Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Long and Winding Road to Publication, by Helen Dineen

Our guest blogger today is author Helen Dineen, who has recently found some picture book inspiration in running! Her tips are designed to help at those times when you perhaps feel you are flagging in your writing quest. 

In April, I enjoyed/endured (more of that later...) the fantastic ABP Half Marathon here in Southampton, UK. 5000 people pounding the streets, all for the joy of crossing the finishing line and getting that well-won medal. It got me thinking about the parallels between that race and the journey to becoming a published author. As everyone knows, it's definitely a marathon, not a sprint!  So, here's my list of 5 ways writing is like running....

1. Training - Every session counts. Even if it hurts, is painfully slow or is pouring with rain (hopefully not unless you are writing in the garden or your roof leaks), it's all adding to the final goal. Not every session will be a personal best. And everyone needs a rest day or two along the way. This month my friend Lorraine has been acting as my writing buddy, making sure I show up each day by messaging me to find out what I've achieved. I've got so much more done as a result!

2. Supporters - It's always good to have people to cheer you on. Especially when you come to that tricky hill, or are just two miles from the end. Around 9 miles of the half marathon, I got cramps and had to powerwalk most of the rest of the race. I was so disappointed, but determined to complete it. Jelly babies from those fantastic supporters really helped, as did seeing my kids' faces at the finish line.

Helen and big supporter Daniel

My SCBWI online critique group and local goal setting group spur me on through those tricky edits or the times when picking up the pen is the last thing I want to do. Most importantly, my agent - aka awesome personal trainer Anne Clark - is always ready to offer advice and support whenever I'm losing a bit of heart.

3. Banners - There were some fantastic signs along the way in Southampton and I'm sure even Paula Radcliffe loves a good banner! Feedback on your writing is also great to keep you moving forward. Whether that's comments from publishers or agents, competitions, or children who have read your stories, keep them handy for the times when you think you just can't be a writer. Don't be afraid to put them up around your PC or on the fridge.

4. Playlist - Many runners swear by a motivational playlist when the going gets tough. And so do writers. A quick poll came up with:

·       Lady Gaga - Born This Way - "when I really need ‘plugging in’ and I’m wondering why I don’t have a ‘proper job’"
·       Gun - Taking On the World - "Some days, it does feel like that."
·       Anything by Primal Scream
·       Korean Pop -  "Bouncy, catchy and because I can't understand a word I'm not distracted by the lyrics."
·       Disney - "Almost There"  from the Princess and the Frog  -(my choice) "A bit of Disney never fails to cheer you up!"

Turn up the volume on whatever will do the trick when it comes to getting your creative spirit fired up again.

And of course, the last thing you need to remember is ...

5. Nutrition - Always fuel up properly for the task ahead.   I could mention nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and plenty of protein, but sometimes only one fuel source will do.

So now you are all prepared to last the course. I'm still putting one foot doggedly in front of the other - hope to see you at the finish!

What's your favourite motivational song, and what else helps you on your writing journey?

Here's mine. Link to official Disney clip -

Helen Dineen is a picture book author represented by the Anne Clark Literary Agency. She also volunteers in a local school and is a part-time child-minding assistant. Find her on Twitter @aitcheldee or pounding the streets of Southampton.


Moira Butterfield said...

Yes, I admit it's me that needs Lady Gaga from time to time when I'm about to do some work. Also occasional REM on the way to my office, to keep me calm....

Jane Clarke said...

I'm not a runner, but oh yes, I relate to this. My personal post-rejection motivational track (played at deafening levels and yelled along to) is Chumbawamba's I get knocked down (but I get up again).

Moira Butterfield said...

Love that, Jane!

Helen Dineen said...

Excellent choice, I'm going to add that to my playlist! Thank you Jane.

Helen Dineen said...

Thanks for the inspiration Moira! I use Coffitivity for calmness- coffee shop sounds rather than music. Helps me zone out of the world.

Deborah Fajerman said...
I totally identify with this! I also recently did a half marathon and have been pushing on with book projects for quite a while. The link is to facebook post I did about jelly babies for training. Jelly babies along with radio 4 podcasts got me through. With writing it's talking to other writers that helps me.

Deborah fajerman said...

Ps and finding this website has been a delight!

Helen Dineen said...

Congratulations on your half marathon too Deborah! Unfortunately I couldn't open your link but jelly babies for writing sounds like an excellent idea. Good luck with your book projects - we'll get to that finishing line (especially with the help of some of the wonderfully informative posts from already published authors on this site - I love it too!)