Tag Archives: success

Fans of the Great British Bake-Off will know that participants are often rushing around trying to get things finished at the last minute, before the time runs out.

Sometimes they will be seen squatting in front of their ovens, looking through the glass and willing their cakes or loaves to bake faster.  Even though they always seem to be having fun on the show, there's usually a bit of a frenetic atmosphere in that GBBO tent.

But sometimes they just have to accept that there is nothing for them to do but wait. Their dough is in the proving cupboard, and it just has to stay there to rise before anything else can be done with it.

It's always a good idea to leave a first draft of your novel in a 'proving cupboard' for a while, just as you need to allow bread dough to rise before you can do anything with it.


This week, I'm celebrating reaching the end of the first draft of my new novel. Notice I say "reaching the end of", not finished. Experience tells me that I will have seriously rushed my ending, and that I will also have to add more scenes and move others around.  I've written previously about the raw material of a first draft - you can read that post here.

Experience also tells me that the days or weeks when I've just finished writing is not the time for me to be able to see all these things clearly. So, The Self-Help Angel is in the proving cupboard, and I won't take it out again for several weeks. With Christmas rapidly approaching, it might even be a month before I look at it again. Then, when I do take it out, I'll be able to see it properly.




One thing that really helps me to maintain momentum when I'm writing, and to get that 'dough' into the proving cupboard is not to number my chapters.

At the start of a new chapter, I just type the word Chapter, then start writing. It might seem like a small thing, but it gives me mental permission to change things around at a later date, and, perhaps more importantly, it removes the pressure of feeling I've got to get it completely right first time. It also seems to make me feel I can write whatever scene happens to be demanding my attention at that particular moment, instead of thinking 'I can't write that because it doesn't come next.'

Anything that helps you to keep your momentum going when you're writing is valuable, because momentum is your best friend. Momentum creates - and maintains - a writing habit. A writing habit means a word count that steadily grows. It also means results, and when you can see the results of your labours, you start to feel you are achieving something. Because you are! And that's more than half the battle.

So, what am I going to be doing while The Self-Help Angel is in the proving cupboard? I'm going to be working on some exciting new courses. Watch this space!

Have a great week.





Let me introduce you to Emma. She’s fun to be around, enthusiastic about writing and very talented. These days she has established a writing routine that works for her, and she writes regularly, despite having four young children and a tendency to drop everything to go to music festivals.


But it wasn’t always like that. Emma’s enthusiasm and talent for writing were always there, but the writing routine was non-existent, and whenever she thought about writing, she felt fed up and blocked.

This was all because of a bad experience she had at a writing class, where she received very unhelpful feedback on her work. Far from highlighting Emma’s achievements and constructively suggesting areas for further development, the tutor for this (somehow) sought-after course, slated Emma’s work. He pulled it apart so thoroughly that her self-esteem – and virtually her will to live – were in tatters.

I might never have met Emma at all. She might have decided to give up on her writing dreams at that point. But a few years later two of her friends told her about my courses, AND she had a link to the enrolment page pop up on her Facebook timeline. Fortunately for me, Emma decided to view this as fate at work, because Emma came along to one of my courses, and she’s a joy to have in a class. Not only is she talented, but she’s so helpful to other group members.

When Emma first told me about her ordeal, and how it had stopped her from writing for several years, I was furious. How dare that tutor treat Emma’s precious writing dreams like that?

Emma explained to me that she was writing science fiction, which was far removed from the literary fiction the tutor had published, but this was no excuse at all, as far as I was concerned. Published writers – no matter how successful – should never forget how vulnerable people can feel when they first start sharing their words. I know I certainly haven’t.

When I first started writing, I was ridiculously sensitive! I remember the first time I read out a story at a writer’s circle, and I described a woman’s face ‘turning a colour somewhere between green and purple’ (with embarrassment and horror). OK, I realise now that it’s not a sentence from a great work of literature, but at the time I was pleased with it, and was quite taken aback when one of the group members stated quite abruptly that it wasn’t possible to have a colour between green and purple, and that I should use the word puce. Puce. I wasn’t even sure what the colour was, and I had to go home and look it up. And it was such a horrid word, sounding as it did, remarkably like…well, sick. My story was light-hearted and fun, with no pretensions to be anything else. Puce just didn’t fit. I felt discouraged, and never returned to the writer’s circle. (I told you I was sensitive in those days!)

As I’ve gained in experience and had many novels published, my self-confidence has grown to the point where I’m able to sift through feedback and make a judgement about whether it’s relevant and helpful or not. (If it’s from an editor, I’ve also learnt to be tactful if I don’t think so!) I always make a point in my writing classes of helping my students to develop the highly useful skill of giving and receiving constructive feedback. It’s such an important part of a writer’s development, because you can learn so much from it.

When I began teaching my creative writing classes, I encountered that vulnerability and that fear of exposure over and over again, and decided that my classes had to include an element of confidence-building in order to be of use to people.

As for Emma, she very kindly took part in the pilot version of my course Feel The Fear and Write Anyway – Self-Confidence For Authors, which opens for enrolment very soon. I asked Emma and other recent students to try it out and to give me feedback, so that I could make it as useful as possible. The power of feedback, see? I’m happy to say that all their suggestions were really helpful – and constructive!

I’m so excited that by creating an online course designed to boost writers’ self-confidence while they’re developing essential writing skills and habits, I’m going to be able to help people I might not otherwise have been able to reach. People who want to take that first step towards realising their writing dreams. Or, if they’re like Emma, people who want to recover from a set-back to move on towards their goal of completing a novel.

I can’t wait!

Enrolling soon!
Enrolling soon!
Sign up for the FREE Fear-Busting Challenge for Authors here.
Sign up for the FREE Fear-Busting Challenge for Authors here.







In life there are many different ways to define success, and writing is no different.

Some of you will want to write a best-selling novel and to see your book prominently displayed in bookshops. Screen play rights snapped up.  Invitations to appear as a guest on TV shows.

Others of you will just get a warm glow from having been able to express what you want to say, or from being able to push through to the point where you can type THE END despite the busyness of your lives or an ongoing battle with self-confidence or dyslexia.

There is no definition of writerly success. It's an entirely personal thing. It's whatever's right for you.

If you wanted to take up badminton, it would be perfectly valid to go along to classes with the goals of learning to perfect your serve, forehand and backhand, and to have fun while you were  doing it. Nobody would immediately expect you to be working towards representing your country at the next Olympic Games.




It's the same with writing.

The chances are, your view of what success is will change anyway. Once you've got the writing bug, you're unlikely to want to stop at one story, one blog post or one novel. To complete any of these to a standard you're pleased with is an amazing achievement that deserves to be celebrated, and it's perfectly legitimate to be content with just that.


clebrating writerly success with champagne


But if you're anything like me, the very act of completing a piece of writing will boost your confidence and you'll probably find yourself asking "What next?"

The definitions of writerly success are as varied as people are varied.

In no particular order, here are some I've gleaned from the comments made to a blog post by Brian Clems on the Writer's Digest blog. Writer's Digest - What Defines Writing Success? They make for interesting reading.

I feel/will feel successful as a writer when:

  • Someone is moved by what I write.
  • I fell in love with the process of writing.
  • I'm writing for a living.
  • I find time to write every day.
  • I've written the novel that's been in the back of my mind for years.
  • I finished a first draft.
  • I made someone laugh. Intentionally.
  • I got paid for my writing.
  • People tell other people about my writing.
  • I can quite my day job and just write.
  • My wife can quit her day job, having support me in my writing for ten years.
  • I got placed in a writing competition.
  • When I could say "I'm a writer" without feeling like a fraud.
  • I found the courage to show somebody something I've written.
  • I start to edit when I've been given feedback on my writing.
  • I sit down and actually write.
  • I got my first novel published.
  • I first saw my name in print.
  • I manage to write for half an hour without going on the Internet.
  • I have visitors but still manage to sneak away to write.
  • I write blog posts that touch a chord with people.
  • I reach the word count I've set myself for the day.
  • People still read my books after I'm dead. (!)
  • The first time I paid my rent with my writing income.
  • I reached page 100 in the novel I was writing.



Personally, I'll never forget the day I received a letter telling me that my first novella was going to be published. It was called Stormy September, and it was a 50,000 word romance which was to be published by Woman's Weekly in a paperback with another author's story. When publication day came, and the book was in a carousel at my local newsagents, I was so thrilled. I kept having to go in there to look at it. I probably even bought a copy; I can't remember. And celebrate? You bet I did! I used some of the money I was paid to take my boyfriend - who had never flown before - for a surprise flight over Brighton. (I'll draw a veil over the fact that I was horribly sick when the pilot let him take the controls). I also bought a gas fire and a new radio. I know how to live. 🙂




Actually, I say I'll never forget that heady excitement; but I perhaps I have, just a little. Because for me, writing is a bit like having a gambling habit. One win, or one bit of success or encouragement, feeds your habit and makes you want more.



And then it's easy to become discontented with what you have achieved, especially if you make the mistake of comparing yourself to somebody else; somebody whose debut novel shoots straight to the top of the Amazon charts.

Last year, one of my language readers, Kilimnajaro won an award.

Adolescent & Adult: Intermediate

Author: Margaret Johnson
Illustrator: Redbean Design Pte Ltd
Publisher: National Geographic/CENGAGE Learning
ISBN: 9781424048753

I also had 2 novels published.

ANiW Final Cover
A Nightingale in Winter Published by Omnific Publishing
Taming Tom Jones Published by Crooked Cat Publishing
Taming Tom Jones
Published by Crooked Cat Publishing


Most people would say that's pretty successful. Now, if I can just stop listening to those pesky voices that say such things as "Yeah, but you didn't get any money for the award," and "But your book isn't charting as highly as (INSERT NAME HERE)'s book is." 

Perhaps I need to take my own advice and make time to enjoy the process of writing. Yes, I'm going to do just that!

What's your definition of writerly success? I'd love to know!