places Liza and my foster parents brought me was here after they took me on. John and Carol have been really good to me, too good, considering I was once their daughter’s bully. But that’s Liza – always helping wounded birds, even ones that have tried to peck her in defence. John and Carol are in their sixties now and tried to conceive for years before finally having Liza in their early forties. She was an only child and had always wanted a sister. She persuaded them. And I was added to her broken-winged club.

The car door shuts and I watch him stretch, his midriff revealed as his shirt rides up. He’s got a solid rack of muscles under there – just gorgeous.

He swings his arms around me, clutching me tight, so tight I’m enveloped in his warmth against the cold of this high-topped cliff upon which we’re standing. I love the heather-topped moors around here, I love the views, the cleanness, the clarity – the mangled city jungle seeming far away.

He nuzzles my throat and kisses me, purring, seeking. A rush of love washes over me and I turn in his arms, throw my arms around his neck and kiss him. I find no resistance, his mouth opening, his tongue tangling with mine.

“I missed you,” he says, his eyes glistening against the strong wind.

“I was right next to you.”

“But I was in my dreams.”

“Do you like it?” I ask him, pointing to the sleepy fishing village below. There are not many visitors this time of year.

“What’s not to like?” he says.

I lead him back to the car and we head for The Grange, a place I usually stay, just a little way up from the village.

After parking up, we scope it out.

“Will they have any rooms?” he asks, and from the look of his face I can tell he’s never done this before. I expect any hotels he usually stays in have been booked by Warrick!

“Let’s hope so.”

We enter the reception and I spot Derek, the owner, who recognises me. “Henrietta, long time no see!”

Smiling, I return, “Been so busy, you know how it is. We’ve been gallivanting and wondered… maybe you might have a room for the night…?”

He holds his finger up. “Let me check.”

While Derek checks his computer, I grip Joe’s hand and smile. He smiles back, still a little sleepy.

“Ah, Marge had a cancellation last night. You’re in luck. The Grange Suite is available.”

“We’ll take it,” I snap, almost snapping his hand off too!

“Okay, it’s not ready…” He’s sucking his thumb, thinking as he peruses the screen. “But I’ve put you in, come back at four and it’s yours.”

“Do you need a deposit?”

He winks. “Not from a good customer.”

“Thank you, Derek. Thanks so much.”

He guffaws, a little shy. “No problem.”

I catch him giving Joe a little side glance but he doesn’t say anything, or question us. Leaving the property, Joe says, “He seems a little fond of you.”

“I stay here often, in the summer months.”

“What do you do when you’re here?”

We get back into my Citroen and I turn towards him. “I drive up to Whitby, fill my boots and then sleep it off here. A Sunday morning stroll on the beach is heaven, too.”

“I never would’ve pictured it,” he says, pulling me towards him, reaching across the handbrake to put his arms around me. “You seem so badass, and here you are, a lovely Yorkshire rose spending her weekends by a beach nobody’s even really heard of.”

I tug his hair gently in my hands, murmuring, “All the best people have heard of it, Joseph.”

It takes a few moments for me to realise my breaths are laboured and heavy. This is what he does to me.

“But it’s so quiet and quaint…” He looks bemused.

“In therapy I was taught to like my own company. I’ve got used to it.”

“Not too used to it, I hope?” He’s grinning devilishly.

“Scenery’s not too shabby from where I’m sitting,” I remark, trying to seize my own grin before it breaks my face, I feel so happy.

He cups my bottom lip with his and kisses me torturously slowly. The perpetual molten vat of lava in my lower stomach churns and I could curse that hotel for not having any rooms available right now. Joe moves his kisses to my cheeks and my neck.

“Save it for later…” I mumble.

“You smell divine, like honeysuckle or something.” He pulls back, searching my eyes, endlessly trying to figure me out.

“Come on, I’m hungry, you sexy beast.”

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US