Val has learned lessons about writing while she worked on her four books. One thing she’s learned, that we discuss in this episodes, is that it helps to plot.
She likes to writie thrillers, and one of her favorite thriller writers, Lee Child, gave some advice that has stuck with Val and she changed how she write because of it.
Roland is also back to discuss the latest news in the author world.
- author pen names
- Brandon Sanderson helping authors at audible
- A.I. audiobooks
Stephen: Okay, so let’s do a little author talking. I gotta ask you about your why to Kindle Unlimited here in a minute. Let me ask you this though. You’re on your fourth book. What have you learned that you’re doing different now than what you did at the beginning?
Val: very first thing I learned was that no, you, if you, for me, it doesn’t work for everybody. For me, I’ll never write anything if I don’t actually sit down and. Okay. So when I first thought maybe I’d write, I thought to myself, okay, what will I write about what, who I decide. I decided I’ll gonna write a book, what will be about?
And absolutely nothing came into my head. And this had been going around in my head for weeks. And then I heard May Binchy, do you know May Binchy? Yeah. I heard May Binchy interviewed and she said, I’ve never write anything if I didn’t sit down on my desk and write from nine to five every.
I’ve never done nine to five. My, my stamina isn’t that strong. But then I sat down and I start, and I sat down and started writing, and I was amazed to discover that like words just came to me. . .
Stephen: Yes. I And that I totally agree with you. So I know a lot of people talk about writer’s block and you mentioned earlier about getting ideas.
My, I love when people say where do you get your IDs? It’s like, where don’t I get my ideas? I’m driving down the road and I get three ideas. I’m sitting here writing this book and I get an idea for this other book. It just, once you start that creative juices going, it seems. Not stop. I’m working on a Christmas story for my kids and I’ve been doing that almost every year and it’s, I was like, okay, it’s gonna be like all the others.
Oh, it’s gonna be a short little story. And now we’re up to 7,000 words , and it’s still going . So I agree. It just kinda keeps going. No, I
Val: don’t get writer’s block. I probably get the opposite. I write a lot of crap writer’s
Stephen: blog, then I ,
Val: maybe that’s it. I write a whole load of stuff and then I go back and I think, nah, that’s useless.
I have to get rid of that. But I’ve often listened to Lee Child being interviewed and I heard Lee Child and he said he never deletes anything. He said, because I’m a writer, not a. And I tried that. Once he said it, I thought, yeah, I waste too much time writing stuff that I later throw away and don’t use.
I said, I’m going to do it this time. I’m going to have a plot. But I don’t think, I think about a week later, I’ve written a page that was, as far as a God I just can’t work that way. I just have to keep writing and see what happens.
Stephen: Yeah. We’re gonna talk about writing plot here in a couple minutes.
More of a discussion. But yeah I, I know a. I’ve, everybody has to come to their own way of doing it. And sometimes you have to try and experiment other ways. And that’s where I’ve gotten, this, like I said, this Christmas story I’m working on now. Without even realizing it. started off as a, an almost dialogue only story where it was very little, everything else, but the story seemed to flow really well, and now I’m adding in the other stuff.
I’ve never wanted to write that way. It just kinda happened. I know a buddy of mine, Jay Thorne, talks about doing that all the time. He’ll write the whole book as just basically dialogue and then go back and fill the rest in. And it’s actually working quite well for me this time. So I’m like, oh, okay, we’ll go with it.
Val: That’s interesting because I don’t generally do that. I generally tend to write Page by page till I get to the end. But I had to change something and go back and add something to my most recent book. And I found it incredibly confusing. Like when I said I kept getting big stuff as to what was happening and where I was and it and all the rest.
And then when I got to the end and I send it off to my editor and. . I had this big reveal, and she, at the end of one chapter and she said, you said that already. And I thought, oh my God, I did . I mentioned it three times earlier without meaning to,
Stephen: So I got a few other questions. Let’s talk a little bit about our discussion on plot since we’re here already.
What software do you use to write. Word.
Val: I know nobody does that and nobody does that. But I’ve used Word, all my working in life, I’m very comfortable with it. A,
Stephen: actually, I’d probably say a good 70 to 80% of the writers I talk to use Word. Do they? Everybody hear? Use s Scrivener. I was just gonna say and this isn’t a dig or anything to anybody.
Most of the authors I talk to are newer. Actually having four books put you at the higher end of professionalism for my podcast. No dig against anybody. It’s just the focus is new authors, unknown authors, people you haven’t heard of. But that’s not to say that more professional authors use other stuff.
I personally like Scribner because of exactly what you were just saying. I just, I’m a database programmer by trade, so very analytical type thing. And I realized with word that. It’s all one big long thing and, oh wait, if I wanna change or move something, it’s just cumbersome. Whereas Scribner I kind put things on a corkboard with little synopsis and I can move ’em around, and then I go into it and I write the details.
So we were gonna talk about plot and that kind of fits right in. I don’t do a big outline. I generally have a, an idea of the plot. How do you handle plot?
Val: I did look at Scribner when I started. I got the free version and I looked at it and I thought, by the time I’ve learned that I’ll have written the whole book.
I’m not . And also because I don’t plot, I I don’t think I need it. The odd time I think it will be handy cuz I wouldn’t make the mistake I made there in that book. But I. Generally speaking, I feel I don’t plat. And if you do, and I think S Scribner sounds like it’s perfect for Plattered, but I’m not a platter.
My book generally starts to goes straight to the end. So I find word is fine, but no I don’t plat. Usually when I start a book, I know who the murderer is, I know who the victim is. Most of the time I know why they did it. I didn’t actually in one book, but most of the time I know why they did it. But that’s it.
Then I just start writing. So what I do is I start writing it and when I start to write it, I see it in my head like I’m watching a movie. So then, yeah, so then characters just start doing things and I bite
Stephen: them and I. I’m the Christmas story I’m working on. One of the reasons I think the dialogue type of beginning and why it’s flowing so easily is because I have all the characters in my head pictured very well, and they’re all distinct.
And I have a firm grasp. It’s almost like they really exist and I’m just kind sketching what they’re actually saying and doing. It’s played out in your head and a. I don’t, I know JD Barker talks all the time working with Patterson about intricate plot details outlines, where, each chapter is, here’s all the things going on in the chapter outlined out, and then here’s the sub things and everything is, 50 pages of outline to, for before you even write the book.
I I’m like, Away from that, I get an idea and I even using Scribner, I’ll say, here’s a scene, here’s a scene, here’s a scene. And then I fill it all in and it expands and it changes and that, so I, like we said earlier, I think authors really need to try these and figure out what works best for them. Not just, oh, that’s how does it.
So that’s how I’m gonna do it, even if it’s not best.
Val: Exactly, and when I started, I got really cut up in this whole plot thing. People say you have to have a, an idea where you have your peaks and your candles. What do you call those things? I can’t think of the word for them, they, you’re supposed to write
Stephen: to this.
The word’s gone, like the three act structure with Exactly. Rising action and Exactly
Val: I worried myself sick about that because I couldn’t figure out like, how the hell did I do this? And then I wrote when I’d written my book and I sent it off. To my developmental editor, and she said to me, because I give up, I just thought, I’m not even worrying about that.
So I sent it off to her and she said to me, now you’ve got quite a good grasp of structure. And I said, I have absolutely no grasp of structure. I don’t understand it at all. And she said for some people it comes naturally because they’ve picked it up from reading.
Stephen: I, I was going to ask you that. Do you mostly, or have you mostly.
Psychological thrillers throughout your life that you, it’s just like part of you now. ? No, I’ve read
Val: throughout my life, but I haven’t always read psychological failures. I’d say I, I was like 30, I think. I read my very first aga, the Priesty when I was a teenager, but like reading lots of them, I don’t think I started doing that till I was nearly 30.
Stephen: Okay. All right. And maybe this is why I don’t write. In that genre, cuz honestly I cannot get into Agatha Christi. I’ve read a couple stories and I’m like, okay, I’ve read enough. I, I read the big popular ones and I’m like, yeah, I just she doesn’t throw me. I
Val: mean, when I was a kid different things throw you, I actually wrote an article about that recently about the very first, the Christie book I ever read, and it was called, Let me see if I had the article, I would be able to remember his name.
The man in the brown suit. That was it. Okay. So I’d been going through my tortured romantic phase at that stage, and I went into my grandmother’s house one day and she found these books at the end, at back of a Cupboard, and she gave them to me. And one of them was this, and there was, it was written in 1927, so it was like, it was not a modern book.
But it was about this girl whose father dies and she’s left on her own at a time when women weren’t really supposed to, be doing much on their own. And she decided she’s gone off to South Africa. And I just thought it was such a lovely book. , it was a bit of a romance that she got to do all these amazing things as opposed to the women I’ve been reading about.
I spend most of the time dying in factories and waiting for Ben to come and save them before they dropped down to starvation. And I just thought it was like a breath of fresh air. .
Stephen: Nice. Yeah. I think the books and authors we read when we’re younger make the impact and the imprint on us, and a lot of what we do later stays close to that.
, I still pick up Stephen King and we’ll read him, and even if I book, I’ve read sometimes it’s like manam. I really feel like reading that again, , I think that’s the same way, but I will say, I read Murder on the Orient Express and I went, oh, now I see where the 500 derivative movies and books that use this similar plot came from.
She came up with this first. She
Val: was the first one to do that, so that was very unique at the time.
Stephen: Yeah. I agree. So I’m like, okay, yeah, if nothing else, I can say yes. I have read Agatha Christie, so you know, I’m not missing one of the classic authors , but you do better
Val: than me. I haven’t read Stephen King.
I have seen his movies, but I’ve never read it. Oh
Stephen: There aren’t too many movies that are that good with his stuff. I appreciate some of ’em at. Level, but a lot of his books, one of my favorite top three favorite books of all time is The Shining. I’ve probably read Really? I’ve seen the
Val: movie, never read the
Oh. The I do not like the Cubic movie that even though everybody loves it it, there’s actually a TV mini series that was on in the early nineties based on The Shining, and I thought it was much more accurate to the book and a better. Movie watching experience, then the cubic movie. So each of their own, Yeah. Maybe
Val: someday I’ll read, but I’m not really a horror person, to be honest. I don’t like Gore. It gets to well,
Stephen: well, a lot of his more modern books aren’t even really horror. They’re, they just touch upon a little supernatural, maybe . It’s the early ones that have the best horror in it.
Yeah. Yeah. Harry was hit. Do what? was Carrie not his? Yes, that was his first one. Place I remember. Yeah. . Yeah. That one I didn’t care for a whole lot. It was a shorter, thinner story but. The Salems lot, the Shining Dead Zone, Cujo Misery. Those were all, oh, I
Val: saw misery. I saw the movie
That’s one of the good movies, . So I like that one. Kathy Bates is wonderful and it says Steve Khan or James Khan. Sorry. Okay besides Book Bub, how are you marketing your.
Val: Oh apart from BookBub, I don’t really do all that much. I do different things. I started off doing Facebook ads, but what I found was I got sales from Facebook ads, but they cost me about as much as I was spending on the thing.
So I drop them. I do Amazon, but I don’t find it very successful. What I do is I put my book in it’s late here. My brain isn’t working properly. What do you call those things where you reduce your book? To to 99
Stephen: cents. Oh. Like some sale? Some, no, like
Val: the big ones free
Stephen: those kinds.
yeah. Okay. Yeah.
Val: No, I do those about, I do one of my books there about a week before my new book comes out. and then I do my new book. And then after my new book comes out about three months later, I apply for good book Bob Dale. And so far that’s worked for me. If Book Bob ever stopped working for me, I’m gonna have to go up with a different model.
Stephen: And one of the things I wanted to ask you about, you mentioned on the last half, was you go wide and then you essentially pull it down and just put it in Kindle Unlimited. . Whereas a lot of times I hear authors saying they go in Kindle Unlimited first and then they go out wide. So why? Why do you do it the way you do?
Val: because I want to do Book Bob. So if you do book, Bob won’t really consider your book. If it’s in Kindle Unlimited, I, they do some big people, but it’ll be very difficult to get your, to get a feature deal if your book was in Kindle Unlimited. So I figure by not having it in Kindle Unlimited and not having had any big sales in it before, that means it does better when it goes on a book.
Bob Dale. Okay. Right. .. Again, everything I do is build around this feature do, which I may not even get .
Stephen: Okay. And so how long do you leave them? Like I assume Apple and Google and Cobo or maybe, wherever else. How long do you leave them there and do you see, do you have good sales and then you see it decline?
Is that when you pull it out or how? How’s that? I don’t
Val: find that I have that great sales there. I do well when I do the book Bob Deal, but apart from that, I don’t find it just very well. I just want them there. So if anything ever happens, like they’re all up and if anything ever happens to Amazon, like they decide to close down my account or something, it would only take me a second to get them all live again somewhere else.
But I leave them there for the year because. , that’s like I do promos, even when I do promos. I think promos will better if you have more places that you can sell your book. So I leave them there for the promos and then I’ll do a promo, say the week before my new book comes out. And then when my promo’s done, I I put it back into Kinder Unlimited and I have my new book.
Stephen: Okay. Interesting. That’s definitely good to hear that you’re having success doing it a little different than a lot of other people do it. So for all the authors listening, like we said with plotting and writing, and so software, sometimes you gotta find what works best for you and know why you’re doing things instead of just that’s how does it.
Val: Yeah. People have told me it’s not a very bright way to do it. They say you’re relying on a book dog deal you might never get, which is true. But so far I’ve been lucky. So for me it works. At the moment. It may stop working. Yeah. Do
Stephen: you find, you’ve got people that have read your first couple books and now they want the next one, so you’re getting people ordering it because they’ve read it, they know it, and it’s building up through all of these couple.
Val: I have people on Instagram who have followed me and read all of my books like from the beginning. So I have some people like that who are very good. Like they, they’d be saying like, I sent out my new session. They say, oh, I’m so looking forward to your new
Stephen: book, . Nice. Okay. All right. So let me ask you, Val, before we close things up if a new author comes up to you and asks do you have any advice?
I’m just starting out, what would you. Don’t have
Val: very high expectations. .
Stephen: Wow. Ok.
Val: have patience. It takes a long time.
Stephen: Okay, great. And let me, lemme ask another question before we get going. You write the psychological thrillers. Have you thought of trying any other genre or you just want to keep going with what you have?
Val: said, I’m going to write I’m going to write a time traveler thriller, which is slightly different at some. I always thought what I’d love to do, but I don’t think I’ll ever do it cuz I don’t think I have the time. But I always thought what I’d love to do is rewr write a version of pride and prejudice from somebody else’s point of view.
I’ve always loved Pride and Prejudice. One of my favorite books, , so I always said I’d like to do that from the point of view of one of the minor characters. , that would be an awful lot of work because I’d have to figure out how people lived then, how people wrote, spoke then, would take probably too much work.
Stephen: That, yeah, that does sound like it would be some work, but if you love it, it does make I
Val: do, I absolutely adore that
Stephen: book. Yeah. Okay. I’ll put some links on that as one of your favorite books. great,
Val: but it’s very different from what I write. .
Stephen: Yeah. I, my, what I, my reading is way different from what I write.
All right. Val, I appreciate you getting on chatting with me today. I’m glad we got our tech problems worked out so we can get on. Oh yeah,
Val: thank you Steven. I really appreciate that cuz I was having nightmares about that tech .
Stephen: Oh no, we got you coverage. You’re good. It’s all good. I wish you luck and I appreciate you taking some time.
Val: Thank you for talking to me and
Stephen: Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to you too. Even though the episode probably won’t come out until after Christmas, but Okay. That Happy New Year. Happy New Year. Yeah. So I was just gonna add that, yeah, happy New Year. Happy Valentine’s Day. It’ll be Valentine’s Day.
So have a good summer. Yeah,
Val: thanks Val. Okay, take care, Steven. Bye. Bye.