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Ever get stuck searching for the perfect word while writing?

Maybe it's a character's name or place name, a creature or piece of magic, or even a whole piece of research.

When you're in drafting mode, you don't want to slow your flow down by stopping to search for the perfect word or concept that fits.

Enter: [Come back to this].

When a word or concept threatens to halt your flow, drop a symbolic reminder that will remind you to come back to it in your rewrites or edits. Then keep going.

Some people literally use [come back to this], the full angle brackets and words.

I like to just us a series of '???' or 'XXX', as I will never have either of these deliberately in my work and it stands out so easily.

Once you're finished your draft, you can use the Ctrl+F function to find them and either do a round of just going back through and fixing them up, or fix them up as you go back through an edit round.

I can't remember the last piece of work I didn't do this on. It's so useful.

Save drafting for drafting, and editing for editing. [Come back to this] and ??? and XXX.

Embrace the unfinished and let your ideas flow without disruption. You can come back for the rest.

In a world that often celebrates grand gestures and huge achievements, it's easy to overlook the impact of small actions. It's like we're conditioned to believe that success is synonymous with big. But let's take a moment to appreciate the force of 'subtle'.

Think about a pebble. How often in your life have you dropped it into water or skimmed it across the waves? Watched the ripples lap outwards? Those ripples extend way beyond the initial splash. And like this, small actions we take in our daily lives ripple outwards and shape our world in unexpected ways.

Take time to check in with a friend. Send them a message. Make a genuine connection. Help someone out. Pay extra for your coffee now and then for someone else to have one for free. Do 5 minutes of a chore you've been putting off because it feels overwhelming. Smile as you greet someone.

When was the last time someone's small act of kindness make your day a little brighter? Or something you did just a little a day add up before you realised you'd achieved a great deal? These small things each day may seem trivial at first, but they add up.

It's the same in books. Both in writing them and in the stories we write about.

A book is a massive achievement. You can't write it all in one go. Instead, it's a series of small efforts. Writing little and often until it finally becomes a full book. Don't panic about the end result. Just sit there and do a little each day.

And for your stories. We seek grand plots and glory in books. We think it all has to be big final events. But I often think about hobbits. Particularly Sam, Merry, and Pippin. Their actions are tiny. Asking an ent to travel South, for example. But the impacts it had were huge. And Sam was kind. Always. His kindness kept Frodo tethered in his darkest times. Remember to include the small daily kindnesses and efforts in your stories too. Just like in the real world.

In a society that glorifies overnight success, remember (in your life and in books), change comes from small steps.

Small actions. Consistent. Daily commitments to making a difference.

Don't underestimate the power of your small actions. It's the cumulative effect of small ripples that will shape the world around you, after all.

You might have heard the advice that your first time will always be bad, but you gotta do it to get to your hundredth time. By then, you’ll be better.

You know, your first workout will be bad. The first time you play a music instrument will be bad.

And that's okay, because you're learning and you've never done it before, so how can it be good?

Just start. Then show up every day, little by little, and get better.

That's why I wanted to self-publish my first books.

I'd love to get into trade. One day I will. I have so many book ideas I want to write and so many ahead of me. I'll get there some time. But I went by this thought. I didn’t expect my first time to be my best, of course.

My first book, fortunately, had great reviews and people are loving it. But when I first tried writing it years ago, I hated it. It was bad.

But first drafts are always bad. So that’s fine.

I put it away for a while, kept trying to grow, and came back to it and worked on it and worked on it. So much rewriting and then many rounds of editing with my great team of pros.

Fortunately, my first book came out well.

But at the same time, I know I can be better. It's still my first. Each time I write a book now, I get better. I feel it getting easier, see it getting better.

That's why I try to write every day. To keep the habit going, the pattern there. Learning my voice. Little by little.

I’m writing more and more short stories and articles too. Practising. Working towards my hundredth time.

I wanted to approach trade with a stronger skill. My first series is 3 books with a side book. I've written 2 of those now, and am drafting the third. But I also want to start working on some of the non-series projects I have, and some of these I will submit to trade.

Because now it's not my first book.

I used my first books to build my skills. To show my work and my style. To get used to the world of writing and being an author and getting out there. Getting readers, starting to build a platform. Interacting with people. Going to events and signings and meeting real readers. Getting feedback from my work. It's all part of the process of growing and getting better.

I see my writing like a journey, and I hope as each book is created, people will see my writing journey. Getting better each time. Finding my voice a little more each time. Trying different themes and ideas each time. Exploring worlds and cultures and stories.

Don’t pressure yourself the first time.

You don't have to be great at first. Or even on the second time. Of course you won’t be. You’re starting out, learning, trying. Finding the way.

Just show up. The first time will suck. That's totally fine.

Keep going towards the hundredth time. And then some more.

And enjoy it.

And by losing the expectation that you have to be good the first time, you’ll enjoy it more anyway.

Then celebrate small victories, even if they're not yet perfect, and find joy in the act of creation itself.

Learning and trying new things is always about the journey. The creation.

Don’t expect too much of yourself.

Just show up.

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