The Writing Sparrow Episode 15: Reflecting on One Tough Year

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Sarina Langer 0:08
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 0:26
Welcome back friends and sparrows. It’s the 14th of December, this is Episode 15, and this is the first solo episode I’ve recorded in a while. It’s kind of weird to be alone with my script and my microphone. Talking to so many amazing people for this podcast is definitely one of my 2020 highlights. But more on that in a minute.

Sarina Langer 0:49
Just a quick note before we start: my little podcast and I will be taking a break over the holidays after this episode. We’ll be back on January 4 with an interview with Elisha Belden about setting goals and achieving dreams. But between now and then, I’m planning on sleeping and reading a lot.

Sarina Langer 1:09
Now, I don’t know about you, but end-of-year fatigue usually hits me around this time, all the more so when I’ve also done NaNoWriMo. And this year has been harder than any other in my short 30 years. I love December for the magic of the holidays and its pretty lights popping up everywhere so much, but I also love to take a moment to reflect on the year behind me around now. And this year, I think that’s more important than ever, but it might also be harder than usual for obvious reasons. As much as I want to focus on the positives only just to cheer myself up, it doesn’t serve anyone to pretend the low points didn’t happen at the best of times, and they kind of stand out this year. So it would be really hard to ignore all the bad things that have happened.

Sarina Langer 1:57
As I said, it’s been rough. And I’m sure you felt that too. Everyone’s been affected. So many families have lost loved ones, and if thats you I’m so sorry for your loss. Then there are other many redundancies, the businesses that closed hoping it would be temporary but haven’t been able to reopen their doors. Did you know that more couples than usual have split up this year? That’s a lot of strain on anyone, and if you’ve been affected by all of the above or even just one of those things, I have no words. I wish there was something I could say to you that would make it all better, but I’ve been luckier than most this year, so I have no right to tell you to focus on the positives. Grieve however you need to, and if you want to talk about it or just vent at me, my direct messages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are open as always. It’s not much, but I’m happy to listen without judgement if it might help if only for a moment.

Sarina Langer 2:57
On a personal level, 2020 hasn’t gone as expected either. I’m actually used to this because I set goals in January that I don’t fully achieve. This is because I’m an excitable overachiever who gets carried away pretty much immediately, so I set my goals too high and then wonder what was wrong with me throughout the year. For example, this year, I wanted to finally publish the first book of my Blood Wisp trilogy. Did you know I got the covers for that done… I think I got the last one sent back to me in January or February last year, and I sat on the other two for even longer than that. So yeah, I kind of really thought I would make it happen this year.

Sarina Langer 3:44
On top of that, I wanted to work even harder than last year and keep my editing and authoring business up and make a profit. I wanted to publish my first box set before I turned 30 back in January, and I wanted to write The Silence of Magic. This was going to be my year, friends. What better time to make things happen than at the start of a new personal decade, right?

Sarina Langer 4:06
Well, I did publish my box set before I turned 30. Then I closed the virtual doors on my editing business and returned to the day job. So that didn’t go as I hoped. My first day back was one and a half weeks before we got shut down for the first lockdown, so I’m still not sure if I got incredibly lucky with that or… no actually that was really lucky. At the time, we were still telling students that we were hoping to reopen after Easter, which is obviously so hard to imagine now, but at the time we were hopeful, so I worked my butt off to hit self-imposed deadlines and hand in freelance jobs. And in doing so, I worked myself into one deep burnout that I needed two months to recover from. I was even in therapy briefly, and misophonia really kicked my butt for about, well, pretty much the entire time I was recovering from said burnout. I did start writing The Silence of Magic, but I’m not even 20,000 words into it. I’m actually doing okay on the Blood Wisp trilogy, but I haven’t even started book 3 yet, unless writing the outline counts? And remember what I just said about when I got the covers back for that? Yeah, either way, to think I wanted to have the first book published by now, and technically this time last year, is laughable now.

Sarina Langer 5:28
So. Yeah. This year, though, my year hasn’t gone into what I how I imagined. And I’m sure yours hasn’t either. Honestly, I was gutted. I felt like such a failure when I had to close my business again, and honestly, it didn’t help the burnout any either. I’m grateful that I and my boyfriend kept our jobs when so many people lost theirs, but most days, honestly, I still have mixed feelings because no job is perfect, right? I’m actually gearing up for self employment 2.0 as I’m recording this, but I don’t want to jinx that yet.

Sarina Langer 6:05
And it’s not all bad. I said I published my first box set before I turned 30, didn’t I? I felt pretty accomplished when that happened. I also stepped out of my comfort zone and did things that intimidated me. I’ve published my first audiobook this year, my thanks to FindawayVoices and my incredible narrator Leanne Yau for making the audiobook of Rise of the Sparrows happen. That I can just say that I have this alone is amazing. And the audiobook is also pretty amazing. You should go listen to it. I started a podcast, even though it terrified me, and I have listeners. I published Brightened Shadows, and with that I wrapped up the Darkened Light duology. So 2020 has still been tough, but I’ve also, you know, I’ve achieved a few things despite all that. But more than in any other year, I’ve also dealt with some personal challenges that were trying to break me and honestly, some got pretty close. But looking at the list of achievements I’ve just given you, I did fine.

Sarina Langer 7:08
I’m grateful for my new writing routine of writing for 15 minutes every day. That’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do, because 15 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot. But honestly, it’s going great and I recommend it. I’m grateful that we both have jobs. I’m grateful that I’ve learned from the things that didn’t go to plan this year. My next attempt will be stronger, just you watch. I’m grateful that I’ve published a box set and an audiobook and finished my duology. I’m grateful, and honestly kind of surprised and taken aback a bit, that I defeated NaNoWriMo this year. I really didn’t think I would. If you look back over, for example, my blog posts around the time just before NaNo started, when I first decided I would do it, or if you listen to my episodes that I did on NaNo around that time, I think I stressed it quite clearly that I didn’t think I would get very far this year. But I did it. And I’m grateful that I was brave and stepped out of my comfort zone this year, because it got me my first audiobook and this podcast and you listening to it.

Sarina Langer 8:13
Your action step today is to be kind to yourself for the rest of December and celebrate your achievements. Oh, what the hell, be kind to yourself all of next year too, because we’ve all got some recovering to do in that department. Don’t think you have any achievements this year? Well, I bet you’re wrong. Your achievements don’t need to measure up to anyone else’s successes. They’re yours and completely unique to you.

Sarina Langer 8:37
It’s fine to celebrate that you managed to get out of bed as often as you did. It’s fine to celebrate publishing one book instead of five. It’s fine to celebrate finishing a first draft when you wanted to have the entire series wrapped up by now. Just look at how I’ve done with the Blood Wisp series. Honestly, this year was a beast. You did great. You deserve a break, and on that note, so does this podcast.

Sarina Langer 9:03
Happy Holidays friends, Merry Christmas, and blissful Yule. I will see you next year. Thanks for listening. Bye.

Sarina Langer 9:11
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

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 14: How to Write and Publish an Anthology with Your Friends with Jessica Reis

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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  00:26

Welcome back, friends and Sparrows! It’s the seventh of December, and this is episode 14. Today, I have Jessica Reis with me via zoom, and we’ll be discussing how to write an anthology with your friends, something she has experience with, and I have none whatsoever. Welcome, Jess.

Jessica Reis  00:47


Sarina Langer  00:49

So good to have you here!

Jessica Reis  00:50

You did great with my name. Let me say that.

Sarina Langer  00:54

I’m so glad to hear that! It’s always a worry. So–

Jessica Reis  00:59

I know it can be tricky.

Sarina Langer  01:01

I’m glad to hear I did alright. Did you know I briefly learned Spanish, which is obviously not exactly the same as Portuguese, but I like to think I have some skill.

Jessica Reis  01:14

It can be similar. Maybe.

Sarina Langer  01:17

So you’ve written an anthology with your friends. That’s pretty amazing in itself, but you’ve also just shown me the book itself and that is so beautiful. So, how did this idea–

Jessica Reis  01:32


Sarina Langer  01:32

Sorry, you go.

Jessica Reis  01:33

No, no, no, I was going to say that it was a long but beautiful and hard journey.

Sarina Langer  01:43

I can imagine. So how did this idea come about for you and your friends to write a book together?

Jessica Reis  01:51

Well, it is all started with Tania. She’s the organiser of the project. And I only knew her and Gabriela because they have been written other books before. But she invited me for the project and she was like, Well, I have this project for an anthology of short stories related to fantasy. And there is a couple of twists that, if you want to join, I will explain. So it was basically like that. And she asked me to send a couple of my previous short stories, just so her, so she can, could see what I could write, because she, I had read her books, but she had never read something of mine. So it started like that. And then she had us all to a Facebook group, and we’re talking, and I got very excited because we were four authors. So she had this brilliant idea of having each sort, short story, which is almost like a novella length, having the one element. So mine was randomly, they are all were randomly picked. Mine was air. And then she had asked us to write one prompt, that would also be randomly picked. And we had to write the story based on the element and that prompt. So I got air, and I got a prompt that talks about pirates that have powers and that kidnap someone in the royal bloodline. So…

Sarina Langer  04:09

How exciting! You know what that reminds me of? I think when I was in, God, I don’t remember what year it was, I want to say, I don’t know, either primary school or high school. We did this thing where our teachers were trying to encourage us to do more creative writing. Sorry. And they, I think they just gave us basically like a hat with like lots of little prompts and then we had to pick three out of it at random. And then those were our story prompt basically. It reminds me of that. I loved doing that.

Jessica Reis  04:46

Yeah, it’s, it was fun to figure out out how to combine the elements with a prompt because if it, it was water, was like very more and, more a perfect match because pirates, water, but I thought that there is a lot we can do with the air, element air, and pirates. So I ended up with deciding to go to my roots in terms of writing, which is getting inspiration from mythology. So I always love the idea of flying, So I love dragons, angels, and of course harpies. So I decided to pick that. And the fact that they were, in some ways consider to be like, like guards, and like bounty hunters, so I decided to go with that. And write the idea that pirates are bad, the harpies are catching them. But of course, the universe and and society isn’t so black and white. And I decided to talk about corruption and the way that we view values and the way that we view what, what people teach us about religion and all the traditions, so I decided to go with that. And of course, I have pirates that have powers, that have imaginary powers.

Sarina Langer  06:47

That sounds really fun though. That sounds like such a fun story to read. So there were four of you, you said, and you, you all sort of organised everything via this Facebook group. That sounds like a really clever way to exchange ideas and see how everyone is getting on. So to what degree did you utilise the Facebook groups? Or did you just kind of like check in once a week to see how everyone is doing? Or did you exchange ideas and ask for help?

Jessica Reis  07:15

Well, I mostly exchanged ideas, like the brainstorming with Tania. Because at the beginning, it was the person I was more comfortable with, but by now I talked with all of them, we’re still texting each other. But at first it was the person that I knew more. I had been with her in the summer at a book fair. So I decided to go with her in the brainstorming, but we were constantly messaging one another in the chat. We were all checking in, saying where we are going on the things that we are having some difficulties with. And then of course, after we finished the first draft, we gave one another our drafts to be our betas. So that again, we started messaging one another saying, Well, I’m very enjoying your story. I have no idea what you’re going to do, so you’re already giving comments as we read, although we were commenting in the file as well. So we were like in touch every day of the week.

Sarina Langer  08:54

Honestly, that sounds like such a fun progress, erm, process. It sounds so fun, and also so good to just constantly give each other feedback on everything. That sounds like a really good way to grow and develop your story.

Jessica Reis  09:10

Yeah, because we were like, I got a Filipa’s story first if I’m not mistaken. And Tania got mine first, so we got each other, we change it like that. So then we passed on the file with all our comments to the next person. So Filipa’s file went to Tania, I read Tania’s next. So we were constantly doing that until all three of us has read the other ones, all four of us has we read all the ones, the all of the stories, and commenting on. Then we started doing this second draft where I added, like, I think I may have been the person that added a lot more than the, more than the other three girls. Because I have entire chapters that I wrote. And at some point, I went into the group and said, Well, I really am sorry, but I… Is it okay, if I, if I go a bit over the word count that we had planned?

Sarina Langer  10:34

How far over did you go?

Jessica Reis  10:38

Not much. Tania’s stories were the bigger. We did went over. So she was like, well, I, I went over already, so don’t worry. And I’m like, but I still have two chapters left to write completely. And I still have like, I still have like four or six chapters to correct. So I was already in a tight spot. But I did when… Our word count was between 25k and 30k, I went a bit over the 30, like 33.

Sarina Langer  11:26

That’s not too bad.

Jessica Reis  11:28

Yeah, it’s not too bad. But I was freaking out.

Sarina Langer  11:33

Yeah, I think that’s really interesting actually, because I think when most people hear anthology, we immediately think of short stories. We don’t necessarily think of novella length stories. So that’s really interesting.

Jessica Reis  11:48

Our point was really to write a novella length, because we wanted to explore more and not just write like a couple of pages and that’s it. So that’s why the book is very thick, like 500 pages, I believe?

Sarina Langer  12:12

Oh, not bad.

Jessica Reis  12:12

It’s really thick and heavy.

Sarina Langer  12:15

It looks really pretty.

Jessica Reis  12:18

But then again, we had, we didn’t pick a type of letter and space between sentences that were small, which we knew that since it was four stories, we wanted the readers to be comfortable with reading and spending a lot of time reading. And we wanted people, if they were older and has trouble reading, they didn’t like get tired of reading a couple of pages, because the letter was small, so it is very big. Not gigantic, but compared to most books you can see it.

Sarina Langer  13:05

Oh no, it looks fine, actually. It looks very well put together.

Jessica Reis  13:09

Yeah, but if I showed you some books in Portuguese, they are very, they are smaller than this. Not maybe, not the letter, but the spacing in between tend to be a bit smaller. That’s why at first we have like between 3– 304 something, 300 or 400 pages. But then when we did, we got the art first to see how it was all put together, if the cover was right. And then we had to change everything, and we end up with more pages. Because we did all ourselves. We didn’t add anyone to format our book. The cover was made by Gabriela.

Sarina Langer  14:06

Well, Gabriela, your cover is beautiful. Well done.

Jessica Reis  14:11

Yeah, she, erm, we all pick the title. But then Tania, Gabrielle were talking about cover ideas, and then they showed us the covers and we’re like, yeah, blue is, it’s perfect. And the dragon, it has a dragon, a skull, a boat. And you can see in the photo like me showing it, showing to you because of the reflection, but it has this glassy filter so you see the reflection of the title. And all of those elements are linked to our stories. So mine is about pirates–the boat. Tania’s story is about dragons, so she has a dragon. Filipa’s story is related to a mirror, so she has that reflection element. And Gabriela’s story is about… I can say as real as it gets, it’s like, very, very dark, but brilliant story, so this goal is related to the main character’s power.

Sarina Langer  15:48

The more you tell me about how this whole thing worked and came together for you, just makes me want to do it more. It sounds so exciting. And it sounds like such a great effort as well from your group. I mean, it just sounds like the best team work has gone into this.

Jessica Reis  16:05

Yeah, you really have like Tania’s idea was founded on the, on the values that she wanted to work with a group of people that she loved to work. So she already had working with Gabriela on one of her book’s covers because Gabriela is a designer. And she is, Tania knew Filipa already, and she, they had talked about stories, and they are brainstorming it and everything. And me and Tania had talked about writing when we met at the book fair. So she thought that all of us could work together. Okay, it wasn’t perfect. We still are four people with four different personalities, so of course there are tensions, and sometimes there are problems. But the fact that we went through them and figured out the solutions for that tells a lot. so we could work together.

Sarina Langer  17:31

I would agree with that. I mean, I know… I think everyone knows what it’s like when you have to work with people when you don’t necessarily all get along perfectly well all of the time, you know, tension can really make things difficult. So I think that you still managed to put out such a honestly beautiful book is a credit to all fout of you. I mean, when, say, when things got difficult, if you disagreed on something, how did you, how did you deal with that? How did you talk through that?

Jessica Reis  18:00

We talked.

Jessica Reis  18:01

Yeah, that was it. That was it. We said what we had to say. We were respectful of one another, because okay, okay, I might not agree with you, but I understand you and I will try better next time. It was like this kinds of things. And we, for example, in the beta reading process, we all have different kinds of ways of talking about the story. I’m a beta that focus on like, the, the essence of a story. And I sometimes don’t ask questions, a lot of questions. I got not going to say a lot of why’s. I will wait for later because I know sometimes the answer to the why certain characters act that way, will be answered later. Tania is from the field of science. She’s a biologist. She’s working on a thesis right now, so she has that questioning mind. So her beta reading process is more of questioning everything, like why they are doing that, wWhy are pirates doing that? Why are harpies doing that? Why Jessica, why Jessica? She was like that. Which is great, but shocking, but she did let us know. She was like that. So, we, when we are doing a project like this, we are being our beta readers of one another, we have to remind ourselves that it’s not personal. We are just trying to help. And think of the reason why certain someone is questioning us in that comment, or, or the ending commentary, because sometimes it’s just, you know so much about your own story that you forget that some information is not there. And they pick up on that.

Sarina Langer  18:01

There you go!

Sarina Langer  19:35

It’s very easily done.

Jessica Reis  20:49

Yeah, so it’s, it’s talking, talking with one another, explaining things before going into a project, and in the middle of a project, so people know how you are and so you know, all they are and how they act.

Sarina Langer  21:11

That’s such a wonderful, mature approach. I mean, again, you, you guys are such a creditor yourselves. I mean, I’m not surprised at all that you’ve managed to finish it, which is, you know, something that many new writers really struggle with is to just even finish the first draft. And not only have you guys finished your novellas, but you’ve also put out a seriously very beautiful looking book. I think I may have said that before, but your cover really is very pretty.

Sarina Langer  21:37

So I can see that you’ve obviously published it, you’ve shown me the book, is there any chance at all maybe of you getting it translated to English? Because you have me very curious, and I would really love to read it.

Jessica Reis  21:52

For now, we have no idea. We may do it in the future, I don’t know. It’s really up to us to decide in the future, if we might have the time to do it, or to get someone. But then again, it’s, it’s an investment.

Sarina Langer  22:21

It really is, yeah. I mean, I remember at one point, I was looking at getting my first trilogy translated to German, because my parents are German, and they… I mean, they are learning English a little bit, but ultimately, you know, it’s a foreign language to them. And they would really like to read my books, so I was looking into that. But as you said, it’s definitely an investment. And it’s a big decision either way, you know, because it’s, it’s quite a big thing, I think, when your book is just out in your own country to begin with, that’s, that’s such a huge achievement, but to then also be able to say that your book has been translated and is now available in another language. That’s, that, that seems like a whole next level thing. So, you know, definitely don’t rush into that, but if you did want to do it, I would read it.

Jessica Reis  23:11

Oh, good to know. But I do have the same problem that you have, because my family in my paternal family is French, my grandparents were immigrants in France, so most of my uncles and my dad and my cousins were born there. So I have a lot of family members that would like to read something that I wrote, but they can’t because they don’t know enough Portuguese to do it. They can understand it, some can talk, but they can’t fluently read Portuguese. Just the menu in a restaurant.

Sarina Langer  24:06

Well, I think as long as you can get food, you’re probably fine.

Jessica Reis  24:11


Sarina Langer  24:11

That’s always my priority. Can I get food if I went to another country? Would I be able to feed myself? And if the answer is yes, I’m probably happy for now. But it doesn’t help me read a book, does it? So, so in this instance, it’s not helpful.

Jessica Reis  24:27


Sarina Langer  24:28

How did you find the experience overall of writing the anthology with your friends?

Jessica Reis  24:36

I found it an experience that helped me grow. It was exciting but scary, but something that taught, taught me a lot. It taught me to be a beta reader more, a better beta reader. It taught me to understand my, the common mistakes I make and how to spot them more quickly. It helped me understand a bit of the writing process after writing a book. And it was really helpful in getting to know other authors in a more intimate way, because we were working very closely. And that was a very interesting idea, erm, concept and I, and experience for someone that is a first time publishing author, especially in an indie way and not with a publishing company. So it was very interesting and very exciting experience that really helped me learn a lot. So yeah, it was like that for me.

Sarina Langer  26:20

I mean, you’re really making me want to do this myself. If anyone, if anyone who’s listening would like to do an ontology with me, I am, I’m game. I’m there. Just say the word.

Jessica Reis  26:32

Ah, I’m here. I can do it with you.

Sarina Langer  26:35

Alright, there you go, we’ve already got two people. So just a few more, and we can absolutely get this started.

Sarina Langer  26:42

So do you have–ahem, on a completely unrelated note, ahem–do you have any tips for someone who might be interested in doing the same thing? Oh, smooth. Well done, me.

Jessica Reis  26:56

Well, get people that you, you believe in to work with you because you have to believe in them and they have to believe in you. So that at least if there are problems, they still believe in the project, they still believe in each other, and they believe that they can surpass the problems and the obstacles. Then, maybe get people that write in the same genre. If you are going to write fantasy, maybe it’s not the best to ask someone that doesn’t really enjoy writing fantasy. So okay, if it’s someone that likes to write in multiple genders, then that’s perfect.

Sarina Langer  27:48

That makes sense. You can probably adjust quite well that way.

Jessica Reis  27:53

And, and that, yeah, just someone that’s really is someone that you believe in, and then you know, you can work with someone you don’t hate.

Sarina Langer  28:07

That sounds helpful.

Jessica Reis  28:08

Hate, at some, at some times, okay, it’s okay to hate some bits of someone’s personality. I even hate some bits of my personality, so that’s fine. But if, if you believe in them, if they believe in you, everything is possible.

Sarina Langer  28:30

Thank you so much for that. I think we should probably leave it on that very inspiring note. And thank you so much for stopping by and having a chat with me about this. Thank you so much.

Jessica Reis  28:41

Thank you for inviting me.

Sarina Langer  28:43


Jessica Reis  28:44


Sarina Langer  28:46

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!

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).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 13: 5 Quick and Easy Formatting Tips with Becky Wright

Listen to the Episode:


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  00:26

Hello, and welcome back, sparrows and friends. It’s the 30th of November, this is Episode 13, and Becky Wright is back.

Sarina Langer  00:40

If you remember I did the first ever interview of this podcast with Becky about formatting and generally about her incredible business for writers, PlatformHouse Publishing, and we maybe got a little bit carried away. Sorry. I’ve asked her back so that we, meaning Becky, can give you some quick and easy tips you can use for your own book right now. Pronunciation on quick.

Sarina Langer  01:10

But before we begin, I just wanted to quickly say a big thank you to all of you listening. I’ve had an email this week from Booksprout to congratulate me on my first 100 downloads. So, you guys, thank you so much, and how fitting is that for the return of my first ever interviewee, Becky! Welcome back, Becky.

Becky Wright  01:32

Hi, Sarina. It’s good to be back. And I will stay on track today.

Sarina Langer  01:36

No, I will, I will try, but I think a bit off… Who doesn’t love a bit of banter?

Becky Wright  01:44

Yeah it’s just normal. It’s a chat over a drink.

Sarina Langer  01:46

Yeah, we’re already doing it. I don’t think we can help ourselves.

Becky Wright  01:50

No! Right, right. Okay, on track.

Sarina Langer  01:52

Okay, what did I just say about doing this quick? So, today, um, as I’ve just said, I’ve asked you back to give our listeners a few quick and easy steps anyone can apply to format their own books right now that any of us can handle, even myself who really hates formatting and nearly lost her entire book because I pressed the wrong thing one time.

Becky Wright  02:14

Oh. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  02:15

Yeah. So, how many tips do you have for us today?

Becky Wright  02:18

I have five. Five really important… not one of them is more important than the other, but as a collective, they’re all important. So these are all the top five that I think everybody needs to remember.

Sarina Langer  02:31

Fantastic. Okay, let’s start with tip number one. What have you got?

Becky Wright  02:35

Tip Number One! I feel like I should have had like a countdown, sort of some sort of music tune there.

Becky Wright  02:39

Right, tip number one: style. Make sure that you know what genre your book format needs to look like. So obviously, if it’s a fantasy, you can have lots of embellishments and borders and really nice illustrations. And if it’s something like a thriller or a horror or something like that, you’re going to need to have plain or more strict on your illustrations. So I think, so I think style is, style is really important. And it’s the first place you’re going to need to start, so before you do anything else, you need to start on that.

Sarina Langer  03:19

See, I’m torn about that, because I really get what you’re saying with that and I couldn’t agree more that obviously style is so important. But I’m just having flashbacks to the first, to my first book ever when I tried to format that. And I think I just tried to even just move a sentence and suddenly everything had shifted, and my page numbers were suddenly gone, and I didn’t know what had happened to the paragraphs. So the idea of me doing any kind of fancy style formatting is making me break out in cold sweat right now.

Becky Wright  03:52

I mean, I think get your general layout in and worry about the fancy fiddly bits later, because you need to get the basic template done. So think about the style, the style needs… you need to have that in the back of your mind, although you don’t need to add anything at this point. You still need to think, what is it? What over- what sort of impression when you open that book, what are you looking for? What are you trying to portray for to the actual reader, because I think as much as your cover and your blurb, opening them pages that sets up the reader for knowing what they’re going into. That’s my top tip number one.

Sarina Langer  04:30

I think one thing that can possibly help with that if you’re not quite sure what might work well for your genre is to maybe have a look at other books in the genre and see what they’ve done.

Becky Wright  04:39

Oh, absolutely that, I would always do that. And if before I have a new client with, before I start anybody’s book, I will always look really in depth of what the genre is and go out and if it’s something I haven’t done, or a new client I haven’t worked with, I’ll go out and look, physically look on the interiors of books and have a look at formatting. So it’s a must. It’s a must. It’s really important.

Sarina Langer  05:03

And I think this might be a good moment to say that you have spent all week formatting my two books, and they are so beautiful! Honestly, I haven’t, I’ve had quite a, quite a stressful week, but you know how it goes, I’ve been quite busy. So I still haven’t been able to look through them properly. But from what I’ve seen, they’re absolutely stunning. And I can’t wait to have the proof copy in my hands so I can stroke it and adore it.

Becky Wright  05:03

Yeah, that’s always important to me. It’s not until you get that proof copy that you can actually see it for real. It’s all very well looking at it on a screen, but until you’ve actually got it in your hands, and then you can really see how it works.

Sarina Langer  05:45

Absolutely. Or, you know, on your Kindle when we’re talking about an ebook, but either way, you’ve done such a beautiful job. I can’t wait for people to see it. And I can’t wait to admire it some more at the weekend. All right, what’s your second tip?

Becky Wright  06:01

Right. Second one: front and back matter.

Sarina Langer  06:04

Oh, yes.

Becky Wright  06:05

It matters. It does matter.

Sarina Langer  06:08

It does! I kind of forgot mine this time around.

Becky Wright  06:12

But it was fine, because I was like, no, we got something missing, but it’s fine. The acknowledgement pages… So the front and the back matter, for anybody who’s starting out and not quite- because you use that term sometimes and people don’t understand what that is. And it just means your dedication, your copyright, your dedication, your acknowledgement, you’re about the author, and the contents page, all them things. Some of them definitely belong at the front obviously, obviously, the copyright page and your dedication, and depending on your preference, some people put the acknowledgement at the back and About the Author is- I would always put the About the Author at the back. And it also depends on ebook and paperback. Because we know, or some people may not know that you, the less you put at the front of your ebook… So as soon as, as soon as the reader gets into the story, the better. Because you’ve got the links and they can find all the extra bits, it doesn’t actually necessarily need to be in there, as long as the copyright and your dedication, anything that you need to have it in the front can go in, but anything that’s surplus needs to be in the book but doesn’t set up the story, put it at the back.

Sarina Langer  07:25

Completely agree. And again, I think a good thing, if you’re not quite sure what to put for the front and back matter in your book is to pull off a book off your shelf right now, something in your genre and just see what they’ve done. You know, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just–

Becky Wright  07:39

No, not at all. Not at all. So, I would always say pick two or three books off your bookshelf of different genres, and have a look at them all as an overall and then get a feel for what, where people put their pages. Not everybody has an About the Author page. If you’re a big mainstream author, you might have a real famous author, and they probably won’t have one or it may be just a paragraph on their back cover, cause they, they don’t need one, everyone tends to know who they are, but for us, and it’s important.

Becky Wright  08:11

And links in your ebook have to go to the right places, so you have links to all your social media and your website, and, and what other books that you’ve got. They need to be in there. I would- it depends on whether you put them at the front or the back. It’s, you know, it’s entirely up to you, depending on what it is. If it’s a paperback, I would always put Books By, Other Books By, and Books By Me at the front.

Sarina Langer  08:39

Yeah, I mean, I think unlike with the style, and you know maybe even adding an images and little things like that, just adding, you know, things like your dedication, for example, or writing your acknowledgments usually takes a bit of thought and time to write it all out, but it’s not a complicated thing to do, and you don’t need to overthink it. Because especially for your acknowledgments, you already know what the process was like for you. You already know who you’ve worked with, who your beta readers were, so–

Becky Wright  09:09

And when you’re trying to compose that, cause- Right, it’s like, Oh my God, I’ve got to write a bio, I’ve got to write- and that closure page, where do I start? Start at the beginning of your writing process. Who was it, the first person that saw your book other than you, and literally work your way down. So do it as a checkpoint, and you can vary that to each book. So, as long as you’ve got the basis of your acknowledgement page, you can just tweak that to different books, and your About the Author page can stay exactly the same, and it literally just goes in every single book. You may want to tweak it depending on circumstances, obviously, and add an extra book at the end of it, your other books by you, and you can add an extra book in, but otherwise generally they’re just templates and you can just add them in.

Sarina Langer  09:57

Exactly. I mean I know for my duology where the- well, actually by the time this interview goes live, my second book will already be out.

Becky Wright  10:06


Sarina Langer  10:07

But you know, in both of those, I have the same map, I have the same Pronunciation Guide. So don’t think that you have to start over again from scratch, even with every book, you know, because there’ll be some things that you can reuse over and over and over again, which will save you a lot of time and it will make it look all the more professional.

Becky Wright  10:24

Yep, absolutely. And it’s like, copyright page–lots of people have it quite long, comprehensive copyright pages. Some people literally will just have the title, and just ‘all rights reserved’ and the copyright, you know, it’s, it doesn’t matter. I’ve always had quite a comprehensive one, because when I first started out, I found what I wanted, sorted my wording out, and so I just have the same one.

Sarina Langer  10:48

I think it’s quite easy for us to panic when we hear the word copyright page, because  it’s something, it’s legal stuff, you know, we need to make sure we get it right. But honestly, as long as you have the copyright symbol in there and your name and the year, you are covered. That’s literally all you need.

Becky Wright  11:04

Yeah, copyright, copyright symbol, your name, I would always make sure, All Rights Reserved, and, and your website.

Sarina Langer  11:12

Yes, of course.

Becky Wright  11:13

As long as it really needs to be in there. And it is, it’s one of those personal preferences, I think. Some people like to keep them simple. So the front and the back matter, and as much- and it matters, so it needs to be in there.

Sarina Langer  11:29

The front and the back matter matters. There you go. If that’s not the catchy thing for you to remember, I don’t know what is.

Becky Wright  11:35

It’s a tongue twister, but yes, it does. So if you think it matters, it needs to be in there.

Sarina Langer  11:43

So, what is tip number three?

Becky Wright  11:44

Right, Tip Number three: font and chapter headings. Lots of people, and I did it in the early days, simple, simple font, and it would be one font throughout. And, and I think you don’t need to… don’t overdo it in the same respect, depending on your genre, depending on what the style you’re going for. And this will lead on from you thinking what style, what style your, this book is going to be, what style formatting. So, font. And I would, it’s a, it’s a preference to me. I’ve changed my preference over the years, I’ve gone from Times New Roman, and I’m now on Garamond at the minute, which is my favourite one personally. But there’s a whole array of them. And they’re as long as they are easy readable. And you can google this, you know, ‘best fonts for fiction’. And there’s so many, so many different websites and blogs, and everything that you can find that will give you a guidance into where you need to go. And there was one, one, I would always say: do not use Arial.

Sarina Langer  12:50

Oh, there you go. That’s a pro tip. Why not, Becky?

Becky Wright  12:54

I think it’s just not particularly easy reading and it won’t look professional. And I think if you… and it’s again, it’s one of those, go on your bookshelf and get a load of books, half a dozen books, open them all up and see what they look like.

Sarina Langer  13:08

And chances are there’ll be something very simple like Times New Roman, or Garamond as you’ve heard. I mean, if you’re still not sure what to use, then those two you can’t really go wrong with. That said, you can use something fancy, like something that looks a bit like handwriting if you have maybe like a short handwritten note in there. Or maybe–

Becky Wright  13:27

They are, they are really good. And if you’ve got like an article in the book, in storyline, perhaps it’s a newspaper cutting, and it needs to be in there. You could use one of the newspaper fonts, something that looks like it’s in print, in type. And that will just work because it will, it will make the reader realise that they are reading something like that within.

Sarina Langer  13:48

Yes. So some fonts like that are fantastic for small bits like that, but you don’t want them throughout the entire book.

Becky Wright  13:58

No, and I think on your chapter headings it’s important, it doesn’t need… I would always say vary it for the chapter headings, even if you’re going for something simple, a complimentary font, but never use more than three in your whole book. Otherwise, it’s just going to be, it’s just going to be a gallery of fonts and the readers won’t know what, what it’s looking, what they’re looking at. So fonts, think about them seriously, and look at what other people have done in your genre. So you’ve picked the right sort of font.

Sarina Langer  14:31

All right, tip number four. What have you got?

Becky Wright  14:33

Tip Number Four: widows and orphans.

Sarina Langer  14:36

Oh! Oh, I can’t tell you the headache I’ve got from this on my first book. You might remember: in our first interview, I said that I got this close to throwing my laptop out the window. This is why.

Becky Wright  14:51

Yeah, and it’s a button. It’s just a button.

Sarina Langer  14:54

Yeah, I didn’t realise that. I literally-

Becky Wright  14:59

What it basically does, it keeps bodies of text together. So if you’ve got, if you’ve got a scene break and you’re going into another body of text and it’s a different scene, rather than having at the bottom of the page one lonesome widow, and all, all of the rest of it up on the top of the next page, or you’ve got everything, it goes right the way down and then you’ve got one lonesome little line at the top of the next page, and then you’ve got the gap. It’s just, it’s a formatting… it’s having an eye for your formatting. So if it doesn’t look quite right…

Sarina Langer  15:36

Chances are it isn’t.

Becky Wright  15:38

So, and if you go into your… It’s in your formatting settings in Word, in Microsoft Word, it’s just a, a click. Click it, and it will do it for you.

Sarina Langer  15:49

Yes, I mean, the thing is that… I mean, we could sort of try to talk you through how to get there, but depending on what software you use, it will be different.

Becky Wright  15:59

Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina Langer  16:00

There are so many versions all the time, because it’s technology and nothing lasts very long in this world. So if you’re not sure where it is, or how to find it, just google it quickly.

Becky Wright  16:09

Yep. It’ll be in the Help programme, whatever programme you’re using. But it is important just to keep chapter sec- keep sections, scene sections together. So you don’t have stray little lines going off into the, into the nevernever and everyone’s like, what? So you didn’t- And it’s also looking over your, looking over your layout. And if it doesn’t, if it looks right- My eye works that way. So it’s, I know that’s easy for me to say, but as long as it looks right.

Sarina Langer  16:45

Do you want to hear a story that will make you cringe?

Becky Wright  16:48

Go on.

Sarina Langer  16:49

Okay. So with my first book, I think at the time I was still using OpenOffice–and I mean, don’t get me wrong, if OpenOffice is the programme for you, good for you. Personally, I have a very strong hate relationship with that thing now. So, so when with my first book, I for some reason… I think I’d read somewhere that you had to do all of your widows and orphans individually, and I just got it into my head that this is what I had to do. So I kid you not, I literally went through my entire book several times, doing all of them on a page per page basis, and then I eventually, I think I went downstairs afterwards, and I was so tired from just staring at it for honestly hours, and my partner went, you know you could just have select ed the whole document and done it literally with one click right? I was like, No, no, you can’t, I’m sure I’ve read that you can’t, I would have done it. I can’t do it. It can’t be that easy. And he did it. And oh, I’m still thinking about this now.

Becky Wright  17:54

That goes back to what we’ve had conversations with in the past, it’s we are forever learning and it’s a trial and error, and now it’s not that you’ve, you found a way not to do it. That’s what it is.

Sarina Langer  18:06

I think now looking back, that might just be why I started hating formatting so much. It’s the widows and orphans.

Becky Wright  18:16

It’s a common thing, this hatred for formatting. I’ve heard it many a time.

Sarina Langer  18:20

But you don’t understand it, do you, cuz you love it.

Becky Wright  18:22

I do love it. And it’s handy, it is, because my brain works that way. And I think… and I have. Yeah, I have, I have…

Arthur Wright  18:31


Sarina Langer  18:31


Becky Wright  18:31

… because I have this checklist… Oh, that’s my son. Oh, he’s a cheeky one. Um, but yeah, it is. All these things are important. But it’s only because you want the overall thing to look, the overall book to look as it should. And as long as you have this checklist, and I work by this checklist, I mean, it’s in my head. I don’t think about it now. It’s just automatic. So, um, but yeah, so that’s tip number four. Widows and orphans.

Sarina Langer  19:04

I think the one thing for us all to take away from that, maybe, is that it looks complicated, or it did to me anyway, and it looks really intimidating, but it’s literally just a matter of selecting your entire document and pressing a button. And then it’s done. And it looks so much cleaner, and it’s, it doesn’t need to take the hours that I put into it with my first ever attempt. And honestly, it’s as fast as 10 seconds and you’re done with it. It’s nothing to fear.

Becky Wright  19:35

That’s it. No, it isn’t. It is like you say, you just select all and you can just press a button, or press a button and put whole document and it, depending on what programme you’re using, it is just a click of a button effectively. Maybe two or three clicks but it is.

Sarina Langer  19:50

Not me, that’s for sure. Tip number five?

Becky Wright  19:54

Tip Number Five: your page numbers.

Sarina Langer  19:57

Oh yes. Again, such a headache for me.

Becky Wright  20:04

It’s a biggie. And it is, it can be really tricky to get it right if you don’t do it very often or if you’re not quite sure. And it is one of those things that I did where I’ve muddled my way through and I’ve learned, but it is, it can be quite easy once you know what you’re doing, and a lot of it is down to section breaks, your page breaks, and making sure you isolate it and follow it, lead it on to the next section. It sounds really complicated, but getting your page numbers correct is a must. I mean, the front and the back matter doesn’t need page numbers on, so it’s only the body of the story.

Sarina Langer  20:52

And that’s the start of all the complications in that.

Becky Wright  20:55

In parts, yeah. And I think once, I mean for indie publishing generally, I think there’s been times in our, in our industry where indie books have had a bad rep. And it’s because very early to early days, and there are a very small selection of books that people come across, and if they’re badly formatted or don’t look professional, badly edited, they are going to stick out like a sore thumb. But generally across the board, us indie authors are no different than our, than a mainstream traditionally published author. It’s just that we do the process ourselves.

Sarina Langer  21:36


Becky Wright  21:37

If you do the marketing right, they will sit on this bookshelf alongside all the mainstream publishers.

Sarina Langer  21:44

Well, exactly. And I mean, for me, the reason that I decided to be an indie author is that I just like the control over everything.

Becky Wright  21:53

Yeah, absolutely.

Sarina Langer  21:56

I mean, granted with the formatting, I handed the control entirely over to you, because I know that you know what you’re doing, and you enjoy it. And I know, it’ll come back looking stunning to me. But you know, if I didn’t like something that you did, I would then have the freedom to say actually, Becky, this isn’t working.

Becky Wright  22:12

Absolutely, and we’d try something else. Yeah, every time if I ever do anything and someone’s not happy, ike the other day, you said, Oh, could we just tweak this? Yeah, that’s not a problem. At the end of the day, it’s your book. And when I first start formatting, I’m just doing an interpretation of how I think it will look. But at the end of the day it’s your book baby. So if you’re thinking, Oh, that’s not quite how I imagined, can we do this? Of course we can. And we will keep doing it until you are 100% happy. Because it’s not my book. It’s yours. I’m just providing a service. That’s all I’m doing.

Sarina Langer  22:46

And you’re providing great service. My books are very pleased and so am I.

Becky Wright  22:52

Thank you.

Sarina Langer  22:53

Oh, has this been all five tips already?

Becky Wright  22:56

It has. They are the top five. There’s other things we could have discussed, but I think if you get them five right, and take consideration into them five, generally, overall, you’ll be doing a good job.

Sarina Langer  23:10

Yeah, I think so. I mean, it’s a thing for most writers, when we hear the word formatting, there is something in us that starts panicking. I know I certainly do.

Becky Wright  23:24

And I think it’s that word formatting, instantly–

Sarina Langer  23:27

It just fills us with dread, doesn’t it? I mean, for some people it’s the word editing. Or, and, you know, for some, it’s rewriting. And for me, it’s formatting. But it’s not, it’s not even that hard, though. That’s the thing. And I think-

Becky Wright  23:40

Well, exactly. I mean, that’s always how I argue. I could try to do it myself again, but Becky enjoys it, so I give it to Becky.

Becky Wright  23:40

I think people think it’s going to be harder. You can get a really basic format and do it yourself. You need to go back and tweak it, and you may need to go back into it. And it’s the, it’s the time consuming part of it that people get frustrated with, it’s because you’re, no, it’s gonna- I’m gonna take a whole day out because I’ve got to format this book. Because if you don’t do it on a regular basis, it’s going to take you a long time, and when you come across little issues you’re thinking, Oh, my goodness, how do I get over that? And then you think, okay, I’ve got to just Google this. And let me just ask somebody. So that’s where the time consuming. This is why I get the job, because I’m like, Well, okay, I can turn it around it really quick. And I love doing it. So I can get that done.

Becky Wright  24:35

And I turn it around really fast as well.

Sarina Langer  24:38

You do.

Becky Wright  24:38

Because you need it really quickly.

Sarina Langer  24:41

Yes. Sorry about that.

Becky Wright  24:43

No, it’s fine! You are not alone. You are not alone. There’s plenty there. And I’ll get the email and I’ll hear the urgency in the email. I’m just gonna get this to you. I’m now sorting this bit and this bit, and to me that says right, you need that back quickly.

Arthur Wright  24:59


Sarina Langer  25:03


Becky Wright  25:04

So yeah, really quickly, really quick turnaround.

Sarina Langer  25:07

And you know, I think with erm… Oh, what was I gonna say? Doesn’t matter. Well, I- No, I’ve got it, I’ve got it. I think with, with now with the five tips that you’ve just shared, it’ll make it a lot easier. And I would definitely urge everyone listening, if you haven’t done it before, if you haven’t tried it yet, just give it a go, see how you get on. Because you might actually find it really easy or even enjoy it somehow.

Becky Wright  25:34


Sarina Langer  25:37

You know, so just try it. Try it at least once. You’re an author, we both know you’re adventurous and you want to give it a shot. So, just try it.

Becky Wright  25:43

That’s it. And if they have any problem and you do get stuck, just hand it over to me, and then I’ll finish it. I’ll sort it out. I’ll get there at the end. And we can sort it, and I do have a lot of people who will be halfway through or they’ve done it and I will just get, get it to do the tweaks. I’ve done all this, but could you put the page numbers in? I’ve done all this, but I’m having a problem with headers and footers. Oh, that’s another one, but we’re not going to go there today. But it’s, and then people, then I get it, and then I just redo it, rejig it about and yeah. But there are lots of other things like we could have spoke about, but I will leave the uploading with bleed and all of those for another day.

Sarina Langer  26:30

Well, maybe one day next year, we can do another interview with your next five tips.

Becky Wright  26:35

Yes, yes.

Sarina Langer  26:36

And we can look into doing that.

Becky Wright  26:39

That’s it. I mean there’s plenty. There’s so much.

Sarina Langer  26:44

But for today, thank you very much for coming by.

Becky Wright  26:46

Thank you!

Sarina Langer  26:47

And for talking to me once again about formatting. And I think you have done very well this time of keeping it on point.

Becky Wright  26:54

We did. We did. Brilliant.

Sarina Langer  26:57

Well, thank you very much.

Becky Wright  26:58

Thank you.

Becky Wright  26:59

Bye Bye.

Arthur Wright  27:00

I’m gonna miss you so much!

Sarina Langer  27:03

Oh, you too. Bye.

Sarina Langer  27:10

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!

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).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 12: How to Prevent Stress and Burnout with Kristina Naydonova

Listen to the Episode:


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  00:29

Hello and welcome back, friends and Sparrows. It’s the 23rd of November 2020, and this is Episode 12. Today I have the great privilege of talking to Kristina Naydonova- I’m so sorry if I’ve just pronounced your name very badly.

Kristina Naydonova  00:45

No worries, you pronounced it great.

Sarina Langer  00:46

Thank you, thank God. She is the youngest author and most inspiring young lady I know. If you don’t know, Kristina has published her debut novel this year, The Black Sisterhood Files, when she was 12 years old, which proves that you’re never too young to start writing. Like me, she’s a big advocate of self care to prevent burnout and stress, and I can’t think of a better time to discuss these things given all the anxiety in the world right now. And also the fact that NaNoWriMo can easily drive a writer to exhaustion. So this is a really tough month for all of us, let alone the whole rest of the year. So welcome, Kristina, thank you so much for coming onto my podcast.

Kristina Naydonova  01:26

Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here today and get the opportunity to chat with you.

Sarina Langer  01:35

I’m very excited to have you because as I said just now, you were only 12 years old when you published your first book. That’s amazing.

Kristina Naydonova  01:42

Thank you so much, really appreciate that.

Sarina Langer  01:45

I mean, of course like, well pretty much everyone, I was at school at that time, as are you. And I don’t think I could have done anything like that at that age. I mean, I think around that time, I was sort of between schools, I was just moving on into high school, and that wasn’t an easy time for me at all, so that you still find the time to also write a book and publish it to me is just absolutely… You’re basically Superwoman to me.

Kristina Naydonova  02:13

Thank you, I really appreciate that.

Sarina Langer  02:16

So congratulations on publishing your first book this year.

Kristina Naydonova  02:21

Thank you.

Sarina Langer  02:21

 How are you finding the author life? How’s it been for you?

Kristina Naydonova  02:26

It’s honestly a lot more different than I expected. But what I would say the best aspect of it is having the ability to connect with other authors and other aspiring authors. Because I have also had the great chance to connect with some aspiring writers over Skype and over Zoom calls and give them some advice on what it takes to publish a book, to write a book, and to market a book. So I would say it is quite different than my expectations, but it’s been wonderful thus far.

Sarina Langer  02:54

Oh, that’s really good to hear. Because I think, I think especially with your first book, lots of authors have really high aspirations of becoming famous over night.

Kristina Naydonova  03:06

That’s not how it works, yeah.

Sarina Langer  03:07

No, not at all. And I think it’s really good and positive to see that you haven’t let that not happening put you off; although, you are probably a lot more successful already than most authors I know so early into your career.

Sarina Langer  03:21

I mean, you’ve been on different podcasts, and I think you’ve been on TV at some point as well.

Kristina Naydonova  03:21

Thank you.

Kristina Naydonova  03:27

Yeah, one time back in June.

Sarina Langer  03:30

That’s amazing. How did that come about?

Kristina Naydonova  03:32

Thank you. So I actually reached out to a local studio of CBS six, and they accepted my query to be on one of their programmes.

Sarina Langer  03:43

That must have been very exciting. I mean, I’ve never been on TV, so you’ve already done-

Kristina Naydonova  03:47

Really exciting. I must say it was like a dream come true.

Sarina Langer  03:51

I bet it was. I mean, I’ve published six or seven books now – enough to lose count, apparently – but you’ve already… I feel like you’ve already done more in your first short few months of being an author than I have done in my four years. So honestly, hats off to you.

Kristina Naydonova  04:11

Thank you so much. I mean, I spent almost every single day of the summer for hours working really hard on marketing and reaching out to podcasts and TV broadcasts. So yeah.

Sarina Langer  04:22

What would you say are you enjoying the most about your new author career?

Kristina Naydonova  04:28

I definitely would say as I mentioned before connecting with other authors and speaking on podcasts and different programmes, because I get to share my story and help others out in the meantime.

Sarina Langer  04:39

That’s always a really nice thing to do, and I find that social media like Instagram especially is so fantastic for meeting other like-minded writers and authors in your genre, but also in, well, pretty much every genre. So I think… well, I think I’ve seen you around on Instagram a few times, it’s where you’ve reached out to me to be on this podcast, and feel quite honoured that you reached out to me because of how much you’ve already done. I mean, to me, you’re such an inspirational young woman.

Kristina Naydonova  05:07

Thank you. That means so much to me, considering I love your podcast. And it’s so exciting to be here today.

Sarina Langer  05:13

You can’t see it, but I’m blushing. That’s so exciting to hear, thank you. I mean, you must still be going to school alongside as well. How are you juggling all that?

Kristina Naydonova  05:24

So I actually still have virtual school because of the pandemic. It’s definitely been difficult because the teacher, the teachers really just do not give us slack. And they continue to assign just as much homework and classwork as they would during regular school. So it’s been a difficult, so it’s been a bit difficult these past couple months to juggle schoolwork, social life and my book because during the summer, I was free to work as much as I wanted since there wasn’t school. So I would just say I’m trying to practice mindfulness and a healthy balance of all in my life.

Sarina Langer  05:54

That sounds great. I’m actually in a very similar boat there as you. I mean, I, I work in a university library, but I work term-time only, so I get the summers off as well. And possibly but longer than you because University terms are not the same at all as school terms, I fear. So I really get how nice it is to have that summer to just completely focus on your own things.

Kristina Naydonova  06:18

Yes, definitely.

Sarina Langer  06:18

I think it’s so good for mental health as well. But of course, not everyone has that option, so I’m really excited to talk to you a bit about self-care today because honestly, with how this whole year has gone down, I don’t think anyone could have seen that coming, and burnout is always a stressor for authors anyway. Because I think we tend to… I don’t know how you feel, but I always feel like I’m not doing enough, like I need to do more, like I need to write more words or publish more books, so that makes self care so important. So to get to the heart of our episodes, how are you looking after yourself?

Kristina Naydonova  07:03

So I’m trying to look after myself by doing just, you know, like the rudimentary things, getting, getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, drinking enough water, but I think it also just goes beyond the physical measures, also mental measures. So I try to meditate every day and practice mindfulness, because I understand that, you know, stress can be very overwhelming sometimes. And things such as just sitting down to breathe for just a couple minutes in complete silence can be really, really advantageous.

Sarina Langer  07:32

That’s really great advice. I try to meditate more often these days and to take more time to just reflect on what I’ve done, because it’s- it’s such a good-

Kristina Naydonova  07:42

Yeah, also- I’m sorry. I would say also journaling helps just to journal out all your thoughts and feelings over the day, to get it all out on paper.

Sarina Langer  07:50

It’s funny you should say that, because I have, I have a journal specifically for writing progress. So I think the point of that was to sit down every day after I’ve written to just write down how it’s gone and how I’m feeling about what I’ve written. I’m not gonna lie, I keep forgetting I have the thing.

Kristina Naydonova  08:08

Yeah, yeah. So for journaling, I usually just every single day, at the end of the day, I try to journal my successes of the day, my failures and how I can reflect on them to make tomorrow better.

Sarina Langer  08:20

I think that’s really good advice. Because of course, as writers, we tend to, we tend to write a lot anyway. So I think for us, it’s maybe only natural to start journaling and write down our feelings. And of course, it’s private unlike our books, so no one will ever have to read what you put into that, you can be completely honest with yourself.

Kristina Naydonova  08:40

Yeah, definitely.

Sarina Langer  08:43

Um, if I may ask, what are your hobbies? Do you do anything besides writing something, maybe else that’s also story related? Or do you do anything that’s, that’s got nothing at all to do with books and stories?

Kristina Naydonova  08:56

Yeah, of course. So I’ve always thought that literature, music and art have some sort of a very deep connection between one another, so I actually play the piano regularly, every single day, as well as tennis and sometimes even indulge in painting even though I’m not the best at it. I also like to read.

Sarina Langer  09:14

I always wanted to pick up painting, but I am not very good at that or drawing.

Kristina Naydonova  09:22

But I guess it really depends on the style you practice. For example, for me, abstract art has always been the easiest, but like realistic art has always come very hard for me.

Sarina Langer  09:33

That sounds really fascinating. I mean, I know that art is incredibly good for therapy, but I don’t know, I weirdly always… I’m never sure where to start with painting. How do you… What would you tell me? How should I start if I wanted to paint something with honestly no experience whatsoever?

Kristina Naydonova  09:53

So I would just say harness your creativity into the painting, just I would say sort of painting whatever you want, but there’s just random blobs of colour on a canvas that will at least get your mind going and get you to a spot that will actually, you know, in the end create a substantial painting.

Sarina Langer  10:11

That sounds really interesting. I’m gonna have to try that at some point. When do you… When you paint… Sorry, more about painting. How do you approach it? Do you try… When you sit down to paint, do you try to paint something specific, or are you just seeing where the paintbrush takes you today?

Kristina Naydonova  10:34

I kind of just let my mind carry me away, to be honest, because I guess when I paint or actually think about what I’m painting is a reflection of my mentality and what I’m thinking at the moment. So it helps me understand myself better.

Sarina Langer  10:45

That makes a lot of sense to me, because I, that’s roughly how, how I approach writing, you know- sit down, I try to clear my mind, and I’m just trying to be there with the book. I know roughly where it needs to go, but, you know, I try not to overthink it. So the way you’re approaching painting to me sounds very relatable. But also for something I really struggled with. I always feel like I need to have a goal. But yeah, I will, I will, well, I will try that, and if I paint anything at all that doesn’t burn my eyes too much, I’ll have to send it to you.

Sarina Langer  11:25

So as we’ve already said, this year has been hard, which makes self-care a necessary priority, possibly more important than ever before, certainly in our lives. Do you have any tips for anyone who’s struggling right now or this year in general, or someone who feels like they don’t have the time for self care?

Kristina Naydonova  11:47

So I would say always put self care first if you ever feel if you don’t have the time, because if you feel that way, you’re not doing something correct, because your mental health should be a priority at all times. I actually really look up to Arianna Huffington CEO of Thrive Global Huffington Post, who says that a car cannot run without gas. She’s like, we cannot run without energy. And it’s important that we feel ourselves energy and energy, but also positive energy, because that’s what keeps us going. That’s what’s gonna get us the best results. So as I did say before, it lies in both physical and mental self care, physical in terms of, you know, exercise and getting yourself out in nature to take walks sometimes, eating healthy, drink a lot of water, getting enough sleep, and mental lives in terms of positive affirmations, meditation, maybe just journaling, taking a couple moments just to breathe and reflect on yourself and etc.

Sarina Langer  12:42

I couldn’t agree more with all of that. I started walking more now as a result of me going back to work. I started walking in and walking home, which takes roughly 50 minutes each way. And I can tell if I’ve had a stressful day at work, by the time, by the time I’m home, I’m in a much calmer headspace.

Kristina Naydonova  13:01

Yeah, I definitely agree. Yeah, I try to take walks out in nature at least once every day for at least 15 minutes, because I know how much it helps just stimulate and clear my mind.

Sarina Langer  13:12

God, I’m just so impressed by you. I’m sure you will keep this up very easily anyway cause you’re building those habits now. And I think really, it’s all about habits, isn’t it? Once you’re used to it, it’s much easier. It’s always starting something new that’s difficult.

Kristina Naydonova  13:26

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I actually read this great book, it’s called Atomic Habits. I’m sure you’ve heard of the, I’m sure you’ve heard of it before. It’s a quite popular book. Yeah, it talks about you, you know, how you start developing habits, your age, and those just stick with you for the rest of your life as long as you uphold the practice of them.

Sarina Langer  13:44

That’s, well, it’s more great advice. I feel like I’m repeating myself now, but you’re full of wisdom. I think there’s this misconception as well about habits is that that you have to be young to start and that once you reach a certain age, it’s impossible for you to learn new things. But I don’t think that’s true.

Kristina Naydonova  14:03

That’s not true.

Sarina Langer  14:04

I mean, for you, you’re at a perfect age anyway to start new habits and really get into the, well, into the habit of them. But I’m 30 now and have… Two or three weeks ago, I started writing every day for just 15 minutes, which to me is a very new thing. And I never thought that would work for me, because 15 minutes is such a tiny amount, but I now feel weird when I don’t do it a day, so I got into that habit quite easily. And I’m getting so much more done. I’m so much more productive.

Kristina Naydonova  14:38

That’s good. It’s really good. Yeah, I would definitely say there is no actual like, you’re too young to start this or you’re too, you know, old to start this because, I mean, frankly, an 88 year old gymnast won a segment of the Olympics one time, and that just goes to show that you’re never too old, never too young to just go after your dreams and start building those hobbies and… I’m sorry, not hobbies but habits and practices.

Sarina Langer  15:03

Very well put, I think, possibly one of the more… well, no, I mean, clearly it works for you, and I think it works for me quite well as well, but I think meditation is a really good way to approach that, because it helps you slow down and gain a bit more perspective. And I know when I meditate first thing in the morning, I’m then in a much calmer headspace for the whole rest of the day and I get more done as a result. But when I first looked into it, I had no idea how to start. What would you recommend for people who might be interested in starting meditation, but like me, also have no idea where to begin?

Kristina Naydonova  15:45

So I would actually say start in the evening, because that’s going to help you improve your sleep, and you will be in a better headspace to do it again in the morning, and so on as repetition cycle. And I actually have a great app recommendation, it’s literally just called Meditate. It’s a great app, it has a lot of cycles for, you know, beginners, intermediate and advanced level meditators to help you get into that practice. So I’d highly recommend that. I used it when I first got into meditation.

Sarina Langer  16:11

Oh, I had an app called Meditate. I wonder if you use the same one?

Kristina Naydonova  16:15

Probably, yeah. But it’s a really great app. It’s helped me a lot.

Sarina Langer  16:18

Well, if that’s the one that I’ve had then I second that, it’s been incredibly helpful. And then, when you meditate, do you, do you use music to help you relax with that? Or do you have a guided meditation? Or do you prefer to just sit there with yourself and a bit of silence?

Kristina Naydonova  16:35

When I began to meditate a couple months ago, when I was first just starting to get into that habit, I used back meditation and like guided meditation. But now that I’ve kind of gotten the hang of how to do it by myself, I prefer to just have white noise. And it really varies for everyone. I know people who, you know, like to put on music on their phone or have a guided meditation, even if they know how to meditate individually. But for me, I just, white noise is the best way for me to actually gain tranquillity while meditating.

Sarina Langer  17:03

That’s a bery good idea. I tend to have, I have an app of various meditation tracks that are just music, there is no talking or any form of guided meditation. And I’m slowly working myself down the list. It’s called… it’s probably again just Meditate, because I feel like a lot of them are quite simply named, aren’t they?

Kristina Naydonova  17:28

Yeah, yeah.

Sarina Langer  17:30

Um, where is it? I could have had this ready. But to be honest, I didn’t think we’d talk so much about meditation. Okay, well, I can’t find it right now, but I’ll be sure to put it in the show notes. And then if you could send me the link to the one that you’ve mentioned as well, then we can get a list of self care tips going in the show notes, which I think would be very helpful.

Kristina Naydonova  17:53

That’d be great.

Sarina Langer  17:55

To wrap up, if you could give people one tip regarding burnout and stress prevention, what would it be?

Kristina Naydonova  18:05

Um, I would say just refer to what I said previously, to always put yourself first. And your body will tell you when you need a break, and it’s important that you listen to your body and to your mind, because it will not deceive you, it will not lie to you. If you need a break, it will make that explicit. You’ll be walking around all day just tired, unmotivated. And that’s when, you know, you have to take a break. And when you’re relaxed and you’re in that state of, you know, just ready to go back into the gist of things, your body will let you know that as well, so just listen to yourself and don’t deny if you really need a break.

Sarina Langer  18:38

That resonates with me a lot, actually. I know… mean by now I’ve burned out two or three times, so I know exactly how I feel when the next burnout is coming, but to start with, I always thought – God, I was so dumb – I always thought I could push myself and just try to work a little bit longer.

Kristina Naydonova  18:57

I thought that too. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  18:59

And you know, it just, it doesn’t work. Because as you’ve just said, your body will tell you when you need to stop.

Kristina Naydonova  19:06

It’s so wrong. I feel like we’re all deceived by this perception that the only way we’ll have success is by working like 12 hours a day without sleep. But that’s just not true. Because our body needs the fuel of positive energy in order to actually function properly.

Sarina Langer  19:21

Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And, yeah, thank you so much for coming on here and talking to me about self-care! Thank you very much.

Kristina Naydonova  19:29

Yeah, thank you. It’s been great to talk to you. And I really, really love your questions and how we delved into all these different, you know, like segments of self care.

Sarina Langer  19:38

Thank you so much. I’m glad to hear that. Hopefully, our listeners have enjoyed it too, and I’ve learned a lot. Thank you so much!

Kristina Naydonova  19:45

Thank you so much for listening.

Sarina Langer  19:48

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 11: Book Fairs for Authors with Dana Fraedrich

Listen to the Episode:


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 00:26
Welcome back friends and Sparrows and hello! This is episode number 11, and this is the 16th of November 2020, and I have the wonderful Dana Fraedrich with me, who I’ve been very lucky to meet last year in Winchester before the world went to shit.

Dana Fraedrich 00:47
Thank you very much. I super appreciate you having me here.

Sarina Langer 00:51
Yeah, and I’m really appreciative that we’ve managed to meet up before everything turned a little bit weird.

Dana Fraedrich 01:01
But you know what, one day we’ll be able to meet back up again. So you know, one day we’ll travel again.

Sarina Langer 01:07
It’ll be amazing. What I would like to talk to you about is things like book fairs, because before COVID I swear you were doing a different kind of book fair every weekend. It felt like it to us anyway. Every now and again, when Bev and I met up in Winchester, we were saying, did you see she’s doing another book fair? How does she have the energy? It’s incredible. How many have you done?

Dana Fraedrich 01:33
Oh my goodness. Um, it’s a lot. Um, so I don’t even know how many I’ve done in total, but I do know that I was probably doing somewhere around like 20 or so a year.

Sarina Langer 01:51
That sounds about right.

Dana Fraedrich 01:52
Yeah, it was, it was a lot. Um, so yeah, like, and like, like, we were just saying, like, we will, we will travel again one day, book fairs and cons and things like that will be, will be a thing again, one day, once it’s safe, and all that kind of stuff. So this is going to be good. But yeah, I will say they are very labour intensive as far as… physically, emotionally, mentally. I personally really love it. But I’m very much a people person. I really like love talking to people. And I really enjoy being physical and getting out there and all that kind of stuff. So I always caution people if they’re thinking about doing anything like this to really consider like how much like mental and physical bandwidth they have, and emotional as well.

Dana Fraedrich 02:44
As far as like… okay, you’re in there, you are probably going to be working for like 10 to 12 hours a day from like set-up to tear-down and then all the talking in between. So I, yeah, like I said, I definitely recommend people really think about this before they try to jump in. But if you, if you are that kind of personality, it’s great.

Sarina Langer 03:04
Yeah, well, I am more of an introvert, and I found it very stressful. But I didn’t, I’ve only done the one. I have nothing like your very extensive experience. And it was a slightly strange experience for me because, well, it… The way it was advertised was that it was a family friendly thing with all kinds of genres welcome. So I thought great, I’ll do my first one, it’s kind of just down the road for me in Brighton. I’ll go do that. And my, my parents were there, they had flown in for it, and my partner came with me, and we all drove down there together. And they were able to have a look around the entire hall long before I did because I was just setting up and just trying to people in an adult way. And they came back around to my table after having a look around and my partner looks at me and just goes, did you know it’s all porn?

Sarina Langer 04:01
And I said, no, I was, no, I, no, this is interesting, no one told me that.

Dana Fraedrich 04:07
Yeah, erotica is a very popular genre. And a lot of like romance writers and erotica writers and things like that, these sort of events are really great places for them. And there’s a lot of really great networking and stuff. And a lot of them are family friendly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the books are family friendly. And that’s always something to think about and, like, kind of look into when you are preparing is look at the other authors attending, usually on the websites that are promoting this event, they’ll have a list of attending authors. And then you can go to their website and see kind of the, the various genres that are around, and this is something I learned the hard way.

Dana Fraedrich 04:48
Not all events are going to work for your book. So for those out there who don’t know, I write steampunk, and while there is usually like a romantic thread in the background, they’re not romance per se. And I’ve done some cons that were like, pretty firmly romance genre, and I didn’t do very well there. So that’s always a good thing, to do that research beforehand.

Sarina Langer 05:13
Yeah, no, I agree. That’s something I didn’t do. I was just really lucky that I got in, I think. One of our mutual friends, Grace, she said she was going to go originally, and then she had to cancel it. So she said to me, would you like my spot? So I was like, Yes, Yes, please.

Dana Fraedrich 05:30
That’s so cool!

Sarina Langer 05:31
I’m gonna have so much fun. I’m gonna be doing this. It’s gonna be great. And, um, I didn’t really look into it beyond that, because I figured if she would have done it, our books aren’t that different. I mean, she wrote more, you know, urban fantasy, so you know mine is more epic fantasy, but it’s still fantasy. So I figured it’d be fine. But I could definitely tell on the day that most of the readers who were there, they, they were there for the erotica. I think I, I had a few readers who came up to the table and just said, Does your book have any sex in it? And I said, No, not really. And they said, okay bye, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go over to the corsets and the penis-shaped biscuits.

Dana Fraedrich 06:15
Yeah, and that is, that is always um… That can be really disappointing. One thing I found, or rather something else I always tell people, is like, be prepared for disappointment, because there are going to be people who are not interested in your books for any number of reasons. Or if they are interested in hearing about them, then they hear the pitch and they’re like, no, I’m good. thanks anyway, bye. And that, that sucks. Like, that’s really disappointing. So it’s like I said, it’s very mentally and emotionally draining, especially when you have something like that going on. But honestly, it’s just, it’s kind of part of it. That’s just going to be your experience sometimes. And then there’s going to be events that are fantastic. I really always recommend, like, trying to find your niche. Sometimes that requires going to the event, especially if it’s like far away, but if you, if it’s like a local event, you can always kind of go one year beforehand and kind of check it out. That’s what I did with our local book festival. It’s called the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville. And like, I went with a friend of mine, it’s actually my best friend, Sally, who you know,

Sarina Langer 07:26
Yeah, I’ve met her, she’s lovely. Hi, Sally.

Dana Fraedrich 07:31
You know what I’m going to, I’m going to make sure to send this to her. But she happened to be over during that, that week. So she and I went to the Southern Festival of Books together, had a wander, kind of got to like, see everything. And that was really, really helpful, because then I knew what to expect. And that was one of the bigger ones I do. It’s like, three days long, you have like, your own tent and whatnot, it was really cool, but it’s also outside, which has its own challenges. And, you know, it’s rained every year that I’ve done it, so you kind of have to be prepared for weather.

Sarina Langer 08:04
Lots of mud!

Dana Fraedrich 08:06
Yeah. So… and honestly, I live and die by my checklist. Um, you and I are both very similar really personality in that, like, we like our lists, we like our, all of our planning and stuff

Sarina Langer 08:18
And it needs to be colour-coded, thank you.

Dana Fraedrich 08:21
There you go. Exactly. I have, I have rainbow colours in my planner. It’s not, it’s not quite as pretty as your washi tape, but still.

Sarina Langer 08:30
What I found really surprising when I went to my one book fair, which in hindsight I really should have researched more – hindsight is a beautiful thing – is that so many of the readers… it’s almost like they kind of go on tour with them. So they kind of start at the top of the country, and then they go to all of the book fairs until they’ve made their way down. So they obviously, they have a certain budget, and they only have so much space in their cars and in the suitcases. So you need to consider that people don’t necessarily not buy your book because they’re not interested, it’s just that they do not have any more room. But I think a lot of them end up taking a note of authors. And also, you might end up creating a lot of merch for it like bookmarks, for example, or totebags or maps, and you might think that maybe you can make a tiny bit of money that way. People are just gonna take them off your table. These are not things that you’re going to be selling, they just expect them to be freebies.

Dana Fraedrich 09:28
Yeah. And any kind of like, uh, like swag like that, that you have, if you are going to give it away for free, I would always recommend things like bookmarks, paper products, stuff like that, because it, it can get very expensive very quickly to be like having all this cool swag and then giving it away for free. But one thing you can do with that is you can basically use them as like marketing. So you can have like, you can print a QR code for free from Google, and I actually print them on like little paper labels, and I stick them on my bookmarks for whatever it is I’m trying to promote at that time. So like, for instance, you mentioned the issue with people having space in their suitcases and stuff, and I know you’ve got an audiobook, you’ve got all your books in e-format and stuff, same here. So like, you can direct people with that QR code to either your Amazon site or a different place. So then I’ll be like, oh, it’s available in ebook, and it’s available in audio, and then you know, that’s not space that they have to take up in their suitcases or else.

Sarina Langer 10:31
That is so clever. I had never even considered that. This is why you’re clearly the professional and I am the very, very green newbie. The weird thing is, I remember when I was there, there was, there were two guys sitting opposite us. There was so many people in Brighton who’d come over from America.

Dana Fraedrich 10:49
Oh, wow.

Sarina Langer 10:49
Authors who must have, well, who clearly carried all of their books across the world, hoping to get rid of them in Brighton, so that, that was so amazing to me, because I was just glad that I could go somewhere so close to me. And they had literally travelled across the world just to be there. And I made, I was complaining because Manchester is too far away from my home, but one of them said to me, oh, I can’t believe this is your first one, you look like you really know what you’re doing. But actually, you know what? I think it must have been obvious that I had no idea. She was being nice to me.

Dana Fraedrich 11:28
I bet that you, you know, because we were talking earlier about this whole like professional voice thing. You know, the kind of like fake it till you make it. So even if you don’t know what you’re doing, like, if you kind of give that presence of like, yeah, no, I’m good, I know what I’m doing, it’s cool.

Sarina Langer 11:43
Yeah, just pretend. They don’t know.

Dana Fraedrich 11:45
Exactly, yeah, no, this is just your normal style, it’s cool.

Sarina Langer 11:49
We’re always this calm and confident. We totally know what we’re doing. I have a podcast now, don’t I? I must know what I’m doing.

Dana Fraedrich 11:57
Only professional people have podcasts!

Sarina Langer 11:59
Well, absolutely.

Dana Fraedrich 12:03
Um, but yeah, and then one thing I do want to make sure to mention, so you don’t forget is I have, as you know, a blog with helpful tips and things like that. And on there, I have a couple of different blog entries about doing shows, and I have a lot of information packed into those. So this, if this is something that people are interested in, I recommend going and looking those up. You can just go to my website, which is, and type in like live shows or anything like that. And those blog entries will come up from the search bar. And like I said, those are, those are really helpful. I packed a lot of information in about, like, display, because you want your space to look inviting. I talked about sales, I talked about marketing, I talked about… I’m trying to think what else… kind of like dealing with things like weather and networking and all that kind of stuff.

Sarina Langer 12:58
Well, I know from personal experience that your blog is incredibly helpful, I got so much out of it when I was first looking into how to do an audiobook. So I can only second that. And we will definitely be linking to your site in the shownotes as well, so you don’t have to go hunt it down. You can just click on a link and there it is. It’ll be nice and easy.

Dana Fraedrich 13:17
Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you. And yeah, and shows are also a really great way to meet other authors. Author communities are, as you know, I know you know, so important and so encouraging to have because sometimes, you know, you get those feelings of like, I am the only one feeling this, I am the only one going through this. And it is in a way yay that it’s not true, but also in a way boo, it’s not true, because I hate that more of us are going through these sort of things.

Sarina Langer 13:45
We’ve picked a difficult industry, haven’t we? But also, let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dana Fraedrich 13:52
Exactly. Yeah. We can’t help living the author life. It’s true.

Sarina Langer 13:56
It’s chosen us. Yeah.

Dana Fraedrich 13:58
Yeah. But honestly, I’ve met some of some really great author friends through these events and stuff like that. My, my, honestly my biggest tip is just like to be friendly and be nice. You’re not going to get along with everyone at author events. I’ve also had a couple of situations where I was like, please get out of my space right now. But of course you can’t say that. So yeah, always be nice. Always be friendly. And you can meet some really cool people doing that.

Sarina Langer 14:25
I feel like that’s very good life advice in general. So one thing that, one thing I wasn’t really sure about when I was preparing for my first and so far only event was, how many books should I take with me? Because I had no idea like, is this, is 10 books a lot or is that way too many? What should I expect? How many books should a new author take with them to an event like that?

Dana Fraedrich 14:50
That is such a good question. And firstly, of course, this is totally dependent on your budget. Some people might only be able to afford to bring, you know, 10 or 15 or 20 books. It gets expensive fast, it gets really heavy fast, because books are very heavy. But I will say like no matter what your budget is, always bring probably twice as many of the first in your series if you do have a series, then the second and the third. I always sell way more copies of Out of the Shadows than any other, who starts the first in the series.

Sarina Langer 15:29
That’s very good advice, thank you. I just had another question I don’t know… ah no, I know. So you’ve probably done both of those things by now given your very extensive experience, but normally… Oh, hello! Sorry, I’ve just spotted a dog in the background. Hello. Oh, he’s adorable.

Dana Fraedrich 15:49
Bruin was hanging out with us. Hey baby!

Sarina Langer 15:51
I’m a bit disappointed because I promised that my cat would probably say hello sooner or later and so far I haven’t heard a single meow from her while I was recording, but I’ve seen your dog now. She’s extremely shy. Anyway, back to the question, back to, back to the point we’re here. So quite often, when you book one of these events, you get the choice between either booking half a table and sharing it with another author, or booking a whole table. I’m sure you’ve probably done both of those options by now, so what would you say are your pros and cons for both, and which one would you recommend if you have a favourite?

Dana Fraedrich 16:27
Well, again, a lot of this is going to be very budget dependent. Of course, budget is a huge part of book shows and travel and all that kind of stuff. So I personally like having a whole table, but I have a lot of stuff. Not only do I sell books, but I sell crocheted kind of things, dice bags, things like that. I sell– I’ve made handmade candles and I sell those. So I need a lot of space generally. But if you are doing a half table, that’s also really cool, and that can work really well in conjunction. So basically, if you’re going to do a half table, doing it with someone you know and have good communication with is always really helpful. For instance, I table-shared with an author by the name of Jeffrey Mandragora a couple years ago, and he also writes steampunk. But I always want to caution people that like, firstly, other authors are not your competition. And having that kind of vibe is really toxic. If authors are competing against each other, it gets ugly really fast, which is why I mentioned communication being key. But Jeffrey is really great. So like I said, he also writes steampunk, but he writes more like espionage and thriller kind of stuff. And my stuff is more, it’s young adult, and it’s a little bit more mystery, it’s a little bit more whimsical. And so what we would do is when someone would come over to our table, we would ask them, you know, what do you like to read? And if they were like, a financial thriller, I would be like, Jeffrey here has stuff for you. And then likewise, if they really liked YA, then he would point them to me. So yeah, like we were able to work in conjunction that weekend, and it was really great. So yeah, like I said, if you know the other author and can communicate well with them, that’s really, really helpful and, you know, help each other out, like, find out what, what readers want. I’ve been in situations where like, there was a whole table of us, I think there were like five or six of us, and again, same kind of thing. Like when we worked in conjunction with each other, it was awesome. You know, same kind of question, what do you like to read? Because, yes, I understand, we all want to like sell our book to every single person who comes along, but not every book is the right fit for every reader, and I’m a big advocate of getting the right book into the right reader’s hands. And so like I said, finding out what they like, engaging with them to really connect and build a, like, a little bit of a relationship during that short time that they’re there at your table is really, really, really helpful. And that, that way they can connect with you as the author as well. Like, you’re not just a salesperson, like you are representing yourself in that situation.

Sarina Langer 19:24
And I think what you’ve touched on there is really important, it’s that you will be talking to a lot of people and just one day on both events. But just as on social media, you’re not going to sell any books if you just say hi, this is my book, please buy it. Not interested? Please move on. That’s not gonna work. So you, you know, as you said you’re there to represent not just the book but also yourself. So making that connection is really important, but I think it’s also quite hard on those during these events because readers kind of really just want to move on and see what, what the next author is selling and what kind of cool freebies they have. I mean, we had people who I think they had made chocolates, handmade chocolates on their table. I mean, I had nothing like that. What really surprised me was that one of the first people who ever came up to my little table, I think she just came up to me and just expected to be able to take a picture with me for her scrapbook. Because a lot of readers who go to these things, at least in my tiny experience for whatever that’s worth, is they have scrapbooks of the events. So they will get every author to sign and have some goodies in there as a memory, which is a lovely idea. But that’s, that was something that I had no idea was a thing. So that was quite interesting. So they really just came up to me just like, can we just take a picture together? It’s like, Oh! Does this mean I’m famous now? Yes, we can take a picture together! Please, please.

Dana Fraedrich 20:50
You are famous. But ya know, a lot of, a lot of events and stuff like that, like they, it’s got a very friendly kind of vibe. We’re like, hey, we’re all friends here. We’re all hanging out together. It’s all very casual kind of thing.

Sarina Langer 21:04
I think the lovely thing about the bookworm community in general is that it’s, you know, as you know, it’s such a warm,

Bruin, Dana’s dog 21:11

Sarina Langer 21:11
… welcoming– Oh hello!

Dana Fraedrich 21:14
Yeah, give me just a second. I know, you’re gonna have to edit this. I apologise. I will get Bruin of my room.

Sarina Langer 21:20
Not at all! Nope, this is staying in. You cannot see this, but Dana has the fluffiest, most excited dog. Oh, he’s just dancing on the bed, he’s so cute.

Dana Fraedrich 21:33
He will probably make a noise again, and I apologise for that. I tried, I tried stuffing him into the bedroom with my husband this morning. My husband’s still sleeping. It’s early for us here. And that didn’t work, he started barking in there. So I apologise.

Sarina Langer 21:47
I think many readers and authors are also animal people, really, so I don’t think anyone will be insulted that we’ve just heard your lovely dog. But I’ve kind of completely forgotten what I was going to ask

Dana Fraedrich 21:59
You, you were talking about how the bookworm community is really tight knit, we’re all really friendly.

Sarina Langer 22:05
Yes. And I think those kinds of events also reflect that. So I, you know, even though I didn’t write porn, and maybe therefore didn’t fit in on the day, I still felt like, you know, I didn’t, I wasn’t made to feel like I shouldn’t have been there. You know, all the readers were still very friendly. And there were so many who came up to my little table and just said, hi, how are you doing? What’s the book about? Can I just quickly look inside it, can I just have a look at the first page? Your cover is great. Can I take a bookmark, please?

Dana Fraedrich 22:34
Hmm. Yeah. And I mean, and sometimes that is just going to be part of the learning process and figuring out like, which events are the right fit for your books and you as an author, but I love, I love that even though like your your genre didn’t match the genre that was predominantly represented at that event, like you still felt like, you weren’t being like shunned or anything.

Sarina Langer 22:58
No. And I should say that I did sell some books. So even though I think most readers were definitely there for the erotica, there were also some readers there who didn’t mind maybe reading something else, and maybe who was specifically looking for other things. I wasn’t the only author there who wasn’t writing erotica. There were a few others. Just not most of us. So I found one– No, you go.

Dana Fraedrich 23:22
No, you go ahead.

Sarina Langer 23:23
Okay. So I think one thing maybe that’s worth considering before you go to the event yourself is how you’re going to decorate your table. Because they don’t really give you anything at all in that regard. They literally just give you a table with white cloth and say this is your space, make it your own. Go.

Dana Fraedrich 23:43
Pretty much, yeah.

Sarina Langer 23:44
Do you have any tips for decorating it?

Dana Fraedrich 23:47
Absolutely. So I, this is something I love, I’m not actually that good at it. To be honest, a lot of my table setup has come from my older sister and my husband, who they’re both just better with like arranging space than I am. I am not very talented with the whole like spatial dimension stuff. So yeah, but you know, and I do want to, I do want to warn people, this is going to be a learning process. This is going to be an evolution. My table setup has changed a lot. And as you add more books or other products, it’s going to change again and again and again. So be patient with yourself. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different things. You might have to put items in different places to catch people’s eye more. It’s a learning process, but I always try to do a couple of different things with my table setup.

Dana Fraedrich 24:40
Number one, I try to make it inviting. It’s just, it’s just nice. I want to create a little bit like a warm space, so I have some fairy lights and stuff that I string up and they’re just pretty. I also try to have my, my table do double duty, just like with our words and our books, like we’re trying to give our words a lot of different jobs. So my table or my table decorations, rather, they tend to also communicate that I write steampunk. So like I… This is like two days of my life that was totally worth it, but I’m not getting it back. So I like stamped gear shape since I write steampunk over my big white tablecloth and it like I said, it took me like two days to do, but it looks really, really good. So like white tablecloth, gold gears are just all over this thing. And that, you know, it’s kind of just a quick indicator to people, oh, steampunk gears! Because people who know the steampunk genre know that gears are kind of, you know, the symbol of that. Just like with dark fantasy or like if you have vampires like fangs might be a thing. Or I’m trying to think of another example. Oh, obviously romance, you might have hearts.

Sarina Langer 25:52
And that’s, that’s very good advice. Thank you. What kind, like in your experience, what kind of merchandise and freebies do you think readers most likely to be interested in on those events? Obviously, for your genre, there’s going to be some things that maybe a horror writer wouldn’t really be able to include so much. But is there anything maybe a bit more generic that you would recommend people definitely pack for the day?

Dana Fraedrich 26:19
I find bookmarks really helpful. I printed bookmarks, uh, I had business cards printed for myself. Nobody cared about my business cards, everyone wanted the bookmarks. So I think those are great. And for whatever reason, bookmarks just disappear. Readers always need more of them. So I always recommend those. Generally, anything like I said that you’re going to give away for free, they, they shouldn’t cost you a lot of money. Because that’s, that’s an investment on your part. And things like bookmarks are probably going to get you the biggest return on that investment.

Sarina Langer 26:55
Bookmarks are so handy to use as well, because obviously they might actually buy your book, and then they can also put your bookmark in there. But even if they don’t buy your book, they still have the free bookmark. So if they like the design of that, and then they keep end up using that a lot then they will still see all your information on there. Maybe one day they’ll go, maybe I should check out this lovely lady called Dana, see what she’s writing because the bookmark was pretty, I thought I remember meeting her once.

Dana Fraedrich 27:20
Hmm, yeah. Um, so yeah, and definitely when you, when you do give away free stuff, make sure it has the information on it that you want people to see, like, don’t trust that, oh, maybe they’ll like go to my website and see my name or see my books or something. Like, in some cases, you’re only going to have one shot at, like, maybe getting that person’s attention. So like I said, I think the path of least resistance was probably your best bet. So like, put your name on there. Do, like, a picture of your books or something like that on there or a tagline for like what your books are about. And this is, this is honestly one of the hardest parts, I think, is figuring out a quick pitch or tagline for your book. Like this is why there are professional marketers of which I am not one of them.

Sarina Langer 28:10
And yet you’re doing so well.

Dana Fraedrich 28:12
Well, it’s been a long road.

Sarina Langer 28:16
Just goes to show what perseverance really can do for you in this business. Because there’s a lot of that, isn’t there?

Dana Fraedrich 28:23
There’s like so much perseverance.

Sarina Langer 28:25
I think we’ve talked about this ahead of time, this may go horribly wrong. I apologise if it does. Do you have an action step prepared for our listeners today?

Dana Fraedrich 28:36
I do. Yes. Okay. So basically, um, I know right now with COVID these live events are just kind of out, unfortunately. But like I said, they will be back one day

Sarina Langer 28:48
They’ll be back.

Dana Fraedrich 28:50
Exactly. But so what I recommend is taking this time that we have now to do a little bit of research. Google events in your area, whether it’s book fairs, like I said, our big one here in Nashville is the Southern Festival of Books, like that’s our statewide book fair. And those sort of events are fantastic. So Google what your state book fairs are or your county book fair, I don’t really know how it works there in England.

Sarina Langer 29:13
We certainly don’t have anywhere near as much choice as you guys have. But then we’re a much smaller place. Now I know there is this massive book fair, that’s happening every year in London. I’m sure if you are from Britain listening to this right now you know this. And you know the one that I did, that was in Brighton, but that’s in a different city every year. So it’s worth looking into that.

Dana Fraedrich 29:33
Yeah. So and it may not be a book fair, it might be for instance, I do a lot of comic conventions as well. So there might be a comic convention that happens near you. So like I said, take advantage of this time that you have right now and do some research on the events that are near you, like about what time of the year they occur because you’re wanting to, you’re going to want to do some planning, and maybe make plans for next year like if they have their dates to figure out, okay, which, which event do I want to go visit first? Like I said, I visited this other festival of books before I actually was a vendor there, and it was a very educational experience. So maybe make plans and you know, start thinking about events that you’d want to go check out as possible sites for you to try and sell your stuff and see what, what vendors are there, see what people are selling at those events. And again, that’ll be a really good indicator for if that event might be a good fit for your books, or whatever it is that you’re selling.

Sarina Langer 30:33
I would add to that as well that, if you are thinking about joining one yourself as an author, try to book it early. Because in my experience, they get booked, they get booked up very fast. And you might get in, I mean, you might not get in right away, but you might still get on the waiting list, which you might think probably means that you won’t be able to participate. But actually, for many different reasons, lots of authors might end up dropping out. And then you might, you know, still get in after all. So it’s worth letting them put you on the waiting list, even if you can’t get in right away. But just see if you can maybe get in there right away. Maybe you can set up a notification or something that alerts you when one that you really want to be part of is looking for authors again.

Dana Fraedrich 31:16
Yeah, and I actually, that’s, that’s a great tip, because that is something I do when I want to apply for an event. But maybe applications aren’t open yet. I’ll put a calendar reminder in for either to check on it if there’s no date for when applications are going to open, or if there is a date, then putting that into your calendar, like apply today or whatever. I’ve actually got something like that for Worldcon which you may have, may or may not have heard of. It happens in like a different place somewhere in the world every year, and next year it is near where I grew up in Washington, DC. So–

Sarina Langer 31:54
Oh, wow. How nostalgic for you!

Dana Fraedrich 31:57
Well, we’ll see what happens.

Sarina Langer 32:00
Thank you very much. I think if we leave it on that, that’s a really good spot to finish on I think. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom with us, Dana. And thank you so much for being here with me.

Dana Fraedrich 32:11
Absolutely thrilled, and Bruin is saying goodbye to all you good people, so say goodbye to Bruin.

Sarina Langer 32:16

Dana Fraedrich 32:18

Sarina Langer 32:23
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 10: How to Fit Your WIP Around Your Everyday Routine with R.S. Williams

Listen to the Episode:


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  00:28

Hello, and welcome back, friends and Sparrows. It’s the ninth of November 2020, and this is Episode 10. Somebody get me some tinsel or whatever. It’s 10. It’s a big number. And today I’ve got author R.S. Williams with me, Rhianne, and, uhm, we will have a chat about how she is incredibly productive all the time working on all the projects while also working full time. I have no idea how she does it. Hi, Rhi!

R.S. Williams  00:57

Hi, how are you?

Sarina Langer  00:59

Yeah, tired, but also a little bit bouncing off the walls because I’ve had a lot of caffeine today.

R.S. Williams  01:05

Well, that was a very, very generous introduction you did for me then, because, you know, I’m sure I’m about to burst quite a few people’s bubbles.

Sarina Langer  01:14

Well, all I know is that I’m forever in awe of how much you get done, because every time we talk, you have another idea for yet another project. And I’m here struggling with two. So to me, that’s incredibly impressive. Let’s talk about how you juggle that, because you’ve also got a full time job at the same time.

R.S. Williams  01:34

Yeah, yes. So I work full time, Monday to Friday. And if I go to the office, I’m out of my house from half past seven in the morning, and I don’t get home till six o’clock at night.

Sarina Langer  01:43

Oh god, I’m tired. Just hearing that. I sound really spoiled that way. I mean, I work pretty much full time as well, but I think when you just hear the numbers, I mean, that’s nearly 12 hours a day that you’re out. And you still get so many projects done at the same time. It’s not just the writing for you either, because you’ve also got your blog and your website for writers. And you’ve now also just started a Patreon page, I think you’ve also got a Facebook page running. So it just completely baffles me how you get so much done while also working full time. It’s very impressive. And then the one problem or concern that many new writers have is how to fit writing a book around everything else that they need to do like working and keeping a family alive.

R.S. Williams  02:31


Sarina Langer  02:32

So, how do you schedule your week? How do you balance everything?

R.S. Williams  02:36

Um, well, it took me a really long time to figure out what worked for me. So I started writing back in 2015. So it’s taken me quite a long time to get into the routine that I’m in now. I when I was single–I’m currently married…

Sarina Langer  02:57

Congratulations again. I know it was last year, but congratulations.

R.S. Williams  03:01

Thank you. So yeah, when I was single, it was a lot easier because all of my time was my own. I only ever had to worry about being at work. And then when I was at home, I could do whatever I wanted. Whereas now I have to think of work, exercise, seeing my friends, spending time with my husband, seeing my parents because I no longer live with them. And it’s just, when I started, I was like, this is so overwhelming, I genuinely don’t know what to do with myself. And then I went from being an evening writer to being a morning writer, because my husband told me I was spending too much time on my laptop.

Sarina Langer  03:42

Oh, yeah, I know. I know how that goes.

R.S. Williams  03:45

Yeah. So I decided fine. I’m a morning person anyway, I’ll just get up a little bit earlier. And I’ll write while he’s in bed. So that is how my new routine started. And basically what I do is I use Google Calendar and I block out all of my time. So I broke out my commutes, the time I’m at work, the time I sleep. And then whatever’s left I fit in as much as I can.

Sarina Langer  04:12

I am so jealous of you being a morning person because I get up and I am completely useless until I get some tea in me. I just kind of drag myself through the house like a zombie and then I kind of drag myself now to work a bit like a zombie as well, though the fresh air helps. But the idea of getting up and starting to write immediately. I don’t… I do not understand how you do that.

R.S. Williams  04:36

I don’t spring out of bed and go on my computer and write a bajillion words instantly. I…

Sarina Langer  04:43

That’s a big relief to me.

R.S. Williams  04:45

Ya, no, so my alarm goes off at 10 to 5, and I spend 10 minutes mooching around on my phone, checking all my emails and stuff like that, and then my alarm will go off again at five o’clock in the morning. I have a lot of alarms. Then I come into my office and I do a bit of journaling, feed the cats, get my lunch ready for work, then I come back upstairs. And from about quarter to six I write.

Sarina Langer  05:13

I’m just concerned that you’re not getting enough sleep. Are you getting enough sleep?

R.S. Williams  05:18

Yes, good. So, I, over the years, I know that my ideal time for sleep is about seven hours. So by me getting up at 10 to 5, I can go to bed at 10 to 10 and still have seven hours.

Sarina Langer  05:36

Very good. See, I like how organised you are, cause I think our listeners have now realised you have got an incredible amount of work that you get through. But because you’re so organised, that’s fine and you do actually managed to get it done. And I know that on Instagram, you also share every day how much or how many words you’ve written, which is really inspiring to see.

R.S. Williams  06:01

Thank you. Yeah, I mean, I also keep a spreadsheet set. Because in my first few years of writing, I used to tell myself, or I used to have a self limiting belief that I wasn’t ever doing enough.

Sarina Langer  06:15

I get that.

R.S. Williams  06:16

Yeah. And then last year, I was like, let’s actually see how many words I do write in a 12 month period. So from January 1st to December 31st 2019, I wrote down how many words I wrote every single day. And there were 97 days last year where I didn’t write a single word. My lowest word count last year was 24 words.

Sarina Langer  06:40

But you’ve still written that day, so that’s still progress.

R.S. Williams  06:42

Yeah, and then my highest word count was, I think it was something like 1100. And throughout the course of 12 months, I still wrote over 160,000 words.

Sarina Langer  06:51

That’s incredible. And did I just see that right on Instagram this morning, that you’ve just written 3000 words in one session?

R.S. Williams  07:00

Yes, but it’s also kind of cheating, because I’m rewriting. So…

Sarina Langer  07:04

No no no, that counts, that counts. That’s a very, that’s still a good session. It’s still words that end up in your book at the end, don’t they? And, and I mean, you could easily also have cut those words. So either way, it’s words that you had to reconsider, do some editing on and still include in the book, so that’s a very good session still.

R.S. Williams  07:22

Yeah, yeah. So my best session this week was Tuesday, where I wrote 4002.

Sarina Langer  07:27

Ooh! I don’t know how the clapping is going to translate in the transcripts, but I just clapped, and everybody else should applaud you as well for that, because that’s amazing. Well done. So how many projects do you have on the go right now? Everybody, prepare yourseves, this is going to be a big number.

R.S. Williams  07:45

Define what you mean by on the go.

Sarina Langer  07:49

Okay, we have to define it a bit more, do we? Okay, how many works in progress are you currently writing? Not editing or rewriting, just writing? How many are in the first draft?

R.S. Williams  08:00


Sarina Langer  08:00

Okay, let me try that again then. How many are you editing?

R.S. Williams  08:06

Uuh, five?

Sarina Langer  08:08

Oh, see, that’s, that’s quite a lot. I’m rewriting one book right now. And I’ve kind of had to bench another one for the moment because NaNo is about to happen. Or actually, as this episode goes out, NaNo has already started. And I thought I should probably first focus on that series. So if I don’t count the book that I’m hopefully publishing in November, I’ve got, I’ve got two, maybe three, which two are just kind of sitting on the side. So really, I’ve got one.

R.S. Williams  08:38

So I’m, I’m rewriting Kingdom of Lies, then I’m, I’ve got to do afterwards. So they’re just kind of sitting in the pool at the moment waiting for me to start books two and three. The novella’s with an editor. And then I’ve just finished the first draft of the standalone that I was writing this year. So that’s also waiting to be edited.

Sarina Langer  09:00

Well, I’m still incredibly impressed. And I think at one point, I remember, um, you were posting how on your lunch breaks at work, how you were editing then, or writing then?

R.S. Williams  09:12

Yes. So I haven’t done that in a while, but I end it on my lunch breaks at work when I do my first revisions, because what I basically do I find it easier to edit the first draft if I print it out. I’ll have a hard copy. And then I’ll just take that with me to work and then on my lunch breaks, I’ll read through it in red pen all the changes that I need to make.

Sarina Langer  09:33

Well actually, I think my first drafts are probably way too messy. Well, depending on the book, some are obviously going to be easier than others. But I think if I just took a red pen to the first draft, that would be a really big mess.

R.S. Williams  09:49

Well, I do a lot of extensive outlining. So my outlines for my books, like, so I’ve got, I’ve just outlined three novellas, and each outline is about 3000 words.

Sarina Langer  10:04

Yes, so you’re a plotter like me, I like to outline as well. But I always like to leave myself some wiggle room, so if something does happen, and as we all know, suddenly, there’s a side character who says, actually, I’m going to be your main character now. So that, you know, that’s always going to need some level of rejiggelling. I’m really good with the words today. Didn’t I tell you I had a lot of caffeine? Oh, I hope this is gonna make sense later.

R.S. Williams  10:34

But I know what you mean, though. So even though I have an extensive outline, I tend to use that as posts that I need to get to. But how they get in between those posts is completely up to the characters.

Sarina Langer  10:46

Yeah, I think to be honest, I think that’s how it should be. Because I always, I think I’ve said this to you actually a few times as well, that if you’re stuck, what can really help you get unstuck is to just maybe sit back and not think about what you think should happen, but to ask your character how they would react to the situation that they’re in. But I think we can probably do another podcast episode on how to develop your character and how to save your plot that way.

R.S. Williams  11:11


Sarina Langer  11:12

For now, let’s talk about how amazingly organised you are, and how you set everything around the day job. So obviously, you’ve just said that you’re a morning person, so that’s when you write. Would you say that, like, do you, do you always do it that way, like even at the weekends, or do you take at least that off?

R.S. Williams  11:32

Erm, so, I only write Monday to Friday. And I only have about an hour, an hour and 15 minutes that I push to write on those mornings. And then, depending on how I feel, some Saturday mornings, I will write, but again, it depends on how I feel. So most of the time, I don’t, I take weekends off writing. And my husband works every other Saturday. So every other Saturday I get from whenever I wake up in the morning, until one o’clock in the afternoon to do whatever I want. Which can be really helpful when you have edits and outlines and all the other things to do. So every other Saturday, I tend to schedule in some form of book work. And then I do two evenings a week.

Sarina Langer  12:23

That’s really helpful, I think. I was gonna ask you something, and it’s gone. Don’t you just hate that. So when you write at the weekends, do you feel like that’s just as easy for you? Because every now and again, my partner, he has to go out and work at the weekends. And every time he tells me that this is going to happen, I think, great, I’m going to have some time to do some extra writing, to get in some more words. And then the weekend arrives. And I feel like I’m in a completely different mood at the weekends. And then suddenly, now writing happens, because I think because I’ve now done this for so long that I’ve taken the weekends off, I’ve been quite harsh with myself on that to definitely not do any work, that now I’m just in this mindset that when the weekend comes around, that’s two days that are just for relaxing. So I really struggle then to get into the right mindset for writing.

R.S. Williams  13:13

Yeah, sometimes it can be quite difficult, but other times I just kind of tell myself, as long as you’re doing something towards the book, that’s fine. So whether it be if I’m in an editing phase, I do some editing, if I’ve got a couple of outlines to do, if I write down a couple of scenes, as long as I do something that’s for the book, I tell myself I was productive.

Sarina Langer  13:37

I’m really happy that you just said that actually, because I think many new writers, when they decide, I’m going to write a book, they don’t necessarily realise that there is a lot more to writing a book then literally just writing the book, you know, you also need to become a marketer, you may need… well, you probably… no, you definitely need to do some editing, you may need to design a map for it. And there’s, there’s all these different aspects to it. So you may have a day set aside to work on your book and you may not actually end up doing any writing on that day. But if you’ve still done some kind of world building or character developing or marketing, then all that still counts, all that is still work that you put into your book.

R.S. Williams  14:18

Yeah, I 100% agree with that. Because even though, okay, you haven’t written a couple of words, or 100 words, or however many words you think you should have written, you’ve done a character profile, so you know exactly who that character is, what they like, what they don’t like, what their background was, and how they’re going to fit into your story. That is productive, and that has put you one step further than you were before.

Sarina Langer  14:41

Absolutely. And I think your characters especially, if you know exactly who they are and if you know them like they’re real people, then that is going to save you so many headaches later on.

R.S. Williams  14:52


Sarina Langer  14:54

Oh, my goodness, I shouldn’t have had all this caffeine today. I keep forgetting all the things I was going to ask you. So, let that be a lesson to everyone else.

Sarina Langer  15:03

Do you think that when you’re at work, do you feel like there are things that you can get done there just fine, so you end up reserving them, so that when you are working from home, there are then other things that you can focus on. So I’m back at the day job now, I work in the library, and I have… I need to be really careful, I think, with how I balance my time, because if I’m not, I’m not going to get anything at all done. And then I end up stressed, and that doesn’t help the book at all. So I’m now learning slowly what I can easily do at home, but also what I can reserve for when I’m in the library so that I can maybe get some of those things done there. And then when I’m working from home, that’s one or maybe two fewer things to worry about. So I can then concentrate more on writing. Do you find you do the same thing?

R.S. Williams  15:50

In a similar way, yes. Unfortunately, my day job is far too busy for me to actually ever get writing done, but I do always keep an email open ready to send to myself, because 9 times out of 10, I will always get some form of idea. So I just shove it in an email, send it to myself, and then one, I won’t forget it, and two, I feel like if I was writing an email to a customer that would take up that much time anyway. And as long as I’m not taking hours away from the day job, which I know some people who are in other companies have done. I feel like that that’s the best way for me. Because otherwise, I tend to come home with like 17 scrap bits of paper and I don’t know what they’re for.

Sarina Langer  16:41

Ah, goodness, I’ve tried that once, I think, when I first outlined my Blood Wisp trilogy, right back when I still thought I would have three novellas for it. I had, I think, I was sitting, well, just at work at the weekend, I didn’t have a notebook with me, and I just wrote down all these little outlines on just little pieces of paper. And it was quite annoying afterwards to make sense of those and just put them back in order because it all got shuffled in my bag even though I had them in a notebook. So that was annoying. But I always carry a notebook with me normally, and I also have an app now on my phone that I can use basically as a notebook just in case I haven’t got a physical one with me. So basically, I will always have some kind of notebook with me.

R.S. Williams  17:26

Yeah, I mean, there have been times where it’s been quiet at my day job where I’m like, hmm, maybe I could try and do something. I tend to do a lot of outlines at my day job because again, it’s shorter, it’s quicker to write down, and it’s just quick and easy to try and… hide’s probably not the best way to describe it, but obviously hide it from the fact I’m not actually doing any work.

Sarina Langer  17:52

I think that’s an important thing to consider, isn’t it, that it’s well and good you thinking that you might have time to do some work for your book at the day job, but maybe make sure first that your boss doesn’t mind. Because you really don’t want to get fired over that before you can afford it.

R.S. Williams  18:07

Yeah, exactly.

Sarina Langer  18:08

So do make sure. I’m really lucky to work with, with people who are very supportive of what I do. And some of them have read my books, and some of them have even been beta readers in the past. So I’ve been really lucky with that. But obviously not every boss is going to be that understanding of it. So before you jump in, don’t make any assumptions. Maybe just see if they mind that if it is quiet enough, maybe see if they would mind you getting some work for your book done. And you know, bear in mind, it doesn’t have to be writing or editing, maybe you need to do some world building, or maybe you need to do some kind of research. And maybe that’s more okay than actually trying to write 1000 words.

Sarina Langer  18:51

So, um, what I would like from you, because, again, I’m forever in awe of how productive you are and how much you get done, is two kinds of tips for our listeners. So the first: do you have any tips for fitting writing your book around also working full time?

R.S. Williams  19:11

Tracking. Track your days. So when I decided that I wanted to change my routine and make it more productive for myself, I downloaded an app called Toggl. And basically you just turn it on when you start doing something and you turn it off when you finish and it tells you how long it took you to do it. So I used to do it for everything. So I did it when I went in the shower, when I drove to work, while I was at work, how long my lunch break was. I did that for about a week. And then you can kind of see how much time you’re spending on doing other things and where your free time is. And then the other thing I would say is time-block, because even if… I know it sounds really silly, but if you’ve blocked out half an hour to go and wash your hair, that means that’s half an hour that you don’t have to write and then, then you might find that, okay, well, if I move washing my hair to five o’clock, that means I’ve got an hour before I cook dinner at seven where I could get some writing in.

Sarina Langer  20:08

I think that’s a really good plan, because I think quite often you just don’t realise how much time you actually have until you really take such a close look at it. So it may feel a little bit obsessive at first, but actually, once you do it, you realise, you know, maybe you’ve had half an hour there, or maybe you’ve got an hour there where you would maybe just be watching TV or maybe just scroll through your phone. So all that is potentially really good writing time.

R.S. Williams  20:34

Yeah. When I, when I did it… So I recently rejigged my routine the other week. And when I had finished putting in all my, like, I call them non-negotiables–so sleep, the day job, the commute, and exercise for me, those, those four are non negotiables–and when I put those all in, I was like, crap, I actually have like four hours a day where I could, where I have nothing scheduled in.

Sarina Langer  21:00

Four hours! That’s amazing. And you wouldn’t have known that if you hadn’t really taken a close look at how much time you spend doing various things. I think it’s really easy, as I’ve just said, to just assume that you haven’t got any time because you’re already working full time. And obviously, you also need to eat and sleep at some point, so I think it’s quite easy to jump to the conclusion that you haven’t got any time to do anything else. But actually, if you take a close look at it, like you’ve done, maybe you actually have four hours free. Think of how much writing you could do in that time. And it doesn’t even have to be for all those four hours, you know, maybe just half an hour, you could end up maybe with 500 words. Think how soon you might be able to get your book done if you set that aside just three days a week.

R.S. Williams  21:48

Yeah, it does amount to quite a bit. And then I also realised that I tend to have my Sunday evenings, I, I used to do my weekly planning. But I realised that doing it on a Sunday made me less motivated for the week following. So now I plan my week on a Saturday and have a relaxing Sunday. And because I’ve relaxed and I’ve chilled out, and I’ve not done anything, and then I’m super productive on a Monday.

Sarina Langer  22:17

See, that’s why I’m not trying not to do the laundry at the weekend. It’s just more work, isn’t it! It’s such a grown up problem to have. That’s how you know I’m no longer a teenager, I’m 30 now. That’s definitely what I try to do as well. I’m really strict with myself of always taking the weekends off, I’m even turning off my social media notifications now. Because then that way, when I come back to it on Monday, I’m really motivated to come back to it. And I don’t feel as burned out as I did before when I also still used social media all throughout the weekend, because I’ve had that break. It’s really relaxing.

R.S. Williams  22:54


Sarina Langer  22:56

And my other question for you, the other tip that I would like to ask from you is a general productivity tip. What would you advise people to do if they don’t feel like they have that, like they’re being very productive or they don’t know how to be more productive.

R.S. Williams  23:12

So I was in a writing group the other week, and a couple of people were saying, oh, I really don’t feel like writing, I’m in a bit of a slump, I don’t know what to do. And I was like, just write one word. Just write one word, because it’s one word that you wouldn’t have had yesterday. And they were like, I never thought of it that way before. And when they wrote one word, they tended to write more words, because they would write a whole sentence, and a whole sentence is better than nothing.

Sarina Langer  23:40

And you don’t need much time at all to just write one word. I mean, you could technically… I think I knew someone once who wrote his entire book on his phone.

R.S. Williams  23:49


Sarina Langer  23:50

And that to me just completely blows my mind, because my autocorrect is absolutely terrible. So my phone drives me insane just writing a normal text message. So to write my entire book on there, to me, is just so inconceivable. But if you think of it, as you said, to just write one word, if you feel like you haven’t got any time at all to write, just the one word, and then chances are that because you started with that, you’ll probably finish the sentence, and then maybe by the time you finish the sentence, you’ll feel then more likely to maybe do a whole paragraph, and then suddenly, maybe you’ve got 50 words. And you didn’t even think that you could to one. That’s amazing. Well done.

R.S. Williams  24:30

Yeah. And then I also, erm, after I said that she was, this girl was like, oh, yeah, no, that’s a really good idea, I’ll try that. And then she came back and said, Well, what happens if once I’ve written that one word, I don’t feel like writing anymore? So don’t force it. Because the more you try and force it, the more you’ll get blocked.

Sarina Langer  24:47

Yeah. And I think that’s especially hard to do right at the beginning before you got into the habit of writing all the time. Or at least maybe five, you know, five days a week or whatever your routine is going to be. It’s your routine, do whatever works for you. But as, you know, as with any habit, it’s always hardest at the beginning. So if you’re sitting down, maybe for the first time to start writing and it’s a bit difficult, don’t worry about that being a problem forever. Because once you get used to it, your brain is going to get into that habit of right, I sit down to write, therefore I’m going to get this done now.

R.S. Williams  25:22

Yeah, and I’ve changed the way, as I said, I changed my routine up a little bit. So while I now have an office in my house, and I find that when I sit down to work at my computer  in my office, I’m a lot more productive than I am if I sit with my laptop in front of the telly.

Sarina Langer  25:41

Yeah, definitely. No, I’ve tried that and it just doesn’t work for me. But I get distracted incredibly easily. I mean, I can’t even have music on when I write. If I do, it needs to be instrumental. Anything with words and I can no longer focus on writing anything myself. I’m terrible.

R.S. Williams  25:59

Yeah, I’ve recently got into like, instrumental music as well. So movie and game scores, and a bit of Lindsey Stirling. Loving that at the moment.

Sarina Langer  26:09

While they’ve… Things like game music, they’ve been written specifically to help you focus. So if you struggle to, if you struggle to get the words down, maybe consider something like that, you know, some, some video game scores or movie scores, because they have literally been written to help you focus on something.

R.S. Williams  26:29

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Sarina Langer  26:30

So they might just help you write a book as well. I’ve actually got a playlist specifically for writing, and it’s all just various music from my favourite games, like Morrowing and Elder Scrolls Online and the Witcher and Dragon Age. It’s the best playlist, and it’s all instrumental. So I also get into really epic mood while I write because the music is really epic. But I just know that if there was even just humming in there, my brain would go, what’s that, do you want me to pay attention to this? It really, there can’t be any form of voice in there.

Sarina Langer  27:06

All right, so to sum up, your tips are generally for productivity, to just start writing and see how it goes and general for writing while also trying to work full time. See if you can maybe put a schedule together, see how long it takes you to do various things like showering or going to work, and figure out from there how much time you actually have available. It might surprise you.

R.S. Williams  27:33

Yes, exactly.

Sarina Langer  27:35

Okay, well, thank you so much for stopping by, Rhi. It was really nice to talk to you again.

R.S. Williams  27:40

Thank you for having me. I’m honest, honestly, I’m honoured to have been part of this.

Sarina Langer  27:44

Oh, no, please. My podcast is too small to be an honour for anyone, but thank you very much. Really nice chatting to you. And I hope that this has helped some of you maybe see that actually, you have more time to write than you thought and hopefully you might actually get some words down and not feel quite so overwhelmed with how busy your schedule looks. All right, thank you very much. Bye, Rhi!

R.S. Williams  28:07


Sarina Langer  28:08

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!

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).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 9: Critique Partner and Beta Reader 101

Listen to the Episode:


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  00:28

Hello again friends and Sparrows and welcome back. It’s November the 2nd, and this is episode nine. Today, I want to tell you about two of the most helpful groups of people you will meet on your author path: critique partners and beta readers.

Sarina Langer  00:46

Now before we begin, as usual, I just want to stress that this is just my process, don’t feel you need to do it exactly like I do. If you want to shuffle things, you shuffle things. It’s your books, so you need to do whatever works for you and your book.

Sarina Langer  01:02

Now, when I wrote my first book, Rise of the Sparrows, I had no idea that critique partners were even a thing, which is probably why I ended up with, I think it was 21 pages of beta feedback, because they had to raise all the points my critique partners would have normally caught early. But I still got my betas at the same time that I do now, so right at the end just before the proofread, so there was a lot of last minute work to get through before I sent it off for its last proofread.

Sarina Langer  01:35

Nowadays, I actually work with critique partners first, before I even send my book to my editor. I have a dedicated group of seven critique partners that… there’s no reason for this number, by the way, it’s just how it worked out, so you don’t feel like that, like there’s a perfect number to have, whatever works for you is great. I can ask them questions and for their help at any time in the process. So for example, when I’m naming a country and I’m not sure if the names sound natural or great, I can ask them for example. If I, if I’m torn between two or more things, I can ask them for their help.

Sarina Langer  02:14

I think the last thing that I asked them for help with actually was, was a name change for a character. I changed the main character’s name for Blood Wisp from Michiko to Yua. But before I did that, I asked them if they thought it was necessary, I talked them through my reasons for wanting to do it in the first place so we could make sure that I wasn’t just overreacting.

Sarina Langer  02:38

And generally, my critique partners are always there to help when I need them and I couldn’t love them more for it. So if you’re listening, thank you so much. I love you so much, genuinely, and my books are so much better off because of you.

Sarina Langer  02:52

You can discuss anything you want with your critique partners. So be that first lines, maybe you got two or three book covers that you can’t choose between, your blurb, or you can even ask them to read your whole book and give you feedback on that. My critique partners are there for everything. I should really buy you guys tea, thank you so much, and cake. Whatever you want, you deserve it.

Sarina Langer  03:16

With beta readers, on the other hand, I kind of see as my last line of defence before I do the final proofread. So by the time I get betas now, my book has already gone through critique partners,  it’s had at least a line edit, maybe a developmental edit, and it’s had normally at least three rounds of my own edits as well. So the book at that point is around the fifth or sixth draft. Sometimes it’s more than that, depending on how easy the book was. Again, you can do this completely differently if you prefer, but I always think that my book should be as close to the finished version bar the proofread as possible before I send it to my betas. As I said, I’m normally only missing the proofread at this stage. And that way, I can make sure that real people, not necessarily other writers but just readers, you know, who read to enjoy a book, can tell me if the book works and if everything hits the way that I want it to. After that, I normally also get advanced readers. But that’s a topic for a whole ‘nother post.

Sarina Langer  04:26

Normally, both groups, critique partners and beta readers, they are generally unpaid. You might eventually maybe get spam emails, or if you do a search online you might see people offering those services but for a fee. And generally you should never pay for critique partners or beta readers. You can give them something in return if you want. With critique partners, it’s polite and usually expected to give feedback on their book when they are ready, it’s a partnership after all, but don’t feel that you have to give them anything and you definitely don’t have to pay them. It’s very much up to you what you do. And neither group is a replacement for a professional editor. But again, that’s also a topic for another podcast.

Sarina Langer  05:11

Your action step this week is to start recruiting. It sounds terrifying, but bear with me. There are sites that can match you with beta readers, but I can’t recommend any of them because I haven’t used them. If you’re a way off finishing your book still, you probably don’t even need beta readers anyway, to be honest. But with critique partners, it’s never too early to get them on board. As I said earlier, I can, I might even ask my beta readers – my critique partners, sorry – about things like first lines or even to read the whole book before anyone else sees it, including my editor, or maybe we discuss a name or a country name. But you can only do that, obviously, if you have critique partners. And the easiest way to find them is to ask people you already know.

Sarina Langer  06:01

A good critique partner needs to have only one quality and that’s honesty. If they are writers, too, they have a pretty good idea of what to look for, because they know what they need when they give their books to critique partners. But it’s also just as fine to ask readers or even friends and family. But, and I can’t stress this enough, be really careful when you ask friends and family. As I said, honesty is the most important skill for critique partners to have, and often your friends and family members will opt for white lies because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, whereas critique partners shouldn’t have any such issues. If you do ask a close friend or a family member, maybe recruit another critique partner or beta reader at the same time, just to balance that out to make sure you definitely get honest feedback and not just someone who’s just generally really impressed that someone they know has written a book. If you’re already on social media, then that’s a really great place to start.

Sarina Langer  07:01

My critique partner group is actually on Instagram. We have a private message group on there, just the eight of us, so my seven critique partners plus me. And I first met most of them on Instagram directly or Twitter, but I wasn’t actively asking for critique partners at the time, I just started having conversations with like-minded writers and readers. And I just got to know people that way. And then when it eventually came time for me to need critique partners, they volunteered and I asked them if they would mind.

Sarina Langer  07:32

With beta readers, I do it a little bit differently. I tend to ask my mailing list when I need beta readers, so I don’t have a ready-made group of people who are just ready to read my books and tell me everything that’s awful about them. So again, you can do that however you want. If you’d like to have a few beta readers already on backup, people you know who will probably be up for it, then you can do that, or you can just recruit as and when you need them.

Sarina Langer  08:00

I think it’s always a good idea to have a few people in there who you already trust. If you have an ideal reader in mind, it can also be a good idea to ask them, because you will probably get some very varying feedback. Some people might really hate one chapter, others might really like that chapter, one might not comment on it at all, which does not simplify things. So if you have someone in there who you already trust, whose opinion you definitely value, and maybe even your ideal reader, then if you are torn and if your beta readers or critique partners are torn, you can always ask yourself, what did this person say? And then you can trust that and go with that, because not everyone will love your book. And that’s really true as well for your beta readers.

Sarina Langer  08:47

Now if there’s anything else you’d like to know about critique partners or beta readers, get in touch by leaving a comment or asking on social media, my links will follow in just a second. Otherwise, thank you very much for listening!

Sarina Langer  09:05

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!

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).

Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 8: How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo Without Overpreparing

Listen to the Episode:


Sarina Langer  00:06

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!

Hello friends and Sparrows and welcome back. It’s the 26th of October 2020, and this is episode eight. Two weeks ago, I talked about my favourite time of the year, the glorious beast that is NaNoWriMo. And this week, I wanted to give you a few ideas on how to prepare for it without completely overwhelming yourself in the process. Because let’s be honest, that’s a possibility. I know it’s a bit late given that NaNo starts on Sunday this week, but I don’t recommend you completely plot everything anyway. And who hasn’t decided to do NaNo last minute? I know I have once or twice.

So NaNo prep, for me at least, is all about the basics. If you plan too much, as I admit I tend to, NaNo arrives and you’ve got this huge list of things to consider and a whole notebook full of ideas and things that you want to fit in there somewhere. And trust me, you’ll really feel the pressure if you do that. And you probably won’t even know anymore where you’ve left what in your notebook, so that just overcomplicates something that’s already quite difficult to start with. So my advice is to keep it simple and stick to the basics so you have just enough to know where you’re going. And hopefully you won’t get lost partway through NaNo, because that’s a nightmare.

Now, the following will sound like a lot, but don’t worry, the most important points are also included in the show notes, so you can always just copy those for your character prep.

Think about the most obvious things like the names, age, looks, you know, obvious things like that, but also consider other personality points like speech habits, like their wants and needs, because that will really drive your plot forward when you’re lost. Things they are afraid of and their strengths and weaknesses, because those things will also help you keep everything informed when you’re not quite sure what to do and hopefully keep you from getting stuck because no one wants to be in that position, certainly not during NaNoWriMo.

Now, of course, there’s plenty more that you can add when you plan your character and get to know them, but this should be just enough to keep you on track during NaNoWriMo.  When you think about your world, you could think about details like the country names, what the countries are known for, what their traditions are, their culture, how growing up there influenced your characters, things like that. Now, I love world building,so I can get a little bit carried away there. But the last thing I want to do is get carried away now and ask you to create an ancient, complex religion that influences that country’s religion at the time of your book. So do keep it simple to start with. Of course, if you’re writing something that’s in our world, you can just google those details if you don’t know them already. You don’t need to come up with those things because they’re already there.

The plot is another thing I can easily get carried away with very easily. But don’t worry if you’re not a plotter, there’s no need to have every last detail planned before you begin your NaNoWriMo project. In fact, I recommend that you don’t overdo it at this stage. Because again, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. But knowing how your book starts, what causes your character to go on his journey, what happens at the midpoint that changes everything, and how your book ends will hopefully keep you from drawing a blank partway through NaNoWriMo. Because that’s the last thing you need, trust me. 

Finally, figure out your necessary daily word count to reach 50,000 words and realise it’s not that bad. If you write every day, it’s only 1,666 words a day. Sounds like a lot at first glance, but it’s not even 2000 words a day. It’s not that bad. You can totally do that. If you take the weekends off like I do, it’s a little more at 2,380 words a day, but that’s still not even 2500. Totally doable. Make a strong tea or coffee or whatever helps you focus, get the words down and get writing. And as I’ve already said in the last episode, it doesn’t matter if you don’t reach 50,000 words. I am back at the day job now three days a week, and I’m working from home Monday and Friday. I take the weekends off on top of that. So I’ve a feeling I maybe won’t make it this year. And I’ve made peace with that because by the end of November, I will have made progress and quite possibly more than I would do without NaNoWriMo motivating the next month. And really, that’s what matters.

Ultimately, NaNoWriMo is all about getting into writing habits and starting or finishing your work in progress. So those 50,000 words? Great goal, but don’t worry if you don’t get there, that’s fine.

Your action step for this week is to jot down a few notes about your characters, a few notes about your worlds, and to keep it simple so you don’t overwhelm yourself next month and add any extra stress to yourself. You don’t need that. Nobody needs that. I definitely don’t need that, and neither do you. And most of all, take a deep breath. We’ve got this NaNonite, let’s go smash it.

Although, having said that, there is another thing that you might like to do, which might just help you keep focus during November. It’s something that I quite like to do, and that’s to set rewards for myself at various stages throughout the month. I tend to set the first one when I reach 15,000, another one for when I reach 30,000 words, and something, not one, not massively extravagant, like not a holiday, you know, but something that I really want to motivate me to get to 50,000 words. It can be anything you want, as long as it keeps you on track and motivates you enough to keep pushing forward, even when NaNo, eventually, let’s be honest, gets a little bit harder to follow through. So, it can be a book or a candle, or maybe even just some time to yourself, whatever helps you keep focused. And when you reach those milestones… you can set them to whatever you want, so 15,000, 30,000, and 50,000 are just what I like to set them to, but you can do as many or as few as you want or not at all if that’s more your thing, whatever you like. And then make sure that you also hold yourself to them when you reach them. So if you get to your first reward, whatever it is, wherever it is, make sure you treat yourself to it because it’s really good motivation partway through the month. And if you don’t hit one or two milestones, don’t get yourself those rewards anyway, because then what’s the point of having set them in the first place?

Okay, are we ready? Just a few more days. Let’s calm down, join my cabin if you haven’t already if you’d like, and let’s get excited for NaNo and let’s show our works in progress who owns whom!

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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Take me to the Welcome page.

The Writing Sparrow Episode 7: How to Write Short Stories for Anthologies with Beverley Lee

Listen to the Episode:


Sarina Langer  00:06

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! All right, hello friends and sparrows and welcome back. It’s the 19th of September 2020, and this is Episode Seven. I’ve got horror author Beverley Lee here with me on Zoom, nicely socially distanced. And we’re going to talk about writing short stories and submitting them to anthologies, because that’s something that she’s really excelled at this year. So hello, Beth, welcome first of all.

Beverley Lee  00:52

Hi, Sarina, thank you so much for inviting me to take part.

Sarina Langer  00:55

You’re very welcome. I’m very excited to have you. Well, as I’ve just mentioned in the brief introduction, you’ve been doing really well this year with just generally writing horror stories and getting them into anthologies.

Beverley Lee  01:08

I know, it’s been quite a surprise for me, actually. Because now that I’m actually a horror novel writer, the short stories kind of came about because I moved house this year. So I didn’t have the focus to really work on anything longer. So I started messing about creatively with short stories. Yeah, and I’ve just been really surprised at how well people have taken to them.

Sarina Langer  01:33

I’m not, I know how great you are. But I also know just how long your move has taken. So I know that it was, you had quite a lot of time to write short stories and get used to that format.

Beverley Lee  01:44

Yes, the whole move, I could write a horror novel on the whole move.

Sarina Langer  01:47

I mean, moves are never great anyway, but I noticed how much of a nightmare yours has been. So to start with, I’ve tried to write some short stories, and I find it to be a very different format to writing full length novels. So my first question will be how do, you how do you approach it? Is it very different for you? Do you approach it in a similar way?

Beverley Lee  02:11

What you have to remember is that there’s not a lot of room for sort of endless rambling or world building in a short story. You’ve got a specific number of words, and it’s very important to keep to that number of words. Don’t go under and don’t go over because obviously, the people that put the ontology out have set the word count for a reason. But like a normal story, you do need a beginning, a middle and an end, it’s just an abridged version of that. You’ve got to keep your pacing even, you can’t really start off slow and then build up. And the most important thing is the ending, you have got to satisfy your reader. At the end, you can’t leave them thinking, well, what was this all about?

Sarina Langer  03:01

No. Definitely, I mean, I’ve read some, well, I’ve read quite a few short stories this year. Actually, I’ve been reading a few more anthologies as well, because I, I would like to try doing what you’re doing. Maybe get some of my short stories into maybe some anthologies. And for me, it’s been, well, writing, it has been a very different process, but also quite exciting. And I think when I’m reading short stories, you can really tell the difference between an author who’s really researched how to do it and someone who’s just approaching it in exactly the same way as a full length novel, because they’ll build it slowly, as you said, and they end up getting carried away a little bit. And you know, you sit there as a reader thinking we don’t have time for this.

Beverley Lee  03:43

That, that is very true.

Sarina Langer  03:46

Yes, I think it’s quite… not, not difficult as such, but I think you definitely need to… but it’s almost a whole new thing to get used to, isn’t it?

Beverley Lee  03:54

It is, it is. And I know that when I’m reading short stories, if that first paragraph grabs me, I know it’s going to be good and that’s much like a novel. It’s the, it’s the hook, you know, you don’t just want somebody in a room talking about something, you want something that’s making me to go and want to carry on.

Sarina Langer  04:15

I’m not sure if this will apply to you so much because I know that you’ve actually been approached to write for anthologies rather than you having to find them yourself and then apply to them. People are approaching you to write for anthologies, which is incredible. But if you, if you look at various listings of anthologies looking for more stories, they tend to ask for a specific kind of theme. Do you, do you write to the theme specifically?

Beverley Lee  04:45

I do. I’m very, I’m very aware of the brief. I mean, there’s not much point, you know, if they’re asking for say, a story set in a graveyard, when the graveyard is only mentioned in one paragraph. No. They’re asking for it for a certain reason. And I think it also applies that do your research on your genre and the anthologies you wish to submit to. It’s not any point, you know, submitting a dark fantasy to a proper horror unless there’s a crossover. And as they say, there’s a crossover because it’s just a waste of your time and a waste of their time.

Sarina Langer  05:22

Yeah, definitely. I’ve tried doing a bit of both this year, I think I’ve tried just writing a short story just for the sake of writing a short story and then see if I could possibly fit it to-

Beverley Lee  05:36

I’ve done that as well.

Sarina Langer  05:37

Yeah. But then I also, I can, god, I can get so carried away with this. But when I look at the listings, and what the various short story collections are looking for, I get quite… it’s almost like falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole where you think, that sounds exciting, I can write something to that. And then suddenly, you feel inspiration to write something for like 10 anthologies, and you don’t really have time to write anything for two. So-

Beverley Lee  06:02

It is a bit like those, like being in a sweetie shop, isn’t it?

Sarina Langer  06:04

Yeah, I was just thinking it’s a bit like being in a candy shop. It’s, it’s very exciting. It’s almost like a writing prompt, really, isn’t it?

Beverley Lee  06:13

Yes. Oh, it is, it is. And once you find one that really gets you excited, you kind of know that yes, this is, this is what I want to do. And quite often though, when I start a short story, I have no idea how it’s going to pan out, I’ll just start with an idea and know I have to have a certain thing in it. And then I’ll just let whatever character that I’m writing kind of show me the way. And that’s really very exciting. Because when you’re writing a novel, sometimes it takes a long time to get to know a character, whereas in a short story, you have to instantly know what my character wants.

Sarina Langer  06:48

Yeah, I think for me, that was another thing that I wasn’t quite sure about, is when, when I start writing a new novel, I do quite a lot of plotting beforehand, I need to know that I know the characters, at least, at least the main character and the main villain, so that I know how they might influence the story and how they might end up influencing each other. But when I sit down to write a short story, I almost feel like I should still do that kind of level of getting to know my characters first. But then on the other hand, you’re only writing something that’s maybe at most 5000 words long.

Beverley Lee  07:19


Sarina Langer  07:20

So I’m never sure if I still want to put in that same amount of work beforehand, if I should really just start writing and just go for it.

Beverley Lee  07:28

Well, you can. Again, you can get a first draft down and you can look at it and you can go, hmm, this isn’t working, and then just take out the elements that you would do if you were editing a novel, take out the elements and put them into the second draft and then, and then just rewrite the bits you don’t like.

Sarina Langer  07:46

Yeah, I think I’m gonna have to do some more experimenting with that. I haven’t written too many yet, but I’m seeing how well you’re doing with yours. And another friend of ours, Villimey, she’s starting to get into quite a few anthologies as well.

Beverley Lee  08:01

I noticed that. I noticed that on Twitter, I saw that Villimey was, so that’s, that’s really good.

Sarina Langer  08:06

I said to her it’s, it’s, it’s I’m having what I’m calling like, like this Pokemon moment where I go, you know, I put up my sleeves and I go right, I’m going to try my best as well. Seeing you guys, that’s it. I can almost picture Ash doing it.

Beverley Lee  08:24

But, but, but again, it just springs around about. I mean, I’ve just been incredibly lucky this year that every bit, everything I’ve submitted whether they’ve asked me to submit it or whether I’ve actually submitted it cold, they’ve accepted and nobody’s more surprised than me.

Sarina Langer  08:42

That’s gone extremely well. So have you been approached to submit your short stories for all of those anthologies, or have you approached some of them yourself first?

Beverley Lee  08:54

The first one, which was by, released through Kandisha Press, which is Graveyard Smash Volume Two, I was approached by the editor for that one. The second one, which was the charity anthology in aid of COVID research, Diabolica Britannica, I was approached for that one as well. The one that has just released, In Places We Fear to Tread from Cemetery Gates Media, that, that, that was a cold submission. I just followed the brief. And I’ve also had a flat horror accepted by them for the beginning of next year. That was a cold submission. And the one that’s coming out, I believe at the end of this year for another charity anthology in aid of women’s refuge, We Are Wolves, which is edited by the lovely Gemma Amor and Laurel Hightower, I was approached for that one as well.

Sarina Langer  09:53

And the list just keeps growing longer, doesn it? That’s amazing. Erm, well, normal mortals like me, erm, you know, we’re probably not going to just get approached to just submit to an anthology. But I think what you’ve already said is probably going to be quite helpful for that. One, do your research. Follow the brief as you said you’ve done, and also just stick to the theme, cause there’s a reason it’s there. So if the theme is graveyards, then there’s no point writing a story, getting carried away with it, have nothing at all to do with graveyards, and then just quickly put in one line, like, when I was five, we went to a graveyard once, and then hope that that ends up meeting the brief because it probably won’t.

Beverley Lee  10:41

I’m not quite sure they would accept that.

Sarina Langer  10:44

Maybe not. Even if it is really good. And even if you end up… well, maybe if you were famous enough, because then the name is going to-

Beverley Lee  10:52

Yeah, maybe. Stephen King, you could maybe get away with it.

Sarina Langer  10:56

Yeah. Yeah, maybe. But we probably can’t.

Beverley Lee  11:00

No, definitely not.

Sarina Langer  11:03

You know, as you said, it’s basically a writing prompt, isn’t it?

Beverley Lee  11:05

Yeah, it is!

Sarina Langer  11:07

Yes, I mean, I think for me, that’s easier to write than to just sit and just start writing something completely out of nothing, because I need to have at least some idea of where I’m going.

Beverley Lee  11:17

Yeah, you have to have an idea. It’s very hard just sitting down and opening up a Word document and then just staring at the blank page and the cursor flashing, and thinking ooh, I have to do something, because nothing is guaranteed to make your muse run in the corner and hide than something like that.

Sarina Langer  11:34

No, definitely not. I’ve tried that a few weeks ago, when I first thought, right, I’m gonna try doing some writing shome… erm… writing some short stories… that’s weirdly hard to say, it’s like a tongue twister. But you know, I just, I think I put into my bullet journal, write two or three short stories that week, which, obviously is going to be quite ambitious anyway. But I had lots of free time. And I was feeling really pumped up to do it, you know?

Beverley Lee  11:58

I can do this! I can do this!

Sarina Langer  11:59

Yeah, so I thought I was really excited to just get down some short stories. And I sat down, and I think because I had no idea of what to, what to go for. My enthusiasm died very quickly.

Beverley Lee  12:12

Yeah, I mean, that’s what happens, though, isn’t it? You’ve just got to kind of grit your teeth and just get some words down. And sometimes you can’t get 100 down, but sometimes they just flow out of your fingers. It’s just one of those things about being a writer.

Sarina Langer  12:27

Yeah, I mean, every story is always going to be different, you know, whether that’s going to be a short story or a full length novel, they’re all going to be slightly different. And one approach that’s worked for your last story may not work for the next one.

Beverley Lee  12:39

Well, absolutely.

Sarina Langer  12:41

Which is not helpful.

Beverley Lee  12:44


Sarina Langer  12:45

If we could like just have one process, and then just stick to that, and it just works for every story that would be brilliant and really useful.

Beverley Lee  12:53

And I mean, you kind of learn as you go along as well. I mean, you kind of learn what format works for you. And then sometimes you’ll think about… I mean, I submitted one, and they’ve asked for a rewrite, because it’s not… they like, they like the idea. They like the theme. But they don’t like the way I presented it. And that, and that was just, that was just an experiment on my part to see if it would work. And it doesn’t. So I’m in the middle of rewriting that one. But hey, I mean, that’s how you learn, isn’t it?

Sarina Langer  13:23

Yes. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I always think there was something like what we did with writing books, the best and really probably only good way to learn is by doing it. You know, you can read all the theory books that you want, hundreds if you, if you like, but you’re not really going to see what actually works for you until you sit down and make yourself write the words.

Beverley Lee  13:43

That’s it. Um, I mean, in regards finding markets for submissions, which I’m assuming is going to be one of your next questions, I’m pre-empting this, I use, I use Twitter a lot, because you will find that a lot of people, authors that write short stories will actually mention that there’s an anthology coming up. The Horror Tree is a very good one to follow. And they do weekly links to the short story anthologies that are wanting things, and also follow accounts that produce the short stories like Cemetery Gates, because they’ll often have links to say that they’re accepting submissions.

Sarina Langer  14:27

See, that’s where I then end up getting carried away. It’s on the Horror Tree website. I’ve had a look and they are listing all the various places that are currently looking for submissions on there. And you see this story is looking for something with ghosts and witches and lots of gore. So and then the next one is just looking for something that’s a bit more lighthearted but obviously still horror related, and it just needs to, it just needs to have something somehow to do with regret of some kind. So you start going through all of those and you think, Oh, this one’s exciting. I can write something to that. And then suddenly, before you know, two hours have passed, and you haven’t written anything, but you identified about 20, or 30, anthologies that you really want to submit to, and you don’t really have the time to do any of it, because you just end up browsing more instead of writing anything.

Beverley Lee  15:15

Again, it’s like falling down that black hole of Pinterest isn’t it. I think what you have to do is you have to kind of limit yourself, you have to go on and you go, I’m going to find three, say, that I want to submit to and then when you found your three, leave the site, go away.

Sarina Langer  15:30

Yeah, just close it. I mean, I’ve got the Forest app installed, even on my browser so that I can just, I can start planting a tree. And then I can’t open anything while I write, which is really useful, because I can tell while I’m writing, I get carried away so often that I think, I just quickly just see if I have an email. It doesn’t say that I do, but I just quickly look at my inbox for no good reason other than procrastination, and it won’t let me. Say, the amount of times that I have started writing and I thought I was quite focused but that I then just had to open the timer instead.

Beverley Lee  16:08


Sarina Langer  16:09

Really makes you realise how unfocused you can be when you think you’re being really focused.

Beverley Lee  16:15

Yeah, it’s not it’s almost like these people that said that they, they turn off their their WiFi when they’re actually writing so that, you know, they can’t get any emails and things and but then we tend to think, what if somebody needs me urgently. It’s ridiculous.

Sarina Langer  16:29

Yes. See, I wouldn’t be able to do that, because my partner works downstairs, and he needs the WiFi for work. So I wouldn’t be able to try that theory, but I can see why it might work. I mean, I always figure, you know, what if you have an email, say, if you’re, maybe you’ve gone shopping, or you’re out and about just going for a walk, and maybe there is no WiFi, then whoever’s emailing you can probably wait for half an hour.

Beverley Lee  16:53

It’s not a matter of life and death, is it.

Sarina Langer  16:54

No, I mean, it’s unlikely to be, so it’s probably okay if we ignore it just for a little bit, you know, it’ll still be there afterwards.

Beverley Lee  17:02

Yeah, but with that we’re very good at going I’ll just check Instagram, I’ll just check Twitter, and you can’t just check it, you have to scroll, answer a couple of tweets.

Sarina Langer  17:12

Because the next post that comes up might be important. And then what if you miss it? But I started telling myself more now that because the Internet has widened everything so much, you know, I mean, most of my author friends end up living in America, or maybe in Australia, like Jaynelle who I’ve just interviewed the other day. And they, you know, on the one hand, it’s great that we can talk to each other so easily, thanks to the magical powers of the interwebs. But on the other hand, we end up being in so many different time zones, the chances are, they’ll end up emailing me, just as I’m going to bed which I won’t see for eight hours or more. And by the time I do see it finally in the morning, after all the time, it’s still fine and nothing has burned down. And there haven’t been any catastrophes. So, you know, it’s probably fine if we just focus on writing for just half an hour.

Beverley Lee  18:09

Yeah. I think I think the worst thing though, is when you, you have a submission, you’ve submitted it, and you’re waiting for that email to say whether you’ve been accepted. It’s like, I know, they’re not going to do it immediately. But maybe the day after the day after that, and you’ll find yourself looking through your inbox and then look into your spam box in case it’s gone into spam.

Sarina Langer  18:31

Well, it can happen quite easily, can’t it? I’ve had an experience with that it’s maybe worth mentioning is that the first short story that I’ve submitted was to a rather large online magazine. And I, by the time I submitted it, I think we only had like two weeks left or something before the deadline. So I thought I quickly get into that. But it told me that I was I think roughly the 860th submission or something in their queue. And I think it only went down by about five or six stories a day. So they weren’t getting through submissions overly fast. I think finally by the last day before the deadline, I think I’d made my way up to spot 300 something. And then suddenly, overnight, I don’t believe for one second that they suddenly read 300 stories in one day. And then I then got the email to say we’re very sorry but your story isn’t for us right now. And you just sit there and think there’s no way you’ve read suddenly so many stories, you’ve just run out of time.

Beverley Lee  19:35

They probably just filled their slots. Yeah.

Sarina Langer  19:38

So, so I think it’s probably also worth considering just how large the publication is that you’re going to submit to but also in this case, it was for a magazine, you know, which could probably only take one or two stories at a time. Whereas of course with anthologies, you tend to have 9, 10 authors in the book at the same time. But it still may be worth just making sure that the publication or the anthology that you’re choosing isn’t so large that your submission might just disappear.

Beverley Lee  20:10

Kind of like a little minnow in a huge pond, aren’t you. I think maybe start small, start smaller is probably a better way to go.

Sarina Langer  20:18

Well at the time it was an easy one, it was right there. The submission was easy enough. And again, I was in that mindset of I’m really excited to do this now, I’m going to submit to them and we’ll just see what happens.

Beverley Lee  20:30

You have that, you still have that story and that story you can submit somewhere else.

Sarina Langer  20:35

That’s it. You know, it didn’t, it didn’t get into it on this occasion, but it might get into the next one. You know, you never know. So if you do get a rejection, don’t think in any way that it’s not, that it happened because your story isn’t any good. Or even just that, even though they told you that it didn’t, that it wasn’t right for them, it might actually have been perfect for them. It’s just that they ran out of time.

Beverley Lee  20:59

So you’ve got to treat it like every rejection with a kind of a pinch of salt. It wasn’t right at that time for that particular publication. So yeah. And then just find somewhere else for it, just market it somewhere else.

Sarina Langer  21:11

Exactly. I mean, at that point, you’ve also already then got the cover letter for it. And you’ve already got it formatted. So actually, if anything then the second submission you do is even going to be easier, because you’ve already got all that sorted, you then just need to adjust it a little bit. So that also helps. All right. Do you have any, any tips for writers who want to do what you’re doing with all the short stories be that writing related or submission related? We’ve already touched on some parts, like really sticking to the criteria that they’re looking for and doing the research.

Beverley Lee  21:47

Maybe just start with an idea of your own. And see if you can keep it say, under 6000 words. Just practice getting the whole story down in that brief amount of words, making sure that again, you have an exciting beginning, a solid middle, and a fabulous ending that’s going to leave your reader very, very satisfied. Just see if you can do that. And if you can do that and you really like what you’ve written, get it to a couple of people that can beta read it for you, and can tell you if they think it’s any good. And then you actually have something to go by, you can try and find a market for it. But if there isn’t a market just leave it be, there will be a market eventually. But then you’ve got that form, right, you’ve actually done it, you’ve completed one which will give you the confidence then to start looking through proper submissions and applying with brief.

Sarina Langer  22:47

I think that’s very good advice. And then I think what people tend to struggle with is to just start if I haven’t got an idea, so I thought what we could do maybe is leave them with a writing prompt.

Beverley Lee  23:00


Sarina Langer  23:00

And then if they do want to give it a shot, they can dive straight in. So I don’t know if you’ve got something in mind. Probably not because this is improvising on my part as well. I’ve just thought of this.

Beverley Lee  23:13

This is definitely improvising! Just let me have a think.

Sarina Langer  23:17

I do have a book here, we can run with that.

Beverley Lee  23:21

Okay, go on, pull something out of there while I have a think.

Sarina Langer  23:23

Shall I just open it on a random page?

Beverley Lee  23:25

Open it on a random page.

Sarina Langer  23:26

Alright guys, so your, your writing prompts, this is from a book called 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers Grotto. It’s exactly what it says on the title. And your, your test writing prompt just to get you started on something is, write down as many cliches and aphorisms as you can think of. Go back and star the ones you actually say. That’s not a writing prompt.

Beverley Lee  23:55

That’s not really a prompt, is it.

Sarina Langer  23:56

That doesn’t work. Let’s do another one.

Beverley Lee  23:57

Let’s try another one.

Sarina Langer  24:00

Here you go. That might Yeah, this one might work: Scientists announced they’ve discovered the secret to immortality. Write a petition letter to save the event of death. Over to you people.

Beverley Lee  24:15

That’s actually quite tough.

Sarina Langer  24:17

Yeah, yeah. Well, maybe we should have gone with something easier. This is, that was just me opening it on a random page. You also get very simple things like write about an object that has personal meaning to you.

Beverley Lee  24:31

Yes, maybe just do that.

Sarina Langer  24:35

I’ll include all three in the show notes and then you can pick your difficulty level that you fancy that morning. Have you thought of anything?

Beverley Lee  24:46

Oh, I’m just trying to think. I’m useless at doing these off, off the spot thing but as, as it’s nearly Halloween, you could possibly write a short story that includes a scarecrow in a graveyard.

Sarina Langer  25:03

There you go. Doesn’t have to be complicated. See, I’m overthinking it. That’s what happens when I don’t plan.

Beverley Lee  25:10

So you can do anything you want, but it must include a scarecrow in a graveyard.

Sarina Langer  25:15

There you go. Any genre, anything you want, but try to keep it under 6000 words because I think that’s what most anthologies are looking for, might even be shorter than that. But I think for a start, just see if you can do that. Now remember to include a clear beginning, middle, and end. That’s all we need to do. All right, well, I think we can leave it on that. I will definitely link to all that in the show notes as well. I’m gonna link to Horror Tree.

Beverley Lee  25:43

Well, thank you very much for hosting me. It’s been a pleasure as always, Sarina.

Sarina Langer  25:48

Always, always. And we’ve had tea! No cake this time. Thank you very much for having a chat with me. And I hope that it’s helped you guys get started with writing short stories. Thank you very much, Bev!

Beverley Lee  26:02

Bye bye!

Sarina Langer  26:06

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

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 6: What Is NaNoWriMo?

Listen to the Episode:


Sarina Langer 0:06
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!

Hi friends and Sparrows and welcome back. It’s the 12th of October 2020. This is Episode Six, and today I’m talking about my favourite subject NaNoWriMo. If you’ve been anywhere on social media this month, you’ll have seen other writers mention NaNoWriMo quite a lot, but you may not actually know what it is. So today, I wanted to explain to you what it is and hopefully also get you excited to take part yourself if you haven’t done it before.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words between the first and last day of November. If that sounds like a lot, you’re right, it’s a monster event and I love it so much. There’s always this excitement I get around early October when I realise that next month is NaNoWriMo, and then from there on, I’m just motivated until I eventually get really tired halfway through November, because it’s also really difficult. But I don’t want to put you off already.

So, you can prepare for it if you like. I normally do but then I’m a plotter anyway. But there have also been times when I didn’t prepare for it, and I was kind of surprised by how well it worked anyway. I think the only thing to remember is that you don’t overprepare for it because otherwise, you’ll end up with so many notes come November and so many pages upon pages of information that you’ll end up overwhelming yourself. And I promise you, there’ll be plenty of that during November itself.

You may also have heard of the smaller events that happen twice a year, Camp NaNo. They happen every April and every July, and they’re a lot more relaxed, so you don’t even need to write for them. Just editing or outlining is a perfectly good goal for camp. And your word count goal doesn’t have to be as chunky as 50,000 words, it can be whatever you want it to be. So if you just want to write, say, a 5000 word short story, for example, then that’s fine. If you want to edit 20,000 words of something, then that’s also perfectly good. Whatever you want to work on in the camps is great.

A lot of writers actually use the smaller camps to edit the book they’ve started or finished or continued in November. But you can also start something completely new if you want. The only important thing to remember is that for the big event in November, the idea is to only count the words towards that goal that you’re writing in November. So, say if you’ve already written 10,000 words in October, then they do not count towards your NaNo goal.

Joining NaNo is completely free, but if you fancy it, you can donate to support the good people who keep it running every year, because they do a really smashing job of that. And I… there’s also lots of other events that they put on around the country – maybe not this year so much given COVID – but normally, there’s lots of other events that they run throughout the world, I think. So all the more reason to donate if you want to. But again, you don’t have to, just joining and taking part itself is completely free. So don’t worry about that.

You can do either event, the big one in November or the smaller camps, on your own. But I actually recommend that you join a cabin so you’ll have people to cheer you on throughout the month. A cabin is basically like a private-ish chat room. On the NaNoWriMo website, well, you can join, I think the number is limited to about 20 people, so it’ll never be too packed and never feel overcrowded. And to be honest, most people who join it, or a lot of them anyway, they end up just being silent throughout the month. I think they’re then mostly just there to read all the encouragement from the other writers, but they don’t necessarily take part in any of those chats themselves. So the number is quite small to start with and then it’ll never feel that busy anyway.

I don’t think joining those, well actually it definitely wasn’t possible to join those cabins for the big event in November, they were a camp only thing, but it seems like they’ve changed that for this year. My cabin is still active and people can talk in it, and I’m very excited about that because the cabins are a really good way to talk to other writers and generally keep your excitement going for the month and get that support and encouragement. So they are a really cool thing to join and I recommend that you do if you fancy maybe the more social part of such a pig monster event.

You will have to declare your project on the website to take part officially and you can also collect badges that way. So I think you got, say, one if you’ve written 1666 for the first time and then you get another badge if you’ve written for seven days in a row, things like that. And that’s always quite fun. I like collecting badges. All of those things will also help keep you accountable and get your excitement going as NaNo gets a little harder every week.

I’m not selling it, am I?

But the most important part of NaNo is that you do not have to make it to 50,000 words, okay? You don’t need to write that many. Because let’s be honest, that’s a monster goal for just one month. So don’t worry if you don’t. Just have fun, enjoy the excitement, get swept up in it as I normally do. And if you, if you make it, then yes, that’s a fantastic feeling obviously, 50,000 words in one month is a huge achievement, but NaNo’s really, really hard. It’s really easy to burn yourself out on it, trust me on that, I’ve done it once or twice, and especially if you’re also working at the same time, maybe even full time, and you’re trying to keep a family alive. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself.

So just remember that all progress is good progress. And it’s totally fine to just join for the hell of it, especially if it’s your first time doing it. Enjoy it, do your best to reach 50,000 words, and if you make it, great, if you don’t, who cares? Look at all those words you’ve written during November and just… or maybe if you hadn’t joined NaNo, maybe you wouldn’t have written all those words. So that’s a great achievement already. Well done. Just join and enjoy the NaNo madness cause there’s a lot of that.

I’ll leave it here because I want to keep the episode short as promised. But in two weeks, I’ll do another NaNo specific episode on how to prepare for it without overpreparing for it.

The action step this week is to join the fun, join the madness, sign up for NaNoWriMo and declare your project. Make sure you stock up on tea or coffee or whatever your brew and make sure you have a few snacks ready as well, because you’ll want them and you’ll deserve them. You can sign up at but don’t worry, the link is also in the shownotes, so you can just click that. If you would like to join my cabin, get in touch. There’s limited availability, but I’ll fit you in if I can. The more the merrier or you know up to 20 people because that’s the limit. The easiest way to do that is probably via social media. The links for that will just follow in a second. See you there!

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

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).

Take me to the Welcome page.