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SPS-254: The Writer’s Cookbook: Recipes for Author Success – with Kristina Adams

Multi-genre author Kristina Adams’ approach to productivity includes knowing when to rest so that author burnout does not become a problem. 

Show Notes

  • How Kristina started and how she’s genre-hopped
  • How character informs plot in fiction and vice versa
  • The secrets to a writer’s productivity
  • Being productive while dealing with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

SAVINGS: Black Friday Sale. Get three SPF pro craft courses bundled together for $399 here.

BOOK: Get Kristina’s book, Productivity for Authors, for free here.

MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

SPS-254: The Writer’s Cookbook: Recipes for Author Success - with Kristina Adams

Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.

Kristina Adams: That was kind of like a light bulb moment for me because I realised actually if I self-publish and do it right, not only can I publish faster, but I'm in more control, and I have the potential to make more money. So, why am I giving my control away to a total stranger who isn't going to be as invested in my work or my characters?

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 the 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, it's Friday. Welcome along to The Self-Publishing show with me James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson, in shadow I've just noticed.

James Blatch: Have you not got your right light on? Do you want to put it on for our YouTube viewers?

Mark Dawson: No, no, it is on, but honestly I'm just slightly shadowy today. Anyway, I just look mysterious. I can live with that.

James Blatch: I've got my five o'clock shadow on. Something more than that, we're having our bathrooms done. So I really couldn't be bothered to shave because it's sort of chaotic up there. So, easier to grow it out.

Let me say a very warm welcome to two new Patreon supporters Ken Ring and John Ellsworth. John is in Washington, USA, I believe WA, not Wisconsin is WA, I think, Washington, USA. Ken and John, thank you very much indeed. They went to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. And they get a pin or various things, and a list of rewards.

Catherine, who's very busy in the background organising lots of things. One of the many people behind the scenes on this podcast has been sending out mugs and she inadvertently set a mug to me this week. So, I felt quite honoured. No, a pen got returned to our accountant's office.

Mark Dawson: Right. Okay.

James Blatch: A pen, and I said to our accountant, "Look, you can have it, Nick." And he said, "Honestly, I'm honoured." So he's feeling very, very pleased. That's the sort of thing that happens when you're close to The Self Publishing Formula, and The Self Publishing Show.

Okay, look, we have one commercial announcement to make, which is we are doing for the first time a Black Friday deal. This is Black Friday, this has been released on, which is I know an American thing, but we have a big presence in America, and we love America. So, why not do Black Friday?

What we've done, we've put off three craft courses together. That's Cover Design for Authors. How to Revise Your Book, and How to Write a Best Seller. Three excellent, very well rated craft courses, which cost $297 each. And we have an absolutely fantastic offer for seven days only.

If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/blackfriday, you will see all the details there. And yes, a very, very good offer. We are not going to do this very often. We probably will make it an annual Black Friday thing, but not guaranteed. We'll see how this goes. But if you're interested in those craft courses, now is definitely the time to have a look at them.

Talking of courses I've had some back and forth this week with Carlyn Robertson at BookBub because we are building a new version of the BookBub, Ads for Authors course to go, and to ask for authors to be released early in '21. Very excited about that. Carlyn is doing excellent work.

It's hard work doing courses. You and I know more than anyone else in this organisation, and Carlyn and Janet and various people who put courses together for us. You end up working by yourself quite isolated. It's a bit like writing actually. You can start to feel under confident about what you're doing and I think Carlyn is a really super job with that course, as you'd expect from somebody in the heart of BookBub to be able to do a really exhaustive course on how to use their ads platform.

One other thing to talk about is some talk about Audible going around in the community at the moment to do with the way that books can be returned by readers, which authors feels is unfavourable to them.

Do you know the ins and outs of this, Mark?

Mark Dawson: I do a bit. I was contacted a little while ago by an author who posted in one of the Facebook groups actually and just mentioned that she'd noticed something a little bit odd about the way that returns were calculated. It's a little early to make any kind of prognostications about this, but it does seem as if it's quite easy to return books or exchange books, audiobooks once you're finished with them or indeed once at any point you don't even need to finish them. And the data that authors are provided through ACX is a bit opaque.

Now, I am not the best person to talk about this because my audiobooks have always... Well, not always but for the last four, maybe even five years have been produced by Audible Studios. So, that's basically Audible's production. They licence them in the same way that a traditional publisher would licence a book. And then they publish them.

And then recently, I've done another deal with Tantor in the US and W.F.Howes in the UK. So, again, they're doing the production. They take care of getting the books onto the platforms. So, I don't spend as much time looking at the ACX dashboard as I should. I think I've got four or five books available from before I was doing those deals. And I'll get five or $600 a month from those and have done for ages. I know I'm leaving money on the table when it comes to audiobooks, for those books, especially.

Anyway, so I haven't noticed that. But apparently, some authors who keep a close eye on the daily ins and outs of books sold and recorded on the ACX dashboard notice something a bit odd about three weeks or a month ago when lots of returns appear to have been calculated and registered from a few days on the same day. So, suddenly if you're having three sales on Tuesday, five sales on Wednesday, on Thursday it suddenly looks if you've had negative 25 or negative 30 sales. I think people started looking into it at that point and realised that these were being deducted. And you can't see the deductions. You can't see the returns in the data that we're provided with. It's all aggregated, so a bit hard to dig into it.

So anyway, long story short, there's a little bit of attention on that now within the author community. I know that some kind of author organisations including the Authors Guild. I think science fiction and fantasy group are involved as well, I think, and they're starting to look into exactly what's happening. I think that's probably about as much as I can say about it.

As I say, I'm not really the best author to comment on that because I just don't have that data myself. But it's interesting. I think it's interesting, and I'd be interested to see whether there's some changes that come in the next six months or so, or earlier.

James Blatch: Yeah. And there are people doing a good job at looking into all the details. It's relatively early on in understanding what's going on here. So we'll keep a watching brief on that and make sure that in the end this is something's going to be fair. Ultimately, the interests of Amazon and authors align. So, you would hope that there's a good solution to this or that it's not quite what we think, but we will find out and report back as we do.

Okay, I've got one more thing before we move on to our interview, which is we had Patrick O'Donnell on last week. And I know the interview went down very well. The experienced policeman, the cop from Milwaukee who spent 30 odd years, 20 something, I think it was 30 years on the streets in a high crime rate area, and is now using all that experience to help writers get all that stuff right. He's actually sent us Mark, you and me a copy of his two books that he's written so far in crime scenes, and investigations, both in the cops and writer series, and look how they've come with police tape around them.

Mark Dawson: Very clever.

James Blatch: It's brilliant, isn't it? So, he sent those to us, and I should pass on to you your two copies of those books. In the cops and writers Facebook group, I mentioned it last week as a really fun place to hang out if you're a writer.

Mark Dawson: There's one other thing for you. I think you may have skipped over this, and apologies if you haven't. But with regards to the foundation, which is coming up. The SPF Foundation where I think we're giving away, we're allocating, awarding with a number of partners. So, Reedsy have been with us from the start on this. But subsequent to that, Written Word Media, and lots of other authors.

We've had too many authors now to almost name individually, but they're all on the website for the foundation. I think we will be giving away around about between 45 and $50,000 in scholarships this year. And reasonably soon we'll be... I say we. It'll be my wife Lucy's in charge of the foundation. And she'll be making a shortlist for the authors and bodies to start judging for the authors that we think will benefit the most from these allocations.

And we've got a couple of new authors who are involved now, and it is extremely generous. All of the authors who are doing this is they're going well above and beyond. They're donating, I think it's two and a half thousand dollars. So, they're extremely generous of these authors. And as I say, we've got quite a few now.

The most recent couple, Perry Wilson, who will be sponsoring a spot for a mystery writer. I think Perry is a mystery writer. So, we'll have a mystery writer being benefited by Perry's generosity. And Simon McCleave, who we had on the podcast not too long ago is also quite recently has signed up to sponsor a place as well. So, I think that brings something like 12 places now that we'll be picking.

That will help the odds of being picked. We've had tonnes and tonnes of applications. But the odds are still reasonably good actually, if you can meet the criteria. And you can dig into that a bit more on the website. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com, up in the top right hand corner there's a tab for foundation. So you should click on that, and if you want to reply, you'll see what you need to do.

And good luck to everyone who does because we've had a few success stories over the years. It's a good little, you get the SPF courses, and you get some money, decent amount of money towards editing covers, whatever you want through Reedsy. And it can be for people who are especially right now with money being tight for some people, it's a nice little nudge in the right direction to get the ball rolling.

James Blatch: Yeah, that's great. It started off as just an idea. We didn't want to see authors who couldn't afford our product, let alone covers, and more expensive is the editing, but had talents. And we wanted to find a way of helping them, and it started really with one or two, didn't it? But this now is a fairly significant chunk of funding going into the author community to get people started.

So, yeah, we're really, really pleased with that. And I should say because I know there are some of these competitions you enter, and you sign over some of your rights. This is nothing like that. This is purely just backing an author, giving them the resources that they need to go off and hopefully make money for themselves, commercial money for themselves. We don't hold on to any rights as a result of that.

Okay, right. Well, time to move on to our interview. It is Kristina Adams. This week, Kristina talks about a number of things, a lot of it is to do with mindset. It has to do with approach to writing, and particularly, I think it's going to be useful for those of you who have busy lives and things that get in the way of writing. Life does get in the way of writing. Sometimes that can be a physical or mental ailment. Sometimes it can be your family situation. How to organise yourself, how to keep yourself moving forward with your writing career during those difficult times. Here's Kristina.

Kristina Adams, thank you very much indeed for joining us on The Self-Publishing Show. You're looking so very crystal clear picture with lovely sound. And I've just been talking about the torture probe shaped microphone you've got, which everyone can see if they're watching on YouTube. And that's because you're just up the road here in the grey, UK. So, welcome to the show.

Kristina Adams: Thank you so much for having me. I'm looking forward to it.

James Blatch: So am I. Okay, we're going to talk about a few things today. But specifically, we will learn I think, your specialist area. The Writer's Cookbook is your brand now, is that right?

Kristina Adams: Yeah, yeah.

James Blatch: Okay. So, we'll get into that in a minute.

But I always like to start with a bit about you and your writing. So, perhaps you can give us the skinny, as they say.

Kristina Adams: I started writing when I was about seven. I actually still have the first story I wrote, and it was a crime novel. And from that point on, I just always knew. I say novel, it was a short story, actually. I was seven. But from that point on, I just always knew what I wanted to get paid to write. Didn't care how, didn't care what I was writing. I just knew that that was what I was going to do.

When I left uni, I did a BA in creative writing at the University of Dhabi. Then I did an MA in the same subject at Nottingham Trent. And it was not long after that, that I self published my first book, What Happens in New York, and it's all just been kind of crazy from there.

James Blatch: Wow. So, you're really young, which is something you've come straight for university into this career. And there's lots of people like me who don't really start writing into their 40s or later.

Kristina Adams: Yeah, I've always had tunnel vision just always.

James Blatch: This is your thing, and you've made it happen. So What Happens in New York, which could be the fictional or nonfiction. Is it as in what happens in Vegas? Is that the type?

Kristina Adams: A little bit, yeah. It's about two friends who go on holiday to New York, and they get tangled up in the world of celebrity and the whole series is about the celebrities that they get caught up with and discovering actually they're just as human as we are. They have the same problems. They have the same fears. They have the same insecurities, but they're doing it under this microscope, and it's the toll it takes on them mentally and psychologically as well.

James Blatch: What genre would you describe this? Is it primarily romance, or is it kind of witty fiction?

Kristina Adams: It's probably Chick Lit, women's fiction depending on how you like to call it.

James Blatch: Okay. So that was 2016, I think.

Kristina Adams: Yeah.

James Blatch: Self published your first book.

Kristina Adams: Yeah.

James Blatch: Did you, by the way, consider going out to query, etc?

Kristina Adams: Initially, yeah, because I started this series in 2008. And it's been through various iterations since then. And for a few years, you'd be like, "Oh, why don't you self publish it? Why don't you self publish it?" I'm like, "No, no, I want to traditionally publish it." But that was because of the literary background that I come from. There was that idea that you had to go through a gatekeeper.

And any sort of self publishing, even blogging was looked down upon. And I went to a workshop about ways to make money with your writing. And that was kind of like a light bulb moment for me because I realised, actually, if I self publish, and do it right, not only can I publish faster, but I'm in more control, and I have the potential to make more money. So, why am I giving my control away to a total stranger who isn't going to be as invested in my work or my characters?

James Blatch: Very good question. Well, we know the answer. So, you went ahead in 2016, and how did you go with that first book?

Kristina Adams: It was okay. It was nothing to get excited about. I sold a few copies, and then it petered off. And obviously, I felt disheartened. But I knew it was still what I wanted to do. So I carried on working on the second book in the series, and I released that in 2017. And that did even worse than the first one. And then my nonfiction side to take off. So I focused on my nonfiction for maybe 15 months. And so, I was focusing on my blog and productivity for writers, which is the book that listeners and podcasts get a free copy of.

James Blatch: Excellent.

Kristina Adams: And then in 2018, I released the third book in the series. Then I release the fourth book, and it was around about the time I released the fourth book in the series that things started to go a bit crazy.

James Blatch: What was the trigger? What happened during the fourth book's release?

Kristina Adams: I actually did both of the SPF courses. I did SPF 101, and I did Ads for Authors, and I combined the teaching of the two. So, I made What Happens in New York Permafree, and then I started running Facebook ads. And after that, it just hit number one for multiple categories, and number 19 for the whole of Amazon, UK.

James Blatch: Wow.

Kristina Adams: And yeah, just went crazy from there, basically.

James Blatch: Biggie, well, that's always a good answer on this particular podcast. Well, that's great. So it's funny how people don't find your work unless you go through certain steps. Whether it's Mark, or whoever you learn from. You do, unfortunately... Well, unfortunately, it's just the way it is. In this day and age, it's pay to play. You need to be proactive getting your book in front of people. So, forth book, things go a bit crazy.

And is this the point at which... I mean, with your nonfiction writing did that get anywhere close to you having a career at that point?

Kristina Adams: Not much in terms of making money, but it helped in terms of branding. It got me some speaking gigs, and I taught a few courses off the back of it.

James Blatch: Okay.

Kristina Adams: So, it kind of had a secondary effect.

James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. But the fiction when that took off, is that where you are now? Is this a career for you?

Kristina Adams: Yeah.

James Blatch: That was a very quick yes.

Kristina Adams: Not like a five figure a month kind of author, but I'm paying my bills and still writing, and I'm self-employed now, whereas I wasn't a year ago.

James Blatch: Brilliant. What a fantastic place to be.

So, the books stayed in that kind of same genre, Chick Lit genre or have you become a bit more romantic, or have you gone down any particular way?

Kristina Adams: Well, my second series that I'm writing now, Hollywood Gossip is a spin off about two of my favourite characters from the What Happened In books. And that is more romance than Chick Lit, but it's still very heavy on what the characters are doing with their careers, one of the characters is an alcoholic, so he has to deal with that. And then next year, I'm segeuing into fantasy.

James Blatch: Why fantasy? Why have you chosen that?

Kristina Adams: It's kind of like a full circle thing because I started off with crime, then went to fantasy, then romance, then Chick Lit. And then so I'm going back that way, and I've been reading a lot of it lately as well. Fantasy is very much my way of escape, and we all need that right now. So what I've read has just affected my ideas. I know it sounds really cheesy, but both of my fancy ideas came from dreams.

James Blatch: Wow.

Kristina Adams: And I just really loved the characters and the worlds in which they were set. I was like, "I've got to write about these characters because I can't get them out of my head. They're really, really fun."

James Blatch: Wow. Some of my dreams are me running away from somebody waiting in Treecko, but you've obviously had much more interesting dreams than I did.

Kristina Adams: Not very often, just like once every year or something.

James Blatch: I don't really remember the dreams in the last few minutes of your sleep. So, you immediately had a pen and paper. Sometimes you have quite vivid dream that last all day, you remember it?

Kristina Adams: Yeah, my ghost series was one of those occasions. It was such a vivid dream, and it was actually the climax of the story. I had nothing before that, but I knew how it ended. So then I was trying to work out retrospectively not wanting to get out of bed because I've got these characters in my head, but I've got to know how they get to this point of being attacked by this ghost.

James Blatch: Oh, so sleep's good for you. There you go. Just carry on, and get those ideas. Okay. So, and then also, you're thinking commercially I assume because fantasy is a huge area as well, or particular, some genres of fantasy. And right from the beginning, this has been a mixture of you wanting to write and wanting to earn a living as a writer. You said that as a kid, didn't you?

Kristina Adams: Yeah.

James Blatch: So you are in a commercial mindset. And that's, I think, informs your nonfiction side of things. So, you're somebody who organises and distributes information.

Talk to us about how that started, and what what sort of ecosystem you set up.

Kristina Adams: I started the Writer's Cookbook in 2014 after I finished my MA, and I didn't really know I was doing. I just wanted to carry on learning about writing and sharing my learnings with other writers. And I had a day job in marketing as well. So, I could experiment with my blog, and then implement my learnings at my day job as well when it came to things like keyword research, SEO, that sort of thing.

And the blog really took off in, I can't remember if it was in 2017 or 2018 now, and I really put the work in to build the audience. And it now reaches over 35,000 readers a month.

James Blatch: Wow.

Kristina Adams: Some of them are self-published authors. Some of them are students from schools and universities looking to find out more about different writing forms, because while it's geared towards self published authors, there is a lot of stuff on poetry and script writing and things as well because I've studied the whole spectrum, and I wanted to document that knowledge while it was still fresh in my head. And that was six years ago now, and I've gotten a lot out of it, but it's still there in those blog posts.

James Blatch: If you were to say, why should an author seek out the Writer's Cookbook, what is the USP? So, lots of people out there with information for writers, what's your USP?

Kristina Adams: I think it's the fact that we have a very objective but opinionated perspective. When it comes to teaching fiction, I'm heavily geared towards writing great characters. I think plot's important, but I think characters are more important. And they're also my strength as well when it comes to creating stories. So, we've got a lot of stuff coming up around that.

And it's also the fact that I will give people all these tools, make an informed decision, but I'm not afraid to go, "Well, this is what I do. And you should do this based on X, Y, and Z." I wouldn't recommend self-publishing for a lot of people, for example.

James Blatch: Okay. Well, should we talk about one or two of those areas then? The areas that you feel are your strengths, and that you're most interested in? You've mentioned character there, which is something a lot of us think about all the time. And character for me is two things. It's the character because anyone can think of a character, but it's really how they transform or I have to use the J word here because it is part and parcel of the language of writing books is the character journey.

And it's the first thing a good editor is going to say to you is if a character is the same at the end and doesn't learn anything, that they were at the beginning. It's probably... I guess you were going to say that that's as important. The journey they take is as important as saying, "Oh, this is a really cool idea for character."

Kristina Adams: Yeah, definitely. I think if your character doesn't go on a journey, it gets really boring for the audience. I quite often cite the Suicide Squad film is an example. The only interesting character I think in that is Will Smith's character. Harley Quinn's fun personality wise, but she doesn't change that much. She's more interesting in Birds of Prey, whereas Will Smith's character, you root for him because he just wants to spend more time with his kid.

James Blatch: Yes.

Kristina Adams: And for me, I always have the characters in my head. It's a bit of a running commentary. I just love getting reviews about my characters. I once had someone message me saying that she really related to the journey that Holly goes on in the What Happens In series because it's all about her finding herself and the confidence to pursue her career, her dream of being a fashion designer, but she's also completely and utterly terrified of the very thing she wants most.

James Blatch: Do you think at beginning when you start thinking of characters, is it their journey that you think about at the beginning? Is that part and parcel of the formed idea that you have at the beginning or do you simply start with somebody, and then... Because you have at some point introduce plot, and to use the plot to work out what's going to happen to them.

Kristina Adams: I tend to just start with the character and their personality. And the attitude to life, if you will. Like one of the characters for my fantasy book is an empath. But she's also very, very judgmental. She's not compassionate like you would expect someone who experiences deep empathy to be. She thinks the world is full of idiots because she can feel what they're feeling, and she knows quite often they don't act on it. So that's kind of her angle. And then I thought, "Well, how can I torture her more? But also, how can I force her to learn compassion?" And she ends up learning compassion from someone that has and feels less empathy than she does.

James Blatch: And in terms of using this information and thinking about character, do you have a particular... Are you an advocate of a particular way of plotting or framing before you start writing or are you... I guess it's the plotter pantser question.

Kristina Adams: I do both.

James Blatch: You do both. But you want the characters to grow.

Kristina Adams: Yeah. It always starts the character to me. But then it will depend on the complexity of the plot as to how much planning I do. Like the empath story, there's lots of ins and outs and lots of really complicated world welding to juggle. So, I've plotted that in quite a bit of depth so that I don't get confused. And where the ghost story doesn't require quite as much plotting because the plot and the world is much more streamlined.

So, for me, it depends on the project. But I will always know the main scenes in the story. So they have start here, then they've got this, this, and this that's got to happen. And they end here. That's been my process for the last few books now because I just find it's much faster. And it means if I have to take a break, say, to do some client work because I do some freelancing as well then I'm not completely lost because I also don't work chronologically.

James Blatch: Does that initial structure always survive?

Kristina Adams: In a way yes, in a way no. It really depends on how it evolves as I'm writing. I think most of the structure for empath is the same. But then some of the ghost story has evolved, as I've written it, and I very much found when I was working on The Hollywood Gossip books over the last few months, they've had a starting point, and then some of the scenes, and how the books end have been quite different to what I had initially planned.

James Blatch: Okay. That's a good mix, I think of knowing roughly where you want to go, the bits, but allowing the story to breathe.

Kristina Adams: If I don't know them I can't finish the project. I have to know where they end up either at the end of that book or at the end of the series.

James Blatch: I'm definitely like that as well. But lots of people aren't, and their minds might work in a slightly different way. I suspect when I listen to people like Marie Force who simply starts writing, and wonders what's going to happen type thing like a reader does, I suspect in her mind is much closer approximation of those bits. It's just natural and innate to her, whereas you and I, and most people mere mortals have to work at it, have to sort of have it down. I'm definitely like that as well.

Kristina Adams: Yeah, there's too much going on in my head to be able to remember all that stuff. But if I get out my head, it's one less thing to worry about.

James Blatch: Let's move on to productivity. Let's also move on to that question of productivity when life conspires against you because I think you've certainly in some areas, having read your notes before, I think you've been through the mill a little bit, probably still are going through the mill. Is that a fair first approximation? Yeah, and yet we want to keep going. There are points of which people really struggle to keep going. But I think you've probably developed some techniques in this area.

So, should we, first of all, talk about productivity and what are the secrets of your productivity?

Kristina Adams: The secrets, I think for me is the fact that I really want to do this, and I've always had a little bit of blind faith, no matter what other people tell me, no matter what is happening in my life writing is what keeps me going. If I'm having a really bad pain day, if I sit down and spend some time with my characters for a little while I forget that pain because my brain is so busy focusing on what I'm writing, it can't process the pain signals at the same time.

And so when my chronic pain was at its worst, I actually wrote the most because I was trying to get out of that situation that I was in and it really, really helped me. And there are elements of how I was feeling emotionally that ended up in particularly in What Happens in Paphos, which is the last book in the What Happens In series.

James Blatch: Pathos, lots happens in Pathos, in the Greek islands. Okay. Well, should we should explain that you mentioned you've referred to pain because I can never quite say-

Kristina Adams: Fibromyalgia.

James Blatch: That's it.

Kristina Adams: I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. And for anyone who doesn't know what that is fibromyalgia is chronic pain with no known cause and no known cure. And it has 200 other symptoms ranging from your hair falling out to being itchy when you're anxious and headaches and stupid little things and like I can't regulate my body temperature is quite a frustrating one because I'm cold a lot of the time. And chronic fatigue syndrome is very similar, and there's no known cure, and it just means I'm tired pretty much all the time.

James Blatch: So that motivation of you said you want to do this, and knowing that it's going to help. Although I find this as a quite tricky area, particularly because this is different from depression. I know friends who've had depression, and have had those real heart to heart conversations, they don't really want to be told go out for a run because they get told that all the time. Do some writing, it'll take your mind off it because that's a debilitating condition. It doesn't always respond to that.

Kristina Adams: No it doesn't.

James Blatch: But in your case, because it's perhaps more physical your mind is still active enough and healthy enough in that sense that it understands that you can do an activity and it helps.

Kristina Adams: Sort of because it does come with some psychological symptoms as well. It can exacerbate or cause depression and anxiety. And also one of the worst symptoms to me is brain fog, which is basically where you can't think straight, you can't articulate things. And it's just the most horrible thing to explain.

It is like driving through fog, and you know there's something there, but you can't really see it properly. And that for me, I found more stressful than the pain because I knew so long as my mind worked then I could deal with the fact that my body wouldn't let me walk the dog, or do some yoga, or get out of bed. I could still do something.

But when my brain really stopped, I had to force myself to rest. And that's what I always say to people when they can't concentrate to write is, stop pressuring yourself, take a break, get some rest. Because if you've got an hour to work on something, you're better off rather than trying to soldier on for that full hour and where your productivity is going to go like this as your energy levels do, if you take half an hour to rest and a half an hour to work, what you produce will be of a much higher quality.

James Blatch: Yeah, having that sort of structured approach to it.

Do you plan your days? I mean, do you plan your normal working days, and then deal with things as they come up or do you have... trying to press through with your word counts.

Kristina Adams: I have a to-do-list. So I know what I've got to do each day. But I don't have a set structure because I need to be able to adapt very quickly depending on what my health is doing that day because I can't predict it. Some days I'll be bouncing off the walls and I'll be able to go out for a run with the dog. Not that she would run. She's a massive diva, doesn't want to go out.

And then some days, just getting out of bed is exhausting because my whole body feels like it's made out of lead, and it just doesn't want to move. So, I have to be able to work with that and find ways around it. Or to deal with I guess.

James Blatch: So, I guess it's important to be flexible in your own schedules.

Kristina Adams: Yeah, very much so.

James Blatch: And as you say, not put pressure on yourself unnecessarily to meet a deadline.

Kristina Adams: Which is easier said than done.

James Blatch: I guess deadlines that's one of the many advantages of self publishing is we set our deadlines. You don't have an agent.

Kristina Adams: Yeah, I do find that helps a lot. I do find that helps a lot. But then I set myself the deadline to publish two more books before the end of this year. So I still like to put too much pressure on myself.

James Blatch: Yeah, a little bit of pressure is okay. Okay, well, let's talk about the giveaway.

You're going to offer our dear listeners a book on productivity. Just talk to us about that for a bit.

Kristina Adams: It's called Productivity for Writers. And I wrote this back in, I think I first started actually in about 2015. And it went through about three iterations because I couldn't get it right. But I realised that a lot of the productivity advice at the time was looking at how to be productive rather than why you're unproductive in the first place. And I think if you don't know why you're unproductive, then being told to exercise more and drink more water doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

You can have the most specific type of schedule, but if the reason that you're not writing as much as you want to is because you're very deeply depressed and you haven't dealt with that or worked out what's triggering you, then there's always going to be something holding you back.

So the meat of the book is working out why you're not as productive as you could be. And then after that, it's got the strategies that you can implement based on whether you've got kids, you've got pets, you're a carer or maybe you're the opposite, and you've got no commitments whatsoever. But because you've got all this time, you're like, "Well, the hell, I can put off until tomorrow," and then tomorrow, and then tomorrow, and then nothing ever gets done.

James Blatch: Yeah, that's really interesting that the underlying causes tackling the cause of being an unproductive rather than simply putting the Pomodoro in place and thinking that that's suddenly solve everything. Or to be fair for some people, that is what's needed. I guess that's the point is working out what it is, that's going to work for you.

Kristina Adams: Exactly.

James Blatch: I need a team of people doing quite a lot of the menial work for me to give me some time to write.

Kristina Adams: Same.

James Blatch: Yeah, that's coming as well. Okay, so we'll come up with a URL. So, if we say selfpublishingformula.com/ productivity sounds like a good URL to go with. I have to make a note of that, so that John Dyer puts the the page up by the time the interview goes out. And people, if you visit there, we will send you an email address and tell you where to get that book. So thank you very much for that. And you better tell us where people can find the Writer's Cookbook.

Kristina Adams: Yeah, so my blog is writerscookbook.com. There's no the in the URL. And I actually redesigned the homepage yesterday.

James Blatch: Okay. There you go, brand new homepage. Writerscookbook.com.

Kristina Adams: Yeah. So, a whole new look to it today.

James Blatch: So, it's like Eagles, there's no the. Everyone says the Eagles, but there's no the, it's Eagles. It's Writer's Cookbook.

Kristina Adams: The actual site name has the in, but the URL doesn't. Because when I bought it, the URL with the, the was taken, and then a year later expired.

James Blatch: So, you've got that URL as well?

Kristina Adams: No. I probably should.

James Blatch: Yeah, I would grab that if I were you. It might be worth something. Good. Okay. So, that's the blog. That's the book, selfpublishingformula.com/productivity. We can only wish you luck you.

Obviously, it shapes you, and what doesn't kill us makes us stronger type thing. You feel to me like somebody who has found a way of making things happen despite adversity on occasions. And I know and I wouldn't blame anybody for it being more debilitating, and losing out to it from time to time. And it's not just about the specific conditions you talked about. I think people have a range of reasons, physical and sometimes emotional, mental health wise, that are going to get in the way of writing. But there's the ways through it, right?

Kristina Adams: Oh, yeah, totally. And one of the things that's made a big difference to me actually is my support network. I'm very lucky, my partner, my mom, my dad, and my friends are all really supportive. If I'm struggling mentally, or physically, they're doing what they can. And if I forget to take a break, which is easy to do, when you're really focused on finishing something, they will remind me. They'll put Netflix on or the streaming services. Yeah, they'll really make sure that I am still looking after myself. Because that self care is important. And self care looks different for everyone.

For me, it's playing mindless games that don't have a plot because I very much noticed that no matter whether I'm playing a game, watching TV, reading, my brain is constantly analysing the story. And I actually think that it's, therefore, harder for writers to switch off and to relax because they've essentially been trained or trained themselves to constantly be analysing the words and the structure, and to see how it's pieced together, and what they can take away from themselves. So I tend to play games that don't have any plot whatsoever, so that it distracts me from the pain, but also my brain is resting at the same time.

James Blatch: Excellent. All right. Well, thank you very much indeed for your time, Kristina. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Always nice to see an R2-D2 in the shot as well, people watching on YouTube.

Kristina Adams: I have got BB-8 on this side. I don't know if you can see.

James Blatch: You have BB-8 as well. I'm more of an Originals fan, but my kids love BB-8, so I'll take a bit of that for now. And I appreciate it very much. We'll give out those links in the show notes as well. And yeah, let's talk again in the future when the next series, the... What's next? You've done the ghost stories, next is fantasy.

Kristina Adams: There's two. There's Afterlife Calls, which is the ghost series, and The Empath, which is the one about the judgmental empath, and they're both going to be out next year. I've not told anyone else that yet.

James Blatch: That's actually a brilliant conceit for an empath is that they know too much about everyone and realise they've become quite cynical at the same time as being empathetic is a very clever idea.

Kristina Adams: But also makes them very good at solving crimes.

James Blatch: Perfect. That's what you need because they can see inside you. It's a terrifying prospect. Brilliant. Kristina, thank you so much, indeed.

Kristina Adams: Thank you for having me. Take care.

James Blatch: There you go. Kristina, has her own challenges to deal with and has found a way through, is finding a way through I'm sure every day takes a bit more effort. But that's I think a very useful thing.

Life does get in the way, does it not Mark?

Mark Dawson: It certainly can do. Especially, at the moment with so much going on in the world. There's lots of things that we need to negotiate in order to spend the time doing the writing. When I've had a busy day today with lots of other things, all good things and things. I've got a call in about 10 minutes with an Amazon person at ComiXology to talk about a comic book adaptation I've got coming up. I had a couple of books out this week. A calibration kids' book that I'll be talking a bit more about that's been bubbling away. So, there's lots of businessy things.

And at the same time, I'm trying to write the second Atticus book. But over the last couple of days, I've got about 8,000 words in, which is pretty good by my current standard. So, yeah, I'm tired. But at the end of the week, I'll be quite pleased I've done quite a lot this week.

James Blatch: Yeah, it's about compartmentalising yourself. I think from our point of view, we've got quite a lot going on at the moment. And Hello Books we haven't mentioned even in this podcast, but lots going on with that this week. But yeah, I'm like you. I have to do businessy things first thing. I can't sit down and start writing... I'd like to sit down and start writing but I know that will never work for me.

There's going to be messages popping up in our internal system, and emails. I'd rather get all that dealt with and then feel I've got a clear hour or so, probably mid morning about 10 o'clock. But this week, I've been writing every day and I've been also been getting two to 3000 words done a day. I'm revising rather than writing. So, some of that's just copy and pasting, and checking. I've enjoyed using a bit of ProWritingAid this week as well, getting a bit into that. Knowing when to say no, when say yes to some of the suggestions.

Mark Dawson: Very good.

James Blatch: Yeah, so I'm on track at the moment for January 31st to hand over to the proof editor, which I'm excited about. Right. That is it for this week.

I'll just give another plug to our Black Friday special which will be over by the time the next podcast is out. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/blackfriday, you'll see a fantastic price for three bundled craft courses all together once in a... Well, probably once in a year. Maybe even more infrequent than that to get your hands on that offer. That's it. I think, Mark, anything else to say? Anything else I've forgotten?

Mark Dawson: No, I think we've just about covered all of it, just about.

James Blatch: Good. Thank you very much indeed. All that remains for me to say is it's a goodbye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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