5 things to consider when re-writing old stories

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Yesterday, I spent a very happy day re-writing one of the children’s stories I originally wrote over 20 years ago. I had expected to type up the story (which I only had in hard copy) and as I typed, to make the necessary alterations to bring it up to date, and perhaps to go back and revisit an earlier paragraph or two as I changed something material. In the end, the further into the story I progressed, the less I looked at the original – or rather, I looked at it for the storyline, and then whole chunks I re-wrote from scratch. And the thing I found most incredible? How much I bloody enjoyed doing it!

I mention this because sometimes it can seem that writing becomes a bit of a chore. Much like a rather rubbish relationship which you continue to cling to more in desperation than hope, about 80% of the writing life is feeling guilty about not writing, or doubting one’s ability, or hating what you’ve written, or making yourself write when you don’t really feel like it. When you have the unusual combination of both the time and the desire to write, it truly is the best feeling. And that was how I felt yesterday. As I already had the storyline and characters worked out, all I had to do was write the story. And as I wrote, lots of additional ideas popped into my head. So the whole process was a joy. (I’ve not re-read it yet though, so of course, I could be unpleasantly mistaken about the quality of yesterday’s output!)

Anyway, having gone through this re-writing process, I thought I’d share with you some observations about the types of changes I needed to make:

1) Technology:  This was one of the things I was aware I’d need to amend before I started. Things have moved on in the last 20-odd years. It’s largely impossible to write a story (especially one with a 13 year old heroine) which doesn’t make some reference to mobile phones, or the internet. The whole way society works now owes an awful lot to the way we can share information quickly and easily via computers and phones. (One of the stories in the original version of the collection has a girl using a phone box. A phone box? What’s one of those?!) There are a whole host of plot devices that have been rendered useless by the ubiquitous mobile phone – and a whole host of (often unconvincing) methods writers have employed to get around the problem. Clearly, there are plenty of storylines where they are not relevant, but to ignore them completely risks your story seeming unconvincing.

2) Attitudes and legislation: Society’s attitudes to class, race, political correctness, health and safety, etc. continue to evolve almost without you noticing, so that it comes as a surprise when you re-read something from 20 or 30 years ago and find yourself thinking “Ooh, that wouldn’t happen nowadays.” In the horse world for instance, gone are the days when kids habitually hung about at stable yards and worked in exchange for rides (as I did when I was a kid) – the requirement for, and conditions of, public liability insurance has done for that! Horses need to have passports now – and whilst it’s far from a foolproof system, it’s more complicated to buy a pony from an auction and save it from the meat man (again, as I’ve done back in the day!). There have also been changes to the way equestrian competitions are run, and the safety measures put in place.

3) Speech: Partly this is linked to No 2 above in that what is acceptable to say changes over time. But language itself is constantly evolving, again, often without you noticing. More specifically, these are children’s stories. I’m acutely aware that as someone who is 40-something-mumble, I’m not going to be up to date with children’s speech patterns. And even if I wrote authentic speech for 2020, in a year or two it will already feel out of date. So I find myself writing fairly anodyne dialogue, which is a bit depressing for someone who generally loves this aspect of writing.

4) Decimalisation: OK, OK, you may laugh. Decimalisation was introduced in the UK before I was born, so how could it cause a problem in stories I wrote 20 years ago? Because I’m writing about the horse world, which was very slow to adopt decimal measurement. Despite the fact I’m the product of the decimal age, and would use metres and centimetres for other measurements, in all things equine-related, I’m feet and inches all the way. I know what a 2 foot 6 jump looks like. I know what a 14.2hh pony looks like. I can’t instinctively picture a pony measuring 148cms, or a show jump at 80cms. Decimalisation has definitely reached the top level of equestrian sport – show jump heights are listed in centimetres, except for things like the Puissance at Olympia (the equivalent of a horsy high jump!) where they have to tell you the imperial measurement too, else you can’t ooh and ahh at how close to the record they are! But the everyday rider has been slow to abandon imperial measurement. I worked at a riding school a few years back, and even then the kids were OK with feet and inches for jumps, and hands for measuring ponies, but I’m aware that this is likely to change over time.

5) Names: in fairness, the original names I’ve used in these stories don’t seem terribly inspired to me, but I’ll be careful to amend them to something more appropriate. Much like the speech patterns, the idea is to use something which rings true now but won’t seem too dated in another 20 years.

Of course, there’s one thing that hasn’t really changed: the love that pony-mad kids have for their ponies. I feel pretty confident that I’ll be able to write about that authentically forever. 😉

💕

Grammar Lessons from the Fridge Freezer

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I think we’re coming to the end of Week 6 of lockdown (though I could be wrong – time has begun to lose some of its meaning recently). I have no doubt that some strong minded individuals have used their extra time in a constructive manner. Me, well, this morning I found myself re-arranging the magnetic words on the fridge…

The magnetic poetry set was a present from a friend years ago, and now we have the tall type of fridge freezer once again (rather than the under-the-counter or built in variety) the words are at a much more convenient height! There are many things I love about the set (the fact that the word ‘apparatus’ is included for one), but as quite a few of the words have been used up over the last few months (not in poetry, it has to be said, but in random sentence construction – some of a dubious nature), it was getting difficult to find the word you wanted when trying to write something new. This has been a source of (admittedly, very mild) irritation for a while, so this morning I thought I would sort them out. In the process, I learned something.

My schooling occurred mainly during the 1980s when English teachers didn’t dwell on boring stuff like grammar – the idea was you wrote stories, read other people’s stories, and talked about stories, and you picked up sentence construction and so forth intuitively in the process. No complaints from me about this approach – when I hear snippets of what children are expected to study nowadays, it leaves me cold, and I’m ever grateful to my teachers for making English a creative and engaging subject for us. And it didn’t seem to do me any great harm in undergraduate or postgraduate study either.

Still, there I was this morning, trying to separate out the remaining words into verbs, nouns, and those little ending bits provided by the set: -y, -ly, -ed, -ful, -ous etc. Whilst accepting that there are some words which fall into more than one category, I didn’t have much trouble picking out the adjectives, I’d got most of the pronouns together, and most of the prepositions in a group (though Mr Google had to confirm that’s what they were!). To my amusement, all the words I had trouble classifying turned out to be adverbs. So there you go – in thirty years of writing, I’ve apparently always been a bit hazy about adverbs. Must have been away the day we skimmed over those in class! 😉

When is a meeting not a meeting? How Skype Saved the Writers’ Group!

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I’ve posted before about the importance of writers’ groups. They bring together people from a range of backgrounds and levels of experience who would otherwise probably have little in common, and they are great for motivation – particularly in lockdown when each day feels inevitably rather similar!

I’ve been a member of several groups over the years, but my current one is the most long-standing (we’re just coming up to eight years now). Other than usually having a break in August (to accommodate holidays), and another over Christmas, we meet regularly throughout the year – ‘regularly’ having come to mean once a month on a Wednesday.

The March meeting had fortunately taken place just prior to lockdown. Soon after, it became evident that the April meeting would not be able to continue in its usual form. We were not actually going to ‘meet’. We quickly discussed other options, and settled on Skype as an alternative medium.

Our usual format is for each member to circulate a piece of writing in advance via email, giving everyone time to read and prepare comments on the work ready for the meeting – so no change was required in this respect.

On the appointed night, it took a couple of goes to get everyone on the call together, but now we’ve managed to achieve this, I assume future meetings will be easier to set up. As at a normal meeting, there was a fair bit of non-writing-related chitchat at the beginning as everyone settled in, and we established everyone was healthy and (reasonably) sane in these strange times. This allowed us to get used to the slightly different rhythm of a Skype meeting as opposed to a physical one.

We are lucky in that, as a group of only five members, we fit perfectly onto the Skype screen – the other four members of the group being displayed in a quarter of the screen each. Apparently Skype can accommodate up to 50 people at a time, but I imagine that lends itself better to business meetings with one people disseminating info at a time and the others listening, rather than a discussion involving everyone. Skype lets you manage the way you view the images for the group – so for example you could just focus on the person speaking. But, for our group, the standard layout worked perfectly.

From our experience I would note the following pros and cons:

Pros:

  • You don’t need a venue! When the group was first set up and was much larger, we used to meet in a village hall. Over time, most of the original group stopped attending, and the few of us who remained kept it running by taking it in turns to host in our own homes. This works absolutely fine as we all live relatively close together – but if you want to run a meeting with people from a wider geographical location, Skype is definitely worth considering.
  • It’s free! We initially considered “Zoom” but discounted it because Zoom only allows 40 minutes’ worth of meeting time before you have to start paying a fee. (Back in the day when we used to meet at the village hall, there was, of course, a small hiring fee.)
  • We were able to schedule the meeting at a more convenient time because there were no travel arrangements to consider.
  • Between us, we were using a range of devices – phones, tablets and laptops. As I was using my phone for the Skype call, I was able to have my laptop on the desk in front of me during the call. This meant that when my piece came up for discussion, I could have the document on screen and make corrections and amendments as they were suggested by the group members – rather than having to make notes on paper and correct them electronically afterwards (when I inevitably miss something that was said).

Cons:

  • There were occasional breaks in signal and one moment where we appeared to lose half of the group (visually anyway), and on occasions there was a little bit of audio feedback which was distracting. But this was a minor inconvenience, and didn’t really cause too many problems.
  • Given the slight time lag, some social cues get lost, which occasionally ends up with two or more members of the group talking over one another – or conversely, a gap where no-one dares speak! We got better at this over the course of the meeting.
  • You lose some of the nuances of conversation – perhaps there are things that are not said, gestures and jokes that are not picked up on – the small asides, and one-to-one comments are lost. It’s just not the same as sitting around a table together.

I’d half expected the meeting to be much shorter than usual given it wouldn’t feel so natural and comfortable as a physical meeting and might be more tiring. In fact, in wasn’t wildly dissimilar, and we’d been enjoying the discussion so much, I’d not been aware of the time.

Overall, I think we kept more to the point (we often get side-tracked into non-writing related topics in our face-to-face meetings) and it was interesting that one normally quite quiet member of the group was much more vociferous on screen! Overall, I think we are all so socially starved at the moment that we appreciated the meeting that little bit more than we usually would. Even for writers, as the old BT ad used to say, “It’s good to talk!”

Pony Stories from the Past

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Amongst other things, lockdown has encouraged us to spring clean, soul search, and re-order our lives – and for me this has included all things writing-related. Whilst I’ve been disappointingly unproductive in terms of new fiction, I have been looking through some of my old files, and am quite startled about how much I’ve written over the last 30 years. I think of myself as a fairly slow, sporadic writer. There are plenty of authors who can create a book a year, every six months, some even (gasp!) every month! Me, well, as you can see, in terms of actual quantifiable output, there’s a handful of published stories, some competition successes, three short story collections, and a how-to book. I’m not exactly taking the world by storm.

But there’s lots more tucked away in computer files, or on curly-edged A4 left over from the MA or various writing group projects over the years. And after much searching I found a fat, battered old envelope from over 20 years ago: my first attempt at a short story collection.

The collection – rather self-consciously copyrighted 1998!

These are pony stories aimed at aimed at children aged around 9-12 (middlegrade in the US). They include a couple of stories published back in the day by PONY magazine, and six others which are longer and more developed. They’re pretty old-fashioned – no mobile phones or other modern tech obviously (and in some cases this would probably make the storyline incomprehensible or unbelievable to an average 10 year old in today’s world). A couple make me cringe a bit – some need a good edit, some need re-writing, some probably aren’t salvageable. But while I’m in lockdown, I figure I may as well have a look at them. In the 1980s, I was happily reading stories written in the 50s and 60s – times change, but horses and horse-mad kids remain fundamentally the same – so I’d like to see if there’s something worth saving.

Just for the record though, this does not mean I’ve given up on my current horse-stories-for-grown-ups project! That’s still in the pipeline: watch this space! 😉

Lockdown: Boosting Your Creativity?

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If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, it’s likely you’ve found examples of blossoming creativity. The people you know – even those who hitherto seemed not to possess the slightest inclination – are suddenly proudly showing examples of their home baking, DIY, crochet, drawing, painting, etc. etc.

It’s fantastic that one of the (perhaps unexpected) positives to come out of lockdown is our heightened desire to make stuff. Perhaps this is down to people finding they have a little more time on their hands. (There’s only a finite number of hours you can binge-watch Netflix after all.) Perhaps it’s because so many normal pastimes are suddenly out of bounds. Whatever, I am in awe of the creative things people have done, and the diverse ways they’ve managed to achieve something meaningful despite the current restrictions imposed upon us.

But what if you’re normally a creative person and you suddenly find yourself struggling? I’m definitely falling into this category. Yes, I have more time on my hands. Yes, this would be the perfect time to be writing lots! Am I writing lots? Erm….I’m getting loads of gardening done…. but writing? No.

Ok, so I dashed off a few silly rhymes (they are currently housed on the “Virus Verses” page of this blog). And I’m reading quite a bit (which is in itself a joy) but the short story writing is not going well. I’ve tried to just MAKE MYSELF WRITE – and yes, I managed 3,000 words recently. But they are such dull words, even I’m bored writing them – so I definitely couldn’t inflict them on a reader!

Previous experience tells me this won’t last. If you’re stuck, it’s a matter of generating some momentum somehow. Sometimes you need an external goal to aim for. If you write short stories, flash fiction or poetry, the Hysteria Writing Competition 2020 is now open. You have until 31st August to submit your entry – and this year (owing to the Coronavirus) entry is free – so you have nothing to lose! You can find out more about the different categories, prizes, and all the rules here.

If you’d like to find out a bit more about the founder of the competition, Linda Parkinson-Hardman, you can read my interview with her from a couple of years ago here. After taking a turn as one of the short story judges for Hysteria, I wrote Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success which is based on my experiences as both a judge, and as a competition entrant (failed and successful!). If you’re a novice at short story comps, and feel you could do with some guidance, the book is available this week for just 99p.

If you too are struggling with writing during lockdown, please share your experience in the comments below. Conversely, if you’ve been brilliantly productive and would like to share what you’re achieved, please feel free – so that I can be green with envy! And whichever camp you fall into, please stay safe in these troubling times.

Time Flies – except during Lockdown

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My husband quoted the immortal words of W H Davies (from his poem Leisure) to me yesterday:

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”

Because in this time of lockdown, we’ve suddenly discovered we do have time. We watch the birds on the feeders. We savour meals. We have conversations!

Part of this extra time does of course come from the fact that my husband is currently furloughed, and therefore not heading off to work each day. This means, in true hunter-gatherer style, he’s doing the food shopping. And as I’m working from home, there’s no commute for either of us, so more opportunity for a leisurely breakfast, and for eating lunch together. And I love this. Eating meals together is one of my favourite things about holiday time – so despite the fact this absolutely is not a holiday, there is a less pressured feel to proceedings. And because we can’t go out, we’re not making any plans. We’re just relaxing and being ourselves.

We are of course extremely lucky to live in a house with a garden (albeit a small one), in a rural part of the world, with access to decent places to walk straight from the house. We’re even more lucky to have our own land a couple of miles away where we keep our horses, and so we’re getting out every day as care of livestock is of course essential. Yesterday we moved the horses into fresh paddocks, and for a while I sat and watched my horse grazing. I never usually feel I have the time to do this (I say “feel” because I recognise that some of the perceived time pressure in my life is self-inflicted). I might not get much riding in this summer, but I suspect I might learn more about my horse by just being around him. And by being slow around him.

I find I’m reading more, and listening to audio books. And this weekend, we did lots of work in the garden – so refreshing to do something manual, and to get away from the phone and the computer. Creativity is proving a capricious beast during lockdown. I’m making slow progress on the horse-stories, but I’m writing lots of silly poems (which I’ve reproduced on their own page in this blog – click on “Virus Verses”!).

It goes without saying we miss friends and family (and have discovered how precious is any communication), and we miss going somewhere other than the field/the village shop (the latter has been a godsend!). Of course, there is the constant underlying concern for the health and wellbeing of those we care about, and for the fate of the nation as a whole. But my husband and I hope that we’ll learn something from this summer and, when this is all over, not immediately leap back into the constant rush and tumble of trying to fit a kazillion things into each day. Instead we hope to find space and time to think and be, not just do. Every cloud, eh?

Horse-mad? I Need Your Help!

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My current writing project is a collection of equine-themed short stories for grown-ups. I know there are hundreds of (now middle aged!) people like me who were horse-mad and avid pony book fans when they were kids. Were you one of them? Did you live for your weekend riding lessons, and hang about at the yard as often as you could, helping out in return for the odd free ride? (Those were the joyful days when such a thing was possible – before legislation changed, and yards couldn’t risk unaccompanied minors being on their premises.) Were you lucky enough to have a pony of your own, or perhaps one on loan, or maybe you exercised a pony for someone else? Did you hack to the odd show? (No-one had a trailer then!) Did you enter a few jumping classes? (Jumping was all the rage when I was a kid – no-one did dressage – how times change.) Or did you have one of those super-quick ponies who was brilliant at gymkhana games? Maybe you just rode out for miles without an adult keeping watch over you – remember that?

Or did you do none of this – did you just read about other kids doing all these things in the hundreds of pony books you could get your hands on? Did you dream of horses all the time? Did you keep an imaginary pony in the back garden? When you were in the backseat of the car and you passed a horse and rider, did you gaze wistfully out of the window and wish that was you?

Well, if any of the above applies to you, I need your help!

I want to know about your horsy dreams as a grown-up. Do you still ride? Did you achieve the dream and have a horse of your own? Did you go one step further and end up working with horses or riding professionally? Do you still love it like you did when you were a kid? Is the magic still there? Do you still feel that absolute passion and longing to be with horses like you did when you were a kid?

Or did you end up never riding? Or only as a child and you gave up as an adult? Do you keep promising yourself that you’ll give riding another go someday, but you never seem to have the time? Do you still drive past horses and riders and gaze at them wistfully? Or have you “grown out of it” as I suspect my parents expected me to do?

Top left, my only horse as a kid! Then four of the lovely ponies I was able to ride when I was a teenager.

I’m part way through writing my collection of stories – but I’m worried I’m writing only for me. I’ve been horse-mad since I was about eight years old. I’ve been a wistful ponyless kid, I’ve loaned and borrowed ponies in the past. I had to wait until I was 28 before I got my first pony! I’ve done a bit of competing, but not much. I’ve even worked at a riding school for a couple of years. But I know there’s loads more horsy tales to be told. I’d love to know the kind of horsy stories you’d like to read – what resonates with you as a horse-mad adult?

If you’d like to tell me what being a horse-mad grown-up means to you, either pop something in the comments below or, if you prefer, drop me an email at jennyroman-author@outlook.com. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Combining Working and Writing from Home

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I’ve spent the morning rejigging my desk at home to accommodate the Work Laptop, which will for the foreseeable future have to sit alongside the Writing Laptop. Though I won’t be entirely working from home from now on, I’ll obviously be doing so when I can – and squeezing in an extra laptop has meant I’ve had to concede defeat, unplug the printer and put it on the floor out of the way. I’m guessing that from now on, life will be increasingly “e” so needing to actually print things out is already becoming a thing of the past. The times, they are indeed a-changin’.

I’m luckier than most when it comes to home working, since I already have a desk and space to work in, I don’t have any children or other dependents to take care of, and am used to sitting up here on my tod and cracking on with a project. Perhaps when the project is not of my choosing it will be less fun, but we’ll see. I’m concerned about not having all my work paraphernalia around me – but I accept that’s probably just me clinging to my comfort zone. I’m more concerned about my continued and unmonitored access to the kitchen. I suspect I will not be able to control my snacking. Thank goodness there’s no food in the shops and thus nothing to put in the cupboards!

There will of course be some positives to working from home. We won’t need to “dress for the office” (though we now have the ability to conference call through Microsoft Teams, so I guess we’ll need to be in a state fit to be seen!). We’ll save travel time without the commute. We’ll definitely have fewer interruptions meaning we’ll (theoretically) be able to concentrate more effectively. We may even get the opportunity to do the kinds of tasks which always get put off (planning, archiving, updating of procedure documents, pausing to work out better ways of working in the future).

But we’ll miss the social contact (mitigated by MS Teams, the WhatsApp groups, and all the other social media stuff). And I suspect we’ll miss the change of scenery – the active demarcation of work and life in that balance we so often talk about. In this new regime, the lines will get a little blurry. Hopefully what will arise from this is better ways of working in the future – more creative responses to the challenges of the modern age.

My fear is that working from home could have a negative impact on my writing – in that if I’ve been sitting at the same desk all week working, will I want to sit at it a bit longer to write? Should I find somewhere else to write? Given I’ll be working on two different laptops, should I try to create two different personas – the work me and the writer me – should I dress differently for each?!

One great sadness is that our writers’ group will no longer be able to meet – we are at the moment looking at various virtual ways to share our work, comments and news so the group can continue to support one another. It’s possible that we’ll all have a little more time on our hands over the next few weeks, and therefore might be able to get a little more writing done than usual. But I don’t think we should be too hard on ourselves if this isn’t the case. These are difficult and distracting times – we can only do our best.

Keep safe everyone – and keep in touch.

Ode to Readers and Writers Self-Isolating

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I’ve got this little cough 
Which just won’t dissipate 
According to the Government 
I must self-isolate

I’m worried our home broadband
Isn’t up to ‘remote working’ 
My Sharepoint will keep buffering 
My boss will think I’m shirking
 
Will I miss the office banter?
Can we chat on MS Teams?
Do I have sufficient toilet roll?
Can I survive on toast and beans?
 
I should do my shop online
But do they deliver in the sticks?
Will I end up slumped before the telly -
Binge-watching on Netflix?
 
Will society degenerate
Without the nine-to-five?
Will we go crazy being stationary
Without a place to drive?
 
No! Humans have a secret weapon -
It’s the stories that we tell
So fill up both your e-reader
And your virtual inkwell!
 

‘And I’ve never looked back’ 5 Reasons Why You Should

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People describing their successful career journey or achievements often include the phrase “…and I’ve never looked back”. I appreciate that it’s an expression rather than literal truth, and I understand what it means, but somehow it sounds a wee bit smug or self-satisfied. As though they no-longer have to consider their humble beginnings, or anyone who might have given them a helping hand on their way to success and glory. Anyway, for those of us who don’t feel consistently swept away by the tide of success, this post will explore a few reasons why looking back can be a good thing.

1) The journey is never over. Well, unless you’ve decided to quit doing your thing. And just because you’ve done well so far, doesn’t mean you’ll continue to do well. Circumstances beyond your control may change, and you may need to be prepared to adapt. Look at the changing women’s magazine market – when I started subbing to the womags, there were a number of titles open to us newbies. Then some magazines announced they would only accept submissions from their previously published writers. Then came contract changes taking all-rights. Now there are hundreds of writers competing in a very narrow market. I’ll admit, this knocked me off track for a while, but I’m thankful that I had already started publishing my own short story collections by then, and this is where I see my writing taking me in the future.

2) You may be surprised by what you’ve achieved. Taking a moment to review all that you’ve done will (I almost guarantee) remind you of elements you’d forgotten. Remember the pride you felt at each new achievement? These are the building blocks which have brought you to the present day. But you might also discover something you didn’t know – for instance, I only relatively recently took the time to analyse my KDP sales and readership patterns. And yes, the majority of my readers are in the UK or USA, but there are also readers in Germany, France, Spain, India, Canada and Australia. Wow!

3) If you feel you’re stuck in a rut, or that your writing is only going downhill, a review of your progress will give you context and perspective. You will know whether something is a blip or a trend. It might also give you a boost to realise how far you’ve come. Charting your progress over time will help identify any patterns – particularly if what you’ve experienced personally doesn’t seem to follow the general trend. If you can identify what’s different about the way you are doing something, you are in a stronger position to decide on action for the future.

4) Reviewing your progress to date helps you to identify where to focus your energies in the future. Monitoring your earnings per book (or downloads of free books) shows you which titles are most successful – which may influence what you choose to write and publish in the future. I’ve just worked out that about 8% of my book royalty income comes from KU page reads because I’ve chosen to enrol my books in KDP Select. Monitoring this percentage could help me when deciding whether or not to stay enrolled.

5) It’s all too easy to compare yourself to other more successful people in your field – and that’s where self-doubt and impostor syndrome sneak in. And be assured, there will always be someone more successful than you (by whatever measure of success you are using). Yes, you need an awareness of your peers and their status, but it is far better to chart your progress from your own beginnings so you can see how far you’ve come. I’ll borrow an analogy from my other obsession – horse-riding. I used to compete in dressage competitions with my previous pony – a fairly ordinary cob mare of indistinct parentage. We’d turn up at some events and there would be lots of very glamorous people riding sleek warmblood types – like the ones you see on the telly – and then there would be me and my slightly fat, hairy mare. We would try not to be put off in the warm up ring while these fine examples of horsy athleticism thundered around, and my little mare would whinny at them and wonder why no-one wanted to talk to her. But when it came to it, in the dressage arena there was just me and my mare, and we would just get on and do the test. Even if we didn’t get placed, we always had the dressage score sheet with the judge’s comments to take home and work on. Sometimes we would get placed even when I knew we hadn’t performed that good a test (perhaps because some of those classy looking warmbloods were too highly strung to behave in the arena). Whatever, we could always compare our score with our previous scores – benchmark our achievements against our own progress not the competition.

When you review your own journey, just take a moment to feel a tiny bit smug and proud of all that you’ve achieved.

And then crack on with the next story! 😉