Previous Webinars 1

September 2019 to August 2020


August Webinar Archive

– what key promise is your book making to your prospective readers? How to focus on this in order to create an effective pitch/blurb.
– are Creative Writing MAs worth it? And what does ‘worth it’ mean in this context?
– is it a problem when you feel as if you can’t start your next project or a set a new goal until your last book’s outcome is known?
– the crucial difference between allowing an emotion and indulging in an emotion.
– how to regain enthusiasm when you feel as if you’ve already failed
– how to make slow progress mean only ‘I have made X amount of progress’ (where X might be none) without also making it mean something negative and discouraging about yourself.
how can you tell when/if your book is ready to be sent out to agents and publishers.

–  how to pitch to an agent – separating genre description from thematic and story content
–  how to approach the pitching of a supernatural mystery
–  when it seems as if everyone has already rejected your novel, should you keep trying or move on to the next one?
–  what to do if your close relatives are hurt that you won’t let them read your novel in progress
–  what’s the difference between literary and commercial fiction?
–  do you need a writing degree in order to write good/successful literary fiction?
–  what to do if your publisher keeps giving your books titles and covers that you hate
–  what to do if you know your novel needs work, but you also want to get an agent – should you perfect the novel first?
–  how to make sure you understand where confidence truly comes from, so that you can generate it when you need it.
–  should you submit to your close writer friend’s agent, or would that be ‘treading on her toes’?

–  how to decide whether to press on with a particular novel, or give it up in favour of a new one
–  is there a danger that we can take unlimited belief in ourselves too far?
–  how to choose between two very different projects, and how to eliminate fear of ‘wrong’ decisions
–  what to do you if you want to start your novel in a way that all the experts seem to advise against
–  what to do if agents can’t identify the main flaw in your novel that needs to be fixed
–  how to balance sticking to your editorial guns with being open to feedback and growth

–  is there such a thing as too many characters?
–  what is it reasonable to expect from your publicist, and is that even the right question?
–  when it comes to Acknowledgments pages, is there a right order in which to thank people?
–  how to stop feeling as if you’re sacrificing your free time in order to write
–  how to take our thoughts from the future and create feelings that will help us to achieve our Dream-Goals
–  what should we think about self-published authors buying copies of their own books in order to get into the top ten?
–  writer testimonials – should one avoid giving them, in case publishers and other writers start to expect them in the future?
–  book sales targets in the publishing industry

July Webinar Archive

–  what if I want to be a published writer but I don’t want to become a public persona and do lots of promotion?
–  with so much turmoil and drama going on in the real world, do readers still want to read crime thrillers?
–  how many books does a new author need to sell in order to be considered a success?
–  how can a writer determine which publishing house or agent is best, from a submissions point of view?
–  how can a writer know if a book deal they are offered is fair or not?
–  how to choose which of many book ideas to work on next
–  do publishers decide in advance which books are going to succeed, and offer advances accordingly?
–  is it worth spending eg £800 on an editorial consultant’s report?

–  suggestions for how to deal with characters who argue if you’re a conflict-averse writer
– how honest should you be in your Writing Group?
– why does it take so long for a book to be published?
– what’s the best way to define/flesh out your characters, or get to know them before you start writing about them?
– how to plan effectively when you tend to rebel against any plan you make.
– how to use humour in a crime novel without it turning into ‘comic crime’.
– what to do if you think a part of your novel is flat and lacking in pace and suspense.
– is it possible that you’re writing in a genre that’s too popular? Might this adversely affect your chances of publication?

–  how to respond to a friend’s manuscript when they’ve asked you for an honest opinion and your honest opinion is that the writing’s just…bad;
–  clarification of the key Dream Author philosophy of ‘Different but not Better’;
–  how to avoid putting pressure and stress on your writing to solve life problems it can’t (and shouldn’t have to) solve;
–  how to deal with despair after many rejections;
–  what if an agent asks you to cite three books comparable to yours and you can’t think of any useful comparisons??
–  how to make your work more sellable

June Webinar Archive

–  would a publisher/agent accept a debut novel from a writer in her seventies?
–  why do some very successful novels switch point of view several times within a scene, when I’ve been advised only to change narrative point of view for a new scene or new chapter?
–  how to approach a dual-timeline structure
–  when should I give up on my novel – after how many rejections?
–  how to approach restructuring a novel, once you know something isn’t working
–  how do I know if my agent’s good enough, when he failed to sell my first novel?
–  is it worth hiring an editorial consultant/freelance editor to work on my novel with me before I self-publish it?

–  is it better to have a senior agent or a hungry up-and-coming agent?
–  can you submit your book simultaneously to two agents at the same company?
–  is it a good idea to choose an agent whose other clients write similar books to yours?
–  do agents generally edit before they submit novels to publishers, and if so, should you send them your novel in an unfinished state so that they can help to shape it?
– how to stop feeling bad after obsessively checking Amazon rankings

–  digital-first publishing – is it a good option?
–  what to do about brain-freeze and stress of the kind that make writing feel impossible
–  why is it so hard to start writing a new book? Or is it? Might there be a different way to think it?
–  social media, the ‘group-think magnification factor’, and the effect of both upon writers

– author envy – is it a thing, and what can we do about it?
–  what causes the temptation to rebel against the schedules we’ve created for ourselves, and how can we resist it?
–  lack of sleep, and how to deal with thoughts/worries that keep us awake at night
–  how to handle a situation of competing wants
–  the urge to procrastinate and how to respond to it.
–  how to avoid unnecessary suffering by appreciating and enjoying whatever stage you are currently at with your writing.
–  how to evaluate your progress and plan to make faster/better progress in a sustainable way.

May Webinar Archive

–  how to approach writing non-fiction (compared with fiction)
–  you’re applying for a job, but does/must this mean you’re less than 100% committed to your writing?
–  how to know if your novel is YA, adult or children’s
– all about twists! What are they? How can we find them? – When/why do we need them?
– what to do if the twists and turns of psychological thriller writing are putting you off.
– what does it mean if you’re tempted to cheat on, or already cheating on, your main writing project with other side-projects?
– coincidence and convenience in plots – when should we allow them and when should we avoid them?

–  if you could write in English, should you, and should you submit to a British agent, even if you live in Europe?
–  how long should you allow to write a Gnocchi draft?
–  how to deal with regret for what could/should have been (in relation to your writing)?
–  how to deal with overwhelm and too many possibilities of what to do next.
–  if your book goes wrong half-way through, should you start again at the middle or start at the end and work backwards?
–  how many words long should an ideal Gnocchi draft be?
–  how to deal with discouraging or domineering writing group members who give very negative feedback.
–  is it okay to have some present-tense sections in a novel that is mainly written in the past tense?
–  is it acceptable to change from one deep third person point of view to another within the same chapter?
–  how to publicise/sell your books without feeling ‘icky’.
–  should you be publicising your book, or is that your publicist’s job?
–  how to generate great plot ideas when you feel character writing is your true strength.

April Webinar Archive

–  what to do if you’re worried that you’ll look back in X years time and see that the novel you think is good enough now really wasn’t good enough?
–  how to think about ‘the awful first draft stage’.
–  what to do if you feel lost and anxious whenever you think about your writing.
–  Sophie discusses various issues that might arise if someone wants to work with you to turn your book into a TV drama.

–  chapter lengths for YA novels
–  passive aggression – how to think about it and deal with it
–  when to write and when to clean the house – how to make sure we’re always happy with the activity we’ve prioritised
–  what to do if you think you have perfectionist tendencies
–  therapeutic writing – is journalling useful?
–  what’s the best twist Sophie has ever read in a novel?

–  congratulations to Marcelle, whose thriller was the fastest selling thriller of the day on Amazon!
–  chapters – how long should they be, and where is the best place to put a chapter break?
–  finding a traditional publisher is taking too long – so should you self-publish?
– what to do if you’re scared of the pain you might feel if your book gets rejected.
– how to avoid creating negative feelings (like loneliness) with our thoughts when we don’t need to.
– how to approach writing for children when you don’t know what the current trends are.
– what if people stop asking how your writing’s going because they’re embarrassed or feel sorry for you?
– if you’ve got a third person narrator as your main character and a first person narrator as a minor character, is that okay?

March Webinar Archive

–  how to prevent distractions from adversely affecting your productivity
–  does your novel’s protagonist need to be likeable/sympathetic?
–  how to convey your characters’ emotions effectively
–  does ‘context-switching’ (switching between writing and another activity during one unbroken ‘work period’) need to be a problem?
–  do we need to worry if we’re writing/producing a lot less during the Corona virus pandemic?
–  what to do if you both want and don’t want to write
–  how to reframe unhelpful thoughts around our writing, our dream-goals and our chances of success.

–  how and why to juggle multiple projects successfully – or, alternatively, how and why to commit and constrain to one project only.
–  creating characters that we (and readers) love and hate, and the concept of sympathetic characters.
–  how to start doing things like podcasting and vlogging when you find all tech stuff quite daunting.
–  how to behave as a published writer with a following on social media in these challenging times.
–  how to handle a partner whose approach to the Corona pandemic is more doom-n-gloom than one’s own.
–  what if you’re scared that your writing simply isn’t good enough to be worth publishing?

–  how to make Gnocchi drafting work with your usual/preferred writing system
–  TV and film agents – how do they fit in with the work that literary agents do?
–  how to make sure your characters are properly differentiated in terms of voice
–  how to deal with the pain/anxiety of being ‘on submission’
–  how to approach story arcs/returning characters in a crime series
–  are you reading too much? When does reading get in the way of writing?
–  your idea for my next project is difficult and not very commercial: should you pursue it?
–  before starting a Gnocchi draft, should you do some story engineering in advance?
–  is it okay or a bad idea to switch between projects, or should you stick to one until it’s finished?

–  there are so many helpful courses and resources for writers;  how to avoid ‘help confusion’;
–  how to turn a rough first draft into what you want it to be using the Gnocchi Method;
–  how to choose character names;
–  does an author really need a platform? What about the allure of the mysterious, reclusive writer?
–  anxiety and depression and how they relate to our writing;
–  how much of your story do you need to know before starting a Gnocchi draft?
–  track changes and how to deal with them while editing
–  does it matter if much of what I write contains the same themes?
–  is character change/character development essential for each protagonist in each piece of writing?

February Webinar Archive

–  the Dream Author approach to making things happen (and congratulations to Linda, who adopted this approach very successfully!)
–  how to think about starting over, when you realise your book isn’t working in its current form
–  you finished your book – so why don’t you feel happy? Why can you only think about all the problems?
–  first person and the various different kinds of third person narration
–  do authors need excel spreadsheets in order to learn how to advertise their books?

–  do writers need foreign bank accounts for their international deals?
–  how to find a good accountant who can meet writers’ accountancy needs
–  if we’re writing characters who would use offensive racial epithets, should we use them in those characters’ dialogue only, or –should we avoid using them no matter what?
–  if you have two books in two different genres ready for submission at the same time, should you submit them serially or simultaneously? Is it wrong to behave almost as if you were two separate writers and do two completely separate submissions, with each one not mentioning the other?
–  how to come up with ‘fiendish’ ideas
–  if you want to meet a particular writer (whom you don’t know) for coffee because you love their work and want them to help you with yours, how should you approach this?
–  what is the best way to save your work?
–  is it okay to have an ambiguous ending or must all loose ends be tied up at the end?
–  what’s the best way for writers to think about cultural appropriation?

–  when you’re very near the end of the first draft and you spot a problem, should you get to the end and then edit, or stop and edit what you’ve done already before moving on.
–  what to do if your agent deletes you from his agency website’s client list without telling you
–  calming advice for when things don’t go according to plan (clue: it’s all about thinking differently!)
–  adverbs – are they always worth avoiding, or are they totally fine?
–  should I send some of my earlier work as well as my new work when pitching to agents – just to show that I have a strong track record of publication?
–  what if I’m writing in a way that doesn’t quite fit into one genre or another? Will this put me at a disadvantage?
–  what does it mean if an agent describes your novel as a ‘slow-burner’?
–  email lists and how to create/grow them
–  what if you need to make a decision and your core values send you in different directions?
–  how to approach the 20-million-pound budget exercise from the January workbook if you’re worried you can’t spend the whole 20 million.

January Webinar Archive

– an in-depth and practical look at the A, B, Succeed, Fail method of decision-making
– point of view – mixing first and third person narration
– word-count targets, goals, and why we might sometitmes want to impose word-count limits on ourselves
– is it a bad thing to race to the end when the finish line is in sight? What if the quality of writing suffers?
– why our egos make us reluctant to set smaller, more achievable daily or weekly goals
– how to approach the end of a mystery/crime novel, where loose ends need to be tied up but you also want to avoid a huge info-dump

–  detailed discussion of Sophie’s ‘A, B, Succeed, Fail’ (ABSF) method of choosing between 2 options
–  a recap of Sophie’s Maximax/Maximin method of decision-making, and how it interacts with ABSF
–  will you get more work done if you give free rein to your harsh inner critic, and if so, is it worth it?
–  what is the role of a fiction editor, and are there different kinds?
–  how to stay fit and healthy and avoid ‘writer’s bum’!

–  how and why to submit poems to magazines
–  should one market children’s books to children or to the adults –  that buy books for them?
–  how to believe that you can earn a decent living from writing, and why the belief is the most important thing
–  how to be a big deal in your head before the literary world recognises you as one
–  does self-publishing or traditional publishing earn you more money?
–  how to avoid putting too much pressure on your next book/project to be The Brilliant One
–  how to choose between different book projects
–  how to trust that your writing will one day earn you enough money to replace your day-job
–  how to deal with negative or difficult people
–  what are some good writing habits that Sophie would recommend?

December Webinar Archive

–  clues – how to tell if they’re too obvious or not obvious enough
–  how to structure a novel
–  how to think about chores and the never-finished To-Do List!
–  christmas stress – how to avoid it
–  how to feel better about things we believe are bad

– red herrings in fiction: how to approach and create them; when they work and when they don’t.
– do our thoughts (rather than circumstances or other people’s behaviour) always cause our feelings?
– how to solve your ‘not enough time to write’ problem (and why it has nothing to do with time).
– how to approach the marketing of your books when you’re an introvert and/or you’re not interested in marketing.
– why do agents choose to be agents, and editors to be editors?
– how to deal with the impending Christmas holidays and the effect it might have on your writing?
– are there better and worse times of year to focus on writing?
– what if writing your novel brings up past pain, on account of the subject matter?

– congratulations to all Dream Authors who have made progress and achieved successes!
– noticing and improving things that are wrong with our writing is crucial – but there can be a downside. Sophie talks about how to anticipate and correct for this downside.
– the difference between feeling disappointed and feeling dispirited, and why it’s important.
– should you query only three or four agents at a time, or is fine to query many more?
– how to think about agents and the prospects of getting one, before you’ve got one.
– how to identify negative thinking that’s keeping us stuck, and how to start to realise that we can change our thoughts.
– how to know if you have too many characters in your work-in-progress.
– how to approach the issue of subplots.

November Webinar Archive

– Scrivener again
– when you need an author website
– how to deal with people who don’t want us to change or do anything new or different
– the benefits of ‘living in breakthrough’
– other people’s unhelpful comments and how to handle them
– the emotion that pretends to be necessary: worry
– how to rewire our brains, so that they’re biased in favour of the positive, not the negative
– checking our thoughts, to make sure we’re not creating unnecessary negativity
– why it never benefits us to think, ‘I’m struggling’, and what to think instead
– how to find and approach agents
– an editorial consultant said there was a lot wrong with your book – should you ditch it or fix it?
– if your book has plenty wrong with it, does that mean you’re destined never to be a good writer?
– how to approach subplots
– how to choose, or know if you’ve chosen, the right ending

– good and bad uncomfortable feelings, and how to tell which will benefit your writing progress
– how to develop your literary diagnostic skills
– on a writing course, should we give feedback to those who aren’t reciprocating?
– how to think about feedback when it’s all praise and no criticism
– should we be grateful for eminent writing tutors, even if they feel like the wrong fit for us?
– Sophie’s thoughts about Scrivener
– Sophie’s thoughts about the Snowflake Method of novel-writing
– fear of happiness, and how it is both similar to and different from Success Resistance
– Sophie’s two essential ingredients that she needs before starting to write a novel
– the crucial difference between self-belief and arrogance
– what to do if you’re worried your book is too similar to someone else’s

– Boutique publishing companies – good or bad?
– Which should come first, getting your house and mind organised, or starting to write?
– The authors and books that have influenced Sophie’s coaching philosophy, and a must-read crime novel recommendation
– The one significant way in which Sophie’s perspective differs from that of most coaches
– What to do when your nearest and dearest mock and belittle your writing goals and ambitions
– How to take responsibility for your own decisions and feelings
– How to disagree without fighting
– Guest appearance from Brewster, Sophie’s dog!

– how to deal with literary envy– should I try to sell my novel on a partial, or write the whole thing?
–how to mislead your reader, while playing fair with him/her
– how to get genuinely helpful feedback from an agent who’s rejected your book
– what do to if the Three Act Structure planning method doesn’t work for you
– how to solve first-paragraph paralysis|
– deadlines: why they scare us, and how to handle it
– how to get affirmation/support before you’re book is finished
– what do to if you’re desperate/feel as if you’re banging your head against a wall
– should you hire an editorial consultant or test the market first?
– how to choose between self-publishing and seeking a new agent
– when is a small advance not a small advance?

October Webinar Archive

– How important is it to know which genre you’re writing in when you’re writing?
– If you write under two names, can you have two different agents?
– When to leave your literary agent, and when to stay
– How to feel better about those times when we can’t help feeling bad about our writing
– How to turn our victim stories into stories about how we took responsibility
– Should you tell your agent if you’re feeling low/full of self-doubt, or talk to them only about business
– Can you put something in a book if it might not be true?
– Sophie gives the answers to Exercise 6 from the October Workbook

– Point of view. How many narrators can one book/story sustain?
– What happens when life/illness/disaster occurs, from the point of view of our writing schedules? How can we catch up? Or should we design schedules based on the idea that unexpected interruptions will definitely happen?
– How and when did Sophie stop being a people-pleaser? Was there one crucial moment, or simply the result of more experience?
– Should you write what publishers want/what is more commercial or should you follow your passion?
– The Four Schedules writers need to be aware of

– If you submit a book to an agent under a pseudonym, are you being dishonest?
– How to deal with a fear of confrontation/disagreement and stop people-pleasing
– What are the best day-jobs for writers to have
– What to do when proximity to possible success makes you freeze or feel paralysed
– How to decide whether to make changes in response to criticisms of your book
– Why none of our past decisions should be thought of as wrong
– What to think when you’ve had negative feedback; how to avoid quitting

–  How to use Sophie’s Gnocchi Method for non-fiction, and how to approach Gnocchi-ing if you’re a plot-first writer.
–  Why we should all be plot first writers (and that doesn’t mean that the people in your book are less important than the events. Far from it!)
–  Do publishers sometimes reject your book but, if they like your writing, ask you to write a completely different book for them? If so, what do we think about this?
–  How to decide whether to use a pseudonym.
–  Helpful and Unhelpful feedback, and why bad advice is good for us.
–  How to develop complex characters and relationships over the course of a novel.
–  Is it okay to bring in a new point of view relatively late in a novel?
– What is the Maximax Approach? And what is the Maximin Approach? Sophie talks for the first time about one of the key Dream Author concepts.

September Webinar Archive

–  How to write in a voice that’s very different from your own;
–  How late in a novel can the plot’s ‘inciting incident’ occur?
–  When and how should you start to build your author platform?
–  More strategies for those who want to stop procrastinating (including starting with the tiniest gesture, and arranging for your laptop to be confiscated by a loved one!)
–  Not There Yet (how to respond when we realise we’re not as close to our goal as we thought we were);
–  What Dream-Goals and Elevator Pitches have in common.

–  Sophie’s new To-Do List method and accessory!
–  Wordcount targets – should we push ourselves harder and aim to be more productive in an individual writing session, or is it better to aim for little and often?
–  How to distinguish between feedback you should take notice of and feedback you should ignore;
–  Whether to compare your work to that of other writers’ when approaching prospective agents;
–  Should you cite non-fiction books as comparisons to your novel when approaching agents, or should you only offer comparisons within your genre?
–  Why there’s no such thing as a wrong choice or decision, and how to be grateful to our past selves even for the mistakes we made;
–  Is it better to choose a less famous agent with fewer clients, or one with a huge client list and reputation?
–  Why you should never feel overwhelmed by Dream Author content;
–  The best route to publication for poets;
–  Is it unwise to write in English if you live in a country where English is not the first language?

–  Is a Creative Writing MA or other equivalent qualification essential? Is it helpful?
–  When working with a creative collaborator, how do you deal with situations where you want different things?
–  How to deal with unrealistic planning – e.g. when you try to write your book according to the plan you’ve made and it doesn’t work?
–  When writing a Gnocchi draft plan, should you include any background information before your summary of what happens in Chapter 1?
–  What to do when you find you have the time to write but not the headspace?
–  Is it ever acceptable to reveal who your story’s antagonist/baddy is right at the start? If so, when, and when should one not do this?

In this webinar:

– How should you approach the Dream Author content? What resources are available and how to make the programme work for you in the most effective way?
– What happens when your writing veers in an unwelcome direction? How to feel in control of your writing and tame your subconscious brain in order to get the results you want.
– Alternatives to journaling – lists, notebooks and self-coaching
– How can you feel differently about editing if you’re naturally resistant to it?
– How to protect your writing time, and what to do if your loved ones don’t prioritise your writing needs.
– How can you feel in control of your schedule and stick to your time commitments? When should you say no?
– How to deal with procrastination
– How to turn your big dreams into manageable steps: what small, daily progress can you make while still aiming high for the long-term?

“The point about how we create our own experience is a crucial one. And we create that experience not with the external facts of our lives but with our thoughts and feelings about our lives.”