Unlock Your Creativity – From the authors themselves – Sue Johnson
Sue Johnson is a published poet, short story writer and novelist. She also creates books aimed at helping other writers. Her first novel ‘Fable’s Fortune’ was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2011. They are also publishing her second novel ‘The Yellow Silk Dress’ and her first full collection of poetry ‘Tasting Words, Hearing Colours.’ Sue is a Writers’ News Home Study Tutor and also runs her own brand of writing workshops.
What’s the best way for a writer juggle their personal and writing life? Ordinary life often gets in the way of a planned structured day. Any tips? I have always had a minimum amount of writing that I aim to do – typically a minimum of 500 words on my current work in progress plus my ‘poem a day’ (something I pledged to do after a couple of glasses of wine on New Year’s Eve 2012 and have kept up ever since). I had three children in less than five years so I’m used to making the most of small fragments of time. My best advice is to carry a notebook wherever you go and just be prepared to grab an opportunity – you can write a lot in three minutes.
What can a writer do to overcome ‘writer’s block?’ I am fortunate never to have suffered from writer’s block and I think this is because I’ve always got several projects on the go at any one time – both fiction and non fiction. If one thing isn’t working out, then I switch to something else. I reward myself for having done something – irrespective of what it is.
What should a writer look out for when deciding if their manuscript is the best it can possibly be before releasing it to an agent/publisher/the public? I would always suggest putting a manuscript away for a few weeks and then coming back to it as if you haven’t seen it before. Read it aloud – preferably when there’s nobody else in the house. You’ll spot any bits that drag or don’t sound quite right. Don’t stop reading, but mark those bits and re-check them later. Before submitting your novel, double check for things like spelling and grammar and also things like time shifts and the chronology of the book e.g. make sure a pregnancy doesn’t last longer than nine months!
How can a writer be prepared for, and deal with rejection? Rejections are never nice – however long you’ve been writing. I make a point of having lots of pieces of work in circulation at any one time – usually between 40 and 50. (These can be poems, articles, short stories, flash fiction as well as novels). American writer Jodi Thomas says you should reward yourself for every rejection you get because it proves you are a writer! I aim to send a rejected piece of work out again within a week.
How should a writer deal with negative reviews about their book? There will always be people who give negative reviews. I’m never sure what they get out of writing them! My best advice is to concentrate on the nice ones you get. Pin the best ones above your desk and follow that energy. Don’t allow the good work you’ve done to be undermined by somebody who you probably wouldn’t get on with if you did happen to meet them.
Can you share with us some of the helpful advice/tips featured in your book -‘Unlock Your Creativity? ‘Unlock Your Creativity: a 21 day sensory workout for writers’ published by Compass Books is my first co-written book with writer and artist Val Andrews. (My other two books aimed at helping writers are: ‘Creative Alchemy: 12 steps from inspiration to finished novel’ published by HotHive Books and ‘Surfing the Rainbow: visualization and chakra balancing for writers’ published by Compass Books). The ‘Unlock Your Creativity’ book and the courses Val and I run focus on what is holding a person back (very often negative messages from the past) and how they can create positive affirmations to keep themselves on track. The book contains 21 days of sensory exercises that can be done in any order. The message of the book is ‘believe in yourself and the story you wish to create – and keep going until you succeed.’
Can you share any valuable websites/magazines/blogs for authors in respect of tips, help and advice? There are a huge number of helpful books, websites, magazines and blogs to keep writers on track. I’ve always been greatly inspired by the work of Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg. I also enjoy Writing Magazine, Writers’ Forum and The New Writer. I follow a number of blogs –
Kath McGurl, Simon Whaley and Morton Gray. My Facebook friends are also a great source of inspiration.
Any tips in respect of getting the synopsis right? A synopsis is the ‘selling document’ for the book so it needs to give a good flavour of it. I usually begin by creating a back cover ‘blurb’ (sticking to the main plot line) and make sure I’ve mentioned who the story is about, what is special about them, where the story is set and what the final outcome is. Use the senses – include a fragment or two of dialogue. Check that it’s attention- grabbing by putting it away for at least a week. Then re-read it. If it doesn’t make you feel as if you’d like to read the first chapter, then you need to do some more work on it.
Any tips on marketing and creating a fan base?Take any opportunity you can to give your book a mention. Think layers! Build a following on social media before your book is published. Have postcards and/or book marks made of your cover. Send those to as many different places as possible – e.g. post them to friends in other parts of the country. Contact your local papers and radio station. Do a talk in your library or for local W I groups or Writers Circles. Set up a website or blog and add regular posts. Form a network of writing friends so that you can help and encourage each other.
Lastly, can you share with us about what your usual writing day is like When and where I write will depend on whether I’m running a workshop that day. I tend to work in short snatches – spending no longer than an hour on the computer at any one time. In between, I fit in bits of housework, a daily walk or yoga session and meeting friends for coffee. I’m often awake at 3 a.m. scribbling down ideas – if anyone else is awake at that time, maybe we should form a group!
Unlock Your Creativity Blog: http://unlockyourcreativity.wordpress.com
Sue’s Top Ten Tips
* Carry a notebook wherever you go – and use it!
* Write every day – even if you only manage five minutes.
* Use the senses – give your reader the full experience!
* Be prepared to re-write … and re-write… and re-write.
* Read work aloud to yourself – you’ll spot any dodgy bits
* Finish what you start – however bad you think it is. Tidy up later.
* Don’t look to your family or non-writing friends for proper criticism
* Don’t take rejection personally – keep trying
* Trust your own judgement – if you like something, stick with it!
* 1% effort each day = 100% of something in just over a month.