The Writing Sparrow Episode 25 | Your Team of Pros: Your Editor with Briana Morgan

This week, I welcome Briana Morgan back to my podcast. Last time, we talked about social media for writers, but today, we talk about how to find an editor for your book, why you should, and what to know before you hire someone to edit your novel.

To find out more about Briana, check out what services she offers on her  website find her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript


Sarina: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started. 


Sarina: Welcome back, friends and sparrows. Today is the 1st of March 2021. This is Episode 25, and today, Brianna Morgan is back. Last time she was here, we talked about social media for authors. Today, we’re talking about the only reason that I know her, which is that she is my editor and has been from my debut novel. We’ve worked together for, what, roughly five years now? 

Briana: Almost five years. 

Sarina: Yeah. Welcome back.

Briana: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Sarina: Always a pleasure. Most important [00:01:00] thing maybe first, because you’ve just told me that you don’t actually edit anymore. [chuckles] 

Briana: Yes, I’m not editing.

Sarina: This is great. How long have you been an editor?

Briana: Technically, I’ve been editing since college, because I had to take a bunch of workshop classes where we did peer reviews and things like that, but I’ve been getting paid to edit, well, also since college, I guess. That’s been about– 

Sarina: [crosstalk] -that’s now how many years that is? 

Briana: I know, I’m afraid to say [laughs] how many years.

Sarina: [laughs] You’re good. 

Briana: That’s 11 years. 

Sarina: You’ll always be younger than me. [unintelligible [00:01:41]

Briana: Nobody knows how old we are. It’s just floating out there now.

Sarina: Yeah. Shall we just pretend that we’re the twins that we’ve always known we are and just leave it at that?

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: All right. Roughly 11 years, which is impressive, because we’re only 10, so we’ve done very well. [chuckles] [00:02:00] When you were still editing, what did you enjoy about being an editor? 

Briana: I like almost every part of being an editor in terms of actually doing the work, getting into the manuscript, and helping an author polish it and make it into the best story it can be. The only thing I probably didn’t like was the inconsistency. I always wanted more books to read more often.

Sarina: Yeah. It can be difficult because it’s such a thing where I always feel authors should book us in advance a lot more. But in reality, it’s more like, “I’ve just finished my book and I need an editor now.” “What do you mean you’re booked already? That can’t be right. I need you now.” 

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Yeah, I feel that pain. When you said that you enjoyed helping authors make their books the best that they can be, what did that entail exactly? How would you take a [00:03:00] story and make it better?

Briana: First, I would read through the whole thing without making any notes or anything just to get a general overview and a reader experience, so to speak. Then I would go, and typically, I would do a developmental edit, where I look at the structure, the paragraphs, the pacing, things like that, general full picture stuff. After that, I would do a line edit, where I’m looking more at the sentences and sentence structure. Then, I do a copy edit, where I’m just cleaning things up and checking that the periods are where they should be and all of that. Then last but not least, I would do a final proofread.

Sarina: It’s a lot of work involved. [crosstalk] 

Briana: Yes. There are a lot of different stages.

Sarina: Yes. A lot of time as well, it’s such a big time commitment. I’m sure you have quite a few stories to tell. I know I have quite a few. [00:04:00] I can tell from your face that this is going to be great. Without naming anyone or any titles, of course, what’s the hardest job you’ve ever worked on? What made it difficult? Why was it only doing a proofread on my first book when you knew you did more work?


Briana: I couldn’t– I don’t want to upsell to someone who doesn’t want it. I’m not going to try to sell people on more services if they don’t want it. I just assume maybe they’ll come back later like you did and ask for more. [laughs] The hardest book, oh God, this is actually the reason why I now say, “I won’t.” I’ll edit romance, but not just erotica. 

Sarina: Oh great. Go on. 

Briana: Yes. I had this erotica client. He wanted to sell books to get rich, which I thought was very strange on the face of it because writers are not rich.

Sarina: We’re really not. [00:05:00] But I think it’s sort of the dream I think that many of us have, to begin with. Before we learn better, I think that’s one of the things that many of us have in our hearts. But normally, when you then start the writing, and you start really looking at publishing it, I think you’ve realized quite quickly that you may never get rich. 

Briana: True. 

Sarina: I’m very sorry if I’m crushing anyone’s dreams here, but there’s a chance you’ll never be rich. [chuckles] 

Briana: He made a lot of money in his day job and he was just looking for another get-rich-quick scheme, on top of what he already had. I’m trying to be very careful not to name or get close to naming anyone, so it might take a minute. He was writing a book about this woman in Las Vegas, who, I think, she was cheating on her husband or something like that, and there was this private detective following her around. [00:06:00] Then, she ended up sleeping with the private detective and–

Sarina: As you do.

Briana: It was a lot to handle. A lot of suspension of disbelief going on there. He wanted to fight me over everything. The book was too short at first, it was only 10,000 words, which I told him is not really a book. 

Sarina: 10,000. That’s not even a novella. 

Briana: 10,000 is usually when I decide that I am writing a book.

Sarina: Yeah, like you said, write the first 10,000 and see how it goes.

Briana: Yes. I was surprised that that was all, but he would just push back on everything. Really, the biggest problem I had with him was he would not respect my work-life balance, my boundary. 

Sarina: That’s really hard.

Briana: Mm-hmm. 

Sarina: Yeah, I think the hardest thing that I’ve ever had was a client who didn’t [00:07:00] necessarily care that I got sick, and that I had bad days and that I deserved a Christmas break. It’s a sort of similar thing on the respecting your time issue. 

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: This client would constantly say, “Oh, what do you mean you’re still not done? Is this going to take even longer because this is already longer than I thought it would be?” I remember specifically when I told this author that I had burned out pretty severely, and I also had obviously caught a cold at the same time, because why would it just be the one thing. They said to me, “Ah, so will you do this little work every week then?” I thought, “Oh, well–“

Briana: That’s awful.

Sarina: -we won’t be working together again.” 

Briana: Yeah, you don’t want to work with those people. In the beginning, it’s hard, especially you don’t know how appropriate it is to push back. You’re worried about getting paid, you don’t know [00:08:00] if that’s going to be your last job for a while or not.

Sarina: Yeah.

Briana: That’s hard. 

Sarina: I think, especially if you’re trying to do it to make money and to maybe fund your writing, it’s really hard because you possibly end up taking jobs that you– I mean, you kind of do have the time for because it’s your job, and you want to make it work, but having that extra pressure on there doesn’t help and editing is such a time-consuming, really quite stressful thing because I don’t know about you, but when I edit, I really overthink every bloody word. 

Briana: Yeah. I do too. 

Sarina: Yeah. I think I tend to edit one sentence, and then just to make sure that I’ve done a good job. I read over it again, and then I can end up obsessing over it very quickly. On the other hand, that if I edit it for you, you’re going to [unintelligible [00:08:52]

Briana: You spend a lot of time on it. 

Sarina: We do, don’t we? 

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Yeah. I think the lesson there is [00:09:00] that if you are thinking about hiring your first editor, please bear in mind that we have a life outside of your book. I think I saw a thing once on Twitter many years ago where an editor had gone to the beach at the weekend in the summer and their author contacted them saying, “How dare you take a break? You’re still working on my book.” Everyone was like, “But it’s the weekend, it’s the summer. She’s at the beach. Why wouldn’t she go?”

Briana: Yeah. She doesn’t need to be there all the time slaving over your probably bad literary fiction piece.

Sarina: We do other things. 

Briana: Sometimes.

Sarina: Sometimes. Well, yeah, actually are we though because, again, I don’t know about you, but I end up editing everything, including myself. Right now, as we’re talking, I keep thinking, “Really? You’re using that word again? Seriously?”

Briana: You have to turn it off. It’s hard.

Sarina: Yeah, it gets really hard when you start doing your own [00:10:00] transcripts. This right there, big red dot, what am I doing? Can’t I spell? What’s wrong with me? You really realize when you’re doing your transcripts just how often you repeat yourself. 

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: That’s a nightmare. I do have another question from ourselves, but we also have three questions from social media today. Actually, let’s do those ones first. I’m going to move that one down. I think it’ll fit better at the end. Our first question is from @djbwriter on Instagram. “Do either one of us have literary agents? The struggle is real?” That it is DJB, that it is. That’s not technically related to editing, but–

Briana: Kind of. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: I think it’s quite common for writers to wonder how much editing they should do before they query. Let’s run with that. I don’t have an agent, neither do you.

Briana: Right. I would just say [00:11:00] if you are considering, you don’t– for publishing, there is more than one path of publishing, you can go self-pub or you can go traditional pub, I’m sure that has been covered before on this podcast. So, I’m not going to go too much into that, but you don’t need an agent.

Sarina: You know what? I haven’t.

Briana: You haven’t? 

Sarina: I have not. 

Briana: Oh.

Sarina: I’m going to make a note. You keep talking, I’m going to make a note, because I’m not sure– [crosstalk] 

Briana: Okay. Basically, all I was going to say is that you don’t need an agent to publish. If you’re self-publishing, you don’t need to. Even if you’re publishing with a small independent press, you don’t need to. There are ways to get around that. But if you are interested in preparing work for a literary agent to review, and maybe represent you with, you can book an editor, you can get a full edit, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from doing that. But it is not necessary if you are traditionally publishing [00:12:00] because when you get traditionally published, your agent will work with you to edit it first, and then when your book is picked up by a publishing house, their editor will go through it. It will be torn apart by other people. Like I said, if you still want a professional edit ahead of querying, that’s fine. Go ahead and do it, but don’t ever let anyone tell you, you have to get one, because it’s not true.

Sarina: There used to be quite a lot of stigma around self-publishing. Maybe that’s part of DJB’s concern that– It really is a struggle to get an agent for many reasons.

Briana: It is.

Sarina: It used to be that a lot of readers still looked down on self-published authors, but I think that stigma is slowly dying. 

Briana: Oh, yeah.

Sarina: Slowly. It’s getting there. Don’t feel that you have to traditionally publish at all. [00:13:00] That wasn’t your question, but to answer it, neither one of us has an agent and I think we’re quite happy with that. 

Briana: No. 

Sarina: I can’t speak for Bri, but I’m a control freak. 

Briana: It doesn’t make sense for where I see my career going and where I want my career to go for me to have an agent. If in the future, I was presented with an opportunity where it made sense, I wouldn’t turn it down necessarily. Basically, if it made sense with my plan, I would go with it. But right now, it doesn’t make sense with the plan.

Sarina: Yeah. I always say that I am technically open to the idea of having an agent at some point, but I feel like it would need to be a very lenient agent-

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: -and a very cooperative publishing house because I would want to stay in control of a lot of the process, which I don’t think really comes with that package. 

Briana: No. That’s one of the best reasons to be indie is you [00:14:00] get a say in everything. I would imagine going from that to trad pub where you don’t get a say in very much would be pretty challenging.

Sarina: Yeah, I think it would be quite difficult. I hope that answers your question, DJB. The next question comes from gambit190 on Twitter. “When you’re writing, regardless if it’s the rough draft or later revisions, do you recommend just writing or editing as you go?” 

Briana: This is a tricky question just because I would say that it varies depending on you as a person. I personally advise my writing consultation clients and my friends who ask about this, I advise them not to edit as they go just because a lot of early writers can get caught up in perfectionism and the idea of trying to make a page so perfect that they can’t move on and finish their book. But if you have been editing as you go the whole time, [00:15:00] and you’re still finishing books and putting them out there, then by all means keep doing that. Again, it really just is a matter of what works best for you, but typically, I would say try not to edit as you go because you can get stuck on the same book for years and years and years.

Sarina: Yeah. I have certainly the [unintelligible [00:15:18], I think my advice is pretty much the same as yours. I am someone who prefers to just get the whole first draft out, get it done, and then I tend to let it rest for at least a month before I come back to it. I put it into my little proofing drawer, and then there it stays until I eventually can bear to look at it again. I find that works best for me because then when I come back to it, you’ll never look at your book with fresh eyes anyway, because you’ve written it and you know everything that happens in there and everything that could have happened. But I find that when you give it a break before you start editing, it really helps you look at it with as [00:16:00] fresh eyes as you can get. 

Briana: Yes.

Sarina: Which was terrible grammar, my inner editor tells me.

Briana: I’m not going to edit that. Don’t worry about it.

Sarina: Thank you very much. I am hard enough [unintelligible [00:16:13]. One more question, also from Twitter from Gracethewriter8, “When is the right time to start searching for an editor? First draft? When you’re further along?” 

Briana: This is also going to depend on your process. I know people who like to submit their first draft to an editor and I would strongly urge you not to do that because number one, I think you’re depriving yourself of a lot if you don’t learn how to self-edit, if you don’t do the work that it takes, at least part of the way to make your story into a real book. The other thing is that– I don’t know, some people can work off [00:17:00] just one draft and they barely make any changes and it’s good, it’s done. But if you know you need extensive drafts, like you’re going to need at least two or three rounds of editing changes, beta readers, all of that, I would urge you to start basically as soon as possible.

If you have been publishing for longer, you should have a better idea of timelines about, how long it takes you to write a book, so this step should be pretty easy, because you can probably estimate. If you are brand new, I would say maybe once the first draft is done and you’ve done a draft, maybe then you can look for an editor.

Sarina: Yeah. I don’t know if this will help at all but normally what I do, or what I do now, after already having published six books and my process used to be completely different as you know, back when I only got to proofread. Please don’t do that, by the way. It’s terrible idea. At the very least, you want a developmental edit, a line edit, [00:18:00] and proofread on your first book. Don’t forget beta readers and critique partners because I have beta readers, but I didn’t even know that critique partners were a separate thing at the time. 

Briana: Yes. [laughs] 

Sarina: I hope that you already know better than I do. What I do these days is that, as I said, I tend to let it rest for a bit. Then, I do my own first round of big edits, which is generally developmental things and line editing. Sometimes, it needs a second big round as well, depending on just how bad a shape the first draft was in. Then it goes to critique partners. Then, I go over it again. Then, I send it to Briana. At that point, I’ve already edited it a few times, because I think that by that point, A, I have gone over it myself. As you said, if you don’t do that, you’ll deprive yourself of that opportunity to learn how to self-edit, which is quite important. [00:19:00] I always think that if you do some self-editing, then you will ultimately get a tighter professional edit. It’s sort of not seeing the wood for the trees thing. You can either go in and there’s a million things wrong with it, and your editor will do their best to address all of it. But the more there is, the harder it’ll be to really get everything the same kind of time. Whereas if you’ve already done as much of it as you can, it’ll be a lot easier and it‘ll be a lot tidier at the end of it.

Briana: Exactly. I would also say– I would hope this goes without saying, but I have seen some things that make me believe it’s not, it doesn’t, don’t send an editor something you haven’t finished.

Sarina: That’s what happened to you?

Briana: Yes. 

Sarina: Oh. 


Briana: A few times. 

Sarina: I don’t know what to say to that. I didn’t know it happened.

Briana: Yeah, they send me part of the book and then they’re like, “Basically, I just want to know if I should keep writing.” [00:20:00] Then, I just don’t really know what to say to that or why they– [crosstalk] 

Sarina: No, hang on. I sent you my last draft, which at the moment– [crosstalk] 

Briana: That’s different. 

Sarina: That’s different, is it? [laughs] 

Briana: It’s different because that was a manuscript evaluation, and we have a different relationship, because I know your process and how your brain works, but if it’s an author who’s never published anything, and they’re like, “I just started writing, and I wrote three chapters yesterday. Here, look at them and edit them.”

Sarina: That’s too early. 

Briana: That’s not good. 

Sarina: That is way too early.

Briana: I would also say at that stage, you’re probably too fragile to maybe listen to constructive criticism. It’s one of the hardest parts. You need to find an editor who’s good at giving that, but you also need to be able to hear that maybe work isn’t as beautiful as you think it is, sometimes.

Sarina: Yeah, I’d say if you can get a sample edit of a potential editor, then that’s a good idea, because you’ll really get a feel for how they work because not every editor is the same. [00:21:00] We all work in slightly different ways. I know that Briana and I are quite similar in that because we both tend to also put in a lot of compliments. 

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: We also tend to put in some things that might make it a bit more fun and take the pain away. I always think that it’s quite important as well to make you aware of what you’re good at because you can– 

Briana: [crosstalk]

Sarina: Obviously, you should work on your weaknesses as a writer, but you think if you know what your strengths are, then that’s also something that you can further build on, which is also good.

Briana: An important thing to remember at the end of the day, most editors want to help you keep writing and write more books. They’re not out there to discourage you or stop you from writing. If an editor ever makes you feel so bad about your work, that you want to stop writing forever, you should not be working without an editor. It’s toxic. 

Sarina: But also, maybe consider of what the editor saying, maybe does have a point, you maybe [00:22:00] just weren’t quite ready, maybe.

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: I feel I need to be very careful there, but I do feel a lot of writers, especially with the first book, we can be very protective.

Briana: Yes, absolutely. I was.

Sarina: I was.

Briana: You were too. [laughs] 

Sarina: Also, the really weird thing was my first ever book and you haven’t even seen that one. I didn’t think we still had it until my partner one day told me that he still has it somewhere on his hard drive. It’s like, “What? I thought we burned the thing.” 

Briana: [laughs] 

Sarina: Apparently, we haven’t. I didn’t know that. When I wrote that book, it had so many mistakes in every shape. English isn’t my first language, so they were quite a few things in there where I hadn’t quite caught on yet to the various phrases and everything. 

Briana: English is hard. 

Sarina: Not as hard as German, I assure you. [laughs] 

Briana: Well, yes. I can’t speak German, so I don’t know.

Sarina: Well, to be fair, I’ve lost a lot of it, so I technically can’t speak it all that well [00:23:00] anymore either, to the great amusement to my mother. 


Sarina: He went over it for me, and he would find out things, like, “Oh, the grandmother, that’s not quite how the saying goes,” and I got very defensive about it. So, if that’s something that you’re still doing, then maybe leave it a bit longer before you ask an editor to come over it.

Briana: Yes. That’s why you mentioned critique partners, it’s a great time to bring in critique partners, you can help them improve their writing, and they can help you improve yours.

Sarina: Yeah, but also, again, I’d be aware maybe with who you ask. Your best friend you meet all the time maybe isn’t the best person to give helpful feedback on something that you’ve written because your best friend probably wants to make you happy, is probably just super proud that you have written the book. She may not necessarily tell you that the structure is often various points because she may not know.

Briana: Critique partners should [00:24:00] be other authors in some capacity. I like to grab a bunch of different authors from– I try to get some that are trad pubbed and some that are self-pubbed. I try to get people who have one or two books under their belt and people who have like 12, just so there’s a nice spread. I say that, but I didn’t use critique partners at all last year. So, I’m not sure if that’s even still my process anymore, but I think it’s a good process, so I’m going to put that out there. 

Sarina: Our processes change all the time anyway. They’re fluid things. 

Briana: When you change your process, if you decide down the road that you would like to try a different editor, that’s fine too. It’s like any other professional relationship. If it’s not working out, you can always just go your separate ways.

Sarina: Yeah, not all editors edit every genre either. If you’ve been writing romance, and you’ve been having the same editor for that, and then maybe one day you decide to [00:25:00] maybe write more heavy erotica, for example, then that’s something that not that many editors are willing to work with. Don’t assume that your current editor will be happy to do it just because you’ve already been working with them. Some editors are very picky about the genres they work with. That’s something to consider. Do your research. 

The ideal answer to that is that you can technically be too early to hire an editor. Self-edit yourself at least one, and maybe get some critique partners on there and then see if maybe you already know an editor, maybe you’ve been following someone on Twitter you’ve had in mind. If you’re not sure, if you’re too early, you can always ask them. I’m sure they won’t mind answering that question and helping you from there.

Briana: I’ve gotten asked that question several times, I’m fine with that. I’m usually just like, “Yeah, it’s too early,” or, “No, it’s not.” That’s it. It’s [00:26:00] not a big deal at all.

Sarina: There you go. We’re friendly people. 


Sarina: To come back to my question so I don’t forget it. What’s something you wish writers knew before they hired the editor? 

Briana: Oh. The biggest one is probably one I already mentioned. The editor is not out to get you. Especially with a lot of first-time novelists, there is, I feel, a lot of hostility, like they think that I am trying to break their work and tear it apart and upset them and bring them down. For me, personally, that is never what I want to do as an editor. These are some editors, I’m sure, who are harsher than I am and good for them if that works. For me, and the clients I work with, that kind of relationship would not work. I think just being aware of that they are trying to make your [00:27:00] book better. Not all editors, some editors are garbage, and they are just bad. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to find those.

Sarina: No. Again, if you can get a sample edit to get a first impression before you hire someone, then that’s a good route to go. Also, chances are they’ll have a website. They might have some testimonials on there. I think I would possibly be quite wary of an editor who says that they’ve been working for, say 10 years, but they have no testimonials to back that up. I think I’d be worried about something like that.

Briana: Yeah. I would also be worried if someone tells you, “I have all these references,” and you reach out to the references and they seem really reluctant, even if they’re not openly bad-mouthing the editor, because all of my clients when I’ve used them as references, all I hear back is people who are excited to work with me. [00:28:00] I don’t know, if someone was lukewarm, I think I would feel a little weird about it.

Sarina: Yeah, think I would possibly then wonder why they’re kind of choosing the words very carefully. 

Briana: Mm-hmm. Yeah. 

Sarina: Yeah. I think that would definitely make me quite worried. I feel like I had something else but I forgot what it is. 

Briana: Oh, no. 

Sarina: Oh, yeah. No. As you said, editors are not out to get you. To that, I would add that, remember that you hire your editor because they’re a professional who knows what they’re doing.

Briana: Yes. 

Sarina: You’re not hiring someone without any kind of credentials, without any testimonials, hopefully, anyway, you can trust that they know what they’re doing. Whereas, especially if it’s your first book, you can generally assume that they might know a little bit better than you do, just because they’ve been doing it for so much longer. A good editor will really lay structure and how to improve on that. 

Briana: Exactly. 

Sarina: Yeah, I think if you’re not [00:29:00] sure about anything at all that your editor suggests, I would be happier if my authors discussed it with me and we could then talk about it and I could explain why I’m doing this because I find that many of my authors want to learn. They are very open to that feedback. I can then see in the next book that they’re doing better, which is great, and I love seeing that. 

Briana: I love seeing that too.

Sarina: Yeah, so instead of fighting your editor and everything, remember that you’ve hired them to do a job, and that job isn’t to make you happy or even to like your book. That’s one thing I see quite often, is that, “Oh, I hope you like my book,” “You’re not really paying me to like your book.” If what you want to hear is just that there’s nothing wrong with it and you’ve done a great job then, that’s not really the point of it. 

Briana: Go show it to one of your parents for free.

Sarina: Yeah, I guarantee they will be impressed. Well, hopefully they will be anyway. It doesn’t always work, but hopefully [00:30:00] they’ll be. Finally, do you have any advice for writers about to hire their first editor or, maybe someone moving on from a bad experience?

Briana: Oh, I feel like I have so many. The biggest thing I would say is do your research. Like Sarina said, if it’s an editor says that they have so much experience, but then they can’t name any of their clients or anything like that. That’s a little suspicious. What you want to do is see if they’ve worked with clients, if they’ve had testimonials, if they do have the testimonials, maybe try reaching out to those people and getting an idea of their experience. Get a sample edit, for sure. Those should be free. I’ve seen a few that weren’t free, but I feel they should be free. 

Sarina: It’s quite weird, I think if they’re paid because it’s a sampler.

Briana: Yeah.

Sarina: When you’re in a supermarket, and they give you a new kind of cheese to try, “By the way, that’s five quid.” “What?” [00:31:00]

Briana: Which you’ve already eaten it. There’s no– 


Briana: Editing can be quite expensive. If no one’s told you that I’m sorry, it can be. You don’t necessarily want to go with the most expensive option, but you also don’t want to go with the cheapest. If you can find a range and find somebody in that range that you feel comfortable with, that’s what I would advise. You don’t have to spend $4,000 or £4000 pounds on an editor.

Sarina: That’s right. [crosstalk] 

Briana: I’ve seen that quote before. Yes, I’ve seen people with that quote before. Likewise, you also shouldn’t expect to get a full developmental edit and everything for $100. It’s not going to work out. [laughs] 

Sarina: No. The reason for that is that, as you said earlier, there’s a lot of time and skill and nerves and patience [00:32:00] that goes into doing even just one round of edits. Developmental edits take quite a lot of effort because we have to look at the structure and make sure that everything flows together well. We need to make sure that there are no potholes or paradoxes, and any of that fun stuff. With line edits, we literally obsess over every single sentence. I can use literally here because I know that I really do obsess over every sentence, sometimes more than once. If you get a quote from someone who says that they can do what’s basically several months’ work that they can do it in a week and they do for 50 quid, that’s not someone you want to work with. 

Briana: That’s a red flag. 

Sarina: Yeah, they will not do a thorough job. 

Briana: You tend to get what you pay for in publishing, and all the negative aspects.


Sarina: Yeah. Again, ask for a sample edit. If you’re looking at more than one editor, ask all of them for a sample, compare, see what [00:33:00] suits you the most because this could be a very long relationship for you. 

Briana: Absolutely.

Sarina: You need to make sure you’re compatible, like we are. 

Briana: Yes. 

Sarina: There you are. This is what you want. You want a Bri and Sarina relationship. [laughs] 

Briana: It’s perfect, basically. [laughs] 

Sarina: Pretty perfect.

Briana: I mean, Sarina and I are also friends, but if there’s something wrong with her book, I can tell her and she understands that I’m a professional, and I know what I’m doing and I’m not telling her because I want her to feel bad or anything like that. I’m telling her because I want the book to be good.

Sarina: Yeah. If you had told me to burn Dreamer [unintelligible [00:33:40], I would have burned it. I’d have been, “All right.”

Briana: I didn’t tell you that though, because I’m not mean.

Sarina: But you did mean it?


Briana: No. 

Sarina: You just wanted to be nice about it?

Briana: No, I don’t think you should burn it. 

Sarina: Good. Thanks. 

Briana: I think I think it’s promising. 

Sarina: That’s good to hear. [00:34:00] We were client and editor first, that’s how we got to know each other. If you pick your editor right, then you can possibly also get a new friend out of it, which is nice.

Briana: That’s true. I think I’m friends with almost all of my clients. 

Sarina: Yeah, I am. 

Briana: That’s weird, I’ve never really thought about that.

Sarina: No, I haven’t, but you end up working so close together, especially if you end up working with the same editor over several years, and they end up doing your developmental edits and manuscript critiques, and line edits, and all that good stuff, they do work together an awful lot, and you almost can’t help getting to know each other. [crosstalk] 

Briana: Absolutely. 

Sarina: I think we’ll end on that heartwarming note. Thank you very much for coming back and answering all of my questions about editing. Thank you so much.

Briana: Thank you.

Sarina: And have a good night. Bye-bye. 

Briana: Bye.



Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, at Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course, on my website at Until next time, bye.

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 24 | Your Team of Pros: An Overview

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking to my editor, my cover designer, and my cartographer about what they do and why they’re important to authors. Today, I give you a little overview so you know what to expect and to give you a first idea of why you need these pros on your team.

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Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started. 


Welcome back, friends and Sparrows! It’s the 22nd March, this is Episode 24, and before we start today I just want to very quickly say first that a few days ago I had an email informing that this little podcast is somehow ranking #32 in Canada, so erm, hello Canada! I’m so thrilled that I have so many listeners over there, this is very exciting. And… welcome!


NOW, today I want to tell you about the three most important pros you can hire for your book: your editor, your cover designer, and, if you’re writing something set in a world of your own creation, your cartographer – or as I call it, the Holy Trinity of Authoring. Over the following weeks, I’ll be talking to my own team, one pro per episode, so you can hear from them directly, but today I just wanted to give you an overview.


Pro #1: Your Editor

Say it with me, friends: I need an editor. Once more for the people in the back: I. Need. An. Editor! Why? Because it’s notoriously hard to edit your own words. Hell yeah you know your own book better than anyone else – that’s the problem. You’re biased. You know the story so well your brain fills in the gaps.

Now, I may be biased here because I’m an editor myself, but there’s an art to doing a thorough developmental edit, for example, if you ask me. There’s a lot of skill involved. It takes a lot of time, sometimes nerves, and patience to do a developmental edit followed by a line edit followed by a proofread, and whatever else you might need. This isn’t something you can wing. This isn’t something you can shove at the cheapest bidder and hope for the best.


I especially recommend a full edit of all of the above when it’s your first book or you’ve never worked with an editor before. There’s a lot you can learn from this work relationship!

I’ve once read that, your editor… It’s almost like, or it’s similar to a marriage relationship because you’ll be working so close together, and by the end of it, by the time you publish your book, you will both know your book probably exactly the same. So, it’s an important step, and it’s not one you should be skipping.


When I published my debut novel Rise of the Sparrows, I only got a proofread. If you didn’t cringe at that, bless your inexperienced heart. You will soon know why that was a terrible idea. Fast forward a few years, and I re-published Rise of the Sparrows because I was an idiot and only got a proofread in 2016. Fear not, it’s now got the full works, but at the time, Cale’s horse changed gender and I didn’t notice – and neither did my beta readers or my critique partners. Look, if your horse wants to change gender at any point, that is totally fine as long as it’s explained, but it turns out if your horse starts off as male, and then partway through the stories starts being referred to as a female, and maybe then at some point becomes a male again without any explanation whatsoever, that’s a little bit confusing for your readers. So if you think you’re the only editor your book needs because you’ve written it, think on Barnaby, the gender changing horse. Don’t think this can happen to you? Think again. Or learn the hard way. Either way.


Pro #2: Your Cover Designer

Don’t trust the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, because we all do. How do you think you choose which book you buy when you enter a bookstore? What’s the first thing you see? It’s not the blurb. It’s not the first line. It’s the cover. It’s what makes you go over there, pick up the book, and investigate further, but first the cover needs to drag you in.

Many new writers think they can easily do this themselves, but it’s not as simple as just quickly throwing something together. Your cover is your first impression on a potential reader, and if it doesn’t get their attention in a good way, they’ll keep looking.


Cover designers bear all kinds of things in mind when they’re designing your cover, from backgrounds to colours to the right fonts. Not every font works for every genre, for example—if you look on your shelf, the epic fantasy books likely look very different to the historical romances or the crime novels, and there’s a reason for that.

Cover designers know what works and why it works, and that’s why you want one on your team.

The free cover creator you can use on Amazon is not a substitute. It might be okay to use if you just quickly need a cover for, say, your NaNo project, but I don’t recommend it for any serious marketing or publishing. You want something personal for your cover that really sings of your author voice and the story and the genre and your target audience, and a program just can’t cough up anything that combines all of those into one stunning cover that’s unique to you. Besides, anyone can use it. You want something that’s personal to you and your book. You don’t want something that makes people shrug and move on when they see it—you want something that makes them want your book.


Pro #3: Your Cartographer

If you write a book set in our world, you may not need a cartographer. If your book is set in London or New York, for example, and your readers want to get a feel for the layout of the city or the whole country, it doesn’t take much to find a map on Google. But if you’ve created a whole world from scratch, your readers can’t do that.

Here’s why including a map is a good idea: a professional map will almost always make a great second impression (that’s second after your cover, of course!). Many readers like to refer to a map as they read to help them get their bearings, and if you’ve created your own world, then there’s no other way for them to do that. It’s also become pretty normal for epic fantasy novels to include a map, so if you don’t have one, chances are your readers will notice.


Again, designing a map for your world isn’t as simple or as quick as throwing something together. A lot of consideration needs to go into this, and some of that has to do with how the world works. Sounds dramatic, but it’s really very simple. Say, if you want to have rivers that flow uphill in your epic fantasy, that’s fine, but there needs to be a very good reason for it. However, if you want to have a river that flows uphill in Northern Hampshire, for example, then that’s not gonna happen, because that’s not something that happens in nature. A good cartographer will see your error in your sketch, let you know why it doesn’t work, and fix it for you.

A map of your world also looks pretty good on your wall, so it’s also pretty good art and a good conversation starter next time you have friends over.

And that’s it for today! Next week I will kick things off by welcoming Briana Morgan back onto my podcast to talk about what goes into editing your book and why you need it. Until then, friends! Bye bye! Have a good week!


If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, at Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time, bye.

This transcript was done by Sarina Langer.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 23 | Writing Routines: R.S. Williams

Once a month, I talk to another writer about their writing routine. We answer questions such as Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between? ,  Do you write every day? ,  Where does your inspiration come from?,  What’s your beverage of choice?, and many more! At the end of each episode, the writers recommend their favourite book on writing and share their advice for establishing the right writing routine for you.

This month, I talked to R.S. Williams, a fantasy adventure author from England.

Her book recommendations are The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester, Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran,  and Business for Authors by Joanna Penn. Don’t forget to check out the all-new library on my website for all book recommendations from these routine chats!

You can learn more about Rhianne and her books on her website or support her directly via Patreon . You can also find her on Twitter and on Instagram.

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Sarina: Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started. 


Sarina: Welcome back friends and sparrows. It’s the 15th of February 2021, and this is Episode 23. Today, I’m talking to urban fantasy adventure author, R.S. Williams, about her writing routine. We already touched a little bit on this many, many weeks ago, when Rhianne talked about fitting her walking progress around her everyday routine. Today, we’ll be more in-depth and more specifically talking about her writing routine. Welcome back, my love, how are you?

Rhianne: I am good. I am loving life. [00:01:00] [crosstalk] 

Sarina: [chuckles]

Rhianne: I actually quite enjoy the introverted nature of what’s going on in the current world. 

Sarina: Oh, yes. 

Rhianne: Because I don’t actually have to go anywhere.

Sarina: It’s nice, isn’t it? When you’re an introvert in a way, it’s so perfect because you don’t have to put up with other people as much.

Rhianne: Yes, exactly.

Sarina: What a dream! We should always do this. Not the pandemic itself, just the lockdown. 

Rhianne: Yes. 

Sarina: Without the pressure of killing someone when you leave the house. [laughs]

Rhianne: Yes.

Sarina: That got darker than I intended for the first two minutes of [laughs] the episode.

Rhianne: You know, let’s just– it’s fine. [laughs] 

Sarina: Let’s start with a similarly severe first question.

Rhianne: Ooh!

Sarina: Oh, yes, you better be ready for this. I hope you’re sitting down. [chuckles] 

Rhianne: Okay. 

Sarina: Are you a plotter, a pantser, or you somewhere in between?

Rhianne: Well, [00:02:00] it’s funny because I’ve literally just recorded an episode for this on my podcast.

Sarina: Oh, there you go. Great [crosstalk] all that.

Rhianne: Essentially, I’m closer to the plotting side of the spectrum, but I am in the middle because although I have a plot, my characters are allowed to do whatever they want.

Sarina: I think that’s probably the best way to do it because you have an idea of where you’re going, and you know where you need to go, so you can’t really get stuck because you always have this, “If I don’t know what I’m doing, I know where I need to go, so I’ll just move on with that.”

Rhianne: Yeah, exactly. What I really like about it is when I get so far with my characters, and I’m like, “What the hell are you doing all the way over there?” 

Sarina: Oh, that’s the best. 

Rhianne: I’m completely lost. I know how to get them back. That’s the bit I like. [laughs] 

Sarina: Yes. Also, when your characters do their own thing to that extent, you really know that you’ve thought them through well because they’ve literally taken on a life of their own. 

Rhianne: Yes. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: And they know where they’re going.

Rhianne: Yeah, well, at least I hope they do. [laughs] 

Sarina: More so than me, [00:03:00] I hope, but you just never know.

Rhianne: No, exactly.

Sarina: Sometimes they are wrong, but let’s be honest, most of the time they are right, and we’re wrong. 


Sarina: Okay. To do the actual writing routine thing, what does your writing writing? [chuckles] You know what? This is my second tea, and I thought before we started recording that this may be a terrible idea and look at me slurring my words. It’s tea-

Rhianne: [laughs] 

Sarina: -in my cup. It’s definitely tea on this day– [crosstalk] 

Rhianne: We’ll believe you, don’t worry. 

Sarina: -which is possible, but it’s tea. [laughs] It’s definitely just tea, please believe me. 

Rhianne: I do, don’t worry. 

Sarina: Thank you. What does your writing routine look like?

Rhianne: Just my writing routine looks like me getting up at 4:50 every morning and then writing before I go to my muggle job. 

Sarina: Oh, crikey, 4:50.

Rhianne: Yeah. Now, see, when I say that to people, [00:04:00] they often go, “Jesus, I wouldn’t get up that early.” Now, in all fairness, I do only have an hour, maybe an hour and a half to write because I usually start my writing at 6, so I give myself an hour to get up, have breakfast, sort the cats out, move around a bit.   

Sarina: That’s really very relaxed.

Rhianne: Yeah. Then at 6, I sit down, I write, and sometimes I write for an hour, or sometimes I’ll write for an hour and a half. It just depends what I’m doing in the morning and how quickly I need to be out of the house.

Sarina: That’s still very nice and relaxed. That’s probably the best way to do it because that way, you’re getting up early to get it done, but also you’re doing it in a way that doesn’t really put any pressure on yourself.

Rhianne: Yeah. Then I do my editing in the evenings and on the weekends, because I just think doing that in the morning would fry my brain.

Sarina: I think it would, especially before tea, or with too much tea as we’ve just seen. [chuckles] 

Rhianne: Yes. [chuckles] 

Sarina: It’s funny because we talked about– well, a little bit about your writing routine and then getting up early and all that [00:05:00] on the last episode that we did together. At the time, I was saying, “I could never get up that early, some days I just don’t write and that’s fine.” Actually, I think about a week after we did that, I changed my routine so much that it’s not really anything anymore like what we discussed at the time. You may say you inspired me. Thanks for that. It’s changed a lot again, because at the time I changed it, I was going into work, physically back in the day. Because of that, I ended up getting a lot earlier than I needed to if I were only go into work. Then, I made a point of writing for 15 minutes or half an hour before I left. What you’ve told me the last episode has inspired that a lot.

Rhianne: Yeah, I think if you put too much pressure on yourself, you just end up not writing anything. From last year, my worst day, [00:06:00] I was like, “I’m just going to write one word, and then that will spiral.” My worst day was 66 words, they’re still 66 new words I put down.

Sarina: Well, exactly. It’s all progress. The important thing is that you’ve written on that day. It may not be much, but it’s all going [unintelligible [00:06:14] and your work in progress is 66 words, which [unintelligible [00:06:18].

Rhianne: Yes.

Sarina: What I really like about it, I don’t know how you feel, but if I get it done first thing in the morning, especially before work, I then have that really nice accomplished feeling throughout the day, it doesn’t matter if I don’t write anymore, because I’ve already written.

Rhianne: Yeah, well, that’s one of the reasons why I moved my writing to the morning because I found that I was coming home from my muggle job. Then I was trying to work and I just wouldn’t get anything done because my brain was fried from the day job. I thought, “Well, let’s do it beforehand.” That [crosstalk] worked. 

Sarina: Yeah. Clearly, you’re more motivated in the morning to do it, and you’re more– Ah, I’ve just had the word. See, there is such [00:07:00] a thing as too much tea in short succession.


Sarina: Yeah. You’ve got to write when it works the best for you. I find when I write in the morning, I probably write a lot more than if I wait for it in the afternoon, and then you have more the feeling of, “I need to write now, or the day is going to be over and I won’t have done anything.” Getting it out of the way early is always always a bit of a motivation boost of productivity. That’s the word I wanted. You feel more productive that way, you know you’ve already achieved.

Rhianne: Yeah, exactly. Yes. 

Sarina: I think you’ve already just mentioned a little bit about that, but do you set yourself specific goals like a number of words you want to write every week or how much time you want to spend writing a day? Do you have an ideal goal?

Rhianne: Yes. I’ve always kept my goals small. My bog-standard goal is 500 words per session. The majority of the time I hit it, sometimes I’m just super epic, and [00:08:00] I write 1000 words, which is great. Then, as I said, sometimes I get two words done, but it’s all progress. At the moment, I’m really enjoying using a website called StoryOrigin. You put in your book, and then the goal words that you want, and you set a start date and a finish date, and then it tells you how many words to write at the moment. 

Sarina: Oh.

Rhianne: That’s really fun. StoryOrigin is currently free, but I know that they are bringing in paid plans soon. Sign up if you want to continue to have it free for a couple of extra months longer.

Sarina: Well, I can totally bear that in mind for myself. By the time this episode goes live in a month, it may already be too late. We will see. If it’s still there and if you’re interested listening to this now, can’t hurt to have a look just to see what’s available. 

Rhianne: It’s been free for about two years. 

Sarina: Okay.

Rhianne: Hopefully, it still will be. 

Sarina: It’ll probably last another two months or so.

Rhianne: Yeah.

Sarina: At least just [00:09:00] one more month. [chuckles] You’ve already answered that just now, I think, but my next question would have been do you write every day but you said that you try to write every day and then you edit it at the weekends?

Rhianne: Yes. My main writing days are Monday to Friday for books. Then, for any blog posts or podcast episodes or anything like that, anything that’s not related to a book, I do on the weekend or on an evening. Then, that’s when I do my editing as well. So, I tend to do a similar sort of thing with word counts as I do for editing. I’ll split it by chapters. Usually, that means I’ve only got to do four chapters a week, which is really easy to fit in in [crosstalk] own life. 

Sarina: When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like too much and it sounds easily achievable.

Rhianne: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it makes my life so much easier because I don’t feel I’ve put on a horrendous amount of pressure on myself. For example, I’m planning on editing [00:10:00] my book, Kingdom of Lies, by this first quarter, so by the end of March. When I worked out, I only had to do 11 chapters a month, which meant I literally have to do two a week.

Sarina: That’s fine. That’s doable. 

Rhianne: Yeah. 

Sarina: I know you’ll power through it too.

Rhianne: Yeah, I am. I did my first session the other day, and I already did three. So, we’re on to a win. 

Sarina: Very good. That feels good as well because you can almost already take off that goal, I think, when you achieve things early on, in the timeframe that you’ve set yourself. Even if it’s just a small thing really, you feel that instant boost off, “Yes, I’m getting things done.” 

Rhianne: Yeah. 

Sarina: Has your writing routine changed over the years? If so, what have you changed and why?

Rhianne: Well, it hasn’t changed in the last, how long have I been with Ian? Six years. It [00:11:00] hasn’t changed in the last six years. Before I got with my now-husband, I used to write in the evenings after work, and it was when I got with him that he was like, “Oh, all you do sit on your laptop all evening, and you never spent any time.” I was like, “Well, I get up early, and you stay in bed till like 9 o’clock, so I want to do my writing then.” It worked for me because I was a morning person. It was like, well, I was already up two hours before him, so I might as well do something productive in those two hours.

Sarina: Yeah. That sounds very– well, as you said, it’s very productive, because you’re working with the time that you have available very well. We’ve already talked about that a lot in our last episode, so we won’t go into it massively now. But if anyone is interested in how Rhianne is organizing her time, and how she knows when she has time free or time to spare, you want to check out the last episode that we did together because that’s what we talked about in detail there.

Rhianne: Yeah. 

Sarina: [00:12:00] Obviously, at the moment, we’re still in lockdown, and we have been for a little while. Many writers have either struggled with that and not written at all for a while, or they really took to it and they’ve written a lot more than they usually do. How has lockdown affected your routine?

Rhianne: A lot, to be fair. The only thing that lockdown has done really is given me more time to work on the weekends because I don’t go out and see people.

Sarina: [laughs] Thank God. [laughter] 

Rhianne: Yeah, normally I’d go out and see friends or my family or stuff like that. Yeah, at the moment, I can’t do any of that. So, I just spend my time either playing Pokémon on the Switch or doing something productive.

Sarina: That sounds nice. That’s such a good weekend.

Rhianne: Well, I bought myself the game for Christmas and within three weeks, I’ve completed it. [chuckles] 

Sarina: Which edition do you have?

Rhianne: I have Pokémon [00:13:00] Sword, no Pokémon Shield. Oh my God.

Sarina: I think I’ve got yours as well. 

Rhianne: Yeah, my friends have Pokémon Sword, so we swapped Pokémon that we can’t get, so it’s really–

Sarina: I was going to say we can’t exchange Pokémon that way– we can– that’s fine, you’re sorted. [laughs] 

Rhianne: You’ll have to send me your friend code though, so we can be friends on the Switch.

Sarina: Oh, yeah, I have to do that. For Animal Crossing as well, I’m sure you either got that already or you will get it at some point. 

Rhianne: No. 

Sarina: No? You’re not an Animal Crossing person?

Rhianne: I’m not an Animal Crossing person. 

Sarina: It’s so relaxing.

Rhianne: I tried it, but it’s not my jam.

Sarina: Did you know Barry told me the other evening while I was playing Skyrim, again–


Sarina: –that the three most relaxing games apparently– I don’t know what list that’s from, but, apparently the three most relaxing games to play are Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley I think, and Skyrim.

Rhianne: Skyrim isn’t [00:14:00] really a relaxing game though.

Sarina: It is, because if you don’t do any fighting, if you get lucky for a bit, it’s basically a walking simulator in a very detailed–[crosstalk] 

Rhianne: Beautiful. Yeah.

Sarina: You can just sit there and just watch the Northern Lights for a bit.

Rhianne: Yeah, unless you’re me, and then you just go running around killing things.

Sarina: Yeah, but then of course, if you have all the power, you don’t really need to worry about your character dying, so that’s the relaxing.


Sarina: It’s all good. What writing program do you use? Do you have a favorite? 

Rhianne: Um. [pause] Huh.

Sarina: Ahem. I didn’t think that would be– the hard question is still to come, I didn’t think this would be it. 

Rhianne: I don’t actually use anything exciting. I just write because– I’m an Apple person, so I use Pages to write my first drafts because I find it has less distractions. Then, I use Google Docs and Word [00:15:00] to send people to do edits. That is me in a nutshell. 

Sarina: That’s fine.

Rhianne: I don’t [crosstalk] exciting. [laughs] 

Sarina: Well, I don’t have Apple, so I don’t even know what Pages is. Is that like Word, basically–?

Rhianne: Yeah, it’s essentially Apple’s version of Microsoft Word, but it has– I mean, I don’t know how to use all the features, so I ignore them. In which case, I just have a blank piece of paper, beautiful [crosstalk].

Sarina: There’s only one. See, this is what I like with Scrivener’s full-screen mode, because you don’t see any of the other usually very distracting tabs. You’ve only got the blank screen and whatever words you happen to put on it, which sounds like it’s roughly the same thing. I think a lot of listeners or new writers who haven’t done this process an awful lot yet might not know how you can use Google Docs, for example, or Word to get feedback from critique partners and beta readers. What about that do you find the most helpful and how does it help you edit? [00:16:00]

Rhianne: I like the fact that if both people are in the same document, then you can have a little chat down the side, so that’s always fun. The way me and my critique partners use it is, I won’t look at the document until they’re finished because if I start making changes, it messes up all the comments and stuff. 

Sarina: God, that is so good, because I know I would go in just to read their comments, I would be too curious.

Rhianne: Well, the thing I like about it is I get emails with their comments, and I can reply directly to their comment from the email, it’s perfect. I’ve had loads of conversations while I’ve been at work, getting all these emails through and I just reply to them. [laughs] Then when I go into the document, when I’m editing, not only will it have their comment, but it’ll also have the conversation that we had. If say they’ve taken, I don’t know, six weeks to go through the whole manuscript, when you go back to that comment in Chapter 2, [00:17:00] you can see your conversation and go, “Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what I need to do.” 

Sarina: You get all the joy of going through the comments, but without feeling the need of doing any changes right away.

Rhianne: Yes.

Sarina: That sounds perfect. 

Rhianne: Yeah. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: If that’s not the perfect advert for using Google Docs, I don’t know what is.


Sarina: Right. What are three important things you need to have when you’re writing?

Rhianne: [pause] That is a good question. I need to have–

Sarina: I think that question came from Jess over in my Reader group.

Rhianne: I like to have a notebook to make notes on because I’m really bad at remembering what color hair my character has. When I write things where I’ve described what their hair is like or stuff like that, I have a notebook, I write all of those down, so that next time I do it, I don’t have to flick through like, loads of information, I can just go, “Oh, yeah, I wrote that down. That’s fine.” I also like to have– I’m really weird, I either prefer dead silence, or I have to have some kind of background on. Whether that be a TV show that I’ve already watched, and I know what’s happening, I can just hear it on in the background. Watching some YouTube person play a game, that’s always fun. Or, I just listen to instrumental music.

Sarina: That’s roughly what I do. I think I’ve just talked to Villemey a little bit about that, because she’s very good at having music going and getting inspired by the words and basing, maybe chapters and some scenes of what she’s hearing, but I can’t do that because when I try to write and there’s any kind of lyrics or [00:19:00] talking going on around me, I can only do one thing. I need silence or I need instrumental music.

Rhianne: Well, I have had instances where I’ve been listening to a song with lyrics driving on the way to work, and then all of a sudden, this scene has just unfolded in my head. I do understand where she’s coming from and I have had that happen to me. In my Project Kerradin playlist, I do have three or four songs with words, because they inspired a scene. Otherwise, it’s all just instrumental background noise so that I can do that while I’m writing. 

Sarina: All right. What do you do when writing gets difficult? Sooner or later, you’re going to sit down with your work in progress, you look at it, and you’re not quite sure how to go from there. What do you do? How do you fix it?

Rhianne: I act like a toddler and have a little tantrum.



Sarina: Don’t knock [00:20:00] it if it works. [laughs] 

Rhianne: That is usually my routine. I’ll usually have a little tantrum, and then I’ll just go away. Sometimes talking it through with other people helps. Most of the time, I will come to either yourself and be like, “Can you help me with the plot point?” Or, I’m part of a membership for authors. The coaching that offers one to one sessions every couple of months. Sometimes, I’ll just wait and then I’ll have a session with her and then we’ll full-on hash it out. And then, that’ll be good. To be fair, that is how I got the plot for book 3 of Project Kerradin. That’s how I worked out. She helped me with weaving in some things that are happening in the previous books to tie back in. I can’t say any more, because it’ll just give spoilers but, yeah.

Sarina: We don’t want that. 

Rhianne: It fired me up so much, and I was like, [00:21:00] “Oh, my God. Yes.”

Sarina: How does this work? Is this an online writing group, basically? 

Rhianne: Yeah, so it’s Pagan from Paperback Kingdom.

Sarina: Pagan from Paperback Kingdom?

Rhianne: Yeah. It’s Authorpreneur Kingdom membership. Basically, she has a coaching call every week. She’ll put up a post and you can respond whether you need mindset help, knowledge on how to do something, and stuff like that. Then, every couple of months, she’ll put in a post to say, “I have this many sessions available.” Then, you basically just do what we’re doing now. You hop on a video call, and hash it out.

Sarina: All right, that does sound very helpful. Okay. You’ve already mentioned a little bit of that just now when you said that sometimes you’re driving and you hear a song and suddenly, bam, there’s a whole new scene. Is that where most of your inspiration comes from? Or, [00:22:00] is there anything, for example, that when you stuck, you know you can go to that, and you’ll probably get inspiration from it? I phrased that terribly, but I think you know what I mean.

Rhianne: Well, my brother asked me this question the other day. He was like, “Where do your ideas come from?” I was like, “I don’t know.”

Sarina: I think it’s quite a popular question, isn’t it? 

Rhianne: Yeah.

Sarina: One of the first things that people ask you when you tell them that you’re a writer, or an author is, “Where do you get your inspiration from?” You’re like–

Rhianne: I’ve had inspiration from TV shows that I’ve watched, books that I’ve read, films that I’ve watched, conversations that I’ve seen other people have that had nothing to do with me. I had this really weird dream about Henry Cavill, which has started off an entire Assassin trilogy. They can come from anywhere.

Sarina: To go a tiny bit off-topic just briefly, because I need to know. We talked a little bit about that. I thought at the time that when you said Henry that this was a character [00:23:00] in GreedFall because you were talking about that. I’ve gone through the entire game looking out for this Henry. I thought, “There is no Henry in this. She told me there was this really hot guy in this called Henry and I can’t– Where is he? How am I missing him?”

Rhianne: Henry Cavill is an actor who plays Geralt. 

Sarina: Well, you only said Henry at the time. Then, eventually it occurred to me she must have meant him. Literally, I went through the entire game looking for Henry, and I thought, “I can’t find a Henry.” 

Rhianne: Well, I’m sorry to mislead you like that. I didn’t mean to.

Sarina: Googled it several times, and by the time the game was over, I still don’t know who Henry is.


Sarina: It was really driving me mad.

Rhianne: Oh, you should have sent me a message. 

Sarina: I was going to but I kept forgetting.

Rhianne: Well, [unintelligible [00:23:51] you on that point. [unintelligible [00:23:51], because I misled you and I do apologise. [laughs] 

Sarina: Well, I think you then mentioned his full name very shortly after you said, and I thought it [00:24:00] should probably have clicked that you meant him and not a character in the game. I even thought, “I know that she likes to watch let’s plays, I think, on YouTube. So, maybe she was watching a go play but in with the game in another language just narrated in English, and maybe some character’s name in France is Henry, but here, he’s something else. And maybe that’s where Henry came from.” 

Rhianne: I love how this has gone off on a tangent about Henry.


Sarina: Sorry, everyone. I’ll move it on. See this is why these episodes are longer than they should be. Sorry about that. 


Sarina: I’m glad I cleared that up. As you said, I kept forgetting to ask. While we’re here– [laughs] but that’s gets back to the– I think they’re on to the really important questions now. Do you snack while you write and what’s your beverage of choice? [00:25:00]

Rhianne: [pause] Do I snack while I write? Sometimes. Not really, because it’s usually first thing in the morning.

Sarina: Yeah, fair point.

Rhianne: I’ll eat my breakfast beforehand and then I’ll continue writing.

Sarina: Okay. When you do snack, do you like something dry like a crisp? That then ruins your keyboard with the flavor dust or–?

Rhianne: No, I tend to eat chocolate.

Sarina: Yeah, you can’t go wrong with chocolate. What’s your favorite chocolate?

Rhianne: Magic Stars.

Sarina: Hmm.

Rhianne: For people listening, I just pulled a bag out from behind my monitor and showed Sarina, [laughs] because I always have chocolate beside me. 

Sarina: My desk is littered with various snacks right now. It just depends, just so that I have something on here for when I’m in the mood for– like if I want Malteses, I hvea Malteses on here. If I want digesters, [00:26:00] I have digesters to my right. I’m surrounded by snacks, just in case. 

Rhianne: Fair enough.

Sarina: What’s your beverage of choice? Is it tea or you a coffee person?

Rhianne: I’m a water person.

Sarina: All right.

Rhianne: Yeah, I don’t drink tea or coffee.

Sarina: As we’ve seen in this episode, it’s makes me a little bit jittery at times. 

Rhianne: A little bit, yes.

Sarina: This is only my second cup, excuse you. [chuckles] I only have one cup of black tea a day. It’s unusual for me to have two, but I feel like when I do an interview like this, I need to have tea. I feel like it’s rude to not have tea for me. You can do whatever you want, but I feel it’s only natural that when you’re having a chat with friends that you have tea. So here I am, making mistakes. [laughs] 

You’ve already talked about this a little bit as well. I was going to ask if you listen to any [00:26:58] music while you write, and you’ve already talked about that. I think we can probably skip that unless you have anything to add.

Rhianne: Actually, yes, I will add something. Lindsey Stirling is great listening for when you’re writing really action-packed, dramatic scenes. She’s amazing.

Sarina: I second thought. Yeah, I started listening to her because I talked to you, I think I asked on Instagram for instrumental music recommendations and you said, “Try Lindsey Stirling.” 

Rhianne: Yes. 

Sarina: And it’s so beautiful. It does work really well. It’s very atmospheric music. It’s violin music, right?

Rhianne: Yeah.

Sarina: It’s been a while for me. It’s quite atmospheric. It’s really perfect for, well, pretty much any scene because every scene should have some form of ethnicity in it, so it’s perfect for that. And there are no lyrics, so you don’t get distracted.

Rhianne: Some of her songs do have lyrics, and when they’re featuring other people, [00:28:00] but if it’s just her, it will be instrumental.

Sarina: Yeah, those are the ones that I tend to flock to. To get to maybe the meanest and hardest question on my list. Sorry, in advance. What book has inspired and influenced you the most? What one book? I just want one.

Rhianne: [pause] Okay, my favorite book, Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

Sarina: Oh, that’s been on my list for so long. It always looks really interesting. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but it is on there.

Rhianne: Yeah, I read it in a day, it was so good.

Sarina: In a day?

Rhianne: Yeah. 

Sarina: God, I don’t get through anything in a day unless it’s a play, or a short story, or sometimes a novella.

Rhianne: To be fair, it was a couple of years ago when I was on holiday and it was raining, so I had nothing else to do but read. [00:29:00]

Sarina: That sounds like a wonderful day.

Rhianne: Yeah. 

Sarina: What do you think about this book that has inspired you so much?

Rhianne: Just the uniqueness of the idea. It’s literally– I’ve never read anything like it. I love the fact that they keep part of who Katsa is, the main character, a secret until the end.

Sarina: Hmm. It’s always nice to have this really big reveal at the end, especially if it wasn’t hinted at, or you didn’t see the hints because it’s your first time reading it. It’s such a punch.

Rhianne: Yeah. Some people in this world have something called a grace. That means they have different colored eyes and a special power. Now, all you know about Katsa in the beginning is that she has a grace and she’s got different colored eyes, but you don’t actually know what her grace is until the end of the book, and I love that.

Sarina: Ooh. Okay. See, I think I’m going to maybe put it up my list [00:30:00] a little bit-

Rhianne: Do it.

Sarina: -so that I can read it this year, because you’ve made me very curious. It really has been waiting for its turn for a very long time. I think it’s only fair if I bump it up a bit, and we could talk about it.

Rhianne: Yeah, I reread it probably once every couple years, because I just enjoy the book so much.

Sarina: That’s always a good sign. I would suggest doing a buddy read, but I’m really, really bad at buddy reads because I’m a slow reader. 

Rhianne: Me too. [crosstalk] 

Sarina: To start off December, I was starting a buddy read with Lisa and Bev of The Starless Sea, which is such a stunning book. I’m loving it so much. As I’m recording this, it’s the 14th of January. I think I’m just over halfway through. [chuckles] We were supposed to read the whole thing last month, so I’m very conscious that they’re probably holding back off gushing about it on our group, so they don’t spoil anything for me. I’m very sorry, Lisa [00:31:00] and Bev, for being such a slow reader. I am genuinely loving the book. It’s nothing with that, I’m just a slow reader. So, maybe we shouldn’t do that. But you’ve already read it, so you know what’s coming, and we can talk about it.

Rhianne: Yes, we can. 

Sarina: Very good. To stay on the topic of books for a second longer. Do you have a favorite book on the craft of writing, any recommendations?

Rhianne: I have loads of recommendations, I don’t have a favorite one.

Sarina: We can do a few. I’m not going to be as mean on this one. You can give me two or three titles if you want.

Rhianne: I do really enjoy The Fantasy Fiction Formula, which is fun. Then, I’ve got, Let’s Get Digital. I’m currently reading Business For Authors by Joanna Penn, which is quite interesting.

Sarina: Well, blimey, I haven’t even heard of the first two. What am I doing? You’ll have to send me the links, and we can– [00:32:00] What I’m going to do I think with every episode is that I’m going to have a link of the recommended book in the show notes and we can get a little library going that way.

Rhianne: No problem. I will just write this down as a note to remind myself to send it to you.

Sarina: Don’t worry. If you don’t remember it, I’ll remember it, at the latest when I go through the show notes. When I do the transcript, and I realize I still haven’t got any links in there. 

Rhianne: Fair enough. 

Sarina: Okay. Just to finish up, do you have any advice for establishing a writing routine? [unintelligible [00:32:35] for six years, so you’re clearly very good at that.

Rhianne: Yeah. You just need to find what works for you. I would say experiment until you find what works. Don’t be disheartened when it doesn’t, because you can always change it.

Sarina: Yeah, very true. That’s nice and short and succinct, and very to the point. Thank you so much. 

Rhianne: You’re very welcome. 

Sarina: We will wrap it up on that. Thank you so much for [00:33:00] stopping by and talking to me about your routine.

Rhianne: Thank you for having me. I’m happy to chat whenever.

Sarina: Always a pleasure. Thank you so much. Bye. 

Rhianne: Cheers.


Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learned something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, at Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time, bye.

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 22 | Being a Multi-Genre Author with Julia Blake

This week I had the great pleasure of talking to Julia Blake, an author who has written every one of her books in a different genre (besides series, of course!). We had a chat about how she approaches the different genres, how she handles the marketing, whether she’s ever considered a pen name, and much more.

To find out more about Julia, check out her website or follow her on Instagram.

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Sarina Langer: Hello, and welcome to The Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer and this podcast is all about writing, publishing, and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started.

Welcome back friends and sparrows and good morning, it’s the 8th of February. This is Episode 22, and today I have Julia Blake with me on Zoom to talk about writing across genres. Just for reference, and for clarity, that’s not writing one book with different genres overlapping because most books do some of that anyway, but writing every book in a different genre. Welcome, Julia.

Julia Blake: Oh, good morning. Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.

Sarina: It’s really great to have you. How are you?

Julia: I’m a bit cold. It’s a bit chilly this morning. I’m okay, I’ve had my tea so I’m fine.

Sarina: I’m having a tea right now. We actually had some snow yesterday so it’s cooled down right over here.

Julia: We had some, but it’s all gone. We don’t tend to get much snow down here. 

Sarina: We don’t tend to get any [chuckles].

Julia: It’s still really cold.

Sarina: Normally, the way these interviews go is that I’ll have roughly five questions prepared, and maybe one or two from social media. Today, Instagram’s hijacked our interview.

Julia: That’s my followers for you. They’re a bit of a feisty lot, I’m afraid.

Sarina: No problem.

Julia: I hope the questions were clean.

Sarina: Yes, no, they all were. I’ve got two questions for you from myself and then I gave up because we got quite a few in from your Instagram followers. I just quickly want to apologize, before we start, to everyone who sent us questions, because I need to keep at least a little eye on the time, but also still keep it on topic. I think we got quite a lot of questions from your followers, that I ask every author in my monthly writing routine interviews anyway. If you’re up for doing one of those?

Julia: Oh, absolutely. Yes. If you want me back after this one? Absolutely.

Sarina: Absolutely. I don’t see why not. We can split it that way, that we’re doing a lot of the questions that we got today and then a lot of the others we’re going to answer in the writing routines chat that we can do, I think the next one that I’ve got for you now is April. We can schedule one for that.

Julia: Absolutely. That’s brilliant.

Sarina: Then hopefully no one is going to feel left out. To start with, if you talk us through everything that you’ve published and written so far, and which genres you’ve covered?

Julia: The Book of Eve was my first ever published book, that’s contemporary fiction, but contemporary drama. Then I self-published Lifesong my novella, which is science fiction, but it’s not about spaceships or robots or anything like that, it’s more sci-fi fantasy. Then I published my epic Becoming Lili, which is contemporary.

Well, it’s classified as contemporary women’s literature, but I’ve had plenty of men read it as well. It’s set in the ’90s so it’s borderline contemporary, almost historical. That’s weird to think that the ’90s are considered historical, but there you go.

Sarina: It really is because I was born in the ’90s. I can’t think of myself–

Julia: Oh, shush, I was born in the ’60s [laughs]. Then I published Erinsmore, which is my Narnia-inspired fantasy. A lot of people have called it YA. To be honest, it never even occurred to me it was YA until people started calling it that, but I guess it is aimed for the younger audience, but anyone can read it. I have my Blackwood Family Saga, which are very short, pacey romantic-thriller suspense novels.

I have Chaining Daisy, which is the sequel to Becoming Lili and is equally as big. I have The Forest which is a weird little one to put in a genre because it is a fantasy but there’s no elves or pixies or anything like that in it. I tend to call it folklore fantasy because it draws very heavily on ancient British myths, like the Green Man and stuff like that. I’ve got that one. I have Black Ice, of course, my latest one, which is a fairy tale retelling of Snow White, and it’s in a steampunk genre as well, so lots of melding of genres there. I think that’s it. Yes. I think that’s it.

Sarina: Wow. There you go. I think for most authors when they decide to write a book, they tend to have one genre that they write in, and then they tend to stick to that. I’d forgotten just how much you’ve done until you’ve just talked me through that. You’ve really covered almost every genre in that.

Julia: I haven’t done horror yet.

Sarina: Not yet?

Julia: Not yet. I don’t tend to read horror because I am a bit of a fraidy-cat. It upsets me mightily. I’m fine while I’m reading it, but it’s later at night when I’m alone in the house, and there’s, what’s that noise? Then everything I’ve read comes back into my head. On the flip side, that might make me really good at writing horror, because I know what scares me. Maybe if I can pen that down on a page, it might freak the heck out of my [unintelligible 00:05:38] readers as well.

I haven’t done horror. I haven’t done Western. I haven’t done a true romance either.

Sarina: All right. There is still some places there where you–

Julia: There’s still a few. There are a few. Also, I haven’t done what I call true sci-fi, a true out in the planets, futuristic sci-fi, haven’t done that yet. We’ll see.

Sarina: Do you think you might do those genres in the future or you just not interested in those at all?

Julia: Definitely science fiction.

Sarina: Definitely science fiction.

Julia: Oh, yes. Definitely. I’ve got two books in my head that have been in my head for about five years now, which are true science fiction. Yes, that’s definitely in [crosstalk].

Sarina: You heard it here first, everyone. Julia Blake is going to write science fiction [laughs]. Do you find it easy to switch between genres? I don’t think you tend to work on too many works in progress at the same time anyway. Say, once you finished a book and you then move on to the next project, which is a completely different genre, do you find it easy to switch? This is also– [crosstalk]

Julia: Sorry, I’ll let you finish that.

Sarina: It’s also a question that seconded by @lilaslibrary on Instagram. To add to that, do you find it easy to switch between genres like I’ve asked, between fantasy, romance, steampunk, and all that, but also categories like young adult, new adults, and middle grade and what have you?

Julia: Yes, I do. To be honest, I don’t really think about what genre I’m writing in. When I get struck by a story idea, it’s just, “Oh, gosh, I want to write this story,” and I start writing it. It’s not until I’m halfway through or even finished it, that I think, “Oh, okay that’s a YA fantasy,” or, “Oh, that’s a romantic suspense.” Sometimes it’s not even until I publish it that people go, “Yes. This is YA,” and I see it, “Oh Okay. I guess that’s YA.” [laughs]

To me, a good story is a good story, the genre is just the packaging it comes in. I really don’t understand the hang-up that some people have with reading outside of their genre or writing outside of their genre.

Sarina: No, I [unintelligible 00:07:55]

Julia: It’s like a lot of people say, “Oh, I hate science fiction,” but they’ve seen Star War, or they hate fantasy, but they’ve seen Lord of the Rings. The story can hold people’s attention and drag them across genres.

Sarina: I think most stories tend to overlap with various genres anyway. Most stories tend to have some kind of mystery element in it. Most stories tend to have maybe a romance subplot. They’re all overlapping to a degree anyway.

Julia: No. We don’t all live our life in one grove. We have different moods, different things we do, different sides to our personality so why stick to just one genre?

Sarina: Exactly. One question that we didn’t get, which I’m a bit surprised about, that I just thought of right now. Let me ask you before I forget, did you ever consider to write maybe under a pen name for some of those genres? I know many authors, say, once they’ve established a reader base, maybe in fantasy and then maybe they want to write romance, for example. They think this is great, and I want to do it, but will my fantasy readers like it, so should I consider using a pen name for those new books? That’s never occurred to you, has it because you’ve published them all under the same name?

Julia: It never even occurred to me until I was about three or four books in and someone sent me a rather snippy message saying, “You really should use a pen name for all your different books.”

Sarina: Oh.

Julia: I know. That took me aback a bit, and I thought, “Well hang on a minute. I’m up to four different genres already, how many pen names am I supposed to have?” I’m now up to seven or eight genres. I would not know who I was. I would lose track of who I was. Can you imagine how many Instagram pages I would have to have?

Sarina: God, that’d just be so exhausting.

Julia: Just the thought of it, just leaves me tired. I’m sorry guys. I’m Julia Blake. Everything is under my name, it’s pick a mix. It’s also had a good knock on because I think a lot of my readers have been happy to explore the genres with me. Sometimes I get wonderful messages from readers saying, “I’d never read fantasy before but I read it because you wrote it, and you know what? I loved it. Now I’m going to try a book by this other fantasy author.”

Sarina: Oh, great.

Julia: That is so amazing. I’ve had it, especially with my last book, Black Ice, which was steampunk. The number of people who contact me going, “Steampunk, what is that exactly? I don’t think I like steampunk.” As if they were telling me what I could or could not write.

I went back and said, “You’ll love it. Think corsets, think airships, think cogs and clockwork,” and they went, “Oh, okay, we’ll give it a try.” Every single one of them who’s tried steampunk for the first time has come back to me said, “We absolutely loved it. Can you write more?”

Sarina: That’s the best kind of feedback, isn’t it? That you’ve introduced someone to the genre, and they ended up loving it, even though they thought that it wouldn’t be for them?

Julia: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s the story and I think every author has their own individual voice. If you stay true to that voice, it shouldn’t matter what genre you’re writing in.

Sarina: No, because, at the end of the day, you’re just telling someone a story.

Julia: Yes. We’re storytellers.

Sarina: I think with the pen name thing, it’s just become your thing, to write different genres anyway. It’s not like you’ve been, say you’ve written 10 fantasy books first. I keep coming back to fantasy because that’s my primary genre. Just as an example, think if you had maybe written say, 10 horror books first, and then thought, “I’m going to go in a completely different direction now and do a romance fantasy story,” then that might have been different, but because you’ve always done different genres anyway, it’s–

Julia: I can start.

Sarina: Yes. It’s just that’s your thing, isn’t it? It’s like your genre is to write in every genre.

Julia: Yes. My tagline is Julia Blake, an author for all seasons and I like to think that there is something for everyone in my books. If you don’t like fantasy, fine, try my romantic suspense. If you don’t like that, well, why don’t you try my sci-fi? If you don’t like that, why don’t you try my steampunk? There’s always something for everyone in my books.

Sarina: That’s a clever way to approach marketing. To come to our next question, this one from the constant_voiceover on Instagram. They are all from Instagram, by the way. Just so I don’t repeat myself, if I have a question from someone else, just assume it’s from Instagram, because they will ask. What’s your favorite genre to write?

Julia: I knew I was going to be asked that. I just knew it and I thought about it last night. When I’m writing a book, I tend to be very obsessed with the book that I’m writing. I’m not one of those authors who can write two or three books at once, or even be writing the next book while a previous book is in edit. I can’t do that. I am a bit like a new mother with a newborn baby. I’m completely in love with the story I’m writing to the point of obsession, to the point that my daughter thinks she’s an orphan.


Julia: I do tend to tunnel vision my books. Say, for example, while I’m writing Erinsmore, I’m thinking, “Oh, my goodness, this fantasy I’m writing is the best thing. I’m going to write, nothing but fantasy from now on because I’m loving it so much.” I launch the book, and it’s all very exciting. Then after a few weeks, I start to think, “Well, I guess that was all very nice but I have this great idea for a girl living in London. Why don’t I write that?”

Then I launch into that book and then that becomes my latest obsession but saying that I do have a fondness for fantasy, I must admit. I do love the liberation that you have with fantasy. The fact that if you want a talking dragon, well, heck, you just have a talking dragon. I love that there are no rules. That so long as it makes sense within the context of the world you have created, then that’s okay.

Then it must fit in with the laws that you have established in your world but after that, anything goes. Then writing Black Ice, which was steampunk, and a fairytale retelling, I really enjoyed writing that. It just flew out of me. Well, six weeks from beginning to end for a 150,000-word book is not by going even by my standards. I think it was because I just enjoyed it so much. I just enjoyed the story so much. I hope that answers the question.

Sarina: It does. You also tend to write primarily in standalone novels, I just realized. You don’t tend to have series as much. I mean, you do have a few but I feel like–

Julia: I do, I do.

Sarina: -it mostly.

Julia: I do have series. Well really the Perennials Trilogy, that’s a series. There’s two books in that so far. Third book, hopefully out this year. I have The Blackwood Family Saga that had three books in it so far, Book 4, hopefully out this year. Surprise announcement Erinsmore is going to be part of a series. It’s only Book 1. I know. I have the next two books in my head already.

Sarina: Well, I feel honored that you’re announcing it here.

Julia: Also, the latest one I wrote, Black Ice, I did plan for that to be a standalone, in fact it was originally going to be a short story but I mean, look how that turned out. That is going to be Book 1 in a five-book series, all fairy tale which is all based within the five kingdoms steampunk world that I created. Really, give me a couple of years and it will be mostly serieses I’m writing.


Sarina: I stand corrected. To get back to our questions from your followers, here’s a question from McKenna Dean Romans. How do you make it in such a way that your readers understand the different genres you’re writing in, especially, for example, closed-door versus steamy or paranormal versus contemporary?

Julia: Good question. I’m a bit rubbish at promoting. I tend to approach promoting the way you’re supposed to cook pasta. I just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. I make it very clear when I’m writing and promoting my books, what nature of book they are. To be honest, none of my books are very explicit. There are one or two scenes in Becoming Lili and Chaining Daisy and there are one or two scenes in Book of Eve but they are pushed as 18+.

They make no pretense of being for a younger audience than that. I mean, for example, when I was writing Black Ice, I really pushed it as a steampunk fantasy retelling. For weeks before it was published, I was posting character pictures and backgrounds and information and snippets, just to really get people accustomed to the fact, “Oh, okay, Julia’s new book is steampunk. All right. Okay, what’s this all about?” By the time the book comes out, people are comfortable with what genre it is.

They have read the snippets. They know what age it’s aimed at. Basically, I’m a fairly clean writer. Most of my books are clean. I mean, The Blackwood Family Saga are clean. They’re hot. There is sensuality in there but I closed the bedroom door very firmly because I did make a conscious decision to have a series that your gran could really. Mind you, I have had some grandmothers read my other books and come back to me about the sex scenes going, “That was very good.”


Sarina: That’s a sweet comment, isn’t it? Maybe there’s another genre for you to explore one day, really hot, steamy erotica.

Julia: Well, you may laugh but the first-ever book I ever wrote that is still unpublished. Well, let’s just say if I ever published it, it would kick poop out of 50 Shades and steal its lunch money. It really would, but I don’t know if I dare publish it.

Sarina: Would you then have a pen name for that?

Julia: What? No.

Sarina: No risk on that? No one would know it’s you.

Julia: Then it wouldn’t sell.


Sarina: Wouldn’t it though? No offense to anyone who might maybe take offense of it. I don’t know but I always feel like erotica sells a lot easier because maybe reader expectations are low, and maybe they are less likely to look for story in those and more likely to look for something hot and steamy.

Julia: Well, this was the thing with the first book I ever wrote. The first full-length novel I ever wrote and a few people have read it and they’ve all said the story is amazing. The story just gets you by the throat and doesn’t let go because it’s interesting.

Sarina: Literally by the throat.

Julia: Yes. It was written in complete and utter first person. Absolutely in the moment, first-person, and then they say, “But the sex scene. Oh, my word.” [laughs] I might. We’ll see.

Sarina: We’ll see. No, pressure. To get back to the questions from your followers, here’s one from Nets Shorts. My stories are all over the genre spectrum, but it’s because those are the stories my characters bring me. Is it the same for you or do you plan it?

Julia: I don’t plan anything. I think we all know that I don’t plan a thing. Yes. The way I work, so usually I imagine a scene, but sometimes it is the character who just strolls through my head as if they own the place. They sit down, cross throw the legs over the arm of the chair, and say, “Right, I have this story for you, and it’s going to be a good one, so get your fingers on the keyboard and get ready to write.” Like I said, it’s not until I’m halfway through the story that I suddenly think, “Okay, this is some fantasy?” or, “This is a contemporary, or this is a romantic suspense or whatever.”

The stories just come out of nowhere. I never plan. Now I’ve got more books behind me, I am thinking in my head, “I need to write the third book in The Perennials, I need to write the next book in The Blackwoods. I’d really like to sit down and write the next book in The Five Kingdoms. There is a degree of planning there that I know which books, I’m honor-bound to get out next but in terms of the actual story, no, I never know what’s going on.

Sarina: When you sit down to write a new work in progress, do you not have any idea of where it might go or how it might end? Nothing at all?

Julia: I know that really surprises you. I know, you can’t–

Sarina: I can’t wrap my head around it.


Sarina: When you sit down to write, how do you know what to write if you don’t know where it’s going to go? How does anything come out of your fingertips?

Julia: I usually have a title, believe it or not, the first thing I usually get is the title. Something will pop in my head, and I’ll think, “Oh, that’s a really good title. Okay, I need to write a book to go with that title.”

Sarina: Oh, I like that.

Julia: If that’s the title, [unintelligible 00:21:46] out there. I’ll sit down and then sometimes I will have a character as well. One or two characters will be there and they’ll really establish themselves so I’ll know that this character is going to be the main character. Then usually, believe it or not, I have an ending.

Sarina: Oh, really?

Julia: I know where I’m going to end up but I have no idea how to get there. Then the longest thing it takes me to write is the first line. That’s the thing for me, getting that first line. Sometimes, it can take me absolutely ages to think of the first line. Then when I’ve got it, bam, I write the next line, and then the next, then the next that’s just how it goes on and on. All of a sudden, bam, I’ve written 150,000 words, and it all pans together, somehow.

Sarina: Just like that? [chuckles]

Julia: Just like that.

Sarina: Surprise 150,000 words just out of nowhere.

Julia: Yes. Kind of.


Sarina: That’s amazing. Next, we have a few questions from, In our gumboots. I hope I got that right. On average, how many drafts do you write off each book? I’ve adjusted a few of these questions just to bring them back again to our topic. How many drafts do you write of each book and does it vary for each genre?

Julia: Again, that’s a really tough question to answer because I’m always fiddling with my manuscripts. I’m one of those writers where the first words down are pretty much as is going to be. I’m usually really happy with the first words that come down. I am one of those authors who does edit as I go. I know I’m not supposed to but it’s my routine, it works for me.

I’ll finish a writing session and I will just read through what I’ve written, basically, to find out what I’ve written, because it’s all a mystery. I had no idea until I read it through and go, “Oh, we’re doing that now. Are we? okay, fine.” I’ll read through and if I see any obvious typos or punctuation or errors, I will correct them there and then.

I’ve learned from bitter experience that if you don’t change that typo now, you will never see it again until it’s in print.


Sarina: [unintelligible 00:24:09] on that.

Julia: Oh no. I do tend to edit when I finish writing, say a chapter or a session or however many words I’ve written, I’ll go back and I’ll read it through just to make sure it flows and it hangs right in my head. If I see any typos, I’ll pick them up. Then the next time I sit down to do another writing session, I will just read back through the previous bit, just to get me warmed up back into the sprint as it were, and then I can just take off and do another one.

In terms of how many drafts do I do, where they are radically different, not many, but I’m always constantly fiddling and polishing and amending. I’m not one of those authors who takes massive chunks out either, not usually, if it’s there it tends to stay. I hope I’ve answered the question.

Sarina: I think so. The line between, which number of draft you’re on ends up blurring a bit then, doesn’t it?

Julia: It does.

Sarina: I sometimes have moments where I’m not sure, is this draft two, is it draft three, did I accidentally already go into draft four on some stage. It can muddy quite easily.

Julia: I have a unique way now, not unique, but a new way of saving myself, because I did get a little bit like that where I would have, Erinsmore one, Erinsmore final, Erinsmore final final. Erinsmore this is the final, Erinsmore oh please let this be the final. Now, if I’ve done a significant amount and I save it, I put the date. I save it under the date so I can always see which one is the latest. Then I don’t, like I have done in a mad frenzy, end up deleting the latest one. That was a hard lesson learned.

Sarina: Yes, that sounds like it. It’s not something you want. Next question from, In our gumboots, how do you know when a story is ready for beta readers, and my addendum, and do you get different beta readers for different genres?

Julia: Yes, I learned to my cost that it is a good idea to make sure your beta readers are comfortable with the genre that you have written in. They are comfortable with the age range of the book. For example, The Forest I gave it to a few people. I wasn’t going to publish The Forest, actually because when I first wrote it, 10 years ago, I gave it to my then sister in law and a friend to read. They’d both read The Book of Eve and they had both read Becoming Lili and they loved it.

They read The Forest, and I had it handed back to me and neither of them had progressed beyond the first chapter.

Sarina: Oh no. [unintelligible 00:26:53]

Julia: I know. The thing is, when I gave it to them, I thought The Forest was the finest piece of work I’d ever done. I absolutely loved it. I’d put my heart and soul into The Forest so when they handed it back with just one chapter, picked up and said, “Didn’t really grip me, couldn’t get into it.” I was devastated.

Sarina: Oh, I bet you were.

Julia: I was absolutely devastated so I just threw it in a drawer and it languished there and on various hard drives for 10 years. Every now and then I would think about it and with a little pang of regret and think, “Oh, well,” but then I was talking to my favorite cousin. She was going through all the books because she’s one of my best friends. She tends to buy all my books.

She said, “I have read all the books you’ve written,” I said, “Actually, you never read The Forest.” She pounced on me and said, “What book is The Forest, I want to read it,” I said, “It’s not very good.” She said, “I’ll be the judge of that.” I gave her this huge spiral-bound copy of The Forest and she went away. Two days later, she phoned me and said, “This book has got to be published, this is the best thing you have ever written. I have read for two days straight, and I could not put it down.” I was, “Okay. Right.”

I went through it, gave it a really good edit, tidied it up, updated it. By this point, I had published, The Book of Eve, Lifesong, Becoming Lili, Erinsmore, and Lost and Found. I think Fixtures and Fittings as well. I was more confident with the whole publishing process, I was more happy in my writing. I tidied it all up and I sent it out to three beta readers, but I might not have picked them too carefully, because some of them gave me very negative feedback. They were YA writers and romance writers and it was a little dark, and a little wordy for them.

Then for the first time, I decided to do ARC readers. I picked really carefully and I found ARC readers who were into that genre and sent out and the feedback that time was much, much better. Yes, I do try and fit the beta reader to the genre. Although I do have now a couple of amazing beta readers, they’re happy with any genre, just that they’re really happy with it. It is a case of finding the right fit because wrong feedback, especially if it’s on your first book can be absolutely devastating. It can even prevent you from publishing which is really a shame.

Sarina: It makes such a big difference, doesn’t it, just the kind of feedback that we get? I think even just giving feedback in itself is a skill, really. It’s something that you can get better at all the time.

Julia: Yes. I’m a terrible beta reader.

Sarina: How do you know when your story’s ready for beta readers?

Julia: When I can’t see anything else wrong with it. When I have looked at it so many times that my brains are leaking out of my ears and I absolutely loathe my book. I think when you reach the point of utter hatred every time you look at your book, that is the time to say, enough and just send it on its way. That’s the time and then step back.

Sarina: Eventually, you’ve just gone over the same story one too many times.

Julia: To some extent.

Sarina: It’s not really even that you hate the story as such, it’s just that you know where all the plot twists are, you know where all the misleading bits are. It doesn’t work in the same way anymore.

Julia: No, and you’re, “No one is going to like this. This is rubbish. This is nonsense.” Then, of course, you send it off to your Beta readers and then they come back with, “That’s amazing, we loved it,” and then faith is restored.

Sarina: It’s always the best thing when the first bit of beta feedback you get is something positive. It makes such a big difference. Next question, still from In Our Gumboots, which of your novels took the longest to create from the time you started writing it to the time it was released, if we take The Forest out of that because that’s just sat there basically for 10 years?

Julia: Well, actually, I’ve been writing all my life. When I was a child, I wrote plays for my dolls to perform. I’ve always written silly poetry. Every birthday card that went to a family member usually had a dark poem in it. I wrote school plays as well, which I put on, which was nice. I wrote short stories, but I never wrote anything serious because life, work, that sort of thing, children. It wasn’t until about 2005 when a friend asked me to go to a six-week writing course that my local college were holding.

I went along to that, and from the first session, it was as if a light bulb went off in my head. When I got home that night, I started to write my first novel. At that writing course, that’s also where I met Becky Wright.

Sarina: I was just going to ask because I knew that you two had met on a writing course.

Julia: Yes, that was where we met over 15 years ago now. Good grief, it’s really been that long. I just wrote incessantly. My daughter was still young enough to have incredibly long naps, and go down to bed really early. I was on my own. I just was consumed by these books. In a three year period, I wrote the explicit novel that I mentioned, I also wrote Becoming Lili, I wrote The Book of Eve, I wrote Erinsmore, I wrote The Forest, I wrote Lost and Found and I wrote Lifesong, as well as all the short stories and the poetry that is in Eclairs for Tea that was all written between 2005 and 2009/’10. Maybe even shorter than that, I think it’s only three years I wrote it over.

Between 2005 and 2007 I wrote all of those books. I did try, I then tried until 2016, I tried and tried and tried to get an agent or a publisher, but it’s a very closed shop, especially in Britain. I guess I just wasn’t what they were looking for.

Sarina: It can be very difficult.

Julia: It can be soul-crushing, it really can. I think the hardest thing that new authors have to accept, is that sometimes getting traditionally published, it’s not down to you. It’s not down to talent, it is literally down to luck and being in the right place at the right time and sometimes even knowing the right people. That’s what it all boils down to. That’s a really hard lesson to learn that, it’s not your book, your book is great. You are a good writer, you just didn’t get lucky.

I look upon it as the same way that not everyone who buys a lottery ticket wins the jackpot. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you as a person. It just means you weren’t lucky. Then eventually, The Book of Eve was picked up in 2016, I believe it was by small press. At the time, I thought, “Oh, wow, I’ve made it, this is it.” It doesn’t work that way.

Small press is a hard, hard decision to take because usually, they have no money to promote your books. They don’t even edit them, even though this company said that they would edit my book, they didn’t. They literally published my first draft, which was devastating for me. Then when I went back to them and said, “Look, it’s got so many things wrong. I thought you were going to edit.”

They said, “Oh, no, well, you didn’t–” Obviously, I didn’t pay to have it published, but apparently I had to pay to have the editing package and I hadn’t been aware of that.

Sarina: Oh, my God. Things that many writers don’t realize when they first look into getting traditionally published is that even if you do get a really good agent, and even if you do get maybe the best publishing house, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have any more work to do yourself anyway. You still need to do a lot of marketing yourself, that doesn’t stop just because you have a publishing house. For example, you may say there were certainly pros and cons to each side, but don’t think that you won’t need to do any marketing, for example, just because you have a publisher.

Julia: I know. I’ve heard so many stories, I actually personally know an author who was delighted to be picked up by a traditional publishing house, quite a big one, actually. She thought that that was it, she could then just go home and write and that would be wonderful. They did absolutely no promoting of her at all. She was just left adrift, not knowing how to promote herself.

Of course, her book sank without trace, and then when it came to picking up the contract, the second year, or even being interested in her second book, they weren’t interested because she hadn’t made them any money at the end of the day.

Sarina: It’s really–

Julia: That’s all publishing houses care about, making money.

Sarina: Yes, because, ultimately, it’s their business. They have to consider if they can make any money with you because they don’t want to go bust basically on a bad deal, essentially, so which sounds really cold, but it’s just the nature of being in a business with someone. It needs to be profitable for both of you. I think that’s something to maybe really research and really read into, if you are looking for agents or publishing houses, just what they are going to do. What their part of the deal is going to be. [crosstalk] Just be aware.

Julia: Yes, check how long, check if they’re going to take your copyright away from you and how long for.

Sarina: Yes, don’t make any assumptions.

Julia: I got caught badly with that one because I didn’t realize. Well, I knew they were taking my copyright away from me for The Book of Eve, but I didn’t really fully appreciate what that meant, and how long they were taking it away for. Then suddenly, I’m self-published, I want to bring this book back into the fold with my other books, and publish it with a new cover to fit my brand, but I couldn’t, because they held copyright. They held it for six long years, which was awful, but of course, I finally got it last year.

To answer the original question, I would say 10 to15 years is how long some of my books have taken between first conception and publishing. That’s the answer.

Sarina: There you are. Then we’ve got two or three more questions from Lilaslibrary. What made you decide to write books across genres and the age spectrum? I think I already know the answer to that because it sounds like you don’t really plan it like that, it just happens.

Julia: It just happens. It’s very organic, my writing. An idea strikes me and I just sit down and write, there are really no plans. At any given time, I have. I added it up the other day, I actually have 20 story ideas, the books floating around my head right now. It tends to be whichever story is shouting the loudest, is the one that gets written first.


Sarina: How do you keep track of them? Or do you have maybe your notebook where you’ve got them all written down?

Julia: Oh, you would love me to have a notebook, wouldn’t you?

Sarina: I really would.

Julia: You’re [unintelligible 00:38:07] notebooks out. Do you have a notebook?


Julia: No, I have no notebooks. [chuckles] They just float around in there and some of them have been in there for 15 years.

Sarina: What if you forget one, Julia, that will be my worry.

Julia: No. It will come back.

Sarina: Okay. [chuckles]

Julia: If I forget one there’s another 19 going on in there. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of stories.

Sarina: Fair enough. [chuckles] I think that probably answers the next question from Lilaslibrary as well, which is you’ve written a novella, a short story collection, and novels, but what’s your favorite and why? 

Julia: Novels. Absolutely novels. I wrote the short stories during a period in my life when I was a very busy single mother working and I liked them for their immediacy. Also, a lot of the short stories in Eclairs for Tea were original homework assignments from that writing course that I went on. We were–

Sarina: Oh, really?

Julia: Yes, a lot of them are my work, my homework assignments.

Sarina: [unintelligible 00:39:10]

Julia: I kept them all these years, which is great. Poetry, I went through a stage of writing poetry, because it’s a bit like a one night stand, poetry. I always think poetry is a one night stand. Short stories are a summer fling, holiday fling, and then novels are a marriage [chuckles] commitment.

Sarina: That’s a nice way of putting it.

Julia: I had a lot of poetry in my head and I wrote it down. Basically, when I write poetry, it has to be based on something that happened in my life, something real. I’m very much a kitchen sink poetress, that my poetry is not a daffodil or a glowing cloud in sight. I tend to write more about things like the school run and my grandmother and going to Weight Watchers.

Everyday things that people can relate to. I wrote the poetry during an intense year of my life when I was so busy. I was going through a divorce, I didn’t have the headspace to really write anything more complex or that needed a bigger commitment. Poetry was something I could write down while my daughter was there and stuff like that. I don’t think I’ll ever write any poetry. I think that was it. Also novels, definitely novels. The longer the better. What is it with me and long books?

Sarina: Oh, tt’s nice when you can really lose yourself in a book. Obviously, you can also go either way that if the writing doesn’t really mesh with you, you might then look at the page numbers and go, “Oh, God I still have 600 left to go.” Equally, I think the longest book that I’ve read at least recently was The Wise Man’s Fear, which is maybe four pages short of 1000 but I read the first book in that series before that which is In The Name of The Wind. Of course it is. That’s 664 pages long I think.

With both of them, that’s nearly 2000 pages but at no point in that did I think, this is too long. If anything, I actually thought that these are still too short and I wanted more of it. I read one right after the other. I think as long as the story is really compelling and you are really in there, you can really lose yourself. Then by all means, the longer the better. Give me more of the nice word building 

Julia: I think if it’s a page-turner then, the reader won’t care how many pages there are.

Sarina: No.

Julia: Becoming Lily is 490 odd pages, and I’ve had people read it in a day. Literally.

Sarina: Wow. God, I’m such a slow reader I can’t even comprehend that.

Julia: They bought it in the morning, they read it during the day. They posted their review next morning.

Sarina: I don’t understand how that works. I’m such a slow reader. That’s pretty incredible to me.

Julia: I was quite surprised by that one. I was like, “You read it?” “Yes, I’m now reading the next one.” “Oh, okay.”

Sarina: Amazing. Last question, still from Lilaslibrary, do you find short stories more difficult to write? I would second that question actually because I have been trying to write some short stories and did something that for me is a lot harder than writing a full novel.

Julia: I find it very hard to keep brief. Black Ice was originally going to be a short story. The anthology that I believe you were going to be a part of as well with the [crosstalk]–

Sarina: Oh, yes.

Julia: That was when I first had the idea for Black Ice. It was going to be a short story of about 3000 to 4000 words. Of course that all fell through, and it just sat on my hard drive. The opening chapter just sat on my hard drive for about three years, until suddenly, I just discovered it and ideas began to twist. In the end, I ended up completely discarding that first chapter because it no longer fitted in with the story. I just wrote and wrote and wrote.

I like writing short stories. I wrote one actually last year, which was included in the VE Day celebration book victory, 75 years last year, from VE Day. That was nice going back to writing a short story. I did enjoy it. I think the rules are different with short stories.

Sarina: It’s a big change of pace.

Julia: Yes, one of the exercises that our teaching needs to give us in this writing course was to write a story of only 100 words. We weren’t allowed to use any more words than 100 words. It had to have a beginning, a middle, a twist, and an end. That’s a lot to do in 100 words.

Sarina: Oh it is. That sounds really interesting, though. It sounds quite fun. I might give it a [inaudible 00:43:53].

Julia: It’s a good mental exercise for writers. It really is. It also helps you with things like writing the blurb?

Sarina: Oh, I bet it does. I used to hate writing the blurb but I actually quite enjoy it now because I feel like I’ve sussed out how to do it well. Of course, I could be completely wrong about that. It could still be terrible. It reminds me of an exercise that we did when- I can’t remember what year it would have been. It was at some point while I was in school, it was either primary school or maybe high school, I’m not sure. Where when we were given an assignment to write a story that we were given three words at random, a noun a verb, and maybe an adjective. Then we had to write our story, incorporating those three words. I like little challenges like that.

Julia: They are good mental exercises for writers. Have a go at it, but it’s harder than you think to stay within 100 words.

Sarina: Oh, no. I imagine it would be very hard.

Julia: Yes. Actually, I did three short flash fiction like that, three of them are in Eclairs for Tea. One got extended. Two of them are in their, 100 words and under. Then the third one, I actually entered it to the Reader’s Digest 100 word story. That was actually Eclairs for Tea. I entered that, and it won. I was published in the Reader’s Digest back in 2008, something like that.

When I decided to amalgamate all my short stories and my poetry plus Lifesong, into Eclairs for Tea, I expanded a bit on Eclairs for Tea, because I felt there was more I wanted to say, it was too brief. That’s still a short story. It’s still only about 400 words, Eclairs for Tea, but it says everything within those 400 words. I think learning that brevity, learning to paw down to the bone, to be able to get across your meaning in as few words as possible it’s a good exercise. It’s good training.

Sarina: Yes, it sounds like it is. One last thing, before we wrap it up. Do you have any advice for writers who want to try writing maybe in different genres, but maybe aren’t quite sure how to start or even if they should?

Julia: Do it, just do it. You don’t have to publish what you’ve written, you don’t have to even let anybody else read it. If you have always written just romance and you want to try your hand at fantasy, maybe ease your way in with a fantasy romance. A romance but in a fantasy world or something like that. There are ways to bleed the genres into each other. That is not such a huge leap for you. Maybe try it that way. Maybe write a short story in a different genre first.

See how you get on with that but don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do whatever you want to do because there is no limits. You can write whatever you want to write. If you’re a self-published author, you really can write whatever you want to write. Do it. Just do it, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Sarina: Thank you so much. That’s fantastic advice. That’s a very good positive note to end on as well. Thank you so much for stopping by.

Julia: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.

Sarina: Of course. Thank you so much for having a chat with me. I hope that we’ve answered most of the questions that you follow us at. We will pick up all the other ones like what’s your favorite food for writing? When we do the writing routines interview, which will then go live sometime later in April.

Julia: Okay, that would be wonderful. I look forward to it.

Sarina: Me too. Thank you so much again, and bye.

Julia: Bye.

Sarina: If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time, bye.

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 21 | How to Co-Write a Novel with Olivia Wildenstein and Katie Hayoz

This week I talked to Olivia Wildenstein and Katie Hayoz, both authors in their own right who have now written their newest novel, Of Wicked Blood, together. In this week’s episode we chatted about what’s involved and how to co-write a novel successfully.

To find out more about Oliviacheck out her websitefind her or Twitter, or follow her on InstagramTo find out more about Katiecheck out her websitefind her or Twitter, or follow her on Instagram.

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Sarina Langer: 0:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. Im Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Lets get started! Welcome back friends and sparrows to Episode 21. It’s the first of February 2021, and this is this podcast’s first double interview. I’m talking to Olivia Wildenstein and Katie Hayoz today about co writing their book Of Wicked Blood, which is out tomorrow, February the second. I hope this doesn’t jinx it, but happy early release day, ladies, and welcome to my podcast.Olivia Wildenstein: 0:50

Thank you. Excited to be here.Katie Hayoz: 0:53

Thank you.Sarina Langer: 0:53

I’m really excited to have you here because it’s the first time that I’ve done one of these with two guests. And I’m a little bit worried about how my transcription service is going to cope with having three female speakers at the same time.Olivia Wildenstein: 1:08

She can she can do Slate’s voice or a very deep voice.Sarina Langer: 1:14

Yeah, it might help, I don’t know. We’ll see. So you’ve both written and published books alone before, is that right?Olivia Wildenstein: 1:23

Yes.Sarina Langer: 1:24

Okay, so what made you decide then to write this one together? Did you decide first that you wanted to co write a book and then went from there? Or did one of you have the idea for this book and then pitched it to the other one?Olivia Wildenstein: 1:36

No, we decided that we wanted to write a book together.Katie Hayoz: 1:39

Yeah.Olivia Wildenstein: 1:40

We had no idea what about but we knew it was going to be paranormal. And then we started to brainstorming ideas. And all of them fell through and we ended up with Of Wicked Blood.Katie Hayoz: 1:54

We had, I mean, we would meet, we would meet for coffee and just be like, okay, let’s brainstorm what could we, you know, what can we write about? And we have, you know, I have notebook pages and pages full of like, Oh, we can do this. Or we can do that, we can do this, this, this, that? And I don’t, like, when I think about it, I have no idea how we ended up with a complete novel.Olivia Wildenstein: 2:17

We had the characters.Katie Hayoz: 2:24

But, no, we had–Olivia Wildenstein: 2:26

We had the characters. From the beginning, we always have the characters. We just had them doing something totally different in like our first idea.Katie Hayoz: 2:33

Yeah. Originally, we wanted it to be some sort of game.Olivia Wildenstein: 2:37

Game show treasure hunt.Katie Hayoz: 2:39

Yeah.Olivia Wildenstein: 2:39

So…Sarina Langer: 2:40

It’s changed quite a lot from there.Katie Hayoz: 2:43

Yes, it has.Sarina Langer: 2:46

Have you changed the characters at all or have they always kind of stayed through the whole process as you had them to begin with?Olivia Wildenstein: 2:53

So Cadence, Slate, and Rainier were there from the beginning.Katie Hayoz: 2:57

Yeah.Olivia Wildenstein: 2:58

Those three.Katie Hayoz: 2:58

And they didn’t change.Olivia Wildenstein: 3:00

And they really did not change. Like he was really supposed to be the street urchin. She was supposed to be the daddy’s girl goody two shoes, and he was supposed to be the questionable loving father.Katie Hayoz: 3:13

Yes.Sarina Langer: 3:14

And I know that’s exactly what we get in the book. And I think that dynamic between the three is so exciting and fun to read about as well, because they’re all very different. And there’s a lot of sarcasm in your book, which I enjoyed very much.Olivia Wildenstein: 3:28

We love our sarcasm. That is for sure.Sarina Langer: 3:31

Well, that’s really come through.Katie Hayoz: 3:36

We’re trying to make each other laugh too. I think when we’re, you know, writing our chapters, I’m thinking, Okay, I’ll do this, you know, I’ll write this line and see, see if Olivia reacts to this or something. And you know, sometimes she’d be like, aah, send me a text going, Oh my God, I’m dying. Or same thing when she writes something, and I send her a text and be like, aah, this is so hilarious.Sarina Langer: 4:00

I loved seeing some- Sorry.Olivia Wildenstein: 4:03

No, no, no, no. I was just saying it was comedy, comedy little show. It was, it was fun. It just made everything fun.Sarina Langer: 4:11

It was really fun to read about as well. I was, I think I was reading most of it while I was still physically going into work when that was still a thing. And uhm, and I was just reading it on my lunch breaks and it was honestly so funny. I was laughing so much. But um, so, how did you approach who wrote what? So I know that you have two different points of views in the book, so it takes turns you know, one chapter will be told from Slate’s perspective, and then the next one is Cadence. Did you split it that way so that one of you wrote one character and then the other one writes the other character or how did you divide that? And this question is also seconded by @gambit190 on Twitter.Katie Hayoz: 4:57

We did do it that way. We actually wrote, what we did was I took Slate and Olivia took Cadence. So I wrote Slate’s chapters and Olivia wrote Cadence’ss chapters. However, we didn’t just leave it like that. So for example, I would write Slate’s chapter and then I would send it to Olivia. And Olivia would go over it and edit it and do some rearranging or add things or take things away. Then she would finish that, then write her Cadence chapter, send it to me. And I’d go through it, although not quite as much cuz Olivia, Olivia is really, really good at the editing and I’m a little lazy when it comes to that. So um, yeah, so she’d sent it to me, I looked through Cadence’s chapter and we would do it that way. So we, you know, whereas yes, I wrote Slate’s chapter and chapters, and she wrote Cadence’s chapters. At the same time, we both had a lot to say about each other’s chapters and a lot of input. You know, some of the lines are hers, some of the lines are mine, it’s kind of hard to know.Olivia Wildenstein: 6:12

Even, even we don’t really know anymore who wrote what sometimes like, here’s some, which is great, ecause this is, I think, how we anaged to blend our styles ogether. So that’s almost eamless. I mean, I don’t know f you could tell as a reader hat it was written by two eople.Sarina Langer: 6:30

Not at all. I mean, I have, I’ve read maybe a small handful of books that have been written by two authors though yours is definitely the most recent one. But at the time when I read the other one, I didn’t think about it, because that was years ago. But um, to me, it just read like one really well put together book by one voice, you know, it didn’t feel like oh yeah, this is clearly where one author has stopped working and the other one has started. It was, it was all very smooth, as you said, I definitely couldn’t tell either.Olivia Wildenstein: 7:00

That’s great. That means we did our job pretty well.Sarina Langer: 7:03

You know, I’d say you definitely did. It must have taken a while to write it that way. I mean, if one of you wrote one chapter, then sent it on, and then the other one would go over it, and then add her chapter. How long did that take to write the whole book that way?Katie Hayoz: 7:19

Nine months.Olivia Wildenstein: 7:21

Nine months, but in our defence, because I mean, we could have done it faster, but because of this pandemic, it’s, I, it was at the beginning of the pendamic. Well, no, we started in December of last year.Katie Hayoz: 7:33

Yeah.Olivia Wildenstein: 7:35

So last year, 2019. So two years ago.Katie Hayoz: 7:39

Wow.Olivia Wildenstein: 7:40

Yeah. And we really got it going, but the problem is, you got February, when everything kind of shut down hit, you didn’t know where you were, in, I mean, just even in your life. And so it, you know, it just took us longer to get chapters to each other. Also, at the same time, we’re both always writing another book of ours of our own. So you have, you know, the, this organisation, that’s a little… This is why it took us so long to write it. Second book should be faster.Katie Hayoz: 8:14

Plus, plus, we started off, we started off and we were getting momentum, and then you know, then there were the the holidays in December. And it’s like, okay, you know, we all we both have kids and families, and you know, everybody’s home. And there we go, like two, three weeks, where things are kind of coming to a halt, you start getting, getting going, and then, then there’s the February vacation because the kids here have, you know, February vacation as well. And thenOlivia Wildenstein: 8:40

And then there was spring break.Katie Hayoz: 8:41

And then there was a pandemic.Olivia Wildenstein: 8:43

Quarantine with your family. I mean…Katie Hayoz: 8:45

Oh, yeah, it was fun. But it was, I mean, so we, we didn’t pressure ourselves, which is why it took us nine months for the first one. However, the second one, we decided not to pressure ourselves and we put a pre order date that’s very late. How, but we intend to have it done way, way, way, way, way before the pre order date. So we’re hoping to get it done a lot quicker.Olivia Wildenstein: 9:14

Just by this summer. We’re hoping to get book two by the summer, so.Sarina Langer: 9:18

Okay, so you must already be writing it.Olivia Wildenstein: 9:21

Oh, yeah, we’re halfway through.Katie Hayoz: 9:23

Yeah.Sarina Langer: 9:23

Oh, great. I look forward to that. So I think you mentioned that you’d meet up in, like in cafes and collaborate a little bit that way. And, you know, in the back of your book, you can also see some of the text messages that you’ve exchanged with each other. So how exactly did you approach the collaboration because when I plan a book, I tend to have notebooks for, you know, for, for every work in progress, but um, I imagine that’s a lot harder to do when there’s two of you, because you can’t just share one notebook, I’m guessing.Olivia Wildenstein: 9:55

So Katie has her notebooks, she can show it to you. She has, erm, I’m not a paper person. So I do, we have a Google form that we share in which we try to put all the information and then update the information although we’re not-Katie Hayoz: 10:09

We’re not very good about that. One thing I do haveSarina Langer: 10:09

Very true. to say is I think Olivia and I kind of got lucky in the sense that we both are really laid back about the way we work. You know, this is not my, I’ve don three collaborations in the pas year. And they were on al different projects. And this, o course, a novel is the most wor , it takes the most concentrati n, it takes, you have to if… eah, I mean, as you know, wh t, you know, as a writer how mu h work writing a novel is. And ecause Olivia and I, we’re… I on’t know, we’re not precious. IKatie Hayoz: 10:46

We’re not precious and we also are kind of don’t know how else to say it You know, you can’t be precious about your work when you have so ebody else going over it and sa ing, disorganised when it comes toOlivia Wildenstein: 11:03

She says to the most OCD person in the world.Katie Hayoz: 11:07

We’re organised, we have like a general plotline. But both of us are at the heart of it pantsers, I think.Olivia Wildenstein: 11:14

Yeah.We’re happy to see where it takes us. Because I think that’s, you know, when, when readers are so surprised by like a plot twist, usually, it’s because the authors are pretty surprised themselves about the plot twist. And I love doing that with Katie, just because we got all these like fun plot twists. I mean, when we exchanged messages, we had a bunch more, and then we’d look at them in the morning with the light of day, and we’re like, No, actually, that’s probably not a good idea, but it seemed like a really good idea.Katie Hayoz: 11:43

At one in the morning, after three gin and tonics.Olivia Wildenstein: 11:48

But yeah, like Katie was saying, we just, we went with the flow. And we let the characters kind of guide the thing. I mean, we did have the general plotline, we knew the structure of it. And now even for Book Two is kind of the same. Like we know where we’re going to end up, we know what we want to happen in the first third and like the second third,Katie Hayoz: 12:09

Although for, I think the second book is easier, and erm… in the sense, because we already have everything established, we have the world established, we have the characters established, we know what the final final goal needs to be. And whereas when we were trying to figure out, you know, Of Wicked Blood, there were times where we’d meet, and we’d be like talking for two hours over coffee, and we’d be like, we’re so close, we’re just this close, but we just can’t figure out you know, they’re like little things we couldn’t figure out. And so then we, that’s, then that’s when we’ have like these, like leav Olivia’s place, and then all o a sudden text, text text, an we’d be texting back and forth because our ideas would be goin back and forth.Olivia Wildenstein: 12:51

The brain sessions.Katie Hayoz: 12:52

Yeah, yeah.Sarina Langer: 12:54

It probably helped a lot that you both have very similar approaches to writing the book, because I think, you know, if one of you was mega organised, and the other one just didn’t care about any of the plotting at all, I feel like there would have been a lot of strife.Olivia Wildenstein: 13:07

Yeah. Oh, yeah. No, definitely. No, no, we’re, yeah, I think character wise, we’re very, we’re very, I wouldn’t so much say similar as just compatible, like,Katie Hayoz: 13:17

yeahOlivia Wildenstein: 13:18

We’re just compatible.Katie Hayoz: 13:19

Yeah. Yeah.Sarina Langer: 13:21

Yeah, I can see all that probably helped quite a lot. On a similar note, we have a question from @VillimeyS onTwitter: 13:29

do you edit together as well? And how do you delegate the tasks?Olivia Wildenstein: 13:34

So editing is something we do… there’s a couple rounds of edits. And as we said, like, she writes a chapter, she sends it to me, I edited, I send it back with my new chapter, she edits it, and so on, and so forth. So there’s a pretty big chunk of time that’s spent on that first draft. I do this with all my books also it’s like, I go back to the chapter I wrote the day before, edit the heck out of it, and then just go on. Some people I know, like, first drafts, and then they’ll go back on it at the very end and then start editing. So by the time we got our first draft done, I mean, it was pretty like solid first draft. There’s some things that ended up changing. We added a chapter here, broke up another chapter there, but the editing in itself… so I went through the whole book the fir- one time, then Katie went through the whole book the second time, then I went through it again. And then she went through it one last time.Katie Hayoz: 14:33

Yeah. And we sent it to an editor.Olivia Wildenstein: 14:35

And the editor and proofreader and the beta readers. I mean, there’sKatie Hayoz: 14:40

However, I do want to point out that while you know, yes, you know, we’re, we both do like you know, 50 50 of the the writing let’s say, Olivia really is, she’s a star because she’s- Seriously. She’s done 80% of the editing and the marketing.Olivia Wildenstein: 15:01

But that’s just because I have this OCD. No, it’s just like it– but it’s, I would have done the same for my own book, like it’s-Katie Hayoz: 15:09

Right. But it’s great. I mean, I’m just saying that, you know, she, part of the reason that works for us is because I know that I mean, I trust, I trust her. I read her, you know, I read her books, I trust her as a writer, and I trust, I trust her decision making. So you know, when I have a chapter, and she’s like, no, that line’s not gonna make it in there. I might try to slip it in the next time when I get my chapter back. I might try slipping it back in and see if it gets past her. But usually, usually I trust her decision making.Olivia Wildenstein: 15:52

No.Sarina Langer: 15:53

Does that ever work?Olivia Wildenstein: 15:55

That’s really sweet. No, but in just, in the thing is to say also, I mean, Katie has written books, but I mean, you need to, you might want to turn it into a real business. No, no, no. It’s true. I really, like I’m so focused on the business side of it, that it’s just like, there’s, it kind of goes hand in hand, I guess. I don’t know.Katie Hayoz: 16:15

Yeah. I mean, Olivia, in terms of writing as a business and all that she, she is a lot more experienced. You know, I had some life changes in the past eight years that have taken me away from my writing in a way I didn’t want it to. And now I’m kind of getting back on track. And it’s really great to have somebody like Olivia on my team.Olivia Wildenstein: 16:41

Because Katie has like a bunch of amazing, amazing books she’s been sitting on. Amazing, and she’s just been sitting on them. And I’m hoping this is going to be the like the spark that will, that’ll get her to…Sarina Langer: 16:56

It must have been nice to come back to writing after that break and after all those changes to your life, but then do it for somebody else. It must have been really nice.Katie Hayoz: 17:06

I, you know, I did I did do some writing during that time, it was just, but not, I wasn’t able to focus 100% on it, or even 75% on it. And coming back and, and doing this with Olivia, it’s honestly, it’s really helped my confidence level. And it’s also, I mean, you know, it’s showing me…Olivia Wildenstein: 17:30

That you can do it.Katie Hayoz: 17:31

That I can do it. But it also shows me, I’m not sure if I’m going to do it as well. It’s a heck of a lot of work. This woman works her butt off. I mean, it’s, she does so much work, she’s always working, and so I also-Olivia Wildenstein: 17:45

That’s what my kids say.Katie Hayoz: 17:48

But it also puts things in perspective, and you’re going okay, you know, I look at how well she’s doing and it’s like, okay, but she really, really works for that. It’s not a fluke. It’s, it’s not, there’s, it’s not, there’s a there is a reason that she’s, she’s successful.Olivia Wildenstein: 18:03

I think it’s like every I mean, it’s like in anything. The more you work at it, the the higher you go, but that’s just…Katie Hayoz: 18:10

yeah, so but I’ll be happy with, uh, you know, Midway.Olivia Wildenstein: 18:14

No.Katie Hayoz: 18:15

I don’t want to work as hard as Olivia does. I think, I think I like to sit back and have a cocktail every once in a while.Olivia Wildenstein: 18:24

While You write.Katie Hayoz: 18:26

While I write.Sarina Langer: 18:28

Whatever works!Olivia Wildenstein: 18:29

And it’s great for me to have somebody also that is just loving the ride, because it’s true. Sometimes, like, I get so stressed out by the destination that the ride becomes like, you know, just stressful. And I must say like, I love writing so much. It’s such a passion, that when it gets to the point where it’s stressful, it’s, it takes away all the great things that I mean, that writing has brought to me. And so it’s, so just, you know, it was, it’s always a great reminder that you’re doing this for fun. I mean, ultimately, we’re doing this for fun.Sarina Langer: 19:04

That’s a really lovely thing, I think. I mean, I do think that you probably, you know, you’re really good for each other as well with the whole process because you know, you clearly complement each other very well. And there’s so much that goes into writing and publishing a book, you must have disagreed at one point or another. So how do you… You both, you’re both giving me faces like you haven’t been?Katie Hayoz: 19:31

Well, we disagree, I mean.Olivia Wildenstein: 19:34

But it wasn’t really about anything important. Like it was, you know, maybe it’s something, we didn’t really disagree that much.Katie Hayoz: 19:41

I mean, like, we’ll be like, okay, let’s say like, Olivia sent me a text last night saying like, what about this for the next book, and I’m not going to tell you what it is. But she’s like, Well, what about, Oh, what about this? And then last last night, I’m like, oh, you’re a genius. Yes. And then this morning, I woke up and I’m like, wait a minute. I don’t know if that’s gonna work, you know? And so, today I’m like, I’m not sure. And so we might disagree. We’re disagreeing, but we talk through it. And I don’t know, I guess we’re also lucky in the sense that no one’s like, this is the way it’s gonna be and that’s final. But I also I, you know, I think…Olivia Wildenstein: 20:27

I think we don’t understand how lucky we are to have like, found each other and how we complement each other as well until we try to do it with somebody else. I, it’s drive that, I mean, Katie is the first person I co wrote with. I mean, I love the idea of co writing with somebody else, but it is true that since we know each other in person, that helps a lot. I mean, you know, if it’s a virtual person that you know, it’s not the same relationship already.Katie Hayoz: 20:51

And, and I think it’s also the nature of the project, because I did, I worked on two other collaborations this year, and one was with another woman, but we wrote a series of picture books. And we each wrote, we had four picture books. So each of us took two. So it was still our own little project, you know what I mean? I mean, we’re publishing them together as a series. But like, when people are like, Oh, I like the werewolf one, I’m like hehe. And where, and then I worked on another picture book. It’s a picture book biography of 50, 50 women. And I worked with five authors. And we each had our own chapters, and we kind of, we did critique each other, and we gave feedback, but there was kind of an ownership to it. Whereas I think what’s rare with us is that I don’t feel an ownership to Slate’s chapters necessarily, because, I just, we, I feel an ownership to the book with Olivia, but there’s so much crossover that we don’t own it. And I think there is also, it’s important to have somebody you know, somebody does have to be the leader, in a sense, you have to do that. And, and, for me, I’m like, from the beginning, I’ve decided Olivia’s the leader, whether she knows it or not. And so like I said, you know, I’m like, if we disagree, in the end, you know, I trust Olivia’s decision making, but up until now, we haven’t had any.Olivia Wildenstein: 22:27

We’ve never disagreed. I mean it could happen, but I don’t, I don’t really see on what we’d disagree.Sarina Langer: 22:35

So there’s been no big fights over it. That’s really good to hear.Katie Hayoz: 22:39

No.Sarina Langer: 22:40

I mean, I definitely wasn’t hoping for it. But I think you know, for, for many authors, if they were to try something like this, then sooner or later, they would get to a point where one person really wants to include one chapter and the other author would ultimately say that it doesn’t belong in the book for whatever reason. So I think it’s really nice to see that you both just work together so well that those issues have just never come up.Katie Hayoz: 23:02

I think you know what, this is really good that we’re on your podcast, because this is really making me realise this, like, wow.Sarina Langer: 23:11

I think Olivia was saying just now that you don’t realise how lucky you are to do this together, but I think you’re getting there now.Olivia Wildenstein: 23:17

Exactly. It’s a great strength session right now.Sarina Langer: 23:23

I’m thrilled to hear that. So what would you say was like the most challenging point for you of co writing this book? Although it sounds like there weren’t really any?Katie Hayoz: 23:34

Oh, no, there were challenges.Olivia Wildenstein: 23:36

But not to the co writing, more to the story.Katie Hayoz: 23:39

Well, yeah, to the story. No, but the CO writing, I will say–Olivia Wildenstein: 23:43

We’re getting to the-Sarina Langer: 23:46

It’s all coming ot now.Katie Hayoz: 23:53

No, I will say that there is a certain amount of pressure, because you know, like I like, in the sense of, even though like, Olivia never puts pressure on me. She’s always like, oh, whenever you got it done, or whatever, but you know, you have this chapter and it’s like, ooh, I gotta get this done. I gotta get this back to her and it’s got to be good. And um, I did have, I, this, this year earlier this or last year, whatever. In October, November, I had a serious writer’s block. Am I like, my chapter was just, it took me three weeks. It took me three weeks to write a chapter and it was just crap.Olivia Wildenstein: 24:38

No it wasn’t. I don’t even know which one.Katie Hayoz: 24:42

But and so the pressure for me was like, Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you know, what if she doesn’t want to work with me anymore, and then, but, it, once we started getting back on track, it just that fades away because, because it’s fun, because we’re, we’re making each other laugh. And because I think we’re not taking the book too seriously. I think, you know, neither of us are trying to write, you know, high literary fiction where we’re gonna win the Booker. I mean, you know, this is, we’re trying to have fun. And we want our readers to have fun. And so, you know, if Slayt and Cadence, you know, sometimes they’re a little ridiculous. Hey, that’s okay. You know, and I think-Olivia Wildenstein: 25:31

Especially Slate.Katie Hayoz: 25:32

Yeah.Sarina Langer: 25:34

I mean, I didn’t think at any point that anything that they did was, you know, was, was weird in any way, or that it shouldn’t have happened or that it was out of character. So, you know, I think you’ve certainly written both of them well enough, and had developed the personalities enough that I always thought oh, you know, well, he would do that. You know, because it’s just, you know, it’s just who they are. So, it really came together very well.Katie Hayoz: 25:59

Well, and that’s the thing too, like, if we write something like, let’s say, I wrote something, and then, you know, Olivia would be like, I don’t know, would he do that? And then Oh, actually, you’re right, he wouldn’t do that. So that also helps to have two voices there.Olivia Wildenstein: 26:10

Yeah. There were some times also with Cadence where I just got a little stuck with her because she was, because she is like, you know, a daddy’s girl. I mean, she is, and she’s 17 and but she’s supposed to be more, you know, very mature, because, you know, homeschooled, but like, started college very young, and has a lot of, takes on a lot of responsibility. And it’s just like, sometimes she just, not annoyed me but I wanted to shake her and I was like, Katie, you shake her because I don’t know what to do with her anymore. It was, um, it was fun for the character growth to actually act upon it, you know, as authors, and our characters act upon the character grows of the other one.Sarina Langer: 26:51

It must have been nice to have that instant feedback right away, you know, if you write a chapter, and then you immediately hear what’s good about it, and if everything still goes in the right direction, that must have been really nice.Olivia Wildenstein: 27:02

Yeah, it is really nice.Katie Hayoz: 27:04

Yeah, it is, actually that’s really what helps us move forward.Olivia Wildenstein: 27:07

Yeah.Katie Hayoz: 27:07

And we do I mean, the other thing is maybe another reason that we work well together is because we already critique each other’s work.Olivia Wildenstein: 27:15

Yeah, for like a couple of years now.Katie Hayoz: 27:17

Yeah. For the past couple years we’ve been…Olivia Wildenstein: 27:19

I think all of my work except my first very first book, Katie has been critiquing it. Yes.Katie Hayoz: 27:26

Everything except Ghostboy, I think. Yeah.Olivia Wildenstein: 27:28

Yep. And I critique the seven versions of the same book that she rewrites and rewrites and rewrites and refuses to publish even though the first version was really good.Katie Hayoz: 27:37

No, it’s on preorder now, it will be coming out. Sometime.Sarina Langer: 27:43

I think it’s certainly come across how well you work together in there. And I mean, for anyone listening, if you are interested in seeing some of those exchanges that you two have had, there are little snippets at the back of the book, where you can read some of the messages that you two have exchanged, which for me, it’s not something I see very often at the back of a book. So it was, for me, it was a really great little addition to it. You know, you don’t often get that insight.Olivia Wildenstein: 28:11

We need to do it for a second one. The thing is, the second book is almost so much easier to write that we haven’t been sending each other enough text messages.Katie Hayoz: 28:18

You’re right. We need to send each other more text messages. It’s just coming along more…Olivia Wildenstein: 28:24

Fluidly.Katie Hayoz: 28:25

Yeah.Sarina Langer: 28:28

Such a hassle when it’s just flowing beautifully.Olivia Wildenstein: 28:31

No one wants that. There’s the expression in French ‘La vie est un lon fleuve tranquille’. A tranqui , a long tranquil river, we ne d to, we need the white riverKatie Hayoz: 28:45

Yeah.Sarina Langer: 28:46

And what would you say were your highlights of doing this book together?Olivia Wildenstein: 28:51

Working as a team, not being all by yourself with your book and with your characters. I mean, it’s really, it’s really fun, because it’s such a lonely job when you think of it. Even though you have so many virtual friends and imaginary ones, but it’s, it was fun to do it as a team, like to… Yeah, for me, that was my…Katie Hayoz: 29:12

Yeah, I mean, it was fun for me to do it as a team. And I’ve also, I’ve learned a lot from Olivia about just, you know, writing as a business and also, I think just, you know, how to put things together and make it you know, keep it moving, keep the momentum going forward. UmOlivia Wildenstein: 29:38

Yeah, I know, it’s just beenKatie Hayoz: 29:39

It’s been fun.Olivia Wildenstein: 29:41

It’s been fun.Katie Hayoz: 29:42

I guess like it Yeah, there were moments where like, but those are usually because we’re stuck on the story or something like that, but it has nothing to do with-Olivia Wildenstein: 29:54

I think Sarina wanted a Jerry Springer like interview and… Watch out, my tea’s very hot.Sarina Langer: 30:08

So obviously, I know that you’re both working on the sequel now, and you’re hoping that will be out later this year. But apart from this series, is co writing a book something that you would do again?Olivia Wildenstein: 30:19

Yes.Katie Hayoz: 30:20

Yes.Sarina Langer: 30:20

Immediately. I think that’s the fastest answer that I’ve had from you.Katie Hayoz: 30:26

No, yes. No, I’m telling you, I still this should be a trilogy. But, but that was, maybe we couldOlivia Wildenstein: 30:34

We could still potentially turn it into a trilogy.Katie Hayoz: 30:37

We could. We have to see how this one ends. It might be perfectly good just there.Olivia Wildenstein: 30:42

Yeah. Yeah. Especially since you know, at the end of book one, since you have read book one, it sort of ends on a cliffhanger, but not really. And readers detest cliffhangers. I don’t know why because as a reader, I kind of like them, they’re,Sarina Langer: 30:57

I do, I love cliffhangers. I mean, we, we had a question about that in an interview that I’ve done a couple of weeks ago about plotting your whole trilogy before you start writing it. And one of the questions that we got in that was, um, is it okay to end a book on a cliffhanger? And we you know, we were both saying that we could talk about cliffhangers forever because we both absolutely love cliffhangers. You know, we, so, I don’t know, I don’t understand when readers don’t enjoy cliffhangers because for me, they add so much excitement, you know.Olivia Wildenstein: 31:29

It makes you want to pick up the next book, but until the second book is out, some people are kind of against them, I guess. I think they’re a little kinder once the second book is out and they get the answers.Katie Hayoz: 31:42

Yeah, I get it. Because it’s kind of like, you know, when I want to binge a series on Netflix, and there’s only season one or season two, I prefer to watch the older stuff where all six seasons are on there, and I can just binge it in one thing. I guess that’s kind of what it is.Sarina Langer: 31:59

That’s very satisfying to do. I think as long as you tie up all the major plot points so that the cliffhanger isn’t something that you really should have wrapped up, that’s probably fine.Olivia Wildenstein: 32:14

We didn’t leave anything hanging because I didn’t want to figure out how to shut it. Like how to tie it up. We really, I mean, we left there’s a couple plotlines, you know where you’re not 100% sure about Rainier’s motivation or what he did, but we know exactly what he did. We just didn’t want to give it.Sarina Langer: 32:34

I mean, to me, it certainly didn’t feel like the plot was unfinished when I read your book, you know, I definitely felt that the story in that book was over and everything and wrapped up really well. But there was also the promise there of something else that could happen in the next book. But you know, equally if you did leave it there, I wouldn’t feel like I didn’t get the answers that I wanted.Olivia Wildenstein: 32:57

We’re happy to hear that.Katie Hayoz: 32:58

Yeah.Sarina Langer: 32:59

Good. And erm, so just one last question. Now, do you have any tips for authors who are interestin– interested in co writing a book?Olivia Wildenstein: 33:10

Never forget that it’s just supposed to be fun. I mean, honestly, if you view it as anything else, I think, I’m not even sure if you can get a book written if you view it as a job. Or if you view it as an obligation or… That’s mine. You have to come up with your own advice.Sarina Langer: 33:32

It’s fine to just second it.Katie Hayoz: 33:34

I piggyback on that. No, I would say, I mean, I agree with that. But I also, seeing as I have worked with other authors and it was a job. I mean, like, there was one where we worked for a publisher, and it was a job, it was like you had to get your word count in and you had to do this and that, I think more of it is going back to the thing where you can’t be precious. You just, you know, it is something where you, you have to let go when you’re working with someone else and respect their opinion. And if you can’t respect what they have to say about your writing, you shouldn’t be in a partnership with them.Olivia Wildenstein: 34:18

But I think it’s like a critique partner. I mean, if you already have that relationship with the person, like you’re fine. But again, if you really are attached to something, you need to be able also to talk it out and like you know, insist that it stays.Katie Hayoz: 34:31

Or talk out why and the other person say why, why not, and you know.Olivia Wildenstein: 34:35

You have to find a middle ground.Katie Hayoz: 34:36

Yeah, compromise, you know, yeah,Olivia Wildenstein: 34:38

It’s a relationship like any other. It’s a little easier than most relationships.Katie Hayoz: 34:44

Yeah, cuz I’ll have to cook for you. Yeah, you were my cooking you would definitely.Olivia Wildenstein: 34:52

Fine, fine.Sarina Langer: 34:54

I think those are both very good pieces of advice. I mean, one of my books now is with critique partners and for me, it was a very different book to write. So, you know, I immediately went in thinking, I don’t know if the whole thing is gonna work at all. So, you know, as always, I suppose you just need to be open to that feedback. And that if there is something, say, if one of you says, this really doesn’t work for me, but you really like it, you know, that you can then talk it through and say why doesn’t it work for you? How might we be able to adapt it? Because for me, this is quite an important point.Katie Hayoz: 35:25

Exactly. Yeah, there has to be, there definitely has to be a lot of respect between the two of you.Olivia Wildenstein: 35:29

Yeah, and pick your critique, especially when it’s like your, I don’t know if this is your first book that’s in beta reading, or no?Sarina Langer: 35:35

Oh no, no, this will be… To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, it would be either the seventh for the tenth depending on what comes out first.Olivia Wildenstein: 35:43

So it’s somebody you know, just because sometimes you will also get advice from people who are not always in the exact same industry, not industry, like the part of the industry as you let’s say, like they don’t specifically write, you know, they’ll write high and literary books, and it’s just like, it’s not exactly the same genre. So just make sure like you, I don’t know, you pick and choose the person that gives you advice. It’s also…Sarina Langer: 36:08

Yeah. I mean, every time–Katie Hayoz: 36:11

It’s about respect, I mean, it’s like, you know, you have to also, you can’t, if they say, Oh, I don’t like this, you don’t.. But it’s really important to you, you also need to say why and and, you know, you might have to fight for it and maybe in the end, it’s worth it, maybe in the end it’s not. Like you said, you know, we have a discussion.Sarina Langer: 36:30

Yeah, I mean, that’s probably also why it’s important to get the different people on there. Because I think if you only have one other person giving feedback on it, maybe someone who’s completely different to what you do, then that’s not necessarily going to give you the best kind of insight. But because you’ve both written your book together, you immediately get that feedback and you can immediately talk it through and try to, you know, to sort it out if there is something, although, as we’ve seen earlier, you just never really disagreed on anything so it wasn’t the problem for you anyway.Katie Hayoz: 37:01

I think we probably disagreed, but not in the sense that, I mean, like, you know, there were things that we… Yeah, but we managed, we managed to work it out right away. It’s not, it never became a problem. It was like, Oh, I didn’t think of that. Okay, so then what do you think?Olivia Wildenstein: 37:19

We’re both passive aggressive, so it’s…Sarina Langer: 37:24

I think that’s a good point to end on being passive aggressive. Well, thank you so much. Thank you so much for talking to me about co writing the book today. I really appreciate it that you’ve taken the time out for it.Katie Hayoz: 37:41

Thank you for having us!Olivia Wildenstein: 37:41

Thank you, Sarina. Thank you for having us.Sarina Langer: 37:44

Thank you so much for coming onto my podcast, I appreciate it. And erm, yeah, thank you so much, and bye bye.Olivia Wildenstein: 37:51

Bye.Katie Hayoz: 37:51

Bye.Sarina Langer: 37:56

If you enjoyed todays episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Transcript by Otter

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 20 | 2021 Goals and January-March Goals

A Sparrow in my reader group suggested I do these updates as podcast episodes, so here you go – this is the first one 🙂

If you want to know what I’m working on, these are a good way to get caught up on my WIPs! I’ll be doing these instead of the previous monthly goals and updates.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:27

Surprise and welcome back friends and sparrows. I bet you didn’t think you’d see me again so soon. It’s the 26th of January, this is Episode 20, and today just so happens to be my birthday. And I really hope I’m not jinxing this because I’m recording this back in December, but I’ve debated when to do this episode. It includes my goals for this year, so it made sense to me originally to do it on January the first, but by the time I thought of doing this episode, I’d already recorded the interviews of Elisha and Briana and I didn’t want to mess with the date tag in each episode. And then I realised that if I do it on my birthday, I can have Episode 20, a milestone of a kind, on my birthday. And that also has a nice ring to it. So here we are. Surprise!

Sarina Langer  01:16

As you might know, Elisha and I talked about how to set goals and make things happen at the beginning of this month. So it only seemed right to me to do an episode with my goals. Feel free to join in, let me know what your goals are this year, and maybe we can hold each other accountable. I think I need this especially because, as I think you’re about to see, I tend to set too many goals, and I get really carried away when I’m excited. So I have a feeling that I’ve once again taken on a little bit too much this year. But we’ll see. Maybe if you let me know here and there that I’m doing all right or just check in to see if I have completely buried myself under everything I’m trying to do. I don’t know, it might be helpful.

Sarina Langer  02:03

But let’s start with my plans for this podcast this year. I definitely want to have more guests on because I really, really love those chats. I mean, so much more than I thought I would because I’m really very introverted. But I’m learning so much from all the guests that I’ve had on and it’s so much fun talking to everyone. And I hope that it’s also really helpful for you as the listeners to hear all these different viewpoints and all these different experiences. I’ve also had some very specific episodes requested, for example, how to create an audiobook and also quarterly writing updates, which this is the first one.

Sarina Langer  02:45

So I will be doing an episode like this one once every quarter, and this is going to be instead of doing the monthly writing updates and goal setting on my author blog, which I’ve done for pretty much the entire… well, all of last year. And I realised sometime in December that I don’t actually enjoy blogging all that much anymore. I’ve thought about how often I might be able to do it instead, I’ve asking my reader group on Facebook and one of my sparrows there, Rhianne – hi! – suggested that I do them as podcasts instead. So here we are. You will now get quarterly writing updates from me four times a year.

Sarina Langer  03:29

Speaking of writing updates, all my writing plans for this year… there’s a few of you. Starting with Blood Wisp – that’s the whole trilogy, not just the first book, although I would really like to just publish the first book because I’ve been on it for so long. If you listen to my look back over 2020 in December, I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been on this trilogy for two or three years now. I think it was in early 2019 that I got the third cover. So I got the first covers for the series even in 2018. So I’ve sat on them for a little while now. And it would be really nice if I could finally share them, I’m not gonna lie. I’ve, I’m nearly done writing the second book, the first book is proofing. I’m hoping to get to it and start editing that properly very soon. And then the second book right now is at 20… 62,500 words. So that’s not too bad going for a first draft. I’m nearly done with it, I have roughly three scenes left to right. And then I can go into Book Three. This is the first time I’ve tried to write the entire trilogy before publishing or even just properly editing the first book, by the way, and I’m not sure I’m liking it, but I’ll do, I don’t know, maybe I’ll do another episodes on that at some point. I can compare how it’s gone with my previous approach and maybe what I’ll do going forward because this has been quite tiring, I think.

Sarina Langer  05:00

And the next work in progress I’m hoping to be working on is The Silence of Magic. It’s one of the first books where I’ve had the title really early, I normally really struggle to name things that’s, you know, whether that’s books or characters, especially surnames, who do characters need surnames names. Anyway, um, yeah, it’s going okay. I’m hoping to get the first draft of that done this year, but we will see. It’s, it’s kind of this book that I’ve been wanting to write for quite a long time, I suddenly had the blurb and the first sentence and title and an idea for the cover just very quickly, all in one go one Christmas, not 2020 Christmas or even 2019 Christmas, this has been coming for a little while, it’s been sitting for a little while. So I’d really like to get a move on with that, and actually really immerse myself in this world because I’m really excited about that.

Sarina Langer  05:56

And then there is Dreamer, which is a temporary title, I haven’t named it yet, so don’t get too attached to that, it’s not very good as a title, obviously, which is part of why I’m not keeping it. But I have a feeling it’ll end up being pretty different. I’ve written the first draft of that during NaNoWriMo 2019. That sounds right. So it’s sat for about a year. And then last month in December 2020, not to get confused with all these dates, I decided to come back to it because I really needed a break from writing the Blood Wisp trilogy.

Sarina Langer  05:59

As I said, I’ve been on it for a little while. And just looking again at the first draft of Dreamer I’ve felt excited to work on that. And I thought it could be quite a nice thing to do, whereas I’ve just felt a little bit tired of spending all this time for the Blood Wisp characters. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, I love them, but it’s a lot of time to just spend with the same people and Dreamer has, it’s a bit different for me. Because I normally write dark epic fantasy. So I’ll make up my own worlds and, and the magic system and all that. And it’s normally in third person, or normally have more than one point of view character. And in Dreamer, it’s, well it’s mostly set in our world, but to be honest, I’m still changing all of the names. So as opposed to you could read it as an urban fantasy, if you want. Really that’s what it is. But it could equally, could equally read it as an epic fantasy, if you like, I suppose, because I’m changing all the names. And it’s only got one point of view, which is quite different.

Sarina Langer  07:35

It’s the strongest… no that’s not right. It’s the character in it is the most based on me of any characters that I’ve written and her best friend is the most based on my best friend. So I feel like I’ve put the most of myself into this book. But I’m not sure yet if I’ll publish it, so it could be wasting your time talking about it. But um, yeah, I’ve revisited it in December, I’ve done a quick first edit on it, I’ve sent it off to my editor to do just a quick manuscript critique and really just to see if she thinks that it’s got a potential future at all. I’m half expecting her to get back to me and say, Sarina, no, this is rubbish, burn it, no one must ever see this. And if she tells me to burn it I’ll burn it, but by the time this episode goes live on my birthday, I should know, and hopefully, it’s not anything quite as bad as that. But let’s see what she comes up with.

Sarina Langer  08:30

And then there’s also is based off of my Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy. And that’s, that’s very, it’s very early days, I’ve pitched the idea to my editor on Instagram, and she’s really into it. And I mean, I’m really into and I think you might be really into it, but it’s really, really early days. I haven’t done any plotting on this. I have no idea if it’s got any future at all to be honest, it could be absolute rubbish. But… let’s see, To be honest, the main reason I’m recording this episode right now, still on the last few hours of December is because I really want to start plotting it. I have a few– well actually, no, that’s a lie. I have no ideas at all for it apart from some really fun things. And ,but I want to, I feel like I can’t start plotting it while I still have the Episode Notes for what I’m doing right now saying that I want to plot it if that makes sense. Although it’s just occurred to me talking myself through it that I could just have changed the notes. Oh, well. So this is how organised I am at the end of the longest year in history. But yeah, let’s move on from that.

Sarina Langer  09:44

There’s also my Facebook reader group. I really want to spend more time there. I set it up, well, I think it was last year. I think it wasn’t 2020. I have to check that, but I really want to do better posting there every single day apart from Sunday because we all need a break. I really love my reader group, it’s a really fun place to be, I think we’re having a lot of fun and I’ve been pitching some, you know, some early ideas, I share excerpts of my books, and, but it’s, I don’t know, it’s Facebook. You know what I mean? Facebook is always such an afterthought for me, and I feel bad about that, because it’s my reader group, it shouldn’t matter that it’s on Facebook, it just so happens that Facebook is a great and easy place to do something like that. So I want to spend a lot more time there. And I have some ideas of what I might be able to do there and how we might be able to shake things up a bit and have even more fun.

Sarina Langer  10:36

And then there’s also my mailing list, similar story as to the reader group minus Facebook. I want to, I don’t want to spend more time there, because I’m already emailing my subscribers once a month, which I think is plenty. But I want to do even better delivering what I’ve promised, I’ve got some freebies on there. I’ve got some signup incentives, which I think are really cool. If you don’t know, it’s, I’ve got the prequel novella, to my Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy on there, you can get that on there for free. I have a short story that also relates to the trilogy, which isn’t available anywhere else. So I think that’s quite cool. And, but what I haven’t done as much of is giveaways specific to the mailing list and I haven’t been sharing as many teasers on there either. Mostly because I spend so much time just writing this trilogy that I feel that those things that I could share from Book Two and Book Three would spoil book one. And I really don’t want to spoil things, especially not so early when things could still change so strongly. So I also want to do better with that, I want to spend more time there.

Sarina Langer  11:47

I also want to up my marketing efforts by a lot. I mean, I have a box set out now, I have a perma free series starter, I have two books on KU. So I feel like if I can’t see at least some success of all of those great things then I don’t know. I will be keeping religious track of everything that I’ll be trying this year, I promise you. And if I come across anything that really ends up making a big difference, or anything that works well or is easy to set up, anything at all that, you know, sees some kind of positive results for me, I might do another episode on this as well, to share with you what I’ve done, how it’s worked, maybe why it’s worked. And then maybe you can try it and hopefully it’ll help you see some success as well.

Sarina Langer  12:32

The other thing I might come back to, honestly, it’s very undecided right now, is short stories and submitting them to anthologies. If you remember last year, I’ve done an episode with Beverly Lee about how to write short stories and submit them to anthologies, because she’s done incredibly well with that and she continues to do incredibly well with that. Every time I talk to her about it, I get really excited and I want to do it. But on the other hand, I’m thinking Do I have more, do I have the time for that? Do I want to take on even more? And I mean, short stories are quiet, they are very different to write to full length novels. So I don’t know, it still sounds incredibly fun. And I do really want to do it. But it’s then having the time to set aside for it, you know? And I think we’ve just seen that I’ve got quite a few works in progress on the go already. So I’m not sure if doing any additional writing on top of that is really the right way forward. But then again, if I get a really great idea for a short story, I might write it and then see if it fits into anything. And I don’t know, maybe that’ll be how I approach that. I suppose you’ll hear more about if I’ve done anything at all this quarter in the next quarter in April, we’ll see.

Sarina Langer  13:52

And the final thing is something that I’ve been sitting on sort of coming back to here and moving away from again, is Patreon. I’ve never done anything like that before. I’ve seen and I know that it’s worked really well for some authors. And similar to short stories and anthologies, every time I talk to someone about that I get quite excited and I feel like it’s something that I could maybe do quite well. And I’m getting a similar feeling from the idea of doing a Patreon as I did with this podcast. I was really excited about it and I really wanted to try, but I was also dreading it just a bit. As I said, not a people person, so who just sitting in my office talking to myself as I’m stretching my hand right now. It’s a, well, it was very awkward to begin with and I feel like Patreon might also be quite awkward to begin with.

Sarina Langer  14:48

But look at me now, look how much fun I’m having with this podcast and all the people I get to talk to and, and I mean some of the awkwardness is totally still there. But I’m also really enjoying it. And I think maybe I could also really enjoy having a Patreon. So I’ve got some ideas for that. But I think it’s something that I need to research a lot more. And maybe, yeah, I don’t know. It’s, it’s another one of those things where I think, Do I really have the time for that? As I’ve just mentioned, I realised last year that I don’t actually enjoy blogging all that much anymore, or ever, I don’t know. And a part of me thinks that Patreon is just going to be another type of blogging. I could be completely wrong about that. Because, as I said, I haven’t done all that much research on it. So who knows? But yeah, it’s something for me to research, that’s for sure. And maybe by the time I do the next one of these quarterly updates, I have a better idea of what I want to do with it.

Sarina Langer  15:53

Oh, and I just remembered another work in progress. Because that’s what I really need. It’s fine, though, it’s already written. I’ve had the cover and formatting redone for Darkened Light last year, so it’s got a really pretty new cover, the formatting now matches the second book, they look more like the duology now that they were supposed to be. So I really should launch that, I’m probably, well actually, by the time this goes live, it might already be live on Amazon. I’m not sure yet. Hopefully, I suppose this could be my first goal for it, couldn’t I. Make sure that the new version of Darkened Light is out by my birthday. Taking a note in just a second, as soon as I hit stop. Yeah, we’ll say keep an eye out. If it’s not out today, by the time you’re hearing this on my podcast, if you can’t find the pretty new version on Amazon, make sure you hit me. Yeah, thank you very much.

Sarina Langer  16:53

So, those, those are my goals for this quarter. Oh, my God, that sounds like so much now. Well, not just for this quarter, because let’s, if we’re just focussing for a second, please, on all the works in progress, then I think we can all admit that that’s going to be way too much for just one quarter, this is going to be more of a yearly thing.

Sarina Langer  17:12

So to sum up, on this podcast, I want to get loads and loads and loads more guests and their knowledge and their experiences. I want to do more requested episodes like how to create an audiobook and also these quarterly writing updates. In terms of works in progress I want to finish the Blood Wisp trilogy, I will finish the Blood Wisp trilogy, and I will publish at least the first book. And I will finish the first draft of The Silence of Magic. I will see what my editor says about Dreamer, which has yet to be named. And I will see where that goes and I will, by the time that you’re hearing this, I will hopefully have made up my mind about what to do about this spinoff of the Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy. I don’t know if you know, but Blood Wisp was actually also a sort of, is already a spin off because that’s set in the same world but with different people, although there may be one or two cameos in that. So yeah, quite excited about that. But um, as I said, I will see where that goes. And if I think that I can do anything at all with this, by the time this episode goes live, I may well have decided that it’s rubbish, and not worth pursuing. But will see.

Sarina Langer  18:27

Then in my Facebook reader group, I want to spend more time there and do better at posting every day. On my mailing list I want to do more giveaways and I want to make sure that I actually share a teaser every month like I promised. One giveaway that we can look forward to right now is I had this idea while I was editing Dreamer, there’s someone in there, I have no idea what to name this person. So I think I will do a giveaway where the winner gets this character named after them. Ta daa. So yeah, if you fancy that, sign up for my mailing list and maybe you will have a future character named after you. Wouldn’t that be neat? I don’t do anything terrible to them, at least not in the first book, so don’t worry about that. Then I want to up my marketing efforts. I might write some short stories and maybe try the anthology thing but no promises at all there. That’s more of an do if you have time thing, I think. And I want to make up my mind about Patreon this quarter, and maybe have an update for you on that by April.

Sarina Langer  19:31

And those are my goals for this year, and partially also for this quarter.

Sarina Langer  19:37

So your action step for today is to, if you haven’t already, sit down, figure out what your goals are, and if you fancy let me know what they are and we can hold each other accountable. Thank you very much for listening. Until next time, bye bye.

Sarina Langer  19:54

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

This transcript was done by Sarina.

For more from my podcast, browse the category right here on this website or listen with your favourite provider.

Sign up for my mailing list for updates on my books, excerpts, early cover reveals, and the exclusive freebies Shadow in Ar’Sanciond (the Relics of Ar’Zac prequel novella) and Pashros Kai Zo (a Relics of Ar’Zac short story, which isn’t available anywhere else).

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 19 | The Benefits of Plotting Your Whole Trilogy Before You Write It with Noelle Riches

For this week’s episode, I talked to romance author Noelle Riches about plotting your whole series before you start writing it… and writing the whole series before you start publishing.

Please note: as with anything in writing, you should do what works for you. You don’t need to plot your whole trilogy or write the whole series before you start publishing (or plot at all, if that’s not your thing). In this episode, Noelle and I discuss the benefits and challenges as we’ve found them for ourselves. It’s one process out of many options.

To find out more about Noelle, check out her websitefind her or Twitter, or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:27

Hello again friends and sparrows and welcome back. It’s the 25th of January 2021, this is Episode 19, and today I have romance author Noelle Riches with me. So, hello. So a few years ago, Noelle wrote a blog post for me about writing an epic trilogy and plotting the whole thing before you start writing and querying, which inspired me to approach my next series in the same way, which is the Blood Wisp trilogy that I’m writing right now. I thought it might be a good idea to do a whole episode on how that works and how it compares to doing it one book at a time, and then I thought of Noelle, and here we are. Welcome, Noelle.

Noelle Riches  01:12

Thank you. Hello. Thanks for having me.

Sarina Langer  01:14

My pleasure. Um, so we, I’ve got a few questions lined up for you. And we’ve also got a few questions over from Twitter that we will get to as well.

Noelle Riches  01:23

All right.

Sarina Langer  01:24

So first of all, talk us through your process. How do you approach planning a whole trilogy? Do you only do the plotting beforehand or do you also write every book before you then go back to the first one to edit that?

Noelle Riches  01:39

Well, I will, uhm, so with The Queen’s Training, I had the whole plan for the trilogy in my head, I started writing the first book, I came to the end of it. And then I think I did probably one edit of it, and thought, okay, let’s get to the next one and realised I hadn’t actually made any plans that I’d written down. So it was all in my head still. And I deeply regretted it because I went back to the beginning and, and put out the whole three books, I found that that really, really helps with the character arcs that I was doing, certain plot points. And then to tie things in a little bit, a little bit better. I hadn’t published the books until they were all three of them written at least, if not completely edited. So that helped me be able to go from one to the next, and kind of plant those little easter eggs that will, that will have readers thinking I had a plan and, and that I knew what I was doing, which was nice.

Sarina Langer  02:40

And you’re fooling everybody.

Noelle Riches  02:42

Well, yeah, everyone, yeah.

Sarina Langer  02:43

I suppose doing it that way, if you’re also editing them all before you start publishing that also helps do the quick fire release that I’m sure we’ve all heard quite a lot about, which is apparently very successful. Did you do it that way?

Noelle Riches  02:57

Yeah. So the publisher I had, Red Empress Publishing, they did a couple months in between. So the first one was in March of 2017, I believe. Then it was June and then September. So it wasn’t all at once, which is nice, because it kind of gave each book a little bit of attention focus, which I really liked. Because obviously I like each individual book as well.

Sarina Langer  03:19

Yeah. And readers need time to, you know, to catch up and read the last one in the series as well.

Noelle Riches  03:24

Exactly, yeah. And then, and then for readers, I think it’s nice because you’re not just hanging there in the ether waiting for the next one and kind of forgetting about it. Which I think can happen really easily. Because there’s just so many good books out there, so many good authors to read. And so you don’t want to have people forgetting about your books or, or you, I think.

Sarina Langer  03:44

I think that’s what I’m planning on doing now with my next series, again all thanks to you. Because your blog post I found quite interesting. I mean, I’m such a big plotter myself anyway. So every time I hear the words, or just think the words, let’s plot a whole series, my heart goes, Oh, yes, let’s do that, that sounds really fun.

Noelle Riches  04:01

It’s so exciting.

Sarina Langer  04:02

Yeah, and I have really enjoyed plotting the whole series first, you know, but again, I’m a plotter. So I tend to find things like that exciting anyway. But where I’m at now is I’ve written the first book, and I’ve written the second book. And now that I’m in writing the third book, it’s starting for me to flag a little bit. And I think that’s just because I spent so much time with the whole, well, just with the same characters and in the same worlds because, you know, ultimately, if you end up writing the whole thing first, you end up spending basically three times the time on, on the same project.

Noelle Riches  04:36

Right, right. And I think for me, I need those kind of breaks. I need editing breaks, I need to go back and forth quite a bit because as much as I love, I love writing, and especially when I first started writing I loved the writing process, the editing process was really intimidating, really overwhelming cause I didn’t know what I was looking for really. But the longer I’ve, I’ve been doing this the more I actually fall in love with the editing process, and the writing is just kind of like okay, let’s get the writing done so I can get to the editing. So if I… to write three books in a row, it’s a, it’s a big, it’s a big job really.

Sarina Langer  05:08

Yeah. I mean, say if you’re aiming just, just, just as an example, for 100,000 words per project, I know some people tend to end up with a lot less, others tend to end up with a lot more. But if you take that as a rough goal, then that’s already quite a lot for just one project anyway, but if you then plan on writing the whole trilogy, you have to basically prepare yourself to write 300,000 words before you really go back to the editing. And that’s a really big commitment.

Noelle Riches  05:36

It is, it’s a huge commitment. Writing one book alone is, is pretty epic. And fantasy as well as a genre is such an epic genre. There’s so much world building compared to…

Sarina Langer  05:47

 Yes, there’s so much you can do.

Noelle Riches  05:49

Yeah. Which, which makes it incredibly fun, I find. I love the world building, but then to be consistent and to really be in that one zone, it can be a little bit difficult to get out of or to switch or to just not feel kind of stuck in there, I think.

Sarina Langer  06:08

Yeah. No, I know what you mean. Definitely feeling that a bit now.

Sarina Langer  06:13

So why did you decide to plot your whole series before you started writing the first one? I think you’ve already touched a bit on that, because you said that with the first series, you ended up not really having anything written down and that made it harder.

Noelle Riches  06:30

Right, right. Well, I think, for you, for example, I admire so much your organisational skills. I love those Monday and Friday Instagram posts where you’re goal setting and you’re checking in with yourself and I, I love being organised. And yet it eludes me as well. I just can’t as hard as I try, I just can’t be as organised as I would like to be. I think the more organised you are, the more, the more you help yourself. So even though I love it, it was against my nature a bit, but I just knew that if I needed, if I wanted to be serious about it and go through with the trilogy and,and really commit to it that I needed to, to be organised and to know what was going on. Because, again, a fantasy you can get kind of lost in the world building and lost with all the different characters and, and, and what’s going on and where you’re going. So I think that, it was it was just kind of this determination to not give up on myself as an author and myself and, and my books and what I wanted them to be really.

Sarina Langer  07:37

Alright. And, erm, so now that you’ve done a bit of both–

Noelle Riches  07:41


Sarina Langer  07:41

What would you say are the benefits of plotting your whole series before you start writing it? Apart from obviously being more organised and having more of an idea of where you’re going.

Noelle Riches  07:50

Right? Well, that’s a good question actually, the, I think the benefits would be… Hmm, that is a good question.

Sarina Langer  07:59

Thank you.

Noelle Riches  07:59

I think the benefits are just as I mentioned, the kind of the organisation of it, not getting lost in, in, in the world that is, is so easy to get lost in and, and just holding yourself accountable, I think, just making sure that you, that you get there, that you have an endpoint at some point and you know what’s happening kind of in between as well.

Sarina Langer  08:21

We’ve talked about this a little bit before we started recording this, but when you plot the whole thing first and you write the whole thing first before you start editing or querying, it gives you that freedom of maybe noticing something in the third book that you can then easily foreshadow in the first book because it’s not out yet, but you know, when you’ve already published it, then you can’t just go in and basically add, even if it’s just a little hint, because, you know, it’s out and it should probably stay as it is.

Noelle Riches  08:49

Yeah. Yeah, that is definitely I’d say true. One of the main, the main bonuses is being able to go back and, and flesh out points that you kind of touched on and you knew you knew you’d get there, but you suddenly are in the second and third book, and you’re like, Oh, I really, I really like that. I think that it’s adding to it. But you didn’t really do much with it in the first book. So just planting that little egg that will kind of, kinda hatch a little bit later is, is so key to plotting everything out first and knowing where you’re going. Because if you… again, as you mentioned before that if you publish first, it’s kind of, it’s your opportunity to go back and tweak things is lost really. So I think it’s, it really does help that, that ability to go back and forth and really make it more cohesive.

Sarina Langer  09:38

Yeah, it lets you set it up a lot more.

Noelle Riches  09:41


Sarina Langer  09:42

And I mean, I, what I really love when I’m reading a series and, you know, again, I think you’ve just said that before we started recording as well, is that when you read the third book and maybe coming close to the end and you suddenly read something in there where you think, Oh, I remember something like this in the first book, and maybe then you might even go back to the first book to read it again and you see wow, look how, look how early they’ve set this up. And you know, maybe by the time you’re reading it for the first time, it doesn’t really stand out to you. And then later when it all comes together, you’re, you get this lovely goose bump moment of Look how it’s coming together, this is so exciting, the author knows what they are doing.

Noelle Riches  10:19

Yeah. It adds a little level of complexity that is so nice for a reader I think to, to be able to get that, those chills those goosebumps and think, like you, just to be more in the world and to realise it is this one, this one kind of escape that you, like, you didn’t waste your time invested in. You know, it was complex, it was thought out. Yeah, I think that that really helps.

Sarina Langer  10:48

And opposite to the previous question, what challenges have come up for you in plotting your whole series first, and how do you tackle them?

Noelle Riches  10:56

I think one of the big I… When I first started writing, I definitely was more of a plotter, and I’ve become more of a pantser as I go, especially as I kind of shift genres a little bit, but I have a really difficult time changing things if it’s been plotted, if I have an outline and then the characters want to do something differently, or I realise there’s, there should be something different happening here or a different location. Any of those things I get so stuck in what I’ve planned. I don’t know if it’s fear based, like it won’t get good if I change it, but it, it really, I need to let that go.

Noelle Riches  11:31

I think having an editor and editing my own work has helped me able to, help me see that I need to shift my point of view and, and change things for the better. I think that’s helped. But definitely a challenge is kind of thinking outside the box and realising I can let some things go and, and make a change if I need to.

Sarina Langer  11:49

What I like to do in those situations is I like to write both scenes. And then I can read through both and I can see maybe the one that I was originally planning maybe isn’t flowing as well as I’m writing it and maybe the one that I ended up improvising that my characters basically come up with, that one actually flows really well.

Noelle Riches  12:07

That’s a great idea.

Sarina Langer  12:09

And you can sort of test both of them that way. And then you can send them both to your editor and say which one do you prefer? It’s a lot easier to get feedback that way.

Noelle Riches  12:17

That’s a good point. Yeah, I’m gonna, I’m gonna steal that one.

Sarina Langer  12:20

There you are. We’re writers anyway. So you know, I think for us, trying to solve our problems by writing through them is a natural step, isn’t it?

Noelle Riches  12:30

Yeah, true, true.

Sarina Langer  12:32

We have… Well, I have one more question that I had written down. But I think if we do the ones from Twitter first and then we can come back to that one. So the first question comes from @gambit190. Is it okay to leave book 2 with a cliffhanger ending as long as it then gets resolved in book 3?

Sarina Langer  12:51

Such a good question.

Sarina Langer  12:53

Don’t you just love a cliffhanger ending?

Noelle Riches  12:55

Love a cliffhanger ending! I love it, I eat them up. And I think that it’s, you know, I make the comparison of those Netflix shows that we binge nowadays, we, those ones that are left with a cliffhanger. It’s kind of a love hate, you hate that you’re just tortured that way. But you do watch the next episode, don’t you? So…

Sarina Langer  13:18

Yeah, because you are tortured, you know, you really want to know what happens to your favourite character, if he really died or if it just looked that way?

Noelle Riches  13:26

Mm hmm. Yeah, I think that if you have a first, a good first book that has a cliffhanger, readers will follow you into the next one. I think the danger is maybe too many things unresolved. So, so I suggest if you have like other subplots going on, maybe resolve a couple to build reader trust, and they know that you’re going to answer it, you’re not leaving everything unresolved. And then they have a feeling of some sort of closure with the first book as well, even though they’re kind of drawn into the next book, which is what you’re looking for. So if you’re doing a cliffhanger, I think I’d recommend, again, just building that readership trust, resolving a few little issues. And then making sure that the, it’s, it’s fleshed out enough that they can trust that it’s going to be kind of great in the next one.

Sarina Langer  14:13

That’s a very good point. I mean, every book should have an ultimate goal anyway, something that your plot is working towards. And I think having that cliffhanger ending doesn’t mean that you don’t resolve the main issue of Book 2 or book 1 or you know, whichever one you end up ending on a cliffhanger. So I think as long as you still fulfil the promise that you made at the start of the book, then you can use the cliffhanger ending to nicely bridge the gap into Book Three.

Noelle Riches  14:44

Mm hmm. Yeah, and I think the one danger that is… I was talking to my partner about this question, it was such a good question. And the, we, he mentioned that the danger of that is setting the expectations too high. So for, if you, you know, end on a cliffhanger, it does have to be pretty epic when you do resolve that issue. So keep, keeping that in mind too, that if you, you know, if it’s just this kind of little like, oh, and then quick, quick solution, no big deal, people aren’t gonna be very happy about that I think so it has to be kind of an epic resolution in that cliffhanger when you when you do get to it. Yeah, just making sure that the expectations match what you’re doing as well I think it’s important.

Sarina Langer  15:28

I agree. Because I think when you do set up this cliff, uhm, cliffhanger ending? I’m really struggling to pronounce that today. I think when you set it up that way, you make it a big deal.

Noelle Riches  15:41

Right, exactly.

Sarina Langer  15:42

You know, because you readers will of course and have massive expectations coming into the second book, or third, because it’s basically then your promise of Look how I’ve ended this, big things are definitely coming. You will want to read on, please read on, so it needs to be something really big. You know, if you then, if you then start the next book and just say oh, it wasn’t really what the character had imagined. That was it. You’ll say oh, that’s disappointing.

Noelle Riches  16:09

Right, yeah, if you cuz, yeah, cliffhanger endings, it does make it a big deal. So treat it. treat it like a big deal and I think that, that it’ll work out, yeah.

Sarina Langer  16:18

Because it’s basically a plot twist that you don’t explain right away. So, you know, if you end big, you’re gonna have to carry it forward big. And if you’re not sure, you can always ask your critique partners or your editor.

Noelle Riches  16:29

Exactly. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  16:30

I think the danger with things like that is always as you said that, that you don’t carry it forward in a in a big enough way that really reflects that cliffhanger ending. So I think it can be quite difficult on your own to make it tie together in a satisfying way. But you know, if you have that, either either a critique partner group or the editor you can send it to and just say, I don’t think this is strong enough, I need it to hit harder. Suggestions, please, and they’ll really help you make it huge. And I don’t think you can really go overboard with that because you promised so much.

Noelle Riches  17:06

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s, I think it’s such a, it’s so juicy those cliffhanger. You need to  treat it with respect for sure.

Sarina Langer  17:14

Yes, yes, definitely. So if you think, if you’re wondering if you’ve gone overboard with it, it’s probably just right. It’s fine.

Noelle Riches  17:22

Yeah, yeah, right.

Sarina Langer  17:24

And we had another question from Twitter as well, this one from @VillimeyS. What tips do you have for keeping everything consistent and not forgetting important plot points? And I know this is a big issue for me as well, because you know, the more plot points you have, the easier it is to forget just one little thing that you set up in the first book that you then never thought about again.

Noelle Riches  17:44

Mm hmm. Which again is kind of a bonus to not publishing them, because you can go back and forth. So that does help. But I would say again, just staying as organised as possible, I have, you know, a Word document that has all the characters and the relationship to each other. That really helped me a lot. Again, just the outlines and kind of different different kinds of outlines to like, you know, the general like chapter by chapter outline. I mean, I’m getting a bit psychotic, I think, but I’ll make a chapter outline, a book outline, trilogy outline, like all the outlines you can imagine, it does help and even just like, you know, a Word document for, for those easter eggs, like I planted this here, don’t forget it. So you can kind of go back and forth and, and remind yourself, okay, this is what this character is, and why they’re related to this person, and where you want to go with that. And then I planted this, so that’s good. So I think it worked, whatever works for you.

Noelle Riches  18:40

I don’t know if my system is the best because I have them each in different word documents, so I have to keep flipping from one to the next. And that’s kind of annoying. I’m not exactly a techie person. So I’m sure there’s some sort of system that does better than that. But finding your own kind of way to organise really does, really is, it makes the job easier for sure.

Sarina Langer  19:00

That’s the beauty and difficulty of being a writer, isn’t it? On the one hand, you just do whatever works best for you, but on the other end, if you do have one specific question, chances are there won’t be a straight up answer, like, this is how you do it, this is the best way of doing it. Because really it’s just whatever works for you.

Noelle Riches  19:17

Yeah, and then you can have to troubleshoot and just, just go through the different systems and find what works for you. So there’s a lot of realising this doesn’t work for you. Unfortunately, it just takes time, I think. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  19:30

And I think what works for you right now may not work for you anymore with the next series, or even just the next book in the same series, certainly not in 10 years from now. So I think it’s just constantly an evolving system.

Noelle Riches  19:43

Right, right. Yeah, I’m currently, I have this five part series in mind that I do want to plot out all at the beginning and I’m just kind of constantly going back and forth in my mind with do I write them all first? Do I write them and edit them? Do I try to publish? I loved writing them all before I published, it gave me so much more flexibility, but I just… five books is a lot to kind of hold on to of anything, so I’m, I’m struggling right now with that, but I think everybody, you know again, what works for you.

Sarina Langer  20:15

Yeah, I think the longest series that I’ve ever read I think was 17 books. And I just thought if, I have, I mean I would love to write a really long series, but then I, if I think about plotting the entire thing, I don’t see that it can work. That’s way too much.

Noelle Riches  20:33

I think you’ll end up with being one of those people with like the, you know, whole wall of yarn and push pins and it’ll, it’ll look dangerous.

Sarina Langer  20:43

I won’t lie to you, Noelle, I have considered doing that.

Noelle Riches  20:46

Yup, I know it’s kind of appealing.

Sarina Langer  20:48

It is. It is. I think it was when I was reading possibly the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. A friend and I was saying at the time, she’s got so many different plot ends, and then so many different, just, just so many different everything. How does she keep track of all of it? And you know, at the moment I’m reading The Starless Sea, and again, we’re saying there are so many different threats in this. We have no idea how this lady is keeping track of everything. So this is exactly what I picture when I think of that. It’s just, it’s basically a crime wall of all connecting different pins and one thing circled here and something else there. So…

Noelle Riches  21:28

Yeah. When you invite guests over, you just have to let them know, you’re, you know, it’s, it’s for a book. It’s fine.

Sarina Langer  21:35

It’s definitely, like, when it says there kill Steve, it’s not, it’s not a real person. It’s a character, it’s okay.

Noelle Riches  21:43

He does not exist.

Sarina Langer  21:45

Yes, I have googled what acid does to the human body, but never mind that, it’s research.

Noelle Riches  21:50

What self respecting author has not googled something creepy like that?

Sarina Langer  21:55

Exactly. So you know, I think, I think we can excuse quite a lot of research just by saying it’s fine, we’re authors.

Noelle Riches  22:02


Sarina Langer  22:05

Also very sorry to any Steve’s listening. I’m not singling you out, but.

Noelle Riches  22:09

Yeah, right, right.

Sarina Langer  22:11

So um, I hope that’s answered your questions, @gambit190 and @VillimeyS.

Sarina Langer  22:16

And then to come to my last question. Do you have any advice for people wanting to try plotting the whole trilogy, or anyone wanting to do something longer than a trilogy but still using the same system?

Noelle Riches  22:30

Oh, I, again, I come back to the organisation of it, I think. If you’re, if you’re a pantser, I would still say, having a good idea of where you’re going and general idea of each book, even if you don’t want to plot them out. And if you do, I’d say just just enjoy it, really. It’s, it’s such a fun process. I, I go for walks with my dog, and everything comes to me when I walk. So you know, finding that one time where like, all the ideas come, but then making sure you write it down if you can, yeah.

Sarina Langer  23:06

So do you have a notebook app for that or do you carry a physical notebook around with you everywhere you go, just in case.

Noelle Riches  23:12

I think I love the idea of a little like physical notebook. But I mostly just write notes in my phone.

Sarina Langer  23:19

I do, I do have an app for that, but I’ve got… I’m such a note junkie.

Noelle Riches  23:24


Sarina Langer  23:25

I have an app for notes. It’s quite, it’s a very simple thing. I think it’s literally just called notebook or something like that. It’s very simple. But I also have a different notebook for every work in progress. And then some of those have more than one notebook, because it’s maybe a series of because I’ve exhausted one notebook. So it’s then on to two, then… I’ve got, I’ve got a lot of things, and you know, then, then there’s Scrivener. So I have index cards in that also with notes.

Noelle Riches  23:51


Sarina Langer  23:53

So it’s, you know,  I think with organisation comes down very strongly to whatever works for you.

Noelle Riches  23:59

I agree, I know. And it’s, I hate given that answer because I wish I, it doesn’t feel very helpful because it’s not, it’s not an, it’s not an answer, but at the same time it really, I think one answer won’t really cut it for all the people out there who’re doing everything differently and finding their different systems. So it is, it is really what works for you. And I think that, like, I love sort of… going back to the notebook idea. I like the–

Sarina Langer  24:23

What I do when when I have taken notes and I do want to add something, I do like a little arrow that goes off to the side where I’ll write it in a really, in a really small font over it. It makes it very messy, but I think that’s also what makes it look more like a writer’s notebook in a way, because it’s not, it’s not a simple or straightforward process. And as you said, you know, while you’re plotting, you might just suddenly think of something, maybe while you’re walking your dog, or while you’re doing the dishes, so, you know, just, just edit it, it doesn’t have to be pretty just needs to make sense to you.

Sarina Langer  24:23

Why not?

Noelle Riches  24:23

Yeah, it’s such a romantic idea of like writing things down the notebook. And just recently I’ve, I’ve started doing that, just writing by hand all my outlines. And it’s partly infuriating because I can’t go back and put things in, like with the computer you can always put things in between but you can’t, when you’re writing, when you’re handwriting but it’s, there’s something so romantic and lovely about just seeing a page written and then being able to turn it into a book.

Noelle Riches  25:22

Yeah, and I kind of like when things are messy like that. It does feel like a real writer’s notebook for sure.

Sarina Langer  25:26

Yeah. And I think for most of us, our thoughts tend to be quite chaotic anyway when we plan anything. So I think when our notes reflect that it almost feels more natural, because the process can be quite chaotic, even if you do put some kind of order to it.

Noelle Riches  25:40

Right, yeah. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  25:42

All right. That is all our questions. Thank you very much for stopping by.

Noelle Riches  25:47

Thank you so much.

Sarina Langer  25:48

And I hope we’ve answered the questions that our guys on Twitter have had. And, uhm… yeah, thank you so much for stopping by.

Noelle Riches  25:56

Thank you so much, Sarina.

Sarina Langer  25:58

Thank you. Bye.

Noelle Riches  25:59


Sarina Langer  26:01

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Transcribed by Otter

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 18 | Writing Routines: Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir

Once a month, I talk to another writer about their writing routine. We answer questions such as Are you a plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between? ,  Do you write every day? ,  Where does your inspiration come from?,  What’s your beverage of choice?, and many more! At the end of each episode, the writers recommend their favourite book on writing and share their advice for establishing the right writing routine for you.

This month, I talked to Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir, a horror author from Iceland.

Her book recommendation is Writing in the Dark by Tim Wagner.

To find out more about Villimey, check out her websitefind her or Twitter , or follow her on Instagram.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:27

Welcome back friends and sparrows. It’s the 18th of January 2021, this is Episode 18. Oh, that works really well doesn’t it? 18th January, 18th episode, it’s almost like I planned it. And this is the first of a new series of monthly interviews where I will be asking a different author every month about their writing routine. Personally, I love hearing about different approaches. And some of you have told me that you love hearing about this too, so I hope you enjoy these.

Sarina Langer  00:55

The first author I’m interviewing is Villimey. She’s a horror offer from Iceland, and I’m really excited that she’s here with me this morning. Welcome to the writing sparrow.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  01:06

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Sarina Langer  01:09

Such a pleasure. So before we started this, you tried to teach me your surname and I failed miserably and then I gave up. Can you– What do you mind introducing yourself before I slaughter it?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  01:22

Yes. Okay. For all you guys listening I hope you can try rolling your R’s like I, like we true Icelanders do, but my full name is Villimey Kristín Mist Sigurbjörnsdóttir.

Sarina Langer  01:38

You’re welcome, everyone. So you can try to follow that along with the, with the title of this episode and in the transcription, which I am feeling a little bit sorry for, my poor transcription service, which can barely cope with the word horror. So I’m interested to see what it gives me. I have to send you a picture of what I get.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  02:02

I, this is going to, this programme is going to have a field day.

Sarina Langer  02:05

I think it’s gonna. Yeah, it’s gonna be fun to see what it does.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  02:09

It’ll probably give you a big ass error code.

Sarina Langer  02:13

Yeah, like, what was that? I can, it can barely cope with English. So we’ll see how it copes with Icelandic.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  02:20


Sarina Langer  02:21

So let’s do the most important question first. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or are you somewhere in between?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  02:30

I’m definitely somewhere in between.

Sarina Langer  02:33

All right.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  02:34

What I usually do, especially when it comes to novels, I tend to do like an outline of each chapter. So I usually get in my head, like what kind of what, how, how sufficient that chapter would be, how many chapters there should be in a novel. Usually, in my novels, currently, there have been like 30 to 35. That’s like a good, it’s a good amount for like an 80k novel. And then I just structur it like that. And then, then when I go and start writing, at least I have like a good skeletal progress of how the novel is going to be, how story is going to be. So I can always just go into the, into the chapter outlines, see like, Okay, this chapter is going to have something like this. And then I just start writing, but at the same time, I don’t completely adhere to the outlines themselves, like I have like the core points. And with that, I can just let my pen freely flow.

Sarina Langer  03:35

I think that’s quite a good way of approaching it. I do it in a very similar way, actually. So you know, I think we both, we’re both people who really like to structure things so that we know where we’re going. But then if our characters at any point say Actually, I’m going over that way, then we’re flexible enough to run with that.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  03:54


Sarina Langer  03:55

It’s interesting I think that you said that you, that you tend to aim for about 50, 53 chapters for an 80k novel. So do you try to always have roughly the same number of words per chapter? Cause I think just chapter length can vary so much, you know, so you get some books which have maybe 20 chapters and they are all quite long, and then you get another book with roughly the same number of words overall, but they might have 60 chapters.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  04:25

Yeah, well, I usually I try to have like the chapters like three– 2000 or 3000 words. I think that’s a really good like, the length for a chapter is like, it doesn’t it doesn’t have that too many words that the reader will get bored. It’s all, I mean, of course everything depends on like how interesting you’re going to write the chapter. But I think it’s like appropriate length, like if I’m reading like a fantasy story, and it has like a chapter is like maybe 6000 or 7000 words. I usually like to go over to where the next chapter is and see how much I have. And I’m like, this is, this is gonna take too long. And I might get impatient, because I’m such an impatient person.

Sarina Langer  05:15

Yeah, I get it. See, this is why I rushed my debut novel out the first time I did it. And this is why I had to get it re edited, because I was very impatient. But I think it’s got a lot better over time. And I know that you’ve got a lot more patient over time as well. Because I’ve known you from your first book, so I know how much you’ve improved in those terms.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  05:37

I know. I, I really should pat myself on the shoulder here.

Sarina Langer  05:41

You really should.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  05:43

For learning that much patience.

Sarina Langer  05:45

I mean, generally writing a book and getting it out there is such an exciting process anyway, that I think it’s really easy to get carried away.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  05:53

Oh, yeah, especially when you have like, these nuggets that you really want to share with people. And then you get really excited, and then you reverse plan like, okay, on this month, I’m going to like, reveal this, and then you get to, god, fuck, I’m just gonna put it out there right now. I’m sorry, I tend to swear when I’m excited.

Sarina Langer  06:14

That’s okay. That’s okay. I don’t think there are any children listening to this. We’ve had, I’ve had a couple of swears here and there over the episodes, and they would be much too annoying to edit out.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  06:25

Thank god.

Sarina Langer  06:26

So this will come uncensored. I don’t think anyone’s going to be offended at that. If any of you are, we’re very sorry. It just slips out. We’re just very passionate authors, that’s all.

Sarina Langer  06:40

So to come back to your writing routine, in general, what does that look like? Do you have a specific routine every day? Is there tea involved? Is there anything that you need to do, a specific process?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  06:56

Well, I, I usually tend to like, wake up early. I do my workouts early. I have this kind of situation with my, with my work that I’ve start work usually around 11, it’s not really typical of work elsewhere. So it gives me time to do stuff in the morning. So I can I just can get my workouts done, and then I feel energised enough afterwards to sit down and write a little bit. I don’t aim for a lot of like a daily counts or anything like that. It will just stress me out. Because if I, it feels like I’m not doing it and doing anything enough, and I’ve trying to have this kind of mindfulness of whatever you’re doing is enough. Like even if you wrote maybe a sentence or if you wrote two words. It’s, for that that’s enough, so you don’t have to really stress yourself out about it.

Sarina Langer  07:53

I think I can hear your cat, it’s so cute.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  07:56

Yep. That’s Robocop.

Sarina Langer  07:59


Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  08:00


Sarina Langer  08:01

That’s adorable. Hello, Robocop.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  08:05

Yeah, he is.

Sarina Langer  08:06

Aww, he looks a bit like the elderly cat who comes by every now and again. She’s 20 years old.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  08:13

Oh my!

Sarina Langer  08:14

She is completely deaf. She’s gone blind in one eye. And she looks a little bit like she, she always looks a little bit like she’s just been in a fight. So a little bit rough. Your cat isn’t there yet, but your cat isn’t 20 years old, so.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  08:27

No, he’s eight, though.

Sarina Langer  08:29

Oh, bless him. I mean, sorry listeners. You can’t see him. He’s the most, the softest looking cat. He’s grey and he– I think he just huffed at me.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  08:41

He’s a really soft teddy bear. I’ve never had such a soft cat before and he’s like, he’s got everything.

Sarina Langer  08:49

And he looks like he loves cuddles.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  08:52

He does but then he’s the kind of cat that I let– he wants me to come to him. It’s just he’s still like such a, he’s such a tease. He’s like oh look at me I have such a nice looking for. Don’t you want to pet it? I’m like, Yeah, come here. No, no.

Sarina Langer  09:09

I do. Yes, I do. How do you know?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  09:12

Yeah, and then again, like no, no, no, you come to me and the he runs off, and I’m like you wanted pets!

Sarina Langer  09:19

We’ve had so many pet appearances on this podcast so far. So I think I’m gonna have to almost do like a list of, of guest appearances by our various cats and dogs.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  09:31

See, now he’s, now he’s doing the I’m not getting enough attention whine.

Sarina Langer  09:35

Our cat is about to be fed in about 25 minutes, so there is a good chance that we’ll hear her cause she gets absolutely insufferable around this time.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  09:45

I don’t even know. We went off track because of the goddamn cat. Oh, yeah.

Sarina Langer  09:50

Oh yeah. Yeah yeah yeah. Shall we, shall we get back to the point of why we’re both here. We– you’ve already just touched on this in that you don’t really set yourself a specific word count goal every day, which was going to be my next question. Um, so I think we can skip that. So do, do you write every day without fail? Or do you take breaks?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  10:13

I try to write a little bit every day. But I mean, sometimes just life gets in the way.

Sarina Langer  10:20


Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  10:21

Like sometimes when I’m just sitting here like, my, my laptop is such a huge distraction. My phone is a huge distraction, it’s basically the home of Twitter. I do nothing else on this goddamn phone except be on Twitter, so I try to like shut down the laptop so I can focus on writing. Because for those of you who don’t know, I write everything by hand.

Sarina Langer  10:48

Yeah, we will come back to that in a bit, and that’s very impressive. You can almost do I think, its own episode just on how you do that. But we’ll do a little bit about that in a bit. Yeah.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  11:00

pSo I try to do like a little bit every day, like, even if it’s just a small outline, or just a couple of words, if it can get squeezed that like in the morning, and maybe when I get back home from work, I work late, I usually come back around 7, 7:30, or something like that, and though in the evenings, so and that leaves me like doing dinner, and then you know, cleaning that up, and then afterwards, just I get a couple of hours before going to bed. So I usually try to do just a little bit, but on the weekends, I give myself time off. Like, I usually, usually have the time to you know, go for walks and watch my favourite shows and do the household chores, I usually leave that always on the weekends. And, yeah, and reading. I’ve, I’ve like set this goal for myself this year that I will focus my weekends on reading so I can finish as many books as… I mean, I have a YouTube channel now, so I kind of need me to keep up with that.

Sarina Langer  12:06

Yeah. Now I think that’s a nice way of doing it because you need time to recharge anyway.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  12:13


Sarina Langer  12:13

And I think in, in our industry, maybe more than definitely, well definitely more than in traditional jobs, say where you have an office that you go to five days a week and then you know that the weekends are off. We don’t really get that in the same sense. Because we know that we’re self employed when, when we do all the authoring stuff, which I think makes makes it quite… well, I think it makes it feel really like we need to write all the time or else you’re not doing enough, and it can make taking weekends off quite difficult. So it’s nice to see that you look after yourself, and hopefully you don’t get burnt out.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  12:50

No, I, I’ve, after listening to your burnout episodes, I’ve been really paying attention to what my symptoms are going to be like.

Sarina Langer  12:59

Oh thank you!

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  12:59

so when I writing, like with the plotting that I’m doing now with book four, I feel like I’m getting a little bit of burnout. So I’m like, Okay, I’m gonna focus on something else.

Sarina Langer  13:09

That’s a very good thing to do, well done, because it can be really hard actually, to notice, I think.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  13:16

It is.

Sarina Langer  13:16

Like on paper, it looks really easy when you just go through the symptoms, but then it actually happens to you and you’ll probably think actually, it’s probably something else. It’s not going to be burnout. I’m probably just tired because I didn’t sleep well enough, which in itself can be a symptom, so… but I’m getting sidetracked again. I can talk about burnout until the cows come home as my mom would say, so.

Sarina Langer  13:38

Um, so obviously at the moment we’re recording this, we’re still in lockdown. And I imagine that by the time this goes live in a few days time, we’re still being in lockdown. How would you say that your routine has changed at all over the years, and how has it been affected by the lockdown?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  13:55

The thing is, we don’t have a lockdown here in Iceland.

Sarina Langer  13:58

Oh, right!

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  13:59

We… Yeah, we–

Sarina Langer  14:01

Never mind!

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  14:02

We’ve like, I can’t say that we have been like successful, but compared to other Scandinavian countries we’re doing fairly well. Because we’re, our government is like really pushing down on keeping the infection rate as low as possible. And we’re doing that by like checking with every, everyone that goes into the country. So they have to get checked. They have to do the testing when they arrive at the airport, and then they have to go for a five day quarantine. And then they have to go do a second testing. And when they are tested positive, they are, they’re immediately shipped to another place where they are contained.

Sarina Langer  14:49

That sounds so sinister.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  14:51

I know, it really does! But it’s the best way to keep it from infecting the society. Beczuse we’re really, like we’re really, really, really, really worried about the British, the British contagion, the contagion.

Sarina Langer  15:08

So you should be.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  15:09

As it’s called in the media, which is supposed to be a lot more infectious. So we’re really, really trying to contain that away from society as much as possible. So with doing that, we’ve actually managed to, like, go easy a little bit, like yesterday was, was one of the where they are slacking off a little bit on the restriction. So instead of now 10 people gathering together, now 20 people may gather together. And…

Sarina Langer  15:44

So what you’re saying is, it hasn’t really affected your writing routine at all.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  15:48

No, not really. I mean, I just I’ve been going to work ever since it started. And I mean, I’m kind of like a frontline worker, I work in an office and crafts, arts and crafts store. So a lot of people have been go, needing to go there, because everyone’s working from home, so they need office supplies, and all the kids, they need stuff to do while they can go to school. So I have been really busy at work. And I’ve just been doing my routine what I’ve been doing like this the last two years, I think. Just the same. Same old, same old. It’s boring as hell.

Sarina Langer  16:28

But it works. And that’s why it’s a routine, isn’t it? Ultimately. And then, I know, I think you’ve mentioned the other day, possibly on Instagram or on Twitter that in your store, you have like 50 different kinds of notebook.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  16:43


Sarina Langer  16:43

Which brings me on to my next question. And you’ve already talked about that a little bit. Which is your, the writing programme that you use, and you actually write all your drafts by hand.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  16:55

I do, yup.

Sarina Langer  16:56

And they all have their own dedicated notebook. See, that was a link there, I know what I’m doing. Alright, so talk me through that. How does, how does your hand survive that, cause every time I try to write much by hand, certainly that much, eventually, my hand will cramp. And then there’s no way I’m writing anything else that way.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  17:16

I think it might have to do with the fact that I’m also an artist. So I, I draw everything by hand as well. Like I do a lot of traditional art, trying to move towards digital arts ever since I got the iPad. It’s just been challenging. And I’m, and I’m impatient when it could faster.

Sarina Langer  17:33

It feels very different.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  17:35

Yeah, it really does. But so yeah, I’ve always… and also just, I have always been the person who likes to take notes, like ever since I was in school. And ever since people brought like, we’re allowed to brought laptops to classes and stuff, they would just type everything up there. But I felt like I couldn’t really pay attention to everything while I was writing in my laptop, so I would always just pull my notebook and just take notes with that by hand. And I noticed that I can pay attention, listen to the, the teacher and take notes and understand what I’m writing at the same time.

Sarina Langer  18:17

That’s impressive.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  18:19

And I’ve kind of actually moved that towards writing my novels, like a lot of people tend to have, want to have like complete silence when they are writing.

Sarina Langer  18:29

Like me!

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  18:30

Yep. Sometimes it works for me. Like if I need to really get into the zone, I will do that. But you, I usually hate silences because it has something to do with with me when I was a kid. I’ve always have had to have some kind of sound in my room. So I always have to have background noises. So I usually just put up like Friends or Brooklyn 999 on TV. And it doesn’t bother me when I’m writing. Because it just feels like I’m with someone or I’ve been in class and I could just write whatever I want.

Sarina Langer  19:04

And when it then comes to getting what you’ve handwritten onto your computer, what programme do you use for that, and how do you… D you type everything out again by hand or I think you dictate it?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  19:19

First, I typed everything by hand and my god I don’t really recommend it because it is hard. But then I discovered this cute little button on Word that basically saved my life and my sanity. It’s the dictation button. So basically what I did is I just said everything out loud to the to the Word programme and it just dictated for me, and the only thing they had to do was to fix what the dictation didn’t really get from my accent.

Sarina Langer  19:52

That doesn’t sound so bad.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  19:54

It doesn’t, and it also, it also helps because there are some, some some of the writing tips as you’ve probably heard is to read your stuff out loud.

Sarina Langer  20:03


Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  20:04

And it’s a really good thing. And I noticed that when I’m really reading my first draft into the, into the draft that there are some things that really don’t, don’t, don’t look good or don’t really loud good. So it gives me time to edit that at least.

Sarina Langer  20:20

That’s, that’s a good way to do it. I mean, I think it definitely helps to hear it yourself as well. Because I think when you just read it silently to yourself, it sounds quite different in your own head than when you actually read it out loud.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  20:33

Yeah. Yes, definitely.

Sarina Langer  20:35

So that’s a big help.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  20:36

Yeah. Actually, it’s kind of it’s difficult for me sometimes, because what, what the English we learned in Iceland is actually the British English.

Sarina Langer  20:48


Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  20:49

So I mean, the proper English of course.

Sarina Langer  20:52

Of course.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  20:54

But then I’ve also been exposed to American English through watching television. I mean, I grew, I basically, I think, I think my best friend was the TV when I was growing up. And Cartoon Network really helped spice up my vocabulary in English. So I tend to mix those up a little bit. Like there are some–

Sarina Langer  21:15

I think a lot of people do, to be fair, because American English is everywhere, especially on TV, you know, we get so many shows over here now from America, especially also with Netflix and things like that. So I think for most, most people don’t necessarily realise that they’re using American English over here. It just happens naturally, cause, you know, you just, you just soak it up.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  21:39

Yeah, exactly. So reading out loud really helped me to detect if I’m using the proper English or not.

Sarina Langer  21:48

So to move on, cause I’m very aware of the time – damn your cat for being so cute and distracting us. What are three important things you need to have when you’re writing, and I imagine your cat is one of those.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  22:03


Sarina Langer  22:04

What are the other two?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  22:07

My notebooks. I need to have my notebooks. If I, if I don’t, I will probably scrounge for like post it notes or anything like that, like I will probably order everything from, from work. And I need to have tea, tea or water next to me.

Sarina Langer  22:25

I’m having a tea right now.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  22:26

I haven’t had mine yet.

Sarina Langer  22:27

Of course, it’s quite, it’s quite early in the day that we’re recording this anyway. So it’s just my regular first tea of the day.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  22:33

Yeah. I, my throat is actually a little bit parched. So I might get some tea afterwards.

Sarina Langer  22:39

Do you need to go? Do you need to quickly go get some water?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  22:43

I’m fine now. It’s just so frickin cold here.

Sarina Langer  22:46

Yeah. So… there we are, what do you do when writing gets difficult? Because it’s not always easy, especially when you try to make a little bit of progress every day. You know, sooner or later, you’re going to sit down with your notebook and you’re not quite sure where to go and how to move things forward. What do you do when that happens?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  23:08

I’m actually in that situation right now. I’m currently outlining book four of my vampire series. And like the beginning sounds really good. And I’m super happy about that. But then when I’m like, I have the middle left, and I have no idea how the ending is going to be. And I’m just stuck. So I decided like okay, I… Until like, maybe until I talked to it to someone who actually knows my series like you, for example, or Damascus, my illustrator, we usually chat back and forth. I decided just to move on and just work on something else. So I had like a short story that I had in mind. And I hadn’t really gone into outlining it. So I decided just to sit down and outline that and now I have a basis for a short story that I might work, work on until I get like a light bulb moment for outlining book four.

Sarina Langer  24:09

See, what Villimey does when she doesn’t have a whole novel draft to write is she writes short stories. She writes a lot of short stories.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  24:19

Well, I only just started but it’s super fun.

Sarina Langer  24:23

You have to… well maybe if we do another episode on that at some point, cause… I mean, I’ve already done one episode with Bev anyway. And when we did that one I got really excited to write short stories, and then I tried it and I just don’t know how to kick that off. But it seems to be so effortless for you. So maybe we can do another episode about that at some point.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  24:42

Well, yeah. I’d like that.

Sarina Langer  24:44

There we are. So when you write, do you, do you snack and what’s your beverage of choice? We’re getting to the really important questions now.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  24:54

The thing is with me, I can’t really snack on things that I’m really focused on. Like, even when I’m at the movies and I have like a big bag of popcorn in front of me. I can’t eat that while I’m watching the movie because I’m so engrossed into the movie itself. So what I usually do is I cram like a mouthful, just before the trailer starts. And then when the movie starts, I’m like, nope, nope, I need to watch, I need to be focused. And that’s kind of how it does with my writing as well. So I might maybe get a, like a… I have like, right now I have… I’ve got like a box of Icelandic chocolate for Christmas.

Sarina Langer  25:39

Oh. I’ve tried some of your Icelandic chocolate and it’s delicious.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  25:42

It is. A lot of people don’t know it, but we have one of the best.

Sarina Langer  25:47

Especially the ones with caramel chunks, they are wonderful.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  25:50

Oh, yes. The one with Icelandic sea salt.

Sarina Langer  25:52

Oh, yes.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  25:55

Um, so I try not to have a lot of snacks. But I do, I always emphasise on being hydrated. So even though you’re working on something, and you’re super focused, even when it comes to either writing, or in my case, also, when I’m drawing, I have to remind myself to stay hydrated. So I always keep a bottle of my water there, as well as something warm, which is, would be my like tea and stuff. I like green tea and chai.

Sarina Langer  26:26

You have to teach me at some point maybe how you can make a perfect cup of green tea, because every time I’ve tried making green tea, it was disgusting. But I’m such a tea drinker that it feels weird to me that I can’t enjoy green tea. I think I’m just brewing it wrong. That must be it.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  26:44

And I think also if you just have a like a combination of things, because there are some people who can’t take the bitter taste of green tea. And also as, like, as my husband likes to say, it tastes like grass.

Sarina Langer  26:57

I don’t… I like, well, I like the smell of grass right after you’ve cut it. That’s a lovely smell.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  27:01

That’s the best smell.

Sarina Langer  27:03

Maybe that’s how I should think about it. It’s concentrated cut grass juice. It doesn’t sound appealing.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  27:11

Like I said, it really depends. Like the tea that I always drink at work that really helps me get energised is actually a tea called Green Energy. And it’s like a combination of like ginger, green tea, and ginseng.

Sarina Langer  27:29

Oh right. That sounds alright.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  27:32

Yeah, it’s not, it’s not as bitter as I thought it would be.

Sarina Langer  27:35


Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  27:36

It’s from Yogi Tea. So I think you guys have, sell it there in Britain.

Sarina Langer  27:41

Probably. I mean, if nothing else, it’ll be on Amazon because everything is on Amazon anyway. Well, I’ll have to look it up. I’d like to have a nice healthy cup of green tea at some point.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  27:51


Sarina Langer  27:52

Moving on to the, to the subject at hand. So how do you, how do you find inspiration? One of the big questions, something that everyone is forever wondering: how do writers constantly find more inspiration?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  28:07

Well, it’s really hard to say, like, my ideas just pop into my head whenever they, whenever they want. Like even when I’m doing such mundane tasks like cleaning, like the cleaning the apartment, suddenly I just have like this idea about a really bad serial killer who wants to kill everyone? I’m like, how does that fit into cleaning?

Sarina Langer  28:30

Well, maybe you just really hate cleaning and it makes you maybe just a tick violent? No?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  28:35

Yeah, I don’t know. It’s just, I was just watching one, like I was watching, erm, like a TV series that is based on a manga on Netflix called Alice Borderland. And I was just watching that and really enjoying it, and then suddenly out pops into my head like, Hey, have you ever done a story with a sinister Japanese spirits? And I’m like, No, I haven’t.

Sarina Langer  29:05

I think I’ve just seen you mention that on Twitter, something about a Ouija board and, and a Japanese version of that. Is that where that came from?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  29:12

That’s where it came from. Even though like nothing of that happened in that TV series. Just the thing that I was being absorbed by like the Japanese culture that I’m really familiar with, because I used to live there for two years. It just really just brought me back.

Sarina Langer  29:30

And how do you record your ideas when they pop into your head? Do you write it down anywhere? Or do you remember them?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  29:38

Twitter is a really good thing to storing these ideas. Just like for like YouTube references like if you have Twitter and you get an idea, write it down and tweet it and get people excited. That way I will get it will help me remember like I have a story that people were excited about and I need to write that down.

Sarina Langer  29:56

That sounds like a really good way of doing it, cause one You have a record off the idea, so if you forget it, it will still be on Twitter, so you can’t lose it. And it gets your first reaction of whether people are excited about it or not. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Sounds like a great way of doing it.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  30:15

Yeah, it’s a good idea

Sarina Langer  30:16

I’ll have to consider that next time I have one.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  30:20


Sarina Langer  30:21

You already said earlier that when you write you like to have some kind of background noise, but do you listen to music while you write? And do you have, like, like dedicated playlists for every book?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  30:35

I find that really interesting. I, there are some songs that I, that I didn’t really understand that it could fit well with my stories until afterwards. Like, I decided, like on Instagram for one time, like, hey, what kind of songs would you implement with my stories? And a lot, I got a lot of suggestions from a lot of people. And when I listened to the songs, they really fit it, the stories. So it usually comes up to me afterwards. So if I’m, if I need, if I need some inspiration when it comes to music, I usually tend to go for the metal ones.

Sarina Langer  31:17

Metal music, especially metal covers are a recent obsession of ours.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  31:24

Yeah, it is really, really nice. And it gets you pumped up.

Sarina Langer  31:29

And I think it suits your stories quite well as well.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  31:33

Yeah, I mean, kind of, yeah. I mean, Leah kind of has to listen to that all the time now.

Sarina Langer  31:39

Bless her. It’s a hard life.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  31:41

It is. But it really helps, especially when you’re like, if you find that listening to music helps with your writing, I would kind of try to associate it with the scenes that you’re writing. Like for me, if I want to ride like a really tense action scene, I would put metal on. And that really helps.

Sarina Langer  32:03

That’s a good idea. I mean, I wish I could write with music. But if there is any kind of lyrics, I can’t focus on both, but instrumental music, I think it needs to be for me, either that or silence. But God, I wish I could try it with metal music. It sounds so perfect for really getting you into the right mood for the scene you’re writing.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  32:25

Yeah, it is. But I think there is like, there are some like YouTube channels that do covers, like metal covers that are just instrumental.

Sarina Langer  32:34

Oh, yeah, you’re right. Every now and again… it’s not really relevant, to be honest, but every now and again, we play a game where my partner will put on a metal cover and I have to guess what the song is. It’s quite fun.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  32:46

Oh my God, our house are the same.

Sarina Langer  32:50

There you go. It’s such a fun thing to do. And it really shows you just how bad your knowledge of music is.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  32:57

The thing is, I’m good at, I’m super good, like, I could be like the computer, like the computer equivalent to recognising like celebrity faces when I’m watching stuff. If I’m watching a movie, I’m like, I know this guy. He played in that and my husband will be like no, that’s not right. I’m like, Yes, he does. And then I go on IMDB and I’m like, yeah, it’s that guy. When he switches around and we go to music, he knows every single thing. Like he knows the bass player. He knows when it was, like, recorded and at what time and stuff. And I’m like, I know one note from this. I don’t know the song. I think I know who it is. I like it.

Sarina Langer  33:44

So my next question is a little bit mean. But, but try, just try your best. Which one book, just one, has inspired you the most as a writer?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  33:58

Ah, shit.

Sarina Langer  34:01


Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  34:03

Well, I mean, that’s it… I mean, if I have to be honest and even, and even despite the the current affairs with that particular author, I’d have to say Harry Potter.

Sarina Langer  34:19

I mean, I think for most of us, that was such a big influence as we were growing up. So if we, if we separate ourselves, maybe, from the person behind the books, and just think about how it made us feel at the time.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  34:31


Sarina Langer  34:32

And you know, those those feelings were real. And yeah, that love and the passion for it all that was real.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  34:38

Yeah. I think that was the one that I kind of, like drove me, like if that person can do it, then maybe I can as well.

Sarina Langer  34:46

Yeah. And you know, obviously, everything that’s going on now has absolutely no bearing on how… that, the fact that it inspired you to be a writer in the first place all those years ago. Sa, you know, I think that’s still, that’s still very valid. And yes, I just I love hearing about what books have inspired other people to pick up writing because it’s, it makes it so powerful to me.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  35:12

Yeah, it really does.

Sarina Langer  35:14

It’s really all about the books when you come back down to it.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  35:17

Well yeah, I mean once it’s out there, it’s not yours technically.

Sarina Langer  35:22

Yeah. And on a very similar note, do you have a favourite book on the craft of writing?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  35:29

I’m actually, I, one of my favourite now is this one here. It’s called Writing in the Dark by Tim Wagner.

Sarina Langer  35:37

Okay, I don’t think I’ve heard… actually, no, I think I have seen it around a little bit.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  35:42

Yeah, he just published it a couple of months ago. And it’s basically a guide book on how to write good horror fiction, because he’s a really established horror author. So he both, basically he is telling him, telling people like how he went into it, how he kind of went through the stages of writing horror, and he’s giving like, good, really good advice, and really good lessons. And I, well, I haven’t gone through everything yet. But it’s really, really, really good. So I definitely recommend that if you are thinking of writing horror. You might, you might, you might learn something from him.

Sarina Langer  36:25

Always good to have a book like that. I love having a book on writing that I know I can come back to any time if I’m stuck, and I’m instantly feeling inspired to write again. Which comes back to inspiration.

Sarina Langer  36:38

And, finally, um, do you have any advice for establishing a writing routine?

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  36:47

Well, I think what you just have to do is… It can be really tough to say just come up with a plan, because you know, life gets in the way, and you can’t really stick to that plan. So what I just say is, be kind to yourself, and try to maybe start like less, don’t start like with trying to write 1000 words a day. If that doesn’t fit into your schedule, then just scrap it altogether. Just try maybe one or two sentences. And if that flow is still within you, then just keep on writing and see if you can keep on going for the rest of, the like, for the rest of the week. And if that helps, definitely just tried to amp it up. But don’t try to go, don’t go exceeding the things that you can’t really do.

Sarina Langer  37:40

No, especially right in the beginning, if, you know, if you’re only just starting to get into writing, I mean, you… I think one of my writing friends easily knocks out 10,000 words a day. And I don’t know how she does it. Please don’t ask me. It’s dark magic to me.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  37:55

That is dark magic to me as well.

Sarina Langer  37:57

But if that had been the first impression that I’d had about how many words other writers do a day then that would have been quite off putting, I think because that is such a massive count, just for one day.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  38:11


Sarina Langer  38:11

So you know, just, just start slowly as you said to see what you can do in a day. And let that be your benchmark to begin with. And you know, you can always step it up a bit over time.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  38:21

Yeah. So I have to add because I work out, like it’s the same, similar if you’re going to do physical exercises. You don’t go straight for the heavier weights, you go with the ones that you can deal with.

Sarina Langer  38:34

That’s a great comparison.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  38:36

And then once you get stronger, you can move up to heavier weights.

Sarina Langer  38:41

That’s a really good comparison, because I think everyone will possibly have tried working out at some point or another, and it’s really easy to overdo that immediately and just think, I’m going to work out, I’m going to start by running one kilometre, and it’s probably not gonna happen. I mean, I hate running anyway, so that’s a bad example from me, but…

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  39:01

I’m not even at the point where I can like jog continually. I have to take like, intervals when I’m just walking briskly. And then I start jogging. And I’ve been running, jogging now since March. So it takes time.

Sarina Langer  39:17

Yeah, like any, like any routine, really getting into a writing routine also takes time. So as you said, Be kind to yourself, and take it slowly.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  39:25


Sarina Langer  39:27

All right, we will end on that. Thank you very much for stopping by and talking to me about your writing routine, Villimey. Thank you so much.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  39:35

I hope everyone can learn a little bit something from it.

Sarina Langer  39:38

We can hope. Thank you very much. Bye.

Villimey Sigurbjörnsdóttir  39:42


Sarina Langer  39:44

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Transcribed by Otter

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 17 | Social Media for Authors with Briana Morgan

For this week’s episode, Briana Morgan joined me to talk about social media! Heads up: we focussed on Instagram and Twitter, but TikTok and Facebook also got a few mentions.

We’re tackling questions like:

How much time should we spend on social media, and how often should we post?

How can we please the Instagram algorithm?

What counts as engagement on Instagram, and how can we boost our engagement?

How can you use social media to get beta readers?

And many more!

If you want to see for yourself how well Briana is doing with social media, you can find her on Instagramon Twitteron TikTok, and her website.

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:24

Hello again, friends and sparrows, and welcome back. It’s the 11th of January 2021, and this is Episode 17. Today, I’ve got horror author and editor extraordinaire Briana Morgan with me. Briana has been my editor since my first book. She’s a fantastic horror and urban fantasy author, and she knows a thing or two about social media as well, which is what we’ll be discussing today. Welcome to the Writing Sparrow, Bri!

Briana Morgan  00:53

Thank you so much for having me.

Sarina Langer  00:55

Oh, happily, anytime. So I’ve already talked a little bit about social media for marketing specifically with Elisha Belden in last week’s episode. You’re both women who do extremely well with this, I think.

Briana Morgan  01:12

Thank you.

Sarina Langer  01:12

Oh, I can’t think of- oh, you’re welcome. I can’t think of anyone better to learn this from than you. And Elisha, clearly, but that was more incidental because you were genuinely just talking about setting goals anyway. And social media, I think is just in everything these days?

Briana Morgan  01:29

Oh, it is.

Sarina Langer  01:30

So it just, it just happened. But also, you’re an author yourself. So I think your experience will be very valuable indeed to our listeners.

Briana Morgan  01:40

I certainly hope so.

Sarina Langer  01:43

Shall we, um, well, obviously, normally, I have a few questions prepared anyway, but today, I’ve also got a few questions from our listeners on Twitter that we will also get to, and I’m hoping I can still keep this to half an hour. I don’t trust my ability right now. We’ll see.

Sarina Langer  02:00

So let’s dive in with maybe the most common question amongst writers. How much time should we be spending on social media and how often should we post? And speaking of Twitter, Villimey has also seconded this question. So no pressure, but we’re all wondering,

Briana Morgan  02:17

it’s a popular question. So what I usually tell people when it comes to social media is it should serve to augment and enhance your existing writing and your existing book marketing efforts. You should not be spending more time on social media than you spend writing or doing anything else relating to publishing. If you’re a writer, you should write, you shouldn’t just be on Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter or Instagram all the time, which it is hard not to get sucked in. But it should only be a small, a small part of your routine as a writer. And as for how often you would post, it’s gonna vary by network, obviously. Twitter, there are probably rules, but I don’t follow them. I’m on Twitter just whenever.

Sarina Langer  03:08

I mean, Twitter always feels so lenient to me, especially coming from Instagram. Twitter is just so relaxed.

Briana Morgan  03:14

Yes, and Twitter moves pretty fast. So I would keep that in mind when you’re posting there that some people might not see it just due to the nature of the platform. Whereas some place like Instagram, if you post, you can get away with posting once a day, or even a few times a week. If, if you post at the same time and you’re consistent, Instagram will boost your content, and the people who engage with it the most will see it, so you can at least rest easy there that it will be seen by some people.

Sarina Langer  03:45


Briana Morgan  03:46


Sarina Langer  03:47

Hopefully. But the algorithm is something we can come back to later.

Briana Morgan  03:51


Sarina Langer  03:52

So you’ve said that we shouldn’t be spending too much time on social media because obviously the writing and the world building and the editing and all that should still take centre stage. But especially with Instagram, I always feel like I need to spend quite a lot of time there to really get the most out of it. Because as you’ve just said, Twitter’s quite forgiving really and quite relaxed. But Instagram to me is the very opposite. Instagram to me has no chill.

Briana Morgan  04:20


Sarina Langer  04:21

I always feel like if I go on Instagram to just quickly look something up, then it will probably punish me for that.


Yeah. So the thing with Instagram is, obviously all of these are social networks, but Instagram is probably the one that thrives the most from engagement. So unfortunately, that does mean that the more time you spend on the network, the more it boosts your content. The more you engage with people, the more people engage with your content. And you know, like you were saying, you might just go to check one thing, but then Instagram will notice that you’re not spending as much time on the app, so next time you post it won’t show it to as many people. Whereas, if you’re on there for an hour, an hour and a half, liking and commenting and all that, it’ll boost you. But again, it’s like, do you want to, do you want to spend your time on Instagram making all that happen? Or do you want to spend that time finishing a scene in your work in progress?

Sarina Langer  05:20

That depends entirely on how much tea I’ve had that day. So I think I read somewhere a while ago, and probably you know, this is probably some years ago, to be honest, but roughly the right amount to paste on Twitter or something like six to eight things yourself, like of your own posts, and then have the rest just be comments on other people’s posts and just engaging that way. Would you say that’s roughly a good ratio?


Yes, it’s a, it’s called the, I think it’s the perrito or the Pareto principle, it’s 80, the 80-20 rule. So 80% of the content you post and share should be about other people, and then the 20% should be about you. I would say regardless of how much you are posting on social media, you should try to make sure that you are not only talking about yourself, because nobody likes that.

Sarina Langer  06:18

No, definitely not. I mean, we’ve, we always see some of that, don’t we?

Briana Morgan  06:23


Sarina Langer  06:23

Where authors might just post buy my book, buy my book, buy my book, buy my book, did you know I have a book, go buy my book.


It’s okay to do some of that. But you, if it’s all the time, people will just tune you out or mute you or unfollow you.

Sarina Langer  06:40

So on Instagram, for example, I’ve noticed that some people post once a week, and other people might post five times a day, so which to me is completely incomprehensible and I have no idea how they do that. I do not have the energy for that. But how often would you say is a good amount to post on Instagram? How often should we be there? Because I think most writers these days are on Instagram.


So there’s what I believe. And then there’s like the popular advice. So I will, I will give both sides of that. So the popular advice says you should post one to two times per day and around the same times, just for consistency. My advice is you could post maybe one or two times a week if you’re doing it consistently, same days, same time, and if you are providing good content that’s worth waiting for. So if you just take a picture of your food, and then you upload that, and then the next day, you upload a picture of a plastic bag you see out in the road, no one’s, no one’s going to come back for that, no one’s going to want to wait another week for more pictures like that. So if you’re writing, if you’re taking really nice photos and writing long form captions that are thoughtful and creative, and I say you could probably go longer. But it’s kind of up to whatever works for you and whatever you feel like you can maintain.

Sarina Langer  08:13

How long should our captions be on Instagram? Because, you know, some people will say he only use one word, and then the rest is hashtags. And some people write tiny essays, basically. So what’s a good amount to write there?


I would say it comes down to knowing your audience. If you found through checking your analytics, which you can only do if you have the business account, so if you don’t have a business account, consider getting one so you can get the analytics.

Sarina Langer  08:43

It’s very easy to set up as well. So, it takes maybe two seconds. They don’t need to check anything. It’s literally just one click.

Briana Morgan  08:50


Sarina Langer  08:50

And it’s, it’s very easy to do.


If you check your analytics and you see that your audience is responding better to what seems to be longer more personal captions, like my audience does, then you know that that’s a safe bet.

Briana Morgan  09:05

I will say what tends to not go well that people think will go well, is posting just like a song lyric or a deep quote that they found somewhere with no context and no further, no call to action or anything. Because, you know, people don’t really have a reason to engage with that.

Briana Morgan  09:24

I say the longer the better, as long as you can make it coherent, because you want people to stop and take in your content. And Instagram will see that people are staying on your content for longer, which is wonderful. And the algorithm loves that. So it’s good to do more things that the algorithm loves.

Sarina Langer  09:41

Yeah, the algorithm on Instagram is an interesting beast, isn’t it?

Briana Morgan  09:46


Sarina Langer  09:46

So um, oh, well, we can come back to that in a second. But for now, you’ve just used the word that I wanted to come back to, the magic word, which is engagement on Instagram. So not gonna lie, the engagement– what exactly counts as engagement on Instagram? I found it a little bit confusing. And I think some other writers have done as well. So what counts as engagement on Instagram? And how can we boost our engagement?


So Instagram used to be all about likes. It used to be whoever could get the most likes won, basically. And it’s now changed to where you are more favoured by the algorithm – I hate to keep saying that – ut you’re more favoured by the algorithm if people are commenting, if they’re saving and if they’re sharing your, your photos and your content. So it’s kind of changed. I would say my approach to social media and a lot of other people’s has changed, because now you want to create content that is a lot more useful and more likely to get shared, and more likely for people to come back to later.

Sarina Langer  10:51

I think, especially this year, how we use Instagram has changed quite a lot. So it used to be just all about just posting a picture, but now you can also do short videos, you can upload gifs and stats, and you know, you can upload multiple pictures in just one post. And I think I’ve seen somewhere that videos especially get more, get more engagement or get favoured by Instagram or something like that.

Briana Morgan  11:17

Yes. And then like my, all my book releases this year have been, I’ve done an Instagram Live kind of release party, but I’m going to keep doing that. Because it’s been a lot of fun. I obviously, I couldn’t have done one in person this year, but – or last year, I should say – but it’s, I don’t know. I would say Instagram feels like the most social social media to me, if that makes sense. I don’t know if you would agree with that.

Sarina Langer  11:45

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think part of that might just because on Instagram, the social aspect is perhaps the most important out of all the social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook don’t take it anywhere near seriously or as far as Instagram does. So the more social you are over there, the better things will work out for you.

Briana Morgan  12:05

Right, right.

Sarina Langer  12:05

The more it’ll like you. But um, yeah, that probably has something to do with it. But there are also so many different ways I think of engaging with people on there, because they’ve also got Instagram TV, they’ve got reels now, and obviously stories are a thing. So there’s just so many different things you could do.

Briana Morgan  12:24


Sarina Langer  12:26

Which brings me back to the word that you’ve just said, that you said you hate saying, the dreaded words: the the algorithm.

Briana Morgan  12:35


Sarina Langer  12:35

Let’s talk about the algorithm. Because that thing is confusing, I think. I mean, I have created, erm, what do you call them, collections, groups, on Instagram of people who I want to stay caught up with, because if I don’t, I have no guarantee, I feel, that I’ll actually see what they’re posting.

Briana Morgan  12:57

Right. And it used to be, it used to be that everything on Instagram was just chronological. It was just you would go, you’d log on, and you’d see the oldest to the newest and it was normal, but now…

Sarina Langer  13:11

See, that way around makes perfect sense to me. That will be if I could just see all the things I haven’t seen already. That would be great. That would make it so easy.

Briana Morgan  13:19

But now you might see a post from like October at the top of your feed, and you’ll like it and comment on it and then realise that no one’s off to comment for months. I feel like a creep. That’s what happens to me anyway.

Sarina Langer  13:33

I think what mine does is that it’s more likely to show me the post by people who I engage with more.

Briana Morgan  13:39


Sarina Langer  13:40

Which is great. But then it also means that the posts by people who have only just started following or haven’t engaged massively yet, I don’t really get to see, unless I make a note somewhere else who I’ve just followed so that I can then start engaging with those people. Because if I don’t make that effort myself, Instagram may just never show me and I’ll completely forget, which is nothing personal. It’s just people get lost so easily on there.


And it’s hard because I have a lot of people ask me, How can I get more engagement? And the only thing I can tell you is, you have to give engagement to get engagement. So you have to be reaching out to people and commenting and sharing their posts and things like that if you want them to do that with yours because otherwise the I, the idea of someone finding you organically on Instagram is not very realistic anymore, unfortunately.

Sarina Langer  14:32

No, I mean, I’m not sure really how you go about searching for things on Instagram, but I actually very rarely search for a specific hashtag unless I’m trying to see how well it’s doing or if it’s actually been banned. Sort of. I don’t I don’t tend to search for hashtags specifically at Instagram. I don’t tend to find people that way. Not anymore anyway. So you know I don’t think… I don’t know, maybe it’s just not that realistic now to think that people are going to find you because of your hashtags specifically, unless you get really lucky.


Yeah, I don’t think it’s as important because like I said, Instagram is more… So the hashtags were more favourable back when you wanted to get as many likes as possible. But now that it’s more, you know, you want more shares and more saves. It’s, you kind of find other people’s content through people sharing them. I feel like I do anyway, like, I’ll tap through someone’s story, and I’ll see a cute post, and then I’ll check out that person’s profile. I never would have seen them if someone else hadn’t shared it.

Sarina Langer  15:42

No, I do quite a lot of that. Now, I feel like I’ve shared some things that are first seen on your stories, for example, or someone else’s story. So I’m gonna go Oh, that looks cute. Oh, that’s funny, and I want to have a look, well see what that is about. And then I might share that as well. And I’ve now made collections as well for various posts that I might want to save. So I’ve got one collection for comic relief that I can come back to the one on a dark, dark day when my work in progress is not playing with me. Or, and I’ve got, you know, I’ve got a collection for pictures of my books specifically that people have shared. So I’ve got lots of little collections going on. Which I think it likes.

Briana Morgan  16:23


Sarina Langer  16:24

So maybe one of the more interesting things specifically to writers and authors is, what kind of things should we share on social media as writers? Because I see all kinds of different things. You know, I see some writers who pretty much only share memes. I see some writers who, as we said, literally only share this is my book, please go buy it, this is my book, go buy it. So what, what kinds of things should we share?


I have a lot to say about this. So I’m going to try not to go off on a tangent. When you are posting, please remember that your content is not for you. Your content is for other people. So every time you post something you should ask yourself, does this entertain? Does this educate? Does this uplift? Any of those? If it does any or all of those, that’s great. If it doesn’t do any of those, maybe consider, reconsider posting it. A common one is food. So many people who don’t write cookbooks, or don’t write anything that has to do with food, they will take pictures of what they had to eat. I don’t think I’ve ever cared what someone else had to eat. I feel really bad saying that. But I don’t look at those posts.

Sarina Langer  17:46

I get the feeling you feel strongly about this.


Yes. I can’t tell you how many, how many pictures of mediocre, like takeaway pizza I’ve seen in bad lighting. People are just like, here’s my pizza.

Sarina Langer  18:01

It’s, it’s bizarre, isn’t it? I mean, I think what I don’t mind as much where food is concerned as many pictures off, of a cupcake. Or a biscuit. Especially if it’s next to a book because then that’s still on topic?


Yes, exactly. If you can work it in, if the food is part of, you know, you’re greater niche or whatever, that’s great. But if you’re, if you’re just taking a picture of it just to document it, I don’t think it’s worth it. Especially because you know, you have to think about how can people really engage with that content? The most you can get from that is like a ‘nice pizza’ or like, ‘Hey, I had pizza tonight too’. But that’s not, it’s not gonna result in you getting readers.

Sarina Langer  18:44

No. It might give you a craving for pepperoni, though.


Yes. So that I would say no food unless you’re writing about, you write a series of cosy mysteries featuring a baker or chef, that would be cute. Or maybe you write cookbooks, that’s fine. But otherwise, maybe if you’re going to post about your meal, post it on your story so it goes away.

Sarina Langer  19:05


Briana Morgan  19:08

That sounds so mean.

Sarina Langer  19:10

No, I get it. I mean, it’s always great to have things that you really want to share with your followers, but that you don’t, you know, they’re not necessarily maybe fit in with your greater vision.

Briana Morgan  19:20

Yes. Some other, some other don’ts. Don’t… I wish I didn’t have to say this, but don’t post yourself making any obscene gestures or saying anything racist or transphobic or anything like that.

Sarina Langer  19:38

It should go without saying.

Briana Morgan  19:40

It should go without saying, but it doesn’t. I’m saying it. Don’t do that. Because even if you don’t think it will affect you, it might down the road. Or you know, you never know who might see that and be very hurt by it.

Sarina Langer  19:55

Yeah, even if you don’t necessarily mean to hurt someone with it, maybe just think before you post it. I mean, you might think that it’s funny in the moment, but nobody else might think it’s funny.


Yes. And let me think what else… Don’t just post about your book. Obviously post about other people’s books. Post about, I don’t know, movies based on books that you enjoy, post about behind the scenes of your writing process maybe or another writer you admire. You don’t just want to share book promos where the only exception–

Sarina Langer  20:27

Would you say–

Briana Morgan  20:27

I’m sorry.

Sarina Langer  20:28

No, you go.

Briana Morgan  20:30

I was gonna say the only exception would be if it’s your release day or your release week. Just go crazy. It’s fine.

Sarina Langer  20:38

Yeah, I think readers will understand that, because you are about to have a new book out in the world. So, if you can’t spam the internet with pictures of your book or character aesthetics or whatever it is that you’ve got to share, when can you?


Yes. And an unpopular one that I’m going to say not to post. I always say don’t post memes. Meme accounts by themselves tend to do really well on Instagram, just because people will share the content. But I know for me personally, I don’t like to follow meme accounts, because I can just google funny writing memes if I want them. I don’t want to commit to seeing someone else repost a meme that I could have found for myself. You know, it just feels, it feels almost lazy to me and inauthentic.

Sarina Langer  21:25

Yeah, I know what… I get that. I mean, I think I follow maybe two or three, because we already were friends before their accounts kind of started going in that direction anyway. But I must admit that if someone else follows me, and I then go to see who they are, what kind of things they post, if I see that it’s just memes I’m very unlikely to follow them back based on that.


I mean, people, people want to see you. They don’t want to see other people’s content. Obviously, there are exceptions to that. Like if you’re reposting a photo that someone took of your book, but I say err on the side of posting little to no memes. Just because it does, it does look like, you know, look like you don’t know how to use the platform maybe.

Sarina Langer  22:14

Which is a shame, because you do want to give people the impression that you do know what you’re doing.

Briana Morgan  22:18

Yes. And I do like memes. I like fun. I’m not… I make it sound like I don’t like fun. But if you’re taking your Instagram seriously, as an author, you have to, you have to, these are the things you have to think about.

Sarina Langer  22:34

It’s basically your new marketing platform. So you’ve got to just treat it as a job basically because, you know, it is. You want to make money from it.


Yeah, it’s like your CV or resume almost, to potential readers.

Sarina Langer  22:46

Yeah. And to come back to what you said about obviously, you can post some things about your own books, but you should also post about other books, for example, or something else. Just to come back to that ratio, which you say is this 80-20 thing. So like 20% your own stuff, 80% other things?


Yes. Obviously, you don’t have to be super rigid with that. So you don’t have to count out like, right, okay, here’s my next 10 posts, these posts are going to be other people, these posts are going to be me, but I, if you feel like you’re being too much, you’re probably being too much. If you have to ask yourself if it’s too much, it is.

Sarina Langer  23:28

Probably. So for example, I am now posting about my own progress and generally my own books twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. And I’ve just recently started posting on Thursdays again. So on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I post about books I’m reading, books I’ve just bought, books by author friends, things like that. What do you say that’s roughly a good ratio?


Yes. I think that’s fine. I would say no more than, no more than two days a week of your own content.

Sarina Langer  23:58

I think it mostly started that way because on Mondays, I quite like to share my goals for the week, which to be fair can also include things like, I really want to finish reading this book and review it. So that’s not necessarily all about my books. But obviously I do set myself writing goals, so they will be in there as well. But it’s not necessarily entirely that. And on Fridays, I like to just sort of come back to that and point out what I have done that week and it holds me accountable, and quite a few people have told me that they find it really inspiring to see. So that makes me feel pretty good.

Briana Morgan  24:31

And that’s not, I wouldn’t say that’s not the same as being like buy my book.

Sarina Langer  24:36

Oh no, definitely not.

Briana Morgan  24:36

Because you never just post buy my book.

Sarina Langer  24:39

Yes, very rarely. I mean, you know, as you said, when there’s, when you’ve got a release day, then that’s a different thing, because you do need to make people aware that you have a new product out, but apart from that, you should probably limit it.

Sarina Langer  24:54

And speaking of what writers should be posting on social media, that brings me back to the other question that we’ve had on Twitter from @gambit190. He says ‘Beta-readers are crucial to have, so what’s the best way to go about acquiring them?’ Very specific for social media, but I’ve got all of my beta readers through social media. So I do think it fits perfectly.


That’s where all mine have come from too. It varies, unfortunately, depending on the size of your audience and what platforms they’re most interested in. I find most of my beta readers through Twitter, even though I would say that Instagram is my bigger platform now. So that’s kind of strange. But usually, I just post that I need beta readers, I talk a little bit about the manuscript, if I’ve posted about it before, at least a few times, people will usually comment like, hey, let me know, when you want betas for this. I have a form usually that I have people fill out just so they know what to expect. Trigger warnings and things like that. And then, if people fill out the form, I usually accept them.

Sarina Langer  26:05

There you go. I mean, I must say, that’s pretty much the only thing that I do. I’m afraid I haven’t got a super exciting way of doing it. So I tend to just say, as you said, on Twitter, for example, hey, I’m ready for beta readers for this book. It’s a dark fantasy book. It’s roughly this long, I need it back roughly at this time. If you think you can do it, send me a message, we can talk. And then I pretty much just do the same thing on Instagram as well. And possibly also in my reader group on Facebook. But you know, I don’t… I mean, I know there are various sites that you can go to to get beta readers, but I haven’t used any of them. So I’m afraid I can’t say if they are any good, or they work overly well.


I used one I can’t remember the name. And I feel terrible because they gave me a free membership and exchange for promotion and I can’t even remember their name.

Sarina Langer  27:02

Was it a while ago?


Yes, I didn’t use it very much. I used it for the first draft of Unboxed for beta readers. So it’s been a while.

Sarina Langer  27:15

How come you decided not to use them in the end?


It was just cumbersome because it was another platform that someone else had to sign up for. And when it comes to beta readers, the easier you can make it the better because people are busy, and you don’t want to give them a reason not to read your book.

Sarina Langer  27:34

And I think as writers you’re already, you know, you are already likely to be on Twitter, on Instagram, maybe on one or two other platforms as well. So the easiest thing to do is to literally just say on there, I’m ready for betas, this is what I’m writing. Interested? Let’s talk.

Briana Morgan  27:50

No one wants to have to sign up for a whole new website just for you.

Sarina Langer  27:53

Especially not just to beta read your book. I mean, they already doing you one favour by beta reading your book, so they shouldn’t have to do another favour by signing up to then read your book, which at that point no longer has anything to do with the website they signed up on on the first place.

Briana Morgan  28:09

They might not want to read it at that point, they might be tired.

Sarina Langer  28:12

Yeah, actually, you know what, I can’t be bothered anymore. It’s too much pressure. I mean, yeah, I know, I probably wouldn’t bother signing up for another website, just to beta read someone’s book, but then I’m a slow reader anyway.

Briana Morgan  28:29

Yeah, I will also say, if someone beta reads for you, and then they ask you to beta read for them, do it. Don’t be rude. Again, should go without saying, but don’t be rude. Don’t be the person who is always asking for help and never giving any.

Sarina Langer  28:46

No, I mean, your beta readers have done you a favour, so it’s only fair if you do the same in return that they want it. I mean, not all of your beta readers might be writers as well. So this may well not be relevant for all of them. But if they are writers, and they have written a book, and they ask you specifically if you could beta read, it’s the nice thing to say yes. And to do it. Where are we? Okay, well, speaking of being on Twitter, and Instagram and Facebook, and God knows where, how many sites do you think should we be on as writers? And is there such a thing as a perfect social media site for writers?

Briana Morgan  29:25


Sarina Langer  29:27

All right, moving on.


No, it all depends on, it depends on your audience. It depends on their age, depends on their interests. You kind of have to know what you’re working with. So let’s say that you are writing young adult fiction, you might want to look into TikTok because that is very popular. And you might want to consider Facebook less because not, I don’t think any teenagers are using Facebook anymore. I don’t know.

Sarina Langer  29:56

I’m a little bit amazed that anyone’s still using Facebook. I mean I also feel a bit bad saying that, because I have my reader group on Facebook, but beyond that I’m not really using it a great deal.


Yeah, as many networks as you can manage, if you know for a fact that you can only keep up with one or two, and that works for you, stick with that. If you can only keep up with one, that’s fine. Don’t, definitely don’t feel the need to join every social media network, because you’ll burn out. And you also won’t be spending time writing. Consider that.

Sarina Langer  30:34

Yeah, the more time you’ll be spending on social media and not writing, which is the point to all this. So.


And I’m saying this, as someone with a lot of social media presence. I have to be very strict with myself.

Sarina Langer  30:48

I feel like you’re everywhere.

Briana Morgan  30:50

I am, and I shouldn’t be, but I am. It’s too late to go back and I’m stubborn.

Sarina Langer  30:56

I mean, I know my limits is two, two and a half. Say I’m on Instagram a lot, I’m on Twitter, more or less, a lot, a little less. Maybe they’re on Instagram. And I should be on Facebook a lot more because as I said, my reader group is there, but I’m not very good at being on Facebook consistently. It’s always a bit of an afterthought for me, but again, feel terrible about because my reader group is there and I want to do better. But it’s just, it’s, it’s my limit. I feel like once I’ve been on Instagram for about an hour I’ve, I’ve social-media’d myself out.


Yeah, and Facebook doesn’t, I mean, for what you use it for, it’s fine. But Facebook doesn’t like posting a lot of outside content. So if you have a Facebook page, and you’re using that to sell your books, it’s going to be a lot harder, because any length that takes people off Facebook, Facebook will drop way down.

Sarina Langer  31:52

Yeah, maybe it’s just me. But I always feel like when I’m on Facebook, and I do peak out of my reader group that most other writers mostly go on Facebook to complain, I feel.

Briana Morgan  32:03

Yes. Yes.

Sarina Langer  32:04

So it’s also not a very uplifting or positive environment, perhaps. So another reason for me to not leave my reader group and I am there.

Briana Morgan  32:14

Yeah, I think you’re better off. If there’s a network that you enjoy, you have a good audience with and you feel like you can be consistent, maintain your presence on that network, that’s great. Definitely don’t join things just because you think you have to. If you don’t want to make a TikTok, you do not have to. I, I’ve had a lot of people ask me that specifically. So if you’re not on Tick tock, you don’t have to be.

Sarina Langer  32:40

Well, there you go. And also, if you do try a new social media platform, thinking it’s going to be great and then it’s just not for you, it’s totally fine to stop using it and to leave it again. You know, no one’s gonna hold it against you. And actually, if someone is holding it against you, then you probably don’t really want them in your reader pool anyway.

Briana Morgan  33:00


Sarina Langer  33:01

I think we’ve already touched on this a little bit earlier, but is there a wrong way to use social media?


We’ve talked about it a little bit. The biggest thing, like I mentioned earlier, is to remember that your posts are not for you. So just because you like something doesn’t mean your audience will, just because you think something is neat or pretty or funny doesn’t mean your audience will. So they are coming to your content to get something you do, to make sure you are giving them what you want to give them.

Sarina Langer  33:35

So I think it really helps with that to have an ideal reader in mind so that when you think about what you may want to post next week, instead of trying to see it as sort of, on a bigger scale, or really just saying, What can I post? I don’t know, there’s a lot of choice. Maybe just ask yourself, what would my ideal reader like? What are they interested in? And then that’s a good starting point maybe.


Yes, I try to ask myself what I like about other people’s content, like if I see a post I really like I try to analyse why I like it. Is it the caption? Is it the photo itself? Is it both? And then I try to imitate that.

Sarina Langer  34:17

I think that’s also a good starting point. So you know, don’t, I mean, really just don’t overthink, and as we’ve already said, don’t be rude. Just be a good person. And don’t spam people constantly with please buy my book, please buy my book. So yeah, just you know, consider maybe what you like to see as a reader and don’t be rude. Please don’t be rude.

Sarina Langer  34:42

So, we’re nearly done. For the action step for this week, what can we do right now to get more out of social media?

Briana Morgan  34:53

So right now, you can pick one name that you want to use for your books, and make sure that all of your social networks have that name, and that they all match if possible. So for example, my name is Briana Morgan. My website is Briana Morgan Books, almost all of my handles are Briana Morgan books, except for Instagram, which is Bri Morgan Books because Briana wouldn’t fit. But it makes it really easy for people to find me and they know, right, when they look at the username, who it is, they don’t have to question if it’s me or not. Whereas if you have you know, your name on Twitter, and then you go on Instagram, and it’s like, cakelover77, I don’t know who that is.

Sarina Langer  35:42

Oh, that’s me.


I’m cakelover77 on the inside.

Sarina Langer  35:48

Aren’t we all?

Briana Morgan  35:49

Yeah. Consistency is key, though. You want to go ahead and make sure that your brand is consistent across whatever networks you choose to use. And I would say use the same profile picture too. It should be a picture of yourself even if you don’t like having your picture taken. People are more drawn to faces. Everyone would rather talk to a face than a brand. So I think using your own photo can yield some great results.

Sarina Langer  36:19

Yeah, I mean, your cat or your dog is really adorable and I do want to see pictures, but maybe not so much in your profile picture. You’re not fooling anyone. We know you’re a person.

Briana Morgan  36:30


Sarina Langer  36:32

We know you’re not your book’s cover. And I mean, I always feel more likely to follow someone if they have their profile picture in there… well in the profile picture, if it is their face. I can tell right away who they are or, you know, at least a little bit. There is some connection there that you just don’t get from a picture of some pretty stacked rocks for example. Or a lovely night sky. Which is beautiful, but not…

Briana Morgan  37:03

It doesn’t mean anything really.

Sarina Langer  37:05

No, no, exactly. Could be anything. All right, I think that’s it. Thank you very much. I’ve learned a lot, thank you so much, and I hope our listeners have as well. I always learned so much from you anyway.

Briana Morgan  37:22

Thank you.

Sarina Langer  37:23

And we shall have to do this again very soon.

Briana Morgan  37:26


Sarina Langer  37:30

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Transcribed by Otter

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The Writing Sparrow Episode 16 | How to Go Full-Time Self-Employed in Your Author Career with Elisha Belden

I had the great pleasure of talking to Elisha Belden about how to turn your business into a success! This is a longer episode, but let me assure you that it’s worth every second.

Elisha talks about Genesis goals, how to divide one big goal into smaller goals you can achieve easily, and why the right mindset is the single most important thing to have if you want to create a successful author career (or any business), and what to consider before you quit your day job to become a full-time author. We discuss common mistakes people make in the early days of their businesses which can lead to failure, and how to prepare yourself for full-time self-employment.

In short, this is a masterclass and a crash course all in one!

To find out more about Elisha, check out her Instagram page , her Facebook group B.O.S.S. Enterprises, and visit her website for Twistid Ink

Listen to the Episode

Read the Transcript

Sarina Langer  00:08

Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at Let’s get started!

Sarina Langer  00:25

Welcome back friends and sparrows. It’s the fourth of January 2021, this is Episode 16, and I feel just a little bit like I’m tempting fate recording this in November 2020. Assuming that we’ve made it to another year. Today, I have the most successful person I know with me on zoom. Elisha Belden is a business coach, a co owner of Twistid Ink, and the director of marketing at Saniderm. And I feel so privileged that she’s agreed to chat with me today about how to take your business to the next level. Hi, and welcome, Elisha.

Elisha Belden  01:02

Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate all the nice things you said.

Sarina Langer  01:09

Oh, I mean, they’re only true. I mean, anyone looking at your Instagram profile can easily get the same information.

Elisha Belden  01:15

Yeah, well, that’s the great thing about Instagram. It’s there for everybody. So

Sarina Langer  01:20

There you go. It’s not like it’s empty flattery, it’s just stating facts.

Elisha Belden  01:24

Well, thank you! It was nice to hear it anyway. Um, but again, thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be able to chat with you about, you know, making your business successful. And it’s definitely one of my passions.

Sarina Langer  01:39

I’m really looking forward to hearing what you have to tell us today. So January, for me is possibly the most exciting month of the year because I love setting goals anyway. I love organising everything, and January for me is this chance to set new goals to assess where I want to go from here, and to hopefully figure out how I can make things happen. Doesn’t always work out 100% as I pictured it, but usually the first week of January for me has this really excited energy of new possibilities and seeing what I might achieve that year. So, what would you recommend we do to set realistic goals?


With goals, there’s things, there’s different levels of goals. Everybody always likes to talk about realistic goals. But there’s also a thing called a Genesis deadline or a Genesis goal. And you’ll hear a lot of higher end development coaches and people like that talk about these. A Genesis goal is something that you need to set kind of at the beginning of the year. And that’s your overall goal. If that’s your, your angle, that’s where you want to go. That’s where you want to take your business. And that’s the most important goal to set first, because you can’t divide it out into smaller goals without that original big goal. Now that big goal doesn’t necessarily have to be something that you want to achieve at the end of the year. It’s just where you want your business to go. So your your big goal doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic, in sense of what can be achieved relatively quickly. But you have to have that goal first. Once you’ve developed that plan, then you can break it into smaller goals. And from there, you want to do something, you want to set different levels of goals. So a goal that is for six months, and then you want a goal that’s for three days. You just basically need to make sure that you’re checking off goals as you go. So having smaller ones helps you complete the bigger ones, because you feel like you’re accomplishing more. And when you feel like you’re accomplishing more, you’re actually more likely to kick into high gear and accomplish the next big one.

Elisha Belden  03:50

So one of the mistakes that I see a lot of people making is they’ll pick a goal that isn’t measurable. This is what I want to do in six months. Well every single day they’re not working towards that six month goal because they don’t have smaller goals. So that’s the big thing that I like to tell people, is even if it’s something as little as putting down that you googled how to do something, put that on your planner and check that off, because that one little goal is a step towards the big goal. But it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something day to day versus not being able to measure how you’re achieving that six month goal or that that 12 month goal.

Sarina Langer  04:27

See this is why when I write my to do lists, I even sometimes put on smaller things that I’ve already done that day, because then you can already tick it off and instantly almost got like a little energy boost of Oh, I’ve already accomplished something. Now I can go do the next thing.


Yep, yeah, that’s exactly it. And if you were to look at my planner, it looks completely smac full of things. But some of it’s smaller stuff. I’ll even put on my planner to schedule out my week, which is something that you’re doing anyway when you’re sitting down to write in your planner, but having that little goal, okay, look, I’ve done that I’ve taken my first step to this week, I’m already ahead, I’m already making strides and checking things off. And it just puts you in a different mindset. And mindset is really all that there is to business. You can have the skills, you can have the tools and the tricks available to you, but if you don’t have the right mindset, you’re not going to get where you need to go. So when you’re setting goals, those little, even if it’s something as silly as checking email, putting that on there makes you feel like you’re doing steps towards your bigger goal and keeps you on momentum.

Sarina Langer  05:40

I think that’s a very great first point, actually, because I think when many people, who may be not used to setting goals for themselves, first sit down and decide, Okay, I see everywhere that goal setting is really important, so I’m going to this year, I want to finish a book. But at this point, they might not even have started the book yet. So I think that’s a, you know, it’s quite a common thing to go very overboard, maybe with goals when you know, just doing it, and you end up setting something for yourself, that’s very daunting, and probably unachievable unless you break it down. What you said about breaking it down into things, you know, maybe something small that you can do every day, to work towards that large goal, is very helpful. So if you want to write a book, or if you want to finish a book, maybe figure out how many words you may need to write everyday to make that happen. Figure out what else needs to happen for that, you know, like editors, cover designers, things like that. It’s not as simple as literally just writing a book, there’s always more to do.


Yeah, and when you’re doing things like that, um, you know, there are steps that you have to take in between, such as researching editors or book cover designers, researching marketers, and things like that feel like you’re not actually accomplishing anything because you’re really just sitting on the internet, you’re just scrolling, you’re just looking at different people’s accounts, different websites. But if you actually put it on your planner, like, okay, you know, I’ve written this many chapters, now I’m going to spend 20 minutes this day researching marketers, 20 minutes this day researching, you know, editors, and then keep working towards that, you’re actually going to feel like you’re doing more for your book, even though you’re doing the same that you would be doing anyway. But just having that written down, you actually feel like you’re doing more than you think, which is a big step towards being successful. And that’s with business, you know, writing anything like that, the more effort and energy that you put into the project, book business, the more likely you are to succeed in the end.

Sarina Langer  07:42

I think it comes back to what you said about having the right mindset for it. Because you know, there’s always going to be a lot more to any one thing then you might see just from the names. Obviously, when you’re writing a book, it’s not just writing a book. And as you said, you need to do research, you need to figure out who you may want to use to edit your book. I mean, when I’ve just published my last book in November – which right now recording this is two weeks ago, but when this airs, it will be roughly two months ago – I spent so much time leading up to that, just creating new character aesthetics that I could share as part of the marketing. And marketing is going to be probably the chunk of everything, no matter what your business is going to be. And you know, for you one of the big things that you do is you have a very successful tattoo studio, but, you know, it’s not just, you know, doing the actual tattoos, there’s so much more that goes into that.


Yes, yeah, it’s um, one of the things that made our studio so successful was the social media aspect of it. And a lot of people look at social media as just a fun thing -it’s not a job, it doesn’t help, it doesn’t, you know, that’s not going to build your business. But in reality, social media is kind of the, the pillar that your business stands on at this point. And when it comes to setting goals, and building businesses, or selling books, you know, whatever it is that you’re into, social media is a big thing. And it may feel like you’re not actually doing any work when you’re sitting on social posting about, you know, the character that you just developed, or the mood board that you created for your business or for your book or- but in reality, if you’re not posting consistently, you’re gonna fail. Because without marketing, without social, nobody’s going to know about it, no one’s going to flock to it.

Sarina Langer  09:36

How much- sorry, go ahead.


That’s okay! When you’re going back to the goal setting and checking things off that you would be doing naturally anyway, when you make a post on social media, put that on your goal list or put that on your schedule for the week. Okay, I’m going to post this day, this day, this day, and then you’re checking it off, but that time that you’re spent taking the photo, editing the photo, writing your caption, researching your hashtags. That’s all stuff that you’re doing to market or improve your business or your, your book sales. And that’s important to put down in your goals as well.

Sarina Langer  10:08

Yeah, I think it’s quite important to remember that, once you decide to have a business, social media isn’t just a fun hobby thing that you do, you know, it’s, it’s basically becoming your online platform where you market yourself constantly. When I was still marketing myself, as an editor, I was so hyper aware of everything that I was typing. I was so worried constantly that I would just have like one little typo somewhere, and everyone would go, she doesn’t know what she’s doing, we can’t hire her. You know, it becomes a very serious part of your business, really, you know, it doesn’t just have to be fun. Obviously it can still be, but maybe have a personal account for the fun stuff, and have, you know, maybe more of a business account for the business related things.


One of the biggest things that I have learned over my career, and this goes from working in corporate business before to owning my own business now, people don’t buy products, they don’t buy services, they buy an experience, they buy an emotion. With our studio, one of the big things that we do differently compared to many other studios is that we market ourselves. You’re getting an experience, you’re getting to come in, and you have this private studio setting, and you have the ability to sit with us and talk with us. We do everything one on one, individual. Everything’s done in advance. But what we do is we’ve marketed ourselves. So the business is actually owned by my husband and myself, and, you know, it’s called Twistid Ink. But we also have a hashtag that’s Twistid Family. And we have our friends involved, we have our kids involved, everybody that comes into our studio knows pretty much everything about us. And they follow our personal social accounts, they follow my Twistid Family account. And everybody’s involved. They feel like they’re actually a part of the family. And we actually find that that does better for reoccurring loyal customers. And when we post about ourselves versus about the work, we see a huge tick in traffic, we see way more interaction on the posts that are pictures of my husband and myself or pictures of our kids than we do about the artwork itself, which speaks volumes to how our client base perceives us and our studio.

Sarina Langer  12:29

How much time would you recommend people spend on social media marketing themselves and being active to get, you know, actual good engagement out of it?


That’s a tricky subject. It really does kind of depend on the business, it depends on you and your client base. There are people that post three to five times a day and spend pretty much six hours, six or seven hours, on their social account. There’s people that post three times a week. The most important thing is to be consistent. So if you don’t have the time to sit there and post several times a day, don’t start that. Do three times a week or two times a week, check your, your analytics on your social media and see which days have your most followers online and post on those days.

Elisha Belden  13:16

The key is to be repetitive and consistent. So if you can post two times a day or two times a week, post two times a week, no matter what you have to get those posts out, you have to be there, you have to show up, you have to be consistent. If you can post every day, great, absolutely do it. Obviously, you know, the more that you’re posting, the more likely you are to come across your followers. There’s really no right or wrong way. You need to find the one thing that you can do consistently and stick to that.

Elisha Belden  13:46

As for actual time on the platform, when it comes to particularly Instagram more so, it’s a social platform. The entire algorithm is set up to be social. The more you communicate with others, and the more that you’re engaging on other people’s platform, on their pages, more likely your posts are going to show up in the algorithm. So if you’re just posting and you’re not on there commenting or responding, your posts aren’t going to be seen nearly as much as someone who’s on there 30 minutes before they post, commenting on other people and 30 minutes after. So it’s very important that you kind of use the platform to be social as well as just post.

Sarina Langer  14:29

Yeah, that’s definitely something that I’ve noticed, especially on Instagram as well. It really takes the social aspect seriously, much more so than other platforms. Say on Twitter, if I just briefly pop in just to quickly check if I have a message somewhere, Twitter doesn’t care. But on Instagram, if I do that, I always feel like there is some very little Instagram bot going, Why is she just here observing something? Why isn’t she commenting on something? Why isn’t she liking things? She must be a robot. Penalty!


Yeah, exactly. It’s very important that you respond to comments on your posts as well as going through, whether it be hashtags, which unfortunately right now in the US are shut off, which is horrible. Hopefully by the time this airs, they’re back.

Sarina Langer  15:14

Why’s that?

Elisha Belden  15:16

Instagram has shut down recent hashtags due to the election situation. I’m hoping by the first week of January that that’s, you know, resolved. But possibly may not be until, you know, closer to February. But, you know, going through the hashtags and commenting on those, anybody that comments on your stuff, pop onto their page, go through their photos, just things like that. And scroll through location tags is a really good one to get, to boost engagement. And if your business, like a brick and mortar business that does local sales, that’s the best way to kind of promote your business, because you’re going into other local people and businesses and commenting that way as well. And the algorithm will favour you for it.

Sarina Langer  16:02

Definitely. I mean, if those people are already commenting and liking your posts, chances are they are interested or else they wouldn’t be there.

Elisha Belden  16:09


Sarina Langer  16:10

That’s what we call a warm lead.

Elisha Belden  16:13


Sarina Langer  16:15

Look at me knowing all the language. So, for so many authors, and I’m sure many other people as well, writing full time is the dream. But what should we consider before we quit our day jobs and go full time self employed? Big question. No pressure.


Yeah, that’s that’s a loaded question. Be completely honest with you, I did writing full time for a little while. It was kind of one of my, my stepping stones before I launched Twistid Ink. And it was difficult. It was really hard to be able to provide a full time income, particularly, you know, I was, I have three kids, I was writing by myself. I found that the best thing for me was yes, writing. Obviously, I was trying to pick up clients wherever I could. But I offered other services. So I was doing editing on the side, I was doing marketing consulting on the side. So it’s important when you’re going into business, when you’re making that transition, you offer more than just one service.

Elisha Belden  17:16

So you may not be able to write full time right off the bat, but you can write as your primary, and then offer services elsewhere, whether it be transcription or editing, there’s sites out there that you can write reviews for companies, things like that, just to kind of get yourself going until you build up a list of clients to write for or until you get enough books going, that you’re generating an income off of those that you can continue writing from there.

Sarina Langer  17:45

That’s really interesting, I had no idea that writing for you was a stepping stone at some point. Isn’t it interesting how we all have so many things in common and we don’t even realise it?


Yeah, I am, I did the writing thing. I loved it. My problem was, it was time consuming.

Sarina Langer  18:04

It’s really time consuming.

Elisha Belden  18:06

Yes. And I need quiet when it comes to writing, but it was getting difficult between the business and the kids to have that quiet time. So I decided not to lean on that as my income anymore.

Sarina Langer  18:19

That’s a very good reason. And I think as you said, it’s very time consuming. So it really needs to be something that you do because you love doing it and because, you know, you want to do it hopefully forever as a full time thing. Because otherwise it’s going to weigh you down really quickly.


Yeah, I definitely love doing it. It’s something that I’ve decided to kind of put on hold as my full time until my kids are kind of out of the house. I’ve got plenty of time down the road that I can sit and write, but right now I’m just trying to feed family and do it the best way possible.

Sarina Langer  18:54

Yeah, I mean, there’s no rush at all. And I know that you’ve been a business coach and a mentor for a little while now. And I think you’ve already touched on this a little bit earlier, but are there any common mistakes you see people make over and over again?


Yes. First off, just jumping in without really knowing what you’re doing. When you just jump into a business, particularly if that’s going to be your full time gig, it’s really difficult if you don’t have a plan. You have to have a brand, you have to have a voice, you have to have a plan of what you’re doing business wise. So what are you going to offer? What services are you offering? What products are you offering? How are you going to sell those? You need to look at your customer and define your customer, you can’t just sell to everyone. As great as that sounds, you can’t. You have to pick your your customer base. So are you selling to single moms? Are you selling to, you know, a business woman who has no kids or are you selling to a pet owner, like, who is Your client? You need to really develop that before you can actually jump in.


And the branding is a big thing. If you’re all over the place, no client’s going to buy from you, no customer is going to want to shop with you. So it’s very important before you jump in that you have set goals, you have all the research done. Research is a big thing in any industry no matter what you’re doing. It’s very important that you know what you’re doing and how to do it before you just jump in. That’s one of the biggest things.


The second biggest mistake that I see a lot of people making is they just sell. That’s it. They’re not connecting, they’re not engaging. They’re not getting to know their clients or their customer base or their followers. They are just, every single post, every conversation they have out in public, they’re pitching, they’re pitching, they’re pitching. Nobody wants to hear it. They want to connect with you as a person, and then the purchase comes later. So that’s a big issue that I see particularly on Instagram. Every post is sale sale sales, and people just don’t like that, they don’t like to have it shoved down their throat. They want to buy because they want to, they they need to, they want to connect with you, not because you’re just shoving it down their throat.

Sarina Langer  21:15

I’ve seen that so many times. I mean, I think recently I’ve read a book by an author that I quite liked. And I thought that our writing styles, they were quite similar. So I thought maybe, you know, we might get along as people as well. So I looked her up on Instagram and on Twitter. But just as you said, you know, all of the posts are, this is my book, please go buy it. This is my book, please go buy it. And I don’t get any sense whatsoever from her profiles of who she is as a person. So instantly, I’m no longer interested.

Elisha Belden  21:46

It’s a big mistake. Everybody thinks that when you’re selling, you need to sell constantly. And that’s not true. You have to sell yourself before you can sell your business.

Sarina Langer  21:55

I think that comes back down to mindset again, doesn’t it? So it’s, you know, in a way, when you’re not selling outright by saying, I have this, this is where you can buy it, go buy that, that gets annoying really quickly. But you also sell yourself by just simply being there, by being you and being authentic, and maybe talking about how you’ve earned a relaxing weekend because you’ve worked really hard all week or, you know, maybe about the lovely mountain escape you’ve just had with your family?


Yes. Involving your personal life in your business, it used to be a big no-no. There used to be a separation. But as people we have developed much more of a social habit than we had 20, 30 years ago. And at this point, you are your brand, you are your business, you are your book, you are, you know, your service. And it’s very important that you sell them as a package deal. People don’t. There’s so many options out there now, particularly with social media, that you have to connect with your customer, you have to make your customer want to be with you and only you, and then you can sell your package from there.

Sarina Langer  23:04

Yeah, I mean, social media I think has changed that landscape so massively, that the same tactics that worked maybe 20 years ago or even 10 years ago don’t necessarily work so well today anymore, because it’s just changed everything completely.


Exactly. It used to be in marketing in particular that you focus more on advertising. But advertising is in direct sales, like you, you were directly selling to your customer, your, your commercials, your advertisements, your radio edits, whatever, were directly a sales pitch. Now, that’s not so much the case. There isn’t so much television commercial, there isn’t so much radio ads, there aren’t so much magazine articles or, you know, things like that. Now it’s more of a content aspect. So most marketing companies are putting more of their money into creating content and not like sales pitchy content, just behind the scenes content, lifestyle shots, or you know, video content is a big thing, just showing the people that use your product or your service why this service benefits them, like the experience that they get. And everybody’s putting more effort into content than actual direct advertising now, and that’s a big thing. And that goes for any industry that you’re in. You want to create content that pulls your audience in, and that’s the best way to sell. And the best way to do that is by showing yourself. That’s why behind the scenes is such a big trending thing. Showing your workers, showing your desk, you know, or your workspace, showing how you make your products, how you do your services. People definitely want to know more about the experience of buying from you than actually why they should buy from you.

Sarina Langer  24:48

Would you say there are any, any key traits successful business owners have? How can we nurture those?

Elisha Belden  24:58

One of the biggest traits is work. No matter what you see on Instagram or on Facebook, it’s not like somebody just woke up and all of a sudden had this big business. Even the ones that are telling you, oh, I went from being broke to a six figure income. That’s not how it worked. They still had to get up every single day, and even if they were just on social media, they were treating it like a job, they were treating it like that was their day job. The work, the effort, the connecting that goes into it, that’s all a big deal. You can’t just become famous, you can’t just become successful. You definitely have to put the back work in. And that means spending an hour or two hours a day commenting on other people’s social or watching what other people are doing and adapting it for your own business. Just the little things like that.

Elisha Belden  25:46

Consistency is probably the biggest trait that you can have. Getting up every single day, even if you feel like you’re failing, and still doing it. You have to work through that fail. And unfortunately, a lot of people would get to that first fail and stop, and then go back to like a nine to five. And that’s not the case. You have to hit at least a couple fails before you go any further.

Sarina Langer  26:08

I couldn’t agree more. I mean, last year – no hang on two years ago – two years ago, in December, I quit my day job at the library and to go full time self employed the first time to do editing and writing and it got really exhausting really quickly. So this year, I’ve gone back to the day job to, you know, do some more money saving. But as we’re talking, I’m already preparing myself for the second round. So, you know, I’ve now figured out a few things that didn’t work so well the first time and I think I’ve now figured out maybe how I can do them better next time, and how maybe next time, it can be more of a success. But you know, it’s taken that first failure – which I don’t think is really a failure because I’ve learned something from it anyway, coming back to mindset again.

Elisha Belden  26:57


Sarina Langer  26:58

Constantly coming back to mindset.

Elisha Belden  27:01

I personally, I was in retail. I did high volume multi store management for over a decade. I stepped out, I went to writing full time. It wasn’t quite working out for me originally. That was when I first initially went in and I was only doing writing. It wasn’t paying the bills the way that I wanted to. We recovered but we weren’t comfortable. And so I went back into retail, hated it, hated myself for it. And then really quickly realised that that wasn’t what I wanted to do, used it to save up some money, and then we opened the business from there, and never went back after that. I’ve kind of found other avenues to work for myself instead.

Elisha Belden  27:45

But I really hated myself that first time when I went back to retail, and I was miserable. Once you’ve gone self employed and you’ve had to step backwards, it’s, it’s definitely a mindset challenge.

Sarina Langer  27:58

I feel that very much.

Elisha Belden  27:58

I have to- Yeah, you have to acknowledge wait, this is just temporary, this is a stepping stone, this is going to get me where I want to go. Unfortunately, a lot of people go backwards and then stay backwards because they can’t get themselves out of that almost depressed mindset that they failed. And that’s where a lot of people differ.

Elisha Belden  28:20

It takes a lot of training to kind of go to work every day and be like, Okay, this isn’t, I’m not staying here, this is my stepping point, this is my savings account, is kind of how I looked at it. Okay, this retail job is my savings account, this freelance over here, this is my business. And you really have to separate that mindset to be able to go forward from there, but you can’t stop. And that’s a big issue with a lot of people.

Sarina Langer  28:47

And that’s also going to be very tiring for quite a while probably. If you are dedicated to building something else alongside the day job, you know, maybe you’re working full time, which is going to make it so much harder. But if you are dedicated to building something else alongside it, you will effectively have to work two full time jobs at the same time for a little while.

Elisha Belden  29:08


Sarina Langer  29:09

And I think that’s likely to put a lot of people off. And to be honest, I can’t say I blame them because it is really exhausting, but on the other end, you know, I think if you really want it, then it’s going to be worth that initial exhaustion and one of those two jobs you probably enjoy doing, which is going to help a lot.

Elisha Belden  29:30

Yeah, it’s… You had asked earlier, you know, what was a trait that successful people have, and consistency is still going to be my main answer. But one of the things that you look at when you look at people like Gary – Gary Vee – or Bill Gates or any of those guys, they all get up and go. No matter what. They don’t take a day off, even when they’re on vacation they’re still kind of working and they just keep going. They go through the failures, they go through working your 14, 15 hour days, every single day, seven days a week, and eventually it gets to be where you can work a little less. But through that early stages, and even into when you start scaling your business, so you hit a certain point, you’re successful, great, you can take a couple weeks off, you can go down to eight hour days instead of 10, or 12, or 13. But when you hit that scaling point, you’re going to have to go back to those 14, 15 hour days, you’re going to have to go back to working seven days a week.

Elisha Belden  30:35

And having that mindset of not sitting down and binge watching a TV show, or if you’re doing it, do it with your laptop on your lap. You have to give up some things to be successful. It’s just, it’s a big thing. These guys are multi million dollar, multi billion dollar in some cases, and they still get up at 6am every single day, and make their bed and do all the work even though they have staff members. They still work every night, they still walk around with their phone in their hand 24/7. And that’s the big difference. A lot of people just want to sit on the couch and grab a bag of chips and watch it, you know, a whole season of a TV show and you can’t do that.

Sarina Langer  31:21

No, I think that’s… Yeah, I think if that’s your expectation of what it’s going to be like to become I’m self employed, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening.

Elisha Belden  31:30


Sarina Langer  31:32

But it’s fulfilling!

Elisha Belden  31:33

It really is. I went on vacation this past week, and I worked the whole time I was there. But the good thing was I was still making money. And I was still having fun. I actually got my kids involved. I did, we did a content photoshoot in the cabin that we stayed in for Saniderm Medical. And my kids were there, they were helping, they were getting the Christmas – it was for our Christmas shoot, and we were getting all the tinsel out and all the lights unravelled and things like that. But we were- I was not in my office, I was not at my desk, I was still making money. I was still working. But I still had fun. I still got to spend the whole day with my kids. We went out, you know, hiking in the mountains. And then at night, I came home and instead of sitting on the couch and just vegging out, I got to work. And it’s, it’s definitely something that a lot of people don’t realise that you have to do no matter what.

Sarina Langer  32:23

I think it’s those small things, you know, like just answering an email just to confirm a new client, maybe, you know, they don’t take very long to do at all, but they can make potentially a really big difference.

Elisha Belden  32:34

Yes, and copy and paste is your friend.

Sarina Langer  32:37

Oh, yes.

Elisha Belden  32:38

Your phone is like, that’s my private tool, my private weapon. While we were, I was on a mountain literally on a suspension bridge, copying and pasting emails to clients that had sent in requests because even though we weren’t in the studio, I couldn’t let that sit for a week, I needed to capitalise because there are other businesses out there. There are other studios that they could have went to. So when that email came in, I made sure that I responded to it right away. And it only took five minutes. I was still able to talk while I was doing it. I was with my kids. I was on this bridge, I was, you know, checking out these really cool water fountains, but I just copied and pasted really quickly, and that in the client’s eyes made all the difference.

Sarina Langer  33:20

I bet it did. I mean I just from watching your Instagram like a hawk – well, or a stalker, no matter how you want to look at it – is that you know, you’re always there. I mean, every time I messaged you, I get, I think I got a reply from you within five minutes, which is impressive. I’m not convinced that you sleep at this point.

Sarina Langer  33:46

Let’s talk about taking that really big step for a bit. So eventually, you know, I mean, having the constant paycheck every month of still having a day job is lovely and all but eventually, if you really want to grow your business, you’re going to have to be brave and take the risk of leaving your day job and really going full time with what you love doing. But that’s really terrifying. I mean, the first time I did it, it was supposed to be really exciting because I had this moment of, oh my god, I can do it. I saved enough money. I could actually do this. And it was mostly very exciting, and I loved telling my boss that I was leaving. He wasn’t happy, he was, I think he was in denial for about two weeks, bless him – but for me was really exciting. But now just thinking about it, I’m thinking, can I actually take this risk again? And what if, what if it goes wrong again? What if I have to step back again? And I think for many people this is just because it’s such a big step and there’s so much risk involved, there’s also a lot of fear involved.

Sarina Langer  34:48

So what would you say to those people who think that they might be ready to take that step but who are afraid to do that?

Elisha Belden  34:56

When it comes to getting ready to leave a corporate job, a supportive job, to go into a self employed business, my first thing is always gonna, I’m always going to tell you to start your business before you leave your day job. Don’t just immediately jump in and be like, I’m going to do this startup, because you’re gonna fail. You’re not gonna, you’re going to be too scared, you’re going to hold back on the risks and the risk taking, because you, that’s the only income you have. You need to be able to make sure that you can take those risks. Marketing, how you put your business out there, products that you’re buying, things like that, they’re risky. And you have to take a risk to have a payoff.

Elisha Belden  35:39

If you start the business while you’re still working your other job, you have a backup, you have this money is coming in no matter what. And you can take this risk, you can buy this product that you hadn’t tried before, or you can buy the supply or you can market yourself a little bit differently, you can test a few different things out, try different markets, different marketing approaches, and you still have that support from the other business.

Elisha Belden  36:06

As you begin to grow your self employed business, that’s when you can start to venture off. So at this point, you’ve developed your, your brand voice, you’ve developed your marketing plan, you figured out what products or supplies work best for you. And you’ve started to build your client base or your follower base. And you, you’re a little bit more comfortable, you’ve also developed your savings account, that’s a big thing. If you’re getting ready to go, you know, from a full time job to self employed, you’re going to make sure that you need a safety net there, you’re going to have to have a huge savings account. I usually tell people to have a couple months worth of bills put away. And when I say bills, not just, okay, this is my electric payment, this is my my mortgage payment, this is my car payment. You need to factor in a couple hundred dollars every month for emergencies or grocery bills like roughly estimate what you, what you spend in groceries every month to make sure that you’ve got all that put aside. And that’ll make it a little bit easier for you to make that transition.

Elisha Belden  37:06

But even though you still have your full time job, you have to treat the other job like your full time job. Even if you’re doing it part time before you can go full time, you have to put your all into it, you have to show up, you have to be present in the business, even though you’re working both at the same time.

Elisha Belden  37:23

When you do get ready to go, make a big deal out of it because at this point, you’ve developed your customer base. Let them know, Hey, you know, I’ve decided to serve you better, I’m leaving this, and make this big event out of it, run a sale or run a promotion or just make a big marketing push on the fact that you’re going full time in your business. People really react to that, they like to see successes. Sure, you know, there’s people out there that don’t, and you’re always going to run into those, but the majority of people on your social are going to want to see you succeed, or that are watching your website or visiting your business if it’s a brick and mortar. And when you make that big deal, people will support you. But you have to have connected with them beforehand.

Sarina Langer  38:10

Yeah, definitely. I mean, you know, as we were saying earlier, social media is such a big, it’s going to be such a big part of your marketing. And that’s where all those connections that you’ve just mentioned are going to come in. If you’re already, if you’ve already talked to those people, if you’ve already made those friends, and you know, maybe already found a few clients that way, then they will be really rooting for you when you say that you’ve been able to leave your day job so that you can work with them even more.

Elisha Belden  38:38

Yes, there is… Honestly, I don’t remember the gentleman’s name. The CEO of Saniderm had actually introduced me to this concept called 1000 True Fans, and it’s something that unknowingly I had been building my business concepts off of. Now that I’ve read the article, it’s definitely something that we focus on in Saniderm’s marketing as well as in my own personal businesses. And with this, the concept is if you have 1000 true fans, you can build a six figure business just off of 1000 true fans.

Elisha Belden  39:11

You don’t need 100,000 followers on social media, you don’t need this huge million, you know, email list. If you can build 1000 true fans, so, say one a week or one a day, you can actually build a completely six figure income successful business off of just those people. And to build those you have to connect. And it goes back to being personal, mindset, all those little things that we’ve already talked about. It all plays into it. And you have to have these loyal fans before you can really let loose in your business. And that’s just from letting people see you, not just your business, but you and building emotional connections with people and getting people that are so involved in you that they’re checking your, your Facebook or your Instagram constantly. They’re constantly checking in. If you have a business, like a brick and mortar business, they’re stopping in. We have people at the studio all the time that pop in just to see how we’re doing, see if we’ve, you know, made any changes or just to come in and, for lack of a better word, just kind of bullshit. And that’s really important, because those are people that I know, when I have a cancellation, I can send them a quick email, and I’m good, I’m covered. I have that spot filled. And those 1000 true fans are really what you have to build your business on.

Sarina Langer  40:34

I think the pronunciation there really needs to be on the true fans, you know, the loyal fans.

Elisha Belden  40:39


Sarina Langer  40:40

Because having a mailing list, for example of maybe 100,000 subscribers, means absolutely nothing if not one of them is really interested in what you’re doing. But likewise, if you maybe only have a mailing list of say, maybe 50 subscribers, but each one of them is going to go out and buy your next product and recommend it to people, then that is really where your success is going to be.

Sarina Langer  41:03

So don’t think that just because you have more followers, you’re instantly going to be more successful. It’s the true followers who are actually interested. And that’s where the connection is coming in, you know, you need to talk to them, you need to build that emotional trust, so that you’re not just profile picture or name on the screen, but you’re someone they know, you know, that someone they actually know something about, someone they want to talk to.

Elisha Belden  41:27

And someone that talks back.

Sarina Langer  41:29


Elisha Belden  41:29

That’s the big thing. You know, you can hop on all these celebrities pages, and they’ve got, you know, tonnes of these, you know, million followers or whatever. But if you actually look at their engagement rates, they’re not that great, because yeah, they’re there, but they don’t communicate back. So what’s the point in commenting? What’s the point in talking to them? What’s the point in having that connection, because you know, that they’re not going to respond. Whereas if you go into someone with four or 5000 followers, and you look at their engagement rates, they’re interacting with their people. Those are the people that generally are going to have six figure businesses, taking, you know, celebrities out of that factor, but they’re more likely to have a successful individual business because they are communicating and they are personally involved, and they are hands on.

Elisha Belden  42:15

Obviously, a celebrity is going to have a six figure business, but that’s a whole different ballgame, but they don’t talk to their people. So when they do go to sell something, sure, they’re going to have a couple of people that are like, Oh, so and so use that, so I have to buy it, but for the most part, when you see celebrities pitching like a hair tool or makeup, you’re more than likely, you’re just going to scroll right past it. Because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t care. But that person that you’ve been talking to for weeks, going back and forth with and checking in on and they’re checking in on you, when they tell you that they’re you know, selling something, you’re more likely to listen.

Sarina Langer  42:51

Absolutely. I mean, I’ve just, I had an, I’ve an advanced reader copy of the book that’s going to be out in February. So next month. And I have posted a review of it on Instagram and on Goodreads, and the author contacted me to thank me for you know, taking the time to read the book and, and for reviewing it. And I asked them how they’re doing with writing the sequel, and they ended up buying my book. So that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t talked.

Elisha Belden  43:21

Exactly. Yep.

Sarina Langer  43:23

It’s all about the communication and the connection.

Sarina Langer  43:27

And finally, what can we do today to ensure success tomorrow? Cheesy as that is.

Elisha Belden  43:36

Ah, it’s a great question, though. And it seems so so basic and generic, but in all honesty, it’s important. The biggest thing, it goes back to the very first question that we talked about, and that’s goal setting. You can’t be successful if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. You have to have an end goal, you have to have a goal. Now you can continually move that as you get closer to hitting your goal, move it up a little bit further, make it more of a Genesis goal. But you have to sit down and you have to plan it out. You have to tell yourself, okay, this is what I want to accomplish, and this is how I’m going to get there. And without those steps and without those goals, you’re just flailing, you’re not aiming for anything, you don’t have a set plan or path to follow. And you’re likely not going to get anywhere.

Sarina Langer  44:23

Very well put. Well, sparrows, that’s your action step for today. Figure out what your main goal is this year and then break it down into monthly steps and weekly steps so that you can actually achieve it this year, and so that this year is the one where you’re not just talking about writing and finishing the book, but you’re actually going to finish a book. Wouldn’t that be great?

Elisha Belden  44:45

Major goal for everybody.

Sarina Langer  44:47

Definitely. Thank you so much for coming in and talking to me about marketing and making 2021 our year. It’s been a privilege. Thank you so much.

Elisha Belden  44:56

Thank you for having me.

Sarina Langer  45:00

If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at Until next time! Bye!

Transcribed by Otter

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