This week on The Writer’s Mindset we share all the writing techniques, hacks, tips, resources, and more that have improved our craft over the last several years.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How breaking your book down into smaller chunks can help you get more done
  • The difference accountability can make
  • Why Scrivener and Plot Factory are better than Word or Google Docs for writing a book
  • Why we ate our words on worldbuilding

Listen to us discuss our favourite writing resources:

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Kristina: Hello and welcome to The Writer’s Mindset with me, Kristina Adams, Millie the westie.

[00:00:05] Ellie: And me, Ellie Betts. Frankie’s asleep.

[00:00:07] Kristina: We’re here to create a community of authors who persevere, are their most productive selves and publish at speed they are comfortable with.

[00:00:14] Ellie: And this week we’re sharing our favourite writing resources.

[00:00:18]

[00:00:30] Kristina: A big thank you to our patrons for your support. We really couldn’t do this without you.

[00:00:34] Ellie: As a patron, you get early access to episodes, bonus content, and our undying gratitude for supporting all the work that goes into creating these episodes to inspire and motivate you. And Kristina has been let out of her dungeon after working hard on the new bonus series for you too.

[00:00:54] Kristina: Yep. That’s right. The first couple of episodes of HEALTHY HABITS are out now, and it is a new series that’s kind of like productivity for writers 2.0, but in podcast form instead. So instead of just reading it, you can watch it, you can listen to it, or you can just read it. And it’s full of stuff to help you be your happiest and most productive writer, but also person. So we’re covering things like the mind-body connection and how that can improve or make worse your physical or mental health. And things people don’t really want me to tell them, like exercise, no one wants to hear the exercise discussion or the stats about how much it matters. Especially not the person who’s got an injured foot and can’t exercise. But it does make a difference to your productivity.

[00:01:33] Ellie: It sounds like you have been particularly busy. I think you’ve earned some time outside of the dungeon. If you would like to find out more, visit patreon.com/writersmindset.

[00:01:45]

[00:01:48] Ellie: This week, we are bringing to you some of our favourite writing resources. Now these are the kind of writing resources that have very much changed our writing lives. Some of them are free, some of them do cost a little bit of money. Um, some of them are Apple specific. Some of them are a little more inclusive, uh, but all of them have impacted our writing lives in one way or another. And only for the better, of course.

[00:02:14] Ellie: The first one we’ll start with today is having a physical paper diary or planner. And I actually got this idea from you originally, Kristina, because you started this trend.

[00:02:27] Kristina: The irony is I did this because you got me a diary.

[00:02:30] Ellie: Yeah, that’s true. I got you that. Yep. I’m a trendsetter by accident apparently.

[00:02:38] Kristina: You accidentally got me one that matches the colour scheme in this room as well.

[00:02:44] Ellie: Oh no, the colour was very intentional.

[00:02:46] Kristina: I didn’t realise it was.

[00:02:47] Ellie: The colour choice was intentional. The content was accidentally happily fantastic. But that’s just how I roll.

[00:02:57] Kristina: I find I do use an app to track stuff as well, which we’ll get to in a minute, but I find having a physical diary really helps me because it’s always open on the days page right in front of me. And so I can see exactly what I’ve got to do. And then the next day, before I go to bed I will write down what I have to do the following day. So it means I can’t forget stuff because it’s constantly there. It’s like, oh, I haven’t edited that client piece yet. I’ll do that next. Or, oh, I haven’t cleaned Millie’s ears today. I’ll do that next, you know. Things like that.

[00:03:30] Kristina: And sometimes it’s trivial stuff, but I am in the habit of writing down as much as possible, just so that I don’t forget it. And also every time I tick something off from that to do list, I get a little dopamine fix, which makes my brain happy, which makes it more inclined to do more stuff.

[00:03:45] Ellie: That’s good. I did, um, I did get a diary. I did use it for a little while and then I forgot. Uh, but when I was using it, I did the same thing. And there is a psychology behind planning what you’re doing the next day, the day before, kind of thing. When you wake up in the morning, you already know what’s coming. It’s easier to start the day. It’s easier to get on with the day. You already have a plan in mind without having to spend that brain energy first thing in the morning, working out what the hell you’re gonna do with your day?

[00:04:14] Kristina: The next one on our list is an app that I actually discovered because of a YouTuber that my boyfriend follows. Um, his channels called MKBHD. And he is a tech, um, YouTuber, does a lot of reviews and stuff, and he uses an app called TickTick, and I’d never heard of it before, but I saw it, and looked at it, and I just thought that’s really sexy, I need it. And the beauty of Ticktick, Ellie’s laughing at me…

[00:04:39] Ellie: I was just going to say, I’m so glad it’s not just me that occasionally thinks ooh, this is some sexy software.

[00:04:44] Kristina: Not just you. Well, the thing is like you look a lot of productivity apps and there’s so many features on them that is a little bit overwhelming or at least that’s how I feel, anyway.

[00:04:58] Ellie: There was a different app, which I don’t know if we really should say the name of, because it’s not, I don’t necessarily like to talk, say bad things about other things, but there was an app that we were trying to use for a while and it just made me feel so overwhelmed, but looking at Ticktick, and we’re going to set up our own podcast organization stuff on Ticktick.

[00:05:15] Kristina: We already have…

[00:05:17] Ellie: Well, erm, well, I was going to say, did we? Did you link me to this?

[00:05:21] Kristina: Yes, I added you!? And I’ve been ticking stuff off on there cause you haven’t.

[00:05:25] Ellie: Listen… Did you add me? I don’t remember talking about this.

[00:05:29] Kristina: It said you have access?

[00:05:31] Ellie: Okay, well the moral of the story is I’m a forgetful bitch.

[00:05:36] Kristina: Which is why we have Ticktick. Because it will remind us.

[00:05:41] Ellie: Um, because already, like from the off it felt a lot less, less overwhelming, as you said, and the collaboration on it feels a lot more flexible, um, and better laid out. So yes, I’m gonna, um, load Ticktick website after this.

[00:05:57] Kristina: The thing I really like about it is that you can have it as a bog standard to-do list, but you can also have it as a Kanban board, you can have an Eisenhower matrix, you can add sub-tasks to your tasks, you can add descriptions, you can add due dates, you can set priorities. And it’s also got a habit tracker and I have something between about 12 and 15 things that I track every day. I don’t do them all every day. Like I’m really bad for practicing my Spanish at the moment.

[00:06:23] Kristina: But it reminds you of things. Like have I exercised, have I meditated should add watering the greenhouse, but you get my point. Like, it’s little things that are really easy to forget because I’m ticking them off on that habit tracker, my brain feels really happy about the fact that I’m doing it. And so I get that dopamine fix we mentioned before, and then I can see if there is a correlation between like how much I’ve meditated and how much more I get done on the other days, which I think is quite interesting. And you can also view things on a calendar basis and sync your calendar with it. So for the today view, it will show you all the things that you’ve got scheduled in your calendar. It will show you all the tasks that are due today, all the overdue tasks, it’s just really organized.

[00:07:06] Kristina: And also because I’ve got the paid plan my background is the Sydney Opera House, which also makes me happy.

[00:07:13] Ellie: Easily pleased, aren’t you?

[00:07:15] Kristina: Yes.

[00:07:16] Ellie: On the subject of me being a forgetful bitch. Um, I think one of the most important things I’ve started using is a notes app. On my phone. I like to use the Samsung notes one. Um, it’s, when I got a new phone, all this stuff was automatically on there, which is really helpful. And it’s just really easy to use. I just, as soon as I think of something to do with my book, to do with something I want to change, something I want to add, a character thing. You know, you have that moment where you think I’m going to remember this. It’s fine. No, no, I will not remember this. I never do. I have to write it down. And so there’s loads of random notes on there with bits and pieces in that don’t make sense. Sometimes I have ideas of people’s Christmas presents that I put them in there too. But…

[00:07:58] Kristina: Hang on. Are you saying you have Christmas present ideas in May.

[00:08:03] Ellie: Oh yeah.

[00:08:03] Kristina: To be fair, I did actually think of something for you at the garden centre the other day. So I can’t really say anything.

[00:08:07] Ellie: I just think people will say something like, oh, this is really cool, or I like this old movie, or I’ve always wanted to try this and I just think hmm, Christmas ideas for X.

[00:08:18] Ellie: Put this, put this for this. And then when I come to put, oh, birthday, I suppose then when I come to need something, I already have ideas. Because otherwise I’ll just forget them.

[00:08:26] Kristina: That’s fair.

[00:08:27] Ellie: But with the writing, once I finished my first draft a few months ago, I, uh, I kept having ideas about what I wanted to add in, um, out and about, you know, middle of work, all sorts of stuff. Um, and not only was I supposed to be like taking some time away from the first draft, of course, it’s also not practical to start working on your book when you’re supposed to be working on your day job. So I just made notes in there. And then when it came to collating all those notes, I had some stuff in there, I had some stuff in a notebook, and some stuff on a whiteboard actually, but having the phone there constantly, you can just add stuff to it.

[00:09:05] Kristina: Yeah, that’s why I really like mine. And, um, I had a Mac before I got an iPhone, but then when I got my iPhone, I realised that my notes would sync across to my Mac. And that was just game changing for me because it means I could draft an entire post on the tram home from work and it would be there for me to copy and paste straight into WordPress when I got home. And it’s just such a time-saver. I think I have something like 1,200 notes on my phone and that’s even after-

[00:09:34] Ellie: 1,200?!

[00:09:35] Kristina: That’s even after cleaning out all the stuff for no longer need. Because it’s like poem drafts, and notes for books, and ideas that I haven’t done anything with, or sometimes just random words and quotes I really like and want to save.

[00:09:48] Ellie: I do like the fact that the Apple one syncs between devices like your phone and your laptop, that’s really handy. So maybe I need to look into one, I need to look into an app that’s on my phone and on PC.

[00:10:00] Kristina: I know a couple that are on phone and PC are Bear and Evernote. Um, I’ve heard more things-

[00:10:07] Ellie: I think I’ve used Evernote before. It has an Elephant is an icon because an elephant never forgets.

[00:10:14] Kristina: It does. Yeah, I’ve heard more people talk about Bear now than Evernote. Evernote I heard about a few years ago when I was writing productivity for writers, but Bear seems to have taken over, but I haven’t like, I haven’t tried the paid versions of either of them and I haven’t used either of them several years, so I can’t like say, oh yeah, this is a great alternative. But I have had some people say they’re a bit more organized and the basic notes app you got on your phone. So I guess it depends kind of on what you’re looking for.

[00:10:42] Ellie: Just looking to write shit down, so I don’t forget.

[00:10:46] Ellie: In terms of, um, productivity, I would say another useful tool is, um, the Pomodoro technique. Specifically on YouTube, you can find Pomodoro work sessions. So people will be studying in the background, and then, um, you’ll have like a 25 minute work session, five minute break, or however you like to do it.

[00:11:08] Ellie: But I find, well, I always do the 25 one, that works best for my brain. But if I am not in a mood to work, my brain does not want to cooperate, it’s a lot easier to convince myself, all you have to do is work 25 minutes that to convince myself saying, you need to fix this whole book, or you need to work for the next eight hours, well not eight hours. But, you know, um. So having that way in with those videos, you feel like someone’s there doing with you almost, which is really nice.

[00:11:36] Ellie: And it feels like even though you only have to convince yourself to do 25 minutes, nine times out of 10, I ended up doing more than 25 minutes. Because you get into the rhythm then it’s just convincing yourself, your brain to engage. And then once it’s engaged, you might find it works better. But the breaks are really useful. And knowing that they’re there, and even though you’re doing a few sessions, you only have to work 25 minutes at a time. That can be really motivating as well.

[00:12:06] Kristina: It’s interesting because obviously your brain works very differently to mine. And if I say to my brain, right, we’re going to work for 25 minutes, it’s going to say, no, fuck you. But if I say we’re going to do one thing, we’re going to make one change to this blog post or this book, or edit five minutes of this podcast episode. I usually ended up in like, do a gazillion more and go for about an hour, but I have to narrow that barrier down first and make it as small and achievable as possible to get that dopamine fix. And then I’m like, oh, I’ll just do one more change, more dopamine. I’ll just edit five more minutes, more dopamine. And that’s kind of what drives my brain.

[00:12:41] Ellie: That’s really interesting. I suppose the commonality there is just breaking it down into small chunks, right? Even though you end up doing more, encouraging your brain by breaking it down and only promising yourself you have to do one thing or one set of 25 minutes, then encourages you to carry on and keep, keep going,

[00:13:02] Kristina: Because it doesn’t seem as intimidating, right? Once you’ve done that smaller amount.

[00:13:06] Ellie: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because I don’t know about you, but when, before I start, I’m like, I don’t want to do it, it’s too hard. I don’t have the energy, et cetera, et cetera. There’s always something your brain’s trying to tell you, right? But once you’re in the swing of it and you’ve done the first one, you think actually I can do this, and I do enjoy this in fact.

[00:13:24] Kristina: Yeah, last night, um, I did writing through it with one of my friends and it was kind of a joint idea cause she wanted to get some edits done cause she set herself a deadline and I was struggling a bit with The Witch’s Sacrifice cause. I’m kind of at the point now where I’m so close to finishing The Witch’s Sacrifice, I don’t want to finish it. So we agreed to do a half an hour sprint and we finish the call after that half an hour and I kept going for like another hour and now I’ve only got 10 chapters left to make changes on. And before I was in about 20,

[00:13:53] Ellie: That’s amazing.

[00:13:53] Kristina: I mean, that’s still a third of a book, so when I phrase it like that, it doesn’t sound as good. But, um, it’s still, like, it feels so much better to have got over some of those that I was struggling with because there were some notes that I didn’t know how to fix or some stuff I didn’t want to do like double checking stuff in previous books to see if I had mentioned them like I thought I had. But then just getting into that mindset with someone else who’s also a writer, it did really, really help.

[00:14:19] Ellie: It does. It’s the accountability I think. Like you and I do writing sprints too, um, normally firstly in the morning when we do them and it, it, having that accountability and someone there going through the same thing or a similar thing. Cause obviously we’re normally at different parts in our writing. Um, it’s very encouraging. I think. And also getting something like that done at the start of the day, like getting a chunk of work done pushes you forward for the rest of the day I think. You’ve already accomplished something. What else can we accomplish?

[00:14:48] Kristina: Yeah, my most productive day of this week so far has been when we did a writing sprint in the morning. Um, and during that sprint, I edited one blog post and then did a draft of another one. And I carried on finishing the draft after we finished. And that just, like, made me feel, like I just felt amazing having gotten that much done.

[00:15:09] Kristina: I felt like so much better having that sense of achievement. And then I didn’t get that sense of achievement, and that kind of propelled me on for the rest of the day. Um, backfired. Cause I made my foot even more angry by exercising afterwards. But anyway, um, I didn’t get that sense.

[00:15:26] Ellie: Lesson learned, don’t drop a chair on your foot.

[00:15:28] Kristina: Yeah. And don’t exercise after dropping your chair your foot because you’ll piss off the muscles in it. It didn’t hurt until I fucking exercised.

[00:15:38] Ellie: See exercise bad for you.

[00:15:40] Kristina: My brain likes it. My body doesn’t my brain does. This is the predicament I am in.

[00:15:45] Ellie: This is true. This is true. I think just going back to the writing sprints issue or thing, we talk about turning up for yourself a lot. Like, being there for yourself and doing it for yourself because you deserve it, you know, you’ve earned it. But there is something to be said for turning up for someone else.

[00:16:02] Ellie: Like a lot of the times where we do the writing sprints. I don’t know if I would have done it, well I know I would not have done a writing sprint otherwise. So having that, I don’t want to say pressure because pressure is a bad word. But having that, you know…

[00:16:16] Kristina: You don’t wanna let the other person down.

[00:16:18] Ellie: Exactly. That’s what I’m trying to say. You don’t wanna let the other person down, or sometimes it’s easier to let yourself down than it is to let other people down.

[00:16:26] Kristina: It’s considerably easier to let yourself down, especially if you have low self esteem, because you already see yourself as a let down. But like, if you’re doing a sprint with anyone, regardless of if it’s someone you know really well or not, it’s probably better if you don’t know them that well, actually. Because if it’s someone that, you know particularly well, you’re going to be more inclined to think, well, they’re not going to judge me for it. But there’s that little bit of fear in the back of your mind when it’s a stranger holding you accountable and saying, have you written this client blog post and they’re breathing down your neck. That sounds a bit harsh. That’s a really harsh example. It’s not a good one.

[00:16:59] Ellie: I don’t think any of your clients are that mean to you.

[00:17:01] Kristina: No, they’re not. What I meant was, um, Andrew and Pete who run atomic have got a new program called Goal Getters which is a bit like an accountability programme on steroids. Because you pay to be in the programme, and if you’re successfully, if you successfully do 75% of your tasks for the month, you get some of that payment back for achieving it. So you’ve got money to lose if you don’t do it. And also you’re accountable to someone once a week and you have weekly calls to help you, if you get stuck. And I found that that programme helped me to do something that I’d been putting off for about six months and I managed to do that thing in a week.

[00:17:36] Ellie: That’s crazy good.

[00:17:38] Kristina: Exactly.

[00:17:40] Ellie: Awesome. Hmm. Interesting. See, I think I, I am the opposite. I’d feel worse letting you down than letting a stranger down.

[00:17:49] Kristina: For me it is about the same, but I think the psychology is different depending on the person. Because I know some people are much more inclined to not care about letting someone down if they feel like they’ve got that relationship where the person is not going to judge them. Whereas I know some people feel it more like you when it’s someone you care about. So I think it just depends on how you’re wired.

[00:18:10] Ellie: Maybe I just know you’ll judge me.

[00:18:13] Kristina: I wouldn’t judge you. I’ll shout at you. That’s the difference.

[00:18:15] Ellie: That’s worse!

[00:18:18] Kristina: The other thing that I think is really useful for getting, not just for accountability, but also for getting help is Facebook groups. And I am a big Facebook user. I’m on there a lot when I’m hiding from work. But groups like SPF and the Alliance of Independent Authors and even some of the paid ones like SPF Genius and SPF mastery. Although ALLi is paid, what am I saying? They’re just really good for going in and being able to ask for help, because you’ve got all those from all different backgrounds and earning levels in they’re willing to offer advice and insight, and everyone is really supportive. And that is the thing I love the most about the indie community is that it doesn’t matter what genre you write, it could be the most barmy obscure thing, but you will get the same advice regardless. And it might not be advice you want to hear. But it’s going to help you improve. And that’s really what counts.

[00:19:09] Ellie: So most people will have heard of Scrivener. Scrivener is a writing software basically, specifically designed for writing books, of course. Not just like a word processing software or anything like that. So Scrivener has, um, features like you can rearrange different scenes, you can store your character information there. It also formats your book,

[00:19:34] Ellie: Scrivener means you can keep everything in one place, but because it’s specifically designed for writing a book, it has intuitive features around that. So Kristina, that you’ve been using Scrivener for many, many years.

[00:19:49] Kristina: Yeah, I got it I think in 2015, just as we moved into this place. And I genuinely would never have finished writing a book if it wasn’t for Scrivener. Because when I started in 2015, I didn’t write it chronologically. And so that meant having a lot of Word files sitting on my hard drive. And because I’m not particularly organised, it’s easy for those things to get lost. But if I know that they’re in Scrivener, I can just like move them around where they fit in the end. And kind of, as my writing process has changed, Scrivener has adapted with me. And that’s one of the things that I really like about it is that how it’s very, very versatile.

[00:20:25] Kristina: Um, it does have a steep learning curve, but that’s why I’ve got guides and The Writers Cookbook on how to use it. And I also wrote a blog post on there, it’s a few years old now, but it’s something about how Scrivener changed my life, because it genuinely did. Like it’s not hyperbole when I say that, I would not be a published author if it wasn’t for Scrivener.

[00:20:42] Ellie: That’s, uh, quite the review.

[00:20:45] Kristina: Well, like one of the big things to me was the fact that you can compartmentalise. So you’re, you can work on one scene at a time. And from my brain, that’s a lot less intimidating than 50,000 words and seeing what’s above and below it, just focusing on that one scene is just so much easier.

[00:21:03] Ellie: Yeah, because before I got Scrivener, I was a mix between I think Google docs and Word, and it’s so much harder to manage such a big project in a software, a piece of software, that is just not designed to do that. Um, like constantly scrolling back and forth. And you can have headers and stuff in there, but you can’t just pick stuff up and move around quite as easily.

[00:21:28] Ellie: Um, and you can’t, like I like the features in Scrivener, I like it shows you your daily word counter. It shows you your total word count at the top. You can add notes, you can add comments. You can, this, you can have different sections for your character information. Everything is in one place.

[00:21:45] Kristina: Yeah. And that makes life infinitely easier because you won’t lose anything.

[00:21:49] Kristina: One of the other writing programmes that I like for the same reason is Plot Factory. And Plot Factory is kind of like across between Scrivener a plotting course, because you can write on it. But the real beauty of it is that it holds your hand when it comes to plotting. So it teaches you different structures, and then you can fit your plot around those structures and spot the gaps as you’re doing it.

[00:22:12] Kristina: And it’s really good for fantasy and sci-fi as well, because you can keep all your world-building there, and it has guides to help you with your world-building, it has questions for you to fill in that will allow you to fill out your world, your characters and even special objects. Like, because, you don’t always think about it, but objects do play quite a big role in things like fantasy.

[00:22:31] Kristina: Like if you’ve got a particular amulet, or a wand, or tree, or whatever, it helps to know those characteristics and be able to refer back to them in a really easy place. So that’s one of the things I love about Plot Factory. It’s just got so much stuff on plotting and I’ve just come to realise how much more organised it has helped me to be. And when I went back and changed the plot from my Aussie romance, which I haven’t drafted yet, but that’s not the point, I’d already got it in Plot Factory. And it was a lot easier to change it in Plot Factory, because it’s got like drag and drop scene things in that you fill in. I know I’m really descriptive with what I call things. And that just makes it so much easier when you do make those changes and rearrange things when you’re outlining,

[00:23:16] Ellie: I admit, I’ve not actually used Plot Factory myself. But, it sounds really intuitive

[00:23:22] Kristina: It is, it’s really clever. And like I say, it really does hold your hand. So it’s particularly good if you’re just starting out because it’s got those guides and it asks those questions that you’ve probably not considered, but that will make your life easier further down the line.

[00:23:37] Ellie: Speaking of further down the line. One of the things that I list here is your little Apple Books, editing technique.

[00:23:44] Kristina: Yeah, so a lot of people, when they come to a certain point in editing, they will print a book off and they will annotate it by hand. And the reason for this is because you read it differently when you print it in, um, and have a physical version in front of you.

[00:24:01] Kristina: Because it’s a different medium, it’s sometimes a different font, it’s a different background. And so your brain will processes as if it’s new material. And I don’t have a great track record with printers. And also, I don’t really want to use that much paper. Just don’t. It feels expensive and not very eco-friendly.

[00:24:16] Kristina: So instead what I do, what I’ve done for all of my books, is I export them into apple books and I’ll read them as an ebook, the same as 95% of my readers do. And that still allows me to read it differently as a complete book. And I can change things like the background colour, so often read on a black background. I can change the font. So I could go for a Serif font to double check things like the quotation marks are pointing in the right direction. And if you’ve written in, say, a Serif font, you can change it to a Sans Serif font. And so without the little flicks on the end of the word, your brain is immediately reading it as if it’s entirely new material.

[00:24:51] Kristina: And this can really help you pick up on all sorts of things. And then you can leave annotations on it, the same as you would in the margins of a physical book. And the beauty of doing it in Apple Books is that it will automatically sync between devices. So I used to sometimes do it on my tablet when I was at home and then I would do some on the tram on the way home on my phone, and then have the notes on my laptop, ready to put back into Scrivener when I was ready to make those changes, once I’d gone all the way through it.

[00:25:22] Kristina: So like sometimes if I thought something, thought of like a bit more internal monologue to add item, for example, I typed that up on my phone or tablet and then copy and paste it straight into Scrivener. And then the job’s done. And sometimes it just makes life so much easier to be able to do that and have everything sync across. Like, um, annoyingly my tablet is too old to sync with my Mac now, or with my phone, but I don’t wanna replace it because it’s a nice size and it still works.

[00:25:49] Kristina: So I’ve been hijacking my boyfriend’s tablet instead. And that doesn’t sync across either, but it’s got a big enough screen that I can just have it kind of sitting on my desk instead. And it’s got a pen, which is quite satisfying.

[00:25:58] Ellie: I think one of the things when it comes to editing is that worry that you are just gonna, you know it so well, you’re not even gonna pay attention. You’re only half reading it in your head, having that function where, like you said, changing fonts and stuff to completely throw your brain off, must make editing a lot more thorough.

[00:26:16] Kristina: It does. And the other thing that really helps is reading it backwards. So you start a like chapter 37 and finished at chapter one, and then you’re no longer focused on the story, you’re looking more at like the typos and the description and things, and it is actually insane the things that you can pick up on. Like I specifically remember in The Mummy’s Curse, Niamh had an injury and that was added in a subplot towards the end of the process. And it’s because I read it backwards I realised that in the last few chapters the rib injury had disappeared and I had to add it back in.

[00:26:46] Ellie: That’s good to know. It’s good to know. I’m a, I do remember reading this, like why is she okay now? Why is she not bothered by this injury?

[00:26:56] Kristina: I don’t think you read that version.

[00:26:57] Ellie: Really? I remember having conversations with you about it.

[00:26:59] Kristina: We definitely talked about it, but the rib injury was added in after you had the beta version.

[00:27:05] Ellie: I don’t know. Maybe I’m just imagining things.

[00:27:08] Ellie: Next on our list is world-building. Now world-building, I know you’ve had a love-hate relationship with.

[00:27:14] Kristina: No, I just hate it. It’s not a love-hate, I hate it. Writing fantasy has not changed the fact that I hate world-building. It is stuff my brain does not want to do. I find it boring. I do not like books that prioritise it either. Nothing is going to change my mind. Don’t like it.

[00:27:30] Ellie: I’ve think, I think good world building is worthwhile though. I think even though you hate it, your fantasy books are stronger for having invested some time in world-building

[00:27:44] Kristina: Oh, definitely. And you’ve just said something that made my brain realise what it classes as good world-building, which is what you don’t see.

[00:27:52] Kristina: You don’t realise what the writer is describing as world-building. Like in a lot of the crime books I write, I read sorry, are actually quite heavy on world-building, but you don’t notice because it’s in the description of how like the characters interact and their processes and t he location that they’re in, you don’t see it.

[00:28:07] Kristina: Whereas a lot of the fancy world-building that I think adult books in particular are bad for is spending three pages writing about the history of a sword. That’s the stuff I don’t care for.

[00:28:15] Ellie: Which is fine. And I don’t think that should be included either to be honest with you. It might be stuff that it’s worthwhile the author knowing if it comes up later, but it’s just going to slow the story down. Like specifically good world-building then, you have to include it in your book.

[00:28:31] Ellie: Why is it important? Why is it on our list here to do it as soon as possible.

[00:28:37] Kristina: I think if you do upfront, it just makes the process infinitely easier. Because when I worked on The Ghost’s Call, I was treating it more like writing a TV series, because that’s how my brain works. It visualises things. Um, and so a lot of the world-building you think like to a TV show, like Charmed or Lost Girl, sometimes they won’t answer the questions until the episode calls for it, right? And the writers probably didn’t know how X, Y, and Z worked. And that’s how you get as many plot holes as there are in Charmed. Still love it, but there are plot holes. So one thing that you and Alexa really pushed me on was the world-building and Alexa in particular was, to know this stuff up front so that I don’t shoot myself in the foot, I don’t get stuck, I don’t contradict myself, I don’t get confused, I don’t forget stuff. And also I can foreshadow things more easily as well. And I think that’s been the really fun thing for me is being able to foreshadow things for the first time.

[00:29:30] Kristina: Cause I haven’t been able to do that quite as much with my other two series, because in What Happens in… I didn’t plan quite that far ahead. I had a vague idea, but not enough of one. And in Hollywood Gossip, everyone knew vaguely what was going to happen anyway. So it didn’t really feel like I could foreshadow things, because if you already know how it’s going to end, it it’s a lot harder.

[00:29:50] Kristina: But with The Ghost’s Call and the series in general, I can drop in little hints about X and Y. Little breadcrumbs to see if the reader figures it out. And it’s always really interesting when I get notes back from people who don’t know the plot before the book goes live. And I always ask my betas, like, what do you think is going to happen? Or who do you think is behind this? Just to see if they’re on the right tracks and if I’ve left enough bread crumbs, but enough also to kind of plant that doubt in their mind.

[00:30:16] Ellie: Exactly. World-building isn’t just the fantasy elements necessarily, it’s creating the universe, right? And how things fit together. And like you said, a lot of that doesn’t have to be on the page, word for word, but it comes out on the page. And if you know it in advance, it means you can build up to extra things.

[00:30:35] Kristina: Exactly.

[00:30:37] Ellie: Just fuck up their lives even more.

[00:30:40] Ellie: The other thing I put on here as well, which I think is important to do before, to do a lot of before you come to writing, is getting to know your character.

[00:30:48] Ellie: Because obviously there are books out there anyway, that tell you how important it is to have good characters. You know, readers want to read good characters. Kristina has a book on this, but I don’t know if you’ve heard that. Actually I covered my mouth from the mic. Kristina has a book on this. But, um, and obviously that’s true. I’m not, I’m not saying that’s not the reason I put this on here because it is 100% true. I’ve heard many people talk about only finishing a book or even a series because of the characters, not just the plot. So that’s important anyway.

[00:31:22] Ellie: But I think if you can do a lot of your characterisation beforehand, if you can really get to know your characters, and their motivations, and what they want from life, and you know who they are as a person, maybe some of that backstory, their childhood, et cetera, you can already predict how they’re going to behave in certain situations. So when it comes to writing a particular scene, without having to think about it, you would go, oh no, I know exactly how Alex is going to react in this because she hates X, Y, and Z. And, um, she’s also scared of this. So things like that.

[00:31:56] Ellie: In doing that, in knowing how your characters are going to react and how they feel about various different aspects of the plot that’s coming up, means that you can write that faster, I think. Um, and if not faster than at least more accurately the first time around, or the second time around or whatever, you’re going to get to the right version of that scene quicker if you know your characters better.

[00:32:19] Kristina: And it makes the edits easier as well, because you can go back through and go, no, they wouldn’t phrase that sentence like that. Like I was going through, um, The Witch’s Sacrifice and there’s a line that Dominic says, and I’m like, that really doesn’t fit his character. He sounds about 90. He’s 19. It did not fit at all. And so when you know your characters, like you say, it does just make the whole thing easier. And also I think it can make plotting easier as well.

[00:32:44] Ellie: Yeah, exactly. Because you may have your main plot points that have to happen, but your characters, reacting to them is what keeps readers going, right? If they’re invested in the character.

[00:32:54] Kristina: And a lot of the time they can influence what that plot is in the first place. Because like, um, Edie is 17 and the way she responds to something is going to be very different to the way her 40 year old mother responds, or, Ben who’s a 35 year old librarian witch, you know? They’re all going to bring their own take on a situation. And Edie is going to be a lot more empathetic. Niamh is going to be more impulsive and Ben’s going to be a lot more methodical. And those different mindsets do matter and they do influence the story.

[00:33:24] Ellie: If you were to go in and write a scene without having established those facts beforehand, even if they’re just established in your own head, obviously. If you were to try and write a scene without having established that first, it’s going to be very flat. It’s going to be very boring. It’s not going to have the personalities of those individual characters coming through, but if you already know what that’s going to be, it’s going to feel natural to write them in the right way.

[00:33:49] Kristina: Exactly.

[00:33:50] Kristina: So, the last one. It’s the sort of elephant in the room.

[00:33:56] Ellie: The elephant in the room It’s the elephant in the room that I have lost track of how many episodes we’ve mentioned it in, um, because it’s such a, an important elephant.

[00:34:05] Kristina: It is. And it’s the thing, like, it is genuinely doing this podcast that changed my point of view. Talking to people like Elizabeth Spann Craig, Matty Dalrymple, and hearing their processes. And the fact that they write similar things to me, with ghosts and mysteries and stuff like that, it made me go, well, maybe I should try this because they’ve been doing this longer than I have.

[00:34:28] Ellie: Just erm, just to interrupt you slightly, we should probably tell people that we’re talking about outlining. Cause we haven’t mentioned that yet.

[00:34:34] Kristina: I was getting to that,

[00:34:36] Ellie: But we just called it an elephant!

[00:34:39] Kristina: I was doing a dramatic build up! You ruined my dramatic build up. Yes, we are discussing outlining. Yeah, they do very extensive outlines. I’m not going to be doing something that extensive. But I have found that when I do an outline, it makes my process much more organised because I’m doing the problem solving before I sit down to write. Again, I can foreshadow even more. And I outlined books five and six in the Afterlife Calls series back to back. And originally the ending of book six was going to be the ending of book five. That’s what happened when I did my post-it notes. Cause I do the post-it notes first and then I flesh it out into an outline.

[00:35:13] Kristina: And when I did the outline for book five, I was like, this ending doesn’t work. It feels really like forced. And then when I was working on book six, I felt like it was a much better ending for book six because it was… bigger feels like the wrong word, but it kind of is because otherwise book five would have felt like I was ending it twice, which is a bit shit. Whereas book six then has a dramatic climax that just fits much better.

[00:35:36] Kristina: And if I hadn’t outlined it, I wouldn’t have realized that. And I would have been quite far into the writing process of book five, I think before I realise that. And I’m, how many what’s book on book five, now? I think I’ve got about 30,000 on book five, maybe more. And it’s the first time that I’ve written a book out of all 19 that I’ve done that it feels like a book from the first draft. And I’ve never had that before. Usually is a collection of random scenes that I need to organise and flesh out. Whereas here, yeah, there are a few that need fleshing out, because I couldn’t be arsed to write that day, but for the most part I’ve written it chronologically, and I’ve gone into a lot more detailed than I would have done had I not had the subplots and the actual plot written down and already organised in the outline. Because we’ve discussed like subplots in the past and how my brain doesn’t like them, right? It’s the same as side quests in games. My brain wants to get to the main plot and get that done out of the way. And the side quests and the subplots, as much as I enjoy reading a sub plot, I don’t enjoy writing them as much. But if I’ve already weaved them into the narrative via an outline, my brain doesn’t hate them quite so much, because they’re already there and I’m not trying to figure out what it is, if that makes sense.

[00:36:52] Ellie: Absolutely. Putting in that time planning beforehand, you’re obviously getting a lot out of that because it means the book’s coming out stronger more quickly, as you said with booked five. But also, I imagine, like we said before, you’re, you’re going to be writing faster as well, right? Instead of having you sit down to write, instead of thinking, what the hell am I doing today? You already have a plan of what’s next, and can jump straight into the writing part of writing. Because there’s many parts to writing.

[00:37:19] Kristina: There is. And it’s like, my outline isn’t perfect. I very cleverly did not go back through it and check it before I actually started writing the book. So I did realise some scenes that I had written an outline for didn’t have enough depth and I got a bit stuck. And a couple of them didn’t have enough happening for them to be genuine standalone scenes.

[00:37:38] Kristina: But it’s a learning curve, right?

[00:37:40] Kristina: And I had to go through those 19 books that didn’t have this process before I got here because my brain wasn’t ready for it. And I know that sounds like a lot of books to go through for my brain to be ready for it. But my brain is incredibly chaotic. So forcing it to be organized, causes me physical discomfort.

[00:38:01] Kristina: And so I needed to see how it affected or the writers first before my brain would consider it.

[00:38:07] Ellie: That makes perfect sense. I don’t think it’s any way negative that is taken this many books to get the process down because, as we keep telling everyone, we’re constantly learning as writers, and adapting as writers, and we should be, that’s a good and healthy thing. So I think it’s good for you that you took, you’ve taken that time instead of trying to be the best you can be straight from the start or trying to be perfect from start. I think, knowing that, well for you having seen it work and knowing that it works, pushed you to try it. So hopefully we can push up the people to try it too.

[00:38:40] Ellie: I’m trying it. I, as our lovely writers will know, I am currently on my very first book. So just, just a little bit less than you. So my process for now is I’m trying outlining, I’m trying to do as much planning and everything as I can. But I, I can’t do it perfectly and I should not expect that of myself. One of the things I said to you the other day was I need to realise that this is my process for now, but it’s not going to be my process forever because I’m going to keep adapting and getting better at writing books.

[00:39:12] Kristina: And it’s not just that as well. Your life circumstances will influence your writing process as well. Because my pain changed my writing process.

[00:39:21] Ellie: Yeah, that’s very true.

[00:39:23] Kristina: What I learned about my brain over the last year has changed my writing process. And it’s not just getting better. Sometimes your plots are going to be weaker than others. I know I have some books that aren’t as strong as some of my earlier ones. And that’s just the way it is it. Yes, it is a case of continuous improvement, but rollercoasters are not a straight line.

[00:39:42] Ellie: That’s a good point. That’s a good point.

[00:39:44] Kristina: The healing process is not a straight line.

[00:39:47] Ellie: No, definitely not.

[00:39:48] Kristina: Just ask my foot.

[00:39:52] Ellie: I will not be having any further conversations with your foot, thank you very much.

[00:39:55] Kristina: Fine.

[00:39:57]

[00:39:57]

[00:40:01] Ellie: If you enjoyed The Writer’s Mindset podcast, we’d be super grateful if you could leave us a rating or review on the podcast platform of your choice. Or if you’re on YouTube, make sure you like and subscribe.

[00:40:10] Kristina: It really helps with the writers find us so that we can help them achieve their wildest writing dreams, too.

[00:40:15] Ellie: And don’t forget if you’d like early access to our episodes, a chance to submit questions for our guests and to listen to our new bonus series mentioned earlier, HEALTHY HABITS, come join us over on Patreon at patreon.com/writersmindset. We’ve got a lot of big things planned, but we can only do them with your support.

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[00:40:41] Ellie: See you next time.

[00:40:42] Kristina: Keep writing.

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