Category Archive: The writer’s journey

  1. 2016 Favourites

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    I think we can all agree 2016 has had its share of ups and downs. From a personal standpoint, the last twelves months have been a big for me. It was my first year as a full time writer, I hit the USA Today bestseller list, was nominated for an industry award with the Romance Writers of Australia, and signed my first ever book deal at auction. I listed some of these things, as well as other bits and bobs from my year over on the Lovecats Downunder blog.

    Since I don’t want to double up from that blog post, I thought it would be fun to share my favourite things from 2016…

    TV Shows…

    I’ve never been a big TV watcher in the past, I think because I couldn’t seem to remember when shows were on and would always miss episodes or lose interest. Thanks to streaming, I now watch a little more TV. It’s my fave way to unwind after the workday with my husband. Here are my favourites from last year:

    • Game of Thrones – OMG I love this show so much. I was very late to the bandwagon, and didn’t start watching until season 5 was already out. But now I’m all caught up and can say it’s hands-down one of the best shows I’ve ever watched.
    • Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Hilarious, and definitely not my normal style. But I have a huge crush on Andy Samberg. True fact.
    • Better Call Saul – this is filling my drama needs post Breaking Bad. Saul is a fantastic character, and I’ve always had a soft spot for Mike.
    • The Good Place – wacky, off-beat and totally unique. My kind of comedy.

     

    Books…

    My goal is generally to read about 50 books a year, close to one per week. While I do read a lot of romance, I also enjoy YA (particularly fantasy and dystopian stories), any kind of survival story, crime, thrillers, and post apocalyptic fiction. These are my top picks for what I read in 2016 (if you want to see the whole list, you can see my Goodreads 2016 shelf)…

    • Wrong by Jana Aston hilarious, sexy contemporary romance. I read A LOT in this genre and this book totally stood apart from the crowd.shadow-and-bone_hi-res-677x1024
    • Barbarian Alien by Ruby Dixon if someone had told me I would fall head over heels for this series, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m not huge into sci-fi so I thought the whole alien hero thing wouldn’t be my jam. WRONG! These books are fun, steamy and I can’t get enough of them.
    • Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo  Fabulous high-fantasy YA trilogy with a Russian bent. These kept me turning the pages like crazy. I read the first two books in 2016 and can’t recommend them enough.
    • Girl Underwater by Claire Kells I’m not sure how to categorize this book, other than to say it’s about girl who survives a plane crash and it’s told in alternating chapters of the past and present day. A short read, but very gripping. Loved it.

     

    Makeup…

    I’m a total makeup junkie. Always have been, always will be.

    • Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara I’m hard on mascara – I want it to volumize, lengthen, separate and be the blackest of blacks. I’ll toss a new mascara out within the first month because I can’t tolerate shitty lashes. It’s serious business, folks. This mascara is everything – great brush, great formula, great staying power. Total winner.14520491_1804562526423874_8682631664677604818_n
    • Colourpop Ultra Satin Lip liquid lipsticks best liquid lipstick formula on the market and they’re only $6USD. Unlike a lot of liquid lippies, these don’t dry your lips out. They’re not 100% transfer proof, but the staying power is fantastic. Personal favourite shades include London Fog (Pictured) and Alyssa.
    • Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Liner I will be wearing glitter until the end of my days, that’s a promise. This is glitter without the hassle. It’s a liner, but works great dabbed over eyeshadow for a glittery look without the need for a glitter adhesive. Midnight Cowboy is personal fave.
    • Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer (or NYX Angel Veil primer for a budget-friendly option) this is a silky-finish primer that takes out shine and smoothes over pores to allow your foundation to lay more smoothly on your skin. Makes a good foundation look great. Definitely a staple in my makeup kit.

     

    Honourable mentions: Tarte Rainforest of the Sea foundation, Essie Gel Couture nail polishes, Milani Rose Powder blush, Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow kit in Gleam, Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder, and Laura Merceir Matte Radiance Baked Powder.

    Random…

    Awesome other things from 2016 that don’t have their own category.

    • Lapsang Souchong tea – I’m a sucker for anything smoky and while I’ve had this tea in the past, I rediscovered it in 2016.
    • My Macbook Pro – it’s light and sexy. ’nuff said.
    • Avocado and feta on toast – this will always be a favourite! Actually, I could just say avocado is a favourite full stop.
    • Visiting my family back in Australia – I spent a month back home and it was so good. Much needed.
    • Chicken and waffles – it shouldn’t work, but it does.
    • Getting my Canadian Permanent Residency – yaaay to not being kicked out of the country!

     

    Those were a few of my favourite things from 2016. What were yours? Let me know if you had a favourite book, TV show or something else from last year in the comments below.

  2. Saying goodbye to Blaze

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    As some of you may already be aware, Harlequin has announced the closure of its Blaze category line. (If you haven’t heard this news, Dear Author has posted the official announcement.)

    Obviously, this is a sad not only for me personally, but for all the people who currently write for Blaze and for our wonderful readers. Blaze was a line that got me hooked one some of the writers who’ve inspired me greatly (like Sarah Mayberry, Jill Shalvis and Leslie Kelly). I love their steamy sex scenes, fun settings and concentrated, addictive romances.

    Blaze will finish up in June 2017. This means some changes to my series and, of course, a little uncertainty. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through a line closing. 2c26b51f42e195a85487e1b524bccfa0In fact, I blogged about it last November. I said something then, which remains true now:

    It’s easy to let the fear overwhelm you. But writing is my life…

    Therefore, this change won’t stop me writing. Nor will it slow me down. My husband and I joke that I’m a good mix between both Pinky and The Brain, but less evil…when I’m not torturing my heroes, that is.

    But I did want to write to all my wonderful readers and let you know what this change means for my Dangerous Bachelors Club series.  As it stands there will be four books:

     

    There is a possibility of a 5th book to come out as a Blaze, but I don’t want to promise that in case it doesn’t happen. I know many readers were waiting for Owen’s story, in particular. I will do my best to give him the HEA he deserves in whatever format that might be. So stay tuned, and once I know more I will update you.

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    While I’m sad to see Blaze go, I understand that in this industry change is the only constant. As always, my focus is on writing the best stories I can, improving my craft and reaching as many people as possible with the message that a happy ever after is possible.

  3. The Year Ahead…

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    It’s mid-way through February and I’ve barely stopped since J and I got back from Europe. There were copy edits, proofs and final bits and pieces for Loving the Odds which is out next month. I’m also working on the third book in the Dangerous Bachelors Club series for Harlequin Blaze (yes, this series finally has a name!!) So there has been lots of BIGFAT time (BIGFAT = Butt Is Glued Fingers Are Typing, which I’ve borrowed from my old writer’s group back home).

    Plus, J and I are going through the process of applying for Permanent Residency here in Canada. It’s hard to believe our two-year Visas are going to be done so soon and we’re not quite ready to leave. Thankfully, that process is going well so far.

    That has meant that planning for the year has taken a bit of a backseat, as has this blog. But here’s what’s going on in 2016:

    • The Dangerous Bachelor’s Club series is contracted to be six books long, so I’ll be working on the next few installments of that. I’m so excited to flesh out the world I created last year and also to give HEAs to the characters you met in A Dangerously Sexy Christmas.
    • I’ve started working on a new series for Entangled Indulgence, which surrounds a wealthy Australian family who run a department store company. The first book has been drafted and (bonus!) the heroine is Emmaline Greene, whom you met in The Rules According to Gracie (Behind the Bar book #1). A lot of readers wanted to know if poor Emmaline would get her own HEA after what happened to her in that book. Good news is, yes! I wasn’t going to leave her hanging ;)
    • Speaking of the Behind the Bar series…I’m toying with writing a third book. If you read Pretend It’s Love then you may remember Noah, who was Des’s groomsman and practically-adopted brother. I just can’t seem to leave this world behind.

    In terms of non-writing stuff that’s happening this year:

    • I’m going back home for a visit!! I love living in Canada and being able to travel, but it’s been almost two years since I left and I miss my family a lot. I also miss Australian coffee and smashes avo on toast. So, I’m killing two birds with one stone ;)
    • I’ve set up my Goodreads challenge at 60 books for the year. It’s been a slow start, but after I’ve met my latest deadline I’m going to spend a week catching up. Plus I’ll have that super-long 35-hour travel time to and from Australia in May, which should help.
    • I’m getting back into making YouTube videos are a little unexpected downtime with my channel. I was a beauty blogger and vlogger before I started writing fiction, so I really enjoy making chatty videos and helping other on their writing journey.

    Speaking of which, here’s my latest video and my first one for 2016! I recently participated on a romance author panel and I had such a wonderful time, I thought I would share some of the common questions that I get asked about my work and about being a romance author.

  4. 1 Year Anniversary or is it happy birthday?

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    ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET cover medThis day last year, my very first book came out. I’d gotten the call about 7-8 months earlier and the time had flown with more revisions, copy edits and milestone after milestone. By the time the book hit shelves I had already quit my job, moved out of my home and mu husband and I were doing a short stint living with my parents before the big move to Canada.

    So much can change in only a year. I’m incredibly grateful to the people who’ve supported me along the way. My husband and family who’ve supported me through it all, the first writing group I ever had at the MRWG, both of the RWAs, my crit partner, Lauren, and all the friends I’ve made along the way. Everyone who’s bought, read and/or reviewed my book.

    Thank you. To all those people who took a chance on me and my book, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support is everything to me.

    Being a new author is exciting but it isn’t easy. You’re an unknown, a risk. Many readers stick to their old faithfuls, their auto-buy authors, the choice they are certain will deliver value for their hard-earned money.Quote2

    Now, what’s going on for the next year? So. Many. Things.

    • The first book in my new small-town romance series, A Kiss in Kite Harbor, comes out this month. Pre-order details can be found here.
    • I’m already working on the next book in this series!
    • The second book in my Behind the Bar series, Let’s Pretend it’s Love, will be coming out (this is the follow up to The Rules According to Gracie).
    • My first book with Harlequin Blaze, A Dangerously Sexy Christmas, will be out in November, this one features a mystery surrounding a missing diamond, a hot Aussie ex-cop and a jewellery designer.
    • The Blaze book had turned into a miniseries and I’m working on the second book for this one too! Watch out for the secondary characters in the first one to see who’s getting their HEA next ;)

    Personally, I hope the next year is filled with travel, writing, family, friends and love….and Netflix. Girl’s gotta relax at some
    point, right?

    So thank you again to those who’ve supported me. It means the world to me.

    Does anyone else find it frightening that a year can fly by in the blink of an eye?  I hope this past twelve months has brought you much happiness.

  5. Finding time to write

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    Finding time in your busy schedule to write can be a daunting task. How is it possible to juggle work, family, chores and personal time while still being able to work on your manuscript?

    I won’t lie, it’s not always easy. But hopefully these tips will help you you to find the best time to write and be consistent in getting your butt into that chair and your fingers on the keyboard.

  6. Writing a continuity

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    My latest book with Harlequin Mills & Boon, The Tycoon’s Stowaway, is out now in Australia and the UK*!

    I’ll be honest, sometimes I struggle with what to write about on release day. I want to talk about my books (obvs, they’re my babies!) but at the same time I want to share little bits of my life with my readers and ensure that what I’m writing about is of interest. I also don’t want to be that author that only posts links to her books on Amazon (’cause I hate that style of ‘marketing’ too).

    So…that leaves me with today’s post.

    The Tycoon’s Stowaway was my first experience participating in a continuity with Harlequin. If you haven’t heard this term before a continuity is basically a series of books with connected characters usually set around a common theme or setting. Harlequin LOVES a good continuity, they appear in many of their series lines. You might have seen The Chatsfield continuity which is from the Presents line or one of my personal favourites, The Wedding Season from Harlequin’s KISS series.

    Continuities are great because you often get a sneak peek at the heroes and heroines of previous books after their HEA, which is always fun.

    Here’s a little about the Sydney’s Most Eligible continuity:

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    Book #1 – Her boss by day – Joss Wood
    Book #2 – The Millionaire’s Proposition – Avril Tremayne
    Book #3 – The Tycoon’s Stowaway – Stefanie London
    Book #4 – The Hotel Magnate’s Demand – Jennifer Rae

    The set up for these stories is a group of friends who all met whilst working in the beautiful Whitsundays Weeping Reef resort. Friendships and relationships were forged until one night it all came to a head and the group was torn apart. Now, eight years later, it’s reunion time. Let the fireworks begin!

    Writing in a continuity world

    Easily the best thing about writing in this continuity was the opportunity to collaborate with authors that I admire and respect. I adore Joss Wood’s books and reading her early work for KISS was what made me want to write for that line. Avril and I received ‘The Call’ on the same day and our first two books came out together as duos, so we’ve been on this crazy journey together. I remember seeing when Jen Rae got her call and watching with awe as her first book came out, hoping that one day that would be me.

    Writing a continuity book isn’t easy, there are a lot of things to consider that when you’re writing a stand alone book you don’t have to take into consideration. Here are a few examples:

    • We were each writing to our own schedules meaning the first two books were being written ahead of when I was writing mine, but any appearances of my characters in the first two books still needed my attention. I had to know what they looked/sounded/talked/acted like before I’d even finished the other book I was working on
    • Keeping the facts straight can be hard enough with one book, but across multiple books with multiple authors it can be tough. There were a lot of conversations around the regular places the characters would go and what hair and eye colours they had etc.
    • Funny coincidences can pop up – in the first version of The Tycoon’s Stowaway my heroine, Chantal, had a different surname…which just so happened to be the exact surname Joss had chosen for one of her characters. Total coincidence.
    • We vetted scenes featuring one another’s characters to make sure the dialogue and actions were consistent across boooks

    My tips for anyone who’s thinking about writing connected books with other authors would be communication, communication, communication! We had a Yahoo loop set up so we could share conversations, pintrest links, character charts and chat about our books. It was a great help when it came for me to write the third book in the continuity.

    On the whole it was so much fun and I think it pushed me to improve my skills and attention to detail. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

    Have your ever read a Harlequin continuity before? Do you like to read all the books in order or do you just pick out your favourites/the ones that interest you?

    * The Tycoon’s Stowaway will be out in the USA and Canada in May 2015.

  7. Authors Dealing with – A Competitive Streak

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    A while ago I wrote a post called Authors Dealing with Doubt because it’s something close to my heart. I blog a lot about the emotional side of writing and, in all honesty, I don’t know if people find it helpful. Maybe people who come to my blog would prefer posts on how to get published or information on when the next book is coming out? Who knows.

    What I do know, however, is that having a career as an author is more than just getting words down on the page. To thrive in this type of career you need to understand that it’s not an easy path to take, and that it can take a toll on you mentally and emotionally. Thus, I decided to turn that one post into a series “Authors dealing with…” to look at the different emotional and mental challenges of being a writer.

    Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist or expert in this field. I’m simply one person who believes that talking about feelings is a positive thing. These are my opinions only.

    Authors Dealing with…a competitive streak

    I’ve recently discovered a game called Settlers of Catan. It’s a lot of fun, but playing board games with my husband and our friend (the three of us will happy play this for hours on end) can be a bit of a minefield. My husband is fiercely competitive and, while perhaps I’m not as forward about it, so am I.

    Settlers

    This competitive streak has both a negative and positive aspect. On the upside, the desire to win can fuel productivity and it can push you to work harder. But the downside is that a competitive streak can sometimes draw your focus and attention to the wrong things.

    Here’s something to consider: there’s room for everyone.

    Someone else’s success does not mean a set back for you. Sure, there are only a limited number of places on the best sellers lists or the finals for any writing competition. But focusing solely on competing with others is pointless. If you sat down to write each day while thinking about how to make your writing better than someone else’s writing would that make you feel creative? No. You want to better your writing for you (and for your readers) rather than to one-up another writer.

    Competitive people need to have a goal. Normally, that goal is to be the best/beat out the competitors. When it comes to writing the idea of ‘winning’ isn’t that cut and dry, and will be different for everyone. The key to harnessing your competitive side for a positive outcome is in the goals you set.

    Think about the goals you’ve set yourself as a writer:

    • Are all your goals focused purely on rankings? i.e. to be a #1 Amazon Best Seller, to win an award etc.
    • Do any of the goals rely on you competing with yourself? i.e. to secure an agent or publishing deal, to complete the first draft of your new project etc.

    This is not to say one type of goal is better than another, but if you have all goals be int he first category you’re focusing a lot of winning by beating others. Sometimes this comes from a need for validation from others, since those rankings are not determined by you. It’s a good idea to have a mix of goals across the two categories so that some focus on your placement in the industry and other focus on your work in relation to you alone.

    Some key things to remember if your competitive streak is getting you down or stealing your focus:

    • Other authors can be your allies rather than your competition, that choice is up to you
    • Competition is like chocolate, it’s good in small doses
    • Think about how you can compete with yourself, what’s your personal best and how can you beat it
    • You don’t need an NY Times Best Seller label to be successful, but you do need good books

    This is such a huge topic, and I feel like this only scratches the surface but hopefully it’s food for thought. Is this series something you’d be interested in? Are there any other topics you’d like me to blog about? I am open to suggestion and debate, as always xx

    Also, have you played Settlers of Catan?? Are you as addicted to it as I am?

  8. Release Day! A Day In The Life…

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    It release day for my new novella, The Rules According to Gracie! I’m so excited.

    Let’s all take a moment to admire the GORGEOUS cover….

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    Sigh. It’s perfect.

    Release day is one of the most exciting things an author gets to experience in their career. I’ll be honest, it can be darn frightening too! Will people love the new book? Will the connect with heroine and fall in love with the hero? Will the feel satisfied when they get to the HEA?

    To celebrate The Rules According to Gracie being released into the big, wide world I thought I would share what a typical day looks like when I’m writing. Back when I wrote this book I was still working full time in an office, but now I’m lucky enough to have scaled back to split my time between writing and working for MAC Cosmetics (which you might know if you’ve seen my makeup shots on Instagram).

    So what happens on a day when I’m writing?

    8am – I usually get up around this time (after my husband has left for work) and I start my day off with a cup of coffee or tea. It might not be the best habit but coffee makes me a better person. Trust me.

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    Coffee always tastes better out of a pretty cup!

    8:30am – time to check on my emails that have come in overnight. Since my family, friends and people I deal with are scattered all around the world, I often get emails while I’m sleeping. This is also a great time to check Facebook, Twitter and watch a few sneaky YouTube videos while I have breakfast.

    10am – Housework. Yep, it’s a pain in the butt. But I find setting aside a little time to do it each day stops it from piling up.

    11am – Non-writing writing work. This means working on promotions, checking in with other writer friends, looking at reviews, writing blog posts for my blog or the two blogs I’m a regular at (check out LoveCats DownUnder and The Pink Heart Society). I also use this time to do any critique work for my wonderful critique partner, Lauren.

    12:30pm – Lunch! I make lunch and usually eat at my desk (I know, I know….it’s a bad habit) and watch more YouTube videos or I keep working if I’m super flat out.

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    Hmmmm delicious Pho

    1:30pm – Time to start writing. I love listening to instrumental music while I write and I recently discovered the Vitamin String Quartet who do wonderful remakes of famous songs. I think all those years of studying ballet have made me love instrumental and classical music.

    4pm – More coffee. More writing.

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    Om nom nom

    6:00pm – Time to start dinner!

    7:30pm – Once we’ve had dinner I love to indulge in a little couch time with my husband. We’re currently watching Modern Family from the first season as well as Brooklyn Nine-Nine (I LOVE  Andy Samberg) and we’ll be finishing How To get Away with Murder when it finally comes back on.

    9pm – Time to have a shower and change into PJs! I try to read every night for an hour or so before I go to bed, but sometimes I come back to my desk and keep working if I feel extra inspired.

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    My PJs have legwarmers on the bottom just in case I need to bust out some moves in the bedroom…mind out of the gutter people!

    Each day is a little different depending on what I have going on. But I can easily say that spending my days writing and interacting with other authors and readers is the best job in the world!

    There are so many people who’ve contributed to helping me find my way as a writer and to reaching this point. A big thanks to all my wonderful writerly friends, to the fantastic people at Entangled for publishing The Rules According to Gracie and to my wonderful family.

    The biggest thanks for all goes to my wonderful husband for keeping me sane and believing in me at every turn. You make me happy beyond anything I could have ever hoped for <3

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  9. Reflection and Renewal

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    2014 has been a big year, to say the least.

    I published my first (and second) book, quit my job and moved to the other side of the world. I had no idea I would be here when I was making plans last New Year’s Eve. I set some goals for my writing and entered the new year riding the high of having been offered my first book contract, oblivious to the changes that were coming down the road.

    So it makes me wonder what 2015 will hold. More change? Possibly. More writing and book contracts? I hope so! But who knows…really?

    This year I not only want to continue chasing my dream of being a successful writer but I want to work on some of the things that have plagued me personally as well. I’m renewing my belief in the core things that matter to me: balance, relationships, productivity and living life with a positive intent.

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    • I want to find balance between all the things going on in my life – i.e. making time for all important things including my health, my family, my writing and travel
    • I want to be better able to disconnect from the ‘noise’ of being a writer  i.e. spending less time looking at (read: stressing over) reviews of Amazon and Good Reads, spending less time worrying that I’m not good enough at marketing and channeling that wasted time and energy into more important things
    • I want to be a positive presence in life whether it be online or inperson. I want to be able to give back to the people who have been so generous to me with their time, their guidance and their spirit.

    That’s it. I’m not going to make another resolution about losing weight or exercising more, I’m not going to focus on how many contracts I want. Rather I want to live my life a certain way I know everything else will fall into place.

    I hope you all have an amazing start to the New Year, may 2015 be the year of your dreams!

  10. Writers Dealing with – Doubt

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    Doubt is a horrible feeling. If you allow it, those thoughts can burrow deep and become part of your daily life.

    I’ll be honest, I’ve doubted myself through every step of the publishing journey. Every time I see a one or two star rating or review pop up on GoodReads I question whether my books will ever win an award or make a bestseller list. Every time I get stuck on a story I doubt I will make it to the end.

    From speaking to other writers it seems feelings of doubt are common. Getting published doesn’t make these feelings go away. Putting your work out there for the general public to judge is scary and overwhelming.

    The bad news is that feelings of doubt are natural and pretty much everyone experiences them at some point. The good news is that you can deal with doubt, you can do things to increase your belief in yourself and create an environment where you feel less creatively blocked by doubt.

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    photo credit

    Whether you’re an aspiring/pre-published writer doubting your ability to get the elusive ‘yes’ from an editor or agent, or if you’re like me and are dealing with doubt post publication here are few things that I do to stop the doubt messing with my creativity and my confidence:

    Do:

    Talk it out – Everyone has these feelings, so talking it out with someone from your support network can provide some perspective to the ‘doubt demons’. Got a one star review and think that means you’ll never sell a book again? Not so. Someone who can look at the situation with a little more distance can help you see through your emotions and find balance with your thinking.

    Remind yourself of what you’ve been able to achieve so far – especially for those of us who are a little Type-A (ahem, me) we often forget to reflect and look at the good things we’ve done before jumping with two feet into the next task. Have you written a whole book? Had a request from an editor? These are all fantastic things that you possibly doubted you could do at some point.

    Understand that self belief starts with you – no one else can make you believe in yourself and your abilities, more importantly you have to want to change this feeling. It’s tough, but simply switching up your language with more ‘cans’ than ‘can’ts’ is a good place to start.

    Remember a few key things:

    – There’s room for everyone at the top – one person’s success does not mean there is less opportunity for you

    – Writing is subjective – some people will love what you do, others will not. You can’t control how people feel about your writing

    – It’s not easy for anyone, so don’t feel bad that some days you find it  hard.

    Don’t:

    Compare yourself to others – I know humans are designed to analyse information by using comparison but comparing your number of requests or the time it took you to get published or your sales numbers to others is not the way to feel confident in yourself. Look at your achievements and cheer others on, but don’t compare.

    Use doubt to define your choices – trying to figure out the ‘easiest’ route to getting published because you doubt your abilities will only make you wish you’d gone all out later on. If you’re researching publishers and want to try for the big guns, do it. Don’t cheat yourself because you’re scared of getting a ‘no’.

    Give up – doubt is a natural feeling and you can’t always prevent it, but it doesn’t have to run your life. You can’t always choose how you feel, but you can choose how you react.

    I hope this post will help some of you who are struggling with doubt at the moment. It’s something I battle all the time and the above comes from years of experience at working to change my outlook on my self and my abilities. If you have any tips to add please leave them in the comments below – you might just help someone out!