Time to Write – Part Two

The thing about writing is you have to sit down and get it done. There are no shortcuts. Just you and the keyboard in harmony or despair – sometimes both in the same half an hour.

I have discovered the key to finding time to write is not to go looking for it in the first place. Your life will already be filled or else your natural instinct to want to relax will kick in. There is no free time to write. That is why you have to carve it out of your everyday routine. It is the only sustainable way to achieve your long term goals and call yourself a writer unless you have invented the ability to stretch time in which case call me.

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I happen to be a morning person. I love mornings! I am an early riser, the earlier the better. I love the solitude the new day brings when it is just me, my dog and a cup of tea as the world wakes up around me. I find writing early in the morning easy. Mentally, I get out of the way and just let the words flow. I do keep one eye on the clock because I have a forty-five minute window to make the magic happen. The reason I have a wonderful forty-five minute window? I get up early just to write.

It’s no good asking an evening person to do what I do. It would be like asking me to write good stuff at ten o’clock at night. It’s not going to happen.

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Once you know what suits your natural rhythms you will know the best time of day (or night) to write. Then you will need something to aim for – a set period of time or a word count target. I have both. I try for 1,000 words in my forty-five minute window.

If I have had a break from my morning routine I know that the first few mornings back in the saddle will take some adjusting to. I did this a couple of weeks ago – the first day I managed no more than 300 words, the second day it was 750. By the third day I had hit my stride. I didn’t beat myself up about not reaching the target on the first two days. I was simply pleased with the quality of what I wrote and the fact that I had SHOWED UP.

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Sometimes writing is all about demonstrating your commitment to the project and in yourself as a writer. Showing up for a writing session, day after day, is what gets a book written. We can all hit a rich seam of creativity for a few hours at a time but it is the sheer slog that pushes a writer over the finish line.

So my tips for getting the writing done are simple:-

  1. Find the time of day or night that suits the rhythms of your body best and carve out writing time from it.
  2. Set yourself a realistic limit on time and/or word count for your writing sessions.
  3. Show up, day after day, week after week.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short of your word count target, just be pleased you still showed up.
  5. If you break the routine of showing up, get back to it as soon as you can.
  6. When you reach a milestone in your work in progress choose a little treat for yourself.
  7. Keep showing up until the book is finished.

Before you know where you are, you will be ticking milestones off your list and your writing sessions will be incorporated into your days as if they have always been there.




What puppies can teach writers

As some of you will know I recently welcomed a puppy into my life. A puppy + writing = zero productivity (in my experience so far!) so why would I suggest writers can learn anything from puppies?

My puppy is intrepid. She is stubborn. She is strong and she is determined.

These are all qualities we writers need by the bucket load.

Willow is also a problem solver. I screened off various parts of my garden to prevent her from getting into areas where she might get into difficulty. These naturally became the only parts of the garden she was interested in playing in. It was fascinating to watch as she quickly worked out various ways to scale walls, belly flop through trellises and jump through wicker hurdles. Personally I think she has been watching too much of the Olympics on TV! She thinks she’s a gymnast not a dachshund.

It is her absolute determination to overcome the obstacles put in front of her that has been so captivating. She would try the direct approach and when that didn’t work she would come at the problem from a new angle until she figured it out.

Barriers by Devin Stein courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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As writers we face a lot of obstacles. Some are common to all writers. Some are specific to trad published or indie published. One thing is for sure we have to be expert problem solvers. Leaving aside the complexities of managing characters and plot, finding your genre, finding your home, takes time.

We have to be prepared to travel down a lot of roads. We start out full of expectation but quickly discover we have either wandered into an impenetrable forest or wound up at a dead end. Time to retrace our steps and start over.

Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Close your Eyes and Surrender to your Darkest Dreams by MartinaK15 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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It’s the writers who keep trying to solve the puzzle, who are determined to figure out a way round or through the obstacles, that succeed.

It’s only natural to be frustrated when something you thought would be a slam dunk turns out not to be. It’s all grist to a writer’s mill. Just keep going.

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So far as Willow is concerned all the barriers in the garden have now been removed. There was no point in keeping them. She was just too smart but above all her persistence paid off. I guess it’s why they call it dogged determination!

The Flower Seller Cover and Blurb
Have love and loyalty gone out of fashion? The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes available from Amazon now https://goo.gl/KFi7kw

The Patter of Tiny Paws

In January this year I had to say goodbye to my precious dachshund Sasha. We had spent 16½ happy years together. Sasha had led a long and full life but saying goodbye, as any pet owner will know, is never easy.

Sasha and I at Corfe Castle - Ellie Holmes Author
Sasha and I enjoying Corfe Castle

However large or small in stature the loss of a pet leaves a large hole in your heart. It can take a long time to adjust – you imagine you can still hear them and see them. You find yourself looking for them, may be even calling to them out of habit and then you remember and the tears flow once more.

I am a writer and one of Sasha’s favourite spots was in my study either on her rug or her chair – yes her chair, I rarely got a look in! She would settle down and snooze while I worked. Many is the time I happily wrote accompanied by the sound of contented snoring.

Sasha was a gorgeous dog. A bit of a diva and a tyrant who ruled me with an iron paw. There aren’t many dogs who given their night time treat go and hide it and then expect their human to find it nor many humans daft enough to take part. If I tried to spin the game out by deliberately looking in the wrong place, she would quickly grow exasperated with me and point with her nose to the correct hiding place. It was probably just as well that she couldn’t talk although she’d often give it a very good try.

It has taken me several months to begin to heal. I still miss her, of course. I always will, as I do all my Dachsies – I have been blessed to share my life with four of them over the years.

Slowly my thoughts began to turn to the future and whether or not I should get a new pet. The decision to get a pet should never be rushed. It is a huge commitment. Pets need a lot of care and attention and dogs, being pack animals, need the interaction of humans or other dogs around them. And the decision to take on a new pet gets harder as you get older because there is always the fear niggling at the back of your mind about what might happen to your furry friend should the worst ever happen to you. Charities like The Cinnamon Trust can take some of this worry away from you. If you are unfamiliar with the wonderful work the Trust does do check them out http://www.cinnamon.org.uk/cinnamon-trust/ and if you are able to volunteer for them, all the better.

For my own part, I wasn’t sure my battered heart could take any more heartache but with time I came to realise that whilst it is devastating when you lose your little companion, the joy they give you and you give them throughout their lives makes the pain worthwhile.

So I have decided to do it all again. Willow joined me last weekend to start our new journey together.

Willow at two weeks’ old – her eyes were just starting to open

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a puppy in the house so I expect to spend the rest of this year delighted and exhausted in equal measure.

Willow at 6 weeks
Willow at six weeks – is it me or is there mischief in those eyes?!

Hopefully, once playtime is over she will settle down and soon I’ll be writing away to the sound of contented snores once again and all will be right with my little corner of the world. Wish me luck!

The Flower Seller Cover and Blurb
Have love and loyalty gone out of fashion? The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes available from Amazon now https://goo.gl/KFi7kw



Can anyone be an author?

In the broadest sense yes. With a bit thought, application and practice we can all write something of merit be it a Facebook post of a tweet. But it takes a certain type of person to be an author of books.

Typewriter by Sarah Scicluna courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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Essential qualities all authors must have:-

  1. Realism – it’s a tough world out there for writers.
  2. Optimism – someone, someday will see my potential.
  3. Pain management – it hurts to write (if you’re doing it properly), it hurts not to write (if you are driven to write).
Pain by Lien C. Lau courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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4. Levelheadedness – they love me, they love me not. Rejection can be death by a thousand cuts. Can you withstand that and come back writing?

5. The ability to daydream – Where do you think all those crazy ideas come from – even the ones that never make it to the page.

6. Dogged determination – Never give up, never give up, never give up!

Determination by Emil Ovemar courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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7. Pragmatism – if something isn’t working, is there a way of doing it better or doing it differently?

8. Stamina – It’s a long haul to write a book, a longer haul to edit and market it. Have you got what it takes to become the literary equivalent of a marathon runner.

9. A thick skin – they said what about me? Shrug your shoulders and move on – it’s not you, it’s them!

10. The ability to multi task – there will always be at least three writing related things to do – six if you are an indie author. Make like an octopus!

Octopus by Karyn Christner courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Can anyone be an author? Yes but to be a successful one I think you need all of the above. What do you think?

The Flower Seller Cover and Blurb
Have love and loyalty gone out of fashion? The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes available from Amazon now https://goo.gl/KFi7kw


Bumps in the road

Bumpy ride
Bumpy Ride by Ruth Hartnup courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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When I first made the decision that I wanted to be a published author I knew it would involve a lot of hard work. What I didn’t appreciate was how many other people all harboured the same dream. Naïve at the way the business worked, I wrongly assumed that if you were good enough you would make it. The knowledge that there were only a limited number of slots available per genre, per publisher, per year had not yet filtered down to me.

Outnumbered by Quinn Mattingly courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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Over the years the realities of the business began to sink in. It was not only that there were limited slots available but some of those slots were taken up by existing authors being given space for their second, third and fourth books. The spaces left for debut novelists continued to be squeezed. With unproven track records, it was a hard sell to convince the money men to take a risk on an unknown particularly if lucrative money could be made enticing a celebrity on board instead. The saving grace for the publisher being that at least the celebrity would bring with them a readymade market (or so they hoped!).

The traditional publishing world is still like that. Serendipity can put a debut novelist in the right place at the right time but it can often be a long waiting game. With the advent of self-publishing as an affordable and completely doable process, the avenues now open to writers have increased.

Crossroad by Prayitno courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Self-publishing has been a game changer for the indie authors who have embraced these new opportunities and for the old world agents and publishers who are grappling to assimilate what it will mean for their business models and the world of books as a whole. The term hybrid author is now on everyone’s lips – someone who has a traditional deal but who is also an indie author for some of their work.

Self-publishing has given the power of making decisions back to the author and we are very fortunate to live in this brave, new world.

Once upon a time I thought my writing career would be pretty linear. I would write a book, get an agent, they would sell the book to a traditional publisher and I would be published.   After experiencing a few false dawns along the way, I eventually came to realise that those whose paths are linear are pretty lucky and few and far between. The rest of us will have a much more challenging road to follow to publication, full of twists and turns, the occasional dead end and some interesting rest stops along the way.

Twisting road
Twisting road by Kevin Gessner courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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My own route was more country road than motorway but that’s okay. I saw a lot more of the landscape of the publishing industry during the journey, I learned about the business of writing but I also became a better writer simply because I’d been doing it longer and (hopefully!) learning from my mistakes.

I think the journey has stood me in good stead for the new challenges that are to come. There may have been times when I lost heart for a while but looking back now, I am glad I took the scenic route.

Scenic route
Terras Crossing 2 by Robert Pittman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes is now on sale at Amazon http://goo.gl/UrHYRb

The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes

Are we there yet?

Today is the launch day for my debut novel The Flower Seller. The Flower Seller has had a long and tortuous road to publication and if it’s tangled journey has taught me anything it is that patience and stickability are talents every writer needs.

Waiting by Stephanous Riosetiawan courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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It is all too easy to write a rough draft, edit it and think job done. For the lucky few that’s all it takes. For the rest of us edits, polishes and rewrites are the name of the game.

Finally you reach the point where your manuscript is polished to within an inch of its life and it is time to let it fly into the world. If you are fortunate, as I was, an agent will offer you a contract and you might think it’s only a matter of time until I reach my goal of being published.

Agape by Marcelino Rapayla Junior courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Sometimes, however, despite the best endeavours of your agent and some very complimentary comments about your writing, no offer is forthcoming and you realise it’s not going to be that straightforward after all.

After ten years of plugging away, I decided to go the self-publishing route as I didn’t want to wait any longer for the phone to ring or the email to arrive. I wanted to take my destiny into my own hands. After all, if I didn’t believe in me how could I expect other people to?

I got to grips with Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest and platform building. I read countless articles on a hundred different aspects of the publishing industry. I hired experts to assist me where I needed help and the bits that I thought I could manage I figured out myself. Every time I mastered something new, I sat back and thought ‘Right, I’m nearly there now!’ How wrong could I be?! Maintaining a social media presence never stops. It is constantly evolving and you have to be there evolving with it, trying new things, being present.

Spinning Fire
Spinning Fire by Gavin St. Ours courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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As I mentioned at the start of this blog post today is publication day for The Flower Seller. It is the realisation of a major life goal. A long held dream achieved. Job done? I’d like to think so but I know better now. The truth is ‘the job’ is never done. The Flower Seller is published, that is all and when the champagne has all been drunk the real work begins: marketing the book, spreading the word and, of course, writing the next one.

Are we there yet
Are we there yet? By Gerald Brazell courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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I have come to learn the hard way that in publishing the job is never done, the journey is never over. A brand new journey is always beginning so we’d better try to enjoy the ride.

Enjoy the ride
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Today’s blog is the latest of my writing related blogs to celebrate the launch of The Flower Seller – available now at Amazon http://goo.gl/UrHYRb

The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes


The reality of being a writer

I was asked recently what I had dreamed of doing when I was a child. My answer was that I had always wanted to be a writer and so I guess you could say I am living the dream but as is so often the case the reality of something is usually quite different to how we imagined it would be.

Living the dream
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My younger self imagined life as a writer would involve:-

  1. Wafting around in a series of glamorous outfits.
  2. Occasionally sitting down to write when the muse took me.
  3. A view of the sea through my open study windows, the curtains softly billowing in the warm summer breeze.
  4. Meeting deadlines with effortless ease.
  5. Feeling relaxed, fulfilled and at peace doing what I love.
  6. Doing what I wanted, when I wanted.
  7. Making lots of money.

What a lovely way to live!

A room with a view by Ellie Holmes Author

My adult self can only look on in wonder at the innocence of the world through a child’s eyes. I particularly blame Dallas for my idea that writers wafted around in glamorous outfits! Donna Krebbs you have a lot to answer for!

And now to the reality:-

  1. Wearing battered jeans most of the time – especially when I don’t leave the house for days on end. I haven’t yet succumbed to writing in my PJs but give it another couple of years…..
  2. Making myself sit at my desk at least for some period of time every day whether the elusive muse is with me or not.
  3. A view of my car parked on the drive and next door’s front door. If I had my windows open a chilly easterly wind would be blowing most of the time.
  4. Stressing about the fact I am committing myself to publishing something by a certain date that I haven’t even started yet.
  5. Feeling tired, overwrought and lacking in confidence 80% of the time.
  6. With one eye on my deadlines, always playing ‘Can I afford the time…’ in my head for everything else.
  7. Watching every penny.
Will write for food
Will write for food by Ritesh Nayak courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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It’s not the fantasy world my childhood self envisaged but would I change it? I don’t think so. Writers want to live in their heads and so long as we can do that to a certain degree, we are fulfilled.

Smile by Jens Bergander courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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The material rewards may not be on offer to the vast majority but what would we do with all that money anyway? We’d probably just buy a better computer and a fancy chair. The beautiful view would be wasted on us and the glamorous outfits would get all creased and covered with crumbs of chocolate.

The reality of life for most writers is very different from what the majority of people imagine it to be. But in answer to the question – am I living the dream? Yes, I am.

I get to write. Every day if I want. What could be better than that?

Today’s blog is the latest in my Flower Seller collection of writing related blogs leading up to publication day of my debut novel The Flower Seller on Thursday 2nd June 2016 #FlowerSellerThursday