Saturday, 16 March 2019

Writing with Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome - You may have read about this recently in the press as it has been featured quite a bit in various articles lately. It's a real phenomena and from what I've read it mostly affects women. Wiki defines this syndrome as a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud."

It may sound a bit random to you,  perhaps a little new-age. I would have probably dismissed it ten years ago, but actually it does make sense! 

For example I never really think of myself as an author - despite my author website and self-promotion and author branding (this blog is proof of that) I don't actually think of myself as a legitimate author and why is that? I'm not hugely successful as a writer if you compare me to the best-sellers but I am commercially successful. And thinking about it, do you have to be commercially successful to legitimise your profession - especially when you work in the arts? Surely not. Yet sometimes, nearly always, we need commercial success to validate our passion and career - it's why some people exaggerate their salary - because they feel their earnings are a reflection of their worth.

My author career, in a nutshell, is as follows: 

  • 6 published novels ( two of which were taken on by Independent publishers the rest self-published) - which are making a profit. 
  • Several articles about my books published in local publications
  • Two author interviews for websites/newsletters
  • Presenting a talk at a local library and being asked to talk ( and doing so) at a local Literature and arts festival 
  • Membership to the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers Association, both of which have their entry criteria. The latter only accepting authors that have been  traditionally published (with your publisher having to be on their list). 
  • A writing blog

If someone I knew told me the above about themselves I think I would be in awe. It's my author career and yet I continue to refer to it as just a hobby, when I know I would like it to be more (Perhaps if I didn't keep referring to my writing as just a hobby I would be able to step up a gear - am I limiting myself by continually saying 'it's just a hobby' - that's another blog post in itself!) So why do I feel a little like an imposter? Why do I continue to think I am not a legitimate author?

Starting my journey with self publishing may have had something to do with it. Self-publishing doesn't make you a pariah as  it did before but self-publishing is still stigmatised - probably more so by writers than readers who don't give a second glance to the publisher of the book they are reading. 

Or it could be because I have a fixed idea in my mind as to what a successful author looks like - before I was offered a publishing contract, it was someone who had been offered a contract - no matter how fruitful. When I listened to a local author speaking at our local lit festival I said to myself that if I ever got approached with something similar then I would know that I'm a legitimate author. Well that day came and went and still I question myself. 

So I know my goals are continually moving - like goals should, but what do I now want to achieve to legitimise this 'hobby' of mine? A new book deal with an established publisher, paperbacks regularly stocked in physical bookstores, shelf space at airport bookshops... maybe even some window space at my local Waterstones.

I, like most authors, need to stop and reflect how far we've come with our writing. But on the other hand perhaps a bit of imposter syndrome is good - I have new goals, goals which will motivate me to work harder, do better and keep at it... A writer doesn't quit... and maybe that's it - maybe it's just my determination that makes me a legitimate author. 

Friday, 15 March 2019

Writing is an exploration...

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. - E L Doctorow

I mentioned in my previous post that in the near future I would be looking to go down the traditional publishing route again. If you are not familiar with my writing history I have had two books published by Indie publishers and the rest I have self published. I can't give the two Indie Publishers great reviews but the first did open some doors to me because, let's face it self-publishing is still stigmatised; not as much as it was when I started self-publishing as books like The Martian and Still Alice have proved there is not much wrong with it!

I then gave up with going down the trad route because my self-pubbed titles were doing quite well (better than the Indie published books), but now I'm thinking of looking into this route again. Why? because self publishing is hard work and so is the marketing element. Having some support with this would be a good thing, I previously said I wouldn't look at Indie Publishers again. However, I think I would moving forward - not all, just a select few with a proven track record. I'm not being pricey (well I am a little) but  I feel I have earned it . Some get great write-ups and do quite a bit for their authors which is what I want and what I'm going to go for. I'm also going to look at publishers like Bookouture - digital publishers from the big publishing houses that publish some great authors and I will consider the tradition publishers as well - but they mostly require agents and I'm not sure if I want to go down that road again.

However, this is all in the future. The Chupplejeep series will still be self-published, but my new Shilpa Solanki series is the one I will be approaching agents with. The issue is that I need to write the book first! My son has just decided he no longer wants an afternoon nap so when I am going to write this book I have no idea... but I will find the time somewhere. Maybe after the house move!

In the interim I came across a self-publishing advice page that rates Indie Publishers.  You can see their list here:

Saturday, 9 February 2019

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail - Edwin Land

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail - Edwin Land

There has been quite a bit in the press and of course social media about wellbeing. Last year's mindfulness is this years self-love. Everyone is jumping on the wellbeing bandwagon. I am all for wellbeing and it's great to see the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers Association talking about this hot topic. It needs to be talked about to make people more aware of it. Mental health issues are so important especially when social media is making most of us introverts. On-line chat instead of having to call someone (for anything from ordering a takeaway to finding out about a computer from a store) means we have less social interaction. So many companies are now encouraging staff to work from home (which is great in my opinion) but again reducing the interaction we as humans need.

If you write full time you'll know that writing is a lonely profession. Of course there are writing groups and author events where you can socialise, chatting with your editor or publishing personnel, but there is little workplace banter because your workplace is most likely to be in your home. I work part-time and love the interaction I have with my colleagues. I still get my work done so it's a win-win situation. Writing is different though. I need silence to write.  I can't have interaction and office banter to do this and (pre-child) I realised that sometimes when I had a day or an evening to myself hours would pass without me uttering a word. So it's important that we talk about wellbeing.

It's not just the loneliness we writers need to be wary of. It's the juggling we have to do as well (our own doing, but nevertheless). Most writers have a full time or part time job and they may be a parent (I've recently found out just how difficult it is to manage a part time job, write a book and bring up a toddler).  So what do we writers do to look after our wellbeing?

I could write at length about crystal therapy, colour therapy, yoga, pranayama and meditation -– all things that I've tried and can honestly say they work, but this is a writing blog so I'll stick to that. Something I have started doing recently is free writing. I've blogged before about free writing as therapy, but since having my son my sleep patterns have been disturbed and sometimes I wake at 2:00am for no rhyme or reason and just can't get back to sleep. I start thinking of all sorts of problems, or not-problems which I turn into problems. To stop doing this I have started a journal before bed for free writing - If you don't know what free writing is, it's just putting pen to paper and writing anything that comes to mind without lifting you pen of the page. This can often help with writers block, but also for me it helps clear the mind. Sometimes my garbled writing turns into some focused thoughts, sometimes maybe even a plot idea, but generally it's garbled. I find it clears the mind and helps me sleep better.

I also make a list of all the things I need to do the following day and sometimes write out an energy log (three things that sapped my energy and three things that gave me energy that day- its a good way to see what you need to cut out and create more of in your life!) and I end it all with a thought for the day. I find this final thought always centres around being grateful. What I've learned in the last decade is that you need two things for happiness - A sense of purpose and gratitude. If I teach my son one thing, it will be that.

Whatever it is you do to look after your wellbeing make sure you do it regularly... we writers need to keep our energy levels up so we can do everything we need to do and then write, write, write!

This week I have just finished reading Lisa Jewell's Watching you. A great author and a great read. I gave it five stars!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” - F Scott Fitzgerald

So about a year or so ago I gave up on this blog. After becoming a mum I didn't think that this blog was 'me' anymore. I wanted a place where I could not only express my writing but life as a new mum as well and so I started a new blog to do just that . It was called Writing and Weetabix - reasons for the name explained on the blog itself, but Weetabix was basically my life back then - mainly cleaning it off the high chair. The blog started well but quickly fizzled out and now my son is nearly two I feel like the 'old writer me' is back. Well it's a good job I didn't delete this blog entirely (probably because I didn't know how). 

So what have I been doing in this two year interlude? Well you can have a look at some of my posts on Writing and Weetabix, but in a nutshell I've been bringing up a small person, working on the third Chupplejeep book (Jackpot Jetty) - which I have just published (Hurrah! you can buy it here - yes that was a sneaky book plug but you can't blame me) and I have an idea for a new series. Another cosy crime series set in Devon with a young Indian Miss Marple type sleuth. That's all I can say for now but I am super excited about it. 

Along with the above we have taken on a massive renovation project and will shortly be moving I decided to take a break from writing. It's great in one sense as with returning to work  part time (three days) means I can concentrate on making sweet potato chips and healthy meals for N (said son) and look longingly at my mood boards deciding which fabrics match (I have zero idea about home furnishing and actually quite dislike it). As fun as this is, I am clearly itching to write... hence the return to my trusty old blog. 

The fourth book in the Chupplejeep series isn't going to write itself ( Murder in the Monsoon is the working title and I already have the plot written!) and the first in my new Shilpa Solanki Series (Sweet Murder is the working title) is not going to write itself either. The good news is that in the new house we will have a study! I can't wait after having to give up my study to make way for N's arrival. 

I'm hoping to take this year to do a bit more marketing and promoting of my books. I haven't done any in ages and feel like I have really lost touch with it all (so easy to lose touch when technology and social media is moving at a million miles per hour). I want to read and re-read some books on improving my writing and perhaps do a course on polishing and editing (my punctuation still sucks!). 

So that's the plan for this year and I will let you know how I get on with my new endeavours. I'm also hoping to look at the traditional route of publishing again with my new series. The publishing world has also moved (with the big players having imprints to focus on ebook and audible like Hatchette's Bookouture) on since the last time I looked at this route. 

So that's it. I'm back. I can't guarantee regular posts, not with all that is going on but I am here!  

Ooooh and I have been doing lots of reading. You can find me on Goodreads to see just what books I have been reading. At the moment I am reading The Maid's Room by Fiona Mitchell and loving it! 

Friday, 12 January 2018

One last post!

I haven't blogged in a long while - a year to be exact. A new baby has changed my priorities and this blog didn't make the list! I am still writing though - I have written the first draft of Jackpot Jetty the next instalment in the Chupplejeep series. I only finished the draft because I haven't been blogging!!!

I started this blog when I first started writing. I have received some lovely feedback and I feel that this blog has helped me become the writer I am today. I have shared my writing highs and lows and my experience with my followers and have enjoyed every minute of it.

However, I feel this blog has come to a natural end and so this is a final post to say just that. But my blogging days are not over just yet. I have started a new blog Writing and Weetabix which will continue to follow my journey. This blog will be different to The Coffee Stained Manuscript though as it will not only follow my writing highs and lows but it will also follow the ups and downs of being a new mum. I could have kept The Coffee Stained Manuscript going but I felt it was time for a change. This new blog probably won't appeal to all my existing followers but take a look and if it does please do follow me at my new home.

Thank you for reading my writing rants and following my journey! 

Monday, 2 January 2017

New Year - New writing!

Happy New Year!  I'm sure you've seen all those New Year inspirational quotes already telling you to start something new, perhaps go on a new adventure - so I won't bore you with all that.

January is generally a depressing month - ice scraping the car featuring more this month than most. We all have resolutions and writers will have writing resolutions. I know I always do. This year I can't promise to blog more or write more - what I can promise is that I will be writing something new and hoping to get a couple of drafts done for titles that will appear in the next couple of years. Writing is a long process isn't it? A labour of love.

Last year I removed Goa Traffic from sale - in that I asked Authorhouse to stop selling it. Copies are available if stores still have stock, but otherwise just my kindle version will be out there. It's a title that is still selling but if you are a regular reader of this blog you'll know that I have had some internal issues with the book and at this point I felt it was the right time to withdraw it from sale in paperback form. Just having the kindle version available gives me total autonomy of the title and I can unpublished this at any time. It felt good making this decision (after I deliberated for about two years), but I felt with the launch of The Body in the Bath it was the right time for me to pull the plug.

Book sales - Why are they so complicated? Sales for The Body in the Bath and Under the Coconut Tree are going well. Better than I could have imagined (especially given the limited publicity for The Body in the Bath and the fact it only has two reviews so far!). However, from speaking to my publisher sales for Poison in the Water are not going as well and I'm not sure why.  From The Body in the Bath sales I would have said I have a bit of a following, but perhaps this is just for books set in Goa and the fact that these books are part of a series?! I don't know. The world of book sales is hugely complicated. And at the moment I don't have the time or the energy to look into this further. I know this makes me a terrible author - because these days an author has to do all these things - we need to know our target markets. Being lazy will get you nowhere in this business which brings me to my topic for the week - is writing a hobby or a business?

That's the funny thing with my writing and I'm sure for quite a few authors out there. It is a hobby. If you are a writer you'll know that you have to keep writing - it's a compulsion and you need to do it to feel sane. But I have been lucky enough to turn the majority of my books into a commercial success ( which I define as making money from them) therefore they have become a business as well - that and the fact I have to fill out a self- assessment tax return (grrr). But surely this is a good thing.  As a writer I want people to read and enjoy my books - providing a bit of escapism for when readers need it most. But I can't say that I am doing the whole business side of authoring well. I did with GT in the beginning and this probably paid off because it has done extremely well  commercially- or was it because it was easier back then when self publishing was relatively new?

I now find that with each title published that I can't muster the energy that I had with that first book to plug away, spam people so that they know about the title. I feel as if I am repeating myself, boring people by telling them to buy my books. I need to get back to it and find the energy from somewhere for this hobby turned business.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Author Interview - The Body in the Bath: A Chupplejeep Mystery

We’re all excited about The Body in the Bath the latest book in the Chupplejeep Mystery Series. What’s this one about? 

The body of an actress is found in a bath of a boutique hotel in rural Goa. The death appears to be a suicide, but closer inspection suggests foul play! Detective Chupplejeep is called to investigate and in doing so unearths a plethora of secrets from the troubled actress’s past. Suspects are rounded up  and motives are aplenty. It’s a complicated case with a sinister twist.

The first book in the series, Under the Coconut Tree, introduced us to the main characters and a mysterious case for Detective Chupplejeep and Officer Pankaj to solve. Will readers have to have read Under the Coconut Tree before they read The Body in the Bath?

Absolutely not! Although the Body in the Bath is part of a series and you can see the main characters develop through the novels, each book is stand alone and so they don’t have to be read in sequence.

Did you always want to write a cosy crime series?

I never set out to write one, but the idea came to me while I was visiting my father’s ancestral home in rural Goa and it was too good an idea to pass up. The exotic charm of rural Goa, the flavours, the sounds and the sights inspired me while I was there and it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  The Chupplejeep series is written in a similar vein of the No. 1 Ladies Detective agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m glad that I went down this route – although writing a series does have its challenges!

Can you tell us a little more about the challenges of writing a series?

Continuity can be a problem, and once a book has been published you can’t go back to make big changes to main characters or continuing story lines the characters have. You have to work with the back stories and locations you have given your characters at the outset. However, on saying that there is something magical about writing a series. Through the various scenarios your main characters find themselves in you begin to learn more about them, they really develop as people and you get attached to them (a little like imaginary friends for grown-ups!).

You grew up in Goa. How have your experiences influenced your writing?

The Chupplejeep Mysteries are set in modern day Goa, but they often refer to things from my past such as Star TV, which is still available but on Tata Sky. Chicklets, another little addition – I’m not sure if you get this chewing gum there anymore, but you certainly did when I was growing up. I like adding little touches like that which are personal to me and from a time when I was growing up in Goa. I still try to visit Goa once a year so I have seen it change over the years. There has recently  been a resurgence in the rural villages and people are moving away from the hustle and bustle of the beaches. The village which inspired the series is definitely rural but development is now dominant. There is talk of a hotel and an art school in neighbouring villages (the idea of which influenced Advani’s art school in The Body in the Bath). I have tried to capture the old and the new Goa in my books.

I love the characters in the Chupplejeep Mysteries. Who is your favourite character and why?

In The Body in the Bath my favourite character is Advani, the flamboyant artist with a dark secret. He is eccentric and can be described as a bit brutal to his art students and the people he works with. However, there is a loving side to him – he has just hidden it well. I won’t say too much though as I don’t want to anything away!

I know you said one character, but I have to mention Christabel, Chupplejeep’s girlfriend, because she is also a favourite and features in both books.  She has definitely developed over the two books and has come into her own. She has the usual insecurities many of us women have, albeit a little exaggerated, and she has the biggest heart. She also loves her food and has dreams she is determined to make happen! I love her spirit and her sometimes sneaky ways. 

What next?

I am working on the third book in the Chupplejeep Mysteries. The working title is Jackpot Jetty. Chupplejeep takes a well deserved break and visits a lake house for a bit of R&R, but his peaceful stay quickly comes to an end when a body is discovered in a wooden boat on the lake.  I’m also working on a thriller called Splinter which is set in England.

The Body in the Bath is available now in e-book and in paperback. Marissa de Luna is an author with a passion for travel and adventure. The Body in the Bath  is her fifth novel. For more information see