SPS-215: Building on a Solid (SPF) Foundation – with Elle Thorpe
Elle Thorpe published her first books herself, and then, with the help of the SPF Foundation was able to learn about advertising from the SPF 101 course. Using what she learned, she increased her sales enough that her husband was able to quit his second job. Elle hopes to be able to afford for him to leave his remaining job very soon.
- An update on the SPF Foundation
- Elle Thorpe’s start in self-publishing
- Holding off on publishing until she had three novels
- Progressing with writing from a hobby to a job
- Enabling Elle’s husband to quit his second job because of book income
- Why persistence with advertising matters
- Why stand-alone novels, that are also in a series, are a good idea
- Trial books written while figuring out what writing processes work
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
LIVE EVENT: Can’t attend the SPF Live event in London in March? Grab your ticket to the digital version for just $25.
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show…
Elle Thorpe: I had a few friends that were just going down… my critique partners were going down the traditionally published side, and I was watching them with their query letters. And at one point, they convinced me they were like, “Come on, just try.” And I did try for an open call and then I just self-published. Before I even heard back from them because yeah, it just wasn’t for me.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join Indie bestseller, Mark Dawson, and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello, and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show with James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson. Wearing the same clothes as last week.
James Blatch: Yes, we’re doing a little batch just two weeks in a row, which means by the time this goes out, it’s frighteningly close to our live show-
Mark Dawson: Little Blatch. Little Blatch.
James Blatch: Little Blatch. Little Blatch.
Mark Dawson: Little Blatch.
James Blatch: You don’t know why, why I call it Little Blatch.
Mark Dawson: No, I don’t want a talk about Little Blatch, it’s a terrible mistake.
James Blatch: So, when’s this going out? We should work out how-
Mark Dawson: This is going out on the 28th of February.
James Blatch: 28th of February.
Mark Dawson: One episode, two episodes to go. This one and the next one and then it will be London.
James Blatch: Our live event, which if you’re not coming to I’m sorry, if we’re rattling on about a bit it. But it is obviously occupying us, we suddenly find ourselves organizing an 1000 person conference at the height of a worldwide pandemic, it was always our aim.
We want to write the next novel, the next novel will write itself. But we’re very excited about that, and you still have a chance to join us digitally.
In fact, if you get in before the conference itself, March the 9th, if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/digital for 25 dollars, if you sign up before the conference, you’ll get your 25 dollars back in the form of a voucher, and then you get full access to all the courses professionally produced, which will turn around in a couple of weeks afterwards, within a couple of weeks afterwards.
You also get access to the Self-Publishing Formula University, which is a place for regular live trainings, and excellent training we’ve had recently on that as well.
We can’t do Patreons because we are pre-recording this, we’ll catch up with them next week, but we are going to talk a little bit about our foundation.
Now we have, since we started the business, we set up a foundation to run alongside it to put some efforts and money back into the community. We were aware, when we sell the courses, that not everybody can afford them. We now hear from people who are struggling a little bit but clearly are talented, and no one wants to see talent go to waste.
So the foundation was there to try and pick up those individuals for whom that finance was just a barrier to getting started and getting going and realizing their potential as writers. And you can apply for it if you go to selfpublishingformula.com. You’ve got all year to apply for it before we decide and announce the next batch next January.
It’s very likely that we are going to expand it this year because we’ve got two people I can think of have contacted us, and we will announce this more formally during the year, but an organization and an individual, both contacted us and offered a good amount of money to go into the foundation. So we could seriously expand it this year, be worth looking into.
Mark Dawson: Well, the expansion for the individual is actually starting this year. We’re going to pick another one from this.
James Blatch: Oh.
Mark Dawson: So yeah, it’s Marc Reklau who writes non-fiction, he’s going to be at the conferences, actually going to be on the stage talking with Joseph Alexander about selling non-fiction, and Joseph sorry, Marc got touch and said that he’d like to support it because jokingly he said that he’d like to erect a statue.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: To us after he took the course and his life’s changing out there. He’s selling a lot of books, and he’s very thankful for that. Now obviously we … I think, what was it he said? Who did he quote, someone doesn’t like statues because birds crap on them basically. So he didn’t want to do a statue.
But instead he’d like to contribute to the foundation, and so he’s going to be sponsoring one foundation winner. So he’s actually stumping up several thousand euros, so kudos to Marc. And I think Lucy said to me this morning that we’re actually going to pick someone else from this year’s crop. So he’s going to start this year and then go forward, and I think we’re talking about five years worth of sponsorship.
I’m very impressed with that. So we’re going to pick another one. And we’ll announce that in the community and probably on the podcast, when we’ve decided.
It’d be lovely if it was a non-fiction author but I don’t… when we choose those people, I don’t really make any kind of distinction as to what is being written.
James Blatch: Sure.
Mark Dawson: It could be any genre at all. So, it’ll just be the quality of the writing and the opportunity as I see it, and Ricardo from Reedsy, and Marc as well. Marc can have some feedback onto who this one goes to you. So, yeah, we’ll have more on that soon.
James Blatch: So just to make it clear, the extra person will be drawn from those applicants from 2019.
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: So there’s no point in apply… well, you can absolutely apply in 2020. But we decided in the normal course of events in January.
Mark Dawson: Correct.
James Blatch: Good. Well, thank you Marc Reklau is a lovely guy, and he does feel in debt to you for your mastery. And I had a very nice time with Marc. He lives on a boat in Barcelona. I didn’t hesitate to go out and visit him there. But he’s going to come over and see us in London in a couple of weeks, which would be great.
That brings us on very nicely to the interview. It’s with a writer called Elle Thorpe. Elle’s a very trendy name because of Stranger Things now, of course, perfect timing for her.
And actually talking of timing, this interview was recorded at the very heart of the peak of the wildfires around Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, which was terrifying. It did an unbelievable amount of damage. I was right in the middle of it at that point, potentially had to evacuate if things turned the wrong way. I had to check my phone every day. And we do talk about that at the beginning interviews. Very interesting.
But aside from fighting wildfires, Elle has been one of the foundation recipients and she’s taken that I think 2500 dollars of investment, more than that with the courses, got herself going and did exactly what the foundation is there for. She got her grounding and is now an author, making money, living off her writing, which is absolutely fantastic. So let’s hear from Elle Thorpe.
Elle, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show.
Elle Thorpe: Thank you for having me.
James Blatch: It’s dark and rainy here. But it’s early morning, early-ish morning for you.
Elle Thorpe: Yeah, it’s definitely not dark and raining here. It never rains in Sydney. It’s sunny and eight o’clock.
James Blatch: We should start by saying that you’re in the middle of a horrific episode of wildfires, which is capturing the world’s attention at the moment.
Just tell us a little bit about that because you’re in the Sydney area, right?
Elle Thorpe: I’m about an hour out of Sydney at my place. And there’s a rather large fire burning in the Blue Mountains at the moment that has had us covered in smoke for maybe six weeks now, maybe a little bit longer. Most days it’s just constant smoking, not letting kids outside to play because they’re asthmatic.
We were supposed to go camping at the beginning of this year, but the campgrounds that we were supposed to go to down on the south coast were completely wiped out by bush fire. Our friends lost their house. Yeah, it’s been really bad. So we’re just praying for rain.
James Blatch: How awful. Our sympathies go to you and obviously, we’ll join you in the rain dance to try and bring down the rain it needs a change in the weather, doesn’t it?
Elle Thorpe: Absolutely.
James Blatch: Trying to imagine not letting the children out to play and not going for a run, which I know might be a blessing for some people but it curtails a huge amount of life doesn’t it?
Elle Thorpe: Yeah. Especially with the kids on school holidays at the moment. Yeah.
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. Well, look, we wish you well with that. Hopefully by the time this goes out, there’s been better news.
Let’s talk about happier things, which has been your ascent from somebody trying to get going in the whole writer world, the indie world, and with a little bit of help from us, we’ve helped along the way, which is a great part of the story, to where you are today.
Why don’t we start sort of at the beginning with your writing career.
When did this become something that perhaps went from a hobby or an interest to an ambition?
Elle Thorpe: I started writing in my youngest daughter’s… I have three kids, and I started writing in her nap times, probably five years ago, four years ago. And then yeah, it was just a hobby. And then I eventually wrote a few books that were terrible.
I finally hit one that I thought was good. And so I never really decided to do the trad company thing. I was never really interested. So just went straight down the self pub line.
Published that in September 2018. And I actually had it finished quite a while before that, but I held off publishing it. I was listening to podcasts. I was reading everything. I was on KBoards all the time.
I just knew that I should probably have a couple in the pipeline before I published. So I held off and I had three ready to go when I published in 2018. So then yeah, I had the first four books in that series out by the April of 2019.
It just didn’t really do anything very exciting, to be honest. For a brand new newbie, who didn’t know anything that they were doing, it wasn’t too bad. I had some pre orders the first time, I made a few dollars, a couple of hundred here, a couple hundred there, which I was I was stoked.
I wasn’t close to making my money back or anything like that. But I was stoked, because I was thinking my mom would read it, and that would be about it. So that’s sort of where that all started.
James Blatch: Just to pick up on your decision to go indie right from the beginning.
Where did you start hearing about self-publishing? And at what point did you work out that it would be a better route for you?
Elle Thorpe: To be honest, I was aware of probably self-publishing as soon as that pretty much came to light. I wasn’t in a place to do it. Because I think I was reading about self-publishing even before I was really writing with intent.
I was maybe writing 500 words here and 500 words there. But just the whole self-publishing thing really appealed to me. Even now, I still love doing all the marketing, I love doing all the extra, I love being the one woman business. So it just sort of really appealed to me.
I don’t know whether it was maybe a little bit of self doubt, I was thinking, “Oh, I would never be able to traditionally publish a book, but I’m decent with computers, I can write this book.” Trad publishing never really appealed to me.
And also I write things that… the hero of my first book, he’s HIV positive. And I just thought it’s going to be a tough slog to get this traditionally published. It’s not mainstream.
I had a few friends that were just going down… my critique partners were going down the traditionally published side, and I was watching them with their query letters, and at one point they convinced me, they were like, Come on, just try.”
I did try for an open call, and then I just saw published before I even heard from them because it just wasn’t for me. And everybody on KBoards was so excited back in the day. It was exciting. And that’s just where I wanted to be.
James Blatch: I tell you, that’s interesting from my perspective doing these interviews, because it’s gone in a fairly short order of time to almost everybody you speak to to was either traditionally published or trying to get traditionally published and eventually discovered one way or another self-publishing. To people who are right from the beginning know their audience on this subject and make that decision to go indie.
Elle Thorpe: I just knew where I wanted to be. And that’s still where I want to be.
James Blatch: So you lined up a few books, which is good strategy and still is good strategy.
At some point I think you applied for the foundation that we offer at SPF.
Elle Thorpe: I think I had the first three books out, had those out by January last year. And the fourth was set to come out in April. And I think somewhere between the two of those, I heard about the foundation and the scholarship on the podcast, and immediately dismissed it. Said no, there’s not a chance that I would ever win that.
So I let it go. And then one of my critique partners, Zoe Ashwood, she was applying for it. And she said to me, “Why aren’t you applying? You’ve got these three books out, you’re not really getting anywhere with them, just apply.” She’s like, “I am; you do it too.”
I thought, okay. So we did it together. And then it just snowballed from there. I kept getting emails back that said, “You’re through to the next round.” And then I got another one that said, “You’re through to the next round.”
And the whole time I’m thinking, “I’m going to get kicked out at some point. At some point, somebody’s going to realize that my books aren’t that great, and I don’t deserve to be here.” And yeah, it didn’t happen.
James Blatch: The old imposter syndrome.
Elle Thorpe: Oh, I have so much imposter syndrome. It’s terrible. And especially even more so back then.
And then I nearly died when I got the email that said Mark is going to be reading some of your work. And that’s the next level. And I thought, Oh, my goodness, I’m definitely gone now.
I finally got the email that said, yep, you’re our winner. And it was just amazing. It was really good for my self confidence too. It meant a lot to me to just get that sort of nod that maybe I’m sort of doing things in the right way. And I’m heading in the right direction. And it was really good.
James Blatch: People have faith in you.
Elle Thorpe: And that’s the thing about going indie. You don’t really get any feedback. I have my critique partners. I got a lot of feedback from them. And I had a few books out. I had great reviews. I was really happy with the reviews, but it’s just nice to have that industry nod as well. So yeah, I was very, very… there was a lot of excited screaming that day.
James Blatch: Yeah, well, brilliant. It’s a chunk of money. I think it services up to about 3000 US dollars.
Elle Thorpe: I think it was about 2500. Yeah.
James Blatch: I should know the answer to this. It might be 3000 now, but at the time it was 2500-
Elle Thorpe: That’s okay. Yeah.
James Blatch: I imagine from where you were, you suddenly had some decent money to spend on your marketing efforts.
How did you apply yourself at that point?
Elle Thorpe: Well, it was all very overwhelming in the beginning. But then, so it was the 2500 dollars from Reedsy plus access to all the marketing courses and the 101 course. And so it was a matter of working through all the material on the courses and getting my books.
I used the 2500, I’m still using it actually, I use that for editing through Reedsy. So I’ve had a whole year full of free editing, which was amazing.
James Blatch: Did you get your existing books, your published books edited?
Elle Thorpe: No, so I already had those edited. I had paid for those. Since 2019, I’ve written another four, three or four full length books. And so I’ve had some of those edited with that Reedsy money. So yeah, that’s been nice. Very nice.
James Blatch: And you did the courses?
Elle Thorpe: Yes. The Ads for Authors was more where I was interested. As I said, I’ve done a few years of research, finding all the information that’s in the 101 course I’ve done the hard way, reading it on KBoards. I wish I’d had that a few years earlier. But then the marketing course is what I needed, 100%.
I was trying to do Facebook ads. I had the four books out. I hadn’t done any advertising, because everybody had said don’t worry until you’ve got a few books and you’ve got something to sell through to. So I’d sort of left that alone.
But I just started trying to do Facebook ads and I was just failing miserably. I just needed somebody to say which buttons to tick and which… I was throwing money at the wall, basically, and getting nowhere. Yeah, so then the ads for this course is just really where I focused all my attention.
James Blatch: So the big question now is what difference it’s made.
Elle Thorpe: A big difference. It’s definitely gone from a hobby to my business and to my job. My goal at the beginning of 2019, my youngest daughter started school and I’ve been a stay at home mom for 10 years. And so I’ve never gone back to work, looking after the three kids.
My goal was that I free my husband from his second job. He’s been working two jobs for 10 years. And working seven days most weeks because childcare here is just insane. So my goal was to get him out of that second job. And that’s where we’re at now.
So I did all the Facebook. Facebook was where I wanted to start, because I already had a little bit of background knowledge in that. As I said, I wasn’t doing well with it, but I had a vague idea. And then, so I started going through those modules and worked out that I was basically doing everything wrong, and fixed them all up. And it wasn’t very long. It was less than two weeks before I finished the course. And then hit an ad that started doing really well.
It came out of the blue. I had been trying to run ads on the first in my series, which is what everybody says to do. But I worked out pretty quickly that the third book in my series is my strongest book. And so I just started… I thought I’m just going to try and ad for this one, and that’s the one that really took off.
They’re a series of standalone romances. So each one can be read individually. But obviously for read through, you want to still start at the beginning. But at this point I was just sort of like, if I can get an ad to run, great.
It just started taking off. I started really, really small. I started at five dollars a day. And it came in, I think that very first ad came in at about six cents a click. And I just thought, okay, well this is different because until that point, I’ve been getting 30, 40 cents a click just rubbish ads. Which probably is okay for some people, but it just wasn’t going to work, especially if I was basically marketing this book as a standalone.
So then that came in and then I left it for a few days, and then I added another five dollars. I could see my rank going up because I’m in Kindle unlimited. It’s a bit hard always, I’m not always getting a lot of sales, but my page reads are going up.
I started just watching my rank, making sure my rank was dropping and my rates were continually going up, and I just kept adding money to it. And I wasn’t even spending a lot. But at one point there, I was making about six times what I was spending on my ads.
James Blatch: 600% is a good return.
Elle Thorpe: It was a really good return. Those ads are brand new. That book had never been advertised before. And so it was kind of like my second launch, I suppose, for that book. And that’s why. I wish it was still selling at six times, but it’s still selling pretty good even a year later. So yeah, I’m really, really pleased.
James Blatch: When I listen to you talking, it reminds me that there are people who start with Facebook ads, don’t get them working, give up and never go back to them and will tell anyone who listens that they don’t work.
Elle Thorpe: No, you just got to keep trying. Maybe they don’t work for some people, but I was in the same boat. I had spent at least two months before I started the course just putting an ad up every week and just looking at it and going okay.
I was doing all sorts of things, adding it to all locations and just not having good images, not having good… I was sort of using ad copy instead of using… I’ve found excerpts from my book work better in romance. I just wasn’t getting anywhere.
But I kept going. I was determined to make it work. At some point I did know I need somebody to teach me how to do this. But yeah, absolutely. You just have to stick with it and keep trying.
And even now, a year later, I feel like I have a better grasp now. And I can generally sort of tell if an ad is going to work. Well, I have a vague idea, and I hope, I suppose, that this ad will work.
Most of the time I’m right. And sometimes I’m still wrong, and you just try again. You’ve just got to be willing to lose that money in the beginning because once you actually do get an ad that works… I’ve just been blown away by… as I said, it turned a hobby into a business. So yeah, very, very good.
James Blatch: You have an income that’s enough to half retire your husband who, bless him, has been doing two jobs.
Elle Thorpe: He is an amazing man. And he’s my number one supporter, even though he’s never read any of my books. But he works incredibly hard. And for a long time, there was nothing I could do about it because we needed me to be home and we needed him to work.
It’s not cheap to live in Sydney. He’s been working so hard, and he’s still employed by that second job, but he hasn’t taken a shift in six months now. My income replaced his second job. Next goal is to just free him entirely from his job. He can be the stay at home mom for a while.
James Blatch: The retire your husband trend.
Elle Thorpe: I’d love to do it for him. He deserves it.
James Blatch: By the way, you write about Australia. When I was in Sydney, just looking at the papers about house rentals, and you see figures like 2700, and I’d thing that’s not too bad a month, and it’s a week. How can people live like this? It’s so expensive. I don’t understand the economy in Australia. TimTams are cheap, everything else is really expensive.
Elle Thorpe: We don’t understand it either. We just scrape by. We’re lucky. We got into the housing market when we were young. So it was a bit cheaper back then. But it’s still not easy to do it on one income.
James Blatch: I’ve got another point about your writing, which I think is a really good takeaway. That is the thing about being standalone in a series because I do think there’s a great advantage to having your books, even if they’re a series, having the ability to read them as standalone novels.
If you write a series and you put so much effort into writing a series of six, seven, eight books, and if there is systemic problems with one or two of them, even if it’s just one of them, if it’s in the middle of it, you’re sort of scuppered.
If you have to read them in order, if reading them out of order doesn’t make any sense, if that’s the way you’ve written, and of course, artistically, creatively, that’s how some people want to write. And some people want to read. But if you get that with read-through being so important to get that drop off, there’s almost nothing you can do about it. Unless you just bite the bullet, take that book out, completely rewrite, and whoever wants to go back and do that whole thing again.
Elle Thorpe: No, not me.
James Blatch: No. But having the ability to think Okay, so rather than running ads, and everyone’s attention on that first one, in your case book three is doing well, and then people will go read book one, book two.
Elle Thorpe: And they do, yeah.
James Blatch: It’s a small commercial point. But I think it’s a very important one.
Elle Thorpe: Yeah, they absolutely do. Every time I start running an ad for that third book, I notice that my rank on book one will also drop as well, generally.
I am a big fan of Maria Lewis. And I know she does that with her books. I definitely took a bit of inspiration from her there. And it’s completely right, especially in romance. If you do write a standalone series, it’s great to have that read through.
But it is also good to have multiple places where people can jump in. And obviously, you want them to start at the beginning and read all the way through. But hey, if they go back as well, that’s fine, too.
James Blatch: Good point.
Let’s talk about the writing a little bit. You started on nap breaks. I can remember the early days of nap breaks, because I was at home a little bit as well, sleeping as well during that time, when you are awake at night. So you got a nap. Obviously, you got to the point where you didn’t necessarily have to recharge your own batteries.
What drove you to start writing then? And what did you write?
Elle Thorpe: In the beginning, I wrote a paranormal romance or two, which was-
James Blatch: Is that what you were reading?
Elle Thorpe: I suppose that was born from the Twilight era because it wasn’t too… I think it was probably in 2011-ish. Or maybe 2012 that I started doing that. I was a bit late on the Twilight train. But I was reading those then. And I think that’s where that came from.
But it was terrible. That first book that I wrote, it was 70,000 words. It wasn’t plotted out. I didn’t outline at all then. It was just me sitting down every nap time and writing 1000 words or until my toddler spilled something or until my baby woke up or until I had to go pick the oldest one up from preschool or something.
But I was trying to write 1000 words a day, and then if the baby was still asleep, I’d jump on cable and so I was… So even back then, that was kind of my routine. I might have only had two hours a day, but I’d write for an hour and then I’d jump on cable and then I’d be researching for an hour or so until the baby woke up.
I wrote that paranormal. That was terrible. When I got to 75,000 words and I didn’t even know where I was at with it. It was there was no conclusion in sight. So I scrapped it.
Then I wrote another book and did exactly the same thing, made all the same mistakes. That was terrible. So scrapped that.
And then finally, I think by that time… so we’re probably in 2014 or maybe 2015 by this point. And by that time, I was reading a lot more contemporary by then and decided… I just wanted to write a book that had really strong conflict. I’d read a lot of books where it was just… you want that strong conflict between a hero and a heroine. And I just read a lot of books where it was just they didn’t tell each other something and it was just silly.
So I started thinking, what can I write that has this conflict, and the conflict there was the hero has HIV, and he’s HIV positive, or he’s diagnosed with it throughout the course of the book anyway. So that’s where that book came from, and that went on to be my debut, that one.
James Blatch: You were plotting at this point now?
Elle Thorpe: I plotted that one. I put that down. That’s the only reason that book got finished. I wrote that for NANO in, I think, 2016. I didn’t win. I only got the first 40,000 words. And then I was so exhausted. Back then I thought that writing 1600 words a day was painful. It was a real struggle to get that every day.
Then I was so tired by the end of it that I took three months off and didn’t finish it until early the year after. And then it just went through a series of edits with editors and critique partners. And I’ve always had my critique partners by my side the whole time. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d still be here. But so that’s kind of where we went from there.
James Blatch: And just a quick one on the mechanics of your writing, and I’m always interested in how how people write.
Do you write in Scrivener, or in Word or?
Elle Thorpe: It’s been a bit of back and forth. I do have Scrivener and I like it for first drafts. I liked it more in especially my earlier books, I wrote in Scrivener all the time because I really still was learning the mechanics, basically, the basics.
I still am learning, but the basics of writing and so I was getting scenes all out of order, and I really needed Scrivener to help me put them back in and move them around. And so then I would take them from Scrivener and edit them as I went into Word at that point because my editor needed it in Word. So I would take the good bits out of Scrivener and then rewrite all the rest of it.
I still love Scrivener. I do a lot of outlining in Scrivener because I like the cork board and I can see it all there, but I do tend to write now in Word, now that I’ve got my outlining system down a bit better, and I understand the beats of romance a bit better.
I find now that I can actually just write it in Word and I don’t need to move things around as much. But again, that comes down to outlining, mostly, good outlining.
James Blatch: And what’s your word count today? Not necessarily today, it’s eight o’clock in the morning.
Elle Thorpe: It’s only eight o’clock, James.
James Blatch: As in the general, these days, I should say.
Elle Thorpe: So normally I shoot just a minimum of 2000 words a day.
James Blatch: Wow. Okay.
Elle Thorpe: I just do that Monday to Friday, normally. Often, I’m getting more than that. But if I start telling myself… I tried saying to myself last year that I had to write 3000 words a day. And my mind just immediately went no, we’re not doing that. So now often I do write more than 2000, but 2000 is my minimum. If I get to 2000 and I want to stop, I can.
James Blatch: Do you do that in one session?
Elle Thorpe: Mostly. Mostly, I drop the kids at school, I do half an hour of exercise, and then I just sit at the computer for the next hour and a half, two hours, and I make sure I get that 2000 words. If I’m writing more than 2000 words… I’ve had some days where I’ve written 10,000, 5000, those I definitely don’t do all in one bit.
If I know I want a really big word count, if I’m at a really exciting part in the book, or if… I don’t really, I don’t work to close deadlines all that often. But if I do decide I want a big day, I’ll get up at five o’clock in the morning and do two hours and then do another… I do them in blocks of two hours, normally. Two hours is about my focus limit.
James Blatch: Yeah. But even two hours…. I find that quite hard. Two hours would be a struggle for me. Now it’s about 45 minutes is when I start getting antsy, and an hour’s about limit for sitting there writing. Quite intensive experience, writing.
Elle Thorpe: Yeah, absolutely. It depends on my mood. Some days I don’t find my flow until I’m sitting there for an hour. So sometimes I’m just sitting there plucking a few words here and there for an hour until I realize and I’ll find a flow.
But I do find as well, the more words I write in one day, the more I get into that flow state, so sometimes it is worthwhile for me to just sit there and just force out… even if I’m forcing out half an hour of rubbishy words, I know that can fix later.
Sometimes it’s worth it for me to do that to get into that flow state where the words start coming quickly. And they’re normally good, they’re the good words as well, when they come in quickly. Again, that comes back to a good outline, too. I’m all about the outline.
James Blatch: You’ve become a complete convert to the outline.
Elle Thorpe: Absolutely.
James Blatch: I think I’m sort of the same. I’m obviously nowhere near your status in terms of writing, but having gone through that period of writing NANO type things that never go anywhere, you then almost hate opening it because it’s such a mess. You don’t know where it begins, ends, and has no middle.
Elle Thorpe: It’s very confusing when it’s like that and you’ve got bits and pieces there.
James Blatch: Especially in a Word document where it takes half an hour to load in the first place. But yes, certainly when you’re outlining, and I plot quite detailed now, quite look forward to it because you’ve got the freedom.
Elle Thorpe: Yeah, it’s the fun part.
James Blatch: Yeah, you’re writing the scene that you’ve already done the hard work in terms of working out-
Elle Thorpe: Absolutely. Outlining is by far my favorite part of writing. It’s the part where you get to be all creative and you can write all the crazy ideas, but you’re not wasting your time writing 10,000 words and then scrapping them.
I can just write a few bullet points and go, yes, that’s just going to be amazing when I get to it. I love outlining.
James Blatch: So ambitions for 2020. We should say it’s January we’re recording this. So everyone thinks about the year ahead.
You’re going to get your husband out of that second job.
Elle Thorpe: I don’t know if that’ll happen this year. But I hope that we’re heading in that direction for sure. I’ve got a new series. Actually really the first one releases this Thursday, so it should be well and truly out by the time this airs.
I spent a lot of time last year, again, stockpiling books, so I’ve got two. I’ve actually got three, but one in another series, ready to go for this year. And I’m hoping to write another four, maybe five, depending. I’m hoping to up my word count a little bit this year. So I think we’ll just say 2500 a day rather than that 3000 that seems to freak me out. I’m doing that.
James Blatch: Do you have weekends off?
Elle Thorpe: I do try to take weekends off because it’s very hard, and I try to take my kids’ school holidays off as well. It’s just very hard to write with them home and they walk in every five minutes. As you can see, my office is in my bedroom. Just in the corner. I don’t have a dedicated office.
I try not to write when they are home. I’m often doing other things, though. I will save my marketing and stuff like that for the weekends, if we’re not doing family things, because I can do that when they’re interrupting.
When I get into that word place, I don’t want to be interrupted. But marketing, I do a lot of graphic design work. I can do all that sort of thing when they’re home. And so that gets saved for the weekend.
James Blatch: In terms of genre, you seem pretty happy and comfortable with it with the area writing in now.
Any plans to expand out of that niche?
Elle Thorpe: Well I will always, always write some sort of romance. I love romance. That’s where my heart is. If I’m writing something with no romance in it, I’ve been kidnapped or something, that’s my-
James Blatch: Everything’s got a bit of romance in it. Star Wars has got romance in it.
Elle Thorpe: Absolutely. There should be a romance in everything.
I’ve got Contemporary Cowboys coming out in January, and I do have a sci-fi romance written. I’ve written the first book. It’s in editing at the moment, which I will likely release under a pen name, probably in April I want to say, around then maybe. But again, I might hold on to it until I’ve got the next one written as well. But at the moment, I’m full of cowboys at the moment.
James Blatch: Full of cowboys at the moment.
Elle Thorpe: Yeah, that sounds wrong.
James Blatch: That’s a different podcast altogether.
Great. Well, it’s brilliant to hear that you’ve gone on to great things. I know there are other foundation members who’ve also had that spark. It’s been exactly what it was designed for. We look for people who have the potential, and you do the rest.
But you’re the first one I’ve actually spoken to. We’re remiss and disorganized, obviously, to go back and get the interviews done, but we will do that over time. But you’re the first person, and it’s delightful for us to see you smiling at your success, which is as it should be.
Elle Thorpe: Oh, good, I’m so glad. I’ve been just really stoked and over the moon with how everything is going, and I just hope it keeps… well, it will. I’m not going to say hope because it will. It will just keep bigger and better things from here on, even.
James Blatch: I keep saying this about going to Australia. It’s not going to happen in 2020. But maybe we should put a marker down for 2021 and try and get over to to New Zealand and Australia because we’ve got so many people there.
Elle Thorpe: That would be amazing. Definitely.
James Blatch: It is a great part of the world, although obviously at the moment, you’re being terrorized by these wildfires. And also in the middle of the interview, I don’t know if you noticed, but I just noticed there was a spider hanging over my head, and I brushed it away. Now where you live, if I was in your house and I saw a spider over my head, I would leave the house because they can kill you.
Elle Thorpe: No, you just take your shoe off and you throw it. I keep telling everybody, just take your shoe off and kill it.
James Blatch: You’re made of sterner stuff over there.
Elle Thorpe: You have to be, there’s spiders everywhere.
James Blatch: The idea of gardening in New South Wales with those funnel webs ready to leap out at you, I’m out of that.
Elle Thorpe: I’m not much of a gardener. Not just for that reason, but it’s one of them.
James Blatch: If it’s not one thing, it’s another that’s going to get you in Australia, but I loved the country.
Elle Thorpe: There’s plenty of things outside. It’s better to just stay inside and write.
James Blatch: Indeed. We send you all the best for your situation at the moment in Australia. We’re thrilled with your success, Elle, and yeah, I want to say thank you so much indeed for spend some time talking to us.
Elle Thorpe: Thank you. Thank you for having me, and just thank you to everyone that chose me to be… it really did make a difference. So I’m really appreciative.
James Blatch: There you go. So we wish everyone well in Australia for those events. Hopefully that’s… haven’t heard much for a while now.
Mark Dawson: They’ve had some rain, I think a lot of it is stopped now, but yes, pretty scary stuff.
James Blatch: It was terrifying for them. And well done, Elle. Really exciting to hear somebody get on like that and have that success.
Mark Dawson: Absolutely. It’s great to see people having their talent recognized. And that can be recognized by way of good reviews, people joining their mailing list, or a way I quite like, people buying books and getting KU reads and actually making a bit of money. So it’s lovely to see her doing so well.
James Blatch: You can’t get drunk on compliments.
Mark Dawson: It’s difficult. Yeah, absolutely.
James Blatch: Good. Okay. Excellent. Mark, thank you very much indeed. I think that’s probably it. You and I are getting into high anxiety mode by the time this goes out.
Mark Dawson: You are.
James Blatch: You’re just going to turn up.
Mark Dawson: I’m pretty chill. Yeah.
James Blatch: Who knows what’s going to happen with the worldwide pandemic by the time this goes out? Things may have changed, but…
Mark Dawson: Yeah, exactly, but as it stands right now, we’re looking forward to it, so it’ll be…
James Blatch: No hugging.
Mark Dawson: No hugging, definitely no kissing.
James Blatch: Okay, I’m going to let you say the goodbye.
Mark Dawson: All right, see you. Oh, you want to do it properly, right? So yes, it’s goodbye from me. And…
James Blatch: And a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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