• Newcastle Writers Retreat 2022

    A November wrap up – a little late

    We’re drawing to the end of 2022 if you can believe that. No, I can’t either.

    It’s been a crazy year with lockdowns and life changes and adjustments for me.

    Compared to recent years, it looks like I’ve had a light publishing schedule, but the truth is I’ve been working away on a couple of pen names that have kept me very busy. These pen names write books in different genres and they’ve been lots of fun to develop.

    So while books under  my Monique McDonell  name, there have been fewer books, I will have published 9 full-length novels, 2 novellas and 7 short books (10k) this year. That’s around 500,000 words…and I also have my March 2022 Monique McDonell novel drafted so that’s another 50,000 words. No wonder I’m a little tired.

    Anyway, what I’m here to talk about is my November (yes I am aware it’s now December). As well as finally getting to see family after 4 months and some travel to see my daughter who lives 6 hours away (Sniff. Sniff) I did some cool writing things.

    First of all one of the great gifts of 2022 for me has been the writing community here in Newcastle, NSW where I now live. I was invited to join both the Hunter Romance Writers and the Newcastle Romance Writers groups. There is some overlap of membership but the groups are quite different and I love both for different reasons. The Hunter group is smaller, tends to meet online but has more indie authors like me, whereas the Newcastle group meets in person and is a wider cross-section of people (more chances to make friends).

    Newcastle Writers Retreat 2022
    Newcastle Writers Retreat 2022 Attendees

    Anyway, to that end I helped organise and was lucky to attend the first Newcastle Romance Writers Rereat in November.  We probably shouldn’t call it a retreat – it was more of a one day conference. regardless of the name it was a truly awesome day.

    It was a full day of writing, presentations and roundtables. Eighteen of us attended to discuss everything from great openings to conflict to book marketing.

    As none of us can get to the Romance Writers of Australia conference due to COVID travel restrictions and border closures, this was a nice dose of professional development and camaraderie in a year where both have been lacking.

    Lighthouse Arts

    Lighthouse Arts CollageAnother exciting thing that happened this November was I’ve been part of the inaugural group of Artists in Residence in the Lighthouse Arts Program.

    Here’s a little about the program. Lighthouse Arts aims to increase the sustainability and visibility of the arts and culture sector of
    Newcastle City and the Hunter region.
    Lighthouse Arts is an initiative of Hunter Writers Centre inc., a not-for-profit, incorporated
    association established in 1995 and the peak literary hub of the Hunter region NSW.
    Initial funding for Lighthouse Arts has been received via the Industry Response Taskforce grant from the City of Newcastle to provide support for cultural practitioners. Access to Nobbys-
    Whibayganba headland has been obtained under a licence agreement between Hunter Writers Centre and Port Authority NSW.
    The project site is Nobbys-Whibayganba headland. Read its history here.
    Lighthouse Arts’ purpose is to provide supportive, professional and accessible spaces and
    presentation opportunities that foster the development of creative practitioners affected by
    Covid-19, to build a legacy for future creatives and for audiences to experience diverse art forms
    and culture.
    The project includes: Studio Spaces for Artists-in-Residence on weekdays and, on
    weekends, a live events space, an Arts Trading Store and an exhibition space known as The House
    of Stories.
    The program invites creative practitioners to help build a community to produce or advance works
    and offer your original, contemporary creations for exhibition and for sale.

    The project was meant to kick-off mid year, but it didn’t due to more lockdowns, so we headed up the hill to the Lighthouse in early November. My residency has included a gorgeous office every Tuesday to focus on my writing in. I’ve met loads of other writers and creatives as well. I applied to participate with the key objective of connecting with local creatives and I’ve done that.

    Sadly, I have only one more week, but it’s truly been a privilege to have the experience and the opportunity.

    National Novel Writing Month

    Nanowrimo winner badge

    Once again I participated in National Novel Writing Month. If you follow this blog at all you’ll already know it’s a global challenge where authors, established and aspiring, commit to writing a 50,000 word novel – the first draft at least – in a month. If you’re new to my blog, you can get the scoop here.

    I’ve been doing it on and off since about 2006 and most years – unless I’m travelling – I manage to hot that target. This time I was working on a book for a new multi-author series I’m part of in 2022.

    Anyway, as that little image shows – I completed my book. Yay for me!

    So no wonder it took me a little while to get to this blog post – that was a lot to cover and catch up from.

    Onward through December and into an amazing 2022, I hope.



  • Writing Book Blurbs that sell

    Writers on Wednesday with Belinda Williams author of Writing Book Blurbs that Sell

    Writers on Wednesday - Rose

    Today for Writers On Wednesday Blog I have my lovely friend Belinda Williams.

    Belinda and I met at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference a few years back. (Belinda is giving a blurb writing workshop at the RWA2021 on the Gold Coast) She lived close to me in Sydney and we’ve met up several times since for a coffee and a chat about all things publishing. Belinda writes romantic comedies, but she also has a blurb writing business and has released a book about blurb writing for authors – Writing Book Blurbs that sSell.
    I asked Belinda what are the three most common mistakes we writers make in blurb writing- check out her answers below.
    3 Book Blurbs Mistakes Writers Make
    • Your blurb reads like a synopsis. A book blurb should never detail your complete storyline. It’s as much about what you don’t say as what you do say.
    • Your blurb is too long. I recommend keeping book blurbs to under 250 words, ideally somewhere between 150 and 200 words if you can, otherwise you risk losing readers.
    • Failing to pinpoint the main conflict. Writers generally know it’s important to include stakes in a book blurb, but unless these are linked to the main conflict of your story, your blurb will most likely miss the mark with potential readers.
    Writing Book Blurbs that sell
    Writing Book Blurbs that Sell

    Now here’s the official book blurb:

    Enticing a reader to buy your book relies on an intriguing blurb that captures attention and encourages people to hit the ‘buy’ button. Unfortunately, not all book blurbs are created equal, and the difference between a good or bad book blurb can impact your sales.

    In this no-fuss, actionable book, you’ll learn the art of writing book blurbs with one main aim: to sell more books. Topics covered include:

    • What a book blurb is, and more importantly, what it isn’t
    • The essential components of a book blurb
    • What to include in a book blurb and what to leave out
    • Examples from a range of fiction genres
    • How a book blurb should look (and why)
    • The difference between fiction and non-fiction book blurbs
    • Terrific taglines, tone of voice, plus much more!

    Whether this is your first or twentieth book, your book deserves an impossible-to-resist ‘I want to read more’ book blurb that converts book browsers to readers and proves to the world that your book is worth reading. This book will show you how.

    Visit her website to learn more about her books.

    About Belinda Williams

    Belinda Williams is a copywriter turned fiction author with more than twenty years of experience in marketing. She can switch from writing steamy romance to punching out attention-grabbing sales copy before you have time to say, ‘book blurb!’ With her unique skill set, she aims to help other authors market their books.

    Belinda Williams

    Belinda Williams is a marketing copywriter who fell in love with romance and writes romantic comedy as well as romantic suspense featuring good guys. She’s occasionally tempted by bad boys, but prefers to write strong women characters and men with big hearts.

    When she’s not writing, Belinda is a music lover who sings lead vocals in cover bands, and her eclectic taste forms the foundation for many of her writing ideas.

    Her other love is the water. She can often be found counting laps instead of words at her local swimming pool. Or you might also spot her boating on the harbour with her husband and son in her home town of Sydney, Australia.

  • Blog

    It’s a week until NANOWRIMO 2020, let’s get ready!

    Nanowrimo 2020 badgeHey there,

    It’s almost time for NanoWrimo – National Novel Writing Month where people try to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel in a month. I’ve taken part at various times all the way back to 2011, I believe.

    In 2012, I did a series of posts about prepping that hold the test of time and they’re linked below. (I migrated my website a year ago from Weebly to WordPress and not every image made the journey, but the content is solid and worth a read).

    My life is so different now to then. I don’t have a young family to juggle and I have written a lot of books since. These days it’s not unusual for me to write 50,000 words several months a year but I love the participation and community of Nano and I love getting that final novel for the year done. December is crazy, we all know that and I tend to ease off on the writing in favour of Christmas lunches and drinks with friends.

    I still know a few things work for me:

    1. Get a big count early.

    I love writing a new book. LOVE IT! So the beginning is the easy part. To stay om track for NanNo you need to write 1667 words a day. I like to start with a few 3,00 even 5,000 word days and then I’m ahead and the pressure is off.

    1. Round up.

    Don’t stop at 1667  the recommended daily word count needed to reach your target. Aim to reach at least get to 2000 words a day. You’ll thank yourself mid-month.

    1. Sprints

    That’s where you set a timer for 20 minutes or 30 and just write. Three of those a day and I will make the 1667 easily.

    1. Plotting

    I don’t always plot my books. I’m a weirdo who sometimes just writes, sometimes plots an entire novel and sometimes gets to 15k and plots the rest. Heck, sometimes I make bullet points and just plot the next chapter. The bullet points mean I won’t start at the screen for an hour…I always have a scene I can write.

    1. Remember, it’s a draft.

    This is not what gets published, it’s your first draft, so it’s okay to write and leave things blank– add description later, check this character’s name/hair/eye colour, insert sex scene, research this bit and -MOVE ON. You can fill all that in later, but don’t let it stop you from continuing to write.

    1. Write something fun – especially in 2020.

    It’s going to be work regardless but don’t put yourself in a zone of misery before you begin. We all know this year has been and continues to be tough, so don’t set yourself up for misery and/or failure. Pick a story that will excite you and write that.

    So there’s some advice.…I do recommend you read the post below, especially if you’re a Nano newbie.

    Let me know if you’re signed up for this year in the comments.

    From the 2012 Archives

    Preparing for NaNoWriMo – Part 1 Plan the Writing


    NaNoWriMo – Planning your Life

    NaNoWriMo – Planning your Life


    How to survive NaNoWriMo – Part 3, Organise Your Writing Life

    How to survive NaNoWriMo – Part 3, Organise Your Writing Life


    NaNoWriMo Planning Series – Part 4 – Plan to care for Your Body


    My 2017 Advice

    Preparing for NaNoWriMo the 2017 edition

  • Blog

    Writers on Wednesday – 5 time management tips for authors


    Writers on Wednesday - Rose
    I haven’t done a Writers on Wednesday Post in a while, at least not one written by me, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how people spend their time and why some people are super productive and some people aren’t. I don’t think productivity necessarily equals success but I do think it is a lot easier to be successful if your are productive.

    Lots of people ask me how I manage to get so many things done. I work basically full-time, have a family, I have a fairly active author profile on social media, I’ve just written my 20th book and I do have a social life and I read.

    I’ve thought about this a lot. Here are some of my thoughts and tips on time management. (I’m a big believer in the 80-20 rule but you don’t need me to tell you about that.

    5 Time Management Tips

    1. Perfection is the enemy of good
    I’m not a perfectionist. I’m sure many people think this is a great failing of mine and I’m not sure they’re entirely wrong but I do think you need to get out of your own way. A first draft doesn’t need to be perfect, you’re going to go back and redraft it again and again anyway. Spending an hour finding the perfect image for a social media post is a waste of time…if it’s a Christmas post, choose a festive image and get it done. Not sending out a newsletter because you don’t have the perfect graphic is also crazy. You will get better the more you do things. Some times you will have to compromise but getting it done is more important. I’m not saying be sloppy and I’m not saying put crap out into the universe, I’m just saying don’t let perfectionism stop you from making progress. Keep in mind so much of what we do is subjective anyway, not everyone will agree that thing you spet hours perfecting is amazing anyway.

    2. Set goals and stick to them
    It doesn’t matter what your goals are you need them. It might be you want to write one book in a year. If you wrote 500 words a day you’d have around of 130,000 words. It will probably take you 30-45 minutes a day (you’ll get faster). That’s a book done and edited.

    Write 500 a day and then edit 500 a day and you have one book i half an hour a day. You can do that.
    You can post on social media 3 times a week. (Half an hour total).
    You can spend one hour a week on marketing your books. (Less than 10 minutes a day.)

    I think you need to write goals where you can see them. A whiteboard, a sticky note on a mirror, the back of your front door, on your car’s sun visor. You need the visual reminder.

    3. Life happens in small chunks of time – use them.
    I wrote a post a while back about how to make a difference if you only have 5 minutes. I think this is where we lose a lot of our time in the 21st century. We say we have no time for our author social media and yet we spend hours on platforms doing idle stuff.

    I’m a big believer in using small blocks of time. If I had waited for a big chunk or time I’d never have done anything. I wrote my first book, and many since using 30 minute chunks or as long as a children’s TV show lasted. Maybe you believe you need a whole hour to write anything. That belief is a big part of your problem. There’s a way around that. If you have a 15 minute break in the day (in the car waiting for the kids, your lunch break at work, waiting at an appointment) make some notes on the next scene or chapter in your book and then when you finally get half an hour use that as your jumping off point.

    Some people would call this plotting. Lots of people hate that word and many of the people who hate that word also struggle with deadlines, procrastination and time management. Don’t call this process plotting – I call it pre-thinking. I pre-think about what I want to write so that when I go to write I know exactly what I want to say.

    4. Be honest with yourself.
    If you have time to watch every episode or the Bachelor, This Is Us, Survivor and the Great British Bake-Off you have time to write. If you spend an hour a day on Facebook, you have time to write. Look at how you really spend your time and cut something out. I’m not saying everything, just something.

    If you don’t make writing a priority it won’t happen. I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times now. I love this as an exercise in showing you where you waste time. It’s taught me excellent time management skills just by discovering where my free time really lies and where my procrastination takes place.

    Be honest about who you are and what works for you – life is not one size fits all. I am not a morning person. I do not write well at six in the morning. I know that. I’m not going to lie to myself and pretend otherwise. I’m better off getting an extra hour’s sleep and writing at eleven in the morning or six at night. I don’t feel bad about that any more.

    Here’s another thing to consider – maybe you like the idea of writing but you don’t really want to write. Writing is hard, it takes commitment and it’s not for everyone. Some people have one or two books in them and that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    I know lots of people who spend more time reading writing books, attending talks and classes and conferences than they ever do writing. That’s absolutely fine. They love the world of writing and the wonderful people in it and the idea of being an author. I love all those things too, but maybe they don’t love the process and practice of writing as much. Just be honest with yourself if that’s you. Let yourself off the hook and have fun. Don’t spend your whole life guilty about not getting any writing done.

    5. Be adaptable. Learn to pivot.

    Life is messy. Plans change. People get sick. Books are published and don’t sell. Deadlines are missed. You need to learn to let the time between the change and the time you adapt be as small as possible.

    If your day hits a bump at 10am and you planned to write then rather than think “I guess I can’t achieve anything today” try and think “How can I claw back some of that time and still get something done.” It might not be the same something but something. Maybe you can book some promo, maybe you can schedule some social media, maybe you can put on the washing and fill out the school notes you were planning to do tomorrow so you have extra time tomorrow.

    Alter your plan, be adaptable but don’t change your goal…just change how you reach it.

    This list is not exhaustive. I haven’t discussed any tools I use to help me manage my time. Time is just a construct so how we approach it and how we treat it is just as important as what we actually do with it. These tips are really all about respecting time and be honest with yourself about how you really want to use it. For me, that’s the biggest challenge.

  • Blog

    New release Friday – two weekend fiction reads and a PR Guide for Writers


    New Release Friday
    All That Doesn’t – Tracy Krimmer
    All That Doesn't - Cover
    After a devastating end to her marriage, Dory Walker has rebuilt her life in her hometown of Sycamore Bay. She’s left her music career behind and is only looking forward to her future with her rekindled love, Harris Malone.

    Single dad Harris is doing his best to guide his young daughter and take the reins of his soon to be retired dad’s hardware store. With Dory by his side, he can do anything.

    But just when Dory thought she had it all, a surprise visitor turns her world upside down with a revelation that threatens to tear her family apart. She turns to Harris for help, but he’s caught up trying to save his relationship with his daughter. Can the bond between Dory and Harris survive these turbulent times?

    Grab your copy here.




    Chasing a Starr – Delancey Stewart
    Chasing a Starr - Cover
    When a city girl comes up against a cowboy, some dust is bound to fly…

    Reine Halverson was 100% city girl – shiny, polished, and put together. A branding specialist for a huge San Francisco firm, she’d built herself from the ground up, covering her country roots with the gleam and glamour of city life.

    She might’ve been from somewhere else, but the city was her salvation. That life was behind her.

    Will Starr was a cowboy, through and through. His mother had tried to make him something else, but a combat tour in Afghanistan has a way of making a man see what he’s made of. And Will knew he was made up of Northern California grapevines, a hundred-year old farmhouse, and cattle land that had been in his family for generations.

    When Reine arrives at Starr Ranch Winery as part of the big city firm’s investment deal set up to save the family land, Will’s convinced she’s the last thing any of them need. But when she starts to find her way beneath his carefully built armor, he realizes there’s more at stake than the business.

    Reine might just walk away with what little remains of his heart.

    Grab your copy here

    The Ten-Step Publicity Plan for Authors, Laura Boon
    The Ten-Step Publicity Plan For Authors - CoverPress releases …. reviews … interviews … cover reveals … newsletters … blog tours … street teams

    You’ve written and published your book. Now you need a strategy to help more copies find their way into the hands of interested readers. Publicity is the most effective and least expensive marketing tool available to you. Even better news is that it’s not rocket science. If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands ink-stained, you can create a successful publicity template you can tweak for every book.

    Have you ever wondered how the big publishers create all that publicity for their authors? Wonder no more. Laura Boon, a successful book publicist who has worked for multiple publishing houses, helps you plan a simple yet effective publicity campaign that will get your book ‘out there’ for minimal financial investment. Every time.

    The Ten-Step Publicity Plan for Authors is a short, succinct, practical and easy-to-implement publicity strategy for your book, fiction or non-fiction, new book releases, backlist titles and series. The ten steps cover:

    Content: identifying your unique attributes and angles
    Creating a database of appropriate journalists and bloggers
    Your press kit
    Reviews, interviews and pitching to the media
    Events and appearances
    Blog tours and other online promotions
    Websites and newsletters
    Social media
    Timelines and countdown to launch

    Grab your copy here

  • Blog

    Finding your writing tribe online or the value of Facebook Groups for Writers


    Where is my tribe?
    Laptop and Coffee CupSocial media is an interesting thing – some people love it, some people hate it. I get both points of view but at least for now it isn’t going away.

    I’m on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. I find each of these has a place.

    I’m not entirely sure I’m using Twitter properly and I’m quite certain I’m not making the most of the other three. It’s a little bit like I’m standing in the library and I know the perfect book is inside but no one has taught me how the books are catalogued so I’m wandering around a lot scratching my head. I do find what I need usually but I’m sure there’s more that I could utilize if I only knew how.

    Facebook however I feel like I get. you all know I have a Facebook author page but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

    Today I’m talking about Facebook Groups and how great they are for writers. There are two sorts of Facebook groups that authors can utilize groups the first is where other writers (and sometimes readers) of your genre or with similar interest gather to support each other and share information. The second are groups where authors can promote their books to readers.

    Let’s talk about the first and what invaluable resources they are. I’m a member of several groups and the sorts of information and support available varies. What you need will determine what groups are good for you.

    For instance I started the #1000wordsaday Facebook group. We have just shy of 250 members whose aim is to write #1000wordsaday. Pretty simple. We start a daily thread and share our numbers and cheer each other on. Writing can be lonely having people who “get you” makes it less so. That’s all that group does. And that’s enough.

    I’m a member of several other groups for romance authors, indie authors, chicklit authors, #NaNoWriMo and they provide a variety of opportunities and information depending on the group but here are some examples:

    – People will help you pick your next book cover
    – Recommend promotional opportunities
    – Put together a short story collection or box set
    – Help you write your blurb
    – Cross-promote your book
    – Run an online party
    – BETA read your books
    – Help you if you’re having issues with uploading a book
    – Marketing advice

    You get the idea right? Depending on the group, where you are on your journey and what you need to know you can find people to help you. That’s pretty cool.

    A note of caution – not all groups are created equally and some of the people in some groups can be negative at best and nasty at worst. I don’t stay in those groups. I do not engage. So there can be some trial and error but I’ve met lovely supportive writers from all over the globe this way and the advice I’ve received is priceless.

    The second lot of groups are pretty much groups where readers go to find new release, free and discount books. Again these are not all created equally and some are populated almost entirely with other authors and some are populated with people who like to share porn so choose wisely. They really can help you sell books if you know which ones to choose.

  • Blog

    36 Real Authors Talking Writing and Publishing – a book #giveaway

    How to Be An Author - CoverEarlier this year I was on one of the many Facebook groups for authors that I belong to and another member Ashton Cartwright asked for people who’d like to be involved in a book to help other writers.

    Naturally I said yes and now the book is available as both an e-book and a paperback. I’m one of the 36 authors who contributed to the book.

    (If you’d like to win a copy enter below).

    Now that the paperback is available I thought I’d ask Ashton about how the project came together. Don’t you just love the cover? So pretty!

    1. Ashton, how did you get the idea for the book?
    I’ve been writing and publishing books now for about four years, and I get asked a lot of the questions, generally the same questions and fairly often; things like “How hard is it to become an author” or “I’ve got a good idea for a book, but don’t know how to start.” or even “I’ve written a book, but don’t know how to get people to buy it.”

    So I thought it might be a good idea to write some of my answers down, in the hope that new authors would get a bit of benefit from it, and would hopefully avoid some of the mistakes that I’d made in my own publishing career.

    2.Where did you find the authors?
    I was very fortunate to be a part of several excellent online author groups, both for Australians and for international authors. Writing and publishing is a community in which everyone tends to do their best to help one another, particularly for self-published or indie authors. When I mentioned in a couple of places that I was looking for some authors to give their advice to new writers, there were lots of people very happy to oblige. (35 plus myself in fact!)

    3. Did you learn anything interesting about the authors – something that they all had in common, something that separated them or anything surprising?
    The thing that most hit home with me was that even though we each had a different story to tell, we still had a lot of similarities. Nobody in the book had written an instant bestseller and made millions of dollars. Some of us were able to write full time, but we worked really hard at it to make it happen. Some of us were just starting out, and were also working really hard at it to make it happen. I think a lot of times people assume that if you write a book, your work is done. You just get to sit around at home, waiting for handsome royalty cheques, and signing autographs when people meet you in the street. The truth is usually far different from that. Every author I know that has had even a modicum of success has had to work hard for it; they’ve had to stay focused, stay committed, and just keep learning, writing, and moving forward. Being a writer is definitely not a quick path to success, but it is definitely worth all the effort. 🙂

    If you would like to get your own copy either e-book or paperback you can buy it here.



    6/19/2016 04:58:20 pm

    I’d love to know, when did you decide to start writing an actual book? Was there a defining moment?
    6/22/2016 10:23:39 pm

    Renee, I always wrote but I took a course at the NSW Writers’ Centre – First Page to First Draft, where you would write a novel in that year so that was when I decided to take it seriously…that was about 10 years ago and that book became Mr Right and Other Mongrels.

    6/21/2016 03:13:42 am

    This sounds inspiring, I’d like to know how authors stay so focused and get things finished
    6/22/2016 10:25:18 pm

    That’s a great question and I think (as reading this book with feedback from so many writers will show) everyone is a bit different. In my case I hate to fail at something – so once I set myself a goal I like to get there. I’m not always there in the desired time-frame but I do get there. Focus is really hard. Some people find it harder than others.

    Susan Mehr
    6/21/2016 01:15:03 pm

    Do you find writing a journey inside your own imagination?
    6/22/2016 10:26:07 pm

    I have a very active imagination, which is a good and a bad thing I suppose.. Writing gives that a nice focus.

    6/21/2016 04:18:06 pm

    Sounds like a great book. Can’t wait to read it.

    Heather Goldsmith
    6/22/2016 02:33:39 am

    One, only one? Um, ok, how long did it take from when you wrote your first book to when it was ready to be sent to a publisher, and was it accepted? Ok, that’s two really, sorry. 😉
    6/22/2016 10:28:15 pm

    From the time I started my first novel until I started sending it out was about 3 years. That book was Mr Right and Other Mongrels. It made it off the slush pile at agents and publishers all over the world (well UK, US and Australia) and they all said – we like your writing, send us whatever else you have, but we can’t sell chicklit. That’s what I write so I went the indie publishing route instead.

  • Blog

    5 tips for not going crazy if you work from home/work alone


    My top 5 tips for working at home
    Laptop and Coffee CupWorking from home – more and more people are doing it and while it can be amazing there are also lots of downsides. As well as writing, I also run a small PR business from home. Sometimes I’m really busy and sometimes I’m not but I always have writing goals, blogging commitments and deadlines for work and my writing. Over the years I’ve had to learn to make the most of the slow times (which can sometimes be harder for a host of reasons) and be ready for the busy times.

    I’ve worked from home pretty much consistently for over ten years and so I’ve learned a thing or two along the way about time management and maintaining sanity so here are five random tips, not in any particular order.

    1. Work out which times of the day you are most creative/productive
    I’ve always known I’m not a morning person. I’m just not. In a perfect world I wouldn’t even get out of bed until nine in the morning. I’ve tried getting out of bed at six in the morning to write and I get nothing achieved. In fact by my most productive time of the day 10am-1pm I’m a zombie. I actually get less done.

    So monitor your own rhythms and see what you notice. I now spend from about 8-10am doing admin. That might be for my business or for my writing career. I reply to emails, send out prizes, load up blog posts for visiting authors, set up social media…you get the idea. It’s not stuff that I need to be my most creative for. It’s good use of my time and it gets those things out of the way.

    My most creative times are 10-1pm and from about 3-6. That’s still six hours. I don’t work all those hours every day but because I’m doing the #1000wordsaday challenge I try and get my words done in that first block. I might do more then or more later or if I have a load of client work I might do it first. My point is the admin is done so I’m not worrying about it and my brain is awake and engaged. Perfect. And if I use the first three hour block wisely I still have another three hour block (although it will likely be interrupted).

    Now that’s my rhythm but everyone is different. If you are a morning person or a night owl you can work that to your advantage in the same way. Just knowing means you can structure your day for maximum productivity.

    (I know I said there was no particular order but I honestly think do think this one is key).

    2. Block time out to get out of the house/office
    Do you think the guy who works in an office sits bum on seat for let’s say eight hours? And does that make you think you need to do the same? I’ve worked in an office and there’s usually morning chat, at least one useless meeting (ie an hour where nothing is achieved), a lunch hour and a coffee break. Even by a conservative measure that’s at least an hour and a half not at the desk (and that’s super conservative because it might be closer to three hours).

    People often comment that I spend a lot of time at the beach or having coffee. I happen to live five minutes from the beach. If I schedule a meeting with a local client, I’ll schedule it there. But I also try and organise one or two social catch-ups a week. Sometimes these are business associates or just friends. If the office worker gets time by the water cooler or a lunch hour shouldn’t I? It always regenerates me. I don’t feel guilty. I plan these outings to break things up and keep me connected to the world and real people not just via the internet.

    3. Ignore the domestic chores
    Ignore the domestic chores is probably the hard one. I’m not always great at this. I do tend to throw on a load of laundry while I make my coffee for example but if the kitchen looks like a bomb went off then I just try not to look.
    If I was working outside the office this stuff would have to wait wouldn’t it?

    Sometimes I’m sick of sitting on my butt so hanging a load of laundry or loading the dishwasher is good. I can think and do these things but the point I’m making is DO NOT FEEL OBLIGATED to do them. (For some people this is just too hard…in which case set a timer for 15 minutes and do your best in the time-frame. It’s amazing what can be picked up/hidden or cleaned in that time).

    4. Be realistic and be prepared to change things up
    I started with these as two separate headings but honestly they’re so interlinked I think they have to go together
    When you are working at home you are almost always the go-to person for the domestic stuff. The broken washing machine, the sick kid and the run to the post office usually fall under your care so if you know that be realistic about what can be achieved. Don’t set yourself up to fail. If you’re making your own deadlines then extend them by a day or an hour.

    Having said that you do need to learn to say no to things that people approach you about “because you’re at home”. If you’re not interested and it’s a time such then say no. The people in the offices, the stores, the schools and hospitals all say no if they’re at work. You can too.

    No one will value your time if you don’t.

    Which leads to the idea that you need to be prepared to change things up because life isn’t neat and sometimes you need to go with the flow or change the flow rather than letting the river drown you. Maybe you do need to get up early and do your admin at 5am so you can hang with your pre-schooler from 7-9 before they go off and finger-paint. Or maybe just knowing you have a sullen teen locked in their room playing Mindcraft distracts you? Sometimes life changes and you need to change your patterns for a day, a week or indefinitely. If what you’re doing isn’t working look at it again.

    5. Lists are your friends
    Working alone can be isolating. Horribly isolating. No one leans over your desk and says “Are you coming to the meeting?” You have to remember yourself. And you need to remember to have the report ready for the meeting, and to drive there…so use lists. There are so many wonderful apps to help with organisation that mean your list is always there with you. I like a sparkly notebook as well. There’s something immensely gratifying about crossing things off the list for me. It’s like I’m patting myself on the back.

    I have a really good memory and I still need lists and sub-lists. Lists for each project, lists for each book, lists for my home life. Some people have a PA for this stuff but I just have lists. They don’t make me coffee but they work.

    Those are my top tips for working at home. Do you have any that you would add or change?
    The Pittwater Northern Beaches
    Don’t forget to schedule time away from your desk.


    Julie Valerie
    5/25/2016 05:47:45 pm

    I learn so much from your lists and tips. Thank you.

    As for me, I think I’m good at knowing when I’m productive – I just wish I could have access to those moments of productivity more often. With four kids, two dogs, and a husband – there’s so many interruptions, distractions, and things I need to do for them – I sometimes reach the end of the day feeling I’ve gotten nothing done – but also feeling so exhausted because I was too busy to sit down. Sheesh. Where’s that deserted island when you need one!
    5/25/2016 06:21:53 pm

    Julie, I know the feeling. I don’t always get to work my own system but I do know what works for me if I can make it happen. I still feel like I need to book myself into a hotel for 3 or 4 days just to work through the list of things I know I should be doing as an author but never get the time for.

    5/26/2016 05:28:59 am

    I do love tip number 3!!!

    I don’t think I’ve cracked the working from home thing to be able to add anything. And I’m really, really bad at the saying no because I’m “at work” thing. I need to get much better at that.
    5/26/2016 03:39:20 pm

    Sandie, I used to be terrible at not saying no. I was on every committee and over-ciommitted and then I pulled back and felt so much better. It wasn’t just the physical time I got back but so much brain space and energy for creativity.

    Jayne Denker
    5/26/2016 05:39:01 am

    My kitchen floor has needed mopping for a month. I still haven’t done it. Because I’m editing! (Fortunately it’s not crawling with filth or anything, and I do spot-clean.) I’ve worked from home for years, and it’s such a challenge to not get distracted by all the things that need doing. We feel so guilty when we’re sitting…but it’s not like we’ve got our feet up and are eating chocolates! (Okay, we might be, once in a while, but we’re typing at the same time!) We have to become adept at cracking our own whip, I guess. 🙂
    5/26/2016 03:40:47 pm

    That’s so funny. I’m having some girlfriends for dinner tonight so guess who’ll be scrubbing the kitchen floor like Cinderella about 5pm tonight.

    Sandrine Piat
    5/27/2016 09:00:46 am

    Working on my manuscripts is a challenge next to none for me because it’s not a priority for anyone but me! My writing comes last because it’s not something that brings money into the household. It’s a hobby as my husband calls it (!!!!!). So it can be really frustrating at times because there are just so many things I need to do and am expected to do before writing – when all I want to do is write!! Thanks for the greats tips, will try to put them into practise and see how I go 🙂

  • Blog

    You can’t do it all – reasons for outsourcing


    Knowing where your strengths lie is a good thing

    Fall in Love with the Upper Crust Series Banner - Original Covers
    Isn’t this pretty? Look at all those pretty book covers standing side by side looking proud.

    I’ve been meaning to get a banner like this I can use for promo and Facebook advertising for ages. when I say ages I mean maybe six months. Six months is a long time on the internet and in the land of publishing.

    Why didn’t I do it earlier I hear you ask? There are lots of reasons (laziness, organisation, money) but the simplest one is I don’t like to admit defeat.

    If there is a skill you should learn out here in cyberspace or a way to DIY something I believe I should learn it and then do it. That’s very noble I’m sure but also wildly impractical. No one is good at everything. No one.

    The problem is there’s this funky graphic design site called Canva.com. that lots of authors I know use to do their promo materials. You’ve probably heard of it and you may have even used it. (It’s incredible, it was invented by a young Australian woman and you should check it out).

    Well, I have tried to use it and everything I make is ugly. Not just a little bit ugly but unprofessional, sloppy and embarrassing. But I’m no quitter so I’d wait a few weeks and have another try…for six months. And what did I create? More ugly. And then it occurred to me I’d probably wasted 10 hours and I had no results.

    Lots of people I know have mothers, sisters and husbands with a knack for these roles but that’s not my story so what could I do to change things?

    I outsourced it. And the results are really pretty. (I’m happy anyway.)

    The same week I outsourced a Mailchimp template done for my newsletter. I can do it but it takes me time I don’t have and now I have a template I can work with. I haven’t sent a newsletter in months because I was having issues…again wasted time and energy that led to stagnation.

    Authors don’t make that much money, well most of them don’t. We already have to pay editors, cover designers, proofreaders. (Some people (I usually do) outsource formatting as well). So we’re reluctant to pay people to do jobs for us.

    Sometimes though I think you need to look at where your time is best spent. Are you wasting valuable writing time messing around on a job that takes you away from that core business? Everyone is different. (For example I am going to format my books from now on because I’ve done it in the past and I know I can do it again and save myself some money. There are also some other practical benefits as well so I think it’s worth my time).

    Does that mean I’ll never conquer Canva? Probably not, but for now I’m unstuck and that’s important. Being an indie author is hard enough without getting in your own way.

    So do you outsource things or do you hold on tight and do everything yourself?



    Brea Brown
    3/30/2016 03:30:51 am

    “Being an indie author is hard enough without getting in your own way.” Absolutely! I’m so grateful for how easy technology has made outsourcing the things I can’t–or don’t want to–do. Cover art is one thing I don’t plan to ever attempt on my own. It’s too important for me to make a hash of it, all in an attempt to save a few bucks. I do make my own promo graphics, because I enjoy that. Canva rocks!
    3/30/2016 03:38:30 am

    Oh I agree book covers are super important. I know what I want but I don’t have the skills to create that vision. I’m sure I’ll get my head around Canva eventually but meantime it’s nice not to be stalled.

    Jayne Denker
    3/30/2016 07:17:45 am

    Hi Monique! I admit I chose to go with a traditional publisher because I didn’t want to have to either figure out ebook formatting/cover design or find people who would do it for me. The results were mixed: I could sleep well at night knowing I had an amazing team of copywriters working on my MS, but the covers left a lot to be desired. Ironically, I’ve become pretty adept with PicMonkey, which makes me want to slap the designers’ hands away and do it my damn self! 🙂 Anyway, it’s thrilling that there are now thriving cottage industries of editors, formatters, and designers making a living serving authors in need!
    3/30/2016 02:14:10 pm

    I am not bad with PicMonkey these days….but again I definitely could get better.

    Absolutely, there have always been lots of people working behind the scenes on books that most people never think about, the e-book industry has just changed how those people work.

    Pauline Wiles
    3/30/2016 07:54:25 am

    I really enjoy messing around in PicMonkey and Canva (the latter has a pretty good series of tutorials, I think) but totally see that’s not everyone’s thing. And I admit I waste hours and hours hunting for images for covers, including for my current WIP which doesn’t even have a title yet 😉
    Formatting, I do myself, but each time I’m horrified how long it seems to take and how the tiniest thing can be such a pain. That would be the next thing I might outsource.
    But in general, I definitely lean more towards doing things myself. I’m not sure that’s efficient, appropriate or healthy, but there you have it…
    3/30/2016 02:15:20 pm

    I love looking at cover images as well…I can spend a lot of time on that. That and Pinterest…so many pretty pictures to inspire ideas.

    Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie
    3/30/2016 01:10:26 pm

    This is such great advice, Monique. Outsource! Like any smart business owner, the wise author knows her strengths (writing books) and knows her lesser strengths, too. Like putting a newsletter sign-up box on her website (my problem). I keep telling myself I’m going to do that . . . tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow. It’s so important! Ugh. Why haven’t I done it!?!? Why? Because I believe I’m the only person on the PLANET that can’t figure out MailChimp. I guess . . . I’m the chimp. Who probably needs to hire a non-chimp to do it for me. 🙂
    3/30/2016 02:17:31 pm

    I don’t find MailChimp super easy either Julie. And I definitely don’t send my newsletter out regularly enough. By the way there are loads of people on fiverr.com who can help you do the newsletter pop up for your website at reasonable prices. You could have one by the weekend if you outsource it.

    Cinthia Ritchie
    3/30/2016 03:47:10 pm

    Love this! Plus also I think that as authors, if we expect people to buy our books we also need to return to the favor (good karma and all, you know) and be willing to pay others to help us be better business people. Kind of like: Put your money where your pen is, no? P.S. The banner looks great.
    3/30/2016 07:59:51 pm

    I agree Cinthia. I’m sure a professional graphic designer knows more about design than I do, and I hope I know more about writing than they do. (I’ve worked in PR for years and you’d be amazed how many people want to pay you to write their copy and then won’t listen to advice…I know designers have the same issues).

    Sandie Docker
    3/30/2016 07:09:51 pm

    So true – don’t get in your own way. In any area of life. Know your strengths and play to them. Know your weaknesses and get help.

    Your banner is GORGEOUS
    3/30/2016 08:00:31 pm

    I must learn to apply it to all areas of my life Sandie 🙂
    Thanks I love the banner too.

    Lee Ann Howlett
    3/30/2016 08:15:11 pm

    Outsourcing is something I’ve had to learn to do as a narrator, too. I’m a bit of a control freak so it’s difficult to do but I agree that it’s smart to rely on your strengths and let others who can do a better job take care of the rest.
    3/30/2016 10:50:44 pm

    Book narrating fascinates me Lee Ann…off to stalk your website.

    Michelle James
    3/31/2016 01:08:21 pm

    There is nothing wrong with outsourcing, whether you are a writer or a DIYer. Sometimes, you actually save money by outsourcing, which is why so many businesses are doing it these days. My husband is a DIYer. One year on the day before Thanksgiving at our house with guests coming (and I had just gotten home from a 2 week hospital stay), my husband decided to install a new sink in the first floor bathroom. My husband can do wiring, carpentry, but when it comes to plumbing he is a disaster. Needless to say, he made a big mess. The pipe broke off in the wall (big oops) and with water everywhere, he finally had to give in and call someone in. The problem was finding someone willing to come the night before a holiday. In the end he paid about 3 times what it would have cost if he had outsourced the plumbing to begin with. So, my advice is do what you do best by yourself, and outsource the stuff you are not cut out to do.

    Tracy Krimmer
    4/1/2016 06:30:14 am

    I am slowly being able to outsource things. Definitely – outsource what you can and keep your sanity!

  • Blog

    Social media 101: What’s your social media brand? Part 1


    Excuse me? I’m a person not a brand.
    Mr Right and Other Mongrels Mug and Book, Hearts Afire Book
    I have lots of author friends who are new to social media and they’re not sure where to start. Quite frankly I give them the same advice I give to teenagers.

    The first piece of advice anyway and that is (drumroll) don’t put anything on there you wouldn’t want a close family member to read. If your relatives are fine with explicit language and shots of your butt then you’re going to have more scope than I would but remember, you can’t take it back. So like that fifteen year old girl you better be sure that cleavage shot won’t come back to haunt you.

    The second piece of advice I offer is to know what your brand is?
    I know what you’re thinking – I’m not a brand. Lego is a brand. Starbucks is a brand. Pepsi is a brand. You think you’re just a person but an author is a product and you need to brand yourself effectively. You need to do this so that people know what to expect from you and also to help you stand out in the crazy marketplace.

    You need to think about what you write? An author who writes literary fiction is going to have a different brand than someone who illustrates children’s books. The sexy romance author is going to be different to the horror writer.

    Let’s take me as an example – I figure if you’re here you know who I am . I write chicklit and romantic comedies. These books are supposed to be an escape from the everyday hum-drum of life. I call it fun, flirty fiction and I imagine my readers on buses, on beaches and lying in bed at the end of the day. So my brand is fun and flirty and about escaping from the stress of the day to day. And most of my readers are women because of the genre I write.

    So apart from things related to my novels and books in general I also post mainly about the following things. Coffee (because I like it and I like to escape with a coffee), sometimes wine or cocktails (again I like wine), friendship (my novels have a strong friendship component and women value friendship) and the beach (because that’s where I escape to). Another part of my brand is where I live. I’m an Australian author living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches so I often post things about Australia and Sydney. That’s me…if you look at my Facebook and Twitter and blog you’ll find those images and topics reappear.

    I don’t write really sexy romances so I don’t share pictures of bare-chested men. I don’t write historical romances so I don’t share vintage dresses and houses – knowing your brand helps you exclude topics as well. People aren’t confused when they visit you on social media if you’re consistent.

    The advantage of knowing your brand is then when you’re looking for content you can search for things in those areas. It gives you a place to start in your daily quest to find new and hopefully engaging content.

    So ask yourself this – what’s your author brand?
    (In part 2 I’ll give you some good examples of authors who I think nail the branding).