“It never occurred to me I had something valuable to say”: why Sarah Tinsley writes

Sarah Tinsley

Sarah Tinsley

Last month I asked our community, “Why do you write?”

Turns out, the answers to this question are as varied as we writers are.

Our first featured writer is Sarah Tinsley, a U.K.-based writer who runs a community project in London that helps young women develop their written skills.

Psst…I’d like to feature as many writers as possible, so if you haven’t submitted your answer yet, please do! Submit it here

“I’m passionate about equality and making quiet voices heard,” Sarah says, “which is why I want to help everyone speak and write the words they believe in.”

But it took Sarah quite a while to understand how valuable her own words were, as she explains:

It took me over thirty years to feel as though I had something worthwhile to contribute to the world of writing. In all of my studies I chose creative writing courses, but it never occurred to me I had something valuable to say. I just didn’t see people like me—working class females—in the stories or on the author bios of the books we studied.

Publishing still feels like a high-walled enclosure I have no idea how to get into, but I now have the confidence to think that I might just have something interesting to say. I also didn’t realize how important creativity was for me. Only when I had a baby and a teaching career did I find my brain nagging at me to do something else. It’s frustrating, energizing, exhausting, and wonderful in equal measure.

Check out Sarah’s blog, Sarah Scribbles, and learn more about how she’s using her writing talent to help people.

Thanks for being a part of this, Sarah!

Why do you write? Submit your answer here and you could be featured on this blog!

Want to be a guest blogger? Your article is welcome!

Learn more about TimAs we get ready for First Chapter Month at ChapterBuzz, which starts January 1st, I’m looking for guest bloggers to share their knowledge, experience, and wisdom!

Got something to teach us about writing a first chapter? Submit your guest post here and I’ll publish it on this blog before First Chapter Month kicks off.

Here are some topics that work well:

What’s in a first chapter? What are the necessary elements of a first chapter? As the introduction to the rest of the story, the reader is encountering settings and characters for the first time, so it’s important to know what should be included.

What’s not in a first chapter? Equally important is what not to include—often, there are details that shouldn’t be revealed to the reader too soon! How can a writer decide what to reveal early on, and which details to keep readers in the dark about?

Tricks for getting started. Writing the first chapter in a novel can open the floodgates for the rest of the story to flow. But there are many possible obstacles (writer’s block, confidence, fear, lack of ideas, to name a few) to sitting down and cranking out those first few paragraphs. Do you have any tricks for “greasing the wheels”?

If this gives you any ideas, you could be our next guest blogger. Original content or already-published articles welcome. Submit yours here!

Writers, how long did your first chapter take?

Learn more about Tim

It’s the first thing a reader sees when they open a book, and a well-written one can pull that reader right in to the story.

That’s right, I’m talking about the almighty first chapter!

January is First Chapter Month at ChapterBuzz, where we celebrate the all-important first chapter, appreciate first chapters of all shapes and sizes, and of course, share all of ours.

Some writers take some time to plan their stories (hopefully not too long, otherwise they run the risk of overthinking it and never getting started), while others prefer to dive right in and start writing.

But at some point, you need to start by writing your first chapter, so today I’d like to ask everyone out there who’s already taken that first step:

How long did it take you to finish your first chapter?

Writing (& perfecting) your first chapter is very important, because it lays the foundation for your story, helps you focus, and motivates you to keep going.

It’s also the most exciting part of writing a novel because you get to imagine your settings, invent your characters, and define your writing style.

How long did it take to write your first chapter? Did it flow easily or did you struggle?

Add your comment below!

Writers and editors: guest bloggers wanted!

January is First Chapter Month at ChapterBuzz, where we celebrate the all-important first chapter, appreciate first chapters of all shapes and sizes, and of course, write some of our own.

To prepare for First Chapter Month, I’m looking for guest bloggers to share their knowledge and insights about that one chapter in our books that does so much of the heavy lifting.

Here are some topics that work well:

Importance of first chapters. The first chapter of any novel is crucial because it sets the stage for the rest of the story. It can describe settings, introduce characters, and contain important plot details.

It’s also the very first thing a reader sees when he or she starts flipping through a book to decide whether or not to buy it.

The push it gives. The thought of writing a novel can be intimidating, and authors don’t always know how to pull their ideas together into a story that reads well. But sometimes, writing just one chapter is enough to get the ideas flowing—and gives the writer that push to keep going. What are some easy ways to get started?

Difficulties and challenges. Feeling pressured to write a “perfect” first chapter, procrastination, writer’s block, and a lack of confidence can all keep an aspiring novelist from getting started. What are some good solutions?

These are just a few, but of course there are many other angles to write from. Original content or already-published articles welcome. Submit yours here!

Since when is it OK to read Book 2 before Book 1???

Learn more about TimI have a confession to make.

Back in the TV days of yore (you know, 5 years ago), I decided to binge watch Breaking Bad, and somehow I ended up watching the entire second season before I even laid eyes on the first.

I know, I know. Cardinal sin, right?

Maybe, but when I went back to watch the first season, it was almost like watching a prequel—it was fascinating to see the events in Season 1 unfold and lead to what I already knew would happen in Season 2. It still kept me guessing, so not all was lost!

What about books? Is there an unwritten rule, like the owner of this bumper sticker believes? Let’s hear your take in the comments!

Bumper sticker: "I MUST read books in chronological order"

Why do you write?

Why do you write? Share your answer with us, and you could be featured on this blog!

We all write for different reasons. Some of us want to bare our souls, others want to touch lives, still others have stories inside that need to get out into the world.

What drives you to write?

Submit your answer here and you could be featured on this blog!

If you’re not looking to be featured but still want to weigh in, comments are welcome below!

Get started on your writing dreams…tomorrow!

Learn more about TimTick tock, tick tock.

Writers, can you hear it? The clock is ticking!

Tomorrow, the 10K Novel-Writing Challenge starts, and we’re excited to get going on our novels.

Our laptops are fired up, Microsoft Word is open, and we’re just waiting for the stroke of midnight to start typing away.

Join us for the race to write 10,000 words in 10 days.

Starts tomorrow, so don’t miss out—sign up today!

Dust off that old manuscript!

Learn more about TimThere’s no better time to dig through that desk drawer, pull out that half-finished novel you were working on, blow the dust off, and start writing.

Why now?

Because the 10K Novel-Writing Challenge starts on Thursday!

At midnight sharp on October 1st, our fingers will be flying over the laptop keys in a race to add 10,000 words to our novels.

This could be your first 10,000 words—in the first novel you’ve ever written—or it could be the next several chapters in a book you started a while back.

Join the Challenge and meet the talented writers in our community who are just as determined as you are to write a terrific story.

As you can imagine, you’ll feel great about yourself when you get it done.

And if your story catches on with our readers, you could be a standout author in our community next month—or even win one of our awards.

Award winner Sibille Rose enjoyed the connections she made during the Challenge:

“I loved the Challenge. I also love that I’ve been able to connect with other writers, which is something I’ve always found a bit difficult to do.”

—Author Sibille Rose, winner of the Challenge Choice Award

Get rolling on your dreams—again!

Want to write a novel? 3 reasons you need to be setting deadlines (for yourself, that is!)

Learn more about TimMany of us are used to deadlines. They make sense, right? Someone needs us to complete something, so they tell us when they need it to be done, and we do it.

Pretty simple.

It helps us plan our approach to completing it, and it helps them plan for its completion and hold us to account.

But what we don’t often think about is how we can benefit by setting deadlines for ourselves.

See, when it comes to something we’re doing on our own—writing a novel, for example—the temptation is to think that we’ve got it totally under control.

I’ll get it done, we tend to think, because it’s MY own project! What, you think I’m not gonna do the work and leave myself high and dry?

Uh…I hate to break this to you, but yes.

Yes, indeed. That’s exactly what could happen. It happens all the time!

When you’re a writer, you’re both the boss and the employee, and being too lax with yourself rarely works out.

So here are 3 solid reasons to give yourself deadlines—both for getting started and for each phase of your novel-writing effort:

1. It’s a lot better than “someday.” The word “someday” is vague. When you tell yourself (and others) that you’re going to write a novel “someday,” then someday is when that novel gets written—which is to say, probably never 😦 Despite our best intentions, “someday” always feels like a future date, and almost never becomes the here and now.

The solution? Pin down an exact date for when you will complete a writing task—and hold yourself to it.

2. It’s like a road map to your sunny paradise. You know just where you want to be: among those who have published terrific novels! So work backwards from the destination. What would you like to get done, and when would you like to finish it?

Dates that are further off in the future will be a little fuzzier, of course, but once you get to planning out your immediate goals—such as writing your first chapter—you can 100% give yourself a firm date.

3. It makes you hyper-productive. When you go beyond telling people you’re planning to write a novel, and proceed to tell them the exact date they can expect your first chapter, or your first completed draft, or your published book, it puts the pressure on you to actually do it.

Knowing that your friends and colleagues are expecting to see something from you, you’re probably going to be much more likely to follow through. They’ll also be impressed by your get-up-and-go!

Plus, with a deadline in mind, you know exactly what you need to do on a given day. This is much better than sitting there asking yourself, “Gee, what should I be doing today?”—and then getting sidetracked and achieving nothing.

As with any project, writing a novel is all about constantly moving forward. When you are making progress on a daily basis, it keeps the creative juices flowing, makes you more productive, and motivates you to power through and finish.

Want a ready-made deadline to give yourself?

I don’t know whether you said yes or no, so here it is anyway: October 1st-10th, all of us in the 10K Novel-Writing Challenge are going to be writing 1,000 words a day—10,000 words in all.

By October 10, you could have 10,000 new words written in your novel. That’s at least several chapters…and one heck of a headstart on your novel!

We’d love it if you joined us in the Challenge.

But even if you decide to crawl into your writing nook and not come out until your novel’s all finished, remember what’s at stake here, and be sure to set regular deadlines for yourself along the way.

You’ll be glad you did. Comments welcome!

I’m Timothy Pike, founder of ChapterBuzz and self-publishing coach specializing in helping you publish a beautiful book to the virtual shelves of Amazon—and the real shelves of your local bookstore.

Getting started on your novel is a lot harder than finishing it. Wait…or is it the other way around?

Learn more about TimI think the English poet William Wordsworth had it right when he said, quite poetically:

“To begin, begin.”

Yeah! This is easier for some than for others, though.

When faced with a big project like writing a novel, writers have different approaches—and it has a lot to do with personality.

For some, starting is easy. It’s the ongoing effort they have trouble with.

For others, it’s the opposite: they’ll put off starting as long as possible, but once they get the first few words on paper, they’re off to the races and nothing seems to stop them.

What’s easier for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Before you add your comment, be sure to join us for the 10K Novel-Writing Challenge in October.

The 10K Challenge is a great way to:

  • Force yourself to write 1,000 words a day
  • Overcome writer’s block
  • Start a daily writing habit

From October 1–10, it’s go time! Sign up now

Now it’s your turn to weight in:

In your experience, has it been harder to get started or to keep going? Can you share any “life hacks” or workarounds that have helped you?